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    Starting with the annihilation of the Agutai tribe, the Pyeongan Army began to erase the Huligai tribes led by Manchu one by one.

    “Phew… I can’t even do this anymore.”

    Lee Soon-mong let out a long sigh as he looked at the miserable scene with smoke rising from all directions.

    Starting with the Agutai tribe, the Pyeongan Army persistently caught up with the Huligai tribe and erased the lagging tribes one by one.

    As a result of catching up with and dealing with the Jurchen tribes at one- or two-day intervals, the number of Jurchen tribes that had disappeared under Lee Soon-mong’s command now exceeded seven.

    And now, the soldiers under Lee Soon-mong were under severe mental pressure.

    “Annihilation is easier said than done. Severing lives as precious as one’s own is not an easy task…”

    Lee Soon-mong was unable to continue speaking as he looked at the gruesome scene with no Jurchen survivors at all.

    “The problem is that the size of the Jurchen tribes we encounter is getting bigger and bigger.”

    At the staff officer’s words, Lee Sun-ji nodded with a heavy expression.

    Starting with the case of the Agutai tribe, the first Jurchen tribe they encountered was small in size.

    Compared to the military strength under Lee Soon-mong’s command, there was an overwhelming difference in military power of 5:1 on average, so they were able to suppress them easily in the initial stages.

    However, as they approached the center of the Huligai tribe, the difference in military power had narrowed to 3:1. As the difference in military power decreased, the consumption of gunpowder began to soar.

    Managing this gunpowder consumption was another burden.

    Just then, if the supply unit that had traversed the Gaema Plateau had not provided supplies, Lee Soon-mong’s pursuit would have been thwarted halfway.

    However, as supplies continued steadily, Lee Soon-mong was able to take a breather. As gunpowder and food were supplied, and from the second round, reserve troops filled the vacancies left by casualties, the situation became somewhat more manageable.

    However, the problem was that even those who had joined like that were gradually showing their limits due to the continuous slaughter.

    “General! Supplies have arrived!”

    “Really?”

    Lee Soon-mong, who had been looking at the battlefield, turned his head with a delighted face.

    ***

    “The scale is larger than expected. Could they be reinforcements?”

    The cloud of dust raised by the supply unit was even larger than before.

    “Come quickly.”

    “I’m glad you’re safe, General!”

    At Lee Soon-mong’s warm welcome, the supply unit commander saluted and answered.

    After a brief return salute, Lee Soon-mong asked what he was curious about.

    “The supply unit’s size is larger than expected. Did support troops come along?”

    “Yes!”

    After a moment, the supply unit commander introduced someone.

    “This is General Hong Sa-seok, who commands the support unit.”

    “Nice to meet you.”

    “It is an honor to meet someone who has gained fame for eradicating the Jurchen.”

    After exchanging brief greetings, Lee Soon-mong and Hong Sa-seok immediately got to the point.

    “How many troops have come?”

    “5,000 drafted from Jeolla and Gyeongsang Provinces.”

    Upon receiving the report on the number of support troops, Lee Soon-mong’s expression brightened considerably.

    “5,000… This will definitely give us some breathing room!”

    “Here is the royal command issued by His Majesty.”

    At the mention of ‘royal command,’ Lee Soon-mong immediately knelt on the ground and bowed toward the south.

    Following the traditional etiquette, Lee Soon-mong received Sejong’s written order and opened it on the spot, tearing off the seal.

    After reading the entire content of the written order, Lee Soon-mong let out a long sigh.

    “Phew~. ‘Stop the annihilation of the Jurchen tribes and focus solely on pursuit.’ Indeed, the burden was growing as the size of the Jurchen tribes increased, so this is fortunate. However, in this case, who will deal with those Huligai tribes?”

    “The Wudihe tribe will handle it.”

    “Wudihe?”

    “Yes. As you may have received the information, 10,000 Jurchen cavalry centered around the Wudihe tribe have joined our Joseon military. They will press the Huligai tribe and drive them toward Gilim.”

