CH 1: Chivalry is Dead Dude!
If the fact that Seulgi was fighting on a narrow bridge wasn't enough, what would come next would probably send him on a venting rampage…and most likely kill anyone around him. He was to secure the bridge in an attempt to storm the castle ahead. This castle, however, was occupied by the Sheng Rebellion forces, and it really wasn't going too well. To say that the assault was well planned would probably reward one with a bruise-or fifty- depending on Seulgi's mood. In any case, Seulgi and his division, the Iron Spear, were- not surprisingly-caught off guard by the Sheng forces that laid in waiting for them. Of course, Seulgi managed to repel the ambush with ease, but the enemy generals were not ready to call it a day with a simple ambush- oh, how the world just wants to see one suffer.
The moment Seulgi set his foot on the bridge, a massive mounted troop came storming down the hill. He muttered a bitter curse and beckoned for his men to form a phalanx at their end of the bridge. The thundering noise of screaming soldiers and pounding horses was enough to drive any man wishing they were home. But Seulgi was a man with a mission; he had no time to succumb to his nerves and instead pounded his spear against the planks of the bridge. He screamed out an order for a volley and a hail fire of arrows answered his call like that of a dog heeding its master. The volley smashed with great speed into the charging cavalry and slew many but not all of their troop; with momentum too great, they smashed into the ranks of spears that waited for them.
A trumpet was sounded and the counter charge was ordered with Seulgi leading the front with his dreaded Yù Fēng cleaving into the first horseman he laid eyes on. The sounds of weapons clashing and that of men dying cried out in an uproar in contest to the tranquil riverside. Seulgi shouted encouragement to his men- giving them words of courage, of honor and of glory, and of home. The Sheng routed within the first few minutes of the clash and the Iron Spear pushed to the other side of the river like that of a nail being driven into a board. Their banner rose on the flagpole in triumph and the bridge was theirs.
There was no time to celebrate, however. This would only be the first of many assaults, and the Sheng would not rest until the bridge returned under their influence. Seulgi knew this and as he slumped against a post behind him, he called for a messenger hawk to write a message. This message with a simple word:
The morn was cold; it was normal considering the surrounding mountains. Seulgi didn't mind; in fact, he had too much in his head to think about to concern himself with the weather. He even neglected the presence of his squire who followed him out to the edge of a cliff overlooking the surrounding area. All around him were vast dense forests of oak and of pine, a river to his left flowing westward, and a large fort directly in front of him. That was the target.
Seulgi whirled around at the sound of rustling cloth with heightened awareness and killing intent; but it was only his squire who he unfortunately scared into dropping the tea that he prepared for his master. They stood there in awkward silence before Seulgi made a move to pick up the fallen utensils. The squire followed suite and the mess was quickly removed. Seulgi, as he was rising, chuckled, "Sorry, kid- didn't see you there."
The squire made a dismissive hand gesture, "No worries, Sir. I should have said something."
Seulgi nodded and began to take his leave back to camp feeling a bit relaxed. But something else had unnerved him; he felt as though a pair of eyes were staring at him from afar. He mentally shook his head. He was going paranoid, he thought. There was no one else here- or was there? He sighed in exasperation and upon entering his tent, found it in complete disarray. His desk demolished, papers and documents scattered over the floor, and his mat useless.
He frowned with eye narrowing in fury. Who did this? No man in his unit would dare steal from him. It was at this moment that he confirmed his suspicion from earlier; the enemy was here. He ordered his squire to enter and help him put on his armor. The squire did so while occasionally glancing at the chaos in his master's tent with shock. When the last strap was done, Seulgi grabbed his glaive and rushed out. What he found was anything but pleasant- any man who would have said otherwise…well…yeah.
The horns of war bellowed with intensity, and the clamor of soldiers hurried and distressed while the sound of thundering hooves rumbled in the distance. Seulgi demanded a report from the nearest soldier he could find.
"It is the Sheng, sir," the soldier answered, "They revealed themselves not thirty minutes ago."
"How did they get past our sentries?" Seulgi asked.
"We've had no word from them at all," the soldier replied as he took up his spear to meet with his fellow soldiers.
