Chapter 328: The Sharp Bai Siling!
"Lord, your plan sounds feasible," Zhang Lin bowed in response. He had no qualms about Xu Gan's proposed plan. While the recruits from Longwei Training Camp had zero experience on the battlefield, that didn't mean that they were complete greenhorns.
The idea proposed was still a workable one.
Xu Gan nodded proudly before abruptly turning to Wang Chong. With a slight sneer, he drove his steed over.
"In the operation later on, you need not follow us. You should just wait at the back so that you don't drag us down."
"Fine by me," Wang Chong nodded casually. His nonchalant respond left Xu Gan a little frustrated, and he felt a temptation to exert his superiority over the other party.
But eventually, he still chose to hold himself back.
As long as Wang Chong didn't err, Xu Gan would have no reason to provoke or challenge him. Such issues were regarded seriously in the missions.
"You better be!" Xu Gan glared at Wang Chong before beckoning for the rest of the group. "Set off!"
Leading twenty cavalrymen each, Xu Gan, Huang Yongtu, and Bai Siling began heading down the path westward.
Clopping sounds echoed from behind Wang Chong as a ten-man squad leader named Ma Song stepped forward and asked indignantly as he gazed in the direction Xu Gan and the others had left, "Lord, why didn't you speak up against them? Clearing away the bandits on the western path isn't as easy as they think. If that's the case, we would have eradicated them long ago!"
Wang Chong was a member of a respected military clan, so he couldn't help but think that those other leaders were acting way too audaciously before him.
"Let it be, they can do whatever they want." Wang Chong waved his hands nonchalantly. At this moment, Xu Gan and the others still thought of Wang Chong as nothing more than a naive fool. Even if he were to flash his token now, they would only think that he was trying to suppress them through his identity.
Only when they hit a wall would they finally reflect on their actions. It wouldn't be too late for him to act by then.
"Have you participated in this mission before?" Wang Chong suddenly turned around and asked the squad leader.
"Yes, lord!" Ma Song nodded. "Most of our brothers here have participated in this mission several times in the past as well."
"Oh?" Wang Chong was surprised. Even Lieutenant Zhang seemed to be oblivious to the situation regarding the bandits, but Ma Song seemed to know a fair bit in comparison.
"Then do you know what the current situation is?" Wang Chong asked.
Ma Song thought for a moment before replying, "I am not too sure of the latest events, but for the past few months, the officials have been organizing periodic cleanups of the bandits on the road to the Western Protectorate Manor. However, these cleanups tend to have a fairly long interval in between. However, it seems like around a month ago, there has been an unusual spike in the activity of bandits in the area."
"Oh?" Wang Chong frowned. "It shouldn't be too surprising for there to be occasional fluctuations in the number of bandits in the area, should it?"
"I am not too sure of the situation, but in an operation half a month ago, we captured the chief of a bandit band, and according to what they said, someone seemed to have offered them a generous reward to gather the other bands together and form a huge alliance. According to their description, the person who came into contact with them was masked and possessed exceptional martial arts, but they weren't able to clearly identify his background.
"Nevertheless, they said that the person possessed an extremely short stature unlike that of a typical Hu or Han. On top of that, he carried the strong scent of horse milk. Those are the traits of the Tibetans in the west."
"Tibetans? -Tsang is quite a distance away, and Tibetans rarely leave the plateau as well, so they shouldn't be familiar with the geography of the Central Plains. It isn't likely for any Tibetans to be here," Wang Chong said.
Wang Chong did possess some knowledge of Tibetans. It was true that Tibetans had a shorter stature than most Han, but that didn't hinder the ferocity of their soldiers. Their men practiced sky burial and viewed it as an honor. Their greatest trademark was the scimitars they wielded, which allowed them to hack any opponent in two from the top of their steeds.
Very few armies in the world could stand against the Tibetan cavalry as they charged down from the higher altitude of their plateau in wave after wave.
Not even the strongest fortification war halo could guarantee an army would be able to stand against the furious charge of the Tibetans.
However, it was fortunate that the Tibetans shared a trait extremely similar to the Han a deep fondness for their own homeland.
They always felt that the plateau was superior to any other land, even though the Han thought of the environment there as treacherous.
Thus, even if the Tibetans managed to take down a city, they would still swiftly return back to their plateau. This was also the reason why even though there were Hu, Arabs, Persians, Sindhi, Goguryeon, and Nanzhao men here, there were simply no Tibetans to be found in this region.
This was also the reason why Wang Chong thought that it was unlikely for the masked man to be a Tibetan as well.
"I can't definitively confirm this matter, and these were indeed the words of the bandit chief then. After that, the men from the Bureau of Military Personnel took him away, and I haven't heard any news since then," Ma Song said.