    “Hmm…”

    At Hong Sa-seok’s explanation, Lee Soon-mong stroked his dusty beard.

    “Is the plan to force Manchu and Mentemu to head toward Gilim with no other choice?”

    “Yes. We are making it so that they have no choice.”

    “If I were Manchu, I could consider breaking through the 10,000 and finding another route.”

    “Our mobile strike units are also doing their part.”

    “Ah…”

    Only after Hong Sa-seok mentioned the mobile strike units could Lee Soon-mong nod his head.

    The mobile strike units, consisting of 1,500 to 2,000 troops, were units composed solely of cavalry and artillery. And their combat power was considered incomparable.

    In fact, they had been proving their worth by maintaining an undefeated record since their establishment.

    And all three of those mobile strike units were mobilized for this operation.

    Observing the unfolding situation, Lee Soon-mong muttered softly.

    “If I were Manchu or Mentemu, the current situation would be truly terrifying.”

    “They will have no choice but to bet on a desperate move for a miraculous turnaround.”

    Nodding at Hong Sa-seok’s words, Lee Soon-mong summarized the situation.

    “Then our task is to conserve our strength while pursuing them from behind? And if Manchu tries to use us as a breakthrough point, we block that attempt?”

    “That’s right.”

    At Hong Sa-seok’s answer, Lee Soon-mong sighed.

    “Phew~. It won’t be an easy task. It will be quite dangerous.”

    “That’s why I brought my subordinates. As they are units that were stationed in Gyeongsang and Jeolla Provinces in preparation for the Japanese pirates, they have a knack for cannons. We have also brought fire wagons.”

    “Even fire wagons!”

    Lee Soon-mong’s face brightened in an instant. Lee Soon-mong looked north with a satisfied smile.

    “I’d like to see the faces of Manchu and Mentemu for once.”

    ***

    “Damn it! It’s terrible!”

    As Lee Soon-mong predicted, Manchu, who had assessed the current situation, was grinding his teeth and exploding with anger.

    “There are at least 20,000 troops holding out in front, and 10,000 troops are chasing from behind! What do you think we should do?”

    At Manchu’s question, Mentemu looked at the map and asked back.

    “What would be good? Should we turn our troops back and deal with the 10,000 first?”

    “Nonsense! The moment we turn our horses’ heads, those 20,000 Joseon troops in front will charge at us to devour us! If we try to move to the side, the Wudihe bastards and the Joseon cavalry will grab our ankles and cling to us, and the 30,000 Joseon troops will devour us!”

    In this frustrating situation, Manchu beat his chest and exploded with anger.

    ***

    Manchu and Mentemu’s plans began to go awry because the Joseon military’s response was far faster than they had anticipated.

    As a result, the tribes that had started late and were at the rear were defeated one by one.

    To prevent the sacrifice of the tribes, Manchu stopped the movement and began to gather the tribes together.

    While the scattered tribes gathering together prevented them from being defeated individually, they could not stop the Joseon military from overtaking them.

    It was because the Wudihe mongrels and the Joseon cavalry thoroughly blocked their sight.

    No, it wasn’t just blocking their sight, but fixing their route to Gilim.

    “How will we escape this trap!”

    Despite Manchu’s condemnation, Mentemu, who had been examining the map, answered in a calm voice.

    “Although it’s a trap, it could also be a desperate move for a miraculous turnaround.”

    “What do you mean by that…”

    Mentemu, who had interrupted Manchu’s words, pointed at the map with his finger and explained the situation.

    “Look at the Joseon military’s forces.”

    “10,000 behind, 20,000 in front. Indeed, it’s a large force. However, to put it another way, this means that these are all the forces Joseon can mobilize in the north right now. In other words, if we break through them, Joseon will need a lot of time to chase us.”

    “Huh?”

    At Mentemu’s explanation, Manchu examined the map with shining eyes.

    Even though Manchu only cared about Ming, he had been continuously gathering basic information about Joseon.

    Although it wasn’t the most up-to-date information, according to the information obtained that way, the current Joseon military was not the same as when Yi Seong-gye was alive.

