Chapter 484: The People in Panic!
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
News had begun to spread a few days ago. A scout from Li Zhengyi's army had rushed into the capital, covered in blood. Upon being carried to the Bureau of Military Personnel, he delivered his message, a request for reinforcements, and then fell unconscious.
If the large-scale Tibetan assault on the Longxi border was shocking, the grievous news that the 180,000 elites of Jiannan had lost was even more earth-shattering.
No one had expected such a thing. The Tibetan assault made everyone panic.
"The Tibetans are declaring war against the Great Tang! This is a complete break!"
In the Imperial Court, an imperial censor shouted for all he was worth, his face red, his entire body shaking from the sheer rage flowing through him.
"It's already collapsed! In Longxi and the southwest, Ü-Tsang has mobilized over 100,000 soldiers to invade the Great Tang. If that's not a break, what is! Right now we have to talk about what to do next!"
"Li Zhengyi has already been defeated! Where else can we get soldiers?"
"If we want to help out Xianyu Zhongtong and Li Zhengyi, the Big Dipper Army is the best way!"
"But the Big Dipper Army is being held down by We Tadra Khonglo and Dusong Mangpoje!"
"Lord Wang said a long time ago that this wasn't the time to send soldiers, but none of you listened. Now you know!"
"That's not what I'm worried about right now. What of the hundreds of thousands of civilians living in the southwest! If the 180,000 elites of the Annan Protectorate aren't there to stand guard, the southwest is a completely open field! Who else is left that can stop the combined armies of Mengshe Zhao and Ü-Tsang?"
Bzzt! As if all the air had been suddenly sucked out of the room, the noisy hall fell quiet. All the nobles and officials had stopped talking.
A stifling mood shrouded the entire court.
The defeat of the southwest had never been their greatest worry. Their true concern was the almost one million civilians living in the southwest.
As the barrier of the southwest, the Annan Protectorate was the first and final wall against Mengshe Zhao and Ü-Tsang.
It was for this reason that the Annan Protectorate had always had a very large garrison. 180,000 elites far surpassed the number of troops in Geshu Han's Big Dipper Army or in Gao Xianzhi's army.
Not even the Andong Protectorate's Zhang Shougui had 180,000 soldiers.
And it was for this reason that when Zhangchou Jianqiong had been presiding over the southwest, he had always been prudent and cautious, never once daring to take the initiative and start an offensive.
However, Geluofeng's sudden attack and Zhangchou Jianqiong's lack of stability in his new post of Minister of War had caused him to succumb to the pressure, voiding his old concerns.
The Imperial Court would need at least two months to raise a new wave of reinforcements. This time would be necessary whether they transferred these soldiers from the other protectorates or recruited them now.
But right now…
The almost one million inhabitants of the southwest were bereft of protection. When they thought about what would happen when Mengshe Zhao and Ü-Tsang advanced, all the ministers trembled in fear.
As King Song looked at the worried yet silent faces of the gathered officials, he suddenly thought of that boy.
No one had expected the 180,000 elites of the southwest to end up in this state. If there was someone who had already predicted all of this, that person was undoubtedly Wang Chong.
For some reason, King Song felt like Wang Chong had always known that this was how things would develop. This made him feel rather strange.
…Perhaps this child has some idea of how to proceed! King Song thought to himself, raising his head up to the carved image of the coiled dragon on the roof of the hall.
A roof would leak on the night of a downpour. When the Imperial Court of the Central Plains was still stunned by defeat in the southwest, the Great Tang's north and northeast were also growing restless.
"Hahaha, this is a gift from the heavens! I didn't think that 180,000 Great Tang elites would actually lose to Ü-Tsang and Mengshe Zhao…!"
On a moonlight night, on the vast steppe to the north of the Yin Mountains, a white tent loomed. The tent was surrounded by massive white wolves, almost lion-like. They warily watched the surroundings with fierce expressions.
Within the tent, oil lanterns cast a pitch-black shadow onto the canvas, magnifying it to gigantic proportions.
Although the source of this shadow used no techniques, displayed no martial arts, the shadow exuded a dreadful aura. Like a bottomless abyss, it sucked in all the moonlight in a radius of several hundred zhang.
"Carry out my order. The army will move south and enter a stalemate with the Great Tang's Beiting Protectorate. If the Beiting Protectorate shows any strange movements, we will move south and completely overthrow them!"
Clenching his fist, that shadow spoke with a rough and determined voice.
"But Khagan, won't we be utterly offending the Tang Emperor!"
In the flickering light of the tent, another voice within the tent urged caution, his fear evident.
