Ze Tian Ji - Chapter 617
Chapter 617 - Facing Death to Live (II)
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
In these countless years, she had seen many heroes and towering figures, full of spirit and mettle, or cultured and refined, or cherishing the world, or bemoaning the state of the world and pitying the fate of mankind. She had seen countless geniuses and experts, respecting only themselves, or standing aloof from the world, or enjoying a simple life with wife and children. Among these people, only that man had ever made her feel fear. Even though she had now caught up to his level, even if she would often show an expression of ridicule or disdain when mentioning that man, she was forced to concede that even today, that man's name still brought about the faintest shiver of fear in her.
Perhaps it was because when she first met that man, she was just a naive, vivacious, and cute girl who knew nothing of worldly matters while he was a supreme expert sitting high above, the Son of Heaven that, though still alive, was destined to be recorded down in the annals of history as the supreme emperor throughout the ages?
’’Emperor Taizong, you've been dead for so many years. Are you still not willing to rest in peace?’’
She raised her head to gaze at the place where, many years ago, that brightest star in the sky existed. After an interminable silence, she creased her brow.
This early autumn night was truly endless, making it very easy for people to recall old acquaintances.
When the Tianhai divine Empress was thinking about Emperor Taizong, Zhou Tong was thinking about that once-Principal of the Orthodox Academy, Shang Xingzhou.
Zhou Tong was a purely evil person, delighting in the suffering of enemies, and even his friends, though besides Xue Xingchuan, he didn't have anyone that he could truly call a friend. This did not at all mean that he was a maniac, that there was a problem with his mind. On the contrary, he was more clear-headed and rational that the vast majority of the world's people, and this was the true evil.
In order to continue this beautiful life of his, he needed to maintain his status, needed to ensure that nothing could shake the divine Empress's seat upon the imperial throne.
It now seemed that the person most likely to shake the Empress's seat was naturally Chen Changsheng.
Perhaps he would die in a few days, but Zhou Tong would not risk it by silently waiting for it to occur.
This was the problem produced by Shang Xingzhou, the Imperial clan, and countless other great powers. He felt that he had already found a solution to this problem, but first, he had to find the problem.
As he pondered how to crack this problem, he developed more and more admiration for Shang Xingzhou, ultimately even feeling reverence.
This world was the world of the strong. One person could take control of a storm of one direction, one Saint could shake the world in all eight directions.
Shang Xingzhou was fully deserving of the title of expert, a grand master belonging to the legitimate line of the Orthodoxy. Although his reputation was not prominent and he had never ranked within the Storms of the Eight Directions, everyone was clearly aware that he had assuredly already stepped into the divine Domain, and his cultivation was unfathomably deep. But the true reason for Zhou Tong's reverence was Shang Xingzhou's deep planning and farsighted thinking.
In Xining Village's old temple, he raised Chen Changsheng for fifteen years. Without teaching him anything, he sent him off to the capital and then wrote the Pope a letter.
He was still alive. This had originally been a mercy the Pope had shown to him, but now, it became his weapon. As for the fellowship between the two members of the legitimate line of the Orthodoxy, it was naturally also a weapon. And Mei Lisha, as representative of the Orthodoxy's conservative faction, an old man who wholeheartedly desired for the Imperial clan to regain the imperial throne, had perhaps long known of Chen Changsheng's identity, thus causing him to be in such a rush. He had even gone so far as to somewhat pull up the roots so as to help Chen Changsheng mature faster, ensuring that in the short span of two years, he became successor of the Orthodoxy. In this way, when the divine Empress would act to kill Chen Changsheng, the Orthodoxy would have to protect him. The alliance that had never been very firm would naturally fall apart, the divine Empress would lose her greatest supporter, and the Chen Imperial clan would regain the throne!
A trivial matter like sending Chen Changsheng to the capital would shatter the peace of the Great Zhou Dynasty that had persisted for almost twenty years!
Everyone said that the Saints regarded the world as a chessboard, playing out moves with no regret, but Shang Xingzhou dared to use Saints as chess pieces, to use the succession of the Orthodoxy as a means. As for emotions, experiences, and hearts, these things were casually picked and randomly tossed away. Truly an extraordinary schemer!
Of course, this was all deduced by Zhou Tong, because he was also a schemer.
The more he admired Shang Xingzhou, the more he was filled with regret, regret that he had not killed Chen Changsheng sooner.
’’What I want is not the process, but the result.’’
He stood on the stone steps and looked at his subordinates kneeling in the courtyard, smiling as he spoke. ’’I don't care what sort of analyses or judgments you make, I just want to see him dead.’’
He was not a pervert, so when he was executing or torturing ministers, he would not intentionally act gentle and refined or put a slightly bashful smile on his lips. When he did smile, it was mostly because matters had developed in a way that rendered him speechless, so speechless that he could only bitterly smile, just like now.
