Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
"Hmph! Hahaha… so you want to throw in your lot with Youzhou?!"
In this tense atmosphere, Lu Ting began to laugh.
Even though he was surrounded by tigers and wolves and might die at any moment, and though he was just a scholar, Lu Ting wasn't one bit afraid.
"You Youzhou rebels are quite bold! Just a bunch of slaves! Who gave you the courage to bite back against the Imperial Court and make an enemy of the Tang army!?"
Lu Ting angrily smiled upon hearing this demand from the Youzhou rebels.
"Ishbara Khagan, do you think the same way? Or perhaps you were already intent on making an enemy of the Great Tang?"
Lu Ting looked toward Ishbara Khagan.
"We have said nothing," Ishbara Khagan sternly said, his stony face devoid of emotion. It was like what was unfolding before his eyes had nothing to do with him.
No one knew what the Western Turkic Khagan was thinking at this moment.
"Haha, the fire is burning your eyebrows, but Khagan still wants to benefit from both sides?
"The Western Turkic Khaganate is not a small country, and the only reason all the other armies have yet to move is because they are waiting for the Western Turks to make a decision. Khagan wishes to sit on the sidelines and extort both sides, but I worry that the other countries won't let the Western Turks do so!"
The Youzhou commander coldly chuckled.
"We did not have this intention!"
Ishbara Khagan finally couldn't help but raise an eyebrow.
He truly had once thought about sitting on the side and watching the tigers of the Great Tang and the alliance battle it out, but the other countries weren't fools. This was why he was now playing host to three different foreign missions.
The Youzhou commander sneered.
In the current situation, Ishbara Khagan could no longer keep playing off all the parties against each other. No matter what, he needed to make his decision today.
"I will make this declaration. If the Western Turks continue to refuse to make their stance known, the first to be destroyed will be the Western Turkic Khaganate!" the Youzhou commander bluntly said, scanning the tent with a challenging gaze.
All the Western Turks in the tent were enraged.
This was the Western Turkic Khaganate, and this man dared to threaten it right in front of them? This was far too arrogant! Even Duwu Sili and Wunu Shibi were angered.
Ishbara Khagan let out a long sigh and suddenly turned to Fourth Prince Barshad.
"Did you hear what they said? Little Bar, it will be difficult to bring a good end to today's matter. I am afraid that I must make you suffer an injustice!"
Ishbara Khagan's casually spoken words left Barshad shaken.
After going back and forth, in the end, his father still wanted to kill him.
Barshad felt a bitterness in his heart, and his eyes turned dim with despair.
In doing this, his father was completely displaying his intent to the other countries. He was leaving himself no path of retreat, so as to allay any worries the other countries might have that he could use the Fourth Prince to get on good terms with the Great Tang!
But they were father and son, linked by blood!
After deciding Barshad's fate, Ishbara Khagan turned to Lu Ting.
"Gentlemen, We do not wish to do this, but it was you who forced your way inside. With the lives of the Western Turks at stake, We must sacrifice you and offer your heads!"
"Ishbara Khagan, you…!"
Lu Ting was astonished. He had clearly not expected that Ishbara Khagan would resolve himself and join the alliance, even offering Lu Ting as a sacrifice.
The Western Turkic generals were somewhat panicked.
The situation had changed far too quickly. They had just been discussing the matter of Shamul, and Shamul's body was still there on the ground. But nobody was even looking at it, the main topic having become the imminent conflict between the alliance and the Great Tang.
They were somewhat at a loss for what to do.
But the Youzhou commander by the tent flap laughed.
"Hahaha, Ishbara Khagan, you won't regret this decision!"
"However, We have one problem," Ishbara Khagan suddenly said.
The Youzhou commander froze, his laughter dying away.
"We are paying such an enormous price, even sacrificing a son. Two hundred thousand dan of grain is far from enough."
Ishbara Khagan stared at the Youzhou commander and firmly declared, "If this operation succeeds, We want half of the Great Tang!"
Let alone the Youzhou emissaries, even the Tibetans stared at Ishbara Khagan in disbelief.
Had Ishbara Khagan gone crazy?
Did he know how many countries were part of this alliance? The Western Turks wanted half of the Great Tang? It was utterly ridiculous!
