Xiu’s Company fighting the Rebels
Below the high walls of Fort Warren, ZiChuan Xiu received his first set of orders from a messenger on horseback. In the document, Commander Fang Jing, whom the High Command had put in charge of the militia operations in the Far East, ordered ZiChuan Xiu to march for the Province of Kudesa directly to wipe out any remaining Rebels in the area, and not to enter the Fort.
Breathing in the fresh air surrounded by nature, gazing forth past the endless green stretching as far as the eyes can see and onto the magnificant mountain ranges over the horizon, ZiChuan Xiu and the three Banner Masters felt deeply, but none could put their feelings into words, only murmuring softly in their hearts: “We are once again back in the Far East.”
As they began marching east from Fort Warren, no matter where they went, the terrible scars left by the flame of war had seared deep into this beautiful piece of earth called Far East.
Meanwhile, the frontline had shifted further eastward, but the lands still bore the mark of its terror. The fierce battles had set quiet villages alight, turning a prosperous city into ruin, covering a mountain of green in a lifeless layer of ash and drowning what was once a rich farmland with a sea of empty bones.
Along the main road, an endless stream of refugees and beggars hurriedly made their way west. Amongst them, there were many humans but also many other races native to the Far East, mostly women, children and the elderly. They looked hungry, exhausted and desperate in their eyes. Whenever they spot a large human army passing through, they would group up around them in the blink of an eye like flies to manure, begging for anything they could spare. A couple of times, Xiu’s Company had to resort to using whips in order to break free.
For them, it didn’t matter whether you were the allied army of all races shouting “An independent Far East, home to the free and brave!” Or House ZiChuan’s human forces carrying the banners of “Pacify the rebels, restore the peace!” They only wanted that piece of worthless bread. With it they could last the day, without it, they might not survive.
When Stirling was passing through the area, he had shed his fair share of the tears for the horror that had befallen the locals. He tried his best to resettle them to the peaceful areas west of Fort Warren, safe and away from the flames of war. As long as they could survive he thought, but his other duties demanded him to be elsewhere, leaving him with little time to deal with matters such as this. In the end, the majority of the refugees still had no home to return to, and no place to go.
That was what Lei Hong’s ambition had brought to the Far East, nothing but devastation and war.
Officers like Luo Jie, Chang Chuan, who were born in the Far East all looked incredibly grim. Through the mouths of the refugees, they were told that their home town, the province of Minske no longer existed on the maps, their families, friends, all missing. Seeing the horrible sight before her, Bai Chuan couldn’t help crying. It was ZiChuan Xiu who made the decision, to withdraw a portion from their daily provisions to aid the refugees… Everyone knew it was a foolish attempt; it wouldn’t solve any of the real problems, but not one person protested. Looking at the overjoyed faces of the refugees holding a small piece of bread, it put everyone’s mind at ease, albeit only a little.
About three weeks ago, Stirling’s Army engaged Lei Hong’s Rebel Army in a fierce battle near the province of Kudesa. The result was Lei Hong retreating while leaving thirty thousand corpses behind. However, a big portion of the retreating forces ended up scattering in all directions, taking refuge in the surrounding mountains and forest, unwilling to leave.
Most of them eventually turned into local bandits, too scared to face any of House Zichuan’s armies head on, but whenever they encountered small groups of guards transporting supplies or delivering messages, they would rob them of everything.
Unfortunately, due to the overwhelming number of bandits, their great elusiveness and mobility, and the location of their hideout, which was often found in the most dangerous and deepest part of the mountain forest, they had made themselves incredibly difficult to root out.
The troublesome situation had caused numerous headaches for the Commander of Fort Warren – Fang Jing who was in charge of all the logistic operations in the Far East. Since he didn’t have any extra regular armies at his disposal, knowing ZiChuan Xiu was born in the Far East and familiar with the local terrain, he had requested for Xiu’s Company’s deployment.
