The man in black was a bit short; his face was covered by a black cloth, and his eyes couldn't be seen since he lowered his head.
Sensing the danger, Jiang Rui narrowed his eyes and said, "I didn't expect the killings to start so early."
The man in black remarked lethargically, "Don't you want to know how I found you and then make your sentimental comment? You are such an idiot. It's not an injustice to kill you."
Jiang Rui thought of something which made him feel relaxed. He said nothing while smirking.
Now that there was no sect, no magic pill, and no master here, Jiang Rui thought he would have an advantage here based on his superior talent.
He had been resentful about the resources the other Cultivation practitioners enjoyed; in fact, all the free-traveling practitioners were resentful about it, save for He Zhan. As far as these free-traveling practitioners were concerned, they could have similar Cultivation state to those disciples of the major sect simply by cultivating on their own. If they could get guidance from a capable master, or take those precious magic pills, they would be able to defeat most of those disciples of the major Cultivation sects.
At least they all had a leveled playing ground in terms of the resources in the Illusionary Realm of Cloud-Dream.
As a result, Jiang Rui believed that the person standing opposite of him was not his equal regardless of whether he was Jing Jiu, or Bai Qianjun, or Tong Yan.
The man in black yawned before saying, "If you were not an idiot, you would have figured it out by yourself. A myriad of Cultivation sects would have tried their best to acquire you in the real world if you were as talented as He Zhan; you wouldn't have ended up in such a situation."
The smirk on Jiang Rui's face faded away gradually. It was because what the man in black said hit his soft spot head on, as the name of He Zhan was mentioned.
A gust of wind suddenly rose on the street. The green leaves were blown off the trees; the fallen leaves shot out like the arrows and knocked on the walls, on which many marks were left.
Jiang Rui bumped heavily against the wall. His chest was full of sword marks and blood, as if he had been executed by the slice-cutting penalty.
Watching the man in black approach him slowly, Jiang Rui's face was pale and displayed despair and fury. He felt despair because he sensed his own death or leaving the place; he was furious because he couldn't understand why this participant in the Dao Competition was so much stronger than him even though there were no masters and magic pills here.
All of a sudden, a figure appeared like a ghost, hurling halted green leaves toward the man in black.
As the man in black saw such strange and swift movements, the expression in his eyes changed a bit. He summoned a sword instruction with his right hand, creating an immensely bright sword light.
The sword light returned to the inside of his body; and the ghost like figure had also returned to the shadow behind the wall.
The man in black ascertained that the ghost-like figure didn't use the Escape Method of Heaven and Earth of the Center Sect or the inborn shapeless Sword Body of Jing Jiu's. He was rather puzzled.
Among the twenty six participants in the Dao Competition, who had such a strange and unpredictable movements? Was it possible that this person was not a participant in the Dao Competition, but a Cultivation practitioner in this world?
As he was about to break through the wall and fought again, he suddenly heard the sounds of hooves on the other end of the street. It was evident that the horse riders were not the servicemen of the township; they were the cavalrymen of Luo State.
The expression in the eyes of the man in black changed again, wondering if this free-traveling practitioner was protected by somebody. Without hesitation, he turned around and vanished into the residential houses.
Jiang Rui stood up with great difficulty. He propped himself up against the wall, panting heavily. His eyes showed relief after escaping near death, and he also felt a bit of bewilderment.
He jumped away abruptly from the wall as if he was burned by it. It was because he remembered that the ghost-like figure was right behind the wall on the other side.
It was rather odd that he felt fearful of the ghost-like figure even though that person saved him. Actually, he feared the ghost-like figure more than the man in black who tried to kill him.
He Zhan entered the Royal Palace of Zhao State soundlessly. After getting in his room, he took off the gray cloth covering his face, exposing his pale countenance. He came back all the way from Luo State overnight. Even though he had learned the strange magic method from the old eunuch Hong, he still felt tired. Most of all, the sword will of that man in black was very formidable.
