“I have never feared anything in my life, not even the heavens!” declared Chen Wei proudly.
Zu An was impressed by how that fellow was able to speak so confidently despite being in a bad situation himself. His mental fortitude indeed far surpassed that of normal people.
“Very well. I want you to plead guilty and admit to having inscribed those words,” said Zu An.
Qiao Xueying was still intrigued as to what kind of idea Zu An might have when she froze up upon hearing those words. Wait a moment, isn’t that as good as pushing him right into hell?!
“Hahaha!” Chen Wei also snorted in laughter. “I reckon that you were unable to find the real culprit either, so you want to coax me into being the scapegoat here?”
“I thought that you are a smart man, but it seems like I was mistaken. I should have described you as ‘short-sighted’ instead.” Zu An shook his head.
“You!!” Chen Wei flew into a state of anger. There was no one who would be happy at being described as short-sighted.
You have successfully trolled Chen Wei for +256 Rage!
“Think it through properly. Even if no one admits to this crime, you’re already doomed for death. However, if you admit to it, the only one who needs to die here is you. Is that logic hard for you to comprehend?”
Chen Wei was enraged. “But that’s a grievous crime that warrants nine familial exterminations! How can I possibly admit to it lightly?”
“Nine familial exterminations? Based on what I know, your mother died in your younger years, and you have been living alone with your father all of these years. Your father has just died, so who else would be implicated by the nine familial exterminations?”
Chen Wei was stunned. It was at this moment that he realized that he was the only one left in his family.
After a moment of contemplation, he shook his head and said, “That won’t do. There are plenty of villagers who are at loggerheads with us here, and we frequently have conflicts with one another. I can’t bear the notion of dying for those bastards. Why should I sacrifice myself for their happiness? I’d rather all of us die together!”
This really put Zu An in a spot. He thought that Chen Wei was the type of righteous person who would be more than willing to sacrifice himself for the rest of the village, but it turned out that his evaluation was completely off.
“I don’t fear death, but I’m not content with dying in such a humbling manner. A true warrior should go down with a bang! If our villagers are destined to die, I’d rather inform them about the implications of this matter and have them raise their arms in rebellion! The world has been suffering under Qin’s tyranny for some time now. I trust that many would heed my rally!
“You seem to be a righteous person as well. Why don’t we join forces and do something great together? By then, you can become whatever you want, be it a king, a duke, or a marquess. You won’t be tied down to being just a humble censor!”
Chen Wei’s words were so passionate that they made Zu An’s heart race.
It seems like some people are born with the charisma of a leader. Their words naturally rouse the emotions of others, and Chen Wei is one such person. If not for the fact that I don’t belong to this world, I might just be persuaded by him.
“How dare you spout such disrespectful words before an official of the imperial court? You must be tired of living!” sneered Zu An.
However, Chen Wei didn’t look intimidated at all. He puffed his chest up and said, “I reckon that you’re dissatisfied with the Qin Emperor’s tyrannical rule as well, considering how you bothered saying so much to me. Since that’s the case, why don’t you take a leap of faith and try for the huge one? Are kings and nobles given their high status at birth?”
“…” Zu An.
Hearing that famous quote coming from several thousand years ago, Zu An suddenly felt his mouth drying up a little. “By any chance, is it possible that you go by another name, Chen Sheng?”
“Chen Sheng?” Chen Wei fell into deep thoughts. “That’s a good name. I’ve been wanting to change my name for some time now. Very well, I shall be known as Chen Sheng from this day onward!”
“…” Zu An.
H-hold on a moment, what’s going on here? How in the world did Chen Sheng pop out here?!
Zu An felt his mind being plunged into disarray.
If this fellow was really Chen Sheng and he ended up getting killed together with the other villagers, wouldn’t there be no more ‘Uprising of the Poles’?
If so, the Qin Dynasty wouldn’t have fallen so quickly, which means that… history is changing?
Zu An was stunned. The most important rule of anyone transmigrating back in time was to not change history, or else it could lead to all sorts of bizarre changes in the plotline!
It looks like I can’t allow Chen Wei—ah, it should be Chen Sheng now—to die!
Cold sweat began trickling down Zu An’s back as he finally understood how devious the Heaven Seal was. Most people wouldn’t be able to find the culprit who inscribed the words and end up dead. Those who were more vicious would attempt to kill all of the villagers to silence them, but Chen Sheng’s death would inadvertently change the trajectory of history and stir to a series of unpredictable changes that was unlikely to lead to anything good.
