In Qianye’s eyes, Expansive was neither good nor bad. After a while, he asked, “Who does Expansive belong to?”
Nan Ruohuai replied respectfully, “The city lord of Expansive is my second brother’s maternal grandfather, who also happens to be his biggest supporter.”
He was rather calm while saying this, but Qianye seemed to have figured something out. “Is there some enmity between you two?”
“He’s my brother, so it’s not a hatred as deep as the oceans.” Nan Ruohuai took a deep breath and said through clenched teeth, “The person I liked the most died in his residence!”
Qianye nodded. “What do you want me to do?”
Nan Ruohuai fell to his knees and said in a deep voice, “Just hand him to me and my life is forever yours.”
Qianye said calmly, “Is it not mine right now?”
Nan Ruohuai looked up. “I have some meager talents if I do say so myself, and I have not been wasting the past twenty years of my life. I know your intentions for raising me up to the position, but if I follow you wholeheartedly, I will make Zheng flourish on my own accord. You will not have to worry about this small place. There’s a difference in putting a puppet on the throne.”
For a while, Qianye looked intently at Nan Ruohuai, at the prostrating man’s grey hair and neck. There was no change in his emotions, but he was somewhat moved.
The prince didn’t look up, yet in that posture, he was even calmer and more collected than in his past interactions with Qianye. After a while, Qianye laughed. “Zheng is small?”
Only at this point did Nan Ruohuai heave a sigh of relief. “This place is the world to us, but to you, it’s probably just a corner. Not to mention Zheng, even the entire Fort Continent is just a big springboard for you.”
Qianye broke into a laugh. “Your confidence in me is pretty strong.”
“The truth is that I have never seen, or even heard of, someone like you.”
Qianye stood up and walked to the window, gazing at the void over the yonder horizon. “Do you know what I’m doing?”
Nan Ruohuai hesitated briefly, then said in due honesty, “To be honest, I don’t.”
Qianye sighed. “I actually don’t have any big objectives. I’m just playing things by ear.”
Nan Ruohuai was stunned. He found this rather incredulous but didn’t ask further, knowing that he was in no position to make Qianye spit out his secrets.
He really had no idea that Qianye had no personal ambitions. What he wanted to do was protect his brothers and help one person up the Sacred Mountain.
Now that all of Eastern Sun Island had been taken, all that was left was to occupy the territory and prepare for war. Qianye had locked down the entire airspace outside of the island, only allowing airships in and not out. In one day’s time, Dark Flame’s ten thousand soldiers arrived in quick succession, relieving the elite squads in each region. At the same time, Seclusion began a large scale construction of defensive structures and reinforced cannon turrets.
This island was now Qianye’s first springboard and forward base on the Fort continent, so he attached a fair bit of importance to it. After the first batch of soldiers arrived, Qianye ordered his men to send word back to Dark Flame. They were to prepare a number of engineering airships and recruit technicians, and fly them to Eastern Sun.
Several days later, after all forces were in position, Qianye led his forces toward Expansive.
Ten thousand soldiers arrived on the island, but only four thousand left with Qianye. The island wasn’t small, and the minimum recommended garrison should be around ten thousand. He couldn’t leave any less than six thousand, or the mercenaries themselves might just quit.
Expansive was home to fifty thousand people and could be considered a big city. Transportation was easy as the place was built close to the riverbank, and there was a black stone mine outside providing the factories with an endless supply of energy. The first thing Qianye saw upon arrival wasn’t the city but the black chimney stacks above the walls.
What lay behind the rolling smoke was a stream of gold coins. Expansive boasted established factories and, more importantly, large batches of skilled technicians who could be put to use in the Imperial factory systems with a bit of training. Zheng had been imitating the Empire in many aspects, so their factories are also quite similar. It was just that they were at the Empire's standards from fifty years ago.
An ear-piercing alarm rang throughout the city as the airship approached the city airspace. Even Qianye, who was in the battlecruiser, could hear it quite clearly. He walked up to the deck and looked down. There, he saw a tall steel tower, valves open and gushing steam as it produced an ear-splitting whistle.
A kinetic tower with a steam whistle?
Qianye was a bit surprised at how well-equipped this city was. That kinetic tower might be an older model, but it was a kinetic tower nonetheless. Many cities in the neutral lands didn’t even have one. Although it was an older model, its specs and output were rather high.
Did this mean there might be a high-power cannon turret in the city?
Qianye’s expression froze as he caught a strange whistling sound. A dark-colored tower opened up in the distance and fired a large ballista bolt. The projectile drew an arc in the air as it flew toward the battlecruiser.
If this wasn’t an attack from the enemy, Qianye would be rather inclined to praise the perfect timing of the shot. The descending battlecruiser had no time to accelerate, and there was no way such a big airship could outrun a homing bolt anyway.
The entire ship trembled with a loud boom, the intensity of which surprised Qianye somewhat. This bolt was a bit more powerful than he had anticipated.