A new report came in from a messenger the day of their arrival: A group of Beastmen had just ambushed the supply convoy, requesting Xiu’s Company’s immediate assistance. By the time ZiChuan Xiu arrived at the scene, he could only watch as Beastmen’s shadows vanished in the distance, leaving a road of wreckage trailing behind them. Under Cavalries relentless pursuit, the trail eventually led to the dense forest where the Beastmen had disappeared into. In response, Xiu’s Company surrounded the entire forest, sealing off any path leading in or out of the area.
“Brothers from the allied Army of all races, you are completely surrounded! Lay down your weapons and come out. The Army of House ZiChuan offers preferential treatments for anyone willing to surrender, there is no need for us to fight!” Luo Jie shouted loudly alone facing the dense forest.
“That is right! Keep going; make sure they can hear you!”
“Tell them, there is food and drink for anyone willing to surrender! If not, then there is only death!”
“Also, remember to say that in their language! They don’t understand a word you are saying right now.”
Behind a wall of shields, ZiChuan Xiu manicured his nails, all the while encouraging him on with words.
Bai Chuan talked to Chang Chuan in a serious tone: “I heard the Beastmen had those handcrafted javelins, and they are super lethal. It can pierce through our armour with ease.”
“No wonder, just look at the size of their arms. Besides, I heard they dip their weapons in poison. Even the smallest wound can be deadly!”
“I see… Shall we start praying for Luo Jie’s soul?!”
Behind the trio, several thousand Xiu’s Company’s soldiers and officers held their breath as they watched the brave Banner Master – Luo Ji in action. It didn’t take long before the discussions began: “Everyone look, Sir Luo Jie’s face is turning paler by the second, like a dead pig!”
“How is it that on such a chilly autumn day, his sweat has soaked through the back of his uniform? He is shivering from the cold as we speak.”
“I can barely hear him, as if he is afraid of being heard or something. Actually he sounds more like he is crying!”
“Sir Xiu, why don’t you send a few more guys over? We would look more threatening if we stand together… I mean… I feel a bit alone over here!” Luo Jie’s voice trembled slightly.
ZiChuan Xiu turned to look at the soldiers lining up behind him: “Any of you want to volunteer and help Master Luo out?”
Everyone shook their head with absolute resolution.
ZiChuan Xiu encouraged Luo Jie: “There is no need to be afraid. Even though you are standing over there all by yourself, we are right there with you, in spirit!”
Luo Jie replied: “Sir. I think I should stand a bit further back, that way we don’t have to shout to each other…”
ZiChuan Xiu answered without a moment of hesitation: “No need. My hearing is just fine.” He turned to Bai Chuan and Chang Chuan: “How about you guys, do any of you need to get closer?”
Both of them declared instantly: “Our hearing is perfectly fine, Sir.”
Luo Jie added: “Sir Xiu. I shouted for so long and I didn’t hear anything in return. The Rebels are probably gone by now! I think I should come back.”
“Just get closer to the trees and this time, put some more oomph in your voice!”
Chang Chuan whispered to Bai Chuan: “Something happened last night during dinner. Luo Jie somehow made Sir Xiu really angry. The next day, Sir Xiu immediately went and bought twenty contracts for Luo Jie’s life insurance, with himself being the sole beneficiary of all of them.”
After Luo Jie had shouted for nearly twenty minutes, noises finally began to spread throughout the forest as a score of javelin-wielding Beastmen came out from the cover of the woods, rushing towards them and yelling: “Waguriguri! (Attack!)”
Luo Jie crawled and scrambled his way back to ZiChuan Xiu as fast as he could, reporting: “Sir, they are coming!”
ZiChuan Xiu shouted back: “Attack! Luo Jie, you are the vanguard!” and gave him a kick sending him tumbling right back where he came from.
The distance between the two groups quickly narrowed, and ZiChuan Xiu shouted: “Surrender and you will be spared! Do you really intend to fight? There are several thousand of us!”
