Chapter 367: The Tibetan Cavalrymen at the Top of the Mountain
From a tall mountain peak, an ocean of mist could be seen cascading down from the top, growing fainter and fainter until they dissipate entirely.
At this moment, two armored military officers with sabers slotted by their waists were gazing upon this majestic sight. Their arms were bare, and their faces were strikingly red, indicating their ethnicity.
They were Tibetan soldiers.
It was a chilly dawn paired with a light breeze, and the tree leaves seemed to pale slightly in the face of the cold. The duo was standing against the wind at such a high altitude, but they seemed to be unfazed by the cold.
"... This should be the twenty-seventh day, right?" a Tibetan military officer with thick eyebrows and sharp eyes reminiscent of an eagle stared at the ground beneath the mountain as he asked this question.
"Un. Great Tang has truly grown weak," the second military officer replied. His voice carried a slightly disdainful and aggressive edge.
Despite the shorter stature of the Tibetans, they were known to be particularly ferocious.
It was not without reason that Great Tang had been unable to conquer Ü-Tsang despite years of war. Their territory being located at a higher attitude did play a significant role in that, but so did the Tibetans' aggressiveness and valor.
"... On our way here, there was nothing that could really stand in our path or threaten us. The great general ordered us to infiltrate the depths of the Central Plains to test out Great Tang, but from the looks of it, other than Geshu Han's Big Dipper Army, there's nothing for us to fear,” the second military officer added contemptuously.
For so many years, the Tibetans had viewed Great Tang as their mortal enemy, and the greatest threat to them. Who knew that while Ü-Tsang had been experimenting with new things and progressing ahead, Great Tang had been celebrating their peace and slowly degenerating into decadence, losing the strength they had once possessed.
Despite being merely three hundred strong, they were able to infiltrate so far into the other party's nation. Given such, how could they feel the slightest respect for the enemy?
"Un. In order to test out Great Tang, the Great Minister has sent out two teams. One of them is us, while the other one consists of our First Prince and Lord Dusong Mangpoje. Our mission is to gauge the strength of Great Tang, while the First Prince is tasked with infiltrating the depths of the capital. We should be roughly done with our mission by now, so we should be able to return soon. I wonder how things are going on the First Prince's side," the first officer remarked.
"Heh, with Lord Dusong Mangpoje by his side, what could possibly go wrong?" the second officer replied.
"That's true," the first officer chuckled. Dusong Mangpoje was one of "eagles" of the highlands, a great general of the empire. While his standing was still beneath Great General We Tadra Khonglo, there was little doubt that he was a pillar of the capital.
With him there, there was no problem they couldn't surmount.
"Our scouts have just returned, and it seems like yet another army has gathered at Great Tang's resting point. After we slaughter this bunch, we'll depart for the highlands immediately!" the second military officer said, and the duo gazed at the bottom of the mountain with savagery and excitement reflected in their eyes.
A wind blew, and the trees behind the duo shook. For a moment, amidst the lush forest, many pairs of callous eyes and towering highlands steeds could be vaguely seen.
But as the wind passed, everything disappeared into the shadows. Even the two Tibetan officers had disappeared from sight.
All traces of the Tibetans had disappeared. Except for a handful of soldiers, no one in the Central Plains could have ever imagined that there would be a Tibetan army camping on a mountain deep within its territories.
Inside the resting point, Wang Chong asked, "How was it? Did you get any news?"
He had been trying to remain inconspicuous as far as he could within this period of time, so he allocated the job of gathering intelligence to the others.
"Yes, I managed to get something out from the others. There are around twenty recruits in this resting point, and the Big Dipper Army's commandant has come with an army of four hundred on top of that. Also, it seems like the military logistics team has brought in a bunch of heavy tower shields that are roughly seven chi long. I managed to find an opportunity to break one of the crates, and I found the mark of the Big Dipper Seven Stars on them.
"These are probably supplies belonging to the Big Dipper Army, and the commandant brought them here for the purpose of dealing with the Tibetan cavalrymen," Zhao Yatong reported with a serious expression.
As one of the earlier arrivals at this resting point, she was a familiar face, allowing her to move around without incurring anyone's suspicion. Thus, the job of gathering intelligence fell on her shoulders.
"Four hundred tower shields... They are probably going to adopt the formation which the Big Dipper Army usually uses to deal with the Tibetans. To think of this move, the commandant isn't too bad himself. At the very least, he's smarter than the previous commander who died in battle. But even though using tower shields to deal with the Tibetans is a good idea, it's a pity that he isn't Geshu Han!" Wang Chong muttered to himself as he shook his head.
Geshu Han was a highly respected general whose name had traveled far beyond Longxi to reach even the capital. As the famous saying went, "In the night beneath the Big Dipper Stars, Geshu Han visits with his saber". This saying originated not from the Big Dipper Army, but the civilians of Longxi. From this, it was apparent how popular Geshu Han was within Longxi.
