Wu Geng’s expression grew downcast. “My father doted on Daji greatly. Because my mother, the queen, was constantly losing favor, I felt that she might be abandoned at any time. If Daji gave birth to another son, then my position as the crown prince would become unstable. As such, I thought that it would be better if I made the first move. I did not truly wish to betray the Shang Dynasty. I merely wanted to use the people of Zhou to force my father off the throne. Unfortunately, I never predicted that the Zhou State would be so ambitious, and that they were planning to completely eradicate the Shang Dynasty from the very beginning.”
Zu An sighed. “You all let the wolf right in.” All these Shang nobles had been so busy struggling amongst themselves that they had let the predator right in, with no idea how dangerous it could be.
“By the time we realized this, it was already too late. The broader situation was already set in stone, and the Zhou State had already assumed lordship,” Wu Geng said through gritted teeth. “The Zhou State was too strong, so we could only bide our time. Later on, after Ji Fa’s death, his young son succeeded to the throne, and I used the opportunity to rebel against the Zhou State. I was afraid that we might lose, so I prepared this dungeon ahead of time. This way, even if we lost, others would still be able to find out the real truth.”
Wu Geng turned towards Zu An and Pei Mianman. “The two of you are rather excellent. All the previous participants had higher cultivations than you, but I stripped everyone of their cultivations for this trial, turning them into normal people. What I wished to see wasn’t the cultivation of the participants, but rather whether or not they could understand the anguish and hatred of the people of the Shang Dynasty, and whether or not they could find a solution to our downfall.”
He continued, “The participants were all wise and intelligent, but many of them weren’t even able to pass the first trial. If they weren’t deceived by Xiao Tuo, they either disagreed with Fu Shuo, or forgot themselves and their reasons for participating in this trial after a few decades of living as royalty.
“As for the second trial, if they weren’t truly close to San Cai, she would not have taken the initiative to agree to the marriage. If the female trial participant went to Western Zhou, the only thing awaiting her would be death.
“As for the third trial, you actually managed to sort out a chaotic situation within the court, and clearly identified friends and foes. The main force was present during the Battle of Muye, and your companion even joined the fray with another army. On top of all of this, you saw through my identity. If my father had shared your insights and tenacity, things might have turned out differently.”
Zu An and Pei Mianman exchanged a look, and both let out a sigh of relief. They knew that they were the first of all of the trial participants to get this far.
However, Wu Geng’s tone suddenly changed. “Unfortunately, you have not succeeded in the trial. You have only realized all of this at the last second, and it is too late to change anything. Once I give the order, my troops will rebel, and we will reach the same conclusion. You weren’t able to alter the course of our fate.”
Zu An and Pei Mianman shared a somber look. Failing at the final hurdle was truly a terrible feeling.
Wu Geng’s voice was also full of regret. “Your performance during these trials was truly outstanding, far more outstanding than any participants in the past. Unfortunately, the more things like this happen, the higher my expectations become. Perhaps there might be others more outstanding than the two of you who will show up later, participants who could clear this trial perfectly. Prepare yourselves—the only thing that awaits you is death.”
As he said this he slowly rose into the air, and black mist shrouded his body. He lifted a hand slowly, and a sinister taotie rune appeared on his palm. A black hole took form in front of it, producing a powerful gravitational force that destroyed everything around them. Even the majestic deer terrace pavilion began to crumble. All things were being sucked into that black hole.
He had already judged them as failures, and he was going to close the world of the trial. He would wait another endless period for the next pair of destined participants.
The force was so strong that both Zu An and Pei Mianman felt that their souls were about to be ripped from them and sucked into the black hole.
Pei Mianman tightly gripped Zu An’s hand and smiled apologetically. “For better or for worse, we’ve still spent a lifetime with each other. I’m okay with dying like this.”
“Don’t give up so soon.” Zu An looked at Wu Geng and said, “I didn’t fail this trial. I still have another card to play!”
“Oh?” Wu Geng was stunned. He sneered. “None of your machinations escaped my notice. What else could you possibly have up your sleeve?”
Despite these words, he still closed his palm slightly and the suction force decreased substantially.
Zu An felt the pressure ease considerably, and said with a sigh, “It looks like you still subconsciously wish for us to succeed.”
Wu Geng snorted and said, “Your words are useless. If you do not tell me what else you’ve planned, all that awaits you is destruction.”
Zu An quickly said, “You left this dungeon behind in order to keep a record of the true history of the Shang Dynasty, and to wash away the stain of infamy. You also wanted to see if anyone could find a way for the Shang Dynasty to avoid its tragic fate.”
“So what? Even though you’ve succeeded in discovering the first objective, you have not succeeded in reaching the second, Wu Geng said coldly.
Zu An laughed. “Do you still remember Fei Lian and Elai, that father and son duo?”
Wu Geng frowned. He wasn’t sure where Zu An was going with this. “I do. You elevated them from their status as common soldiers. They can be considered loyal soldiers. Even if we allowed the battle to play out, Elai would have died in the Battle of Muye. Even though Fei Lian would eventually escape and vow to defeat the Zhou State, he alone cannot make a difference. He is just too weak.”
