At the same time, the first prince Rong Ruihan stood silently by the window in Jun Xiaomo’s room. A man dressed in stealthy black garbs half-knelt behind the first prince. That man’s sleeves were even embroidered with a complex pattern on it.
If Jun Xiaomo were present right now, she would immediately recognize this pattern on the man’s sleeves -after all, she had seen the exact same pattern in the cavern of her senior Jiang Yutong!
“Are you saying that…the Grand Vizier will come out of his closed-door cultivation soon?” Rong Ruihan looked past the busy streets of this little county and gazed into the distant. His eyes were filled with an incisive and frigid intent.
The direction that he gazed into was precisely where the Inferno Kingdom’s capital was located. He had spent over twenty years growing up in that place, yet he possessed not a single shred of memory pertaining to the Inferno Kingdom’s royal palace that was filled with warmth.
“Yes. Your subject has checked and collaborated with several sources. This news is indeed accurate.” The black-garbed man lowered his head as he spoke. His face was filled with a somber expression.
“Ah. That wily old fox is still ever so difficult to deal with. It’s already been over a thousand years, and he still refuses to let go of the authority in his hands. I’m afraid he must have expedited the completion of his closed-door cultivation because of these rumours about me, am I right?”
The first prince derided coldly. A thick layer of frost seemed to have gathered in his eyes as he continued to stare into the distant with an icy gaze.
Every foreigner would have heard of how the Inferno Kingdom’s Grand Vizier, Situ Cang, had laid down a massive formation array to protect the Inferno Kingdom, and was thus retained and placed on a pedestal by the Inferno Kingdom’s royal family. However, what the foreigners didn’t know was that this was only half the story.
The other half was in fact a closely guarded secret that was not known to many. Ever since the founding of the Inferno Kingdom, at least ninety percent of the Inferno Kingdom’s king had in fact been elected and groomed by the Grand Vizier. In other words, these people had not merely inherited the throne by conventional ascension methods.
With every generation that passed, the Grand Vizier would always pick his favourite sprout from among the ruling king’s children and make that sprout his disciple. Later, this disciple of his would invariably be earmarked as the crown prince and eventually ascend the throne as the next king of the Inferno Kingdom.
At the same time, one could not be further from the truth if one thought that the Grand Vizier had selected his disciple based on conventional wisdom such as based on a person’s talent or potential. Rather, the Grand Vizier habitually picked those who were the most impressionable and easiest to manipulate. Furthermore, the sprout’s odds of being selected as the Grand Vizier’s next disciple would greatly increase if that sprout’s mother could please and satisfy the Grand Vizier as well.
In this regard, rather than saying that the Inferno Kingdom were ruled by the royal family, it might not be too far from the truth if one said that the Inferno Kingdom was completely under the control of this Grand Vizier instead. In fact, since time immemorial, matters pertaining to the ascension of the throne had largely always been outside the control of anyone within the royal family!
If one looked at the abilities of all the princes within the Inferno Kingdom right now, the second prince could hardly hold a candle to the first prince’s abilities – the first prince began reciting poetry at the age of three; composed poetry at the age of five; proposed reforms to the system of taxation at the age of twelve; and he even led armies to victory at the age of fifteen!
In terms of talent, the second prince managed to attain the tenth level of Qi Mastery at the impressive age of twenty-three, albeit under the assistance and aid of numerous spirit pills and miraculous herbs. On the other hand, the first prince completely left the second prince in the dust when he attained the peak twelfth level of Qi Mastery when he was only at the tender age of twenty-two. There was no doubt which one among them the more talented of the two.
In terms of character, the second prince had always lusted after objects of beauty ever since he learnt about the carnal ways of the world. He devoured men and women alike. As long as he set his sights on a target, that target would have no say whether to accept or reject his advances either. On the other hand, the first prince shunned all immorality and maintained clean hands. He even consciously made it an effort not to retain any palace maids around by his side…
However, it was precisely because the first prince was so outstanding that the Grand Vizier could not tolerate his existence. The Grand Vizier only needed an obedient, unquestioning puppet; not a charming and sensible king. Furthermore, the first prince’s mother was the first daughter of a widely known clan of demonic cultivators. Even though this clan had already been annihilated, the Grand Vizier continued to have an irrational, lingering fear of their bloodline.
