Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
The world fell silent for a moment.
To the north, the army of millions—the Eastern Turks, Goguryeons, Xi, Khitans, and also the soldiers from Youzhou—was quiet. The sovereigns of the countries were also looking at An Lushan, awaiting his order.
This sort of silence exerted an even greater pressure.
To the south, silence also reigned in the steel fortress.
The two armies were in a stalemate. Both commanders had come forward and clashed with their words. This meant that the battle was not far off.
Though the battle had yet to begin, the mood was already tense.
When An Lushan had spoken, the eyes of Wang Zhongsi and Abusi both darkened, with a flash of worry.
The exchange of words between commanders before the clash of armies was not for long speeches, nor was it some superfluous phase that was only kept around for some so-called tradition.
An Lushan had loosed his arrow and then spoken resoundingly so that he could damage the morale of the other side.
As the saying went, 'The superior general breaks the enemy's schemes while the inferior general breaks the enemy's troops.' When morale fell, even an army with many soldiers would fall apart at the first engagement. Moreover, their greatest concern was that though the Sage Emperor had passed, he was still immensely revered amongst the army and the people.
An Lushan had brought up the Sage Emperor and the Taiji Palace incident, for which Wang Chong had no good explanation.
And truly, with a battle imminent, no one was in a mood to listen to long explanations. An Lushan didn't care what explanation Wang Chong gave. All he needed to do was mention the matter, and if Wang Chong failed to handle it properly, the Great Tang's morale would fall, and its army would easily crumble!
This was a true example of 'the superior general breaks the enemy's schemes'!
An Lushan clearly did not have this ability. Someone had to be directing things from the back.
The two of them looked at Wang Chong's erect and determined figure and hesitated. They were concerned, but Wang Chong was the leader of the army. The two of them chose to trust Wang Chong and quietly waited for Wang Chong to personally resolve the matter.
Wang Chong stood tall, his expression calm and confident after hearing An Lushan's words. There was no hint of rage on his face, and as he began to speak, his voice was derisive.
"An Lushan, whether you call yourself An Yaluoshan or An Lushan, you probably spent some time memorizing this letter, yes? Thank you for your trouble, but you don't have the ability to write this letter. If my guess is right, this letter is the work of the man behind you, your military advisor Gao Shang, yes?"
Wang Chong's voice was so loud that not even the snowstorm could disperse it, and it resounded across the region.
Wang Chong turned to the figure of Gao Shang standing behind An Lushan.
Gao Shang slightly raised his brow. He had naturally been the one to draft this declaration of war, and he was not surprised that Wang Chong had seen through it. But for some reason, Wang Chong mentioning this fact right before the battle made his heart uneasily thump.
Seeing that Gao Shang wasn't talking, Wang Chong internally chuckled and continued to speak.
"Sir is truly an excellent scholar. It was truly a pity that I was only able to kill Yan Zhuang at the feast of all countries, allowing Sir to escape."
Gao Shang's heart constricted. On their visit to the capital, Yan Zhuang had died in his place, a matter which even now troubled Gao Shang.
"Wang Chong, there's no need to waste your time with him."
An Lushan couldn't stand seeing Wang Chong intimidating Gao Shang like this and loudly shouted.
"The Sage Emperor trusted you in vain. He raised up your Wang Clan, not knowing of your Wang Clan's wolfish ambition. And you even have the gall to command the imperial army against me! If I were you, I would commit suicide right now in order to redeem yourself to the people of the realm."
"Haha, An Lushan, after a parting of several months, you've truly developed some skill."
Wang Chong laughed.
"An Lushan, since you have brought up the Sage Emperor's favor, let this king ask you: will you comply with the Sage Emperor's decrees?"
As Wang Chong spoke, the world fell silent once more. An Lushan and Gao Shang both felt an ill foreboding.
In this standoff of armies, the two of them had concluded that they needed to take down Wang Chong first. The two of them had played out many scenarios, and no matter how Wang Chong tried to explain himself, he would fall into their trap.
But neither of them had expected this comment from Wang Chong.
Suddenly, the two of them felt as if they had no understanding of Wang Chong's thought process.
"Wang Chong, you traitorous scum, you still have the face to bring up the previous Emperor! I, An Lushan, have always been loyal to the previous Emperor. The heavens above stand witness that I have marched out with my army precisely for the sake of the previous Emperor to eliminate the traitor!
"The heavens will not execute you, but I, An Lushan, will!"
Though he couldn't tell what Wang Chong was doing, An Lushan replied harshly, his face brimming with righteous indignation. His eyes were red and moist, and he seemed overcome by his own words.
"Good! I was waiting for these words!"
Wang Chong coldly smiled. Before An Lushan could respond, he shook his wrist, opening an imperial decree.
