At the vast, mist-covered, mirror-like lake behind the Misty Rain Pavilion:
Two figures walked across the water, one after another. They looked like they traveled on flat land, creating ripples as they moved.
One of the figures held a white paper folding fan. He looked stern and graceful. However, he appeared soft and weak, like an inexperienced scholar.
The other wore white clothes and showed a calm expression. He strolled on the water, following the first figure at his leisure.
Naturally, the leading figure was the Heavenly Book Scholar, and the other was Xiao Chen.
After passing a cluster of blooming lotuses amid drizzling mist, the Heavenly Book Scholar landed firmly on a lone boat like a meteor. Then, he turned his head back to look at Xiao Chen, gesturing in invitation.
The sky appeared clear for five kilometers around, and it seemed to be about noon. A lone boat sat in the lake center with mist shrouding the place.
Xiao Chen took a look and did not find anything suspicious, so he landed firmly on the boat’s bow like a pine needle falling on it.
Someone had already prepared a table filled with simple dishes and wine in the boat’s cabin. There was not much space in there, only able to hold two or three people.
The person on the other side wore embroidered clothes. He appeared handsome and masculine. A desolate killing Qi remained withdrawn within him.
However, no matter how this person covered it up, he could not hide that fearsome killing Qi. This was a prince who had killed many people.
“I have long heard of Lord Xiao. Today, I finally get to meet you. Please, take a seat.” The Ninth Prince smiled unhurriedly, inviting Xiao Chen to sit.
“Greetings, Ninth Prince.” Xiao Chen performed a simple cupped-fist salute. Then, he shifted his robes around and slowly sat down.
The Ninth Prince Wang Yan frequently guarded the borders, fighting the Abyssal Underworld’s Demon Races and those loyal to the Xuewu Dynasty.
Xiao Chen did not know much about the Ninth Prince. However, what little he knew indicated that the other party had a special background, though he did not know the specifics.
Wang Yan did not feel surprised that Xiao Chen recognized him.
After some simple introductions and exchanging three drinks of strong spirit, Wang Yan said, “Lord Xiao has Heart Burn, the best spirit of the Dragon Race, but all I have are some simple wines. I wonder if that is fine with you.”
Xiao Chen put down his wine cup and said, “Mental states also affect drinking. If one is preoccupied, one cannot relax. No matter how fine the wine, one will not taste it properly. For instance, we are on a small boat in the lake center with mist around us right now. Although the scenery is there, it is not the time for drinking.”
Wang Yan and the Heavenly Book Scholar exchanged looks. Then the Ninth Prince smiled and said, “Lord Xiao is straightforward. I will not bother with any superfluous words, then. Sending Chang Ji to buy the Ethereal Immortal Palace key from you was my idea. This time, I am here to ask personally if Lord Xiao has any intention of selling it.”
So, the Heavenly Book Scholar’s name is Chang Ji, Xiao Chen thought to himself. Then, he smiled and said, “I’m not selling it.”
“That is expected. Since Lord Xiao is not selling the Ethereal Immortal Palace key, I wonder if Lord Xiao would sell yourself?” Wang Yan looked straight at Xiao Chen without changing his expression.
The lake water rippled, rocking the boat.
Xiao Chen’s heart remained calm and unmoved as he asked, “What do you mean?”
“The Ninth Prince would like you to assist him in the succession race. Didn’t you want to know where the predicted location of the Ethereal Immortal Palace’s appearance is? I can tell you that you are qualified to know only if you are assisting a prince in the succession race. Aside from that, there is no other way,” the Heavenly Book Scholar said from the side. He looked at Xiao Chen as he did so, observing Xiao Chen’s expression.
However, the Heavenly Book Scholar was disappointed; he could not make out anything from Xiao Chen’s face. It was like Xiao Chen already guessed it long ago.
“I already know that. Tell me something that I do not know.”
The Heavenly Book Scholar frowned slightly upon hearing that. Then, he looked at the Ninth Prince. After the Ninth Prince nodded, the Heavenly Book Scholar said, “Alright. During the succession race, all the princes will be sent into the Ancient Yan Emperor Tomb. This is a secret realm of the Royal Clan. It is also where the Yanwu Dynasty’s Luck and Dragon Veins are contained. Aside from being a place for burying the past Yan Emperors, it is a land of inheritance with all sorts of fortuitous encounters.
“However, many parts of this secret realm are forbidden lands. Even the Royal Clan has not fully explored it. This time, all the diviners who peeked into fate came to a common conclusion: the Ethereal Immortal Palace might appear in the Ancient Yan Emperor Tomb.
“However, you also know that these predictions have appeared several thousand times already over the past one hundred thousand years. So, make your own judgment on this.”
Xiao Chen thought about this for a while. Then, he asked, “The Royal Clan controls the entrance to the Ancient Yan Emperor Tomb, and it opens only for the succession race?”
The Heavenly Book Scholar replied, “That’s right. Even the imperial ancestral temple’s patriarchs can enter only when an ex-emperor passes away. You need to work together with a prince in order to enter. Otherwise, it would be pointless to hold the Ethereal Immortal Palace key.”
The Ninth Prince continued, “The succession race tests all the princes who enter the Ancient Yan Emperor Tomb. The final victor will be the crown prince. Honestly speaking, I don’t care about the crown prince position. However, I’m worried that the Ethereal Immortal Palace will appear, and the Wings of Time will end up in the hands of the Xuewu Dynasty.”
Finding it strange, Xiao Chen asked, “The people of the Xuewu Dynasty can enter the Ancient Yan Emperor Tomb?”
