Chapter 725: Fumeng Lingcha's Warning (II)
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
Li Siye had personally spoken of the pair's accomplishments and was full of praise and appreciation.
After observing them for a while, Wang Chong also found them rather decent, so he had tasked Cheng Sanyuan and Su Shixuan with defending and guarding the City of Steel during its construction. So far, the two had performed quite well in their duties.
The cloud of dust from the north continued to approach, and everyone in the city could feel the trembling of the ground from the galloping of horses. All the workmen had long ago retreated within the walls, their work having already been halted.
It was suddenly eerily silent around the City of Steel, leaving only the sound of galloping horses from the north.
The atmosphere was fraught with tension.
More than one hundred thousand eyes nervously peered at the seething cloud of dust and the silent and oppressive figures within. Only Wang Chong on his horse silently waited with a pleasant smile on his face, his expression neither meek nor humble.
As they drew close, the warhorses began to slow, and a massive banner, more than one zhang tall, was extended out of the cloud of dust. Over a black dragon was the common golden rock eagle of the Western Regions, its gaze sharp, claws like hooks, feathers seemingly made of steel. It was so lifelike that it seemed like it would fly out of the banner.
This was the first time since Wang Chong's arrival in the Western Regions that he had seen such a war banner.
While Wang Chong was inspecting the war banner, an extremely muscular and imposing figure rode out of the dust, appearing like some demonic god.
In this moment, everyone could clearly see this man's thickly bearded face, his swarthy complexion, and those bronze eyes, exuding a chilling and dreadful light.
And when this person emerged, a tide of awesome pressure began to come down. Other than Wang Chong and the two elite guards Cheng Sanyuan and Su Shixuan, everyone else in the City of Steel lowered their heads, not daring to meet this person's gaze.
The moment everyone lowered their heads, they heard a savage voice echoing in their ears, sounding like the whine of a trembling sword. It was fierce and lofty, majestic and oppressive.
When he heard this clearly hostile voice, Wang Chong broke into a smile.
With these words, Wang Chong immediately urged his horse forward without the slightest timidity. In all of the Great Tang, in all of the Western Regions, there was only one person with such a unique voice: Qixi Protector-General Fumeng Lingcha.
…You still couldn't hold it in!
Wang Chong inwardly grinned, though he showed none of this on his face.
Wushang was so close to the Qixi Protectorate that no activity could be hidden from Fumeng Lingcha. But it was clear that the sudden increase in the walls to fifteen meters in a single night, and the continuous increase in height, had made Fumeng Lingcha realize that he had miscalculated and become anxious to move.
The clopping of horse hooves echoed through the skies!
As everyone tensely watched on, Wang Chong led his horse forward, stirring his own trail of dust as he drew closer to Fumeng Lingcha. In the distance, the renowned Protector-General slowed his pace, the soaring cloud of dust gradually settling down to reveal an awe-inspiring army of black-armored elites, veterans of countless battles.
In the blazing sun, all these black-armored cavalry rode in unison, as if they were of one mind. Not a single mistake was made as they marched.
Not even Wang Chong's eyes could see any problem.
That's right, as unmoving as a mountain, as aggressive as a fire! In his early years, Fumeng Lingcha oversaw Anxi. In the aspect of commanding troops, he truly does have some skill! Wang Chong quietly said to himself.
Even though there was bad blood between him and Fumeng Lingcha, Wang Chong had to admit that the Great General of Qixi did have some extraordinary attributes. Qixi was a unique place. To the west was the ever-ambitious Ü-Tsang, ready to rush down from the eastern edge of the plateau at any time. To the east was the Turkic cavalry led by the Ishbara Khagan of the Western Turkic Khaganate. Fumeng Lingcha was able to survive in this intersection of two factions and keep both of them out, and his strength was beyond question.
Just through this Qixi cavalry that was both as unmoving as a mountain and aggressive as fire, Fumeng Lingcha had already displayed the extraordinary abilities that had made him an Imperial Great General!
Alas, your envy is too great! Your thirst for authority too strong!
With this thought, Wang Chong quickly returned to his senses.
Fumeng Lingcha was truly a formidable character, and if some of his traits were removed, Wang Chong would have been happy to see that the Great Tang had such a Great General. But Fumeng Lingcha was simply far too selfish.
He was a Hu himself, so he brazenly promoted Hu in the army. All the important posts in his army were almost completely filled with Hu. Whether or not a Han had the ability, they were suppressed just the same.
Moreover, there were signs that Fumeng Lingcha was creating a miniature Hu court in Qixi.
If not, he wouldn't have been so furious at Wang Chong's memorial during the Regional Commanders incident.
In addition, while Qixi was excellent on the defensive side, it was lacking on the offense. In the many years of Fumeng Lingcha's tenure, he had never once been the first to attack, and this posture had never changed.
Qixi could only passively wait for Ü-Tsang or the Western Turks to attack.
Whether it was to alter the result of the coming Battle of Talas, prepare soldiers for Anxi, or change the circumstances of Qixi, Wang Chong had to either remove Fumeng Lingcha or have him transferred elsewhere.
