Following Jing Jiu's advice, the green bird traveled across this world to find those who might possibly discover the reality. She went to the Royal Palace of Zhao State ultimately.
She didn't like going to the Royal Palace of Zhao State. It was because the Royal Palace of Zhao State was full of the smells of medicines and gloom, which was altogether different from people's impression of Zhao State.
Moreover, she didn't like that eunuch.
The green bird stood on an eave of the building. She looked like an animal figurine on the eave.
He Zhan shot an undetectable glance at the spot and then brought his sight back to continue reading the decree of self-denouncement of the Chu Emperor.
His eyebrows were very thin, and his face looked pale. The longer he focused on the decree of self-denouncement, the higher his slender eyebrows curled up. His expression grew gloomier.
He had been staying too long in the Illusionary Realm, so he had forgotten many things in his past; but there were many things he couldn't forget, like his painful childhood, and the annoying green bird who came over once in a while. He also knew that the Chu Emperor and he were the same kind, and that the son of King Jing should be his friend; then again, it was because of the word "friend" that he hadn't contacted Cangzhou.
The death of the son of King Jing didn't make him feel sad; yet, this decree of self-denouncement made him feel resentful and furious for the Chu Emperor. He felt it truly insulting for the emperor.
Living a life was indeed a dull thing.
He Zhan left the royal study room, came to the front of a palace hall, and took over the medicine handed by a palace servant girl.
The medicine was prescribed by him, and the medical house was closely supervised, and this meant that nobody had a chance to put poison in the medicine. Perceiving the warmth when he held the bottom of the medicine bowl, He Zhan nodded in satisfaction. He pushed open the door of the grand hall and walked in. "Your Majesty, it's time to take the medicine," he said to the young man in yellow robe sitting behind the desk.
The Zhao Emperor smiled at him; then he started coughing painfully.
The Emperor's face was pale. He and He Zhang looked like twin brothers; but He Zhan's paleness was due to lack of sunlight, while the Emperor's paleness stemmed from his illness.
The Zhao Emperor took over the bowl and drank the medicine in it in one gulp; he then took the sweet made from winter melon from a case handed to him by He Zhan and put it in his mouth, feeling much better. His expression and color looked more pleasant now.
"You don't have to push yourself too hard. You should get some more rest," He Zhan offered.
The Zhao Emperor walked to the wall and pulled open the curtain and said while pointing at the map of the land, "There are so many territories ready for the taking; I have no choice but to hasten my plan."
His father would definitely be one of the most incapable emperors in history, while conversely, he himself would be one of the most capable emperors in history. Under his capable governing, Zhao State became more and more prosperous, showing formidable potential. As Master Eunuch He took all the blames for the wrongdoings, his image was even more positive, winning a great deal of respect from his subjects.
Thinking of the decree of self-denouncement, He Zhan remarked casually, "We at least don't have to worry about Chu State for now."
The Zhao Emperor said, "King Jing is lacks determination, and he is also concerned about the ability of the Grand Scholar Zhang; so he won't rebel against his emperor. What he will do is perhaps bring his army to another state."
He Zhan said, "I haven't contacted Cangzhou that much over the years, so it's hard for me to convince them to join us. However, even if he joins Xianyang, I'll try my best to get as many benefits from them as possible."
"This is the basic strategy; you and the Military Bureau will decide on the specific details. But…"
The Zhao Emperor glanced at him and continued, "You don't have to act so cruelly like he did before. It's not good for your reputation and not good for our cause either."
"I like being feared by others. It's useful for getting things done," He Zhan said calmly.
The Zhao Emperor shook his head, and then pointed to a spot on the map as he said, "The canal in Yao County has almost been constructed. You can ask somebody else to take care of the matter of raising the banks of the canal."
Looking at the spot on the map, He Zhan's mind wandered to the memories of the past.
He was a young eunuch in the Palace of the Royal Concubine Ping at the time, and this emperor was still a prince who might be given a death sentence any time by his insane father.
They had talked about many things by the lake of the royal garden, like how they could change the unfavorable situation in the imperial court, and what they would like to do after succeeding in their endeavor.
One of the topics was about constructing the canal in Yao County.
This canal was very important to Zhao State. Once it was constructed, the canal could irrigate tens of thousands of acres of the fertile fields; and in the meantime, it was also a Damocles sword hovering over Qi State.
In order to construct the canal, Zhao State spent a good deal of resources. The work on the canal even slowed down their plan of conquering Qi State.
It was all worthwhile, judging by the result.
The devastation caused by breaking the banks of the canal would anger the heavenly father, and the person who was in charge of the project would be infamous for ten thousand years; as such, the Zhao Emperor didn't want He Zhan to take charge of the project.
He Zhan didn't decline the Emperor's good will and said, "I'll choose a capable person for the project. And Qi State will try to interrupt the project for sure; we can kill a bunch of them in the process."
The Emperor smiled helplessly, saying, "Can you not think about killing people for once?!"
The twilight was getting darker, and the figures in the window grew fainter. The red glow in the building gave out a warm feeling.
The Emperor's and He Zhan's voices grew lower and lower.
Seeing this scene, the eunuchs and the palace servant girls outside the grand hall let out a smile on their faces.
The servants in the palace were used to seeing the Emperor and his favorite chancellor discussing the state affairs together.
It was a pity that Master Eunuch He had a bad reputation; otherwise, their relationship would be a legendary one in history.
Night fell, and the lights were on in the palace.
The Emperor felt a bit tired, coughing a few times. He Zhan helped him sit down on the bed.
He Zhan advised again, "You should take good care of your health."
The Emperor placed his left hand on his knee and waved his right hand, saying, "You know very well that this emperor doesn't have many years left; how can I not be anxious?"
