The Human Emperor Chapter 943
Chapter 943: A Long Distance Clash
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
After a few moments, Ziyad suddenly spoke.
"But there is one other matter. The newly-arrived Tang commander apparently had a conflict with Wanhe Peiluo. Moreover, the Karluks have still not fulfilled their end of the deal and opened the gates of Talas. With these things unresolved, we cannot trust the Karluks."
They were too far from the battlefield, and the more than one hundred thousand Tang soldiers lay between them and Talas. Thus, Abu Muslim and Ziyad only knew that a quarrel had broken out at the gates of Talas, but they did not know the specific details.
"If they can't be trusted, then we'll just kill them all!"
Abu Muslim waved his head, his expression callous and cruel.
"That's right. When will the two armies His Majesty dispatched arrive?"
"I've already sent a letter asking about this," Ziyad said. "They're currently en route and aren't far. They should arrive on the battlefield by sunrise."
"Excellent. Perhaps we won't even need the Karluks. When those two armies arrive, we can annihilate the Tang along with Talas!"
Abu Muslim's eyes flashed with a light that not even the darkness could drown out.
Slowly, everything calmed down, but a hidden danger continued to swell.
As a yak horn blared, dawn broke in the east, casting sunlight over the horizon. As the morning sun dispelled the darkness, it shone over the battle-scarred Talas as well as the camps of the Tibetans and Turks.
Thousands upon thousands of Tibetans surged out of their tents and took up formation, their highland steeds valiant and vigorous, bursting with the will to battle.
The sunlight washed away all the scars from last night's battle, and the entire Tibetan army seethed with killing intent.
In the distance, the Tang army was packed between the two steel defense lines in front of Talas, all of them taking up defensive positions.
The scent of war and the murderous intent that had been obscured by the darkness once more began to seep through the air.
War drums began to thunder over Talas. The city gates opened, and countless soldiers surged out: infantry, archers, ballista men, axemen, cavalry… The soldiers divided themselves neatly by type as they took up formation.
As the mood over the battlefield turned tense, an arrow shrieked through the air, flying out from the Tibetan camp. Its shrill whistle could be heard for ten-some li.
"Wang Chong! Do you dare to come out for a meeting?" a stentorian voice called out from the Tibetan camp. It spoke in such proficient Han that it was difficult to imagine that a Tibetan was saying these words.
Three figures rode out of the Tibetan camp in the direction of Talas.
While still around a thousand zhang from the walls, Dalun Ruozan stopped and raised his head to silently wait. His eyes squinted in anticipation.
All was silent, and even though the mood behind the steel defense lines grew tense, the Tang camp remained quiet and still, with no one responding.
After some time, just when Huoshu Huicang and Dusong Mangpoje were starting to get impatient, a young and vigorous voice called out.
"Dalun Ruozan, I hope that you are well!"
A pure-white steed rode out with a bright cry, leaping forward with a young rider on its back as it appeared on the northeast corner of the walls of Talas.
Dalun Ruozan squinted his eyes and turned his head. He had not expected Wang Chong to appear there, but he quickly began to smile.
"After a parting of half a year, I did not think that Lord Protector-General's art of war would ascend to an even higher level. I have only heard of beasts learning from man, but never of man learning from beasts. Lord Protector-General has opened my eyes!"
Dalun Ruozan clasped his hands, a look of 'sincere' admiration on his face.
"Haha, no matter how high it is, I can't compare to Great Minister. Even though you knew that I was prepared, you still sent more than three thousand people to throw themselves on my sword!"
Wang Chong heartily laughed.
In a flash, Dalun Ruozan, Huoshu Huicang, and Dusong Mangpoje turned gloomy. Wang Chong was clearly jeering at them for the fact that their raiding party had suffered grievous losses at Wang Chong's hand. Both sides had sent out raiding parties disguised as the other side, but Dalun Ruozan had clearly come out the loser.
But Dalun Ruozan managed to rapidly regain his composure.
"Victory and defeat are common affairs for a soldier. Ü-Tsang can afford this loss, but the Young Marquis is different. I hope that the Young Marquis can still smile during this battle without five hundred ballistae."
Dalun Ruozan faintly smiled, his expression assured and leisurely, confident and relaxed. Even Wang Chong had to sigh in admiration at this sight.
Wang Chong loudly laughed from the walls of Talas. The superior general broke his enemy's schemes while the inferior general broke his soldiers, and attacking the heart was superior to attacking the city. The moment Dalun Ruozan said those words, Wang Chong understood the reason for this visit.
"There's no need for Great Minister to worry about this. The Great Tang is a land of plenty. Let alone a mere five hundred ballistae, many more can be built in only a few moments."
Without turning his head, Wang Chong swung down his right arm.
