Chapter 717 – Netherworld (II)
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
(TN: Way of Choices will be on break from December 25th, 2017 – January 7, 2018)
Zhou Tong stared at the wall, his eyes turning darker and more sinister, transforming into two balls of ghostly fire.
The weak vibration seemed very ordinary, but to this underground world stabilized and protected by layer after layer of arrays, it was the omen of something terrible. Someone had touched one of Zhou Prison's arrays, and it was not like an insect that was sticking its head into a spider web, but like a zither player extending a finger and lightly plucking a string.
Zhou Tong was staring at the wall, so he did not notice a drop of water falling from a crack in the stone ceiling.
This underground space was very humid, and even though it was sealed off by the numerous arrays, there were still many places in the walls and ceiling where water seeped through. Even in this relatively dry prison cell, this sight was not too unexpected. The problem was that this drop of water had a very coincidental landing point, landing right on the rim of the wine pot.
After the filtering of stones and arrays, the water in the earth that seeped through the stone walls was without impurity, clear and clean like a dewdrop.
This dewdrop silently trickled along the slim rim of the pot and fell into the wine.
Just then, Zhou Tong turned around.
Xue He said, "Chen Changsheng has probably sensed it and guessed that you're here."
Zhou Tong knew this, so he was in a rush to leave.
He did not know who the person that had triggered the array was that they were actually able to dig so deep towards Zhou Prison.
There was still some distance until this person reached this place, but he chose without hesitation to leave.
Just as Xue He had said, that person had very possibly wanted to use this method to inform the people on the surface of Zhou Tong's specific position.
Zhou Tong calmly said, "There have always been many people that wanted to kill me."
"So do I."
Xue He took up his own wine pot and filled his empty cup.
Zhou Tong took the other wine pot and filled his own cup.
Xue He raised the cup and cheered, "I wish you a very slow death."
Death was a very frightening matter, but if had happened fast enough, it could be considered a delight. If it was very slow, then naturally it was only pain that remained. (TN: The term for delight here is 痛快, which uses the words for both 'pain' and 'fast'. 快 can also mean pleasant.)
Zhou Tong laughed, lightly clinked cups, and then emptied the cup.
"No matter how fast Chen Changsheng's sword is, he can't possibly arrive here that quickly."
Zhou Tong's gaze turned once more to that now-silent stone wall.
This place was the most secretive and safest hiding spot he had created for himself, but now he chose without hesitation to abandon it and seek another place to hide.
No matter how much Xue He loathed this man, even he had to admit that this was truly a most formidable decision. At the same time, he was also quite curious, asking, "Although I don't know how big the snowstorm is today, I can imagine that there are not many places in the capital that can ensure your safety, so where can you go?"
"A rabbit will have three holes that it can flee from at any time, but that's just a minimum for people in my line of work."
Zhou Tong continued, "You will definitely feel regret that an evil man like me is truly not easy to kill. Today, at least, I will not die."
After saying this, he said no more. He walked out of the prison cell and followed a gloomy tunnel towards an even gloomier place.
The bean-like lanterns lining this tunnel were similar to the glimmer in his eyes, both gloomy balls of ghostly fire.
His figure gradually vanished at the end of the tunnel, as if he was walking into the Netherworld, all the way until he walked into the deepest darkness.
Separated by metal bars, Xue He stared at Zhou Tong's back in silence. He watched for a very long time, still watching even after Zhou Tong had vanished.
He was not feeling some sort of sorrow, nor was he feeling some complex mixture of emotions. He just wanted to make sure that Zhou Tong had truly left.
Another drop of water fell from the ceiling, and then the sound of scraping came from the wall.
Two hard pieces of stone were moved aside and a ball of mud squeezed out from between them.
It was not actual mud, but a person that had lived in the earth for several weeks.
On the night of the coup of the Mausoleum of Books, Chen Changsheng was brought to the Mausoleum of Books by the Divine Empress, Tang Tang was kidnapped back to Wenshui by the Tang Second Master, and Zhexiu disappeared.
