213.2 – Imperial Selection
Xue Qilin, who didn’t expect to hear such a secret, was stunned for a while. After straightening out her thoughts, she harrumphed twice meaningfully.
“Died under dubious circumstances…”
After a pause, she went on to say in a strange tone, “– every death within the palace walls is quite thought-provoking.”
As the core of power, death always accompanies power struggles in the imperial palace.
— the imperial palace is a graveyard where countless people who lost in imperial power struggles and died are buried.
Reading between the lines, shock appeared on Qi Qiqi’s face once again. She straightened herself up, blinked in disbelief, and said in a startled voice, “Eh, I didn’t expect you to know that, Qilin…”
“Give me a break!” Xue Qilin rolled her eyes, “What do you think of me? I’m just too lazy to think about thing, not stupid!”
In a rare fashion, Qi Qiqi uttered humorously and imitated Xue Qilin’s tone. Seeing the other party express suspicion, Xue Qilin gritted her teeth.
As a result, Qi Qiqi hugged her chest  — strictly speaking, she didn’t hug her chest , she just assumed the posture — and said, dissatisfied, “Humph humph, if you’re not stupid, then please show it more often! Stop acting like an ignorant fool all day long!”
“What do you know?! Ignorance is bliss!”
Xue Qilin wrinkled her nose and reminded impatiently, “Let’s get back to the topic!”
“What.” Qi Qiqi pouted, feeling wronged, “You were the one who went off topic!”
Xue Qilin propped up her head, turned it to the side, and uttered, “And you could not carry on?! Fool!”
“What, you dare call me a fool! Xue Qilin, be careful or I might beat you up!”
Hearing Qi Qiqi’s slightly resounding threat and sensing a sharp gaze fall on her body, Xue Qilin shuddered abruptly. She visualized Qi Qiqi waving her fist like a little tiger.
She issued two hollow laughs and said sullenly, “Yes yes, it’s this humble one’s mistake. This humble one should not have led our lovely Little Seven astray.”
“Humph humph, it’s good that you understand!”
Qi Qiqi showed a satisfied smile.
Then, she put her chopsticks against her lower lip and rotated her beautiful eyes.
“Just now we were talking about the fact that His Majesty is getting on in years, right?”
“Yes, he’s pushing sixty and doesn’t have long to live.”
“Mhm, therefore, the princes who have the right to inherit the throne are each coming up with plans to seize the position of first successor from the current Crown Prince. However, it should be mentioned that the position of Crown Prince is actually nominal. As long as the name contained in the imperial decree is not yours, then it won’t be your turn to take the throne. After all, if the Emperor suddenly makes the Fourteenth Prince, who was born not long ago, ascend the throne on a whim, no one will be able to do anything about it.”
“But, if there are no accidents, the Crown Prince should be able to ascend the throne.”
“After all, seniority is crucial.”
Xue Qilin first casually spoke her mind, then stuffed some rice into her mouth, and finally asked.
“Is the Crown Prince’s status stable?”
“I’m not really sure.”
Qi Qiqi pursed her lips.
“But I have a guess.”
In a flash, a ray of sagacity streaked across Qi Qiqi’s eyes.
The abyss of the bright red eyes whirls faintly, forming a whirlpool of flame that threatens to gush out at any time.
“If it wasn’t, Great General Gong would not have been targeted.”
Although Qi Qiqi said that it’s just a guess, but her tone was that of certainty. The certainty in her tone should not be without basis.
“What do you mean?”
Xue Qilin is puzzled, unable to figure out the relation.
“Great General Gong is part of the neutral faction. In other words, he does not side with any prince, and thus is not anyone’s bargaining chip in the struggle over the throne. It’s not hard to guess the reasons behind this. First, Great General Gong is loyal to the Hua Dynasty. Second, he’s own position is already high enough, to the point that he no longer needs to ‘ride on another’s coattails’.”
Qi Qiqi suddenly reinforced her tone.