Zu An replied. “Even though Fei Lian didn’t succeed, he planted a seed that was passed down, one generation after another. Fei Lian is the progenitor of the people of the Qin State, and the Zhou Dynasty was eventually brought down by the Qin State! While the people of Zhou spent many generations plotting the downfall of the Shang Dynasty before finally succeeding, Fei Lian did the same!”
“Fei Lian is the progenitor of the Qin people?” Wu Geng was stunned. He closed his eyes, as if searching through a library of information.
A moment later, he suddenly opened his eyes and let out a burst of laughter. “Fei Lian raised Elai’s son Nu Feng, and Nu Feng sired Pang Gao. Pang Gao sired Tai Ji who in turn sired Da Luo. Da Luo sired Fei Zi, and Fei Zi established the Qin State, and eventually took down the Zhou Dynasty. Ha ha ha! Wonderful, truly wonderful!”
Zu An sighed in relief. If not for the empress of the Qin Dynasty, Mi Li, he wouldn’t have known about this at all. That was why he had immediately placed Fei Lian and Elai in important positions as soon as he found them. He planned to keep them as a trump card just in case. He never expected that they would end up playing such a vital role in events.
Wu Geng pulled his hand back and slowly descended to the ground again, and the destruction of the world around them halted.
He looked at Zu An with a complicated expression. “You’ve truly surprised me, I didn’t expect you to have thought so far ahead. Even though you didn’t directly alter fate and prevent the eradication of Shang, even if you managed to change it, so what? After all, this is but a trial, and nothing here is real. None of this can compare to reality. It cannot compare to the joy of seeing Fei Lian’s successor taking down the Zhou Dynasty!”
Zu An clasped his fist. “It was only luck. We were only given so many chances to succeed because of the crown prince’s expectations towards the participants of this trial.”
Wu Geng nodded slightly. “Not bad, not bad at all. You aren’t arrogant despite your achievements. If my father had shared your humility, perhaps he wouldn’t have been so utterly isolated.”
Zu An did not offer any comment. It was fine for Wu Geng to speak ill of his father, but that didn’t mean that he could. “Does this mean that we have successfully passed the trial?”
Wu Geng didn’t reply. Instead, his tone grew serious, and he said, “Answer one last question for me. Why do you possess the Phoenix Nirvana Sutra, which belongs to the Zhou royal family? Have you entered the Zhou Dynasty dungeon?”
He did not suspect him of being a descendant of the Zhou royal family because he had seen this fellow turn Ji Chang and his son into mincemeat. What descendant would ever be so unfilial?
He wasn’t familiar with the Primordial Origin Sutra, which belonged to the Qin Dynasty, and so he wasn’t as sensitive to this.
Zu An sensed the killing intent, and said carefully, “I did not enter any dungeon or trial set by the Zhou Dynasty. It was a senior of mine who entered, and I was fortunate enough that it passed on to me.” He gave a rough rundown of what had gone on with Old Mi.
“I see, that’s good.” Wu Geng roared with laughter. “It seems you are blessed with good fortune. You are worthy of the inheritance of my Shang Dynasty. Take it.”
A bronze book flew through the air. Zu An caught it, and saw the large characters on the copper cover: Heaven-Devouring Sutra.
“This will serve as your reward for passing the trial.” Wu Geng said, “The Heaven-Devouring Sutra is something only successive generations of Shang kings were worthy of cultivating. It is far stronger than the Zhou State’s Phoenix Nirvana Sutra. My Great Shang Dynasty would never be inferior to the Zhou State when it comes to this.”
Zu An was immediately overjoyed when he heard the contempt in the crown prince’s voice. Apparently, his hatred for Zhou truly ran deep.
He asked quickly, “Then what about my companion? Can she cultivate this skill? What kind of reward will she obtain?”
Wu Geng said indifferently, “The Heaven-Devouring Sutra is something only Shang kings can cultivate, and it is not available to her. However, you need not worry. She has her own share of rewards.”
Then, a shining piece of jade fell into Pei Mianman’s hands. “This is Heaven's Wisdom Jade,” Wu Gent explained. “It can absorb the ki of the world, allowing you to cultivate twice as quickly with only half the effort. In addition, it has another use. As long as this jade piece does not break, even if the flesh perishes, the soul can continue to live on.”
Pei Mianman held the piece of jade within her palm. She felt as if her soul was being nurtured. It was easy to see how this would improve her rate of cultivation. Furthermore, from what he was saying, wasn’t this equivalent to granting her a second life?
Wu Geng continued, “Lastly, the bearer of this jade piece will be acknowledged by the owl statue that serves as the conduit for this trial. That statue is also a formidable treasure. Since you lived one of your lives here as Fu Hao, it is a perfect match for you.”
Pei Mianman’s eyes lit up. “Thank you, crown prince!”
“It should be me who offers my thanks to the two of you.” Wu Geng clasped his fist. “You may feel free to leave. This sinner can finally visit the great temple with honor, and pay my respects to my ancestors…” With that, he turned and left, his lonesome figure gradually fading into nothingness.Previous Chapter Next Chapter