Seulgi stood there in deep thought. The sentries were missing or perhaps dead, his tent searched and sabotaged, and yet there was no sign of an infiltrator. This bode ill for them all. The sounds of battle drew him outside with his glaive at his side- its blade gleamed a menacingly green hue. One swipe and he cleaved an unfortunate warrior into halves. He looked ahead and charged head on into the enemy ranks with his weapon spinning as fast as helicopter blades hitting mud.
His face became sodden with blood and his armor drenched as he made it through out of the enemy ranks; facing yet another troop of soldiers ready to gut him. Seulgi's men followed his lead and soon it became a battle of bouts and spear thrusts. Seulgi broke its intense rhythm and jumped- impaling the enemy beneath him. Chaos broke out and the rhythm of battle skyrocketed.
Seulgi swiftly parried a spear thrust and swiped the stunned warrior across the chest. He turned to his left and slammed the bronze pummel into the face of a crouching swordsman. Taking advantage of his predicament, he brought the blade down on the warrior's arms- cleaving off his hands. Seulgi, ignoring the sudden screams, took this opportunity to behead him and buried the blade into the shoulder of the soldier next to him.
Removing his blade from the fallen man, Seulgi looked up from the carnage and time seemed to have slowed. They were losing ground fast. As much as he would have preferred to stay and fight, he was a man who cared more about the lives of his men than one bridge of many. He ordered them all to fall back to the river bank, and they followed with the Sheng not far behind. Seulgi realized that they would not stop until the bridge was taken. He made a seemingly insane decision.
"Retreat!" He yelled aloud, "Fall back to the other side of the river!"
His men looked at him with surprise. He was giving up the bridge to the enemy. This would mean that the Sheng would have access to the other shore and easily invade Ming. But their thoughts were dissipated when he also shouted, "As soon as you are across, bring it down!"
The men of Joseon redoubled their sprint across the bridge and many began smashing apart the planks and supports with their weapons as they passed them by. Seulgi stood firm at the bridge's entrance and pointed his bloodied glaive towards the incoming Sheng who stopped a few meters short of him. His men shouted for him to hurry across but he ignored them. He would give them time to destroy the bridge even if it risked his life.
A Sheng soldier broke the ominous silence and charged at the man with his sword raised above high above his head. Seulgi easily parried the man's cut and buried his blade into his neck. At that moment, soon 3, if not more, soldiers charged at once to put an end to this madman's furious glaive. To the dismay of the crowd of enemy soldiers, these warriors were also cut down like how a knife would part butter.
"Anyone else?!" Seulgi raised a challenge, driving his glaive into the ground. The Sheng warriors looked at each other uneasily and none dared to step forward. Seulgi narrowed his eyes and took a step towards them. They backed away at every step.
Seulgi looked at where his foot was going to be and discovered that an arrow with white fletching landed before him. He looked up but saw no bowman; instead there was the low moan of a war horn and a sudden shifting in the enemy ranks. Someone was approaching. The enemy ranks slowly opened up to the arrival of 10 people. 9 of which carried the standard of their allegiance and their captain rode up front carrying a bow beside…
"Oh, for the love of…" Seulgi muttered as he crossed his arms bitterly. The captain was a woman. She had deep brown eyes with an almost golden brown shade of hair, her armor was a shimmering blue, and a smirk was formed at her mouth. He took one look at her and instantly looked away.
"So…you are the leader of the Iron Spear," Her voice was silky but hinted authority, "We have heard much about you and your achievements. It is an honor to be able to meet you face to face."
He grunted in reply. Her smirk faltered a little and her eyes narrowed menacingly. She asked, "I see that you have dispatched…a few of my men."
She pointed at the ground littered with the bodies of Sheng soldiers which Seulgi seemingly refused to look at. The men around the two leaders shook with expectancy. Was this going to be a battle that would be sung in ballads or epics?
"I am Zhao Meng," She bowed awkwardly on the horse, "I am known to others as-"
"The 'Silver Hawk'," Seulgi grunted shaking his head in disbelief.
"So you have heard of me then," Zhao Meng smiled only slightly, "Perhaps a duel between the two of us would be…interesting."
There was a long pause between them- too long. The soldiers looked at each other with confused expressions and muttered amongst themselves. Zhao Meng awaited his answer, but Seulgi seemingly was not going to give one.