To put it in simpler terms, there were two requirements he would have to fulfill here in order to clear the Heaven Seal: He would have to punish the culprit and remain accountable to the imperial court while ensuring Chen Sheng’s survival.
Now that he thought about it, the record on the ‘Antares Occupying the Heart’ incident might not be fully accurate. It was indeed stated that everyone in the village had been killed, but it was possible for some of them to escape, most notably, Chen Sheng.
If I had blindly trusted the historical records, I would have been done in just like that!
Now that he thought about it, Snow was really his star of fortune. If not for her insisting on it, he probably wouldn’t have been as determined to save the villagers. Once Chen Sheng died, it would become impossible to overcome the Heaven Seal, and he would end up dropping dead somehow.
Zu An quickly sorted out his thoughts and replied, “I’ll pass on that. You shouldn’t bother trying to rally the villagers on your side either. All of them have families to take care of, so how could they possibly throw in their lot with you and risk facing nine familial exterminations? Besides, you also mentioned that some of them bear grudges toward you, so there’s a possibility that they might stab you in the back after refusing your offer. Now is not a good time for you to make a move yet.”
Chen Sheng’s face darkened. He was overcome by passion earlier that he failed to think things through carefully. Zu An’s analysis brought him back to his senses, and he remarked in frustration, “What should I do then? Am I to wait for death here?”
“If you trust me, you should admit to inscribing the words, and we can conclude the case like that. I’ll find a way to save you afterward, and by then, you’ll be free to do whatever you want,” replied Zu An.
Cheng Sheng didn’t respond right away. He stared at Zu An intently for a moment before asking, “Why are you helping me?”
Zu An knew that Chen Sheng wasn’t the type to trust others easily. He took a while to consider the matter before answering, “To be frank with you, I wasn’t intending to get involved in this matter at the start. Things would have been much simpler for me if I simply killed all of you. However, my little sister pleaded on your behalf, and I’m not too fond of killing the innocent either. That’s why I’m taking this risk to help you all.”
Qiao Xueying nodded in agreement. “Indeed! Chen Sheng, you can trust him. He might have a suspicious-looking face, but he’s not a bad person at heart.”
Zu An clicked his tongue. Are you praising or insulting me here?
Seeing that Chen Sheng still wasn’t saying a word at all, Zu An decided to give it one last hard push. “If you aren’t going to agree with it, I’ll kill you right away. I’m not going to risk you revealing the content of our conversation to anyone else.”
Those words made Chen Sheng heave a sigh of relief instead. “Alright, I’ll accept your request.”
The few of them continued to sort out the details before Zu An finally brought Lord Wang over.
“He has already confessed to the matter. He was the one who secretly inscribed those words on the meteor.”
Lord Wang was overjoyed to hear that. “I never thought that Lord Censor would actually have a way to deal with this. I’m impressed!”
He beckoned his subordinates over and ordered, “Men, execute that miscreant right now!”
“Wait a moment!” Zu An hurriedly stopped Lord Wang before pulling him over to one side. “Are you intending to kill that suspect just like that?”
“What else do we do if not execute a man who has committed such grievous crimes?” asked Lord Wang in bewilderment.
“You should send him to Xianyang and have His Majesty judge him personally. Perhaps, His Majesty might be delighted by your merits and reward you handsomely,” said Zu An.
“Wise indeed!” Lord Wang’s eyes twinkled in delight. “Men, tie that man up and place him inside the cage! I shall personally escort him back to the capital! Lord Censor, do you want to come along with us?”
“I still have other matters to attend to, so I’ll have to pass,” Zu An rejected with a shake of his head.
Lord Wang was overjoyed to hear that. “Lord Censor, I’m truly grateful for your guidance. I’ll never forget the grace you’ve shown to me today.”
“Lord Wang, you’re too humble,” replied Zu An. I’ll already be more than thankful if you don’t hate me for this.
When the villagers found out that it was Chen Wei who inscribed those words on the meteor, even those who were close to him usually began pointing fingers at him, criticizing him for his actions. Everyone had just been taken on a trip to hell’s gate, so all of them were incredibly irritable at the moment. Naturally, they would vent their wrath at the culprit who nearly cost them their life.
Chen Sheng was infuriated to see how he was criticized by the villagers despite saving their lives. He was just about to act up when Zu An walked over to his side and communicated with him discreetly through ki transmission, “Commoners tend to be ignorant, so don’t hold it against them. Think about it optimistically. They rallied against you easily today, but this also means that you can also easily rally them in the future to help you with your ambition.”
