Zong Zi Xiao was not exaggerating; after the Wuji Palace imposed a curfew, it was difficult to enter or leave without the permission of Emperor Zong. Zong Zi Heng was now under house arrest and unaware of the outside world, and one day seems like a year.
One late night, Zong Zi Heng was tossing and turning in bed when he suddenly heard a faint movement inside the house. He alertly lifted the covers and grabbed his sword from the bed with one hand. When he followed the sound and looked, he saw a small figure on the ground covered with the silvery-white moonlight.
It was very small, less than the size of a palm.
"... Brother Xu?" Zong Zi Heng lowered his voice and asked uncertainly.
The tiny person abruptly changed back into a normal person, it was none other than Xu Zhi Nan.
Xu Zhi Nan put Gong Shu Ju into his qiankun bag, made a "shhh" gesture, closed the window tightly, and used his spiritual energy to check the surroundings to make sure no one was around before returning to Zong Zi Heng's bedside.
Zong Zi Heng said excitedly, "Is this how you got in?"
"I can't get in at all without this." Xu Zhi Nan said, "Don’t know what the emperor is afraid of, the whole Wuji Palace is now enclosed so tightly. You're grounded, right?"
"They say it’s to let me recuperate from my injuries, but in fact, I am indeed not allowed to go out."
"How are your injuries?"
"I heard that Li Bu Yu gave you the True Element Jade Practitioner Pill."
"He can only get one of these immortal pills a year." Xu Zhi Nan was more or less puzzled. He had never heard Zong Zi Heng say that he had any friendship with the Wuliang Sect, but everyone knew that the Wuliang Sect was the Empress's family.
"I’ve saved him before, it was really nothing much, but he’s always wanted to return the favor." Zong Zi Heng looked at Xu Zhi Nan, "How is it outside? Is it very chaotic?"
"Chaotic, very chaotic." Xu Zhi Nan said gruffly, "The entire immortal cultivation world is in a state of anxiety."
"Yan Shu, Lu Zhao Feng, no news at all?"
"A patriarch level cultivator who can paint his face as someone else and holding onto the Chasing Mountain Whip, a magical weapon of this type of level, unless he comes out on his own, who can find him?"
Zong Zi Heng wrinkled his brows deeply.
"You didn't tell anyone about what happened in the underground palace, did you?"
Zong Zi Heng said bitterly, "All the people I have seen since I woke up are people I want to hide from."
"Meng Sheng and I didn't reveal half a word either. The matter is far more involved than we thought." Xu Zhi Nan stared straight into Zong Zi Heng's eyes, "Have you prepared for this?"
Zong Zi Heng secretly tightened his grip on the corner of his quilt. He understood the deeper meaning of these words, but was afraid that in his entire life, he would not be able to prepare himself for his own father's desire to harm him.
There was a look of pity between Xu Zhi Nan's eyebrows, "It has been nearly three hundred years since the Daming Zong clan unified the immortal cultivation world. For three hundred years, there has been no war in Jiuzhou, but beneath this calm there is a dark tide, and perhaps a huge wave will rise to the skies soon."
"What is exactly going on outside?"
"Hua Jun Cheng killed all seventeen disciples of the Wuyun Sect who followed Yan Shu to the Jiaolong assembly."
Zong Zi Heng's expression was stagnant.
"Not only that, the Huaying Sect also demanded that the Wuyun Sect hand over all the cultivators from Yan Shu's faction. Liu Zheng, who is now temporarily in charge of the sect, wants to break ties with Yan Shu, but he does not agree to liquidate his sect's disciples according to the Huaying Sect's standards. The Huaying Sect accuses the Wuyun Sect of being a cult specializing in stealing cores and owes the Huaying Sect two lives. If this continues, the two sects will probably go to war."
"How will my father mediate?"
"The emperor clearly favors the Wuyun Sect, but the Huaying Sect's resentment is so deep that it seems impossible to reconcile at the moment."
Zong Zi Heng felt his head start to hurt again.
"Zi Heng, you tell me." Xu Zhi Nan's voice was as calm as water, "Is it true that the emperor colluded with Yan Shu and ate my junior brother's core?"
Zong Zi Heng did not dare to look at Xu Zhi Nan's eyes, "I don't know."
"Did the emperor really want your core?"
"I don't know!" Zong Zi Heng roared deeply. He really did not know what to believe. As an official, he still had a faint but undying hope in his heart that everything was a conspiracy by Lu Zhao Feng. So he dared not tell Xu Zhi Nan about his uncle. Knowing that if he did, at least in Xu Zhi Nan's eyes, it would be confirmation of everything.
"I've thought about it a lot over the past few days. Everything, from beginning to end, I've come to understand that we've unintentionally been involved in a conspiracy. A conspiracy that points directly at the most powerful people in Jiuzhou. You, me, Yan Zhi, and many, many others are just a bunch of pond fish that are suffering."
"What you mean is ..."
"What Yan Shu said must not be believed to the fullest, but about his past history, I have sent people to check it out in the past few days, and there is almost no discrepancy. According to what he said that day, and what he did, I think you should have guessed his ultimate purpose."
Zong Zi Heng nodded stiffly.
"He wants Ninth Highness to be Emperor Zong, and to him, the best revenge would be nothing more than that."
"I will never let him use Zi Xiao." Zong Zi Heng said with hatred, "I can't let him ruin Zi Xiao."
"It's already too late." Xu Zhi Nan said, "If he hadn't exposed his identity in front of you, then his plan would still be going on in the shadows, but not anymore."
"But I won't tell anyone." Zong Zi Heng stared straight at Xu Zhi Nan, "You and Flying Plume Ambassador have also promised me that you won't tell anyone."
"Zi Heng, you are deceiving yourself and others." Xu Zhi Nan said nonchalantly, "Yes, Meng Sheng and I promised you that we would never go back on our word. But even if all three of us don't say anything, Lu Zhao Feng will do something sooner or later, and one day, the whole world will know about Ninth Highness's birth."
"If you really want to protect Ninth Highness, you should prepare early. Once this matter is exposed, Ninth Highness will be thrown into the whirlpool, and by then, you will be unable to protect yourself, let alone ..."
"No matter what happens." Zong Zi Heng's gaze was steadfast, "Even if I put my life on the line, I will still protect my brother."
Xu Zhi Nan said softly, "Lu Zhao Feng wants to take your core for Ninth Highness to eat."
"If Ninth Highness knew the truth, what would he do? Have you thought about it?"
"He would stay with me." Zong Zi Heng said without hesitation, "Even if Lu Zhao Feng was his biological father, he would not betray me."
Xu Zhi Nan looked at Zong Zi Heng for a long time and sighed darkly, "It is a great blessing among misfortunes that Ninth Highness has you as his big brother."
"He has not done anything wrong. His immortal journey is boundless. The adults’ resentment and disputes, how can he get dragged into it innocently?”
"Ninth Highness is indeed innocent, but unfortunately he cannot think of only himself."
Zong Zi Heng was speechless.
The two of them remained silent for a while before Xu Zhi Nan added, "I have come here today to ask you for that explanation."
"Do you want to know if the emperor has taken the human cores or not?"
Zong Zi Heng's heart tightened, "Could it be that you have a way to confirm this?"
"There is a way." Xu Zhi Nan's gaze grew colder, "I learned something from Chen Xing Yong. If the emperor had really eaten Yan Zhi's Core, he would have some abilities that only those who cultivate the Yuanyang technique would have."
Xu Zhi Nan nodded, "As long as one eats the human core, one will be able to acquire some of the cultivation and abilities of the owner of the golden core, but the world's cultivators are mainly sword cultivators, and being the same sword cultivator, eating the human core will only raise one's spiritual cultivation and will not make any other noticeable difference. Only the Yuanyang technique is different. It can change one's body."
"I saw no obvious change in Father's appearance."
"It's not in the outer appearance." Xu Zhi Nan stretched out his arms and rolled up the sleeves on each side, revealing two small arms that were just as long and robust, but the two arms had different shades of skin tone.
It dawned on Zong Zi Heng, "You mean ..."
"Yan Zhi has cultivated to the point where he can regenerate his flesh. If the emperor has eaten his core, he should possess such an ability." Xu Zhi Nan looked at Zong Zi Heng and said, "This is the only way I can think of at the moment."
"Do you want me to go to ..." Zong Zi Heng turned his face away, "Under the universal sky, who can hurt the Human Emperor? Not to mention that he is my father."
"It is indeed difficult to verify." Xu Zhi Nan said lightly, "I will not ask you to defy filial piety. I will figure it out myself."
Zong Zi Heng was shocked, "Brother Xu, what do you want to do?"
"It doesn't really need to be a very serious injury, just a small one will do, and if the wound heals much faster than normal, it must also be due to the merits of the Yuanyang technique."
"Brother Xu, don't be impulsive, this is too risky!"
Xu Zhi Nan looked at Zong Zi Heng, his eyes were like cold autumn rain that could pierce a person completely: "Are you worried about me, or about your father?"
Zong Zi Heng was dumbfounded.
"How he treats your mother and you is known to everyone in the world. Although I'm not sure how much of what Yan Shu said is true and how much is not, I'm not surprised that he really wants to dig up your core."
Zong Zi Heng's face became paler and paler.
It turned out that even outsiders thought this way.
"I will never let my Chunyang Sect disciples die for nothing. He, as a Human Emperor and the Son of Heaven, cannot stop me from seeking justice for my junior brother." Xu Zhi Nan looked at Zong Zi Heng, "If the emperor is really a demonic cultivator who eats human cores, as Yan Shu said, will you still defend him?"
Zong Zi Heng's eyes were red, like a small beast that had been driven to the brink of extinction.
"The Son of Heaven commits the same crime as the common people. If he is a Human Emperor but commits the evil deeds of a demon cultivator, he is not worthy of being a Human Emperor, right?"
Zong Zi Heng's mind was in turmoil as he thought of almost losing his life in Gutuo Town, of his uncle, and of what Zong Ming He had done to his mother and himself in the past.
Xu Zhi Nan suddenly stood up, then knelt on one knee in front of Zong Zi Heng.
Zong Zi Heng paled, "Brother Xu, what are you doing?"
"Your Highness, do you remember what I once said?" Xu Zhi Nan refused to get up as he looked up at Zong Zi Heng, "I see that there is only one way out of this matter to return peace to the immortal cultivation world. Jiuzhou needs a benevolent and upright common master, and there is no one more suitable and righteous than Your Highness."
"Brother Xu, get up, these words cannot be ..."
"Why not?" Xu Zhi Nan's gaze shone, "Meng Sheng thinks the same as I do. As the eldest prince, you are highly gifted and young, and with the support of Chunyang Sect and Cangyu Sect, who else would be suitable to take the throne of Human Emperor other than you?"
Xu Zhi Nan said in a stern voice, "Don't you understand? You can only protect Ninth Highness if you become the Human Emperor!"
Zong Zi Heng froze on the spot, and his blood seemed to freeze at this moment.
Years later, when Zong Zi Heng looked back on his short life, he saw a pair of fatalistic hands in the darkness, pushing him into the abyss.
PS: end of volume 2, 3rd volume will be a roller coaster ride, hold on tight!
Since autumn, the weather has been getting cooler. The flowers in the orchid garden have been blooming one after the other. Even the autumn orchids, which exclusively compete for beauty in the third autumn, are in full bloom for the last time.
Zong Zi Heng has thrown in a lot of meticulous care for this orchid garden. He had brought back plants from all over Jiuzhou and planted them carefully according to the seasons so that they bloom all year round.
At this moment, Zong Zi Heng was busy working in the flower garden when Shen Shi Yao came over with her maids.
"Heng Er, the sun is so strong, come and rest for a while." Shen Shi Yao beckoned with a smile, "Try the iced sugar apricot flower soup that Mother made."
Zong Zi Heng's body stalled. He put down his trowel and walked over with a normal expression.
The maid scooped up a ladle of water for him to rinse his hands.
Shen Shi Yao took out a faint, orchid scented handkerchief and gently wiped away the fine sweat on his forehead, saying lovingly, "Look at you, aren't you hot? You ought to be sunburnt."
"It's alright, thank you mother." Zong Zi Heng took the moist white enamel bowl and tasted a mouthful of the apricot flower soup. It was cooling and sweet, which nicely dispelled the dry heat.
"Is it good?" Shen Shi Yao looked at her son with expectation in her eyes.
Zong Zi Heng lowered his eyelids slightly, his thick and long eyelashes concealing his emotions just right: "It's good, thank you mother."
Ever since Hua Yu Xin's death, Shen Shi Yao knew she was wrong, and took great care of Zong Zi Heng when he was injured. Zong Zi Heng could not say that he was not touched, after all, they mutually depended on each other, and she's his most important mother. So what could he do? It's just that Hua Yu Xin's death left a huge guilty scar in Zong Zi Heng's heart, which will never be healed for the rest of his life. And the gap between mother and son will also never heal.
Shen Shi Yao looked at her increasingly cold and silent son and sighed softly, "I heard that you contradicted the emperor again a few days ago."
Zong Zi Heng's gaze turned abruptly cold.
"That marriage contract was made a long time ago, so you ..."
