The Human Emperor Chapter 521
Chapter 521: An Abrupt Downpour
The brush in Xu Qiqin's hand was both fast and agile. As if all the answers were already in her head, she wrote at a constant speed. Though all sorts of trivial matters continued to assail her, Xu Qiqin remained calm and farsighted, a composed and easygoing expression perpetually on her face. It seemed like there was nothing in this world that could hold her down.
"Ah, I wonder how he's doing?"
After some time, Xu Qiqin suddenly gave a deep sigh. With a flick of her wrist, she put down her brush.
In their confrontation in Deflecting Blade Manor, she had once more lost to Wang Chong, had once more been humiliated. The haughty Xu Qiqin was forced to bow her head and agree to Wang Chong's request. Logically speaking, she should have hated Wang Chong to the bone, but for some reason, when she thought about the situation in the southwest and how Wang Chong would have to face the armies of Mengshe Zhao and -Tsang at any moment, Xu Qiqin felt deeply conflicted.
Inexplicably, Xu Qiqin recalled the four words Wang Chong had whispered to her before leaving.
'I believe in you!'
Wang Chong had uttered those words with absolute solemnity.
In the final moment, Xu Qiqin had seen Wang Chong's resolute figure leading those countless clan experts down the mountain, vanishing toward the southwest. He had clearly understood something at that time, but he had still chosen to leave without hesitation. He was like a moth, flying toward the sparks of a bonfire.
Xu Qiqin had watched with eyes wide open, an unprecedented wave of emotion sweeping through her mind.
Xu Qiqin had always believed Wang Chong to be a selfish, smug, and extremely irresponsible person who didn't know what was good for himself and never let go of his advantage once he got it. At the same time, he was also the only fellow that could continuously contend against her. But now, Xu Qiqin had seen the other side of Wang Chong, the true self that he hid deep under his bones.
That side was so attractive
"Ah, just don't die! No matter what, you can't die!"
Xu Qiqin turned her head, her gaze flitting past the window to rest on a map on the wall. A few needles and red strings had been used to single out a few places on the map. Wang Chong had left this map behind before he left, and no one besides him and Xu Qiqin understood what the symbols on the map meant.
All the caravans, both horse and camel, had already been dispatched. She had even managed to mobilize the caravans of the capital's great clans, so it had been even easier for her to mobilize the noble clans and wealthy families of other areas. Only Xu Qiqin could have taken care of everything with such neatness and orderliness. Armaments, provisions, and everything else had all been sent out.
Hundreds of caravans surged like ants toward that place, traveling day and night. Based on how much time had passed, the first batch of resources should have arrived by now at the place Wang Chong had indicated.
"You'll have to rely on yourself for what comes next!"
Xu Qiqin gave a deep sigh, turned her head back around, and continued to take care of the files on her desk.
The skies were dark and gloomy in the empire's southwest.
The stomping of hooves resounded over the main road, accompanied by flying grass and mud.
"Warning! Half a day remains! If user does not reach the designated area in time, user will be obliterated and the mission will be failed!"
"Warning! The Annan Protectorate army has experienced large casualties. User is deducted 20 points of Destiny Energy!"
"Warning! User must proceed as quickly as possible. If user does not cover twenty kilometers each hour, 15 points of Destiny Energy will be deducted every two hours!"
Message after message flew through Wang Chong's mind. Although everything seemed calm as the army marched south, Wang Chong knew that it was anything but. In just a few short days, Wang Chong had already been deducted 80 points of Destiny Energy. He had defeated Batunlu and Bachicheng, and opened the passes to the south, but Wang Chong could feel that the undercurrent was getting stronger.
Wang Chong didn't understand what had happened in Lion City. Its walls were firm, so why had he lost so much Destiny Energy in just a few short days? The situation in the southwest was continuing to worsen, and the continued warnings about deductions of Destiny Energy in his mind told him that it was far from over.
