Published at 3rd of November 2019 01:13:56 PM
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Chapter 6
Chapter 6: Si Zheng (10:00-10:59) Part 6

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Translator: DragonRider
Li Bi walked to the table and tore down a piece of wide white silk on the wall, revealing a map of the territory of the Tang Dynasty . He pointed at somewhere to the north with fly-whisk,

“In Aug, the first year of Tianbao (742 DC), civil unrest broke out in Turk . The new Khan Usumish refused to give allegiance to Da Tang and rebelled . Wang zhongsi, the Shuofang Jiedushi (regional military governors), united tribes Bašmyls, Uighur and Qarluq to send troops to attack Usumish . The war lasted for a full year and a half, driving the Turkic Khan to the end of the road . ”

His voice was clear, calm, and very organized, as if he had rehearsed many times .

Li Bi said as he took down a chronicle labeled with red silk from the side shelf and threw it to Zhang Xiaojing . It was a long roll with notes stuck across it . The scrawled notes, long as hundreds of words, and short as one sentence, arranged in chronological order . Looking at a note alone, the content was very vague . But the more the book was spread out, the more frightened Zhang Xiaojing was .

“In early Sep . of the second year, a secret file came from Standby Division (the acting Jiedushi) of Shuofang, saying that the Turkic Khan has sent several groups of Wolfpack (bodyguards) to dive into Chang’an, intending to assassinate the Emperor to reverse the front war situation . Those Turkic wolves are the most terrible elites in the wild, cruel, cunning and extremely loyal to Khan . So, the court set up Jing’an Department to specifically prevent these thieves . ” Li Bi paused for a moment and continued, “Their plan is even unknown to us . The Standby Division and Jing’an Department have tried their best, but only catch the movement of one team . ”

Li Bi gently knocked the pine table with his finger joints, “We had set a trap, hoping to fish other lurkers with this group . Unfortunately, my incompetent team ruined the plan; a keyman flees away one hour ago . ”

Li Bi ordered people to bring all the records of the previous action for Zhang Xiaojing to browse, or to test him to some extent . Zhang Xiaojing read through it and pointed to one of the records, “The Turks come from the grasslands and are most sensitive to the sounds of horses . Sicheng Li, your order to remove the livestock around the warehouse was placed too early, the silence would certainly cause alarm . ”

Hearing his words, Li Bi couldn’t help being frozen . Jing’an Department had discussed how Cao Poyan spotted the trap, and various conclusions came out . Li Bi had always thought that it was Cui Liulang’s incompetence that led to the failure . In the end, he was the one to blame . He had intended to test this guy to see if he had any real skills . As a result, his own mistake was uncovered .

Li Bi was a little embarrassed when thinking about it, and then smiled, thinking to himself, “Isn’t he the man the Jing’an Dep . is looking for?”

Zhang Xiaojing looked calm as usual . He had been general of the Indecent for nine years and handled so many weird cases . It was no big deal to make such a simple inference and restoration .

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Li Bi sighed, “Since the Please-in-urn plan failed, all clues are gone . The only certainty is that wolf guards will take action on the Lantern Show this evening!” He looked seriously out of the window at the sundial .

Zhang Xiaojing was shocked . The Lantern Show had always lighted candles at You (17:00-18:59) . Now it had passed Si (09:00-10:59), at most eight hours left for them .

In the meantime, Jing’an Dep . must find out all the Turkic wolf-guards from millions of people in Chang’an . This was almost impossible to accomplish .

Zhang Xiaojing began to understand why Li Bi was so eager to bring him out of prison . This matter was too important, difficult and urgent to finish with usual means . The young official had to take a bold move, condescending to talk with a condemned prisoner .

Li Bi’s tall body leaned forward slightly, “Can you do it within eight hours?”

Zhang Xiaojing asked, “Why me?”

“I’ve checked your resume . You had dealt with Turks in the Western Regions and should be quite experienced; you had been general of the Indecent for nine years, so no one is more familiar with the city than you . ” He paused deliberately, and raised his hand again, “As long as you finish the mission, I promise you an amnesty . ”

For the condemned, nothing was more alluring than an amnesty .

There was no surprise on Zhang Xiaojing’s face . His one-eye narrowed as if thinking about something . Then he bowed respectfully, “Shicheng Li, thanks for your kindness . I’d rather go back to prison and wait for death . ”

Li Bi’s brows trembled . Why did this guy refuse the only chance to survive, huh?

“There are one hundred and eight Fangs in Chang’an . Even God can’t find out Turks within eight hours . I’m bound to die, and I’d rather wait for death in prison, which is easier . ” Zhang Xiaojing spread his hands, and then turned to walk outside .

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“I grant you an honor of Xuanjie Captain (8th rank military official), plus a job as Wing Commandant, lower 7th rank . Is it enough?”

“It’s not about reward . ”

Li Bi’s face scowled, “I have no time to lose, show me your terms!” He didn’t believe that a man would give up this opportunity, unless he wanted to die .