All he wanted to do this time was take a look at that person so that he wouldn't forget what that person looked like. Yet, he didn't expect to have met another participant in the Dao Competition coincidentally.
He had vaguely guessed the identity of the other person, and knew that the other person would hide in the dark of night in the future. He thought about it, but dismissed the idea of employing the force of the government to find them.
The morning sun peered over the horizon. He washed his face quickly and put on a clean cloth. Then he took out a magic pill from a hidden case, used a silk ribbon to wrap it up, and walked out of the room.
He walked into the Royal Palace. The eunuchs, the palace servant girls and royal guards all made way and greeted him when he walked near them.
"Master Eunuch He!"
"Greetings, Master Eunuch He."
"Good morning, Young Master Eunuch He."
He Zhan walked forward with a nonchalant expression. As he arrived before the grand hall, he pushed open the door of the royal study room.
Seeing the still thin and pale emperor sitting behind the desk, He Zhan said softly, "Your Majesty, it's time to take the pill."
Tong Yan put the book back in the hidden drawer and took out the summarized information brought in by his subordinate to read. He tried to find the answers in these materials.
The most important information recently was that Beihai County of Qin State rebelled.
The young general was second in command in the Beihai Government. He had displayed a formidable prowess at the age of fifteen. He led the vanguard troop breaking through five cities in a row, and forced the army of Qin State to frequently retreat. Yet, based on reliable information Tong Yan received, at least forty percent of the vanguard troop led by the young general were the northern soldiers.
Beihai County was located in the north of Qin State and responsible for guarding the northern border. They had fought against the northern tribes for many years. But nobody anticipated that the both sides would form a truce, or that the northerners were even willing to send their soldiers to help Beihai County.
"It's hard to imagine the price Big Brother Bai has paid for their support," Tong Yan thought to himself.
No good news was reported to him lately. The man in black who had assassinated many participants was not captured yet; not even a clue had been found regarding him. As for the ghost-like figure who appeared in Luo State…Tong Yan thought of the popular Young Master Eunuch He in the Royal Palace of Zhao State, his facing displaying an expression of disbelief.
His friend He Zhan had always been lucky in the real world. Had everything been turned on its head for him here?
He still didn't believe that the young Eunuch He was He Zhan. It was not because being a eunuch was a painful and disgraceful thing; it was because he simply chose to disbelieve it.
The renowned incapable emperor of Zhao State died last year. In the story about the death of the emperor, which was bloody and full of conspiracies, the young Eunuch He had played an important role; he was brutal and decisive. He didn't even feel any remorse when he poisoned the old eunuch Hong, who had taught him the magic method.
Some people believed that the current emperor, who had been the Crown Prince at the time, thrust the knife into his father's stomach while the young Eunuch He held his hand tightly.
Tong Yan didn't have any friend except He Zhan.
He was well aware of what He Zhan had experienced over the last few years. He didn't want to see He Zhan change his temperament, his personality, so dramatically because of those events.
It was because Tong Yan would feel remorseful if that happened.
The sound of hooves broke out like the thunder on the snow-covered street.
As the front gate of the Governor Manor was opened, a young general rushed in on his horse. He jumped off the horse deftly as he arrived in the backyard.
The young general was very skillful in fighting, and energetic. If one looked closely in his eyes, they could spot a hint of cruel intent.
He took over the cotton towel handed by someone and wiped his face briefly.
Though the cotton towel could wipe off the ice and snow on the armor, it couldn't clean the dried blood stains on it.
The young general took a look at his armor, and arched his eyebrows, showing a hint of displeasure; he didn't say anything and walked toward the back garden.
Seeing his figure disappear in the back garden, the manservants and maidservants all felt relieved.
The young general was the second son of the Beihai Governor, and the famous young warrior in the northern border of Qin State; his name was Bai Zhou.
