The Longest Day In Chang'an Chapter 64: Xuchu (19:00-19:59) Part 2
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The arising of the occasion for the prisoner's confessing should be attributed to Es. After Zhang Xiaojing left, Es feeling both anxious and fl.u.s.tered. He walked up to the other side of the confessional and started trying his best to convince the a.s.sa.s.sin, as if he was preaching to a believer.
Maybe it was because Es' words did possess some kind of emotional appeal, or because the atmosphere Zhang Xiaojing had created previously was too horrifying, the prisoner finally gave up resisting. Es ran out in a hurry to stop Zhang Xiaojing.
In terms of interrogation, the "good cop, bad cop" approach was indeed effective in getting the prisoner to confess sooner.
When they were close to the confessional, Es pulled Zhang Xiaojing's clothes and stopped him. "He promised that he would tell us everything he knew, but you have to absolve him of his crime. This person has agreed to convert to a Nestorian and dedicate himself to meditation, and he will never step out of the gate of this temple ever again."
"You'll have to talk to Jing'an Department about this. I'm only responsible for interrogation." Zhang Xiaojing shook Es' hand off himself. This deacon was clearly overstepping his duties, meddling in affairs of the Imperial Court.
Tied up, the prisoner was still in the confessional, but the wooden door was open, so that he could see light. Tanqi was sitting opposite the prisoner as the main interrogator, and Zhang Xiaojing was on the side staring at his face in order to put pressure on him and to observe his subtle movements. If he lied, Zhang Xiaojing could immediately detect it.
Slowly, the a.s.sa.s.sin started talking, claiming that he was a Shouzhuo mercenary. Hearing this word, Zhang Xiaojing knitted his bushy eyebrows.
Originally, the word "Shouzhuo" referred to small border cities where Tang Dynasty stationed troops. These small cities were located in areas of little strategic importance, and they were very small, so the Imperial Court never paid much attention to them. They were autonomous at ordinary times and defended themselves in wartime. As time pa.s.sed by, all Shuozhuo cities became places beyond the reach of laws and the power of the emperor, in which good and bad people mixed up.
From Kaiyuan Period (713-741 AD), the Tang troops gradually declined, and the Militia Department barely had any militiamen at its command. Then an organization called the Shouzhuo Mercenary quietly emerged, specializing in providing mercenary service for local governments, Jiedus.h.i.+ (Regional military governors in China during the Tang dynasty) and rich merchants. Its members came from various backgrounds -fugitive criminals, retired garrison soldiers, sons of peasant farmers who transferred to the border area, as well as large numbers of Hu people of obscure origins from the Western Regions. These members had only one thing in common -all of them were from Shouzhuo cities.
Members of the Shouzhuo Mercenary were well-trained and always finished the job cleanly. A decade or so after its establishment, it became a force to be reckoned with in the territory of the Tang Dynasty.
To their surprise, these two a.s.sa.s.sins were members of the Shouzhuo Mercenary. The circ.u.mstances became more suspicious.
Zhang Xiaojing had dealt with a couple of Shouzhuo mercenaries in the past. To sum up their actions, they were businessmen and tended to keep a low profile. The Tang Dynasty was their major source of customers. Why did they plot with Turks against Chang'an? Wasn't this suicide?
Then he soon realized that the Shouzhuo Mercenary were probably just entrusted with an a.s.sa.s.sination task, and they knew nothing about the true ident.i.ty of the victim. As a result, he secretly told this to Tanqi and asked her to ask questions related to this direction.
As expected, Tanqi asked a few further questions and found that the a.s.sa.s.sin didn't know this Elder Puzhe. He just received orders to hide in the Persian Temple, spy on the elder, kill him immediately at a specific signal and then retreat.
Zhang Xiaojing asked him who sent out the signal. The a.s.sa.s.sin answered that n.o.body did it, that they used a crow's nest on the top of a paG.o.da tree in the Persian Temple. He was supposed to take action when the crow's nest disappeared.
