The old Prime Minister Qin came outside the grand hall. Ignoring his messy white hair in the wind, he yelled tersely toward the Yintian Gate, "Do you think the way the Center Sect acts can convince others?!"
The crowd was surprised that the Prime Minister was the first to come out and denounce the Center Sect. It was well known that the One-Cottage House had been an ally of the Center Sect even though they usually maintained a neutral stance.
Along with this forceful denouncement the sound of a powerful wind whipped up in the sky. A shadow appeared in the eastern sky as the Boat of Diligent Study of the One-Cottage House dropped down at a high speed. The boat then hovered steadily over the palace wall.
If the cloud boats of the Center Sect attempted to charge into the royal palace, they would encounter the Boat of Diligent Study of the One-Cottage House.
Many scholars stood on the Boat of Diligent Study, their expressions grave.
With unchanged countenance, the Immortal Bai looked at Bu Qiuxiao who stood at the head of the boat and demanded, "Not to mention that the House Master Bu was forced to yield by the Green Mountain Sect using a sinister method, do you want to protect that son of the vixen now?"
Bu Qiuxiao replied, "Two disciples of Green Mountain had said 'teaching everyone with no regard for their background' to Little Yun. I've thought about this carefully and found it making sense."
Xi Yiyun standing behind him remained silent, but Liu Shisui felt curious, thinking that such a sensible statement must be the words of his Young Master's, but who was the other one who delivered these words besides Gu Qing?
If Zhuo Rusui were present, he would shout: "It's me, it's me."
The Immortal Bai said, "The Prime Minister has said that our Center Sect can't convince others; but I'm curious about if all the scholars at the One-Cottage House agree with the House Master Bu as far as accepting the son of a vixen as the emperor is concerned."
Hearing this, the expression on Xi Yiyun and Liu Shisui's faces changed a bit; and more than ten scholars on the Boat of Diligent Study furrowed their brows.
It was evident that the people at the One-Cottage House had different opinions regarding the matter, and it was Bu Qiuxiao who had suppressed their views.
If Bu Qiuxiao confronted the Center Sect for the sake of Jing Yao, the fracture between the Center Sect and the One-Cottage House would grow wider and something disastrous could ensue.
It seemed that Bu Qiuxiao had already made up his mind, as he said to the Immortal Bai, "I don't care about the inheritance of the throne, but I can't stay out of it when your Center Sect acts like this. Immortal, have you ever thought of what would happen to the populace if your sect and the Green Mountain Sect started a war?!"
This was the ideal the One-Cottage House had adhered to for tens of thousands of years: The populace is more important than the emperor.
The Immortal Bai seemed to have predicted this demand of the One-Cottage House, so she said, "I promise you that whatever happens will be limited within Zhaoge City."
"No!" Bu Qiuxiao said sharply, his voice sounding as crispy as a stone inkstone being struck. "Many people will die because the residents in Zhaoge City haven't been completely evacuated yet."
Looking in the direction of the city wall while remaining silent for a while, the Immortal Bai suddenly said with a smile, "Okay, I promise you that we only do it within the royal palace."
Bu Qiuxiao didn't expect the Center Sect to agree to his request so easily, feeling incredulous as well as helpless.
All the sects were fully aware of how powerful the Great Formation of the royal palace was, simply because it was built with the most powerful magic treasures and energies by these Cultivation sects to begin with. No matter how strong the Center Sect was, in order to break through the Great Formation of the royal palace, they would fritter away a great deal of resources or even many lives. After which, they would have to face the forces of the imperial court and the Green Mountain Sect…where did the Immortal Bai's confidence come from?
The Immortal Bai made a promise that gained a temporary silence from the One-Cottage House, which was expected by no one; the Prime Minister Qin and many other officials had no choice but to fall silent again.
Such a silence was ridiculous.
The Emperor couldn't help but laugh out. He extended his right hand toward the Yintian Gate, saying, "Please."
This was the gesture for a fight.
Yet, the Immortal Bai had no intention of fighting against him. "Our sect is always very respectful of Your Majesty. You have already worked very hard over the last three hundred years, and this is your last day in the world; there is no point in trying so hard right now," she said calmly.
