The sky was sunny and clear of clouds. Lin Yuan sent off Yang Zi’an by the woods. This time Yang Zi’an was traveling lightly, only taking 2 people with him to Xing Hua City. They must disguise themselves as small merchants so Lin Yuan handed over the only ox cart to Yang Zi’an and even gave him some of the silver taels that he had very little left remaining.
“Guaranteeing your safety is the most important.” Lin Yuan squeezed Yang Zi’an’s hand.
Everytime someone must leave for the outside world his heart always felt like it was being hung in midair.
Nobody knew what the future held for them.
Returning safely before did not mean that it would remain like that everytime.
Something like luck, it was the hardest to pinpoint.
Yang Zi’an squeezed back and climbed onto the cart. Before driving away he said: “A blade that will not see blood is not a good blade, a weapon that does not kill is not a good weapon.”
When Yang Zi’an left farther away, Lin Yuan let out a sigh.
After a day of pondering, Lin Yuan called over Zhu Yuanzhang. Recently, Zhu Yuanzhang had been living and eating with those soldiers and had developed a camaraderie. There were some who were willing to follow his lead and some not willing. This was all that Lin Yuan had expected. People were complex, each one with their own way of thinking. Soldiers were people too.
“Since the training is almost up to standards, it is time to take it to the next level.” Lin Yuan said, “this time I will go with you to suppress the bandits in the area.”
Zhu Yuanzhang’s eyes seemed to gleam: “About time!”
Lin Yuan nodded: “We leave tomorrow morning, leave early.”
“No need for breakfast.” Lin Yuan added.
Zhu Yuanzhang paused, and said with some sadness: “Looks like I should eat more tonight.”
Lin Yuan chuckled and they separated to go back to their respective living quarters.
Although fighting on an empty stomach was a bit inhumane but as this was the first time to use armed forces against the bandits, Lin Yuan thought it would be better to take some measures.
He forgot where he heard it from but the period before stepping onto the battlefield, soldiers were not given any filling meals. Only during a celebratory feast after a win could they eat fully. For their stomach the soldiers would have to fight hard.
He wanted to try this method, but he was also slightly unsure so he only decided to take out breakfast.
That night Lin Yuan did not sleep well, his dreams filled with scenes of carnage. When he woke up in the morning he looked at the sunlight streaming in through the window. He touc5hes his back and came away with cold sweat.
When he was dressed he left his room and walked past the half finished wall surrounding the farmstead. He came across a 100 man battalion all standing at attention.
Every one of them had on vine armor and hand holding onto a weapon. Their heads held high and back straight, their spirits high. All of them knew what they would be doing soon but other than just a bit of fear there was more excitement. They were also clear that after training for so long it was time to put what they had learned to the test.
Besides, they had vine armors, weapons and thick soled shoes made by the women overnight. With the shoes they walked on the ground and felt like they were walking on clouds. They also didn’t need to worry about slipping in them either.
Because there were no horses they could only walk on foot, every person carried on them bamboo flasks filled with water. The food could only be foraged from the surrounding woods. Lin Yuan also accompanied them in eating tree bark.
The wisdom of the ancient people; they knew which trees had edible bark. Although there wasn’t much flavor to be had and one must eat alot to feel full but it was still better than nothing. People would only feel comforted with food in their mouths.
They walked for three days and three nights and finally just before sunset, they saw a residence.
Bandits staked out their territory in different parts of the mountains. They didn’t abide by the imperial court’s rule and relied on killing and stealing for a livlihood, abducting grown men and women to add to their numbers.
They would force the young men they abducted to join them in causing harm to the people in the area.
As for the women, they would be locked up and if they were pretty and attracted the attention of a bandit with a higher status then they would live relatively better.
But if the woman was plain or average and had not attracted a higher up bandit’s attention then she would be reduced to a tool for the bandits to sate their lust.
The entire day Lin Yuan and the others did not act hastily. Neither did they start a fire. They just hid and observed the house of bandits. Although it was a nest of bandits the place was rather organized with even a watchtower set up and night guards. Although the houses were shacks but they were not constructed crudely, but rather luxurious in comparison to the shacks of regular common people.
The number estimate to be about 300 and could be considered to be a mid-scale bandit nest.
But their weapons were not a lot. After a day’s observation no more than 50 carried blades, more people only had wooden sticks.
Lin Yuan discussed lowly with Zhu Yuanzhang: “We can only take them off guard.”
They spent a week observing the patterns of the bandits.
Every two days a group of bandits would go down the mountain and return with quite a lot of supplies which looked to be taken from the common people. Sometimes they would also bring back women.
This group of bandits numbered around 200, leaving 100 to guard the residence.