Thus, the two sides didn't have to meet, which lowered the risk of leaking. This was a very common method. It was just that those crows became hapless victims.
"Then who do you answer to?" Zhang Xiaojing asked again. This a.s.sa.s.sin didn't know the ident.i.ty of the mandator, but he must know his superior.
The a.s.sa.s.sin kept silent. This question touched their biggest taboo. These Shouzhuo mercenaries had family members living in Shouzhuo cities. If they died, the organization would take care of their family. But if they betrayed the organization, their family might have to take dire consequences.
Zhang Xiaojing said coldly, "You've already confessed, which means you've already betrayed Shouzhuo Mercenary. You might as well tell us everything. Maybe the Imperial Court will have mercy on you." Having detected a note of threat in Zhang Xiaojing's voice, the a.s.sa.s.sin looked in the direction of Tanqi and Es, desperation showing on his face.
Sympathetic, Es said, "Since he is willing to convert himself to Nestorianism, you shouldn't push him too har-" Zhang Xiaojing suddenly pointed at the doorway and thundered, "Get out!"
This sudden roar convulsed all others in the room. Es was transfixed with shock, unable to believe what had just happened. Ever since he arrived in Chang'an, n.o.body had ever been so harsh on him.
Zhang Xiaojing reprimanded him aloud, "Who do you think you are? Minister of the Ministry of Punishments or Chief of the Dali Temple? Stop making noises and pointing fingers!"
"I'm just... "
"This Persian Temple harbored important criminals posing a threat to Chang'an; you hindered investigation of Jing'an Department, which nearly caused the a.s.sa.s.sins to escape. For these two crime alone, the Imperial Court will uproot this temple! And you still think you made a contribution?"
"Get out of here!"
Es' face went ashen after hearing the rebuke. After quite a while, he ventured to cross himself and said, "I'm a servant of G.o.d. I court only G.o.d's favor." Then he bowed deeply, turned around and walked away with a stagger, as if he just took a terrible blow.
Watching his receding figure, Tanqi sighed. She was a little sympathetic towards this narcissistic, naive Nestorian monk, but the current situation was dire, and being merciful wouldn't help, which was why Zhang Xiaojing acted furiously.
Upon seeing Zhang Xiaojing's venting his anger on Es, the a.s.sa.s.sin was also a little scared. Zhang Xiaojing smacked his palm onto the table and said, "Let me tell you something. This people you killed was a Turk named Yousha. He formulated a plan for a group of conspirators. They're going to destroy the whole Chang'an City tonight. The task you received was to do away with an accomplice for those conspirators."
The pupils of the a.s.sa.s.sin abruptly contracted. He didn't know the ident.i.ty of Yousha, and neither could he understand the complex relations involved in this matter, but he did know what would happen if the Chang'an was destroyed.
"Shouzhuo Mercenary a.s.sisted enemies in their operations against the Imperial Court. Not only your organization but also all Shouzhuo cities in border areas will be purged."
The a.s.sa.s.sin stayed silent, but his eyebrows were quivering. "Purge" was merely two Chinese characters, but they meant that over a hundred thousand Shouzhuo citizens, including women and children, would end up becoming cheap slaves. The Imperial Court of the Tang dynasty was undoubtedly ruthless enough to do this.
"Tell me who your superior is, for Shouzhuo mercenaries' own sake." Zhang Xiaojing made his final move.
Finally, the a.s.sa.s.sin's mental defense completely broke down. Hands over his face, he stammered and uttered an address. "Ping... Pingkang Fang. We get our accommodation arrangements and mandates in the Liu's Bookstore in the fang."
First, Zhang Xiaojing was stunned, but after a brief moment, he felt that it made perfect sense.
In Pingkang Fang, there were not only brothels but also Auxiliary Divisions of Jiedus.h.i.+ of ten prefectures -Fanyang, Hedong, Pinglu, Shuofang, Hexi, Anxi, Beiting, Longyou, Jiannan and Lingnan.
