The Radiant Emperor said slowly, “Come and listen to the defense layout of the heavenly monarchs. I’ll be joining them in battle as one of their peers.”
Empress Li looked up.
The Radiant Emperor smiled. “You look nice in this outfit. There’s no need to change into court apparel, let’s go now.”
All the inner attendants from the “Wave Hall” were standing outside, and at least ten meters away from the door.
The auxiliary hall to the right used to be a resting chamber, equipped with tall seats, soft cushions, reading desks, and a zither stand. It was the perfect place for heavenly monarchs to gather because there was no need to sit according to seniority, and everyone could find a comfortable spot.
The Pointer Monarch and Profundity Monarch were seated on opposite sides, one enjoying tea while the other played chess. They seemed rather leisurely. The Northridge Monarch was lying on the soft cushions and seemingly dozing off. His territory, the Western Continent, was the farthest from the heart of the Empire. He rarely came to the capital unless there was something important.
The door curtains moved gently as Fang Qingkong entered the room. He was clad in a civil officer’s attire, with a hint of coldness in his expression.
The man wasn’t shaken at all by the room full of heavenly monarchs. Without disturbing the powerhouses’ individual activity, he walked over to the Profundity Monarch and whispered some words.
The chess piece in the Profundity Monarch’s hand froze midway. He said in an odd tone, “The Martyr’s Palace? Shouldn’t you ask the Zhao clan about that? Last I heard, Qianye has a daughter on Fort Continent. Besides, Pointer is the one who built that airship. You should be asking him how to deal with it. What opinion can I have?”
The Pointer Monarch might be keen in sight and hearing, but he wasn’t going to listen in on a hushed conversation between the two. He turned around only when his name was mentioned, and seeing Fang Qingkong’s blank expression, he more or less realized what was going on.
The Pointer Monarch said, “Fang Qingkong, just speak in a straightforward manner. Don’t keep things half-hidden like Lin Xitang.” He then said to the Profundity Monarch, “I know a bit about this. Your great-grandson sent an unknown brat from one of the Zhang branch families, borrowing your name to negotiate a deal with Song Zining. He plans to split the profits from Fort Continent with him.”
The Profundity Monarch was surprised. “Which great-grandson?” He then asked, “And Song Zining believes him? I don’t think he’s that dumb, is he?”
The Pointer Monarch stroked his beard and glanced meaningfully at Fang Qingkong.
After Lin Xitang’s departure, the duty of managing the highest level of intelligence reports fell upon Fang Qingkong. This divine champion wasn’t dumb, but coming over to mention this matter in front of the heavenly monarchs wasn’t a matter related to his intelligence.
Fang Qingkong stood there like a wooden statue, not saying a single word.
The Pointer Monarch shook his head with a smile. He realized that the man was forcing him and the Profundity Monarch to express their opinions, but he didn’t mind this bit of scheming. “Profundity, Zining came to seek my opinion a while ago. I told him not to hold back, do whatever makes him feel better.”
The Profundity Monarch didn’t seem surprised. He said with a nod, “That’s how it should be.”
The Pointer Monarch said, “I told him sacrificing a handful of people is nothing.”
The Profundity Monarch said, “Why stop me when you’ve already spoken? Those youngsters of mine probably think they’re so talented that the family won’t abandon them. If they think the contributions I gained in the new world aren't enough for them to use, they’re free to try and get more. They can’t blame anyone if they go about it the wrong way and lose their lives, can they?”
At this point, the Profundity Monarch was furious. He turned to Fang Qingkong and said, “Which one is it?”
The Pointer Monarch said, “No rush. Since Zining asked me about it, he probably has a plan already. Just let him borrow your name for a bit.”
The Profundity Monarch was stunned for a brief moment. After realizing what the elder prince meant, he said, “Fine. That place is full of dark races, it’s not a bad thing to let him do a bit of suppression.”
At this moment, the Radiant Emperor and Empress Li walked in. The heavenly monarchs stood up to offer their salutations; the Northridge Monarch got up from the couch as well.
The group was already on alert, to begin with, so they got right to business. Fang Qingkong began explaining the recent situation.
The Evernight Council's movements had been extremely odd. During the process of tallying contributions, they began capturing members of their aristocracy. And not just any noble; those were high-ranking nobles of the four major races.
This was a rare occurrence. The resolution might've come from the council, but their direct forces would only touch the smaller races under normal circumstances. The four major races would work things out on their own.
Ignoring what their crimes were, touching members of the nobility would always bring up the problem of military power. Yet the council had brought out some unnamed machines that had never appeared before on the battlefield.
Fang Qingkong had to look through the archives in the Imperial library to finally get some clues on a few of the equipment.
“Back when Marshal Lin heard about the ceasefire of the holy war, he said there would be great internal changes to the Evernight faction. The new world’s opening covered up these changes, and we were unable to monitor the exact situation.
“The Founding Emperor and the Martial Emperor had both pointed out that our race will face great peril when the four races are united, but that never truly happened despite the council’s presence. That gave our race the much-needed space to grow, but this state won’t go on indefinitely. Our race must keep a cautious eye on the power ratio between the four major dark races. Once the balance is broken, danger will soon follow.
