Nan Ruohuai shot to his feet and, in a flash of cold light, pressed a dagger against the old attendant’s neck. “Who instructed you to harm me?”
The old man was shocked out of his wits. The trembling caused his skin to rub against the blade, breaking and bleeding somewhat. “This servant is entirely loyal to you. It’s just that I simply cannot stand that man’s arrogance. This isn’t fair to you!”
Nan Ruohuai put away his dagger after a while. “If you saw how that man killed the Royal Tutor like he would slaughter a dog, you won’t think like this. Your so-called ancestral poison, will it really kill him? What if it doesn’t?”
The old man frowned and said with a surge of killing intent, “Then fight it out with him! You have the army in your hands, what’s there to be afraid of? That warship may be big, but if we are all united in our efforts, there will always be an opportunity to strike it down. What does he have without the warship?”
Nan Ruohuai laughed wryly, shaking his head. “You don’t know. He has an even bigger warship, one that he never drove into the country. It’s just there in the void. All the current vessels added together can’t hold a candle to that giant warship.”
The old attendant was stunned and looked rather doubtful. “How can there be such a big ship?”
Nan Ruohuai shook his head and returned to his seat. Indeed… how could there be such a giant warship? How big was the world outside of Zheng?
The number of soldiers Qianye had brought wasn't large. The squad was even smaller than the airships’ total crew. Hence, they only took control of the airship port outside of the city and the area close to the southern gate. A number of structures that could pose a threat to the airships were also occupied.
This placed the royal capital in a subtle state of divided rule.
After returning to the airship, Qianye summoned all the generals to the war room and hung up a scaled map of Zheng beside the map of the Fort Continent.
Qianye pointed to several cities with the pointer, saying, “Here, here, and here… we need to take these five cities on our own. Eastern Sun Island is rich in minerals and Expansive can be modified into a military base. Meanwhile, these cities have the resources and manpower to form a corridor into the dark race’s territory, making sure that our mercenaries can fight their way into the center of Fort Continent without any interruptions.”
The generals here weren’t proficient in strategy, but the handful of men from the Song clan were so surprised that they couldn’t speak.
“Then it’s settled.” Qianye made a clear decision.
Song Lun said, “Sire, this is equal to slicing off a third of Zheng, and the best parts too. Will there be any complaints from the other side?”
Song Hui chuckled. “Yeah, the new King of Zheng has eighty thousand Royal Guards at his beck and call!”
They were actually trying to warn Qianye that the current Nan Ruohuai was no longer the powerless man they could push around as they wished. At least on the surface, he had gained control of the Royal Guard, and to a certain degree, the entirety of Zheng would reject Qianye as an outsider.
The Nan Ruohuai from before had nothing else, so it was fine to occupy Eastern Sun and Expansive in his name. Perhaps it was time for Qianye to consider the new king’s response?
Qianye replied, “We’ve been held up in Zheng for far too long. It’s not important what he thinks, and there’s no need to worry about it, either. Move ahead according to the determined strategy. If there are any obstructions along the way, no matter who it is, we will get rid of them. I have only one order for you, and that is ‘Attack!’ Do I make myself clear?”
The mercenary generals were never afraid of adding more chaos to the situation. One of them said in a strange mocking tone, “What if the Royal Guard fights us for territory?”
“They have so many people! I’m so scared!” “Indeed! It’s eighty thousand men we’re talking about here. Forty men against you, Old Lin, it’s going to be a gangbang!”
“I’m so afraid, haha!”
Song Hui blushed as a series of vulgar language erupted. Her scoundrelly teasing might work on Qianye, but she could hardly compete against these mercenaries who were brought up in the actual lower rungs of society. She really wasn’t as thick-skinned.
“Okay, quiet down.” Qianye waited until everyone was well-behaved before assigning them their missions. At the same time, he also sent someone to notify Nan Ruohuai, asking him to organize Zheng’s entire airship fleet and put them under Dark Flame’s command.
At the end of the meeting, the mercenary generals sped away to mobilize their men, afraid that their other colleagues would take their contributions. In truth, there were only two thousand elite troops in total. After dividing them amongst the generals, each squad had little over a hundred men. Taking a city might be fine, but occupation was near impossible.
The mercenary generals assigned to each city formed groups to study their task distribution. The generals in charge of deploying airships were surrounded by people who wanted more support for their squad, even if it was just an extra gunship.
Song Hui stood beside Qianye, staring at him from every direction. Eventually, the latter could no longer stand it. “What are you doing?”
Song Hui asked, “Did you really think of this plan?”
