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Chapter 536: Argument! Zhangchou Jianqiong's Token!
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
The Tang army closely pursued the fleeing Tibetans. Only after chasing them for ten-some li and killing several thousand more Tibetans did the Tang army finally give up the chase. Vision was limited in this downpour, and the Tibetans were running with all their might, so not even w.a.n.g Chong could completely wipe them out.
But the results of this battle had still completely surpa.s.sed everyone's expectations.
Forty-thousand-some soldiers of the Annan Protectorate army had fought against a force of seventy thousand primarily made of Tibetan cavalry, yet for the price of only five to six thousand soldiers, they had eliminated more than fifty thousand cavalry. This ten-to-one ratio in casualties was something that no one had expected to see.
The morale of the Annan Protectorate army was high, and they were all eager to fight.
"Young Master, what should we do next?"
In a place ten-some li from the mountain range, the generals stopped and began to looked through the pouring rain at w.a.n.g Chong, respect in their eyes.
w.a.n.g Chong was no n.o.ble or official, nor was he a soldier of the Annan Protectorate army.
For such a person to take command of an army was unthinkable. After all, w.a.n.g Chong was probably the youngest person in the entire army, with many of the generals even being old enough to be his father. And this wasn't even considering the fact that around ninety percent of the Annan Protectorate army's officer core had never seen him before.
But no one would quarrel about his command now.
These officers had been fighting Fengjiayi and Jiaosiluo for quite some time, and they had always been on the losing side. Things only began to change when this youth ascended to the summit and took the reins of the army. One could say that without this youth, many of the people present would have died on that mountain behind them.
Heroism did not consider one's background. By now, n.o.body paid any attention to w.a.n.g Chong's age or his lack of rank or t.i.tle.
This youth possessed a talent for command that far surpa.s.sed any of the other people present. If there was one person that could lead them all out of their current predicament, it would have to be this youth. This quality was far more important than the fact that he was w.a.n.g Yan's youngest son or that he carried King Song's token.
This was the consensus shared by all the soldiers of the Annan Protectorate army present.
"We don't need to worry about Jiaosiluo and Fengjiayi for the moment. The urgent task should be to find Lord Xianyu Zhongtong and join up with him as quickly as possible," w.a.n.g Chong firmly said.
He had come to this conclusion some time ago. The soldiers of the Annan Protectorate army led by his father and big brother were only forty thousand, only a part of the initial eighty thousand. If they did not find Xianyu Zhongtong as quickly as possible and combine with the army he commanded, they would be doomed if they ran into Huoshu Huicang.
"But we don't even know where they are!"
At this point, Chen Shusun rode over from the rear, his expression solemn. As the rain washed down his armor, it came away with a greenish-gray tinge.
"In addition, our initial objective was to break out and leave, doing the utmost to preserve everyone's lives. If we turn around, we'll be taking a large risk. Without the protection of this mountain range, we'll be at the geographic disadvantage, and the Tibetans will just run us down over the plains. Besides, Huoshu Huicang and the bulk of the Tibetan army are hurrying over to this area. If we go back to find Lord Xianyu, the delay might mean that we run into the Tibetan army, and I don't think any of us will be able to come away from that alive. And the entire army will be wiped out with us! This isn't Lion City anymore! From the moment we left Lion City, we stopped having any walls or natural barriers to rely on."
These words instantly caused the other generals to fall into deep thought.
Another Annan Protectorate army officer voiced his agreement. "That's right—from the moment we left Lion City, we no longer had a way to go back. Since Fengjiayi has already found us, Huoshu Huicang and Geluofeng probably already know where we are and their armies are probably headed for us right now. Each moment we tarry here increase the danger that we're in!"
"The Annan Protectorate army definitely can't be buried here. If the army is wiped, the Annan Protectorate will exist only in name!" another officer agreed.
Another commander rode his horse forward and said, "In truth, before we attempted the breakout, everyone already understood. The combined army of Mengshe Zhao and Ü-Tsang is sweeping away everything before it, and it's not something any of us can stop. It's wishful thinking to hope that everyone can retreat. There are some people who simply won't be able to escape, everything depending on one's own luck. That's how it is for us and everyone else. I'm sure Lord Xianyu understands this principle as well. Everyone will have to depend on themselves to see if they can escape."
What followed was a long silence.
The only sound was that of raindrops plinking against armor. w.a.n.g Chong said nothing, but as his gaze swept over the surrounding generals of the southwest, his brow slowly furrowed.
I didn't think that Xianyu Zhongtong would lose the confidence of the Annan Protectorate army so quickly, w.a.n.g Chong quietly said to himself. When Zhangchou Jianqiong entered the capital, Xianyu Zhongtong was hurriedly promoted. Perhaps it would have been fine if he had some merit to make up for his defeats, but after the defeat in the southwest and the loss of more than one hundred thousand elites on the Erhai plains, there are probably many people unhappy with him! They're just not saying it right now, that's all.
