Chapter 10: The Punishment Hall
The Punishment Hall was unusual crowded. Even though it was just the Punishment Elder Sheng that was summoned but several of the clan elders were also curious enough to be presented. It was because the Holy Consort had suddenly announced that one of the protégés was a spy from the dark heretic clan and many were interested to know who it was.
The Holy Consort was seating elegantly when Elder Situ Ling had walked in with a chained Dugu Fang.
Ye Jing’s heart pounded rapidly as she thought, “It is him alright…”
But her heart suddenly skipped a beat as when she saw Elder Situ Ling holding onto the confiscated sword that she had given to Xiaofang…
She thought, “He still carries the sword that I have given to him?”
Dugu Fang was staring blankly at her. There was no hatred in his eyes and only great sadness. It was as though he was saying to her, “Why are you chaining me? What have I done wrong?”
Ye Jing could not bear to watch his heart anymore and withdrew her Divine Sense.
Elder Situ Ling said, “Practitioner Dugu Fang has been brought to the presence of the Holy Consort for his due sentencing for conspiring with the dark heretic celestial clans.”
Instantly there were mutterings among the elders and the tens of high ranking protégés.
“He is the spy of the dark heretic celestial clan?
“He doesn’t look like it.”
“Looks can be deceiving.”
Holy Consort Ye Jing turned to Elder Sheng, “You can begin your questioning now.”
Elder Sheng was a fierce looking middle age man. He thundered loudly, “Dugu Fang, do you admit that you are a spy of the dark heretic celestial clan? And who are your accomplices? If you admit readily and surrender the names of your accomplices then your sentence will be reduced.”
Dugu Fang stammered as he looked earnestly at Ye Jing, “I…I am really not a spy. Surely there must be a misunderstanding. Big Sis…May Holy Consort please help me to address my wrongs!”
Elder Sheng hummed coldly, “There no use pleading for clemency from the Holy Consort. Our righteous Holy Consort is the one that has exposed your identity as a spy.”
Dugu Fang was startled and it was followed by shocks of disbelief as he stared at Ye Jing…
Ye Jing seemed to be staring coldly at him and questioning him, “What you had done that night. I’ll never forgive you.”
Holy Consort Ye Jing said coldly, “It seems that he doesn’t want to admit it.”
Elder Sheng hummed coldly, “Then I afraid that we have to retort to whipping him.”
Holy Consort Ye Jing turned to ask, “How many times?”
Elder Sheng said coldly, “40 lashes.”
She was flabbergasted, “40 lashes? Do you want to kill him?”
This was no ordinary lash that an ordinary mortal could stand. When Ye Jing was young, she was given a lashing by her father for mischief and the agonizing pain that she had felt back then could still be clearly remembered by her.
Elder Sheng said matter of fact, “According to the punishment laws, that is the correct number of lashes to a spy.”
Holy Consort Ye Jing asked panicky, “Can we just give him a single lash?”
Elder Sheng smiled emotionlessly, “That is too cheap and it is hardly any punishment for such a heinous crime.”
Holy Consort Ye Jing said panicky, “He will surely die if we give him 40 lashes. One or a few is enough to let him experience the agonizing pain of the Heavenly Tribulation Whip. Also there is no proof that he is a spy yet…”
Elder Sheng was startled, “But I thought that we have proof that he is a spy?”
Holy Consort Ye Jing knew that she had a slip of a tongue. She quickly said, “If he doesn’t admit it then it will be one-sided, right?”
Elder Sheng smiled, “Holy Consort, you are too benevolent. If he doesn’t admit then we shall whip him until he admits or dies. We cannot afford to allow a spy to exist in our ranks or we will be encouraging the evil-doers to run rampant in our midst in the future.”
Dugu Fang interrupted quietly but firmly, “I am not a spy.”
He had a pitiful look as he looked earnestly at Ye Jing…
But Ye Jing could not bear to look into his eyes…
Elder Situ Ling was heartache for Dugu Fang and said, “Maybe he is not totally corruptible yet. Maybe we can give him a chance to repent?”
Holy Consort Ye Jing said, “Maybe that is a good idea. What do you think Elder Sheng?”
