Chapter 724: Fumeng Lingcha's Warning (I)
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
"Young Master, can that Hulayeg really be trusted?"
While working through the crowd of Hu, Solitary Wolf suddenly asked this question to Wang Chong. Although he had been abroad for more than a year and Wang Chong had already been made a marquis, Solitary Wolf still had the habit of addressing Wang Chong as 'Young Master'.
"It has nothing to do with trust. Profit alone is enough. And besides, in this matter, he doesn't have the power to decide who is the trustworthy one."
Wang Chong smiled, but his mind was thinking about that strange expression Hulayeg made as Wang Chong was leaving.
Yalug was Hulayeg's most trusted and closest steward, controlling more than seventy percent of his finances. In Hulayeg's mind, he was definitely a devoted subordinate.
Alas, Hulayeg would have never expected that in just three or four days, this 'devoted subordinate' would abscond with both his money and one of his concubines.
The string of large mistakes Hulayeg made afterward that resulted in his beheading by the Western Turkic Ishbara Khagan was most likely linked to this event.
"In addition, Young Master… one hundred thousand horses is no small number. With our abilities, can we really purchase them?" Solitary Wolf worriedly said.
Based on the price Wang Chong had given of one hundred taels of gold, one hundred thousand quality steeds would cost ten million taels of gold. The construction of Wang Chong's City of Steel was being paid for with loans from the more than one thousand great clans of the capital. Buying this many horses with the Wang Clan's abilities alone was simply out of the question.
"Hahaha, I saw you coming out of Hulayeg's residence with such a somber and worried face, your brows tightly furrowed, but this is all you were worried about. With the Wang Clan's abilities, we naturally wouldn't be able to buy one hundred thousand warhorses, and besides, what does the Wang Clan need with so many horses?"
Wang Chong smiled, a carefree expression on his face. He had never thought about how much gold the horses would cost, nor had he ever cared.
"Then Young Master is buying all these warhorses for…" Solitary Wolf tilted his head in confusion.
He had always believed that Wang Chong had come in disguise to the Western Regions to buy so many warhorses for his own purposes, but now that he was hearing that this wasn't the case at all, he was instantly perplexed.
Even though he had followed Wang Chong for so long, he still felt he couldn't keep up with his thought processes.
"Haha, of course, it's for the Great Tang," Wang Chong immediately said.
Of the one hundred thousand horses, he would leave at most ten thousand for himself, perhaps in the future working with an intermediary to obtain an additional thirty or forty thousand. The rest would all be gifted to the Imperial Court.
Raising these warhorses would be an enormous expenditure that only the Imperial Court could afford. As for the gold needed to buy the horses…
Whether it a few million or tens of millions of taels of gold, it was just a fine drizzle to the Great Tang that barely counted for anything.
The Great Tang might have been militarily on the decline, its people thinking only of peace and no longer as valiant and aggressive as they once were, but the many years of prosperity and commerce with the surrounding foreign countries had truly allowed it to accumulate a vast fortune.
If it weren't used now, when would it be used?
Wang Chong quickly took his leave of the Western Regions with just as little fanfare as he had arrived. The moment he left, a messenger bird with golden claws took off into the air at a speed much faster than ordinary messenger birds, leaving the Western Regions for the capital of the Great Tang.
Several days later, the messenger bird flew through a window and into King Song's study.
"This is… a letter from Wang Chong?"
King Song extracted the letter and immediately began to read through it. The more he read, the brighter his eyes shone, and he finally couldn't help but give an excited laugh.
"Hahaha, one hundred thousand high-quality steeds! Wang Chong, this an enormous feat you've achieved for the Imperial Court. No matter how much gold you need, this king will submit a memorial to the court and do his utmost to handle it for you. I'd like to see just who would dare harbor selfish motives and oppose this motion which will be of such great benefit to the country!"
With these last words, King Song's face turned frigid. Matters were divided by their level of importance and urgency, and while King Song might have been able to disregard interference in ordinary concerns, if there was anyone who dared to make trouble when the Imperial Court was facing such a dire need for warhorses, he might have to kill a few imperial censors or officials.
King Song took Wang Chong's letter and immediately left his estate.
Wang Chong quickly returned to the City of Steel. The entire excursion had taken ten-some days, and by now, the City of Steel had taken on a completely different form.
Massive walls forty meters high towered up from the ground, smooth and steep. Any siege ladder or other siege weapon could only lament before these walls.
With the construction of the outer walls complete, nearly 150,000 workmen were now building the inner circle of walls as well as the various restaurants, tea houses, and inns of the city.
The various clans had dispatched their own crews to begin constructing their own restaurants and stores. The entire city was abuzz with masons and carpenters at work.
Wang Chong's fief was on track, and no one would be able to stop it at this stage.
