Chapter 881: The Bakr Cataphracts of Arabia!
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
Wang Chong gave a faint smile, as everything had been just as he expected. Arabs were extremely crafty, and despite their formidable cavalry and powerful soldiers, they enjoyed feigning surrender. While they pretended to retreat, they would lay down a trap to draw in the enemy army. Only the Arab armies were capable of pulling off this act so convincingly.
In his last life, after the Arabs defeated the Great Tang, they had dispatched their mighty Mamelukes to advance on the Tibetan Plateau and invade the Ü-Tsang Empire. In the end, however, they encountered Dayan Mangban and his White Braves, whose dogged resistance ending up dealing a heavy defeat to the Mamelukes. While retreating, the Arabs had used this exact tactic to snatch victory from defeat and deal a severe wound to the Ü-Tsang Empire's primary force.
Wang Chong remembered this section of history like it had just occurred yesterday and understood the crafty tactics of the Arabs like the back of his hand. More importantly, as the War Saint, Wang Chong was extremely sensitive to the numerous shifts and changes on the battlefield. Even the smallest clue would have triggered his suspicion, much less something as obvious as the orderliness of the Arab battle standards indicating that they weren't really defeated at all.
"Pass on my order. Hasten the construction of the fortifications!" Wang Chong said.
Xu Keyi quickly galloped to the front.
These Arabs were far craftier than Xu Keyi had imagined, and with the lives of so many soldiers and the safety of the Western Regions and Qixi on the line, each person had to do all they could to assist Wang Chong, carrying out every order he issued. As Xu Keyi looked around, he could see that Chen Bin, Cheng Sanyuan, Zhang Que, Su Shixuan, Kong Zi-an, and the members of Deflecting Blade Manor were all busy with their own tasks, hurriedly preparing the battlefield.
Xu Keyi urged his horse onward, vanishing into the army.
Not long after Xu Keyi left, the earth began to rumble and dust began to churn. A powerful aura rose from the retreating Arab army as a mighty force of cavalry emerged, galloping out of the army surrounded by a thick black fog. Each of the riders was muscular and powerful, and drawn on the sides of their horses were emblems showing two black crescent moons.
The emergence of this cavalry force made the surrounding Arab soldiers seem to fade into the background, fireflies before the light of the bright moon.
This force of seven to eight thousand cavalry was riding straight in the direction of the Tang army.
"Lord Protector-General, enemy attack!"
At almost the same moment, a horse galloped through the Tang ranks as an officer of the Anxi Protectorate army rushed to report the matter to Wang Chong.
"Milord, how should we handle this?"
Wang Chong only smiled, his expression unperturbed as he glanced at the approaching force. A trifling force of around seven thousand would have no effect on the army. Regardless of the legends the Arabs had made in the past, when they arrived on this battlefield, all their myths were bound to come to an end.
"Tell Chen Bin that he can handle them as he wishes!" Wang Chong said.
The officer had not expected this order from Wang Chong, and his body suddenly froze as he raised his head. What he saw was Wang Chong's leisurely expression, his lips curled into a faint smile that seemed certain of victory. As he looked on in a daze, he slowly came around and made up his mind, all his tension vanishing as he affirmed this order and left to deliver it.
Chen Bin stood at the front lines, his eyes fixed ahead. On the other side, a cloud of dust was rising more than ten zhang into the air and the earth was shuddering. Through the churning dust, Chen Bin could see the Arabian cavalry rapidly approaching like gods of slaughter.
These were not like the other Arab soldiers. Chen Bin could sense an immense pressure emanating from them, an oppressive storm that followed them as closely as a shadow. But both Chen Bin and the three thousand ballista teams behind him were like stones, rooted to the ground.
The might of the cavalry charge was unquestionable, and if cavalry like this charged into Chen Bin's men, grievous casualties were an inevitability. However, everything had its counter, and while cavalry might have reigned supreme, the moment Chen Bin and his ballista teams appeared, everything had begun to change.
Chen Bin solemnly raised his sword in the air, its cold edge glimmering in the sun. Creakcreak! The Han soldiers of the Qixi Protectorate army standing by the ballistae began to adjust their targets, the sharp points of the ballista bolts quickly locking on to the Bakr Cataphracts.
Each of the ballista teams consisted of five men. One of them was responsible for adjusting the angle while the other four were responsible for loading and firing.
"Strangling Formation! Charge!"
