Inside the secrecy of a secluded room…
An adorned chessboard was laid out…
The black and white cavalry soldiers were engaged in a battle. And the battle had turned very bitter.
"Brother Wen, how do you feel about today's events?" His Majesty gently put down his piece on the board. His actions issued a loud 'pop' sound.
Wen Cang Yu was seated opposite to him. He was dressed in ink-black attire. This was the first that the Emperor had seen his best friend adorn such a dark choice of clothing inside the Imperial Palace.
"It is difficult to determine. There was no Qi fluctuation on his body; that I'm certain of," Wen Cang Yu's facial expression remained stagnant. However, his eyes flickered as he saw his white pawn falling to the board.
"Brother Wen, did you believe that you could kill my imperial queen with this pawn? It's not that easy, ah." His Majesty explained the move, and continued, "But I've always felt that the Jun Family's little brat isn't a very suitable character. What do you think?"
"He's far more than a suitable character. So, there ought to be something fishy," Mr. Wen closed his eyes and considered for a while. He then continued, "This Jun Mo Xie kid is very odd. He was acting evilly, and without a care in the world. He seemed like a debauchee who was enjoying messing with everyone. But he didn't seem to be pretending as far as this Old Man is concerned."
"Elder Brother Wen means… " His Majesty lowered his head slightly. He raised his finger to his temple and started to massage it.
"Perhaps he was afraid to reveal himself to everyone!" Mr. Wen spoke in a thoughtful tone. It was evident that he had studied Jun Mo Xie's movements very clearly, and had given them prior in-depth consideration. He was merely using this opportunity to speak his mind, "He didn't wish to bring himself out in front of everyone; including His Majesty."
"Oh, that's what you meant!" His Majesty picked up the fallen chess piece from the board, but stopped his hand mid-air, "How would you know that?"
"There are no reasonable words to justify. But I believe that Jun Mo Xie used his renowned behavior to display his arrogance to everyone; however, he also told His Majesty one important thing," Wen Cang Yu smiled and chuckled.
"He doesn't intend to dispute the power structure of the world!" His Majesty gave the reply on his own, "His actions were telling me this very clearly so I can feel at ease; so I never have to fear him. And, he used his abusive attitude to inform me of the failures of the WenXing Heavenly Literature Institute's education system. He tried to tell me the unreasonable faults of their so-called gifted scholars! He wanted me to see the unseen threats posed by the corrupt officials and bureaucrats. His concealed love for the Empire's welfare leaves me in a debt."
"Yes. That's right. That's the kind of person he is. It's not necessary to be on guard against him. The WenXing education system has excelled for many years, and their contribution to Empire can't be denied. However, they've focused too much attention on nurturing talent over the last few years, but have forgotten to mold their talents with the proper moral education. The WenXing scholars are shiny at the top, but shaky at the base. They've cultivated talented individuals, but they're nothing more than mere talent. They made a good temporary choice. But when it comes to the welfare of the people, and finding appropriate leaders to solve the public's problems — their scholars are far from the right choice!
"So, the concealed problem of the WenXing-structure is merely a small problem for now.
"There are some extraordinary talents within Tian Xiang's group of young heirs to the powerful families. But the main center of attention isn't very big. There are only two people talented enough for us to concern ourselves with…" Wen Cang Yu smiled, "One is Li You Ran, and the other is Jun Mo Xie!"
"Li You Ran?" His Majesty the Emperor smiled, "Li You Ran is very ambitious, but his schemes aren't. He never reveals his feelings, and conducts himself in a very smooth manner; he's airtight. I've often heard people say that he's very talented, and that his strategies can win a war from over a hundred miles. He may be very talented, but mere innate talent isn't worthy of taking note."
"Why is that?" Mr. Wen was puzzled by this turn in the conversation. He couldn't understand why a talented genius wouldn't be worthy of consideration.
"Perhaps Li You Ran hasn't perceived it himself, but he had every means, every research, and every skill… but he lacks basic attribute. He has everything it takes to make a great official someday, and would probably be very prominent in his career. However, his traits are more in-line with that of an official; not a ruler!"
