Siao Qi gritted her teeth. She furrowed her eyebrows and looked at Chu Li, "Since Prince An harbors an ambition to take the throne, he will never marry my second sister. But because the Emperor had personally promised the engagement with our Public House, he could not do anything but adhere to it. Therefore, his best way out of this mess is to kill my second sister. Am I right?"
Chu Li sighed and nodded his head.
Siao Qi asked again, "Does he have the intention to kill my second sister?"
Chu Li did not speak.
Siao Qi gritted on her teeth, scoffing, "So it seems like the Ren Public House had aligned themselves with Prince An's forces!"
If Prince An really wanted to be Emperor, he would do everything he could to void the engagement.
Siao Qi may not be a master strategist, but her analytical skills were remarkable. She had everything figured out in just a blink of an eye.
"Hmph, Prince An. He would destroy anyone who stands in his way, am I right?" Siao Qi said.
Chu Li said, "Yes, Prince An is cruel at heart."
"It seems to be that we cannot allow my second sister into the Imperial Court." Siao Qi shook her head, "There is no other way for me and my second sister. We can only get out of this by faking our deaths."
Chu Li shook his head and replied, "What if the Emperor insists that the Second Lady must marry Prince An?"
"The Emperor?" Siao Qi frowned.
She had forgotten to account for the Emperor's thoughts.
Chu Li chided her, "If the Emperor issues an order that the Second Lady must marry into the Imperial Court, would faking your deaths help? Aunt Eve had already attempted this trick long ago."
Siao Qi was lost for words.
Chu Li said, "Lady Siao, actually there is another way."
"What way?" Siao Qi lifted her head and looked at him.
Chu Li found it difficult to say out the three words, "Kill Prince An!"
Siao Qi's gaze froze. She frowned and looked at him, her bright eyes twinkling.
She looked exceptionally calm, but deep down, her emotions were turbulent.
Chu Li watched her quietly, waiting for her to respond.
This decision was indeed very startling. It may not sound crazy to Chu Li because he had a modern world mindset. The modern people respected authority, but not the son of god, hence only he could come out with such an outrageous idea.
But for the people in this world, it would be hard for them to think this way.
After a while, Chu Li continued speaking, "Just so you know, he cursed the Second Lady with the Vitality Sealing Finger, so he very much deserves to die, I don't care if he's a prince! Plus, until today, the Second Lady had not died yet, so he won't rest his case. Even if you had faked your deaths, he'll also find a way to make sure that the Second Lady truly becomes dead."
Siao Qi sighed.
Chu Li said, "The road to the crown is a treacherous one, so he couldn't afford exposing a single weakness. Even if he decides to let go of the Second Lady, will the other High Dukes let go of her too?... Lady, we can't keep playing defense anymore, we must cut the problem at its roots!"
"Do you think killing Prince An is that easy?!" Siao Qi sneered, "If the Emperor knows about it, we won't live!"
Once the secret plot to assassinate Prince An was spread out, the Emperor may not be able to dissolve the whole Public House, but he could easily send someone to kill Siao Tieying, Siao Qi and Siao Shi. With the power of the Imperial Court, the Emperor could wipe out the Siao family effortlessly.
"Which is why we must keep this under the radar." Chu Li said, "We must act before Prince An takes his move. Because if he strikes first, it would then be obvious to the people that we killed him."
"You are a true daredevil!" Siao Qi rolled her eyes at him.
Chu Li waved his hand, "He forced my hand. If he had mercy on the Second Lady, we would not need to risk our lives like this!"
"Don't tell my big brother about this." Siao Qi pulled a straight face and told him, "Siao Tieying is too honest. He would give it away."
Chu Li nodded in agreement.
He sighed. Master Siao Tieying had always been too honest in his ways. Truth be told, this character of his made him unfit for the job of a High Duke. The declination of the Public House all these years was directly related to the way he had handled matters.
But one could not put all the blame on him. It was the previous High Duke of Siao who did not pass down all the doctrines and principles of governance to him, hence he did not inherit any good leadership qualities. Although Siao Tieying knew of all the evils of the world, he chose to adhere to his principles and deal with things in an honest manner. He was never a man who favored using deception or political trickeries.
A High Duke like him may not be the best, but he was certainly one worth pledging your loyalty to. All these years, the Public House had been slumping, but he managed to keep things together. The Public House did not collapse completely solely because all the people remained supportive of his reign.
If he knew of Prince An's wicked ambitions, he would most certainly reveal his hostility towards him when they both met. That would only make matters worse, because if Prince An's suspicion was raised, their plot would be foiled.
Siao Qi turned away and continued gazing at the vast lake, sighing.
At times, there were things which could not be helped in this world. Circumstances forced them out of their comfort zones. She knew how dangerous it was to attempt to assassinate Prince An. If they slip even by a tiniest step, they would be plunged into a bottomless grave.
