Chapter 517: A Private Worry! Provisions!
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
After traveling several hundred li from the mountain, Wang Chong's army quickly met up with the second group of reinforcements. The commander of this force was Xu Andun, another veteran officer. With the merger of these two armies, Wang Chong's forces swelled from five thousand to around eleven thousand.
This was the first time Wang Chong's forces had exceeded ten thousand. Although it was only a difference of three thousand soldiers from his previous maximum, such a minor difference had massive ramifications. Top-notch generals followed the same principle as Han Xin: the more soldiers, the better. When one's soldiers exceeded ten thousand, a whole new set of strategies opened up. With these ten thousand soldiers, Wang Chong now had much more to work with and maneuver.
Wang Chong had managed to defeat a fierce Tibetan general like Bachicheng and his force of more than ten thousand while suffering from comparatively few casualties, so it was even easier to deal with the remaining six thousand.
The battle to come was going to be much easier!
Without Bachicheng or Xiangyang Dalu, the remaining Tibetan cavalry were only able to hold on for a short while before being easily destroyed by Wang Chong's force.
This battle was even shorter than the last one. In just two hours, it was over.
"Milord, your subordinate will take his leave first!"
The battle's conclusion was of no comfort to Li Siye. The battle for Wang Chong's forces had ended, but his was just beginning. But even he himself was perplexed as to what he was about to do next.
"Mm, go then. What comes next already has nothing to do with you."
Wang Chong nodded from his horse, his expression flat and emotionless. Li Siye could spy no hesitation on him. Wang Chong appeared to fully understand what he was doing and what he needed, with no confusion in sight. This made Li Siye a little more confident in the task he was about to undertake.
"This silk bag is for you!"
Wang Chong took a small bag from his waist. From the knot tying the bag, it seemed like it had been prepared for some time.
"If you succeed in this task, the Tibetans will definitely send a part of their force to deal with you. No matter what, you must remember to not get greedy for merit, and don't let emotions affect your decisions. I've explained everything clearly in the silk bag. You have to do exactly as it says!"
Wang Chong said this with absolute solemnity.
Wang Chong had always respected Li Siye, but it was precisely for this reason that his stern expression now left such a deep impression on Li Siye.
"Yes, your subordinate understands!"
Li Siye gave Wang Chong a deep look, took the silk bag from Wang Chong and then gave Wang Chong a soldier's bow.
"Young Master, be at ease. No matter what, I will properly complete this task!"
With these final words, Li Siye waved his hand, galloping off with more than a thousand fully-armored cavalry. He left in his wake the thick scent of blood.
In the distance, Commandant Xu, Zhao Jingdian, and Old Eagle watched in confusion as Li Siye left. The mission Li Siye had been tasked with this time was extremely mysterious and set him on a completely different course from the rest of the army. Other than Wang Chong, no one knew where Li Siye was going at a crucial moment like this.
This truly left them perplexed, but even so, no one dared to doubt Wang Chong's decisions.
By now, Wang Chong's reputation had already reached a level that even Xu Shiping would find difficult to reach. A single word from Wang Chong would make Xu Shiping's subordinates immediately follow him, even if Xu Shiping tried to stop them. This wasn't because they were lacking loyalty, but because Wang Chong had used his own abilities and his three victories to win their heartfelt servitude.
At this time, there was no one left who cared about Wang Chong's age, gender, or status. Even if he lost King Song's token, no one would defy his orders.
Wang Chong had won command of this army through his absolute strength.
"All troops, move out!"
There was no time to wonder what sort of effect Li Siye's departure would have on the army. After making a sweep of the battlefield, Wang Chong issued the order and led his army to the south. With this victory, Wang Chong's path southward was finally free of obstructions. No more barriers existed between him and the Annan Protectorate army.
Time was short, and Wang Chong was determined to make no more stops.
"Does Milord have time to talk?"
The journey south was dull and lonesome. While Wang Chong was riding on his horse, occupied with his thoughts, he suddenly heard a very soft voice at his ear. Commandant Xu Andun had ridden his horse and surreptitiously approached Wang Chong. Xu Andun had nothing but heartfelt respect for the teenager next to him.
Although they hadn't known each other for long and though this youth was probably about the age of his own children, Xu Andun didn't dare to treat him as a boy. Instead, he had happily accepted him as the true commander of this army. However, it was for this very reason that Xu Andun felt that there were some things that he had to say.
"…Your subordinate has some matters that he would like to discuss with Milord."
"Commandant Xu1, what's wrong?" Wang Chong said in surprise, turning his head. Xu Andun's words seemed to be implying something, and his face was fraught with worry and concern.
"Milord, please forgive this subordinate for being too abrupt, but I have thought about this problem for a very long time and must speak of it. Your subordinate believes that our most urgent problem is not the Tibetans, but, but… provisions!"
