374 The Night as Long as a Year
If the populace of Chu State, especially those officials in the imperial court, saw this scene, they would be shocked speechless.
It was normal thing to do to kneel down to the emperors, even if he was a retarded emperor; but it was the Grand Scholar Zhang who did the kneeling!
Liu Shisui was fully aware who the mastermind of this assassination attempt was and what this Grand Scholar meant to Chu State, and he felt it quite normal for this scholar to do so.
"Kill him?" Liu Shisui asked Jing Jiu for the order.
The expression didn't change on Grand Scholar Zhang's face. It seemed that he hadn't heard the request and had no intention to flee.
The fact that he came to the grand hall alone had already shown his intention.
"Don't mess things up."
Jing Jiu waved his hand to signal for the Grand Scholar to stand up.
The Grand Scholar Zhang said, "Your Majesty, it wasn't my idea."
"I know," Jing Jiu said.
The Grand Scholar Zhang fell silent for a while before saying, "Your Majesty, if you want to govern the state by yourself, I can at any time let…"
"I don't want to."
Jing Jiu cut him off and then continued, "Let's pretend that this incident hadn't happened at all. You will deal with the remaining issues."
Before the Grand Scholar Zhang left the palace to take care of the remaining issues, he didn't forget bringing back those palace servant girls and the eunuchs, since the emperor needed these people to serve him.
The palace gate was closed tightly. The royal army encircled the palace as tightly as a water tank so that nothing could be leaked out. The flies that came after smelling the bloody scent couldn't even enter the palace, let alone potential assassins.
The eunuchs and the palace servant girls were extremely scared. They were not sure if the palace gate would be opened at any time and a massacre would take place; they were worried and trembling the whole night.
The next day, the sun rose up as usual.
The palace gate was opened, and the royal army left. The morning sunlight was quite bright in the Royal Palace. Everything seemed normal here, as if nothing had happened. Yet, there were some changes happening outside the palace. The young minister of Rites was suddenly released from his post, and quite a few young officials were demoted, or exiled, or poisoned to death by the miasma in the mountain forest of the far south…
The eldest son of the Grand Scholar Zhang was sent back to their hometown to watch the grave of his great grandfather. It wasn't until many years later that he would be brought back to the capital by the cavalrymen of the imperial court.
There was a small but noticeable change in the Royal Palace.
The Emperor had an extra young bodyguard by his side.
The young bodyguard stayed by the side of the Emperor all the time, not even ten steps away from his side. He would guard outside the grand hall at night, as if he had no need for sleep.
The Dao Competition entered a new stage. The apparent sign of it was that the participants started to die and left the Illusionary Realm.
In the deep end of a manor cave in the Huiying Valley, the breeze blew over the bronze mirror gently; a Cultivation practitioner opened his eyes.
Seeing the scene before him, the practitioner was a bit puzzled. After a while, he gradually came back to his senses and realized what had happened.
He had stayed in the Illusionary Realm in the Green Sky Mirror for fifteen years. As he opened his eyes, he found out that merely a few days had passed in the real world.
The Cultivation practitioner looked at the Green Sky Mirror before him and found it looked different from when he entered it.
The gentle breeze, like an invisible hand, pushed the Green Sky Mirror slowly to make it rotate at an extremely slow pace.
The sunlight that shone on the mirror from the top of the cave changed colors regularly, to make the people who were like sesame on the mirror look as if they were alive.
This practitioner searched the Green Sky Mirror, as he intended to find the position of Qi State and those people he knew there.
But, he suddenly realized that all this was unreal; but…if the last fifteen years had been a dream, how could he remember all this so freshly?
He was baffled.
This was a complicated feeling, and hard to describe in words. If it was a regular person who had experienced it, he would go mad, or become depressed forever.
The situation was better for the Cultivation practitioners; but it was still difficult for them to recover in a short time.
