EIF - Book 04 Chapter 148: Sima Zongheng
The heavenly court, Heavenly Court City, Qian Heavenly Dynasty:
The officials stood in two columns with lowered heads. They could not see the appearance of the Qian Heavenly Emperor, who was seated on the throne. With peripheral vision, all they could see was the Qian Heavenly Emperor’s feet.
An important official stepped forward, feeling anxious, and asked, “Your Holy Eminence, what crime did Lord Zhang, the deputy minister of war, commit? Why did Long Shenwei arrest him indiscriminately?”
“Your Holy Eminence, there is news from Hui Province that several city lords were arrested. Why is that?”
“Your Holy Eminence, the five factions to the south are marching over imposingly. Why have we not mobilized our Qian Nation’s military and sent them to the borders? Once those five factions attack my Qian Heavenly Dynasty, all life at the borders will be massacred!”
“Your Holy Eminence, this official is anxious about the enemy army to the south. This official is willing to don my armor and go into battle to protect the Qian Nation!”
“This official volunteers to fight. I will eliminate the enemy army and level the Qian Exterminating City that they built!”
The various officials stepped forward in the heavenly court, worried about the situation at the frontlines.
The five factions had each issued a Qian Denunciation. As the heart of the Qian Nation, Heavenly Court City immediately received word of it. Many officials appeared worried during this time.
If it were one imperial dynasty doing this, these officials would not have worried. However, five major factions were allying this time, equivalent to five imperial dynasties.
Furthermore, the five factions had grown significantly stronger recently, especially the Yuan Imperial Dynasty, which had obtained a heavenly dynasty’s treasury.
The five factions had marched in an imposing manner, gathering at Qian Exterminating City, at the peak of their momentum. These imperial emperors and Dao lords were all powerful experts.
Even in such a perilous time, the Qian Heavenly Emperor did nothing. He did not rush to mobilize the soldiers, either.
This…what should we do?
The officials felt anxious. Some even lost their temper and started shouting in the heavenly court.
Clunk! Clunk! Clunk! Clunk!
Rapping sounds came from the throne.
The Qian Heavenly Emperor did not say anything as he remained seated on his throne. He only gently tapped on an armrest with his right index finger. These rapping sounds were not loud, practically inaudible in the noisy heavenly court. Strangely, this soft rapping managed to suppress the officials’ clamor. Everyone eventually quieted and returned to their positions. Soon, only this soft rapping remained in the heavenly court.
Clunk! Clunk! Clunk!
The rapping was very soft, but it felt like thunder. The officials dared not breathe heavily.
After about thirty minutes, the soft voice of the Qian Heavenly Emperor came from the throne.
“Since the establishment of the Qian Heavenly Dynasty, we have permitted free speech in our heavenly court. We have allowed different opinions and voices—even voices that opposed us—as we hoped that the Qian Heavenly Dynasty would grow increasingly stronger and flourish. We have never silenced anyone. We only expect that you will put the Qian Nation first,” the Qian Heavenly Emperor said indifferently.
All the officials stood respectfully with heads lowered, not daring to look up.
“But! Some people take a salary from us yet do things that betray the Qian Nation!” The Qian Heavenly Emperor’s tone suddenly turned cold.
All the officials immediately felt anxious. Something is off with His Holy Eminence’s tone today.
“Perhaps some intended to betray the Qian Nation from the start. We have given you ample opportunities. Nevertheless, you do not treasure them. Some even decided to betray the Qian Nation midway. Hah! The penalty for treason is the execution of the clan!” the Qian Heavenly Emperor said coldly.
[TL Note: The execution of the clan here refers to the execution of nine relations, an extremely rare and harsh sentence. It is essentially executing everyone in the offender’s extended family. The nine here does not refer to nine degrees of familial relationship (as in up to eighth cousins) but nine categories of families: parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, siblings and spouses, uncles and aunts, first cousins, offender’s spouse, and the parents of the offender’s spouse. Here is a Wikipedia entry on this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nine_familial_exterminations.]
The officials did not dare to speak, as everyone could tell that the Qian Heavenly Emperor felt murderous.
“We arranged for the five factions to gather at Qian Exterminating City so that the people who take a salary from us but betray the Qian Nation would expose themselves,” the Qian Heavenly Emperor said indifferently.
The Qian Heavenly Emperor’s words were like a crack of thunder, bringing a murderous intent that was even more horrifying than before.
“What? It was His Holy Eminence who arranged for the five factions to gather at Qian Exterminating City?”
Most of the officials looked up in shock nearly simultaneously.
His Holy Eminence manipulated the five factions into attacking the Qian Nation? How? How can this be?
They are five great factions! Their territories and military forces added together would not be weaker than the Qian Heavenly Dynasty’s, yet His Holy Eminence manipulated them?
After raising their heads, the officials immediately lowered their heads again, not daring to look straight at the Qian Heavenly Emperor.
Just then, the leader of a group of officials, an official wearing sable robes, stepped forward. This official looked like a tall and sturdy fifty-year-old man by the standards of an ordinary person. He showed a stern expression.
“This old official—Sima Zongheng—is willing to be Your Holy Eminence’s executioner. That way, blood will not stain Your Holy Eminence’s hands!” The old official bowed respectfully to the Qian Heavenly Emperor.
“Permission granted!” the Qian Heavenly Emperor said indifferently.
“Many thanks, Your Holy Eminence!” Sima Zongheng bowed respectfully again.
When the officials saw the official who stepped forward, many of them appeared suspicious. “The Sima Clan’s clan head, Sima Zongheng, Imperial Tutor Sima? Does he know…?”
Sima Zongheng stepped away from his column and looked at the officials.