"Mother, there are many mosquitoes in this field, you'd better go back to Qinghui Pavilion early."
Shen Shi Yao slightly knitted her willow brows, with a hint of aggrieve in her eyes.
Zong Zi Heng's heart softened and he added, "Save the apricot flower soup for me, I'll have a few more bowls."
"Alright, then you come back early for dinner."
After Shen Shi Yao left, Zong Zi Heng turned around and returned to the front of the flower garden. His hand holding the trowel and ruthlessly plunging it into the soil.
Half a year had passed since the Jiaolong assembly, and during these six months, the cultivation world had been in turmoil, and the situation was quietly changing as the great immortal families were cutting themselves off from one another.
Under the intervention of Emperor Zong, the Huaying Sect has temporarily given up seeking revenge against the Wuyun Sect despite their hatred. But this is only on the surface. Secretly, the Huaying Sect has joined hands with some large and small sects to start eating away at the power of the Wuyun Sect, with the Chunyang Sect adding fuel to the flames.
Originally, Wuyun Sect, together with Chunyang Sect, Wuliang Sect and Cangyu Sect, were called Jiuzhou’s four largest sects. But first, the old sect leader with virtue and prestige died in a strange way, and then there was internal strife in the sect, and finally the new sect leader was a demon cultivator who stole cores. Not only was his identity revealed at the Jiaolong assembly, which ruined the sect's hundred-years reputation, but he also took away the sect's magical weapon, the Chasing Mountain Whip.
Who couldn’t resist taking a bite of such a fat piece of exposed meat? In just half a year's time, the Wuyun Sect lost a large number of disciples and territories.
Just when the immortal world thought that the Wuyun Sect was going to decline step by step, Emperor Zong suddenly made a surprising decision - to honor the marriage contract between Third Princess Zong Ruo Ning and the son of Liu Zheng, the substituted head of the Wuyun Sect.
When the news broke, there was much debate in the immortal cultivation world. Some said that Emperor Zong was trying to check and balance the foreign relatives of Wuliang Sect, while others said that Emperor Zong could not allow the Chunyang Sect to be dominant in the Chu land. In any case, Emperor Zong wanted to protect the Wuyun Sect with a clear attitude.
Although the Wuyun Sect had gone through trials and tribulation, as if it had suffered great bloodloss, after all, the family was large and had the support of the Daming Zong Clan, thus temporarily stabilizing the situation.
From start to finish, no one seemed to have given any thought to the involuntary Third Princess.
Zong Zi Heng and Zong Zi Xiao took a few of their siblings and went to plead with Zong Ming He for mercy. Wuyun Sect was in disrepute and in turmoil. Wouldn’t any daughter from a good family be slandered if she gets married over?
But no matter how much they begged, Zong Ming He was determined to set this marriage.
Zong Zi Heng could see that Zong Ming He's mind was made up. That he wanted to exchange a daughter he did not value for the gratitude and devotion of the Wuyun Sect.
At that moment, he remembered what Xu Zhi Nan had said, saying that it was no surprise that Emperor Zong wanted to eat his core. He suddenly understood that his father, not only did he not care about him, but his children's affection was all just a bargaining chip that could be exchanged.
When Zong Ruo Ning got married, Zong Zi Heng spent three days hiding in the Orchid Garden, repeatedly thinking of his sister's helplessness and reluctance when she called him "big brother" with tears in her eyes before she left. Letting the pain of being powerless spread throughout his blood and bones.
For the past six months, he had not left Daming.
Although there was no reason to keep him locked up after he had recovered from his injuries, whenever he went out of the palace to relieve boredom, he realized Huang Hong and Huang Wu were secretly tailing him. He simply did not go out of Wuji palace anymore.
Even if no one is watching, he doesn't dare to leave the place or leave Zong Zi Xiao. The whole world wants to know the whereabouts of Yan Shu, only he doesn't. He would love for Yan Shu to disappear forever. Although that was impossible, Yan Shu would appear sooner or later, and Zong Zi Xiao’s birth was like countless Thunderfire stones buried under the Wuji Palace, which could blow them to pieces at any moment.
He had even planned how he would take Zong Zi Xiao and his own mother to escape Daming if the matter was exposed and there was no room for maneuvering.
At the same time, he had to guard against his own father's possible plotting for his golden core, and against Xu Zhi Nan's possible unexpected actions. He seemed to be calmly cultivating, eating, sleeping and tending to his flowers and plants every day, no different from his usual routine, but in fact he was under tremendous pressure all the time, almost unable to breathe.
A few days ago, he received a secret letter from Xu Zhi Nan advising him once again that if he could not disobey his father, he should settle for the second best thing by competing with Zong Zi Mo for the position of Crown Prince, with the full support of the Chunyang Sect and the Cangyu Sect.
Zong Zi Heng tore the letter into pieces and was sleepless all night again.
When the sun went down in the Orchid Garden, Zong Zi Heng could not find any more excuses, so he had to return to Qinghui Pavilion, where Zong Zi Xiao happened to come to see him for dinner.
"Consort Shen, big brother." When Zong Zi Xiao saw Shen Shi Yao, he bowed in a disciplined manner.
Shen Shi Yao looked at him with a smile, "Xiao Jiu ah, a child at your age grows up really fast, it seems like you are a little different every few days without seeing you."
"Mother also said that I have grown much taller recently." Since the incident with Hua Yu Xin, Zong Zi Xiao was in a subtle mood towards Shen Shi Yao, but whenever he met face to face, he would be as perfunctory as he could be.
"Ying Ruo caught a cold a few days ago, is she feeling better?"
"Much better, mother even said today that she would go to admire the chrysanthemums with Consort Shen when she is completely well."
"Very good." Shen Shi Yao smiled, "Come, let's eat."
Zong Zi Xiao had just moved his chopsticks when Shen Shi Yao added, "I heard that the emperor is preparing the materials to cast your sword."
Zong Zi Xiao paused for a moment after hearing this. He glanced secretly at Zong Zi Heng and gave a "mn".
Zong Zi Heng had already heard about it, but he immersed himself in eating and did not say anything.
They had just had a big quarrel with Zong Ming He over Zong Ruo Ning, but immediately afterwards, Zong Ming He claimed that he had found the best black iron in Jiuzhou for Zong Zi Xiao, and had also invited the master of the Giant Spirit Villa to personally quench the sword. Once all the materials and manpower were ready, he would go to Mount Kunlun at the beginning of next spring at the earliest to cast a sword for Zong Zi Xiao using Shen Nong Ding.
In this way, the relationship between father and son was naturally eased.
Although such an offer of grace has never been related to Zong Zi Heng.
Although Zong Zi Xiao was also unjust for his third sister, he could not resist the temptation of the divine sword, and was inevitably a bit diffident when facing Zong Zi Heng.
Shen Shi Yao also swept her son without leaving a trace and said with a smile, "The emperor really favors you. It has been more than twenty years since the last time Daming Zong used the Shen Nong Ding to quench something. If all goes well, this divine sword will be able to serve as your coming-of-age gift."
"That's what Father said too." Zong Zi Xiao stole a glance at his big brother once again.
Zong Zi Heng looked at ease: "It’s a good thing. This is the reward you deserve for winning the Jiaolong assembly."
Zong Zi Xiao secretly sighed in relief, "Big brother, when the time comes, we will go to Kunlun together and visit the Cangyu Sect on the way."
After eating, the two brothers had their usual sword sparring session.
After Zong Zi Xiao left, Zong Zi Heng was also ready to go back to the house to rest, but found that Shen Shi Yao was still waiting for him.
"Mother, why are you still awake?" He knew something to be said was waiting for him, but he did not want to hear it.
Shen Shi Yao lowered her head and gently stroked her pigeon blood gemstone bracelet as she said unhurriedly, "Heng Er, do you know what is being rumored in the palace these days?"
"Although I am in the deep palace, there are some rumors that there must be a breeze outside for the ripples to rise inside, don't you think so?"
"What has mother heard? Gossip from the palace people should not be believed so lightly."
"Quenching things with the Shen Nong Ding has traditionally been reserved for the heads of families or heirs of major sects, even if Daming Zong Clan is rich and powerful, it is unheard of for a young prince who has not yet reached adulthood to labor so hard for the people."
"This is the reward that Father has promised Xiao Jiu. Besides, four years ago, no one expected him to actually win."
"Having said that, the emperor’s words are not child's play, and this promise alone is not trivial."
"What does Mother want to say?"
"It's not that I want to say anything, but it is rumored both inside and outside the palace that the emperor has so far not created a crown prince because he wants to give the throne to Xiao Jiu."
Zong Zi Heng's heart tightened, "Impossible, Xiao Jiu is not the first son, he is young, and his mother has no power."
"Yes, but maybe that's what the emperor wants." Shen Shi Yao looked at Zong Zi Heng, her gaze deep, "The emperor is being hamstrung at every turn by Wuliang Sect and has long been at odds with the Empress. He is strongly protecting the Wuyun Sect, doesn't that tell you anything? If Zong Zi Mo really becomes the Human Emperor, Wuliang Sect will threaten the Zong Clan's state power."
Zong Zi Heng said in a deep voice, "Mother, stop thinking nonsense. This is not something you should consider."
Shen Shi Yao stood up and slowly walked over to her son, "Mother has taken a wrong turn before. It is my fault for what happened to Miss Hua. Relying on your wife and father-in-law is no better than relying on yourself. My son should have a broader world."
"... Mother, what are you trying to say?" Thinking of Hua Yu Xin, a pang of resentment once again surged to the forefront of his mind.
Shen Shi Yao touched Zong Zi Heng's face and said softly, "Rest early, it's cold. I've changed your quilt, so don't catch a cold."
After that hair-raising Jiaolong assembly, Daming City was put under curfew for several months, with strict checks on all those entering and leaving the city, and no celebrations or gatherings were allowed to be held by the people. Even the feast to celebrate Zong Zi Xiao's victory, which should have been organized in a big way, was put off due to the dark clouds hovering above them because of the core thieves.
Recently, life was finally restored in Daming City because of the 38th birthday of Emperor Ning Hua, Zong Ming He.
In the snowy winter, enthusiasm was high inside and outside the Wuji Palace, busy with preparations for Emperor Zong's birthday feast. In fact, in previous years, there had never been such a great deal of excitement and fanfare for the birthday feast. As an outstanding example to the world, Emperor Zong should not be wasteful for his birthday, but this time it is an unusual occasion. For one thing, the birthday banquet will rekindle the former vitality of Daming City, and for another, it is said that Emperor Zong will make an important announcement at the banquet.
It was rumored in both the immortal cultivation world and the common folk that Emperor Zong was going to choose a crown prince.
Along with such rumors, outsiders were waiting to see the excitement, but those within the Wuji Palace were on edge.
The statement that Emperor Zong wanted to make the youngest son the crown prince was widely circulated, but most people did not believe it. For thousands of years, the basic rule for crowning a prince was to choose the first son, and if there's no first son, then the eldest son will be chosen. Therefore, the youngest prince, who is not yet an adult, should not be chosen, not to mention the fact that the wife's relatives behind the first son's back are from Wuliang Sect.
It is said that the emperor and the empress had a big fight one day, and the empress even punished a few palace staff for spreading rumors, and everyone in the Wuji Palace felt insecure, afraid of touching the empress's bad luck.
Although Zong Zi Heng did not believe that Zong Ming He would make Xiao Jiu the crown prince, he was inevitably anxious about the rumors. If they were true, it would turn into a nightmare. The empress Li Xiang Tong, who would not let it go like that, Lu Zhao Feng, who was hiding in the shadows, and Xu Zhi Nan, who was waiting for an opportunity to make a move, could all do something irreversible, and on that day, the higher Xiao Jiu stood, the harder he would fall.
He had to secretly plan a way to escape from Daming, just in case.
Zong Zi Xiao, on the other hand, was oblivious to the impending calamity and came to play with his big brother as usual, carrying wine and a sword.
In the Orchid Garden, the two brothers lounged on a bamboo mat in the pavilion, watching the snow fall, drinking a cup of Xiaoyaoniang that heated up their bodies.
Zong Zi Heng used his sword scabbard to open Zong Zi Xiao’s hand to reach the wine jug: "You agreed to drink only one cup."
"What's wrong with one more cup? It's such a cold day."
"You are still young. It’s not suitable for you to drink alcohol."
"I'm not young anymore." Zong Zi Xiao jumped up from the ground and stretched his slender arms and legs, "In another year, I'll be an adult. Look, I'll soon be taller than big brother."
Zong Zi Heng snorted, "Dream on."
"Hmph, you haven't grown in the past two years and I'm growing every day. It's a matter of time before I'm taller than you."
"Who says I'm not growing?"
"You just aren't growing anymore. If you don't believe me, stand up and compare yourself to me." Zong Zi Xiao smiled and extended his hand towards his big brother.
But Zong Zi Heng didn't move, "You still think you can grow so fast year after year. When I was your age, I wasn't shorter than you. Whether you can be taller than big brother, don't brag, grow up first and then you can say."
"Then if I'm taller than big brother, then what?" Zong Zi Xiao was lying down again, only this time next to Zong Zi Heng.
"It’ll be your turn to call me good big brother."
