Chapter 930: Darkness Descends; the Undercurrent Surges!
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
It wasn’t just Gao Xianzhi who brightened up at Wang Chong’s words, but all the other Anxi generals present in the reception hall too. They had never heard this sort of military theory before, and even Gao Xianzhi found it rather new. Only Wang Yan and Wang Fu showed little reaction, as they were already used to it.
“Lord Protector-General’s words are truly enlightening. Water is unconstant and ever-changing. I did not think Milord would understand this military principle merely through observing nature!” Cheng Qianli praised Wang Chong, his heart full of admiration1.
Wang Chong practiced an art of war completely different from that of any other Great Tang general. It was difficult to believe that a seventeen-year-old youth possessed such a high-level understanding of military strategy!
“Vice Protector-General’s praise is too much!”
Wang Chong faintly smiled, neither feeling too proud nor too humble.
Although he had still not recovered his cultivation from his last life, very few people in the world could match the mastery of strategy and tactics displayed by this War Saint of the Central Plains. Even Dalun Ruozan was simply imitating the art of war Wang Chong had displayed in the southwest!
“Leave Dalun Ruozan to me, but there’s still Abu Muslim. If Dalun Ruozan will move at night, Abu Muslim will do so as well. Besides that, given my understanding of Dalun Ruozan, he’s definitely sent a letter to Abu Muslim via pigeon warning him to be careful of us,” Wang Chong said.
“Leave this to me,” Gao Xianzhi immediately replied, a confident and relaxed smile on his face. “After all, I’ve been fighting with Abu Muslim for so long. No matter what he’s up to, the Anxi Protectorate army will ensure that he goes back empty-handed. In addition, we can use this opportunity to probe the Arabs’ weaknesses and see what else they have in reserve!”
As the War God of the Western Regions, Gao Xianzhi had his own pride. He might have still been lacking in terms of an overarching strategic perspective, but in terms of conducting a battle, Gao Xianzhi was inferior to no man. The two Tang commanders quickly agreed to a plan of action. Wang Chong would deal with Dalun Ruozan while Gao Xianzhi would deal with Abu Muslim.
Afterward, the two commanders began to discuss the specific details with the other generals in the room. This went on for quite some time, so that when everything was finally settled, it was already nightfall.
Time slowly passed, and as the sky darkened, the Western Turks, the Arabs, and the Tibetans continued to maintain a stalemate with the Great Tang.
“Ziyad, what news is there from Baghdad? Didn’t the Caliph already agree to send the Mamelukes? Why is it that those Mamelukes that should have showed up one month ago have yet to appear!”
To the west of Talas, in the brightly lit Arab camp, the Governor of Iron and Blood, Abu Muslim, sat in an enormous throne made of gold and iron, looking at his Deputy Governor Ziyad, who stood at the lead of the assembled Arab generals.
“Lord Governor, I’ve sent letters requesting news many times ,” the bowed Ziyad said. “From the news we’ve received from the rear, it appears that yet another revolt has occurred in Khorasan. The rebels have colluded with old Sassanid nobles and are stirring trouble again. The Caliph views this matter with utmost seriousness, so he dispatched the Mamelukes to suppress the rebellion.”
Abu Muslim’s brows subtly creased at this news. The Sassanid Dynasty was one of the empires conquered by the Arabs, as well as the strongest opponent they had encountered in their expansion. Khorasan was once the eastern part of the Sassanid Dynasty.
Although the Arabs had conquered the Sassanid Dynasty, there were still many surviving remnants that would occasionally start rebellions against the Arabs. The region of Khorasan was home to the fiercest of these revolts. The Arab Caliphs were constantly vexed by these rebellions, so they had always done their utmost to suppress the region.
When Abu Muslim became Governor of the East, he had conducted his own harsh suppression campaign, but he had never imagined that another revolt would crop up so soon after he had vanquished the last one.
“Have we still not captured those Sassanid nobles?” Abu Muslim said with a frown, a sharp light flitting through his eyes.
“No. Those Sassanid nobles that managed to escape are all extremely careful, and they have many helpers in Khorasan, so it’s very difficult for us to capture them. The Caliph sent Governor Yazid to oversee the task, and many notices were pasted all across Khorasan, but just as usual, there has been little result. In addition…”
Ziyad paused for a moment, shooting a glance at Abu Muslim.
“I just received news from the Caliph. His Majesty is extremely dissatisfied with our progress in Talas!”
Ziyad’s words immediately silenced the tent, all the Arab generals lowering their heads as an oppressive mood settled. In the Abbasid Caliphate, the decrees of the Caliph were the decrees of God. No one dared to defy the Caliph. The Caliph did not care about what sort of losses the governors under him suffered, or how many of his subordinates had been killed or injured.
