Chapter 1014: News of Victory Arrives at Court!
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
Several hours later, an eagle flew into Qixi.
"Lord Marquis! Lord Marquis! Lord Marquis!"
All of Qixi roared with cheers, and excited crowds were gathered outside the protectorate headquarters. Wang Bei and Su Hanshan both seemed very relieved. They had heard nothing of the army ever since it had crossed the Cong Mountains, but now, they could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
"Bring this news to Lady Xu!"
Su Hanshan, riding upon a tall Turkic steed, quickly passed this news to a waiting rider, who galloped back into the headquarters.
Within the headquarters, several maids stood nervously beside a wooden door. They were holding cups of tea and bowls of food, and each one of them had a worried expression on their face. Someone attempted to peer through the cracks in the door, but these efforts were in vain.
Intense coughing came from within the room, throwing the maids into even greater consternation.
"What do we do! Young Lady hasn't come out for an entire day, and the sound is even worse than it was yesterday! If something happens to Young Lady, I…"
One maid's eyes went red at the sound of this coughing, her eyes filled with heartache, but she did not dare to speak too loudly for fear of disturbing Xu Qiqin. Around her, the other maids said nothing, but their concern was clearly displayed on their faces.
In the room were a dressing table, a desk, a bed, and not much else.
Xu Qiqin sat in front of the desk, a mountain of documents in front of her. She was dressed in a thin white garment, her face pale and bloodless, but her eyes remained focused on the documents before her.
"Inform the Zhang Clan to hurry up with the supplies being sent to Talas. The soldiers of the Central Plains have different habits from people of the Western Regions. Although they eat beef and lamb, they can't do it for a long term without some rice.
"What is the status of the two hundred thousand warhorses? Has the Imperial Court's Director of Imperial Horses sent anyone to take them? Has the official reply arrived?
"In addition, pass on my order to begin recruiting craftsmen in the name of the Qixi Protectorate. Senior Zhang Shouzhi took many craftsmen with him to Talas, and we still don't know what losses they've suffered. However, the Tibetans or Western Turks could attack Qixi at any time, and we need to fortify the two small-scale steel fortresses as quickly as possible.
"The inscription masters that I previously ordered to be recruited should be escorted to Wushang's City of Steel. War not only requires craftsmen, but inscription masters as well. We will need their assistance in the future. In addition, supervise the great clans and have them hasten the forging of the weapons!"
One order after another was issued, some spoken and others written. On the surface, Qixi was under the command of Su Hanshan and Wang Bei, but everyone understood that the soul of the Qixi Protectorate was this feeble-looking woman.
Although she was a woman, it was Xu Qiqin's existence that allowed order and discipline to be preserved in Qixi, so much so that it even had extra strength to assist Feng Changqing in Anxi. However, Xu Qiqin was only getting paler as she issued her orders, and she was clearly ill.
After dealing with half of the documents, Xu Qiqin finally could no longer restrain herself and began to fiercely cough once more, her body trembling.
"Young Lady, although the war is important, so is your health! If this continues, not only will your body collapse, but you won't be able to even worry about the matters in the rear. Listen to me! Eat something and rest a while!" Little Zhu suddenly spoke from behind Xu Qiqin, pounding Xu Qiqin's back to help with the coughing while tears of anxiety trickled down her cheeks.
"Little Zhu, I don't have time to rest. There are still one hundred thousand soldiers at Talas, and they are connected to the safety of the countless civilians in Qixi and Longxi. I must have everything taken care of and make sure that their supplies and reinforcements arrive on time. You don't need to worry. I know the state of my body. I can still hold on!" Cough, cough cough…
Xu Qiqin once more began to cough, this bout even more serious than the last.
At this moment, a messenger pushed open the door, rushed in, and kneeled on the ground.
"A letter from Talas! Lord Marquis has defeated Abu Muslim and forced the Arab army to retreat from Talas!"
At these words, master and servant both shivered in shock, joy and delight exploding out of their eyes.
"Quickly, let me see!"
Xu Qiqin swiftly got up from the desk and walked over to the messenger.
Taking the letter, Xu Qiqin read through it several times before finally confirming that its contents were true.
"We won at Talas! We really won!"
A hint of blood finally returned to Xu Qiqin's face in her excitement, and her entire condition seemed to improve.
Turning away from Qixi, past Longxi, all the way to the flourishing and bustling capital of the empire…
The news of the victory at Talas was like a giant boulder crashing into a lake, sending massive waves through the capital and throwing the court and the city into an uproar.