As long as Fumeng Lingcha remained, he would never be able to freely move in the Western Regions. This had to be changed.
The rumbling slowly came to a stop as the two parties grew closer and closer, the atmosphere tenser and tenser. Finally, Wang Chong and Fumeng Lingcha, one young and one old, stopped at a distance of eight or nine zhang from each other. The atmosphere had reached maximum tension.
The two met gazes, none of them saying a word.
"You dare! The Lord Protector-General is present, yet you do not dismount and bow!" A shout came from behind Fumeng Lingcha as one of his deputies, fully armored and gripping black reins in his hand, jabbed a finger at Wang Chong.
You're trying to show off your strength!
Wang Chong inwardly laughed, but his gaze remained fixed on Fumeng Lingcha. In the past, the rankless and titleless Wang Chong would have been easily crushed by Fumeng Lingcha.
But at this time and place, Wang Chong had nothing to fear, not even in front of this Hu Great General whose words could move the world.
And besides, he had once been the true Grand Marshal of the World!
"Impudent! Our Lord is the Imperial Court's newly-titled Young Marquis, a title personally bestowed by the Son of Heaven. He is a true noble of the Great Tang, his status no less than the Lord Protector-General's. Moreover, during the title ceremony, the Sage Emperor personally conferred upon him a courtesy name, making him a disciple of the Son of Heaven! He represents His Majesty the Sage Emperor, and you dare have Lord Marquis bow?!"
As expected, a harsh rebuke came from behind Wang Chong. With no need for any words from Wang Chong, Cheng Sanyuan rode forward and reproved Fumeng Lingcha's deputy. Although they couldn't contend against Fumeng Lingcha's majestic pressure and gaze, they could certainly deal with one of his deputies.
Wang Chong sat unmoving on his horse, but he mentally gave a slight nod.
Cheng Sanyuan and Su Shixuan truly did have fast reaction times. In this sort of setting, having them speak for him would be much better than if he spoke on his own behalf. This was also one of the reasons Wang Chong valued them so highly.
Wang Chong clasped his hands and said, "Lord Protector-General, I have been rude. Not knowing that Lord Protector-General would honor us with your presence, I did not come out to greet you. What noble errand brings Lord Protector-General here?"
His words instantly attracted everyone's focus.
The area around the City of Steel was silent. When the commanding officers on both sides spoke, even Cheng Sanyuan and Fumeng Lingcha's deputy had to shut their mouths. Everyone knew that today's main characters were these two, one young and one old.
The words that these two spoke starting from now would probably affect the future of both the City of Steel and Qixi. At a time like this, no one else dared to interfere.
Fumeng Lingcha said nothing, but his deep and hawkish eyes slowly looked Wang Chong up and down, sizing him up as a hawk would size up its prey.
During the Regional Commanders incident, the two had been almost mortal enemies. Fumeng Lingcha had even personally composed a memorial requesting the Sage Emperor to execute Wang Chong. But in reality, this was Fumeng Lingcha's first time seeing the 'archcriminal'.
Even though he was bursting with hostility toward this youngest son of the Wang Clan, Fumeng Lingcha still had to admit that this boy looked completely different from what he had imagined.
Far too young! He didn't look more than seventeen!
At this age, even someone as proud as Fumeng Lingcha was still fighting and clawing his way up the ladder in the Western Regions. But Wang Chong was already the Young Marquis of the Great Tang and had been given a courtesy name from the Son of Heaven himself, his status rising to the heavens.
If Wang Chong had merely accomplished all this because of the backing of the Wang Clan and the afterglow of Wang Jiuling's reputation, he could accept all this. But not long ago, Wang Chong had personally defeated renowned figures like Huoshu Huicang, Dalun Ruozan, and Duan Gequan.
Even now, Fumeng Lingcha was still wondering just how much of this was true.
But there was no question that Ü-Tsang and Mengshe Zhao had only been defeated after Wang Chong entered the fray, and they had even lost hundreds of thousands of soldiers, including a large number of cavalry. It was an indisputable fact that their casualties were greater than the Great Tang's.
A sixteen- or seventeen-year-old with such abilities was, in Fumeng Lingcha's estimation, simply impossible. Even someone who began to learn the art of war in the womb wouldn't be capable of such a feat.
The art of war could not be learned simply through reading some books. It required tempering through war, the experience of countless real battles. No Great General could circumvent this process.
But this was not the only thing that left Fumeng Lingcha confused and uncomprehending.
Fumeng Lingcha had spent half his life on the battlefield and had slain countless opponents. For this reason, his body exuded a baleful aura that made even his most trusted subordinates unlikely to approach him or meet his eyes.
There was a certain story in the Western Regions.
In the Western Regions, a particularly famous murderer had evaded capture for several decades, but one day, while passing through Qixi, he happened to accidentally run into Fumeng Lingcha's carriage. A single glare from Fumeng Lingcha had been enough to scare this murderer so badly that his courage shattered, he soiled himself, and he ended up dying a sudden death.
This was the power of the baleful air surrounding Fumeng Lingcha.
It was even rumored that there was a time when the brave Tibetan cavalry attacked Qixi and were glared to death on the battlefield by Fumeng Lingcha.