Chapter 942: The Stupefying Truth!
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
The first to speak was not Dalun Ruozan, nor was it Huoshu Huicang or Dusong Mangpoje. On the contrary, it was Duwu Sili, who had little to do with this night raid. He had finally understood that the Tang boy called Wang Chong had completely out-schemed them.
Moreover, if his guess was right, the method he had employed for his ambush was intimately related to the Turks.
Dalun Ruozan gave a long sigh, an indescribable feeling in his heart as he looked at the wolf skins. In the more than half the night over which this battle took place, he had been utterly confused as to what was going on. But as he saw the abandoned wolf skins, he finally understood.
"I lost! I managed to predict the beginning of this operation, but not the end. I didn't think that he would even use the beasts brought by Great General Duwu Sili. I accept my loss this round!"
Huoshu Huicang found it hard to hear these words. "Great Minister, everything is not yet certain. Perhaps these wolf skins have nothing to do with the Great Tang. It might just be a coincidence," he comforted.
"Ha! You still don't understand?" Dalun Ruozan shook his head and stopped Huoshu Huicang. "After the successful infiltration, he could have just brought these wolf skins back. He only left them here so that I would understand how he managed to win. He wants to use them to beat me down!"
Everything was now clear. Dalun Ruozan had spent so much effort setting up sentries and patrols, even establishing a system of signals and informing his men to be wary of any 'allies', requiring confirmation before they were allowed to approach… but all his efforts had been ineffective.
Dalun Ruozan had only worried about defending against people, never about defending against 'wolves'!
Not even if he were beaten to death would he have ever imagined that Wang Chong would disguise his several thousand soldiers as those massive wolves and have them infiltrate the camp. He wholeheartedly accepted this loss.
"It's just a gutless and shameless scoundrel! What need does Great Minister have to make him seem so formidable?!" Duwu Sili growled out through clenched teeth.
No one found all this more unbearable than him. He was the one who had brought over these gray wolves. The Turks had as many of these wolves as they wanted, and even losing all of them would cause him no heartache. He had brought them with the intent of restraining the Great Tang, but he had never imagined that Wang Chong would end up using them as a weapon against Dalun Ruozan!
Duwu Sili was an Irkin of the Western Turkic Khaganate, one of its best Great Generals. How could he possibly bear being played around with by some insignificant Tang youth?
Dalun Ruozan remained silent, as did everyone else.
They naturally knew what Duwu Sili was thinking, but now was not the time to start blaming others. They could only say that while the righteous could rise one foot, evil could rise ten. Wang Chong's methods were far too sly and unpredictable. Even someone like Dalun Ruozan found it hard to handle such a person.
"Yundan Gongbu, how many people did we lose on this night raid?" Dalun Ruozan suddenly asked.
"Nearly seven thousand!" a burly general standing near Dalun Ruozan loudly reported.
Dalun Ruozan said nothing, but the atmosphere suddenly became extremely grave. On the side, Huoshu Huicang gave a deep frown. In a large-scale campaign, the loss of seven thousand men was barely anything, and even in a night raid, such losses were still acceptable.
But for the Turko-Tibetan army, which was severely lacking in manpower, the loss of seven thousand men was a severe wound!
"He's aiming at our manpower!" Huoshu Huicang suddenly said. As a Great General of the Ü-Tsang Empire, Huoshu Huicang needed only a second to understand the strategic objective.
"If I'm right, he will be frequently attacking us, making us the main target. As we lose more and more men, we will be more and more restricted, less and less able to pose a threat to him. In the end, it will be us, not him, in a dilemma where both retreating and advancing are wrong.
"In addition, even if we realize it, even if we're unwilling, we can't change this fact. In reality, since yesterday's battle, we've already fallen into his tempo."
Huoshu Huicang was brimming with worry.
While the raid could initially be described as a 'hidden scheme', right now, it was an open scheme. Dalun Ruozan was correct that Wang Chong had left behind these wolf skins for them to discover, that this scene was apparently exactly what he wanted to see.
Unfortunately, even though they understood the objective of their foe, they not only could not stage an effective counterattack, but would become more restrained as time went on!
This was a mental assault as well as an 'open scheme'!
