Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
Li Heng looked at Wang Chong and nodded, his entire body relaxing.
"Are you ready?"
"Your Majesty, please give the order!" Wang Chong respectfully replied.
Li Heng became focused, and he pulled out the Son of Heaven's Sword and pointed it at the sky.
"The skies have turned yellow, and a rebel leads the other countries in an assault. We, as the Emperor of the Great Tang, upholding the will of the Sage Emperor, appoint the King of Foreign Lands as the Supreme Marshal of the Nine Provinces to lead the army against the enemy.
"All Protector-Generals, Great Generals, and officials must heed the orders of Wang Chong! Those who disobey will be executed!
"Wang Chong, receive the decree!"
Clang! The Son of Heaven's Sword suddenly turned around in Li Heng's hand and thrust into the ground.
The drilling ground trembled as it made impact.
Wang Chong lowered his head and loudly declared, "The subject, Wang Chong, accepts the decree!"
A pillar of energy erupted from Wang Chong's body and soared into the air.
The heavens once more went through a momentous shift, and in the eyes of countless astrologers, a large star in the region of the Central Plains suddenly began to move northward, away from the Emperor Star. It exuded a somber energy like a sharp sword, and it was aimed toward the northeast.
"Sacred Lord White Tiger! Sacred Lord White Tiger is leaving the capital!"
"A war is stirring! This is an omen for a coming slaughter! The last time the White Tiger Star moved, Arabia was vanquished and millions of people were killed. Now that the White Tiger is moving again, who knows how many people will die?"
"The serpents bite at the dragon, attacking the Great Tang. This has provoked the White Tiger, and once it has begun to move, there is no going back!"
"Calamity! Calamity is coming!"
Numerous astrologers across the realm sensed this development.
"Wang Chong, it's all up to you."
After finishing the appointment, Li Heng looked at Wang Chong, his energy fading and his imperial aura dissipating.
Country first and family later. Now that imperial matters were done, they could once more treat each other like friends.
"Be at ease. I will never permit enemy soldiers to invade the Nine Provinces. Those who offend the Great Tang will be punished no matter how far away they are! I will not let them get away unscathed!" Wang Chong sternly said, a harsh light in his eyes.
Just how powerful was the Great Tang now? It had defeated Ü-Tsang, vanquished Arabia, and killed millions, but even this was not enough to cow the other countries!
Was it because their ambitions were too great, or was it because the Great Tang had been too soft? Regardless, he would correct this 'mistake'!
A moment later, Wang Chong mounted his horse and pulled out his sword.
"All soldiers, move out!"
Rumble! The earth swayed as the tens of thousands of soldiers gathered at the drilling ground began to make their way to the northeast.
The invasion of all the other countries had not only provoked the rage of Wang Chong and the Imperial Court, but also the fury of the people of the realm.
With these infuriated roars, the war machine of the Great Tang began to spin at one hundred times its previous speed. According to the plan, the newly recruited soldiers swiftly replenished the ranks of the protectorate armies. Other than a small portion that was moved to Wushang's City of Steel in the northwest, nearly ninety percent of the army began to march toward the north.
The Divine Martial Army, the Mo Saber Unit, the Wushang Cavalry… all of the Great Tang's elite forces, along with Bahram's Aswaran Cataphracts, began to march toward the northeast.
Countless people within the capital watched as the army marched northward, the mood grim and oppressive.
"Grandpa, we're going to win this war, right?" a child of only four or five asked his grandfather.
"Of course! Definitely!" the old man soothed, but his brow was tinged with worry.
This was no longer just a question of Youzhou. Goguryeo, the Xi, the Khitans, the Eastern Turks, the Ü-Tsang Empire… almost all of the empires bordering the Great Tang had joined in on this war.
The Great Tang had been through a war and a change in sovereigns. The new Emperor was recently enthroned, and the country's situation was not yet stable. It was an extremely bad situation for the Great Tang.
"King of Foreign Lands, it all depends on you!"
Countless people in the crowd looked toward that massive banner, the same kind of hope in their eyes.
No matter what sort of peril the Great Tang faced, it would not be so easily shaken. This was a firm conviction that the people of the Great Tang had developed over countless years.
Winds would herald a coming storm!
The stench of war had reached maximum saturation, and fighting could break out at any time.
