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Chapter: 116

Ch116 - Replacing the Guard

Linghu Kuang truly hadn’t thought that Liang Feng would have a plan, one that, when he elucidated it, actually sounded feasible. When he finished, he hesitantly asked, "This plan to retake Huguan and Bai Pass seems workable, but what about the Xiongnu cavalry headed towards Taihang Pass? They don’t need to be dealt with?"

There were three hundred Xiongnu cavalry that had gone to Taihang Pass; they could conquer a city or two with those numbers. If they let them be and Taihang was lost, wouldn’t the situation get even worse? 

Liang Feng shook his head, "The Liang Estate is located near Taihang Pass, and I am familiar with the garrison there. They should have no problem holding out for several days. If the Xiongnu want to mobilize their main force, they would first have to secure the cities neighboring Bai Pass. Retaking these passes would prevent the Xiongnu from permanently stationing troops there or advancing their armies, and allow the Duke of Dongying to return safely to Bing Province."

Linghu Kuang wasn’t stupid, either. It only took him a moment of thought to realize that this was "using offense as defense." He hadn’t expected that Staff Officer Liang, with a body as frail as his, would be so daring.

"And the two choke points of Bai Pass will be taken care of by only your militia?" Linghu Kuang was still somewhat doubtful. The two fortress cities were indeed smaller, but the Liang Estate hadn’t brought many people either. Would it be too challenging to retake Bai Pass and Huguan simultaneously?

"That, you don’t need to worry about, Commandant Linghu. I have the grand administrator’s seal; with this, whether through trickery or deception, there will be a way to gain entry to the pass. However, Huguan is the throat of Shangdang. It is heavily garrisoned, and it has a stockpile of grain and a full complement of siege defense weapons. It will be nigh impossible to conquer unless we incite mutiny amongst the soldiers. This task can only be entrusted to you, Commandant. Can you handle it?" 

Liang Feng’s expression was truly sincere, and his words were extremely rousing; heat surged in Linghu Kuang’s chest, "Huguan’s original garrison is rather large; even if those knaves can hold the city for a time, they can’t have won their loyalty so quickly. The instant I stand up and make the call, there will immediately be an uprising in the city. Taking back the city will be easy as a hand’s turn."

"Excellent!" Liang Feng clapped, "Then, I must trouble you to recover the three city gates, Commandant. Once Lu City is fully under control, let us ride to Huguan and take back the city! If, in two days, three cities can be recaptured, then the Xiongnu cavalry that went towards Taihang Pass will be defeated without battle."

Young to begin with, and having been shut away for some time, Linghu Kuang was nursing a lot of pent-up anger. Of course the sudden appearance of someone who trusted him so, who would turn the tides together with him, made his heart swell. Ignoring the matter of rest, Linghu Kuang cupped his fist with vigor, "Leave it to me, Staff Officer Liang, and await good news!"

Liang Feng shot a look at Zhang He, who immediately led Linghu Kuang away. First, he had to deal with the matter of the gate guards and ensure the safety of Lu City before carrying out the next steps.

In truth, Liang Feng wasn’t worried about Huguan. It was as Linghu Kuang had said, in a larger city like Huguan, there were too many of Sima Teng’s subordinates. The Xiongnu might be able to control the city for the moment, but it would erupt into chaos at the mere rustling of leaves in the wind. On the contrary, the true danger was at the two choke points of Bai Pass. They were vital passageways for defending Bai Pass, and could be guarded by a couple hundred people. The Xiongnu had likely slaughtered the original garrison entirely and holding the pass themselves. If Bai Pass wasn’t opened, everything would be for naught!

Which meant that this heavy burden would fall to his own people.

We’re sorry for MTLers or people who like using reading mode, but our translations keep getting stolen by aggregators so we’re going to bring back the copy protection. If you need to MTL please retype the gibberish parts.

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"My lord, the inner residence is cleared out. There were a total of nine guards. In the midst of combat, Li Lang and his mother perished when the Xiongnu took them hostage and used them as human shields." 

There was a cold ruthlessness in Yi Yan’s voice. Liang Feng frowned slightly, but swiftly nodded, "Perhaps that’s for the best. Li Lang has an older brother working as a petty official in the commandery government; he must be found and eliminated as well. They conspired with the Prince of Chengdu to seize Shangdang, a crime that would be punished by the execution of all those within three degrees of kinship from them. Their deaths at least can spare the innocent."

For example, their wives and children; obviously, they shouldn’t be dragged down by those greed-addled numskulls.

Surprised that his lord had not reproached him, the murderousness in Yi Yan’s voice as he nodded and responded in acknowledgment.

Liang Feng continued, "I have already learned from Staff Officer Sun that Huguan and the two choke points of Bai Pass are each garrisoned by fifty soldiers, and that three hundred elite Xiongnu cavalry have left for Taihang Pass two days ago." 

What? Two days was enough for that troop of Xiongnu to arrive at Taihang Pass! Yi Yan clenched his fists and declared, "We must conquer Huguan and the other two passes at once!"

It was too late to pursue them now; taking back the cities under Xiongnu control as fast as possible, then surrounding their cavalry, was the best option now!

How serendipitously in sync they were. Liang Feng smiled, "I have already sent Zhang He to take the city gates with Commandant Linghu. Once Lu City is secured, he will bring troops to Huguan to incite its garrison to revolt. You, though, must go onwards to Bai Pass, to break through the choke point and uproot their defenses!"

Yi Yan immediately understood his lord’s intent, "I will go forth and retake the pass within a day!" 

