Chapter 724 – Sailing the Boat with the Current
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
(TN: Way of Choices will be on break from December 25th, 2017 – January 7, 2018)
As the reading of the decree came to an end, a deathly stillness hung in the air.
The crowd stared at the snow and at the beheaded Zhou Tong, their emotions stunned and in complete chaos.
To describe this man as strung through and through with evil would not be excessive. This person was guilty without a doubt, but no one had ever expected for the Imperial Court to announce that he was guilty.
The crowd turned their gazes to the young man and woman sitting next to each other.
The black-armored cavalry somewhat stiffly pulled on the reins of their horses, not knowing what they should do. Should they charge or put down their leveled spears? The redcoated cavalry and officials of the Department for Purging Officials all had pale faces and looked like grieving parents. The assassins of the Pavilion of Heavenly Secrets, the experts from the military, and even Xiao De were just trying to figure out what was going on.
The situation had changed suddenly, so suddenly that even those involved found themselves unprepared.
Even Chen Changsheng and Mo Yu did not react for a few moments. Only when the young eunuch departed did they faintly begin to understand something.
Since this was all known, why act this way? Many people might have thought this way, but not the two of them.
"Only those idiots would think like that." Mo Yu pushed her disorderly hair behind her temples and gazed at the crowd that still surrounded them, a mocking smile on her lips. "If Zhou Tong were still alive, he would still be a valued minister of the state. It's only because we've killed him that they've decided to flay his flesh and stew his bones."
"This has always been Master's way of doing things."
Chen Changsheng felt today's snow and wind to be rather piercing. He gazed silently in the direction of the Imperial Palace and then elaborated, "When we were small, I and Senior believed that he was a poor Daoist. Because he was too poor, he had very extreme views of the world, and his way of doing things was excessively stingy. Now I understand that this isn't called being stingy, but completely using up one's resources."
A snowstorm enveloped the Imperial Palace, but the dilongs running underneath this side palace were blazing along, making the room as warm as spring. On the table were several imperial edicts from years past.
"I did not expect that your junior brother would truly be able to kill Zhou Tong. His performance exceeded my imagination, and so I am very satisfied. I am even more satisfied by the method he and Mo Yu used to kill Zhou Tong. The crueler and more unyielding their methods, the more shocking the story, the more it will be remembered. Naturally, Zhou Tong's evils will be included in this story."
Shang Xingzhou gazed at the young emperor seated behind the table. "Although Zhou Tong betrayed your mother and was used by me, nobody can deny that he served as your mother's representative for many years. Thus, his evil is your mother's evil, and the more of his evil Chen Changsheng reveals, the more the image of your mother will suffer, and the smaller the blame will be placed on me for leading the rebellion against her. At the same time, the more your junior brother's prestige rises, the more my prestige will rise as well. No matter how one looks at it, I gain nothing but advantages from tonight's affair, so long as I promptly promulgated that decree."
Yu Ren was thinking about the books in Xining Village's old temples, the fish in the stream, the beasts in the mountains…
Shang Xingzhou continued, "This way of doing things seems rather petty, but it is not stinginess. It is using things to their full extent."
Yu Ren raised his head and gestured a question: "Could it be that everyone in the capital has been used by you from the beginning?"
"At the very beginning it was not the case. Of course I wanted to protect Zhou Tong, and I was also intending to do a few other things tonight."
Shang Xingzhou very patiently explained, "But in the course of events, things began to change, so I changed in response."
To cultivators, change was a constant law under the starry sky. Everything in the world changed at every moment, and the same applied to this situation. Even in the span of a few hours, many changes would take place, like the spring weather thawing the thick ice on the river. If the response was not appropriate, even the sturdiest metal bridge would be washed away.
Shang Xingzhou did not explain what the changes were.
Perhaps it was that Chen Changsheng's strength had surpassed everyone's expectations and he had been able to last an entire day, that his sword had cut through the hard and frozen ground and revealed Zhou Prison under the starlight. Or perhaps it was that the Li Palace had remained quiet all this time, the snow and clouds drifting over the sky there like meek flocks of sheep that never once had any intention of crossing the fence. Of course, the most likely possibility was when Wang Po had cut off his arm, broken through into the next realm, and killed Tie Shu.
