“‘If this brat isn’t killed, the wrath of the soldiers cannot be placated’? How hilarious! Where do those Hu think they are at? Just because they contributed a little bit to the country, they start to demand compensation for their effort?”
A huge wave crashed onto the shore. By a nearby pier, several warships were stationed, and a war flag drifted along with the sea breeze. Written on the flag were two words: Crouching Waves.
On the deck of a ship, a black-bearded general was reading a letter with an awful expression on his face.
“Relay my commands. Write a memorial, declaring ‘anyone who pushes for Wang Chong’s execution will be an enemy of our Crouching Waves army’!”
“Hahaha! Laughable! How laughable! Those fellows actually dare to threaten His Majesty? It seems like that child was right after all. Those Hu really do form a faction of their own. I would like to see whether the words of us Han count or the words of those barbarians count!”
The night cast its shadows over the undulating mountains, and the radiance of campfires was scattered sporadically across the face of a mountain. Staring at a letter with a darkened face, a powerfully-built general started laughing furiously.
“Relay my commands! Write a memorial and send it over to the royal court as fast as possible. Say that ‘I, Lu Hui, will kill anyone who dares to touch Wang Chong. Our entire Northern Army shall back Wang Chong!’”
From the utmost north to the far south, similar incidents were occurring in military camps all over the Central Plains. Never in the long history of Great Tang had so many Hu generals united to demand the death of an individual.
Similarly, never before had an incident managed to incite the wrath of so many Han generals.
Di di da da. Deep in the night, the galloping of innumerable horses carrying memorials containing the wrath of both Hu generals and Han generals shook the ground as they headed swiftly toward the capital.
While Wang Chong’s matter was causing a huge uproar throughout Great Tang, in the depths beneath the Great Tang royal court, everything was deathly silent and still. forming a stark contrast. No commotion or news could reach this area.
A silent exclamation, deep and lonely, reverberated across the dark cell. After an unknown period of time, Wang Chong finally moved.
Wang Chong awakened to the sound of a water drop falling to the ground. In this dark underground prison, the sound was exceptionally crisp and clear.
Wang Chong grabbed his head, and all he could feel at that moment was a strong vertigo overwhelming him. The Chamberlains of Imperial Insignia had struck him hard on his sleeping acupoint.
“Where am I?”
Shaking his head, Wang Chong slowly climbed up.
“This is the imperial prison!”
A voice suddenly echoed beside him.
“Surely you don’t think that we’re at a brothel, do you?”
These words incited a burst of laughter from the surroundings.
Wang Chong’s body trembled. As though a pail of cold water was just poured over him, he immediately awoke from his grogginess. Surveying his surroundings, he saw was a dark, damp area barely lit by several torches on the walls.
It took Wang Chong a moment before he managed to verify that he was in a cell.
This cell seemed to have a long history to it. The metal bars were filled with black spots, and taking a closer look, one could see a slight shade of crimson to it. The air was cold and a black fog seemed to linger in the air. The dense aura of death concentrated here instilled fear in the hearts of those housed here.
In an instant, countless thoughts flashed across Wang Chong’s head, and slowly, the truth seemed to dawn on him. Seemingly coming to a realization, Wang Chong gradually calmed down and sat on the ground.
“Imperial prison? Hmph, imperial prison! I truly couldn’t have expected this!”
The happenings before he passed out floated to the surface of his mind. Wang Chong knew that they were Chamberlains of Imperial Insignia, but he didn’t think that they would be prison guards of the royal court.
To think that a single memorial would infuriate the royal court and the Hu, causing him to be sent to the imperial prison. Wang Chong didn’t expect this at all.
The imperial prison was where prisoners on the death row were housed, and very few prisoners were able to walk out alive.
Since he was already here, there was no use struggling.
Thus, Wang Chong chose to face it with nonchalance.
“How can I disregard a matter concerning my country’s survival for my own convenience? If Great Tang is fated to fall, then let it start from me!”
Wang Chong thought.
Hidden in his eyes wasn’t fear of death, only deep sorrow. Having died once, he did not think that death was something to be feared anymore. If he desired for nobility and wealth, he would have never submitted the memorial.
