Chapter 551: The Sage Emperor's Intentions! The Storm Over the Capital!
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
After what seemed like a mere second and yet like countless epochs, right when Eunuch Gao believed that he would not be able to hear an answer, the great hall resounded with that revered and dignified voice.
"The southwest… It's not the right time yet!"
Hearing the Sage Emperor's voice, Eunuch Gao mentally shivered. He couldn't help but give a long sigh.
"Is it still because of that child…"
These words were earth-shattering, and if any of the ministers of the court were present, they would definitely have been stupefied. The southwest was on the brink of crisis, yet the Sage Emperor continued to express no stance. The heavens were unfathomable and the Imperial Court's conjectures were fruitless, yet no one would have expected everything to be related to a single youth.
The great hall was quiet, without a single noise. Beneath the many golden curtains, that figure remained unmoving, as towering as the mountains, as distant as the stars. No one knew what the supreme Sage Emperor of the Great Tang was thinking, not even Gao Lishi.
Although he knew many things, he did not know everything.
"Everything has its allotted destiny! Whether it is or it is not, we will quickly find out…"
Behind the curtains, the Sage Emperor did not directly reply to the questions, but these words were enough of an admission.
"But Your Majesty, can five thousand soldiers really change the fate of the southwest? Geluofeng is working together with Dalun Ruozan! The Mengshe–Ü-Tsang army numbers more than five hundred thousand!"
Eunuch Gao pressed his forehead against the ground as he kneeled, the distress evident in his voice.
After serving His Majesty for decades, Gao Lishi had never imagined that he would doubt the Sage Emperor. But the matter of the southwest involved tens of thousands of soldiers and nearly one million civilians! If all their hope was being placed on a single youth, to place their hopes on a hotheaded force that didn't know its own strength, wouldn't they be treating the southwest as a mere game?
The hall was quiet, with no response.
Gao Lishi felt panicked, cold sweat seeping from his forehead, and even his palms were getting sweaty. This was the first time he had ever questioned the Sage Emperor, but as the eunuch who directed the affairs of the Inner Court and one of the Emperor's retainers, there were some words that he had to say.
"In this world, there is nothing that is impossible. Did you forget how We ascended to the throne?"
As if given a jolt, Gao Lishi suddenly raised his head.
He naturally knew how the Sage Emperor had ascended to the seat of the Supreme Sovereign of the Nine and Five. No one had viewed the Sage Emperor optimistically back then, and none of the other princes had ever paid him any mind. In the end, however, the Sage Emperor had relied on his great talent in strategy to forge a resplendent and flourishing Great Tang, becoming the Emperor beloved by all.
Gao Lishi had also not expected the Sage Emperor to think so highly of that child that he would compare him to himself.
"We have not misjudged him. When the results from the southwest are made clear, all will naturally be understood. Everything has its destiny. Yuanyi, all you need to know is that it is destined that We have favored him. This is enough. Now, withdraw!"
With his last words, that supreme existence behind the curtains had spoken Gao Lishi's layman name.
Everyone knew of Eunuch Gao, Gao Lishi, yet few people knew that before Eunuch Gao entered the palace, he had the surname 'Feng'. 'Yuanyi' was his actual birth name.
His Majesty rarely spoke his layman name, but once he did, it meant that the conversation was over.
"Yes, Your Majesty! Your lowly servant withdraws!"
Gao Lishi didn't dare to further argue, and obediently took his leave.
After leaving the hall, Gao Lishi stood on the jade steps, gazing at the dazzling golden walls of the Inner Court, his mind in turmoil. Even though he had already seen His Majesty and received an answer, Gao Lishi's doubts had only increased, not decreased.
The southwest, the southwest… Ah, His Majesty's mind has grown even more unfathomable. Wang Yan, I hope that your youngest son won't disappoint His Majesty!
With this thought, Gao Lishi quickly descended the jade steps and left the Taiji Palace.
He had an even more important task to carry out.
While Gao Lishi was leaving the Taiji Palace, no one knew that an even more important event had taken place.
In the last light of the setting sun, a flight of carrier pigeons flew in from the southwest. No one noticed that two of these carrier pigeons flew over the southwest walls, over the many buildings and roofs to enter the Imperial Palace.
"What?! Lion City has been broken!"
