The Human Emperor Chapter 927
Chapter 927: Generals Gather Strategic Deliberations I
Chapter 927: Generals Gather, Strategic Deliberations (I)
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
"Lord Marquis, you were looking for me."
Zhang Shouzhi bowed in front of Wang Chong. In these last two days of fighting, no one had been working harder than Zhang Shouzhi. As the highest-ranked architect in Talas, as well as the best architect in the Great Tang, Zhang Shouzhi had been personally involved in the construction of all the fortifications, whether it was the two steel defense lines or the hundreds of catapults lining the walls of Talas.
From the southwest to the northwest, Zhang Shouzhi was playing ever more important roles. One could say that even though he knew not one bit of martial arts, his importance in Qixi was second only to Wang Chong's.
"This is for you. Use it to strengthen and modify the two defense lines."
Wang Chong handed over a diagram paper as he spoke. This was a new diagram that he had made after the battle concluded, based on the current situation and how the three enemy factions had fought. No one besides Wang Chong, Zhang Shouzhi, and several of his core disciples were able to understand these diagrams.
"Be at ease. Leave this matter to me."
Zhang Shouzhi glanced at the diagram and gave a nod. Military matters were of utmost urgency, as they were tied to the lives of more than one hundred thousand soldiers. Zhang Shouzhi did not dare to delay and quickly left with the diagram.
Once Zhang Shouzhi left, Wang Chong continued to issue orders. "Li Siye, I leave this area up to you. Strengthen the guard and keep a close watch on the movements of the Tibetans, Western Turks, and Arabs. If you notice anything, inform me immediately."
"This general will carry out this order!" Li Siye sternly replied.
"Xu Keyi, Chen Bin! Hasten the repairs on the ballistae! They need to be ready for battle at any time!"
"Yes, Lord Marquis!" the two loudly affirmed.
Once everything was taken care of, Wang Chong walked through the gates of Talas, entering the city. The city itself was heavily patrolled and guarded. The city had everything a city ought to have, with markets and lounges, as well as military strongholds. All of them were constructed from large stones, and although the city was not as prosperous as those of the Great Tang, it had a grandeur all of its own. From the layout of the city, one could see the former prosperity of this economic and military nexus of the Silk Road.
"Lord Protector-General, this way. General Wang and the others are already waiting inside!"
A waiting officer of the Anxi Protectorate army went up to welcome Wang Chong.
Wang Chong nodded. "Lead the way."
After passing through various corridors and verandas, Wang Chong entered the reception hall of the residence that had belonged to the former lord of Talas. Here, he saw the armored Gao Xianzhi, flanked by Cheng Qianli and Xi Yuanqing. Wang Chong's father Wang Yan, as well as his big brother Wang Fu, were also present, as were the newly appointed Karluk Chief Guli and the leader of the Ferghanans.
The moment Wang Chong arrived, he became the center of attention.
Gao Xianzhi had just been discussing something with the generals, but when he saw Wang Chong, he immediately made his way around the model of Talas in front of him to welcome Wang Chong. "Haha, Wang Chong, you've arrived. We were just discussing strategies. You were the only person we lacked!" There was a smile on his face, and he seemed very relaxed. While the other generals showed little reaction, a brown-bearded and burly man next to Cheng Qianli was flabbergasted.
Gao Xianzhi had a proud personality and was known as the Anxi War God in the Western Regions. All the leaders and chiefs of the region had to lower their heads when meeting Gao Xianzhi. In his ten-some years of service with Gao Xianzhi, he had never seen him be so courteous to anyone. No! This was no longer just simple courtesy.
That someone of Gao Xianzhi's status was willing to go out and personally welcome this youth meant that his status and importance were equal to Gao Xianzhi's and that Gao Xianzhi regarded him as a peer.
"I've kept all of you waiting!"
Wang Chong bowed to Gao Xianzhi, paying little notice to that general's reaction. After exchanging a few courtesies, he strode to the model in the center of the hall and began to carefully examine it.
The model was completely different from the one Wang Chong had in Qixi. It was far more detailed and complete.
Making a model was a fundamental skill for a general. At times, one could use a model to judge a general's abilities.
The battlefield model of the Anxi Protectorate army is detailed in all aspects. From the general topography of the hills and valleys to the smallest crevices and fissures on the battlefield, all of it is here. From this aspect, one can see that Gao Xianzhi truly deserves his title as Wall of the Great Tang Empire and Anxi War God! Wang Chong marveled to himself as he looked at the model.
"Milord, my respects."
As Wang Chong was inspecting the model, someone whispered into his ear. This was a rough and vigorous voice, thickly accented. Wang Chong could immediately tell that it belonged to a Hu. Turning his head, Wang Chong saw a Hu with a rough-hewn face and a particularly striking brown beard. Wang Chong said nothing, only made a questioning expression with his face.
"This one is the Ferghanan commander, Banahan, paying respects to Protector-General! In the future, if Lord Protector-General has the time, I hope that Lord Protector-General can pay a visit to our Ferghana. Banahan1 will definitely welcome Lord Protector-General with open arms!"
Banahan gave a slight bow, extreme respect displayed on his face.
So it's him!
