Chapter 868: Backhanded Trick, Secretly Controlling the Karluks!
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
As Wang Chong's army of one-hundred-thousand-some soldiers set out from Qixi, countless eagles and other birds flew in all directions. Such a large-scale mobilization had attracted the attention of countless people. On the distant Tibetan Plateau, ten-some Tibetan cavalry took one last look at the vast army before turning around and galloping away.
"Finally moved out?"
In that underground prison outside the royal capital of Ü-Tsang, there was a creak as a cell was unlocked. As Huoshu Huicang and Dusong Mangpoje watched, a figure pushed aside the hair around his face, raised his head, and walked out.
All was quiet, and nothing at all had happened, but in the eyes of Dusong Mangpoje and Huoshu Huicang, the entire world seemed to shake at this man's footsteps. After so long, Ü-Tsang, the Great Tang, and the Western Regions were finally about to experience a new wave of changes!
The moment the army left Qixi, a massive wolf waiting on the border between Qixi and the Western Turks began to howl, its mournful calls traveling for more than ten li. Howl responded to howl, traveling from the border of Qixi deep into the Turkic steppe.
A few moments later, in a place twenty to thirty li from the Qixi border, five Turkic soldiers turned their heads and called over their own wolves before galloping off. Several hours later…
The loud and vigorous neigh of a warhorse came from the summit of Mount Sanmi, the home of the Western Turkic Khagan's court. With this cry, a muscular figure slowly walked forward, appearing like a god before the gathered Turks.
The skies seemed to dim, all sunlight blocked out by that man's figure.
All the Turkic cavalry in the area instantly lowered their heads, expressions of respect and subservience on their faces. 'Irkin' was a term of address in the Turkic language for an individual of extremely high status. Other than Ishbara Khagan, the Emperor of the Western Turks, there was only one person in the region that deserved such deep respect from these Turkic soldiers: Great General Duwu Sili.
Just like in the Great Tang, although the Turks were brave and excellent warriors, very few of them could obtain the title of Great General, and Duwu Sili was one of them.
It was so quiet that one could hear a pin drop!
Duwu Sili loomed tall on Mount Sanmi, his scornful eyes exuding a light as bright as the blazing sun. He said nothing, only sat on his Divine Sun steed, his aloof gaze slowly scanning the earth like a god surveying the lands.
His right hand waved behind him, and Duwu Sili leapt forward, crossing twenty-some zhang with a single jump. Boom! When the warhorse landed, dust flew into the air and tens of thousands of warhorses neighed in reply. Gallop! Thousands of Turkic cavalry poured out from behind Duwu Sili, churning up a cloud of dust.
Each of these Turkic cavalrymen had a storm of energy around them, and even the five thousand hand-picked elites led by the Black Wolf Yabgu could not compare to them. In addition, these Turkic cavalrymen were also distinguished by their mounts. Each of them was taller and more muscular than the other Turkic horses, each of them seeming to have dragon blood running through their veins.
The horses rumbled off into the west. After the battle at Qixi Armory, the entire Turkic steppe finally began to stir to life once more.
One messenger bird after another flew off. Ü-Tsang and the Western Turks were far from the only ones to react to Wang Chong's expedition, and they were far from the only ones watching. Many of these birds in Qixi's airspace were flying toward the many kingdoms of the Western Regions.
Gaochang, Loulan, Yuezhi, Danhuan, Gumo, Wusun1… even Greater and Lessur Balur. All these states of the Western Regions, big and small, were paying attention to this war.
When the city gate came under fire, the fish in the moat would be caught in the crossfire. Although this was a clash between the Great Tang and the Arabs, the greatest empires of the east and west, it was tied to all the kingdoms of the Western Regions. All of them needed to make a choice in this war.
The surging undercurrent did not only have an effect east of the Cong Mountains!
"What have you found?"
In the darkness, some people were engaging in a furtive conversation. This was not the language of the Central Plains, nor was it Arabic. It was a Hu language that only a small number of people knew.
Within the city of Talas, a soft voice whispered back. "We've found out that Gao Xianzhi has already given the order for the storehouses to be opened in seven days and all the wine, meat, and other food to be given as a reward to the three armies. He's been very secretive in this matter, not even telling us, but given his past conduct, he's preparing to break the cauldrons and sink the boats2 in preparation for a fight to the death with the Arabs!"
The first man to speak clenched his fists. In the dim starlight, one could see that the speaker had a thick mustache above his lips, and was clearly a man of great ambition. More shocking were his sharp and narrow eyes, glowing with ferocity and exuding the aura of a mighty overlord.
Within Talas, other than Gao Xianzhi and those elite Han generals at his side, only one person possessed such eyes: the leader of the Karluks, 'Wanhe Peiluo'. In the Karluk language, this name meant 'King of Kings', and Wanhe Peiluo was the strongest and most brilliant leader in the history of the Karluk Tribe.
