“The culprit is Ji Ning?” Northmont Baiwei said, frantic, “Father, what are you talking about? What ‘culprit’? What are you saying?”
“Can’t you guess?” Northmont Blacktiger looked at his son. This was the son who he had entrusted all his hopes to, the one whom he had always strove to train. If he hadn’t placed all of his hopes on Baiwei, he would’ve left Baiwei to his own devices and let him become a carefree, ignorant, wastrel descendant. However, Blacktiger had instead always been very strict and exacting with him.
“Father, are you saying…” Baiwei was no fool. Frowning he said, “Brother Ji Ning didn’t want for the Heavenly Treasures Mountain to know it was him, so he must’ve been carrying out something he couldn’t let others know about! He went to kill an enemy with a powerful background? Dong Seven, Yu Dong, Shui Yi…of the three of them, the only one with a bit of a background is Dong Seven! Can it be that he killed Dong Seven? But Dong Seven has a mere Primal Daoist backing him; he isn’t worthy of you, Father, acting like this.”
Blacktiger nodded. “It isn’t Dong Seven. He killed Yu Dong.” Baiwen shook his head. “Yu Dong? He’s just a minor figure.”
“But Yudong’s master, Adept Mooncrescent, was present at the time as well. Thus, most likely because he tried to stop Ji Ning, he was caught up in the fray and killed by Ji Ning as well.” Blacktiger stared at his son. “And Adept Mooncrescent was a retired Immortal cultivator who belonged to one of the armies under the control of our Northmont clan of Stillwater, the Shadow Army.”
“What?!” Baiwei’s face instantly changed. Naturally, he knew that his own clan, the Northmont clan, had some hidden, powerful armies of Immortal cultivators. Every single Marquis had some armies of their own.
The Grand Xia Dynasty knew this as well. However, the exact number of secret armies, how many individuals were in each army, and how powerful the members of the armies were…those were the true secrets.
“A retired cultivator of the Shadow Army?” Baiwei began to mumble to himself, “A retiree? Then he must have fought for many, many years…he must have many old friends and brothers-in-arms. The retirees…they are the most sensitive figures for these Immortal armies.”
“Right. Just so!” Blacktiger growled, “They battle for the sake of our Northmont clan, and countless numbers of them have perished. Very, very few are able to survive and retire. If the retired cultivators are killed…the cultivators of the entire army will naturally be enraged! They absolutely will not permit this sort of event to occur, and if it were to occur, they will find out who the killer was, then take revenge for their old brother!”
“This is a sensitive, sore spot for Immortal cultivator armies! Those who touch it will die!” Blacktiger’s eyes were filled with solemnity as well. This was one of the unspoken rules of the armies; they wouldn’t permit their old, retired brethren to suffer! Absolutely not!
“Ji Ning’s group acted very cleanly and professionally,” Blacktiger said. “The intelligence division of the Shadow Army has begun their investigations, they have already searched the memories of many of the ordinary mortals who lived on Mount Mooncrescent. They’ve even found the blood-robe which Adept Mooncrescent once wore; it had been cast deep into the magnetic depths of the world.”
“However, because a total of three people had died, being Mooncrescent, his disciple Yu Dong, and his daughter Yue Wei, the Shadow Army’s intelligence division has already begun to investigate Yu Dong and Yue Wei as well. Soon, they found that someone has recently asked the Heavenly Treasures Mountain for a copy of the report on Yu Dong.”
Blacktiger stared at his son. “Following this clue, the Shadow Army’s investigations led them to my estate; the Northmont Blacktiger Estate! That is how I learned of this.”
“What should we do, then?” Baiwei was worried now. “The Shadow Army is currently following up on several leads,” Blacktiger said, “But if Shui Yi and Dong Seven both die as well, then the Shadow Army will definitely grow convinced that the culprit had purchased intelligence reports on these three figures at the Heavenly Treasures Mountain.”