With Wang Chong's words, the gates of Talas opened wide, allowing Dalun Ruozan, Huoshu Huicang, and Dusong Mangpoje to see a line of ballistae carted out from Talas on transport carriages. Under Chen Bin's command, they were swiftly arrayed along the gaps of the second defense line.
From a distance, there appeared to be around five hundred ballistae. Last night, the Great Tang had 'lost' five hundred ballistae, leaving only around twenty-five hundred, but now, Wang Chong had produced five hundred more.
Following Chen Bin's order, the five hundred ballistae aimed up into the air and fired. Boomboomboom! Five hundred ballista bolts flew up into the sky, and a few moments later, they came thundering back down, landing five to six hundred zhang from the steel walls.
At this sight, Dalun Ruozan, Huoshu Huicang, and Dusong Mangpoje felt like they had been given a hefty slap to the face, and they instantly grimaced.
"What's going on here?"
"Didn't the scouts report that five hundred ballistae were destroyed? How did they get so many more?"
"How could this be? The scouts can't have been wrong!"
Huoshu Huicang was stunned. The scouts had confirmed the information multiple times that Abu Sangji's men had destroyed nearly five hundred ballistae. The Tibetan scouts might not have been as good as the Tang scouts, but they would never make such a basic mistake.
"We've been fooled again! Abu Sangji might not have even been destroying real ballistae!"
Dalun Ruozan gave a deep sigh as his mind whirred.
"But how could that be? Could Abu Sangji not even distinguish real ballistae from fake ones?" Huoshu Huicang said in disbelief.
Abu Sangji was a fierce general of the Yarlung Royal Lineage, a veteran of the battlefield. It was impossible for him to make such a childish error. He would not have even mobilized unless he was sure of his target.
"I also don't know what's going on, but there's no question that Abu Sangji fell for their trick. The specific construction of Great Tang ballistae has always been a secret, with not even many Tang knowing about it, much less us. At most, Abu Sangji would only know about their external appearance. That fellow must have done something with them," Dalun Ruozan said, a complicated look in his eyes as he looked at the white horse and its rider atop the walls of Talas.
A general was the brains and soul of an army. Any flaw in their moves and actions, whether physically or mentally, could deal a destructive blow to the army. This was why Dalun Ruozan had appeared before Wang Chong.
If he could reveal a flaw in Wang Chong and batter his confidence, it would affect the Tang army in the upcoming battle. But there was no question that Wang Chong had once more emerged victorious.
"With this person in the Great Tang, our Ü-Tsang will not be able to rest easy for forty years."
Dalun Ruozan gave a deep sigh, an indescribable feeling in his heart.
In the Ü-Tsang Empire, Dalun Ruozan's intellect was practically unmatched; only the Imperial Great Minister Dalon Trinling standing by the Tsenpo was able to best him. But Dalun Ruozan was matching wits with Wang Chong, someone who far surpassed him in both strategy and intellect. This made Dalun Ruozan recall one of the classics of the Central Plains.
If the world already has a Yu, why must there be a Liang as well1? Dalun Ruozan deeply sighed, at a loss for words.
On the high walls of Talas, Wang Chong silently smiled at the quiet trio down below.
A psychological attack!
Dalun Ruozan attempting to try out the strategies of the Central Plains on the War Saint of that land was like an apprentice trying to show off before a master. All he did was bring humiliation down on his own head.
"Great Minister! The culture of the Central Plains is broad and deep. I hear that Great Minister enjoys gathering the various classics, histories, and military texts of the Central Plains. Once this battle is over, Wang Chong will sent Great Minister another one thousand books. Read a book a hundred times and the meaning will become self-evident. Great Minister still needs to read more!"
Wang Chong emphasized his last words and then broke into laughter.
"Great Minister, Wang Chong has many military affairs to handle and will no longer keep you company. Let us meet again on the battlefield!"
Neeeigh! Wang Chong pulled on the reins and rode his pure-white steed away, vanishing from the walls.
Even though Dalun Ruozan was an extremely shrewd person who rarely showed his emotions on his face, when he heard Wang Chong propose to send him one thousand books and jeer at him for his lack of study, he couldn't stop his complexion from alternating between green and white in rage. Perhaps only Wang Chong would dare to jeer at a wise minister of Ü-Tsang for being insufficiently studious.
1. This is a line from 'Romance of the Three Kingdoms', a semi-fictional retelling of the events of the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history. Zhou Yu, a talented strategist and general who served under the warlord Sun Quan, was often at odds with Zhuge Liang, the renowned strategist under the warlord Liu Bei. On his deathbed after being provoked and fooled by Zhuge Liang multiple times, he says this line as a lament before dying. 'Romance of the Three Kingdoms' was not written until the Ming Dynasty, many centuries after the Tang Dynasty, and there is no record of this quote in the 'Records of the Three Kingdoms', the official history written on this period, so it is a mystery how Dalun Ruozan managed to discover this quote.