That being the case, the Grand Vizier began to sow discord between the king and the first prince when the fifteen years-old first prince returned victorious from the battlefields. Furthermore, the king had been deeply unsettled about the fact that he had in that very same year committed genocide against the Jiang clan. As a result of that, the king made up an excuse to revoke the first prince’s right to commandeer an army, rendering the first prince nothing more than a paper pusher.
It was also that day when the first prince understood that people who were too outstanding would naturally draw the jealousy and ire of scheming people.
At that time, Rong Ruihan swore in his heart that he would in time wrest control of the Inferno Kingdom back from the Grand Vizier. But he knew that then was not the time. Before he could fully mature and hold his own, he knew that if he displayed a performance any more outstanding than he did, there was a good chance that the Grand Vizier would immediately get rid of him.
Therefore, Rong Ruihan continued to maintain a low key over these years. He wanted to conceal his abilities and bide his time as he developed his strength. Yet in that moment of indiscretion, he slipped up and swallowed a demonic wolf’s core. This demonic core wreaked havoc within his body, causing him to lose all rationality and even almost implode.
To make matters worse, one of the first prince’s closest aides had been bought over by the second prince, and he reported this matter to the second prince. Having learned about this incident, the second prince fully utilized this opportunity and framed the first prince with the charge of attempted murder against the king.
Even though Rong Ruihan was severely displeased with his father, the king, he would never have employed such silly methods against him. Not only did he stand to lose everything, he knew this would only allow the second prince to gain the upper hand.
If Rong Ruihan had retained his rationality, these allegations would have been resolved easily, without a hitch. Unfortunately, the first prince knew that he would lose his rationality from time to time. In order to avoid getting murdered while he lost all measure of rationality, the first prince could only stay away from the palace and escape to Xingping County.
“Master, why don’t you return to your clan’s settlement? This place is full of the second prince’s eyes and ears. Furthermore, the Grand Vizier is about to exit his closed-door cultivation soon – that would leave you in a highly disadvantageous state.” The black-garbed man suggested.
However, the first prince waved his hands lightly, replying, “I won’t entertain the thought of returning to my clan’s settlement for now. If I lose my rationality within my clan’s settlement, I may inadvertently expose their presence and implicate all of them. That’s something I cannot afford to risk.”
The “clan’s settlement” that the black-garbed man had mentioned was naturally the location where the remnants of the Jiang clan had settled at. Many years ago, the Grand Vizier personally led an army, committing genocide against the Jiang clan, and he thought that he had already wiped out the entire clan. However, there was in fact a handful of the Jiang clan members who had evaded capture and survived to this day. Not only that, they even managed to re-establish a clandestine contact with the first prince.
Rong Ruihan did not harbour any intentions to kill his father in revenge for his mother. This was because death was not always a punishment; sometimes, death was instead a form of release.
What Rong Ruihan aspired to do was far, far greater and more ambitious than that. He wanted to expose everyone involved in the genocide up and drag them down from their high pedestals, especially the masterminds behind it all. He wanted to let them experience for themselves what the game of cat-and-mouse felt like when the roles were finally reversed – and the ambit of his revenge naturally included the puppeteer, Situ Cang.
But the first thing he needed to do right now was to fully and finally absorb the demonic wolf’s core which was wreaking havoc within his body, subjugate its powers and make it his own. Otherwise, he would continue to be unable to maintain his own rationality, much less execute any plan for revenge.
Rong Ruihan spent the next half an incense of time accounting for the matters of his clan. Then, he began to hear footsteps approaching the door. He immediately waved his hands, dismissing the black-garbed man.
The black-garbed man understood what the first prince meant. He bowed politely to the first prince, before he suddenly vanished into thin air.
In the very next moment, Jun Xiaomo walked into the door. She noticed Rong Ruihan standing by the window, and she raised her eyebrows curiously as she quipped, “Eh? I thought you were meditating.”
Rong Ruihan calmly responded, “I’m thinking about some things, so I decided to stop meditating.”
Then, Jun Xiaomo retrieved the foodstuff that she had stored within her Interspatial Ring and set them on the table, before turning her attention to Rong Ruihan again as she remarked, “Eat up. I packed it for you on the way back.”