Zong Zi Heng scolded jokingly, "No manners, get lost."
Zong Zi Xiao grinned and hugged his big brother's waist, stretching his body straight and insisting on comparing, "Look, am I almost as big as you? My feet are here, I'm aligned with you. Look ah, big brother."
Zong Zi Heng stared at Zong Zi Xiao's face close at hand, and those bright, deep, beautiful eyes. His heart ached abruptly. He opened his mouth, but in the end, he only forced a smile.
"Big brother, what's wrong?" Zong Zi Xiao sensed something.
"Nothing, I just feel ..." Zong Zi Heng sighed, "You've really grown up so fast, you're already so big."
Zong Zi Xiao laughed, "Big brother has raised me well."
Zong Zi Heng's eyes were extremely gentle, "You are fussy and wilful. Raising you has been a great deal of work for me."
Zong Zi Xiao moved closer, his nostrils flaring, sniffing the faint orchid fragrance on his big brother's body secretly, his eyes carrying many emotions: "I won't let big brother worry anymore. When I grow up, I will take care of big brother instead."
Zong Zi Heng snorted a laugh.
"I mean what I say. I will be able to take care of big brother in the future." Zong Zi Xiao said in a tone of a standing oath, "Whatever big brother wants, I will serve it to you."
"Okay, with this word from you, big brother didn't love you for nothing." Zong Zi Heng smiled and rubbed his brother's head.
Zong Zi Xiao paused, looked around and suddenly came up to Zong Zi Heng's ear and whispered, "Big brother, do you think Father will really make me the Crown Prince?"
Zong Zi Heng stiffened as he squeezed Zong Zi Xiao's shoulder and said with a straight face, "Where did you hear that?"
"It's rumored all over the palace."
"It's being rumored around the palace, yet no one dares to rumor in front of you, who did you hear it from?" After Zong Zi Heng asked this question, he got the answer from Zong Zi Xiao's face.
It was Chu Ying Ruo.
Could it be that Chu Ying Ruo knew something?
In the past few months, every time Zong Zi Heng went to Bailu Pavilion to look for Zong Zi Xiao, he would secretly leave his spell mark, so that if a stranger with very high spiritual pressure entered Bailu Pavilion, he would be able to detect it. He thought Lu Zhao Feng would not be able to resist looking for Chu Ying Ruo sooner or later, but unfortunately nothing had been found so far.
If Chu Ying Ruo was not secretly in contact with Lu Zhao Feng, had she gotten some promise from Zong Ming He?
Zong Zi Heng felt a chill run down his back. He had a feeling that if Zong Zi Xiao was really crowned as the Crown Prince, it would definitely stir up a bloody storm.
Zong Zi Xiao observed Zong Zi Heng's fickle expression and said cautiously, "Big brother, if, hypothetically, I really became the Crown Prince, would you be unhappy?"
Zong Zi Heng froze, not knowing how to answer for a moment.
This silence made Zong Zi Xiao feel uneasy: "Big brother, you have to trust me. No matter what, nothing will change between you and me."
Zong Zi Heng let out a heavy breath, "Xiao Jiu, listen to me. Big brother does not want you to be the Crown Prince, but it is not because of jealousy, but because I don’t want you to get involved in disputes. It's true that you have supreme talent, but you don't even have the power to defend yourself in front of Wuliang Sect. You're still young and can't imagine what you'll be up against, and that's never a good thing, do you understand?"
Zong Zi Xiao said solemnly, "Big brother, I understand, and mother has also said that if I am really made the Crown Prince, we will be in a perilous situation. But ..." he pursed his lips, his pupils deep and obscure, "Big brother also knows that second brother is not fit to be a Human Emperor, right?"
Zong Zi Heng reprimanded, "What kind of talk is that? Why can't your second brother be the Human Emperor? Does the Human Emperor have to be the most profound in terms of cultivation? Moreover, father's qualifications are also not the best in his generation."
"But it is because of his mediocre qualifications that the Daming Zong clan has fallen into decline."
Zong Zi Heng said sternly, "Do you know what you are saying!?"
Zong Zi Xiao said soothingly, "Brother, don't be angry, just think of me saying harmless children words, but you know that I am telling the truth."
Zong Zi Heng pushed Zong Zi Xiao away, only to feel a headache.
"Big brother." Zong Zi Xiao took Zong Zi Heng's hand, "For so many years, the emperor and empress have always been over our heads and have made things difficult for our mothers. You are so good, but you are never valued, won't you be resentful? We two brothers are the future of the Daming Zong clan."
"... What do you know?" Zong Zi Heng said in a hoarse voice, "You know nothing."
"Big brother ..."
"If you really consider me as your big brother, such words should never be said again."
"Oh." Zong Zi Xiao hugged Zong Zi Heng from behind, rubbed his cheek against his back, and said in a tone that was both doting and loving, "If you don't like it, I won't say it again."
Even though Zong Zi Heng felt that the tone was a bit odd, he did not take it to heart.
"I will only do what big brother likes." Zong Zi Xiao secretly tightened his arms around his big brother's waist, and many hazy fantasies surfaced in his mind, "I want to make big brother happy forever."
Zong Zi Heng turned around, "Xiao Jiu, you once said that you were willing to leave Wuji Palace with big brother and live a free life, do you still think so now?"
"Mm, as long as I’m with big brother, going anywhere is fine."
Zong Zi Heng stroked his brother's cheek and said in his heart: I hope you mean what you say, because that day, I'm afraid, is not far away.
At Zong Ming He's birthday banquet, the emissaries of the various immortal sects who had come from all directions presented congratulatory gifts one by one. The subtle attitudes of the various sects could be seen in the value of the congratulatory gifts. For example, the Wuyun Sect offered a top-quality immortal pill as a token of their loyalty, while the Huaying Sect and the Wuliang Sect were much more perfunctory than in previous years.
Zong Ming He accepted them all without a change of expression, glowing and beaming, causing the crowd to speculate. The appointment of the crown prince is a very important matter, with all the forces in between, it is not something to be happy about, so what is the reason for this joy at the tip of the eyebrow?
Halfway through the birthday banquet, Zong Ming He raised his glass to toast, then cleared his throat and said aloud, "Today, I invite you all to gather at Wuji Palace as there is another important matter that needs to be known to the world."
The crowd tensed their nerves and waited with almost breathless anticipation.
Zong Ming He said, "Bring me my sword."
The chamberlain presented Zong Ming He's sword with both hands, and Zong Ming He held it by the hilt and unsheathed it with confidence. He looked at the gleaming silver sword. The cold, white blade reflecting his ambitious eyes.
"Since Emperor Shuang Hua, it has been three generations since the Daming Zong Clan has had a cultivator break through the eighth Chongtian of the Zongxuan Sword." Zong Ming He's gaze swept over everyone present, "For more than thirty years, I have made extraordinarily painstaking efforts, lest failing to live up to the great expectations of my ancestors, and finally ..."
The crowd was in an uproar.
Emperor Ning Hua, Zong Ming He, had actually broken through to the eighth Chongtian of the Zongxuan Sword!
Zong Zi Heng looked at his father in a daze, only to feel that the words in his ears and the person in front of him had all become blurred and pale, except for the puddle of blood he had found in his Uncle's seclusion place, which grew scarlet in his vision.
PS: Zong Ming He is 38 now. 38 reminds me of 三八 [three eight] xD 三八 is a term that is used to scold people, wondering if SQC did it on purpose xD
"Father is so powerful." Zong Zi Xiao kicked and stomped at the small stones on the road. There’s a long flight of steps in front of him, and with one foot, the debris rolled down. It is the only noise other than his heartbeat in the silent, dark night.
Zong Zi Heng listened to his heartbeat, which had been drumming unstoppably since the moment Zong Ming He exerted the eighth Chongtian of the Zongxuan Sword.
"Father... is he that powerful?" Zong Zi Xiao asked hesitantly. He stopped in his tracks and looked at his big brother who was silent all the way.
Zong Zi Heng also stopped and raised his head. The new moon was like a hook, like a murderous sharp weapon hanging overhead. The moonlight spread on the glistening white snow, which made it more eerie and cold.
"Everyone says that you have to be extremely gifted to break through to the eighth Chongtian, but I've never heard of Father having that kind of root before, but it's uncle ..." Zong Zi Xiao said with confusion, "Big brother, uncle is the most powerful cultivator in our clan. If father has broken through to the eighth Chongtian, then uncle should come out of seclusion ah."
Zong Zi Heng lowered his head, his hair on his forehead tangled and danced in the wind and snow, falsely hiding the emotions in his eyes.
"It's time for uncle to come out of seclusion." Zong Zi Heng made a stifled, icy sound.
"Uncle should have accomplished it faster than our father. This is so weird."
"Do you miss uncle?"
"Yeah." Zong Zi Xiao thought for a moment, "Actually, I can't recall what uncle looks like, I was only eight or nine years old when he went into seclusion."
"I also ... I don't even have a portrait of uncle." Zong Zi Heng's voice could not hide his sorrow.
At this point in time, he couldn't make any more excuses for Zong Ming He. The world was at most surprised that the Human Emperor, who was rumored to have mediocre qualifications, could achieve this, and that the Daming Zong Clan, after being stagnant for three generations, was finally going to revive itself. The significance of this event was not trivial. He and Lu Zhao Feng are probably the only ones in the world who know the sordid, bloody truth.
How could such a despicable and cruel man be his own father?
How would Lu Zhao Feng, who’s holding onto this secret which can easily destroy the Zong clan, make use of it?
Zong Ming He, who is now sitting on a smooth path to immortality, would never have dreamed that the "Yan Shu" who served him and knew all about his ugly side was actually someone else, and that person hated him to the core and was waiting for a chance to take over his kingdom and bring him down.
Zong Zi Heng didn't know how to bear these secrets and didn't know how to face his father. He was unjust for his uncle, unjust for the cultivators who died in vain, but he had to protect his younger brother and the Zong clan's century-old foundation, so what should he do?
"Big brother, you look like you have a lot of things on your mind." Zong Zi Xiao gathered Zong Zi Heng's cloak so that not a single cold breeze could penetrate that front flap, "Aren't you happy that Father has attained this Dao?"
"..." Zong Zi Heng whispered, "I am as surprised as you are."
"But it's a good thing after all. It'll be good if uncle can come out of seclusion sooner." Zong Zi Xiao pondered for a moment and said, "But everyone guessed wrong. Father has no intention of appointing a Crown Prince, so big brother can rest assured."
"Perhaps it's just not being announced at this moment." Zong Zi Heng thought that the rumors from a while ago were perhaps deliberately put out to test the reactions of all parties, including making his cultivation known at the birthday banquet. Which is like demonstrating his power to the whole world.
"Actually, I don't want to be the Human Emperor." Zong Zi Xiao stood fixed in front of his big brother and stared into those warm and beautiful eyes, "I just don't want to see big brother being aggrieved."
"Big brother is not aggrieved."
"Liar." Zong Zi Xiao muttered, "Big brother always protects us and looks out for us, but no one protects or looks out for big brother."
Zong Zi Heng put his arm around his brother's shoulder, "As a big brother, I naturally have to take on more responsibilities. Besides, aren't you always looking out for big brother?"
"It’s not enough." Zong Zi Xiao pursed his lips and said reluctantly, "Just wait for me, I will become very strong. Since Father can reach the eighth Chongtian, I can reach the ninth Chongtian. In all of Jiuzhou, I want no one to give you any aggravation.”
Zong Zi Heng smiled, "Okay, big brother will wait for you."
The two of them had just walked down the stone steps when they suddenly heard the thunderous and urgent sound of a bell. They both turned back and looked towards the bell tower in the distance, and their expressions changed.
The sound of the bell signified there’s a major unforeseen event that had occurred within the Wuji Palace and that the strongest boundary had to be activated first, so no one was allowed to enter or leave.
Everyone inside the Wuji Palace at this time would be the first to think that something had happened to Emperor Zong, including the two of them as they ran wildly towards Zong Ming He's chambers with their hearts hanging in the air.
But halfway through their run, they found that many palace people were assembled in the opposite direction.
"Your Highness, Ninth Highness." A chamberlain said in a panic, "Something has happened to Second Highness!"
It was as if the night's dramatic change had begun when Zong Ming He wielded that powerful sword, just like destroying the withered grass and trees with ease*, dashing towards an abyss out of control.
When Zong Zi Heng saw Zong Zi Mo, who was in a horrible state of death, his body also became cold and stiff.
Cries and howls, rebukes and cries of grief boiled in his ears, muddling together in a gurgling mess. He could no longer distinguish between words and phrases, as the silhouettes of people busily intertwined before his eyes, gradually turning into unrecognizable remnants.
Everything was in turmoil.
But he cannot be in turmoil, as he received the first order from Zong Ming He in his grief --- to arrest all the guests who had come to celebrate his birthday.
That night, all of Daming City was sleepless, and before dawn, the news of the poisoning of the first son of Emperor Zong would spread across Jiuzhou.
This was the first day that the prohibition on Daming City had been lifted since the Jiaolong assembly, and it would probably be the last.
Zong Zi Heng and Zong Zi Xiao took a group of cultivators with them and surrounded the two guest residences in Daming City overnight. Placing boundaries to imprison everyone and questioning them strictly.