As such, the soldiers in Longxi were deeply influenced by him.
This was also the reason why Wang Chong chose to maintain a low profile here.
Without a doubt, the Big Dipper Army commandant within the resting point was also one of those who respected Geshu Han deeply. The formation which the commandant would likely use, erecting tower shields at the bottom of the slope and making use of them to block the charging cavalrymen, was a tactic which Geshu Han had adopted in his earlier years to deal with the Tibetans.
However, Geshu Han would only use this tactic if he encountered the Tibetans in an unfavorable steep terrain, but found himself with no choice but to engage them. Otherwise, under normal circumstances, he would avoid fighting with the Tibetans under such terrain.
The Big Dipper Army commandant had tried to adopt Geshu Han's military stratagem, but it was a pity that he had barely scraped the surface.
Seeing this, Wang Chong couldn't help but sigh deeply.
Staring at Wang Chong and noticing his peculiar expression, Zhao Yatong asked anxiously, "What do we do now?"
As the famous Spear of Crimson Blaze in the capital, she did have the rights to be proud, and very few people could catch her eye. But this time, she was truly traumatized by Wang Chong's words, losing the usual confidence she commanded.
On the matter regarding the Tibetans, she felt inclined to believe Wang Chong, especially after listening to his insights on the matter. Her instincts told her that Wang Chong was likely to be right on this matter.
"There's no need to worry about this, even mistakes have their own merits. Even though those tower shields are unlikely to stop the Tibetan cavalrymen, it does offer favorable conditions for me to better carry out my plan. Have you found those men that I asked you to yet?" Wang Chong asked.
Adding up the troops of Bai Siling, Xu Gan, Huang Yongtu, Zhao Yatong, and him, they only had a hundred cavalrymen on their side. With this number, it was impossible for to deal with three hundred Tibetan cavalrymen. If Wang Chong wanted to carry out his plan, he would need more people.
Only with more manpower could he ensure a lower death toll at the end of the battle.
After all, the Tibetan cavalrymen were nothing like the Iron Cloak Highwaymen. Their charge would be far more fearsome than what they had faced earlier.
That was why Wang Chong could chose to engage the Iron Cloak Highwaymen despite being heavily outnumbered. But this time, his side had far more soldiers than his enemies.
With such a clear advantage, he would have to be a fool not to exploit it!
"I do know quite a few people at this gathering point, so I should be able to get their assistance on this matter. However, unlike the previous commanders, the current one is from the Big Dipper Army. He has already sent out a clear warning that everyone has to follow their deployment clearly, and anyone who fails to do so will be dealt with by military law.
"The Big Dipper Army is well-known for their strictness, so it is inevitable the other recruits would be hesitant on this issue," Zhao Yatong sighed.
With her reputation in the capital, it shouldn't be too hard for her to rally the other recruits together on this matter. However, Longxi was the home base of the Big Dipper Army, and the consequences of disobeying military commands here could prove to be severe.
"You don't need to worry about that. If that commandant really wishes to pursue that matter, I'll take responsibility," Wang Chong chuckled lightly, thinking little of the matter.
"But..." Zhao Yatong frowned as she protested against Wang Chong's plan. However, in the next instant, her eyes narrowed and she fell silent.
That was because Wang Chong had taken out a heavy, golden token from his waist.
"You have that in your possession?!" Zhao Yatong stared at Wang Chong in disbelief. "But since you have that, this wouldn't be a problem. Even that commandant would have nothing to say about it. Alright then, you need not worry about the issue of manpower. They will surely not hesitate to offer their help knowing that you have such an item on you."
"That's good," Wang Chong chuckled as he latched the token back to his waist.
King Song's token wasn't just for show. Putting aside a mere commandant, even the generals of the Big Dipper Army would have to defer to it.
After all, on top of serving as a qinwang of Great Tang, he was the chief of Great Tang's Bureau of Military Personnel as well!
Over the years, he had been the one authorizing and pushing forward operations and deployment in Great Tang.
Furthermore, as the head of the eagle faction, he possessed incredible prestige in the military as well.
Even for Go Seonji's Western Protectorate Manor, the rations of his army were mainly processed by King Song's men. Under King Song's leadership, the Protector-Generals and generals of Great Tang never had to worry about supplies and such miscellaneous matters.
On the other hand, this meant that they were dependent on King Song, and this granted him great power.
If not for fear of alarming Geshu Han and bringing about unnecessary conflict, Wang Chong might have just wrestled away the commanding rights and attacked the Tibetan army based on his own plans.
Dusong means "great eagle" in Tibetan, and it is a title given to the best warrior of a clan.
Qinwang could be considered as a nobility standing that is above a duke, exclusive to only those who share the royal bloodline.