Zhuo Fan eyed him with doubt, though still trusted him. [A shrewd man in the grips of love will never claw his way out.]
“I’ll be going then. Goodbye!” Zhuo Fan walked away.
Fatty sighed, “Oh, brother, I always thought of attacking, but never had the courage.”
He turned to Fang Qiubai, “The Yuwen clan is now entering hibernation for a few days. I don’t want to do anything. Let’s go deal with the last variable.”
Fang Qiubai nodded and followed closely.
The two arrived at the Imperial Palace’s southwest corner, a prison for most heinous criminals…
“Zhuo Fan, wait!” walking out of the Imperial Palace, a soft voice called for him. He saw Yongning running over with Yun Shuang.
Zhuo Fan asked, “What is it, princess?”
“I would like to thank you for defending Tianyu from Quanrong’s invasion, saving our people and easing father’s crimes.” She made a deep bow.
Zhuo Fan mocked, “Princess, you’re no fool. Since I’ve ruined your father’s master plan, worse days await your clan. Yet you are thanking me?”
“I have to. I know father was wrong in his ways, earning the ire of everyone. This was just righteous retribution. I do not hate anybody…”
“Of course you don’t, how can your weak body hold it in? You always let it out in a hissy fit, ha-ha-ha…” Zhuo Fan teased, “Though I have to admire your father for the ingenious plan he came up with. Alas, fate wasn’t on his side, with me and Shuang’er joining hands. Things might’ve been different otherwise.”
The princess merely gave a smile and a sigh, “Father’s success was only for the imperial family while the people would’ve suffered. I’d rather see my father fail than watch such an outcome.”
Yongning gazed upon him with pleading eyes, “Zhuo Fan, could you please do something for me?”
“What?” glancing at Yun Shuang’s hopeful eyes, he turned to the princess.
She mumbled, “Big brother is guilty of regicide and patricide, his fate is death. But he is still my brother. I hope to see him but I do not know where he is. Third brother won’t tell me. I can only ask you…”
“To avoid the scandal of the Crown Prince’s crimes, fatty said he died at the hands of Quanrong. How do you think fatty will handle him? Life in prison or death?” Zhuo Fan eyed the princess, “If it’s the latter, he must be dead already.”
The princess panicked inside.
Yun Shuang pouted, “Well, is he dead or in prison?”
“Beats the hell out of me. It’s fatty’s problem now.”
“Save it! Elder Li told me you have spies everywhere in the Imperial Palace, watching the new emperor’s every move.” Yun Shuang meddled.
Princess lit up and watched him with hope.
[Since when is Elder Li’s tongue so loose?]
Zhuo Fan admitted, “Yes, I know where the Crown Prince is being kept. He is in the royal prison.”
“C-can we go see him?” The princes asked.
Zhuo Fan refused, “I and fatty are sworn brothers. I will not interfere as long as he doesn’t overstep.”
Yongning’s mood fell.
Yun Shuang glared, “When have you ever been so righteous? Humph, all I hear is excuses. Don’t help us, we’ll just force our way in and say it’s your orders. See how those guards stop us then!”
“Hold on a minute!”
Zhuo Fan sighed in the end, “Fine, I’ll take you but you are to speak of this to no one. I want to keep an eye on fatty for some more time. His every move impacts his future behavior.”
The girls nodded with a smile.
Zhuo Fan sighed and snaked his hands on their waists, his right eye flashing golden, “We’re off!”
The two blushed, appearing in a yellow prison corridor.
The girls shirked him off and watched Zhuo Fan point at the third cell, “Crown Prince is there.”
The princess nodded with a lowered blushing head, same as Yun Shuang.
They were pure ladies. With Zhuo Fan making a move on them on the fly, they felt embarrassed.
Yet the main culprit only looked at them oddly.
[What’s with them? One minute they nag me to bring them here, the next they stiffen up.]
“The emperor has arrived!”
A sharp voice echoed in the damp prison and the girls panicked. Yongning whispered, “Zhuo Fan, let’s leave. Third brother is here.”
Zhuo Fan shook his head, “No, with this prison being a secret, it’s the best way to test him. I want to see just what is on fatty’s mind. And if his words are true.”
“Keep quiet and don’t move.” Zhuo Fan urged.
His eye lit up in three golden halos as he activated Mirage World.
The three’s images warped and soon vanished.
Zhuo Fan had created an illusion to house them from prying eyes.
Fang Qiubai and fatty walked over.
The cell door opened and the two walked in to meet a very familiar figure, Crown Prince.
Though with his sealed cultivation, his body was covered in wounds from all the torture.
“Big…” Zhuo Fan covered Yongning’s mouth as she cried.
With a twisted smile, fatty paced before Crown Prince, “Big brother, I’ve been a bit busy as of late, with father’s funeral and my ascension, so I couldn’t see you.”
Crown Prince’s pale face sized fatty’s new golden threads with a feeble gaze and he mocked, “You fat pig, clothes do not make you an emperor. To think I fell to your hand. You sure kept it to yourself.”
“Ha-ha-ha, I had to play the uncouth boor, endure with humility under faked civility or you’d spare nothing to get rid of me.” Fatty put on a winning smile.
Crown Prince gnashed his teeth, [This should’ve all been mine.]
“Blinded by what’s in front of me, I lost sight of the bigger picture. I have failed.” Crown Prince sighed then mocked, “But there was someone else behind it all. Old third, you’re just a figurehead. How does it feel? The real winner is Zhuo Fan, no? Ha-ha-ha…”
Fatty didn’t give in to the cawing in his ear, “Yes, he is the true winner here. I knew that already. He may have been had by father, assaulted on every turn, but I didn’t join them. I was convinced he had plenty of ways to return the favor. Father’s win wasn’t guaranteed.”
“Oh, you were so optimistic, weren’t you? In times when his allies drifted off, fighting father and the entire nation, the only reason those allies returned was because Regent Estate ruined their homes. How were you so sure that he would have the last laugh?
“Don’t tell me you’re a visionary!”
Fatty shook his head, “The world shook at the shake of the earth dragon’s tail, then came the celestial dragon to quell the chaos. As both the celestial and earth dragons exist, the land and rivers shall each call their king!
“This was High Priest Yun Xuanji’s prophecy when Zhuo Fan swallowed Huangpu Qingtian’s dragon soul and the world trembled. Zhuo Fan had been disrupting Tianyu since then and the factions were falling into dissent. It was then that father grasped his chance, enacting his great plan in wrestling power back into his hands.”
Crown Prince sighed.
But the fatty grinned, “Wrong, it’s all wrong! High Priest’s words are an enigma. The first line, father could make sense of it, but he read the last line wrong.
“The land and rivers shall each call their king isn’t an omen of the collapse of Tianyu. Think about it, what does rivers imply? Water. With ‘water’ and ‘each’ combined, you get what? Luo. The last line clearly states the Luo clan will come out on top, by providence.”(StarReader: it’s a play on words or characters.)
“What?!” Crown Prince was speechless.
[Heaven decreed for Luo clan to replace Yuwen clan…]