The Emperor smiled, "Therefore, Li You Ran can at-best become a top official, but his ambition will obstruct his growth at that point. He would be considered worthy of my worries if he were able to take one step further, but he doesn't have what it takes to be a Monarch! …His ambition is not worthy of my praise. I'm confident that his ambitions will fade-out over time. So why should we worry?"
"Would a Monarch plot from behind the scenes? Li You Ran is too accustomed to acting from behind the scenes. He won't act even if he comes out on the front-lines. His habit prevents him from being accustomed to the role of an Emperor! However, an Emperor needs to be a figure-head. He is required to face the public out in the open. Therefore, Li You Ran is temporarily a target for monitoring, but only temporarily. We merely need to pay attention to his movements to see if we can use him; but nothing more than that. However, there's no need to eliminate him from the picture since he can cause some waves, but he can't start a tsunami."
His Majesty the Emperor had ruled-out the Tian Xiang City's number-one genius from his list of notable individuals.
"Your Majesty's thought process is indeed admirable," Wen Cang Yu carefully considered the angle, and approved of it. He had to admit that the royal prerogative of his friend was indeed much superior to his own abilities. There was a world of difference between the thought process of a Monarch and that of a martial scholar. It was similar to the proverbial distance between the heaven and the earth. The two ideologies followed very different paths.
"That Jun Mo Xie is far more dangerous than Li You Ran. The contrast in the threats they pose is so massive that it can't even be mentioned in the same breath. Li You Ran's progress will be limited to some point. But Jun Mo Xie is a hidden dragon. He is bound to fly high once he grows-up and spreads his wings. He had made it clear that he has no thirst for power, but he will become someone noteworthy no matter how his life develops. Li You Ran can turn the clouds and make it rain with one gesture, but he is controllable. However, Jun Mo Xie will become an unstoppable master of the sword once he matures. And, no one will be able to stop him!"
His Majesty sighed deeply, "There are several people in the mainland countries at the moment. However, this land has never seen peerless talents like Jun Mo Xie and Li You Ran. I wish I had fifty years to sit and watch these two youngsters. Their achievements could become the pillars of this Empire once they come of age! They could write history! Moreover, their natures are very complimentary. That would allow them to maintain balance of power. Therefore, they are suited to become excellent partners! However, I don't know what these kids are for my Tian Xiang Nation's future — a blessing… or a curse…?"
"His Majesty is in the prime of his youth. He is young and energetic; where do such thoughts even stem from?" Wen Cang Yu spoke in a comforting tone.
"I'm clear about the reality of my physical well-being. Perhaps my body will persist for 10-20 years; but it won't hold for much longer than that. The effect of the pain from those wounds will start to show their effect in time. Even the Malicious King of Medicines had made that clear; I will not live for long. There's no need for you to comfort me.
"I only have one concern; and it is the cause of my deepest worries. I've met two individuals that the world has never seen. I can keep them in check as long as I shall live. But once I die… my three sons don't have the skill to control them. They don't have the skill to suppress even one of these two kids once they've spread their wings…" His Majesty sighed with a sense of disappointment and frustration.
"The four seas are calm. The borders are peaceful. Every Family is loyal to the throne. I believe that such an instance will not happen in the near future." Wen Cang Yu continued, "His Majesty can rest assured."
"This lack of disturbance in the situation is the main reason behind my indecisiveness. Perhaps Brother Wen doesn't see it yet… but Jun Mo Xie and Li You Ran have already replaced the balance of the older generation. These two are the key figures in the balance of the present civil and military situation. If one causes trouble… this balance will break in an instant, and this prevalent domestic calm will be torn apart. These two have chosen to preserve this balance for now. However, there is no assurance that they will in the future as well. The harm they can cause isn't minor. There are bound to be turns and twists at every point in the future."
"His Majesty's idea… is to… eliminate them…?" Wen Cang Yu pondered on His Majesty's words for a while. He then lowered his head, and asked in a soft voice.
