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Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
(TN: The Chinese term for time used here, rather than the typical 时间, is the term 光阴, which literally translates to ‘light and shadow’. It can also be thought of as the passage of time, day and night.)
In the Great Hall of Light, the archbishops were thinking of a massacre in the darkness—to resolve the conflict triggered by the youths of the Orthodox Academy, to give all sides an acceptable resolution, if the Pope no longer protected Chen Changsheng, then it was certainly acceptable that Zhou Tong be killed.
However, Zhou Tong was no ordinary individual. Just when everyone believed that the situation in the courtyard of drifting crabapple blossoms had reached an impasse, he was still not willing to accept a conclusion decided by others. He gave the world a conclusion that no one had expected.
The Pope turned his gaze away from the sky and turned to Linghai Zhiwang, the faintest of smiles on his lips.
Linghai Zhiwang's voice suddenly cracked, just like the dark waters of the ocean instantly shattering into countless bubbles of white foam.
"Just what is he planning on doing?"
"Many years ago, my older sister was…raped and murdered by a son of a prince's family. Yes, it was not the heir nor was he a particularly spoiled son. He was just a very ordinary son of a concubine. I'm even willing to wager that the prince didn't even know he had such a son, because this prince was just like a pig, giving birth to over forty sons and a pile of daughters. Anyway, in brief…they all had the surname 'Chen'."
Zhou Tong looked at Chen Changsheng, his eyes extremely cold, but with a strand of brutal remembrance deep within. "The Imperial Court could not possibly care about such a small affair, and how could the capital government and the military department dare trespass into a prince's mansion to seize someone? As a result, this matter was gradually forgotten by others. In the end, only I was left to remember just how hard the rain fell that day, how many wounds the beast had bitten into my sister's body…yes, it was very difficult to forget. If you were me, what would you do?"
The crabapple blossoms that had fallen to the ground seemed like a mantle of snowflakes on the ground of the small courtyard, but within these snowflakes was a tinge of blood.
Chen Changsheng and the others did not know why he would mention this thing of the past, much less how to respond.
"Of course, you've got to kill them," Zhou Tong calmly answered. "In order to kill this son of a prince—yes, back then, I wasn't thinking about killing that prince together with him—I prepared to wait for a very long time, prepared to exchange my life for a brief moment of joy. However, just when I was prepared to plunge into the prince's mansion, I was prevented from doing so by a person. That person was the Empress."
He turned his gaze towards the Imperial Palace, his eyes filled with strange and complex emotions. After a seemingly endless span of silence, he continued to mumble, "The Empress said to me, the mark of an immature man is that he is willing to go out in a blaze of glory for some reason, while the mark of a mature man is that he is willing to patiently endure for some reason!"
Zhou Tong drew back his gaze and turned to Chen Changsheng. Calmly and seriously, he asked, "Do you understand?"
Chen Changsheng very earnestly pondered this, then he shook his head and replied, "I understand, but I cannot do it."
Zhou Tong began to chuckle. "Who can do it? I didn't agree at all with the Empress's argument, so I still took out my blade and rushed off to the prince's mansion. Fortunately, the Empress, using only a fingertip, was able to knock me unconscious."
Tang Thirty-Six asked, "And then?"
Zhou Tong replied, "And then I naturally understood, thus I began to endure, endure for a very long time."
Tang Thirty-Six thought about that bloody affair in the capital that had shaken the entire continent. He had some suspicions, but he didn't dare to confirm them. He asked, "Finally?"
"Finally, it's only natural that I killed that person, and as for that prince, he naturally…died by a thousand cuts. Of course, I killed everyone from that prince's family. Those forty-plus sons and that pile of daughters…although they were born as quickly as pigs, how could I possibly kill them as quickly? The Empress had truly spoken correctly. By living a modest and even lowly life for a few more years, I was ultimately able to succeed at my objective."