After a moment of silence, the Emperor remarked, "It seems sensible."
Having said this, he left the grand hall and entered a side hall.
The Royal Concubine Hu and Jing Yao approached him.
There were two cups of tea.
The Emperor and the Royal Concubine Hu eyed each other while talking together about their past and future, just like what they had done every night before.
They talked about how they had met and fallen in love, and how they had parted and then reunited at last.
Standing by the side, Jing Yao didn't know what he should do, wondering if he should leave them alone; but he didn't feel like leaving them at the moment.
There was a meditation room in the deep end of the side hall, where Jing Jiu sat by the window while looking at the mediocre flowers, grass and trees in the backyard of the palace. He was holding a cup of tea in his hand, but he didn't take a drink from it.
The Drifter and Ping Yongjia stood by the door, eavesdropping on the conversation between the Emperor and the Royal Concubine Hu with a great effort.
After a long while, the Drifter spun her head around and said to Ping Yongjia bafflingly, "What they are talking are all about the love and affection and family matters; it has nothing to do with the method of ruling a state."
"You ask me, but I know nothing about it. Do you want me to ask our Master instead?" returned Ping Yongjia, feeling indignant.
The Drifter nodded vehemently, and said, "Yes, that's what I want."
Ping Yongjia of course wouldn't ask Jing Jiu about it. Though he had behaved naively, he was not an idiot. He was fully aware that his Master was in a very bad mood today, so he wouldn't do anything to make it worse for Jing Jiu.
He and the Drifter knew the reason why Jing Jiu was in a bad mood. In fact, the whole of Zhaoge City and even the whole of Chaotian knew the reason.
The setting sun had already descended behind the western horizon at the distant West Ocean; the darkness of the night permeated the entire sky. Most of the stars were blocked by those inky cloud boats, looking rather dreadful.
The divine crossbows on the city walls targeted at the night sky; it was unclear if they intended to shoot down the stars or something else.
The assembly of the imperial court had been finished a long time ago, but those chancellors were still lingering in the palace. They didn't leave because this was the last night for the Emperor in this world, and the other reason was that the manor houses for many of them were empty now, so there would be no food or drink waiting for them at home.
The evacuation of the residents in Zhaoge City was still going on; the noises could be heard everywhere on the streets. No attention was being paid to those locals who were running for their lives in terror and might be trampled to death in the chaos.
More than ten cloud boats were hovering quietly in the sky under the starlight. They had no intention of attacking immediately, but waiting quietly.
The whole world seemed to be in waiting. Yet, some actions were taking place during this waiting period.
A few figures appeared in a seemingly deathly quiet courtyard; it was unclear whether the night would be over soon or some sort of scheme would be carried out.
Two people appeared in the manor house of the minister of the Ritual Ministry.
They were a youth in red and a girl in green.
"The items in the manor house of the minister are pretty good. The cakes are cooked today even under such circumstances."
Yin San brought two plates of delicate dim sum to the table, signaling for the Green Girl to taste them.
Yet, the Green Girl was not in the mood to eat anything. Looking up at the huge shadow in the starry sky, worry was evidently displayed in her eyes.
Gu Pan, the deputy commander of the Pure Heaven Bureau and the official of the Ritual Ministry had already stood in the forbidding formation underneath the city wall for ten hours. They had neither eaten any food nor drink any water the entire time.
The officials responsible for maintaining the operation of the forbidding formation would look in the direction of the stone platform once in a while. In their views, the atmosphere on the stone platform was even tenser than that in the royal palace.
As time passed, the starlight in the night sky grew brighter. At one point during the night the stars suddenly gave off an explosive glow all at once, which was almost like broad daylight for a moment in Zhaoge City.
The sounds of bells in the deep end of the palace rang out with the rays of the morning sunlight shining down.
"His Majesty has departed."
The deputy commander of the Pure Heaven Bureau moved his dried lips weakly; it seemed that he was in shock.
The official of the Ritual Ministry murmured, "All the residents of Zhaoge City have been evacuated." His face was pale.
