Deep underneath the city wall of Zhaoge City, the prohibitive formation responsible for providing the divine crossbows with yuanqi was still operating normally.
The reason the divine crossbows didn't attack the cloud boats of the Center Sect was because it was a bit chaotic on the platform, and the archers of the divine army on the city walls hadn't received any orders to attack.
The deputy commander of the Pure Heaven Bureau was lying in a pool of blood. The burning marks on his body indicated that he was killed by thunder magic of high state, but as for the bloody hole in his chest and the smoking Yuanying, it was unclear who was responsible for it.
"Gao Jingxiu colluded with the enemy and attempted to sabotage the prohibitive formation, and has been killed!"
Looking at the officials below the platform, Gu Pan continued sternly, "You people do your best to maintain the formation. As soon as we receive the order from the palace, the divine crossbows will fire."
Nobody doubted what he said; it was because all of them had witnessed what the deputy commander of the Pure Heaven Bureau, the Master Gao, attempted to do. But, it was only that they couldn't quite understand why the General Gu struck and killed him, since Gu Pan was an external disciple of the Center Sect.
Gu Pan rubbed the tip of his finger that was still giving off a green smoke softly, as he looked at the nearby official of the Ritual Ministry.
The face of the official of the Ritual Ministry was pale, but Gu Pan knew that his ashen face was not a result of fear.
It was this official who was responsible for the bloody hole in Gao Jingxiu's chest and his destroyed Yuanying.
The two of them eyed each other for a brief moment and then looked away; they didn't say a word to each other.
"It turns out that he is a member of the Old Ones," Gu Pan murmured to himself as he walked off the platform.
The official of the Ritual Ministry turned around and looked at his back, thinking that many of them had thought that he was a spy for the Center Sect, yet it turned out that he was a member of the Curtain Rollers.
Gu Pan came to the stone platform through the hidden door and took a look at the cloud boats in the starry sky. When he arrived at the highest keep on the city wall, Gu Pan bowed to the chief commander of the Pure Heaven Bureau, Zhang Yiai, and said calmly, "It's taken care of."
The blood was everywhere on the Star Observation Platform, and it flowed down the stone steps.
A servant in green clothing came before the heap of corpses; it took a while for him to find Qian Tianzhen's corpse. He yanked open the fingers of the corpse and took out an object.
Several generations belonging to State Duke Zhan had been the generals in the divine army. They had all kept their manor houses on a tight leash, and yet they couldn't do anything about their own mothers.
Many people in Zhaoge City had been evacuated that day, but the grandma refused to leave the house, insisting on waiting for her son to come back from the palace. The wife of State Duke couldn't persuade the old woman to leave, feeling helpless. The son of State Duke Zhan decided to stay behind with his grandma to take care of her. Only by doing so would his mother and the rest of the members of the manor house be willing to leave.
It was at that moment that the mother of State Duke was lying on the bed, her eyes staring at the ceiling blankly, her chest rising and dropping frequently, a murmuring sound came out from the old woman's throat; she couldn't utter a distinct word.
The son of State Duke Zhan was quite handsome and looked much more mature now. Though he failed to propose marriage to the Manor House of the Prime Minister back then, he made up for it with improvements in other aspects.
Sitting on the edge of the bed and ignoring his agonized grandmother, he reached his right hand into the quilt feeling around inside. He had finally touched an object, a delightful expression showing on his face.
The mother of State Duke Zhan realized what had happened, and her face flushed. She tried her hardest to force out a few words, "You're a bad son!"
"I'm your grandson, not your son," the son of State Duke Zhan snapped with a smile, as he headed toward the outside of the room with that object.
The mother of State Duke Zhan was both furious and anxious. She stopped breathing with wide opened eyes after failing to inhale.
Outside the room, the son of State Duke Zhan handed the object to Jing Li, saying, "Fortunately, I didn't disappoint you."
"Do you need some help?" asked Jing Li after taking a look at the inside of the room.
It was hard for him to accept the fact that a grandson had killed his own grandmother.
"She will die a 'death with opened eyes' no matter what," said the son of State Duke Zhan with a smile.
Jing Li said to him, "I really regret offending you before."
But the son of State Duke Zhan remarked seriously, "One can't be loyal and filial at the same time. What I did was something I had to do; it's not that I'm a vicious person."
In the next moment the expression on his face changed as he asked nervously, "When will I be given the antidote?"
Jing Li said, "It's the southern poison without an antidote. The original poison is in the hands of the Royal Concubine. If His Majesty couldn't take the throne successfully, she wouldn't want to live alone."
Hearing this, the son of State Duke Zhan became more nervous, thinking that the Royal Concubine wouldn't be in a mood to save him before her death if she were determined to commit suicide. "Should I go to the palace to persuade my father? Or should I sneak-attack him?" inquired he, his voice trembling slightly.
"There is no way we can affect the situation in the palace. All you can do is pray that State Duke Zhan won't do anything foolish in the grand hall."
Having said that, Jing Li left the manor house of State Duke Zhan; then he handed the object to a lieutenant of the divine army.
This sort of incident was happening all over Zhaoge City…in the forbidding formation underneath the city wall, on the Star Observation Platform, at the Manor House of State Duke Zhan.
The Great Formation of royal palace was composed of thirteen separate smaller formations, and each formation had a center of the formation, which might be a flower pot or a life board; the centers of the formations were placed in thirteen different sites. This was the most secretive information for the Jing royal family only; apart from the Emperor, nobody knew where those centers of the formations were; at least no one knew all sites of the centers.
Earlier, the Immortal Bai bade to have the formation dismantled, and the Great Formation of royal palace had shown signs of being dispersed; it was because those holding the centers of the formations obeyed her command.