She finally made up her mind and regained her enthusiasm. She asked, "So, what idea do you have in mind?"
Chu Li said, "At the time being, I can't come up with a viable solution. He is a grandmaster, so poisoning him won't work. I can only go up against him with my raw strength. But unfortunately, I'm not a grandmaster myself."
"Grandmaster..." Siao Qi frowned.
Chu Li's levitation skills were out of this world, and his stealth would help with the assassination. But too bad he had not reached the domain of a grandmaster yet, so it would be difficult for him to kill Prince An.
It was an almost impossible task to assassinate a grandmaster. Because a grandmaster would be able to sense any slightest signs of danger. The only way one could succeed was to have stronger martial arts then the target himself and give it your all.
Based on what he knew, the martial arts teachings of the Imperial Court were extremely obscure and mysterious. Several princes had unimaginable levels of martial arts. The proof being their successful achievement of breaking into the grandmaster's boundary. Even Zhao Qingshan was not able to beat Prince An.
Chu Li questioned, "What heart technique does Prince An possess?"
"I think it's the Scripture of Duality."
"Scripture of Duality?" Chu Li furrowed his brow and gave it a good thought, but all the books in his mind palace did not have any records of it, not even a single mention.
"It was a secret technique that was passed down in his family." Siao Qi shook her head. "It was said that their ancestor, the First Emperor of the Ji dynasty had a strange encounter when he was young. He saved a spirit beast, and he obtained the Scripture of Duality from it. That was how he started the conquest to expand his empire."
"Don't tell me that this folklore is real?" Chu Li smiled.
"Most if not all of it was real!" Siao Qi said. "If not for the spirit beast, the Scripture of Duality would not be as magical. The First Emperor was not a prominent figure in his earlier days, but within a few years he had stunning improvements, which shocked everyone else. On second thoughts, you do remind me of the First Emperor's marvelous achievements back in his days, Chu Li!"
Chu Li was quick to wave his hand and deny her statement, "No, please don't say that!"
Siao Qi knowingly stopped, then said, "The Scripture of Duality is very powerful. If not, he would not be able to break through the boundaries of an enlightened master."
Chu Li hummed, "Lady, have you ever heard of the Talismanic Arts?"
"Yes, Talismanic Arts from the Deer Cliff." Siao Qi replied. "The Talismanic Arts was a famed craftsmanship skill passed down from one generation to another at the Deer Cliff. They would cultivate using their unique heart technique and lace their crafts with cinnabar, making them into talismans with specific powers and abilities. But they kept the craftsmanship skills to themselves, and never passed it to the outside world.
"Were there any remarkably powerful talismans?" Chu Li asked, "Like, one which could help with cultivation?"
"The likes of Tranquility Talisman and Serenity Talisman would help in cultivation." Siao Qi replied him casually. "But crafting talismans were really unpopular. Just think of it, making a talisman needs a calm state of mind, and requires help from God to make it happen, as you could only finish up the inscription with a stroke of divine intervention. Even by spending from ten days to half a month's time in crafting one, success will not be guaranteed. And when you want to use the talisman, it could only last for a brief while, so what's the use of it?"
Chu Li seemed deep in thought.
"An outsider might think that it's mysterious and very powerful, but my aunt used to be one of their disciples, so I know exactly what they do inside Deer Cliff. In truth, the talismans were only used to frighten people. Besides, only their own disciples can summon the powers of the talismans, because it needs the unique heart techniques of Deer Cliff to be activated. There are now fewer and fewer folks in Deer Cliff who would learn this technique, so it's dangerously close to extinction."
"Is there a kind of talisman which is ever present and won't dissipate after its usage?"
"I don't think so?" Siao Qi gave it a thought, then shook her head, "Unless you use a spirit beast's blood. If not, the talisman would dissipate very quickly."
"Spirit beast's blood..." Chu Li was struck with realization.
Siao Qi stared at him, "Chu Li, don't tell me you've seen a long-lasting talisman before?"
"I've seen one in Prince An's Imperial Court." Chu Li smiled, "An ancient tripod cauldron. It was said that it could help with cultivation. I had always wondered how it would have such powers. Turns out that it was made from a spirit beast's blood!"
"I believe it's the Nine Dragons' Tripod Cauldron  that you're talking about." Siao Qi said. "Each Imperial Court has one. And it indeed could accelerate one's cultivation."
"Many people knew?"
"People in the Imperial Court and Public House knew." Siao Qi said, "Don't even think about it, the artifact was connected to the Scripture of Duality. The Emperor could feel it if somebody moves it from its location. Nobody could steal it!"
Suddenly, Chu Li was shocked. His expressions changed.
"What is it?" Siao Qi hurriedly asked.
Chu Li said, "Lady, what kind of abilities does an enlightened master has? If Prince An was murdered, could the Emperor feel it?"
Siao Qi's expressions changed too.