A chilling wind blew that night as the stars glittered like eternal fireworks.
The light was still on in the Imperial Palace’s study. The eerie sound of the wind rattling the window was putting everyone on edge.
A sigh came now and then, reflecting the same state on the inside.
“Mr. Sima, why do you think that rotten Huangpu Tianyuan is still so late in making his move? I even handed him the power over the seven houses. Such perfect opportunities don’t come cheap!”
The emperor’s fingers drummed the table, his eyes sharp as blades.
Sima Hui replied, “Your Majesty, Leng Wuchang is no fool. He asked for the Luo clan to gain an excuse for its expansion campaign. His delayed start, however, points at his sight on the imperial capital.”
“How can Regent Estate start a war with a peaceful imperial capital? If anything, he’ll wait for all his forces to be in place, to respond to Zhuo Fan and Your Majesty at the same time, before beginning.” Fang Qiubai offered.
The emperor smiled in anger, “Every one of those cunning old foxes are just standing by, watching. Zhuge Changfeng is doing it, and so is Leng Wuchang. Humph, the spark to ignite both the court and the nation can happen any moment. But no one wants to stick their neck out, in fear of getting hunted by a third. Both conflicts have to happen at the same time.
“Out there, the civil war of Regent Estate with Zhuo Fan is a battle of supremacy. But is my struggle here with Zhuge Changfeng any different? Just that this crafty geezer leaves me no opening to grab onto. The people will denounce me if I start attacking the Prime Minister without a good excuse. But with how quiet it is in here, how can the war start outside?” The emperor sighed.
Sima Hui bowed, “Your Majesty, Zhuge Changfeng brought the Quanrong with his authority using the celebration as an excuse. He must be colluding with them. The event has passed yet the delegation is still around. Your Majesty will soon get the best reason to cast them out. It won’t be long before Your Majesty will… “
“Cough, cough, cough…”
The emperor’s violent coughing fit broke his speech. Taking away the handkerchief, there was blood on it.
“Your Majesty!” Everyone panicked.
The emperor had them relax, took his medicine and eased a breath, feeling much better.
Turning to the others, the emperor smiled, “It’s fine, but my life is coming to an end. I can’t hold on for long. An emperor is different from a cultivator. With so many affairs taking up my time, I have little time left for training and to increase my lifespan. Ha-ha-ha, not even I can fight it. Yes, Mr. Sima is right. We have no time to lose. The only one suffering from dragging this any longer will be me.”
Sima Hui bowed and sighed inside. The others showed their utmost respect for the emperor in a flourish of their own.
An emperor, beset by court affairs and limited by time, still wanted to fight with all he had to leave a peaceful and unified world, his legacy, for a successor.
The people might remember him for being weak and mock him for his incompetence, but only his men knew the truth. He was just like the emperors of old, bold and powerful.
“Hear my edict!”
The emperor boomed, “Divine Dragons Sima Hui, Fang Qiubai and Shadow King are to set for Regent Estate and assist the Estate Lord Huangpu Tianyuan in capturing Zhuo Fan. Set out at once!”
The men were in complete shock.
Sima Hui urged, “Your Majesty, the imperial capital is still in unrest. Who will protect you if we go? Please delay your order!”
“Please, Your Majesty!” The others bowed.
The emperor smiled, his gaze set, “I am just giving them a chance to run amok, ha-ha-ha!”
The emperor flicked his hand and left with a carefree laughter.
Only the men were still standing there looking at themselves lost.
They knew their lord’s character. His orders were final. The Divine Dragons and Shadow King had to obey…
Three dots flew out of the imperial capital, but the news spread like lightning.
In Prime Minister’s home, Zhuge Changfeng was sipping wine in his backyard, enjoying the moon. The ground at his feet swelled and turned into a human shape.
Hu Lianchai looked excited, “Prime Minister Zhuge, we’ve just got word that all experts around the emperor went after Zhuo Fan. Young master and Imperial Tutor wish to ask if we should act now.”
“Ha-ha-ha, what act? You couldn’t have enjoyed all what the imperial capital has to offer now with it being so large. Won’t it be better to take a stroll around town, partake in the customs and just live in the moment?” Zhuge Changfeng snickered as he sipped his wine.
