Zu An was disappointed with himself. He was in a life-or-death situation, yet his mind could still manage to wander to such idle thoughts.
He wasn’t absolutely sure if the Hat of Forgiveness would work on the emperor. After all, he was the world’s foremost expert. It would be a disaster if he possessed something that nullified the hat’s effects.
Even though he wasn’t betting it all on the Hat of Forgiveness, things would go much more smoothly if it worked.
As his thoughts wandered, the emperor sat on the dragon throne, his eyes closed in thought. Zu An didn’t know if the Hat of Forgiveness was doing its work, or if the emperor was examining the contents of the Phoenix Nirvana Sutra.
In a few moments, the emperor slowly opened his eyes, his expression hard to read. A while later, he mumbled to himself, “Some things are hardly worth eating, but discarding them would still be a pity.”
“Has your majesty comprehended the meaning of immortality?” Zu An asked carefully. Naturally, the technique he had placed in the hat was not the real Phoenix Nirvana Sutra. After all, there was no way he would be stupid enough to hand over his greatest trump card.
Of course, the chant wasn’t completely fake. It was, in fact, ninety percent true. However, the ten percent of falsehood was enough to ruin the other ninety percent.
He hadn’t read ‘Legend of Condor Heroes’ for nothing. The tale of how Huang Rong used a fake ‘Nine Yin Sutra’ to drive Ouyang Feng mad was pretty much common knowledge.
The emperor’s cultivation was too great, and he would easily see through simple counterfeits. That is why he didn’t dare change too much of it.
Even so, at his level, altering such a thing was beyond him. It was Mi Li who had helped him. She was probably the only one in this present world with sufficient cultivation and knowledge to create such a thing.
Mi Li’s expression had been rather strange when she heard that he was willing to share the Phoenix Nirvana Sutra with her, though her thoughts were unfathomable.
“How can such a lowly technique exist in this world? It actually requires that you be beaten up to increase your strength.” The emperor frowned at Zu An. “I assume you’ve been beaten up often?”
Zu An replied, “Indeed. I’ve walked the line between life and death many times. I’ve already lost count of how many times I have been beaten up.”
The emperor grunted. “No wonder you’re such a lowly person.”
Zu An felt like he’d been punched in the nuts.
What the hell, man?
He really wanted to smack this guy in the face. Of course, given the difference in their cultivation, he would end up being the one taught a lesson instead, so he dispelled this thought. He could only stare at the green hat and secretly relish in this small victory.
“I am the son of heaven,” mused the emperor. “Who in this world would dare to strike me? Whose fists can even reach me? Forget it. Worst of all, you have to throw away all other techniques and solely cultivate this one. What I lack the most is time. I don’t have enough time for something like this.”
Zu An feigned a look of concern. “But this technique is incredible, and Your Majesty’s aptitude is exceptional! Who knows, you might be able to cultivate this technique more quickly than anyone else.”
The emperor shook his head. “No matter how fast I can do it, there is still a limit. I will not make it in time. Furthermore, the amount of ki required to progress becomes tremendous later on, so much so that even I am left baffled. Even if one started cultivating from within their mother’s womb, they would still not be able to attain immortality. Small wonder why no one had ever truly attained immortality, even though the Phoenix Nirvana Sutra has made several appearances in the past. This technique only has a dismal chance of success.”
Given his status, how could he possibly cripple the astonishing cultivation he has built up for himself? Wouldn’t all those fellows who were restless with his rule immediately rebel? What would he rely on to quell the chaos then?
Once he died, the entire empire would collapse, and with it, the immortality he sought.
As someone who had attained the highest cultivation in this world, this was clear enough to him. Perhaps others might have been blinded by thoughts of immortality, but not him.
The emperor gave Zu An a strange look. “Zhuxie Chixin reported something unusual. You clearly had several chances to escape along the way, yet you never did. Instead, you cooperated well, as if you were in a rush to throw away your life. The two of us have always been puzzled over this matter. Now, I believe you knew that there was no way that I would cultivate this technique, and that was why you weren’t worried. Is that correct?”
“Your majesty is both wise and brilliant.” Zu An bowed respectfully. His posture was perfectly humble.
This was precisely why he had made the journey to the capital so confidently. If the emperor had been in the prime of his life, he would have possessed boundless prospects, and Zu An would never have taken the risk of coming to the capital. However, the fact that the emperor was close to death gave him some room for negotiation.
The Hat of Forgiveness was the extra icing on the cake, and not the other way around.
The last thing he expected was for the emperor to sneer at him. “Unfortunately, you’ve miscalculated. Even though I won’t cultivate this Phoenix Nirvana Sutra, you are younger than me. You still have hope. Do you think that I will let someone who has a chance of attaining immortality stay alive?”
Zu An remained calm. “Your majesty, you said just now that no one can truly cultivate this technique, so how could I possibly attain immortality? If I really had a chance of cultivating it successfully, I wouldn’t have dared to come to the capital.”
He wasn’t lying when he said this, because he knew how hard it was to make any progress by relying on the Phoenix Nirvana Sutra alone. Even with the Keyboard supporting him, it was difficult. The amount of Rage points needed to fill the fifth rank’s formations was already staggering.
Moreover, the amount of Rage points required for the later formations increased exponentially, which made success even more unrealistic.
For any other person, progress would be much slower.
Of course, his other techniques still gave him some hope, but any other person wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell.
The emperor’s breath caught. He realized that he lost his composure for a moment. His excitement for immortality had led him to feel disappointment. Even his originally ironclad will wavered. His actions contradicted his own words.
He sneered at Zu An. “Showing off your wit in front of this emperor isn’t a smart choice.”
Zu An replied. “I wasn’t trying to show off. I was just stating facts.”