Zhou Tong began to laugh like a child. It was delighted and innocent, and thus felt extremely cruel.
Xuanyuan Po gaped, not knowing what to say. He felt like the small courtyard had abruptly turned cold.
Tang Thirty-Six confirmed that it truly was that incident where the Prince of Qishan's entire family was executed down to the third generation, but he said nothing.
Chen Changsheng suddenly declared, "I think that the you of the past preparing to rush into the prince's mansion with a dagger was better than the you of the future."
As he said this, he very sincerely looked into Zhou Tong's eyes.
Zhou Tong asked, "Even if I was immature, and even somewhat foolish?"
Chen Changsheng replied, "There are some things, there are some times, where being immature is actually better."
Zhou Tong fell into silence. Only after a good while did he suddenly begin to laugh.
He turned around and began to walk towards the back of the courtyard. He flicked the two sleeves of his great red official's gown, raising up a red-white petal.
The side of the courtyard opened with a creak. Several officials of the Department for Purging Officials walked out, carrying with them a stretcher.
Zhexiu lay on this stretcher, his face pale and his eyes shut.
To take Zhexiu and imprison him in Zhou Prison, keeping him in there for so many days, Zhou Tong had turned a blind eye to the Li Palace and Star Seizer Academy, no matter how much pressure they had placed upon him. This was because Zhexiu's imprisonment was the will of the Divine Empress and it increased the pressure on Mount Li.
Just like he had said to Chen Changsheng, Zhexiu being imprisoned within Zhou Prison signified that the matter of the Garden of Zhou had not yet come to a close. The Mount Li Sword Sect, which had just pulled itself away from internal strife, would inevitably have to pay some sort of price for this matter. To the Great Zhou, this was naturally a great thing.
Of course, his unwillingness to release Zhexiu had a somewhat deeper reason which was impossible to explain to others. It was just like how no one, until that moment, had known that he had actually already prepared to release Zhexiu, only…
"Your Excellency, why did you agree to release him?" In the deepest and coldest room of the Department for Purging Officials, Priest Xin asked this question in confusion.
Who could have imagined that Priest Xin, Archbishop Mei Lisha's most trusted aide over these past few months, would actually appear in this place? Moreover, it was plain to see that his relationship was Zhou Tong was quite unusual. It was a mystery just what sort of person he was.
"Why not release him? The pressure placed on Mount Li should already be sufficient. I had originally wanted to see what sort of response the Li Palace would have, but it turns out His Holiness, that Saint, is truly beyond my ability to reckon. But at least I was able to see with my own eyes what sort of person he is."
Zhou Tong closed his eyes, recalling the scene of that clean youth under the crabapple trees.
Priest Xin thought to himself, Your Excellency's piece on the definition of maturity and immaturity was extremely reasonable and extremely difficult to answer. I originally thought that Chen Changsheng's answer touched Your Excellency's soul, causing you to agree to release him…
"Moved?" Zhou Tong seemed to have the ability to read minds. He opened his eyes and said emotionlessly, "This official has never had an older sister, what could that answer move? Whose answer could possess the ability to move me?"
Priest Xin shook his head, then said, "Before His Eminence passed away, he was always reading this book."
As he spoke, he extracted a scripture from his bosom and offered it.
Zhou Tong received it and realized that this was a famous scripture of the Orthodoxy, the 'Scroll of Time'.
As he gazed at this scripture, he thought of that youth under the crabapple tree. For what seemed like forever, he said nothing.
He had spoken the truth to Priest Xin.
He had always been unwilling to release Zhexiu because he wanted to, at this place, borrowing those two crabapple trees and the murderous atmosphere of Zhou Prison, carefully, seriously, from head to toe, from inside to outside, examine Chen Changsheng.
To him, this was a matter of most vital importance, more important than Zhexiu or the cold intention of those two archbishops to extinguish him.
Because he wanted to see a span of time on Chen Changsheng's body.