Jing Yue was speechless in the face of Qin Yanzhi’s confidence. He was silent for a long while before pouring his divine consciousness into the Haotian realm.
In just that short while, the passage of time in the small world didn’t change much, but Jing Yue and Lil Yanzhi had arrived outside the gate of Prince Ning's Manor at this time.
The door attendant felt annoyed but he was not fooled by Jing Yue's appearance and instead asked him to leave with a bad attitude.
Jing Yue, “I’m here to save lives.”
The door attendant was taken aback before he sneered, “Save lives? Whose life in this manor requires your saving?”
Jing Yue, “Prince Ning, of course.”
Door attendant, “Insolent! How dare you curse Prince Ning?!”
Jing Yue didn’t respond but looked at the door attendant silently.
The door attendant somehow felt a little guilty and said, “How can the rumors outside be taken seriously? Prince Ning is as healthy as can be...”
“Oh no, it’s bad! Prince Ning is in serious condition! Hurry up and get the imperial physician!”
Before the door attendant finished speaking, a servant could be seen rushing out while stumbling on the ground and the manor was also in turmoil.
Jing Yue, “So, you really don’t need me?”
The door attendant was dumbfounded.
Before long, Jing Yue and Lil Yanzhi were invited into Prince Ning’s manor. As soon as he entered the inner chamber where Prince Ning lived, he noticed a cold and evil aura, exactly the same as what he had sensed under Flying Blossoms Mountain. It was most likely the work of the State Preceptor.
The person lying on the bed had sunken cheeks and protruding eyes, so thin that only a layer of skin was left on the bones, and his breathing was weak as if he could die at any time.
Prince Ning was the younger brother of Emperor Chen. He was thirty-five this year and should be at the prime of his life. But now, he was just like an old man and even his hair was gray.
Princess Ning, who accompanied him in, cried, “The prince's illness is very strange. It’s no different from ordinary people in the day but it hurts very much at night. However, there’s no trace of any injury on his body and the imperial physician can't find any cause.”
Jing Yue, “What kind of pain?”
Princess Ning was startled before saying, “He said that he seemed to be tied to a copper pillar heated by charcoal fire and his whole body was being burned. Sometimes he could even smell the burnt smell, as if, as if…”
“Like being tortured with a brand,” Jing Yue said lightly.
Princess Ning's body trembled and her pupils constricted sharply—wasn’t it exactly like being branded? Just thinking about it made her scalp tingle!
She swallowed and stammered, “We even invited Daoist priests from Southstar Temple to the manor to exorcise evil spirits. Those Daoists have real abilities but unfortunately, they’re also helpless. The master said that he’d return to the sect and ask his master for help, but in this duration, the prince has taken a turn for the worse before they returned.”
Jing Yue took Prince Ning's wrist with one hand, pretending to be feeling the pulse of the other party, but in fact, he explored Prince Ning's body with a shred of divine consciousness. After a while, he frowned slightly. A lot of black Qi lurked in Prince Ning’s body, almost consuming the purple and golden dragon Qi, just like the sky above the capital.
Jing Yue pondered. Could it be that the State Preceptor needed the dragon Qi? Did he want to usurp the throne? But if the other party was a cultivator and wanted the throne of a country, why go to such lengths?
He suddenly recalled the discussion among the inn’s scholars, saying that the members of the royal family died violently in successive years. If the State Preceptor really wanted the dragon Qi, then everything could be explained. All members of the royal family would contain purple and gold dragon qi in the body. The closer the bloodline was to the emperor, the purer the dragon qi. Once the dragon qi was sucked out, wouldn’t they just drop dead?
Now that the cause was found, the cure was easy. He only needed to get rid of the black qi in Prince Ning's body. This was not difficult for Jing Yue.
However, he didn’t want to alert the state preceptor, so he said to Princess Ning, “Bring me a piece of peach wood.”
Using his finger like a knife, Jing Yue carved the peach wood into a human-shaped wooden puppet as tall as the length of a forearm within a few minutes. Then, he pierced Prince Ning's finger, took a drop of his blood, and put it into the puppet's heart. The puppet spontaneously climbed onto Prince Ning's bed, lying next to him, and even knew how to cover itself with a quilt as if it was alive.
