Chapter 857: Intimidation! Kill the Chicken to Warn the Monkeys1!
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
The Gangke watched on in awe as the two thousand Saka clashed with the five thousand soldiers of the Qixi Protectorate army in a massive boom, two black waves colliding against each other. "Ah!" Wretched cries filled the air, and the Saka fell into chaos as they were knocked from their horses.
The Saka might have been the strongest of the mercenary tribes in the Western Regions, but they were still no match for a fully-equipped Tang army. Wang Chong had not even needed to exert any of his own strength, just have his soldiers charge, immediately scattering the two thousand Saka. By the end, only several dozen had survived.
The ground was carpeted in corpses.
The strength of the Qixi Protectorate army could not compare to Wang Chong's Wushang Cavalry, but they were still well-trained and tempered through battle. Dealing with mercenaries was a simple task for them.
"Run! Report to the leader!"
"You Tang will regret this!"
The surviving Saka scattered.
"Don't chase a hard-pressed foe! Everyone, come back!" Wang Chong lightly said.
"Lord Marquis! The Gangke leader is coming over!" a Qixi scout suddenly whispered into Wang Chong's ears.
Wang Chong turned his head in response and saw that the Gangke territory was quiet and still, countless pairs of eyes staring at Wang Chong and his soldiers.
Meanwhile, a middle-aged man with a searing pair of eyes was currently walking toward Wang Chong.
"Why did you help us?"
These were the first words the Gangke King spoke to Wang Chong as his eyes cautiously inspected the youth. From his expression, he was apparently not as happy as one would expect.
Yuan Shusong's mouth opened and closed in hesitation.
"Do you know that by helping, you've made more problems for me?" the Gangke King continued. As he looked at Wang Chong, his mouth surprisingly spat out several lines of fluent Han. The Qixi officers around Wang Chong instantly reacted to these words.
"Impudent! We helped you, and you actually blame us."
"Truly someone who returns favor with enmity!"
No one expected this sort of result from helping the Gangke kill the Saka.
Wang Chong smiled and raised an arm to silence his officers.
"Since this is the case, then why did Chief still strike back? Just let the Saka take away all your cows and sheep. Why try to resist?"
"This is our own problem. There is no need for your concern," the Gangke King said in agitation.
"Chief has truthfully already made a choice, so why deceive yourself?" Wang Chong rested his hands on his saddle as he continued unperturbed, "The Tang are friends, not enemies, so why is Chief so nervous? And moreover, Chief speaks such fluent Han that you probably studied abroad in the capital in your early years. Chief should understand the style of us Tang. If the Gangke wish to take their fate in their own hands and throw off the yoke of the Saka, we are Chief's best option."
The Gangke King's eyes widened at the mention of studying abroad, clearly surprised. He once more began to inspect Wang Chong, viewing this young Tang general in a new light.
Wang Chong only smiled. One of the reasons for his conclusion had been that the Gangke could not possibly produce such a heroic man, but the main reason was that token of translucent jade on his belt.
That was a typical Han jade token.
This was one of the primary reasons Wang Chong wanted the Gangke to be his allies.
"I don't know what you're talking about, but the affairs of the Western Regions are not as simple as you Tang imagine. The Saka have tens of thousands of soldiers. You really should not have let them go. They will bring even more people with them," the Gangke King said.
"Hah, then I'll just kill all the people they bring," Wang Chong leisurely declared, his tone oozing with contempt.
The Gangke King trembled all over as he continued to take measure of this youth. This was an incredibly young person, sixteen, seventeen at most. It was extremely rare for a Tang to be a general at such a young age. The Gangke King truly had studied in the Great Tang capital for a spell, and he had gotten to meet many influential individuals, but very few of them had been this young.
What attracted most of his notice were the eyes. They were deep and proud, confident that the entire situation was under control. This temperament, like that of an immovable mountain, was not something any ordinary general could possess.
"You can't kill them all. The Saka will keep coming. They have enormous forces in this area…" the Gangke King said.
"Then just kill all the Saka and get it over with," Wang Chong indifferently said.
His expression was relaxed, but the sharpness in his eyes was dreadful to behold.
"Just who are you?"
The Gangke King blinked, finally speechless. He was finally beginning to realize that the identity of this Great Tang youth was far more mysterious than he had imagined. In a few casual comments, he had declared that he would kill off a great tribe with centuries of history in the Western Regions. Anyone else would be taken for a madman.
