Chapter 224 Day Five · Veterans
The Thunderbolt Battalion marched.
While the Blood Battalion defended the position to the last.
This was a plan that had been set from the very beginning. This time, the war broke out suddenly. Due to the lack of time, neither side was well prepared. Once they really engaged in the fight, the only thing they could rely on was the fighting spirit.
The scorching sun covered the barren mountain in the west of Nanyun. Under the scorching sun, team after team of soldiers of the Blood Battalion were busy moving back and forth. Down the mountain, the army trucks were stop-and-go. More and more heavy fire weapons approached the barren mountain, which was wholly filled with a solemn atmosphere.
Lieutenant General Cheng Huining, the Commander of the Black Dragon Battalion, stood quietly at the mountaintop. His face was grave as he watched the busy scene below.
The general, who guarded the northeastern frontier of Zhongzhou State all year round, didn’t look like a soldier at all. He was thin, elegant, learned, and refined. If he took off his imposing military uniform, he looked more like an erudite and gentle professor or scholar, or a general who was an equally accomplished man of letters.
The thunderous drumbeats echoed in the air. As the thirteen war drums named Family-country sounded at the same time, their sounds shrouded the entire Nanyun border. The drumbeats were rough and earsplitting, with the power that could shake the soul.
As Cheng Huining listened to the beating of drums which were growing more and more intense, instead of cheering up, he had fine beads of sweat all over his forehead. He looked anxious and fretful.
“We need to move a little faster.”
The soldiers at the foot of the mountain moved nervously but orderly. Cheng Huining wiped the sweat from his forehead and whispered to himself.
“Huining, the marshal has engaged in the fight.”
Amidst the deafening beating of war drums, a middle-aged man dressed in the military uniform of the major general quickly passed through the busy crowd and rushed directly to the mountaintop.
Cheng Huining nodded with a solemn look and pointed to the direction of the drumbeats. “I knew it as I heard the drumbeats. Zhijing, how much more time do we need?”
The major general’s mouth moved, and he looked somewhat pale and dispirited. He was originally a handsome man, but his face darkened right now.
“Three hours or so.”
He gritted his teeth and whispered, “It will take us at least two and a half hours to build a perfect line of defense.”
“Two and a half hours…”
Cheng Huining forced a smile and shook his head, saying calmly, “There’s certainly not enough time.”
Bai Zhijing growled, and his handsome face looked a bit forbidding. “But I know my troops. That’s the least time we need. There is no better way.”
Bai Zhijing, one of the core figures of the Bai family of Zhongzhou Giant Group, was the chief of the second division of the Blood Battalion. The second division was a Mountain Division. Although its comprehensive strength was not the top in the Blood Battalion, its equipment configuration and daily training were tailored for mountain warfare. This place was infinitely close to the borderline. The front was a wasteland of Annan State, and the rear was the primeval forest. This undulating mountain range in the middle was the most suitable battlefield for Bai Zhijing and his second division. After the preliminary investigation of the terrain, Dongcheng Wudi directly ordered Bai Zhijing to lead the second division here to form the first line of defense in the west.
However, compared to the five dark forces, Zhongzhou State was ill-prepared after all. It took time to inspect the terrain, execute the operation plan, deploy as well as mobilize the troops, and set up the line of defense.
Despite its impressive efficiency, the Border Control Corps involved more than 100,000 troops. After all the things were done one after another, this moment finally reached.
Currently, most things had been done except for the last step. Batches of heavy firepower were being transferred from the headquarter of the Blood Battalion, installed, and erected. Finally, an extremely powerful fire line was formed at the border. Once all these were done, it would be much easier to just hold on, and the pressure on the entire border would be reduced.
Unfortunately, they didn’t have time now.
The 10,000 elites led by Dongcheng Wudi were at their right front. If only the longitudinal distance between the two sides was counted, they were about five kilometers apart. At this time, the beating of drums named Family-country was loud enough to shake the sky. It had fully explained that Dongcheng Wudi had begun to fight with the five dark forces.