He didn’t sound tense, nor did he seem very nervous; this wasn’t because he was underestimating the enemy, but because he had a sound plan, and he wasn’t afraid of a little danger or hardship. Liang Feng nodded with satisfaction; now this was the elite he’d trained.

"Still, you must be careful. After all, we didn’t bring many people with us to the commandery city. After the two cities are retaken, leave a few people behind to guard them, and let the rest hurry back to the commandery city," Liang Feng ordered.

"Understood." Yi Yan hesitated for a moment, then advised, "As the rebels have already been exterminated, I urge you to freshen yourself and take a brief rest, my lord."

Liang Feng raised a brow. Yi Yan was probably the only person around him who would dare give such advice. Then again, he truly had over exerted himself in those short few minutes holding Yan Ji hostage. His back was already protesting, plus, he had blood all over him. A military man like Linghu Kuang wouldn’t mind, but it wouldn’t be very appropriate for when he summoned the officials of the Grand Administrator’s Palace later on. 

After only a moment’s consideration, Liang Feng nodded, "Tidy up the second hall. I’ll stay there for the time being."

The Grand Administrator’s Mansion was divided into three halls. The main hall was the large palace, used for everyday governmental affairs. The second hall was a small palace, elegantly  arrayed, which could be used to receive superior officials. The rear hall was near the inner residence and was more private in nature, usually used by the grand administrator to discuss matters with his close advisors. Yan Ji had stayed in the rear hall, but with the gory mess all over the place, it was evidently unlivable now.

Yi Yan instantly passed down orders. The servants hurriedly made preparations; none of them dared to dally after the massacre that’d just occurred. Yi Yan, on the other hand, supported Liang Feng and carefully went towards the second hall.

The bathtub was placed in one of the second hall’s side chambers. Aside from the steaming water sprinkled with flower petals, there were two quavering maidservants. Yi Yan didn’t even spare them a glance, promptly shooing them away. He inspected the room inside and out. Then he removed his outer robe, washed his hands of grime, and tested the water temperature himself before pulling a folding screen over and welcoming Liang Feng in. 

Extraordinary times called for extraordinary measures; Liang Feng didn’t fault Yi Yan for his caution. He shrugged off his dirtied clothes and entered the bathtub. The temperature was just perfect, and because of the perfume that’d been added to dispel the scent of blood, it smelled clean and refreshing. Liang Feng comfortably relaxed for a while before he picked up the soap lying nearby and started washing.

This wasn’t the time for a leisurely bath. He briskly washed off the blood on his body, cursorily rinsed his hair, and was about to stand up. But before he could, he staggered and XXXX back down, nearly choking in a mouthful of water. Crap, Liang Feng thought – his calf was cramping up! 

This kind of pain was familiar to him, but no matter how familiar it was, it was still unpleasant, especially so, when he was miserably huddled in a bathtub with no room to stretch his leg. But before he was able to wait it out, the folding screen was shoved aside. Those gray-blue eyes came into view. 

"My lord!" Seeing Liang Feng frowning with pain, Yi Yan rushed forth and, uncaring of the water in the bathtub, scooped him into his arms.  

He hadn’t thought he’d be so hands-on; being carried around unclothed like this was just too awkward, Liang Feng coughed, "It’s nothing – just a leg cramp."

Seeming to only just realize how improper it was, Yi Yan set him down on a nearby couch with lightning speed, then he grabbed the towel hanging on the screen and covered Liang Feng with it. He stepped back and kneeled by his legs, "My lord, which leg is hurt?"

"Um… right…" Liang Feng was just about to say it would get better on its own, when Yi Yan suddenly pressed the inside of his right knee.

But after he massaged both sides of his hamstrings a couple of times, the faint twitching in his calf stopped altogether. Then, Yi Yan lightly held his ankle, stretching out his leg, with one hand and massaging his calf with the other. 

The cramp in his leg was already unbearable enough, not to mention the prickling numbness of having it rubbed. Liang Feng had to clench his teeth to avoid making any sound. Shortly, the feeling in his calf returned, along with the feeling of his broad, calloused hand pressed against his skin. Being rubbed just twice was already enough to make Liang Feng want to retract his leg. He struggled slightly against his grasp, but that burning-hot palm stubbornly continued massaging his leg, refusing to let him get away.

It was a strange sensation.

Liang Feng coughed, "That’s enough. It’s fine now."

Yi Yan meticulously worked his ankle, confirming that his calf muscles wouldn’t bunch up again, before letting go of his leg and bowing, "I have overstepped my bounds. Next time, please act within your capabilities, my lord." 

That was direct admonishment. Liang Feng appraised him once again; he suddenly extended his arm, "Of course there won’t be a next time. Help me up."

Yi Yan immediately held his arm and helped him to his feet, then retrieved a clean inner robe and draped it over his shoulders. His movements were natural, considerate, and efficient, and without the slightest excess. Only now did Liang Feng gradually feel relief. It seemed that Yan Ji, that damn f*ggot, was making him suspicious of everybody. 

After putting on the inner robes, Liang Feng eyed the half-soaked youth beside him and shook his head, "You should go change as well. It’s chilly in the fall; don’t catch a cold."

"I’ll be fine. If you would please quickly dry your hair, my lord." Yi Yan had no intention of leaving, rather, he made a gesture of invitation. 

And there were the benefits of having a maid around. Although, knowing that there was no avoiding anything that was a matter of health, Liang Feng smilingly shook his head, sat on a couch outside, and scattered his wet hair.

Behind him, Yi Yan ever so subtly released a breath. He looked at his ink-black, waist-length hair and steeled himself before gently rubbing it with the towel in his hands.

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