These ten Auxiliary Divisions were responsible for handling various affairs for the ten Jiedus.h.i.+ when they were in the capital city, from transferring money and provisions, social intercourse, submission of letter to the throne, to their family members' travel arrangements, procurement of gifts, etc. Auxiliary Divisions also had a confidential duty, which was acting as intelligence relay stations. They collected local intelligence and reported it to the Imperial Court. Meanwhile, they also acted as spies planted in the Imperial Court by Jiedus.h.i.+.
Turkish Wolf Guards' plan to attack the capital city was discovered by Shuofang Auxiliary Division who then reported it to the Imperial Court. Jing'an Department took over the case afterwards.
All Jiedus.h.i.+ were big customers of the Shouzhuo Mercenary. Under normal circ.u.mstances, they had their respective Auxiliary Divisions to issue mandates. The Shouzhuo Mercenary put a liaison office in Pingkang Fang, so it was very convenient for communication.
'It seems that I'm destined to enter Pingkang Fang for a second time today.'
Thinking about this, Zhang Xiaojing briefly stretched of his fingers. The wound on his left little finger ached dully. He was just about to depart when suddenly a Lubi soldier ran towards him from outside. Tanqi recognized him. He was the one she sent to Jing'an Department in Guangde Fang to report. She stopped him and asked him why he returned.
"Jing'an Department's under attack!" the soldier said in a tearful voice with uneven breathing. "The whole main hall is on fire!"
Before the fire grew, extremely thick black smoke billowed upwards into the night sky like a giant black dragon drawn with splash-ink technique, accompanied by numerous sparks. The smoke was extremely black and thick, and it also had a pungent odor. The night sky brightened by lanterns in various neighborhoods was darkened by the smoke again.
People on watchtowers, both nearby ones and those far away, were waving purple lanterns at the headquarter in vain, waiting for response destined not to come.
Many civil officials of Jing'an Department flooded out of the front gate and side-gate, every one of them fl.u.s.tered and horrified. Some fell to the ground. Some yelled for help. Some were even running screeching in anguish, the back of their clothes afire.
Fortunately, Chang'an had always been serious about fire prevention in the Lantern Festival. Every year, during the days for the lantern show, large numbers of firemen stood by. On the sight of the fire in Guangde Fang, the firemen in nearby fangs took immediate action, heading for the scene of the fire. It was just that there were too many residents watching the lantern show. Getting to the site took them twice the time it would have taken them at ordinary times.
Those who arrived first were very few, so they could only try to rescue survivors and prevent the fire from spreading to nearby buildings. There was nothing they could do put out the fire in the main hall.
After fleeing to a safe place, many officials slumped down to the ground and burst into tears at the fire. There were large numbers of important doc.u.ments and files stored in the main hall and two wings, but now they were all burnt, which meant that Jing'an Department lost its information database along with its most important insight.
In the mind of every one of these survivors, there was an indescribably horrible scene. Before they fled from the main hall, they saw that giant sand table of Chang'an shrouded in flames: there were huge cracks on the ground of the Rosefinch Street; the Joy Plain melted with flames licking at it; smoke rose from Qujiang Pool; all 108 fangs collapsed to pieces - it was simply like h.e.l.l. Everybody who saw that scene was made difficult to breathing by this giant, ominous portent.
This big fire alarmed all government departments nearby. From Guards Stations in corners of fangs to the Indecent of Jinzhao Office, from Lubi Army to the Praetorian Guards Department, all departments sent people here trying to figure out what had happened. Many residents and idlers were enjoying the lantern and thought that this was some kind of new gimmick, so they curiously gathered around to keep looking.
The Longest Day In Chang'an Chapter 64: Xuchu (19:00-19:59) Part 2
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The Longest Day In Chang'an Chapter 64: Xuchu (19:00-19:59) Part 2 summary
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