The Human Emperor Chapter 721
Chapter 721: The Largest Horse Transaction In History
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
If one thought back, the Great Tang once had an opportunity. If it had seized that opportunity, the Great Tang would have been able to obtain a large number of quality warhorses, amply preparing itself for the future wars.
That opportunity was the Turkic horse merchant known as Hulayeg.
But it was no easy task to find Hulayeg. His location was constantly changing. He might be to the north on the steppe, in the Anxi Protectorate, at Talas, in Arabia, or even on the Tibetan Plateau.
Wang Chong had only been able to catch his trail because he had the help of an old hand of the Western Regions in Yang Hongchang, a few clues from his last life, and various rumors, and had told Yang Hongchang to begin searching more than a month in advance.
Even more worrying was that Wang Chong was well aware that he had at most three months until this opportunity was completely lost. Hulayeg, in his arrogance, would end up offending the Western Turkic Ishbara Khagan and get himself and his clan massacred.
Without Hulayeg, no one else would be capable of obtaining a large number of quality steeds from the Turkic steppe. There was no one else like Hulayeg who had so many connections that he could open the horse trade with the Eastern and Western Turkic Khaganates.
The name of Hulayeg would become nothing more than a lament echoing over the steppe and the Western Regions.
And not long after his death, the two Khaganates would place a complete ban on any horse trading. Thenceforth, the Great Tang would lose its final chance and descend into a severe shortage of warhorses!
Thus, when Wang Chong heard that Hulayeg was in the Western Regions, he immediately set off. There were some things that had to be handled as quickly as possible, as such opportunities might never present themselves again!
"Who are you? Don't you know that this is my territory? Get out of here!"
A roar in Turkic interrupted Wang Chong's train of thought. Hulayeg had an indignant expression, and his right hand was already pressed on his scimitar, apparently ready to strike.
Wang Chong smiled and said, "Hulayeg?"
Hulayeg's face froze in surprise. "Who are you? How do you know my name?" He was using an alias in the Western Regions, and those who knew his true name were very few, the majority being his friends.
But he had no recollection of this youth.
"Haha, don't panic. I was introduced by another."
Wang Chong smiled and took an item from his waist. This was a metal token, glossy and black, with a strange beast carved upon it. It was a different style of token from the ones of the Central Plains.
It was clear that it was not a product of the Central Plains.
"Oh, so you were that person of the Great Tang's Yang Clan that Damuge told me about."
Hulayeg raised his thick and straight eyebrows and his demeanor instantly relaxed. His right hand let go of his scimitar, but his face twisted into a look of contempt.
"Damuge is truly interesting. Does he not know that I never do business with the Han? The Turks and the Han are natural enemies, and he wants me to sell horses to the Han? Ridiculous! Hahaha, okay, no matter where you came from or what you want from me, leave while my mood is still good! Beauties, come, let's continue drinking, hahaha!"
Hulayeg embraced the women with both arms and began to drink red wine, spilling it down his beard. He was completely disregarding Wang Chong.
Wang Chong couldn't help but laugh at these words. Unperturbed, he seated himself across from Hulayeg.
"In the old days, Modu surrounded Gaozu of the Great Han. Trapped, Gaozu was compelled to deliver ten thousand ingots of gold, leading Modu to retreat and break the siege of Baideng1. No Chanyu or Khagan has ever been able to resist, so I didn't think that Hulayeg would have such strength of character, to be more upright than the Khagan, placing honesty over wealth. This one is full of praise."
Upon hearing Wang Chong's words, Hulayeg suddenly put down his wine. "Hahaha, interesting, interesting, interesting! I've underestimated you!" His eyes shining, he suddenly raised his head as if noticing Wang Chong for the first time.
"The rest of you, leave!"
Hulayeg glared, frightening those Hu beauties that he had been embracing just moments ago. Crying, they almost fell over themselves as they ran out.
Hulayeg glanced at Wang Chong and said, "So, you've come to give me ten thousand ingots of gold?"
'Modu surrounding Gaozu' was a historical event from one thousand years ago that everyone in the Central Plains and the Turkic steppe knew.
At the time, the Great Han Emperor Gaozu, Liu Bang, had just conquered the world. He commanded one million soldiers and had countless generals under him. At the height of his complacency, he found the Turks knocking on his door. In the end, he led his armies up to the north and encountered the two hundred thousand cavalry under Modu and was surrounded at Baideng.
This was the first large-scale conflict in history that involved pure infantry versus pure cavalry!
Although the infantry were far more numerous, in the present, everyone knew what two hundred thousand cavalry meant. On the expansive steppe, even sweeping away one million infantry presented no difficulty.
Such was the power of a cavalry charge!
It was at that time that the Central Plains truly recognized the power of organized cavalry and began to engage in large-scale purchasing and breeding of horses. And everyone knew what the final result of this project was.
In the era of Great Emperor Wu of Han, a massive force of Han cavalry had been built up to wipe away the blemish of Baideng. This army marched south and north, east and west, in the end utterly defeating the Turks, driving them north past the Tian Mountains. It would take centuries until the Turks finally managed to recover!
The name of that massive steppe tribe was even changed from Xiongnu to Turk so as to indicate that this tribe had nothing do with that humiliation, greatly increasing the heavenly prestige of the Han. Everyone knew this2.
As a result, the 'Siege of Baideng' was a taboo subject both in the Central Plains and amongst the Turks. From a certain perspective, it was even more taboo amongst the Turks.
However, the meaning Wang Chong wanted to express was clearly not this.
