Chapter 361: The Trove of the Iron Cloak Highwaymen!
Those men had gone through many battlefields, and their contributions to the empire were considerable. On top of proper compensation, Wang Chong wanted them to be honored as soldiers in death as well, even if they didn't die on the battlefield.
Even if the Bureau of Military Personnel rejected his request, he would appeal to King Song and big uncle to have them agree to it. And the current him did indeed wield such influence.
Suddenly, a loud rumble sounded, and Wang Chong swiftly opened his eyes. From all around, the surviving cavalrymen leapt off their mounts and kneeled respectfully on the ground.
"Thank you, lord!"
"Thank you, lord!"
"Thank you, lord!"...
Bright and loud voices echoed in the air together.
Upon seeing this sight, Wang Chong was stunned for an instant before a smile crept across his lips. After which, the smile withered into momentary bitterness, and no one except for Bai Siling noticed it.
The only one who could understand the plight of another soldier is a soldier.
Wang Chong wasn't exactly a soldier, but he was their commander.
He knew what they were thanking him for. They were appreciative of what he was going to do for their fallen comrades. In that instant, Wang Chong suddenly felt the cogs of time spinning backward, and in a dazed moment, it felt as if he had returned back to his previous life.
He remembered his closest aides who had accompanied through innumerable battlefields. They had put their lives on the line to fight alongside him, and eventually, in the final battle, despite the hopeless situation, they still plunged in like moths attracted to the flame, disappearing with a bright burst of fire...
Those memories brought up an incomparably bitter feeling to Wang Chong.
A light breeze blew, brushing against Wang Chong's hair. At this moment, he had no idea how deep of an impact his gestures and expressions had on Bai Siling.
There was something oddly disharmonious about the sight. Such deep bitterness should have never appeared on the face of a carefree sixteen-year-old. Bai Siling couldn't imagine what kind of experience a person must have gone through to display such emotions.
Thus, Bai Siling stared at Wang Chong's side profile, and for a moment, she was dazed.
She had finally uncovered the identity of the young man before her, but she felt like she had barely scraped the surface of the mystery, as if there were even more secrets wrapped around the young man.
It seemed like he had buried them deep in his mind, unwilling to reveal them to another soul.
"Who in the world are you?"
Burying her face in her knees, Bai Siling found that her hair and her heart were in a mess.
After resting and organizing their forces, Wang Chong led the group down to the base of the Iron Cloak Highwaymen.
Iron Cloak Li was already dead, and military advisor Zhou An had been killed as well. With this, the feared Iron Cloak Highwaymen who once ruled the region vanished from the face of the world.
However, there was still one important matter to be done; harvesting the spoils of war!
Given the years the Iron Cloak Highwaymen spent dominating the road between Longxi and the capital, the wealth they had accrued would surely be astounding. Furthermore, the bandits and highwaymen who went to join them would surely offer a portion of their fortunes as a gesture of "sincerity".
It would be a waste to miss out on this easy wealth.
Bai Siling galloped up to Wang Chong's side and asked, "Wang Chong, do you think that the highwaymen might return to plunder their base especially, since Iron Cloak Li is dead?"
"I don't know, but I wouldn't exclude such a possibility," Wang Chong replied.
"Ah! Then won't we be making a wasted trip?" Bai Siling frowned.
"Haha, it isn't as simple as you think. Do you think that Iron Cloak Li wouldn't assign any trusted aides to guard his wealth? While it is true that we have killed Iron Cloak Li, those fellows guarding the base can't possibly trust them that easily. And most importantly of all, does your Bai Clan leave your wealth in the open, such that anyone can take it away as and when they like?"
"Are you asking for a beating? Can't you speak properly?" Bai Siling rolled her eyes. This fellow had a way with words that made her really want to pummel him.
"Hahaha. In any case, trust me on this. Iron Cloak Li's treasure vault can't be breached that easily. Those fellows ahead of us can help us whittle down their forces, saving us the effort later on," Wang Chong replied leisurely.
"!!!" Bai Siling stared at Wang Chong as if she was looking at a monster. Only in this instant did it dawn on her why Wang Chong wasn't anxious in the least. It turned out that he was intending to make use of those defeated highwaymen to do his work for him!
"You sure are a monster. Those who dare to stand against you will probably end up schemed to their death. I really don't understand how a person as young as you who probably hasn't stepped out of the capital before could possibly know so much! You know, I am starting to feel relieved that I didn't go with Xu Gan and Huang Yongtu at the very start, or else I would probably have been done in badly by you as well," Bai Siling remarked.
Beside her, Xu Gan and Huang Yongtu heard those words and their faces turned sheepish. Bai Siling sure knew how to pluck at their wounds.
But still, they were indeed blind to be unable to recognize the other party for who he was, despite the many signs. They could only resign themselves to it.
"Don't worry, Siling. How could I possibly bear to scheme against a beauty like you?" Wang Chong chuckled leisurely.
It was just a casual response on Wang Chong's part, but Bai Siling's face turned crimson in embarrassment, and she immediately raised her fists in response.