Under his command, the Karluks had become the strongest mercenary tribe on the steppe and possessed an extremely high status in the Western Regions.
"We're doomed! After all these years, Gao Xianzhi has finally found the wrong enemy. The Anxi Protectorate army is finished, and he's preparing to bring us with them into the grave! But he won't get this chance…" Wanhe Peiluo's vicious voice whispered in the air. "Guli, have the Arabs sent back a reply?"
"They have. The Arabs have promised us our safety," the Karluk general called Guli whispered back, a profound tone in his voice. "In addition, as long as we open the gates for them, they'll reward us with eight hundred thousand taels of gold, as well as all the gold Gao Xianzhi plundered from the Shi Kingdom. The Arabs have also promised us that in the future, they will support our rule over all the other tribes!"
Wanhe Peiluo gave a cold smile, a dreadful light flitting through his eyes.
"Gao Xianzhi and his Anxi Protectorate army plan to have a battle to the death with the Arabs in seven days, but we'll act tomorrow night and let the Arabs into the city. Gao Xianzhi… won't even get the chance!"
"Yes! Your subordinate will tell our brothers to get ready," Guli immediately replied. "Tomorrow, Gao Xianzhi and the Anxi Protectorate army will become a part of history. He won't get any more chances, and in the future, the Western Regions will belong to Milord and our Karluk Tribe."
Wanhe Peiluo chuckled and gave a contented nod. The names of the Anxi Protectorate army and Gao Xianzhi were known throughout the world, and if he was the one to personally bury this lion of the Western Regions, Wanhe Peiluo and the Karluks would be able to add a most dazzling accomplishment to their list of military achievements, the best gift for the Karluks as they ascended to become rulers of the Western Regions.
Just when Wanhe Peiluo was at his most smug, hurried footsteps came from out of the darkness. Wanhe Peiluo and his subordinate turned their heads and saw that a Karluk mercenary was rushing toward them.
"What's going on? Why all the fuss? Don't you know how to follow military regulations?"
Wanhe Peiluo frowned. Gao Xianzhi was an extremely strict disciplinarian, and even though he had already decided to defect and betray Gao Xianzhi, until the actual betrayal, Wanhe Peiluo still had to maintain the rules Gao Xianzhi had set down.
"Leader, it's bad!" the Karluk mercenary urgently said, a look of panic on his face. "We've just received a letter from the eagle we left at the tribe. The tribe has been surrounded by the Qixi Protectorate army, and all the women, elders, and children have been captured. All of them, together with the cows, sheep, and warhorses, are headed in the direction of the Cong Mountains."
Wanhe Peiluo's eyes flew open, his body trembling as if it had been struck by lightning.
"Bastard, how could this happen? Give the letter to me!"
Wanhe Peiluo was infuriated and snatched the letter from the warrior's hands. The Karluk Tribe had many people, but during a war, the Karluks would have the majority of the men go to battle while the elders, women, and children remained behind in the rear. This was for the safety of the Karluk Tribe.
Thus, no matter how many losses the Karluks suffered in battle, the tribe could continue to reproduce and also obtain compensation payment for the Karluk mercenaries killed in battle.
In addition, for the safety of the rear, Wanhe Peiluo had left a special eagle behind, a mutant breed that Wanhe Peiluo had paid a high price for from an Arab merchant. It was an extremely fast flier, so once an incident occurred, Wanhe Peiluo could be informed as soon as possible.
With this communication channel, ambushes in the rear could be avoided.
But the prestige and impressive might of the Karluks meant that such a thing had never happened before. Wanhe Peiluo had never imagined that while he was fighting together with Gao Xianzhi and the Anxi Protectorate army, someone would attack his home base, especially a Tang army.
When he opened the letter, he saw that it was written completely in Karluk, and it used certain markings that were only known amongst the tribe.
A thunderous roar tore through the clouds, shattering the calm of Talas. Wanhe Peiluo threw the letter to the ground, his entire body fuming with rage.
"Help me get ready! I need to see Gao Xianzhi!"
1. Gaochang, Loulan, Gumo, and Danhuan were all city-states of the Western Regions. Gumo is also known as Aksu. Wusun and Yuezhi are names of nomadic people, though most of them should have migrated out of the Tarim Basin by this time period. In the fifth century, Chinese records indicated that the Wusun had settled in the Cong Mountains/Pamirs. The Yuezhi migrated west to Sogdiana and then Bactria, though some of them also migrated to the city-state of Hami/Kumul in what is now eastern Xinjiang.↩
2. 'Break the cauldrons and sink the boats' refers to a story involving Xiang Yu, one of the major leaders in the rebellion against the Qin Dynasty. After crossing a river, Xiang Yu ordered his soldiers to destroy the boats and destroy all their cauldrons and supplies excepting enough for three days, showing to his soldiers that they would only be able to survive if they defeated the enemy. In the subsequent Battle of Julu, Xiang Yu's soldiers were said to fight with such ferocity that one of them could take on ten enemy soldiers.↩