All of a sudden, noises and shouts stirred from the backline: “Run for your lives!” and a few rustles quickly turned into an avalanche of earth-shattering cry, except that instead of getting louder, it grew quieter by the second, moving further and further away. A moment later, eight thousand Xiu’s Company’s riders had disappeared into thin air. They ran with such astonishing speed, it only took seconds, and all that left were a blurry line of shadows over at the end of the horizon and a large amount of dust floating in the air. When the wind finally washed over them, it still carried with it the faint sound coming from the distance: “Run! Don’t stop!”
Leaving only ZiChuan Xiu and three of his officers remaining as several dozen angry Beastmen surrounded them. Both sides were left stunned by the sudden development. It took a while before a voice came through from the Beastmen, and it was spoken in Human language: “You want us to surrender?”
“Nope, nothing of the sort…” ZiChuan Xiu ditched his sabre right the way: “I was asking, if you would like to accept our surrender!”
“But weren’t you the one shouting ‘Show no mercy’ just a second ago?”
“That was him!” ZiChuan Xiu, Bai Chuan and Chang Chuan all pointed their fingers at Luo Jie: “We have nothing to do with that!”
“Hohoho… Xiu the Lightbringer. I haven’t seen you for a while, but you are still an ass.” A stout Beastman pushed his way through, his dark brown face cracked a wide smile.
ZiChuan Xiu yelled with joy: “Old man Dren!” Before he could finish, the Beastman already had him in his arms.
Back when ZiChuan Xiu was still a young Banner Warrior, he was stationed in the Village of Blue in the Province of Wargo. He taught the villagers how to make herbal medicine, how to farm the fields, taught the children the language of Humans and formed a great deal of friendships with the Beastmen living in the village. The villagers called him “Wagadaimu” (The one who brings the light). Dren was their chief. When he fell ill, it was ZiChuan Xiu who brought the military surgeon to the village and saved his life. They had been great friends ever since.
The two pushed each other around like good friends: “Hey old man, so what have you gotten yourselves into this time? Why are you rebelling?”
“Tch! You don’t know shit! After you left, came another officer. He and the landlord were ruthless. We just had a year of drought, and they still demanded us to pay their stupidly high tax. They started beating us when we couldn’t afford the tax, crippling several of our boys. We had no choice.”
The words made ZiChuan Xiu frown: “How is the village?”
“Not good. Only the elderly, woman and children are left at home, leaving no one to work the fields. All the men joined the rebellion, and many died without ever going back. Like the two kids from House Moody, they died at Fort Warren; the man from House Sam died too; and House Drew, three of their four kids are dead, and one is still missing. No one knows where he is right now, or whether he is dead or still alive… Right, as you can see. Most of the villagers are here.”
ZiChuan Xiu looked around carefully, and indeed, there were many familiar faces amongst them. He forced himself into a smile, greeting everyone, but his heart was deeply troubled: When he received the order to withdraw from the Village of Blue, the villagers were so sad to see him leave they escorted him for several miles in tears. Who would have thought, the next time they met would be on a field of battle, and on opposite sides.
All the Beastmen warmly greeted ZiChuan Xiu back. ZiChuan Xiu had helped most of them in the past, even some of the younger ones who had never seen ZiChuan Xiu before had heard of his stories. Some even timidly called out his name using the unfamiliar human language: “Uncle[] Xiu, the Lightbringer.”
Being reunited again after so many years, they all had so many words to share and so many stories to tell. Normally such occasion would have been quite the emotional one, but not if Luo Jie had anything to say about it: “Sir, when you are done reminiscing the past, can you please help me down from the trees?” Meanwhile, a bunch Beastmen hung Luo Jie upside down from a tree and beat the living shit out of him, leaving him an inch from death.”