The Wuji Palace was now like an impregnable fortress, where not even a bird could fly out. Whoever the poisoner was, they were undoubtedly still in the Daming City.
The day after the incident, the head of the Wuliang Sect arrived in Daming with Li Xiang Tong's big brother.
Zong Zi Heng and Zong Zi Xiao questioned the foreign guests, staying awake for three days and two nights, but found no one or anything suspicious among the guests.
When they returned to the palace, the two of them bumped into Huang Hong and Huang Wu.
"Is there any progress?" Zong Zi Heng asked urgently.
Huang Hong said, "One of Second Highness's chamberlains has disappeared, and his body was just found in the lotus pond a few hours ago."
"How did he die?" Zong Zi Xiao's eyes widened.
"By silencing." Huang Wu said gruffly, "Only now, it's unclear whether he was silenced after getting bribed and putting in the poison, or whether he was silenced after the poisoner was discovered."
"What about the poison?"
"That poison is somewhat rare. The formula is similar to Medicine Valley's Wudusan, but the ratios are a bit crude. The emperor had the pharmacist look at it, and it doesn't look like it was prepared by someone who specializes in this. Instead it looks like it was mixed up by himself using a folk recipe."
"Has this recipe ever been made public in Medicine Valley, and what clues can be found?"
"Medicine Valley never publishes the recipe for poisons, but it does circulate among the folks. In this recipe, there is a medicine that might provide a clue." Huang Hong said, "A large amount of Chizhi is in the formula and can only be found in the red soil of the South China Sea. Since it is very difficult to refine and not widely used, there are very few traders who sell Chizhi. If we trace the source, we will definitely find something."
"Chizhi?" Zong Zi Xiao pondered, "I think I remember that the rouge used by women includes Chizhi?"
"Some do, but it is not cheap. Most rouges use vermilion. Even if the rouge contains Chizhi, it is used in very small amounts, only for retaining the color. Whereas to make Wudusan, a large amount of Chizhi is needed."
"How large is the large quantity?"
"At least a hundred, and it is even harder to refine than coming from red soil, so it is almost impossible."
Zong Zi Heng sighed, "We have interrogated the guests and found nothing."
"Your two Highnesses have worked hard."
"Big brother, let's go and see Father and Mother."
"Your two Highnesses ..." Huang Hong said, "For now, it's better not to go."
"The Head of the Wuliang Sect is deliberating with the Emperor and Empress, so it is not appropriate to disturb them at this time."
Zong Zi Heng nodded, "Xiao Jiu, go back and rest for a while."
"What about you?"
"I want to go and see the body of that chamberlain."
"No, you go back and rest too." Zong Zi Xiao frowned, "We'll go together when we wake up."
"Yes, Your Highness, you have been tired for two to three days, so you should go back and get some sleep first since you won't be able to find out anything for a while."
Zong Zi Heng rubbed his sore brow, "Alright."
When he returned to Qinghui Pavilion, Shen Shi Yao was waiting for him.
"Heng Er." Shen Shi Yao walked over and worriedly touched her son's face, "Have you not been able to sleep for the past two days?"
"Son just now came back to rest, so mother doesn’t need to worry."
"Sigh, how can I not worry? You seem to have lost weight from exhaustion."
"It's all right."
"Have you made any progress in your investigation?"
"I heard that the body of a chamberlain was found in the lotus pond today." Shen Shi Yao fiddled with her hairpin and said nonchalantly, "Maybe he was the one who poisoned him."
Zong Zi Heng did not answer.
"Could it be that Yan Shu who came back to take revenge?"
Zong Zi Heng said in a deep voice, "What kind of grudge can Yan Shu have with second brother? If he wants to take revenge, he should be looking for me."
Shen Shi Yao lightly rebuked, "Don't talk nonsense. Zong Zi Mo has a lot of debts in and out of the palace, so he might have been imposed on this."
"Mother, don't criticize before a decision is made."
Shen Shi Yao snorted, "I don't believe Li Xiang Tong hasn't thought about it. If she can't control her own son, someone else will."
Zong Zi Heng felt a headache: "Mother, second brother has just passed away, what kind of words are you saying?"
Shen Shi Yao narrowed her eyes, "What are you talking about? How can you contradict your own mother like this? You should be happy that Zong Zi Mo is dead."
Zong Zi Heng stared straight.
"Xiao Jiu is still young, and all the other brothers are unworthy, so his death is your greatest opportunity."
"Mother!" Zong Zi Heng snapped, "We are blood brothers, how can you ... you ..."
Shen Shi Yao looked coldly at her son, "So soft-hearted! How did I give birth to such a weak and easily bullied son like you."
Zong Zi Heng clenched his fist, his eyes red: "Son is by no means a weak person. Mother is blinded by greed and is cold-hearted. It is really disappointing."
Shen Shi Yao raised her willow eyebrows and raised her hand high.
Zong Zi Heng looked sternly at his mother.
However, Shen Shi Yao's hand paused in mid-air, then slowly let it down as she sneered, "One day, you will understand Mother's good intentions."
destroying the withered grass and trees with ease*[摧古拉朽]--- A metaphor; using a powerful force to destroy corrupting forces.
The words "good intentions" and the eerie look on his mother's face when she said them made Zong Zi Heng stand in the middle of the hall with no support. His mind replaying them over and over again. There was a sharp, cold seed that sprouted in his heart.
The investigation of this assassination eventually evolved into a protracted conflict.
The empress, who had lost her only son, became hysterical and no longer needed even the last veil of hypocrisy, insisting that it must have been Shen Shi Yao or Chu Ying Ruo who had poisoned Zong Zi Mo, and that they were the only ones who had wished her first son dead most.
Such accusations were too sensational and exaggerated, but the Empress had the support from Wuliang Sect, while Consort Shen and Consort Chu had no one to depend on, so Zong Ming He had to order a thorough investigation of the harem. A large number of guards entered the Qinghui Pavilion and the Bailu Pavilion, turning them inside and out, not even sparing their personal clothing.
Looking at his mother crying in pain from the humiliation, Zong Zi Heng was angry and heartbroken, regretting that he had actually doubted his mother. In fact, if he thought about it carefully, he should understand that such a thorough plan and meticulous action could not be done by a woman who was always in the deep palace. Although his mother's cultivation level was not bad among the imperial concubines, she could not even leave the Wuji Palace, so how could she get the poison and assassinate an imperial son under heavy defence?
Zong Zi Xiao was equally furious and trembling, and was about to have a fit when Zong Zi Heng yanked him aside.
"Let go of me." Zong Zi Xiao wrenched his big brother's hand away with force and fury, "They even want to touch my mother's bed! How dare they!"
"This is never the time to bring trouble to yourself and let the Empress hold something against you." Zong Zi Heng's hand pressed against the back of his brother's head, "Bear with it."
"We also want to find out who harmed Second Brother, but she suspects our mothers without any evidence!" Zong Zi Xiao said viciously.
"I know." Zong Zi Heng said in that calm, warm voice in his brother's ear, "Bear with it."
The guards went through Bailu Pavilion and again found nothing suspicious. As Chu Ying Ruo watched her boudoir in disarray, she sobbed in a small voice. That weeping beauty’s appearance made people take pity on her.
"Mother, don't cry." Zong Zi Xiao, who was already a little more than half a head taller than his own mother, put his arm around her and comforted her softly.
Shen Shi Yao also went to Chu Ying Ruo's side and said with red eyes, "Sister, don't be sad. If this can prove our innocence, we will acknowledge it. Sister will help you clean up."
Li Xiang Tong, however, refused to let the matter rest. In fact everyone knew that what she really wanted to investigate was Zong Zi Heng and Zong Zi Xiao, but because of their status, she could not brazenly rise in revolt, so she proposed her own father and brother to re-interrogate everyone who was in the Wuji Palace that day.
This angered Zong Ming He. He also wanted to find out who had poisoned his son, but he would never let the people of the Wuliang Sect run amok in his palace. In the end, with a compromise between the two sides, he allowed Li Bu Yu to be involved in the investigation.
And so, the whole winter, including the New Year, Daming City has passed time under the enveloping dark and gloomy clouds.
Zong Zi Xiao has always hated Li Bu Yu, and Li Bu Yu, who’s sad and haggard from the death of his cousin, did not bother to be falsely polite to Zong Zi Xiao. Even when he looked at him, his eyes seemed to have a deeper meaning.
During the investigation, Li Bu Yu also asked some meaningful questions from time to time. Even though he asked each of these questions, Zong Zi Xiao felt that Li Bu Yu was targeting him.
He told his big brother about this, but Zong Zi Heng did not believe him: "You always have many preconceptions about Bu Yu. Since Father has asked him to assist in the investigation, isn't it right for him to question everyone in the Wuji Palace?"
Zong Zi Xiao said coldly, "But when he asked me those questions, it was as if he treated me like a murderer."
"He also asked me the same questions. In order to find out the murderer, he naturally had to go into great detail." Zong Zi Heng said in a low voice, "Besides, the empress must have told him a lot of suspicions about us, and no matter what he thinks in his mind, we can only cooperate."
"Cooperate?" Zong Zi Xiao let out a cold laugh, "Father told people to search Bailu Pavilion, I can only 'cooperate'. Who the hell does Li Bu Yu think he is? Asking me to cooperate."
"Big brother." Zong Zi Xiao grimaced, "What, just because he gave you a True Essence Jade Training Pill, are you going to speak for him instead? You saved his life, isn't it worth a mere pill? It's just what he returned to you."
Zong Zi Heng's face also sank. His brother was used to being arrogant and often spoke with a loose tongue when he was unhappy: "Suit yourself."
Seeing that his big brother was angry, Zong Zi Xiao coaxed hurriedly, "Alright, alright, I'll just listen to you. Don't be angry. You're so easily angry these days." At the end of the sentence, his voice became smaller and smaller, with some aggravation.
Zong Zi Heng was stunned for a moment.
"Big brother, it's been so long since it happened, and you still can't let it go?" Zong Zi Xiao looked at the light sorrow that seemed to have frozen on his big brother's face, thinking that he still missed Hua Yu Xin, his heart clogged up, "You used to love to smile, but now, I hardly see you smile anymore."
Zong Zi Heng subconsciously touched his face.
Was it? Had he not smiled for a long time?
Perhaps. How could a person who carried secrets all day long, living in worry, resentment, fear and confusion, smile?
Zong Zi Xiao's heart was filled with helpless jealousy as he said, lost in thought, "What do you have to do to change back to the big brother in the past?"
Zong Zi Heng stroked his brother's head, "People will change, you will understand when you are older."
Zong Zi Xiao was silent for a long time: "Will you still like other people in the future?"
"... I don't know."
"What's good about her? That she's pretty?"
"Zong Zi Xiao, I don't want to talk about this."
Zong Zi Xiao suddenly propped both hands on Zong Zi Heng's thighs and brought his face close to his eyes, "Big brother, am I prettier than her?"
At fourteen years old, he had fully inherited his mother's stunning beauty, and with his skeletal structure still intact, and the blending of yin and yang, and male and female, he had less of Chu Ying Ruo's inviting charm, and was even more outstanding.
Such an outstanding beauty cannot be encompassed by the mere word "beautiful".
When Zong Zi Heng met his brother's charming fox eyes, his heart trembled slightly and he turned his face away: "Listen to what you're saying. You want to compete with a girl's beauty? Are you mature or not?"
"I don't need to compare. I want you to answer me." Zong Zi Xiao used his hand to straighten Zong Zi Heng’s chin, "Am I better looking than Hua Yu Xin?"
"Xiao Jiu, what the hell are you …?"
"Would you like me?" Zong Zi Xiao stared intently into his big brother's eyes, "Do you like how pretty she is, that she is not a bad cultivator, or do you like something else?"
Zong Zi Heng didn’t know whether to cry or laugh, "What are you going crazy about again?"
Zong Zi Xiao asked relentlessly, "What is it that she has that I don't? Why can't big brother like me?"
Zong Zi Heng frowned at the person in front of him. He could no longer tell if Zong Zi Xiao was serious or teasing him. Such words sounded too bizarre and his scalp went numb.
"Big brother, I was serious when I said I wanted to marry you and for you to like me."
Zong Zi Heng pushed Zong Zi Xiao away and rebuked, "How old are you? You are not a small boy anymore. At your age, you should almost understand everything you should and shouldn't. How can you tease me with such nonsense?"
"Who's teasing you?" Zong Zi Xiao was furious, "I said I was serious."
"Nonsense." Zong Zi Heng took a deep breath. He wondered if he had protected Xiao Jiu too well. Afraid that he really knew nothing about men and women. Didn't he even understand that there was a big difference between liking and liking? He said patiently, "You are so big now, do you want me to tell you that we are blood brothers and that we are both men? If you don't understand, big brother can explain it to you, but you're not allowed to say these nonsense words again ... You haven't said it to anyone else, have you?"
Zong Zi Xiao watched his big brother get a little anxious. He wanted to use his loudest voice to tell his big brother that he understood everything, but he didn't dare. He didn't want to see more embarrassment from this face anymore.
