In the eyes of the Master Eunuch He, there was only one Emperor.
The young emperor was fully aware of it. "If I'm a disloyal wolf, what about you?" he demanded in a resentful tone.
He Zhan reached his hands out and tucked a corner of the quilt for him, saying nothing.
The young emperor stuttered while panting, "I have respected you like a real uncle for many years, but…I still can't make you change your opinion about me. You have never considered letting me live past adulthood…Yeah…just like those people outside the palace said, you will kill me and then find another little emperor to replace me; as he grows up, you will let him die…for a mysterious reason; and then you will choose another little emperor. Anyway…anyway…there are many children in the royal family."
He Zhan said, "Choosing a child to be the emperor is a troublesome thing. It's not something I wish to do."
The young emperor suddenly summoned enough courage to yell angrily, "So you can be the emperor forever yourself!"
"You are wrong," He Zhan said after a moment of silence. "It's not because I want to become the emperor that I want to kill you; it's because you don't accept your father."
The young emperor's voice grew lower, as he murmured, "But I'm not the son of the late emperor to begin with…And in fact, I hadn't seen him that many times."
"You are not wrong in this regard either. But he was my friend; if you don't want to be his son, he will have no offspring."
He Zhan added, "I have no choice but to choose someone who wants to be his son to become the emperor."
The young emperor suddenly chuckled, appearing a bit crazy. "Is it because you can't have any offspring, so you are so concerned about this?" he exclaimed.
He Zhan reached out his hand and patted on his shoulder, saying, "Take a good rest."
The young emperor died peacefully in his sleep without experiencing any pain.
There was no turbulence in the imperial court, or much discussion among the populace. Though King Hejian's Manor showed a bit agitation, it was soon suppressed.
It wasn't until now that the officials of the imperial court and some people in the Royal Palace understood just how much power Master Eunuch He had in Zhao State.
Many people then remembered the rumors related to Master Eunuch He.
Master Eunuch He had no hobbies. He had no desire for the delicious foods or luxurious living conditions; he didn't play chess, nor had he enjoyed the sceneries of the mountains and lakes.
He got up in the early morning every day, and went to bed late every evening. It was said that he only slept a few hours a night. What had he used all the time for?
His trusted subordinates in the Intelligence Bureau knew that Master Eunuch He cultivated diligently and worked hard to deal with the affairs of the imperial court, and he read books assiduously every day as well.
His purpose for reading books was to improve his Cultivation state as quickly as possible and his ability of governing the state.
As for plotting the schemes and planning for the future, those were the skills necessary for understanding and dealing with people; they were not a big issue for the experienced Master Eunuch He.
The old thing is always replaced by the new one. The position of emperor couldn't be empty forever; so the affair of selecting a new emperor became urgent.
There were only two people who were qualified to discuss this matter.
In the quiet Yuan Palace.
Looking at He Zhan, the Royal Dowager demanded with a pale face, "What do you want to do? To become the emperor yourself? Do you intend to take over the state left by the late emperor?"
She didn't have any child of her own after marrying the late emperor. She had supervised the young emperor as he was studying in the palace and listened to the court meetings behind the curtain, so she was a bit emotionally entangled with the young emperor.
He Zhan didn't answer her questions, but said, "Select a younger one. It's better if he can't remember anything yet."
The Royal Dowager said sharply, "Whom I select has nothing to do with you! You are not going to put even a finger on this matter!"
"Why are you so cautious of me?" He Zhan pressed calmly.
The Royal Dowager stared into his eyes with a strong hint of hatred, as she exclaimed through her gritted teeth, "You have had two emperors killed. Do you want to kill the third one?"
Upon hearing this, He Zhan remained silent for a long time, then said, "In your mind, I'm the one who had caused his death."
"Isn't it true?" the Royal Dowager retorted.
"Back when the man in black attempted to assassinate me, I was unconscious due to the severe wound and lay in your bedchamber; why didn't you take the chance to kill me?" He Zhan asked.
The Royal Dowager turned her head to look at the outside of the window, remaining silent.