If He Zhan were a regular chancellor, he would cry with tears running down his cheeks and say something like "Your Majesty is still young and energetic; you shouldn't say so."
Yet He Zhan didn't do so. All he did was look at the Emperor quietly.
The Emperor lowered his head, looking tired.
He saw three hair whorls on the Emperor's head, indicating that he was very smart.
The Emperor had always been a smart man.
"This emperor wants to do something for the inhabitants of Zhao State and the world. If I don't have enough time…"
The Emperor said with his head hung low, "You help me complete the task."
Even if the Emperor didn't ask him, He Zhan would do it anyway; it was because it was something he would carry out regardless.
He withstood humiliation and pain, and walked in the dark nights and stayed in a sunless place, because he wanted to conquer all the states someday and become the ruler of the world, in order to eventually win the Tripod.
After a long moment of silence, He Zhan suddenly asked, "Is this your Last Will or your request for me to support your son.
The Last Will was different from the request of supporting his son.
It was rather quiet in the grand hall.
The eunuchs and the palace servant girls had left a while ago.
The Emperor lifted his head slowly and said while looking at him, "You still don't support my decision?"
A significant event had happened in Zhao State just a few days ago.
The Emperor was physically weak, and didn't have a son of his own. So he decided to choose a nephew from the extended royal family to be his adopted son.
After careful selection, the Emperor chose an intelligent and honest little boy from the Manor of King Hejian as his adopted son.
"I have always objected to the decision."
He Zhan continued calmly, "He will be an ungrateful wolf cub."
Regarding the inheritance of the emperor's position, a eunuch was usually not qualified to make any comment, let alone such a rude and inconsiderate one.
Yet the Emperor didn't get angry. "We have to leave it like that. I need you to take care of him for me," he said after a moment of silence.
"Very well," He Zhan said.
But the Emperor was now angry; he knew that He Zhan was lying.
As He Zhan asked him if what he said was the Last Will or the request of supporting his son, He Zhan had already revealed his stance clearly.
"This emperor knows that you won't treat that child as well as you have me."
Staring into He Zhan's eyes, the Emperor continued, "It's because you know that you have always wanted to be the real emperor yourself."
He Zhan remained silent for a while before saying, "What you say is not incorrect."
There were many rumors regarding this among the inhabitants of Zhao State and other states. The Emperor had never asked him about it, and He Zhan had never said anything, until tonight.
The Emperor's face grew even paler, with the angry flames flickering in his eyes, as if he was looking at a wicked person who had betrayed him.
He Zhan was angered by the expression in the Emperor's eyes; he exclaimed, "Without my help, you had no way to become the emperor. Without me, you would have died many times over!"
"But those are your duties!" the Emperor claimed sharply.
He Zhan demanded in a mocking tone, "Why? Is it because you are the emperor and I am the chancellor?"
"No," the Emperor said after a moment of silence, "it's because we are friends."
He Zhan said, "I might have forgotten many things, but I remember clearly that the friends cannot be trusted. This is a disgusting word."
After a long moment of silence, the Emperor suddenly asked, "Did you do something to the branch of the chestnut tree on the slope in the royal garden back then?"
"How did you know about it?" He Zhan demanded with furrowed brows.
The Emperor said, "You hadn't learned the magic method yet back then, so it was inevitable that you had left some clues behind."
He Zhan said, "You had checked me out back then. When you found out the relationship between me and the old eunuch Hong, you decided to get to know me. In other words, you made use of me as well."
"Yes," the Emperor commented bitterly, "we have been using each other from the very beginning."
He Zhan fell silent.
The Emperor suddenly coughed violently, looking like he was in a great pain.
He Zhan furrowed his brows slightly, and took out a magic pill. After some debating inside his mind, he sliced a quarter off the pill and put it in the Emperor's mouth and helped him lie down.
The Emperor stopped coughing gradually. He felt a lot better, resting with his eyes closed.
He Zhan bid his farewell, ready to leave.
The Emperor suddenly called after him while looking at this back. "You…are not from this world," he said.
"What are you talking about?" snapped He Zhan, his body a bit rigid.
The Emperor brought his gaze back and looked at the starry night sky outside through the window.
"I have never doubted that this world is an illusion. It wasn't until I found you had never had any true feelings for this world that I started contemplating this issue."
He Zhan said, "I don't understand what you mean."
"You are always a guest as far as this world is concerned; and this emperor is always a stranger as far as you are concerned. This is what I intended to express," the Emperor said.
He Zhan thought about it with his head lowered, and said, "I'll serve you till the end, without doing anything; and I'll support the Empress for the rest of her life."
Having said that, he walked toward the outside of the grand hall. He didn't turn his body or head on his way out.
"If you were not a eunuch, this emperor could give the throne to you…"
The Emperor's voice rang out behind him.
As He Zhan came to the outside of the grand hall, a eunuch put an overcoat on him.
It was the late night, a bit cold outside.
He was crowded by dozens of eunuchs as he was walking toward the outside of the palace.
These eunuchs were all his subordinates, and all of them had a formidable fighting skill. Under the circumstances, it was almost impossible to kill He Zhan.
When they were close to the palace gate, He Zhan suddenly halted his steps and said, "I would like to go to somewhere. You guys wait here for me."
The eunuchs were stunned to hear this, thinking there were many swordsmen and assassins who wanted to kill Master Eunuch He, and even the Royal Palace was not quite safe for him; what was Master Eunuch going to do?
He Zhan came to the royal garden.
Standing under the chestnut tree, he was looking at the distance in silence.
The starlight shone down on his black overcoat.
He looked like a demon nostalgic about the past.
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