It also showed that in their direction, the enemies were on the way to charge and were five kilometers away from here at most.
After all, they couldn’t charge in batches. In a time crunch, they would surely do it all at once.
It would take two and a half hours for the second division to build a perfect line of defense.
But no matter how many men there were, the enemies could not march for such a long time, because one hour would be enough for a five-kilometer rapid march.
The remaining one and a half hours would be the toughest test for Cheng Huining and Bai Zhijing.
They only had two choices.
The first option was to trade the lives of the soldiers of the second division for time and to allocate some men to set up the line of fire. However, most of the troops of the second division were to be drawn, and the time it took for a few men to set up the line of fire was bound to be longer. As for the ultimate success, no one was confident of that.
The second option was to retreat now and give up this mountainous region.
How to choose?
Cheng Huining’s forehead sweated more and more profusely, but his eyes were still as calm as before. His gaze swept slowly over the mountain range in silence.
This mountain range was arguably the most favorable terrain in the western region. It was nearly six kilometers long, but it was flanked by mountain peaks. The mountains were not high, but they had steep slopes, making them natural barriers. Only the slope where he was now was slightly less steep. This was the only way for the enemy to enter Zhongzhou State. However, the slope was only about three hundred meters wide and was flanked by sheer walls. One man could hold this pass to guard against ten thousand enemies.
Such an important terrain was simply a great place vied by many military strategists. From the early days of the founding of Zhongzhou State to the past few decades, Zhongzhou State and Annan State had been in constant conflicts over this area, and numerous disputes had erupted, large or small. This was the natural gateway to the west of Nanyun of Zhongzhou State. He would guard this place at the risk of his death.
“We can’t withdraw!”
Cheng Huining suddenly spoke. His voice was very light, but his calm eyes sparkled with resolute light.
Bai Zhijing suddenly raised his head and glared at Cheng Huining. He opened his mouth but did not know what to say.
“As long as we hold on here, we can buy time for the lines of defense in the rear. If the other party wants to invade from the west, they can only go this way, unless they are willing to walk dozens of miles to cross a minefield that’s been there for years. Zhijing, we are not ready. The same is true for the lines of defense in the rear. In any case, we cannot withdraw!”
Cheng Huining’s tone grew calmer.
“But it will take time for us to retreat and for them to pursue.”
Bai Zhijing growled, his face contorted, and his fists clenched.
Cheng Huining’s face darkened, and he said coldly, “This place is easy to defend and difficult to attack. If we really abandon it, once the other party enters our country in batches, it will cause endless calamities! And if we retreat without fighting back, this place will be a direct gift to the other party. Once the other party occupies here, will they give it up easily? By then, the western boundary of Nanyun of Zhongzhou State may be bounded by this point. Even if we want to fight, don’t you understand how much this terrain would cost us? You are now distressed to learn that your troops are going to sacrifice, but they’ll end up like this sooner or later!”
Bai Zhijing closed his eyes painfully. His mouth was twitching, but he was unable to speak. Didn’t he understand this truth? He didn’t want to retreat, either. Since the establishment of the Border Control Corps, there had never been a deserter in battles, large or small. However, in this situation, trying to hold on, without the line of fire being set up, was simply using his men to fight. How many men would be killed in the second division after this battle? Bai Zhijing’s heart twitched at the thought.
“You know what you should do.”
Cheng Huining took a deep look at Bai Zhijing and thumped his shoulder with a big hand. “If we withdraw, our rear will be exposed. Although this place is not as crucial as the main battlefield on marshal’s side, it’s important as well. The opponent’s target is the whole Blood Battalion. If they break through here, there will be an uninterrupted flow of enemies, and the Blood Battalion will be in danger.”