When all of the Great Tang's attention was on Wang Chong and the battlefield, a slender figure stood on a wall tower in the southwest corner of the capital. Holding up an oiled umbrella and wearing a cloak of white goose feathers, she silently watched Wang Chong leave.
Behind her, a beautiful maid hesitantly looked at Xu Qiqin.
"There's no need," Xu Qiqin indifferently said, lightly shaking her head as if she knew what her maid wanted to say.
"A true man is born to seize the world. At a time like this, we should not burden him with more. Let him go in peace."
The maid was taken aback by these words.
Winds howling around her, Xu Qiqin silently watched until Wang Chong's army had vanished beyond the horizon.
As the Great Tang's armies gathered at the steel fortress, in the northeast, on the border, drums thundered and horns blared.
The Eastern Turks, the Goguryeons, the Xi, the Khitans… all of these countries had mobilized almost everything they could, and an army of more than one million was gathering in Youzhou at the place agreed on beforehand by the alliance.
The thundering of hooves could be heard far off in the distance, and as time passed, the mood of Youzhou continued to grow more and more somber.
Some six hundred li from Wang Chong's steel fortress, four large and two small banners had been thrust in the snow. Beneath these banners, several powerful figures had gathered.
Behind each of them was a vast army. In this small region, more than two hundred thousand soldiers had been gathered.
"The time has come!"
"Can Ü-Tsang be trusted? Do we really need to plant their banner?"
"Relax! Dalon Trinling will definitely send his soldiers!" An Yaluoshan said. "Although Ü-Tsang's soldiers are cut off from us for now, they can still hold down part of the Great Tang's army. And I trust that someone of Dalon Trinling's strength can eventually break through the blockade and join with our army!"
He maintained his short and chubby appearance, but he exuded a domineering majesty that no one would dare to directly confront. At this moment, none of the countries dared to underestimate this 'slave general'. A clown could have never reached this stage, nor would a clown possess such ambition, daring to want all of the Great Tang.
All of the leaders nodded.
Though Ü-Tsang's army was alone in the northwest, since An Yaluoshan had spoken, they trusted that there would be no problem.
"What of Arabia?" Yeon Gaesomun suddenly said. "Gao Xianzhi and An Sishun are both capable generals with veteran armies. If those armies attack our rear at the crucial moment, we'll be in dire straits!"
Before they swore the oath of alliance, they needed to consider every scenario. No one would be able to take the responsibility for an error, and Yeon Gaesomun had never underestimated the Great Generals of the Central Plains!
With the cold wave's descent, the Goguryeo Empire had already bet the fate of its country on this war. No one could bear the price of failure!
"Be at ease. Once we set out, the Fulin people will also mobilize their army and attack Arabia to hold down Gao Xianzhi and An Sishun. In addition, Baghdad will also send some soldiers. Although it won't be enough to defeat An Sishun and Gao Xianzhi, it will be enough to hold them down," An Yaluoshan calmly replied, his tone that of someone who had already envisioned and taken care of all possible scenarios.
"If that's the case, then I have no more objections!"
Everyone nodded, Yeon Gaesomun included.
A moment later, the representatives of the five major factions, four men and one woman, each extracted a curved knife from their bosoms. They made small cuts in their fingers, each letting a drop of blood fall into an ancient, rectangular cauldron that had been filled with wine.
Though the weather was cold enough to freeze flowing water, the blood of these five powerhouses was hot and bursting with energy.
And once all five had added their blood to the cauldron…
Several Youzhou soldiers opened the toad-shaped apertures around the cauldron, filling goblets with the wine and offering them to the five leaders.
"A toast! For the alliance!"
"A toast! For the alliance!"
"A toast! For the alliance!"
The goblets clinked, and then An Yaluoshan, Yeon Gaesomun, Ozmish Khagan, the Xi Queen, and the Khitan King drained the cups of wine.
An alliance sworn on blood!
At this moment, the alliance had formally taken shape!
Ozmish Khagan, Yeon Gaesomun, the Khitan King, and the Xi Queen turned to An Yaluoshan.
Although it was said that all members of the alliance were at an equal level, An Yaluoshan had already been acknowledged as the de facto leader.
If not for An Yaluoshan serving as the mediator, it would have been very difficult for this alliance to take form.
Moreover, An Yaluoshan was the Andong Protector-General, and he had the greatest understanding of the Great Tang. Letting him lead would make the war effort easier and also increase their chances of defeating the Great Tang.