The Human Emperor Chapter 1034
Chapter 1034: Troublemakers At Court I
Hyderabad ore was extremely rare, its production rate extremely low. These unique traits made it the target of the various remnant armies of the dynasties that the Arabs had conquered. The Arabs were still not able to use Hyderabad ore like the Great Tang could, but after many trials, they had gradually managed to create a method of smelting the Hyderabad ore and mixing it with other metals, greatly increasing the sharpness of their weapons.
The weapons forged through this method were still not at the level of the Great Tang's Wootz Steel swords, which could even cut through the dark green God Armor of the Skyquaking Army. But they had already surpassed all the other precious swords and sabers of Arabia in terms of sharpness.
These weapons forged from a mixture of refined Hyderabad ore and Meteoric Star metal might not be as good as Wootz Steel swords, but they were not too far behind!
At the very least, this was what Aybak and Faisal believed.
With everything taken care of, Aybak prepared to leave. Suddenly, a horseman galloped toward the courtyard.
The air screeched as roaring Mamelukes surged in from all sides, their fierce energies instantly locking onto this intruder. On the outermost perimeter of the courtyard, ten-some Mamelukes stood in this horseman's way. The other Mamelukes quickly converged on the intruder, surrounding him.
As sabers clamored and gleamed, it appeared that this intruder would soon be executed. But then, Aybak noticed the golden robes this person wore and his expression immediately morphed.
Time seemed to stop for a moment as the ten-some Mamelukes halted their scimitars in mid-swing. Meanwhile, Aybak had lunged down the stairs toward the intruder.
The Caliph's emissary!
This rider wearing robes of gold covered in intricate designs was the emissary of the Arab Caliph. Each of these emissaries was selected from a group of elites and was an extremely loyal expert. The Caliph would only send them out for missions of utmost importance.
The rider's golden robes blew in the wind as he sat upon his horse and called out Aybak's name. His face was concealed by a silver mask covered in tiny little holes, and his voice was ice-cold.
"The Caliph has decreed that the Tang at Talas must be destroyed. Once this mission is completed, the Mamelukes will work with Governors Qutaybah, Abu Muslim, and Osman to advance eastward. Once the eastern world is conquered, the Mamelukes will be rewarded with their promised land to serve as their eternal fief!"
The emissary's words were simple and concise, cutting straight to the purpose of his visit.
In a flash, the mood in the courtyard changed. Before Aybak had time to say anything, his deputy Faisal and the surrounding Mamelukes all took a step back in shock.
A promised land!
This was the great obsession of the many generations of Mamelukes, but one that they could never fulfill. The Mamelukes were hailed as the strongest and most loyal warriors of Arabia, and they had rendered great service for the empire. Any other army or general would have long ago obtained their own fief in the Arabian Empire, but because of an ancient law from when the Mamelukes were first established, the Mamelukes were restricted from this honor.
Thus, even though the Mamelukes had a reputation as high as the noon sun and a fighting power that none could match, they were constantly rushing about to fight battles, never having a place to put down their roots.
If they had a 'promised land', the Mamelukes could recruit troops, make homes, train men, collect taxes, start businesses… they could even have children and create an enormous city of Mamelukes. If the Mamelukes could break the restriction of ten thousand men, they would enter an unprecedented golden age!
This was precisely the dream of all Mameluke warriors!
In a flash, the eyes of all the Mamelukes began to burn with a fervent light. Even Faisal found it hard to keep himself calm, stepping forward from the rear as his breathing grew hurried and ragged. No one had expected that the Caliph would regard the east with such importance, much less that the Caliph was willing to make an exception and offer up such a reward for its conquest.
"Aybak, this is His Majesty's token of faith. If you wield this token, the Caliph will keep true to his promise. Take it!"
The golden-robed emissary took out a black crescent token embellished with metal filigree and tossed it over.
"However, the Caliph has yet another decree. This conquest of the east is the only chance for the Mamelukes to obtain their promised land. If Talas cannot be conquered, if the east cannot be pacified, the Mamelukes will be slaves for eternity and will never obtain any promised land!"
Aybak and Faisal both shuddered, their expressions turning grim. Both of them lowered their heads and proclaimed, "Your subordinate receives the decree!"
Time slowly passed. In Khorasan, the Arab smiths continued to work night and day to forge the Mamelukes their suits of Meteoric Star armor. On the front lines in the Black Forest, Abu Muslim restrained his army so that all conflict with the Great Tang could be avoided as he awaited the arrival of the two governors and the Mamelukes from the rear.
Every day, news trickled in, and countless soldiers arrived at Khorasan from Cairo and Tarsus, joining with the Mamelukes in preparation to set off to the Black Forest to join with Abu Muslim.