And there were also the lanterns of the princely estates on the Road of Peace extinguishing one by one.
"Do you know why your teacher is called Shang Xingzhou1?"
Shang Xingzhou suddenly asked.
Yu Ren knew that Shang Xingzhou was not his master's real name. At the very least, six hundred years ago, he had been called Daoist Ji.
The appearance, or obtaining, of this name inevitably had some meaning.
"Before His Majesty returned to the sea of stars, he did not forget that phrase: 'Waters can carry a boat, and they can also capsize them.'" 2
Shang Xingzhou's gaze fell on a certain part of the hall, his eyes seeming to travel back centuries.
Everyone on the continent knew of this famous saying, and Yu Ren was naturally no exception. And he also knew that 'His Majesty' here referred not to his father, but to his grandfather.
"On that night, His Majesty said to me, 'To walk through the world is like sailing a boat across the ocean. One must be cautious and mindful, and one cannot go against the current, or else one will capsize the boat.'"
Shang Xingzhou very calmly added, "Since everyone wants Zhou Tong to die, since this is the desire of the people, I must follow."
The word 'follow' was a very important word to the master and students of Xining Village's old temple, as this was the Dao that they cultivated.
Only tonight did Yu Ren realize that its origins lay in this saying: 'Waters can carry a boat, and they can also capsize them.'
Shang Xingzhou continued, "Of course, following the current does not mean obedience. The boat can only hope that the waters are calmer, that there are fewer waves, that there is not too much resistance."
Yu Ren gestured, "But in the final analysis, the boat must still revere the existence of the waters."
"The Duke of Wei once said, 'The resentment of this minister need not be feared; only the people should be feared. They can carry the boat and capsize the boat, so they must be treated with deep caution.'3 How could I not fear them?"
Shang Xingzhou looked into Yu Ren's eyes and said, "But positions are relative. Since you are the boat, you cannot think too much about what the water is thinking."
Yu Ren gestured, "In the end, you still have to think about it, or else Master would not have changed his mind."
"Everyone thinks that I have already done my best, but I was just stopped by you and them."
Shang Xingzhou's gaze fell on Yu Ren's waist, on that jade pendant gifted by the Qiushan clan head.
"All of you youths are putting your lives on the line. You are, Mo Yu is, Wang Po is, and so is your junior brother.
"I raised your junior brother for seventeen years. How could I bear to kill him? I could only watch as he killed Zhou Tong.
"Anyone can ask me about tonight's matter and I will have a clear conscience."
Just which part of these words was real and which was fake, Yu Ren found impossible to distinguish, but he understood.
Zhou Tong was the new government's ugliest and filthiest stain, and Chen Changsheng was that intractable thorn in his master's heart.
His master did not care who died, just as long as he did not have to personally carry out the deed.
Today, several soul-stirring battles and pursuits that had taken place in the capital were highly likely to shake the entire human world, but it had all been under his master's control.
No matter what changed, he would always end up as the final victor.
If Wang Po had been killed by Tie Shu in the Luo River, perhaps this victory would have been perfect.
"This was no scheme designed by me. I cannot control everything. After all, I'm not a god, nor am I Emperor Taizong."
Shang Xingzhou rejected Yu Ren's thoughts and said, "Today is more like a lesson. If Your Majesty wishes to be as great a man as Emperor Taizong and lead humanity into a future of endless light, Your Majesty must learn how to sail the boat with the current. No matter how much Your Majesty loathes the idiotic masses that cheer at torture, Your Majesty must still convince yourself into truly believing that they are a true ocean, must learn how to lead them, how to deceive them, how to borrow their strength and break through the waves."
Yu Ren could not understand all this, nor was he very concerned about it. He was only concerned about one thing.
He gestured with his hands, "Master, do you truly not like Junior Brother?"
Shang Xingzhou pondered this question, and then smiled. "Yes, I don't like him. I dearly wish for him to die, or perhaps I wish that he never lived in the first place."
1.Xingzhou '行舟' translates to 'sailing a boat'.↩
2. A saying from the 'Xunzi', a book on the Chinese philosophy of Legalism written during the Warring States era. Apparently, this particular line was a saying favored by the actual Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty.↩
3. This line was written by one of the real Emperor Taizong's chancellors, Wei Zheng.↩