Now that those people were all dead, the royal palace had retaken the centers of the formations.
It was preplanned by the Emperor.
Even though he had already left the world one night ago, the capital was still in the hands of the imperial court.
Like he said to the Immortal Bai, "What can you people do after my departure?"
Even though there were many people in the various departments of the imperial court and in the divine army who were loyal to Cloud-Dream Mountain and the Center Sect had prepared for this event for many years, but how long had the Emperor prepared for this? He had prepared for it over three hundred years. So there was no way he would let the Center Sect gain the control of Zhaoge City overnight.
The Curtain Rollers seemed to be an intelligence agency on the surface, but they had snuck into various departments of the imperial court undetected, ready to carry out the Emperor's will at any moment.
More importantly, a "hidden current" was helping the imperial court in the darkness of the night in Zhaoge City.
It was this "hidden current" that had performed a bloodbath on the Star Observation Platform and wiped out a certain manor house that was charred to ashes.
The Old Ones employed those assassins who had hidden for a great many years; and those deeply hidden ones had acted that night.
The Curtain Rollers were the other powerful force that night. As such, the Center Sect encountered an unexpected resistance and didn't know how to react and deal with all the occurrences.
In the manor house of the minister of the Ritual Ministry, the Green Girl, confused, asked Yin San, who had put his red cloth back on, "Don't you want to cause a chaos in the world? Why are you trying to stop the Center Sect?"
"If the Center Sect were too strong and had total control of the world, how could the world become chaotic again?" answered Yin San with a faint smile.
In the deepest part of an unknown place underneath the royal palace, an unobserved confrontation was taking place between two swordsmen.
If people saw the two opponents in this confrontation, they would be stunned speechless; it was because they were Sir Jin and Sir Niu.
A white jade plate was rotating slowly on the ground, giving off a white glow; the energy dissipated into the air along with the glow and soon vanished without a trace, but the energy didn't truly disappear. It followed some invisible tracks to permeate the whole royal palace. This plate was the most important center of the Great Formation of royal palace.
When the Emperor left the world, the two of his most trusted Cultivation practitioners were not by his side; it was because they needed to guard the center of the formation here.
Sir Jin didn't expect in his wildest dream that the person he had to guard against was his partner of several hundred years. His line of sight passed through those smoky white glows and landed on Sir Niu's wrinkled face. "You asked me why I used my life-magic treasure; but what about you? Why have you held the mysterious dark thorn over my head the entire time and been ready to strike down at any moment?" he demanded.
They had already confronted each other for several hours, and the energy and mind of each were totally focused on the other party, knowing how powerful and dangerous their opponent was. They couldn't afford to be distracted for even a split second; as such, they hadn't said a word to each other since the beginning of the confrontation.
By now Jin Mingcheng thought the Emperor had departed and that what they were doing was boring, so he took the risk of speaking first and waited for Sir Niu's answer.
Sir Niu replied icily, "It's because you have breathed chaotically a few times too many."
"You're not a member of the Center Sect?" Jin Mingcheng pressed with narrowed eyes.
"No," Sir Niu confirmed after a moment of silence.
Jin Mingcheng understood and remarked, "It turns out that you're a member of the Old Ones."
The two of them felt relaxed; at least neither of them had the idea of dying together that day.
"I'm not a member of the Old Ones," Sir Niu said suddenly.
Jin Mingcheng looked at him with narrowed eyes, commenting, "Who in their right minds would admit it anyway?!"
The dismantling Great Formation of royal palace had suddenly regained all of its power. The people could see clearly that the circle of light that had grown fainter and thinner was suddenly becoming stronger.
The cloud boat in the front had almost collided with the formation head on; the bow of the boat brushed the circle of green light.
Along with a deafening explosion, the stars in the sky had lost their brightness. Innumerable energies of heaven and earth rushed toward the spot after coming out from the circle of green light.
The cloud boat had only brushed against the formation, and the head of the boat enchanted with a powerful formation was destroyed completely, exposing the structure inside, which looked rather awful.
Soon after, the divine crossbows shot out all at once from the southeastern corner of the city wall in Zhaoge City; a dozen ferocious lights headed for that cloud boat like flying swords.
The bottom of the cloud boat caught more than ten fires amid the thunderous explosions. The cloud boat was damaged critically and had no chance of staying afloat in the air, retreating backwards into the night sky.
The number of the divine crossbows that had launched arrows was limited, and the shooting positions were quite safe. It was evident that they did it as a warning without any intention of starting an all-out war.
Bu Qiuxiao and the scholars of the One-Cottage House felt surprised, because they didn't expect the imperial court to have prepared so adequately. The chancellors in the palace were having different expressions at the moment; some of them were showing a delighted expression, and some a greenish face; those state dukes and generals who hid the centers of the formations at home displayed complicated expressions in their eyes.
So many people had already died in Zhaoge City, but Jing Yao hadn't reached the throne yet after he left the side hall.
This was probably fitting for the saying "Blood flows a thousand miles when the emperor takes a step".
He was still a few steps away from the throne.
It was then that a general in the front of the crowd suddenly raised his right arm, aiming it at Jing Yao!
He was Xin Haichen, a general of the northern divine army.
And he was an important figure ranked first or second in the army of the Jing imperial court!
He was called back from north by the Emperor a few days ago, and stayed in the royal palace ever since. He was not allowed to leave the palace.
He was certain that the Emperor was suspicious of him; but he had no idea why the Emperor didn't sentence him to death.
The Emperor was dead.
If Jing Yao was allowed to become the emperor, how many more days could he live?
He needed to strike right now!
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