Within the capital, one could always find multiple banks open for business in the major metropolitan areas. The local branch of just one bank took up two of the main roads, and other similar branches could be found everywhere. Its main building covered a large area, and there were even experts guarding it. This was the Bank of Wuyun, and it was one of the largest banks in the entire Shenwu Empire.
After the battle that had occurred a thousand years ago, the Bank of Wuyun had suddenly become popular while all the other banks in the empire had collapsed. Right when the empire was about to personally intervene, the bank accepted the imperial family’s investment and became subservient to the imperial family. Still, the bank was able to independently influence the economy even after being restrained by the imperial family. After so many years, the Bank of Wuyun financed everything from army rations to financial aid for the empire, salaries, and even rewards. After a thousand years, the Bank of Wuyun had become an unfathomably powerful force that was not to be reckoned with.
While the people in the Shenwu Continent typically thought little of businessmen, the Bank of Wuyun was an exception.
Behind the bank and within a huge manor, a middle-aged man slowly drank a cup of tea while surveying his surroundings. His name was Ming Zhaocai, and from his name alone, it was clear that he was from the imperial family and of the same generation as the current emperor, Ming Zhaotian.
Although he was a member of the imperial family, he was very different from Ming Zhaotian and the other imperial family members. He was good at managing money and was so proud of this fact that he had even changed his name to Ming Zhaocai. Ming Zhaotian had punished him for that matter, but it was to no avail. In the end, Ming Zhaotian let Ming Zhaocai handle the empire’s financial matters and even appointed him to the position of the minister of finance.
As he heard light footsteps approaching his room, Ming Zhaotian turned around and saw a girl with an innocent mien and a light smile on her face. She made him feel comfortable and relaxed.
The girl slowly walked over to him and bowed. “Greetings, my lord. I am Ah-Lan.”
Ming Zhao helped her back up with eyes full of praise as he said, “You’re Ah-Lan?”
“Yes,” she answered respectfully.
Ming Zhaocai grunted in understanding as he looked her up and down. “Not bad at all. To be able to become the supervisor of the Bank of Wuyun’s branch in Mingdu at the tender age of twenty means that you must be very talented.”
Ah-Lan smiled. “You’re being very kind, my lord.”
Ming Zhaocai looked very satisfied. He made a gesture, and the two of them took their seats.
“I’m sure you’re aware of why I’m here at the Bank of Wuyun today, Ms. Ah-Lan.” Ming Zhaocai got straight to the point.
Ah-Lan nodded seriously. “Of course. The foreigners from the endless Eastern Sea are invading us, and the empire doesn’t have enough warships to fend them off. The Bank of Wuyun is naturally willing to lend its aid and provide some army rations to thank the empire for all its help over the years.”
Ming Zhaocai’s eyes lit up. “To what extent would the bank be willing to aid us?”
Ah-Lan clapped, causing a servant to step forward and hand a list to Ming Zhaocai. He glanced at it, and his expression changed as he exclaimed in surprise, “This is way too much, young lady!”
Ah-Lan smiled demurely. “Not at all. His Majesty’s birthday is just around the corner, so you can treat this as a gift from us at the Bank of Wuyun.”
Ming Zhaocai smiled broadly. “In that case, I’ll offer you my thanks, Ms. Ah-Lan.”
She smiled. “I’m glad that you appreciate it. It’s a bit of a pity, though…”
“A pity? About what?” Ming Zhaocai raised an eyebrow as he looked at her curiously.
Ah-Lan sighed. “I come from a humble background and am a mere merchant. I have no right to enter the palace and participate in the celebration.”
Ming Zhaocai chuckled. “I understand. That’s not an issue at all! If you’re willing, then you can follow me, and I’ll escort you to the palace for the celebration.”
Ah-Lan was delighted. “Really? Would you truly be willing to do such a thing for me on such an auspicious day?”
“Hahaha, it’s no problem at all. I can even take you to meet my brother. He spends most of his time overseeing the five sealing planets and will only come down here on that one day. If you’re lucky, then you might even get the chance to speak to him.” Ming Zhaocai laughed.
Ah-Lan quickly thanked him, and Ming Zhaocai left soon after.
Within the bank, Ah-Lan watched upon his figure fade into the distance. Her expression turned solemn as her appearance gradually changed. If any trialtakers were around, they would have easily recognized her as one of the final four fighters in the Astral Combat Tournament: Grandini Mavis.