"An Lushan, receive the decree!
"You harbored ill intentions, coveting the Central Plains. During the war of the northwest, you colluded with Mutasim III of Arabia, even sending him countless treasures. The Sage Emperor long ago saw your wolfish ambition, that you would stir trouble, so he left behind this decree ordering me to personally come forward and execute you, you traitorous Hu!
"Acceding to the will of the heavens, the Emperor declares:
"We know that our lifespan is reaching its end, so before Our departure, We entrust Wang Chong, the King of Foreign Lands, with several tasks. First, that he should support the country and Crown Prince Li Heng in our place, and second, that he should be wary of the troubles in the northeast and act to pacify them in the future.
"Andong Protector-General An Yaluoshan harbors rebellion in his heart. Once We are gone, he is certain to falsely use Our name to start a rebellion. Thus, this decree has been left behind to prove to the world that We have decreed for the King of Foreign Lands to represent Us in killing this man.
"Thus is the Emperor's will."
Once Wang Chong finished reading the decree, he rolled it back up and then coldly looked down on the distant An Lushan.
"This decree was reviewed by the Grand Preceptor, Grand Tutor, and officials from the Bureau of Rites and Bureau of Personnel, and all have confirmed it to be authentic. An Lushan, since you are loyal to the Sage Emperor and have no intent to rebel, then commit suicide! Prove to the realm and to the previous Emperor that An Lushan has no intent of rebellion," Wang Chong coldly pronounced, his ringing voice reaching the firmament.
On the other side, An Lushan and Gao Shang were both shaken, and their faces paled, as did the faces of the other sovereigns.
No one had expected this move from Wang Chong.
A decree left behind by the previous Emperor!
They had not heard of this decree, and even though Wang Chong had held onto it for at least several months, he had not mentioned it once. It was clear that he had readied this decree to be used against An Lushan.
An Lushan's declaration of war had borrowed the previous Emperor's name, intending to create a good reason for the army to march out while also proving his loyalty to the previous Emperor and damaging the other side's morale. But he had not expected to be caught in his own trap.
As he looked at Wang Chong once more, he felt a tinge of panic.
He finally understood why Wang Chong had been so patient and unhurried after receiving that declaration of war, even smiling as he made his performance.
"How could it be like this?!"
An Lushan maintained his composure, but his fists clenched together while his heart raged.
He had only met the previous Emperor once, and given the situation back then, the previous Emperor shouldn't have seen anything. Otherwise, he should have never escaped the feast of all countries alive.
An Lushan had never expected that the previous Emperor would leave behind this sort of countermeasure.
Everyone turned to him, clearly sensing that the situation was grim for them.
Guo Ziyi, Sun Zhiming, and Chen Burang had originally been tense, but after seeing how Wang Chong's counterattack had entrapped An Lushan, they sighed in relief.
Meanwhile, Wang Zhongsi and Abusi faintly smiled.
Wang Chong was the War Saint, and his status and strength were far above any Great General. Yet An Lushan dared to try a psychological attack against him! All he had done was humiliate himself!
Gao Shang's heart shivered.
He had never underestimated this War Saint of the Great Tang, but Wang Chong's methods had been even more formidable than he had expected. Based on how things were going, it seemed that all their plans had been seen through by the enemy.
He even had the previous Emperor's decree ready.
This had made their declaration of war essentially a rock that they had thrown at their own feet.
Wang Chong had a sharp tongue and many tricks. An Lushan was clearly no match for him. In this situation, it was best for them to end this exchange quickly and start the battle in earnest.
The only positive was that An Lushan had been conversing with Wang Chong in Han this entire time. The Youzhou army was primarily made up of Hu, so the number of people who had heard the decree was limited.
Gao Shang had considered all of this beforehand.
"Wang Chong, not only are you colluding with Li Heng, you even bribed the Grand Tutor and the Imperial Court. You think I will believe you?"
An Lushan was outwardly tough while inwardly timid. Despite his harsh rebuke, he was beginning to panic.
Gao Shang stepped forward and whispered, "Master, it's no longer to our benefit to keep arguing with him. End it now!"
But Gao Shang was still deeply underestimating Wang Chong.
An Lushan was an apprentice trying to show off in front of the master. Had he forgotten how Wang Chong had singlehandedly contended against all the Confucians in the world, throwing them into disarray and even alarming Master Zhu?
Did An Lushan really believe that he could win?
An Lushan had started this psychological battle, but it was not his to end.
Wang Chong was the one to decide when it would end.
"An Lushan, this king does not care if you believe it or not!"
Wang Chong's aloof voice resounded through the world.
"But it is impolite to not reciprocate. I also have a 'gift' for you. Do you see who this is?"
As Wang Chong spoke, he turned around and gestured behind him.