Chapter 888: Lingering Echo! (I)
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
"Wanhe Peiluo, I already gave you a chance. Everything was your own choice, and I have nothing more to say. Protector-General Wang, it is no longer appropriate for me to interfere in this matter. I leave the rest to you!"
Gao Xianzhi turned his head, placing his back to Wanhe Peiluo, and closed his eyes, a hint of sorrow on his resolved face.
The most unacceptable thing in the world was not some extremely difficult adversary, but a traitor from one's own side. If possible, Gao Xianzhi would not have wished for things to fall to this level.
"Lord Protector-General, be at ease. I know what to do. He will not feel any pain."
Wang Chong froze a moment before replying, a hint of surprise in his eyes.
It was no wonder that Gao Xianzhi was a general of the generation, the War God of Anxi. Wang Chong had originally believed that Gao Xianzhi would seek mercy for the sake of his old friendship with Wanhe Peiluo. Such swift resolve, on the other hand, left Wang Chong slack-jawed and wide-eyed.
Wang Chong raised his head and indifferently said, "Wanhe Peiluo, you chose this road. Since you've lost, bear the price. In your next life, remember to not make an enemy of the Great Tang. It isn't something a mere Karluk can oppose."
Wanhe Peiluo lowered his proud head and said no more.
The winner was made king while the loser was a bandit, that was all!
Without the slightest warning, Wang Chong immediately began to exert the power of the Great Yinyang Heaven Creation Art. Wanhe Peiluo's majestic energy surged ceaselessly into Wang Chong's body. In a few seconds, Wang Chong's already impressive aura began to swell.
A battle was imminent, and the Arabs were still lingering on the border. This was a foe of unprecedented might. What awaited everyone was a battle of unimaginable ferocity, and Wang Chong needed even more power so that he could alter the course of this battle.
Wanhe Peiluo was the Karluk Chief and was host to enormous energy reserves. Wang Chong would not throw away this source of high-quality energy.
Time went by in a flash, and a few moments later, Wang Chong had finished absorbing Wanhe Peiluo's strength, his cultivation level rising to Tier 7 of the Saint Martial realm. His entire body seethed with power, and his eyes were as bright as stars.
Crack! Just when all the energy in Wanhe Peiluo was almost absorbed, Wang Chong's Stellar Energy surged in and shattered all of Wanhe Peiluo's meridians and snapped his neck.
"Take him away! Give him a somewhat decent burial. Write down his achievements, and also write that he died because he betrayed the Great Tang."
Wang Chong slowly put down Wanhe Peiluo's body and waved behind him.
After all, Wanhe Peiluo had worked with the Anxi Protectorate army for many years, and Gao Xianzhi and the others were probably unwilling to confront his death. In the end, Wang Chong would have to be the one to wrap things up.
"Yes! Lord Marquis, your subordinate will do so!"
Xue Qianjun accepted the order and quickly took Wanhe Peiluo's body away.
Once Xue Qianjun was gone, Gao Xianzhi finally turned his head and said sincerely, "Thank you!"
A traitor did not deserve a decent burial. That Wang Chong had been willing to have his accomplishments inscribed on his tombstone was clearly for the sake of the Anxi Protectorate army.
Wang Chong only gave a nod.
"Lord Protector-General, Wanhe Peiluo is dead, but what about these people?"
The Vice Protector-General of the Anxi Protectorate army, Cheng Qianli, voiced a question, immediately becoming the center of attention. Wang Chong turned and saw that Cheng Qianli was standing in front of the gate of Talas like a warrior forged from steel. In his hand, he held that Karluk captain called Guli, with the other captured Karluk officers around him.
While Wang Chong and Gao Xianzhi had been dealing with Wanhe Peiluo, Cheng Qianli had led his own men in arresting Wanhe Peiluo's subordinates. Cheng Qianli was a peak Brigadier General, able to easily capture these Karluk subordinates. Guli and the others hadn't even had a chance to send any messages into the city.
As Cheng Qianli stood with the captured Karluks, all was silent, everyone staring at Guli and the other Karluk officers.
Wanhe Peiluo was dead, but his subordinates remained. How to deal with those Karluks who had not gotten the message and still not turned traitor remained a very large problem.
Fortunately, Cheng Qianli had reacted quickly and stopped the Karluk officers, or else the city would probably be in a state of complete mayhem.
"Lord Protector-General, how many Karluks are there within the city?" Wang Chong suddenly asked.
"There are still around fifteen thousand Karluks in the city," Gao Xianzhi said.
"Then don't they outnumber the Anxi Protectorate army?"
Wang Chong frowned. Gao Xianzhi's tactics could not be called completely wrong. He used his elite Anxi Protectorate army as the vanguard to break any points of resistance while the Karluks and other mercenaries followed up in the rear. In an advantageous situation, there was no problem with this sort of tactic, but the problems quickly became evident once one encountered a strong foe.
Fifteen thousand Karluk mercenaries was a force larger than the Anxi Protectorate army. If they were to revolt, the consequences would be too gruesome to imagine. The Anxi Protectorate army in its current state would never be able to suppress them.
"This isn't the only thing we have to worry about. When the Anxi Protectorate army set out, it didn't just hire the Karluks. We also hired mercenaries from Ferghana. If the Arabs managed to find the Karluks and bribe Wanhe Peiluo, they also could have bribed others, the Ferghanans included," Cheng Qianli noted.