Yet, if they could learn something from this process and truly comprehend it, they would be able to further strengthen their Dao Heart. This was the ultimate purpose of the Dao Competition.
A few more Cultivation practitioners opened their eyes and woke up one after the other. They had all experienced something similar to what the first practitioner did. After a while, they all accepted the reality and began discussing what they had encountered in the Illusionary Realm. Then they found out that they had all been killed by a man in black, who had a profound Cultivation state and formidable fighting skill.
Who was the assassin in the black clothing then?
They watched the participants who hadn't woken up yet, and tried to guess their identities in the Illusionary Realm.
Jing Jiu should be the Emperor of Chu State. Was Bai Zao the ill-fated princess of Qin State? And that man…
Their gazes fixed on Zhuo Rusui.
Zhuo Rusui had his eyes closed, as if he was deep in sleep. He didn't look differently from his usual appearance.
But for some reason, there was a faintly lethal intent coming out slowly from his body.
These practitioners eyed each other and let out a bitter smile, as they had figured out who the assassin in black was, thinking that they didn't die unwarranted.
This little weirdo from Green Mountain had no desire to rule over the entire land, but concentrated all of his energy on killing people. Who could stand a chance against such a relentless person?
Another Cultivation practitioner opened his eyes and woke up. He was dressed like a scholar. He was none other than the disciple of the Kunlun Sect, who had a high opinion of himself.
This Kunlun Sect disciple looked around him with a baffled gaze. He suddenly started crying sadly. Yet, the practitioners who had woken up earlier didn't sneer at him, because they had a similar experience themselves, and they didn't behave any better when they woke up.
It took some time before the Kunlun Sect disciple finally accepted the reality and stopped crying.
A practitioner who knew him asked concernedly, "Cultivationist Qiu, how did you come out? Were you also found by an assassin in black?"
The name of the Kunlun Sect disciple was Qiu Chendao, and he was startled a little after hearing the question. "What assassin in black?" he demanded.
The first practitioner was somewhat surprised to hear it and asked, "If you were not found by that little weirdo, why did you leave the Illusionary Realm so early given your ability?"
Qiu Chendao sighed. "I was born in the Seventh Godly Church, which was the main church in Luo State," he said. "I cultivated diligently and built up connections carefully. I was finally trusted by the church master and selected to go to the Royal Palace making the magic pills for the Emperor. I planned to stay in the palace for some years and persuade the Emperor to make me the church master; then I could control the state through the church. But unexpectedly, the Beihai army that was attacking Zhang County of Qin State suddenly moved southward to attack our capital, along with the army of the Jing King of Cu State. It took them only twenty days to break through the capital and burn the Royal Palace to the ground. I was not lucky enough to escape. Even if I could escape, what could I do then? I was afraid that the mountain gate of the Seventh Godly Church had already been destroyed."
These practitioners who had lived in the Illusionary Realm for the past fifteen years couldn't help but feel sentimental, after they learned that Luo State, one of the five states, had been wiped out like this, and they remained silent. Only did one practitioner exclaimed in surprise, "What? Luo State was destroyed? When did this happen?"
Qiu Chendao glanced at that person once, as he asked, "When did you come out?"
That practitioner thought about it and replied, "I came out two hours earlier than you."
Qiu Chendao said, "The armies of the two states attacked us less than thirty days after you left."
That practitioner was taken aback when hearing the news, a sad expression in his eyes as he thought of his relatives and friends in the Illusionary Realm.
"Were you from Luo State?" Qiu Chendao asked.
The practitioner said while bowing to him, "I was merely a regular official in the imperial court when I died; but I had heard of your fame in the Royal Palace."
A young Daoist who helped the Emperor make magic pills had fame in the palace, so it shouldn't be a good reputation. Yet, the practitioner couldn't say that too bluntly.
Yet, Qiu Chendao didn't feel any shame about it. He ran his fingers through his short beard and showed a contented countenance.