"Ha, you think that the Great Tang is still the Great Tang of the past? 180,000 elites… that's 180,000 elites! The Great Tang of the past wouldn't have been guaranteed to lose even if Ü-Tsang and Mengshe Zhao used all their power!"
That rough voice spoke, seeming to drift off at the end as its owner began to remember the past.
The power of the Great Tang was not something any ordinary person could imagine!
When War God Su Zhengchen was still present and the Eastern and Western Turks were still strong, Ozmish Khagan1 was still a child.
150,000 fully equipped warriors and the most valiant Black Wolf Khagan2 of the Western Turks couldn't even stop the 8,000 soldiers under Su Zhengchen! Afterward, the Eastern and Western Turks were left greatly weakened, with both Wang Jiuling and Wang Zhongsi sweeping through them. It was only after a long time that they finally recovered.
The six to seven hundred thousand Great Tang soldiers were able to suppress the surrounding foreign kingdoms due to their oppressive strength and various weapons.
But now, 180,000 Great Tang elites and 60,000 reinforcements had been completely routed by Mengshe Zhao and Ü-Tsang. To the Western Turks and the other empires, this was something that they didn't even dare to imagine in the past.
"The Great Tang has already become brittle and is no longer as powerful as it once was. They've had it far too easy for too long. And we… have also changed!"
The rough voice suddenly became incomparably loud. The pack of white wolves around the tent seemed to sense something and began to bare their teeth.
"Let's go! The Turks and the Great Tang will fight with each other. If not now… then it will be in the future!"
"Yes, your subordinate understands!"
At the same time, to the east of Youzhou and north of the Bohai Sea…
A towering wall stood opposite the distant Andong Protectorate, separated from it by a vast plain and a clear river.
The walls were scorched by flames and appeared to have experienced countless battles. Yet they were so lofty and firm that not even the walls of the Central Plains could compare.
On the banner flapping over the massive city walls were actually these words written in Han characters. Goguryeo bordered the Central Plains, and though their spoken languages differed, Goguryeo still used the Han characters of the Central Plains in their official records.
Suddenly, the normally-shut gates of Gaimou City opened and Goguryeon infantry suddenly surged out. At almost the same time, the gates to the north and south of the city also opened to let large numbers of Goguryeon soldiers out.
This sudden activity shocked the entire territory of Youzhou!
All the soldiers of the Andong Protectorate were dumbstruck.
The Andong Protectorate governed the lands to the east of Youzhou. This was no nominal authority, but one obtained through fire and blood, forged through the course of several wars.
The Empire of Goguryeo had always taken a defensive stance in the northeast, relying on its firm city walls and other fortifications to defend against the Great Tang's attacks.
Never once had it opened its gates to launch an offensive.
On the other side of the clear river, several Great Tang scouts jumped onto their horses as they yelled and galloped away. They did not see the stalwart figure of a Goguryeon Great General appearing on the walls of Gaimou City, five long sabers on his back, quietly watching them with a complicated gaze.
In his hand was a royal Goguryeon decree on yellow paper, the 'moon in water' symbol on the decree clearly conveying its sender.
This was a decree from the Emperor of Goguryeo, Yeon Gaesomun!
'Vigorously attack, suppress the Great Tang!'
This royal decree had only these six words.
In the space of a single night, the countries bordering the Great Tang—the Eastern and Western Turkic Khaganates, the Goguryeo Empire, and even the distant Abbasid Caliphate—were beginning to show signs of movement.
The entirety of the Great Tang was in panic.
Only Wang Chong had expected all this to happen and remained calm and indifferent throughout.
1. Ozmish Khagan was the penultimate Khagan of the Eastern Turkic Khaganate. Historically, his reign lasted for only two years from 742-744, after which he was overthrown by the Uighurs and executed.↩
2. I can find no records of any Black Wolf Khagan or 'Heihen Khagan'. This war, however, probably refers to the Tang Dynasty's war against the Western Turks during the reign of Emperor Gaozong in 657. As such, the Black Wolf Khagan is probably Ashina Helu, also known as Ishbara Khagan. In the Battle of Irtysh River, a cavalry force of 100,000 led by Ashina Helu was ambushed by the Tang general Su Dingfeng and his 10,000 soldiers, resulting in Ashina Helu's defeat and subsequent capture. This episode also makes me believe that Su Zhengchen is modeled on Su Dingfeng.↩
3. Gaimou City, located near the current city of Gaizhou, was located just across from the Liao River and was a fort that Goguryeo had built along its border with the Tang Dynasty.↩