Rebirth of a Star General Chapter 102

Chapter 102: Chengfeng

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The overgrown courtyard concealed countless white bones beneath the soil.

Song Taotao couldn’t bear to look any longer and turned her face away, filled with a mix of shock and anger.

As the last corpse was removed, there was no more space in the courtyard to place them. Even the red-armored soldiers from Xialing County, who had seen their fair share of gruesome scenes, couldn’t help but shudder at this sight.

“What… what…” Even Yuan Baozhen was at a loss for words.

“What do you want to say, Imperial Censor Yuan?” Xiao Jue asked calmly. “Do you still believe it’s a misunderstanding?”

“How can this be a misunderstanding?” Before Yuan Baozhen could respond, He Yan cut in, “This is clearly the residence of County Magistrate Sun. If someone buried female corpses here without his knowledge, one or two might be acceptable, but dozens or even hundreds? No wonder the assassins were able to mix in. The Sun family’s gate might as well have been made of paper. Are the guards at County Magistrate Sun’s residence all blind and deaf?”

Sweating profusely, Sun Xiangfu couldn’t fathom how Xiao Jue had learned about this underground situation. He bit his lip for a moment, struggling to argue, “These are just servants from my estate who committed wrongdoings and were beaten to death before being buried here. It’s…. common in wealthy households.”

He Yan sneered, “I also come from a wealthy family, but we don’t engage in such brutal acts. If you claim these were servants who made mistakes, I kindly request that County Magistrate Sun produce their indentures. I would like to know the reasons for their reproach. Furthermore, all the bodies here are female…. County Magistrate Sun, are all the maids in your estate treated this way? As a seventh-ranked official, your estate houses hundreds of maids, yet you beat them to death as if they were nothing. You’re even more imposing than His Majesty!” As He Yan concluded, her tone and gaze became increasingly hostile, making it difficult for anyone to refute her.

At this point, Sun Xiangfu could only kneel down and repeatedly kowtow, wailing, “No, no! It’s not true! I’m innocent! I’m innocent!” He kept repeating these phrases, unable to explain why he was wronged, losing his momentum.

He Yan was still filled with anger, unable to comprehend the audacity of the man before her. When she had faced off against Ding Yi last night, he had mentioned that each statue in that room represented a dead person. She had initially thought he was just trying to scare her with a joke, but now it seemed that it was true. How absurd!

Sun father and son had committed countless heinous acts in Liangzhou, abducting numerous young women. If these women displeased them even slightly or if they grew tired of them, it was easy for them to take their lives. Those buried in the courtyard were considered fortunate because at least their entire bodies remained intact. Who knew if there were even more unfortunate victims whose corpses had been thrown onto mass graves, consumed by scavengers, leaving no trace behind?

The audacity of these actions was beyond comprehension and devoid of humanity.

Song Taotao shivered with a sense of dread. If it weren’t for her fortuitous encounter with He Yan that night, she might have ended up like these unfortunate women, buried beneath the earth, rotting away, never to be discovered.

Tears welled up in her eyes as she angrily declared, “This is utterly despicable! We must seek justice for these girls!” However, as soon as she finished speaking, she felt a nudge on her arm. She turned to see He Yan gesturing toward Yuan Baozhen.

In an instant, Song Taotao understood He Yan’s intent and redirected her plea. “Uncle Yuan, I have been wronged terribly here. You are the only person I trust in this situation. Please speak on my behalf!”

Song Taotao’s father had once been a superior to Yuan Baozhen, and Yuan Baozhen often claimed to have a close relationship with the Song family. He couldn’t ignore Song Taotao’s words. He wiped his sweat and smiled, saying, “Of course.”

“Commander, this corpse is different,” one of the red-armored soldiers remarked.

He bent down and used a piece of cloth to wipe the face of the deceased, revealing a man’s visage. Among all the female corpses scattered throughout the room, this was the only male. He appeared to have died recently and wore a look of terror.

“Ah,” Xiao Jue, still standing in place, slowly spoke, “it seems that Imperial Censor Yuan’s guard has been found.”

After the corpse was unearthed, it was revealed to be none other than Ding Yi, who had disappeared early that morning.

He Yan: “…”

After killing Ding Yi last night, she had no intention of dealing with his corpse and had simply left. However, after Xiao Jue discovered her true identity, she informed him of Ding Yi’s death. Indeed, Xiao Jue must have orchestrated this by having Ding Yi also buried. Digging him out in front of Yuan Baozhen, at this moment He Yan couldn’t help but feel a trace of sympathy for him.