He had never clearly understood what had happened with the Annan Protectorate army's mobilization, but now that he thought about it, there had probably been many dissatisfied voices in the army, and perhaps quite a few who objected to Zhangchou Jianqiong's choice for promotion. The loss at Erhai had caused Xianyu Zhongtong to completely lose the hearts of his soldiers.
Many people were stepping up to oppose w.a.n.g Chong's decision now only because they wanted to vent their discontent.
The army hasn't even gotten out of desperate straits and the Annan Protectorate army's officers are already arguing with each other. This definitely isn't a good thing!
w.a.n.g Chong mentally sighed.
He finally understood why a part of the Annan Protectorate army had followed his big brother and father while another part had followed Xianyu Zhongtong. Objectively speaking, Xianyu Zhongtong definitely held a great deal of responsibility for the defeat on the Erhai plains, but one also had to frankly admit that this was because Xianyu Zhongtong didn't have the ability to be a protector-general.
And this was a result of Zhangchou Jianqiong's selfishness. But if one cast this aside, Xianyu Zhongtong was actually a rather decent commander. During this upheaval, he had never once thought about throwing in his lot with the enemy. This was the final result that could be expected when someone incapable was promoted to a high position.
Thus, w.a.n.g Chong actually didn't have that bad an impression of him.
As these thoughts flew through his mind, w.a.n.g Chong quickly reached a decision. His right hand reached into his bosom, to a place very close to his chest, and extracted an object. It was not King Song's dazzling token, but some pitch-black object.
"Ah! This is… the Protector-General's token!"
At first, the officers had viewed w.a.n.g Chong's actions with confusion, but as they began to clearly make out the black tigerhead token that w.a.n.g Chong wielded high in the air, all of them felt a s.h.i.+ver in their bodies and hurriedly bowed. The officers who had protested the most even dismounted their horses in fright and got down on one knee.
"I didn't think that Young Master would have Lord Protector-General's token. Does Milord have any order that he wished to pa.s.s on?"
The officers all had their heads lowered, their voices tinged with respect, panic, and unease.
This effect was not something that w.a.n.g Chong could produce using King Song's token.
Zhangchou Jianqiong had been Protector-General of the southwest for several decades, ruling with an iron fist and gaining the t.i.tle of Tiger of the Empire. When he stood guard, Mengshe Zhao and Ü-Tsang remained apprehensive, not daring to act rashly. Geluofeng and Dalun Ruozan had waited for Zhangchou Jianqiong to move to the capital before starting their war.
One could easily imagine Zhangchou Jianqiong's reputation in the southwest.
Zhangchou Jianqiong had made the southwest his territory, a fact evident from the scene taking place before w.a.n.g Chong. Though he had now been Minister of War for months, the officers of the southwest still respectfully referred to him as 'Protector-General' and not 'Minister'.
It seems that requesting Zhangchou Jianqiong's private token before leaving was the correct decision.
w.a.n.g Chong mentally sighed as he looked on.
Xianyu Zhongtong had already lost the confidence of his troops, and the grudges they held were too deep. In other words, the southwest was actually in a leaderless state. Not even King Song's token could do anything about this. But Zhangchou Jianqiong's token… this was currently the only method to mollify all the current conflicts and have all the officers of the southwest listen to his orders.
"To see the token is the same as seeing the person. I presume that Lord Zhangchou has told all of you this," w.a.n.g Chong calmly said, unaware that a faint coercive aura was slowly rising from his body.
"Before leaving for the southwest, I discussed the matter with Lord Zhangchou. Milord said that once I arrive here, all the matters of the southwest will fall under my authority, and that I will handle matters in his place. Thus, anyone who dares to defy my orders will be executed. All will be carried out with his full authority. Do you understand?"
w.a.n.g Chong's voice was composed and stern. At this moment, there was none of the childishness of youth. Not even the veteran officers of the army could compare to him right now.
"Since Young Master has Lord Protector-General's token, we will naturally unflinchingly follow Young Master's orders! We will be at your beck and call!"
The officers lowered their heads, none of them even daring to breathe too loudly.
On the side, Chen Shusun watched on in amazement, his entire person stupefied.
King Song's token, Zhangchou Jianqiong's token…
These two extremely important symbols of authority were not something that ordinary people could even dream of holding, but w.a.n.g Chong had both of them. Chen Shusun had always believed that w.a.n.g Chong had run off on his own to the southwest. Now, however, not even he understood what was really happening. The Youngest Master of the clan seemed to be hiding more secrets than he had imagined.
"There's no need for you to follow my beck and call, but there is one thing that I must make clear. The geography of the southwest is relatively flat, with few mountains and many hills. Do any of you believe that we can really run faster than the Tibetan cavalry? From the start, escaping the southwest and safely retreating was an impossibility. We have no other choice but to fight.
"And if we want to survive this war, the only way is for everyone to remain united. If we band together, we can increase our chances of survival, but if we go our own ways, the combined army of Mengshe Zhao and Ü-Tsang can individually deal with us, and none of us will walk away alive!"