Li Luo's carriage trundled peacefully down the long, dusty road back to Xia City.
Inside the carriage, spring reigned in the form of feminine voices twittering and three fresh, flowery beauties.
Among the girls, it was Cai Wei who did most of the talking, reporting on the happenings of House Luolan in the last month.
Most of the house’s matters had fallen on her shoulders, with Jiang Qing'e and Li Luo both at school. Li Luo knew that without her, Jiang Qing'e would be even more heavily burdened.
Cai Wei's management skills were peerless, and the tangled mess of everyday affairs at House Luolan had been sifted through her orderly hand.
"There have been no major changes with House Luolan's enterprises, except for the Suncreek Villa. Thanks to the Young Lord's secret watersource, this month's revenue reached 300,000 skygold."
Jiang Qing'e stared at Li Luo, golden eyes bulging.
The Suncreek Villa's headquarters had only managed to pull in about a million skygold a year previously, averaging about 100,000 a month. Li Luo's secret watersource had tripled it?
In a year, the Suncreek Villa would earn three million? That was half of House Luolan’s total revenue the previous year!
Li Luo felt a little tingle of happiness. The big swan had always been too excellent, and nothing that Li Luo did could surprise her, until now.
He carefully masked his smugness, smiling modestly. "Well, it's all as planned," he said casually, examining his fingernails. "The Tianshu's Suncreek Villa enjoyed the same bounty."
"But this month alone, we have bought seven sixth-grade and over twenty fifth-grade spirit liquids and purifying lights because of the Young Lord's wanton overconsumption," Cai Wei continued with impeccably heartless timing. "Which puts our expenses at 320,000 skygold, so we're 20,000 skygold in the red."
Li Luo's fingers curled fearfully into his palm. Sister Cai Wei! Why the backstab?!
"Well, well, Young Lord. Looks like you've dug a deep ditch for yourself," Yan Lingqing said, enjoying his dismay.
"Money is meant to be spent," Jiang Qing'e said kindly. "And it's not gone to waste. The spirit liquids and purifying lights are invested in Li Luo. Once he masters his dual resonances, House Luolan will have a new Duke, and all of it will pay off."
Li Luo was moved. Big swan, you're the best.
But still, he felt like he had to make amends for the loss. "Cai Wei, is there still room for improvement in the headquarters' revenue?"
If he could raise Tianshu's revenue that much, then headquarters should be able to increase by far more, given the larger scale of production here.
"Theoretically, yes... But don't forget that the Suncreek Villa headquarters isn't exactly doing all that well right now."
With a sinking jolt, Li Luo recalled that House Duze had dealt him a sneaky hand by poaching the last president, Hanzhi, along with nearly half his resonance artificers.
For a villa, resonance artificers were the engines of production. No matter how much secret watersource or materials you had, it meant nothing without resonance artificers to convert them.
Li Luo cursed. Hanzhi could fuck right off, but the resonance artificers... that hurt.
"How's the recruiting been?" Jiang Qing'e asked.
Cai Wei dipped her chin. "I've been recruiting, raising the pay, and also using the Young Lord's secret watersource as a selling point... but results haven't been as good as expected."
Li Luo frowned. An upper seventh-grade secret watersource was pretty good. It should have been a great attraction for many resonance artificers. Why was it not working?
"Who's poaching them again?" Jiang Qing'e asked.
"Who else? Of course it's House Duze's Bigswamp Villa. They've spent a fortune stealing Hanzhi and our artificers. How could they just sit back and let us recover?
"For the last month, they've been watching the Suncreek Villa closely. I'm sure they're equally shocked at how well it's been doing. They've steeled their resolve and doubled down to steal even more resonance artificers and limit our recovery."
"House Duze again..." Li Luo brooded. In school, the House Duze siblings were causing him no end of trouble, and outside, in Xia City, they were undermining House Luolan at every turn.
At least the battles inside the school went by the book. Outside... houses fought without mercy or rules. Violence and power reigned supreme.
House Duze's goal was to strike House Luolan's name off from the Five Great Houses and pick their bones clean.
A thought occurred to Li Luo that if he and Jiang Qing'e were not in the Astral Sage College right now, and under its protection, House Duze would probably already have used some underhanded means to wipe the two of them out. House Luolan would fail by itself without anyone at the wheel.
"The free agent resonance artificers in Xia City have more or less been wooed over by the Bigswamp Villa, at more favorable conditions than we have given. They're using their wealth advantage to choke us out."
It was simple yet effective. If not for Li Luo's secret watersource, the Bigswamp Villa's tactics would probably have wiped them out already.
Even so, the Suncreek Villa was not in a good enough position to attract good resonance artificers.
And without more resonance artificers, they couldn't expand. Which meant no growth for House Luolan.
"Let's take that slowly. As long as the Suncreek Villa holds firm, we will eventually grow," Jiang Qing'e said reassuringly.
Li Luo and Cai Wei nodded. House Duze might be flexing on them, but they couldn't lose their cool.
"Oh, there is another, more urgent matter," Cai Wei said.
"According to my information, many resonance artificers from the Xiling Province's Suncreek Villa are making their way to Xia City. Pang Qianchi corresponded with them before. I sense... trouble."
Li Luo was surprised. "The Xiling Province's Suncreek Villa branch?"
Besides headquarters, the Suncreek Villa had two other branches. One was at the Tianshu Province's City of Southwind, the other was at the Xiling Province.
However, the Xiling Province was Pei Hao's territory, and the Suncreek Villa branch there had mutinied against the headquarters long ago.
A wave of resonance artificers known to associate with Pang Qianchi, all migrating to Xia City. For what?
"Pei Hao must be behind this," Jiang Qing'e said.
Whether the Xiling Province resonance artificers or Pang Qianchi, they were all Pei Hao's allies. It was unthinkable that they would move without the mastermind's direction.
Li Luo's eyes turned cold at the name. He was the main troublemaker that was tripping House Luolan up both inside and outside.
"Inform Pavilion Master Lei Zhang to keep an eye on Pang Qianchi... More importantly, we need to find Pei Hao if we can. My gut is telling me that he might be in Xia City," Jiang Qing'e said.
Li Luo frowned. "Pei Hao's here?"
In their last encounter with Pei Hao, he had split up House Luolan's Council of Nine. If he was in Xia City, it was definitely not to see the sights.
She nodded. "That's my feeling."
"If he's in Xia City..." Li Luo said with a murderous glint. "Can we find an opportunity to wipe him out?"
Killing Pei Hao would not undo the mess that he had created for House Luolan, but it would stop the problem from getting worse. They could stabilize and recover much more quickly.
"Actually, Pei Hao's not the one I'm most afraid of... I'm more afraid that there's a greater power supporting him," Jiang Qing'e said in a low voice.
Li Luo concurred soberly. There had to be some elite power supporting Pei Hao. Otherwise, he would not have been bold enough to rebel immediately after his parents' disappearance.
But who could it be?
House Duze? Or House Jiyan? They were the two strongest powers positioned against House Luolan, and they had reasonable motive to do so. Or was it someone else?
Li Luo kneaded his brow. It seemed like his vacation was not going to be a relaxing one.Previous Chapter Next Chapter