He Zhan suddenly reached out his hands and cupped her face. "Are you scared of me?" he demanded while staring into her eyes.
Startled, the Royal Dowager yelled crossly, "What are you doing?"
"Answer my question," He Zhan demanded emotionlessly.
The Royal Dowager sneered, "You are a castrated man, but you killed the emperors and control the state, and are meddling in the affairs of the palace and the imperial court. This dowager feels unsafe in this palace day in and day out; how can I not be scare of you?"
"No," He Zhan shook his head and said. "You are so scared of me because you want to kill me."
The Royal Dowager's body grew a bit rigid after hearing this.
He Zhan pulled back his hands and looked at the night sky outside the window, saying, "I knew you had bribed a few generals and communicated with Xianyang City, and you had a retreat plan in Qi State, and you put the poison in the medicine you boiled for me back when I was treated for the wounds in your palace."
The Royal Dowager's face grew even paler now.
"Drops of water can eventually drill through a rock, and a drop of poison can gradually kill a man in the end. But it will take a long time for the poison to take effect, and it is a hard work."
Looking at the clouds illuminated by the starlight in the night sky, He Zhan added with a sigh, "It's really tiresome to live this way."
"That's why you want to kill me," the Royal Dowager cut in, a despair showing in her eyes.
"You have actually thought too much. I promised the late emperor that I would protect you for the rest of your life. It looks like it's not necessary anymore."
He Zhan continued, "But I still have to tell you that I had never put any poison in the medicine I boiled for His Majesty."
Having said that, he turned and headed for the outside of the palace.
Looking at his back, the Royal Dowager suddenly generated a complex emotion, as she yelled after him, "What on earth do you want to do?"
He Zhan stopped short, but he didn't turn around. "I don't know what I'm going to do either," he said. "But I feel very tired at the moment, as if I hadn't had a sound sleep in many years."
Shone by the starlight, the clouds seemed to be surrounded by a silvery frame, so was the black overcoat He Zhan wore.
Surrounded by an entourage of eunuch swordsmen, He Zhan headed toward the outside of the Royal Palace. The boots stepping on the icy-cold stone slabs generated the depressing thudding sounds.
His mood at the moment was the same: depressed.
Seeking the reality in the Illusionary Realm was the goal of every participant in the Dao Competition.
Yet, He Zhan had seen a different reality in the Illusionary Realm.
What he saw was that there was no reality even in the real world.
Everything is meaningless.
He finally understood why Jing Jiu didn't give Chu State to him, and why his auntie wanted him to go to the Fruit Formation Temple.
It was because he would see this reality sooner or later.
"It turns out that I am a natural monk."
He Zhan muttered to himself on the top floor of a quiet restaurant, as he listened to the singing of the wind while holding an alcohol jar.
There were a dozen more alcohol jars under the table.
Inside and outside the restaurant and in the street not faraway were the eunuch swordsmen and the cavalrymen in orange clothing guarding the place.
Everyone could sense that the Master Eunuch He was in a dubious mood; otherwise, he wouldn't drink so much since he had always controlled himself admirably.
Now that the Master Eunuch He was in a bad mood, Zhao State would be in trouble and the whole world would be in turmoil soon.
This fact made everybody feel insecure. The royal guards and the City Gate Bureau had already prepared for the possible consequence.
Was he going to take the throne or attack the Qin State?
"Go bring that man to me," He Zhan suddenly commanded.
A few subordinates exchanged a look, the expression on their faces perplexed, wondering if this was all that was going to happen.
Master Eunuch He finally wanted to see that person.
Why was that person so important to him?
There were many secrets in the Intelligence Bureau, plus many strange things.
For many officials of the bureau, the most puzzling thing was about a Cultivation practitioner named Jiang Rui.
There was a special department in the Intelligence Bureau that was specifically responsible for watching and controlling this person for many years. It was said that this department had existed since the day when the bureau was founded. However, the officials of the bureau thought this person was quite ordinary in all aspects and had nothing worth being cautious of. Instead of spending so much money and resources on him, it would be easier and more economical to kill him.