Baiwei said, frantic, “Then I’ll immediately send someone to seek out Brother Ji Ning and have him temporarily avoid killing Shui Yi and Dong Seven?”
Blacktiger shook his head. “No use. They’ll soon be able to rule out the other leads, at which point in time, they will make inquiries to us regarding this matter.”
“Then what should I do?” Baiwei said, worried. “There are two options,” Blacktiger said. Baiwei looked towards his father.
“The first option is to give up Ji Ning,” Blacktiger said. “That way, we’ll avoid all trouble.”
“Impossible.” Baiwei shook his head.
Blacktiger, seeing this, actually began to laugh. “Hahaha, that’s my boy. Right; don’t easily give up or betray your good friends and brothers! If you can so easily sacrifice them…then you’ll never be able to make any true friends and brothers! If you wish for others to be willing to risk their lives for you, you have to treat them with sincerity, understood?”
Baiwei was startled.
“Then, only the second option remains,” Blacktiger said. “Just admit that you were the one who did this deed.” Baiwei was astonished. “Me?!”
“Right. Admit to the Shadow Army that it was you who did it; it was you who sent people to investigate Yu Dong, and then who led people to kill Yu Dong! However, because Adept Mooncrescent tried to stop you…you ended up killing him as well!” Blacktiger continued, “You had no idea that Adept Mooncrescent was a retired soldier, and thus you cannot be faulted for what you did. There’s no way for the Shadow Army to insist on punishing you…as a member of the main lineage of our Northmont clan, and as someone who might become a future Marquis of Stillwater, for you to have accidentally killed Adept Mooncrescent is just a small matter.”
“If you accept responsibility for this matter, it will just be a small matter, because in the end, the Shadow Army is the army of our Northmont clan. It won’t be easy for the cultivators of our Shadow Army to make too much trouble for a main lineage descendant of the Northmont clan, just due to an accident.”
“However, if anyone else were to accept responsibility, they would almost assuredly die.” Blacktiger looked at his son. “Still…as a result of this, I imagine that there will be some old fellows of the Shadow Army who will hate you.”
“Just hate me? A mere retired Wanxiang Adept…I would be shocked if there was even a single Loose Immortal-level cultivator who was a true friend of his! And I imagine that very, very few will truly, deeply hate me.” Baiwei shook his head. “For now, I don’t have anything to do with the Shadow Army. As for Brother Ji Ning, I can tell that he’s the sort who is willing to shoulder difficulties for his friend. I will accept responsibility for this matter!”
“Good.” Blacktiger nodded. “As for how Yu Dong, Shui Yi, and Dong Seven offended you, I’ll come up with a suitable excuse.” Baiwei nodded respectfully. “It shall all be as you say, Father.”
“Remember!” Blacktiger looked at his son, then said softly, “You’ve done very well to be willing to sacrifice for your brother, but you must remember…you need to let Ji Ning know what you did for him.”
“Let him know?” Baiwei was startled. “Right. Let him know about your sacrifice,” Blacktiger said calmly. “You’ve paid a high price for him; if he doesn’t even learn of it, then wouldn’t that mean that you did it for nothing? If he were to ‘accidentally’ find out the truth of what transpired, then he will naturally feel grateful towards you.”
Baiwei frowned. “Isn’t that a bit artificial and contrived?” “Contrived?” Blacktiger gave his son a glance. “You just need to let him find out by ‘accident’; after all, you really did take on responsibility for his actions. Remember…although you must be sincere in taking care of your friends, you need to be slightly strategic about it as well. This is the principle behind using your human resources.”
“Think about what I have said.” Blacktiger gave his son a frowning glance. His son was extremely intelligent, and he had high hopes for him. However, thanks to the influence of Baiwei’s mother, he was sometimes excessively sincere in his treatment of his friends. Although this allowed him to make some truly good friends, a temperament like this would make it very hard for him to truly dominate and unify a powerbase.
