Chapter 851: Inconceivable Countermeasure!
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
Unlike the war of the southwest, the Battle of Talas did not involve that many civilians, nor did it involve so many soldiers, but it would decide the owner of the Western Regions and the fate of the empire. And Wang Chong knew even more than Feng Changqing, knew that this war would have even greater effects.
The effect this war would have on the Central Plans and the Great Tang could not be replicated even by ten wars of the southwest. This was because this war did not decide just a single moment, but the rise and fall of an entire side, the destiny of the Central Plains. When a lion lost its claws, it would fall into its retiring twilight years, and when an empire lost its desire to proactively expand outward, it would transition from its youth to its old age. Its only concern would be internal struggles and discord, civil strife that no one could possibly imagine!
Wang Chong had seen that chaos with his own eyes, so no matter what, he could not permit the Great Tang to reach this stage!
Wang Chong was no less anxious to plunge into battle than Feng Changqing, but even the most anxious Wang Chong knew that now was not the time to send soldiers.
Both he and the Qixi Protectorate army were far from ready. If he carelessly began to march out without ample preparations, he would not only be of no help to Gao Xianzhi and the Anxi Protectorate army, but also end up sending the Wushang Cavalry and the Qixi Protectorate army to their deaths.
History had already changed. In his last life, Anxi Protector-General Gao Xianzhi had rapidly advanced his army but was just a little too late in occupying Talas. As a result, he was caught on the plains, where the Arab army attacked him again and again. In these incredibly unfavorable circumstances, he was defeated outside Talas.
But now, Gao Xianzhi had successfully occupied Talas with his preemptive attack, giving him the positional advantage. With Gao Xianzhi's strength as an Imperial Great General and his more than thirty thousand elites and tens of thousands of mercenaries, he could definitely contend against the Arab army outside the walls.
There was no doubting Gao Xianzhi's skill for command, and the thirty thousand Anxi elites were the strongest of the empire. Back then, even though he had lost the initiative and had the worse position, Gao Xianzhi had still managed to hold out for a month. Now that he had the fortifications of Talas on his side, it would be no problem for him to last two months.
This was the true reason Wang Chong had temporarily put off sending reinforcements.
"Yes! Lord Marquis!"
Xu Keyi immediately bowed and left to deliver the reply.
Once Xu Keyi was gone, Wang Chong turned to the mountainous figure of Li Siye.
"This general is here!" Li Siye declared, stepping forward.
"What is the situation of the Wootz Steel? Were Ablonodan and Arloja informed to hurry the delivery? Has there been any news?" Wang Chong asked.
Wootz Steel was currently Wang Chong's greatest concern and most urgent problem. If everything went as expected, ten thousand Mamelukes of the Abbasid Caliphate would be waiting for him on the border. In the history that Wang Chong knew of, the Mamelukes were the undisputed kings of soldiers, the strongest force of cavalry in the era preceding the calamity.
Their equipment and fighting power were far greater than anyone could imagine. Practically from the moment they were born, they began training to be true war machines. Although the Wushang Cavalry were powerful, without Wootz Steel swords and Meteoric Metal armor, they were still far from their zenith.
The most powerful armies of the east and west had gathered at the battlefield of Talas, and the battle would be far crueler and more terrifying than anyone could expect.
Wang Chong would never permit the Wushang Cavalry he had worked so hard on to charge onto that battlefield before they were fully fledged so that they could meaninglessly bury themselves there.
"Lord Marquis, we have received news from Sindhu," Li Siye loudly reported. "Arloja and Ablonodan have replied that the High Priest has agreed, and the six thousand jun of Hyderabad ore has already been prepared for delivery. However, there is now a problem. With the war going on at Talas, the roads Sindhu usually use for transporting the ore have been cut, so they cannot send the Hyderabad ore along the normal routes."
With Li Siye's words, everyone in the hall turned nervous. The Battle of Talas had completely disrupted their tempo, and they were all rushing to set things in motion. Each of them had their own task, like separate cogs in a machine.
They didn't know the details of Li Siye's own task, but all of them understood the importance of Wootz Steel.
Wang Chong frowned as he stepped down from his throne.
The Arabs and the Anxi Protectorate army were still in a stalemate at Talas, but their battle was already beginning to show its effects. The Sindhi High Priest was clearly greatly concerned over this unprecedented war and any untoward effects it would have on this transaction worth six million taels of gold.
Wang Chong's previous generosity was also beginning to show its effects. Currently, Wang Chong was undoubtedly the largest buyer of Hyderabad ore and was also the largest provider of aid to Sindhu, so the High Priest could not accept this loss.
