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Nightfall - Chapter 835

Published at 22nd of March 2019 09:18:38 AM


Chapter 835

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The summer in the wildlands south of the Tang Empire was not extremely hot. It was as gentle as the Empress, called Xia Tian, (Summer in English) and it made one feel very comfortable. Along the way to the south, Ning Que naturally recalled the trip to Lanke Temple he had made with Sangsang. It was here, where he fell in love with this place.

Ning Que and Wang Jinglue rode in an ordinary carriage, and when they reached the Verdant Canyon and the carriage could no longer move forward, they abandoned it and walked. They struggled to find their way between the rocky mountains. There were a lot of Tang soldiers the steep canyon to guard it. The imperial court still had no intention of completely sealing the Verdant Canyon, having plans to recover it one day in the future.

Upon exiting the Verdant Canyon, they saw a plain that was filled with wildly growing weeds. The cultivated lands which were ready for harvesting had been abandoned, and aged, brown blood stains could still be vaguely seen on the field. It felt as if blood would still spurt out of the land should they step on it.

Ning Que seemed to be able to see his Senior Brothers and Sisters standing before hundreds and thousands of troops here in the late autumn of last year. He seemed to be able to see his Second Brother fighting against the world with his iron sword in his hands, and he felt the pressure on his shoulders grow even heavier.

It was getting late. The two rested in the open air between the wildlands in front of the Verdant Canyon. The chirping of the summer bugs grew denser. The bright moon appeared at the top of the canyon between the clouds. Ning Que looked at the clouds and thought silently.

When they awoke the next morning, he and Wang Jinglue continued to the south. What they saw throughout their journey was no different from the previous years. The bridges and running water, the white walls and black eaves were just as before. The famous gardens on the banks of Fuchun River were just as beautiful.

Not a single trace of the war could be seen in Yangzhou City. The greenstone streets were clean, as if they had been washed by water. There was not a single trace of blood. The street vendors sold their wares in their soft local accent. The unique fragrance of ducks flowed from restaurants. If not for the well-equipped troops patrolling the streets, no one would have thought that many people had died in the city just a few months ago, along with the many murders that had taken place.

Ning Que and Wang Jinglue went outside the rear garden of the Chatelain's Mansion. He looked at the clumps of bamboos sticking out of the wall and kept silent. The bamboos had spots on them, like tears and blood.





"That day, the Chatelain's Mansion had ordered the West-Hill Divine Palace Coalition Army to gather the Yangzhou officials in the mansion. Then, they had suddenly turned against them and asked these officials to pledge allegiance to them. When they refused to, they began to kill them. Over 30 imperial court officials were killed, and among them, three were children of the warlords."


Wang Jinglue looked at the Chatelain's Mansion and said softly, "The person who organized this is called Zhong Da Jun. He is an official based at the Chatelain's Mansion and is the son of the Yangguan City's mayor. The warlords had invited the navy to Fuchun River to discuss matters, but had ambushed them. After a bitter battle, many high ranking officials in the navy died, and then, the massacre of the navy on the Great Lake followed. In the evening, the Cui Family's armed forces forced their way into the prefect's office in Qinghe County and the prefecture chief committed suicide."

He had made it clear that the day of the rebellion in Qinghe County was a big event in a few simple sentences. On that bloody day, 3,000 officers and soldiers of the Tang Empire navy were killed or injured, and more than 300 court officials loyal to the Empire were beheaded. As Wang Jinglue said earlier, these officials included the children of the warlords. They had not agreed with the opinions of their elders in the family, and became sacrifices.

No matter how cleanly the green stone streets in the city of Yangzhou were washed, the blood had already flowed. Even if not a single trace of blood could be seen, and even if the scent of blood could not be smelled, the blood had already seeped into the mud through the cracks in the green stones. Not being able to see or smell it did not mean that it had never existed. And since it had once existed, it should be remembered.

Ning Que did not say anything. He brought Wang Jinglue with him and left the Chatelain's Mansion. They did not go to an inn, but instead, headed straight out of the city and to the banks of Fuchun River. They rented a boat with black awning for five taels of silver and journeyed with the flow of the river.

The war had just ended, and Qinghe County was calm for the time being. However, the people did not feel truly relaxed. At least, it was difficult for tourists to relax, so there were not many boats on the beautiful Fuchun River.

Ning Que and Wang Jinglue sat on both sides of the boat and looked at the scenery along the river. They were both well traveled but had to admit that nothing in the world could beat the river if they wanted to discuss exquisite beauty.

The boat swayed and floated through the famous gardens along the river. The boatman explained from time to time the history of the famous gardens, and about who owned which piece of land. He seemed to know all these details very well. Wang Jinglue was not in the mood to listen to these things, but Ning Que listened very seriously.


Fuchun River was very beautiful, but unfortunately, it was not long. The boat moved slowly, shaking and wobbling as it arrived downstream. The two headed ashore and walked through a forest, arriving at the Mei Mountain of Qinghe County.

The warlords of Qinghe County were known to be families of scholars. But they never lacked military and economic support. The Mei Mountain, which stretched for hundreds of miles, was the treasure given to the warlords by Haotian.

Ning Que and Wang Jinglue stood in the remote part of the Mei Mountain, silently watching the movement here. They saw the stewards of the warlords waving whips, the naked miners pulling coal carts, crawling with difficulty. Their bodies were dusted with coal ash, mixed with blood caused by the whipping. They looked wretched.

