Chapter 641: The Start of Everything, Zhang Qiantuo (II)
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
"Then what of Governor Zhang? Take me to see him. I have something I need to ask him," Wang Chong said.
Everything about the southwest war could be traced back to the battle of Jiange. Zhang Qiantuo's raping and murdering Geluofeng's wife and daughter had resulted in all of this.
Right now, all of the Great Tang believed that Zhang Qiantuo had died in Geluofeng's assault on Jiange. Privately sheltering an important official of the court for personal reasons was a major offense, which was why Wang Chong did not want others to know of this matter.
Wang Chong didn't even want his own father to know. Wang Chong knew that someone of his father's personality had an eighty to ninety percent chance of reporting the matter to the Imperial Court upon learning of it.
Given all the misdeeds Geluofeng had committed as a result of this incident, if the Imperial Court knew that Zhang Qiantuo was still alive, the only fate awaiting him would be execution.
Thus, no matter what, no one could know that Zhang Qiantuo was still alive.
Suddenly, a low and raspy voice came from within the basement. "Many thanks to Young Master for the kindness of saving my life, but I am no longer Zhang Qiantuo, only a faceless man who is too ashamed to see the world."
A large figure slowly approached in the fiery light, and upon seeing the man's face, even Wang Chong was given a start.
"Governor Zhang! What have you done?"
Wang Chong saw that the figure in front of him had placed a strange black metal mask over his face. This mask had no eyebrows or hair, and seemed to be branded to his flesh.
If Wang Chong hadn't met Zhang Qiantuo in the capital and recognized his voice, he would have never imagined that the man wearing this metal mask was that meticulous, sincere, and upright Governor of Jiannan.
"Young Master Wang, this is my own choice. Please do not interfere. Until I find out who murdered my wife and children, who those black-clothed men are, and what is the true identity of that disloyal, unfilial, heartless, and unrighteous bastard who schemed against this Zhang, I will never remove the mask on my face.
"Alive, Zhang Qiantuo has no face to see the world, and dead, has no face to see his wife and children. Young Master, please no longer call me Zhang Qiantuo. Zhang Qiantuo died in battle at Jiange. All Young Master sees now is a faceless man whose heart is dead. I only have one goal in life: kill those bastards and find out the truth of Jiannan. Before this, I will never fall, never!"
The faceless man clenched his fists, causing his knuckles to crack, his body to tremble, and his eyes to go red. The anger bursting from his body was like a loathing flame that could never be extinguished. This sight was enough to shock anyone.
Wang Chong and Solitary Wolf called out in alarm at the same time as they noticed two trickles of tears beginning to flow down the mask. But these were tears of crimson, tears of blood!
"Bin-er, Tong-er, Wife, wait for me. I'll definitely avenge you! Definitely!!"
The last words were almost howled out.
As they looked at the weeping faceless man, Wang Chong and Solitary Wolf were both deeply moved.
Men did not easily cry, only when they were deeply hurt. This was Wang Chong's first time seeing a proud seven-foot man weeping like this. No one could have imagined that the steely and courageous Governor of Jiannan that he had met in the capital would become this loyal and faceless man, crying tears of blood.
Even after many years, Wang Chong would still remember this scene.
"Sir, be at ease! This matter does not only concern Sir, but the entire Great Tang. As long as Wang Chong still breathes, he will definitely help Sir investigate the truth," Wang Chong earnestly said.
Zhang Qiantuo was a good subject of the Great Tang, and a loyal one as well. If Solitary Wolf had not promptly rescued him, he would have already committed suicide by cutting his throat. An important official of the Great Tang who had guarded the border for decades, he wasn't someone who should have to live like this, his entire family killed, his name reviled, and his face covered in a mask, ashamed to face the world.
The will of the heavens was clear. Even if they were complete strangers, Wang Chong would never allow this sort of thing to happen to a person of the Great Tang, much less to a loyal subject.
The former Governor of Jiannan, Zhang Qiantuo, now the faceless man, clenched his fists and declared, "Young Master, my gratitude for your benevolence is beyond words. If my wife and children can be avenged and my name cleared, this faceless man is willing to serve Young Master for the rest of my life, serving as your ox or horse!"
Wang Chong was of an influential background, born from a clan of ministers and generals, the grandson of the sagacious minister Duke Jiu, and now he had even accomplished the wondrous feat of winning the war of the southwest. If there was one person in the world who could clear his name, that person would be Wang Chong.
"I don't need your service."
Wang Chong shook his head. If it was just about service, Wang Chong had many people under his command. In addition, he had even more people in the gradually maturing Kunwu Training Camp and Deflecting Blade Manor who could serve him.
In the war of the southwest, the people of Deflecting Blade Manor had been of great assistance to him, and their future potential was limitless.
"Wang Chong came here to find Sir with regards to the Jiannan. Sir only needs to investigate those people, find out the truth of Jiannan, to be of greatest assistance to Wang Chong," Wang Chong said.
The faceless man's eyes widened as he looked at Wang Chong in confusion.