But, his contented expression soon disappeared, turning into anger. It was because he found out that he was the sixth to come out from the Illusionary Realm.
It meant that there were still twenty participants remaining in the Illusionary Realm. He wondered why he had been eliminated so early since he had exceptional talent and scheming ability.
Looking at those who were still sleeping with closed eyes, Qiu Chendao's eyes were full of pain and anger, with him yelling, "This is not fair! Why did they become the son of King Jing, the son of Beihai Governor, and the slow emperor after entering the realm? And we had to start from the bottom?!"
Hearing this comment, the other awakened practitioners showed similar expressions on their faces.
Thinking of the difficulty and humiliation he had in the Seventh Godly Church and the Royal Palace in the past fifteen years, Qiu Chendao sneered and curled up his sleeve slightly; a gust of wind headed to a place.
Jing Jiu was sitting there with his eyes closed.
The participant Qiu Chendao envied the most was none other than this slow emperor of Cu State.
Most of the participants would think the same way.
He of course didn't dare kill Jing Jiu. It was only that he had just woken up from the Illusionary Realm and was still in an unstable mental state. He was so angry that he would like to find a target to let out his anger on. If the wind from his sleeve reached Jing Jiu, his spiritual soul in the Green Sky Mirror would be affected; as a result, a mishap might occur.
A bell suddenly rang crisply.
A small and delicate glass bell appeared in front of Jing Jiu, driving the wind from his sleeve into oblivion.
It was then that the Green Girl flew out from the Green Sky Mirror, flapping the transparent wings, which brought out a gust of violent wind to toss Qiu Chendao out of the cave top.
Qiu Chendao screamed dreadfully in midair. It was unclear where he would land and how badly he would crash on the ground.
The Green Girl stared at the remaining five awakened practitioners with an immensely cold expression in her eyes.
The five practitioners kept themselves calm and composed, indicating that they had nothing to do with the incident.
The Green Girl didn't heed these practitioners. She turned to the small glass bell in front of Jing Jiu, and with a changed expression, thinking this man was truly strange and had so much wonderful stuff with him.
The Green Girl returned to the Green Sky Mirror and turned back into the green bird, flying back and forth mostly between the northern Qin State and the southern Chu State; but she would go to Zhao State once in a while.
Time had passed slowly while she was flying back and forth. Three years had passed.
Many events had happened during the three years. Beihai County, with the help of the northerners and the covert aid of the Jing King, had finally succeeded in their rebellion; their army marched into the capital, Xianyang.
The governor of Beihai took the throne as the new emperor. The second decree he issued was appointing Bai Zhou as the Crown Prince.
This announcement was not unexpected. Though Bai Zhou, the young general, was the second son in the family, he played a pivotal role in the rebellion and accomplished innumerable deeds.
His elder brother requested to stay in Beihai before the rebel began, and expressed his willingness to give up the contention for the position of crown prince. However, it was a pity that he died not long after the decree of the crown prince was announced. It was said that he had died of illness; but it was unclear if he died from suicide, or even murder.
The ill-fated princess was also brought to Xianyang City, and decreed as the First Princess of the Protecting State. It was seemingly a very noble status, but in reality, it was not.
All the inhabitants in Xianyang City knew that this princess of the previous dynasty was imprisoned in the Cold Palace; and she might not be able to come out her whole life.
The situation in Qin State didn't stabilize after the new imperial court formed. Many volunteer armies attacked Xianyang City one after the other, in the name of rescuing and supporting the princess. Bai Zhou led his powerful army into the battles in all the places. His military discipline was still strict, but his methods of suppressing the rebels became more and more brutal; he would slaughter a whole village or bury the surrendered soldiers alive for no sensible reasons. Nobody called him the young godly warrior anymore; instead, he was called the godly killer.
As the covert supporter of the new emperor of Qin State, the Jing King gained a great deal of benefit from it. A large portion of the fertile field of the former Luo State was given to Cangzhou; and the problem of provisions that had troubled King Jing and his son for many years was finally resolved. Perhaps given this reason, the son of King Jing was in a good mood recently.
