Chapter 889: Lingering Echo! (II)
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
"Wait a moment! Milords, betraying the Great Tang was Wanhe Peiluo's will, a result of his greed for power and wealth. It has nothing to do with anyone else. Please, Milords, give us a chance. Our Karluk Tribe is willing to fight to the death for the Great Tang, battling the Arabs until the very end!!"
The Karluk captain Guli kneeled on the ground, his face pale as he spoke.
These words immediately silenced the area.
Gao Xianzhi placed his hands behind him and closed his eyes, making it impossible to tell what he was thinking. Meanwhile, Cheng Qianli and the other officers of the Anxi Protectorate army turned to Wang Chong. Wang Chong had been the one to discover the Karluk scheme, and by closing his eyes, Gao Xianzhi was clearly passing authority on this matter to Wang Chong.
In addition, the Anxi Protectorate army was emotionally too close to the Karluks, so it was not very appropriate for them to handle this matter. In contrast, Wang Chong had no relationship with the Karluks and did not stand to gain or lose, allowing him to make an objective decision.
"Hmph, can I believe you?"
"After doing this, are the Karluks still worth trusting?"
Guli lowered his head and said through clenched teeth, "Milord, please give us another chance. I know that it will be very difficult for you to trust us, but I swear to the god of the tribe who dwells above the Nine Heavens that our Karluk Tribe will never betray the Great Tang. In addition, are not the people of the tribe in Milord's hands? If we Karluks show the slightest hint of betrayal, Milord does not need to act with mercy and can kill them all! Our wives and children are all in Milord's hands. Milord can be sure that we will not dare to act rashly!"
Wanhe Peiluo was dead and the trend was irreversible. Guli understood well the principle of 'winner takes all', and that the lives of all the people in his tribe and the fifteen thousand warriors in the city rested on his words as well as the decisions of this youthful Protector-General.
With a single order, this youth could bring an end to the illustrious Karluks, wiping them and their more than one thousand years of history from the face of the Western Regions.
Wang Chong said nothing, nor did anyone else. It was so quiet that one could hear a pin drop.
Guli, Guduo, and the other Karluk officers all silently kneeled, a nervous tension in the air as beads of sweat began to emerge from their foreheads. Life and death could be decided in an instant. With the shake of a head from this Qixi Protector-General, all their heads would be rolling on the ground.
The Karluks had always been fierce, as they otherwise would not have become allies of the Anxi Protectorate army. But these veterans of many battles were now nervously trembling in unease.
Wang Chong noted their reactions and gave a cold laugh. He turned to glance at Vice Protector-General Cheng Qianli, who hesitated a moment before giving a nod. Wang Chong then turned to the nearby Gao Xianzhi. Gao Xianzhi neither shook his head nor nodded, but the expression in his now-open eyes conveyed his answer.
"Count yourselves lucky!" Wang Chong said with a frigid smile.
Whoosh! The Karluk officers immediately exhaled and relaxed as if freed of a great burden. In that moment, the tens of thousands of Karluks had escaped the clutches of death. Not even in all their battles had they ever been in such danger.
There had been no clanging swords and sabers, no killing intent or gruesome carnage, but it had been dangerous all the same!
"Guli, don't get too happy! No one can tolerate betrayal," Cheng Qianli sternly warned as he loosened Guli's restraints. "Temporarily overlooking this doesn't mean forgiveness. The Karluk Tribe… I never once imagined that you would actually betray us."
Guli did not retort, his heart bursting with shame.
"General, be at ease. There will not be a next time. On the battlefield, we will prove to Milord that the Karluks are worthy of your trust."
"I hope that is the case."
Cheng Qianli, Guli, and the other Karluk officers quickly departed. Wanhe Peiluo was dead, and the fifteen thousand Karluk warriors in the city needed to be taken care of. All Wang Chong could do was dispatch eight thousand elite Qixi soldiers into the city to help maintain order.
In addition, Chen Bin and his three thousand ballista teams were dispatched into the city. The strength of these ballistae would be enough to exterminate the Karluks in a few seconds. If Guli dared to have any other ideas, he would truly be seeking his own death.
After watching Cheng Qianli leave, Wang Chong finally turned to Gao Xianzhi and worriedly asked, "Lord Protector-General, how are your injuries?"
Gao Xianzhi was currently in an awful state. Two months of bitter fighting had left his armor in tatters, his body covered in wounds, and his strength greatly exhausted. In the fight against Wanhe Peiluo, Wang Chong could sense that while Gao Xianzhi remained powerful, he could only command around sixty percent of his peak strength.
The Battle of Talas was no small affair, and the only true individual at the Great General level in the more than one hundred thousand soldiers of the Great Tang was Gao Xianzhi, with not even Wang Chong counting. Gao Xianzhi's status was linked directly to the outcome of the battle.