Throughout history, the Central Plains had always had the concept of 'the family, country, world3', but the steppe was different. Even a legendary sovereign like Modu Chanyu had been bribed by ten thousand ingots of gold, so wasn't Hulayeg's statement that he wouldn't sell horses to the Han because the Turks and the Tang were at war simply laughable?
This was a discussion between merchants, and Hulayeg was a Turkic horse merchant who traveled all over the Western Regions and worked with the various factions like a fish in the water. No matter what sort of relationship the Turks had with the Great Tang, he would never let it affect his own standpoint, nor would he ever hold any sort of love for his country.
The only thing he cared about was profit.
For enough profit, he might even sell off the Ishbara Khagan!
"What is ten thousand ingots of gold? Is the great Hulayeg, the greatest horse merchant of the steppe, and dealer of so many superb warhorses in the Eastern and Western Turkic Khaganates, thinking about making only ten thousand ingots of gold?" Wang Chong lightly said, his expression happy and content.
Hulayeg's eyes suddenly shone with a bright light. He stared at Wang Chong for three seconds and then suddenly covered his bare chest, his face turning serious.
"It seems like I underestimated you again. Your ambition truly isn't small!"
Hulayeg now spoke with a completely different tone.
"Speak; how many warhorses do you need? Three thousand? Five thousand? Eight thousand? Ten thousand?"
Wang Chong chuckled and shook his head to all of them.
"Twenty thousand?" Hulayeg was beginning to pale. The people who came to buy horses from him usually only bought one, two, three, or five thousand. Anyone who would buy five thousand would already be one of his major clients.
After all, five thousand superb Turkic warhorses was enough for five thousand cavalry, an impressive number. As for twenty thousand, he had never even sold that many horses in one transaction.
If this young Han wanted to buy twenty thousand warhorses, then Hulayeg had to admit that he had gravely underestimated him.
"Haha, twenty thousand? Isn't Sir Hulayeg looking down too much on me? Sir, as the number one Turkic horse merchant, is this all the horses you can really gather?" Wang Chong faintly smiled.
His first batch of trained Wushang warriors was already five thousand people. These people would become the best horsemen. The dexterity they had trained from living amongst the mountains coupled with the speed of a warhorse would allow them to display their abilities to the maximum extent.
In one second, a standard Wushang Cavalry was able to change directions sixteen times, attack eleven times, and even travel under the belly of the horse to get to the other side three times.
These abilities could not be described through phrases like 'knows how to ride', 'can sit stably', or 'cavalry'. Not even the Turkic elites, of a people who were said to live on horseback, were capable of such feats.
They were the ideal horsemen, the strongest horsemen!
Wang Chong needed a warhorse for each one of the five thousand Wushang in this batch. And Wushang had around fifty to sixty thousand people, so Wang Chong needed at least this many mounts.
And in the future battles, the Great Tang would always lose many warhorses. For the sake of stockpiling, a conservative estimate would place his needs at three to four hundred thousand horses.
In truth, Wang Chong had internally estimated that the best number for the Great Tang would be seven or eight hundred thousand, and even more if he could get them!
"As long as it's on the steppe, there's no warhorse Hulayeg can't get. Sir, please, just say how many warhorses you need!"
At Wang Chong's words, Hulayeg's face had instantly turned red. As a horse merchant, he could allow anything else to be said about him, but he could never allow his ability to sell horses to be questioned.
This was Hulayeg's weak point.
"At least this many!" Wang Chong smiled and thrust out three fingers under Hulayeg's shocked gaze. "Three hundred thousand horses!"
"Three hundred thousand? Are you joking?!" Hulayeg cried out in alarm. Not in all his business dealing had anyone ever wanted to buy this many warhorses from him. Moreover, three hundred thousand was no small number.
Hulayeg had been able to buy and sell horses so freely because the numbers had never been too large. If they were lost amidst the herds on the steppe, no one would even care.
And the warhorses would reproduce, so no one would even notice the loss.
But three hundred thousand?!!
Only a blind man would fail to notice this loss. Even the Khagan would start taking notice.
"Ha! So this is how it was. It seems like my eyes were wrong. Sir Hulayeg was not the person I was looking for!" Wang Chong sneered. Though he had seemed so persistent, he now suddenly stood up and immediately began to walk away.
While Hulayeg looked on in a daze, Wang Chong was already at the door, his resolve firm.
1. The Chanyu was the previous title used for the ruler of the nomadic steppes, eventually replaced by Khagan. Shortly after founding the Han Dynasty, in 200 BC, Gaozu attempted to deal with the Xiongnu Federation, invading its territory. Modu Chanyu, the leader of the Xiongnu, lured Gaozu's army and surrounded him at Baideng. Gaozu was besieged for seven days before the Han Imperial Court managed to get the Xiongnu to retreat by sending bribes to Modu's wife.
2. Historically, references to the steppe tribes as 'Turks', or , 'Tujue', only appeared in the sixth century AD, while the Xiongnu were prevalent in the second century BC. The Xiongnu continued to vex China for many years after Emperor Wu's war with them, though at a greatly reduced capacity, until they were superseded by another nomadic confederacy, the Xianbei.
3. 'Family, country, world' is a concept that has its origins in the 'Classic of Rites' in the chapter 'The Great Learning'. In the chapter, it states that when the ancients sought to bring virtue to the world, they would first cultivate themselves, then they would regulate their families. After regulating their families, they would ensure that the country was being properly governed. After making sure that the country was being properly governed, only then could they pacify the entire world. On some scale, this implies that every person has a duty to live a proper life so that their behavior can reflect on the country as a whole.