"The Jun Family has suffered a lot of late. So, how could I eliminate their only surviving heir?"
His Majesty smiled bitterly. However, Mr. Wen wasn't convinced by his words.
"Let's just say that this isn't the appropriate timing. Think about it Brother Wen… There would be a widespread unrest in the Empire if Jun Mo Xie were to die. Would the Empire be able to sustain such a major storm? If he is to die — he must die from a real accident. Otherwise, this isn't the appropriate time to eliminate him. The entire Jun Faction will counter-attack. It would become a situation of life and death. We can't make a move until the Jun Faction has been disintegrated."
He sighed, "Moreover, let's not forget that Jun Mo Xie is backed by another family apart from the Juns. Their strength may not be as formidable as the Xue Hun Manor or the Silver Blizzard City, but their retaliation at the time of Jun Wu Hui's death shook the entire continent!"
He sighed with boundless regret. It seemed that the regret in this sigh had originated from the deepest abyss of his soul.
Wen Cang Yu could tell this very clearly from the sigh he just heard. However, he couldn't tell why the Emperor had chosen to show the emotions of his heart in regard with this matter. He couldn't understand why the Emperor regretted and repented this incident…
"The Dong Fang Family! The world's most powerful family of assassins!" Wen Cang Yu opened his eyes wide as he exclaimed, "Didn't they disappear eight years ago? Is Jun Mo Xie backed by the Dong Fang Family?"
"You've guessed it right!" His Majesty the Emperor painfully closed his eyes and tilted his head upwards, "After Jun Wu Hui and Jun Wu Meng were mysteriously killed in battle… The Dong Fang Family's top assassins suddenly and frantically charged out to take revenge. They came out to confront the Tian Xiang Empire; they came out to confront the Silver Blizzard City. They came out to confront the entire continent. And, they soaked the entire continent in blood to avenge Jun Wu Hui's death! Nearly every foreign personnel of the Silver Blizzard City was assassinated in the year that followed. Several generals who had opposed Jun Wu Hui on the battlefield were assassinated as well! And that's how I received this injury… the Dong Fang Family sent seventeen of their best assassins to kill me, and they inflicted me with this mortal wound. I still haven't been able to recover from it. My body can never recover from the damage caused by that injury!"
"Silver Blizzard City's Xiao Family wasn't the only one who sent out their elites to match them — the Xue Hun Manor came out to confront the Dong Fang Family as well. These elite warriors battled in secrecy. This battle lasted for one years' time. Eventually the Dong Fang Family was suppressed. The Xiao Family's Xing Yun and Bu Yu lead the final battle against the Dong Fang Family. Li Jue Tian and Fan Feng Xue had signed a pact, and they testified that they had eliminated half of the Dong Fang Family's strength at the time. However, the Dong Fang Family wasn't eliminated. They gathered their younger generation and went deep into the secrecy of the mountains to hide. They made an oath at the time of their retreat — the Dong Fang Family will never show-up on the mainland again… not unless the snow-capped sword peak collapses under a landslide, and the Tian Fa forest's Xuan Beasts meet their end!"
"Not unless the snow-capped sword peak collapses under a landslide, and the Tian Fa forest's Xuan Beasts meet their end!" Wen Cang Yu knew about this oath. However, he couldn't help but tremble when he heard it again.
"The sword peak resides at the summit of the snow-capped mountains, and has remained there for the last ten thousand years. How could it collapse under a landslide? The Xuan Beasts live in the sanctity of the paradise of their inside the Tian Fa forest; how could they meet their end? Doesn't that mean that the Dong Fang Family will never come-out in the open again ah…?"
"That isn't necessary. The Dong Fang Family will dispatch its troops in case someone stirs up their base. And their base lies with the people they care about. Jun Mo You and Jun Mo Chou died in battle five years after they made their oath. The Dong Fang Family dispatched their troops once again. They claimed that they needed to extract revenge. The Tian Xiang generals commanding that war didn't survive that assassination spree. The heads of those generals were thrown into the Imperial Palace at night. There was a note attached to their heads. The note read: If Jun Mo Xie were to meet with a mishap — the Tian Xiang Imperial Palace would be the next target! No one apart from me knows about this secret. Not even Jun Zhan Tian!"