Elder Sheng was perplexed but he said, “That will be a life imprisonment of 100 years, depending on his good conduct and willingness to repent. But why should we waste our grain on him? He cannot live that long…”
Holy Consort Ye Jing clapped her hands, “That’s it. We shall imprison him for a hundred years.”
Elder Sheng said weakly after seeing the determination that was in the Holy Consort’s eyes, “We ought to suppress his spiritual inner core as well…”
Holy Consort Ye Jing was startled and she interrupted, “That is totally unnecessary. He is just a minor character in the schemes of things. There is no need to be overly harsh.”
Then she thought of something and said, “I shall take care of his belongings. There may be clues to more of his traitorous acts.”
Elder Situ Ling nodded, “It shall be done.”
Ye Jing gave Dugu Fang a triumphant look before saying, “Xiaofang, do you accept this as your punishments?”
Dugu Fang looked down and said politely, “I…accept.”
Ye Jing laughed softly and enchantingly said, “Good, good.”
She did not notice that some of the more brilliant minded cultivators in the hall had a perplexed expression on their faces.
When Elder Situ Ling had suddenly heard Holy Consort Ye Jing calling him as “Xiaofang”, she was startled. It suddenly dawned to her that they may have already known each other.
And now when she turned suddenly to look at Dugu Fang, she noticed his deep and mesmerizing eyes. Where did she see this expression before? That was one year ago when Ye Jing had her coronation and there was this mysterious masked man that had saved her…
When she had thought of this, she was suddenly startled and stared at Dugu Fang…
The entire celestial fraternity was now hunting for a masked young man to obtain his immortal sword. The only clues that everyone got was that he rode a Saint Dragon and had an immortal sword. Nothing else was known. It was as though he had suddenly disappeared from the face of the earth.
Some of the celestials had connected the masked young man to the Holy Consort Ye Jing. Eager to know more, they had barraged the Holy Citadel City with many proposals of marriage.
At this moment the Lady Consort Ye had hastily walked into the Punishment Hall. She was really curious who the spy was.
Ye Jing greeted stonily, “Mother, why are here?”
The Lady Consort Ye smiled, “I am curious to know who the spy is.”
She turned to appraise the “spy” and her expressions immediately turned sour. It was not because of the remarkable young age of this spy or his refined air but when she saw his deep emotional eyes, she had immediately found him to be familiar.
She immediately probed with her Divine Sense into his inner core and was startled that this was the same familiar inner core of that masked young man.
Ye Jing said gleefully, “I have already sentenced him to 100 years of life imprisonment.”
The Lady Consort Ye had her own doubts and confusion. But the more she looked at this young man, the more he did not look like any malicious person to her. If not why did he help Ye Jing a year ago and then departed peacefully?
Even if there was a risk that he could be from the Goddess Palace, somehow she found herself taking a risk by saying, “Child, I think you should let him go.”
Ye Jing was horrified and protested, “He is a spy!”
Lady Consort Ye reached into her with her Divine Sense to calm her down, “I have a better plan. Do you want to hear me out?”
Ye Jing nodded slowly as she stared at Xiaofang…
Lady Consort Ye whispered in an almost inaudible voice via the Divine Whisper.
Everyone could see that the eyes of the Holy Consort Ye Jing had suddenly lit up as she nodded approvingly.
Suddenly Ye Jing said aloud, “I have already decided on his new punishment.”
Elder Sheng was startled, “Which is?”
Ye Jing said nonchalantly, “Let him go. This is already punishment enough.”
Elder Sheng was shocked, “Let him go? But he is a spy!”
Lady Consort Ye said, “Circumstances have changed. There is a lack of evidences.”
Elder Sheng was stunned, “Lack of evidences? It doesn’t obstruct the melting of our clan laws…”
Lady Consort Ye interjected, “Do you have any evidence to accuse him, Elder Sheng?”
Elder Sheng stammered, “But it is the Holy Consort that brings charges to him…”
Ye Jing quickly said coyly, “That was before. Now is after. Dismisssssssss!”