The Stone of Destiny was continuing to increase the pressure on him.
But at this moment, Wang Chong was less concerned about himself and more about the Annan Protectorate army in Lion City.
Father is already there. I can only hope that it's still not too late! Wang Chong quietly said to himself.
This campaign wasn't to protect himself, but to save the Annan Protectorate army. If the Annan Protectorate army was destroyed, everything else would lose meaning.
"All troops, heed my orders! Advance at full speed!"
Wang Chong held aloft his sword and picked up speed.
The 300,000 Mengshe Zhao soldiers and 200,000 -Tsang soldiers were like a mountain weighing down on Wang Chong's stomach. The farther south he went, the closer he got to Erhai, the closer he got to peril and death. The earlier victories did not mean that his situation had improved. On the contrary, they had only increased the pressure.
A rapid advance over thousands of li had never been simple. A moment of carelessness might lead to Mengshe Zhao discovering Wang Chong's ten thousand troops and crushing them like an egg.
Dark clouds carpeted the skies. At some point, a powerful wind began blowing in from the south, bringing with it the thick scent of blood, the stench of the southwest battlefield.
It seemed like they weren't very far from Erhai now.
Wang Chong stopped and looked up at the sky. The clouds were hanging low and seemed like gloomy waves ready to sweep over the world.
This was the smell of a coming storm.
"It's about to rain!" Wang Chong muttered to himself as he looked at the skies.
He was no stranger to this sort of odor. If everything was as normal, the southern plains were probably already facing a torrential downpour, one that was rapidly making its way north.
"Milord, our brothers can't last much longer. Why don't we rest for a while?"
While Wang Chong was deep in thought, somebody suddenly spoke. It was Commandants Xu Shiping and Xu Andun.
"Milord, our brothers have been marching nonstop for several days now," Xu Andun respectfully said, clasping his hands. "I know that Milord is anxious, but without sufficient rest, I worry that even if our brothers reach the Erhai plains, they won't be able to do much."
"I agree with Brother Xu. Our brothers truly do need to rest."
Xu Shiping glanced at the army behind him and voiced his agreement.
The soldiers of the army were all typical warriors, assuredly stronger than the ordinary man, but even so, they weren't cast from steel. These many days of forced march had left them fatigued. Only a glance was needed to notice that the entire army was exhausted. This was very dangerous.
Both of the commandants clearly agreed on this point.
Wang Chong turned his head and said with absolute resolve, "No! Now is not the time to rest!"
The army truly was tired. This was something he knew without even thinking. But this was simply not the time to rest. Man's potential was infinite, and the battlefield did not wait for soldiers to eat their fill and rest well before fighting. This was what it meant to be at war. There were many wars in the history of the Central Plains where soldiers had to fight for several days and nights without rest.
Or would they retreat only halfway through the battle?
Wang Chong was not worried about whether the army could rest or not. His concern was that today was the day when Lion City would be broken. If the Annan Protectorate army was completely lost, a well-rested army would be just as useless as a fatigued one.
Before Wang Chong could finish, thunder began to rumble overhead while silver snakes began to wriggle through the clouds. Then there was a slap as a raindrop the size a soybean struck Wang Chong's face. Wang Chong subconsciously wiped this raindrop away while Xu Shiping and Xu Andun looked dumbstruck at the sky.
This was the first storm the pair had encountered ever since the start of their march south.
What started as a few drops of rain quickly intensified. In the blink of an eye, a massive downpour began to howl down from the skies. The curtains of rain smashed against the armor of the soldiers, the clinging and clanging seeming to be playing a tune.
It was raining.
One, two, three one soldier after another raised their head to that majestic downpour, all of them flabbergasted.
This massive downpour was completely unanticipated, and everyone knew what it meant.
Even Wang Chong, Xu Shiping, and Xu Andun were dumbstruck.