Wang Jinglue's expression was very ugly at first, and then, itimproved slightly after he observed them for some time. He said, "They should be barbarians captured from the primeval forest and some slaves sent from the West-Hill."

Ning Que said, "Since an agreement was reached, as long as the families in Qinghe County are not as arrogant and stupid as idiots, they should know what will be waiting for them if they still dare to put our people here to work as coolies."

Qinghe County had rebelled last fall, killing 3,000 Tang Empire navy officers and soldiers. All the other Tang Army soldiers who did not die were taken to the Mei Mountain, downstream of Fuchun River, to do hard labor. In the agreement signed by the Tang Empire and the West-Hill Divine Palace, the Tang Empire had asked for the return of these soldiers by the Qinghe County. That was the most important condition. Some time ago, the Tang Army, who suffered inhuman torture, were sent back to Chang'an. According to them, those days were really too painful.

Ning Que had made a special trip to the Mei Mountain this time because the Tang Empire imperial court felt there was a problem with the number of people returned by Qinghe County. After the rebellion, there were at least 1000 people in the Tang Army who were sent to Mei Mountain to do hard labor, but less than 600 were sent back to Chang'an this time. Qinghe County explained that many of the Tang Army were seriously injured in the battle and died after being taken to the Mei Mountain. They had died even though they had received medical treatment.

This was a very reasonable explanation, but Ning Que did not believe it. As time slowly went by, the sun began to move westward, the coolies in Mei Mountain continued to struggle. He walked toward an abandoned coal mine.

According to the intelligence from the secret guards, when the West-Hill Divine Palace's diplomatic corps left Qinghe and began to prepare for talks with the Tang Empire, the coal mine had become quiet and no one ever entered again.

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Ning Que and Wang Jinglue walked into the abandoned coal mine and along the tunnel. As the tunnel extended inward, the top of the mine became shorter and shorter. They had to hunch their bodies and move with increasing difficulty.

They walked for an indeterminable amount of time. The bottom of the mine was completely dark and freezingly cold. The cold wind gathered the pungent smell of decay into one place, unable to release it outward.

Ning Que stopped and reached for his podao. After confirming that there was no danger at the bottom of the mine, he lit an oil lamp near the cave wall. Wang Jinglue looked at the bottom of the pit illuminated by dim light and turned extremely pale.

Ning Que's facial expression did not change. He squatted down and touched the femur of a decaying remain with his hand. He determined it to have been broken by a heavy object. Then he walked inside to see the injuries on the bodies.

There were at least hundreds of corpses piled up at the bottom of the coal mine. These corpses were badly decayed and could not be identified, but he knew these were the people he was looking for.

These people were not killed by knife or arrow wounds, but had died of starvation and thirst, or exhaustion. These people were the heroic soldiers of the Tang Army and had, of course, resisted against torture. That was why the whips had torn away the flesh on their bones, and that was why their femurs were broken by stones.

Ning Que and Wang Jinglue stood in front of the corpses of these Tang soldiers and remained silent for a long time.

The Tang Empire always paid the highest respect to the soldiers who fought for their country. Even their remains would not be allowed to be left out, much less the soldiers who were alive then. The Tang imperial court had not ceased their efforts in rescuing these soldiers once they found out that more than a thousand Tang navy officers were sent to Mei Mountain by the warlords of Qinghe County to do hard labor. Even at a critical moment when the Abbey Dean had entered Chang'an, the imperial court had not forgotten to send warnings to Qinghe and secretly promised to reward them should they release these men.


The families of Qinghe County should be well aware of Chang'an City's stance and would not dare torture these soldiers again. However, in less than a month, hundreds of these soldiers had died in Mei Mountain. One could imagine what kind of torture they had suffered.

Wang Jinglue used to be the Minister of Offerings at the prince's residence. He had lived a carefree life before being sent by His Majesty to study under General Xu Shi. After several years of training, he was now a true soldier.

He looked at the hundreds of remains at the bottom of the pit and said, "We must find a way to send them back."

Ning Que had joined the army in the City of Wei for many years and clearly understood the military practice, but he did not agree with Wang Jinglue. He said, "There is no problem with them being buried here, but a better tomb needs to be built."

Wang Jinglue understood what he meant. One day in the future, the Tang Empire cavalry will rush out of the Verdant Canyon and sweep across the south. Qinghe County was and will be the Tang Empire's territory.

Ning Que said, "I have flooded the Qinghe River Guildhall in Chang'an with blood. Some think that I was too vicious and are worried that it would affect the loyalty of those in Qinghe River County. I wonder if they will still hold on to their views if they were to see this. The loyalty of the people can take time, but the dead will urge us to hurry."

Wang Jinglue said, "There are still many people in Qinghe County who are still loyal to the Tang Empire, and even many of the warlords' children still regard themselves as Tang citizens. Otherwise, there would not have been so many officials who were also children of warlords who died in martyrdom during the rebellion. The only worry is that killing too many of them might push them into opposing us."

"When the warlords rebelled, the people did not stand up and make their stand. When more than 300 Tang officials were beheaded, they remained silent and looked on. I don't know who they are loyal to. I only know that they were silent once. That is being an accomplice, and that is a reason to die."

Ning Que said, "I have a lot of blood on my hands, but they can't be cleansed no matter how much I wash them. Some people don't seem to have blood on their hands, but even if they jump into the Fuchun River, they can never be cleansed."
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