Thus, all Wang Chong felt was sorrow.
Wang Chong, his grandfather, his big uncle, and many others had stood up and given their all to oppose and warn others of the regional commanders and utilizing Hu talents policies. However, it still eventually ended up like that.
This made Wang Chong feel defeated and despondent.
“Hehehe, look at that new brat, he is petrified! He’s actually sitting there completely motionless as though a statue.”
Peals of laughter echoed across the entire prison.
Even so, Wang Chong still remained motionless, as if he was oblivious to their mockery.
The laughter grew louder and louder, but when it failed to evoke a response in Wang Chong, it slowly died down out of boredom.
Wang Chong continued sitting there, motionless.
After an unknown period of time, the sound of footsteps echoed. Alarmed, Wang Chong abruptly lifted his head, only to see an authoritative, austere, scholarly-looking, middle-aged man walking into the underground passageway. Six to seven prison guards who carried an aura reminiscent of a powerful storm followed behind him.
Klang klang klang!
Amidst the flickering flames, the metal bars that isolated Wang Chong from the world reverberated under their knocking. A cold-faced warden stood before Wang Chong and stared down at him with a frosty and sharp gaze.
“You’re Wang Chong?”
The warden asked as he glanced at the token in his hand.
Wang Chong didn’t deny it.
“Hmph! If that’s the case, you might as well confess obediently.”
The austere warden spouted coldly.
“Confess to what?”
Wang Chong finally lifted his head to look at the warden.
“Hmph, audacious! You’re already a prisoner here, do you think that there’s any use for you to stubbornly deny your sins? If you are innocent, do you that you would be brought here? You should just confess obediently. This way, at least you can avoid suffering unnecessary pain!”
The eyebrows of the cold-faced warden shot up as he stared at Wang Chong in displeasure.
“I am unaware of my crimes and so there’s nothing for me to confess about.”
Wang Chong replied calmly.
“Hahaha, this fellow sure has tight lips!”
“Lad, this is a routine interrogation. You should hurry up and confess so as to avoid being tortured. There’s no one who doesn’t confess here.”
“Indeed. It’s no different from courting death to be acting tough before Lord Zhou! Lord Zhou has at least a hundred ways to pry open your mouth.”
Laughter burst in the surroundings. The prison guards gazed at Wang Chong with contempt reflected in their eyes, as though they could already see the excruciating pain Wang Chong would be subjected to in a moment’s time.
Warden Zhou Xing was a true master of interrogation.
Everyone who went through his hands ended up having their flesh parted. He had countless ways of inflicting pain on one. It was impossible to endure it even if one was made of metal.
Putting on a tough front before him would only subject one to greater suffering. It wasn’t worth it.
A furious bellow reminiscent to the roar of a lion sounded. In an instant, all of the prisoners closed their mouths, and silence returned to the imperial prison.
The imperial prison was another world in itself, and in this world, Zhou Xing was the dictator. The life and death of all here was determined by a single thought of his.
There was no one who could stand up to him here.
“Is that what you’ve decided? There’s nothing you wish to speak of?”
Zhou Xing glanced at Wang Chong with a frighteningly dark expression.
“There’s nothing for me to say.”
Wang Chong shook his head calmly.
“Very well. Since it’s your first time here and you don’t know the rules, I’ll give you several hours to think it through. If you’re going to offer me the same answer at daybreak, I’ll be extremely displeased!”
Zhou Xing’s words were laced with threat. He was the law here, and whoever who dared to disobey him had to be punished!
Soon, Zhou Xing led his group of prison guards away.
After Zhou Xing left, countless sympathetic gazes from all directions immediately gathered on Wang Chong. The gaze Zhou Xing showed before he left, they had seen it before.
The last time such an expression appeared on Zhou Xing’s face, three people in the imperial prison died.
“Sigh, it’s truly a pity for this lad.”
An old prisoner glanced at Wang Chong and sighed deeply.
Wang Chong, however, remained completely nonchalant to everything around him. Seated cross-legged in his cell, he remained motionless. Amidst the silence, time slowly crept by.