“The five factions have gathered at Qian Exterminating City, and you spies are still feeling hopeful? His Holy Eminence nurtured you, yet you betrayed the Qian Nation? His Holy Eminence already gave you a chance when Duke Lu Yang rebelled, yet you did not treasure it?” Sima Zongheng sneered.
“Why was the deputy minister of war arrested? Why were the various city lords arrested? When the five factions came in an imposing fashion, you also started to feel restless? Don’t bother with wishful thinking. Treason is punished by clan execution. The true reason for His Holy Eminence’s manipulating the five factions into gathering in Qian Exterminating City was to expose all of you, to reorganize the Qian Nation. Duke Ling Yang, don’t you think so?” Sima Zongheng suddenly smiled at a nearby official.
That official was an old man. He looked at Sima Zongheng with a sullen expression. “Imperial Tutor, what do you mean by this?”
“What do I mean? Don’t you understand what I mean by singling you out? Should I read out all the evidence of your betrayal of the nation?” Sima Zongheng glared.
Duke Ling Yang’s expression changed. “Sima Zongheng, don’t make blind accusations! This old official is loyal to the Qian Nation and has never done anything that let down the Qian Nation!”
Sima Zongheng tossed out a scroll, which Duke Ling Yang promptly caught.
“See for yourself!” Sima Zongheng said coldly.
With a cold expression, Duke Ling Yang opened the scroll and read.
The other officials whispered to each other, showing horrified faces.
As Duke Ling Yang read, his expression changed dramatically. “That’s impossible! How did you know?! How did you know?!”
“Indeed, you did not do anything when the five factions came in an imposing manner. However, your contact did,” Sima Zongheng said indifferently.
Duke Ling Yang’s expression changed. “There are Qian Nation spies in the five factions? Otherwise, there is no way this could happen!”
Sima Zongheng looked coldly at Duke Ling Yang. This was as good as a confession.
“His Holy Eminence said that he arranged for the five factions to gather? In that case, Qian Exterminating City is just a trap, a pit that His Holy Eminence dug for the five factions? He was just waiting for them to jump in?” Duke Ling Yang’s eyes widened in shock.
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Sima Zongheng did not say anything. He only stared at Duke Ling Yang.
“No wonder His Holy Eminence is in no rush to send out the military. This is all a plot. No wonder the five factions marched north in advance. It turns out that it was His Holy Eminence’s manipulation. Hahahaha!” Duke Ling Yang guffawed with some horror in his eyes.
Were the five factions’ imposing arrival part of His Holy Eminence’s plans?
“Duke Ling Yang, His Holy Eminence has treated you well. He has given you everything that he should. Why did you ally with the Yuan Nation? How does that benefit you? Even if you succeed, you won’t gain much more than what you would have lost.” Sima Zongheng frowned.
“Hah! Hahaha! I would not gain much more than what I would lose? That’s true. However, I hope to establish my own dynasty. Why did Lu Yang rebel? He was above everyone but one; why did he rebel? It was because he did not want anyone above him!” Duke Ling Yang raised his head and looked at the Qian Heavenly Emperor.
“When Duke Lu Yang rebelled, His Holy Eminence had already given you a chance,” Sima Zongheng said.
“A chance? Humph! The winner rules, and the loser is evil. Since you discovered me, then it is my loss. The Qian Heavenly Dynasty? I was once proud of it. However, the human heart can never be satisfied. His Holy Eminence? Back then, you were like me, even not comparable to me. Why can you establish your nation and rule while I can only be your subject? I do not accept that. I wished to gamble on it! Hah! Hahahaha! How unfortunate! How unfortunate…” Duke Ling Yang suddenly laughed bitterly.
“Duke Ling Yang, please do what you must. You know that your crime cannot be pardoned,” Sima Zongheng said seriously.
Duke Ling Yang looked at the Qian Heavenly Emperor. Now, he did not even dare to fight back. He slowly took off his official’s hat.
Many guards immediately came forward and used an enchanted treasure to seal Duke Ling Yang’s cultivation.
“Let’s go, then. Everyone is already waiting for you outside the heavenly court,” Sima Zongheng said.
Duke Ling Yang’s eyelids twitched. He guessed who and what were waiting outside.
He looked at the Qian Heavenly Emperor, whose expression barely changed throughout the entire affair. Finally, he shouted, “Your Holy Eminence, I was once loyal to the Qian Nation and made contributions!”
The Qian Heavenly Emperor said indifferently, “That’s why we permit you to be reincarnated.”
Duke Ling Yang’s expression turned stiff. Then, he stepped out of the hall, letting out maniacal, bitter laughter, “Hahahahahaha!”
There was a loud commotion outside the hall.
“I am Duke Ling Yang’s son. What are you doing? Who dares to capture me?!”
“My clan’s lord is Duke Ling Yang. How dare you capture me?! His Holy Eminence will not let you off!”
“Spare me! I don’t know anything!”
The cries of Duke Ling Yang’s clan came from outside the palace hall. These cries stopped only when Duke Ling Yang appeared.
“I don’t want to die! I don’t want to die!” Many shouts arose.
“Execute!” A shout resounded.
Swish! The sound of extremely sharp blades cutting through flesh rang out.
Phish! Thud! Splash!
The sound of blood spurting and splattering the floor and heads falling to the ground followed.
The officials in the heavenly court immediately felt a chill.
They executed Duke Ling Yang’s entire clan? But he is Duke Ling Yang!
The entire hall fell silent.
“Don’t bother placing your hopes on Qian Exterminating City. It should be suffering internal strife by now. Next up is the chance I obtained for you after pleading with His Holy Eminence. You now have a chance to use contributions to save your clans. Will you step out yourselves, or should I point you out? If I have to point you out, then you will suffer the same fate as Duke Ling Yang,” Sima Zongheng said coldly.
Several people among the officials felt chills.
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