Weiyuan was a special title in the Empire, meaning one whose might rose beyond the borders. It represented a great honor. By conferring such a title, the Empire hoped Qianye would take his accomplishments even further, claiming the titles of Dingyuan, Zhenyuan, and perhaps go on to become a duke or prince.
A sceptered marshal was also higher than a normal marshal by half a rank and enjoyed the authority to control other marshals as needed. This rank was a necessity because Qianye would have trouble commanding a group of dukes and marshals otherwise.
One title denoting honor and the other granting actual power; this was a great display of the Empire’s sincerity. Qianye would have full control over the Blacksun Valley.
However, this also proved that the Empire had reached a state of desperation where they had no one else they could send. That was why they had pinned their hopes on Qianye, even forgetting his vampire identity.
The conferment ceremony was short and solemn. No other dukes or marshals apart from Zhao Xuanji were present, which served to reduce the awkwardness. After all, the relationship between Qianye and the Imperial military wasn’t just unpleasant. It was just one step away from a vendetta.
After the ceremony was over, the generals in power stayed behind to engage in the final handover procedures with Qianye.
“How many soldiers remain in Blacksun Valley? Who is the commanding officer? Where is our stronghold? How much supplies are being shipped and how often? How big is the enemy force and how are they distributed?”
Qianye asked a series of questions in one go.
The generals hung up the war map and explained things in turn. By the time the last question had been answered, Qianye heaved a long sigh—things were even worse than he had anticipated. At the moment, the Empire had less than fifty thousand soldiers left in the valley, supported by a number of small secret bases. Comparatively, Evernight held a force of five hundred thousand.
The Empire had lost battle after battle after Song Zining’s injury, causing a sharp rise in casualty rates that far exceeded Evernight’s. Only at this point did everyone realize just how amazing Song Zining and Zhao Jundu’s one-to-four death ratio was.
The miserable loss on the ground also affected the air. The Empire’s transports were repeatedly damaged, greatly affecting logistics. Although Evernight didn’t really gain an advantage in air combat, the Empire couldn’t afford a one-to-one exchange at this point.
This led to a situation where no one dared step up to the commanding position, and those who were qualified to do so, the Empire would not let them. That was the reason why Zhao Xuanji had been stuck in the military department.
After all, the new world was still an unknown factor. People knew that allowing the dark races to have their way would be detrimental to the human race, but no one could tell how long that would take. If the Empire’s fighting power at the borders were to waver, millions of people would be slaughtered and become food for someone else’s table.
An officer passed a calendar to Qianye. “Sire, would you like to pick a suitable date to assume your duties?”
Qianye pushed the calendar away. “No need. Arrange an airship to Blacksun Valley immediately.”
Moments later, an airship took to the sky and drove toward the door.
Only after meeting up with the Imperial units in Blacksun Valley did Qianye realize how desperate they were.
What remained of the Empire’s routed forces was garrisoned in a secret base. This so-called secret stronghold was actually just a hidden valley with enough caves to hide the soldiers.
Qianye’s arrival stirred neither excitement nor curiosity among the troops. Some of them were chatting amongst themselves, while others were either sitting or lying with numb expressions. Nothing could really rouse their interest.
Only a number of low-ranking officers came to greet Qianye, while the three divine champions were nowhere to be seen.
“Where’s Duke Wenyuan, Minghai, and Marshal Liu?” Qianye recalled some unfamiliar names.
“The three sires are injured and exhausted, so they’re resting at the moment. Your arrival was too sudden, please forgive the lack of a proper welcome.”
“Take me to see them.”
The officers brought Qianye to a cave where the three divine champions had taken up a corner each, resting in meditation. They only shot Qianye a glance when he entered but later dragged themselves up after recognizing the military personnel behind him.
Qianye sized up the environment. This cave was a bit more spacious and better kempt, but the furnishings were extremely simple. The three divine champions only had one camp bed each. Things were just that dire.
The general who had come with Qianye read the Imperial edict and introduced Qianye to the others.
While the general from the military was here, Qianye summoned all the other generals to hold the first war meeting.
“Why are there so few men?” This was Qianye’s first question.
Duke Minghai, an elderly man with white hair, replied, “Sire Qianye probably doesn’t know, but it’s not because of the Empire’s lack of support. It’s that we don’t need the soldiers. The force we have is already quite big, and it has been difficult to hide and move. It took us quite the effort to throw the pursuing dark races off and find this place, and who knows how long this will last.”
Duke Wenyuan said, “The previous commander lost five battles and thirty thousand soldiers in seven days. He himself was gravely wounded and is back in the Empire for treatment. All we could do was try to maintain our presence. I personally think it’s already quite good that we were able to save this base and these troops.”
Qianye glanced at the general from HQ, to which the latter only shrugged.