“Back during the founding years of the Great Qin Empire, each of the four major dark races maintained four great dark monarchs in their fighting force. Two of them would actively participate in the race’s affairs and could be swapped out for the two dormant monarchs at a moment’s notice. The maximum number of great dark monarchs that could be kept awake was a top-secret of each race. We never learned the numbers, and it’s likely that the other races have not, either.
“But in the recent century where the dark races stopped directly attacking the Empire’s mainland, the four major races’ rotation of great monarchs evidently decreased in number.
“And within the past millennium, the vampires have managed to wipe out twenty-three percent of the werewolf race’s clan totems in the holy war. They have also reduced fifteen percent of the clans to half their original population. The size of their slave army wasn’t evidently affected, but we don’t have precise data on the quality of their slave army, either. Additionally, the werewolves have not produced a supreme in the last millennium.
“The vampires have been leveraging their success to challenge the authority of the demonkin race. According to historical records, the latter race’s large-scale war machines were much more advanced than the ones in use today. We’ve always attributed this to a decline in technology, owing to their falling population.
“That’s why our higher-ups and research organizations have always believed that the vampires will be the ones to break the power balance, that they would attack the Empire again after annexing the werewolves. That’s because the number of people being kidnapped or traded via grey channels is not enough to satisfy their need for low-level members. This is a factor restricting them from producing large numbers of slave soldiers like the werewolves and arachne.
“Because high-ranking vampires look similar to our race, the number of human and vampire hybrids are quite high in the grey zones. They are also able to transform those of our race into their own. It has always been their side that has actively sought to penetrate the Empire. The agent who had been in touch with the Longevity Monarch during the void continent war was a great duke. He has gone missing now, and we can’t say for sure if he obeys the Lightless Monarch Medanzo or the Flaming Crown Habsburg.
“Since the opening of the new world, we’ve been making full preparations for an all-out war. If the Evernight side starts moving, that means the ancestors’ prophecy is about to arrive. The council's movements prove that a powerful authority figure has appeared.
“But I’m not certain who the other side’s leader is. Is it the vampire race or is it the demonkin?”
After a period of silence, Empress Li said, “The Evernight side has camouflaged their fate very tightly. They’re not responding to provocations, either. Even if our side tries to penetrate and explore, they only seek to expel and never chase us down. The heart of the new world is still shrouded in black mist.”
The Pointer Monarch fell into a moment of thought. “Do we have a map indicating all the territory the Evernight Council has captured?”
Fang Qingkong shook his head. “The difficulty of gathering intelligence has greatly increased since the holy war ceasefire. We only managed to obtain some scattered information this time. There was one clear report because that one took place on the Western Continent."
“Western Continent, huh?” The Northridge Monarch frowned. “Does the Zhao clan know about it?”
Fang Qingkong said, “We’ve already notified them. There’s no news of the Empire’s main territory being invaded, but we should be cautious.”
The Pointer Monarch nodded. “Agreed.”
The Radiant Emperor and the other heavenly monarchs also expressed their agreement.
Fang Qingkong added, “Because the situation at hand is fairly close to an all-out war, I would like to confirm the tactical contraction plan while the heavenly monarchs are here.”
Tactical contraction referred to the pulling back of the war front under adverse conditions so that the core regions could be protected.
Fang Qingkong flipped through the documents, saying, “The Empire currently holds the least territory on the Western Continent. There are only three more aristocratic families in addition to the Zhao clan. Its development came at a later date, so our defenses are the weakest there.”
“The Transcendent Continent has been recovering at a snail’s pace following the beast horde’s rampage. This became more evident after the Fort Continent’s rise. Most aristocratic families have been diverting their resources over to that side.
“So, from the current fighting power distribution, Transcendent seems to be the best contraction point. The beast horde damaged the surface structures, but the continent-grade weapons can still be activated.”
The Profundity Monarch said, “I agree.” He then said to the Pointer Monarch, “One of us has to defend the contraction point, I’ll go this time.”
The Pointer Monarch agreed, and so did the Northridge Monarch.
The Radiant Emperor said, “Monarch Zhang is recuperating, so I’ll be the reserve.”
These words drew all eyes upon him. The Great Qin’s Emperors had always been outstanding in calligraphy, statecraft, and martial power, but very few of them had joined outside wars since the Empire stabilized its footing.
The Radiant Emperor said, “The wounds he sustained in the new world are difficult to treat. It’s best if he has time to heal and remove hidden injuries. Lord Riverglance and I came from the same line, so it won’t be a problem for him to control the Emperor Domain at the capital. Monarch Zhang will also remain at the capital and ensure the Great Qin’s foundations are not lost.”
The Pointer Monarch said, “Your Majesty, do you understand the implications of this decision?”
The Radiant Emperor said, “The Empress will take office as head of the divination institute. Her sons and daughters will not become heir. Henceforth, whoever is head of the divination institute, their clansmen will not be accepted into the Imperial harem.”
The room became silent.
Moments later, the Pointer Monarch said, “I approve, but the vote to relieve a heavenly monarch must be unanimous. We need to ask Greensun’s opinion.” The others nodded.
The Radiant Emperor said, “That’s a given. I will visit Monarch Zhang tomorrow.”
At this point, the meeting came to an end.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
I wanna see Qianye...
TL: Legion ED: Moxie