"Lord Marquis, the steel and modules for the initial phase have all been used up. The construction speed from now probably won't be as fast. The sword shops and sword smiths of the various prefectures and provinces still need to finish the rest of the wall modules and send them to Wushang, and I'm afraid that this will take quite some time."
In the blustery winds atop the high walls, Zhang Shouzhi reported the current situation.
"In addition, besides walls, a few narrow alleyways and parapets for soldiers to hide behind are required. These can't be constructed quickly, so the speed won't be comparable to that of the early stages."
"It's fine. With the City of Steel at this stage, we have a firm ground to stand on. This was my initial goal, and we've already reached it!"
Wang Chong stood on the walls, his clothes flapping in the wind.
There were tasks that were slow and tasks that were fast. The modular construction of the city had proceeded so quickly that it seemed miraculous, but many people had failed to notice that preparing the steel modules had required a great deal of time, manpower, and resources before the actual construction.
If he had not borrowed the resources and capital of the great clans and mobilized the forging capability of the entire Central Plains, he would have never been able to pull of his stunning feat of the one-night construction. This was an unimaginably massive engineering project, one that would be only a dream for many factions.
But even though this accomplishment had shocked so many people, the incredible speed of construction concealed a massive flaw of modular construction.
All the shock and awe came from the fact that all the modules for construction had been prepared in advance. Now that all the modules were consumed, one had to wait for the rest of the modules to be finished, resulting in a drastic drop in speed. This was also the reason for the City of Steel's current state.
The frenzied construction had exhausted those mountains of wall modules, leading the speed of the rest of the construction to naturally slow.
But Wang Chong had already reached his goal.
While he was speaking with Zhang Shouzhi, the ground suddenly began to quake and a rumbling like the crashing of the tide came from the north. Shocked, Wang Chong turned to see what was happening. A thick cloud of dust had emerged over the horizon, countless black dots within charging forward with an astonishing momentum.
A sharp cry tore through the sky, and the several thousand elite cavalry that Wang Chong had brought from the southwest, as well as the experts the great clans had dispatched, immediately responded. In a few moments, the guards had gathered together into formation, prepared to attack the foe.
Nearby, there was a metal clattering as two massive gates of steel opened, ready to receive friendly cavalry and also to close and keep enemies out so that the thick and sturdy walls could do their duty.
Thwickthwick! Wang Chong heard swishing sounds as the master archers dispatched by the great clans rushed up to the walls and nocked arrows to their bows, aiming them northward.
In a few moments, the City of Steel that had been bustling with activity immediately became fully armed and equipped, bristling with weaponry.
The 'enemy army' grew closer and closer, the dust clouds growing thicker and thicker. Just when a fierce battle seemed about to take place, Wang Chong suddenly sneered, his eyes widening in surprise.
"Halt!" Wang Chong raised an arm and issued a cold order. "All soldiers, await my orders. Maintain defensive positions. Archers, put down your bows! Until you receive my order, no careless actions are permitted!"
So sudden was this order that everyone was left dumbfounded.
"Sir Zhang, wait here. I need to leave for a while to deal with this matter!"
As Wang Chong stood on the wall and looked into the distance, he sneered at the approaching cloud of dust.
"It seems that a good friend of ours has come!"
Wang Chong turned and began to head down the stairs. Behind him, Zhang Shouzhi had a perplexed and dazed expression.
But after squinting in the blazing sun, Zhang Shouzhi suddenly understood, slight shock appearing on his face.
"So it was him!!" Zhang Shouzhi said in surprise, and he looked with deep concern at that war banner that had suddenly been thrust out of the churning cloud of dust.
"Bai Siling, Zhao Yatong, stand guard in the city. Don't come out!
"Cheng Sanyuan, Su Shixuan, come with me!"
"Yes, Lord Marquis!"
A set of horses left a trail of dust behind them as they galloped out of the city.
Cheng Sanyuan and Su Shixuan were two elites that had battled together with Wang Chong in the southwest, two of the one thousand experts Wang Chong had recruited from the great clans.
These two were far stronger than the other clan experts, and they were extremely loyal to Wang Chong.
In order to get in Wang Chong's good graces and pull closer to the Wang Clan and King Song, the clan they had originally served had gifted the two to Wang Chong to serve as his guards.
Wang Chong did not value them solely for their martial prowess, but also for their courage, ability to react on the spot, and decisiveness. During the southwestern war, when Li Siye was leading them back, the Tibetans had attempted to counterattack by intercepting their charge from an angle and disrupting Li Siye's formation.
But this pair had noticed the danger and led a small force to charge into the Tibetan cavalry while they were still forming.
The courageous charge of these ten-some people had scattered the seven or eight hundred Tibetan cavalry, shattering their offense.