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As the flag of the God of War fluttered, the rousing sounds of the horn were being blown underneath the flag.
There, five thousand men of the Shadow Cavalry had just formed into a squad. They still looked somewhat deplorable, but they still managed to construct their formation, immobile against the hundreds of thousands of routed soldiers. They were ready to pick up the pieces, coiled and awaiting their commands.
As time went on, the horns formed a choir and the momentum came back to the army.
Among the assembling Dongxuan army, Han Sanhe was mounted on a warhorse right at the vanguard, wearing a snow-white mink fur coat; he sat atop his horse calmly as he watched his army being routed in distress. His expression remained stoic.
The incessant horn was only delivering one message – "Return! Assemble! Fall in!"
The routed Dongxuan soldiers who witnessed the silent scene immediately recovered some degree of faith.
After all, these people were initially Dongxuan's elite troop – the crème de la crème. The cannon fodders, random teams, and martial forces of noble families of Dongxuan had, after all, been drained by Han Sanhe in the Fortress of Resilience, and had been buried there. The remaining Dongxuan troop was comprised of warriors who had been baptized countless of times by steel and blood; such an elite troop could recover swiftly once something that could shake them sufficiently appeared, despite being routed from anomalies or crushing defeat.
Han Sanhe was the person who could shake them up sufficiently.
More and more soldiers halted their steps, some measure of clarity returned to their panicked gazes. One by one, they sprinted forward to return to Dongxuan's base and reassembled themselves.
Some lower-ranking leaders were already beginning to organize their own units.
"Those belonging to the third division, seventh squad, fifth camp! Gather here!"
"Those belonging to the first division, second squad, third camp! Here, here! F*cking hell, faster!"
"Stop running! Come and assemble!"
Once Han Sanhe's flag of the God of War was raised and he appeared with indifference, a big chunk of the army's panic and defeated emotions had been instantly quelled. An increasing number of Dongxuan soldiers were falling into formation behind Han Sanhe again. The calm and steady aura of a militant was being conjured once again.
This was where Han Sanhe excelled. He knew well his strengths and weaknesses. It was true that he was nicknamed the continent's God of War but he was no real God. When the rout began, it would be useless even if he displayed the God of War's flag; he would be taking after Zhan Ge and washed down by the routing army. Then, it would really be realizing their defeat without any chance to do anything about it.
On that account, he had acted ahead of time and waited with a raised flag hundreds of miles away from the routed troop.
There had to be a limit for the retreating army and these withdrawing soldiers had to be tired out by fleeing. More importantly, their terror about the unknown power must be near mind-numbing and the moment would come when they needed support, a backbone. Only then would his abrupt presence be able to make an impact.
The theory sounded simple, but there were, at most, three people in the entire continent who were able to step out dauntingly and hold the routed army back from utter defeat under such circumstances!
To achieve such a feat, the commanding marshal must have a standard of calmness rendered from countless wars as well as an unsurpassable reputation in the military. None of these two aspects could be absent.
As Dongxuan's routed soldiers ebbed from every direction, Han Sanhe's spot looked like a solid rock amidst the raging sea from afar. The collapsing army that was like a raging, retreating tide turned into a slow stream at once after passing the calm rock of Han Sanhe; they then stopped and redirected their flow.
It was a miracle, akin to a rock stopping the advance of a fierce tidal wave.
Zhan Ge was close to vomiting blood as he retreated along the way, being swept by the rest of his troop. When he finally came close and slowed down, the temptation to behead people to subdue the scattered soldiers was strong. It was only then that he realized the speed of the people fleeing around him was impossibly slow. In fact, they no longer seemed to be running away. It was more like they were walking forward slowly.
Zhan Ge sucked in a deep breath and looked over to where they were walking towards. Once he took in the sight of the solemn army formation, Zhan Ge teared up as he sobbed, "Teacher…"
Han Sanhe kept stationary without saying anything. His gaze was calm and he only lightly, faintly, waved his arm.