The emperor stared at him for a long while, then changed the topic. “What is your opinion on the crown prince?
Zu An was surprised by this question. As his father, do you really have no idea what your son is like?
Of course, he wasn’t so stupid as to boldly claim that the crown prince was dumb. After all, no matter how selfless a father was, he would never like to hear such a thing. “The crown prince is simple and honest in nature. His disposition harkens back to the grace of our ancestors.”
Zu An wanted to cry. Do you think it’s easy for me to come up with this type of tactful bullshit?
The emperor was momentarily stunned, then a smile spread slowly across his lips. “You’re quite a crafty fellow.”
Zu An took the chance to probe further. “Did Your Majesty have Elder Li lead me to meet the crown prince on purpose?”
He had served as emperor in Yinxu, so he understood the workings of a ruler’s mind. There was no need to always be a yes-man. It was sometimes more favorable to bring up important points at suitable times.
The emperor snorted. “That fellow has already been diced and fed to the dogs.”
Zu An shivered. Such a response was wholly unexpected.
To be honest, his meeting with the crown prince had seemed strange. From the emperor’s words, it seemed like he wasn’t the one who incited Elder Li to escort him to a location close to the crown prince.
Elder Li definitely had not acted on his own initiative on this matter, which meant that there was someone behind him, directing his actions.
Whoever they were, they were probably hoping that the crown prince or princess would do them a favor and get rid of him. After all, given the crown prince’s morality and his temperament, there was a high chance of Zu An dying. The crown princess had a terrible temper as well, and would have easily ordered him to be beaten to death.
The emperor’s order for his arrest had left Zu An clutching the end of his rope. Being humiliated by both the crown prince and princess might have been enough to push him over the edge and make him throw caution to the wind just to bring the crown prince down with him.
Whether it was he who killed the crown prince or vice versa, either outcome would have benefitted the one behind the scenes. It was clear that this person did not have the ability to send assassins into the imperial palace, so they had to resort to such an approach.
Of course, it was impossible for the hidden mastermind to predict that Zu An wouldn’t feel like he was in a tight spot at all. He had planned to meet the emperor to settle this matter to begin with, so there was no way that this plan could have succeeded.
The emperor walked over to the window with his hands behind his back, his eyes gazing at the distant scenery. A hint of obsession glinted within his eyes. “Do you know why I arranged for you to spend a night outside the palace?”
Zu An opened his mouth to speak, but hesitated. The emperor laughed. “There’s no harm in showing off some of your intelligence. This emperor requires someone with intelligence to face what’s to come, not an idiot.”
Zu An thus said, “I’ve been pondering this myself as well. Ordinarily, keeping me outside the palace for another day would only mean an extra day of uncertainty. Sure enough, assassins showed up. As the world’s number one expert, there’s no way you could have been blind to this fact.”
The emperor snorted. “Stop wasting your time with flattery.”
Zu An chuckled, then continued. “After meeting Your Majesty, it suddenly dawned on me that Your Majesty was using me as bait to draw out all your enemies so that you could seize them in one fell swoop.”
At first, he had only sent King Liang and a few Embroidered Envoy to arrest him. Even though they seemed strong, the secret of eternal life was much too strong of a temptation, and their strength alone had not been enough to stop the attacks of various factions.
This emperor really is vicious. Was my journey not arduous enough? He even gave those fellows another chance in the capital.
If it hadn’t been because of all the cheats he had, the weeds on his tomb would have already grown sky high.
“I’m sure that they have their fair share of sharp individuals on their side, though. Would they jump straight in even if they knew it was a trap?”
Zu An replied, “Your Majesty’s plan was brilliant, so it wasn’t that obvious of a trap. Besides, it doesn’t matter even if a few capable individuals are suspicious, because there’s nothing to hide. Immortality is something everyone wishes for, and no one would ever wish for Your Majesty to obtain immortality. That is why they had no choice but to take the leap, even if there was a pit in front of them.”
The emperor was clearly surprised. “If I wasn’t already told that you had grown up on the streets, I would have suspected that you were actually a wily old fox who has roamed the political circles for several decades. You actually managed to see through this plot so easily.”
“These are merely blind guesses on my part.” Zu An smiled. The other party wasn’t actually wrong. He had served as the ruler in Yinxu for several decades, and he had long since mastered the art of such political intrigue.
The emperor continued, “You are correct. I wanted to lure out those who lurked in the undercurrents. There were many seemingly-loyal regional government officials who had long since defected. I needed to find a way to keep them in check. Since a public assassination attempt occurred within the capital, it’s clear that the security officer of the Murong clan won’t be doing his job anymore.”
The security officer was the central minister in charge of supervising the capital city and the surrounding area, as well as one of the emperor’s relatives. He was also in charge of maintaining law and order within the capital, similar to the chief of the later world’s Commission for Discipline Inspection and Ministry of Public Security. He played a critical role in the court.
Zu An suddenly grew alarmed. He vaguely remembered Chu Chuyan mentioning this person before. Her grandmother seemed to be from the Murong clan! What the hell, I ended up screwing over my mother-in-law’s family…
The emperor smiled ambiguously. “How do you think I should deal with you, then?”
Zu An chuckled. “Seeing how I was so cooperative along the way, and even helped you catch so many fish, I suppose I would graciously accept a noble title. A dukedom or something similar would suffice.”
The emperor was less than amused.
Does this fellow think that noble titles are handed out like cabbages? That they are given out casually?
He snorted instead. “It seems you’re pretty sharp. I just happen to need a trusted eunuch by my side..”
Zu An’s eyes flew wide open.
He subconsciously brought his legs together. For some reason, he felt a chill in his nether regions all of sudden.Previous Chapter Next Chapter