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Chapter 686 – Digging a Hole
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
Zhou Tong looked at the middle-aged man in front of him and laughed, his smile deep and unfathomable. "These were Madam Xue's exact words?"
The middle-aged man's expression was somewhat uneasy. "My wife has a hasty temper, but I don't think she would lie out of anger."
"Many thanks to the Lord Assistant Minister for coming to say this to me."
Zhou Tong's attitude was sincere, his eyes gentle.
But when Assistant Minister Wei of the Ministry of Rites left, his eyes very quickly turned cold.
Only a few days had passed since the events of that night. As one of the participants, he would naturally not forget.
Those loyal and devoted subordinates also would not forget.
To be more precise, the beginning of that night was that blade glow in the crabapple courtyard, his near-death at Chen Changsheng's hands.
If not for that blade, perhaps the situation might not have developed very differently, but the role he would have played in it might have been extremely different.
Xue Xingchuan was his only friend in the world.
Xue Xingchuan was the only person that trusted him in the world.
Thus, he had been poisoned to death.
On that day, in the Imperial Palace, he had received the treatment of the Sacred Light technique. With Shang Xingzhou also personally treating him, he had almost completely recovered from his injuries.
In the future, he would have an even higher status and even greater authority in the new government, and his position would be all the more unshakable.
To announce and prove this fact to the world, Xue Xingchuan's body had been thrown at the side of the official road and forbidden from being buried.
In the end, Chen Changsheng had buried Xue Xingchuan's corpse, Madam Xue was no longer intending to leave the capital, and that child called Brother Jin was being brought back. The Xue Estate…was even planning on holding a funeral!
Of course, Zhou Tong knew what all these things meant. They were a slap to his face.
The crabapple trees were naught but shards of wood, the courtyard an absolute wreck. The buildings of the Department for Purging Officials on the surface had all been destroyed, and only the prison below remained in good condition.
Zhou Tong stood amongst the ruins, gazing up in silence at the light clouds in the sky, pondering this or that.
A subordinate looked at Zhou Tong's rather lonely expression and said tentatively, "Your Excellency…"
"My face has always been very thick, or else I wouldn't have lived up to this day."
Zhou Tong indifferently said, "Principal Chen has already struck my left face. If he's still interested, I can turn my head and let him slap my right face until he's happy."
The subordinate seemed unwilling to accept this. "For what reason?"
Zhou Tong drew back his gaze from the sky and impassively answered, "Because he's Principal Shang's student, His Majesty's junior brother, the chosen successor of the Pope. He has every right to slap me in the face."
Exposing the corpses of Xue Xingchuan and those several high-ranking officers of the Imperial Guard in the fields was a decree of the Imperial Court. Who would dare disobey?
Chen Changsheng dared, and who would dare use the violation of the Great Zhou's laws or the defiance of the decree against him?
Why? Just as Zhou Tong had said, if the Imperial Court did not want to split with the Orthodoxy right after overturning the Divine Empress, they could only endure it.
Everyone in the Imperial Court had to endure it, and Zhou Tong was but one member of it, even if he was an important one.
The subordinate angrily asked, "Then how long must we endure?"
Zhou Tong fell silent, then said, "Even the Empress has died, so everyone must die."
He was not speaking of Chen Changsheng, but the Pope, who had already admitted in front of the Mausoleum of Books that he was old and about to die.
On the day the Pope returned to the sea of stars, perhaps Chen Changsheng really would become the next Pope, but no one—not the Imperial Court, or Shang Xingzhou, or the collective consciousness of the Orthodoxy—would permit him to continue acting as a youth, even though he was very young. This was what it meant to wear the Divine Crown and accept its weight.
Zhou Tong just needed to endure until that time came.
"Let him slap all he wants. He's not killing anyone."
There were many people in this world that wanted Zhou Tong dead.