When ZiChuan Xiu, Dren, and the others made their way back to the camp, the band of criminals from Xiu’s Company were still busy drafting the condolence letter: “It is with immense grief, that we mourn our most esteemed Officer, the brave warrior and loyal guardian of House ZiChuan, Deputy Commander ZiChuan Xiu! He personally led the brave charge against the hateful rebels in the battle of October 8th, and ultimately died a heroic death!”
“His final words were: ‘Brothers, everything I own is now yours!’ We shall carry on his banner in fond remembrance and continue to fight with honour! May Sir Xiu’s spirit forever encourage us to push forth! He will always live on in our hearts…”
That was where the condolence letter stopped, because ZiChuan Xiu had decided to show the idiot writing the letter what “immense grief” really meant. After he was done with him, he handed him over to the already aggravated Luo Jie who was still hurting everywhere from the beating he took earlier, saying: “He is all yours now, just don’t kill him!”
Luo Jie quickly took the hint and dragged the soldier away.
Dren shook his head: “A guy like that and you are keeping him alive? If he was one of us, the law of ‘Sai’ depicted that anyone running away before a battle was to be hanged.” The Beastmen called themselves the ‘People of Sai’.
ZiChuan Xiu laughed bitterly: “Heads are not cabbages; they won’t grow back if I cut them off. Besides… am I supposed to order the half of my men to hang the other half?”
Dren laughed heartily, splitting his huge mouth in half: “This is the first time I’ve seen an Army like yours! Only if every House ZiChuan’s Army was like that! And we would have crushed Stirling’s forces with less than a hundred of us!”
ZiChuan Xiu asked curiously: “You fought against Stirling’s forces? How did that go?”
All the Beastmen shook their head at the same time: “Terrifying!” The words brought fear to each of their faces: “He is not a man; he is the God of War reincarnate!” The younger Beastmen rushed to tell the stories they heard about Stirling: “Stirling is like two pine trees tall! His eyes are brighter than pure gold and he spits fire at night! He can make replicates of himself, capable of appearing in several different places separated by thousands of miles at the same time! His body is impervious to harm; his roar can blast an entire battalion of men away! He even knows Dark Magic. Every night he would play his flute and every House ZiChuan’s Soldier who died that day would rise up from their grave and rejoin their ranks, becoming even stronger than before!”
Stirling’s stories kept them going for tens of minutes, another Beastman even began singing a Song written in his name. “Anyways…” Dren’s final conclusion was: “How are you supposed to win against the God of war?!” What he meant was: It is not that we are not brave enough, but if our opponent is a God, then we are not the ones to blame for our losses!
“That is right, how could we have won?” A bunch Beastmen repeated the words piteously. Bai Chuan couldn’t help laughing: “If that is the case, why don’t you guys just surrender to Stirling instead, what is the point of staying at the rebellion?”
“Well, if we could really join Stirling, that wouldn’t be so bad!”
“Hehe, but the elders gave words, if any people of Sai dares to side with Stirling, the punishment is death!”
“I hear Stirling is a great man. He doesn’t burn down Sai’s villages.”
ZiChuan Xiu ignored the youngsters arguing about Stirling, and asked Dren: “So what are you planning to do now? Keep fighting for the rebellion? House ZiChuan would only keep sending more reinforcements to the Far East.”
Dren thought about it, then said: “We don’t want to fight anymore. We can’t beat Stirling. We just want to go home. It is been so long since we left. I wonder how my wife and children are faring, and if my village still stands.
He told ZiChuan Xiu that the Beastmen from the Village of Blue had wanted to go home for a while now, but House ZiChuan’s forces had blockades set up along the road leading back home. Especially near the province of Deja, Lacoss and Yun, the bulk of House ZiChuan’s Army had gathered there, numbering several hundreds of thousand strong. No matter which way they took, west, east, north or south, all the roads had been cut off and more ZiChuan’s reinforcement were arriving every day. A small group like theirs with only a few dozen Beastmen would be spotted and destroyed instantly if they ventured too far from the woods.
