Chapter 721 – The Avenue of Blood (II)
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
(TN: Way of Choices will be on break from December 25th, 2017 – January 7, 2018)
In the northern section of the capital was a long avenue called the Road of Peace, a street very close to the Imperial City. Upon crossing the nearby Sanshe Bridge, one would step upon Vermillion Bird Avenue, making it very convenient to reach the Imperial Court. Over the countless years, this street had always been home to high officials and nobles, and from the previous dynasty until now, nothing had ever changed this fact. All that happened was that the inhabitants of the residences and estates lining this street would constantly change as the situation changed.
In the Zhengtong era, the vast estate that was the closest to the Imperial City and had the best location on the Road of Peace naturally belonged to the Tianhai clan. After the coup of the Mausoleum of Books, the Tianhai clan remained in its same spot, but several lots to the east, many courtyards changed masters, undergoing massive renovations. This was because the Prince of Xiang, the Prince of Zhongshan, and the other ten-some princes of the Chen clan had begun to move in.
The easternmost estate on the Road of Peace, and also the one closest to the blooms of the scholar trees, was the Xue Estate. As the Tianhai Divine Empress's most trusted individual in the Great Zhou Army, Xue Xingchuan had naturally had the right to enjoy such treatment. Now, the Xue clan could not possibly continue holding this estate. Some prince or Divine General might become the new master, but who could know?
Madam Xue also did not know who the new master of this estate would be, but she knew that this matter could not be prevented. She had never held any sort of extravagant hope of remaining in this place and had made the corresponding preparations long ago. The servants had all been dismissed, and after the funeral concluded, she used silver from her dowry to buy a small courtyard on the street right outside Hundred Flowers Lane.
After doing all this, she thought that she could finally calm down, but upon hearing the sobbing at her side, she realized that calming down was also an extravagant hope. She felt an ache in her head as she harshly asked, "Are you crying because you're hurt, or are you crying because you're sad?"
The young lady of the Xue clan that had been driven out of the Assistant Minister's estate several days ago had been staying in the Xue Estate the entire time, her face drenched in tears. Today, after hearing the news, her weeping became inconsolable. Upon hearing Madam Xue's shouted question, she was frightened and timidly raised her head. Wiping her tears, she asked back, "Mother, what's wrong?"
Her eyes were bloodshot and her voice was somewhat hoarse. For some reason, her face was covered in wounds as if someone had beaten her.
Madam Xue pointed at her face, which even today was still bruised, and angrily said, "If you're crying out of pain, it means you haven't grown up and aren't acting like your father's daughter. If you're crying because he died, then it means that there's something wrong with your head. Is it worth it to cry over such a person?"
The news that the Assistant Minister Wei of the Ministry of Rites had been killed by Chen Changsheng and Wang Po had already spread to the entire capital. Every time the young lady thought of her husband's heartless and ruthless methods, she would lose herself in rage, wanting nothing more than for him to die. However, when she suddenly realized that he really was dead, she would think of the past and couldn't restrain the sorrow welling up within her, finding her fate to truly be bitter.
After hearing her mother's words, the young lady of the Xue clan also felt herself to be thoroughly useless, but…why had Principal Chen killed him? Shouldn't he have beaten the husband for a bit and then escorted him to the Xue Estate to beg for forgiveness, to swear an oath to the heavens that he would treat her very well, just as he had in the past…
An extremely unexpected howl disrupted her jumbled thoughts.
This howl came from the courtyard neighboring the Xue Estate.
It was followed by countless rumbling collisions, even the faint sounds of a thunderstorm. After all this, the courtyard collapsed and dust plumed into the air.
The young lady of the Xue clan was scared witless and her face paled, no longer in the mood for sorrow and tears.
Madam Xue looked at the dust rising from the neighboring courtyard, suspicion appearing on her face.
The collapse of the neighboring residence had not affected the Xue Estate, but she felt for some reason that the matter was related to the Xue Estate.
Many years ago, when the Divine Empress first gifted this estate on the Road of Peace to Xue Xingchuan, the residence adjacent also began undergoing renovations.
The gate of this courtyard opened south into the scholar tree blossoms such that normal people wouldn't realize it existed. Anyone walking down the Road of Peace would think it was a part of the Xue Estate.
The owner of this courtyard was very mysterious and had never interacted with anyone. Even today, Madam Xue did not know who the owner was, only had vague inklings that it had something to do with her own family. This was because she had once personally heard Xue Xingchuan give two orders regarding it, both times with the severest of warnings.
She had even once suspected that her enigmatic neighbor might be the rumored Crown Prince Zhaoming. Of course, later events proved this conjecture to be false.
The collapse of the residence had stirred up all sorts of dust. Broken shards of bamboo broke through a few green stalks of bamboo and fell into the Xue Estate's garden.
Madam Xue embraced her frightened daughter and whispered words of comfort to her.
The neighboring courtyard was still collapsing, still rumbling and booming. It seemed as if a person had fallen directly out of the courtyard onto the street. Madam Xue did not know why the neighboring residence had collapsed, but seeing the terrifying ruckus it created, she could only assume that even if that person had escaped, they had certainly been injured from the fall. She ordered the butler to open the gate and see if that person needed any help.
It was nearly twilight and so somewhat gloomy. Thankfully, the snow was so white that it was easy to see that person covered in blood.
Even if the blood that person bled was actually black.
The moment the butler pushed upon the gate, the first thing Madam Xue and her daughter saw was this gory sight.
The young lady cried out in alarm then said, "Quickly save him!"
After saying this, she saw a very bizarre sight.
A beauty dressed in palace attire appeared silently behind the bloody man.
This palace beauty was also bleeding and her appearance was rather dusty, obscuring a part of her face but failing to obscure her beauty.
Who was she? What was going on here? While the young lady of the Xue clan was in a daze, the palace beauty raised the broken sword in her hand and slashed down at the blood-covered man.
A spurt of blood shot onto the snow. It wasn't much, not enough to make the man die on the spot, but not so little that people could not see.
"Murder!" The young lady called out in fright, then her voice came to a sudden halt.
Madam Xue had covered her daughter's mouth, her hand shaking but forceful, not letting her daughter make one noise more.
She could clearly tell that this palace beauty was Mo Yu and that blood-covered man…was Zhou Tong.
It turned out that the neighboring courtyard was Zhou Tong's.
She finally understood, and when she thought about how Xue Xingchuan had concealed this matter from her, she grew even angrier, her body shaking even harder.
"It's Zhou Tong." Madam Xue's voice was somewhat indistinct and cold.
The young lady's body stiffened. As she stared at the bloody sight before her, her hands slowly clenched.
Zhou Tong was like a beast injured to the point of death, releasing strange howls as he painfully clambered up from the snow and walked forward a few more steps.
He knew that this place was the Xue Estate, knew that the mother and daughter on the stone steps were his sister-in-law and his niece, so he did not turn his head to glance at them.
He would not plead to them, as that was seeking his own humiliation. He also did not wish for anyone else to see him acting like a stray dog.
He wanted to leave as quickly as possible, but it was just then that the shrill howl of a sword fell on the upper part of his left thigh.
His flesh was cut horizontally, blood slowly seeping out like porridge along the brim of the pot. He fell heavily to his knees, sending snow flying.
At this sight, the young lady of the Xue clan once more let out of a cry of alarm, but this time, besides fear, there was also much more pleasure.