"And Brother Wen… it's been three years since… and we still can't stop those assassins from entering the Imperial Palace." The Emperor's voice reeked of anger. There was strong trace of weakness and humiliation in it as well, "Jun Mo Xie is the last surviving son of their daughter; the last grandson of their female bloodline! A gamble with his life could result in the death of the entire Royal Family!"
"Jun Zhan Tian had insisted against rebelling with their support. In fact, he had broken all ties with the Dong Fang Family!" His Majesty smashed that white chess piece onto the board with a 'pop' sound, and a few pieces on the board scattered. His fingers trembled as he hung his head, "Elder Brother Jun has showed undying love for me… I … I can't do this to my brother!"
Then, he suddenly looked up and spoke, "This, I have to admit! I may… I'm always the Emperor! I'm always the Monarch of my nation. I will never be a father to my Tian Family! The Emperor shall be ruthless… I must always think in favor of the Imperial Power. I must always consider the future of this country. I cannot allow any possible threat to my Imperial Power… to exist! And I cannot think of my Brother's feeling when… so much is at stake…"
"Perhaps… this is the reason why the Emperor's post is the most desolate! He must be cut-off from the rest… he must be cut-off from the rest… ah…" Wen Cang Yu was silent for a long time before he heaved a deep sigh.
"Therefore, we can't make any moves on the survivors of the Jun Family. No matter what side they take… we can't make a move on them. Even if there is a reason to eliminate them… we can't make a move on them! If they die — they must die in a real accident! And no matter what happens… the Royal Family's members mustn't be involved in this accident in any capacity. Otherwise… if we were caught… and the Dong Fang Family were to lose their mind again… Brother Wen… the situation isn't the same as if was ten years ago. We're on our own since Yun Bie Chen left! If the Dong Fang Family comes back… my Tian Xiang would be… in mortal danger!"
"A real accident… killing a man like Jun Mo Xie in a real accident…" Mr. Wen sighed, "… will be very hard… "
"It's not that hard!" His Majesty smiled deeply. There was a complex expression in his eyes, "This accident would need a fortunate timing. And fortunately, the timing for this accident has presented itself!" He then slowly pulled out a scroll from the sleeves of his robe, and then rolled it out on the chess board.
"The Xuan Beast wave? His Majesty intends to… " Wen Cang Yu's eyes lit-up as he heaved a sigh of relief.
"This incident has happened in the southern parts of Tian Xiang. No other country is involved in it. However, if the Xue Hun Manor's forces were to fall… the first to suffer would be my Tian Xiang!"
His Majesty frowned his brows, leaned his body backwards, and turned his hands, "So, we need to mobilize our troops. And the might of this army mustn't fall short. Therefore, every major family from the Capital will be asked to volunteer their people. We will create an army of elites, and then assign them an army of tens of thousands."
"The people to volunteer for this army will hail from the MuRong Family, the Tang Family, the Li Family, the Song Family, the Jun Family… haha. The entire Capital will be emptied once these people march for the south, and I shall make use of these days and prepare my three sons."
"And then we shall wait until they return. I believe that matter can change with the passage of time. The entire situation would've changed by the time they return." His Majesty smiled and said, "This force will be massive, and every major family will be asked to volunteer. Who wouldn't wish to join this army if its might and strength were to be so excessive… ha ha…"
His Majesty the Emperor's laughter reeked with a cold and malicious intention. Who wouldn't approve of such a massive force? Who wouldn't wish to join such a massive force? No one would pay heed to the Xuan Beast's threat before signing up for this army! The majority would be met with a dead-end!
"Has His Majesty chosen the leader of this army?" Wen Cang Yu asked even though he had guessed the answer.
