Chapter 972: Unbending Resolve! (I)
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
Duwu Sili was far smarter than most people imagined him to be. Dalun Ruozan wanted to preserve manpower, and Duwu Sili treasured his own troops even more than Dalun Ruozan did. Thus, even though his words were fierce and harsh, Duwu Sili had never had any intentions of sending his own men. He could hide this fact from others, but never from Dalun Ruozan.
The two Tibetan generals looked at Duwu Sili's back in understanding.
"So Great Minister already predicted that he would move?" Huoshu Huicang said.
Dalun Ruozan silently smiled. His eyes swept over the battlefield, but as they flitted over the front of the defense lines, his expression dimmed slightly.
The Arabian Empire was simply too powerful. He had traveled over a vast distance to the city of Talas with the intention of having a final battle between himself and Wang Chong, a contest of strategy, schemes, and tactics. Dalun Ruozan and Wang Chong were two of the best military strategists in the world, with very few people capable of standing equal with them.
Dalun Ruozan had deeply anticipated this contest of intellectuals. In fact, one could say that he had spent every day and night in the prison of Ü-Tsang's royal capital anticipating this encounter. But it now appeared that this desire was bound to evaporate into nothing.
The power the Arabian Empire had displayed was simply too enormous, crushing any kind of tactic, strategy, or scheme, making all plans futile. Even someone as proud as Dalun Ruozan couldn't help but shudder at this sight.
Only Wang Chong and the Great Tang would have been able to last so long under such fierce assaults. Both the Ü-Tsang Empire and the Western Turkic Khaganate would have been routed a long time ago.
"Alas, the Great Tang is doomed to defeat. Although I can't personally defeat you and fulfill my wish, for me to personally see you off and serve as witness to your fall is enough!"
Dalun Ruozan gave a deep sigh. He knew that things looked grim for Wang Chong, and though he was not willing to admit it, he still couldn't help but feel a deep regret when he saw Wang Chong losing to the Arabs like this.
At the distant defense line, the one hundred thousand Tang soldiers were facing a situation far more dangerous than anyone could imagine.
"Exterminate these infidels!"
Tens of thousands of Arab cavalry surged over the defense line into the Tang formation. In the past, the Arabs would have needed to pay a heavy price to cross the line, but there was now a large gap in the steel walls, and the tight and disciplined Tang formations were now in a state of complete collapse from the attacks of the Behemoths.
"Warning! Defeat is imminent! The Great Tang has lost twenty thousand men!
"Warning! Defeat is imminent! Talas will soon be lost! User will soon be obliterated!
"The final warning! Upon defeat, all of user's Destiny Energy will be wiped out! At the same time, all memories concerning user will be erased."
As Wang Chong flew through the air, the cold and emotionless voice of the Stone of Destiny issued a string of messages. The terrifying jolts unleashed by the giant ape had sent Wang Chong flying for several hundred zhang.
As the winds howled around him and images flew past his ear, time seemed to slow to a crawl. Soaring backward and upside-down, Wang Chong could see the entire battlefield.
He saw the roaring Skyquaking Giants striding toward the last giant ballista, saw the Tang army in chaos, and saw countless panicked cavalry fleeing into the distance. There were both Tang and mercenaries amongst them, all of their faces pale and their eyes filled with fear.
Those four Behemoths had destroyed any confidence they had.
Rooooar! A Behemoth roared, and when Wang Chong moved his gaze past the cavalry, he could see a blood-drenched field, a land of shattered limbs carpeted by corpses of horse and man, their despairing eyes open wide to the sky.
Amongst these shattered limbs, Wang Chong could see rivers and lakes of blood, thousands upon thousands of shattered weapons, and blood-soaked banners, trampled upon by the charging Arab soldiers.
Farther ahead, close to the first defense line, Wang Chong was greeted by a scene of desolation. The other three Behemoths blocked out the sky, their eyes scarlet as they stomped down with their feet.
In front of these three Behemoths, even the hardy ground of Talas cracked and groaned. Giant boulders weighing a thousand jin were carried along by the shockwaves to soar ten-some zhang into the air. In the face of this vicious assault, the strength of man was too meager, too lowly.
No shieldman or cavalryman could stand against it.
