Chapter 999: The Aftereffects of the Battle!
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
Within the Western Turkic camp, Duwu Sili heard a ruckus and emerged from his tent. When he saw that it was Dalun Ruozan and his soldiers withdrawing, a strange light flickered through his eyes.
"This Dalun Ruozan… is truly difficult to deal with! The army is withdrawing without even notifying me. Could this be considered a small warning?"
A thoughtful smile appeared in Duwu Sili's eyes. It wasn't that no one could see through his style and grasp his true intentions, but very few people were like Dalun Ruozan, able to see through him in just a few meetings.
"Pass on my order! The army should withdraw! Follow the Tibetans to the east!" Duwu Sili swiftly ordered.
"But Milord, what do we do about the person in the tent?" a voice asked.
If one listened carefully, one could hear a few noises from within the tent.
"Take him with us. This person is currently worth a fortune. If something happens to him, I'll be asking you personally!" Duwu Sili said.
Within the tent, the person's heart chilled and he did not dare to speak any further.
Rumble! Not long after the Tibetans withdrew, Duwu Sili led his remaining soldiers and wolves in the same direction.
In front of Talas, Gao Xianzhi, Cheng Qianli, Wang Yan, and Wang Chong had all fallen silent upon hearing Zhang Shouzhi's explanation. Dalun Ruozan, Huoshu Huicang, Dusong Mangpoje, and the tens of thousands of Tibetan cavalry had not moved. The only person who had come was Duwu Sili, who was hoping to strike while the iron was hot, but he had managed to destroy the last and vital giant ballista.
The Tang had managed to hold fast against the Skyquaking Army, resisting its frenzied assaults to protect this giant ballista, but they had not managed to guard against the surprise strike from Duwu Sili as he turned to leave. When those thousands of parts scattered through the sky, the last giant ballista of Talas was no more.
"Can it be repaired?" Gao Xianzhi almost instinctively blurted out. This was his first reaction.
Zhang Shouzhi had managed the construction of the giant ballista from concept to reality, so no one was more familiar with it than him. He was also probably the only person capable of repairing it.
"It's very difficult."
Zhang Shouzhi shook his head, his expression grim.
"Duwu Sili is a top-class Imperial Great General, and his attacks are on a different level. A single giant can destroy the giant ballista, much less an Imperial Great General. I looked it over, and nearly eighty percent of the giant ballista's parts were pulverized into powder, and some of those were very precious and high-quality parts. Just gathering the materials, casting the parts, and adding the inscriptions was extremely time-consuming. There is only a very small chance that we can repair those parts, as the materials were extremely precious."
Gao Xianzhi instantly fell silent.
In this battle, the giant ballistae had rendered great service. If they were destroyed, the morale of the army would suffer a significant blow. After all, no one knew if the Arabs had more inhuman forces at their command.
"It's fine. Just leave this matter to me," Wang Chong lightly said.
Others might not know what other inhuman forces the Arabian Empire had, but Wang Chong knew that the Behemoth Army and the Skyquaking Army were their two strongest forces. The Arabian Empire did not have the ability to transfer over any more inhuman forces in such a short amount of time.
"Senior Zhang, let's proceed according to the old rules. Gather up the damaged parts from the two giant ballistae and use them to build another one. As for whether they can actually fire bolts, that's no longer important. The most important thing is to raise the morale of the troops. In addition, although we know that building another giant ballista will be very difficult, the Arabs and Tibetans don't know that. Building an imitation will at least have an intimidating effect," Wang Chong confidently declared.
He now controlled the last Behemoth on the battlefield of Talas. In truth, there was no need to build another giant ballista so quickly.
Even if they could build one, they could take their time doing it.
"Understood! If this is the case, this old man can quickly build another one."
Zhang Shouzhi nodded, understanding Wang Chong's intention.
Previously, Wang Chong had used a pile of fake Tang ballistae to trick the Tibetans, and it was clear that he planned to use the same trick.
As they were speaking, a rumbling came from the hills, dust pluming into the air as an army began to withdraw.
"It's the Tibetans!" Xue Qianjun said in delight, his face excited as the pressure from today's battle was finally relieved. "The Arabs have retreated, and the Tibetans definitely saw this and decided to do the same."
As this was said, the Western Turks also began to retreat.
Everyone was relieved and excited to see this. If the threat of the Turks and Tibetans was removed, the Tang would be in a much better position.
"It's not that simple!"
Wang Chong shook his head, his brow beginning to crease as he watched the two armies withdraw. As he spoke, Wang Chong, Gao Xianzhi, Cheng Qianli, and Wang Yan began to stand up.