"Did you hear what I said?" She asked giving him the benefit of the doubt, "I asked you to fight me."
"How about…no?" He answered his arms still crossed over his body.
The silence was maddening and the murmuring only seems to have increased in volume. Zhao Meng was shocked and irritated. Why was he refusing to fight?
"Fight me," She said- no, commanded with conviction that scared even her own warriors to hush.
"No," He simply answered, "I will not."
To get his point across, he sat down next to his glaive; crossing his legs underneath him. Her grip tightened on her bow and the lieutenant next to her drifted further away from her with a horrified expression.
"Fight me," She said once again. The men looked at Seulgi with expectancy.
They looked back towards their own leader.
"Why can't you just-"
"Can we please-"
Zhao Meng growled in frustration and threw her arms up with clenched fists. Her lieutenants yelped in surprise and the horses suddenly began to panic. Seulgi raised an eyebrow. What a bunch of sissies, he thought to himself. As he was thinking this, he realized that the woman was talking to him. And she just talks too much.
"Are you not fighting me…because I am a woman?" She asked with narrowed eyes and a dangerous tone in her voice. There was a moment of silence between them, but inevitably, he answered, "If you want to think of it that way. Yes."
"Why?" Her voice became a harsh whisper and the danger became an almost assured killing intent.
"Because I don't like fighting women," He answered as if it were a matter of fact. She stared at him in disbelief; she couldn't stand the sight of him- looking all smug when he was surrounded with no way to escape.
"You afraid of getting your arse kicked by a woman, is that why?" She jabbed hoping to provoke him, but he just laughed which just further fueled her rage.
"That probably would be true," He said smiling weakly, "Except I would normally avoid such a fight in the first place."
"Well, you are in one right now,"" Zhao Meng rolled her eyes, "So fight!"
He became solemn once again and gave his irritating answer, "No."
During this exchange, the Sheng soldiers became bored and started drifting away slowly. Some of them were even playing Go and managed to finish a game or two. They were used to this sort of talk between their captain and the enemy generals. Sometimes, they fought, but there were some who just outright refused to fight a woman. So the soldiers just took advantage of the time during their argument; eventually, it would end in a fight- it always does. But with this man, they were not so sure. For some reason, he felt and appeared different.
"Enough!" She finally snapped and drew her blade out. She rode up to Seulgi and put the blade to his throat with lightning speed. He didn't even flinch whereas the Sheng soldiers all rose in surprise.
"If you do not accept my challenge right now, I will cut you down where you sit," She threatened pressing the blade against his neck. He looked amused- amused! Just what was this man? She was obviously bent on killing him and yet he made no notion of fighting back. He was either very brave…or very stupid.
"Go ahead," he challenged, "Better to die like a warrior than to trample a fragile spring flower."
Just as she was about to swing, a loud voice boomed, "HALT!"
Zhao Meng whirled around to see a man adorned in golden armor towering above her. She muttered an angry curse and lowered her blade. Seulgi looked at the man with a blank expression but he was curious as to who his savior was. He was an older man with brown hair strained with grey stripes, his eyes were a deep black abyss, and his beard glorious.
The man bowed slightly, "I apologize for my subordinate's irresponsible behavior, Kim Seulgi of Joseon. She will not go unpunished."
She shifted uncomfortably under his steady gaze. Seulgi almost felt sorry for her- almost. The man spoke, "I am General Zhu. It is a pleasure to meet such an esteemed commander as you."
Seulgi bowed his head and replied, "As I you, General."
"But it would appear that you are in a bit of a pickle," the General said caressing his beard with his eyes wandering over the crowd of Sheng troops and then focusing back on Seulgi with a "what will you do now" look.
"It would seem so," Seulgi answered. The general nodded and pointed at his glaive.
"Will you stand down?"
Seulgi smiled weakly, "I suppose I haven't a choice, do I?"
The General laughed a merry laugh, "No, you don't!"
(AN: What's up people! I hope you enjoyed the first chapter of this story! Hopefully I'll be able to update and keep writing this one...unlike some others I have written. :( Please feel free to review or make comments. -The Sword of the Coast247)