Chapter 555, Part I: Heaven-Devouring Sutra

Upon hearing this statement, Wu Geng’s expression, which had been calm and composed before, changed immediately. He quickly rose from his respectful bow, and his humble demeanor was suddenly replaced with the domineering aura of a king.

He looked at Zu An and said calmly, “When did you find out?”

As he said this, the surroundings suddenly changed. Just a moment ago, they had been on a battlefield bathed in rivers of blood, but it all vanished in a blink of an eye.

This was not the battlefield of Muye, but a deer terrace pavilion, which had been constructed a few years before the battle.

Pei Mianman appeared as well, seemingly dazed by the sudden change. She quickly rushed over to Zu An’s side and asked, “Ah Zu, what’s going on?”

Zu An smiled bitterly. “The one before you is the creator of this trial, the true final Shang king.”

Pei Mianman looked at the crown prince in shock. This quiet and soft-spoken prince had often visited her to wish her good health. She really couldn’t associate him with the final boss of the trial.

Wu Geng frowned at Zu An. “You still haven’t answered my question.”

Zu An turned to him and said, “Ever since I entered this dungeon, something had bothered me. Since King Di Xin fled to this deer terrace pavilion to immolate himself after his defeat at Muye, he clearly had no time to make this dungeon. That leaves only two possible candidates. The first is King Di Xin’s step-brother, Weizi, who later established the Song State, and the other is King Di Xin’s son, Wu Geng, who succeeded him as the king of the Shang State.

“Weizi struggled with Di Xin for the throne, so to a certain degree, he can be considered a traitor of the Shang Dynasty. Furthermore, he is the founding ruler of the Song State, which means he shares a good relationship with the people of Western Zhou. I cannot picture him creating this dungeon.

“That leaves you as the only choice. The Zhou Dynasty took power after Di Xin committed suicide, and you became the last king of the Shang State. After temporarily acknowledging their rule for a few years, you led the remaining people of the Shang State in a rebellion, while the new ruler of the Zhou Dynasty was still young. This war lasted for three years, but still ended in failure.”

Wu Geng was shocked by Zu An’s analysis. “You seem to be quite familiar with this period of history. However, the people of this world do not know about this. Who are you?”

Zu An sighed. “Perhaps I’m just someone led here by fate.”

Wu Geng clearly had no intentions to probe further. He let his gaze wander around the deer terrace pavilion, his voice growing softer. “Do you know what happened after we were defeated at the battle of Muye?”

Zu An shook his head. The other party seemed as though he had a lot to say—why would he stop him?

Wu Geng reached out a hand. The air in front of him rippled, then, like the surface of a mirror, several scenes appeared.

A tall and valiant man fled to this deer terrace pavilion. He sighed towards the heavens. Unwilling to be humiliated by the people of Zhou, he set himself on fire.

This was King Di Xin. Daji accompanied him in death as well.

Soon afterwards, The army of Western Zhou entered Shang Capital. After awarding achievements and handing out rewards, they carried out sacrifices to thank the deities.

The best offerings were always human lives, and they had more than enough candidates to choose from.

A hundred of Di Xin’s trusted subjects were escorted up to the sacrificial platform. They were dismembered and left alone to struggle in a pool of blood. The louder their howls and the greater their struggles, the better they were as sacrifices for the deities.

The generals who had fought fiercely on the battlefield of Muye as well as the clan leaders of Shang’s major noble clans were stripped of their clothes and thrown into a cauldron of boiling water.

King Di Xin’s corpse was found, and the heads of Di Xin and his concubines were burned on a giant bonfire. This scorched smoke was the favorite food of the deities.

Zu An and Pei Mianman stared blankly for a long time. They had served as the kings and queens of the Shang State themselves, so seeing these cruel scenes made rage burn within them.

Wu Geng said, “The main reason I created this dungeon was to ensure that the truth of the past was restored, as well as revisit why the Great Shang Dynasty eventually perished.”

After pausing for a moment, he turned his sharp eyes towards Zu An and Pei Mianman. “You’ve both gone through several trials. Were you able to conclude why the Great Shang Dynasty was destroyed?”

