The bloody battle in the Royal Palace of Xianyang was watched by the Cultivation practitioners in the real world; they hadn't missed the details, including the conversation between Bai Qianjun and Zhuo Rusui.
Seeing the scattered corpses, Zhuo Rusui sitting among them with no breathing coming out from his mouth, the crowd outside the Huiyin Valley fell silent for a long time.
The Cultivation practitioners reflected on their conversation silently, thinking what they had said was sensible. Both the Center Sect and the Green Mountain Sect were the leaders of the orthodox sects, but their styles of action were utterly different. The Center Sect emphasized integration into the mortal world and tried to influence every aspect of the world through their involvement in the imperial court, its officials, and the army, in an attempt to lead the whole human race moving forward. On the other hand, the Green Mountain Sect didn't pay much attention to the affairs of the mortal world; they would only offer their help when absolutely necessary, like sending out the disciples of Liangwang Peak to purge the devil men and demons and to kill the evildoers…
The disciples of the two sects were acting according to their respective styles of action even in the Green Sky Mirror. The so-called Illusionary Realm was in fact not so different from the real world. This fact made many people realize there was a deep meaning in the Dao Competition, and as such, they were even more interested in finding out who would eventually win in the Dao Competition and obtain the precious Fairy Book of Longevity.
Though Zhuo Rusui had left the Illusionary Realm, Jing Jiu was still there. After the fire, the people in the Illusionary Realm kept guessing whether Jing Jiu was dead or still alive; but in the real world, people knew clearly that he was still alive, because his body, sitting by the Green Sky Mirror, didn't wake up yet, with the glass bell hovering quietly behind his body.
Yet, nobody knew where he went. The green bird hadn't found his whereabouts for a long time, a shocking fact.
The Royal Palace of Chu State had created a place of ruins and wiped out an emperor. The green bird didn't stay around in the palace anymore. Qin State had entered a period of steady development after the assassin in black had died. The merchants of Qi State had developed a few new ocean routes, and they showed a great interest in the search for the Alien Land and in the exploration of the ocean. However, the Cultivation practitioners were not interested in such a matter. Mister Yun Qi was not interested in the debate in the Scholar Palace of Qi State, so he spent most of his time in Zhao State.
Though the situation appeared stable in Zhao State, it was actually quite unstable at the moment.
As Bai Qianjun had expected, the little emperor of Zhao State would grow up, and the situation would get more interesting.
Five years later, the youthful emperor became a young man, almost an adult. He had performed his duties well. He treated the Royal Dowager in a filial and amicable manner, and anyone could tell that he had done it with the utmost sincerity, and was completely devoid of any deception. And he treated the Master Eunuch He quite respectfully and regarded him as the senior of his. It was perhaps because of these reasons that the Master Eunuch He had loosened up his restriction on the young emperor, allowing for more contacts with other chancellors and scholars. Gradually, he came about his own supporters in the imperial court.
Normally, Master Eunuch He would be cautious about behavior of this sort. Yet somehow, it seemed that Master Eunuch He didn't care about it in the least. He spent most of his time visiting and checking on the counties with some of his subordinates and cavalry guards; in other words, he was traveling around to enjoy the sceneries of the mountains and rivers. The rule declaring eunuchs were not allowed to leave the capital was meaningless to him.
As he enjoyed the scenery, the Master Eunuch He had done some things.
For instance, he supervised the construction and repair of the water canals, dealt with the affairs of the inhabitants, arranged the defense of the borders, punished some corrupted officials; and he also did his best to acquire the treasures and money…
Though the complaints of the populace were not so vehement, gossip about his behavior was inevitable. It wasn't until the death of General Pei and the seven groups of light cavalry of Zhao State attacked the West Camp and won the battle that the world realized that Master Eunuch He had been preparing for this moment the entire time in the last five years.
The victor of the war was Qin State.
Emperor Bai had gained a larger part of Chu State; but the most fertile eastern plain and the West Camp, which occupied an important defensive site, belonged to Zhao State.