“If the Blood Battalion is completely annihilated or badly damaged, even if we win in East Island, the gains will be limited. After all, the Blood Battalion has nearly 160,000 people. If it is gone like this, how can Zhongzhou State make up this hole? With what? Depending on the pampered ‘elites’ inland?”
“And don’t forget, even if we win the final battle of Changdao, we need to send people there to guard. If the Blood Battalion is destroyed, the Snowdance Corps, which is supposed to be stationed in Changdao, is likely to be used to fill the vacancy of the Blood Battalion. What can we get in the end?”
“And Huating, when the battle breaks out here, Huating is also in a crisis. We are indeed prepared, but the other side will not be idle. Otherwise, we wouldn’t regard it as something that would cost the power and wisdom of our nation from the beginning of the final battle of Changdao. In the general trend, everyone must do their best, and the international battlefield is full of smoke. No matter how big an advantage you have, one wrong move will cause you to lose the whole game. Zhijing, if we make a wrong move today, we may be the sinners of Zhongzhou State someday. Don’t you understand that?! ”
Cheng Huining’s tone became increasingly harsh, and his whole person burst out with a burst of unparalleled majesty.
Bai Zhijing’s body shook uncontrollably. He clenched his fists and said hoarsely, “I understand. You don’t have to say it. The second division will fight the enemies face to face. I will stand at the forefront and never retreat unless I’m dead!”
“I will work with you to buy time for the Blood Battalion and the west region of Nanyun.”
Cheng Huining looked ahead, his smile gentle and refined. At the end of his sight, a mass of blackness appeared over the Annan Plain. The dust was rising, and the earth was trembling.
“I’ll do it.”
An old, gentle voice suddenly sounded in the mountains.
The sound was gentle and low, but it clearly sounded in everyone’s ear, calm and confident.
Cheng Huining and Bai Zhijing, who looked ahead with a dignified look, suddenly turned around.
In their sight were the vast mountain forest, the transport vehicles which kept coming and going, and the soldiers which were busily shuttling back and forth.
But deep in the mountain forest, there was a kind of mighty power that made all living creatures tremble!
Vigorous, surging, and unparalleled!
A timeworn Star Flag of Zhongzhou State appeared in everyone’s sight. The flagpole, more than ten meters long, was held by someone. The fierce wind blew in the mountain forest, but the huge flag at the end of the flagpole was frozen like a knife, motionless.
The old man holding the Star Flag abruptly appeared. He walked out of the forest in no hurry, but each step of his covered the distance of tens of meters. He quickly approached this mountain range.
That kind of frightening momentum kept rising and surging in the valley of the western region. The fighting desire rushed to the Ninth Heaven!
A knife-like scarlet flag.
An old face.
The overwhelming fighting desire.
At this moment, the old man and the flag seemed to fill the whole world.
With an indomitable spirit.
The most peripheral soldiers on patrol finally reacted. They subconsciously held up the firearms in their hands and pointed at the old man.
When the war was right around the corner, an unidentified but excessively strong old man holding the Star Flag came to the battlefield. This was absolutely weird. Soldiers on patrol would never believe that he was one of them just because he was holding that flag.
“Who are you?! ”
Among the soldiers on patrol, a lieutenant held the firearm in his hand tightly and looked at the old man in front of him calmly.
The old man was holding the flagpole and standing in front of the patrol. His eyes seemed to lose focus.
“I am a veteran of Zhongzhou State.”
As his eyes were fixed on the mountain range ahead, he whispered, “My name is Li Honghe. Nineteen years ago, my son made the supreme sacrifice in the mountains ahead.”
When the old man talked about these two words, his voice was exceptionally clear, with a kind of stubbornness.
The lieutenant froze. Holding the gun, he murmured to himself unconsciously, “Sounds familiar…”
Li Honghe smiled and clenched the flagpole in his hand. His tone was peaceful. “Over twenty years ago, the Border Control Corps was established at my suggestion.”
He ignored the soldiers who stood there dumbfounded. He took a step, and his figure was already directly below the foot of the hill.