In an era without any methods to contact each other across long distances, if they took advantage of the absence of these 100 bandits to attack the residence, the bandits left in the residence would not be able to contact for assistance.
“Have 50 people circle to the back and 50 people attack from the front.” Lin Yuan drew on the ground with his finger. It was crude and simply drawn but Zhu Yuanzhang could still understand it, “look, this is the biggest shack within the residence, the bandit leader likely lives here.”
“Although we can’t know for sure whether the bandit leader will be present, but attacking from here is the fastest.”
Zhu Yuanzhang nodded and said: “I will bring people to circle out back.”
Lin Yuan: “Then I will lead the frontal attack. Once my side make a movement then you must speed up as well.”
Zhu Yuanzhang: “Understood.”
The current Zhu Yuanzhang was still in the learning phase. Lin Yuan himself was also just fumbling along. But Lin Yuan had an advantage——the knowledge he gained while living in the modern times.
The advantage modern people had over ancient people was that from birth modern people were exposed to information from all directions. And these information were extremely valuable wealth.
And ancient people lacked in this wealth of knowledge. How fast were high speed rails? And how fast was a horse carriage?
Lin Yuan tried to find the silver lining and thought, he could be considered to be standing on the backs of giants.
They waited 2 more days, and it was finally time for the day Lin Yuan decided to launch the attack. He gave a motivating speech to the soldiers. Pointing at the bandit residence he said: “In there is food, meat and wine. As long as you capture it, the things inside are all yours. You can not only eat and drink fully, you can even bring it back to share with family and friends.”
The soldiers widened their eyes.
Just Lin Yuan’s words had them feeling as if they could already smell the scent of wine and meat.
The people here, some had never even tasted wine in their whole lives.
Wine required fine grains to make.
“Inside there are also women.” Lin Yuan said, “as long as you save them and bring them back, perhaps by next year you will be able to welcome a plump and healthy son.”
The eyes of the soldiers appeared even more ardent.
What were the dreams of the people in the lowest social class? Eat and drink fully, marry a wife and have a son. This was their highest motivation.
At this time someone asked: “Boss! One for each person?”
Lin Yuan said with some irritation: “Do you think you’re shopping, one for each person? When they are saved and brought back they will be part of the farmstead. You are in the farmstead everyday, don’t you have any confidence in winning the beauty’s heart?”
He did not wish for his small army to be like the bandits.
If the women were willing to marry and spend their lives with these soldiers, he would approve.
If they were unwilling, he would also approve, after all women were also part of the labor force and could farm the land or sew clothes, the more the better.
The soldiers’ eyes glowed.
Currently the farmstead had too little women, and they were also separated when working. But since they began training, the women often came to look at them.
And even discuss who looked the most mighty, whose physique was the most sturdy and strong.
The most impressive one amongst them, with the best performance during training, now already had a wife.
It made the others extremely envious.
Anyway, under all kinds of enticement, these soldiers became extremely excited.
As if a beautiful life was just in front of them. Capturing this bandit residence they would be able to welcome a successful life.
The bandits who went down the mountain usually arrived back the next morning.
The sky darkened and Lin Yuan saw the people in the residence get ready for sleep. He then separated from Zhu Yuanzhang, both taking two different roads towards the residence.
After being trained for this long, disregarding anything else these soldiers had high levels of obedience.
But battle skills were something that could never be taught. In an age of cold weapons only experience could be relied upon.
They moved forward in the dark but with this many people they naturally could not go unseen by the night guard on the watchtower.
The person shouted in a hurry: “Enemy attack! Enemy attack! Hurry and get up!”
At this point, Lin Yuan had already lead his men to the front entrance of the residence. The doors were extremely shabby since the bandits did not have much building resources either, nor were they professionals in the field. That they even managed to construct the several shacks and rooms making up the residence must have already spent most of their efforts.
Before charging in Lin Yuan adhered to courtesy and shouted out: “Surrender or die!”
The people inside shouted in reply: “Surrender, my ass!”
Since the other was unwilling to surrender then the only option was to charge forward. In Lin Yuan’s hand was a long knife, his hand slightly trembling. But he forced himself to be calm, there would come a day when he must step onto the battlefield. He could not always avoid it; he must be able to protect himself.
“Attack!” Lin Yuan pointed his long knife at the residence.
The discipline trained into them from before showcased itself for the first time.
Lin Yuan only just pointed forward but the men immediately charged forward, not even a hint of hesitation. They completely did not look like newbies at all.
Among them were ones who had accompanied Zhu Yuanzhang and brother Dao to the coal mine. They exhibited the most valiance, having already seen blood and overcome the fear. So long as they imagine the victory spoils waiting for them after winning, every one of them became excited to the extreme.
And with their presence, those who had not participated in the previous battle also became encouraged.