    Of course, there were reports of them being strengthened again recently, but the Joseon military had weakened.

    “Hmm…”

    Manchu examined the map with shining eyes.

    The 30,000 Joseon troops blocking the way in front and behind were, as far as he knew, the entirety of the forces Joseon had deployed in the north.

    If, as Mentemu said, they could get rid of the 20,000 in front of their eyes, it was certain that Joseon would be unable to exert strength for the time being. With that time, they could regain their strength in the north, sweep away the damn Wudihe mongrels, and grow in size.

    “I see what you mean. Then we need to gather as many troops as possible.”

    “Cavalry is important, but infantry is also crucial. Using only cavalry is not cost-effective in shattering the infantry formation, right?”

    “Indeed. So how many troops can Odoli send?”

    “2,000, including infantry.”

    “That’s heartbreaking.”

    Manchu, who had slightly sneered, called his subordinate.

    “Tell the tribal chiefs to gather!”

    “Yes, Buyeo!”

    After a while, all the chiefs of the Huligai tribe had gathered.

    The chiefs who heard the explanations of Manchu and Mentemu agreed to stake everything on a single battle.

    “It’s a trap anyway! Since it has come to this, we’ll smash those Joseon bastards and make a miraculous comeback!”

    ***

    Three days later, the two great armies confronted each other on the plains southwest of Gilim.

    Manchu, who had been examining the Joseon military’s formation, cursed.

    “They’re deployed by the book! By the book!”

    The Joseon military, with their backs to the Songhwa River, had built their formation centered around a slightly elevated hill nearby.

    On the left and right flanks of the main camp, the cavalry was positioned, and in the main camp, soldiers holding long spears stood at the forefront, building a defensive line.

    “Where are those Wudihe mongrels…”

    Manchu, who had been looking around to find the Wudihe tribe’s cavalry that had been holding them back, gnashed his teeth.

    “Those damn jackals!”

    The Wudihe tribe was lined up long to the north of the hill where the Joseon military was positioned.

    It was a position that clearly showed their intention to attack the flanks of their allies or target the tribes in the rear if the Joseon military properly held them back.

    Manchu called a nearby chief.

    “Take your men and make sure those bastards can’t move properly! It will be tough, but you just need to hold out until we crush the Joseon troops!”

    “Yes, Buyeo!”

    The chief who received the order soon left with his warriors.

    Seeing those who had left to keep the Wudihe tribe in check slowly taking their positions, Manchu turned to Mentemu.

    “Begin.”

    As Mentemu silently nodded, Manchu shouted.

    “All troops advance!”

    “Advance!”

    “Advance!”

    As soon as Manchu’s order was given, the large cavalry force slowly began to move forward.

    And behind them, infantry holding shields and spears slowly began to march.

    ***

    “They’re coming!”

    “All troops! Prepare for battle!”

    “Prepare for battle!”

    At the commanders’ shouts, the spearmen and swordsmen at the very front swallowed their dry saliva and glared forward.

    The musketeers behind them also looked forward, taking deep breaths.

    Lee Suk-myo, who had been watching Manchu’s army approaching from the top of the hill, gave a brief order with an indifferent expression.

    “Prepare the fire wagons.”

    “Yes, sir!”

    “Will the fire wagons begin, sir?”

    At the staff officer’s question, Lee Suk-myo nodded briefly.

    “The general’s fire cannons are a waste of iron balls, and the cannons has a short range, so the fire wagons are just right. Continuous fire is important, so have them properly prepared.”

    “Understood, sir.”

    And so, the fire wagons were tasked with beginning the ‘Battle of Gilim,’ which would go down in history.

    After a while, a report from the staff officer came up.

    “The fire wagons are ready!”

    “What about the enemy?”

    “They have entered the fire wagons’ range.”

    “Then give the order to fire.”

    “Yes, sir! Fire!”

    At the staff officer’s order, the signal bearer vigorously waved the signal flag.

    A moment later,

    Swish!

    With an ear-splitting noise, thousands of singijeon fired from the fire wagons filled the sky.

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