The Human Emperor Chapter 1000
Chapter 1000: Duwu Silis Ambition
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
In the distance, the Western Turks had long ago vanished. Meanwhile, Xue Qianjun quickly finished his inspection.
"Lord Marquis! It's bad! Sir Chen Bin has gone missing! We've searched the entire camp, but we didn't find him!'
Wang Chong instantly paled at his words, and even Gao Xianzhi and Cheng Qianli looked over in consternation. Although they didn't have a very deep understanding of Wang Chong's subordinates, they did know the name of Chen Bin. He was the commander of Wang Chong's ballista army, a role in which he was very proficient. Under his command, the same ballistae displayed a completely different level of power. He had an extremely important status in Wang Chong's army.
Although he was not charging the enemy along with other Tang soldiers, many of the Arabs, Tibetans, and Turks that had died in this battle had fallen at his hand. He had truly rendered great service and was an extremely crucial individual.
The lack of this person would have an enormous effect on this Battle of Talas!
"Search again! Have you searched inside Talas, within the walls? And also… call over the ballista soldiers! And also Chen Bin's guards. Do not even they know where Chen Bin is?"
Wang Chong's voice turned harsh and severe.
The messenger's face showed a hint of nervousness. The marquis was rarely this harsh, but everyone knew that Chen Bin's disappearance was no laughing matter.
The messenger quickly departed, and the entire army began to implement Wang Chong's order. Gao Xianzhi, Cheng Qianli, and their own subordinates also did not just stand around. The result of the second inspection was soon produced, though no one wished to hear the result.
It had been confirmed that when withdrawing, Duwu Sili had taken a person with him, and this person was Chen Bin! Because Chen Bin had been injured while dealing with the Skyquaking Giants, he had been lying on the ground, mixed in with the wounded and dead. Thus, when Duwu Sili left with him, it had not attracted too much attention.
And when the majority of the wounded were moved into Talas and other heavily guarded areas, the ballista soldiers believed that he had already been taken into the city. Put together with the chaos of the battle and that everyone only had time to think about themselves, they did not have the time to notice these things. Thus, the fact that Chen Bin had been taken hostage remained undiscovered for a time.
This news was like a bomb exploding in everyone's minds. The atmosphere instantly turned heavy, with people like Zhang Shouzhi all showing grim expressions.
"What I don't understand is that Duwu Sili is the famed Celestial Wolf Great General, one of the three strongest Great Generals of the Western Turkic Khaganate. Why would he take Chen Bin hostage?"
The third-ranked commander of the Anxi Protectorate army, Xi Yuanqing, suddenly spoke from his position next to Cheng Qianli. He had only rushed over when he heard the news. His deepest impression of Chen Bin had been the scene when he was efficiently and callously cutting down the Arabs while commanding the ballista army.
Although his level of martial arts was not high, the abilities he had displayed left many stronger generals in the dust. But Xi Yuanqing still did not understand why the mighty Celestial Wolf Great General had taken Chen Bin hostage.
"Could it be that Duwu Sili took Chen Bin away to learn the secrets of the ballistae and create his own ballista army?" Xi Yuanqing said.
Xi Yuanqing was immediately interrupted by Zhang Shouzhi.
"Ballistae have always been one of the highest secrets of the Great Tang. A diagram is required to build a ballista. It's not something that you can build just by looking at its exterior. If you did that, you would just get a giant iron crossbow at best. Moreover, that's a matter to be handled by craftsmen, while soldiers are responsible for the actual fighting. Chen Bin might be the commander of the ballistae, but he doesn't have the diagram on him. It would be impossible for Duwu Sili to obtain the secret of the ballistae from him.
"In addition, the ballistae required a high level of skill in forging and a complete system of smithing. This is not something a steppe empire like the Western Turks can realize. Even if they did get their hands on the ballista diagram, it would be useless in their hands! They wouldn't be able to forge even one ballista!"
Zhang Shouzhi's expression was firm. In the field of smithing, his authority was absolute. The construction of the City of Steel and the realization of the giant ballista both raised Zhang Shouzhi's reputation to incredible levels, and he was an undisputed grandmaster of the field. This was particularly true with regards to the construction of the grand project that was the City of Steel. As he had overseen the entire project, he had achieved an almost divine status in the hearts of many craftsmen.
If he said that the Western Turkic Khaganate could not build a ballista even with the diagram, then this was the case.
"But what if the Western Turkic Khaganate cooperates with Arabia to build ballistae?" another officer of the Anxi Protectorate army asked.
The Western Turks, Tibetans, and Arabs were currently in a three-way alliance. Everyone feared a worst-case scenario where the Western Turks collaborated with the Arabs.
The Western Turkic Khaganate truly did lack the necessary skills to forge a ballista, but the Arabs were different. They were completely capable of such a feat.
Before Zhang Shouzhi could reply, Gao Xianzhi shook his head and rejected the notion.
