Chapter 891: A Map of the Continent!
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
Dalun Ruozan immediately unfurled the map. On the side, a Tibetan horseman approached with a lit torch. The bright light revealed countless contours on the map that outlined the entirety of the Western Regions: the Tibetan Plateau, the Western Turkic Khaganate, and even Suiye, the majestic Cong Mountains, and the distant city of Talas.
'Map of the Continent'!
These were the words, written in Tibetan, on the top of the map.
This detailed map thoroughly outlined all the various factions around the Western Regions. Such a map was essentially priceless, and not even Wang Chong had a comparable map. He had used several maps in an attempt to create one, but all he had been able to get was a general model of the area around Talas, as he was unable to gather much information on the rest of the region.
But it wasn't just Talas on this map of Dalun Ruozan's. Even the Arabian Empire was present on this map, similarly in astonishing detail. There was also that secret path next to Suiye.
If Wang Chong were to see this map, he would assuredly be stunned.
Because such a map was exactly what he so ardently desired!
This map of the continent was the result of the Ü-Tsang Empire battling for hundreds of years with the various powers of the Western Regions. Unlike the Great Tang, the Western Regions had always been within the bounds of the Ü-Tsang Empire's power, which served as an impetus to create this map.
Across the entire world, this was the only such detailed map of the continent!
Dalun Ruozan lowered his head, his wise and bright eyes immediately locking onto that prominent symbol upon the map.
"Fifty-three li is exactly the limit of Tang patrols. The Great Tang eagle team should be showing up about now. It's about time. Begin!"
"Yes, Great Minister!"
Dalun Ruozan had barely spoken when a voice came from the shadows behind him. Thundering hooves rang out in the air as a heavily-armored general rode off. It wasn't possible to make out his face in the light of the torches as he vanished toward the rear of the army.
In the darkness, Huoshu Huicang and Dusong Mangpoje exchanged glances. They noticed the confusion in each other's eyes, but neither of them asked any questions.
Time slowly passed, and then the silence was shattered by the clattering of metal from the rear of the army. The darkness made it impossible to see anything clearly, but objects seemed to be flying out of metal baskets in twos and threes. The sound lasted for a very long time and was accompanied by fierce gusts of wind.
No one understood what was happening, and even Huoshu Huicang, Dalun Ruozan's closest confidant, had a confused look on his face.
Although Dalun Ruozan executed the vast majority of his plans through Huoshu Huicang, some remained a mystery. In his months in the prison, Dalun Ruozan had met many people, and not even Huoshu Huicang knew what had been discussed or ordered in those conversations.
At the height of their confusion, all the soldiers suddenly heard sounds like those of crying infants from the sky. This abnormal noise, a cross between crying and shouting, gave all of them a fright.
One of the Tibetan soldiers looked up at the sky and shouted, "Look, look over there!"
Huoshu Huicang and Dusong Mangpoje both turned their heads skyward. In the sky hung a full moon, dispelling the surrounding darkness. The moment the pair looked up, they clearly saw a massive silhouette unfurl a pair of wings and fly past the moon.
Even though it was rather far, that unique flying stance and those wings were enough for the pair to immediately recognize what it was.
These were the vultures that could be found all over the Tibetan Plateau. During a Tibetan sky burial, the Tibetans did not bury or burn the bodies of the dead, instead feeding these corpses to the fierce vultures of the plateau, regarding this as an extremely high honor. But though these vultures were extremely commonplace on the plateau, they were very rare to the west of the Cong Mountains.
Both Huoshu Huicang and Dusong Mangpoje were amazed to see this vulture fly past the moon, but this amazement was swiftly superseded by an extreme shock.
More and more vulture cries came out of the darkness, as the passing of the first vulture was quickly followed by the beating of many wings in the darkness. As Huoshu Huicang, Dusong Mangpoje, and the thousands of Tibetan cavalry watched, a flock of vultures flew past like a dark cloud, blocking out the moon.
In a flash, the world seemed to dim, and the countless soldiers were plunged into darkness.