At the same time, the distant Talas was also a city of fire and smoke. Tens of thousands of Tang soldiers spent every day and night training and drilling. Meanwhile, nearly ten thousand men had been selected from amongst the Anxi Protectorate army, Qixi Protectorate army, and the mercenaries to become the first 'Mo Saber Army', which was also in the middle of intense training.
Every day in Talas presented a new scene.
Under Wang Chong's command, all the Tang soldiers were preparing for battle.
Some several dozen li away, Duwu Sili was spending day and night training in the formation phenomena, using the lightning created by the formation phenomena to train himself and increase his strength in an effort to reach an even higher level.
Twenty li away, the Tibetan camp was calm, and Dalun Ruozan was sipping tea in his tent. But all of them knew that across the Cong Mountains, past the Western Regions, on the Tibetan Plateau, forty thousand Tibetan soldiers were being gathered by the great clans and nobles of the plateau so that they could be sent to Talas.
Four great empires, three sides… Although the surface was calm, each side restraining the other, under the surface, the current was far more dangerous and unpredictable than before!
The war could break out at any moment.
As the clouds of war gathered thick over Talas, in the distant Central Plains, the capital of the Great Tang was in an entirely different mood. The debate over Talas had reached an intense stage. Gao Xianzhi and Wang Chong's joint request for reinforcements had still not passed.
"Your Majesty, this subject objects!"
The graying Assistant Minister of Revenue Zheng Chengli held aloft his ceremonial tablet and strode out from the ranks.
"In ancient times, I have heard of reinforcing the army after a defeat, but never of reinforcing an army after victory. Moreover, the Imperial Court's yearly expenditures on military are extravagantly vast. The year before last, the Bureau of Military Personnel expended eighty million dan of grain, ten million head of livestock, and two million, four hundred thousand feet of cloth, and required one hundred and thirty-seven million taels as pay for the soldiers. Last year, the Bureau of Military Personnel consumed ninety-four million dan1 of grain, seventeen million head of livestock, and three million, six hundred thousand feet of cloth, and required one hundred and fifty-seven million taels as pay for the soldiers. It will only spend more this year, and these calculations do not even include the financial compensation for soldiers killed in battle.
"The Great Tang has six hundred thousand soldiers that are frequently engaged in battle with foreign enemies. They consume a great deal of the empire's funds and are already a heavy burden on the Great Tang and its people!
"Not only that, the frequent battles result in severe casualties amongst the soldiers. Replenishing these lost soldiers can only be done by conscripting from the masses. This lowly subject happened to hear that in some places, because the people are innately suited for war, so many are conscripted that there are not enough people to work the fields!"
Zheng Chengli had barely finished speaking when the Minister of Ceremonies, Zhou Taiqin, stepped forward, tablet held aloft and expression grim.
"This lowly subject has just returned from an inspection of the Hedong Circuit. As this subject was passing through a town called Zhouzhuang in Luzhou, this subject saw nothing but the old, infirm, and the young, but not a single man. This subject was astounded and inquired as to what had happened. This subject then learned that all the able-bodied men of Zhouzhuang had been conscripted into the army. In the year before last, Beiting suffered a defeat in a battle against the Western Turkic Khaganate, resulting in over ninety percent of the men in the village dying in that battle. The remaining men were transferred to other regions, including the Anxi Protectorate.
"Although Zhouzhuang is just an example, it is the Great Tang in miniature. Every year, the Anxi Protectorate expends a great deal of the empire's funds, and every year, the Central Plains sends over innumerable soldiers, and now, even more soldiers are needed at Talas. Must the plight of Luzhou be spread across the Great Tang so that even the boys are pulled onto the battlefield? This subject proposes that Anxi and Qixi recall all their soldiers to the interior!"
Zhou Taiqin's voice was tinged with harshness as he reached the end of his speech, and his words received a great deal of support amongst the civil officials.
"Correct, this subject agrees!"
"This subject agrees!
"This subject agrees!
The civil officials in the hall voiced their agreement in agitation, but at this moment, a loud and cold voice resounded through the hall.
1. The dan is a Chinese unit for dry measure volume equal to about 100 liters. Unfortunately, nowadays, people don't use dry measure units to measure agricultural output, instead going with tonnes. A single US bushel is equivalent to around 35 liters, so for the sake of rough estimation, we can say that one dan is equivalent to 3 bushels. A bushel of milled rice weighs about 60 pounds, and there are around 2200 pounds in a tonne. Taking all these numbers and using the first figure of eighty million dan, assuming for simplicity's sake that it's all rice, the Bureau of Military Personnel consumed 6.5 million tonnes of rice. In comparison, in 2016, China produced 209.5 million tonnes of rice.