"Decent. I can hold on. Abu Muslim probably isn't doing much better!"
Gao Xianzhi seemed to understand what Wang Chong was worried about.
Gao Xianzhi was an Imperial Great General, one of the supreme existences in the world. Only one person could shatter his armor and beat him into such a state: Abbasid Governor of the East, Abu Muslim.
Wang Chong chuckled as he took out a box and handed it over.
Gao Xianzhi frowned as he asked, "What is this?"
"These are some medicines that I obtained in the capital. They can help Lord Protector-General recover some energy and treat your wounds. Milord, please take them," Wang Chong said with a smile.
Gao Xianzhi glanced at Wang Chong in surprise. Wang Chong's preparations had been much more meticulous and encompassed far more than he had imagined, even including minor details like this.
Gao Xianzhi hesitated a moment before taking the box. Taking out the largest pill, a silver-white one, he swallowed it with a single gulp.
Wang Chong gave a mental nod of approval. With the battle imminent, Gao Xianzhi's recovery was of utmost importance. Gao Xianzhi clearly understood this, so he had not argued.
"Milord fought with Abu Muslim for two months. What impressions does Milord have of the Arab commander-in-chief?" Wang Chong asked.
"Cunning, cautious, unyielding, persistent!"
Gao Xianzhi immediately spoke these four words.
This evaluation immediately caused Wang Chong to furrow his brow. He knew that Gao Xianzhi's assessment of Abu Muslim was certain to be high, but not this high. Gao Xianzhi had said those words without even thinking.
It was clear that the Arab commander-in-chief had left a very deep impression on Gao Xianzhi in these last two months, so deep that Gao Xianzhi could immediately speak these four words. When these four words were used to describe ordinary people, they might have negative connotations, but when used for an enemy commander, they represented an extremely high evaluation.
There was no doubt that Abu Muslim was an extremely formidable and difficult opponent.
Gao Xianzhi turned to Wang Chong and solemnly said, "Wang Chong, when clashing with Abu Muslim, you absolutely cannot be careless. Otherwise, a single mistake will lead to more and more, and you probably understand what the final result will be!"
This was the first time Wang Chong had seen such a serious look on Gao Xianzhi's face.
Wang Chong gave a stern nod, but he quickly began to smile.
"But no matter how crafty and cunning he is, with me here, he won't get a chance. The Arabs are truly very powerful. Unfortunately, they shouldn't have made enemies of the Great Tang!"
Wang Chong spoke these words with a relaxed and persuasive tone.
Wang Chong was not Gao Xianzhi, and he was certainly no Fumeng Lingcha. He was the strongest War Saint in the history of the Central Plains. No matter how powerful Abu Muslim was, he should have never tried to provoke the Great Tang, much less Wang Chong. In Wang Chong's eyes, all of Abu Muslim's tricks were just child's play with zero chance of success.
Gao Xianzhi was at first stunned by this declaration, but he also soon broke into a smile.
"You are absolutely correct. He shouldn't have made an enemy of the Great Tang!"
One Gao Xianzhi had held a vast Arab army of hundreds of thousands at Talas for two months, and now with Wang Chong adding more than one hundred thousand soldiers to the defense, Abu Muslim's chances of victory were even lower.
Gao Xianzhi soon left to attend to his duties. Talas still had several thousand wounded of the Anxi Protectorate army, and he also needed to preside over the Karluks and the Anxi Protectorate army. And while Wang Chong was not bringing his army into the city, a large amount of livestock, food, and armaments was being brought behind the walls.
Only the Karluks were left outside the city, guarded by the army.
With Gao Xianzhi entering the city and all the other Anxi officers having taken their leave, Xue Qianjun finally walked up to Wang Chong and whispered, "Why were you so sure that Wanhe Peiluo would move the moment he saw that Arab emissary? If Wanhe Peiluo and Lord Gao Xianzhi had realized that the Arab was a fake, wouldn't the entire matter have been exposed?"
Xue Qianjun's voice was extremely soft, but the information it contained was absolutely jaw-dropping. That Arab with his face covered that had thrown Wanhe Peiluo's mind into chaos and caused him to start his revolt early had actually been a fake! If Wanhe Peiluo were to find out the truth, he would probably resurrect through sheer anger.
Xue Qianjun had maintained a composed expression as he brought over the Arab emissary, but he was mentally a wreck. No one else knew the face of this 'Arab emissary', but if Wanhe Peiluo had waited just a little longer or torn off the cover to reveal the face of this man to the assembled officers of the Anxi Protectorate army, the scene would have been exceptionally awkward.
All of Wang Chong's efforts would have evaporated into nothing.