Gu Pan remarked expressionlessly, "His Majesty departed only after all the residents were evacuated."
The morning sunlight abated gradually, and the world was thrown into the darkness again.
The wailing could be heard everywhere in the royal palace.
Everybody was on their knees, crying heartrendingly toward the side hall.
Even those officials with the background of the Center Sect felt truly sad at the moment.
The Emperor had been in this position for three hundred years, and the period of his reign was the most peaceful one in the history of Chaotian.
This peaceful and wonderful period was his contribution to the world.
The saying "The excellent fighters are often not famous" referred to someone like him.
Yin San found a green cloth somewhere in the manor house of the minister, and replaced the red cloth with it.
The Green Bird commented mockingly, "You really know how to fake your feelings."
"He was a good emperor, a much better one than his father and uncle," said Yin San.
The cloud boats in the sky backed up a little.
The cloud over the Yintian Gate dispersed somewhat, as the Immortal Bai bowed her head slightly.
The scholars of the One-Cottage House on the Boat of Diligent Study were paying their respect in unison.
Stooping over the bed, the Royal Concubine Hu stared at the disappearing light dots, her eyes full of sadness and despair; she was on the verge of passing out, her vision unfocused.
Kneeling by her side, Jing Yao held his mother's hands tightly, his face full of tears and worry.
Looking at the scene, the Drifter and Ping Yongjia had a great deal of sympathy for them.
Jing Jiu, sitting by the window, didn't turn his head around.
"Your Majesty, please take the throne!"
The voice of the minister of the Ritual Ministry in the grand hall sounded a bit trembling but loud enough.
Hearing this, the Royal Concubine Hu shuddered a little, but she came back to her senses immediately and pushed her son's hands aside forcefully. "You can cry again in the evening!" she said while staring into Jing Yao's eyes.
Jing Yao wiped the tears off his face, uttered "hmm" in a crying tone, and got up, heading toward the grand hall.
The distance between the side hall and the grand hall was about several hundred feet. As Jing Yao appeared in front of the chancellors and generals of the Jing imperial court, he had already kept his emotion under control. A determined countenance showed on his face, except that his eyes were still red.
Seeing the Crown Prince walk toward the throne, the emotions of those chancellors were complex. All of them, regardless of whether they supported or opposed him, had to admit that the Crown Prince performed very well at the moment; but they were all aware that he couldn't sit on the throne so easily.
Above the Yintian Gate.
The Immortal Bai said calmly while looking at the palace buildings, "Dismantle the formation."
More than ten cloud boats of the Center Sect were drawing nearer the royal palace; the stars were blocked when those boats passed by. The palace buildings and halls were on the brink of being swallowed by the shadows.
The divine crossbows on the city walls didn't shoot out, remaining restrained; maybe the archers hadn't received the orders to do so yet.
A circle of faint green light appeared in the night sky, which was at least seven square miles in size, enveloping the entire royal palace.
This was the Great Formation of the royal palace that had been constructed together by various Cultivation sects. It was usually invisible; but the formation was illuminating the stars and those cloud boats at the moment, resembling a large and smooth air bubble.
Yet, the Great Formation of the royal palace couldn't burst as easily as the real air bubble. Apart from the Great Formation of Cloud-Dream and the Great Formation of Green Mountain, this was the strongest defensive formation in Chaotian.
Was the Center Sect going to attack the formation from the cloud boats?
It was then that an unbelievable event took place.
The circle of light began to change its color, becoming lighter; and it appeared growing thinner as well.
Countless gazes were fixed on the cloud boats, and the people were stunned speechless. It turned out that Zhaoge City had been in control of the Center Sect the entire time!
That was why the Immortal Bai had accepted Bu Qiuxiao's request so calmly.
When everybody thought that the Great Formation of the royal palace was about to cave in, the person by the window had finally spoken.
Jing Jiu simply said, "Action."
In the meantime, Yin San looked up at the cloud boats in the starry sky in the manor house of the minister of the Ritual Ministry, and simply said, "Kill them."
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