He finally slowed down, but his momentum grew stronger.
Cheng Huining stared at the old man in front of him, and his body trembled uncontrollably.
He had never expected to see His Highness living in seclusion at Nanyun border in such a scene as this.
At the age of thirty-eight, he entered the Invincible Realm. He killed six Invincible Realm masters in his life and ranked the first on the Divine List for a decade. He fought hundreds of battles all his life but was never defeated!
He guarded Zhongzhou State, suppressed North America, ran unhindered across the African continent, and looked askance at superpowers in South America. He held the four seas in awe.
It was the first half of his life that was characterized by glory. He was radiant and invincible back then.
He was Li Honghe.
He was once the God of War of Zhongzhou State.
He was now a veteran of Zhongzhou State.
He was the creed of an age.
Cheng Huining’s eyes lost focus. Vaguely, he seemed to have returned to 20 years ago when he had just joined the Border Control Corps.
At that time, he stood next to another Highness, but the Highness in front of him personally awarded him the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. At that time, the face before him wasn’t that old, and every move of its owner kept his spirit soaring high.
At that time, he put his rank in person on his shoulder and said smilingly, “Nice fellow. Do a good job and protect our country.”
That was the most glorious era of the Li family.
At that time, if the Wang family of Beihai and the Li family joined hands, they were powerful enough to make the whole Dark World crawl at their feet.
When that era passed, and when the Li family’s radiance faded, time rumbled and sped by.
In the twinkling of an eye, nearly twenty years had passed.
The previous Zhongzhou God of War was no longer there. Now before him was a grizzled veteran of Zhongzhou State.
Feeling wronged, helpless, and desolate, falling from the peak into the dust, and changing from the God of War to a veteran, this old man, who dedicated everything to Zhongzhou State, had remained silent from beginning to end no matter what he had gone through, without regrets.
Nevertheless, the previous God of War was gone.
Only a veteran holding the national flag was left.
In Cheng Huining’s sight, Li Honghe was still walking slowly, heading to the mountaintop from the bottom of the mountain.
Somehow, tears coursed down Cheng Huining’s cheeks.
For the national flag that had been worn out by twenty years of wind and frost.
For the veteran in front of him.
At this moment, Cheng Huining was no longer the Commander of the Black Dragon Battalion or a Lieutenant General of Zhongzhou State. In front of the veteran who gave everything to Zhongzhou State, he was just a veteran, too.
He was a member of the first batch of veterans who joined the Border Control Corps. He was a veteran who had always been there and had always been fighting.
The mountain wind blew, and the mountaintop was silent.
An excited voice with a cry of madness sounded on the mountaintop. It seemed that the owner had shouted himself hoarse and had exhausted all of his strength.
“Cheng Huining, a veteran of the Border Control Corps, pay respects to His Royal Highness!”
“Bai Zhijing, a veteran of the Border Control Corps, pay respects to His Royal Highness!”
“Liu Chuanhai, a veteran of the Border Control Corps, pay respects to His Royal Highness!”
“Fu Guoqiang, a veteran of the Border Control Corps, pay respects to His Royal Highness!”
Up and down the mountain, one figure after another got down on one knee on the road that Li Honghe passed. They exerted their energy and roared hoarsely.
Those were roars of fanaticism, akin to faith.
They were the oldest members of the second division, and no one had the military rank below Lieutenant Colonel. Every one of them had a higher rank than Li Honghe did. Now, they were just veterans.
The flagpole in Li Honghe’s hand fluttered slightly, then froze again.
“Get up, everybody.”
Li Honghe said gently in a low voice, as he walked slowly up the hill. “You are not bad.”
All the faces were flushed with excitement, and they roared with all their might, “We’d like to kill enemies together with Your Highness!”
Li Honghe did not look back. He passed through Cheng Ning and Bai Baijing, standing at the forefront of the foothills, whispering: “Take the time to set up the line of defense, and I’ll hold them off. But my time is limited, so you have to hurry up.”