Zong Zi Xiao lowered his head in defeat.
Zong Zi Heng said to his younger brother in a teaching tone, just like he had done countless times before, "What brothers like about each other are not the same as what men and women like about each other. Big brother also wants to be with you forever, but we don't need to be married. You should stop thinking nonsense. When you meet a girl you like, you will naturally understand."
Zong Zi Xiao turned his face away. Using a tight jaw line, he left an unclear answer for Zong Zi Heng.
Sooner or later, he would let big brother know that he didn't need a girl he liked, he just wanted big brother.
In the blink of an eye, winter turned to spring. A year had passed since the Jiaolong assembly, and the storm in the immortal cultivation world had never stopped.
The Huaying Sect and the Wuyun Sect fought endlessly. Yan Shu and the Chasing Mountain Whip were still missing. The Human Emperor announced at his birthday banquet that he had broken through to the eighth Chongtian of the Zongxuan Sword. And on the same day, the first son was poisoned and killed, and the murderer had not been found to date. Everything that has happened this year seems to be moving more and more out of control in the same direction. Everyone saw the water rippling caused by blowing wind, but they may not be able to glimpse at the hidden vortex beneath the surface of the water.
In order to lift this curtain of water and see the man-eating whirlpool, all it seemed to need was an opportunity.
That opportunity soon came --- Emperor Zong was about to quench a sword with Shen Nong Ding for the Emperor's Ninth Son, who had won the championship at the Jiaolong assembly.
Zong Zi Heng had thought that the death of his second brother would put the matter on hold indefinitely. After all, the empress’ feelings could not be disregarded, so even he felt that this action was not appropriate.
Naturally, this matter was strongly opposed by Li Xiang Tong, who even argued with Zong Ming He in front of the concubines. Leaving the entire harem in a state of pandemonium.
This time, Shen Shi Yao did not gloat over the incident. She talked about it as usual while working on the embroidery in her hands, but when Zong Zi Heng asked about the details of the argument, she said with a light smile, "What else can I do? The emperor's mind is now on Consort Chu and Xiao Jiu. He originally disliked Li Xiang Tong, and now that the child is gone, the two have not been cohabiting for a long time.”
Zong Zi Heng frowned as he pondered something.
"The emperor is going to quench the sword for Xiao Jiu with the Shen Nong Ding. Next, he’s probably going to make him the Crown Prince." Shen Shi Yao looked up at her son, her cherry lips slightly pursed, "If Xiao Jiu really becomes the Human Emperor in the future, as a big brother, how should you handle yourself? Should you be docile and obedient to him?"
"You are the eldest son of the emperor, and in terms of any qualifications, you are more deserving than him to be the Human Emperor. It's a pity ah." Shen Shi Yao lowered her head and continued embroidering the silk handkerchief in her hand, her tone indifferent and cold, "The sun and the moon cannot shine together."
After spring, the soil in the ground began to thaw and the dormant plants gradually recovered. In order to survive the winter, flowers in the orchid garden, which cannot tolerate cold temperatures, have to be moved inside the house, and then moved back to the orchid garden one by one after the days get warmer. Every year at this time, Song Zi Heng will always be busy for quite some time at the flowerbed.
Under Song Zi Heng's command, the chambermaids of Qinghui Pavilion moved the various colors of orchids, pot by pot, to the Orchid Garden.
When a servant girl passed by Song Zi Heng carrying a flowerpot, he suddenly called out to her, "Wait, put this pot down first."
The servant girl put down the flower pot and went to carry the others. Song Zi Heng frowned at the thin branch that had just sprouted.
In order for the plant to hibernate, it had to be pruned before winter, such as this pot of Cymbidium in front of him. Compared to the exuberance and delicacy of its flowering, the bare appearance of this pot was really like two very different flowers. It has just awakened and sprouted, but the roots of the small, supposedly green buds are tinged with some red.
He has been raising orchids for more than ten years and knows all about common species like this Cymbidium. How could this flower have grown red buds when it had not been cultivated with any mixed colors?
Unless there was something wrong with the soil and had been dyed. He poked the soil in the pot with his finger, which was his usual black soil, and there was nothing unusual about it. He hesitated, wanting to take a shovel and turn over the soil to see.
"Heng Er." Shen Shi Yao came in at some point, her gaze sullen as she looked at her son.
Song Zi Heng was stunned for a moment. There seemed to be dark currents under his mother's calm and silent eyes. His heart chamber trembled, looked down at the pot of flowers and a chill went straight up his spine.
"Don't you want to move the flowers? Go now, don't delay dinner time." Shen Shi Yao walked over step by step.
Song Zi Heng looked at the flower and gazed at his mother again.
Shen Shi Yao raised her chin slightly and said in a gentle yet forceful tone, "Go now." She called out to a chamberlain, "Carry this pot out too."
The chamberlain was about to come over and carry the flower when Song Zi Heng said in a deep voice, "Get out."
The chamberlain was startled and looked at Shen Shi Yao in a helpless manner. In his impression, His Highness was as gentle as a jade, even if he was a subordinate, he would not be shouted at for no reason.
"All of you, go out." Song Zi Heng's gloomy gaze swept over all the palace staff.
The crowd retreated in a line and closed the door. "What are you doing?"
Song Zi Heng suddenly lifted his hand and pushed the red clay flower pot to the ground, breaking it in pieces with a "pop", scattering flowers and soil all over the floor. Among the black soil, there was clearly some red soil mixed with it, more blinding and sinful than blood. Song Zi Heng had the illusion that the sky was falling. He staggered a step back, looking at his mother in horror.
Shen Shi Yao reached out and formed a seal, laying down a soundproof boundary: "Heng Er, listen to mother."
"You killed second brother?" The words rushed out, but his voice shook beyond recognition.
Shen Shi Yao lowered her head, pondered for a moment, and said softly, "I did it for ..."
"Stop saying you're doing it for me!" Song Zi Heng howled, his white- glazed face was now red. His eyes were rounded, and his description became hideous.
"But I'm doing it for you." Shen Shi Yao covered her heart with her hand, "I'm your mother, if I don't do it for you, who will?”
"You're crazy, you're crazy." Song Zi Heng avoided her, as if avoiding fierce floods and savage beasts, his face twisted with fear and pain, "You harmed Miss Hua and poisoned second brother to death? You ... how could you be so vicious!?"
"Because Li Xiang Tong forced me to!" Shen Shi Yao roared shrilly, "She forced me again and again, and you sympathize with her son? Has she ever given us any sympathy? What kind of life have we lived in the palace these past twenty years as mother and son? Do you want to be trampled underfoot for the rest of your life?"
"And for that, you want to kill someone?!"
"I originally didn't want to kill him, it was Li Xiang Tong who didn't give us a chance to live." Shen Shi Yao's expression was a little bit crazy, "I originally thought that if you married Hua Yu Xin, you could leave Daming and have your own world, so I could have peace of mind, but she wouldn't let us have our wish. She's so vicious, she can't see anything good in you. Now that Hua Yu Xin is dead and your last chance has been ruined by Li Xiang Tong, what else can I do?"
"You ... are simply crazy and ridiculous, you are crazy and ridiculous!" Song Zi Heng felt that he too had gone mad. He didn't know how to face all this. How to face the fact that his father was a demonic cultivator who ate human cores and his mother had poisoned and killed his own brother.
Crazy, they are all crazy.
Maybe what he was living in was not a mortal realm, maybe it was all a nightmare. Who could take him away from here?
Shen Shi Yao said with tears in her eyes, "Yes, I'm mad, I'm insane. As long as I can make you the Human Emperor, I'm willing to risk my life."
"Human, Emperor?" Song Zi Heng glared at her viciously, "What else do you want to do?"
"Heng Er." Shen Shi Yao grabbed Song Zi Heng's sleeve and pleaded, "Song Zi Mo is dead, Song Zi Xiao is still young, now is your chance ah, if you ..."
Song Zi Heng shook off her hand, his eyes bloodshot, "I don't want to be the Human Emperor, much less through fratricide. Do you think there is no karma in the world? The evil you have done will only doom us forever!”
"As long as you are the Human Emperor, no one under the sky will be able to harm us!"
"Shut up!" Song Zi Heng clenched his fists and felt his blood flowing backwards. He was dying to destroy everything in front of him. Perhaps only by making the surroundings more chaotic could he find a trace of clarity, "You are crazy. You have committed such a crime. How do you want me to be a human?"
"Why can't you think of Mother? If I hadn't been driven to desperation, why would I have done this? My safety doesn’t matter, I just want you to be well ah."
"Is that so, were you forced?" Song Zi Heng's eyes almost dripped blood as he pointed tremblingly at the red soil on the ground, "This stuff, to be used in medicine, requires a very large amount. You can't leave the palace, and you don't have any trusted helpers. They are extracted from rouge, right? If you buy a lot of rouge at one time, you are bound to be discovered, but buying it all year round will not arouse any suspicion. How many years have you been saving it up? How many years have you been planning to have these Chizhi that are enough to poison people to death!?"
Shen Shi Yao stared at Song Zi Heng in a daze. Song Zi Heng's face was already full of tears.
Shen Shi Yao took out a silk handkerchief and gently wiped away her tears. She still had that soft and weak look, but the words she said were gut- wrenching, "Thirteen years, I have saved up for thirteen years." She said softly, "Do you still remember when you were nine years old? You had a serious illness. Your fever was to the point of delirium. Song Ming He checked Song Zi Mo's homework every day, went to see the newborn Song Zi Xiao every day, but never even came to see you. My heart died completely from that day onwards."
Song Zi Heng was silent.
Shen Shi Yao wrapped her arms around herself, her slim body like a small tree swaying in the wind: "At first, he was the one who said he liked me and wanted to marry me, but in order to please the Wuliang Sect’s daughter, he instead blamed me for giving birth to you first and let him be controlled by Li Xiang Tong for the rest of his life because of this matter. When I was young and proud, I was not willing to be a concubine at all. I was gifted and expected to make a career in the immortal path so that my Shen family line could be passed on. But with a few words of flattery, Song Ming He ruined my whole life. My whole life ah, is already over, and I will definitely not let them ruin my son again." Song Zi Heng said in a hoarse voice: "You just want to use me to take revenge."
"So what?" Shen Shi Yao glared at Song Zi Heng, her gaze stern, "Shouldn't I take revenge? Shouldn't you take revenge? Don't you hate it? Don't you hate it!?"
"I hate it, but I won't kill innocent people indiscriminately." Song Zi Heng choked out, "I don’t even think of being like you, swayed by hatred for the rest of my life."
"No one is innocent." Shen Shi Yao sneered, "Li Xiang Tong's son, is never innocent. She deserves to die, Song Ming He deserves to die, and their son deserves to die as well. From that day thirteen years ago, I have made up my mind to make them pay one by one!"
Song Zi Heng took a deep breath, his heart and lungs still aching like they were about to explode. He didn't know what to do. The person in front of him was his own mother. The poor woman he remembered as a gentle and loving woman who lived with him, how could she have become like this?
"Heng Er, Mother will tell you a secret." Shen Shi Yao revealed a sly smile, "There is another reason why Li Xiang Tong hates us so much, and I have never told you."
"... What is the secret?"
"When you were still young, Song Ming He once recruited a hermit expert into the palace, and he had a magical weapon called the Luo Shui Jade Armor. According to rumors, it was the magical weapon of King Zhou Wen, taken from the back armor of the Luo Shui divine tortoise, and could foresee all things." A wild light flashed in Shen Shi Yao's eyes, "That man foresaw that Song Ming He would have nine children, but the only one with an imperial destiny was you."
"You believe in the words of such a charlatan?" Shen Shi Yao smiled, "Song Ming He and Li Xiang Tong also treated him as a charlatan and kicked him out, but I believed him. He recognized me as your mother on the way out of the palace and told me about it using a voice transmission. But before that, we had never known each other. Heng Er, from the day you were born, Mother believed that you had an imperial destiny and that you were destined to be the Human Emperor."
"You must not do wrong things again and again." Song Zi Heng said with pain, "What else do you want to do? You killed second brother. Do you still want to kill Xiao Jiu?"
"I won't kill him. He is your beloved brother. He's different from Song Zi Mo."
"What exactly do you want to do?" Song Zi Heng came closer to Shen Shi Yao, "Mother, don't force me. Whatever you want to do, I will stop you. Don't you force me."
"You want to stop me, how are you going to stop me?" Shen Shi Yao tilted her head and looked at her son, "Are you going to kill me?"
Shen Shi Yao caressed Song Zi Heng's cheek, "I am your mother. We are the closest people in this world. Everything I do is for your own good. If you don't appreciate me, do you want to turn against me? How do you want to stop me? Are you going to denounce me, or kill me?"
Song Zi Heng took a step backwards, too stiff to speak.
Shen Shi Yao smiled with satisfaction, "My son should be the Human Emperor."
Zong Zi Heng watched as Shen Shi Yao disposed of the pot of Cymbidium orchids, just frozen in place not knowing what to do.
Just like the day he found out that his uncle had died, it was as if Jiuzhou had fallen before him and there was nothing he could do about it.
What could he do with his own father and mother?
But he had to stop them, no matter what the cost is, he could not let more people be killed!