Yuan Baozhen’s lips quivered, and he struggled to speak.

“Imperial Censor’s guards was loyal and fearless, and they discovered that the backyard of Sun’s residence hid many female corpses, which were silenced and buried by the Sun County Magistrate,” Xiao Jue said with a smile that wasn’t really a smile. “Imperial Censor Yuan, don’t you feel sorry for this guard who died unjustly?” 

“You’re talking nonsense!” Sun Ling roared, standing up and struggling despite being held down by the soldiers. He continued to resist and shouted loudly, “I didn’t kill him! This is slander! I don’t know why he was here, and I didn’t kill him—” 

His voice grew hoarse from shouting, and it sounded particularly piercing in the quiet courtyard. Xiao Jue furrowed his brow and indifferently ordered, “Silence him.”

The soldiers stuffed pieces of cloth into the mouths of Sun Ling and Sun Xiangfu, leaving them only able to make muffled, resentful sounds of protest.

“Imperial Censor Yuan,” Xiao Jue looked at him, still wearing a faint smile. “What do you intend to do now?”

Yuan Baozhen was seething with hatred, knowing full well that Ding Yi couldn’t have been killed by Sun Xiangfu’s men. The man before him now knew everything, yet he couldn’t argue against it. He could only manage a few words through clenched teeth, “Please advise me, Commander.”

“Sun Xiangfu and his son have been ruthless, abusing their power, extorting the people, and exploiting their wealth. They abducted innocent women and used them as offerings,” Xiao Jue said. “For such heinous criminals, as an Imperial Censor, Imperial Censor Yuan has the responsibility to investigate and rectify officials’ misconduct. I have already informed the governor of Xialing County, and we will jointly report this matter to the Emperor. As for Imperial Censor Yuan,” he gazed at Yuan Baozhen with a hint of mockery, “whether you choose to submit an open memorial or a secret impeachment, I won’t intervene.”

Yuan Baozhen was nearly breathless.

Although Xiao Jue had said he wouldn’t intervene, he had orchestrated the entire affair from start to finish. Even if Yuan Baozhen had other plans, it was already too late, as the Governor of Xialing County had reported the matter to higher authorities. Sun Xiangfu and his son were initially recommended by a student of Xu Xiang. Xu Xiang’s students were spread throughout Da Wei, and the Liangzhou magistrate case would cast a shadow on Xu Xiang’s reputation. Furthermore, to avoid suspicion, the new appointed magistrate of Liangzhou would not be affiliated with Xu Xiang.

Xu Xiang has completely lost control over Liangzhou, so how can he cause trouble for Xiao Jue?! 

This time, returning to Shuo Jing, Xu Xiang will certainly not let him off lightly. Yuan Baozhen felt nothing but despair. 

Xiao Jue turned to look at the trembling servants and maidservants huddled on the side and said indifferently, “If you tell what you know, you may avoid severe punishment.” 

This meant that he wanted the servants in the Sun’s residence to expose the crimes of Sun Xiangfu and his son. 

The servants were still hesitant, fearing that if Sun Xiangfu and his son survived, they might seek revenge. However, the maidservants were overjoyed and eagerly stepped forward to respond. As women in the Sun family, they had no prospects. Even if they were beautiful and talented, their best fate would be to become gifts for their superiors. Perhaps they could extend their lives a few more years. Most likely, they would end up being played with by Sun father and son before being killed, becoming a handful of flower mud.

For these women, life in the Sun household was akin to imprisonment, with no knowledge of when their execution day might arrive. Now, they had a chance to escape their fate and eagerly came forward to expose the heinous crimes of Sun Xiangfu and his son. Everyone described the crimes with such horror that it sent shivers down their spines, making them seem even more ruthless and terrifying. It was as if these evil men had drawn the wrath of gods and ghosts alike.

Fei Nu and the head of Xialing County’s soldiers took note of their testimonies. Sun Xiangfu and his son were forced to kneel, bound by ropes. Xiao Jue turned and started to walk away.

Yuan Baozhen remained stunned, standing in place. He had encountered an unexpected turn of events, with no one by his side to discuss or assist him. His thoughts were in disarray. Just as he was unsure of what to do, a familiar figure calmly approached him.

As Xiao Jue passed by him, he suddenly stopped in his tracks. The young commander smiled faintly, speaking softly in a voice only they could hear, “Imperial Censor Yuan, you may want my life, but I hope you live. Your continued existence will be more painful for Xu Jingfu than you dying.”