The people in the Governor Manor had a deep reverence for him; and they dared discuss him in a hushed voice only when he was faraway.
The discussion was mostly focused on praising his fighting prowess and achievements in the battles, and also on his genuine affection for the ill-fated princess in the back garden.
The true status of the governor of Beihai County was the equivalent of a king.
The Governor Manor was actually the king manor. It was built in a grand form with magnificent buildings. After having been repaired and expanded a few times, the back garden had the grandeur similar to the royal palace.
The Beihai King was the first cousin of the late Qin Emperor who had gone to Cu State with the diplomatic mission. As such, the identity of Bai Qianjun in this world was the second cousin of the ill-fated princess.
The princess of Qin State sat by the window, sewing something under the sunlight. Her slender fingers moved back and forth swiftly with the tiny needle, her expression peaceful and her eyelashes immovable.
She didn't feel depressed, nor ill-fated.
Bai Zhou walked in the back garden, poured a cup of tea for himself, and sat down across from her. It was evident that he was quite familiar with her.
They were cousins in the real world as well; but they were third cousins in the real world and not as close as they were here.
Bai Zhou mulled over all this in silence, raised the teacup and took a gulp.
"Big Brother, thank you for your hard work," the Princess said to him, as she inserted the needle on the cloth.
Bai Zhou said, "It looks like the situation is even better than expected. We should be able to break through the Windy Pass by next spring."
The Princess intended to ask him about employing those northern soldiers. Yet, it was mostly rumors; if he didn't tell her on his own, it would be hard for her to raise the issue. "It sounds good," she said lightly.
"But we still have to face many resistance," Bai Zhou suddenly said. "If we want to take back the state as soon as possible, we must draw in more talented people to join our cause. And if I married you, we would be in a better position to call upon others to join us, as success is more assured that way."
The Princess couldn't find a better reason to refuse him, or find a way to brush it off, like postponing the proposal. Yet, she said calmly, "We will not talk about this again."
Bai Zhou shot a glance at her and set down the teacup, saying, "The northerners might offend the border. I have to prepare for it. I'll take my leave now."
Having said that, he left the back garden.
From that day forward, he never mentioned the proposal again; and he visited the back garden less often than he had before.
Seeing the figure disappear outside the back garden, the Princess sighed faintly.
Now that Baihai County and the northerners were in alliance, how could the northerners offend the border at this time?
The young general, who was brave and skilled at fighting, had treated the northerners brutally, or even cruelly; he would slaughter a whole tribe if offended.
And the northerners treated the inhabitants of Qin State the same way. The scene of piercing infant with a spear was the nightmare for many inhabitants of Baihai County.
If he could form alliance with such an archenemy, what else would her Big Brother have the gall to do?
The battles went on one after another in the north, but it was peaceful in the south.
Cu State had a few productive years back to back, with a good harvest and peaceful environment for the inhabitants to live and work. The governing of the state and the tax incomes were the best in its history. Everybody there felt they were living in a prosperous age.
The Grand Scholar Zhang demonstrated his ability of managing the state. And he even acquired some control over the military for the imperial court from King Jing undetected thanks to his skillful tactics.
He was at the height of his power either in the imperial court or in his own popularity. It was the time for a change as far as many people were concerned.
He was already the most powerful chancellor in the state; then what change did he need?
Yet, many people advised the Grand Scholar Zhang in private to move up one more notch, including his own son, who had the same idea.
Throughout history, those powerful chancellors who wanted to take the throne had to worry about the counterattack of the royal family and the support of the populace; but it was not an issue in Cu State right now. Who would support the retarded emperor?
"Humans have to achieve something in their lifetime. Is father satisfied with being a prime minister? The populace and the officials all expect you to take the throne," his oldest son said with tears on his cheeks while kneeling in front of his bed. "Even if you don't think about it for yourself, you should consider it for your offspring. Do you want to see your sons die and be exiled?"