Zong Zi Heng stopped in front of his mother who was planning to leave, staring hard as he asked word by word, "What are you thinking of doing?"
Shen Shi Yao gathered her hair at her temples, "I'm a bit tired, I'm taking a nap."
"I'm asking you what you want to do next." Zong Zi Heng gritted his teeth and said, "If you dare to hurt Xiao Jiu ..."
"As long as you are the Human Emperor, he will still be your good brother." Shen Shi Yao laughed mockingly, "Otherwise, what can you do?" She pushed Zong Zi Heng away and walked confidently outside.
Zong Zi Heng's brain burst into flames. He tugged on Shen Shi Yao's arm and fell to his knees with a heavy thud, and said in a hoarse voice, "Mother, Zi Xiao is my closest brother. No matter what grudges you have with Father and Empress, he is innocent. If you harm him, I will offer my life as an apology, I will do what I say."
Shen Shi Yao glared fiercely at Zong Zi Heng and gritted her teeth, "You… such a soft-hearted person. How can you achieve greatness?!”
"To achieve greatness, do we have to fight each other and lose our conscience?!" Zong Zi Heng growled, "If you dare to touch Zi Xiao, I will suffer on behalf of mother and pay for the sins you have committed with my death!"
Shen Shi Yao was so angry that her body trembled. She cupped Zong Zi Heng's chin with one hand and her voice was stern, "My son, how can you be so kind-hearted and soft-hearted? The one who eats meat seeks to kill you. Are you willing to be a lamb?"
"To go against the Dao of one's heart, by seeking fame and profit by any means. What is the Dao of your heart?"
She kicked Zong Zi Heng away, "Rubbish!"
Zong Zi Heng sat on the ground, his whole body cold and stiff, as if he had died once --- his heart had been subjected to a long and protracted torture since the beginning of the Jiaolong assembly, and every stab came from his own blood relatives.
He felt the urge to run away, to drop everything, to escape from this opulent hell, to escape from the people closest to him yet who frightened him the most. The sky is high and the sea is broad. A few steps outside will be the freedom he longed for. Yet his hands and feet were bound and his mouth covered, and he looked at the light leaking in through the gap and just watched.
Outside the door came the familiar voice of Zong Zi Xiao, cheerfully calling out "Big Brother" as if he never knew what sorrow was.
When Zong Zi Xiao entered the house, he ran into Zong Zi Heng getting up from the floor and trying to straighten his wrinkled lapels.
"... Big brother, what's wrong?" Zong Zi Xiao walked over with a few steps, "Are you, are you crying again? Is it because of Consort Shen?"
Zong Zi Heng tried in vain to hide his wretched face, "What are you doing here?"
"Big brother, what exactly is wrong with you?" Zong Zi Xiao said in annoyance, "What did she say about you? Did you guys have a fight? Why?"
"Why did you have a lot of things going on in your mind all day and you don't tell me anything? Tell me, I can share your worries."
"What kind of worries can you share?" Zong Zi Heng let out a low growl.
Zong Zi Xiao froze.
Zong Zi Heng wiped his face, "You stay out of the adults' business."
Zong Zi Xiao gritted his teeth, "Is it because of me?"
"... Who did you listen to?"
"Do I still need to listen specifically to who said what?" Zong Zi Xiao's thin lips pursed slightly, "I know that no one is willing to let me get the sword forged by the Shen Nong Ding, and neither is Consort Shen." He looked at Zong Zi Heng with clear eyes, "Could it be that big brother is unwilling too?"
"No, it has nothing to do with the sword." Zong Zi Heng turned his back wearily, "Please go back if you have nothing to discuss about, I’m tired.”
"Don't you ever muddle through me like that again!" Zong Zi Xiao said angrily, "You are hiding everything from me and becoming colder and more distant towards me. Do you think I can't feel it? Why are you treating me like this? What have I done wrong? We used to be close. Why are you treating me like this now?!"
Zong Zi Heng frowned in pain, "Big brother didn't ... I just ..."
"You don't want me to be the Human Emperor. You don't want me to get the sword forged by Shen Nong Ding. I will listen to you." Zong Zi Xiao's gaze was as calm and deep as the sea, "Whether it's the throne, or the divine sword, I can give you anything."
"Xiao Jiu, that's not what Big Brother meant." Zong Zi Heng felt his mouth go dry. He was hiding too many secrets that he simply couldn't explain, and perhaps, there was no need to explain.
Zong Zi Xiao reached out and wiped his fingertips across his big brother's thin, reddish eyelids, "I just want big brother to be happy."
Zong Zi Heng's heart was touched blatantly.
At that moment, a chamberlain ran in in a hurry, "Your Highness, Your Highness, something bad is happening."
Zong Zi Heng's heart tightened: "What's wrong?"
"You should quickly go to the Orchid Garden and take a look!"
The two of them ran quickly towards the Orchid Garden.
The plants that had been dormant all winter had begun to sprout, but the weather was not warm enough and they were at their most fragile moment. Year after year, Zong Zi Heng had cared for and protected them, hoping they’ll blossom again.
But now, they have been uprooted one by one, their precious rootstocks were exposed one after the other in the dry and cold air, like the feet of dead but not stiff insects, still struggling feebly. New green shoots crushed into the soil, turquoise blood flowed like a river.
Shen Shi Yao stood in front of the flowerbed. She was born soft and dignified, yet she looked like a devil who slaughtered in all directions.
Zong Zi Heng was like being frozen in ice.
"Stop!" Zong Zi Xiao roared violently.
The palace people who were digging into the ground shrank back.
Shen Shi Yao said coldly, "Keep digging, dig out all the roots, leave no plant behind."
"Are you crazy?!" Zong Zi Xiao had long since left his manners behind as he unsheathed his sword and said in a fierce voice, "Who dares to touch my big brother's flowers, I'll chop off your hand!"
Shen Shi Yao raised her chin and her pupils were bottomless: "Dig."
Zong Zi Xiao was about to go up with his sword, but he was yanked by a deadly force.
"... Big brother?"
Zong Zi Heng stared deadly at his mother. The image before him was not really the garden he had painstakingly cultivated for ten years being destroyed, but his mother's gentle soothing and attentive care of him when he was small. Their dependence on each other in the cold and merciless harem, all those thousands of good things, twenty years of mother-son love, being torn to pieces one by one by a cold shovel.
He continued watching, watching the hundreds of orchids he had collected from all over the world and spent countless hours caring for, being torn apart, ravaged and trampled on. He heard the cold cry of desolation, but did not know who was crying.
"Big brother, are you just going to let them dig?" Zong Zi Xiao said urgently.
Zong Zi Heng gripped his brother's wrist hard, as motionless as a clay statue.
He had watched his Orchid Garden be destroyed with his own eyes.
Shen Shi Yao slowly walked up to them as she gazed at her son, "You shouldn't have too many attachments in your heart."
"Have you gone mad?" Zong Zi Xiao cursed angrily, "What has big brother done wrong for you to punish him like this? Do you know that these flowers are big brother's ten years of hard work!?"
Shen Shi Yao gave Zong Zi Xiao a sorrowful glance and gave a specious smile as she turned and walked away.
When everyone had withdrawn from the Orchid Garden, Zong Zi Heng's knees went weak and he fell to the ground.
"Big brother." Zong Zi Xiao looked at his big brother being completely disheartened, and his heart ached like a twinge. He choked out, "Big brother, let's replant them. Some of them are still alive. Let's replant them, okay?"
Zong Zi Heng did not say a word, did not move, his eyes were bleak.
A spring rain, at the right time, slashed down, scattering silver in the heavens, dazzling and streaking, like a funeral for the flowers.
Zong Zi Heng's tears mixed with the rain and slipped silently down.
Zong Zi Xiao knelt on the ground and hugged Zong Zi Heng, crying, "Big brother, big brother." He only knew how to call out for big brother, but did not know how to comfort his already heartbroken big brother.
Zong Zi Heng hugged his brother tightly into his arms, like a drowning man hugging driftwood, or a man freezing to death hugging a heater, he hugged the only person in the world who really cared about him, like he was embracing a reason to live --- even if it was the only reason, and cried silently and painfully.
Perhaps they were right. Only by being the Human Emperor could one protect all the things one wanted to protect.
PS: *hugs big brother*. He doesn't deserve all this sh*ts
Zong Zi Heng sat stone-faced on the edge of the bed, having not uttered a word for a long time.
"Big brother, are you cold?" Zong Zi Xiao wiped the back of Zong Zi Heng's shoulder with a cloth towel. Perhaps the force was a little strong, and the cloth towel left a red mark on the smooth, white back.
Zong Zi Xiao paused, his fingertips quietly poked on the tender pink texture a few times, then retracted his hand as if he had been burned. He let Zong Zi Heng's wet hair down to his front chest, and a long, slender snowy neck came into view. From neck and shoulder to spine, a large piece of white skin and flesh, like sweet and soft tofu, tempting to taste, and this time he finally couldn't help but blush. He could only shift his eyes away and quickly wipe away the rain.
Zong Zi Heng was unaware of his brother's restlessness. He was like a puppet on a string at the moment. There was nothing but helplessness on his face at the manipulation of others.
"Big brother, you can replant the flowers since they are gone. I will accompany you to find flower seeds and we can build another orchid garden. With more and better ones than we planted before."
"I don't know what's going on between you and Consort Shen, if it's because of me ... I'll give you the divine sword, I'll do what I say."
"I had someone look at it. If there are any with more intact roots, just plant them in pots. There must be some that will survive."
"They've been soaked in water." Zong Zi Heng said softly, "They’ll no longer survive."
Zong Zi Xiao's heart ached, "Not necessarily, there are so many. I'll accompany you in rebuilding the Orchid Garden, really."
Zong Zi Heng slowly lifted his face, his eyes had just rained and the gloom had not yet lifted, "Xiao Jiu, if big brother wants to take you away now, will you come with me?"
Zong Zi Xiao froze, "What?"
I want to leave Wuji Palace, leave Daming and never come back again.
Zong Zi Heng thought in his heart, but could not say it out loud.
At the moment his Orchid Garden was destroyed, in fact he felt freer. Even the last thing he had left of this place where he was born and raised was gone, and that he should run away without looking back and live a life of his own.
He would build his orchid garden in a place that is surrounded by mountains and water, where it is spring all year round, so that his flowers would not have to go through the hardships of winter, and he would watch the sunrise and set and the clouds roll in and out every day, living a life of idyllic wilderness. Occasionally traveling around Jiuzhou to get rid of evil spirits and subdue demons, and to pacify the people. Born and coming into the world, asking Dao and cultivating immortality, and following his heart.
"Brother, are you serious?" After being dazed, Zong Zi Xiao asked cautiously.
Zong Zi Heng took a deep breath and gave a miserable smile.
But he couldn't leave. It was a pity, hateful, sad, ridiculous and lamentable, he couldn't leave.
His uncle, his second brother, and the many others who had sacrificed and would suffer were now a thousand pounds on his shoulders. How could he think of himself only when his parents had created the sins? If he could not stop them, his body would be in the sky, and his heart would be imprisoned in this bottomless Wuji Palace.
"Big brother, I'll go with you. I said before ah, I'm willing to go anywhere with you." Zong Zi Xiao clothed his big brother, "But wait a little longer, wait until I get the sword forged by the Shen Nong Ding. I've thought about it. You can use that divine sword. Anyway, we have the same bloodline, you can use it just as well, okay?"
Zong Zi Heng's heart fiercely trembled. He suddenly thought of the opportunity that would draw Lu Zhao Feng out.
Nowadays, the top-grade weapons and magical weapons produced in the immortal cultivation world had to have the owner's blood added during the casting process, so that only the owner and his blood relatives could use the weapon or magical weapon, lest it fall into the hands of outsiders. If Zong Zi Xiao's blood is added to the sword casting process, Lu Zhao Feng will definitely come to grab the sword. With Lu Zhao Feng's cultivation, if he possesses both the divine sword and the Chasing Mountain Whip, he's afraid that there will be no one in the world who can beat him.
If we could kill Lu Zhao Feng before it was too late, perhaps the secret of Xiao Jiu's birth would be preserved.
Zong Zi Heng grabbed his brother's wrist: "Big brother doesn't want your sword, you deserve that sword."
Zong Zi Xiao's face showed hesitation, "Big brother, I meant every word I said before. I can give you anything. Between you and me, there should not be a gap, okay?"
Zong Zi Heng stroked his brother's hair and said softly, "We won't, big brother only wants you to be good."
"I also just want big brother to be good." Zong Zi Xiao grabbed Zong Zi Heng's hand and quietly placed it on his heart.
"Xiao Jiu, promise me one thing."
"During this period of time, don't come to Qinghui Pavilion. If something happens I will go to Bailu Pavilion to look for you, and ... stay away from my mother."
Zong Zi Xiao frowned, "Okay. Big brother, if Consort Shen punishes you again, just come and stay with me at Bailu Pavilion."
"It won't happen, you just have to take care of yourself." Zong Zi Heng said gloomily, "The murderer of your second brother has not been caught yet. Everything you eat and drink must be tested for poison first, understand?"
"Mm, don't worry."
