Although the horsemen could not sense any enemies, they all felt an intense danger. It was their liege that had come up with the idea of using fireworks as signals, and it had only begun to spread to the rest of the army over the last half-year. The firework's explosion could be clearly seen for ten-some li, and all the soldiers in that area would begin to move out.
No one understood more than them that the enemy had discovered them and were now converging on their location.
A few moments later, the earth thundered with the stampeding of hooves, so numerous that they sounded like raindrops striking the ground.
"The young commander has ordered that not a single person is allowed to escape!"
"Kill one and be rewarded one hundred taels of gold!"
"Lord Gao has said that if you let one go, you can take your head to see him!"
"Scoundrels, you can't escape! Dismount and get on your knees, and we can spare you!"
"Our young commander has been waiting for some time!"
Loud cries penetrated through the darkness.
The pounding of hooves made the hearts of the horsemen sink. While the enemy seemed scattered, in their pursuit, they maintained their cohesion and pace. This was something only army elites were capable of.
Even more disconcerting was that one of them had said 'our young commander has been waiting for some time'. This meant that the enemy had been ready and waiting this whole time.
But they had moved very furtively, and no one except a small number in their liege's inner circle knew of this operation. Not even the Bureau of Military Personnel's Zhangchou Jianqiong had been informed. But these people had somehow been ready.
"Report back to His Highness that An Yaluoshan is plotting rebellion!" the leader suddenly said.
This was not their first mission, and they were certain that they had not left many clues. For them to be quickly discovered could only mean that An Yaluoshan and his Youzhou crew had been plotting rebellion for some time and had been on their guard throughout.
As the leader spoke, he suddenly took a bow from his saddle and loosed an arrow in the direction of the hooves approaching from behind.
At the same time, the others did the same, taking out their bows and loosing arrows.
This sudden assault left the pursuing Youzhou elites rather surprised. They had not expected the enemy to dare attack while also trying to escape.
But these were still Andong elites who had survived in the northeast. They reacted with incredible speed, engaging in evasive maneuvers while returning fire.
"'S' formation! Don't get too far! Try to exhaust them and kill a few, or else they'll just keep pursuing us!" the leader sternly ordered.
They were extremely experienced when it came to escaping under high pressure. Focusing solely on escape would mean that the enemy would pursue them endlessly, perhaps even ignoring their own safety to try and stop them. Only by killing a few and striking some fear into their hearts did they have a chance at escaping.
As the countless people of Youzhou slumbered, an intense pursuit and battle was unfolding in the darkness.
The Youzhou elites exhibited their impressive horse archery skills. While riding in full pursuit, they bent their bows and loosed their arrows. A few of them, their eyes sharp and fierce, were able to use their bow with either hand. Moreover, the Youzhou elites also displayed incredible teamwork.
In the midst of the pursuit, the Youzhou elites quickly sent a small team to charge in front. These men had small shields which they used to block and bash, sheltering the men behind them from arrows.
All of them displayed a superb level of training and coordination, without the slightest mistake, but unfortunately, they were dealing with Wang Chong's elites…
With a shrieking whistle, an arrow pierced through the darkness, but this was not aimed at any of the riders. There was a shriek as an arrow struck the left foreleg of a horse. Its rider was caught off guard and was immediately thrown from his horse.
Plush! Another sharp arrow pierced through the neck of one of the shield riders.
Without even a chance to groan, the shield rider dropped lifelessly to the ground.
All the Youzhou elites paled, but before they could react, another arrow shot out, colliding with the arrow loosed by a Youzhou elite.
The Youzhou rider's face was stricken with shock.
But in his moment of distraction, a sword pierced through his head, in through the front and out through the back. The Youzhou rider immediately toppled from the back of his horse.
One rider, two riders, three riders…
In this intense pursuit, one Youzhou elite after another was being cut down.
Meanwhile, the ten-some cavalry continued to dodge their attacks in an S-shaped formation. A few of them were struck by arrows, but the rest were unharmed.
In this clash, Wang Chong's men displayed a higher level of skill and a more frightening strength. They were able to react before the Youzhou elites could even attack and evade them. This was not pure instinct, but a skill that had been honed through rigorous adversarial training.
This was a new training method Wang Chong had implemented in his army. Rather than using wooden weapons, both parties used real weapons and were armed to the teeth. In addition, the concept of a death ratio was introduced. What this meant was that a certain level of casualties was tolerated while using this training method. This sort of method was the only one that could produce true top-class elites.
Ordinary soldiers were one thing, but the true elites, including the scouts, were all made to go through this extreme training. Wang Chong would even make Wushang Cavalry or Aswaran Cataphracts their adversaries on occasion.
It was precisely because of this harsh training that Wang Chong's men could display a strength above that of the protectorate armies.
In this pursuit, as their casualties continued to climb, the Youzhou elites felt their hearts grow cold.
Zhang Shougui was second only to War God Wang Zhongsi in the Central Plains, and without Wang Zhongsi, he would have been the true War God of the Great Tang.
All of them had gone through Zhang Shougui's special training, and their level of skill was far above that of the other protectorate armies. This was the first time they had faced an opponent that was above them in all aspects, whether it was horse archery, teamwork, speed, strength, or reaction time.
"Bastards! Lord Gao was right! These people aren't normal! Not only can we not stop them, if this continues, we'll lose them!
"Pass on my order! Get more men over here! We can't let them escape!" the captain of this Youzhou squad sternly ordered.
All of them felt suffocated. Amongst all the protectorate armies, Youzhou's protectorate army was the most arrogant.
They were pursuing an outnumbered foe, but not only were they failing, they were losing many men. This was an unprecedented disgrace.
Another firework shot into the air, and more neighing could be heard as Youzhou elites began to join the pursuit.
But it was all too late. When it came to escaping and counterattacking, Wang Chong's men were extremely experienced.
They had begun to plan their route from the moment they were discovered, their scouts releasing eagles to observe the surroundings and navigate a path through the enemy. When the second firework shot up, they picked up speed.
"This is the territory of Youzhou's protectorate army. We have to get out of here as soon as possible! Once we get out of this region, An Yaluoshan won't be able to do anything to us!" the leader of the squad said.
They were all military elites, and all of them had identification that they could reveal if necessary, but all of them knew that this identification would be useless in this place. No matter what they did, An Yaluoshan would not let them go.
Just when the squad leader was speaking, boom! A fist-sized object with a metallic glint howled through the air. By the time the squad leader realized what was coming, it was already mere inches from his face.
The squad leader immediately sensed intense danger.
He had sensed no signs of energy before this. In other words, the object had started from ten-some meters away, but it had taken a split-second to reach him, and he had no time to dodge.
The squad leader only had time to cross his arms and concentrate his Stellar Energy around them.
Kaboom! The squad leader screamed as his Stellar Energy was dispersed and he flew backward like a ragdoll, thrown from his horse by the terrifying impact and slammed into the ground.
All the other horsemen cried out in alarm, their faces paling.
Several of the horsemen had instinctively rushed over, but there was simply no time. That squad leader had been almost instantly struck and heavily wounded.
At this moment, all of the horsemen were dumbstruck.