This chapter was sponsored by OneEyedZel!
A shiver rolled over Yaoying’s body.
The personal soldiers also noticed the falcon above their heads, and their faces changed dramatically.
They had often seen this falcon following their procession in the past few months. As soon as they saw the pair of ash-colored wings, they knew it was Haidu Aling’s divine eagle.
“Haidu Aling is coming!”
The personal soldiers held the reins tightly, their voices trembling slightly.
Yaoying forced herself to calm down.
There couldn’t be such a coincidence. She wouldn’t be so unlucky…
Her line of sight followed the white falcon. Looking into the distance, the falcon flew a little lower, and there was suddenly a faint speck of black in the sandy hill on the northern side of the main road.
The black slowly moved—it was a black banner beaten by the fierce wind, followed by another one.
A dozen black banners waved in the wind, as if night had fallen.
Haidu Aling’s battle flag.
With the appearance of the black banners, rows of warriors in battle armor appeared on the west side of the earthen city. Their mounts stepped across the flat sand at a neat march and galloped in the direction of the main road.
Yaoying turned her horse around.
On the other side of the sand dunes, a dozen dark banners and black-armored knights with long swords in hand also appeared, slowly approaching.
The man at the head was dressed in a gold-woven brocade robe, his posture on horseback tall and strong.
The sound of the pipa stopped. The people leading the caravans discovered the soldiers covered behind the dunes, recognized Haidu Aling, and were scared to death. Abandoning their goods, they turned around and tried to run while the black-armored warriors on the other side drew nearer.
The merchants cried out, “The Northern Rong soldiers are coming! The Northern Rong soldiers are coming!”
The personal soldiers gathered around Yaoying to prevent her from being swept away by the congested stream of people.
Yaoying clutched the reins tightly, and all the torment she had been going through for months suddenly came flooding back.
Time and time again, she carefully sounded out. Time and time again, she became fearful. Time and time again, she despaired.
Those were nothing… she could bear all that, but why, when she just felt a little bit of rare peace and freedom again, was she once again forced to despair?
How could Haidu Aling come so quickly!
On the hillside, Haidu Aling leisurely and methodically raised his longbow. Pointing his bow at the panicked crowd, he shot five arrows in the blink of an eye. The arrows were forceful and fierce, whizzing through the air.
Several screams rang out, and people fell off their horses one after another.
Yaoying came back to her senses.
Haidu Aling did not recognize her. His target seemed to be these merchants?
No, his target was all the people alive on this road.
Yaoying’s mind turned and urged her horse into a gallop: “Escape with these people! They know where it’s safe!”
Right now, Haidu Aling did not recognize her. When he had killed almost everyone, she would still fall into his hands.
This time, Haidu Aling would not let her off.
She knew how he would punish a disobedient woman.
The soldiers quickly answered yes and escorted Yaoying to run away.
The merchants successively abandoned their camels and carts and fled on horseback, while the servants who were responsible for transporting the goods could only madly flee behind them. Sand and dust rolled and covered the sky.
Yaoying was choking and coughing. Raising her head and looking around, she found that Haidu Aling did not rush to kill them, but followed behind with a longbow to herd them away.
He was narrowing the encirclement like he was hunting: first driving the prey into a trap laid out in advance, then hunting them down one by one.
This time, she really couldn’t be caught back again.
Yaoying’s heart was beating wildly.
They were surrounded on three sides by the Northern Rong soldiers. They galloped with the Hu people, while Haidu Aling from time to time shot five arrows overhead. Every time, a few people would fall to the ground and die. Everyone was anxious to escape, pushing and shoving each other on the road, and finally, all were forced to flee to the bottom of a slight hill.
A war banner waved in the only gap in front. They were surrounded.
The merchants huddled together in place, shivering, their hairs standing on end.
The black-armored knights spurred their horses closer to the valley, the encirclement getting smaller and smaller.
Yaoying was in the center, protected by her own soldiers. The rising and falling sound of screams, curses, cries of pain, and pleas for mercy reverberated in her ears.
Different languages, the same despair.
She suddenly remembered the year when she was five years old, facing the dense mass of black of the enemy army. Xie and Li’s personal soldiers firmly guarded in front of her, one by one falling, while she hid under the mountain of corpses until Li Zhongqian came looking for her.
She also didn’t know how her elder brother was doing.
Thinking of Li Zhongqian, Yaoying suddenly felt calm in her heart, as if there was nothing to be afraid of in the face of great difficulties.
The headwraps of her personal soldiers had come loose from the squeezing and crowding, and their looks, which were very different from those of the Hu in the Western Regions, soon attracted the attention of the black-armored warriors on the hill.
A scrutinizing gaze fell on Yaoying.
Yaoying raised her head, through the weeping crowd, to meet the sharp, eagle-like gaze of Haidu Aling. A gauze veil covered her face, revealing only her eyes.
Haidu Aling’s eyesight was so good that he recognized the personal soldiers. Then, seeing the pair of bright eyes brimming with autumn water, he reacted, suddenly furious.
How could the Han girl appear here?!
Shouldn’t she be waiting in the camp?
Haidu Aling’s face was as gloomy as water, and he drew his bow and several arrows whooshed into the air. Several Hu merchants beside Yaoying fell off their horses and were trampled into a sorry state by their hooves.
The soldiers blocked Yaoying: “Protect the princess!”
Yaoying withdrew her line of sight, no longer sparing a glance at Haidu Aling.
Fury emerged in Haidu Aling’s pale golden eyes and he drew his bow again.
The deep and low sound of a bugle horn suddenly sounded.
Haidu Aling did not pay attention at first. Until another horn sound came, his hands stopped moving, his anger was collected, and he looked up alertly.
He sneaked up on the Royal Court’s caravans on the main road, intentionally commanding the soldiers to cover their tracks. Who blew the horn?
The sound of the trumpet stopped for a moment, then another carried on. The sound of horns came from all directions, amassed in one place, and resounded through to each horizon.
It shook everyone’s heart.
Not only were their hearts trembling, but even the earth beneath their feet also seemed to tremble with the sound of horns blowing. The clamor and noise gathered together, like a tsunami of thunder rumbling in unison, resounding in the vast and endless world.
The sand and dust that filled the valley suddenly swept away. The sound of the bugle horns was getting closer and closer, and the sound getting lower and lower. With the wind came the faint fluttering sound of banners flying in the wind.
The merchants beside Yaoying froze for a moment, and their faces looked as if they were crying and laughing.
Some people whimpered and sobbed, while more suddenly and loudly bawled.
Yaoying followed the Hu merchants’ line of sight. A snow-white flag slowly appeared on the opposite hillside. On the white was a curling and intricate gold pattern: noble, pure, and holy.
Just seeing a corner of the flag, the Northern Rong clad in black armor on this hillside immediately revealed panic-stricken looks, having backed up to the valley.
In an instant, the Northern Rong people’s momentum was all gone.
Haidu Aling’s face was dark and sullen, and his eyes signaled his subordinates to hold their formation.
The subordinates were helpless. The soldiers were already so frightened they were scared witless. All they wanted was to stay away from that flag. The horses could not control their speed going downhill, so how could the formation still be maintained?
On the distant hill, the snow-white banner unfurled in the wind. The formation of black-clad Northern Rong warriors seemed to be split in half by a large invisible hand. The armor-clad soldiers did not even glance at Haidu Aling, obediently turning their horses around to make way.