Zhang Xiaojing continued walking, “I’ve said that this has nothing to do with the reward . I just can’t do it . ”

“Do you hate Turks?” Li Bi suddenly threw out an irrelevant question .

Zhang Xiaojing stopped .

“Of course,” his voice was cold .

Li Bi suddenly raised his voice, “Well, you are not going to sit back and watch the beasts run amuck in Chang’an, are you?”

Zhang Xiaojing still had his back to Li Bi, “There are the Emperor and officials at court, strong armies with tens of thousands of soldiers in Chang’an . How can the arrest of Turks fall upon me, a condemned?” a hint of sarcasm was in his tone .

Li Bi snapped, “Because you are the only one who can save Chang’an!” What he said sounded almost crass . Zhang Xiaojing shook his head to leave, but Li Bi rushed forward, abased himself to pulled Zhang’s sleeve, and then turned his body to stop him, his sword eyebrows knitting in a frown .

“Zhang Xiaojing, I know you have grievance against the government . But what happened today has nothing to do with the reputation of the Emperor, nor with the career of me . It is for the safety of the people of the city! Do you understand? How can you be relieved to leave alone? No matter how you look at it, you have to get it done! It’s hundreds of thousands of lives, human life!”

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Gradually, his voice quivered, which was obviously the result of a surge of emotion . That was rarely seen .

Zhang Xiaojing never expected the young official to suddenly lose his poise . When he heard the word “human life”, his heart was finally stirred . He didn’t know why, the scene of the mountains of corpses and sea of blood in the dream reappeared, and the terrible wolf flag was intertwined with the crying . After a long silence, he finally uttered a deep sigh, “All right, Sicheng Li, you’ve convinced me . ”

Li Bi released his sleeve and stepped back, recovering his composure, “What I’ve promised you are still on . ”

Zhang Xiaojing thought for a moment and said, “I have a request . The government considers too many things, so they can’t do things freely . If you want me to catch the demon within eight hours, follow my rules . ”

“What are your rules?”

“No rules . ” A trace of danger and recalcitrance flashed in his right eye .

Li Bi was clever and immediately understood what he meant . Chang’an involved intersection, checks and balances between all kinds of forces, which would all get in the way of working . If he didn’t take drastic measures to cut the knot, nothing could be accomplished even with four months, not to mention the fleeting eight hours . If Zhang Xiaojing wanted to seize the Turks in Chang’an within eight hours, he must have absolute authority to crush everything, do what he wanted with fully support and no hindrance nor interference by any parties .

Li Bi hesitated, weighing the whole matter in heart, “He has mastered various cruel means during his nine tenure as general of the Indecent in Chang’an . If he acts without scruples, the possible consequence will be hard to imagine . ”

Seeing that Li Bi didn’t speak, Zhang Xiaojing sneered and turned to walk out .

“Hold on!”

Li Bi finally made up his mind . He raised his right hand and showed Zhang a yellow copper-tablet with the words “Jing An Ce Ping” engraved on it .

T/N: Jing An Ce Ping means to pacify unrest and bring peace and security .

“From now on, you are Commandant of the Jing’an Dep . With this tablet, watchtowers in Chang’an, scouts on the street, soldiers guarding Fangs, patrolling riders, city guards and the Indecent of the two counties are all at your disposal . Seeing my tablet is seeing me . ”

Without hesitation, Zhang Xiaojing took the tablet, tied it to his waist with a Jiuhe knot (a complicated knot) . He was the most powerful Condemned in Chang’an from right now .

Li Bi suddenly asked, “I give you such a great authority . What if you run away without a word?”

“No promise,” answered Zhang Xiaojing without thinking, “You select the man and I choose the road, both of us should be responsible for our own choices . ”

The conversation ended . Li Bi rang the bell on the table, calling two maids . They took Zhang Xiaojing to the nearby wing-room, asked him to take off his grey prison suit and helped him change a suit of light clothes, small coats and brown cotton trousers . When he was ready, Li Bi personally brought him to the hall of the Jing’an Department .

It was the center of the Jing’an Dep . , where assembled the elites of each department, summed up the military information everywhere and then deduced them; there was a huge warehouse in the wing-room, which contained files from six departments to two counties, available at any time . Xu Bin was transferred here for his expertise in this field .

What impressed Zhang Xiaojing most was the watchtower there .

Throughout Chang’an, there were two to three watchtowers in each Fang, which was used to monitor bandits and fire . But Li Bi added a new feature to it and created flag bearing Scout . They communicated with each other in agreed signals, flag by day and lantern’s brightness by night .

This way, anything seen by a watchtower in Chang’an could be quickly transmitted to the center of Jing’an . Similarly, the center could issue orders to any place soon .

This system was obviously learned from the Beacon Tower in border areas, even more convenient . The watchtower was set up less than 270m away from each other, the military situation could instantly cross the entire Chang’an . Zhang Xiaojing saw at a glance the practicality of this system: it meant that no matter where he was in Chang’an, he could keep in touch with Jing’an Department through the watchtower, an invisible giant eye overlooking Chang’an .

However, the watchtower system was extremely expensive, and only a geek like Jing’an Dep . could afford it .

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