“His Royal Highness…”
Cheng Huining’s voice slightly trembled, and Bai Zhijing suddenly turned pale.
“You go and help.”
Li Honghe chuckled and said unquestionably, “Hurry up. I don’t have much time.”
Cheng Huining still wanted to say something more, but beside him, Bai Zhijing had already tugged at his sleeve and gently shaken his head.
Without looking back, Li Honghe walked slowly down the hill.
Dust rose in the wasteland ahead. A large black crowd was charging at full speed, like the black tide that was surging forward.
The enemies had no flag and wore no military uniform. Li Honghe could not tell who they were and didn’t bother to identify them, either.
Not any of the dark forces had been able to mobilize so many people on the border of Zhongzhou State. Most of these people, no matter what their current identities were, had the identities as a cover. They only had one real identity.
Li Honghe smiled and thrust the flagpole in his hand into the ground.
The scarlet flag, more than ten meters long, suddenly fluttered in the wind!
At this moment, on the mountain range behind Li Honghe, the second division seemed to have utterly disappeared. The huge flag together with the lofty man filled everyone’s sight!
The wind blew harder and harder.
Li Honghe stood quietly under the flag. Behind him was the entrance to the mountain range, which was less than three hundred meters wide. He stood in the middle of the entrance, and his seemingly weak body blocked the entire Zhongzhou State.
The black tide ahead was drawing nearer and nearer.
Li Honghe’s face grew gentler.
He was born in the best of times. From childhood to old age, he carried not only the Li family’s glory but also its pride in this life.
Zhongzhou God of War was fighting for his country!
The Li family’s obsession was concentrated on him and would probably fade away from him.
Li Kuangtu was an ambitious person. He may be willing to give everything for the Li family, but his character, however, predestined him not to be a purely desperate soldier defending his country.
He had ambition and desire.
When the Border Control Corps was established, Li Honghe hoped that he could find his sense of mission and responsibility in such an atmosphere of pure killings. Unexpectedly, he didn’t commit treason, but he died.
Li Tianlan’s future was uncertain. His childhood experience made it impossible for him to guard the country with loyalty and stubbornness as Li Honghe did.
Among the three generations from the grandfather to the grandson, it seemed that Li Honghe was the purest in the end.
Whether he was the God of War or a veteran, what he did was to protect his country.
He had a clear conscience.
“Not biased, not bored… I’ve been indecisive all my life. If I die in battle here, it will be a good end.”
In the wind, Li Honghe whispered to himself, and his wise eyes were full of freedom and ease.
The black tide ahead was rushing here like crazy. Its momentum toppled the mountains and overturned the seas, appearing irresistible.
Li Honghe suddenly straightened his already somewhat stooping body, then reached out and grasped the flying flag.
The flag swept across the fierce wind, as if it thundered on the wasteland.
The world was shuddering.
A strip of Sword Energy that was nearly a thousand feet long rose to the sky in a flash. Infinite sword light with incomparable heroic momentum rushed into the black tide composed of the crowd ahead. The vault of heaven collapsed and was about to fall under the sword light. The enormous amount of sword light tore the sky apart. It then surged and broke out unscrupulously with a great amount of blood rain.
Endless men rushed forward, trampling on the bodies of their comrades. Their shouts of “Kill!” reached the sky.
Li Honghe waved the Star Flag in his hand like crazy. Flashes of sword light that were nearly a thousand feet long rushed into the crowd one after another, causing the blood to burst out all over the place.
The wasteland was stained with blood.
The flag was stained with blood.
Sword light surged like a waterfall.
The flag fluttered like a dragon.
He was going to fight to the death!
At the spot where the Li family’s glory fell nineteen years ago, holding the flag and carrying the last ray of the Li family, Li Honghe burned himself desperately amidst the clouds of blood mist and the sword light all over the sky.