A glint flashed across Chen Sheng’s eyes as he nodded discreetly. He lowered his head silently and obediently followed the guards into the cage.
Both Zu An and Qiao Xueying exchanged glances before quickly leaving from another direction. Once they were out of everyone’s sight, they made a huge detour and laid in ambush at where they knew the convoy would have to pass by in order to get to the capital, Xianyang.
In the end, they managed to save Chen Sheng without too much of a hassle. In the first place, the guards weren’t too strong, and Lord Wang was too anxious to claim his reward that he barely brought anyone along with him. He would have never thought that someone would be so brazen as to attempt to save a criminal of the imperial court.
“Lord Wang, what do we do now?”
The floored subordinates quickly gathered around Lord Wang’s side as they asked anxiously. It was an absolute death penalty for them to actually let such an important criminal escape under their watch!
“How am I to know what to do?!” Lord Wang was incredibly vexed too. Not only had he lost his chance at a promotion, but it seemed like his head was going to be lopped off at this rate too.
“Why don’t we return to the Chen Village and kill everyone? We can claim that no one has confessed to inscribing those words, so…” one of the subordinates suggested
“You fool!” Lord Wang smacked the subordinate’s head. “I’ve already reported the matter to the royal court! I would be asking for trouble if I suddenly changed my statement!”
Another subordinate spoke up, “What if we claim that Chen Wei tried to break free and ended up harming some of our brothers, so we killed him on the spot as punishment?”
“That’s a good idea. But how do we deal with the issue of the corpse then?” Lord Wang nodded in approval.
“One of the prisoners have died in the yamen yesterday, and we haven’t reported it upward yet. We could use his corpse in place of Chen Wei’s. Those of the imperial court won’t recognize him anyway,” replied the subordinate.
Lord Wang’s eyes lit up. “That’s a good idea. Quick, let’s get to action then! We’re all tied on the same boat right now, so you better make sure to keep your mouth shut! Understood?”
The others nodded in agreement.
Meanwhile, Zu An and Qiao Xueying brought Chen Sheng to a remote place and said, “You won’t be able to return to the Chen Village anymore. What are your plans now?”
“What about my father’s corpse? I can’t just leave him there…” Chen Sheng frowned.
“Don’t worry, I’ve already ordered some of the men to bury your father,” replied Zu An. “Of course, it won’t be anything glorious. It can’t be helped since you’re a fugitive right now.”
“Thank you, benefactor. I’m thankful for your help.” Chen Sheng bowed deeply to Zu An out of gratitude before saying, “Please do not worry. I shall change my name from this day onward so as to not implicate you. Like I’ve said before, I shall become known as Chen Sheng from this day onward. I’m thinking of heading over to Yangxia City to seek refuge with one of my good friends.”
“By any chance, is it possible that your friend is named Wu Guang?” asked Zu An.
Chen Sheng was stunned. “How do you know that?”
“It was just a random guess. Well, I wish you all the best for the future,” replied Zu An sheepishly.
Chen Sheng clasped his fist and said, “I’ll surely repay the grace you’ve shown me today. Farewell!”
With that, he bade the two of them farewell before taking his leave. For some reason, his departing silhouette looked rather stalwart.
As Qiao Xueying watched as Chen Sheng left, she asked the man beside her, “Are you hiding something from me?”
1. Sheng means ‘Victory’. Chen Sheng is one of the rebels rising from the farmer class, declaring himself the king of the Chen Country. However, he was later put down by Zhang Han. He’s known for his quote ‘Are kings and nobles given their high status at birth?’
2. As most of Chen Sheng’s supporters are farmers and peasants who don’t have proper weapons, they tended to wield farming tools and stuff, resulting in the coining of a term that literally translates to ‘Raise your poles in rebellion’
Chen Sheng and Wu Guang are the first ones to revolt against Qin Shihuang. Their insurrection was unsuccessful since they were defeated by Zhang Han in the end, but their precedence set an example for Xiang Yu (the Hegemon-King of Western Chu) and Liu Bang (the founding emperor of the Han Dynasty) to follow.
The story starts with Chen Sheng and Wu Guang being tasked to lead a band of commoner soldiers to defend the Yuyang Commandery, but they ended up obstructed by a sudden flash flood, resulting in severe delays. Under Qin’s law, those who were late for government jobs are punishable by death. Figuring that they would rather fight for their freedom than face execution, they rallied the commoner soldiers to rebel against the government, thus starting the insurrection.