A finger was running across the arrow on the divine crossbow; as it touched the amulets, the finger would stop for a brief moment.
Gu Pan drew back his finger and looked at the cloud boats in the sky, his eyes showing a complicated expression.
He was the deputy commander of the divine army in Zhaoge City. Though his position sounded similar to that he had held many years ago, he was actually promoted a few times already; in fact, he was holding a very important and powerful official position. However, he had been an external disciple of the Center Sect and was responsible for defending the city against the invasion of the cloud boats of the Center Sect. It was an absurd task for him no matter how one viewed it.
It was only that there were too many officials like him in service of the imperial court and army. The imperial court couldn't depose all of them from their positions because of their connection to the Center Sect.
In a higher keep the chief commander of the Pure Heaven Bureau, Zhang Yiai, was also looking at the sky, his narrowed eyes showing no extra emotion.
He hailed from the Center Sect as well; but his relationship with the Center Sect grew further apart after the turmoil of the Fiend Prison, and he had become the most loyal chancellor of the Emperor.
The dozen cloud boats cast a huge shadow on Zhaoge City, and the shadow was also in the heart of everybody in the city.
It was evident that the Center Sect intended to intimidate anyone who was considering opposing them. No matter how strong the defense of Zhaoge City was, there was no way they could resist such a powerful offense; moreover, there were so many people in the imperial court who were leaned toward Cloud-Dream Mountain. It was hard to tell whether some of the officials in the Pure Heaven Bureau and the divine army would turn their weapons against the imperial court at the critical moment.
Zhang Yiai remained silent, readying to fight till death.
He was different from other chancellors and generals; he had no chance of returning to Cloud-Dream Mountain.
Even though he would die fighting, he was to try his best to defend Zhaoge City as long as he could, gaining enough time for the scholars of the One-Cottage House to come out and uphold the justice, for the sword boats of Green Mountain to appear on the southern horizon, and for the Emperor to depart peacefully.
Yet, the way the Center Sect carried out their campaign couldn't deceive anybody, and they had no intention of concealing their operation from anyone; the imperial court had learned it three days ago. But why didn't Green Mountain send some people over?
Zhang Yiai pulled back his gaze and looked at the city wall. He saw Gu Pan by the divine bow. After a moment of silence, he bade some instructions to a deputy commander by his side.
The Jing imperial court had prepared for this situation beforehand. The divine army and the Pure Heaven Bureau had performed many practice exercises over the years. They had done so during the turmoil of the Fiend Prison. Guided by the armored cavalry and the flying sedans, the chaos in Zhaoge City subsided, and the residents began to orderly disperse to the outside of the city.
The manor houses in the vicinity of the royal palace had been mostly evacuated.
With the help of Taichang Temple and the Gu Clan, the Jing family had successfully left Zhaoge City and arrived in the Zhao Garden. The whole of Chaotian had already learned that Jing Jiu was either the All in One Sword devil or the reborn Immortal Jing Yang and he had nothing to do with the Jing House in Zhaoge City; but nobody dared offend them.
Marquis Zhao had white hair covering his whole head, but he was in a high spirit. He bowed to the Grandpa Jing as a junior, and then pulled Jing Shang to the side of the pond. Looking at the cloud boats in the sky, he said with a worried expression, "Looks like Zhaoge City will be broken through. You people should keep on moving southward after a rest."
Jing Shang also had some gray hair, but he looked quite healthy. Hearing this, he was flabbergasted. "Uncle, are you not coming with us?" he exclaimed.
The Green Mountain Sect was the foundation of the Zhao family and the Jing family. The Jing family was supposed to go to Green Mountain by moving southward.
"If Zhaoge City fell into the hands of the Center Sect, it would be meaningless even if I went to Green Mountain."
A determination flashed in Marquis Zhao's eyes, as he went on, "I don't believe that Green Mountain would let them behave so brazenly."
After a moment of silence, Jing Shang said, "After I take my father and the others to Zhuzhou, I'll come back to join you."
Gu Pan had finished inspecting the divine crossbows on the city walls. He descended a narrow stairs of about one hundred feet long on the side of the city wall, and turned right to enter a hidden door.
There was a tunnel inside the hidden door, leading to the underside of the city walls. At the end of the tunnel there was a large space, where a variety of magic wares were stored and the amulets were carved on the walls, which were transported to the city walls through the troughs made of the cold silver.
This great formation was many miles long. Instead of providing the city walls of Zhaoge City with indestructible magic, the formation provided the divine bows on the city walls with indispensable yuanqi.
If someone sabotaged this place, those divine crossbows in Zhaoge City would become a heap of useless bronze and iron after launching the arrows a few times. Normally, Gu Pan shouldn't be allowed to enter here at such a critical moment because of his background of the Center Sect even though he was the deputy commander of the divine army. It indicated that the Emperor trusted him. And according to the rules of the imperial court, no one was allowed to enter the place alone; there must be at least three qualified chancellors present at the same time.
Two other officials were also present; one of them was the deputy commander of the Pure Heaven Bureau, and the other was an official of the Ritual Ministry holding the seal for the forbidding formation.
Standing on the high stone platform and looking at the forbidding formation below, Gu Pan's line of sight followed the troughs of cold silver and moved upwards, as if he could see through the city walls and saw those divine crossbows. Then he was lost in thoughts.
The deputy commander of the Pure Heaven Bureau glanced at him once, saying nothing.
The official of the Ritual Ministry looked rather nervous, his face pale.
The forbidding formation suddenly sensed something. As the green glow scattered, they could see a dark speck approach from the south at an unimaginably fast speed.
