Chapter 181: Paradox

In view of the help the villagers had offered her earlier on, Qiao Xueying rushed over to help them put out the fire and transport the casualties. From time to time, she would even use her powers to prop up collapsing roofs.

Unexpectedly, Zu An didn’t step forward to help her but headed to the fields instead. Qiao Xueying wanted to call him over to aid her, but looking at his departing silhouette, she clicked her tongue in annoyance. 

What a petty man he is. Is he still holding a grudge against the villagers over what had happened earlier?

Zu An headed toward the brightest place on the field, wanting to verify something in his memories. 

The earlier meteor had shattered into many pieces, and the largest one had fallen around half a kilometer away from the village, smashing a huge crater into the ground. Even from a distance away, Zu An could already feel the heat gushing toward him, forcing him to channel his ki in order to ward it off.

Even so, he was still unable to approach the center of the crater due to the limitations of his cultivation. There were still traces of burning embers around, keeping him at bay. Nevertheless, he had managed to find what he was looking for.

A line of words was written on the largest meteor, leaving a bizarre expression on Zu An’s face. He raised his head to look at the stars above, wondering if heaven really was a sentient existence.

He returned to the village with a heavy heart. Qiao Xueying immediately headed to his side to drag him over. “Where did you go earlier? Since you’re back, you should lend the village a helping hand.”

However, Zu An shook his head and replied, “What’s the use of it? We can’t change the conclusion anyway. It’ll be all in vain.”

Qiao Xueying immediately lost her cool. “How could you be like that? Yes, they did treat you badly earlier, but you should know that it’s the result of this country’s strict laws. What happened afterward showed that they have kindness in their hearts. In the end, they still offered us water and medicine, no?”

“To you, that is,” corrected Zu An.

Qiao Xueying was stunned. “You can’t really be holding a grudge over that, are you? Can you stop being so petty as a man?”

“That’s not the issue here. It’s just that it’ll all be in vain. You’ll know soon enough,” replied Zu An. “Let me give you a word of advice—don’t bother wasting your strength here either.”

“I can’t be bothered with you!” Qiao Xueying harrumphed before diving back to aid the villagers.

You have successfully trolled Qiao Xueying for +11 +11 +11… 

Zu An couldn’t help but let out a chuckle upon seeing the Rage points he was receiving. She really is holding a grudge against me, huh?

A while later, the clobbering of horse hooves suddenly sounded in the distance. Following that, an official led a platoon of soldiers over to their side.

An uneasy commotion broke out amongst the villagers. After all, this was an era where encountering an official usually meant nothing good. The village chief quickly rushed forward and greeted the official humbly, “Lord Wang, what brings you here?”

“How could I not come here after the earlier meteor shower? I need to report this matter to the imperial court right away!” Paying no heed to the village chief, Lord Wang gestured for his subordinates to search the area with a wave of his hand. 

The village chief hesitated for a moment before asking, “Lord Wang, you see… Our village suffered a huge calamity, and almost every single family has suffered great damage. Is it possible for the magistrate to spare some money so that we can tide through this crisis…”

However, Lord Wang interjected before he could finish those words, “The imperial court is tight on its finances at the moment. We’re fighting the foreign races over on the northern border at the moment, and the construction of palaces and imperial mausoleum all require money too. You should be able to resolve something as simple as this by yourselves. Don’t trouble the imperial court over mere trivialities!”

The village chief grew more agitated as he replied, “But our harvest is bad this year, and many of our houses have been burned down…”

A soldier suddenly rushed over anxiously and interrupted him with an urgent report, “Bad news, Lord Wang!”

Lord Wang angrily kicked the soldier and bellowed, “Show some propriety!”

The indignant soldier rubbed where he was kicked while pointing in the direction of where the fragments of the meteor had fallen. “Over… Over there! T-there are words on the meteor!”

“Words?” Lord Wang’s eyes lit up. He immediately made his way over where the soldier was pointing.

If it’s an auspicious omen and I report it upward, His Majesty might just promote me in a spur of joy! 

What was written on the meteor actually wasn’t too important at all. That was where scholars came in. With their glib tongue, they could turn even the most ordinary words into the greatest blessings for the Qin Dynasty! After all, the fact that these words had come from the sky accorded great significance to them!