“Let’s go,” Blacktiger said, leading the triangle-pupiled elder away with him. The frozen atmosphere within the courtyard instantly grew calm, and the beautiful maid who had been singing a little song nearby suddenly came to her senses. “What, what happened?”
She didn’t see anything or hear anything earlier; in fact, it was as though she had lost a portion of her memories. She just vaguely remembered the master of the estate, Northmont Blacktiger, arriving. And then, by the time she regained her faculties, Northmont Blacktiger was departing.
“Strategy? Using your human resources?” Baiwei frowned. “Father…you are calculating towards everyone…and that’s why Mother left you. You are you. I am myself.”
His father wanted to train him and make him into a second Northmont Blacktiger.
But he was Northmont Baiwei.
The one and only Northmont Baiwei!
“I wonder how Ji Ning is doing,” Baiwei worried silently to himself.
Ning’s group had flown for half a month and had arrived at Stillwater Commandery’s ‘Dawn Bay’. Dawn Bay was roughly equivalent to Swallow Mountain in size.
“Shui Yi’s tribe really is puny.” A ship that was six hundred meters wide was floating atop Dawn Bay. The Dawn River was more than a million kilometers in length, and it was a large river that passed through nearly half of Stillwater Commandery. Northson, atop the ship, said with a sigh, “It actually doesn’t even have a single commandery city!”
“It is quite weak.” Ning nodded. The Ji clan at least had a commandery city of the Grand Xia Dynasty, the City of Ten Thousand Swords; being in possession of at least one commandery city was necessary for a clan to be considered a local hegemony. But Shui Yi’s clan, the Shui clan, was truly puny.
Before Shui Yi had appeared, their clan was an extremely ordinary, weak one. Afterwards, Shui Yi had become a servant for the extremely large and powerful Dong clan, and had been trained by the Dong clan until he had risen to the Zifu Disciple level. He had also served young master Dong Seven for a long time. Naturally, he brought prominence to his Shui clan as well.
With Shui Yi’s assistance, the Shui clan slowly grew more powerful and built a city of their own. But of course, it wasn’t a commandery city; it was more like the Ji clan’s ‘West Prefecture City’, a self-built city.
In addition, the Shui clan was actually under the umbrella of another clan. Because Shui Yi remained with the Dong clan, it didn’t cause any troubles for the Shui clan, and so it continued to grow to the point where it now had a middle-stage Zifu Disciple guarding over it.
“Senior apprentice-brother, how are you planning to draw out Shui Yi and have him leave the Dong clan?” Northson laughed as he looked towards Ning. “Simple.” Ning shook his head. “His clan, the Shui clan, is too puny; the entire clan only has a single Zifu Disciple guarding it. I have plenty of ways to send the entire Shui clan into a state of panic and chaos! To force Shui Yi to immediately hurry back!”
And indeed, he did have many methods. The Shui clan was far too weak; whenever it encountered any major troubles, it would immediately reach out to Shui Yi to beg for rescue.
“Master, let’s kill them. If we slaughter the clan, it will be sent into a state of chaos,” Qingqing said. But Ning shook his head. “No need.”
Much like how when he killed River He of the Riverside tribe, he didn’t act against River He’s son, Ning wouldn’t act against the other members of the Shui clan. As to the potential fall of the Shui clan with Shui Yi’s death…Ning would just calmly watch.
As an Immortal cultivator with a powerful Dao-heart, Ning was extremely confident in his actions, and he wouldn’t act in a way that was contrary to his Dao-heart. If, in the past, he had acted to kill River He’s son, it would have affected his faith in his own heart and would’ve posed a major obstacle to his path of cultivation.
“If you don’t attack them, how will you throw them into a state of chaos?” Qingqing muttered.
“It’ll be quite quick. Wait here. I’ll pay a visit and will be back in the amount of time needed to boil a kettle of tea.” A sword-light flashed into existence beneath Ning’s feet, and he soared through the air, moving towards the headquarters of the Shui clan, located thousands of kilometers away; Yishui City.