Immediately after, Jing Yue chanted as he tweaked his fingers, only to see strands of black qi from Prince Ning's nostrils pouring into the puppet. As the puppet became darker and darker, Prince Ning's withered face gradually became plump and ruddy, and his hair turned from frosty white to obsidian black.
Princess Ning was already speechless by Jing Yue's magical means. She shivered and hid behind the screen, not daring to let the black qi touch her body, but stared fixedly at Prince Ning the entire time.
Suddenly, she saw Prince Ning’s eyelids flutter.
Prince Ning was passed out from the pain just now. Waking up at this time, he felt that his whole body was relaxed as if he had taken an elixir, and there was no more discomfort. It could even be said that he felt refreshed!
“I… am I dead?”
He could only stop suffering if he was dead, right?
But why did hell look so similar to his room? Oh, he just died and his spirit was not taken away by the netherworld officials yet.
Prince Ning turned his head stiffly. Under the candlelight, he saw a Daoist dressed in a white robe standing by the bed. He subconsciously asked, “Could it be White Wuchang?”
(TN: Bai Wuchang 白无常 = from the black and white impermanent tasked to collect spirits of the dead and transport them to the netherworld.)
Jing Yue & Qin Yanzhi & blue phoenix, “…”
Princess Ning choked and cried bitterly, “Wangye! You’re finally awake! You almost scared me to death!”
(TN: Wangye王爷 = Lord Prince.)
Prince Ning trembled and his eyes quickly filled with fear, “I… am I still alive?”
Princess Ning took out her handkerchief and wiped her tears, still standing far away. “Look at what you’re saying. Of course you’re still alive. The Daoist master next to you is your savior!”
“My… savior?” Prince Ning closed his eyes in pain and said bitterly, “Why am I still alive?”
Princess Ning, “…”
When Prince Ning finally accepted the reality and found that he was alive and well again, he suddenly turned over, got out of bed, and kowtowed to Jing Yue. “Xianzhang! How could I ever repay your kindness!”
For an illness that even the imperial physician and Southstar Temple could do nothing about, this Jing-xianzhang cured him in a flash. Prince Ning was convinced that the other party was really an immortal, especially since he refused to take anything, which culminated in Prince Ning's awe and gratitude.
Subsequently, Prince Ning’s Manor held a big banquet as a reward, which Jing Yue didn’t decline. During the dinner, when he saw Prince Ning hesitated several times, he said, “Is there anything else I can do for the prince?”
Prince Ning had seen Jing Yue's methods and couldn’t help letting his thoughts run wild, but he was also somewhat afraid of Jing Yue, so he dared not speak up. Now that Jing Yue asked, he immediately seized the opportunity and said, “It’s like this…”
It turned out that he was seeking help for his brother, the emperor.
The emperor fell ill a month ago. At first, it was just a common cold, but there was no improvement even when the imperial physicians took turns to diagnose and give treatment. The emperor's body became weaker and weaker, and he couldn’t sleep well at night, just like Prince Ning.
“My royal brother keeps dreaming of becoming a beggar, either getting his arms and legs broken by someone, or have his nose and eyes gouged. The best situation is to be hungry and cold, begging without dignity,” Prince Ning said anxiously. “Since half a month ago, the emperor has not shown his face. I heard that he’s getting worse.”
Jing Yue said solemnly, “There must be something fishy with the emperor’s illness too. Why don’t you ask the state preceptor to diagnose the emperor’s condition? Isn’t he learned in the art of Daoism too?”
Prince Ning’s face changed with apprehension mixed with resentment. “Not long after the emperor fell ill, the state preceptor refused to let the imperial officials meet with the emperor, saying that he needs to treat the emperor personally, but there has been no news.”
Jing Yue, “In that case, I can’t meet the emperor and won’t be able to treat him either.”
Prince Ning said anxiously, “As long as Xianzhang is willing to give it a try, this prince, no, this one will try his best to let Xianzhang meet the royal brother.”