Zong Zi Heng wrote a secret letter to Xu Zhi Nan, which was sealed with spiritual power, in which he asked for the help of Chunyang Sect and Cangyu Sect to kill Lu Zhao Feng, and in return, he decided to fight for the Crown Prince's throne. He understood wholeheartedly that Xu Zhi Nan wanted him to be the Crown Prince, and in no way did he want him to boil Zong Ming He to death in a few decades, ascend the throne and become the Crown Prince. The next step would be to plan how to make Zong Ming He give up the throne. As a son and a minister, if he could keep Zong Ming He alive, he would be doing his last filial duty and righteousness. Only by becoming the Human Emperor could he stop his parents, could he do his best to pay for the sins they had committed, could he seal the mouths of Xu Zhi Nan and Qi Meng Sheng, so that Zong Zi Xiao would always be the ninth prince of Emperor Zong, and not the wild son of a core thief born from adultery.
Only when he becomes the Human Emperor will all the crisis seem to have the possibility of turning for the better.
After sending away this letter, he found Shen Shi Yao and said with an expressionless face, "Mother, I want you to promise me three things."
Shen Shi Yao said calmly, "Say it."
"First, do not go to Bailu Pavilion again. Second, do not go near Xiao Jiu, and third, do not make a decision without authorization."
"If you agree, I will present myself to father and ask him to make me the Crown Prince. Xiao Jiu is still young and has always listened to me, so he won't fight with me. If you don't agree, or if I find out that your words or actions are inconsistent, I will lock you up in Qinghui Pavilion, unless Father or the Empress summons you, you will not be allowed to leave even one step."
Shen Shi Yao narrowed her eyes, "You dare?"
"I dare." Zong Zi Heng looked at his mother coldly and not angry, "You killed Zi Mo, I will never let you have any chance to do evil again."
Shen Shi Yao snorted coldly, "Do you think if you beg Zong Ming He, he will pass the throne to you? You have overestimated him and underestimated Li Xiang Tong."
"What if I can get the support of the Chunyang Sect and the Cangyu Sect?"
Shen Shiyao's eyes lit up, "You mean ..."
"Yes, with the Chunyang Sect and the Cangyu Sect, it would be enough for Father to check and balance the Wuliang Sect."
The expression on Shen Shi Yao's face changed, elation, complacency, apprehension, hesitation, all at once.
Only after a long time did she gently shake her head, "No, I can't. Not now."
Shen Shi Yao stepped forward and wanted to hold Zong Zi Heng's hand, but he immediately took a step back. Shen Shi Yao's face paled as she said, "To have the help of the Chunyang Sect and the Cangyu Sect is naturally like a tiger with wings, however, it is a double-edged sword. How Zong Ming He scorns the Li family, he will also be equally scornful of you. If he knows that you have roped in the two future heads of the Chunyang Sect and the Cangyu Sect right now, it will definitely backfire, so instead, before you become the Crown Prince, you cannot reveal this."
"What should I do then?"
Shen Shi Yao smiled faintly, her pair of beautiful eyes were full of ambition, "My son has not let Mother down, and Mother will not let you down either."
"Heng Er, Mother promises you." Shen Shi Yao said sincerely, "I will not go to Bailu Pavilion again, and I will not see Xiao Jiu, you can rest assured."
Zong Zi Heng looked at her with disbelief.
"You can get the help of the Chunyang Sect and the Cangyu Sect, this throne of the Human Emperor will be yours sooner or later, Mother believes in you."
Zong Zi Heng's heart was vaguely uneasy. He could no longer trust this person who was supposed to be the dearest person in the world, but he could not think of anything else she could do for a while. After all, her cultivation was limited, and a trick like poisoning, when everyone was on guard, it would be almost impossible to find another opportunity to do it.
Before the summer, Zong Zi Heng received word that Xu Zhi Nan was ready, and at the other end, Zong Ming He had already made preparations for the sword casting, and would be leaving for Kunlun in three days.
In order to activate the Shen Nong Ding, Zong Ming He collected the best materials from Jiuzhou, gathered a hundred high-ranking cultivators from Daming and other sects, and invited the master of the Giant Spirit Villa to come out and cast the sword himself.
Giant Spirit Villa is famous in Jiuzhou for its ability to forge swords. Among all the famous swords in the immortal cultivation world, except for those handed down from our ancestors, the ones refined by the Giant Spirit Villa are the best. In addition to swords, there are many weapons, magical weapons and immortal pills that Giant Spirit Villa specializes in, and all the sons and daughters of famous families are bound to have a weapon from Giant Spirit Villa if they cannot get an ancestral weapon.
The old master of the Giant Spirit Villa has already gone to take care of his grandchildren and has not personally quenched swords for many years, only Emperor Zong could ask the old master to come out of the mountain.
This trip to forge the sword was so dynamic and powerful that it had not been seen in the immortal cultivation world for 20 to 30 years.
Although the sword was promised to the youngest son by Zong Ming He many years ago, the first son had just passed away, and this action was debated even by outsiders, so one can imagine what it was like for Li Xiang Tong and the Wuliang Sect.
The rumor of Zong Ming He thinking of appointing Zong Zi Xiao as the Crown Prince once again circulates outside of Wuji Palace. Now that he has achieved great success and his first son has died, it seems only logical that he will succeed Emperor Zong, who is so fond of his ninth son that he even forged a sword for him out of the Shen Nong Ding, and who is so gifted that he will rarely be found in a hundred years.
The more the rumors spread, the more frightened Zong Zi Heng became. Before leaving for Kunlun, he kept an eye on Shen Shi Yao, fearing that these words would enter her ears, but Shen Shi Yao was indeed as he had said, hardly setting foot outside of Qinghui Pavilion if not necessary.
However, he did not let his guard down because Shen Shi Yao was so unusually calm, which made him anxious.
Before he left, Zong Ming He ordered Zong Zi Heng to stay in the palace to assist the emperor and empress together with his fifth brother, and to manage the affairs of Daming.
Zong Zi Heng did not expect that he would not be allowed to leave Daming yet. Perhaps, as Shen Shi Yao said, Zong Ming He was afraid of his friendship with Xu Zhi Nan and Qi Meng Sheng, or perhaps there were other reasons. In any case, he could feel Zong Ming He guarding against him since the Jiaolong assembly.
He could only agree on the surface, intending to wait for everyone to leave before sneaking out of the palace.
Zong Zi Xiao was very upset to learn that he was not going to Kunlun with him and wanted to go and beg Zong Ming He.
Zong Zi Heng immediately rushed to Bailu Pavilion and stopped him.
"Why can't big brother come with me? This trip can be as short as a month or two, or as long as ... who knows how long it will take, and I've never been separated from big brother for that long." Zong Zi Xiao wrinkled his face and said indignantly, "Father even let you assist the empress, who knows how the empress will make things difficult for you."
"You don't need to worry about me, you just need to protect yourself." Zong Zi Heng said worriedly. There was no telling what would happen on this journey, and he didn't know when he would be able to be by his brother's side, and Lu Zhao Feng, who was hiding in the shadows waiting for an opportunity, would never miss this divine sword. He was really worried that something bad might happen to Xiao Jiu, and what will happen if he’s not by his side.
"I'm with Father and many high ranking cultivators, so naturally I’m safe. I'm just worried about you. Let me go beg Father and we'll go together, okay?"
Zong Zi Heng shook his head, "Father won't agree. At this time, don't make trouble over nothing, just be obedient."
Zong Zi Xiao said disappointedly, "In fact, I'm still worried about my mother. With Father being away, the Empress will definitely take the opportunity to bully my mother. Big brother, you have to take care of her for me."
"Don't worry, I will." Thinking of Chu Ying Ruo, Zong Zi Heng had complicated feelings, but no matter what, she was Xiao Jiu's mother, and he was bound to protect her.
"You have to eat well, you can't lose any more weight."
Zong Zi Heng snorted, "Talking more and more like an adult. I got it."
Zong Zi Xiao stared at Zong Zi Heng's gentle and handsome face and his heart thumped, "I originally wanted to go to the Cangyu Sect with big brother to have a look."
"Big brother wants to go too. Next time then. Flying Plume Ambassador will welcome us."
"I heard that the Cangyu Sect is unique in how it cultivates immortality."
"Well, the Cangyu Sect is different from the Chinese sects, there are not so many rules and regulations, so it is unique."
"I heard that some of them do dual cultivation*." Zong Zi Xiao blinked, "And it's not restricted to men and women."
"Who did you hear that from?"
"Who else doesn't know?" Zong Zi Xiao stole a glance at Zong Zi Heng, "It's not uncommon for couples to engage in double cultivation behind closed doors, but for a sect like the Cangyu Sect to openly treat double cultivation as a monastic art, it's no wonder it's despised by the Chinese sects."
"As long as it doesn't harm anyone, I don't think we need to stick to the rules."
"I think so too." Zong Zi Xiao quickly said, "It's a good thing for those who practice the same lineage to improve at the same time."
"You're so young, why are you thinking about this?" Zong Zi Heng said warily, "You won't be like your second brother ..."
Zong Zi Mo indulged in female charms and had not been well-behaved since young. At the age of twelve or thirteen, he had already taken on a concubine's maid with Li Xiang Tong's acquiescence, and at the same time, he had hooked up with all sorts of people, but Li Xiang Tong had suffered a disadvantage before and had not allowed any of Zong Zi Mo's female companions to conceive a child. Now she's probably regretting it instead.
Zong Zi Heng had never been comfortable with this, but he had never been one to judge people by their rights and wrongs, not to mention the fact that he was dead. When the words reached his mouth, he felt it inappropriate, so he didn’t continue on.
But Zong Zi Xiao immediately understood: "I am not like my second brother. One person is enough for me in my entire life.”
"Who do you have your eye on?" Zong Zi Heng said in surprise, "If it's a female cultivator from another sect ..."
"No." Zong Zi Xiao glared at his big brother, "No one, I'm just saying."
Zong Zi Heng sighed in relief, "Since there isn't, then stop imagining things."
"You can still stop people from imagining things?" Zong Zi Xiao asked back with shame and anger.
"If your heart of Dao is unstable, I will naturally correct you."
"You can't correct this." Zong Zi Xiao grunted in exasperation and turned his face away.
"Alright, you’re leaving tomorrow, have you packed your traveling clothes yet?"
"Let's go then."
In the evening Zong Ming He had set up a family banquet and both of them had to be present.
The two of them walked side by side for a few steps, and Zong Zi Xiao, thinking that this time they would be parting for several months, became a little sullen, and suddenly took Zong Zi Heng by the shoulders, as if he had gathered all his courage, and said with a straight face, "Big brother, when I get the divine sword, everything will be different. If, if I want you to be more than just my big brother, rather ..."
"What do you mean?" Zong Zi Heng narrowed his eyes, "What did Father say to you?" All that was going through his mind was that Zong Ming He might have hinted, or even expressly stated, the idea of making Zong Zi Xiao the Crown Prince.
Zong Zi Xiao froze, "Big brother, what I want to say is ..."
"What exactly did Father say to you? Or what did Consort Chu say to you?" Zong Zi Heng asked anxiously. He was worried that Zong Ming He couldn't wait to announce the appointment of the Crown Prince, then things would get even more complicated.
Zong Zi Xiao, however, was somewhat taken aback.
"Your Highness, Ninth Highness." At that moment, a palace attendant happened to pass by, "The two Highnesses should quickly move to Baihua Hall as soon as possible."
The two of them glanced at each other and walked forward, each with their own thoughts and in silence.
This family banquet is the first of its kind this year. Unsurprisingly, Li Xiang Tong did not attend at all.
With the absence of Zong Zi Mo, who loved to attend to guests, and the absence of Zong Ruo Ning, who was clever and cheerful, plus the fact that this year had been full of changes and everyone was in danger, the banquet was no longer as lively as it once was.
The banquet was as dull as if Zong Zi Mo’s mourning period had not ended by today.
Even Zong Ming He could not stand it anymore. He coughed lightly, "Tomorrow we will leave for Kunlun and forge a divine sword for Xiao Er. With this sword, my Xiao Er will be able to achieve great things and the Daming Zong clan will be back at the top."
Zong Zi Heng raised his cup and said blandly, "Congratulations to Father and to Ninth Brother."
The siblings toasted in unison.
Chu Ying Ruo looked as if she was overwhelmed with favor: "I am honored that the emperor thinks so highly of Xiao Er, and I am sure that Xiao Er will not fail to live up to the emperor's high expectations."
Zong Zi Xiao also said, "Thank you, father. Son will definitely help father and shine for the Zong clan."
Zong Ming He laughed twice, his face full of relief.
Shen Shi Yao said softly, "Zi Xiao is so competitive, sister is really lucky."
Chu Ying Ruo smiled and said, "It is also thanks to Zi Heng for teaching him from a young age."
"The emperor's sword also comes from Shen Nong Ding, I wonder how different it will be from Zi Xiao's sword?" Shen Shi Yao looked at Zong Ming He.
Zong Ming He patted his own sword and said with emotion, "This sword was handed down from the ancestors and is one of the best swords in Jiuzhou. It has been with generations of Zong cultivators in cutting down demons and eliminating devils, but there is not a single flaw in the sword. A swordsman who has it will be a fierce tiger with wings."