“Previously, they could not. However, it would be hard to say after the wedding,” the Ninth Prince replied indifferently. Clearly, the wedding referred to the First Prince’s wedding, which had been publicized to the whole world.
“Speaking of which, Xiao Chen, what are your thoughts on this wedding?” the Heavenly Book Scholar asked as he looked at Xiao Chen. His question seemed to hide a deeper meaning.
Xiao Chen countered, without changing his expression, “What opinion can I have about it?”
“Is that so? Then, it looks like you are not aware of recent events. Aside from the imperial ancestral temple’s Imperial Ancestor, there will be another person presiding over the wedding—Su Qiming, the current Clan Head of the Sword God’s Noble Clan and the father of the Misty Rain Pavilion’s Pavilion Master,” the Heavenly Book Scholar said calmly and unhurriedly.
Xiao Chen felt startled. That means that the First Prince gained another powerful backer, the strongest Noble Clan of the Yanwu Dynasty, a transcendent group. Are they finally taking a side in this succession race?”
No wonder the Heavenly Book Scholar asked about my thoughts on the wedding. I thought he found out about my plans.
The Ninth Prince showed a somewhat helpless expression as he said, “The Noble Clans, the sects, and the feudal lords are the three largest factions. As the leader of the Noble Clans, the Su Clan’s choice will definitely cause many Noble Clans to reconsider theirs, no matter what the Su Clan’s purpose in choosing First Brother is. With this wedding, First Brother has gained a headstart in the succession race, breaking the balance between those three groups.”
Xiao Chen’s thoughts flew, considering some things. Then, he said, “Earlier, the Ninth Prince said that the Demonic Dao cultivators of the Xuewu Dynasty could enter the Ancient Yan Emperor Tomb after the wedding. Does this have anything to do with that?”
The Ninth Prince smiled and replied softly, “First Brother managed to gain such strong assistance and snatch the initiative, leaving Eighth Brother and Little Thirteenth Brother in the dust. In order to benefit like that, naturally, he has to pay a corresponding price. However, this price is too huge. If he is not careful, he might fall in a trap of his own making.”
Xiao Chen thought for a while and figured out the crux of the problem.
“The Smiling Daughter Pavilion!”
“That’s right. In reality, the faction behind the Pleasure Quarter Alliance is the Azure Lotus Church. Their main temple is now in the Xuewu Dynasty. Back then, the Azure Lotus Church fought the Buddhist sects. After it lost, it was declared an evil cult. Its adherents could only flee far away to avoid disaster. Then, they developed in the Xuewu Dynasty. However, their greatest business remained in the Yanwu Dynasty, although this is not common knowledge.”
This secret stunned Xiao Chen. To think that the Azure Lotus Church backed the Pleasure Quarter Alliance.
The Azure Lotus Church…
This was not the first time Xiao Chen heard this name. Back when he entered the Fiendish Demon Battlefield in the Grave Sea Cluster, there had been some interaction between him and the Azure Lotus Holy Daughter’s emanation body.
An emanation body was different from a clone. An emanation body had its own thoughts and personality, able to think for itself.
No matter how strong or intelligent a clone was, it could not think for itself, what more birth a new personality.
However, the two shared similarities. Be it an emanation body or a clone, the main body controlled them.
The Azure Lotus Holy Daughter’s main body would know everything about Xiao Chen’s interactions with her emanation body.
However, the main body was the main body, and the emanation body was the emanation body. The two were like different people.
Back then, after Yang Qing finished speaking, her body exploded and turned into nine-colored spiritual light that vanished. The sight made one sigh in admiration.
“Since the Royal Clan knows that the Azure Lotus Church is behind the Pleasure Quarter Alliance, why do they not uproot the Pleasure Quarter Alliance?” Xiao Chen asked out of curiosity when he startled awake from his thoughts.
The Heavenly Book Scholar smiled and said, “Xiao Chen, given your intelligence, you should be able to figure out the reason after thinking about it.”
“The Hidden Spirit Temple!” Xiao Chen exclaimed when inspiration suddenly struck him.
The Heavenly Book Scholar nodded and said, “That’s right. Some of the Royal Clan’s people want to use the Pleasure Quarter Alliance to restrain the Hidden Spirit Temple. Whether it is effective or not is another matter. There is also another reason. The Pleasure Quarter Alliance possesses deep accumulations, after all. It would be practically impossible to eradicate it completely. Furthermore, they have never shown any hostility to the dynasty, so the dynasty just leaves them alone.”
The Ninth Prince said seriously, “However, it is different this time. The Xuewu Dynasty will definitely make use of their connections with the Azure Lotus Church to enter the Ancient Yan Emperor Tomb for the sake of the Ethereal Immortal Palace.”
“The First Prince is not that stupid, right?”
Wang Yan said coldly, “After taking benefits from others, he naturally has to pay the price. He is not stupid, either; however, he fancies himself clever in his conceit. He is gambling on this. The past few thousand predictions were all wrong. As long as it is wrong again, it will not matter to him.
“After saying so much, I have told you everything I know. Lord Xiao, my sincerity is clear to see. What do you think? Will you help me take the throne and enter the Ancient Yan Emperor Tomb with me?”
Xiao Chen said softly, “I will give you an answer three days later.”
“Sure. This is a big decision. If you agreed immediately, I would be suspicious of you.”
Wang Yan smiled faintly. Then, he stood up to send Xiao Chen off. When the three reached the bow and were about to part, they saw that the lake had turned scarlet at some point, and many black corpses floated on the water.
Wang Yan’s expression immediately changed drastically. “These are my secret guards!”
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