"A downpour, a downpour, three days, three days, the city broken"
Wang Chong muttered to himself as he gazed at the skies. Suddenly, he had a flash of insight, his body shivering in understanding.
"Xu Shiping, Xu Andun, I'm only giving you fifteen minutes of rest. Old Eagle, Zhao Jingdian, lead all of our cavalry and follow me!"
Warhorses rumbled, and before many people could react, Wang Chong, Old Eagle, and Zhao Jingdian had led the remaining two-thousand-some cavalry through the rain, vanishing like a bolt of lightning.
Xu Andun seemed dazed for a few moments before suddenly coming back to his senses and snapping out a few orders. "What are you looking around for? Didn't you hear? Rest here, eat a few rations, and then get ready to move out!"
Although he didn't know what had happened, Xu Andun could confirm from the change in Wang Chong's expression that something had happened.
Even if he didn't understand what it was at the moment.
Wang Chong's two thousand cavalry was stretched into a long line as it galloped through the boundless rain. While thunder rolled and rumbled overhead, the voice in Wang Chong's mind was even louder.
Three days' time!
Wang Chong had never understood why the Stone of Destiny had insisted on a three-day time limit for him to get within one hundred li of Lion City. But now, with this massive downpour, he understood. The southwest war was about to experience its most sudden change yet. It wasn't because Lion City would be broken, but because the Annan Protectorate army would choose today to break out of the siege.
The rain was falling down so fiercely that even Wang Chong couldn't see very far.
Anything beyond ten meters became so vague that it was difficult to tell mountain from tree, road from person.
This was definitely the best chance for the Annan Protectorate army to break out!
It seems like their supplies are already running out!
This thought flashed through Wang Chong's mind as he pressed his body against his horse.
The walls of Lion City might be firm, but the biggest problem is provisions. If all the provisions are used up, then Lion City becomes a self-constructed cage, so the Annan Protectorate army will definitely want to break out. Xianyu Zhongtong definitely doesn't have this sort of daring. He's a general skilled in defense, so he wouldn't leave if he could still defend the city. The only person who could make this sort of decision is probably
As his mind whirred, Wang Chong suddenly thought about his father and older brother, Wang Yan and Wang Fu.
If Xianyu Zhongtong had been alone, he would have never tried to break out of the siege. But Wang Yan and Wang Fu were also in the Annan Protectorate army, which completely changed things, especially with regards to his brother, Wang Fu. Li Zhengyi was considered the leader of the Great Tang's younger generation of officers, and his death made it difficult for anyone to say otherwise.
But in terms of strength and strategic mind, Wang Chong had always believed that his older brother Wang Fu was the best.
His big brother was far more daring than Xianyu Zhongtong and was definitely much more of a risk-taker and go-getter. He would definitely be capable of making such a decision. Moreover, this downpour was a gift from the heavens, and Wang Chong was confident that Wang Fu wouldn't let this opportunity pass.
The city didn't fall, it didn't fall! It was a voluntary attempt to break out!
Wang Chong's mind was a complete mess as the rain poured down around him.
"Old Eagle, have the eagle guide the way. In addition, prepare another eagle to get in touch with Commandant Xu and the others at any moment!" Wang Chong suddenly said.
His body was completely drenched, the rain seeping in through the chinks in the armor and then seeping back out. Even his boots were beginning to accumulate water. But Wang Chong did not care.
Wang Chong urged his horse onward. And as he picked up speed, creee! Two massive eagles broke through the curtain of rain, one flying south, the other flying north, quickly vanishing from sight.
The breakout of Lion City had occurred far earlier than Wang Chong ever could have imagined!
The rapid gallop of horses could be heard through the pouring rain. After a few moments, a Tibetan scout arrived in front of Huoshu Huicang.
"How is it?"
Huoshu Huicang's gaze was like a lightning bolt, quickly locking onto the scout. Rain was falling thick and fast all around him, but there was no rain in a ten-zhang radius around him. The raindrops were all repelled before they could even get close, leaving the area under Huoshu Huicang's feet dry.
