48 Hours a Day - Chapter 890

Published at 6th of June 2021 03:00:31 PM

Chapter 890: 890

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Chapter 890: Altrus’s Ear

Located at the back of the statue, those vents were not that easy to spot. If one did not walk to the back of it, they would be impossible to find. Other than the vent holes, the stone slab under the idol was also movable. In other words, the space underneath the stone slab was not filled, built with an arched structure like the Amphitheatrum Flavium.

Zhang Heng removed the slate and saw only a tiny room beneath it, a space that could only fit a child under fourteen. He also found some bread crumbs and a bowl of unfinished water in it. And that was all he found. Hence, he walked around to the back of the temple, where the priests were living.

The young priest who opened the door to welcome him earlier had now gone to bed again and was asleep. Besides him, two older priests and six attendants were doing some chores. Zhang Heng completed a search of their residence without waking them. The search yielded little results, though, so he retreated to the hall where the statue was located, opened the bronze gate, and quietly left the temple.

A quarter of an hour later, Zhang Heng stood in front of the temple of Queen Juno, getting ready to use the same trick to get the gate opened. He threw the stone in his hand, and the next moment, the temple’s gate suddenly opened by itself.

A woman dressed as a priest came out with a group of children. There wasn’t time to climb onto the roof, so Zhang Heng could only roll to the side in a hurry, and that was when he got to the edge of the cliff. When the gate was fully opened, he hung his body on the cliff and climbed the rock wall with one hand.

He did move as fast as he could, but the whole thing happened so suddenly that the first child who stepped out of the temple saw Zhang Heng moving. The child stopped and looked at the cliff where Zhang Heng was hiding with some doubts.

“Priestess Vera, I believe I see something.”

The priestess named Vera glanced in the direction shown by the child and found nothing unusual. She then said, “It’s just wind, Mosmir, let’s move quickly. You will need to get up early tomorrow.”

Blinking, Mosmir did not think that he saw the wind. However, he still obeyed the priestess’s order and continued to walk forward while the other children followed him.

When the children left, the bronze gate did not close immediately. Instead, a male priest walked out from inside the temple. Compared with the priestess, he paid little attention to etiquette. After watching the children leave, he walked to the edge of the cliff, unbuttoned his pants, and was about to urinate.

Unfortunately, the liquid that flowed out from his body was not urine but his blood. A shadowy figure that breathed death came from behind him, slit his neck, and hugged his falling body at the same time. With that, the priest could not scream when he died. He stretched out his hand and grabbed the killer’s sleeve as if he did not want the killer to escape. However, he lasted only a few seconds before he lost his strength completely.

Afterward, Zhang Heng placed the priest’s corpse aside and grabbed his right hand to examine it. There were many calluses on the index finger and thumb. And there were also scars on the arm. Clearly, he had endured tough military training and might have participated in the war as well. Although he was dressed like a priest, he carried a demeanor that was more akin to a soldier.

And judging from his appearance and skin, he was not born in Rome. If Zhang Heng speculated correctly, he should be one of the elites that Altrus had brought from the frontier to Rome, and he also belonged to the group of guards that he trusted most.

It was at that time; Zhang Heng figured out that he was at the right place. Speaking of Zhang Heng’s ability to find Altrus’s hiding place, he had to thank Clint for the information he revealed while they had a long chat at the dungeon. Without him, Zhang Heng would’ve never found this place.

Clint described Altrus as someone that could read minds. Since Zhang Heng was drugged by Altrus before, he knew that Clint was talking about Altrus using a truth serum on others. However, using plant alkaloids like scopolamine to force the truth out of someone had a big problem. One of the problems was toxicity. Zhang Heng did not know the method Altrus had used to neutralize some of the toxicity in the truth serum. However, he was certain that Altrus did not make the toxin disappear completely. At Zhang Heng’s current fitness level, he was not affected after he drank the poisoned wine. This might not apply to the average person.

In terms of efficiency, this was not a good way to gather intelligence. Altrus needed to convince the target to drink the poisoned wine and look for a place to bring the target there for questioning. In that case, he could only interrogate seven or eight people in one day at most. It was impossible for him to know the secrets of every civilian or noble, as Clint had said.

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And Zhang Heng did not think that Altrus would waste his truth serum on the civilians. He should have other means to gather the information. The serum was more like his special move to respond to certain emergencies. Besides, Clint had also mentioned that Altrus made a huge mistake three years ago. The dockworkers on the Tiber River were asking for wages, and they paralyzed the traffic on the river. Zhang Heng was surprised that Altrus did not receive such big news in advance.

It did not make sense no matter how one tried to explain it. However, when Zhang Heng combined all the facts that he knew, he saw the answer.

Altrus was gathering intelligence through the temple.

Temples and public bathhouses were probably some of the few places open to the poor and nobles. And these were also the two places where people like to discuss secrets. When the believers prayed, they would not hesitate to say out their most secret wishes. Similarly, many would discuss business and personal matters in the public bathhouse as well.

What made Zhang Heng eliminate the public bathhouse was the embarrassment that Altrus received these three years. Altrus did not receive any news about the dockworkers in advance because most of the dockers were Jewish. They either believed in Judaism or Christianity, which meant they would not come to the temple to pray to the Roman gods.

There was another reason why Zhang Heng was more inclined to the temple. And that was, Altrus was sentenced to death by the priest in the palace. If it weren’t for his father’s final act of mercy by sending him away, he would’ve been dead when he was four years old. In the end, he lost his identity as a prince, and even though he survived the death penalty, and he would never be able to show his face to the public again.

After many years, he returned to Rome and regained power. Zhang Heng did not believe that he would not retaliate against the priests in the temples. Through this, he could control these temples and transform them into a place for him to gather intelligence.

The hiding place that Zhang Heng found under the stone seat of the Jupiter statue was the best proof for his theory. And the group of children who were taken away by the priestess should be the ears of Altrus.

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