The Cultivation practitioner named Jiang Rui was a visiting elder at a Cultivation sect in Lushan County, nor far from the capital. The officials of the Intelligence Bureau, given their capability and preparation in the last twenty some years, had defeated and captured this person easily. He was then brought back to the capital overnight.
As Jiang Rui was brought to the top floor of the restaurant and knelt on the floor, He Zhan was still drinking the alcohol; the difference was that there were more than thirty empty alcohol jars under the table, piling up like a small hill.
"You came," He Zhan greeted Jiang Rui while looking at him.
His voice was quite phlegmatic, like addressing a friend whom he saw frequently.
Jiang Rui had lived a comfortable and relatively successful life over the years. He relied on his talent in Cultivation and scheming to become a visiting elder at a Cultivation sect. As he was considering finding a way to go to the capital for more opportunities, the Sect Master suddenly changed his attitude toward him tonight, and the disciples of the sect jumped on him together and captured him; and then he was handed over to a group of men in the black clothing. In the end, he was brought to the capital.
On the way to the capital, he was nervous and baffled. He had thought of many possibilities, but he couldn't find any clue as to which powerful figure wanted to harm him.
Hearing the greeting, he summoned his courage to raise his head to look at the speaker. He was bewildered as he saw a face that was totally strange to him. "I'd like to know the name of this master. I have no idea why you wish to see this traveler," he said in a humble manner.
He thought that this feminine man in the embroidered clothing must be an important figure in the capital since he could make the Sect Master listen to him; yet, this man didn't kill him right away, meaning that this man would want to use him for something, like assassinating an opponent in the imperial court.
"It looks like you have forgotten everything."
He Zhan let out a wry smile, as he added, "Then let me tell you a story."
The story started many years earlier in the real world. Two of the talented free-traveling practitioners met in a valley one day; then they ate a barbecued fish…
Many years later, they entered the Green Sky Mirror together to participate in the Dao Competition.
Jiang Rui had forgotten about the past a long time ago. He was shocked to hear all this, as he murmured, "According to what you have said, we are not from this world."
"No," He Zhan confirmed. "For the people of this world, we are like the disgraced immortals."
"Do you mean I'm an immortal?"
Jiang Rui thought it was incredible. When he recalled the hardship and sufferings he had in this world, he became rather sentimental; but he had more of an ecstatic feeling.
After taking a few deep breaths, he calmed himself down a bit and asked, "What are you now?"
He Zhan answered, "I'm serving in the Royal Palace. My last name is He. You have probably heard of me."
Jiang Rui was shocked one more time after hearing this. He was actually more shocked than before, because the Master Eunuch He was simply too famous.
"You are the Master Eunuch He! It's impossible."
"Yeah, yeah, as you have said, we are the immortals; so we should be very powerful."
"But it's not right. If we were friends, why didn't you come to find me before?"
The more Jiang Rui thought about it, the more confused he became; so were his words.
"Don't worry. You will remember the past gradually."
He Zhan tossed the alcohol jar in his hand to the bottom of the table and picked up a snow white towel to clean his hands, as he said, "But I'm not sure whether you are willing to recall those things in the past or not."
His adopted mother was killed.
He was sold so many times from one human trafficker to another, and beaten countless times.
Then, he was castrated and brought to the Royal Palace, where he had to experience a great deal of pain to survive in the palace.
He Zhan had never forgotten about those things; so Jiang Rui had to recollect those things regardless.
It didn't take long for Jiang Rui to recollect those things, his face turning pale instantly.
The most painful moment for those lost in the mortal world was not when they died unknowingly, but when they came back to their senses and faced the reality.
"In fact…you are still alive…and you have ended up in the Royal Palace…In fact, you are the Master Eunuch He."
Jiang Rui intended to explain the incident back then; as he moved his lips several times, he somehow couldn't utter a sound.
He Zhan cleaned the dirty spot he had stepped on and sat down on the stool. "How would you want to die?" asked He Zhan while looking at Jiang Rui kneeling before him.
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