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185 The Old Fox and the Little Fox

 The Evil Prince put his left hand behind him and patted clothes with his right. "Of course. Otherwise, where else do you think the old devil can find the Blessed One's relics?"

He said slowly, "Many years ago, the Blessed One shaved his hair and became a monk. At that time, he was served by an acolyte. After he produced the peculiar crystal stone and passed away, the acolyte met a friend from the grassland by chance and told his friend this interesting story."

"No wonder the Young Lad of Jiang Clan knew where the Demon Venerable is." Meng Qi suddenly remembered and silently stared at Evil Prince.

The Evil Prince continued to talk slowly as if he was comfortable in his own home and not in the dangerous royal palace. "The old devil only lost consciousness temporarily due to the strong internal power and quickly woke up. However, he felt he was better off asleep than awake. He wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to inspect his four sons and see through their true facades. At the same time, he could lure the Great Grandmasters into the capital city using the throne dispute. He could also spread the news about the Blessed One's relics and entrap the Great Grandmasters."

"So Ba Tu being hunted down that night was because the Young Lad of Jiang Clan leaked his whereabouts that night?" Meng Qi lost himself in thought when he heard about the Emperor's scheme.

In this world, what would be impressive enough for Great Grandmasters to fight over? There was nothing but the relics of the Demon Venerable. Compared to Meng Qi, they cared little for the throne. After all, they had remained stuck at the edge of a new level for a long time. They were so close to a breakthrough yet they could never achieve it without the help of external assistance.

The Evil Prince smiled lightly at Meng Qi. "If you hadn't defeat Violet Blade, scared off Ruyi Monk and Ghost King, and took away Ba Tu and Zhangsun Jing, all the Great Grandmasters except for Wang Derang and Bamuer would have long gathered outside the Yuanjue Temple to fight for the Blessed One's relics."

"Based on my investigation, there were countless explosives planted in the Yuanjue Temple. The moment the Great Grandmasters walk into the temple, the suicide soldiers would ignite the explosives and kill everyone."

Meng Qi nodded calmly. "No wonder the Young Lad of Jiang Clan left his hiding place before the Right Chief Minister arrived."

Swosh! The wind whistling through the branches, creating a distinct rustling sound. The noise made people keenly aware of the intensity of the wind.

"Wang Derang didn't expect you to take Ba Tu away. He didn't think Lu Guan would choose to go solo and bring Ba Tu before him instead of taking refuge with one of the Imperial Princes either. That was why he delayed and sent someone to inform the Young Lad of Jiang Clan. Otherwise, with his strength as a Great Grandmaster, why didn't he immediately arrest him and just let Lu Guan and Ba Tu go after him slowly?" the Evil Prince said in a mocking tone.

That seemed just about right! If the Right Chief Minister 'found' the Young Lad of Jiang Clan, it would be hard for him to save the situation. If he didn't go to the Yuanjue Temple, the experienced Great Grandmasters would definitely be suspicious and send their underlings to investigate the temple. If he did go, then the suicide soldiers might really ignite the explosives and kill him.

Meng Qi didn't let down his guard and kept his sword drawn. "I didn't think the Emperor would fear the Great Grandmasters to the extent of wanting to kill all of them."

"As the lord of the world, who would be happy to be surrounded by Great Grandmasters who were almost as powerful as demons? If they gave it their all, they could really murder the Emperor under heavy protection."

The Evil Prince's left hand remained behind him, with his right hand on his chest. "Having found an opportunity, the old devil definitely wouldn't give it up. Even if he hadn't absorbed all the energy of Sarira, he'd still use it as bait. His body was aging and couldn't take that much energy anyway. Heh, if not for Wang Derang suppressing this issue, the old devil would have happily sent him along to the Yuanjue Temple."

"He was a qualified Emperor." Meng Qi sighed.

"Yes. He was cruel and heartless. His love for his throne and authority exceed his affection for his concubines and children," the Evil Prince replied, agreeing with him.

The wind blew stronger and stronger. The air became very damp, creating for a rather stifling atmosphere.