In the office of the Bureau of Military Personnel, a steely palm with veins bulging from it smashed against a metal table, almost breaking it in two. This was undoubtedly the most shocking news that had been received in this more than a month of war.
Lion City had been the final and greatest source of comfort for the people of the capital.
Although the Annan Protectorate army had been defeated, the steel fortress that was Lion City had saved almost one hundred thousand soldiers. This was the final barrier for the entire southwest. As long as those soldiers remained, the situation in the southwest would not develop into the worst-case scenario.
Everyone could still cling onto the last sliver of hope.
No one had expected that the Lion City that served as the last bastion of hope for countless people had fallen.
"You're sure that this is accurate? Could it be a mistaken report? Lion City was an almost impenetrable fortress. Wasn't it said to have been constructed with inscribed refined iron? The walls were more than thirty zhang high; how could they be easily broken? Moreover, weren't there almost one hundred thousand soldiers from the Annan Protectorate army there?" that voice harshly asked, tinged with a deep shock. It was clear that the owner of the voice had found this news impossible to accept.
"Milord, this matter has already been confirmed beyond doubt.
"Our people infiltrated the southwest more than a month ago, and this news was a result of their personal investigations and was confirmed three times. In addition, they managed to find a soldier from the Annan Protectorate army who got lost in the rain. This soldier personally confirmed these reports.
"Apparently, the provisions in Lion City were already completely consumed. In order to prevent the Mengshe–Ü-Tsang army from starving them out, Protector-General Xianyu and General Wang Yan decided to give up the city and attempt a breakout. Everyone has already left that place, but without the protection of Lion City and with the pursuit of the Tibetan cavalry commanded by Dalun Ruozan and Huoshu Huicang, the current status of the Annan Protectorate army is unknown. Everything is up to fate!
"Understanding the seriousness of this news, we endeavored to send it as urgently as possible, without the slightest delay. We've run to death more than twenty top-notch horses! Exhausted to the breaking point more than ten elite scouts! We've also lost ten-some pigeons and eagles. I request Milord to make a decision!"
The reporting scout himself seemed very pale.
The Annan Protectorate army was the focus of the Great Tang, and its fate affected the greatest number of people. Although the other protectorates were under attack, the Annan Protectorate was far more important. All the Tang people would pale at the thought of all the soldiers of the Annan Protectorate army being run down by the Tibetan cavalry as they fled.
The number of soldiers in the Annan Protectorate army was simply not enough to defeat the five hundred thousand soldiers of the Mengshe–Ü-Tsang army. This was something that everyone knew. No one had expected the Annan Protectorate army to meet a good fate, but once everything was on the verge of becoming reality, no one was willing to accept it.
The moment everyone received this news, their hearts sank, and they felt like a massive rock had been placed on their chests, making it incredibly difficult to breathe.
The Bureau of Military Personnel was eerily silent.
All the important officials of the Bureau of Military Personnel were looking at each other with ashen complexions.
The sudden sound of porcelain shattering caused all of them to turn to the source of the noise. They saw that Zhangchou Jianqiong had just crossed the threshold into the room, and the tea cup in his hand had just been shattered to pieces.
At that moment, Zhangchou Jianqiong's face was a sickly green.
"It's over! The southwest is about to be lost!"
"The complete loss of 180,000 elites! How could this be?"
"Reinforcements! Reinforcements! Reinforcements! While we still have a chance, we need to send reinforcements!"
"It's too late! Even if we send troops, they'll be too slow. Moreover, where will get the troops?"
"Does it really have to be like this?"
"A disaster for the Great Tang!"
"This is the worst catastrophe the Central Plains has ever faced!"
The Bureau of Military Personnel, the Bureau of Personnel, the Bureau of Works… the news from the southwest seemed to grow wings, spreading within and without the palace, traveling to the offices of each of the Six Bureaus. Like a tsunami, the news of Lion City's fall shook the entire Imperial Court, flooding the entire capital in fear, unease, concern, and all other kinds of emotions.
The air over the capital seemed to freeze, and even the markets grew quiet, with none of their usual bustle.
"How could this be? It can't be, it absolutely can't!"
In the Wang Clan Estate, Wang Gen smashed a fist against the table, his chest heaving, his face as white as a sheet of paper.
Wang Yan, Wang Fu, Wang Chong!
The three most brilliant military figures of the Wang Clan were in the southwest, and no one in the capital had received a greater shock from this news!