Wang Chong hadn't cared at the start, but when he heard 'Ferghana' being mentioned, a hint of surprise flashed through his eyes. With the precedent of Wanhe Peiluo and the Karluks, the Ferghanans appeared even more like loyal allies of the Great Tang. In the history of the Great Tang, allies like Banahan and the Ferghanans were quite rare, devotedly loyal to the Great Tang to the very end, in both good times and bad.
Even after the defeat at Talas, their loyalty had not wavered.
In the Western Regions, where the culture of the Central Plains could find little purchase and where the loyalties of the kingdoms were ever-fickle, such allies were extremely rare and precious.
Wang Chong's mood immediately improved.
"Khagan is too polite!"
Wang Chong faintly smiled, and then he had a sudden idea.
"At our first meeting, this one just so happens to have a gift for Khagan."
Banahan had originally intended to exchange a few simple courtesies, but Wang Chong's words immediately garnered his interest.
"I hear that Khagan knows the Great Fire Crow Art, a secret technique of the royal court. For various reasons, like the passage of time and the internal strife in the court, this technique is not complete, and Khagan finds it very difficult to progress any further. This one has a certain mantra that might be able to assist Khagan in filling the gap in the Great Fire Crow Art and advancing to a higher level," Wang Chong said with a smile.
"Can I treat Lord Protector-General's words as the truth?"
Banahan's eyes went wide, his face glowing with joy at this unbelievable news.
"There was something like this?"
Not even Gao Xianzhi could stop himself from butting in at this point.
Wang Chong silently smiled in reply. The loyalty of the Ferghanans was beyond doubt, but as the chief of the Ferghanans, Banahan was actually not very well known for his strength in the Western Regions, with Wanhe Peiluo standing head and shoulders above him. This was undoubtedly one of Banahan's regrets. Wang Chong had perused a few records regarding the matter, so he knew that the crucial problem lay in the legendary Great Fire Wuming Art of Ferghana.
A famous internal conflict within the Ferghanan royal household had caused this profound art to be damaged, limiting the accomplishments of the future Ferghanan Khagans. This problem persisted until the future calamity, where the gathering of all martial arts and the collaboration of many intellects finally filled the gap.
Wang Chong only remembered this because the current Ferghanan Khagan, Banahan, was standing before him.
"We'll know if it's true once we try it out," Wang Chong said.
Calling a guard to bring over ink, brush, and paper, Wang Chong quickly set about writing out the mantra to complement the Great Fire Crow Art. Banahan took it and put it away as if it was the most precious of treasures.
After this minor interlude, everyone turned their attention back to the model.
"Although we've won over the last two days, we still can't put down our guard."
The first to speak was Cheng Qianli. As Vice Protector-General of the Anxi Protectorate army, Cheng Qianli wielded a great deal of authority on the battlefield.
"Dalun Ruozan still hasn't retreated, and Abu Muslim still has his main fighting force. Most importantly, he still hasn't entered the battle himself. We don't know how many moves he still has in reserve, nor do we know how many reserve soldiers he has left."
The mention of reserve soldiers caused the mood in the reception hall to turn grim. They all knew that the Arabs were fierce fighters, and Talas itself was too close to their territory, meaning that they could call in more troops from the rear at any time. The Arabs had been recruiting soldiers this entire time, which was why even though the Arabs had been fighting with the Anxi Protectorate army for two months, their numbers had only increased, not decreased.
By the time Wang Chong arrived at Talas, the Arabs had gathered a force of more than three hundred thousand soldiers outside the city.
The reception hall was quiet. In the end, Wang Chong's father Wang Yan broke the silence.
"Although the Arabs are riding on a fierce momentum and the battlefield is closer to their lands, war has never been purely about numbers. We have to look at their overall strength, including their training, teamwork, strategy and tactics, as well as their logistics. If we consider these aspects, I don't believe that there's need for everyone to be too worried. The current task at hand is to discuss our countermeasures against the alliance of the Tibetans, Western Turks, and Arabs."
"My opinion is the same as Father's. Abu Muslim is still amassing troops. If he is not decisively defeated, this war will never come to an end!"
Wang Chong's big brother Wang Fu voiced his agreement.
"Abu Muslim is not very easy to deal with. I've fought with him for two months, so I have some understanding of how he works. He's fond of constantly probing the enemy and then launching stronger and more forceful waves of attacks until the willpower of his enemy is broken. And even if his opponent is not defeated, he will use his continuous assaults to slowly grasp their weaknesses before personally entering the fray. With one lethal strike, he will finally finish off his foe!" Gao Xianzhi explained, his expression grave and vigilant.
"In addition, the Arabs worship battle, and no matter how many losses they suffer, they will never retreat until Abu Muslim gives the order. To the Arabs, as long as they can defeat their enemy and conquer the opposing country, the price paid doesn't matter. In this way, they are completely different from any other foe the Great Tang has faced."
Cheng Qianli and Xi Yuanqing both nodded in agreement. They had both personally experienced the power of the Arabs.
1. The author is quite lazy here with his names. The kingdom of Ferghana is known by several names in Chinese histories. One of these is 费尔干纳, which is a transliteration of 'Ferghana'. Another one of these is 拔那汗, or 'Banahan', which is how the Tang referred to the kingdom of Ferghana. The author has been using 拔那汗 to refer to Ferghana, but here, he names the leader of the Ferghanans 费尔干纳, which in English would translate to 'the Ferghanan commander, Ferghana'. As such, I have elected to switch them around and call the commander 'Banahan'.