Chapter 850: The Crisis of Talas!
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
"Lord Marquis, what should we do now?"
The hall was quiet. Everyone turned to Wang Chong, all of them extremely serious and grim, affected as they were by Wang Chong's mood. In the past, when they believed that Arabia was just a tiny country, they wouldn't have given this battle a second thought, but after learning all that they had, they well understood the foe they were facing.
This country was even larger than the Great Tang, had an even larger army, more powerful warhorses, and even greater desire to expand. This was the greatest foe the Great Tang would face on this continent.
Gao Xianzhi had brought almost ninety percent of the Anxi Protectorate's soldiers with him to Talas, leaving practically nothing behind. If Gao Xianzhi could not fend off the Abbasid Caliphate's soldiers in the east, tens of thousands of Arab soldiers would cross the Cong Mountains and occupy the Western Regions.
And Qixi would be the first target.
Once Qixi fell, Longxi and the interior of the Great Tang would be threatened.
Never in history had Arab soldiers been so close to the gates of the Central Plains. Everyone could feel the powerful threat arising from that distant country.
All of them understood what was at stake through the scenarios Wang Chong had played out on the model.
Wang Chong said nothing, only closed his eyes and began to think.
This battle had begun too suddenly, too quickly. He needed to calm down and think. There were still many things that needed to be prepared, as all his plans had been upset.
After some time, Wang Chong finally opened his eyes, a blazing light burning within them.
"Li Siye, pass on my order to open up the Qixi Armory…"
A few moments later, there was a metallic rumbling as the long-unused doors to the Qixi Armory were opened, allowing the sunlight to seep in, illuminating the insides of this largest armory on the border. After ten-some years, those ballistae built by the Bureau of Works and branded with the imperial seal of the court finally saw the light of day once more, gleaming in the sun.
"Stop! You can't do things like this!"
"Without a decree, no one can go inside! Stop right now!"
Several of the Qixi Armory guards shouted, but nobody paid them any attention.
'When the general is abroad, he need not accept all orders of the sovereign.' 'Matters can be handled according to what is right and proper, but they can also be handled according to what is realistic and convenient.' These two sayings highlighted the fundamental principle that a commander needed to be flexible. With a war imminent, these ballistae were the finest weapons and could allow the Great Tang to reach its maximum power. The Qixi Protector-Generals, including Fumeng Lingcha, had always kept to the law with these one hundred thousand ballistae, not daring to overstep their bounds.
But Wang Chong was different. He would not be some diehard that would continue to uphold tired conventions.
As Wang Chong led his army into the Qixi Armory, the Stone of Destiny suddenly resounded with its emotionless voice.
"Special Event: A Choice of Destiny!"
Light and shadow began to shift and flicker, and a massive wall suddenly sprang from the earth. On one side of the wall were thousands of black banners, and on the other side was a vast sea of yellow dragon flags. The two sides clashed and immediately began to attack each other…
Wang Chong immediately stopped moving.
"The wheels of history continue to slowly turn. No matter how many detours one takes, one will eventually return to the original path. A mountain cannot hold two tigers, and this continent cannot hold two massive empires at the same time. This is an inevitable war! Of these two empires, only one can howl from the peak of the world, while the other will rapidly decline, sinking into the 'Lion's Twilight Years'!"
Wang Chong's body shuddered at these words, but the Stone of Destiny was not done.
"…A lion that has lost its claws and teeth is like an eagle without wings. Such are the twilight years of the lion, and it is also the choice of destiny!
"As a Controller of Destiny, user has a single opportunity, a one-time special treatment. With the payment of 8000 Destiny Energy, user can choose to waive this opportunity and withdraw. If user chooses to enter, user will be rewarded with 2000 Destiny Energy.
"Warning: once user picks this choice, user will soon encounter incredible danger. Upon mission failure, the empire will fall and user will be obliterated!"
As Wang Chong listened to the voice, a smile crept onto his lips. If he had not exchanged for the Karmic Battle Armor, he might have had the 8000 points of Destiny Energy needed to exempt himself from this choice. But even if he did have that option, would he really have taken it?
Wang Chong didn't delay for long, swiftly stepping into Qixi Armory.
Black eagles flew in every direction. The news about Talas had not only been sent to Qixi, but also to the capital, where it ignited a fierce debate.
"Your Majesty, we should immediately dispatch troops to reinforce Lord Gao Xianzhi!"
"Thirty thousand elites besieged is no trifling matter. if the Anxi Protectorate army is defeated, Suiye, Shule1, and the other Four Garrisons of Anxi will be lost, along with the rest of Anxi! We should quickly send reinforcements."
Several generals in the court fervently appealed for reinforcements, greatly distressed at this news.
As these voices spoke up, an important official who had a good relationship with King Qi stood up and harshly rebuked them.