“He has military power and is in charge of a massive military force!”
Xue Qilin raised her eyebrows, looking like she understood something, yet could not figure it out momentarily. Seeing that the other party still not quite understands, Qi Qiqi drew a small circle in the air with her chopsticks, and then drew a large one.
“Qilin, think about it! If you can obtain the support of the most elite Northern Guard Fort of the Four Guard Forts, your power will surely expand — even explosively.”
Instead of the Gong Clan’s status and authority, the Second Prince should care more about the Northern Guard Fort itself. As long as he gets the Northern Guard Fort, then even if he fails in the struggle over the throne, he can still launch a rebellion to seize the throne.
Since ancient times, there have been many successful rebellions. It is said that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun . As long as there are enough troops, imperial edicts can become just pieces of waste paper. In front of a powerful army, even imperial power is nothing but a husk without substance.
Xue Qilin understands this reasoning. But —
“Little Seven, even so, why would the Second Prince want to abduct Little Qing?”
Xue Qilin does not understand the motive behind this action of the Second Prince.
Since the Second Prince wants to incorporate the Gong Clan into his power, shouldn’t he express his goodwill to the Gong Clan and use profit as a lure? Why kidnap Gong Tianqing? Is he trying to force the Gong Clan into submission? However, as far as Xue Qilin knows, Gong Tianqing has a low status in the Gong Clan. Gong Yue dislikes her, and even eagerly sent her away to the Merak Temple.
How can Gong Tianqing, someone who is seen as dispensable by the Gong Clan, force the clan into submission? If they wanted to capture someone, they should have captured Gong Tianyang! Xue Qilin thought to herself.
In fact, there are many people keeping an eye on Gong Tianyang. Xue Qilin just took care of several scoundrels who followed Gong Tianyang in secret.
As the sole son of the Gong Clan, Gong Tianyang’s importance is self-evident. While Gong Tianqing is the successor of the Merak Temple. Yet, instead of Gong Tianyang, the Second Prince is interested in Gong Tianqing, to the point that he doesn’t even mind offending the Merak Temple. Xue Qilin finds this really puzzling.
“No, Qilin, the Second Prince’s target has always been Gong Tianyang. What happened to you at noon is the best proof.”
In the end, Qi Qiqi replied thusly.
“Ah? Really… then why –”
“If… I mean, what if, what if the Second Prince knows?”
Xue Qilin was puzzled — what does the Second Prince know?
See Xue Qilin tilt her head, Qi Qiqi realized that the other party failed to understand her meaning. She helplessly raised her chopsticks and pointed at Xue Qilin.
“That Qing’er can save Gong Tianyang.”
Qi Qiqi’s tone was severe.
“If he knows about it, then no matter what it takes, he would ask the Shadow Gate to abduct Qing’er.”
Xue Qilin still doesn’t understand.
“Isn’t it better to directly abduct Gong Tianyang?”
“Really, you still don’t understand? Although I don’t know what happened last night, but you said that Shadow pinned you three Heaven Realm masters, that is, you, Great General Gong, and Commander Luo, down, right?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
Qi Qiqi retracted her chopsticks and nodded.
“That’s right. As one of the Five Great Sects, the Shadow Gate should have not a small number of Heaven Realm masters. But, as far as I know, there are no more than four. And when it comes to late-stage Heaven Realm masters, Shadow is likely the only one. This mission was extremely dangerous. After all, it involved fighting between Heaven Realm masters, and there was still you, a late-stage Heaven Realm master. If I were Shadow, I would not go all out, but preserve the Shadow Gate’s strength instead. In fact, the Shadow Gate is not fierce and violent, but rather cautious instead. And that is because Shadow himself is rather cautious.”
 – “hugged her chest” is how Chinese say “crossed her arms”. I had to put “hugged her chest” for the later part of the sentence to work
 – I believe that the author is making fun of 777’s small chest here
 – political power grows out of the barrel of a gun