Lin Yuan also charged with the rest. He could not see clearly his opponent’s appearance, only just a blurry figure. Grasping his long knife, he hacked it down hard, only to miss.
Lin Yuan himself received a slash from the other, but with the protection of the vine armor he avoided receiving a wound, only a bruise.
In the instant where the other became startled, Lin Yuan bit down hard and raised his knife again. Since his strength was lacking he could only rely on tricks. Taking advantage of the other’s momentum he crouched slightly with his knife and also charged forward.
When he came back to himself, the other’s neck had already been cut open.
Lin Yuan did not look again, holding tight to his knife he shouted out again: “Surrender or die!”
He received no reply this time.
He could only hear the clashing of metal on metal and the slight sound of weapon piercing flesh. Lin Yuan took a deep breath.
At that instant, the sound from the back of the residence reached them, it was the voice of Zhu Yuanzhang.
Numerous resounding shouts of ‘kill’ came from deep in their throats. The men at Lin Yuan’s side also became affected, all raising their knives and echoing the fierce shouts from their comrades.
The atmosphere crackled, with just only 100 or so men, they managed to create the grandeur of 1000 men battalion.
Lin Yuan could clearly sense the hesitation from the other side.
Once fear sprouted in the heart, once you felt you might die, your movements would become hesitant and unsure, chaotic thoughts overtaking your mind.
But on the battlefield, hesitation would lead to death.
Lin Yuan shouted: “Attack!”
His men reacted without any hesitation, just like the numerous times during training, charging forward like an angry bull.
Despite the protection of the vine armor, Lin Yuan was still injured. He felt as if his back was on fire but he did not reach back to touch it. If he came back with a hand covered in blood, he thought he would fall without the enemy even making a move.
It’s alright, Lin Yuan said to himself, I have the vine armor, even if I am injured it must definitely not be serious.
When the last enemy fell, Lin Yuan finally allowed himself to collapse onto the ground.
Due to the vine armors, their side won without any causualties. Aside from a couple with serious wounds and 40 or so with light wounds, almost 50 were completely unscathed, not even a single wound.
Zhu Yuanzhang appeared to be more energetic than Lin Yuan, not a wound to be seen. His vine armor had only light scratches, obviously having prevented the enemy from making direct marks.
“Boss, your back…..” Zhu Yuanzhang pointed at Lin Yuan’s back.
Lin Yuan turned around and had the other look at it for him: “Is the wound deep?”
Zhu Yuanzhang used a small knife to lift the cotton rags, smiling: “Not deep, quite light. Just a thin cut. I’ll go find some herbs to put on the wound.”
Lin Yuan: “What kind of herbs are still alive in the winter?”
Zhu Yuanzhang paused.
Lin Yuan let out a sigh. He could only just leave it as it was, if he was lucky it’ll heal by itself, if not then he’ll die from tetanus.
They must clean up the battlefield during the night as the rest of the bandits would come back tomorrow.
All the soldiers lined up in an open space and Lin Yuan gave out orders to not be disrespectful to the captured women and children, just focus on gathering the material spoils.
In actuality, the bandits were rather wealthy, a fair amount of gold and silver, even some scrolls of paintings. Though paintings were worthless in these times.
The women were all locked and penned in a small room, a total of 30 and quite a number already pregnant. Barely covered, the room also stank.
When the door was unlocked, their countenance was still dazed. Even when the soldiers called them to come out, they remained numb and reacted on automaton.
By the light of the fire Lin Yuan finally saw clearly the women’s appearance. With messy hair and dirty faces, everyone had traces of bruises and wounds. Some even on their faces.
Close to 20 was already showing, supporting their swollen bellies as they looked at Lin Yuan.
Lin Yuan could make out clearly the bewilderment on their faces.
The ancient times, place great importance on purity. Even if most of them came from normal civilian families they had still been taught to protect their purity and clean name.
Alot of accounts during the ancient times told of cases where women hung themselves after having been sullied.
But whether it was their personal choice or a choice made for them by their families that was unknown.
“Find a clean room, bring them to there first.” Lin Yuan issued the order to Li Da at his side.
Li Da responded with an ‘ai’ before leading the women to another room.
Now Lin Yuan turned his attention to the captive bandits who were already terrified. It had always been them doing the killing but now they had become meat on another’s cutting board.
One of them begged: “Hero, hero spare me, I was forced by them, I never wanted to become a mountain bandit, hero! I have the elderly and young to support, hero!”
Lin Yuan picked up a knife, and placed it against his neck. The other trembled and the scent of urine reached Lin Yuan.
Retracting the knife, Lin Yuan asked: “I ask you, what are the total numbers of the thieves who left?”
The person replied rapidly: “About 100.”