Just as Grandini was about to enter the building, the sound of a drum echoed through the city. Numerous people walked out and onto the main road to gaze into the distance with expressions of awe.
Grandini was rather curious and returned to her appearance of Ah-Lan. It was only after she left the bank and asked around a bit that she found out that, because His Majesty’s birthday was right round the corner, one of the scholars who had passed the exams this time wanted to enter the academies and pray for the emperor. She was a bit confused. A scholar? It was quite a traditional way to address someone, but the people who had managed to gain the title of scholar here were definitely the cream of the crop. In ancient times, someone who was called a scholar was definitely someone who held quite a bit of power.
As the sound of the drums grew closer, the troops cleared the way for a man riding a huge beast who waved at the commoners on his left and right while smiling happily.
Grandini’s expression quickly turned glum, and she looked like she’d eaten a dead housefly; it was Han Chong. Even though his appearance had been altered, she was still able to recognize him just from his aura. With just one look, she was certain that this so-called “scholar” was none other than Han Chong. How disgusting. He should have come to the Shenwu Continent to participate in the trial, and yet, he somehow became a scholar.
From atop the giant beast’s head that was striding through the middle of the road, Han Chong coincidentally saw Grandini, and something flashed through his eyes. He smiled gently without missing a beat and waved at her.
Grandini merely clicked her tongue in annoyance before turning around to return to the Bank of Wuyun.
Han Chong snickered to himself as he glanced at the Bank of Wuyun. He then continued on his way without giving their meeting much thought.
The crown prince’s palace was on the other side of the capital, not too far away from the imperial palace. The crown prince, Ming Hao, had a rather nervous expression as he stared at the end of a path. He wasn’t waiting for the scholar to arrive, but rather, a mysterious girl who came from a family with a history dating back for a thousand years. This was the family that had created the heavenly globe, and she was the heir to the family’s secrets.
After the ancient battle with the foreign aliens, numerous foreigners had descended upon the continent without the empire’s knowledge. Someone who called themselves Tian Ji had been worried about this situation and decided to create the heavenly globes to help the empire seek out foreigners. With the heavenly globes in hand, the empire had managed to stabilize its situation.
Tian Ji was not a sect, but rather some kind of inheritance. Nobody knew exactly what it was, but they did know that it involved divination in some way. Even the emperor, Ming Zhaotian, thought highly of Tian Ji. Unfortunately, this person could not be found.
Ming Hao never thought that Tian Ji would come looking for him one day.
“Your Highness, someone-” a person exclaimed as they stared at the end of the road. A young woman wearing a veil while being surrounded by fog was slowly drawing closer.
Ming Hao’s eyes lit up, and he immediately approached the woman. A group of people followed behind him.
“Greetings to His Highness. My name is Shao Shu.” She spoke gently while bowing to the prince.
Ming Hao was confused. “Are you the current Tian Ji?”
The girl bowed again. “Yes, I’m afraid that this must be disappointing to you seeing as my cultivation isn’t very high, Your Highness.”
Ming Hao quickly responded in a serious tone. “You’re being too kind. Your ancestor who created the heavenly globe back then was nothing more than a Martial Emperor when he passed away, but he still possessed such a unique power. Cultivation is nothing in comparison.”
The girl’s eyes twinkled brightly as she looked at the prince. “You’re being too kind, Your Highness. I still can’t live up to the name of ‘Tian Ji,’ so please call me Shao Shu as that is my original name.”
Ming Hao nodded. “Please enter the palace, Ms. Shao Shu.”
She nodded. “Yes, Your Highness.”
At that moment, Lu Yin had no idea that quite a few of his acquaintances had already appeared in Mingdu. One night later, Lu Yin entered the city himself and finally saw the most flourishing city in the entire Shenwu Continent. There were four tall peaks surrounding the city while the five sealing planets hung in the sky above a wide moat that glittered as it rippled in the starlight.
The capital was where everybody gathered. Nearly half of the top ten on the List of Tempering were here, and numerous experts appeared here both in secret and out in the open. If one actually looked for experts, then they could be found everywhere.
