Ban Chao was on edge. During these four months of fighting, he hadn't heard any news of Han Xin. This was a troubling matter, especially because to know where the enemy was is considered a telltale sign of what their next actions would be. However, he hadn't heard anything for four months and was beginning to get a bit antsy. The past four months, his men had steadily made progress up towards the mountain that the Moro people were defending. Yet, Han Xin hadn't lead any of his men to counterattack this assault. Easy he planning on waiting it out? Or something a bit more unexpected?
By this point Ban Chao's men had captured close to the halfway point if the mountain. With each outpost and Moro people killed their side had gained more and more momentum. In war momentum could be said to be a huge deciding factor for victory.
Some messengers arrived and told him that a few soldiers fell into a pit fall trap that was quite large and the soldiers that fell though were impaled by spears stuck into the ground. It was at this point that Ban Chao had glimpsed at a fraction of what Han Xin had planned out for him. With this incident he knew it was likely that Han Xin had prepared many traps for Ban Chao's men. This was just one type of trap, Ban Chao dodgers not doubt for a second that Han Xin had more dangerous and more horrific surprises for him. This was just the beginning.
Ban Chao halted his entire army and sent for all of them to regroup at a rendezvous point. He had decided to form a group of men that would scout the area for traps before the bulk of his army moved forward. Keeping your advantage in numbers spread out thinly was just asking for trouble, so he decided that everyone should stick together.
The army moved around like this for the next few weeks until finally Ban Chao decided to go with the previous strategy of the army splitting up and being more independent. He decided now was the time to disband because they had not lost many people due to traps set up by Han Xin, and also because the area that each platoon had to cover was considerably lower now that they were three quarters up the mountain.
During the first four months of battle, Ban Chao was concerned with hitting every outpost, but now he decided that they should leave a few outposts so as to confuse the enemy. Also, the point of having so many outposts was to make it time consuming for the enemy to break through.
If a campaign was too time consuming there would be many disadvantages for the attacking army. First of all, morale was a big issue, if a campaign dragged on too long many would lose morale and some may even desert. Second of all, this extra time could be used by the defending army to make even more preparations. Lastly, Ban Chao only had so much food he could give to his soldiers. He started rationing them early, but even so, they ate through nearly half of their food storages. If they didn't conclude the battle soon, then Ban Chao would have no way of beating Han Xin despite the massive advantages that were given to him.
On the defending side.
Han Xin had not been idle these past 4 months. He had constructed a multitude of different traps and prepared many different ways of conducting guerilla warfare. The outposts he had constructed during the month of preparation had worked wonderfully to his plans. He needed the US troops to be occupied enough so that he could build something he thought would be a surefire win. After 4 months he had finally completed his secret blueprint.
It was multiple rocketed gunpowder missiles. If the repeated crossbow could be likened to an ancient machine gun, then rocketed gunpowder could be considered an ancient rocket launcher. The way it worked was that a small circular box filled with gunpowder and a fuse attached to He was strapped to a long stick. The fuse would be lit then off it flew into the pointed destination and explode on impact. Just like a rocket launcher.
(It's what Mulan used to cause the avalanche that buried the hun army in Disney's film Mulan)
He had his men secretly steal the required amount of gunpowder he needed to make this many rocketed gunpowder guns. He had the perfect way of dealing with all of the attacking soldiers. He would lure all of them into one single outpost then retreat as many men as he could. After that he would launch all of the prepared into the outpost and all hell would let loose.
Han Xin picked the best suited outpost that would maximize his chances of success. He chose to go with an outpost that was named Key. There were a few reasons that Han Xin chose outpost Key, Key was big enough that it would be able to hold all of Ban Chao's forces. Plus it was built to be difficult to break into, and even more difficult to break out of. Han Xin had a few more outposts like this, but he thought Key was the best choice given that it would seem like any other outpost.
Another issue Han Xin needed to address was that Ban Chao had started to skip a few outposts. So there was something he needed to do to make sure Ban Chao definitely atttacked outpost Key. He just needed something valuable enough to make sure that it happened.
(M) "General Ban Chao sir." The messengers said and saluted to Ban Chao.
(BC) "What is the matter?"
(M) "We've just gotten word that Han Xin will be personally leading Outpost Key to make sure that outpost Key stays within the hands of the Moro people."
(BC) "How peculiar, what could be so important there that it would warrant Han Xin to personally lead the garrison there? Could it be that they are in the process of preparing something there to use against us? Give me a map of the area surrounding outpost Key immediately."
(M) "Yes sir." The messenger left promptly and returned soon after with a map in hand and gave it over to Ban Chao."
(BC) "Let's see here. The terrain around here makes it so that taking Key would be fairly difficult. And also the size of this outpost alone makes it possible for him to prepare something big enough to take us on. Hold on a minute, if we did manage to capture Key then the rest of the outposts will soon follow. This outpost is a very important strategic landmark, we must absolutely take this outpost. Sound the horn to inform everyone to regroup at our current location. We will strike at Key in one weeks time."
(M) "Of course sir." The messenger left to sound the horn and within a few hours, all of the US troops were gathered around the main camp. Ban Chao gathered them all up so that he could tell them of his plan.
(BC) "Alright everyone, I have gathered all of you here to tell you that our current objective is to take two outposts controlled by the Moro. Now, these two outposts are a bit bigger than the ones we have previously attacked so I have a plan to split up our forces and attack both at roughly the same time. Your platoon commanders already have the details, pack up camp and move into position."
Ban Chao had decided to attack another outpost because he wanted to use that attack as a feint. He would have a group attack the other outpost and destroy it. Once he was sure that Han Xin received the news then he would march the other part of the split army to capture Key himself. He also knew of the possibility that Han Xin had sent in spies mixed into his men, so he didn't dare to reveal too much information on his part.
The first group that would attack the other outpost set out that very night, and two nights later they started laying siege to that outpost. Within two days, with the help of Ban Chao's plan, that outpost fell and they moved onto their next target. Another outpost that was even further away than Key than the one they just conquered. Ban Chao thought that having this army keep moving in another direction would cause great confusion to Han Xin, and hopefully Han Xin would leave Key to stop the advance of the other army.
However, Han Xin stayed where he was, and after a few more days of waiting, Ban Chao personally led his group to lay waste to outpost Key. Even though they were slowly pushing through, the resistance was fierce and they had lost quite a few hundred men. It was Han Xin's tactics against Ban Chao's tactics. After four days of intense fighting Ban Chao's men finally broke through the wooden fortress that was Key, and they rounded up all the survivors. It was nearly night so they decided to camp within Key to rest for the night and leave to regroup after a good nights rest. This would prove to be a fatal mistake on Ban Chao's part.
During the course of the four day crossfire, Han Xin had sneaked out many of his men to the surrounding forests. This made the defence of Key to become weaker and weaker with each passing day, until finally Ban Chao and his men broke though on the fourth day. During the middle of the night when Ban Chao's men were all resting and their guards were down, Han Xin launched over three quarters of his rocketed gunpowder stockpile right into the heart of Key. Within a mere few moments, the wooden outpost that was Key was completely engulfed in flames. It was only until now that Ban Chao had realized why he was able to break into Key as quickly as he did.
It was because Han Xin let him.
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