Thus, the six thousand jun of Hyderabad ore had been prepared as quickly as possible.
But matters were far from proceeding that smoothly. The battle between Gao Xianzhi and Abu Muslim had disabled the transportation routes of the Hyderabad ore. Carelessly transporting the ore at this point would only have the shipment intercepted by the Abbasid Caliphate.
Wang Chong's heavy footsteps echoed through the hall, and everyone's eyes followed him as he walked to the model. As they set eyes upon that figure symbolizing Talas in the center of the model, they were overcome by an indescribably odd sensation.
Wang Chong had had this model built before the war even began, and they had seen it for quite some time now. But none of them had understood its significance until now.
Zhang Que looked at the rising mountains on the model and respectfully reported to Wang Chong, "Lord Marquis! All of the roads between the Central Plains and Sindhu truly have been blocked off. I've already sent many scouts and rock eagles. The area around Talas is crawling with Arab soldiers, and all merchant caravans traveling east and west along the Silk Road have been stopped. Even the Arab caravans have been intercepted. The roads traveling east and west are no longer passable."
Wang Chong furrowed his brow as he lowered his body over the model. The mountains, rivers, roads, and cities were all clearly laid out on this model. This breathtaking level of detail had only been achieved through enormous time and the effort of countless scouts.
Just as Zhang Que had said, the city of Talas's unique geography made it a major commercial hub. Now that it was embroiled in war, the Silk Road had been severed. Even though Sindhu had agreed to Wang Chong's request, it could not transport the six thousand jun of Hyderabad ore.
Wang Chong's eyes twinkled as he suddenly spoke.
"The roads have not all been cut off! There still exists one more path between the Great Tang and Sindhu!"
Everyone gasped in shock at Wang Chong's words.
"How could that be? I've investigated and all the caravans have been stopped! There can't be another path!" Zhang Que said in astonishment.
It wasn't that he didn't believe Wang Chong, but he had spent this period of time expending a great deal of manpower and mental energy to find another path, yet his efforts had all met with failure. In addition, merchants prioritized their profit, and though he might not know of another road, the merchants would definitely have found any possible alternatives.
The hall fell into silence as everyone stared at Wang Chong.
Wang Chong said nothing, only extracted a small red flag and placed it in an inconspicuous place on the model, but this position instantly struck the gathered officers dumb. Zhang Que's eyes flew open as he stared speechlessly at the flag.
The Tibetan Plateau!
No one had expected that Wang Chong would stick his flag onto the territory of the Ü-Tsang Empire. He had actually thought about using Tibetan roads to transport the Hyderabad ore. Not even the boldest of planners would dare to think of such an unconventional idea.
"It's fine even if the Silk Road has been severed. Li Siye, inform Sindhu that they should travel through the northern regions of Sindhu, through Greater and Lesser Balur. Have them use the roads of the Ü-Tsang Empire to transport the six thousand jun of Hyderabad ore! In addition, bring two thousand Wushang Cavalry and get to Greater and Lesser Balur to receive them!" Wang Chong immediately declared.
"Yes! Lord Marquis!" Li Siye immediately replied. He had never doubted Wang Chong's decisions.
Behind him, the rest of the officers were still attempting to shake off their deep shock. Slowly, however, they began to understand, and contemplative looks appeared on their faces. Taking the path through northern Sindhu, Greater and Lesser Balur, and then through the Tibetan Plateau was an idea not even the most insane merchant would think of.
The reason was simple. This road was steep and treacherous, and it involved traversing the dangerous territory of the Ü-Tsang Empire. Tibetan cavalry did not only raid Longxi, but also the merchants traveling along the east-west roads. One of the important reasons the Great Tang had established a protectorate in Qixi was to guard against raiding parties from Ü-Tsang.
No merchant would be mad enough to transport his goods through the territory of a bandit.
However, the battle at the triangular gap had totally altered the structure of Qixi. With Dayan Mangban dead and Dusong Mangpoje defeated, there were no soldiers left in all the northern region of the Tibetan Plateau to thwart Wang Chong's plans.
Wang Chong's idea appeared bold, but it was actually most proper!
Gradually, more and more people began to understand the plan and turn to Wang Chong in admiration. If Wang Chong had not instigated the battle at the triangular gap to wipe out the Tibetan forces in the northern region of the plateau, this road simply wouldn't exist. Wang Chong had created this critical model long before the Battle of Talas had even begun, but he had already predicted everything, with that campaign at the triangular gap being preparation for the future.