There were many great ministers of the new government, the Prince of Zhongshan and several other princes included, that wanted nothing more than to feast on his flesh, but they could do nothing.
Chen Changsheng could use many methods to display his attitude to Zhou Tong's shamelessness, could change up the method by which he slapped his face, but he could not kill him.
Just as had been said many times before, Zhou Tong symbolized Shang Xingzhou's promise to the entire world.
The subordinate was still somewhat uneasy. "Then what about the funeral that the Xue Estate is holding?"
"Holding a funeral? It looks more to me like digging a hole." Zhou Tong laughed, then said to his subordinate, "It's not important whether or not the courtyard can be rebuilt to its original appearance, but I need a crabapple tree here, exactly like the crabapple trees from before. Remember to dig the hole for the tree extremely deep so it can live well."
To this small courtyard in the alley of the Northern Military Department, this crabapple tree was very important.
It served the same purpose as he did to the world.
They were both symbols.
Rebuilding Zhou Prison was a very troublesome project. The Ministry of Works and the capital government had dispatched many laborers and excellent craftsmen.
The work proceeded very smoothly. In just two days, a framework had already been built, but time was still very pressing. The laborers were still engaged in painstaking labor, even after nightfall.
A hole for a tree was dug out at the base of the courtyard's wall. The hole was very deep, and so it could be assumed that any type of crabapple tree would be able to grow very well inside.
When darkness was at its deepest, the laborers and craftsmen finally rested.
No one noticed a figure come to the wall of the courtyard and jump into the hole.
There was a very soft swish like a knife cutting into tofu.
Countless cold lights glimmered from the fingers of that figure, but it was clearly not some sort of weapon.
The earthen walls of the hole truly seemed just like tofu, rustling as they were cut into.
Then, that figure vanished.
The Xue Estate held a funeral.
The funeral hall was within the estate, not visible from the street. There was only a white flag, and besides this, there was no other change.
There wasn't even any wailing or music. It was truly cold and deserted to the extreme.
There was no music because no musicians dared to take work at the Xue Estate.
There was no wailing because there were no guests coming to pay respects, so whether sincere or feigned, the people within the estate could not remain in profound grief forever.
This was a sight that many people had already predicted.
Xue Xingchuan's remains had been buried by Chen Changsheng.
The Xue Estate's funeral arrangements naturally took on a different meaning as well.
Some people even believed that this was a competition between the Imperial Court and the Orthodoxy, between master and disciple, Shang Xingzhou and Chen Changsheng.
Through this funeral, one could clearly see which way the wind was blowing in the capital and even the entire continent.
From a certain perspective, anyone who was coming to pay respects to Xue Xingchuan was also paying respects to the Divine Empress.
There were certainly people who were still loyal to Tianhai's old government, but who would dare display it?
In the chilly funeral hall, the butler looked at Madam Xue and sadly said, "It seems…no one else will be coming."
Let alone the ministers of the court, not even the officers in the army, those old friends, or even the Li Palace showed any reaction.
The only exception was that Linghai Zhiwang and Daoist Siyuan had come in the early morning to pay their respects.
These two Prefects of the Orthodoxy actually had rather ordinary relationships with Xue Xingchuan, but everyone knew that they were the same as Xue Xingchuan, the staunchest supporters of the Tianhai Divine Empress.
Madam Xue looked at the deserted gate of the estate and calmly replied, "There will be some people that wish to come. Even if it's not convenient for them to come, we have to at least wait."
Yes, many people in the capital wished to pay respects to Xue Xingchuan. With the friendships they had with Xue Xingchuan, it would be completely unreasonable for them to not come.
But for various reasons, they did not dare come and were thus forced into an extremely difficult position.
Just as Zhou Tong had said, the Xue Estate's holding a funeral was just like digging a hole for these people.
Would they jump or not?
Time slowly passed.
The sun slowly moved across the sky.
The time came.
The Xue Estate was still deserted. Still, no one had come.