Jing Yue pretended to hesitate when Prince Ning spoke again, “Now that the emperor is controlled by the state preceptor, if anything happens to him, the crowned prince is still young. At that time, if the state preceptor controls the government, the other commandery princes will definitely oppose it. Wouldn’t the world be in chaos? Xianzhang is compassionate and certainly wouldn’t want to see the people suffer.”
Jing Yue thought inwardly that it was rumored the state preceptor had always indulged the royal family, but the prince didn’t seem to appreciate it?
However, Prince Ning’s attitude was insignificant. The priority was to get into the palace properly, so he nodded slightly. “That’s a good point. The state preceptor is an otherworldly person and shouldn’t be too involved in the affairs of the secular world. I should look into this matter. However, the state preceptor is favored by the emperor. Will the emperor believe me?”
Prince Ning said with joy, “Please rest assured!”
In this way, Jing Yue and Qin Yanzhi stayed at Prince Ning's manor temporarily. They didn't know what Prince Ning did, but soon, a servant came to invite Jing Yue into the palace.
This time, Lil Yanzhi was quite sensible. Jing Yue explained the reason to him and he didn’t stubbornly insist on following but waited obediently in Prince Ning’s manor with blue phoenix.
When Jing Yue entered the emperor’s chambers, he found that the room was full of malevolent energy, and the walls were covered under a layer of black stains. Even the surface of the furniture was covered with mold-like black spots, emitting a stench, but mortals could not detect it.
A hint of disgust flashed in Jing Yue’s eyes before he looked towards the bed.
The emperor lying on the bed was also very thin. He was asleep at this time, but it was not sound sleep. The eyeballs under his eyelids kept rolling, muttering under his breath, and his body twitched from time to time.
A servant stepped forward shakily and called out to him softly but the emperor remained asleep. It was only until Jing Yue patted his forehead lightly before he woke up gradually.
As soon as the emperor woke up, he gasped for breath. Then, he stared fixedly at the top of the bed as if he couldn’t do anything else. Suddenly, he trembled all over and turned his head abruptly. When he saw Jing Yue, his tears flowed and he said, “Could it be the immortal? Xianzhang, you’re finally here to save me.”
There were dark circles around his eyes, his eyes were bloodshot, and he looked a little spooky.
Jing Yue waved his hand, motioned him to lie down, and stepped forward to check his pulse.
His divine consciousness penetrated into the emperor's body. Sure enough, the purple and golden dragon qi in the other party's body had been reduced to wisps by the black qi. Under normal circumstances, as the emperor, his purple and gold dragon qi should be condensed into a complete dragon form. But now, let alone the dragon shape, even a serpentine shape didn’t exist any longer, slowly dissipating instead.
Jing Yue, “Tell me about your symptoms.”
The emperor was so eager to speak that he choked and coughed instead, his heart and lungs hurting from the violent movements. However, he suddenly felt a warm current flowing from his wrists into his body, his whole person seemed to be immersed in a hot spring, and his cold limbs became warm.
He knew that the immortal was helping him and the only doubt left in his heart disappeared. He said in a trembling voice, “Xianzhang, you must save me! Every night, I dreamt that I’ve become the lowliest beggar, but I’m not in the same place every time, not the same era. I’ve never heard of those time periods before.”
The emperor recounted his dreams in horror, such as being covered with abscesses and being stoned by other children; such as limping while being chased by wild dogs; such as being a little crazy and steamrollered on the ground by other ruffians; such as being caught by other nobles with special fetishes and tortured; such as being caught by the palace guards and fed to the wild beasts, and so on.
“These dreams torment me day and night. I simply dare not fall asleep. Sometimes, it’s really hard to go on, but as soon as I fall asleep, the nightmares will start again! And once I fall into a dreamscape, I can’t wake up no matter how noisy the outside world is, unless I die in the dream!”
Toward the end of his recount, the emperor had forgotten his title^ and even his identity. He lifted the quilt and knelt on the bed. “Xianzhang, Prince Ning has told me everything. With your powers, only you can save me now!”
(TN: The emperor will use ‘zhen’ 朕 to refer to himself which can only be used by the ruler, but toward the end, he used ‘wo’ 我 which is the common term referring to ‘I’ or ‘me’. This is not apparent in English which doesn’t have a differentiation.)
