Chapter 882: The Arab Commander-in-Chief!
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
The army of one hundred thousand Tang reinforcements quickly calmed down. Only the thick odor of blood in the air and the corpses of the Bakr Cataphracts strewn over the battlefield remained as proof of the Great Tang's might and terror.
"Don't worry about the other side. Hurry and get those fortifications up!"
"Begin to treat the wounded and count the casualties!"
"Service the ballistae! Check over all the equipment!"
Order after order was sent down, causing the entire Tang army to get to work in an orderly fashion, all of it according to Wang Chong's plans.
Meanwhile, with the retreat of Amur and the Bakr Cataphracts, all the Arab forces had completely retreated, and there were no further attempts to sound out the Tang defenses.
One of the people at Abu Muslim's side, Ziyad, noted, "Lord Governor, Amur failed. The Tang did not pursue them!"
Ziyad was a man of around thirty-six, with a short beard and brown eyes that were as sharp and fierce as swords. As the Deputy Governor of the East as well as Abu Muslim's adjutant, Ziyad had an extremely important role in this operation.
Although he was not as powerful as Abu Muslim, Ziyad was still a peak Brigadier General, almost on the verge of stepping into the Great General level. Not only that, Ziyad was also one of those rare strategic generals. His intelligence and mind for strategy had always been traits that made Abu Muslim value him.
In the previous battle, Ziyad had been handling the withdrawal of the soldiers, doing his utmost to minimize the casualties, so only now did he appear at Abu Muslim's side.
For some time, all was silent, and then Abu Muslim finally spoke. "Ziyad, what is your view of the new Tang commander-in-chief?" His eyes shone with a profound light and his expression was calm. No one could tell what he was thinking.
"I do not know. I have no understanding of him whatsoever…"
Ziyad frowned, a pensive look in his eyes.
"This person isn't from Anxi. Gao Xianzhi brought all the best generals of Anxi with him for this battle, so there shouldn't be anyone more formidable left in the area. This is probably someone dispatched by the Emperor of the Great Tang. I remember that we dispatched spies deep into the Great Tang's interior to gather information, but something seems to have happened and we've lost contact with those spies. They've probably been discovered and eliminated by the Tang, which is truly a great pity at a time like this.
"Although we don't have any information on the Tang commander and can't tell where he currently is, from the movements of his army, we can conclude that he has probably seen through our ambush. In addition, his soldiers are exceptionally powerful. Gao Xianzhi's Tang soldiers also used those large ballistae, but their might was nothing as frightening. The accuracy and speed at which they fire are on another level compared to Gao Xianzhi's troops.
"I sense that this new commander is even more formidable and difficult to deal with than Gao Xianzhi."
"You feel that he is even more formidable than the Anxi War God?"
Abu Muslim slightly frowned, a little taken aback by Ziyad's conclusion. In these last two months, Gao Xianzhi and the Anxi Protectorate army he led had given the Arabs a serious wound. Abu Muslim and the entire Abbasid Caliphate had lofty ambitions, hoping to use this army of three hundred thousand to sweep over the Western Regions and perhaps even occupy the Great Tang, accomplishing an impressive feat that generations of Caliphs had never achieved.
But a trifling Gao Xianzhi and one city of Talas had dealt Abu Muslim and his mighty Arab army a serious setback. Abu Muslim had never been one to belittle his enemies, and that Gao Xianzhi truly did have the right to be his adversary.
Even so, Abu Muslim had never altered his plans of killing the Tang!
Yet Ziyad was now telling him that the newly-arrived commander was even more capable than Gao Xianzhi.
"In terms of strength, since I have not had a chance to see him, I cannot make a judgment. But in terms of tactics and strategy, my intuition tells me that Gao Xianzhi… can't even compare to this new commander," Ziyad sternly said.
Gao Xianzhi was a tenacious opponent, his ability to delay the Arab army for two months at Talas being proof enough of his abilities. But this had been because of Talas's thick and tall walls, not because of Gao Xianzhi's tactics and strategy. Although the battle had lasted for a long time, the Arabs had not suffered that many losses.
However, this new Tang commander had not even shown his face, but in the first battle with his forces, Umar had been killed and Amur's Bakr Cataphracts severely depleted, and nearly one hundred thousand Arab soldiers had been lost.
And this reinforcing Tang army only had around one hundred thousand people in the first place!
