Chapter 716 – Netherworld (I)
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
(TN: The Chinese term used to refer to the Underworld/Hell is 地狱, which literally translates to 'underground prison'.)
For many reasons, Chen Changsheng had to kill Zhou Tong. The most important of these reasons was that the coup of the Mausoleum of Books had essentially started from his last attempt to kill Zhou Tong.
When he walked into this courtyard last time, it was the beginning of a shift in history, the source of all life and death. Now, the Tianhai Divine Empress was dead, many other people had died, and the river of history had flowed through a big bend. Yet Zhou Tong was still living well, and even better than he had lived before. Chen Changsheng felt that it was right that he finish off this matter.
Even though he didn't even know where Zhou Tong was at present.
Just then, he and Xiao De lowered their heads at the same time, gazing at the remnants of snow on the ground of the courtyard.
This snow was slightly trembling, as if some faint vibration was coming from the depths of the earth.
Several officials of the Department for Purging Officials glanced at each other with expressions of bewilderment. The shock in their eyes quickly transformed into resolve, and the officials all tightly gripped their swords and turned to Chen Changsheng.
Chen Changsheng did not look at them. His eyes remained fixed on the snow.
Suddenly, ten-some sword glows illuminated the courtyard as they slashed down at the ground.
The snow madly danced and the sword intent was swift and fierce. The flagstones were instantly shattered and black earth was sent flying. In but a moment, a hole around half a foot deep was dug into the ground.
Those officials furiously roared, each displaying their mightiest sword techniques in an attempt to force Chen Changsheng to stop.
Xiao De vaguely guessed at what was happening and the vicious light in his eyes exploded, his two fists crashing down like mountains at those several hundred swords in the air.
This courtyard once held crabapple trees, but they had been destroyed by Chen Changsheng. Later on, a new crabapple tree had been moved in, almost identical to the old ones. Even the cold-blooded and ruthless officials of the Department for Purging Officials who had no interest in objects of beauty had to click their tongues in wonder at such a sight. Of course, this crabapple tree had also been destroyed, similarly at Chen Changsheng's hands.
The Department for Purging Officials had taken great pains and needed much time to find an exactly identical crabapple tree. It had also taken a long time to dig out that hole by the wall of the courtyard. There was even one autumn night where rain made this hole into a small pond, but before morning, that water had sunk into the ground and vanished without a trace.
The Department for Purging Officials was located in the alley of the Northern Military Department, and it was also referred to by the people as Zhou Prison. However, very few people knew that the true Zhou Prison was actually seventeen zhang below the hole dug for the tree, a gloomy underground cavern formed from five prison cells. All round its stone walls was tamped earth and craggy shards of stone. And there were also countless protective arrays.
This place buried deep in the ground and protected by layer after layer of arrays was a very hidden place, and no outsider had ever entered it before. This was an incredibly hardy place—whether it was by that rainbow of countless swords and fierce blade intent from Chen Changsheng's first assault on Zhou Prison, or the sword intents crisscrossing the air right now, this place was not affected in the slightest, not even by the smallest ripple.
In the deepest of these prison cells, a dusky but steady lantern illuminated the small table within the room.
On the table was a platter of peanuts, two pots of wine, and two pairs of chopsticks.
The person sitting on the east side of the table was a middle-aged man of tall and sturdy stature. Although his prison uniform was covered in blackened blood, his hair was draped in disarray over his shoulders, and he was even missing an arm, it was impossible to conceal his heroic and soldierly aura. It was precisely Divine General Xue He, who had been seized and brought back to the capital just a few days ago. Sitting across from him was another middle-aged man. This person was not dressed in official attire, but wore an ordinary set of cloth garments. He had a slim figure, deepset cheeks, a pale face, and deep and serene eyes. He looked just like a ghost.
Many people had died in Zhou Prison, but it was not known whether it was haunted by ghosts or not. Even if it was, they had presumably long since been tortured into suffering beyond words by this person and reincarnated.
He was the master of Zhou Prison, and even ghosts feared him in this place.
The breathtaking sword from earlier that had stabbed through the him on the palace armchair had only stabbed through that red official's gown of his. From that point, Chen Changsheng and many other people had been guessing at where he had hidden himself. Many people thought he had hidden in the Imperial Palace, while others believed that he had already lost his wits and fled the capital.
No one could have expected that he had remained right here, right within this courtyard. He was just very deep below it.
To put it another way, he and Chen Changsheng had always been separated by about seventeen zhang.
He cared not at all about this fact. He calmly ate peanuts and drank wine as if the rain of swords above him had no relationship to him, no matter how fierce it was.
Xue He looked into his eyes and said, "You are afraid."
He was a Divine General famous throughout the Great Zhou on account of being Xue Xingchuan's younger brother, but that did not mean he was incapable. In the battlefields of the north, he had led his soldiers against the demons' wolf cavalry in a conflict that had persisted for several decades. He had a deep understanding of death and fear.
When people were at their most frightened, they would often insist on staying at the places they were most familiar with, even if it was not the wisest choice. Zhou Tong's decision to remain here instead of going to the Imperial Palace might cause others to gasp with admiration at his composure and intelligence in the aftermath, but in Xue He's view, it was only proof that Zhou Tong was frightened.
Zhou Prison, hidden deep underground, was the place Zhou Tong was most familiar with. Here, he had killed far too many humans, demi-humans, and demons; tortured far too many humans, demi-humans, and demons.
Zhou Tong did not go to the Imperial Palace because of that sense of foreboding in the depths of his heart and his distrust towards that Saint. However, he would not explain this to Xue He. Xue He was a criminal so had no right to an explanation. Moreover, he did not want to let a single person find out that his loyalty towards that Saint was not as staunch as others imagined.
This prison deep underground was too humid and gloomy, so it was impossible to feel very comfortable here, even for Zhou Tong himself. This cell in which Xue He resided was the driest, with very long intervals between each drop of water falling from the ceiling, and the water would not fall on this table or the bed made of straw.
Naturally this counted as preferential treatment, even if the golden needles on Xue He's body that restricted his cultivation had been personally inserted by Zhou Tong.
"Don't attempt to anger me. I won't kill you. After all, he said that we were also brothers," Zhou Tong calmly replied.
Zhou Tong and Xue Xingchuan were brothers, and Xue Xingchuan was also brothers with Xue He.
Only these three brothers and Madam Xue knew of this matter.
In the past, Xue Xingchuan had always hoped that Xue He and Zhou Tong would also become true brothers.
Xue He did not like Zhou Tong, but he had never said anything.
When he discovered that Zhou Tong had personally poisoned his elder brother to death, he was stricken with grief and indignation. However, he still managed to keep his cool, because he had never treated Zhou Tong as his brother. In addition, he knew that Zhou Tong was just that sort of person. However, when he heard these words, he could no longer control himself and spat out a mouthful of phlegm flecked with blood at him.
Zhou Tong turned to avoid it, but he did not turn back around.
He maintained this posture, staring at a certain spot on the southwest wall of the prison cell.
He could sense that a very soft but clear vibration was coming from beyond the stone wall.
Someone had triggered an array.