The Caliph only cared about the results!
Talas had been under siege for two months but had still not fallen, garnering the Caliph’s displeasure. If this situation were not changed, Abu Muslim would end up recalled and replaced.
Many Governors of the East had been replaced for exactly the same reason!
Just when the atmosphere in the tent was at its most stifling, Abu Muslim finally spoke. “Talas will fall! The Great Tang will be defeated!” His voice was like steel, suffused with an unshakable resolve.
“Write a letter to the Caliph for me. Abu Muslim will definitely end this battle within two months and will offer up the Great Tang’s western territory as a gift for the Caliph! In addition, when this battle is over, I will start a massacre. Let the corpses of one hundred thousand Tang soldiers mollify His Majesty’s displeasure… None of them will be able to return to the Great Tang alive!!”
Abu Muslim’s words sent a strange ripple through the tent, tinged with a searing heat. ‘Massacre’! Those warriors of the Abbasid Caliphate who understood Abu Muslim knew just what this word meant.
Although this was a source of endless dread for the enemies of the Abbasid Caliphate, to the Arabs who regarded fighting and killing as their mission in life, this was an exciting event that could rouse the morale of the entire army.
“This subordinate will go!” Ziyad earnestly said.
“Oh, that’s right. There is another matter. Although His Majesty has sent the Mamelukes to suppress the Sassanid rebellion, His Majesty has already agreed to the other two of Lord Governor’s requests. Those two special armies will arrive at Talas by tomorrow at the latest, ready to obey Lord Governor’s orders!”
Abu Muslim’s eyes exploded with a brilliant light, his entire body suddenly bursting with energy.
“Ziyad, I will let you handle this matter. Tomorrow, we will bring this battle to an end!”
“This general will go!”
The discussion was suddenly interrupted by the flapping of wings. Whoosh! In the blink of an eye, a small and energetic eagle had flown into the tent, headed straight for Abu Muslim on his throne of gold and black.
The abruptness of it all immediately drew in everyone’s focus.
On his throne, Abu Muslim leisurely extended an arm. The small eagle lightly landed on his finger. On its leg was a thin sheet of snow-white paper.
“It’s the Tibetan.”
A hint of curiosity flashed in Abu Muslim’s eyes, and he quickly removed the paper. The tent was quiet as Abu Muslim read through the letter; not even Ziyad said a word.
“Interesting! The Tibetan has sent a letter warning us to be careful, as the Tang might disguise themselves and launch a sneak attack against us.”
Abu Muslim grinned and casually passed the letter to a swarthy Arab general next to him.
“Although I don’t think that anyone can successfully pull a sneak attack on us, the Tibetan had good intentions with this letter. Nurman, take care of it, and send a letter back in reply.”
“This subordinate will go!” the Arab general known as Nurman solemnly replied.
“In addition, the Tibetans and Western Turks hope to cooperate with us in attacking the Great Tang during the night. I have no objections toward this plan, and it will be of benefit to us Arabs. Nurman, gather your men and have them get ready!” Abu Muslim said.
“This general will go!” Nurman excitedly replied, his eyes glimmering with killing intent as he departed.
No one in the Arab army was more skilled than him at night raids. There was certain to be a resplendent blood-colored banquet tonight.
It seemed like Talas was experiencing the last day of the year, witnessing the final sunrise and sunset. When the sun finally sank below the horizon, the sky swiftly darkened, and a few hours later, the sky over Talas was completely dark.
Whooshwhooshwhoosh! As the light dimmed, the fires of torches began to sputter to life in front of the large gates of Talas, brightly illuminating the eastern line of steel walls. Everything within a range of fifty zhang was clearly exposed. The same scene repeated itself at the western defense line as well.
The two long lines of torches increased the visibility for the watchmen on both defense lines.
At almost the same time, on the distant hills to the east, massive bonfires flamed to life, far brighter and hotter than the fiery light exuded by the two defense lines. These bonfires created a large defensive zone for the Tibetans and Turks. The Arabs to the west soon did the same.
One fire after another, each of them dazzling, made the cold Talas as bright as the starry night sky.
As night fell, three sides, four empires, almost simultaneously went on guard.
“Dalun Ruozan really did prepare himself!”
On the northeast corner of the Talas walls, Wang Chong watched the busy Tibetans and Turks with a smile on his lips.
“Unfortunately, no matter how much you’ve prepared yourself, it’s still useless!”
1. Alas, Sunzi’s Art of War truly seems to be a lost text in this world, as Wang Chong’s words are essentially paraphrasing the last section in the chapter ‘False and True’ of the Art of War: ‘Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions’.↩