ZiChuan Xiu clapped his hands and said: “That is easy! I can take you home!”
The Beastmen cheered; Dren pulled ZiChuan Xiu again into his arms, hugging him tightly. Bai Chuan quickly averted her gazes, unwilling to see the sight of ZiChuan Xiu’s flushed cheeks from being hugged too tightly.
After the celebration, ZiChuan Xiu suddenly remembered something: “But… I can’t do that right now. My orders are to pacify the whole region…”
Dren confidently clapped his chest: “Xiu the Lightbringer, you are a true friend of Sai! No questions asked; I will help you! People of Sai are always family, no matter where we are! I know most of the tribes around this place and I know the mountains like the back of my hand!”
The next day, Xiu’s Company once again began their pacification work. Dren didn’t lie, he knew most of the Beastmen in the area, and many of them were even distant relatives of his.
Dren first went to see his cousin, Drake. He was the Chief of the village next to Village of Blue. Seeing several thousand soldiers marching his way, and his cousin’s promise saying that they would be able to go home, he readily surrendered with his men without a second thought.
Drake then found his cousin, Deb, and he surrendered as well. Together they found another one of their cousins, Delin… Their family tree was so convoluted, it made Bai Chuan dizzy… The first day alone, Xiu’s Company took in over a thousand Rebels. ZiChuan Xiu treated every one of them with the same kindness, eat first, questions later.
Ever since the Rebels were defeated by Stirling, they had been hiding deep within the mountains and forests, scared of being caught. They hadn’t had anything decent to eat for weeks. Now finally holding a bowl of warm meal in their hands, they were about to burst into tears.
Most of the Rebels were close to starving. In some places, some of the more stubborn ones refused to surrender. ZiChuan Xiu simply gave the order to prepare a big pot of meat stew. When the wind carried the irresistible scent into the trees, the Rebels instantly crawled out of their hiding places shouting: “Wasili! (We surrender!)”
Every day, large group of Rebels would march day and night from other provinces all the way to surrender themselves to Xiu the Lightbringer. Apparently, the rumours had spread quickly, and many of them wanted to go home. By the time the week ended, ZiChuan Xiu couldn’t even believe his own eyes when he saw his “military records”: Total of recruited enemies – over seventy thousand, almost ten times of his original number.
Bai Chuan found the situation very troubling. Facing such large amount of Rebels, if they were to turn on them, they could wipe out Xiu’s Company within the hour.
She made up her mind and decided that it was her duty to warn that “little idiot” at least once.
Bai Chuan: “Sir, do you want to hear a joke?”
ZiChuan Xiu was surprised: “Really? I never knew you were capable of telling a joke! It better be funny!”
Bai Chuan ignored him, saying: “In the midst of a battle, a soldier from the Far Eastern Army yelled: ‘Sir, I caught a Demon!’ The officer replied: ‘Good work! Bring him to me.’ The soldiers answered: ‘I can’t, he is about to drag me away!’”
ZiChuan Xiu stared dumbfounded: “Then what?”
Bai Chuan was furious, how could someone be this stupid? She patiently hinted: “Sir, after hearing that joke, does it remind you of anything? Don’t you think our current situation is very similar to that of the soldier?”
ZiChuan Xiu rubbed his head and thought about it for a while, then answered: “Nope. Not really.” And left.
Leaving Bai Chuan alone cursing behind him: “Idiot! Damn idiot! Stupid idiot! F*cking idiot!”
Chang Chuan, who was in charge of the logistics, came up with another question as he reported to ZiChuan Xiu: “Sir, there are too many mouths to feed. Our food supply will only last for another week!”
ZiChuan Xiu considered for a moment, then gave the order: “Summon all the Officers of the rank Captain and above. We shall hold Xiu’s Company’s first Council of War.”
[]The word Uncle is often used as an honorific in china when referring to someone older, or with respect.