Xu Andun hesitated for quite some time before finally spitting out that last word. What followed was a long silence.
Wang Chong finally came back to his senses, but all he did was indicate that Xu Andun should continue.
"Milord, to be quite honest, if you did not appear, then even if the Tibetans did not attack, we wouldn't have been able to last for very long. I don't know if Xu Shiping brought this matter up with you, but their situation definitely isn't much better than ours. The amount of provisions and fodder consumed by five or six thousand soldiers and horses is no small number. We might be generals who can fearlessly charge to break out of enemy ranks, but none of us are experts in logistics. Moreover…"
Xu Andun glanced at Wang Chong, hesitating for a while before hardening his heart and pressing on.
"Before that battle, your subordinate once accidentally heard General Li mention that the Annan Protectorate army sent a request for aid to the Imperial Court. Their provisions might not be able to last for too long either! Rations and fodder must be prepared before soldiers can be mobilized. We might only have ten-thousand-some soldiers, but there so many people in the Annan Protectorate army. I'm afraid…"
Xu Andun didn't finish the sentence, but the worry in his eyes was obvious. He had actually noticed the provisions problem much earlier, but he had never voiced it out of fear of harming morale.
"In that battle with the Tibetans, we lost far too many wagons and weapons, and almost all of our provisions were burned. The provisions we have with us will only be enough for a few days. If Milord hadn't appeared, we would already be preparing to return north. Now, I am not objecting to Milord's plan, but given our current situation, whether or not we meet the Tibetans, all that awaits us is death!"
With these last words, Xu Andun fell into a long silence.
'The Emperor does not use hungry soldiers.' Although martial artists were powerful, they were still mortals who needed to eat the five grains. If an army was hungry, it would be decent if it could utilize fifty or sixty percent of its strength, and fighting a war was essentially suicide. Xu Andun hadn't wanted to say it, but as a commander, there were some things he had to say.
The Tibetans were secondary, as the matter of provisions was an urgent matter that had to be addressed.
"There's no need to worry about this problem!"
To Xu Andun's surprise, Wang Chong only faintly smiled at this morale-affecting problem that Xu Andun had needed to gather his courage to voice. What Wang Chong said next surprised him even more.
"It's just provisions. There's no need for you to worry. I have my own ways of dealing with it!"
"But, Milord, even requesting provisions from the Imperial Court will still be too late. The heavens are high and the Emperor is far away. The capital is simply too far. Moreover, the gathering of supplies will require the Six Bureaus to work together to collect the supplies from various areas of the Great Tang, and the entire process would be indescribably time-consuming and exhausting. And distant waters can't put out a nearby fire!"
Xu Andun only grew more concerned. It was clear from the grin on Wang Chong's face that his words had clearly not been heeded, making him even more anxious than the army's current lack of provisions. 'Food is god for the people, and soldiers are no exception.' If this problem was not addressed, the soldiers would mutiny.
"Milord, you must treat this matter with caution!"
Xu Andun was truly worried to the extreme.
He really couldn't understand how Wang Chong could remain so composed, even though he had clearly stated the problem.
"Relax; distant waters might not be able to put out a nearby fire, but nearby waters can! Before I even left the capital, I began to transport provisions. Be at ease. Given how much time has passed, they should be arriving soon."
Wang Chong patted Xu Andun on the shoulder and smiled.
Although he spoke his words with an indifferent tone, Wang Chong's expression gave off a powerful confidence that made it seem like no detail could escape his plans. Even Xu Andun was momentarily stunned. Enough provisions for tens of thousands of people was no minor matter. The Imperial Court would have needed to prepare at least a month's worth of supplies for the southwest war.
This was no trifling task, one that would take at least two to three months, four or five on average. Xu Andun truly couldn't comprehend where Wang Chong had gotten these supplies from. This wasn't a problem of money. It was just that the number of people that needed to be fed was not something that any single grain merchant or clan could address.
Even those companies or clans that specialized in selling grains would need a long time to prepare, and they still wouldn't be able to reach the necessary amount.
Xu Andun's mouth opened as if to ask something.
But after patting him on the shoulder, Wang Chong had already taken off.
'Strategies planned out in the end can decide battles a thousand li away.' This was a vital principle of strategy. How could Wang Chong make an error on something as important as provisions? Although supplying an army was a massive undertaking, just because the Imperial Court couldn't do something didn't mean that he couldn't.
Zhang Munian, it's all up to you! Wang Chong quietly said to himself, a flash of light streaking through his mind.
1.There are two Commandant Xus, but they do not share the same surname. Xu Shiping has the character 徐 as his surname while Xu Andun has the character 许 as his surname.↩