The Grand Scholar Zhang said, "I'm governing the state on behalf of the Emperor; so I'm more than a prime minister. This is enough for me. Don't even mention the matter again in the future. As for you, nothing will happen to you."
The conversation leaked out at last.
The oldest son of the Grand Scholar Zhang didn't mention his own fear for the future; he mostly repeated what his father said.
I'm not just a prime minister; I'm governing the state for the Emperor.
There was an uproar in the capital; but nobody dared criticize him. And no one advised him to take the throne again.
One day the Grand Scholar Zhang came out from the Royal Palace. He left the capital in a large sedan that was carried by eight men, heading toward a mountain resort to take a rest.
There was a thatched hut in the mountain, where lived the famous scholar Master Mo.
The guards stood around the thatched hut.
The Grand Scholar Zhang walked in the thatched hut and cupped hands to Master Mo, saying, "I'm here to play chess."
Master Mo let loose a bitter smile as he asked, "Shaoqiu, how could you be in the mood to play chess?"
"Did you refer to the rumor?" the Grand Scholar Zhang said. "Since I said that, I have been in a good mood, better than ever."
Master Mo sighed, "You speak and act without considering the consequences; I thought you really had the intention."
The Grand Scholar Zhang remarked, "I'm not different from an emperor as far as the power is concerned. All I want is to do things I want to. The title is not important."
A young man brought two cups of plain tea to the room. As he heard what the Grand Scholar Zhang said, he chimed in, "You can't give orders properly without a proper title; and it's hard to have your orders carried out if they are not proper."
Seeing the young man with a composed expression in his eyes like that of an old man, the Grand Scholar Zhang was startled and asked, "What is your name?"
The young man replied, "The disciple of Master Mo, Yun Xi."
The Grand Scholar Zhang said, "This name is too simple and plain. I'm afraid that you will have a long way to go in your life."
The young man said with a soft smile, "You wouldn't know you are a guest in a dream; and my hometown is wherever I settle physically and mentally. The reason I have chosen this name is to remind myself not to intentionally not to remember who I am and where I came from."
The Grand Scholar Zhang returned to his manor that same night. He sat with his wife and mentioned the young man he met during the day in the thatched hut in the mountain resort.
"Among all the young talents I have met, this young man is merely inferior to two other young men."
His wife reached out her hand and picked out a strand of hair from his collar, and brought it to the oil lamp and burned it. "Who are the other two?" she asked.
The Grand Scholar Zhang said, "One of them is the son of King Jing, whom I met when he was still very young; the other one is our Emperor of course."
His wife's hand quivered slightly. It was unclear whether she was burned by the fire or not. "The Emperor?" she wondered in surprise.
The Grand Scholar Zhang said, "His Majesty looks retarded, but he is actually very intelligent and profound. He is not an ordinary person."
Many people advised him to move up a notch, including his subordinates, his son, and his old friends; he always gave various answers for different people.
He only told the truth to his old wife in the dead of night.
In many people's eyes, the Grand Scholar didn't want to become the emperor because he was satisfied with his current status; but they were not satisfied with the situation.
For instance, his loyal friend and subordinate, who was currently the minister of Rites, wondered when he would become the prime minister if the Grand Scholar didn't become the emperor.
His eldest son was the one who was most displeased, thinking that he would have no hope of becoming the emperor if his father didn't take the throne, and he might even be in danger in the future.
Changing dynasties was the most worthwhile business in the world. Its benefit would have many people motivated; and they were even motivated enough to consider the option of murder.
Since the Grand Scholar expressed his unwillingness to take the throne himself, some people began planning a conspiracy in secret.
One early morning, a few carriages bringing the spring water from the Spring Mountain passed the check points of the guards and entered the Royal Palace.
A bloody assassination was to take place as the morning sun rose above the horizon.
Please go to https://www.qzxyzy.com/The-Path-Toward-Heaven/
to read the latest chapters for free