“Therefore,” Li Yao said, “you chose to enter the royal palace as ‘Wang Xi’?”
Long Yangjun smiled. “I needed tremendous resources to improve my capabilities and special channels to recruit subordinates. I also needed to collect all the information from the past thousands of years about the entire world to search for traces of the depths of the Land of Eternal Night. Where could I have achieved my purposes simultaneously except for the royal palace?”
“But your body…”
“It is none of your business.” Long Yangjun suddenly grew alarmed, and her voice grew cold again. “All in all, you only need to know that I smoothly entered the royal palace and became a common eunuch.
“My uncanny dreams endowed me with extraordinary analysis and planning abilities. Even the most experienced old eunuchs were manipulated by me without them realizing!
“I worked as a librarian in the royal library for decades in order to search for everything related to the Land of Eternal Night from the books that were as vast as oceans. It was during that period that some scraps about the Divine Palace aroused my interest. I was gradually certain that the dreams that had been haunting me must be associated with the Divine Palace!
“However, even the latest books about the Divine Palace were written thousands of years ago. Nobody today knew specifically where the so-called ‘Divine Palace’ was. Most people simply regarded it as an illusory place cited in folklore.
“But I knew that the Divine Palace was in the real world!
“In the decades that followed, I tried to determine the specific coordinates of the Divine Palace until I found the ‘map core’ and the ‘Thousand Stars Tray’ in the end.
“It was a pity that I didn’t know where the ‘map core’ was hidden exactly and that the ‘Thousand Stars Tray’ had already been dissected into more than ten parts that were held by multiple sects as their secret treasures!
“In order to collect the components of the Thousand Stars Tray and reassemble it, I would have to break into the sects!”
“That explains a lot!” Deep in thought, Li Yao remarked, “That’s why you established Ghost Character and instigated trouble among the Cultivators to help the emperor keep the main sects in check. You even led Ghost Character to annihilate a lot of sects in person!”
“Exactly!” Long Yangjun said. “At that time, I had already joined an underground sect that had been passed on among the eunuchs for a thousand years in the royal palace. I had trained the Apparitional Night arts to the highest level and was acknowledged as the leader of the clandestine force!
“The emperor wanted to curb the Cultivators, which was exactly what I wanted, too.
Therefore, I established Ghost Character based on the enormous resources of the underground force. While I was leading the charge and running errands for the emperor, I collected the pieces of the Thousand Stars Tray. Finally, I also found out that the map core was actually hidden in East Peace County!”
Long Yangjun paused for a moment when she reached this part, as if she was still angry about what happened next. “If I were still the dominating Wang Xi in the court, after a year and a half’s planning, I would’ve been able to retrieve the map core openly and establish an exploration team that was absolutely loyal to me. Then, I could have made my way to the Land of Eternal Night and searched for the Divine Palace without alarming anyone!
“The old emperor was completely under my control. The Cultivators were too busy minding their own business to compete with me, too!
“However, it never occurred to me that an existence as weird as Zhu Zongyou would suddenly jump out of nowhere and completely disrupt my whole plan. He almost killed me without leaving me a place for burial!”
Zhu Zongyou was ‘Emperor Phoenix’, the new emperor who had ascended to the throne last year.
Calling him by his name, Long Yangjun apparently hated his guts!
Li Yao raised his eyebrow and asked, “So, are you not on the same boat?”
“Hehe. The old emperor was entirely manipulated by me and no better than a puppet. Why would I trouble myself by making a new emperor?” Long Yangjun said coldly. “Even if a new puppet was needed, I had already picked quite a few suitable targets who would absolutely not hinder my plan!
“In retrospect, the death of the old emperor was definitely a scheme, and the leader of the scheme was Emperor Phoenix, the then Thirteenth Prince Zhu Zongyou who was hidden in the Thunder Martial Temple and had been forgotten by most people!
“It’s a pity that I focused my full attention on searching for the map core and the Thousand Stars Tray at that time, so I was too sluggish to realize the severity of the issue in time. When I finally realized it, my own forces had already been uprooted by Zhu Zongyou as fast as lightning!”
“Wait a moment!” Li Yao found it strange. “Logically, Emperor Phoenix should have had absolutely no support in the Divine Capital. How could he have uprooted the forces that you had raised for decades, including the enormous Ghost Character?”
“It’s exactly because of the impossibility that I underestimated him!” Long Yangjun replied hatefully. “Zhu Zongyou is definitely not as simple as he appears, but the force lurking behind him is even more terrible. The elite assassins of Ghost Character were absolutely no match for his newly-founded Fiery Phoenix Legion during the collisions in the darkness. Several of my subordinates who had been loyal to me for decades betrayed me overnight. Their motivation puzzles me even to this day!”
