Chapter 332: Superior!
"Prepare yourself. Just like before, we shall split our forces in four and eliminate every sentry the bandits have stationed en route to their den. Remember, don't give them any chance. Even a single escapee could spell the failure of our operation. If that were to happen, we'll retreat right away and leave it to the other troops in the future to deal with them," Wang Chong glanced to the side and commanded.
"Yes, lord!" Ma Song replied.
Hearing the dull thuds coming from the forest, a vague smile emerged on Wang Chong's lips. The bandits might be weak, but it would be foolish to assume that they were lacking wits.
To be able to survive the periodic cleanups conducted by the royal court meant that they either possessed superior strength or extraordinary wariness. Since it was impossible for them to be stronger than the troops of the royal court, it had to be the latter.
Even rats developed their own forte for survival, needless to say these bandits!
Xu Gan and Huang Yongtu were far too lacking in worldly experience, resulting in their underestimating the nature of this mission. They thought that they could easily suppress the bandits with absolute strength, and it was that mindset that doomed them to failure.
From the very start, Wang Chong knew that the purpose of this mission was to assess their experience and wits, and not just mere strength.
As outlaws, no matter how deep into the night it was or how tired their members may be, the bandits would still ensure that there were sentries stationed to keep a lookout for enemies.
Without clearing away the sentries at the perimeter of the bandit den, it would be impossible to eliminate all of the bandits.
Xu Gan and Huang Yongtu should have realized this fact when they had suffered their first failure. But perhaps because they were simply lacking in experience, or maybe they were underestimating the bandits too much, they overlooked this crucial factor and attributed their failures to bad luck.
After clearing away the sentries in the perimeter, the troops reorganized at the gathering point. Following which, Wang Chong raised his hand and signalled for the troops to charge into the camp.
At this moment, most of the bandits were still deep in sleep.
On the main road at the foot of the mountain, after receiving the report by the spy, Xu Gan and Huang Yongtu stared at one another in shock. From the start of the mission, they had never taken these weak bandits seriously.
They thought that the numerous times they had failed was due to a series of coincidences working against them. While they did clear away the sentries they met en route to the dens, never in their wildest dreams had they expected those simple bandits to go to the extent of planting a huge bunch of them around their camps.
"So that's the case! To think that the fellow didn't warn us about that!" Huang Yongtu was enraged at this discovery.
Had that fellow informed him of this matter, he wouldn't have failed so tragically, to the point where he even nearly lost his life to a poisoned saber.
But considering how they had treated Wang Chong during the past few days, Huang Yongtu also knew that there was no way the other party would be so kind as to enlighten them on this point.
"Hmph, so that's the case!" On the other hand, after learning Wang Chong's "secret", Xu Gan flung his sleeves and stood up decisively. "And here I was wondering what kind of secrets he had up his sleeves. Now that I know what is going on, his smug days are over."
It was as if the veil blinding their eyes had been lifted. Confidence, along with the disdain they had for Wang Chong previously, returned to their faces.
If the failure was due to this oversight on their part, they should be able to fare better than Wang Chong once they resolved this issue. In the end, that peasant from Kunwu Training Camp would still be beneath their feet.
Di da da!
At that moment, the clopping of horses hooves sounded from the forest, and Wang Chong and his platoon emerged from the trees.
"You accomplished the mission?" Xu Gan asked.
"Un," Wang Chong nodded.
"Congratulations," Xu Gan spat coldly.
Wang Chong chuckled in response. His gaze fell momentarily on a certain cavalryman standing within the formation behind Xu Gan, but he chose not to expose the matter. Instead, he returned the gesture with two words, "Thank you."
"Brat, I shall wipe that glee off your face. Do you think that we don't know those little tricks of yours? Xu Gan, it should be our turn now!"
Their horses galloped away, raking up a billowing mass of dust in their wake.
The duo had left with great confidence and ambitions in mind, but that still didn't stop them from returning in a wretched state. If anything, they looked worse than the previous times.
"What happened? Didn't you pay attention to how he cleared away the traps?"
Xu Gan glared at the cavalrymen who followed Wang Chong previously, his face red with anger. Taking the lesson to mind, he had made sure to hunt down all of the hidden or obvious scouts and sentries planted around the area.
But a simple trap made of vines had rendered his efforts futile.
Not only that, but the further they headed west, the bandits would set ever-more complex and formidable traps, making it harder to guard against them.
It was only then that it dawned on Xu Gan that entering the bandit den silently was far more complex than merely clearing away the sentries in the area. The many traps laid over the area posed a huge problem, as well.
Under Xu Gan's furious gaze, the cavalryman replied anxiously. "I-I also don't know! They didn't step on a single trap in their operation, so I didn't notice anything, either!"
The only role of ground-level troops like them was to obey orders strictly. Since Xu Gan asked him to follow Wang Chong, he simply did what was commanded of him. What Xu Gan was asking of him at this moment was already way beyond the scope of his responsibilities.