While this was happening, a savage order was shouted from amidst the cloud of dust. In the center of the cavalry force, the blue-eyed and brown-bearded Arab general bellowed as a fierce wave of Stellar Energy exploded out of his body, soaring more than ten zhang into the air. Amur was definitely not the most powerful of the Arab generals, but he was definitely the bravest and most fearless.
The Bakr Cataphracts were a force that Abu Muslim had recruited from the important Abbasid fortress of Baghdad and were one of the elite cavalry forces under his command. Their defining trait was their extremely thick armor, capable of blocking the majority of arrows and heavy crossbows. Even sharp swords and sabers could only leave shallow marks on their armor.
In a large and chaotic melee, the Bakr Cataphracts could rely on their thick armor to carry them safely into the most concentrated and formidable group of enemies so that they could scatter and disrupt their formation. Amongst the Arab cavalry, their specialty was in attacking points of resistance.
And in their repeated charges on the enemy, not only would the Bakr Cataphracts succeed in their task, but would also ride away with trifling losses. This was one of the reasons Abu Muslim had chosen to dispatch them.
Chen Bin continued to calculate as the cavalry approached, his mind utterly focused on the task. These Arab cavalry were extremely fast and powerful, so the slightest mistake could result in the complete loss of his ballista teams.
When the tension was at its greatest, Chen Bin swung down his sword.
The air thundered as a thick ballista bolt flew ahead of the rest, streaking through the air like a bolt of lightning. Neeeeigh! The leading Arabian warhorse cried out as the ballista bolt tore through its thick armor, plunging through its forehead and out from its hindquarters, and blood flew everywhere. This ballista bolt then shot through a second, a third, and finally stopped after hitting a fourth Arab cavalryman. However, it had succeeded in leaving a trail of blood and carnage in its wake, terrifying in its beauty.
"What thick armor!"
Chen Bin couldn't help but widen his eyes at this sight. Ballistae and their bolts were the height of Great Tang craftsmanship, symbols of the empire's might. Each of the ballista bolts had been hammered and tempered hundreds of times, the forging needing several months to complete. In addition, there were still several dozen steps after that as many inscriptions were added to them. In terms of price, they were literally worth their weight in gold.
It was precisely this costly process that made the Great Tang ballistae and their bolts possess such terrifying might that could make them the principal heavy weaponry of the empire.
In the previous battle, each of the ballista bolts fired by Chen Bin's ballista corps had pierced through seven or eight, at times even ten-some Arab cavalry. But now, in the face of this new force of Arab cavalry, each ballista bolt was spent after piercing through four cavalry.
Chen Bin had never seen anything like it.
But Chen Bin needed to only blink to regain his composure. No matter how thick and sturdy this Arabian armor was, in front of the three thousand ballistae, these cavalry were bound to be grasshoppers trying to stop a carriage, failing to know their own strength.
"Second row! Fire!"
Chen Bin swung down his sword once more.
Boomboomboom! Hundreds of ballista bolts were fired, engulfing the Bakr Cataphracts. Neeeigh! Miserable whinnies filled the air as wave after wave of Bakr Cataphracts fell to the ballista volleys.
Volley after volley was fired through the air. Chen Bin had organized his three thousand ballistae into three rows, one thousand ballistae to each row. When one row was finished firing, another one would start, the rows cycling between each other to keep up a constant rain of ballista bolts.
So severe were the losses of the around seven thousand Bakr Cataphracts that none of them could get within ten zhang. With Chen Bin as the boundary, the field for several hundred zhang in front of him had been converted into a gruesome hell, where the neighing, screams, crashing, and the booming of the ballista bolts created a single discordant din. The corpses of the Bakr Cataphracts covered the ground, with four thousand, five thousand, six thousand losses… the famed Bakr Cataphracts were suffering dreadful losses to the three thousand ballista teams.
At this sight, Arab general Amur turned pale. The Tang assault was too fast and vicious, with their constant cycling giving no chance for his Bakr Cataphracts to approach. His forces were suffering appalling losses, and Amur had never seen such a terrifying force in his life.
Rumble! The Bakr Cataphracts left as quickly as they had come, but though they had come with around seven thousand men, they left with less than one thousand. The Bakr Cataphracts had been almost completely wiped out in a single battle.
Chen Bin leveled his sword, and the three thousand ballistae behind him immediately stopped firing, their ordered ranks falling silent as if they had never even moved in the first place. Such was their discipline that it left a deep impression upon all who witnessed it.
Ballistae excelled in attacking with an army and defending an area, but they were very poor for chasing down an enemy.
The speed at which ballistae could be pushed could never match the speed at which cavalry could flee.