"Such a divine sword, I wonder if Zi Xiao can harness it now?"
Zong Zi Xiao frowned at Shen Shi Yao.
"Although Zi Xiao is young, his potential is limitless. Adapting to it for a period of time will not be a problem."
"That divine sword that was dripped with Zi Xiao’s blood, then only those of my Zong bloodline can use it, am I right?" Shen Shi Yao was still smiling like a flower, "This emperor’s sword, it is the same, right?"
The more Zong Zi Heng listened, the more he felt that something was wrong.
Zong Ming He seemed to be a little impatient with Shen Shi Yao's many questions, and gave a perfunctory "hmmm".
"I was thinking, why not let the emperor lend the sword to Xiao Er to try it out, so as to prevent getting a sword made from Shen Nong Ding and not being able to control it, and make a joke on the spot."
Zong Zi Heng's expression suddenly changed as he stared at his mother in a daze, his body getting colder inch by inch until the chill pierced his bones.
Impossible, she couldn't possibly know, but was she really making such a request so that Zong Zi Xiao could test his sword?
Chu Ying Ruo's expression also changed, and she immediately acted as if nothing was wrong: "Sister, the Emperor's sword is not something that can be touched by outsiders."
"How is Xiao Er an ‘outsider’?"
Zong Zi Heng stared deadly at Shen Shi Yao, his fists clenched under the table.
Zong Ming He also sensed that something was wrong: "Shi Yao, what do you mean?"
"I just want Zi Xiao to get used to using the emperor's sword, so that he won't show his fear when he gets the divine sword." Shen Shi Yao's smile remained unchanged, "We are a family, are there still so many rules on top of this family banquet?"
Zong Zi Xiao's brow wrinkled more and more. He couldn't understand what Shen Shi Yao was trying to do. In fact, the day the Orchid Garden was destroyed, this woman was not normal in his heart anymore.
The blood on Chu Ying Ruo's face was slowly fading. She forced a smile and said, "The emperor is a father as well as a ruler, so there cannot be no rules anywhere and Zi Xiao must not overstep them."
Zong Zi Heng said in a low voice, "Mother, stop it."
Shen Shi Yao looked at Chu Ying Ruo with a cold gaze, "Why not? Is sister afraid that Zi Xiao won't be able to use it?"
Zong Ming He slapped the table fiercely and said angrily, "How dare you!"
The concubines and children all knelt down.
"Shen Shi Yao, what kind of madness are you having today?! If you can't tell me what's going on, don't blame me for not giving you face."
Shen Shi Yao raised her head and looked straight at Zong Ming He with no fear on her face, "If the emperor wants to blame me, I accept it. I just want to know if Zi Xiao can use this sword."
Chu Ying Ruo was so angry that her body trembled, "What exactly does Consort Shen intend to do?"
Zong Zi Heng only felt a gust of blackness in front of his eyes. He finally knew why Shen Shi Yao had been so well behaved during this time, and finally knew what her ultimate plan was. He subconsciously went to touch his waist, but before entering the Baihua Hall, everyone had unloaded their weapons.
When Shen Shi Yao reached this point, who else could not understand? Zong Zi Xiao shouted angrily, "I respect you as my big brother's mother and have always treated you with courtesy and modesty, how dare you insult me and my mother like this. You, you crazy woman!"
Zong Zi Heng said in a trembling voice, "Father, mother has been ill recently and is confused. I will bring her back to Qinghui Pavilion now!"
Zong Ming He raised his hand, and the entire Baihua Hall immediately fell silent. He stared at Shen Shi Yao grimly, "Why do you think that Zi Xiao cannot use this sword?"
Shen Shi Yao raised her chin slightly, "I don't know if he can exert it or not, but ever since I discovered the secret of sister Consort Chu, I have had trouble sleeping and eating. This matter concerns the foundation of the Daming Zong clan, so I cannot watch the emperor be deceived."
Zong Zi Heng slowly turned his head and looked at his bewildered, innocent brother, his eyes gradually turning scarlet.
dual cultivation*[双修]---another term for sexual intercourse (in novels)
A pin drop could be heard in the Baihua Hall. The silence was like a falling canopy, signaling darkness was about to fall.
Chu Ying Ruo was trembling, staring at Shen Shi Yao in horror and disbelief: "I have treated you like a sister for more than ten years, how could I know that you are like a snake with a scorpion's heart? Slandering us just because you are jealous of Zi Xiao's favor.”
Shen Shi Yao's face was filled with tears. Even though she was obviously the one who stabbed someone at the back, she still looks pitiful: "Ying Ruo, I also treat you as my family. I have watched Xiao Jiu grow up, do you think I bear to do it? However, for the sake of the Zong's foundation, how can I continue to hide this from the emperor? If the divine sword is made, then everything will be irrevocable."
"Shut up, you poisonous woman!" Chu Ying Ruo kneeled down to Zong Ming He's feet and grabbed the corner of his clothes, crying, "Emperor must not listen to slanderous words, this poisonous woman is humiliating us, and is also humiliating the Emperor!"
Zong Ming He looked gloomily at Shen Shi Yao, "Speak, what did you find out?"
Zong Zi Heng fell to his knees, his limbs so weak that he could barely support his body. He could not think of any way to stop this. He did not even dare to look at Zong Zi Xiao's face again.
Shen Shi Yao wiped her tears and trembled, "At that time, in order to investigate the murder of Second Highness, the emperor ordered people to search Bailu Pavilion. Afterwards, it was me who helped Ying Ruo tidy up her boudoir's personal belongings, and as a result, I inadvertently found that she had hidden a silk handkerchief embroidered with three white herons, the white herons, two big and one small."
"White herons?" Zong Ming He narrowed his eyes.
"You're spouting nonsense!" Chu Ying Ruo's eyes were so red that they were going to drip blood, and she shouted like she was mad, "You're spouting nonsense. When did I ever embroider any white heron silk handkerchief? You're spouting nonsense!"
"What's wrong with a white heron?" Zong Ming He barked.
"The emperor does not know, the white heron is the most common bird in the wetlands of the Yanzhou generation, and the Yanzhou Lu Sect, back then, used it as their family crest."
When he heard the words "Yanzhou Lu Sect", Zong Ming He's face turned blue and then red, and a vein appeared on his forehead.
"The Lu Sect is only a small and unknown Sect, and I have only heard of it because I come from Qi Lu. When I heard that Ying Ruo had changed the name of her bedchamber to Bailu Pavilion, I knew that she had always remembered her former fiancé in her heart, and had even seen her call out to him with deep affection when she was drunk. I kept her secret because I didn't want the emperor to get into trouble with her, but she has tainted the royal bloodline, and even the emperor intends to make Zi Xiao the Crown Prince. Even if I were to die, I could not watch the century-old foundation of the Zong family being destroyed!"
Chu Ying Ruo's stunningly beautiful face was distorted to a frightening degree, as if she could not wait to eat Shen Shi Yao. She shouted sharply, "Poisonous woman! You've framed me. How long have you been planning all these years of pretending to be kind and approaching me!"
Zong Zi Xiao watched in bewilderment as the adults staged this ridiculous drama, words raining down like knives, and he looked instinctively for help at his big brother, but he was not looking at him.
Why wasn't his big brother looking at him?
With a click, the armrest of the chair was broken in Zong Ming He's hand, his eyes wide opened as he said sternly, "Go and search! Go and search!"
The two brothers, Huang Hong and Huang Wu, accepted the order and went away.
"Emperor!" Chu Ying Ruo cried, "This poisonous woman is setting me up. I didn't embroider any white heron silk handkerchief. If anything is really found, she is the one who put it in when I was off guard. Believe me ah."
Zong Ming He lowered his head and his gaze was cold: "Was she also the one who framed you for the ‘Bailu Pavilion'?"
Chu Ying Ruo was speechless.
Zong Ming He untied his own sword and threw it in front of Zong Zi Xiao.
There was a bang that echoed throughout the hall, and the echo was long-lasting, like the beating of a drum before a battle, each sound approaching a great battle.
Zong Zi Heng crawled over on his knees and stepped between that sword and Zong Zi Xiao, he pleaded, "Father, not here ..."
Chu Ying Ruo also cried out in pain and begged.
"Take it!" Zong Ming He roared at Zong Zi Xiao.
Zong Zi Xiao’s body was cold. This feeling of watching a piece of heaven crumble before his eyes were unparalleled in this life. The food on the table hasn't become cold, and for such a brief moment his whole life was about to be turned upside down. He heard himself open his mouth and ask, "You knew all along?"
The voice was so soft and small that almost only Zong Zi Heng, who was the closest, could hear it.
Zong Zi Heng looked at the brother he had brought up and almost burst into tears.
Zong Zi Xiao suddenly drew his sword with one hand.
"Xiao Er-----" Chu Ying Ruo yelled.
Spiritual energy was poured into the sword blade, and Zong Zi Xiao's clothes and hair were floating like an immortal without any wind.
A young boy who was not yet an adult could release such a powerful spiritual pressure, could be said to be astonishing, but at this moment, everyone's eyes only fell on that sword.
This sword, handed down from the ancestors of the Zong Clan and can only be used by the Zong Clan bloodline, was in the hands of Zong Zi Xiao, with absolutely no reaction.
If there was a sound of fear, the Baihua Hall should have been deafening, not like this, where no one even dared to breathe.
Zong Ming He took a pair of bloodshot eyes and looked at Zong Zi Xiao. He shouted violently, and the huge spiritual pressure pushed over like a sea wave, making everyone fall to the ground with a sweeping force of a thousand troops.
Only one thought remained in Zong Zi Heng's mind --- how to save Zong Zi Xiao's life.
Zong Ming He grabbed Chu Ying Ruo's neck and lifted her off the ground, saying ruthlessly, "Bitch, you bitch!"
Chu Ying Ruo's face became red from suffocation, her legs kicking and stomping helplessly in the air.
"Mother!" Zong Zi Xiao shouted and was about to pounce on him.
Zong Zi Heng wrapped his arms around his waist and pinned him to the ground with a deadly grip.
"Let go of me!" Like a small beast cornered into a desperate situation, Zong Zi Xiao bared his teeth towards Zong Zi Heng, "You already knew it!"
Zong Zi Heng's heart ached, and for the first time, he saw true hatred in Zong Zi Xiao's eyes. Ruthlessly, he took out a yellow talisman and put it on Zong Zi Xiao's mouth, and sealed his acupuncture points. At this moment, Zong Zi Xiao's life was hanging by a thread and he could not afford to say or do anything wrong. He turned his head to beg Zong Ming He, "Father, the matter has not yet been clarified. I beg you to spare Consort Chu first. All of the concubines and siblings are still here ah."
These words finally brought Zong Ming He back to his senses. He couldn't kill his concubine in front of his children after all. He threw Chu Ying Ruo to the ground and looked at Shen Shi Yao and then Zong Zi Heng like a fierce beast surrounding him, asking sinisterly, "You guys already knew about this?!"
Shen Shi Yao hastily defended, "Emperor, Zi Heng does not know. If he knew, he would not have dared to hide it. It’s me, it’s me who had my suspicions, but I had no evidence, so I dared not speak nonsense, but as the day approaches when Emperor will leave for Kunlun, I can no longer sit idly by and do nothing. If I have misunderstood Consort Chu and Xiao Jiu, I am willing to die to apologize for my mistake. As long as I can protect my Zong clan, I am ready to risk my life and limb to help out ah."
"You ... you ..." Zong Ming He's face turned white and his eyes were filled with a murderous aura.
At this time, Li Xiang Tong arrived at the news, and entered the Baihua Hall with Huang Hong and Huang Wu.
Li Xiang Tong scanned the room with a hint of pleasure between her eyebrows, and as she walked past Zong Zi Heng and Zong Zi Xiao, that condescending glance clearly held a great deal of hatred.
Huang Hong handed the object in his hand to the chamberlain, who in turn presented it to Zong Ming He.
Zong Ming He shook out the fine silk with a soft pearl glow, on which were embroidered three white herons, two large and one small, with delicate and skillful needlework.
Chu Ying Ruo was curled up on the floor, her breath wandering like silk.
Zong Zi Heng closed his eyes.
"Put this bitch ..." Zong Ming He's gaze fell on Zong Zi Xiao, his former loving and doting gaze now reduced to fury and resentment, "and this bastard too, put them all in the dungeon!"
Zong Zi Xiao slumped to the ground, his gaze hollow and desperate.
"Find out who this bastard really belongs to!"
Huang Hong and Huang Wu accepted the order in unison.
"If anyone dares to divulge a single word about today's incident, they will be severely punished!" Zong Ming He threw down these words and left in a huff.
Zong Zi Xiao was taken away, and Zong Zi Heng looked dully at his hand, which still had the remnants of his brother's body heat on it.
In one night, the sky had changed. The thing he feared most, wanted to stop the most, was revealed to the people closest to him in the most embarrassing way when he was most caught off guard. The person he wanted to protect the most, the person who is the most innocent, was caught in the center of the storm and could be torn to pieces at any moment.
For the rest of his life, he could never forget the hateful eyes of Zong Zi Xiao.