Jing Yue, “People say that nine lives as a beggar can beget a lifetime as the emperor. Everything in the dream is nothing more than your previous lives. It’s just that you have evil spirits hidden in your body that produced such a deep impact on you.”
The emperor was shocked. “Evil spirits? I’m the blessed ruler, the destined emperor. How can evil spirits get close to me?”
Jing Yue looked askance at him, which clearly meant ‘is being the blessed ruler really that awesome?’ Thus, the emperor dared not continue.
After that, Jing Yue made a puppet in the same way as the treatment for Prince Ning, and cast a spell to induce the evil spirit into the puppet. Like Prince Ning, the emperor also felt lighter immediately, but as he was awake at this time, he watched aghast as the wisps of black Qi came out of his nostrils.
The expression on the emperor’s face was truly spectacular. He stiffened for a moment before he started retching. Then, he looked up with gloomy eyes. “I trusted the state preceptor. Why does he treat me like this?”
Jing Yue, “How do you know the state preceptor did this to you?”
The emperor was startled. “Isn’t it? The state preceptor has formidable powers. Why didn’t he help me get rid of the evil? He even forbids me from meeting with my ministers. He doesn't want me to get well at all! Or is the evil spirits actually his doing? What’s he trying to do?”
Although the emperor lowered his voice, he was so angry that he almost roared at the end. When he finished venting, he became worried again. “Is the state preceptor actually a demon in disguise? Will he continue to harm me? Xianzhang, how about you don't leave and stay in the palace instead. I’ll appoint you as the new state preceptor!”
Jing Yue pretended to smile profoundly and said, “If you’re just worried about the state preceptor, I’ll give you a body suspension charm. When he approaches, you only need to activate this charm and the state preceptor will be trapped. In this way, I can make my move and ensure nothing goes wrong!”
The emperor was immediately overjoyed.
It didn't take long for the news of the emperor's recovery to spread throughout the Chen Kingdom. Many people were relieved and the state preceptor acted as normal.
Seeing that the spring examinations were approaching, the emperor specially summoned the state preceptor for an audience. Amid hundreds of officials in the court, a young man with praying beads in his hands solemnly stepped forward. His lips were blue while his skin was pale. He looked a little spooky but his eyes were clear and bright.
Just when he asked the emperor about his health, the emperor suddenly snapped, “Hmph! I’m afraid to let you down. My health is in excellent condition.”
The state preceptor frowned and was about to say something but was surprised to find that he was frozen in place. It was as though countless iron clamps held him firmly in place and he was unable to move an inch.
The state preceptor looked at the emperor in uncertainty, wondering if the other party was behind this. However, the emperor jumped up from his dragon throne and shouted without restraint, “Xianzhang, I’ve suspended him! Take care of him quickly!”
Then, a figure slowly walked out from behind the golden pillars of the hall in the sight of the stunned officials. The other party had a godlike appearance, and his eyes seemed to reflect the stars, so that when people looked at it, the heart would unconsciously skip half a beat.
The state preceptor calmed his mind and said, “Who are you?”
It was the emperor who answered him.
Perhaps because he had someone to rely on, the emperor became much bolder, and even pointed at his nose and shouted, “You evildoer! How dare you set up a demonic spell to harm me! Jing-xianzhang will punish the evildoer today, for the people and me!”
The state preceptor was stunned for a long time, his expression mocking. “Your Majesty, this minister protect you in every way, protect your royal family, protect the country of Chen, but you regard me as a demon, and even found a wild Daoist from nowhere to attack me.”
The emperor was unperturbed. “The immortal has told me everything! You just want to suck the dragon Qi of the royal family! Earlier on, Prince Ning already warned me that you have wild ambitions and wronged the loyal ministers, but I didn’t believe it. Now… hmph!”
He turned to Jing Yue and urged once again, “Xianzhang, the evildoer is here, please cast the spell!”
Without waiting for Jing Yue to make a move, an invisible pressure enveloped the hall, and all the officials in the hall shivered uncontrollably.
The state preceptor snorted coldly, “You want to take me down? Let’s see if you have the ability!”
A square seal slowly emerged in mid-air, emitting a brilliant glow of jasper. In an instant, the state preceptor had escaped from the trap.