Chapter 6: Cuckoo Lou[1. Cuckoo Lou (楼杜鹃) - Lou dujuan, a play on words for Lou Zigui’s name. Zigui means “cuckoo” in Chinese.], the bane of others’ existence Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
The handsome but pale-faced Lou Zigui was currently tied up and kneeling on a meter-tall platform from the ground. His clothes had been stripped away, leaving only fishnet wrapped tightly around his upper body. The pressure made it hard for Lou Zigui to even breathe. Above him, the executioner spat a mouthful of strong alcohol on the razor knife in his hands. Beneath him, the crowd stretched out like a sea as they all cursed the prisoner. Who didn’t hate a traitor to his country? A few commoners of the capital were even holding bowls in their hands. They were waiting to collect his blood and flesh after he’d been made into mincemeat because only by eating that flesh could they soothe the hatred in their hearts.
“The time is here, begin the death sentence!” the official in charge of corporal punishment picked up a command tablet carved with the character for execute and tossed it from his viewing platform.
Cheers rose up from the crowd.
Lou Zigui raised his head to look at the viewing platform opposite the execution platform, and saw the white-haired Grand Preceptor sitting in the main seat. He was staring at him unblinkingly, and there was even a trace of regret on his face.
The executioner had inherited his craft from generations of his family. He knew how to slice a person bit by bit until only their bones remained, yet still keep them alive. Two paper-thin blades sliced past Lou Zigui’s shoulder before he lifted them up to cleanly remove a section of skin. Without that layer of protection, fresh blood and muscle were exposed before the crowd. Those timid at heart didn’t dare watch any further and closed their eyes. The executioner next cleanly sliced off a section of meat from Lou Zigui’s shoulder, where it dropped onto the platform. It was as long and thin as silk. Though it didn’t bleed much, the blood seeped into the wood to drip and stain the ground below. How couldn’t it hurt when the skin was being lifted up section by section, and the meat sliced piece by piece? Lou Zigui’s entire body shuddered in agony, but he forced himself to stay quiet without groaning.
“This traitor’s stubborn to the very end,” an official remarked to Grand Preceptor Xie from the viewing platform.
Grand Preceptor Xie lightly shook his head. “A pity that his father and brothers all died for the country. The illustrious men of the Lou Clan had their heroics ruined by this one man. It’s misfortune for his family and our Yongning[2. Yongning (雍宁) - name of the current reigning dynasty.] both!”
“When this man was born, the cuckoo in the Lou family’s backyard cried blood,” an old official said. “Zigui also means ‘cuckoo.’ It was Supreme Commander Lou who gave him the name of Zigui, but cuckoos who cry at night are an unlucky omen. It seems his birth brought nothing but calamity.”
“That’s right,” an official dressed in the robes of a military officer smiled. “This lad’s survived the deaths of his father, mother, and brothers. His two sister-in-laws all died in labor with their children, while the only surviving child of his older brother is often sickly. It doesn’t look like that child will survive into adulthood. Cuckoo Lou is just the bane of others’ existence. He caused the deaths of everyone in the Lou household. If he doesn’t die now, he’ll cause the death of our Yongning as well.”
Those who could sit on the viewing platform were all on the side of the Grand Preceptor. Naturally, nobody would speak up for Lou Zigui. Even if they doubted that Lou Zigui had secret communications with the northern barbarians, they couldn’t afford to offend the masses now by revealing their thoughts. The gathered officials commented on all sorts of things from their platform, while the commoners kept up their constant cursing below.
Lou Zigui thought of his family as well. To protect the Yongning Dynasty, his Lou Clan had shed generations’ worth of blood on the battlefields. In the end, what did they get? Right now, the refugees in Yongning numbered in the millions, while thieves and bandits ran rampant. Beyond the pass, the Northern Hu constantly encroached on their borders, dying for the chance to charge into the Central Plains. Beset with difficulties both at home and abroad, the masses lived in dire poverty. What were these officials doing?
“The crown prince could’ve restored the dynasty,” Lou Zigui glowered at the viewing platform as he spoke in a loud voice. “But you crafty, fawning sycophants caused his death! Xie Wenyuan, my heart for Yongning is as clear as night and day. Heaven and Earth can inspect it! Even in death, I’ll keep my eyes open to see what happens on the day that a Yongning under your hands falls into ruin!”
“This traitor dares to curse our Yongning to ruin?!”
The angry masses started throwing rocks at the bloodsoaked Lou Zigui and cursed him with even more venomous words. Grand Preceptor Xie sat on the viewing platform with a cold smile. Lou Zigui was the crown prince’s last remaining supporter with a large number of troops under his command. How could he leave a person like this around? If he hadn’t forced the crown prince to personally write a letter and trick this man back to the capital to catch him unawares, it’d be difficult to get his hands on the celebrated Supreme Commander Lou. But in the end, the victors were the kings and the losers the thieves. A loser was a loser, so Lou Zigui had no one to blame but himself.
“How could they treat Supreme Commander this way?” Fang Tang, who had rushed to the execution grounds with Ning Xiaoyao, felt tears streaming from his eyes.
The people who were cursing his Supreme Commander to die and sink into the eighteenth level of Hell[3. eighteenth level of Hell - the lowest level in Chinese Hell where sinners suffer for the most heinous crimes], did they know this was the man who protected their homeland and their peace?!
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