No two ways about it – a superior knowledge of terrain is a big advantage in a military campaign. And that’s a challenge any invading army will face. Qin used it to their advantage when the Coalition armies tried to take their capital. Zhao uses it to their advantage here. And real-life (which of course many of these Kingdom battles are loosely based on) is loaded with examples. On an open plain it might not matter so much. In complicated terrain like Heiyong (and we’re seeing that it’s very complicated indeed) it can be the decisive factor in the entire campaign.
Huan Yi sends another messenger to Camp Xin, the “gentleman staff officer” Mo Lun. After demanding and receiving tea (and complimenting it), Mo Lun reveals his reason for coming. Not to demand another head or arm, but to share the head honcho’s battle plan for the next day. And once more, the Fei Xin force is critical to its success. Huan Yi has determined that both main armies are going to climb the central hill and meet somewhere along its flanks, with the winner probably determining the fate of the invasion. But if either foe’s side army can advance the front lines enough to attack the other’s main force from the rear, that will likely prove fatal for the enemy’s main force.
Sounds simple enough – and Mo Lun makes it clear that heads (Xin and Diao’s, at least) will roll unless success is achieved. But even though things seem to be going swimmingly (pun intended), Diao senses something is amiss. And indeed, the current (pun intended) of the battle is going exactly how Zhao intended. They’ve withdrawn to the far bank of a river the Fei Xin didn’t know existed (though if she’d chosen to, Qian Lei could have returned to warn them). That river is on the wrong side of the hill from Xin’s perspective, but it’s wide and deep, with no boats or bridges anywhere in sight.
As Diao knows from strategist academy, this is the worst possible situation – having to attack an army on the far side of a river without the benefit of boats or bridges. But there are no options – somehow, it must be done (things are so desperate Diao dons her bird costume). She recruits the best riverman in the outfit, Qi Duo, to do recon with her. But all he finds are two shallow pathways heavily guarded by the enemy. She does craft a plan, dependent on humble original lieutenant Yuan and his sense of responsibility, but it’s a brutal prospect that soon turns into a brutal reality.
Under the circumstances, this was probably the best anyone could come up with. Xin attacks from the center to draw the enemy’s attention, to create an opportunity for an elite band led by Diao to lead the “real” attack on the right flank. Liu Dong has predicted this, but this second front is itself a feint. Diao has sent Yuan and another squadron to try and ford the river with Qi Duo’s help at a spot so inhospitable Zhao isn’t even bothering to guard it. Qi Duo makes it across with a rope – barely – but even so it seems almost impossible for Yuan and his men to cross (and in armor, no less). But with the river running red with their comrades’ blood, they have no choice but to try.