Judging from the size of the dark speck, it couldn't be the sword boat of Green Mountain. Was it Yuan Qijing or Fang Jingtian coming alone? Or, was it somebody else?
Gu Pan arched his brows slightly, and raised his right hand in an attempt to order the divine army to defend the walls.
The deputy commander of the Pure Heaven Bureau shot him an ambiguous glance before saying, "Don't be so nervous; it's the great grandmaster of the Waster-Moon Nunnery."
Gu Pan pulled his right hand back from the air and rested it on the railing, the joints on his fingers a bit white.
It was a small green curtain sedan coming from the south.
The divine crossbows on the city walls didn't fire, and the Great Formation of the royal palace opened a passage to let the small green curtain sedan drift down like a leaf in front of the grand hall of the royal palace.
Countless gazes were trained this way from inside the halls, under the palace walls, and behind the corridor posts.
The curtain of the small green sedan tousled slightly. The people wondered if the great grandmaster who had never shown in public would reveal herself today.
Why did she come here? Did it come because of the cloud boats of the Center Sect or other important matters?
Nan Zhen walked out from the small green curtain sedan, her face pale, the silver bell on her wrist giving off a crispy ringing sound.
The crowd knew that she was not the great grandmaster of the Water-Moon Nunnery, because her Cultivation state was too low and her age was too young; they all felt astonished.
Nan Zhen came before the grand hall and knelt on the ground, saying, "Jing Xin has been taken away by the Immortal Tan, and they are on their way to Zhaoge City."
Hearing this, an uproar broke out among the chancellors and generals in the grand hall; they all looked up at the sky.
The Emperor looked at the distance quietly, his expression unchanged, as if he had predicted this in advance.
The Great Formation of the royal palace had been activated; even the cloud boats of the Center Sect would have a hard time breaking through it.
The chancellors in the grand hall were mostly composed, but they couldn't be as calm as the Emperor though. Their gazes followed the Emperor's to look up at a distant spot. Their line of sight passed through the wide square and the invisible barrier of the formation and fixed on the eave of a high building outside the royal palace.
That building was the Yintian Gate in the southern part of the city.
In the cloudless blue sky, the cloud boats of the Center Sect were the clouds.
There was also a cloud above the Yintian Gate.
A figure could be vaguely seen inside that cloud; the rims of a white skirt would protrude out of the cloud while ruffling and bringing out a few strands of cloud. She was none other than the Immortal Bai.
"The assembly of the imperial court is over for today. Go back home, my dear chancellors."
The Emperor said this to the crowd in the hall with a small smile after pulling back his gaze of the distance.
There were many sections in the Jing imperial court, and the high level chancellors in the grand hall had their own stances. Some of them supported the Crown Prince Jing Yao; some still thought of the Prince Jing Xin; some hailed from the Center Sect; and some of them had studied at the One-Cottage House for many years. Regardless of what stance they held, all these officials and chancellors felt heartrending when they heard what the Emperor had just said.
This should be the last assembly of the imperial court for the Emperor.
The Prime Minister Qin ambled out from the crowd and knelt down slowly toward the Emperor, bowing his head all the way to the ground. His hair was as white as snow.
In the next moment, the state dukes, the chancellors of the imperial court and the generals of the divine army had all come out one after the other to kneel down toward the Emperor. They were all doing it sincerely no matter which section each of them belonged to.
It seemed that the Emperor didn't expect to witness such a scene; he was taken aback at first, but soon he laughed gleefully, saying, "I've been imprisoned in this royal palace for more than three hundred years; so it's not a bad deal for me this time."
Having said this, the Emperor got up from the throne and came before the chancellors. He helped the old Prime Minister Qin get up first, and then the other chancellors.
When the Emperor helped the still young deputy commander of the northern divine army at last, this general who had never shrunk from the brutal battles in the north was crying with tears running down his cheeks and could barely stand on his feet.
Watched by his chancellors, the Emperor walked to the outside of the grand hall and asked while looking at the distance, "Will you begin now?"
His voice was as warm as the sunlight in spring, but it reached very far. After drifting past the huge royal palace, the voice arrived a few miles away and above the Yintian Gate.
The Immortal Bai was standing on the Yintian Gate; the cloud and fog surrounding her were dissipating gradually, revealing a seemingly unrealistic face of hers.
She said imperturbably, "Your Majesty, the Center Sect has always respected you. So we won't do anything before your departure."
The Emperor folded his hands behind his back, the yellow royal robe tousling slightly. "What can the Center Sect do after my departure?" he demanded with a smile.
"There is no point in saying so, Your Majesty. We all know what will happen."
The Immortal Bai continued, "No one will accept that the son of a vixen becomes the emperor of humans, including all the chancellors and generals, all the major Cultivation sects, merchants and the populace."
In a room adjacent to the grand hall, the Royal Concubine Hu and the Crown Prince Jing Yao were listening to the conversation between the two several miles from each other. Hearing the voice of the Immortal Bai, a fury showed on her face; but Jing Yao appeared rather calm, extending his hand to grip his mother's. The Royal Concubine Hu was slightly startled, but in the next moment she displayed a hint of sadness at the deep end of her eyes.
The chancellors in the grand hall didn't give any response, because they all knew what the Center Sect's demand was. Those officials with a background of the Center Sect kept their silence, and the officials who had different opinions had no choice but to remain silent.
The Immortal Bai continued, "We won't force the Emperor to change the Will and depose the Crown Prince; we'll do nothing at the moment. You should be able to depart in peace."
Hearing this, the royal palace was as quiet as a graveyard.
She had mentioned "departure", "the Will", and "deposing the Crown Prince".
So she had actually made everything clear.
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