Just these points alone were enough for Ziyad to regard this new Tang commander with unprecedented importance. After all, this new commander hadn't even needed to use the walls of the city yet.
Abu Muslim instantly fell silent, a grim look in his eyes. After fighting alongside Ziyad for so many years, Abu Muslim was extremely confident in his aide's judgment and intuition. In these ten-some years, Abu Muslim had never heard Ziyad give such a high evaluation of the enemy commander without even seeing them.
As he was thinking, rumbling and booming came from ahead, but both Abu Muslim and Ziyad noticed that this was different from the previous rumbling. The two raised their heads and saw that the countless craftsmen and soldiers in the rear of the Tang army were working together to install large rectangular chests speckled with holes on the tops of those steel walls.
At this sight, the two highest commanders of the Arab army instantly turned furious.
Although they didn't know what sort of secret was concealed in those rectangular chests, their experience was enough to tell them that this was unquestionably some sort of formidable defensive tool. Those silvery-white chests and those tall steel walls made the Tang's intentions blatantly obvious.
In front of more than two hundred thousand soldiers, they actually had the nerve to brazenly construct defensive fortifications!
This was nothing but a naked challenge!
To the west of the Cong Mountains, Arabia was synonymous with dread and destruction, and all the other empires and powers paled with fright at mere mention of its name. Never had any opponent dared to so humiliate an army of more than two hundred thousand Arabs.
Ziyad clenched his fists, his eyes exploding with killing intent. Abu Muslim said nothing, but his complexion visibly darkened.
A voice came in from the side. "Lord Governor, let's push in with all our men and utterly vanquish these Tang! They are simply too arrogant!"
All the Arab generals had arrived, their eyes blazing with rage. The Arabs were famed around the world for their courage and combativeness. Umar's death could not be used to represent the entire Arab army, and besides that, the true power of the Arabs was still waiting in the wings.
Once they were completely mobilized, the war would take on a completely different character.
"Enough!" Abu Muslim suddenly bellowed, his expression as cold as ice. All the Arab generals instantly fell silent and lowered their heads, awe and respect in their eyes.
"I understand how to proceed!
"Pass on my order! All soldiers should retreat for reconsolidation!"
"Yes, Lord Governor!"
A messenger left, his body still trembling in fear.
Abu Muslim's eyes were splitting flame as he fell silent, but when he turned his gaze to the Tang army, his emotional state became shifting and unfathomable, and no one could tell what he was thinking. These Tang had to be eliminated and the Western Regions had to become a part of the Abbasid Caliphate. He would be the first Governor of the East to defeat the Great Tang.
But before this, he needed to cautiously consider every decision, not act impulsively.
While Abu Muslim was reconsolidating the army and getting ready for another assault on the Tang, the flapping of wings came from overhead. A black carrier pigeon descended from the sky like a bolt of lightning, closing its wings and landing on Abu Muslim's arm.
Gugu! The pigeon called out as it slowly sauntered about Abu Muslim's arm. Everyone could see the white message tied around its right leg.
Before the other Arab generals could react, Abu Muslim and Ziyad shared a glance, each able to see the shock and surprise in the other's eyes. Abu Muslim removed the letter and slowly unfurled it, but after taking a single glance, his expression turned strange.
Ziyad stepped closer and asked, "Lord Governor, what did the letter say?"
Abu Muslim said nothing, only handed the letter over.
After Ziyad read the letter, his expression also turned strange, his brown eyes slowly beginning to glow.
"All soldiers, hear my order! The army should remain in place. The operation has been postponed! We will fight the Tang tomorrow!"
Meanwhile, just outside Talas…
"Lord Marquis, they're retreating; the Arabs are really retreating this time!"
Zhang Que had a hand over his forehead as he excitedly reported, his eyes fixed on the receding Arab army. Zhang Que was not a fighter, so after the aerial battle concluded, he had remained at Wang Chong's side. Xu Keyi, Chen Burang, Sun Zhiming, Zhuang Zhengping, Chi Weisi, Zhao Jingdian, and even Wang Chong's father and brother, Wang Yan and Wang Fu, were all scattered across the front lines, leading the army in setting up defenses. The only people left at Wang Chong's side were Zhang Que and a few others.
"It's not that simple. That battle… has only just begun!"
Wang Chong waved a sleeve and clasped his hands behind his back, a faint smile on his face as he gazed at the retreating Arab army.