A group of soldiers quickly followed Lord Wang’s footsteps to take a look, and some of the curious villagers tagged along as well. Chen Wei rushed forward to support his father as the two of them trailed behind the procession. He asked softly, “Father, why did you beg that darned official? It’s obvious that there’s no way he would donate any money to us to help us through this crisis! You’re just asking to be humiliated!”

The village chief sighed deeply and said, “It was at least worth a try. For the sake of the villagers, what do my pride and honor mean?”

Chen Wei sighed deeply before glaring at Lord Wang’s back with eyes filled with hatred.

Lord Wang was still dreaming of being promoted and rising to the peak when he finally saw the words on the meteor and froze up. He felt a chill engulfing his entire body, and his legs suddenly turned so wobbly that he could hardly remain standing.

His subordinates had to massage his chest before he finally recovered from the shock.

“W-who is the one who carved these words?!” bellowed Lord Wang. He pointed his finger at the villagers as he roared furiously, “You better confess to your crime, or else none of you will be getting out of here alive!”

The village chief was perplexed as to what was going on. So, he walked through the crowd to take a look at the meteor, only to see the following words inscribed on it—’The Founding Sovereign Emperor shall die and divided his land will be.’

“This… This…” He began trembling fearfully before suddenly collapsing to the ground. It was fortunate that Chen Wei quickly reached forward to help him up.

“Hah, do you think that this will be all over just because you fainted?” 

Lord Wang was far too infuriated to let this matter off easily. Had it been any other words, he could have easily twisted the meaning of the message to turn it into an auspicious omen. However, what was inscribed on the meteor stone was clearly a desecration to the emperor. He wouldn’t dare to interpret it in any way no matter how brazen he was!

“My father has really fainted!” argued Chen Wei.

“I don’t care whether he really fainted or not. You better get to the bottom of this matter, or else I’ll make sure every single one of you suffers for this!” 

After saying these words, Lord Wang took out a mirror to report this matter to his superior. 

Meanwhile, Zu An simply looked on by the side calmly. He noticed that the mirror was similar to video calls in his previous life, and he couldn’t help but marvel once more at how amazing the world of cultivation was. The lack of scientific advancement didn’t hinder them from going globalized at all!

Lord Wang lowered his head and back subserviently to the man in the mirror as he reported the matter. After reporting the matter, he stowed away the mirror before turning to the villagers with a hostile look on his face. “Interrogate every single one of the villagers. If we don’t find out who carved those words, all of you are going to die for this!”

A huge commotion broke out upon hearing those words. They were here just to watch the drama, yet who could have thought that they would end up getting implicated in this mess?

“It’s not us! We were all busy trying to extinguish the fire earlier on!”

“We can’t even read, let alone write!”

“We’ve been wronged! Everyone knows that I’m blind!”

… 

The villagers immediately began crying for mercy.

Qiao Xueying pulled Zu An’s hand and asked, “Did you see who carved those words? I was too busy trying to put out the fire that I didn’t pay attention to what’s going on on the other side.”

Zu An shook his head with a heavy heart.

A villager suddenly pointed to Zu An and exclaimed, “I think I saw that man walking toward the meteor earlier!” 

“Indeed! Those two people are of doubtful background. They must be the ones who did it!”

Many people quickly spoke words of agreement. With their lives at stake, they were desperate to blame anyone they could. 

… 

Qiao Xueying was stunned. She had helped them out of goodwill earlier, but they actually repaid her in such a manner.

“This is just how humans are like. Treat it as a lesson,” remarked Zu An.

Qiao Xueying shot a peculiar glance at Zu An. “Hmph, you talk as if you have already reached enlightenment. You aren’t even that old yet.”

“What does wisdom have to do with age? There are people who have lived for decades only to remain as fools,” replied Zu An as he kept a lookout for the movements of the soldiers. He was ready to break out of the encirclement if required.

Hearing the testimony of the villagers, Lord Wang immediately turned his attention to the two of them. Their soldiers also quickly scattered in the surroundings, encircling the area so as to prevent them from getting away.

Just as Zu An was about to make a pre-emptive move to curb the two of them, a hint of doubt suddenly flickered across Lord Wang’s eyes before he burst into laughter, “Ah, Lord Censor! I’ve been looking for you over the last few days! I never thought that you would actually be here!”