’’He is a living person, and a famous person, and above all, he is still a sick person...and it turns out that none of you can find him?’’
Zhou Tong gazed at his subordinates below, not speaking of everything that he was thinking about.
Only he knew that Chen Changsheng was a person that was about to die.
Whether he was a famous person, sick person, or a person about to die, when it came down to it, he was a person that should be very easy to find.
The Department for Purging Officials had several thousand spies and even more informants, but they had used half the night and still failed to find this person.
Zhou Tong truly could not help but be somewhat inclined to smile at this outcome.
Seeing the smile on their lord's face, not a single one of the officials of the Department for Purging Officials in the courtyard relaxed, and not one dared to not attempt to smile along with him. The faces of these officials were all very pale, and their black hats were unable to keep out the starlight descending from the sky, making their complexions seem particularly dismal.
Zhou Tong turned to the official kneeling at the very front, his smile fading as he calmly noted, ’’The Imperial Court pays you the highest salary, and I naturally had the highest expectation of you.’’
This official was the high official of the Department for Purging Officials assigned to intelligence. Normally, he traveled without restriction between the various ministries, government offices, and halls of the Orthodoxy. He received no small measure of respect, but now, when his direct superior so indifferently picked him out, he could not help his body from fiercely shuddering.
When expectations were high, the disappointment was naturally also great. He knew that he had to do something, or else Lord Zhou Tong would inevitably have some other method to make him never forget tonight's failure.
There was only a crisp snap, the sound of a finger breaking!
He had resolutely broken the pinkie finger on his left hand. He was clearly in pain his face paled even further and his voice trembled.
’’This lowly official is incompetent. I ask Your Excellency for another hour. I will definitely find that person!’’
Zhou Tong gazed at this official, his expression unchanging. On the other hand, Cheng Jun, standing on the side, knit his brow. In his view, snapping a pinkie finger was not proof of resolution at all. If these were the redcoated cavalry directly under his command, he would absolutely have required this official to chop off an arm.
In Cheng Jun's view, Lord Zhou Tong was being far too compassionate by requiring only a single finger be broken, but in the view of these officials in the courtyard, it was already an extremely clear and terrifying warning. The officials spilled out of the small courtyard. Leading their respective subordinates, they once more dispersed into the capital's darkness to begin their search, their actions and mood even more hurried and nervous than before.
’’Using half a night and still not finding a single clue, showing that he really does have the ability to hide his tracks...he is the future Pope, after all.’’
Cheng Jun followed Zhou Tong into the room, very respectfully pouring a cup of tea for him. Suppressing his voice, he asked, ’’In your view, rather than randomly searching without any destination in mind, wouldn't it be better to find where he wanted to go after leaving the Orthodox Academy, then go there in advance and set a trap for him?’’
This small courtyard within the alley of the Northern Military Department contained countless precious tea leaves, but Zhou Tong only ever drank one brand, the Great Crimson Gown that was produced in the south.
(TN: Great Crimson Gown, 大红袍, is also a type of very expensive oolong tea.)
Right now, the tea being steeped in the pot was the Great Crimson Gown. Because it had not been brewed for long enough, the tea poured into the cup was somewhat lighter in color.
Zhou Tong gazed at the light-shaded tea in his cup and said, ’’If it were possible to guess where he wanted to go, the Li Palace would not also be so hurried right now.’’
Cheng Jun revealed a sinister smile as he said, ’’Then we can just force him to appear.’’
Zhou Tong's gaze still rested on the teacup as if staring at it for a long time would cause the tea within the cup to turn a darker shade.
Hearing Cheng Jun's suggestion, his expression did not change. He gave an indifferent 'oh', then asked, ’’Force him how?’’
As the most wanton of the Eight Tigers, Cheng Jun's methods had always been simple and cruel.
’’Even if he wants to stay far away from the storm in the capital, he still has people that he cares about.’’ Cheng Jun clenched his teeth and then said, ’’Let us go and catch a few of the Orthodox Academy's students, snatch a few of the peddlers in Hundred Flowers Lane. We'll cut off a hand or foot and throw it into Vermillion Bird Street. I don't believe that he won't hear of it.’’
Zhou Tong suddenly smiled as if the tea within the cup really had darkened.
The rich and fragrant Great Crimson Gown looked just like blood.
Bloody and cruel didn't mean ineffective. Zhou Tong gazed out the door. His own subordinates would slip into the darkness with this intention, and it could be presumed that it wouldn't take long for this rather crazy idea to spread to the entire capital and find its way into Chen Changsheng's ear.
’’Did you not ever think that this signifies the formal beginning of war with the Li Palace? Back when Chen Changsheng came here to demand his people back, the Orthodoxy cavalry surrounded me in this place.’’