There were many military officers involved in the cleanup operations, and Ma Song was just an insignificant soldier amongst them. It was already rather incredible for him to be so knowledgeable about this matter. After all, it wasn't his primary scope of responsibility.
"I got it." Wang Chong nodded as he slowly fell into deep thought.
"Tibetans... One month ago..."
Searching through his memories, Wang Chong seemed to vaguely recall hearing in the training camp that an envoy party from -Tsang had arrived at Great Tang.
However, it wasn't too rare for there to be envoy parties in Great Tang, either.
It's a pity that I don't have a pigeon here. Or else, I could ask someone to investigate this matter to see if the Goguryeons are involved in this operation, Wang Chong thought.
The nature of this mission did not allow one from bringing anything along, and this included letter pigeons. In other words, those who participated in the missions were expected to remain detached from the situation outside, and this included from the instructors in the training camps.
Wang Chong squeezed his thighs together, and soon, he led his platoon forward.
Night set in, and a dense cluster of stars filled the sky. At a distance of two hundred li from the capital, in the region near Longyou, beneath the winding branches of a tree, Xu Gan's platoon of twenty was prepared to strike.
They had just discovered a small group of bandits consisting of around ten people, and they weren't too strong, either.
Seeing his first group of enemies for the day, Xu Gan was tempted to try out his troops.
Despite coming from a prestigious clan, this was the first he had been given control of twenty elite soldiers in this life. He couldn't help but feel a little moved.
Thus, he intended to make a move personally.
"I'll go and clear them, so don't wander around, remain here. When I say these words, I am particularly referring to you. I hope that you don't foil our operation!"
Xu Gan turned around and pointed his finger at the dark silhouette of Wang Chong ten zhang away.
"Yes, Brother Xu. I won't go anywhere," Wang Chong replied with a calm smile.
Feeling as if his punch had landed on thin air, Xu Gan felt extremely displeased. He had been trying his best to provoke Wang Chong all along, but the latter simply wouldn't fall for his tricks.
The other party was truly leaving him nowhere to strike from.
However, the more Wang Chong acted in such a manner, the more unsatisfied Xu Gan was with him.
"Hmph, wait for my good news!"
Xu Gan led his platoon into the forest, and like a slithering snake, they slowly headed for the den in the midst of the rolling forest.
The movements of the cavalrymen Xu Gan led were agile and organized. The various blockades in the forest didn't seem to hinder their movements whatsoever. Upon seeing this, Wang Chong couldn't help but mutter a word of praise for them as well.
It was around half an hour's journey from the main path to the bandit's den. After Xu Gan's platoon disappeared into the dark forest, Wang Chong closed his eyes.
In around an incense's time, a blazing flame suddenly burst into life in the midst of a hill shrouded with shadows in the distance. At the same time, screams of agony echoed in the air.
"The soldiers are here! Flee for your lives!..."
That despairing and frightening voice was exceptionally clear in the silent night. Even from such a long distance away, they were still able to hear it clearly.
Amidst the blazing flames and loud calls of war steeds, one could vaguely see the silhouettes of the charging soldiers, as well as bandits fleeing in all directions.
"Xu Gan failed?"
Gazing at the mountain, Huang Yongtu and Bai Siling's faces darkened. It couldn't be clearer to them at this moment that Xu Gan's plan had failed.
The cultivation of the bandits might be inferior to the soldiers, but should they decide to flee instead, their familiarity with the local terrain made it hard to pursue them.
What was even worse was that just like what Lieutenant Zhang Lin said, even though the bandits had formed various differing bands, they were particularly united when it came to affairs regarding the government soldiers.
Even if one or two of them were to escape, it wouldn't take long for the news to be known by all of the bandits. This was also one of the main reasons why the mission demanded they not allow a single bandit to get away.
But from the looks of it, they were off to a bad start. Their future attacks wouldn't go as smoothly anymore.
Amidst the shadows of the trees, Wang Chong watched the brilliant flames and listened to the furious shouting from afar with a faint smile on his face.
"You knew that he would fail?" a voice suddenly echoed by Wang Chong's ear, taking him by surprise. Turning around, he saw an exquisite, fair-skinned face before him.
Shrouded in darkness, Bai Siling was staring at Wang Chong with a peculiar expression on her face.
Throughout the entire journey, the three of them had looked down on him, so they didn't bother interacting with him either.
As such, this was the first time Wang Chong was conversing with Bai Siling properly.
"What are you talking about? I don't understand what you mean." Wang Chong shook his head with a smile, feigning ignorance.
"Is that so?" Bai Siling stared deeply into Wang Chongs eyes, her expression revealing her disbelief at Wang Chong's words.