Li Yao sighed and said, “So, you could only turn to the last resort and cooperate with Han Baling, Wan Mingzhu, and Qi Changsheng?”
“Exactly.” Long Yangjun gnashed her teeth. “A rat on the street that everybody stomped on, a public enemy for everyone in the world… I didn’t care about any of that. The idiotic Cultivators wanted to capture me? Not going to happen in a hundred years!
“But the secret force behind Zhu Zongyou had been strangling me in the darkness all the time. He was apparently going to crush me and glean all my secrets from me!
“My force grew weaker every day. After only half a year and a half, ninety percent of the members of Ghost Character had already been lost. The rest of them were living in panic every day like shocked birds!
“I was fully clear that if I didn’t have one last struggle and embark on the quest for the Divine Palace, I might not have the opportunity later!
“Having no other options, I could only tell the secret to Han Baling, Qi Changsheng, and Wan Mingzhu. The Four Rapscallions teamed up to look for the Divine Palace!”
Li Yao rolled his eyes and suddenly asked, “Let me make a guess. You intentionally revealed a loophole during the battle at East Peace County so that I would follow. Then, you told me part of the truth to attract more forces to join the ‘quest for the Divine Palace’, right?”
“You are quite smart.” Long Yangjun was rather surprised. She looked Li Yao up and down carefully again. “Exactly. I wanted as many forces to participate in the competition in the Divine Palace as possible!
“The reason is very simple. Under the attack of Emperor Phoenix, Ghost Character had been significantly undermined. It was not nearly as strong as it appeared to be. Chances were that it was the weakest of the four forces under the command of the Four Rapscallions!
“Also, I was the one who called for the operation. From the perspective of Han Baling, Qi Changsheng, and Wan Mingzhu, it was easy for them to reach the conclusion that I must be keeping some critical information for myself!
“Then, it would be possible for the three of them to stand on the same side and deal with me together in order to exploit all of my secrets!
“As long as they grew slightly hostile, they would see through my weakness right now. I would be caught in the awkward situation where I couldn’t fight back at all, which was definitely unacceptable for me!
“Didn’t you mention on the desolate land in the east ocean that, since you were all by yourself, you could only introduce as many forces into the exploration mission as possible so that you would be able to fish for what you wanted in the dirty water!
“The same logic applies for me. If more forces participated in the operation, it would be more likely that they would harass and even kill each other, and I, with the crucial information, would be given a precious opportunity!
“After all, our goals are different. The goal of the others is the Cloud Qin Gold Statues, but my goal is to look into the background of the whole issue and find out who I am. Therefore, I will not fight bloody battles in front of the Cloud Qin Gold Statues like them, at least not in the beginning!”
Li Yao nodded slowly.
After hearing that, he finally felt that some of the puzzles that he had in the beginning were solved.
“One more thing.”
After a moment of hesitation, Long Yangjun said, “It is just my vague intuition not backed by any proof, but I somehow feel that Zhu Zongyou knows something about the Divine Palace. Even if I hadn’t revealed the secret, it’s very possible that he would’ve established an exploration team in secret to search for this place. Judging from his thunderous approaches when he dealt with Ghost Character, the exploration team would be much more than what Han Baling and the other forces combined could handle!
“Since I couldn’t stop him, I might as well make it big and introduce more forces into the game. The more, the merrier!”
Li Yao was dazed for a moment. On second thought, it was indeed very possible.
The news about the Divine Palace was publicly revealed only after the battle in East Peace County. In just one short month, Emperor Phoenix had already launched aggressive attacks all over the country and established a well-equipped exploration team with sufficient resources. Logically, the whole preparation should have taken much longer than it actually did!
The only explanation was that long before the battle of East Peace County, and before the ‘map core’ fell into the hands of Wang Xi, he had begun planning everything!
The puzzle was too complicated to be solved for the time being. Li Yao calmed himself down and sorted his messy thoughts. “So, you passed the maze-like internal pathways on the warship, and you knew the passwords to open the gate to the bridge because the uncanny dreams in your head told you the information.”
“No. It was just spontaneous.” Long Yangjun eyed the crystal pillars around and mumbled, “I didn’t know any of that in the beginning. However, the moment that I entered this… Nuwa warship, I had a feeling that I’d come home. I seemed to be familiar with the distribution and direction of every pathway, and I would not make a mistake even if I walked through them with my eyes closed. I reached this place just with just my natural instincts.
“The same goes for the three identification procedures. I didn’t know the way to crack them before. However, as long as I cleared my mind and relaxed my body, my fingers were already bouncing on their own as naturally as breathing!”