"Milord, we've been tricked! The Annan Protectorate army never planned to charge out of the west gate. It was only ten-some Tang soldiers!"
The scout's face had been drenched by the rain, his eyes and nose covered in water, but he didn't even dare to try and wipe it off.
"In addition, the rain is too great. We've lost many of our brothers in the rain during the pursuit!"
Huoshu Huicang was furious.
The scout immediately lowered his head and shut up.
Another horseman galloped over, interrupting Huoshu Huicang's bout of rage. Before Huoshu Huicang could say anything, the scout gave his report.
"There were no signs of any large-scale troop movements at the eastern gate!"
The scouts from the northern gate and southern gate returned as well, all of them reporting that no signs had been found. The Tibetan army had divided itself up and guarded all four gates, but not a single force had found any sign of the Tang soldiers.
Huoshu Huicang's face twisted into a dreadful grimace. He was now sure beyond doubt that he had been fooled, and by a plan that was definitely not a product of Xianyu Zhongtong's mind. He would have never had the cunning or the daring to open all four city gates and send soldiers charging out of all of them, forcing Huoshu Huicang to split up his army. Huoshu Huicang had contended against Zhangchou Jianqiong for many years, so he was extremely familiar with all of his foe's subordinates.
"Milord, could the Tang army still be hiding in the city?" a Tibetan soldier carefully asked.
Huoshu Huicang said nothing, only glared. The Tibetan soldier immediately shut his mouth, aware that he had made a mistake. If the Annan Protectorate army was still in a city with its gates wide open, it was only seeking its death.
"What of Geluofeng? Has he still not mobilized his army?" Huoshu Huicang asked, finally managing to suppress his anger.
If the 300,000 soldiers of Mengshe Zhao worked with his own troops, not even a most capable Annan Protectorate army would be able to escape.
"Milord, the King of Mengshe Zhao has sent word that his army is currently in chaos. In addition, he sent a message saying that this downpour has a greater effect on his forces than ours, as our cavalry are more mobile. The King of Mengshe Zhao hopes that we can first lead the army to chase after the Annan Protectorate army and stop them from escaping!"
Huoshu Huicang said nothing, and all around him was a deathly stillness. The only sounds were the pouring of the rain and the cracking of Huoshu Huicang's fists.
At the crucial moment, not a single one of the 300,000 soldiers of Mengshe Zhao was dependable.
"There's no need to count on him. Geluofeng has no say in this matter. This massive downpour greatly limits one's vision and the Mengshe Zhao army is mostly made of infantry. Given the muddy ground, they truly are powerless, not even able to take care of themselves."
A serene voice spoke. This voice was imbued with a strange power that could soothe anyone's rage.
The only person who was capable of saying such a thing at this time was the Great Minister of the -Tsang Ngari Royal Lineage, Dalun Ruozan.
"Great Minister is still speaking up for Mengshe Zhao at a time like this?" Huoshu Huicang coldly said.
A general would never consider the standpoint of the opposing party. Since Mengshe Zhao wanted to ally with -Tsang and borrow its strength, it needed to show that it was trustworthy.
"I am not speaking up for them. This downpour truly has upended our plans."
Dalun Ruozan, a strange expression on his face, softly closed his white feathered fan as he gazed at the sheets of rain falling from the sky. As long as -Tsang could eliminate these remaining soldiers of the Annan Protectorate army, the Tibetans would be completely victorious, leaving the Great Tang unable to compete with -Tsang for the next few decades.
But this downpour was like a pot of water being poured over the chessboard, washing away the pieces, throwing the board into chaos, and ruining his plan.
"Xianyu Zhongtong doesn't have this ability. The only people in Lion City capable of making such a decision could only be Wang Yan and his son!"
An icy light flickered through Dalun Ruozan's eyes as he said these words.