Xiao Jue straightened up and put on a mocking smile as he continued, “When you return to Shuo Jing, please give my regards to Xu Xiang. Imperial Censor Yuan, have a safe journey.”

Then he turned and walked away.

Behind him, someone exclaimed, “Imperial Censor Yuan! What’s happening to Imperial Censor Yuan? Imperial Censor Yuan?”

Yuan Baozhen fainted, and when He Yan turned to look, Xiao Jue’s figure had disappeared beyond the flowery wall, leaving no trace behind.

With this… everything had been settled.

The county magistrate’s residence was sealed by the soldiers from Xialing County. What was once an imposing mansion now had seals on its doors, lanterns hanging askew, and an overall dilapidated appearance. Song Taotao felt extremely uncomfortable seeing so many female corpses in the courtyard. He Yan comforted her for a long time until she finally calmed down. When Song Taotao started to feel drowsy and rested her head on the table, He Yan gave a nod to the Chiwu, who was protecting Song Taotao, and then went to find Xiao Jue.

There were still some unanswered questions in her mind.

Xiao Jue was currently talking to Fei Nu.

Sun Xiangfu and his son had committed numerous atrocities, and the servants had revealed a wealth of information. They didn’t need to recount every detail, as the crimes were beyond severe, and there was no way to save Sun Xiangfu and his son. The magnitude of their sins was enough to warrant death ten times over. Such cruel and power-hungry individuals were a nightmare for ordinary people. The actions were truly despicable and uncommon in all of Da Wei. 

When cruel individuals gained power, it was a catastrophe for ordinary people. Wolves, tigers, and leopards were terrifying, but they couldn’t compare to the malevolence of the human heart. 

“Uncle!” He Yan called out from the doorway.

Xiao Jue and Fei Nu’s conversation came to an abrupt halt when He Yan entered. Xiao Jue raised an eyebrow, “Still calling me ‘Uncle’?”

He Yan: “….Commander.”

He made it sound like she wanted to call him “uncle,” clearly he was taking advantage of her, yet he acts unwilling.

He asked, “Why aren’t you with Miss Song right now? Why come to find me?”

He spoke with a hint of sarcasm. He Yan hesitated for a moment before asking, “You dealt with the Sun father and son today, so why did you spare Yuan Baozhen? You knew that Yuan Baozhen was the one who wanted to kill you.”

While the Sun father and son were despicable and deserved to die, it was ultimately Yuan Baozhen who had orchestrated the assassination attempt at the banquet. Ding Yi was already dead, but Yuan Baozhen could return to Shuo Jing alive. Why would Xiao Jue be so lenient?

“I didn’t kill him here because he’ll die when he returns to Shuo Jing,” Xiao Jue said as he looked out of the window. “Sooner or later.”

“What about the others?” He Yan asked. “In Liangzhou, there are likely accomplices of the Sun father and son.” Those who support Sun Xiangfu are still entrenched in Liangzhou. Why not take them all out at once?

Xiao Jue replied, “When the water is too clear, there are no fish*. Miss He, you’re too naive.”
*You cannot expect everyone to be squeaky clean

Fei Nu stood silently on the side, as though he hadn’t heard their conversation. The trees outside the window grew lush, and in such a beautiful mansion, who would have guessed it concealed so much evil?

In fact, Yuan Baozhen had never been Xiao Jue’s main target.

He had known that the Sun family’s banquet would be like a Hongmen feast. He was aware of Yuan Baozhen’s murderous intent. His visit to Liangzhou City was never about participating in a game of cat and mouse; it was about gaining control over the city.

Leading the new soldiers to Liangzhou garrison was a way to temporarily avoid attention, keeping Xu Jingfu from noticing. But with old dog Xu’s disciples scattered throughout Da Wei, and the prevailing practice of buying and selling official positions, Sun Xiangfu of Liangzhou Garrison was just one of many. Yuan Baozhen had come on Xu Jingfu’s orders, and if he could kill Xiao Jue, that would be ideal. If he couldn’t, he would collaborate with Sun Xiangfu to gain direct access to Shuo Jing. Creating conflicts with the Liangzhou Garrison was a simple task.

Even if a fly couldn’t kill an elephant, it could irritate it endlessly with its buzzing.

On the night of the banquet, He Yan had played blind, and in the days that followed, Xiao Jue had disappeared. Everyone assumed he had left the mansion, and Ding Yi had followed him. In reality, Ding Yi had been tracking the disguised Fei Nu, while the real Xiao Jue had remained hidden in the Sun mansion.