"Lord Gao Xianzhi is a divine commander, and since he took up his post, no one in the Western Regions has been able to defeat him. The Shi Kingdom has already fallen, and Lord Gao has led his soldiers even further west to occupy Talas. Given Lord Gao's abilities, he will soon defeat the Arabs, so why are we discussing sending reinforcements? Have all of you lost your senses?"
Although King Song and King Qi had always had a poor relationship, their two factions often clashing in court, King Qi was not standing opposed for purely personal grudges. In the entire Great Tang, there was no Protector-General or Great General with a more dazzling record than Anxi Protector-General Gao Xianzhi.
Although he was not as old as the other Great Generals and Protector-Generals, his ability to command soldiers and his astonishing list of feats were not something that any of his peers could match. In the military and the court, Gao Xianzhi had another nickname: The Ever-Victorious General!
Ever since he had attained the post of Anxi Protector-General, Gao Xianzhi had never lost. In addition, his military strategy emphasized speed, and he was an expert at preemptive strikes. It was precisely because of his superhuman capabilities and the frightening power of the Anxi Protectorate army that their meager army of tens of thousands was able to suppress all the kingdoms of the Western Regions. With him present, all the rulers bowed their heads and the Western Regions was an impregnable fortress.
It was true that Gao Xianzhi was currently besieged at Talas, but many people believed that this was all part of Gao Xianzhi's strategy. In the end, Gao Xianzhi would still defeat the Arabs and obtain victory.
After all, this was not the first time such a situation had cropped up. Gao Xianzhi had always won despite inferior numbers, proving his abilities time and time again. And besides, Arabia was just a 'tiny kingdom'.
"But this time is different. The one to request reinforcements was Gao Xianzhi's deputy general, Feng Changqing. This lowly subject believes that we should treat this war more seriously!" One of the generals attempted to persuade the court.
"Lord Xue, be at ease. Lord Gao will be fine!" an imperial censor unconcernedly said.
This court debate came to nothing in the end, with Feng Changqing's letter stirring few waves of any significance. Gao Xianzhi was a master of swift and decisive battles, and many people believed that they would soon be receiving news of victory from Anxi. But ten days later, when a request for reinforcements once more arrived from the Western Regions and Gao Xianzhi remained besieged, everyone in the court finally began to pale.
Even the slowest amongst them could now see that this incident was completely different from the others. Gao Xianzhi, the Spear of the Empire, had encountered an extremely powerful opponent.
While the capital was still arguing over reinforcements, Qixi and Wushang were in the midst of preparing for war.
The Qixi Protectorate army had been divided into units of ten thousand, each unit ceaselessly working on a task. Meanwhile, the five thousand Wushang Cavalry were also getting ready for battle. Bows and arrows, ballistae, sabers, spears, halberds—all of these weapons were carted out of Qixi Armory and distributed through the army.
A ballista and two hundred ballista bolts were given to every five-man unit, and Wang Chong quickly formed a 'ballista army' consisting of two thousand ballista teams. Wang Chong had used a 'ballista team' during Dayan Mangban's night raid on the City of Steel, and this strategy was quickly beginning to show its power.
Although this army of ten thousand only had 2000 ballistae, the ballista teams could divide the work, swiftly adjusting the ballista and bringing up the firing rate, maximizing the power of this heavy weaponry. These teams could push the ballistae to display five to ten times the normal killing power.
This was the new strategy Wang Chong had developed for ballistae!
"Lord Marquis, Lord Feng Changqing has sent another request for reinforcements. How should we reply? Should we refuse him again?"
In the hall, Wang Chong and his generals had gathered. Xu Keyi was holding a letter as he bowed to the enthroned Wang Chong.
"Tell Lord Feng to give me two months. After two months, I will definitely send troops to Talas to assist Lord Gao," Wang Chong sternly replied.
Talas was in crisis and Gao Xianzhi was besieged, so Feng Changqing was sending letter after letter, deluging Qixi in a snowstorm. In ten short days, Wang Chong had already received twenty to thirty letters. Feng Changqing was Gao Xianzhi's deputy and trusted aide, the two jointly hailed as the Twin Walls of the Empire. Although Wang Chong had never met this general who was renowned for his logistical and administrative skill, Feng Changqing had left a very deep impression on him now.
Every word of Feng Changqing's letters had oozed a deep concern and anxiety. Even now, the Imperial Court had not noticed the danger and seriousness of this war, but both Wang Chong and Feng Changqing were well aware that this was no simple border conflict.
1. Shule, also known as Kashgar, was one of the Four Garrisons of Anxi and is the westernmost city of the Tarim Basin. Suiye was also one of the Four Garrisons of Anxi, but unlike the other three, it was not located in the Tarim Basin, but in the Chu River Valley, separated from the Tarim Basin by the Tian Shan Mountains. It served as capital for the Western Turkic Khaganate until the khaganate was defeated in the seventh century.↩