"The Arabs are quite proud, and they only began to truly get into conflict with us and interact with ballistae for two months. During that period, the Arabs had not yet formed an alliance with the Western Turks. Their alliance is still newly-formed, with each side still doubting the other. This is definitely not a situation where the three parties trust each another enough to work together to build a ballista. Moreover, Abu Muslim is the style of commander who would prefer to see Duwu Sili leading an army to cooperate with the Arabs in attacking us, not a mere ballista diagram. Thus, this situation is impossible. At the very least, Duwu Sili doing something like this has nothing to do with Abu Muslim."
"But if the Western Turkic Khaganate can't make ballistae and Duwu Sili doesn't plan to cooperate with the Arabs, why did he take Chen Bin hostage?" Xue Qianjun muttered.
His words cast a silence on the gathered officers. Chen Bin was the commander of the ballista army. If Duwu Sili had not taken him hostage for the ballistae, then what was it for? No one could answer this question.
"There's no need to think about it anymore. If Duwu Sili didn't come for the ballistae, then he could only be after one other thing: the Wushang Cavalry!" Wang Chong suddenly declared.
In Talas, the strongest and most effective forces the Great Tang had were the ballista army and the well-armed and -armored Wushang Cavalry. If it wasn't the ballistae, then there was only one choice left.
"But, Wang Chong, wasn't Chen Bin the commander of the ballista army? If Duwu Sili wanted to do something to the Wushang Cavalry, why would he take Chen Bin?"
Gao Xianzhi slightly frowned in confusion. The mighty Celestial Wolf Great General dominated the steppe and would not make such a low-class error. Gao Xianzhi was rather befuddled by this situation.
"…In addition, if Duwu Sili wanted to move against the Wushang, he would just attack. Even if he wanted the Meteoric Metal armor or Wootz Steel swords of the Wushang Cavalry, he wouldn't need to take someone hostage."
The Wushang Cavalry possessed unimaginable power, and as a commander, Gao Xianzhi could not have possibly failed to notice this. Moreover, Wang Chong had never hidden the secrets of the Meteoric Metal and Wootz Steel swords from him.
"This problem probably has its roots in the armor."
Wang Chong's lips curved into an almost undetectable and bitter smile.
"All the officers under my command are equipped with Meteoric Metal armor and Wootz Steel swords, with the generals possessing equipment of even higher quality. Duwu Sili isn't familiar with the structure of my army, so he must have only noticed that the Wushang Cavalry were equipped with special armor, taking note of nothing else. As a result, he took Chen Bin to be part of the Wushang Cavalry. As for Duwu Sili's goal in taking a hostage, he's probably after formation phenomena."
Everyone had been confused at first, but the words 'formation phenomena' instantly made them understand. Gao Xianzhi and Cheng Qianli, who had a broad range of experience, particularly understood the weight behind these words.
Gao Xianzhi's heart instantly sank. As a top-class commander, he only needed Wang Chong to say a little for him to swiftly understand the implications.
"This situation is looking rather bad. Formation phenomena are no minor affair," Gao Xianzhi gravely said. "In truth, after this battle was over, I was planning to ask you about it. And it's hard to blame Duwu Sili for desiring your formation phenomena. The Celestial Wolf Cavalry is one of the three most powerful cavalry forces of the Western Turkic Khaganate. If Duwu Sili could get his hands on the secret of formation phenomena and push the Celestial Wolf Illusory Formation to the highest level, he will be a powerful foe of our Great Tang, whether now or in the future. In addition, I don't have much of an understanding of your subordinates, but there's a matter I want to ask you. Chen Bin is the commander of the ballista army, so does he know anything about the Wushang Cavalry's formation phenomena?"
Wang Chong nodded.
"Before I formed the ballista army, he was actually one of the Wushang Cavalry's officers. Although he doesn't know every secret, he knows around eighty percent of them."
"Wang Chong, the Western Turks are an empire of cavalry, and they use far more formations than we do. If Duwu Sili gets his hands on the secret of formation phenomena and spreads it through the Western Turkic Khaganate, you understand what that will mean. So if you will forgive me, let me ask another question. Given your understanding of Chen Bin, if Duwu Sili wants to get the secret of the formation phenomena from him, will he succeed?"
Gao Xianzhi spoke very tactfully, but his expression grew even more serious. Duwu Sili had never been one to make petty schemes. As one of the strongest Great Generals of the Western Turkic Khaganate and the esteemed Irkin, he was not one to only think about strengthening his Celestial Wolf Cavalry. This was no longer a simple matter of Chen Bin's capture affecting the ballista army. This was now a strategic matter that could affect the balance of power between the Great Tang and the Western Turkic Khaganate.
Wang Chong gave a long sigh as he slowly raised his head and looked to the east.
"What I'm worried about now is not whether Duwu Sili can get his hands on the secret of formation phenomena, but the fact that he won't get the secret!"
A deep concern tinged Wang Chong's voice.