Sun Xiangfu had committed countless atrocities and had dealings with many prominent figures in Liangzhou. These wealthy individuals paid him gold and silver, and Sun Xiangfu ensured their businesses in Liangzhou ran smoothly. He had also bribed superiors and subordinates alike, with all these transactions meticulously recorded in account books.

Xiao Jue found the account books and swapped them with fake ones. In these records, he also discovered something else.

Over the years, Sun Ling had killed numerous young women and disposed of their bodies in mass graves in the backyard. In recent years, perhaps due to the increasing frequency of his heinous acts, or perhaps haunted by guilt, Sun Ling began having frequent nightmares. The Sun family sought the help of a Taoist priest, who said the women who died at Sun Ling’s hands needed to be buried in the northwest direction with Buddhist charms to suppress their spirits.

Thus, the mountain of corpses in the backyard and the Buddhist statues.

Xiao Jue had intended to use these accounts to convict the Sun father and son of their crimes. With this discovery, even if Xu Jingfu personally intervened, he couldn’t protect them.

In the past few days, he had spent the first few days confirming the underground information and searching the account books. On the last day, he finally left the mansion, his actions was nothing else but selecting several names from the account books, meticulously copying the relevant records, and sending them to various prominent families in the city.

The prominent merchants and gentry of Liangzhou City were now in his grasp. When a new county magistrate arrived in Liangzhou, whether they were Xu Jingfu’s people or not, they would be helpless against him.

From this day forward, Liangzhou City was his.

The biggest mistake Yuan Baozhen made was miscalculating his intentions. Xiao Jue never truly cared about the assassination attempt at the banquet; he had always wanted Liangzhou City.

However, due to a twist of fate and He Yan’s strange presence, Yuan Baozhen’s full attention was diverted. In a way, He Yan became bait. But this bait came with hooks, and it successfully lured the prey following its scent, making everything go so smoothly.

During his silence, He Yan was also contemplating.

For Xiao Jue, today’s events had long been foreseen. She asked, “Did you spare Yuan Baozhen because he messed up his assignment and will face punishment from his superior, who is Xu Xiang?” She paused and continued, “Is Xu Xiang the same person as the current Prime Minister, Xu Jingfu?”

This statement surprised even Fei Nu, who couldn’t help but glance at He Yan.

She had just spoken so directly, implying that she didn’t know Xu Jingfu, but who’s to say if she was lying?

“Miss He, is your father aware of your deep concern for the court?” Xiao Jue replied nonchalantly.

With this response, He Yan knew that the ‘Xu Xiang’ mentioned by Yuan Baozhen was indeed Xu Jingfu.

“Although my father is currently only the city gate military official, and Xu Jingfu is the current Prime Minister, it may seem like a world of difference, but, Commander, you should know that we shouldn’t underestimate the ambitions of a young person. I’m sixteen years old this year, undefeated in Liangzhou Garrison, and may achieve great feats and hold higher positions in the future than even a commander like you, so what is one Xu Xiang to me? I have a younger brother even younger than me. To speak frankly, while we are rising like the morning sun, Xu Jingfu is approaching the twilight of his years. When my little brother and I reach the age of the commander, who knows if there will still be someone like Xu Xiang in this world?”

Fei Nu was choked by her audacious words.

Based on what He Yan just said, there was a ninety-percent chance that she wasn’t connected to Xu Jingfu. Would Xu Jingfu tolerate such a rebellious character under his command? He Yan had survived until now, probably more due to luck.

Xiao Jue chuckled and said, “With your audacious attitude, there’s no guarantee you’ll outlive Xu Jingfu.”

He Yan thought to herself that Xiao Jue had guessed wrong; she had already outlived Xu Jingfu by an extra life. Who cared about outliving him in the future?

“You don’t need to be so guarded against me, Commander,” He Yan looked at him. “We share a common enemy.”

“I don’t know,” he replied indifferently. “Whether Xu Jingfu would bother with a city gate military official.”

“A city gate military official may not be able to reach the same heights as Xu Xiang, but when a dog bites someone, the master should be held accountable as well,” He Yan sighed. “My enemies are Xu Jingfu’s subordinates, which is almost the same as being enemies with Xu Jingfu himself.” She smiled. “Commander and I should be friends, fighting a common enemy. Your repeated suspicions make me quite sad.”