"Heh, I will not hide anything from Sir. I also have a matter that needs investigation, and I suspect that it relates to the people that were chasing after the two of you."
Wang Chong chuckled and, not holding them in suspense, immediately revealed the pitch-black arrow shaft.
In an instant, Solitary Wolf and the faceless man looked over. The broken arrow that Wang Chong had taken was of extremely bizarre construction. It appeared to require a level of craftsmanship that far exceeded anything of the present era, and the arrowhead was missing for some reason.
But the two of them knew that Wang Chong had a reason for his actions.
Wang Chong straightforwardly explained that after the war of the southwest, someone had attempted to assassinate him with this mysterious black arrow. In the end, he had managed to rely on his sharp intuition to dodge the arrow, but the black arrow had ended up killing Luo Ji.
Solitary Wolf was flabbergasted. Old Eagle had never mentioned this matter, so this was his first time learning of it. Next to him, the faceless man was also shocked.
"Young Master means that this assassination was not carried out by Mengshe Zhao or Ü-Tsang, but the same group of people chasing us?" the faceless man asked in amazement.
"I can't be sure. All of this is only speculation," Wang Chong slowly said, his eyes beginning to exude a dazzling glow.
"But there is one thing that I can be sure of. In that situation, Geluofeng, Duan Gequan, Dalun Ruozan, or Huoshu Huicang would never have thought about an assassination, nor would they do such a thing. Crucially, it was impossible for them to do such a thing!"
Wang Chong suddenly turned the arrow shaft to show the other side, revealing a part of the arrow that neither Solitary Wolf nor the faceless man had noticed.
"No, this is the Bird Seal Script from the Qin-Han era!"
(TN: Bird Seal Script is a way to write Chinese in which the Chinese characters are further stylized so that the ends of the strokes had the appearance of bird-like heads and tails. This sort of script was actually more prevalent in the Spring and Autumn period and Warring States period that preceded the Qin Dynasty. After the Qin Dynasty united China, the various scripts used by the various states were united into Small Seal Script.)
Both Solitary Wolf and the faceless man were stunned by what they saw. On the end of the arrow near the fletching, several words had been engraved. These words were definitely not in the language of Mengshe Zhao or Ü-Tsang.
These were the words of the Central Plains!
The faceless man had even been able to identify these words as being the Bird Seal Script used by only a small number in the early years of the Qin-Han era. These words were of extremely ancient origin and were said to have arisen during the Spring and Autumn period or the Warring States period. By the time of the Qin-Han era, they gradually began to fall out of use on account of their complexity and difficulty, replaced with the more squarish Small Seal Script.
But none of the Seal Scripts were in use in the present Great Tang.
It was also at this point that the pair suddenly understood why Wang Chong was so certain that this assassination was not carried out by Mengshe Zhao and Ü-Tsang.
For a moment, the basement was deathly still.
Both Solitary Wolf and the faceless man had nothing to say. The broken arrow was still the same broken arrow, as black as the night, but it now appeared even more mysterious in their eyes, even more lethal.
The faceless man finally looked up at Wang Chong.
Weren't there too many mysteries here?
Were the people hunting him down the same as the people trying to kill Wang Chong? If not, why did they want to kill Wang Chong?
He was just a seventeen-year-old boy.
And what was the reason? There had to be a reason for killing someone. The faceless man could be set aside. After all, he had once been the Governor of Jiannan and held an impressive status. Wang Chong, on the other hand, had been nothing more than a wastrel scion living in the capital.
Although he was born from a clan of ministers and generals, he had no official rank or noble title. In the capital, there were countless scions like him.
In addition, if this was merely targeting the Wang Clan, why not choose Wang Fu, or even Wang Yan?
These two were also descendants of the Wang Clan, and they had far higher status than Wang Chong!
This was far too unexpected.
"I also don't know."
Wang Chong shook his head, his gaze gradually growing more profound.
"But there's one thing that I'm certain of. This matter is highly likely to be related to the war of the southwest. And I feel that the people chasing you and the one who tried to assassinate me were likely the same group of people. Only this can explain why both of us encountered assassins.
"I don't think that the war of the southwest is as simple as we think. It feels like another power is controlling things from the shadows," Wang Chong said.
Geluofeng truly had harbored ambitions against the Great Tang, but these ambitions alone could not have driven him to immediately break his relationship with the Great Tang. Geluofeng had not finished his preparations. Otherwise, he would not have sought aid from Ü-Tsang.
And he certainly wouldn't have taken the initiative and battled with the Annan Protectorate army on the Erhai plains for the sake of becoming allies with Ü-Tsang.
It was only because Zhang Qiantuo had 'raped and murdered' his wife and daughter that Geluofeng had exploded with rage, eventually leading to the war of the southwest. And based on what Solitary Wolf had said, by the time he had entered Zhang Qiantuo's mansion, Geluofeng's wife and daughter were already corpses.
In this aspect, although Geluofeng had a burning ambition, with regards to the matter of Jiange, he had been perfectly candid and played no tricks.
"But if this is the case, who is it? What advantages are there in this? And who could be so capable?" Solitary Wolf gravely said.