Outside the gates of the capital, dozens of heavenly globes emitted dull rays of light without taking even a second to rest. They constantly radiated martial power that covered the entire capital, placing every square inch under the detection of the heavenly globes. The moment star energy undulations appeared, that person would be discovered almost immediately.
The Ming Constables and the Demon Hunters Society’s headquarters were both within the capital. Even Hunters would find it difficult to escape from the city if they were discovered inside.
Lu Yin gaped at how lively the city was as he headed towards the Ming Constables’ headquarters.
Four hours after Lu Yin entered Mingdu, the Reverent King’s convoy arrived and slowly entered.
Ming Yan looked through the curtain covering the window of one of the carriages, and her face lit up. It appeared as if she had found something she was looking for.
Ming Zhaoshu had his eyes closed and was currently resting.
At that point, Tang Si’s voice rang out. “The results of our investigation are in, my lord.”
Ming Zhaoshu opened his eyes a crack. “Go on.”
“Yue’er’s ancestry seems fine, but it can only be traced back eight centuries. There’s nothing before that,” Tang Si answered.
After hearing that there was indeed a problem with Yue Xianzi’s background, Ming Yan’s expression changed, and she ducked her head.
Ming Zhaoshu frowned. “Is it difficult to find the information, or is there nothing at all?”
Tang Si stayed silent for a while before answering, “I think that there’s nothing at all. Whether in terms of ancestry or locational records, nothing can be traced beyond eight centuries.”
“Have Yue’er come see me immediately,” Ming Zhaoshu said sternly.
“She’s left,” Tang Si said in a chilly tone.
Ming Zhaoshu grew furious and exited the carriage. He looked at Tang Si and asked, “What did you say? She’s gone?”
Tang Si hung his head. “Yes, my lord. The moment I received this information about her background, I immediately went to look for her, but I found to my dismay that she was no longer with us.”
“She was here yesterday, but she’s gone today. What convenient timing,” Ming Zhaoshu scoffed and then looked around. Quite a few of the capital’s commoners who were next to them had glanced over, and he relaxed his expression. “Forget it.”
Tang Si looked up. “Are you not going to send men to capture her, my lord?”
Ming Zhaoshu shook his head. “She’s most likely a foreigner with powerful connections since they’ve been able to stay on the continent for the past eight centuries. Besides, she can change her appearance, so we won’t be able to find her even if we try. Just forget it.” After saying this, he climbed back into his carriage.
Ming Yan heaved a heavy sigh of relief and then grinned, feeling slightly happy. She had quite liked Yue’er even though the girl had lied to her. Yue’er was her very first friend, so she held a rather special place within Ming Yan’s heart. The princess did not know much about the millennial grudge between the Shenwu Continent’s natives and the foreigners, and thus did not feel much hatred.
Ming Zhaoshu sat down in his own carriage, looking fatigued. He happened to glance at Ming Yan, and to his surprise, he saw that his daughter was... smiling? Had she uncovered Yue’er’s origins long ago?
“Since His Majesty’s birthday is fast approaching, all of the experts here, the Ming Constables, the Demon Hunters Society, and the army have all gathered here, trying to seek out any traces of foreigners. It’s even rumored that the inheritor of Tian Ji has shown himself. As long as this moat is here, there’s no way any foreigner will be able to escape once discovered,” Ming Zhaoshu calmly stated as if he was addressing himself, yet also informing Ming Yan.
She turned pale after hearing what her father said. “Tian Ji’s heir? Are you talking about the same person who invented the heavenly globes and has the ability to predict the future?”
“Yes. Tian Ji has the power to predict the future. No foreigner will be able to escape here alive. It’s very likely that Yue’er is a foreigner, and if so, she’ll definitely die here. That also means that there’s no need for us to go out of our way to capture her,” Ming Zhaoshu replied.
Even the tips of Ming Yan’s fingers turned white as she clenched her seat tightly while looking uneasy.
Ming Zhaoshu gave her a wry look. This reaction confirmed his suspicions that his daughter had found out that Yue’er was a foreigner long ago. He merely shook his head and did not say anything more. He already knew his daughter best; she was too kind.
However, Ming Zhaoshu had no idea that the person who Ming Yan was worried about wasn’t only Yue Xianzi but also that man—the man whom she’d never be able to forget.
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Translated By: Ying
Edited By: Neshi/Nyxnox
TLC'ed By: OMA