Qianye came to a sudden realization—the three before them were either people who had lost favor with their higher-ups or those at the end of their lifespans like Duke Minghai who had come to risk his life in exchange for his family’s future. In short, they were all marginal characters whose fate no one cared about. The previous commander was sent back to the Empire for treatment, but not them. They would have to be wounded so badly that their foundations were damaged or die in Blacksun Valley. There was no other choice.
It would be a wonder if their morale was high.
Qianye scanned the three in detail and recalled their data as he did so.
Duke Minghai was surnamed Zhou and came from a low-ranking aristocratic family. As a rare genius of the family, he successfully broke through to become a divine champion. Yet the lack of resources during his younger years left him with a shaky foundation and this realm was his limit.
He had fought and toiled throughout the years to make his family a high-ranking aristocratic family, but he did not have Lin Xitang’s peerless talents. His family never went past the peak of the lower-ranking families.
He had only chosen to join this fight so that his family could consolidate their position with his contributions.
Even Lin Xitang, with his title of Imperial teacher, could not prevent his family from a steady decline after his death, let alone Duke Minghai. Even without anyone causing dissension, the family had to produce sufficient fighting power in order to maintain its status. Some descendants would grow jealous of their predecessor’s favor of certain individuals, while others would ignore the ancestors’ sacrifices and plunge the later generations into difficult times. The beneficence would surely dry up over several generations, only that it wasn’t so easy to define how many. One thing was for certain, though—there was no policy to safeguard fairness.
Duke Wenyuan Chen Tongqi’s story was a different one. He used to be the Longevity Monarch’s trusted aide and was also a part of his great scheme, someone who should’ve had his entire family beheaded. However, as a divine champion, Duke Wenyuan was allowed to make up for his mistakes with service. If he could distinguish himself in battle, he would be able to save his entire family from certain demise.
Liu Chengyun, on the other hand, was a retired marshal whose situation was similar to Duke Minghai. The two were both stationed here as a last-ditch effort before their old age.
These three were early divine champions, and judging from their flimsy auras, there weren’t worthy of attention at all. That being said, they were still divine champions and would make for good assistants.
Qianye inquired about their strengths and abilities until he had gotten a good idea about them. Just as he was about to discuss the next step, an officer ran into the room. “The dark races have been spotted far away!”
Duke Wenyuan shot to his feet. “So fast?”
Qianye stood up calmly. “That’s good as well. Let’s go and take a look.”
The Imperial forces had only built simple fortifications in the valley. It was better than nothing since there was neither time nor resources to build anything properly. They had ended up discarding all heavy objects and resources during the repeated retreat.
The pursuing dark race force only contained ten thousand or so men, but the three generals were already in favor of a retreat.
Qianye glanced at his left and right, saying calmly, “The enemy force isn’t big, we can easily fight back.”
Liu Chengyun had been with the army for a good while. He said, “Sire, you might not know, but their small units contain double the ratio of experts and are usually led by a glorious marquis. More squads will converge on us from all directions once we’re tangled up with them. That’s why retreat is the best option.”
Qianye gave it some thought. “Isn’t this one of Zining’s strategies?”
“This… seems like it.”
Back in the day, Song Zining had also spread his forces out in the field. Dark race forces that had split off carelessly would suddenly find themselves surrounded by converging enemy squads. How ironic for the Empire to be getting a taste of their own medicine?
The key to this tactic was the use of divination. Song Zining had used his powers to gain the initiative every time, racking up glorious accomplishments along the way.
The Empire lost its advantage in divination after Song Zining was injured from backlash, but they still possessed a great number of experts and soldiers. All the dark races needed to do was seek out the Imperial main forces and push them into decisive battles. The latter was the side that could not afford to take on losses.
Seeing the distant dark race army, Qianye said, “Sound the bugle! All-out attack!”
“What?” The three generals couldn’t believe their ears.
“Mobilize the entire army, attack! Did you three not hear me, or are you trying to disobey orders?”
The general from the Imperial military hadn’t left yet and was still watching from the side. The three generals were minor characters, so they naturally did not dare disobey. Moreover, they couldn’t just cower from the first battle before this youngster. Hence, they headed off with bitter expressions to collect their forces and meet the assailants in combat.
Moments later, the two armies came into firing range of one another.
The Empire clearly held the numbers advantage, but the dark race unit was the first to launch the attack. As the vanguard pushed in, the spreading cannon-fire also bore down on the Empire’s forces.
The scattered artillery barrage actually threw the Imperial army into chaos. In truth, most of the shells were intercepted in the air, and only the occasional explosion would reach the ground. The soldiers, however, were all glancing back in hopes of seeing the retreat order.
Their past experience told them that getting tangled up with the enemy was trouble, and they had always fled on sight in recent battles.
Under the gaze of tens of thousands of soldiers, Qianye stood tall and still. “Where are our heavy cannons? Why aren’t we firing?”
Once the cannons were deployed, they couldn’t be packed away so easily. The three divine champions exchanged glances, realizing that Qianye was determined to fight the dark races.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
TL: Legion ED: Moxie