As the first snowfall occurred, he asked his subordinates to push him in his wheelchair to the lakeshore to enjoy the snowy scenery.
In fact, his mood was not that good. The gloomy and discontentment could be spotted in the deep part of his eyes.
The situation in Qin State had been under his control the entire time, and Bai Zhou's success in battle mostly relied on his strategies. Yet, he felt that the situation seemed to gradually stray from the direction he planned. It was not because the princess was imprisoned in her palace, which was something the three of them had planned, but because of what Bai Zhou had done recently. In his opinion, what his Big Brother Bai did was morally inappropriate, even if this was the Illusionary Realm; though the people here were not real humans, it was still unacceptable. And this revealed his true temperament. If his Big Brother Bai was lost in his action, it would be detrimental to the entire situation.
The leisure boats on the lake were not halted during the first snowfall of the season, and actually, there were more of them on the lake today than usual. It looked like he was not the only one who came to enjoy the snowy scenery. Seeing the wheelchair by the lake and the guards surrounding it, the girls and the guests on the boats guessed the identity of the person in the wheelchair. They cried in surprise and bowed to him from the distance.
Those girls were waving their sleeves in hopes that the son of King Jing would suddenly be interested and come over to their boat.
A pigeon suddenly flew to the lakeside by braving the cold and landed on the wheelchair; it was snatched by a hand outside the wheelchair.
Tong Yan looked at those on the boats and greeted them with a smile, as he asked, "What did the Crown Prince tell Wanshu?"
His subordinate opened the letter brought by the pigeon. His expression abruptly grew grave and said, "Mister Xiang…is dead."
The expression in Tong Yan's eyes changed slightly, but he still wore the smile on his face, asking, "Did the Crown Prince do it?"
"No," the subordinate replied. "It should've been done by that man in black as well."
Tong Yan felt a bit relieved, as he said, "He is getting closer…It looks like I will be his next target."
The first participant in the Dao Competition he found in the Illusionary Realm was his Young Brother Xiang Wanshu.
Xiang Wanshu had hidden very well. He was mostly responsible for communicating between Tong Yan, Bai Zhou, and the Princess. Neither the Jing King Manor nor his own intelligence organization even knew about Xiang Wanshu. Somehow, the man in black could find Xiang Wanshu; it meant that he had not only kept a tab on the information leaked by Tong Yan's group, but he must also have other sources for information.
"You came out of the manor to specifically wait for me to kill you; but aren't you afraid that I might surprise you by hiding in the lake water?"
A lethargic voice suddenly broke out in the snow.
The guards of King Jing's Manor drew their weapons in tandem, their expressions grave, as if they had faced a daunting foe.
A man in black had appeared in the world in last few years. He had a profound Cultivation state and formidable fighting skill; and he challenged the highly achieved swordsmen everywhere, killing many of them; it was said that he had a grudge against King Jing's Manor.
The guards of King Jing Manor had been on the lookout for this man, but they hadn't expected that he arrived undetected somewhere so close by.
Tong Yan remarked, "As I know, you have never carried out sneak attacks; you always fight face to face. So I have nothing to fear."
"You are the son of King Jing, different from those pitiful fellows. If I want to kill you, I don't care too much about how I'd go about it."
A man wearing a conical hat walked out from the wind and snow. Though he seemed to be full of lethargic intent, he also exuded a lethal energy, as sharp as a sword in the sheath.
"I thought you were Jing Jiu," Tong Yan said while looking at the man. "Looking at you today, I have to say you are indeed like him."
The man pushed the conical hat to his back, exposing an ordinary and strange face, as he said, "You should know I'm not him."
Staring at the man's eyes, Tong Yan asked uncertainly, "Zhuo Rusui?"
"Of course; who else could I be?" The man felt quite bewildered.