The luxurious palace could accommodate well over a thousand people, but right now, only the Lightning Emperor sat in its glorious halls.
Even when An Bo brought Yang Jian and Bai Haoyu inside, Xiao Ting acted as if he didn’t notice. His fingers trembled, shaking the foiled object in his hands. On its surface was a hint of white powder.
After entering the palace, An Bo made no noise. He knew that Xiao Ting hated nothing more than others interrupting him when he was consuming the powder, and that during this process, his temperament was always far more explosive than usual.
Yang Jian and Bai Haoyu naturally kept silent as well. They simply stood in the corner of the great hall, waiting in silence.
“How about I share some shocking news with you? In truth, the Lightning Emperor is under someone else’s control. I’m here in his estate to investigate the situation.” Suddenly, Bai Haoyu’s divine sense transmission went off like a bomb in Yang Jian’s sea of consciousness.
Yang Jian’s brows shot up, and his expression shifted erratically. “What do you mean by that? You’re saying someone is secretly controlling the Lightning Emperor, the Master of Tribulation Lightning? What kind of joke is that? That’s the Lightning Emperor! Who could possibly control his thoughts?”
“Who said they were controlling his thoughts or sea of consciousness? Why couldn’t they use something external to manipulate him?” asked Bai Haoyu. “Think about it: why did the Lightning Emperor abdicate in his prime, then disregard all of the family’s affairs? Why would he pass this enormous responsibility onto Xiao Yan, who’d never been interested in politics, when he himself loved power dearly?”
“What’s wrong with cultivating the next generation?”
“Of course you have to teach the next generation, but if that’s all it was, why would he seize the throne right back just as Xiao Yan was getting the hang of leadership?” asked Bai Haoyu.
Yang Jian said nothing.
Why had Xiao Ting suddenly seized back the throne? He naturally understood the reasons full well.
It was because Xiao Ting was consorting with demons and yao to plan an uprising. He and Xiao Yan had a falling out over differences in politics, and in order to keep the Xiao Family in the palm of his hand and use them in his rebellion, Xiao Ting naturally had to reclaim his former throne.
Yang Jian knew all that, but he couldn’t talk about any of it with Bai Haoyu.
He still wasn’t sure of Bai Haoyu’s status. Bai Haoyu might very well just be saying this to lay a trap for him.
“It seems you’re still on guard against me?” said Bai Haoyu.
“Are you saying I shouldn’t be on guard?” transmitted Yang Jian. “Back in the Bai Family Estate, you hurt Zichen that badly, taking both his arm and his left eye. That I’m not actively trying to avenge him is already the limit of my tolerance. Do you really think I’m going to just share information with you?”
“I did that for his own good.”
“What a load of bullsh*t!”
“Heh, you’re the Star of Slaughter. To think you’d swear like that.” Bai Haoyu arched his brows. “I took his left eye in preparation for him opening his celestial eye. Let me ask you this: didn’t his celestial eye open in his left eye? As for his arm, I naturally had my reasons. Let me share a bit of information with you. Did you know that the demons’ Emperor Star, the other of heaven’s two chosen emperors, is missing his right arm?”
There were already no words to describe Yang Jian’s shock.
Bai Haoyu actually knew that Ye Zichen’s celestial eye was on the left side. Now, it seemed that the other Emperor Star was missing his right arm.
Ye Zichen’s left arm, Gu Li’s right arm.
Was there a connection between the two?
This person was suspicious as could be. Back at the Bai Family Estate, they’d fought bitterly, and had almost died at his hands.
Then, the Bai Family patriarch had self-destructed. Despite the patriarch’s cultivation and the resulting scale of the blast, Bai Haoyu had somehow survived and wound up at the Lightning Emperor’s Estate.
He was just one big bundle of mysteries!
“What are you trying to say?”
“Let me tell you one more thing. If you get the chance, I hope you’ll pass it on to that Emperor Star of yours,” transmitted Bai Haoyu. “Out of the goodness of my heart, let me explain why Xiao Ting seized his throne back. In truth, someone behind the scenes ordered him to do it!”
“Ordered? Who could possibly order him around?”
“Do you see that white powder he’s snorting?” asked Bai Haoyu. “I once swiped a little bit of it, then investigated its composition. It’s partially comprised of phantom fruit.”
Phantom fruit, taken as medicine, could result in hallucinations and numb the user’s senses. Tens of thousands of years ago, it had been used as a painkiller, but too many people grew dependent on it afterward. Furthermore, phantom fruit grew only in extremely inhospitable environments, and needed to be watered with human blood. As such, it had long since been banned, its seeds destroyed. It was, for all intents and purposes, extinct, and there’d been no news of phantom fruit ever since.
During his time here, Yang Jian had seen Xiao Ting snorting the powder several times, and based on his behavior, it really did seem like he was hallucinating.
“The demons started cultivating it again around a thousand years ago, but they only succeeded a century ago. Xiao Ting is among the first users of this new crop of phantom fruit. Based on my deductions, he’s not the only one…. There ought to be quite a few major powers in both the God and Yao Realms who’ve taken to snorting phantom fruit-laced powder.” Bai Haoyu’s transmissions continued without pause. Yang Jian grew increasingly solemn with each one.
“Phantom fruit is highly addictive. Taking it even once leads to irreversible effects. Even just trying to quit results in the sensation of tens of thousands of ants boring holes in your bones. If the demons got him hooked, then threatened to cut off his supply, don’t you think he’d be obedient?”
“Where did you obtain this information?” asked Yang Jian.
“I can’t tell you that; consider it my secret,” said Bai Haoyu with a faint laugh. “All you need to know is, someone is secretly controlling Xiao Ting from the shadows. I’d also like to take this opportunity to tell you that trying to hide things from Xiao Ting is completely pointless. The ones truly investigating you are the demons.”
Yang Jian’s brows knit together. If the demons were really investigating in secret, then perhaps…
He really might have been exposed.
Because he and Ye Zichen had put on a show of arguing and falling out with each other purely to trick Xiao Ting. Even if they knew Xiao Ting was working with demons, they figured there was no way he was just another one of the demons’ dogs. They figured the Lightning Emperor would be making his judgments on his own, not just blindly carrying out orders.
But if the demons were coercing him with phantom fruit, the odds of him acting as their dog were actually rather high!
Then, if the demons investigated Ye Zichen and Yang Jian’s falling out on their own, it was entirely possible that they’d discover something off about it!
Could it be that Xiao Ting had invited him here for a “feast at swan goose gate”? Could it be that this was an ambush?
Yang Jian spread his divine sense out in a circle, but in the entire palace, there was absolutely no one but him, Bai Haoyu, An Bo, and Xiao Ting.
Just as Yang Jian was about to investigate more thoroughly, he tensed up.
“Special Emissary Yang, it seems you’re rather interested in my palace?”
Xiao TIng suddenly took hold of the divine sense Yang Jian had been using to investigate. He’d already finished snorting the white powder. His deep, sunken eyes revealed a hint of viciousness. “Just now, I sensed Special Emissary Yang and Executive Officer Bai sending messages at a very high rate indeed, but I couldn’t discern their contents. Might you enlighten me? You two have been here this long, yet you’ve yet to truly open up to me. This has left me very distressed indeed.”
The atmosphere was suddenly as tense as could be. Bai Haoyu tensed up too, only to hear Xiao Ting snort. “Also, Special Emissary Yang, did you get the word out already or not? I gave you a chance, so you’d better not tell me you failed to take advantage of it!”
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