Xu Gan and Huang Yongtu's complexions darkened.
"We have underestimated that brat!"
"He still has other secrets hidden from us!"
Resentment burned in the eyes of the duo. Both of them had suffered a great deal at the hands of the bandits. When Xu Gan failed, Huang Yongtu thought that it was just a coincidence and went ahead with his assault. But in the end, he ended up in the same state as well.
In this unofficial competition, both of them had lost utterly. The victor ended up being the seemingly unimpressive Wang Chong.
Seeing the both of them returned, Wang Chong unexpectedly rode his steed forward and clasped his fist to welcome them. "You have returned. Did you manage to clear the bandits?"
Recalling how disdainful their attitudes were before they left, they couldn't help but feel embarrassed and humiliated by Wang Chong's words. If it was possible for them to disappear into thin air, they would have vanished then and there.
The triumphant return they had imagined didn't come to be, and a completely opposite reality was shoved right into their faces.
"What are you acting so smug for? All you did is to clear away a few bands of bandits. Is that anything to be proud of?" Huang Yongtu snapped.
Uttering those words embarrassed him even more, but the rage boiling over in his mind was far beyond that. If not for Lieutenant Zhang Lin's presence, he might have already laid his fist on Wang Chong.
On the other hand, Xu Gan simply harrumphed coldly and led his subordinates to the side.
"Why don't you just tell them?" a voice suddenly sounded by Wang Chong's side. Surprisingly, Bai Siling was riding her mount over.
"What do you mean?" Wang Chong replied with a doubtful tone.
"They think that you are a normal peasant from Kunwu Training Camp. Why don't you just reveal your true identity?" Bai Siling assessed Wang Chong from head to toe, seemingly trying to comprehend his actions.
The feeling of familiarity from Wang Chong was getting stronger by the moment. She was certain that she had seen him somewhere before, but she just couldn't lay her finger on it.
Furthermore, his way of dealing with things had also successfully hooked her interest.
"Identity? What identity can I have?" Wang Chong asked, seemingly confused by Bai Siling's words.
"There isn't a single person of humble birth who would dare to speak to scions of prestigious clans like you do," Bai Siling shook her head. Her eyes were fixated on Wang Chong, as if trying to peer deep into his soul. "There's no way you could possibly be an ordinary peasant."
"I don't know what you are talking about." Wang Chong laughed the matter off as if it was a joke, before riding his mount back to his platoon. It seemed like the lady from the Bai Clan was far more astute than Xu Gan and Huang Yongtu.
He feared that if he were to continue speaking to her, he might give himself away.
Gazing at Wang Chong's back, Bai Siling sighed deeply. She had a feeling that Xu Gan and Huang Yongtu might have trifled with someone they shouldn't have.
This person was clearly dissatisfied with them, and was currently toying with them.
But since he was refusing to speak, there was nothing Bai Siling could do, either.
After two consecutive failures, the duo decided that there no point in trying anymore. After all, no matter how many bandits they slew, it was pointless if they couldn't accomplish their mission.
Soon, after a series of discussion, they turned their eyes back to Wang Chong.
"Brat, come over. It's your turn!"
While Wang Chong was busy resting with his back against a pine tree, Huang Yongtu suddenly walked over, blocking the radiance of the brilliant moon.
"What do you mean, that it is my turn again?" A sharp gleam flashed across Wang Chong's leisurely gaze.
"It is your turn to hunt down the bandits!" Huang Yongtu said coldly.
"I don't think so," Wang Chong replied without any hesitation as he reached out for the bag of beans hanging by his waist and offered a handful of them to Little Shadow by his side.
"What did you say?" Huang Yongtu abruptly bellowed in rage. The fellow before him was actually defying his commands!
"If my memory fails me not, I have already gone once today, haven't I?" Wang Chong replied calmly,
"The rules have changed. It's now twice for everyone," Huang Yongtu replied without any hesitation. He had sorted out the details in his previous discussions with Xu Gan.
"Is that so? I refuse then," Wang Chong rejected the instructions once more without any hesitation.
"You dare?" Huang Yongtu flew into a fit of rage. This was no longer a matter of whether Wang Chong was willing to go or not, what had truly infuriated him was Wang Chong's cold attitude.
"This is a decision we have all agreed on after careful consideration! Whether you like it or not, you'll have to go! Otherwise, don't blame me for getting nasty on you!"
These words had been stifled within Huang Yongtu for too long a time, and finally, he found an opportunity to vocalize them. He had long wanted to teach this fellow a lesson! How could a mere peasant from Kunwu Training Camp act so rude before him, an elite from Shenwei Training Camp?
They might not be as capable as this fellow in dealing with bandits, but in terms of cultivation, they were definitely far in the lead.
If this fellow dared to continue disobeying his commands, there would be no need to use words anymore. Considering his wilful actions in the middle of the mission, not even Zhang Lin would be able to say anything if he were to teach him a lesson!