Rong Ruihan’s deep gaze rippled gently with emotions, before it quickly faded away into stillness.
“Thank you.” Rong Ruihan walked over to the tableside and picked up a hot steaming bun as be began to eat slowly. His actions were incredibly dignified and elegant.
In fact, his Interspatial Ring was so well-stocked with Subsistence Pills that there was no fear that he would go hungry anytime soon.
However, he appreciated the fact that this young man remembered that he had not eaten his breakfast either. Therefore, Rong Ruihan was not going to reject the young man’s kind gesture. The truth was that he had not expected the young man to go beyond his call of duty and prepare breakfast for him either.
After all, their relationship and interactions hardly extended beyond that transaction of theirs.
As the first prince slowly ingested the warm food packed by Jun Xiaomo, his originally cold disposition began to melt away, and his expression began to be filled with warmth.
“No need for any thanks. Just remember to pay for the food.” Jun Xiaomo smiled radiantly as she spoke.
Rong Ruihan stopped in his tracks. His obsidian-black eyes shifted its attention and gazed straight at Jun Xiaomo. If Jun Xiaomo were anyone else, that person would almost certainly be grow frazzled when he received this deep and profound yet seemingly emotionless gaze from Rong Ruihan.
However, this did not include Jun Xiaomo. She opened her eyes widely and pretended to be astonished as she responded, “Don’t tell me that you expected this too be free?! I’ve already provided you with lodging; do I still have to provide food for you for free? Wouldn’t this be too disadvantageous to me?!”
Rong Ruihan: ……
Then, he retrieved thirty superior-grade spirit stones from his Interspatial Ring and tossed them over to Jun Xiaomo as he said, “Take it. You’ll be responsible for all my meals in future.”
Jun Xiaomo’s eyes formed a squinch as she received her payment gladly, “The first prince is truly generous.”
Thirty superior-grade spirit stones were sufficient to cover an entire family’s expenses for over one whole year! This transaction was hardly disadvantageous at all.
Rong Ruihan looked at the young man’s avaricious expression for a moment, before he turned his attention away from him and recalled the gratitude that he had earlier shown to Yao Mo.
After breakfast, Rong Ruihan continued to meditate, while Jun Xiaomo tagged along with Ye Xiuwen at his sword practice. When Ye Xiuwen saw Jun Xiaomo leaving and closing the door to her room, he walked up to her and put his arms around her shoulder as he glanced vigilantly over at the room.
“Don’t worry, everything’s fine.” Jun Xiaomo knew that Ye Xiuwen was worried about that man in her room right now, and she patted his arm, reassuring him.
Ye Xiuwen tensed up his hands, but he knew that there was no use speaking any more. Therefore, he led the way as the two of them left the inn.
It was noon. Ye Xiuwen and Jun Xiaomo had just had lunch, and they once again arrived at the auction house in accordance with their arrangements with the other disciples and the second prince.
After that incident at the auction house yesterday, Jun Xiaomo had thought that the second prince’s interest in her would dwindle substantially. Unexpectedly, the second prince continued to tease her incessantly – almost as though that incident yesterday had not taken place at all.
At this moment, Jun Xiaomo truly wondered whether the king of the Inferno Kingdom was being levelheaded when he appointed the second prince as the crown prince.
Having interacted with the first prince as well, Jun Xiaomo naturally found Rong Ruihan much more suitable to inherit the throne as the next king of Inferno Kingdom. And this was despite the fact that he would lose his rationality from time to time.
Regardless, Jun Xiaomo decided to turn a blind eye to the second prince’s advances and focus her attention solely on the auction at hand.
She was still hopeful that she would find at the auction the remaining medicinal elements required to cure the scar on Ye Xiuwen’s face. After all, she had to try her luck no matter how low and insignificant the possibility was.
Unexpectedly, lady luck was on her side. When the auctioneer brought out the third item for the day, Jun Xiaomo’s eyes immediately lit up with joy. She immediately straightened her posture and leaned forward, attempting to get a closer look at the object being auctioneered.
There was no doubt – this was the Blackmoon Grass, one of the most important spiritual grasses required for concocting the cure!
Jun Xiaomo’s heart pumped vigorously in anticipation.
Previous Chapter Next Chapter