Qianye’s figure appeared at the bow of the ship, where he saw a ballista bolt half-nailed into the outer plate of the battlecruiser.
As a veteran, the captain had adjusted the airship’s body as soon as he saw that evasion wasn’t possible. The armor on this part was the thickest on the entire airship.
Qianye went forth with East Peak and cut off the protruding bit. The bolt was extremely solid inside. If it was a homing explosive bolt like the Empire’s newest model, the explosion would have blasted away the armor on the airship’s bow.
The battlecruiser might be able to take this attack, but the other airships couldn’t!
At this point, three more turrets rose up, their top ends opening as they each fired a homing ballista bolt.
The first bolt shot toward a corvette, the next at the battlecruiser, and the last one flew toward the back.
Qianye had no time to think. His silhouette flickered as he appeared beside the corvette. East Peak slashed six times, cutting the incoming projectile into pieces with Sweeping Calm. The battlecruiser shook violently after it was struck once again. Fortunately, this bolt pierced the thickest part of the ship’s armor as well.
Qianye’s expression shifted as he looked back. The last ballista bolt was aiming for the transport at the back! The slow airship naturally couldn’t get away from firing range—the bolt shot through the vessel and flew a thousand meters into the air before falling back down.
A large defect appeared in the mid-section of the airship, ejecting flames and human silhouettes. Alarms rang loudly on the transport as it fell in a nosedive.
Just as the airship was about to be destroyed, one of the cabin doors popped open amidst a gush of steam. It was apparently forced open from the inside. The transport then began to spin, throwing out one mercenary after the other.
Only at this point did Qianye heave a sigh of relief.
This response was the wisest choice. Those on the airship were elite mercenaries with no lack of those at rank five, six, or even higher. Most of them would only be injured and not die after falling from such a height. The alternative was staying in the burning airship that would soon turn into a coffin of raging flames.
To be able to fling out the mercenaries while avoiding the potential explosion radius, this captain was definitely quick-witted.
Once the mercenaries were on flat ground, Qianye would have no worries about their fighting power. No one was better than these mercenaries in urban warfare.
Next was Dark Flame’s turn to fire.
Even the high-power cannon turrets from the main cities of Great Qin couldn’t fire very quickly. The reloading time for these four cannon towers was even slower. The battlecruiser captain had already started preparing for an attack after the first maneuver, and now, he was ready. The rumble of the main cannon was quickly followed by the destruction of half a cannon turret.
The battlecruiser kept turning without confirming the outcome of the last shot, and was soon aiming at a different turret. The three corvettes in the air were also in combat positions. They charged from a high-altitude, guns blazing, and drowning the third cannon turret in a sea of flames.
Only the final cannon turret was left. Another ballista bolt had just appeared from the inside, and a big cloud of steam drowned out the tower as the gears accumulated kinetic energy. This time, its target was no longer the battlecruiser, but one of the corvettes instead.
In the blink of an eye, the tower had completed the accumulation process. The giant ballista was trembling and rearing to fire when, all of a sudden, Qianye appeared above it. He rammed a steel beam into the cannon, jamming its cartridge and mechanical parts.
How could the officer in charge react to the sudden changes? After completing a series of adjustments, he stepped down on the firing pedal out of instinct. However, the giant ballista was jammed, leaving no space for the kinetic power to escape. Soon, the energy reached critical levels and the steel casing of the turret bulged up visibly.
The turret exploded amidst the desperate cries of the soldiers and officers. The massive energy flung metal parts—some weighing several tons—hundreds of meters into the air! How could the human body withstand such a force? The soldiers inside never made it out and died without even a corpse left.
Qianye returned to the bridge of the battlecruiser to find the captain issuing orders nervously. He gestured for the man to continue, and that he didn’t need to ask for instructions.
The captain issued a constant stream of orders, commanding the massive warship to circle around the city. This maximized the firepower of its side cannons as they destroyed the city’s smaller turrets.
With the four main turrets gone, there was nothing left in Expansive that could pose a threat to Qianye.
The defenses in the city were more powerful than expected, so Qianye decided to be patient. He watched as the battlecruiser circled above, clearing away one street block after the other.
After an entire hour, when there was no more cannon or ballista fire in the city, Qianye ordered the land forces to enter.
Qianye himself made a beeline for the city lord’s residence, silencing the guards with Life Plunder. As he entered the main hall, he saw a powerful-looking old man with white hair on the throne. The old man slowly stood up and hoisted a large battle axe over his shoulder—it would seem that he was waiting for Qianye.
The latter didn’t attack immediately. As such, Qianye spoke, “Nan Ruohuai will make for a good king of Zheng. Why can you not see this? You should know that you don’t stand half a chance.”
The old man snorted. “The nation of Zheng belongs to its people. Who the hell are you!?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
TL: Legion ED: Moxie