Xiao Jue glanced at her, but he couldn’t see any sadness in her demeanor.

“Well, you’ll be disappointed then,” he said. “I don’t make friends, especially not with liars.”

He Yan: “…”

This guy was as tough as nails. She felt like she wanted to fight him to vent her frustration.

“Then Commander,” He Yan asked, suppressing her anger, “What should we do about those corpses in the Sun mansion’s yard?”

Those corpses, some of which had been there for a long time, were now reduced to bare bones, while others were still recognizable to some extent. Piling them up in the Sun mansion was not a solution.

Xiao Jue looked at the trees outside the window. The shadows of the trees swayed gently. After a moment, he said to Fei Nu, “Inform the townspeople to come and identify the bodies.”

The people of Liangzhou City were overjoyed when they heard that the Right Commander of the Army had sealed the gates of the Sun mansion, arrested the Sun father and son, and were clapping their hands in celebration. Those with more courage spat in front of the Sun mansion’s gate and cursed loudly, while those who were more timid stood at a distance, nervously asking the soldiers as they passed by, “Is it true that County Magistrate Sun… has really been arrested?”

Liangzhou, dark for so many years, had finally seen the light.

The Sun father and son confessing was ultimately a good thing. The cries from the county magistrate’s residence were deafening, and those who had lost their daughters or knew their daughters had been abducted but were powerless to stop it came forward to identify the bodies.

The women’s bodies were laid out in the courtyard, filling the front and back courtyards. Although it was autumn, an unpleasant odor hung in the air. He Yan followed Fei Nu and saw elderly mothers searching through the corpses for their daughters who had been missing for three years. There were also young scholars, holding wives abducted on their wedding night, crying out in grief.

He Yan saw a dark-skinned man in white clothes, holding a corpse and sobbing, “Sister, sister! Big brother is here, big brother will take you home…” His voice was filled with sorrow, bringing tears to those who heard it.

The girl in his arms was small, at most twelve or thirteen years old, still a child. At that age, if she were a mischievous one, she would still be playing with crickets and beetles. But now her tiny body was curled up, and her once lively figure was no longer visible. Like a flower that hadn’t had a chance to bloom, she withered away prematurely.

The courtyard was filled with cries of sorrow, and the scene of parting in death was heartbreaking. He Yan looked up at the sky, feeling like the cries were about to pierce through the heavens. There was nothing sadder in the world.

Fei Nu looked at her with some surprise.

Females were soft-hearted and couldn’t bear to see such scenes. Just like Song Taotao, she had already hidden in the house and couldn’t bear to watch anymore. But He Yan stood there, her eyes filled with sadness, but she didn’t shed tears.

Separation in life and death, He Yan had seen too much of it. So many young men on the battlefield, when they left home, they were the eldest sons of their families and their wives’ husbands, but when they returned, they became a handful of yellow soil. Living in this world, there was no avoiding the joys and sorrows of parting.

These girls, when they were alive, were bullied and oppressed, and in death, they were imprisoned and tragic. Now, at least, they were free again, reunited with their families. Their families would always remember them and mourn their tragic fates.

But what about her?

He Yan wondered absentmindedly if there was anyone who would shed tears for her death. Someone who would remember her in private moments, sympathize with her, and grieve for what she had suffered. Her family in her previous life had sent her to the underworld with their own hands and even used her in death. But had there ever been a moment when they truly cared for her?

“Young Master,” Fei Nu’s voice interrupted He Yan’s thoughts. She turned her head to see that Xiao Jue had come out at some point.

He asked, “Have all the bodies been claimed by their families?”

Fei Nu shook her head. “There are still twenty-three bodies that no one has claimed.”

The girls who had been abducted to the Sun residence were not all from Liangzhou, and once separated from their families, it was often a permanent farewell.

“Bury them.” 

He Yan was startled and looked at Xiao Jue.

He stood tall and upright in the desolate courtyard, like his Drinking Autumn Sword hanging from his waist, sharp, composed, and reassuring.

“Young Master, where should we bury them?” Fei Nu asked.

“Outside Liangzhou City, there’s a peak called Chengfeng,” Xiao Jue said, looking into the distance. It seemed that through the branches in the courtyard, he could see something else. His expression was calm, his tone indifferent, but within that indifference, there was a subtle and imperceptible sense of compassion. He said, “These women had no choice in life, like caged birds and fish in a pond. Burying them here, I hope they will be free to ride the wind and be proud and call the mountains and lakes in their next lives.”

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