Lady Consort Ye said, “The Holy Consort and I wish to talk to this young man for a while. Please leave us alone.”
Ye Jing raised her eyebrows, “I didn’t say I want to talk to him…”
Lady Consort Ye smiled, “I do.”
When everyone had left the Punishment Hall, Lady Consort Ye unchained the young man and asked gently, “What is your name?”
He replied, “Dugu…Fang…You can call me Xiaofang.”
Lady Consort Ye smiled gently, “It must be hard on you. You look really so young. How old are you? Are you really that young as you look or are really a young freak in disguise? Don’t misunderstand me. I just want to know more, out of curiosity.”
Xiaofang replied, “I am 17. Tomorrow is my birthday.”
When Ye Jing had heard that it was his birthday tomorrow, she began to curse him silently. “May you die on your birthday!”
Lady Consort Ye smiled, “And Jing’Er is only 22. Maybe the two of you are a match for each other…”
Ye Jing was flustered, “Not again. We are never a match! Not before. Not now or ever in the future!”
She hastily asked, “Mother, didn’t you say you want to ask him something?”
Lady Consort Ye asked hurriedly, “Then I shall call you Xiaofang as well. I hope that you are not upset with Jing’Er. She is just pretty upset. What exactly happens between the two of you, I really have no idea.”
Xiaofang replied politely, “I am not upset. It is really my entire fault.”
Lady Consort Ye said gently, “You are really a good child. Are you alone?”
Xiaofang replied, “Yes, I have been alone all this while now.”
Lady Consort Ye felt a little assured. It was because she was slowly baiting him. Unlike Ye Jing, she was more cautious as this may concern the lives of her entire clan!
She asked, “Why are you here?”
Xiaofang replied politely, “I have nowhere to go. I…miss Big Sister Jing and her…cooking.”
Lady Consort Ye was slightly startled. For such simplest of reasons, he had sneaked into the Holy Citadel City?
Ye Jing raised her eyes brows and thought, “He misses my cooking?”
Lady Consort Ye finally found the courage to ask, “Are you that masked young man that help us a year ago?”
She had already known the answer but she had to ask.
Lady Consort Ye smiled, “You are honest with me. Please rest assure that we will keeping this a secret.”
She asked next, “You are truly extraordinary. Are you or your clan from the Goddess Palace?”
Xiaofang seemed a little perplexed, “I have actually never heard of the Goddess Palace before…”
Ye Jing interrupted coldly, “The Goddess Palace is one of the three celestial consecrated places in the Celestial Fraternity. These three places are the forbidden grounds of the Celestial Fraternity. Your general knowledge is so lacking. You should study more books!”
Xiaofang looked awkward but Lady Consort Ye comforted him, “Ignore her. It is just a casual remark.”
She probed further as she held his hand warmly, “Where your homeland? Where are you from? Maybe we should pay your ancestor clan a visit to offer our thanks.”
Xiaofang answered politely, “I really don’t know. Mother did mention we are from the Devil Isle. But it is forbidden to go. So I suggest you don’t go.”
Lady Consort Ye was silently startled as she thought, “The Devil isle! The Devil Isle, along with the Goddess Palace and the Melancholy Valley are the three celestial consecrated places in the Celestial Fraternity. And he is actually from the Devil Isle? Is he also an escapee like us? His bloodline is actually from the Devil Isle…”
But she quickly composed herself and said, “Xiaofang, you must be tired from all these. Why don’t you take a good rest first?”
Xiaofang nodded and just before he exited, he took a forlorn look at Ye Jing who was also taking a forlorn look at him…
Even when Xiaofang was already gone, Ye Jing continued to stare at the entrance.
Lady Consort Ye said quietly, “Child, are you alright?”
Ye Jing quickly composed herself and pretended to arrange her long robe, “I am alright.”
But she quickly said, “Mother, about that devious plan that you whisper to me, I like the idea. Tomorrow is the day that I will make his life a misery. Not just tomorrow but every single day. I won’t be able to sleep or cultivate tonight just by thinking how he will suffer!”
Lady Consort Ye nodded silently, “Jing’Er, do you know what you are doing?”