Hu Lianchai shouted, “Prime Minister sir, Quanrong warriors haven’t come to watch the sunset, you know that!”
“Of course I know. It is why I’m telling you to relax and do whatever. Don’t play into the old man’s hand.” Zhuge Changfeng shook his head.
Hu Lianchai didn’t understand, “Prime Minister sir, is this all a trap? But I am certain the two Divine Dragons and Shadow King have left. The emperor is defenseless!”
“Ha-ha-ha, how naive. No Divine Dragons around and being defenseless are two different things. Don’t be hasty, the old coot has come prepared.” Sipping again, Zhuge Changfeng waved him off.
Hu Lianchai turned and muttered as he left, “Humph, Tianyu is filled with cowards. Not acting even at such a golden time…”
“What did you say?”
Zhuge Changfeng warned in his most serious tone, “Give your young master and Imperial Tutor a message. For the next few days, stay calm. You can all die for all I care, but if you threaten the success of my plan over something trivial, you have another thing coming.”
Zhuge Changfeng might be a mere Profound Heaven cultivator, but he was the Prime Minister. His icy tone sent shivers even into Hu Lianchai, a Radiant Stage expert.
“Go back!” Zhuge Changfeng barked.
Hu Lianchai nodded, sinking back into the mud. Left alone, Zhuge Changfeng resumed tasting his wine, “Old man, you’ve finally cast your net. But isn’t using this bait a little dangerous? Or is there something else you’re hiding besides Divine Dragons and Shadow King?”
Zhuge Changfeng contemplated.
Meanwhile, in the second prince’s brand new manor, the prince was pacing around the lounge, his hands shaking all the time.
A shadow slipped in under the cover of the night, Hell Valley’s newest mastermind, You Ming.
“Your Highness, you asked for me?” You Ming bowed.
Second prince shot for him in restlessness, “Sir You Ming, perfect timing. I’ve just heard a crucial piece of information…”
Second prince’s eyes darted around, then he whispered when the coast was clear, “Imperial father’s two Divine Dragons and Shadow King went after Zhuo Fan. Imperial father is defenseless.”
Even a moron could see that this was a taunt, [And only a dumbass like you would fall for it! Then again, if not for your dimwittedness, I’d never get to play you like a fiddle.]
You Ming hid his thoughts well, only showing a faint smile, “Second prince, I do not understand what you wish from me.”
“To, uhm, Sir You Ming, you should understand. The situation right now… “
Second prince was jittery, flailing his arms around, but still couldn’t quite get the nerve to say those few little not-so-innocent words.
“Sir You Ming, you know how Holy Maiden judged me unfit to rule…”
“Second prince is too anxious. Regarding fate, three parts are heaven’s will and seven parts hard work. You’re no believer to enter the stage, nor would you have let Yun Xuanji read Huangpu Qingtian’s fate. And didn’t Huangpu Qingtian with his right to rule get killed in the end?”
“Yeah, I also believe all this hype about providence is nonsense.” Second prince agreed, “That is why I asked for you, Sir You Ming, to help me rewrite fate.”
“Second prince, I cannot even read fate.” You Ming played the fool, knowing fully well the schmuck’s mind.
Second prince took a breath to cool his jets, “Sir Leng, I want you to advise me on my next course of action.”
“Wait and see.” You Ming spoke.
Second prince was disappointed, “But the situation now…”
“Your Highness, why ask for me if your mind is set?” You Ming cut him off with a smile.
Second prince shook his head, “To me, Sir You Ming is the brightest mind in the world, better than Leng Wuchang and Zhuge Changfeng. None of them could play Zhuo Fan, but Sir Ming’s advice of asking Yun Shuang’s hand got the kid good. He isn’t just on the ropes, but has the entire nation after him. Sir Ming is a true mastermind! Since you’ve told me to stay put, then that’s what I’ll do.”
You Ming nodded with a pleased smile, but snickered inside.
[You fool, do you take Zhuo Fan for a mental case to fall for such a gimmick? He was in on it the whole time! Who do you think had me use you to set it up in the first place?]
[Humph, this moron is hopeless. Better to side with Regent Estate and Zhuo Fan and take the first chance I get to sell out this fool.]
You Ming’s grin earned the second prince’s complete trust, then he praised, “Good child.”