The large army of Jin travelled for nearly two days, slowed by the wagons that bore personal possessions and supplies. The large garrison* that they arrived at was capacious, easily housing nearly 500 soldiers along with the various generals and commanders wit
It took a day for Minji to recuperate after arriving at the camp, and the moment she stepped out of her tent for the first time since arriving, the disoriented Min was swept away by the hustle and bustle that was all around her. Soldiers were drilling everywhere, generals rushed between tents and orders were shouted through the air.hin its walls. Another 10,000 soldiers had set up camp just beyond the gates, and the fortress was conveniently situated upon an elevated plain that overlooked each of the four ways. Sima Yi’s tent housed his private quarter as well as the meeting room, and was constructed in the dead center of the camp, while smaller tents surrounded the main tent. Minji’s own tent was comfortably hospitable, with the creature comforts of her own rooms back at the palace, complete with elegant candle-holders, a vanity and a properly padded bed. Huifang and Jingfei had both accompanied her, and the two girls got along famously much to Minji’s pleasure, as Jingfei was shyer than anything and did not easily make friends with the handmaidens of the palace. They shared a small tent beside Minji’s, and both were up to their necks in terror at being attacked.
“Lady Song, you’re up and about at last!” a voice called to her, causing Minji to rapidly turn toward the source of the voice.
“Lord Zhuge Dan,” Minji greeted, bowing to him with a smile. “Have I missed much?”
The pair began to walk toward the main tents, a path being cleared for them as they strolled through the busy garrison. Despite his harsh first impression, Minji learned that Zhuge Dan, a member of the illustrious Zhuge clan, was quite the gentleman who had the utmost respect from his soldiers.
“Luckily, you did not. Scouting units have been deployed to the lower plains, and enemy sentries have been spotted in the edges of the woods lie about 17 li* outside of Xuchang’s gates. We have fortified the city and Wen Yang shall be defending it.”
“I see. We have the advantage of elevation, and thus, shall be able to see the enemy forces coming from perhaps… 12 li away. Although we know they will be targeting the city, I have a feeling that an amount of their numbers will be aiming for our base,” Minji thoughtfully murmured, knowing that the garrison would be an irresistible target, especially with a majority of their companies riding out to meet the main forces.
“Yes, I agree with you, Lady Song. A few companies are already staying behind, but it is more reasonable that we strengthen defenses here. I shall arrange for several units to stay behind along with Lord Sima Yi, as he will be remaining here.”
Zhuge Dan and Minji reached the large main tent, and she ducked inside, seeing a large cluster of generals grouped around a large table. Minji quickly took her seat beside Zhong Hui, and when asked, shared her thoughts with the group to approving murmurs.
“We do have troops remaining behind already, but if a skirmish were to occur, they would not hold out for long. I will personally designate a number of my archers to take posts in the sentry towers, and I strongly advise that perhaps another unit or two are directed to stay with Lord Sima Yi,” she finished, bowing her head.
“Very good, Lady Song, your reasoning is sound. It’s absolutely inexcusable that none of you have realized this flaw in our plan, and you are lucky that our perceptive Lady Song has taken care to speak up about it. Chen Tai, you shall remain here to defend,” Sima Yi sharply remarked, looking around at his generals. The men who were seared with their lord’s serpentine glare all mumbled apologies as Zhong Hui stifled a laugh.
“Lady Song, you are to go along with the main forces led by Lord Sima Zhao and Lady Yuanji to the clearing, as well as Lord Zhong Hui. I will be taking my men through the eastern side of the forest to block their left flank, whilst Lord Zhuge Dan will take the other flank. We will efficiently block any chances of escape,” nodded Deng Ai, palming his fist and raising it, before marching out with a painstakingly drawn map in hand.
Orders received, the generals began to disperse and Minji exited the tent as well, Zhong Hui trailing her.
“That was a job well done, I must say. If you had only spoken up a bit later, for I had the same idea,” sniffed Zhong Hui, slightly annoyed that she had stolen his spotlight.
“Then next time, speak up, my lord,” Minji replied gaily, waving off his excuses as they approached her archers, who were all lined up in front of targets. Unlike the other units of the Jin army, Minji’s archer company included female soldiers, who made up about ¼ of the 20 archers. They were formidable, highly skilled women who were as tough as any seasoned male soldier out there, and their mettle was unchallenged by even the most skeptical of commanding officers. Xianghua, for example, sported a long scar down the right side of her otherwise lovely face from an incident where she was trapped in a sentry tower and had fought off several soldiers using the shaft of her bow and ruthlessly impaling her attackers with poison-tipped arrows. Who would have known that her intimidating demeanor hid a gentle personality?
As the pair stood and watched the training, Zhong Hui seemed to be paying more attention to Minji than usual, and remarked on her choice of accessory that day.
“That hairpiece is very nice, Lady Minji. I don’t believe I’ve seen it adorning you before this.”
“Thank you, my lord… I never wore it before this; therefore, your suspicions are confirmed. I believe this hairpiece brings me luck, as silly as it sounds,” Minji replied, slightly taken by surprise. She never knew he actually appraised her.
“Lucky? How so?” Zhong Hui snorted, smirking at her.
“It belonged to my mother when she was a child, and it always brought fortunate events to her. Unlike many arranged marriages, my mother and father loved each other. She had fallen in love with the young scholar that she saw at all the social events, and when the day came for her to be betrothed, she was heartbroken. At least, until she found out that man she was arranged to was the scholar in her dreams,” Minji smiled wistfully, touching the sunburst hairpiece that was firmly planted into her simple, elegant coiffure.
“How… romantic,” Zhong Hui blinked, crossing his arms. He didn’t seem to really be a romantic type.
“Indeed. I hope I myself am lucky enough to marry for love,” Minji sighed dreamily, wondering if it annoyed him.
A jeering laugh escaped Zhong Hui’s lips.
“You do realize you’re the famed young bachelorette that charms and spurns her suitors successively?”
“Yes, I do, my lord. Because I have no love for them, and their first impression was not impressive,” she replied, smiling smugly.
“You cannot exactly use love as an excuse. Did you even know any of them well enough?”
“A woman can just tell through her intuition, whereas a man simply sees a body that either pleases him or disgusts him. He sees a child-bearing, house-keeping machine, in my opinion.”
That seemed to shut him up for a moment, and Zhong Hui did not broach the subject again.