As the news that the Royal Palace was on fire spread to the West Camp, He Zhan was in discourse with the generals of Zhao State in front of the map inside the central tent about whether the old path in the Ximang Mountain would play an important role when their army marched northward to Xianyang.
Hearing this news, he remained silent for a moment, and then waved his hand to motion for others to leave the tent. Then, he came to the room behind the tent.
"Your emperor is dead," he told a young eunuch and the prostitute.
The prostitute was bewildered, not knowing what to say. But the young eunuch burst out crying. He had a hard life and been often bullied in the Royal Palace. If he didn't yell out back when somebody wanted to burn down the palace hall and earned the trust of the Emperor, he wouldn't have lived comfortably for so many days in the palace.
"It looks like your emperor truly liked you two; otherwise, he wouldn't have sent you here under my protection before his death."
He Zhan continued while looking at them, "I had thought to kill you two to make him feel disappointed, but you are his gifts to me. And I am not in the habit of declining gifts."
Countless people in Zhao State and also Qi State wanted to send gifts to Master Eunuch He, but Jing Jiu was the only one who dared give him gifts forcefully.
Receiving the gifts didn't mean that he would use them. For He Zhan, it was not a difficult thing to place them in a safe place somewhere.
He planned to have them sent to Qi State by his subordinates, and then they would be brought by the merchants of Qi State to overseas, spending the rest of their lives happily on a remote small island.
What he was displeased with was that Jing Jiu didn't contact him after asking him to take care of the matter, and Jing Jiu surrendered to Qin State instead of Zhao State. Though he and Jing Jiu were not very familiar, he thought, but Shenmo Peak and the Fruit Formation Temple had a close relationship. Regardless, Jing Jiu should have a closer relationship with him than with the Center Sect, He Zhan thought to himself.
With these questions in his mind, He Zhan returned to the capital of Zhao State.
On the streets of the capital, their carriages were welcomed by the residents, which was rear. The cavalrymen following the carriages by the side showed strange countenance, wondering what had happened.
It was undoubtedly a great achievement to expand the land and territory; no matter how much some of the people hated the Master Eunuch He, they had to keep silent at the time.
He Zhan was not moved by the welcome in the least; he didn't care about it. As far as he was concerned, the cheers outside the window of the carriage were not different from the dreadful cries of those officials in the Intelligence Bureau.
He was still thinking about that matter.
As he entered the royal study room, the young emperor approached him and said sincerely, "Thank you, Uncle, for your hard work."
He Zhan suddenly commented, "I finally understand it."
The expression changed a bit on the emperor's face, but he tried his hardest to remain composed, as he asked, "Uncle, what have you understood?"
He Zhan didn't pay any heed to him, as he muttered, "It's because of that ill-fated princess…"
The Emperor felt even more baffled, but he couldn't ask He Zhan.
He Zhan gathered his wits together and came to the front of the bookshelf in the royal study room, and pulled apart the curtain, exposing a large map behind it.
Looking at the map, he remained silent for a moment; then, he used the pen to mark a spot in the territory of Zhao State.
There were many of such marks on the map; but there were more empty spaces on the map as well.
"Everybody thinks that it's my plan that contributed to the victory of the West Camp battle; but nobody knows that it was the strategy I and the late emperor had made fifteen years ago."
Looking at the young emperor, He Zhan said, "One should understand the situation and plan everything ahead of time before taking any action; it's the same for doing everything."
The young emperor fell silent, but he thought that He Zhan wasn't qualified to teach him since it was the late emperor who had contributed to the victory the most.
"I'm not sure if the Chu Emperor set the fire himself or if he was murdered by his chancellors, or even if he used the fire to escape secretly." He Zhan walked to the front of the table and poured a cup of tea for himself and continued, "But, regardless of whether he is dead or alive, he is nevertheless dead to the Chu inhabitants; he won't be able to cause trouble."
The young emperor felt frightened after hearing this, thinking that these words were a warning for him; so he didn't dare remain silent any longer, and said, "See you tomorrow, Uncle."