Zu An’s heart skipped a beat. Was this the final trial? He didn’t dare treat this carelessly. After organizing his thoughts, he said, “In my opinion, there are four main reasons. The first is obviously the rise of the Zhou state. At first, when the northwestern Qiang Faction was defeated, the Zhou State used this chance to seize the newly vacant Central Plains. The Central Plains have always been a territory greatly coveted by many powers. As long as this territory is properly utilized, whoever controlled this territory would inevitably rise to power. Unfortunately, the Shang Dynasty faced all sorts of powerful enemies, and were not able to turn their attentions fully to this matter. When the Shang Dynasty had finally dealt with the rest of their enemies, the Zhou State had already come to power, and the Shang Dynasty was forced to engage them using the twin prongs of war and diplomacy—for example, killing Ji Li, and marrying off San Cai. Unfortunately, the Zhou State had already been scheming for a long time, and successive generations of rulers vowed to take down the Shang Dynasty. There was no way for the Shang Dynasty to escape its destruction.”

Wu Geng’s face remained expressionless. “What else?”

Zu An continued, “The second reason concerns the right to inherit the throne. Whether a brother or a son should inherit the throne is something that the factions within the court can never agree on. As such, the royal family is constantly in a state of internal conflict, greatly reducing the national power of the Shang State and preventing it from truly uniting against its enemies.”

Wu Geng sighed. “Indeed. Internal struggles within the royal family never ceased throughout the five hundred years of the Shang Dynasty. The capital was moved frequently precisely because of this reason.”

Zu An let out the breath he was holding. He held Pei Mianman’s hand and continued, “Thirdly, the struggle between imperial and divine authority. Things like the offering of sacrifices were merely used to deceive the common people. As the Shang king, it should be clear to you that deities do not truly exist. However, the High Priest can still borrow the divine will to keep imperial power in check. This is something that no ambitious Shang ruler would accept, resulting in yet another power struggle. To be honest, this reason is linked to the second reason, since the High Priest is usually royalty who lost the right to succeed the throne.”

Wu Geng nodded. “The High Priest has always been granted great authority, ever since the dynasty was founded. Every Shang king tried to seize the power of divine authority for himself, but apart from Wu Ding and a few other kings with exceptional ability, divine authority was always controlled by the other branches of the royal family. So, what is the fourth reason?”

“The fourth reason…” Zu An paused for a moment, and then said, “If the reasons I mentioned earlier were the key reasons behind the Shang King’s destruction, then this fourth thing directly relates to the Shang Dynasty’s destruction. During King Di Xin’s reign, The imperial uncle Bi Gan and the old nobility led by Ji Zi were not unified behind the will of the Shang king, because the many centuries of history behind their families prevented them from doing so. On top of that, Weizi lost his right to the throne because of a laughable reason, which led him to ally himself with the powerful Zhou State and fulfill his aspirations to become king. Even though he didn’t become the Shang king in the end, he still became the ruler of the Song State.

“There were also important statesmen in the court, such as Shang Rong and Xin Jia, who were on good terms with the Zhou State. There are far more names that I didn’t mention. King Di Xin must have felt as though he was completely alone, and that no one agreed with him.”

“There was one person that you did not mention.” Wu Geng said. “Jiao Ge, whose father single-handedly rose to power, was someone who had secretly sought out the Zhou State a long time ago.”

Zu An was stunned. “Jiao Ge? Wasn’t he a slave that your father freed? Why would someone directly under his charge switch sides?”

Wu Geng snorted. “Because before father saved him, he had already been bought by the Zhou State. Do not forget that he is an eastern barbarian. After centuries of war, the grudge between the Eastern Barbarians and the Shang Dynasty had gone too deep. The Great Shang Dynasty even stole the artifact sacred to the Eastern Barbarians—their jade badge. How could any of them ever truly serve the Shang Dynasty?”

“The jade badge…” Zu An suddenly thought of something. The young lady Jiangjiang, who was outside the trial, was looking for this item. He had seen it during Wu Ding’s reign, and it had been buried with Fu Hao later on.

He quickly brought himself back to the present, and continued, “Apart from those people I mentioned, you, the crown prince, also seemed to be unhappy with King Di Xin. I believe that you also joined in the betrayal. King Di Xin had enemies at all sides. How could he possibly win? However, there is one thing I do not understand. It makes sense for the others to betray King Di Xin, but you are the crown prince. Why would you betray him?”

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