Chapter 520: The Dark Clouds Hang Overhead! The Capital's Anxiety!
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
Screams could be heard everywhere as a massacre unfolded across Chilechuan. Many of the shepherds chose to flee, but a few them chose resistance. Yet this sort of resistance was useless against these cavalry, equipped with Meteoric Metal armor and Wootz Steel swords, little more than an itch.
Cattle mooed and sheep bleated as they fell to the ground, their blood dyeing the earth red. There were no civilians or warriors in this conflict, only a life-or-death competition between countries. In this predestined war, there were no innocents.
The righteous did not grasp for wealth, and the kind did not command soldiers!
Today's shepherds would be tomorrow's Tibetan warriors, fierce and cruelly hacking down Tang civilians. Any softheartedness shown to one's enemies today was future cruelty to one's brothers-in-arms.
The battle proceeded quickly and ended quickly. Chilechuan, this region of the empire's southwest close to the Tibetan border, was covered in blood. The group led by Li Siye had already left, headed for even farther destinations.
They left behind them a ground covered in corpses. The bodies of cattle and sheep stretched toward the horizon.
However, not even the future Invincible Great General could completely kill off these tens of thousands of livestock. After the massacre, a large number of cattle and sheep had managed to survive, all of them bleating or mooing in distress. Except them, no one knew what had happened.
Chilechuan was quiet, time having seemingly come to a stop. After some time…
A pile of Tibetan corpses burst open, and a trembling and bloodstained hand emerged from the ground.
"Demons, these Tang are all demons…!"
A heavily injured Tibetan shepherd emerged from the pile of corpses. He muttered to himself in Tibetan, the eyes on his pale face still reflecting a deep fear.
Only a nightmare could explain what had happened just now. The six or seven hundred tribesmen had not even been able to last a single round before being slaughtered, and their opponents had come away without a single injury. Although their enemy had been regular soldiers, this gap was still a little too large.
Moreover, hadn't the Great Tang's Annan Protectorate army been defeated?
And hadn't the 60,000 reinforcements the Great Tang had sent also been eliminated by the Great General?
Weren't there three generals standing guard at the three passes running from north to south? Where had this group of Great Tang cavalry come from? Hadn't they been told that the rear was completely safe?
"It's no good; I have to tell the Great General! He needs to dispatch soldiers to slaughter these Tang!"
The lucky shepherd stood and prepared to leave, but he walked only two steps before stopping.
"No, I do have to inform the Great General, but also the other tribes as well. The Tang have already appeared in Chilechuan, which means this place is no longer safe. I have to tell the rest of them as quickly as possible," the surviving shepherd quietly said to himself.
On the plateau, there were no such things as shepherds. 'Shepherd' was a term that the Han used. All Tibetans were natural warriors. When they weren't fighting, they were supporting the army as the military's logistics officers. In battle, they could also serve as the eyes and the ears of the army. The shepherds and the army were a single entity.
Looking around, the shepherd quickly noticed the surviving cattle and sheep.
The Great Tang was no longer safe. One force was bound to be followed by a second and a third… He couldn't leave these livestock here. He had to drive them back to the Tibetan Plateau. Moreover, once the other tribes saw these leaderless flocks, they would definitely understand what had happened here.
They would grow more vigilant.
This was an unwritten rule of the plateau.
The fearful and furious shepherd cracked his whip and began to herd the livestock.
"Hurry, hurry, hurry! Don't stay here. Get out of here for me!"
The sheep were gradually driven toward the Tibetan Plateau. 'An old horse knows the way.' Sheep herds were not that smart, but by following the water and grass, they would be able to find the road. As long as the other sheep saw where the rest of the herd was going, they would understand.
Loudly bleating, the surviving sheep began to move.
But in his fear and anger, the shepherd didn't notice that amidst the pure white flock, several cattle and sheep were eating soybeans, a plant that was impossible to find in Chilechuan. And these soybeans were stained with some sort of black paste. As the herds began to move, these cattle and sheep mixed in with them and vanished over the horizon.
At the same time, the distant capital of the Great Tang was also a hive of activity.
Wang Chong had not attracted much notice when he had departed with his one thousand fully-equipped clan experts. The Imperial Court and the common people had other things to be concerned about. The southwest, Longxi, Anxi, Beiting, Andong… the Great Tang had never been in so much danger as it was now.
In its golden age, the Great Tang had enjoyed the obedience of all the surrounding countries. They rarely saw a single country raise the standard of war, but now, they were hearing the songs of the enemy from all sides.
Right now, the Great Tang was no longer concerned solely with the southwest, but with the entire empire. The greatest fear was that the surrounding kingdoms might communicate with each other and engage in a simultaneous invasion.
Given how the current situation was developing, such a possibility was very real.
In the Wang Clan Estate, Wang Gen anxiously strode back and forth. When the door opened and a guard entered, he immediately went to meet him, his eyes filled with worry and anxiety.
"Has there been any news of Chong-er?"