Zhou Tong smiled at Cheng Jun and asked, his smile containing some extremely profound meaning.
Cheng Jun knew that Zhou Tong wanted to know how determined he was.
He had thought very clearly that he was just like Zhou Tong. If the divine Empress were to lose power, only the path of death would remain for him.
As a consequence, he came personally to the alley of the Northern Military Department tonight and, disregarding his usual wariness, placed all his redcoated cavalry under the command of the Department for Purging Officials.
He looked back at Zhou Tong, maintaining his humble posture but sharply speaking with a heroic aura, ’’Since both parties cannot coexist, we cannot let them advance a single step more!’’
No one could have imagined that at this time, Chen Changsheng had already returned to the Orthodox Academy. To be more precise, he had returned to the lane outside the Orthodox Academy.
He was utterly unaware of the blood-soaked decision just made in the Department for Purging Officials.
He came to Hundred Flowers Lane, not to protect the students of the Orthodox Academy and the peddlers in the surrounding area from whatever wicked methods Zhou Tong might commit in his madness, but because he had other business to conduct.
He stood in the shadows of Hundred Flowers Lane, watching those flickering figures belonging to people of the Imperial Court and the Li Palace, and watching that carriage at the mouth of the street upon which the gazes of these figures ultimately rested.
Last autumn, the Tianhai clan and the Orthodoxy's new faction, for the purpose of suppressing the Orthodox Academy, used the All-School Martial Exhibition proposal to dispatch many experts to challenge the Orthodox Academy, a very interesting story. At that time, he had noticed the carriage at the mouth of the street.
At every match, this carriage would invariably appear.
This carriage had never intentionally concealed its identity. Everyone knew that it was from the Department for Purging Officials.
To merely know of it was not enough. Zhexiu had especially investigated this carriage, and the information that had turned up was now within his mind.
The alley of the Northern Military Department was not at all narrow. Actually, it was a straight street, able to accommodate two carriages traveling side by side. The government office of the Department for Purging Officials was also very large. Besides the sinister prison, there were also countless buildings. That famous courtyard in which the crabapples bloomed was in the deepest part. To reach this place from the exterior of the government office would require a very long time and countless checkpoints.
The carriage returning from the Orthodox Academy directly entered the government office. Driving along the stone-paved roads within, it passed through the checkpoints, those fierce and terrifying Cerberuses not revealing any peculiarity. Finally, the carriage stopped outside the small courtyard.
It was late at night, yet many people in the capital found it impossible to sleep. The same could be said for the people within the small courtyard.
Zhou Tong and Cheng Jun were currently seated and drinking tea, but it was a mystery as to whether or not they could grasp the true flavor of the tea in their current mood.
When the sound of a report came from outside the courtyard, Cheng Jun's mood somewhat improved.
This carriage was bringing back the most recent situation around the Orthodox Academy, a matter which he deeply cared about.
The door to the courtyard was pushed upon. Footsteps rang out and then stopped. Presumably, the official had already halted his steps and was now standing within the courtyard.
Cheng Jun turned his head towards the courtyard and realized that this official had merely lowered his head slightly and seemed to have no intention of voluntarily giving his report, so he couldn't help but frown slightly.
As an important minister of the Imperial Court, his reputation was incredibly disastrous, but his abilities were actually not bad. He governed with extreme rigor, and if this were one of his redcoat cavalry reporting official business so lazily, he would certainly have thrown the teacup and forbidden the official from moving...
But this was the alley of the Northern Military Department, thus not his domain. He seemed crude and ruthless, but in reality, he was very smart. He would never discipline Lord Zhou Tong's subordinates in his presence. Just like a moment ago, when he felt that the official of the Department for Purging Officials breaking his pinkie finger was too light a punishment, but said nothing, so would he maintain his composure this time.
But in the next moment, he found it impossible to maintain his composure anymore.
Because the official in the courtyard had raised his head.
It was a very young face.
Cheng Jun stood up in shock.
Zhou Tong turned his body towards the courtyard, his eyes narrowing, a chill running through his body.
The visitor was Chen Changsheng.
The entire capital was searching for him, but they had searched for an entire night, yet not a single person had been able to find his tracks.
The assassins and killers of the Department for Purging Officials were searching for him all over the place, but he had appeared in the Department for Purging Officials!
What did he want to do?
Zhou Tong quietly stared at the young man in the courtyard, not speaking a word as he slowly put down his teacup.
The Great Crimson Gown tea in the cup had been brewed for too long, so the richness of its color was as dazzling as blood.
Chen Changsheng quietly looked back, his right hand rising to grasp the hilt of his sword in the autumn wind.
In this seemingly endless autumn night, Zhou Tong had constantly been searching for him, wishing to kill him.
Scarcely realizing that he was also searching for Zhou Tong, wishing to kill him.