"Wang Chong is correct," Gao Xianzhi agreed. "This battle truly did have an effect on the Tibetans and Western Turks, but whether it's the Celestial Wolf Great General Duwu Sili, Huoshu Huicang, or Dalun Ruozan, none of them are people who easily give up."
The withdrawal of these armies eased the pressure on the Tang, but Gao Xianzhi remained deeply suspicious.
"Remember, you can never claim a true victory unless you have truly defeated the enemy, and until you do, you can never let down your guard."
Wang Chong slightly raised his head. In this aspect, he was in complete agreement with Gao Xianzhi. As highly-ranked Tang commanders, the two shared many points of agreement.
The surroundings fell silent as everyone watched the Tibetans and Turks leave. As Wang Chong gazed at the Western Turks, his brows rose and fell as if he was thinking about something.
"Wang Chong, what's wrong?"
Gao Xianzhi immediately sensed something and turned his head.
"Something's off," Wang Chong said with a furrowed brow, and his words immediately had everyone's attention.
"Wang Chong, what's wrong? What have you realized?" Cheng Qianli asked. Although he hadn't spent much time with Wang Chong, Cheng Qianli knew that this young Qixi Protector-General would never say anything without reason. If he said that something was off, then something must definitely have happened.
"I don't know."
Wang Chong slowly drew back his gaze.
"This isn't my first clash with Dalun Ruozan, so I have an understanding of his style. The battle is over and the Arabs have lost, so for Dalun Ruozan to withdraw his army and wait for a better moment is completely in line with his way of doing things. But this Celestial Wolf Great General… I feel like there's something off about him."
Gao Xianzhi and Cheng Qianli glanced at each other in surprise. The two had not expected Wang Chong to have placed his focus on Duwu Sili.
"Lord Protector-General, you have more experience than I do. Have you ever interacted with this Duwu Sili before? Do you have an understanding of him?"
"This… Duwu Sili and I fight in different regions. We've never had many direct interactions, so I have never paid him too much attention."
Gao Xianzhi's brow creased in recollection.
"Based on what I know, Duwu Sili is known to outsiders as someone very hard to deal with. He gained his status as Irkin through cold-blooded means, killing the previous Irkin… That person was very famous amongst the Western Turks."
Wang Chong's brow furrowed even deeper, the strange feeling in his heart intensifying.
All fell silent as everyone stared at Wang Chong, no one daring to disturb him. Gao Xianzhi, Cheng Qianli, and Wang Yan also became pensive. However, unlike Wang Chong, they found it very hard to sense anything wrong about this simple retreat.
Wang Chong suddenly turned to Zhang Shouzhi and said, "Senior Zhang Shouzhi, could you recount again what you said before?"
Zhang Shouzhi was confused, but he hurriedly retold the story of the giant ballista's destruction.
Everyone listened very carefully to his tale, but no one, not even Gao Xianzhi or Cheng Qianli, understood what this was for. They could draw no connection between Duwu Sili's destruction of the giant ballista and Wang Chong's strange feeling that something was off.
It was so quiet that one could hear a pin drop. Everyone had confusion in their eyes, but Wang Chong's gaze was slowly beginning to sharpen.
"It's wrong! Duwu Sili's actions were strange!" Wang Chong firmly declared.
"Wang Chong, what have you discovered? What was off about Duwu Sili destroying the giant ballista?" Gao Xianzhi and Cheng Qianli hurriedly asked.
"It's not a problem with the giant ballista, but a problem with Duwu Sili. Lord Protector-General, General Cheng, let me ask you, what do you think Duwu Sili's goal was in crossing the second defense line alone?"
"Of course, it was to deal with…"
Cheng Qianli immediately opened his mouth, but when he was about to say the words 'Wang Chong', his voice stopped and his face froze.
"Have you realized?"
Wang Chong glanced at Cheng Qianli, knowing that he had understood.
"On the surface, Duwu Sili seemed to be coming for us, but throughout this entire battle, we didn't even see him. This Duwu Sili is definitely strange. His objective was not us. He must have had another target."
As Wang Chong's mind cleared, his eyes grew sharper and sharper. Next to him, Gao Xianzhi's eyes were also beginning to fill with worry. It would have been fine if Duwu Sili had been aiming at them, but if this wasn't the case, then they had a real problem on their hands. Even worse was that the battle was already over. Regardless of what Duwu Sili's goal was, he had probably already succeeded.
"Xue Qianjun! Pass on my order! Gather the army! Give it a thorough inspection! Focus particularly on the ballista soldiers and the Wushang Cavalry! I want every detail reported!"
Wang Chong's gaze became piercingly cold.