"Jun Wu Yi!" The Emperor smiled monstrously, "Who apart from Jun Wu Yi could lead this army! Could there ever be a more suitable candidate?" a cold light flashed in the Emperor's eyes. [I don't know why you organized that auction at the Aristocratic Hall, Jun Wu Yi… but I've gone one step ahead of you this time. And, I'm going to hinder your plans in their tracks! These Tian Fa Xuan Beasts… have come as a blessing!]
Outside the Imperial Palace — Jun Mo Xie's face was clouded in darkness. It seemed as if his sharp and eagle-like eyes were angrily watching the Emperor. It seemed as if he was looking at the Emperor's back. In fact, he could barely hold himself in check.
The Young Master Jun had started the "Art of Unlocking the Heaven's Fortune" to spot any hidden spies in the vicinity. However, he had come across something very unexpected. He whispered, "Fatty, I had asked you to collect the herbs. How many have you managed so far?"
"I've just started. How many do you think?" Tang Yuan was stunned. Young Master Jun had asked him to collect some of the rarest herbs a few days ago. Therefore, it would've been odd if had somehow manages several in such a short period of time.
"Listen, I want you to collect those herbs for me in the shortest possible time. I don't care what method you resort-to in order to accomplish this task. The sooner the better! Make a public announcement if you have to; spread the word for the acquisition of these herbs. You must purchase them even if you have to pay two-three times the price! Also, I had mentioned three special herbs… if you find them — get them; no matter how astronomical their price! Basically, I want them as fast as possible, and I don't care about the cost or the means. I want you to send over the herbs you've acquired to me each day… and I want you send me a batch in the morning, in the day, and the evening. Even if you've acquired only one herb — I want you to send it over to me. I want them all as soon as possible! Do you understand?"
"I understand! I will do my best!" Tang Yuan could sense the urgency in Jun Mo Xie's body language. Therefore, he agreed without any hesitation.
Jun Mo Xie exhaled a long breath; his eyes seemed very dignified. He turned around, and stared at the Imperial Palace's building which dazzled-golden under the sunlight. It seemed as if he was gazing into two unseen eyes that were staring back at him.
He recalled his performance at the event, carefully considered it, and then calmed himself down.
The Emperor had been suspecting him. He had realized this at the Aristocratic Hall's auction. This Feast at the Imperial Palace had merely come as verification to the Emperor. No matter how arrogant Jun Mo Xie had acted… no matter how carefully he had planned his behavior… no matter how meticulous he had been… he still wouldn't have been able to alter this fact.
He would've only found a temporary relief if he had given up on his pride, and reverted to being the previous Jun Mo Xie. However, this temporary relief would've allowed the Royal Family to become more aggressive in their actions against the Jun Family.
However, Jun Mo Xie would rather die before he'd back-away! "Having balls does not make you a man! It is the incomparably indomitable spirit which does!" These ancestral teachings had become the Hitman Jun's motto.
Therefore, even though Jun Mo Xie had come across as a debauchee to most people inside the Imperial Palace, but he had demonstrated his true and unrestrained arrogance in reality. He had done this because he had come to realize one important thing when Fatty Tang had stumbled into the main hall with the chair hanging up his buttocks…
If the Emperor wanted to make a move against the Jun Family… he wouldn't need a reason… he wouldn't need any reason! Even if Jun Mo Xie was genuinely a senseless debauchee, and the Emperor decided to eliminate him… he'd do it without a second thought. On the other hand… if the Emperor didn't wish to make a move against the Jun Family… he never would. Even if Jun Mo Xie was the most talented man inside the entire Empire — nothing would happen to their family.
Jun Mo Xie had realized that his fears were baseless.
Moreover, the Jun Family had a certain amount of protection at this point. The Solitary Falcon's reputation as one of the 'Eight Great Masters' would unlikely fail them over the period of the next year to come. As for a year later… Jun Mo Xie was confident that any man who'd wish to make a move against the Jun Family would end-up paying a very heavy price for it.
Jun Mo Xie hadn't planned to drag the Silver Blizzard City's matter for too long either.