It was there that the Tang casualties were the greatest. Even Gao Xianzhi, Cheng Qianli, and his father Wang Yan had been knocked away. Wang Chong could tell that they were worriedly shouting something at him, but he couldn't hear what it was.
He could only see a sea of corpses, their lifeless eyes filled with despair.
In that moment, an agonizing pain filled his heart.
Are we going to lose?
As this thought occurred to him, his mind suddenly trembled with pain so searing that it was difficult to breathe. The art of war was a matter of life and death, a road to either safety or ruin. For a general, defeat on the battlefield was commonplace.
Wang Chong had believed that as long as he could win, reverse the tides, change the fate of Talas, and save the Great Tang, he could ignore everything else and regard it with indifference.
But then he saw those corpses, amongst which he could even recognize some soldiers that he could call out by name. Those people had followed him from the southwest and had never retreated a single step. They had followed him with blind faith, believing in him more than he had believed in himself, but in the end, they had all died.
What felt like an arc of lightning seemed to course through his body, and he felt a pain that arose from the very depths of his soul.
These were all powerful soldiers that he had nurtured. They should not have died here!
He had prepared for this battle for more than half a year. Three thousand Tang ballistae, five thousand of the most elite and well-equipped Wushang Cavalry, and many mercenaries and well-trained protectorate soldiers…
This battle should have resulted in overwhelming victory. Just where had he gone wrong?
This shouldn't be! It can't be like this!
As countless thoughts flitted through his mind, Wang Chong defiantly opened his eyes and clenched his fists. The defense line had been broken, the steel wall he had built up now existing only in name.
Even though he had done all he could, he still could not stop the advance of the four dreadful Behemoths and had even been sent flying by one himself. But no matter what, no matter the situation, he would not give up, would not concede!
It won't be like this! There must still be some hope, there must!
Wang Chong clenched his teeth together.
Finally, Wang Chong smashed into the ground, excavating an enormous hole. Time returned to normal, and Wang Chong vomited out a mouthful of blood before getting back up. At this moment, thousands of sounds began to pour back in, and Wang Chong could finally understand what Gao Xianzhi and Cheng Qianli were saying.
"Wang Chong, retreat! Hurry and retreat!"
"There's nothing else to be done! We can't hold against the Behemoths."
"We've lost Talas. Hurry and retreat!"
"Preserve our strength and we still have a chance!"
Wang Chong could see Gao Xianzhi and Cheng Qianli looking worriedly at him.
These were not timid individuals. During the Battle of Talas, Gao Xianzhi and Cheng Qianli had both remained steadfast despite their grim situation, lasting two months against the Arab assault.
Gao Xianzhi had never given up on this battle in that period, but now, he had finally chosen to withdraw. Although this decision was painful, it was also the wisest decision.
Gao Xianzhi's heart was at rock bottom as he watched the inexhaustible Behemoths smash a bloody path of corpses through the battlefield. There was no question that the Great Tang had been completely defeated in this contest. Staying any longer would only create meaningless losses.
In fights against men, they could fight to the end, but they had to retreat in front of these Behemoths!
They could not allow the last bit of strength the Great Tang still had in the Western Regions to be buried here. If they clearly understood that defeat was obvious, why should they continue to fight?
The wisest decision a commander could make was to lead his soldiers in breaking out of the encirclements, doing their utmost to preserve their strength for another day.
"Chong-er! Hurry and go!"
Wang Yan also spoke, his face suffused with panic.
In all battles, Wang Yan was always courageous, never retreating half a step. Even in an arduous situation like the war of the southwest, he had never once thought about retreating. However, the herd of Behemoths and the vast sea of soldiers behind them left him without a single sliver of hope.
Though the decision cut at his heart, Wang Yan had to make it.
The strength of the Behemoths was not something humans could oppose. They had done everything they could to try and stop them, but they had still failed.
If they did not retreat now and waited for the Behemoths to charge over, even with their eighty thousand remaining soldiers, the Behemoths could exterminate more than half in the space of a few breaths. Moreover, the two hundred thousand Arab cavalry and Dalun Ruozan were still lurking in the rear.
They still had the time to withdraw and preserve their strength. Although they didn't want to admit it, they had decisively lost this battle.
"No, impossible! The Battle of Talas won't end like this! I will never retreat!"
Wang Chong clenched his fists so hard that veins bulged out from his forehead, the blood almost squeezing out of them.