"You brat, how dare you tease me! Are you itching for a beating?"
"Don't!" Wang Chong quickly gestured for his White-hoofed Shadow to escape forward.
Speaking of the White-hoofed Shadow, Wang Chong was gradually growing more and more fond of him.
In the battle with Iron Cloak Li, most of the war steeds used to block the highwaymen were slaughtered. However, through its sharp senses for danger, the White-hoofed Shadow used the other war steeds as a cover, found an opening, and successfully escaped to safety.
With the sudden night assault by the Goguryeons on Kunwu Training Camp being the first, this was the second time the White-hoofed Shadow had keenly escaped from danger.
Even in times of crisis, Wang Chong did not need to worry about the White-hoofed Shadow at all. He just needed to do whatever was required, and this was probably a huge part of the reason why he was growing more and more fond of the horse.
Galloping swiftly ahead, Wang Chong and the others arrived at the base of the Iron Cloak Highwaymen before the sun fully set.
The base was located on a slightly shorter hill, but it had all of the required infrastructure: fences, sentry tower, barracks, and everything else that should be there.
By the time Wang Chong arrived, the base was lit up in a raging blaze. Furious battle cries sounded across the place as the bandits and highwaymen clashed with one another. Loud rumblings could be heard from the ground.
Upon seeing the chaos before him, Wang Chong's eyes lit up. "Looks like we have arrived at a good time!"
Hong! He immediately charged in with his Wootz steel sword in hand. Executing the Single Character Consecutive Slash, his sword sliced through a highwayman's Stellar Energy, stabbing right into his heart.
The highwayman trembled for a few moments as deep fear rippled in his eyes, before he fell from his horse and crashed to the ground, never to move again.
After seeing Wang Chong's movements, realization struck Xu Gan and Huang Yongtu. If the wealth of the Iron Cloak Highwaymen had already been claimed, there wouldn't be such a rife battle going on here.
In other words, there was a huge amount of wealth waiting here for them to claim!
Thirty-five Great Tang cavalrymen had come for this operation, and taking into account Zhang Lin, Xu Gan, Huang Yongtu, and the others as well, they had a total of forty people at this time. Adopting an Arrow Formation, they charged right toward the base of the Iron Cloak Highwaymen with astounding momentum.
"Bad news, the soldiers are here!"
Those who recognized Wang Chong and the others found courage escaping from their bodies, and they decisively chose to take flight.
Even their chief and a six hundred strong army ended up being utterly crushed by them, how could they possibly stand a chance against them?
As such, the highwaymen and bandits in the base swiftly cleared out, leaving behind only the few who hadn't participated in the previous battle. Those who remained found themselves swiftly slaughtered by the charging group of cavalrymen.
After clearing the exterior of the base, Wang Chong and the others stopped before an underground passageway. Glancing downward, a heavy metal door had been felled, and a group of highwaymen and bandits were still fighting inside.
When they finally noticed Wang Chong's presence, they froze. Clearly, they didn't expect the soldiers to be here.
This time, Wang Chong did not need to utter a single word for the group to charge in and clear away the highwaymen and bandits inside.
And indeed, Wang Chong's group had arrived at the perfect time. The bandits and highwaymen had just managed to knock down the metal door, and not a single one of them had escaped with anything in hand yet.
"Amazing, what a huge metal door. It must weigh at least seven thousand jin!"
Wang Chong observed the fallen door in astonishment before he suddenly realized that it was made of Xuan metal found only in the deep ocean. Furthermore, it seemed to be superior grade!
This was a valuable material that could be used to forge top-grade armor. Even in the military, only the most elite of warriors were qualified to wear it!
Taking the heavy infantry as standard, Xuan metal armor should weigh around a hundred jin. Meaning, there was seventy Xuan metal armors in this door!
It didn't sound like a lot, but one should know that heavy infantry soldiers were elites heavily armored from head to toe to withstand the offense of hostile master archers.
No matter how formidable a master archer was, they couldn't pierce through armor forged out of Xuan metal with a single arrow. As such, this resource was extremely prized in the military.
Even taking into account all of the armies throughout Great Tang, and this was including the reserve army and the Imperial Army in the capital, there were only at most eight thousand such heavy infantry soldiers.
In an army of ten thousand, there wouldn't be more than six hundred infantry soldiers who would be dressed in such heavy armor, to counter the master archers.
Just through this in itself, the value of the metal gate was unimaginable.
Xuan metal is a market that is high in demand, but low in supply. Top-notch armor forged of superior Xuan metal can fetch around seventy to eighty thousand gold taels each! Considering how there is enough metal for eighty set of armors here, that would mean a potential profit of around four hundred thousand gold taels after deducting the various costs!, Wang Chong thought excitedly as he stroked his chin.
Of course, just Xuan metal itself wouldn't be so expensive. It had to undergo significant processing, such as forging and enchanting, and those would cost a considerable sum, as well. However, as long as one had the capital to pay for these services, those were no trouble at all.
Thus, the main difficulty lay in procuring the Xuan metal itself!