No one was able to find any trace of him, whether it was the Imperial Court, the Li Palace, or the Orthodox Academy.
As it turned out, he had been hiding in the alley of the Northern Military Department this entire time, just very deep underground.
A detailed explanation would be very long and complex, but the truth of it was very simple.
In order to plant the crabapple tree, the Department for Purging Officials had dug a hole. He had jumped into this hole and remained underground right up until this moment.
No one would have been able to fathom just how he had managed to survive over the weeks.
But to Zhexiu, this was a very ordinary matter.
He was a wolf, possessing unimaginable patience and persistence. To catch his prey, he could wait a very long time, could endure a hunger and thirst that humans could not. In order to kill the cavalry the demons posted on the frontlines, he would often wait deep within the snow, often for several weeks. Although snow was much looser than earth, it was much colder.
Zhou Tong was the strongest prey he had ever faced and also the prey that he most desired to kill, so he had displayed even more patience. Of course, he had also paid no small price.
His face was very pale and his body much thinner, and though his eyes still had their cold and focused gaze, he was clearly much weaker than he was several weeks ago.
Xue He looked at him and asked, "Were you the one that triggered the array?"
"No, I don't understand arrays, nor did I know that Chen Changsheng would come."
Zhexiu's voice was very hoarse, both because he had drunk very little water in the past several weeks and because he rarely spoke.
Xue He recalled that on the day he had been jailed in this deepest prison cell, the voice coming from the wall had been very low and also very hoarse.
At the time, he didn't know who was in the wall, a person or ghost, but after he finished listening to whatever this thing had to say, he decided to cooperate with it, even if it was a ghost.
Xue He extended a hand and pulled a golden needle out of his bloodstained clothes, his brow creasing as he gave a pained groan.
The ten-some needles in his body had all been pulled out, but only by one-third their length. This was something he and Zhexiu had prepared ahead of time.
According to the original plan, he would coordinate with Zhexiu to think of a way to poison Zhou Tong, and then do his utmost to delay for time until the poison could work on Zhou Tong. Zhexiu would then burst out of the wall and join hands with Xue He to make trouble. At the beginning, reality proved to be even smoother than imagination. The poisoning had easily succeeded, but unexpectedly, someone triggered the array and frightened Zhou Tong away.
It was very obvious that this person hidden in the shadows did not know of Zhexiu's existence, let alone Zhexiu's plan, but they also wanted to kill Zhou Tong.
Xue He said, "You go and inform Chen Changsheng and I'll chase after Zhou Tong."
Zhexiu did not voice his objection, but that did not mean he had given his silent agreement, only that he did not care for what Xue He said.
He passed a ring of keys to Xue He, walked out of the cell, and walked in the direction that Zhou Tong had vanished.
At first, he walked very slowly. He was weak and he had spent the last few weeks clambering through the earth. He had not relied on his legs to walk for quite some time.
It didn't take long for his movement to become more harmonious. Although his pace was not fast, it was steady enough.
Zhou Tong walked through the gloomy tunnel, turning back at certain intervals. Occasionally, a door would descend and then be concealed in earth.
These underground tunnels were as dense as a spider web, and after such mechanisms were triggered, they became even more complex. He was confident that even if someone helped Chen Changsheng break out of the Imperial Court's encirclement, Chen Changsheng found Zhou Prison's true position, and he then launched an attack underground, he still would not be able to find Zhou Tong.
Thinking about this greatly soothed his mind, and he rubbed his chest with his hand.
His brow furrowed as he discovered that his heartbeat was somewhat fast. Was he walking too fast, or was it something else?
He was not willing to admit that he was afraid. He took a deep breath and secretly moved his true essence, preparing to slightly slow his heartbeat.
True essence smoothly flowed through his meridians, just like water flowing through a canal, when suddenly, it encountered an impassable wall.
He felt a twinge of pain at his chest.
He began to vomit blood.
The blood was black.