Youzhou, Goguryeo, the Eastern Turks, the Xi, the Khitan, Ü-Tsang… all of these countries needed to be put together to equal the Western Turks and take half of the Great Tang's territory?
"Impossible! At most, we can give you the Guannei Circuit!" the Youzhou commander harshly replied.
A minor Youzhou commander like this didn't have the right to negotiate details. It was clear that Gao Shang and An Yaluoshan had already told him what could be offered.
"We have so many people and countless livestock and warhorses. How could the small Guannei Circuit be enough? Moreover, we Western Turks are elite horsemen, each one skilled in battle. Not the Xi, the Khitans, or even Goguryeons are a match for us. Once the war begins, we will undoubtedly be the main force of the alliance!
"Thus, one half! And no less!"
Ishbara Khagan finally rose from his throne.
His eyes had a profound light, and his body radiated an immense energy.
A sorrowful Barshad felt his heart chill even more at this sight.
He had never imagined that he would just be some unimportant item in the end, a bargaining chip passed between his father and the other countries!
"One-fifth, plus Guannei Circuit! Nothing more! This is the bottom line of our Lord Strategist and His Excellency!" the Youzhou commander roared.
Ishbara Khagan's appetite was far too large. If the strategist hadn't already told him what to expect, he probably would have already left in anger.
"One-third and no less. Otherwise, you can go and fight the Great Tang yourself!"
Ishbara Khagan refused to yield.
All of the Western Turkic generals had been rendered speechless long ago.
This Ishbara Khagan was completely different from the one they knew. Rather than the dignified sovereign, they saw a merchant haggling over the price of goods at the market.
But Ishbara Khagan did not care what they thought. Haggling in the market would result in the loss or gain of a few pieces of silver, but what they were haggling about was how much each party would get of the Great Tang. That vast region was connected to the future of the Western Turkic Khaganate.
He needed to get as much for his people as possible.
Only this would make it worth sacrificing the Fourth Prince.
"One-fourth! One-fourth at most! Lord Strategist has said that if you ask for any more, then you might as well join the Great Tang!" the Youzhou commander yelled as his patience finally broke.
Youzhou, Goguryeo, the Eastern and Western Turkic Khaganates, and Ü-Tsang were the five massive factions. For the Western Turkic Khaganate alone to take one-fourth was as far as they could go. It was far more than the normal one-fifth, and this was truly the bottom line their strategist had given.
Any more than this would lead to major problems.
"Deal!" Ishbara Khagan immediately replied.
With the deal done, Ishbara Khagan's robes began to rustle, and his eyes erupted with bottomless ambition.
He once aspired to sweep over the world, but the Great Tang's meddling had ruined it all. In the end, he had been forced to fall back and fight to preserve what he already had, becoming an unaccomplished Khagan. But now, this cold wave had brought him an unprecedented opportunity.
"Little Bar, do not blame your father. So long as we get rid of the greatest threat that is the Great Tang, no other country in the world will be able to oppose the Western Turks. When the time comes, We will kill Ozmish and swallow up the Eastern Turks, and then We will break Youzhou, sweep over the infantry of Goguryeo… In the end, the world will be united, and the Great Turkic Khaganate will reign above the former Great Tang and Arabia, creating an age of unprecedented splendor!"
Ishbara Khagan was overcome with excitement, an intimidating gleam in his eyes.
He felt as if he could see far into the future, where he was the master of the world, reigning over all living things!
At this moment, Ishbara Khagan was trembling in anticipation!
Ishbara Khagan pointed at the kneeling Barshad and ordered, "By Our will, take the Fourth Prince away!"
He turned his eyes to Lu Ting's group.
"Gentlemen, two countries at war should not execute each other's emissaries, but in order to seal the alliance between the Western Turks and the other countries, We must sacrifice you.
"By Our will, kill them!" Ishbara Khagan callously ordered.
The situation in the tent rapidly changed. The elite Wolfguards split into two groups, one group heading for the Fourth Prince and the other heading toward Lu Ting's group.
Not only that, the clattering of armor came from outside as numerous Western Turkic horsemen began to gather around Mount Sanmi.
To kill the Tang emissaries was a formal declaration of war, a matter of grave significance!