The World’s Dazzling Talent – Forbidden Zone
Melancholically, the Emperor said, “It’s a pity that over twenty years have passed, yet I am still unable to decipher the late carving that Hero Shenzhou left. I am truly ashamed.”
‘Oi, oi, oi, what the hell do you mean ‘late’ carving?!! That was on purpose, wasn’t it?! You’re holding onto a bitter grudge because the meaning behind Grandmaster’s note eluded you, aren’t you?! You’re taking advantage of the situation to curse him, aren’t you?!’
Jin Wangsun asked, “Where is the late carving now?”
‘Enough! You and you ,too, what the heck do you mean ‘late’ carving?! He’s still alive and kicking! Careful or my grandmaster may sneak into your dream and turn you into shotacons!’
The Emperor pointed to a tall tower-like structure not too far off in the distance. It was located within the imperial palace, but stood out. Had it not been used to perform divinations, god forbid anybody knew what it’d be used for. The tower’s red lacquer looked brand new. The timber used to construct it didn’t appear old, either. It must’ve been constructed in fifteen years and repainted recently. The tower had always been in use.
“See the tower? That’s the place I had people construct the new Directorate of Imperial Observatory nine years ago. After that, it replaced the old one.”
The story the Emperor mentioned before took place at Directorate of Imperial Observatory. However, since it was the new one, it meant that Grandmaster’s late c-, I meant carving wasn’t there.
The Emperor pointed to another place, which was where we were headed: “We’re heading to the old Directorate of Imperial Observatory. I haven’t touched the late carving on the white. It’s been maintained to ensure it remained in the same condition as back then at Zhaixing Hall.”
Suddenly, the Emperor’s ear twitched, as he heard something strange. No, it wasn’t the sound of somebody sneak attacking him or whatnot, but a sequence of strange heart beat rhythm. His heart skipped a beat when he mentioned Zhaixing Hall.
Jin Wangsun didn’t notice the change in the Emperor’s heart beat whatsoever. Quietly he said, “May Wangsun asked if you have made any progress over these years?”
The Emperor reactively shook his head. Solemnly, he replied, “The late carving on the white hall is incredibly hard to grasp. I have asked countless – eighty if not one hundred – astute and talented scholars over the years to try and decipher the message, but unfortunately… there has still been no progress.”
I touched my nose: “So that is your test for us today?”
“It is the reason I named the round Dazzling Talent.” The Emperor chuckled in a soft tone: “You are both pillars of the nation. Wangsun, you have vast knowledge from your family background. Your predecessors researched a vast array of martial arts, conceptualised a new idea and created the amazingly superb Golden Crow Moon Eater. With every passing generation, your clan has continued to exceed the previous generation. As for Constable Ming, you are one of Mount Daluo’s high-ranking disciples. The carving came from your sect, so you also have a big chance. I see a lot of potential in you two. I hope you succeed, and help lift the weight off my shoulders.”
I detected an insincere undertone in the Emperor’s speech. His heart beat was normal as he explicated all that. He wasn’t as tense as he was before. He didn’t look excited, either. In essence, it was borderline indifference. In other words, he didn’t expect us to be able to decipher the caving.
‘Why is he asking us to participate in this so-called Dazzling Talent, then..? How can he determine who’s superior in this?’
The sedan suddenly stopped. It stopped very abruptly. However, I figured out why we came to an abrupt stop. From the abrupt stop, I managed to read what was between the lines.
The scene before me was more abrupt than the stop. It was akin to having something smash into your eyes. It was impossible to describe going from the resplendent imperial palace to suddenly walking into the place’s sudden sharp turn. It was literally harmful for the eyes.
We entered a courtyard, but this particularly courtyard’s trees were left with only branches. Without context, one might’ve thought somebody once set fire to the place. The ground seemed as though it was infested with black, because it was akin to just walking on a field of black. They were probably fallen and rotten leaves from the trees. The trees were thoroughly dead, and nobody cleaned the area, leaving the ground littered with leaves.
That was bad, but as soon as we arrived, I immediately noticed that the black ground… was in motion. To be precise, it was the various insects, bugs, rats, snakes and so forth underneath he rotten leaves beginning to move when they detected visitors. That created the illusion of the ground shifting. That was what was freaky about the place. As it was winter, snakes and rodents weren’t supposed to be active, yet it was an exception in this particular courtyard.
The main building in the area was a towering building. The building shouldn’t have been described as a building, because the door didn’t function as a door. Be it the wind and rain harassing it or the rodents and insects chewing it off, it was essentially non-existent. It would probably be reduced to powder if you tapped it with your hand. The most ridiculous point was that it looked as though it would collapse at any given moment. If I didn’t see the Zhaixing Hall on the damaged plaque, I’d have thought it had been abandoned for, at least, twenty years. I never would’ve recognised it as Directorate of Imperial Observatory.
The stunned Jin Wangsun pointed at the building with disbelief written all over his face: “Your Majesty, could this be…”
His Majesty nodded: “Correct. This is the old Zhaixing Hall. It’s also why I built a new Directorate of Imperial Observatory.”
Jin Wangsun replied, “Wh-Why is it in this state? If it has been abandoned for so long, why did you not clean and renovate the place? If you do not want the interior contents to be seen, you could just have somebody move the late carving.”
“Don’t be stupid,” I said. I silently analysed the anomalies then frowned: “It’s obvious that it wasn’t a natural occurrence. There’s a prominent sinister air around this place. It wouldn’t have happened if there was somebody alive here. Had this place not been located within the imperial palace and had a solid foundation, there would likely be over ten times the number of snakes, bugs, insects and rodents here. Your Majesty, what exactly happened here?”
“Not long after what happened here, it became a forbidden zone,” replied the Emperor, pinching his forehead as though he had a headache.
“That’s not all, though,” added the Emperor. He gazed at the moon in the sky and sighed: “It’s time.”
All of a sudden, a high-pitched scream comparable to that of an owl came from within the pitch-black Zhaixing Hall! The cold breeze at night amplified the hell-like scene, thereby making it more frightening. The voice was akin to a girl’s sobbing late at night. In saying that, the excessive high-pitch was similar to a needle piercing your heart. Imagine a hell where you’re pricked with a needle for eternity. It was freaky.
Jin Wangsun revealed his surprise on his face. The Emperor, however, shut his eyes and looked hopeless as an empty man. I, on the other hand, focused on listening in closely. I perceived the sound to be some sort of unique metal vibrating. The sound resembled chirping. I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I had heard it somewhere before when some supreme swordsman wielded his sword…
*Shotacon – A borrowed term from Japanese to refer to adults who like young boys. The boy version for Lolicon if you will.
**Directorate of Imperial Observatory – Lit. Gazing at the Heavens Watchtower
***Zhaixing Hall – Lit. Plucking Stars Hall.