The participants in the Dao Competition had been in the Green Sky Mirror for twenty seven years.
The flowers can't blossom for over a hundred days, and nobody can have a good time for over a thousand days. It was impossible for the relationship between the young emperor and the Master Eunuch He to warm up. In fact, their relationship had never been cozy.
The situation in Zhao State hadn't stayed stable that long. As time passed, the emperor had grown older. He was close to the age when he should govern the state by himself. It was natural that some chancellors showed their loyalty in advance. The young emperor was getting more supporters in the imperial court and more resources; but he still treated the Royal Dowager in the filial manner and He Zhan respectfully. Yet, it was inevitable that he would generate some of his own ideas.
A newly promoted scholar handed in a petition to the imperial court, in which he stated that since this imperial court governed the state by means of filial piety, King Hejian, as the true father of the Emperor, should be regarded as the late emperor and have a shrine in the royal temple.
There was an uproar in the court meeting; but no chancellor dared oppose the petition. The Emperor remained reticent, and the pearl curtain, behind where the Royal Dowager sat, didn't move at all.
Normally, this event should have caused some sort of turbulence in the court meeting, and both sides should attack each other in words thunderously. Somehow, both sides of the imperial court kept silent in an eerie way.
Everybody knew the reason.
One day in the late autumn, the carriage in which the Master Eunuch He sat was stopped by a brave scholar.
The scholar ignored the cold gazes from the cavalrymen and the worried eyes from the surroundings, and said loudly, "This is an important issue of the state. I'd like Master Eunuch He to offer an answer!"
Nobody expected the Master Eunuch He to answer this question, though they all knew what his thought was.
Once this question was answered, it would be like the lid of a stove being opened, which could ignite a big fire.
The best way to deal with it was to ignore it when seeing it, or pretend not to hear it when listening to it.
Unexpectedly, the people on the street all heard what the Master Eunuch He said. "King Hejian was only a county king; he is of course not qualified to be placed in the royal temple."
The scholar was surprised at first, but soon the ecstatic expression appeared on his face, as he shouted, "But he is the real father of the Emperor!"
The voice of the Master Eunuch He's was as calm as ever, "Since the Emperor is adopted by the late emperor, he has no father and son relationship with King Hejian anymore."
The scholar thought that he would definitely become famous because of today's event. He exclaimed tersely with a red face, looking like he was drunk, "Master Eunuch is a disabled man and doesn't understand the way of human family; how can you evaluate this matter?"
It was strangely quiet on the street. Everybody thought that this scholar would die immediately, or he would be arrested and put in the prison, and then killed by cutting him bit by bit.
In the eyes of the cavalrymen and the highly achieved eunuch swordsmen, this scholar looked like a dead man already.
The unexpected thing happened.
The Master Eunuch He didn't say anything or paid any heed to that scholar, but instead he ordered the carriage to move ahead.
Seeing the leaving cavalrymen, the scholar couldn't withhold it anymore, his knees giving in. If he weren't surrounded by the approaching crowd, he would have fallen down on the ground. Hearing the praises from the surroundings and seeing the admirable expressions on the faces of the crowd, the scholar felt quite contented. He forced himself to calm down and cupped his hands to the crowd, making some more audacious statements.
A middle-aged scholar stood in the midst of the crowd and shook his head while looking at the scene. He led a few young men who looked like students leaving the street. They stayed in a local institute the same day. After finishing their homework, the students couldn't help but discuss the event during the day on the street. They all agreed that they were lucky to witness such an event when they had just arrived in the capital of Zhao State.
The discussion turned into debate gradually. The students argued more and more vehemently. In the end, their gazes all turned to the middle-aged scholar for help.
The middle-aged scholar had a scholarly bearing and composed complexion. He was none other than Mister Yun Qi, whom was widely respected by the populace.
The students would like to know his answer very much, so would everybody else in the world.
Including the young emperor of Zhao State.
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