Chapter 601: Interrogation

The overbearing Eunuch Lu withdrew when he saw that the empress was no longer upset. He returned to the shadows, as if he had never appeared.

Zu An couldn’t help but give him another look. He noticed that the eunuch was looking at the empress behind the pearl curtains. His expression was no longer as ferocious as before, but rather full of tenderness.

Zu An was dying for some popcorn. There was something going on between the two of them! But it seems like a one-sided love from Eunuch Lu’s side.

Zu An couldn’t help but think that the man was rather stupid, though. No matter how much you like someone, it’s not worth losing your pp over, is it?

No matter how much a girl likes you, if you don’t have your little one anymore, then what’s the point, no matter how much you love her? No wonder the empress never paid you much attention.

Eunuch Lu withdrew his gaze. He noticed Zu An looking at him, which confused him. What’s up with this guy’s sympathetic look?

The empress’ amusement passed. “I heard that something happened in the eastern palace today,” she remarked.

“Yes. The other crown prince’s secretary, Shi Kun, was wounded in a vital area during a game. The imperial physician wasn't able to save him, so he died an untimely death.” Zu An said with an expression of great regret. He was quite impressed with himself. He was now just like those wily old foxes. Lies rolled off his tongue with ease.

“Pushing the blame onto the imperial physician isn’t a bad choice.” The empress chuckled. “I believe this was what the crown princess taught you all to say, was it not?”

“This is indeed what happened. There’s no need for anyone to teach me to describe what happened.” Zu An found it hard to figure out what this empress was really thinking, so he did not dare speak the truth yet.

The empress looked at him with surprise. “I thought that you were a slick person, but I didn’t expect you to have a bit of character as well.”

“Thank you, your highness, for the praise.” Zu An’s expression was gloomy. Why did it sound like she was mocking him? Whatever. When your butt is bigger… wait, no. I mean, when your responsibilities are greater, your words matter more.

“You’ve met the crown prince more than once. How do you feel about him?” The empress asked gently.

Zu An wasn’t surprised that she knew that he had met with the crown prince more than once. As the empress, it would be way too incompetent of her if she knew nothing about the happenings within the palace. “The crown prince’s down to earth nature resembles those of our dignified ancestors.”

The empress snorted. “You’re throwing the same words that you gave the emperor at me. Speak honestly.”

Zu An was momentarily speechless.

If you really want me to speak the truth, then I’d say that the crown prince is retarded, and a kid with learning disabilities. But will you accept that?

Even if you didn’t blame me for saying such things, how am I supposed to survive in the palace afterwards?

However, this was a question he couldn’t ignore. He thought of something and quickly said, “Even though the crown prince’s talents are ordinary, things should be fine, especially with the crown princess assisting him.”

It was common for mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws not to get along. You brought up the crown prince on your own earlier, so I’m sure your relationship with her isn’t much better off.

Sure enough, when she heard the words ‘crown princess’, the empress subconsciously frowned. “Linglong is indeed capable, but she is too ambitious. The crown prince might become her puppet.”

Zu An stared blankly for a moment. Lady, I’ve only just met you. Is it right for you to speak to a stranger like this? Or has your resentment towards your daughter-in-law already reached an unbearable degree…?

“Why am I telling you these things?” The empress laughed in self-mockery. “Are you going to tell the crown princess about this?”

“Did you say something, Your Highness? I didn’t hear anything,” replied Zu An immediately.

The empress stared at him silently.

Eunuch Lu couldn’t help but look at him as well. Someone this shameless actually exists?

“You are quite sharp,” replied the empress with a sigh. “But it doesn’t matter whether you tell anyone else or not. Either way, she already knows.”

The gears within Zu An’s mind began to turn. On the surface, it looked like a struggle between King Qi and the crown prince for the throne, which meant that the empress and the crown princess should be on the same side. However, because the empress wasn’t the mother of the crown prince, even if the crown prince gained the throne, she would still be left in a rather awkward situation.

The crown princess represented the Bi clan, while the empress represented the Liu clan. Future conflict between the two would be unavoidable.

It would have been all right if the crown princess had been a sweet-tempered person, but she was headstrong, with a fierce temperament. This would be an extremely uncomfortable prospect for the empress.

Is she telling me these things because she wishes to rope me in? After all, I can be considered one of the crown prince’s men.

“Don’t think about it too much,” said the empress. “All you need to do is complete your job, which is protecting the crown prince and supervising his studies. Don’t put too much weight on what you heard today.”

Zu An bowed. “Understood.”

“Oh, one other thing. Can the Phoenix Nirvana Sutra really grant immortality?” the empress asked suddenly.