“What are they doing down the mountain?” Lin Yuan asked again.
The person swallowed: “To take foodstuff….”
Lin Yuan’s knife cut open the skin on his neck.
Immediately the person cried out: “Hero! Steal! They left to steal foodstuff!”
Lin Yuan: “What time do they normally return?”
“Si shi!” (TN: 9-11 am, in the system of two-hour subdivisions used in former times)
Lin Yuan nodded. He asked again: “Look around you, who killed the most? Point him out to me and I’ll spare you.”
The other captives shouted out rapidly: “San zi, don’t you dare point randomly!”
“San zi, I gave you a piece of meet last year!”
The man called San zi dressed shabbily, just by first glance Lin Yuan knew he was not anyone important. But exactly because of that he had hatred for the higher ups who tyranized him.
San zi closed his eyes and then reopened them determinedly. Lin Yuan cut his ropes and had him point out his fellow bandits.
San zi looked around, these people were like him, hands stained with human blood. He walked over to the man the farthest from him.
The man was dressed in cotton and looked big and strong, an obvious aura of a bandit surrounded him. He said to Lin Yuan: “He is our fourth boss, he killed the most!”
“Does anyone have objections?” Lin Yuan asked the captive bandits.
No one replied.
Lin Yuan: “Alright.” Following closely after the word was Lin Yuan’s raised knife.
His strength was not enough, having had to hack twice before cutting off the other’s head.
“Ou——” Some of the soldiers vomited after witnessing the scene.
Lin Yuan had his eyes closed when he carried out the execution. Opening them once again, he himself also almost vomited. Taking a deep breath, the scent of blood reached him, as well as the scent of urine.
Though these captives had killed people before but they hadn’t cut off another man’s head. Especially when the head belonged to someone who had tyranized them before.
“No pleading.” Lin Yuan let out a sigh, “he wasn’t a coward, a pity he took the wrong path.”
San zi was already kneeling on the side.
Zhu Yuanzhang looked coldly at the detached head and said to Lin Yuan: “Boss, we must make preparations.”
Lin Yuan nodded and looked at San zi.
“San zi, stand up.” He ordered.
San zi climbed up from the ground.
Lin Yuan asked: “Do you want to live?”
San zi nodded eagerly: “I want to live!” Pointing a knife at another was a completely different sensation than being on the end of one himself.
Lin Yuan smiled at San zi, but in San zi’s eyes the other was like a Raksha appearing from the deep darkness. San zi was scared shitless.
The entire night was spent cataloging the storage and remaining food supply in the residence. It was to be said, the residence did indeed have a decent foodstuff storage. There was even some fine grains and yellow wine.
Lin Yuan had them pack it all into the half carts, filling up 6 in total——of course the carts belonged to the residence as they had arrived with just their weapons.
“When the sky lightens up, we will eliminate the rest of the bandits in one fell swoop. Then you can all eat as much as you want.” Lin Yuan shouted loudly.
Everyone cheered in a frenzy.
“We’ll have their heads!”
“Kill them all!”
“Eat our fill!”
The heavily injured soldiers Lin Yuan had them stay in a room where they had their wounds cleaned and treated. As for himself, the wound was too shallow and barely bled. By now it barely hurt and Lin Yuan only used water to clean it, not even bothering with bandages.
The bandits who would be arriving in the early morning would have to have been traveling overnight, eager to return to the residence to eat a nice meal and then rest, the moment when they were least on their guards.
Lin Yuan and Zhu Yuanzhang left 10 soldiers to watch over the captives while they set up an ambush and take the returning bandits by surprise.
San zi was also brought along since he was much clearer on which path the bandits would return on.
“If they don’t show up then I will kill you.” Lin Yuan said lowly, “if you reveal us then I will also kill you.”
San zi trembled like the leaves during autumn.
The sound of movement finally reached their ears. Lin Yuan and Zhu Yuanzhang shared surprised looks. These bandits actually had horses!
San zi said in a small voice: “There, there are 5 horses…..”
There was no time to ask where they got the horses from. Lin Yuan gave a hand signal. His soldiers pounced out on the arrivals like hungry tigers.
Lin Yuan also charged out. He was a man after all, and having eaten well and not lacking in nutrition. His physique while not incredibly strong was still enough to hold his own.
On the backs of the horses were not men but foodstuff! This was incredibly good news!
After being startled, the horses let out terrified whinnies. The bandits behind were also caught by surprise but they soon reacted, taking up their weapons.
But at this point, they were already over tired from a night’s travel, how could they possibly compete against the Lin family soldiers who had rested the night before and eager for their victory meal?
“Who comes here?!” A shout sounded out amongst the bandits.
Lin Yuan hollered out in response: “The ones to take your life!”
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