Meng Qi asked deliberately, "Though the Emperor was in a 'coma', he still had a firm grasp on his empire through the Right Chief Minister, the West Conquering General, and the General of Affairs. Why did he suddenly die? For him to secretly send the West Conquering General to contact Lu Huasheng, was he determined to make peace?"

It would be impossible for the Emperor to lie to the General of Affairs. He was still a human who needed to eat and defecate. He needed a trusted aide to help him with these affairs.

"The old devil was definitely willing to make peace as long as the cost didn't exceed his bottom line. He was planning to kill the Great Grandmasters and his disobedient sons before reorganizing his troops to revive the northwest. If the peace talks didn't go through, he was planning to summon Lu Guan to the capital city as his backup and stabilize the military." The Evil Prince spoke frankly with a self-assured air as if he knew the old Emperor's mind as well as he did his own palms.

Meng Qi nodded. If the old Emperor was still alive, he would have to find a way to stop the peace talks to complete his main task. With the Young Lad of Jiang Clan as a chess piece in the Emperor's hand, he would definitely be well aware of the internal information of the West Invaders and the many ways to turn the fake peace talks into an authentic one.

The Evil Prince chuckled. "He thought everything was under his control, but misjudged the hearts of people. An unconscious Emperor was as good as dead to most people. In their eyes, he was already a dead man."

"Even if he was faking his coma, there would still be traces of him living like his food and excretion. The servants, thinking the Emperor was truly unconscious and there would be a new one in power soon, were quick to seek refuge with the Imperial Princes. They sent news to the Crown Prince and the Seventh Prince, eventually alerting them to the fact that their father wasn't really unconscious and was laying down a scheme."

If not for the Emperor's sudden coma giving hope to the Third Prince and the Fourth Prince, most people assumed either the Crown Prince or the Seventh Prince to be a shoo-in for the throne.

"No wonder when I visited the Crown Prince, he refused to meet anyone and kept to his own responsibilities!" Meng Qi said, having realized the truth. He then frowned. "But if the Seventh Prince was in the know, why did he meet me? Why did he said things like wanting the throne and no longer being able to back down?"

The Evil Prince had a tall stature and carried himself in a refined yet wicked manner. He replied, "The old devil was already dead then."

"So the Seventh Prince knew the truth and the Crown Prince didn't and refused to meet anyone?" Meng Qi didn't think this explanation made sense.

The Evil Prince laughed. "The Crown Prince was pretending he didn't know the old devil was dead while the Seventh Prince was pretending he didn't know the old devil wasn't truly unconscious."

Were they all actors... Meng Qi noticed the important information underlying the Evil Prince's words and said, "The one who killed the Emperor was the Crown Prince?"

"You can consider him as the one who ordered it. Heh, only a few people were aware of this. Wang Derang thought the old devil died of his greed over absorbing excessive energy, so he planned a secret burial for him. He drew the West Conquering General and other people to the Crown Prince's side, helping him prepare to win the throne, suppress the other three Imperial Princes, and avoid unrest in the world."

Meng Qi didn't question this explanation. The Right Chief Minister, Wang Derang, was famously a powerful supporter of Confucianism. With the West Invaders were invading the Chen Pei River boundary, he definitely hoped for the Crown Prince to ascend to the throne smoothly. It was normal for a supporter of Confucianism to choose the next Emperor orthodoxly. Crown Prince had been suppressed for a long time and his Civil Service Officer and Military Attache were no match for the other princes. Besides, the Fourth Prince had the support of the Sword Emperor and the Third Prince had the support of the Devil Empress.

If he abruptly declared that the Crown Prince would ascend the throne, the other princes were likely to be unsatisfied and initiate a rebellion. If the capital and the rest of the world was left in turmoil, the West Invaders would take this opportunity to invade.

Thus, the Right Chief Minister buried the Emperor's death and informed only the Crown Prince. He wanted the Crown Prince to draw the neutral powers to his side and use the might of the throne to suppress the other three princes, swiftly ending the struggle for the throne.

"Order? Then who was the one who killed the emperor?" Meng Qi asked again.

The weather outside became increasingly stifling, the wind carrying over the noise of fighting from the Hall of Diligent Government.

The Evil Prince said confidently, "The Left Chief Minister, Lyu Ling."

"The wicked minister?" That man had been demoted for many years.