"No, this war isn't completely going according to his tempo, nor is he the primary decision maker," Dalun Ruozan suddenly said. "Huoshu Huicang, has Abu Sangji still not returned?"
Huoshu Huicang shook his head. It had been a very long time since Abu Sangji's raiding force had set out. The Tang had completely routed the force, and very few of them had returned, with Abu Sangji not amongst them. Some said that he should have returned long ago while others said that the Tang had already killed him. In short, the information the army had was a mishmash.
But Dalun Ruozan had still held out a little hope for Abu Sangji, hoping that he could return.
"It seems that Abu Sangji truly is dead."
A hint of sorrow appeared in Dalun Ruozan's eyes. Abu Sangji was a doughty general of the Yarlung Royal Lineage. Ever since he had left the royal capital's prison, Abu Sangji had been close at his side, a constant source of help. Moreover, in this expedition, a significant portion of the troops had been recruited by Abu Sangji from the Yarlung Royal Lineage.
Abu Sangji's assistance was unmatched, and Dalun Ruozan had reciprocated by making him one of his closest aides. Deep within his heart, Dalun Ruozan did not believe that he could die in battle.
But reality was right before his eyes, and the outlook was grim for Abu Sangji.
"Have our scouts returned? What did they say?" Dalun Ruozan asked.
"I was just about to bring this matter up with you. The scouts have returned, and based on what they saw, although Abu Sangji and his men were routed, they succeeded in achieving their objective. Bits and pieces of Tang ballistae are currently strewn across the second Tang defense line. From the amount, we estimate that four to five hundred were destroyed.
"Those soldiers who managed to return were not lying. If we didn't have to account for the fact that Abu Sangji was killed, we could have regarded this operation as a major success," Huoshu Huicang solemnly said.
Dalun Ruozan's furrowed brows finally began to relax. This could be considered the best news he had heard today. Although Abu Sangji had died in battle, he had completed his mission. The Tang army only had around two thousand ballistae, so the loss of five hundred was no small blow.
Dalun Ruozan had achieved his strategic objective.
"With five hundred ballistae destroyed, Abu Sangji cannot be said to have died in vain. This war isn't settled yet."
Dalun Ruozan stared at the bright lights of Talas, a fierce light in his eyes.
The Tang and the Tibetans were not the only ones holding meetings in the darkness. To the west, in the Arab camp, a similar undercurrent was flowing.
"Rahman, have you received the report?"
In his tent, Abu Muslim looked toward a thin, black-armored, and thickly bearded general.
Rahman bowed and said, "Lord Governor, the report has been received. While General Nurman's troops attacked the Tang defense line, we succeeded in infiltrating the Tang defenses and got in touch with the Karluks without gaining the notice of the Anxi Protectorate army."
Rahman was one of Abu Muslim's trusted aides. He did not have many men under his command, but he was still treated with great favor. Very few people knew that Rahman was actually one of Abu Muslim's most favored generals.
Many people believed that the primary assault force in this night raid was Nurman and his Wings of Death, little knowing that Rahman and the several dozen men in his infiltration force were the true driving force.
"Mm, I see. You are dismissed."
A satisfied glimmer in his eyes, Abu Muslim waved his hand. Rahman gave another bow before taking his leave.
Once Rahman left, Abbasid Deputy Governor of the East Ziyad walked out from the rear.
"Governor, can the Karluks really be trusted?"
The pair truthfully did not care about how many Tang were killed in the night raid. They cared more about the Karluks within the city, upon which little attention had been placed.
"The wealth of the Arabs has never been easy to obtain. Since the Karluks have taken our gifts, it doesn't matter if they're trustworthy or not. They've already promised, so they must carry it out!"
Abu Muslim stared at the brightly-lit city of Talas, looming like a beast out of the darkness, a look of dreadful cold flashing through his eyes.
On this continent, no one could have second thoughts after making an agreement with the Arabs. Such fickle people would end up paying a disastrous price!
Ziyad said nothing, but the look in his eyes was the same as Abu Muslim's. On this point, the Governor of the East and his deputy shared the same conviction, a conviction that they shared with all the other governors of the empire. None of them ever feared that someone would take the wealth of the Arabs and then go back on their word.