Zu An was taken aback. All that rambling earlier on had been a smokescreen. This was her true objective. “His Majesty has already declared that there is no such thing as immortality in this world.”

The empress smiled. “You and I both know that he only said that to convince the masses. That’s why I am now asking you personally.”

“I have already offered the Phoenix Nirvana Sutra to His Majesty,” replied Zu An. “If the empress is curious, why don’t you ask His Majesty for it, so that you can examine it for yourself?”

The empress’ expression altered slightly. She had indeed asked him about it, but he had told her that the scriptures existed in a spiritual form, and that it could only be read three times. Eunuch Mi had read it once, Zu An had read it once, and the emperor had now read it once, causing the scriptures to vanish. That was why he couldn’t show them to her.

At the time, she had assumed that he just didn’t want to tell her, so she didn’t probe any further. However, there was no way for her to know that Zu An’s ‘Hat of Forgiveness’ was only valid for a one-time use. After using it, it would turn into an ordinary hat, and its spiritual contents would scatter. Zu An had thought of this three-time restriction to explain this, and managed to convince the emperor. He did not expect to fool the empress with it as well.

When Eunuch Lu saw the empress in deep thought, he spoke up in her place. “When the empress asks you a question, you reply immediately. Why are you bringing all this up? Are you the one questioning Her Highness, or is she questioning you?”

Zu An scoffed disdainfully inside. What a masterclass simp. Keep white-knighting. You still won’t get her. “Practicing the Phoenix Nirvana Sutra does not grant immortality. The emperor would not have let me live otherwise.”

The empress nodded. She had suspected as much. “Fine, I won’t ask you any more about this matter. There is something else I wish to know. Where did Wei Dan go?”

Alarmed, Zu An quickly said, “I do not understand the question, Your Highness. Who is this Wei Dan? Why are you asking me?”

The empress said indifferently, “Eunuch Wei served for several years in the Palace of Peace and took good care of me. Later on, he was transferred to His Majesty’s side. His Majesty might not feel sentimental about those around him, but I am different. I want to find out the truth.

“In the past, Eunuch Mi betrayed us and escaped with the Phoenix Nirvana Sutra. We never received any news about his whereabouts. Only recently did we hear that he seemed to be in Brightmoon City. His majesty sent Wei Dan to capture Eunuch Mi, ordering him to bring back the Phoenix Nirvana Sutra. Both Eunuch Mi and Wei Dan have both gone missing, while the Phoenix Nirvana Sutra is with you. If I do not ask you about this, then who else would I ask?”

Zu An smiled bitterly. “Does your highness think that I killed him? Even though I arrived in the capital not long ago, I have already heard many people praising Eunuch Wei for his profound cultivation. How could I possibly kill a master rank cultivator like him?”

“You’re not going to deny that you know him anymore?” said the empress with a snort. “Even though your cultivation isn’t high enough to challenge Wei Dan, you might have interfered in his battle with Eunuch Mi. You could have killed them both to steal their treasures.”

Zu An said, “Your Highness thinks too highly of me. They are both masters. No matter how badly wounded they are, I could never consider going up against either of them. I only came into possession of the Phoenix Nirvana Sutra because Eunuch Mi passed it on to me before his death.”

Eunuch Lu cried out in surprise.

“From the sound of it, Old Mi was the one who killed Wei Dan,” the empress exclaimed. “But how is that possible? Wei Dan’s cultivation is above Old Mi’s.”

Zu An said, “Your Highness has forgotten that Old Mi had cultivated the Phoenix Nirvana Sutra for several decades. He was already a very different person. However, Wei Dan’s cultivation was still extremely profound. Even though Old Mi was able to kill Wei Dan, he suffered a mortal blow as well. Old Mi and I were both in the Chu clan, and had developed a close relationship. That’s why he decided to pass it on to me.”

Most of what he said was the truth. He wasn't afraid that they would find out what really happened. Either way, everyone knew that he had the Phoenix Nirvana Sutra. It was fine as long as he didn’t reveal Old Mi’s plan to possess his body.

However, the one thing he had been worried about was exposed. “Rubbish!” exclaimed Eunuch Lu with a snort. “Mi Lianying has always been a cunning and treacherous man. He would rather take the Phoenix Nirvana Sutra with him to the grave than allow anyone else to have it. Why would he help someone else?”

Zu An sighed. It takes one eunuch to know another. This fellow could be considered quite close to Old Mi. Of all people, he would know that Old Mi did not have such a magnanimous side to him.

While he was thinking of a response, a cry of alarm was raised from outside. “Assassins!”

As soon as the warning was shouted out, several dark glints streaked through the windows, flying straight towards the empress inside.

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