He sighed as he recalled that he had the Ninth Grade Xuan Core in his hands. That Xuan Core was waiting to upgrade a person's strength. The ideal person was available as well. However, he didn't have the required herbs…
The HongJun Pagoda, the Flame of Primal Chaos, and the Furnace of Good Fortune were ready… but he didn't have the necessary herbs.
Herbs… this was the crux of the matter; the entire predicament could be described in just one word.
Jun Mo Xie frowned as he sighed.
Jun Mo Xie had recited the book of Folk Remedy in his mind several times in the past few days. In fact, he had memorized the preparations-conditions of every herb and ingredient by heart. However, Jun Mo Xie had come to realize that he could only refine some low-level drugs. Moreover, the success-rate of this refining process wasn't bound to be very high.
The Second Layer of the Art of Unlocking the Heaven's Fortune only allowed him to refine drugs which could enhance a person's skills. Moreover, the herbs required for refining of these so-called low-level drugs weren't particularly valuable or rare to find either. However, Jun Mo Xie was very dissatisfied with this since the instructions on the book revealed that these medicines may increase a person's skills, but they'd only do so temporarily. The effect of this enhancement would not be permanent, and wouldn't last more than 8-10 years. Moreover, these drugs couldn't be taken repeatedly.
This had left Jun Mo Xie very dejected.
He felt, [Is the HongJun Pagoda's ability to refine drugs not even at the same capacity as the Xuan Beast's Xuan Core?] It must be mentioned that a level nine Xuan Core could enhance a person's skill by many levels in a single shot. Moreover, the drug would even ignore the person's rank and level. So, how could that effect be compared to a temporary enhancement? There are some bottlenecks a person isn't able to break through in his life. And most people are never able to reach the higher levels even after their deaths.
That's the reason why the Supreme Masters were in such a short minority.
Jun Mo Xie had expected far too much. He had only unlocked the second layer of the pagoda. Therefore, the ability to refine such drugs was more than he should've asked for! A Ninth Level Xuan Core was very precious. How many of such would exist in this entire world? Even if there were more than a few… how many people could acquire and refine their cores?
It must be mentioned that some people had been able to acquire medicines which could enhance their skills, but no one had ever refined a medicine which would promote any individual's skill permanently.
His methods would allow him to produce medicine which could enhance a person's skill for 8-10 years. And, the cost of the raw materials wasn't very high either. The news of this matter could create an unprecedented uproar in the world.
Moreover, the Young Master Jun planned on mass-production of these medicines. Therefore, his ability to produce more powerful medicines was likely to increase with the enhancement of his refining efficiency.
However, a man with a belly-full of food never understands a hungry man's hunger.
Jun Zhan Tian was atop his horse. He gazed at his grandson with a tense and unmoving expression on his face. However, he felt very happy inside.
He didn't believe that Jun Mo Xie's performance at the Imperial Palace would lead to anything significant. Therefore, he didn't care much about it. [Who inside this Tian Xiang City could dare to harm my only grandson? In fact, who in this Empire could dare to harm him?]
[My Grandson will rise to the top! That's what a Jun does!]
A sudden change happened in front of everyone while Grandpa Jun was busy feeling complacent!
A strange shadow abruptly appeared under the sunlight. It created waves as it twisted midair. It had emerged from the cover of the trees on the roadside at an unparalleled speed, and had made its way towards Jun Mo Xie like a streamer of light.
This streamer of light had arrived in front of Jun Mo Xie's chest in a flash.
The accuracy and the timing of the attack had been unparalleled.
The timing and speed were so unparalleled that even a Sky Xuan Jun Zhan Tian was unable to act in time. This incident had happened in front of the Imperial Palace. Someone had decided to assassinate Jun Mo Xie at the most unexpected time.
Everyone felt that they were in a dream as they watched that stream of light penetrate into Jun Mo Xie's chest. The streamer of light continued to push-in. Then, that streamer of light retreated at the same pace it had showed-up, and made its way back to the cover of the trees. It climbed up a tree on the side of the street. Then, the tree shook and the shadow disappeared without a trace…
From the start to the finish — everything had happened in the blink of an eye — and everything was over by now!