Wang Chong had set out a long time ago, but he had sent back no messages. Wang Chong had left very suddenly, not even informing Wang Gen before leaving. But Wang Gen couldn't say that he had been completely uninformed. It was obvious what Wang Chong was up to once he began forging weapons and armor en masse and recruiting experts from the great clans.
At present, the entire capital could see those thick plumes of smoke rising overhead, a sign that all the smithies of the capital were currently working for Wang Chong. There were probably very few people in the capital who didn't know of this.
Even so, none of this meant that Wang Gen wasn't worried about his nephew.
Wang Chong was the only descendant of the Wang Clan who could overshadow all the other scions of the capital, whose name was known throughout the world despite his young age. None of the rest, not Wang Fu, Wang Li, or Wang Bei, were capable of such a thing. But despite this, Wang Gen would never try and stop Wang Chong. No descendant of the prestigious Wang Clan, whether man or woman, was a coward.
Cowardice meant that one no longer counted as a child of the Wang Clan.
But it was impossible for Wang Gen to not be worried about his nephew.
"Milord, there is no news!"
The Wang Clan guard who had entered lowered his head, not even daring to breathe too loudly.
"We've attempted to use carrier pigeons to communicate with Young Master Chong, but all our attempts failed. In addition, we also could not get in touch with that bird trainer at Young Master Chong's side. We fear that Young Master Chong's forces are in a battle-ready state, with their birds being used for scouting. As a result, we have lost the means to communicate with Young Master Chong."
Wang Gen's body trembled at the mention of battle, his hands and feet feeling cold and clammy.
"Have the experts we arranged for already set off?"
"Yes, Milord. They are already headed for the southwest. They set off two days ago," the guard reported.
"Tell them to find Chong-er and bring him back safely, no matter what!" Wang Gen sternly said.
"In addition, get in touch with Third Brother's residence. Chong-er has so many subordinates, and if we can get in touch with them, we can have them get in touch with Wang Chong. No matter what, I have to find out where he is and how he's doing!"
"This… Milord, I'm afraid that we won't be able to get in touch with them."
The guard paused, hesitation on his face.
"Milord, I will be frank. Young Master Chong's subordinates are no longer under our command."
Wang Gen's brows rose. "What's going on here? What do you mean, 'no longer under our command'? Do you mean to say that we can't communicate with them and use them to find Wang Chong?"
"Milord, to speak frankly, although Young Master Chong didn't bring all his subordinates with him when he left the capital, he gave an order before leaving that all the subordinates of the Wang Clan Residence, Deflecting Blade Manor, and the spirit vein had to listen to the orders of Xu Qiqin, the young lady of the Xu Clan. It was forbidden to defy her orders. And seven or eight days ago, the guards of Young Master Chong's residence were transferred out of the capital by Lady Xu to some other place. We currently have no clue of their whereabouts. The only people standing guard at the Wang Clan Residence are a few Imperial soldiers who transferred over just recently."
Wang Gen was dumbfounded.
Wasn't that the talented daughter of the Xu Clan? So great was her talent in the capital that even he had heard of her.
Wang Gen had never known that even Xu Qiqin had become one of Wang Chong's 'subordinates'.
"Ah! I understand! You can drop the matter! We'll just do everything as he wishes!"
Wang Gen finally came to his senses and dismissed the guard with a wave of his hand.
Since Wang Chong had already made arrangements in the capital for after he left, there was no need for Wang Gen to worry about it.
At this time, while the rest of the capital was anxious and worried, the Xu Clan was quiet and still. A fragrant scent, mixed with the odor of books, wafted out of a study. The packed sandalwood bookshelves, the potted plum blossoms, the crane-beak incense burners, the refined lady seated behind the desk… this place was like a peaceful harbor, keeping out any storm, no matter how large it was.
This was Xu Qiqin's study.
Ever since Wang Chong had left, all kinds of files had started piling up in Xu Qiqin's study. Smelting, smithing, merchants, grain companies, porters, horse merchants… the information regarding the several thousand sword shops and smiths of the capital, the Four Great Swordsmithing Clans, and several dozen companies and grain merchants of varying sizes had been gathered in her study. This was information that involved hundreds of thousands of people.
Tasks as large as inspecting and supervising the outputs from the great clans, and as small as paying the workers of the grain merchants… everything had been put into Xu Qiqin's hands.
It was no simple task to gather up all the grain in the empire and transport it to the southwest, and the manpower needed was absurd. In the Imperial Court, such a task would require coordination between the hundreds of government offices under the Three Departments and Six Bureaus. But now, all these tasks were given to Xu Qiqin.
The floor of the study was complete mayhem.
But Xu Qiqin's desk remained perpetually tidy. All the papers and scrolls were neatly classified and stacked.
She handled each file and document in the simplest, most effective and most economizing manner.
And upon careful inspection, one would realize that Xu Qiqin was always handling at least eight tasks at once.
Retaining so much information and working on so many tasks simultaneously might have been challenging for others, but to the talented Xu Qiqin who was capable of challenging Wang Chong in chess, they weren't problems at all.
And besides, the Xu Clan had always specialized in logistics!