And then silence, absolute silence!
None of the soldiers could speak as they stared in astonishment at the vultures. Even Imperial Great Generals Huoshu Huicang and Dusong Mangpoje were dumbfounded. The Ü-Tsang Empire had never placed much importance on military birds, devoting most of its resources to training cavalry.
The pair had never imagined that while still in prison, Dalun Ruozan had managed to train such a large force of vultures in secret.
"One must learn from their mistakes. Did none of you notice anything in the battle of the triangular gap? Teams of birds are growing more and more important in this era. At the very least… that person has been using them in ever more important roles. If we can't defeat him, then we can at least imitate him," Dalun Ruozan indifferently said, his calm voice ringing in the darkness.
Dalun Ruozan urged his horse onward, riding out from between the other two.
With Dalun Ruozan's order, the thousands of Tibetan cavalry galloped off, protected by the vast flock of vultures. Several li went by in mere moments.
In the distance, a patrolling rock eagle was drawing a massive arc in the sky. It had seen the vast flood of steel on the horizon and was just about to turn back. Suddenly, caw! A strange cry could be heard in the sky, and before the rock eagle could return to relay any information, countless vultures rained a barrage of attacks down upon it.
With a shrill cry, the rock eagle was torn into shreds, black feathers drifting down from the sky.
A Tibetan officer, his eyes bright, waved his hand, not even glancing at the carnage above, and thousands of Tibetan cavalry immediately traveled through the area being patrolled by the rock eagle. In the air, the flock of vultures continued to fly forward like a flowing black ribbon.
Creee! Several li away, they encountered the second line of defense, two rock eagles flying back and forth. The vulture flock struck, tearing this line of defense into shreds. And then there was a third, a fourth… In the span of ten-some li, the vultures ran into seven or eight lines of Great Tang defense.
Each line of defense consisted of only one or two birds. Although they weren't numerous, each rock eagle was flying just high enough that they could clearly make out any activity on the ground and estimate the number of soldiers approaching.
Huoshu Huicang and Dusong Mangpoje had originally felt that they held the advantage in coming unnoticed by the Tang. But these successive lines of defense had caused their hearts to slowly sink.
As if sensing what they were thinking, Dalun Ruozan began to speak, his voice serene and calming. "Have you finally noticed? This is his style, cautious to the smallest detail so that you don't have a single opportunity to exploit. The slightest sign of contempt, and he'll immediately discover you. In fighting against him, we have to go with all our power and not show any signs of carelessness."
"He's too careful. With this kind of defense, we'll find it very hard to get through without being noticed," Huoshu Huicang worriedly said.
"Yes, he's laid down far too many defense lines," Dusong Mangpoje agreed, a similar concern in his eyes.
It was very hard to believe that this fellow they were trying to deal with had merely been a youth with a weak grasp of martial arts in the war of the southwest. In this war, they seemed to be dealing with an entirely different person. Even though they had not even seen this youth, this scrupulous distribution of surveillance birds had caused even a Great General like Huoshu Huicang to feel an invisible pressure.
The Tang were far too powerful!
It was oft said that the Great Tang had lost itself in the decades of peace and prosperity, its people slackening and its fighting power waning, but even when Ü-Tsang had the most powerful army it had ever had, it suffered defeat after defeat to the Great Tang, and these were in situations where the Tibetans had the absolute advantage in numbers.
The forces of Ü-Tsang had been pushed to the limit, and that person's existence made every Tibetan, even those on the plateau, fraught with worry and unable to sleep.
This was why everyone had mobilized for this battle.
"Don't worry so much. Humans are bound to have flaws, and even he is no exception," Dalun Ruozan indifferently said. "…In addition, I've already understood exactly how he is distributing his birds."
At these words, Huoshu Huicang and Dusong Mangpoje trembled, their fierce eyes brimming with shock as they pulled on the reins of their horses.
Dalun Ruozan merely smiled and elegantly pulled out the map to give it another look.