Zhan Ge suddenly felt energized and he walked over with large strides. The few steps were enough to recover the calm on his face. When he walked to position himself behind Han Sanhe, Zhan Ge was already fully composed; the expression of failure, defeat, and dismay had vanished.
Even if the sky were to collapse, it would be fine with his teacher here!
The continent's unrivaled God of War was his teacher!
With his teacher taking rein, it wouldn't matter if the Nine Supremes came together.
Smoke rose from afar.
Han Sanhe squinted as he watched where smoke was clouding the sky and said faintly, "There is where the only chance the tables of this battle can be turned. Zhan Ge, remember, this is… the last chance I can teach you and you can learn from me."
Zhan Ge was grief-stricken. "Yes."
Han Sanhe remained stoic, wearing only a weary look of endless indifference on his face. His gaze was cast afar as he looked into the distance.
"To be routed is the most humiliating yet unavoidable experience for a general. Once it happens, it is the worst scenario to happen in the military career of that general. However, there's no absolute certainty in this world. Despite the crisis and impasse, it doesn't mean there isn't a chance of redemption. As long as you don't panic and still have the prestige to pacify your army, you can grab onto the opportunity to turn the tables around. Worse comes to worst, you can still withdraw intact without losing everything."
"The tables are currently turned. The opponent has gotten the upper hand, but it's not a complete victory. If the enemy's general doesn't know how to take defeat and is greedy to win, he may give chase all the way and cause his attacking troop to be disorderly. In that case, we may still have a chance to win this."
Han Sanhe said faintly, "Now, we shall see if Fu Baoguo can still maintain his composure. If he can still be composed at this moment, then his position as Tianxuan continent's God of War will be secured and we can withdraw unscathed. Otherwise, if he can't, then we'll counterattack tonight. The military strength differs greatly on both sides; although we have just lost, our combat power is still mightier than that of Yutang!"
Zhan Ge answered seriously with unusual humility, "Yes."
"What I've said isn't just regarding Fu Baoguo. Anyone you face in the future, any general or leader, it's the same. As a general, it's only a fitting mannerism to keep calm and maintain one's composure before chaos – unmoved till death!"
Han Sanhe's voice seemed to come from a very far place as he said, "You have to remember my words by heart! Remember, whatever it is, you must never panic first."
"Hence, this time, you have disappointed me greatly!"
Han Sanhe said grimly, "When the army is routed, you, as the main marshal, did not flee but neither did you manage to pacify your troop. You were swept away by the defeated army after all. In defeat, you should have remained with your troop, but what you should have done was to send your janissary with your marshal flag off first, erecting the flag sixty or even eighty miles away, where all of you will surely pass!"
"However, you didn't counteract as the main marshal. Along with this event, I've only seen your indignation, your rage, your hopelessness, and you beating and killing people! I did not see composure and calmness, inner peace despite a defeat!"
"Just this point alone drags you far away from being on par with Fu Baoguo!"
Han Sanhe's gaze was distant. "If you can't overcome the fear in your heart, you'll never be competent enough to be a marshal!"
"I hope that this disappointment I feel today ends today. No more next time, forever!"
"Yes! This disciple will keep it in mind! I will never disappoint teacher again!" Zhan Ge lowered his head, ashamed.
At that moment, Dongxuan still had plenty of routed soldiers fleeing over. What came with them was the rumbling galloping from where the smoke rose into the sky. It was Yutang's Steel Cavalry that had caught up with them.
Han Sanhe listened closely before he chuckled bitterly.
"What I don't want to see the most has happened. Fu Baoguo isn't greedy about winning nor has he lost composure. It's already shown from the uniform galloping." Han Sanhe shook his head. "What I've said about turning defeat to victory is but a wild wish now."
Disappointment painted Zhan Ge's face.
"With my knowledge of Fu Baoguo, this is to be expected. Let that be. Now, let me teach you another lesson." Han Sanhe said softly.
"This lesson is called… the merciful can't command an army!"