But Wang Chong's tone and expression indicated that he was not joking. In addition, those Qixi Protectorate army soldiers still reeking of blood from the battle all seemed to be treating Wang Chong's words very seriously.
Xue Qianjun urged his horse forward and loudly proclaimed, "You Gangke are too ignorant and out of touch. You don't even recognize our lord. He is the Qixi Protector-General, the Son of Heaven's disciple, the Young Marquis of the Great Tang!"
The Gangke King's body trembled in shock. Even though he resided in the remote territory of the Gangke, he still knew that in the last few months, two of the most infamous figures of the Western Regions, the Turkic Black Wolf Yabgu Agudu Lan and the Tibetan Brigadier General Dayan Mangban, had been killed by a Tang youth called Wang Chong.
And this Wang Chong had also replaced the tough and domineering Fumeng Lingcha as Qixi Protector-General. It was rumored that Fumeng Lingcha had not ceded his post willingly so that better talent could ascend, but only after he had lost to Wang Chong in a struggle.
In short, there were many legends about him, each of them extremely mysterious.
The Gangke King had never imagined that this youngest Protector-General of the Great Tang would appear before him.
So it was him!
The Gangke King was finding it hard to suppress his shock. He had waited many years for just one chance. If he could get the help of this Qixi Protector-General and the tens of thousands of Tang soldiers, the Gangke people might be able to break away from the Saka. A centuries-long history of humiliation might finally be changed.
While he was thinking, the earth began to quake and a fierce wind began to blow. Wang Chong and the Gangke King turned their heads and saw a sandstorm rising out of the west, and within this sandstorm were thousands upon thousands of people.
The Gangke King's feared predictions had come true. Those fleeing Saka had brought back news and gathered a true Saka army. When he saw this immense force covering the horizon, his heart sank like a stone. He had never been worried about his own safety, but the safety of his people.
"Xue Qianjun, give them the prepared weapons and armor!"
The Gangke King heard this order, and with it, Xue Qianjun and several dozen Qixi soldiers strode forward and placed metal crates in front of the Gangke King. Opening the crates, he was greeted by gleaming armor and weapons…
In the distance, the thousands of Saka were rumbling forward, led by a white Saka steed. Its rider was a man of some thirty years, his body muscular and covered in scars: the leader of this army.
"People of the Great Tang, we Saka have never had any grudges with you, so why must you help the Gangke kill our people?"
The Saka leader brought several of his subordinates and rode up to parley. He paid no attention to the Gangke King; his eyes were fixed on Wang Chong, vicious and surging with murderous intent.
The Saka were the strongest mercenaries, and they did not even fear professional armies.
Wang Chong's lips formed a smile as he slowly trotted his horse forward. As countless people watched on, he slowly revealed his true goal.
"Because I want to use the Saka to make an announcement. Only death awaits the fickle mercenary tribes! All of them will end up like the Saka!"
Wang Chong's declaration was deafening, dumbfounding. Even the Gangke King was flabbergasted. He had believed that Wang Chong had come specifically for him, but only now did he see that Wang Chong's true goal was the formidable Saka!
The surroundings were silent, everyone staring at Wang Chong's domineering figure. His gaze remained fixed on the sea of Saka, his smile slowly receding, his expression turning cold and callous.
This was an extremely formidable mercenary tribe of the Western Regions, but their advantages and disadvantages were obvious. They were fickle and untrustworthy. When they took a mercenary contract, if the opposing side offered a higher price, they might tear up the old contract at any time and begin to attack their former employers.
Through this constant back and forth, the Saka had managed to accumulate enormous wealth, reaching their current prosperity.
In the Battle of Talas, Wang Chong would face wave after wave of Arabs, each of them formidable and their numbers far outnumbering the garrisons the Great Tang had in the Western Regions. If Wang Chong wanted to defeat them, he needed to hire many loyal mercenaries, not the Karluks, and certainly not the even more shameless Saka.
Defection in the midst of battle would strike a fatal blow!
Wang Chong needed to kill the chicken to warn the monkeys, and the Saka were the target of Wang Chong's first slash. Only after the mercenary tribes of the Western Regions clearly understood the importance of contracts, and understood the price for betraying the Great Tang army, could defections in the midst of battle like that of the Karluks be avoided.
1. Apparently, in ancient China, monkeys were very afraid of the sight of blood, so when monkey tamers wanted to capture a monkey, they would kill a chicken in front of them. The chicken's screams and the sight of blood would make the monkeys lose any strength to resist, allowing the monkey tamers to easily capture them.↩