"As the chief general of Government Office and one of the ministers with real power, he had midnight visiting rights and could visit the old devil easily." The Evil Prince didn't want to hide the truth. "Lyu Ling understood others' intentions well and earned the old devil's trust. When he learned Lu Guan was summoned into the capital, he smartly deduced that he had lost the Emperor's favor."

"When the Crown Prince told him the secret, he knew his guess was right. The old devil didn't tell him the plan because he wanted to abandon him. If the country makes peace with another, he and the Crown Prince would be held responsible for the disgrace of the state. If the negotiation fails, someone will be responsible for the west-northern disgrace and Lu Guan's demotion. Obviously, the wise Emperor can't be the scapegoat. However, the wicked minister can be. That'll make an excellent excuse for the old devil."

The Evil Prince was thinner than before. He must have been incredibly handsome as a young man. He said with full confidence, "Realizing this, Lyu Ling then supported the Crown Prince. He had been the minister for a long time and garnered many domestic ministers and guards as his supporters. They were all on his side, awaiting the new Emperor. Therefore, they investigated the Ziji Pavilion and the Royal City Department."

"After confirming the fake plan, they had no choice but to follow Lyu Ling. He knew the information and judged the old devil to be well. So he found a nontoxic elixir that could accelerate the absorption of the Vital Spirit. He told the eunuch to add it to the old devil's food and finally causing him to die."

Meng Qi asked thoughtfully, "Why do you know such a secret plan? Seems like you have firsthand experience."

"Because it was Lyu Ling who told me this. He was also the one who helped me enter this place." Evil Prince chuckled, sighing. "In the absence of other enemies, the Crown Prince would definitely kill him in the future. Even he revealed this plan to others, Wang Derang would think he was spouting nonsense as a last-ditch effort. By then, there probably won't be any more princes around. Even if Wang Derang doesn't trust the Crown Prince, he still has to. That was why Lyu Ling told me this and asked for a way of survival."

Meng Qi lamented regretfully, "What good does it do to tell you?"

"Right now, the Seventh Prince must be heading southeast beyond the capital to gather his supporters and declare a war against the Crown Prince." The Evil Prince seemed to be talking about something non-essential.

Meng Qi suddenly understood the true meaning behind the Seventh Prince's words. With the Right Chief Minister supporting the Crown Prince in the capital, the Seventh Prince stood no chance. His hopes for survival and victory laid outside the capital. "So it's you! You're the one behind the Seventh Prince."

The Evil Prince nodded with a smile. " Yes, it's me. And I didn't tell him that the Crown Prince instructed Lyu Ling to kill the old devil. I just found an excuse to send him outside the capital."

"You want the country to fall into chaos?" Meng Qi understood the Evil Prince's intentions.

The Evil Prince said with pride, "If one ascends to the throne through schemes and conspiracies, the Emperor's foundation would never be stable and he'll forever be suppressed by Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. Only an uprising can sweep the country and make my religion the orthodox one. I have already prepared kindling material in the east-northern for the Seventh Prince."

For a regime to born out of gunpowder... Meng Qi inexplicably recalled such a saying. The Evil Prince was indeed planning something big.

He sighed. "The people will suffer because of this."

"Their deaths were set in place for something worthwhile," Evil Prince said cruelly.

He suddenly laughed. "Do you know why I'm talking so much and telling you so many things?"

Without waiting for Meng Qi's reply, he revealed a dark yellow crystal stone in his hand behind him. There seemed to be something shapeless inside the crystal stone was something shapeless.

He snorted, expression turning cold.

"Because I want to delay the time."

He picked up the crystal stone, his aura rising similar to that of the Devil Empress.

"Though I haven't completely absorbed the energy, it's enough to kill you!"

Rumble!

Outside, lighting crossed the night sky and the thunderstorm broke the quietness.

Though Meng Qi didn't know how the Evil Prince managed to get his hands on the Demon Venerable Sarira or why he wanted to absorb its energy, he was calm as usual. "Do you know why I bothered listening to all your nonsense?"

Meng Qi didn't wait for the Evil Prince's reply. He smiled, revealing his white teeth.

"Because I want to delay the time, too."