The Anxi Protectorate army had two mercenary allies: the Karluks and Ferghanans. If the Karluks could be traitors, so could the Ferghanans, and while the Anxi Protectorate army might barely manage to deal with the Karluks, if the Ferghanans had also been bribed, it would truly be in danger.
Gao Xianzhi said nothing, but his thick brows began to deeply crease. It was clear that he was also worried by this problem.
As the saying went, 'once bitten, twice shy'. Although everyone around the city gate appeared calm, the betrayal of the Karluks had given them an unprecedented blow. Now that something they had trusted so deeply had been toppled, they couldn't help but be suspicious.
"Haha, if that's what you're worried about, there's no need for such concern."
Wang Chong gave a careless grin. He could understand the mindset of the Anxi generals, but a betrayal from the Ferghanans was truly just an imagined fear. Wang Chong couldn't give such a firm guarantee for any other tribes, but the Ferghanans were truly the Great Tang's staunchest allies. This was because Wang Chong clearly remembered that when Gao Xianzhi's troops withdrew from Talas in his last life, the Ferghanans had retreated from the battlefield with them.
Moreover, the large number of Ferghanans retreating had blocked up the path through the Baishi Mountains, leading the Invincible Great General Li Siye to kill no small number of them, cleaving them in two together with their horses. At the time, the sudden defection of the Karluks had given such a heavy shock to the Tang that they viewed the other Hu with unprecedented distrust and doubt.
On that battlefield, only the Karluks had not fled the field. Since the Ferghanans had fled with the Tang, it was obvious that they had not turned traitor and colluded with the Arabs. Events afterward proved that the Ferghanans were innocent, as they were constantly suppressed by the Arabs after the Battle of Talas.
The Karluks had envied them, so they had done all in their power to disgrace them.
But the Ferghanans had managed to endure it all, and when Fifth Prince Li Heng took the throne, he re-established the relationship, allowing the Tang and Ferghanans to fight side by side once more.
The Karluks had made the Anxi Protectorate army doubt everyone, but in Wang Chong's view, this was completely unnecessary.
Cheng Qianli and the other Anxi officers all turned to Wang Chong in shock.
"For what reason is Lord Protector-General so sure?"
Dispelling any doubts about the Ferghanans and other mercenaries was currently of utmost importance to the Anxi Protectorate army. In order to fight abroad, internal problems had to be pacified. The Arabs still had around 240,000 soldiers lurking, and if these mercenaries could not be cleared of doubt, the entire Tang army would be in grave danger. It could be betrayed at any moment, a fatal threat hanging over its head.
Gao Xianzhi and Cheng Qianli, as commanders of the Anxi Protectorate army, had spent too long with these mercenaries to determine if they could be trusted or not. Wang Chong was an outsider, so for him to speak up for the Ferghanans was completely fine.
But they found his confidence a little strange.
As if long already knowing what they were thinking, Wang Chong faintly chuckled and stepped forward, a confident smile on his lips.
"This isn't a hard thing to guess. If the Arabs want to sow dissension, they only need to bribe the largest group of mercenaries. Bribing the other mercenary groups might seem even safer, but the more they bribe, the more they risk the entire matter being exposed. The Arabs wouldn't do such a foolish thing. Besides, bribing the Karluks alone cost them ten chests stuffed with luxuries like pearls, agate, jade, and jewels. Even if the Arabian Empire is the richest in the world, not even they would have that much money to spread around."
"Lord Protector-General speaks reason. If the Arabs had bribed so many, we would have long since received news about it and the Karluks would not have guarded the secret so carefully!"
The Anxi generals all nodded in response to Wang Chong's explanation, their expressions relaxing. Although Wang Chong was an outsider who didn't understand the situation of the Anxi Protectorate army, his analysis was within the bounds of reason.
"…In truth, there's another reason."
Wang Chong paused for a moment, a bright light flashing in his eyes.
"In this Battle of Talas, I only seized the people of the Karluk Tribe. The battle has been so intense that if the Arabs had bribed any of the other mercenaries, Talas would have already fallen, as none of those bribed mercenaries would have remained quiet for so long. Moreover, this incident with Wanhe Peiluo has lasted for so long, but the Ferghanans and the other mercenaries have not shown any reaction. This alone is enough to see that there's nothing going on there."
"Protector-General Wang's words are reasonable. Qianli, go and take care of it. Explain the whole story and comfort the soldiers," Gao Xianzhi finally ordered. "In addition, Protector-General Wang, do you have any opinions on what should be done with these Karluk warriors?"
Gao Xianzhi was not someone who had no ideas of his own, but that he would ask for Wang Chong's opinions showed that Wang Chong's actions had left an incredibly deep impression on him. At the very least, Wang Chong's words held some weight in Gao Xianzhi's mind. But one only had to remember that it wasn't too long ago that Gao Xianzhi would snort in contempt at Wang Chong to see just how impressive Wang Chong's abilities were.
"Fifteen thousand people, huh? Killing them will take quite some effort…" Wang Chong indifferently said.
At these words, Wanhe Peiluo's subordinates felt their hearts leap into their throat, and their faces turned ghastly pale.
"But they're still a rather formidable fighting force. If these fellows know how to behave and can cooperate, perhaps we can leave them their lives!"
Wang Chong held his hands behind him as he shot an extremely subtle glance at the Karluks.