After another seemingly long period of time, when the falling water droplets sounded for the twenty-one thousand six-hundredth time, Wang Chong finally heard familiar footsteps once more.
Wang Chong sighed. Opening his eyes, he saw Warden Zhou Xing standing before him with several prison guards tagging behind him.
But different from the previous time, Zhou Xing did not say a single word. Beyond the iron bars, he stared at Wang Chong with an extremely bizarre expression, as though reevaluating the person before him.
“You’re Wang Chong?”
Zhou Xing asked.
The exact same words from the exact same person, but the feeling it induced was completely different.
Even though he was surprised, Wang Chong still replied with the same calmness from before.
As soon as he spoke, a bizarre expression suddenly crept on Zhou Xing’s face. In it, one could see a slight trace of surprise, a slight trace of intrigue, and deep fear.
“Wang gongzi, I apologize for my offensive remarks yesterday night.”
Zhou Xing suddenly bowed deeply.
In an instant, all of the prisoners who were waiting for Zhou Xing to bring out a full set of torture equipment were dumbfounded. What was going on?
Zhou Xing was known for his torture means!
Why would he bow to an insignificant new prisoner?
Everyone couldn’t comprehend the situation happening before them.
“You fellows, hurry up and prepare some food for Wang gongzi. Do you think that the food here is qualified for Wang gongzi‘s palate?”
Zhou Xing kicked away the rice bowl placed outside of the iron bar while bellowing to the guard beside him. After which, he turned to face Wang Chong, and carefully, he said:
“Wang gongzi, the imperial prison is damp. I’ll arrange to have my men clean your cell and lay out some mats for you. A person like you shouldn’t be locked up here or handcuffed. However, the words from the Son of Heaven can’t be disobeyed, so I seek for gongzi‘s understanding.”
Zhou Xing secretly glanced at Wang Chong fearfully.
Unable to hold it in anymore, Wang Chong asked.
“This… gongzi, forgive me, but I can’t reveal the details.”
Halfway through his words, Zhou Xing hesitated.
After cleaning up the rice spilt on the floor, he left hurriedly, as if intimidated by Wang Chong’s presence. Only after investigating the matter did he realize what kind of figure the new prisoner locked here was.
Zhou Xing had met all kinds of powerful officials in his entire life. Be it grade-9 officials or grade-1 officials, small county governors or renowned generals and ministers, none of these mattered to him.
In the imperial prison, there were only prisoners. And all prisoners had to obey him.
But this youngster… was too unique. Zhou Xing had never encountered with such a matter throughout his entire life. The other party was not an influential official, and neither was he a general nor a minister.
However, he was not someone who should be held in a small cell like this.
Zhou Xing had intended to subject him to cruel torture, but after learning of the happenings that had transpired in the royal court this morning, even if someone were to inflate his guts by a hundredfold, he would never dare to lay his hands on him!
Someone like him could not afford to offend such a figure!
From morning to noon, batch after a batch of golden-armored prison guards kept walking up Wang Chong’s cell.
In here, unless a torturing session was being conducted, it was generally impossible to meet these prison guards.
But in a single day, the prisoners here had met at least thirty to forty of the guards. This left them into contemplation, and they racked their minds to deduce the identity of this newcomer.
Curiosity and fear gleamed in their eyes.
But none of the guards said a single word. After loitering outside Wang Chong’s cell for a moment, they would leave hurriedly.
This made the prisoners in the area even more curious. No one could comprehend this bizarre sight, and they couldn’t fathom what kind of backing this young man possessed to induce such fear in the guards of the royal court.
After another seemingly long period of time, when another group of prison guards walked by yet again, one of them discreetly threw a crumpled piece of paper onto the ground in front of Wang Chong.
When the group left, Wang Chong stood up, walked over, and picked the paper up.
Opening the crumpled note, Wang Chong’s complexion immediately warped into shock at the first glance. Only at this moment did he realize what kind of storm had happened while he was locked in the imperial prison!
Just that, Wang Chong could not have imagined that the true situation outside was much more intense than what that was described.