“Lord Censor?” Zu An was dumbfounded. He thought that Lord Wang was spouting nonsense so as to catch them off guard, but he soon realized that that couldn’t possibly be the case. There was no reason for the other party to spout such a meaningless lie.

Having played plenty of games in his previous life, he soon figured that this mission was like an RPG where he took on an alternate identity for the sake of progressing the storyline.

Lord Wang glared at the villagers who had spoken up earlier and spat, “What nonsense are you spouting? This man over here is a censor of the imperial court, so how could he inscribe such desecrating words on the meteor? Watch your mouth before you speak!”

After berating the villagers, he turned to Zu An and said, “Lord Censor, the imperial court ordered us to find the culprit within a day, or else we would be stripped of our positions and sentenced to death. You have the highest seniority here, so I’ll heed your command for this matter.”

Zu An knew that the other party was basically dumping the responsibility on him, but he figured that this was the crux to overcoming the Heaven Seal, so he accepted the role. “Very well, I’ll take responsibility for this matter. Interrogate every household individually lest they collude on their testimonies!”

“Yes, Lord Censor!” With a wave of his hand, Lord Wang ordered his soldiers to split up and interrogate the villagers separately.

After relaying the instructions, he turned to Zu An fawningly, only to be cast away as an annoyance. “Why are you still dawdling here? Can’t you see that there’s a lack of manpower here too? Hurry up and get to work too!”

“Y-y-yes!” Lord Wang nodded with his back bent respectfully. 

Despite being treated like an underling, he was still gladdened that he managed to dump this matter on someone else. Even if something went wrong later on, the person who would take the brunt of the impact would be the Lord Censor.

Once Lord Wang left the area, Qiao Xueying couldn’t hold back her curiosity anymore and asked, “When did you become a censor here?”

“This is the role the Heaven Seal has allocated to me. Most likely, we have to find the culprits who inscribed those words in order to clear this trial,” replied Zu An.

“Hm? That sounds quite easy. It doesn’t seem as dangerous as the Human Seal or the Earth Seal.” Qiao Xueying heaved a sigh of relief.

“You’re letting your guard down too soon. If we fail to solve this crime, it’s very likely that we’ll be put to death under the Qin Dynasty’s laws. Lord Wang is only serving as an assistant at the moment, so his punishment would only be limited to being stripped of his position. Why else do you think he would be so happy to see me here?” replied Zu An.

“But that’s the worst-case scenario, right? This case doesn’t seem too difficult since there are only so few people in the village. Besides, there are plenty of skilled interrogators amongst the constables, so they should be able to get some information out,” replied Qiao Xueying. “Also, I’m able to clear quite a few people too. Those who were trying to put out the fire with me earlier shouldn’t have the time to approach that meteor fragment to carve those words.”

“If only it’s that easy… There’s actually no solution to this problem.” Zu An heaved a deep sigh.

He finally understood why this was the Heaven Seal. It had something to do with the stars in the sky, and it was a trial that would lead to certain death.

“Why so?” Qiao Xueying was perplexed. “If I recall correctly, you headed in the direction of this meteor earlier on. You should have been able to see who it was that approached the meteor!”

“That’s the very reason why I’m saying that there’s no solution to this problem…” Zu An paused for a moment before continuing on. “The words were inscribed already on this meteor when it fell from the sky.”

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Pika's Thoughts

Just to provide some context on the Qin Dynasty:

The Central Plains, which is known now as China, was divided into the Six Countries back then till it was finally unified by the Qin Country under Qin Shihuang, forming the Qin Dynasty. You can read the Kingdom manga if you want to know how they did it in detail.

The Chinese dynasties are interesting in the sense that each of them has a governing philosophy that shapes their eventual policies. The Tang Dynasty values Confucianism, so meritocracy became a thing. As for the Qin Dynasty, it practices legalism, which believes that 'People must be controlled by laws and punishments' (It should be noted that Confucianism and Legalism are huge, comprehensive governance philosophies that are impossible to summarize, so what I'm stating is a gross generalization).

Due to this philosophy, they have incredibly strict rules that resulted in many people being exiled to the borders to work on the Great Wall of China (yes, it was built in this era), which resulted in many deaths.

Understandably, there were many people who were discontent with the Qin's tyranny and fought back hard, so the Qin Dynasty ended up being rather short-lived, lasting only 15 years.