"Hahaha! Victory! Victory!"
"The Great Tang won! The Great Tang won! The youngest son of the Wang Clan really managed to lead the Tang army. Even though he was outnumbered, he managed to defeat the combined armies of the Arabs, the Western Turks, and the Tibetans!!!"
"I was right! The youngest son of the Wang Clan truly is a pillar of the empire. The Great Tang is mighty! His Majesty is mighty! Hahaha!"
All levels of society were rejoicing. When the news that the Tibetans and Western Turks had sent soldiers had arrived, the entire Imperial Court had been uneasy. Countless eyes had focused on that strategic fortress west of the Cong Mountains. Two Protector-Generals and their armies, four different powers participating in this battle… countless people were affected by this battle.
From Qixi to Anxi to the Cong Mountains, all the soldiers the Great Tang could spare in the northwest had been mobilized for this battle. If Talas were lost, Anxi and Qixi would not be possible to hold, and then all of Longxi would be threatened by the Arabs.
For a country west of the Cong Mountains to be able to have its soldiers threaten a place as nearby as Longxi was a humiliation the Great Tang had never experienced before!
However, what worried the Imperial Court the most was the alliance between Arabia, Ü-Tsang, and the Western Turkic Khaganate! This was a powerful alliance that could make anyone lose sleep. But now, the Great Tang had won, and even if this was just a momentary victory, it was enough for everyone to celebrate.
"Wonderful! Wang Chong, you didn't let this king down!"
At this moment, in the King Song Residence, King Song put down the report from Talas, his eyes glowing with irrepressible pride.
King Song had done many things in his life, including supporting the military, doing all he could to back up the border generals, assisting in the expansion of the empire, and executing the empire's strategies against the enemies on its border. In his life, he had also promoted many people and resolved many political crises. When there was war with Goguryeo and the Eastern Turkic Khaganate in the northeast, he had even spent many sleepless nights making preparations so that the crucial supplies could arrive, reviving the morale of the army and salvaging that war.
But at this moment, there was no question that the proudest moment in King Song's life was discovering Wang Chong and silently supporting him in the background.
"'I am willing to give my life for the good of the country, or is it that one should flee in the face of disaster and approach in times of blessing?' Wang Chong, you truly are the proud son of a clan of ministers. Your presence is a blessing for both the country and its people!"
King Song stared at the couplet beside him, his heart awash with relief.
'I am willing to give my life for the good of the country, or is it that one should flee in the face of disaster and approach in times of blessing?' was a couplet that Wang Chong had hung up in his study. King Song had paid a visit to the Wang Clan estate while Wang Chong was gone and had entered his study. Upon seeing the couplet, he had taken it back to his own residence to store it. Whether it was in the war of the southwest or the Battle of Talas, Wang Chong had always been diligently practicing his ideals as well as the ideals expressed in this couplet.
"Wang Chong, go! Open your wings and soar into the skies for the Great Tang! I will give you all the support I can from behind! No matter how many people try to stop you, I will prevent any of them from blocking your path!"
King Song turned and looked through the open window. Dark clouds had gathered, within which lightning flashed and thunder rumbled. A storm was about to descend, but King Song's eyes were even more dazzling than the lightning.
Putting aside Anxi, Qixi, and the Great Tang Imperial Court, the first battle had come to a close, and the distant Talas to the west of the Cong Mountains now welcomed a rare moment of calm. The Tibetans, Turks, and Arabs had all retreated several dozen li. With this rare reprieve in hand, the Tang army and the Western Regions mercenaries began to work at hardening the defenses.
The defense lines broken by the Behemoths were repaired and set up according to the terrain, no longer forming a simple straight line. Zhang Shouzhi and his craftsmen also worked to strengthen and complete the defenses of the city of Talas itself. At the same time, they also began to repair the ballistae and other equipment that had been damaged during the fighting.
Everyone had their duties, and every day, there was progress.
Talas seemed peaceful on the surface, but the undercurrent of war was always surging down below.
To the west of Talas, sixty li away, a lush forest spanned across the earth. Enormous trees soared into the heavens, each one with a trunk so thick that two people would be needed to hug it. West of the Cong Mountains, where water grew increasingly scarce and the land grew more barren, only one place could be home to such thriving and ancient trees.
The Black Forest!
There was almost no merchant who traveled west along the Silk Road and did not know of this place. At this very moment, Abu Muslim and Ziyad had encamped their less than one hundred thousand soldiers here.