“Of course.” Qianye was puzzled.
“And I thought you only knew how to fight.”
“What, is there a problem?” Qianye sought guidance rather humbly.
“It’s strange because there’s no problem. You don’t have much command experience as far as I know, nor any experience working as a staff officer.”
“Perhaps it’s because I always think about what Zining will do in the situation.”
Song Hui shook her head. “This isn’t seventh brother’s style at all.”
Qianye said helplessly, “I think it’s not a bad idea. Opening up a corridor and occupying important points will ensure the safety of the rear lines. What else do we need? If anyone blocks our way, we’ll just destroy them.”
Song Hui raised a thumb. “Bold and aggressive!”
Qianye rolled his eyes at her. “There’s no need to waste too much thought on a tiny Zheng.”
Song Hui said, “What do I do then?”
“Shouldn’t you be staying behind at the staff office?”
“I want to fight, give me soldiers.”
Qianye hadn’t expected her to make such a request. This lass was Song Zining’s favored cousin, so Qianye didn’t want her getting into any accidents. Besides, just like her name, Song Hui’s specialty was never on the field.
Song Hui coaxed and pestered Qianye until he finally gave her fifty mercenaries to watch over the airship base.
Back in the palace, Nan Ruohuai’s expression was dark. He tossed a couple of documents to the nearby ministers and generals, saying, “Take a look.”
One of the generals cried out, “Hand over all our warships? Impossible!”
Regardless of the newly-appointed ministers’ opinion, Qianye’s war machine started rolling once again. Elite squads moved out from the capital in two routes, making a beeline for two small cities in the vicinity.
The population of these two cities was only in the tens of thousands. Their garrison of a thousand men was only made up of local soldiers, so it was all too easy for the invaders in a fight of equal numbers.
Regarding the southern gate area and the airship port, Qianye seemed to have no intention of relinquishing them. The Royal Guard who arrived to take over the area were rebuffed rather harshly. Fortunately, however, these people remembered pretty well how Liu Zhongyuan had died. The giant battlecruiser parked in the distant port also served as a constant reminder of who the skies belonged to. This stopped them from doing anything stupid.
After receiving news of Qianye’s westward advance, the Royal Guard also moved out in full force. Unwilling to be left behind, they split into several routes and marched for the various strategic points in the nation. It seemed as though they were competing against Qianye for territory. One big army of thirty thousand, a much bigger force than the others, made for the west. From their direction, it was obvious that they intended to take down the important western cities before Qianye could.
The Royal Guard’s western route attacked madly, sieging cities and dismantling fortifications with valiant momentum. Most of the western border was the domain of the second prince, whose primary power lay with the defeated city of Expansive. Having lost their primary reserve forces and outstanding generals, the defensive power of the western cities was fairly hollow.
With full control of the skies and numerous transport airships, Qianye’s elite forces were basically transported by air for every operation. The Royal Guard’s land vehicles simply weren’t a match for them.
The most important city on the western border was Pagoda City, which Dark Flame—supported by powerful aerial support—took in one battle. This was the final and most important stop in Qianye’s great corridor plan.
Pagoda City boasted a population of a hundred and fifty thousand, and controlled hundreds of kilometers of surrounding land. It stood guard over Zheng’s western borders. The dark races would have to take down Pagoda City if they wanted to enter the country. If they were to push in recklessly, the consequences of leaving such a major threat behind them would be unimaginable.
Zheng’s location was at the tip of the maple leaf, with mountains lying across its north and south, making it difficult for armies to march across. The mountains folded at the country’s western borders, leaving a narrow opening of less than a hundred kilometers. Pagoda City stood at the exit of this narrow passage, providing support to the dozen or so smaller fortresses and castles nearby.
Pagoda City was actually very important, and its garrison normally reached ten thousand in troop strength. However, with the princes fighting amongst themselves and the old king missing, the chaos had spread to the borders as well. Moreover, Nan Ruohuai’s sudden appearance had fully ignited the flames of infighting.
Under such circumstances, the border city became less important to the rulers, and the princes set their eyes on the city’s soldiers. In order to bolster their forces, the princes came to Pagoda City to “borrow soldiers.” The commander of the city wasn’t anyone’s direct relative, nor did he want to bet on any single candidate for fear of forming a grudge. As such, he had no choice but to give a small number of soldiers to all those who asked.
It just so happened that Zheng had too many princes. With each asking for a few hundred men, the city ended up giving out several thousand. By the time Dark Flame bore down on the city, there were only six thousand soldiers left.
Against this unprecedented fleet, the garrison general realized that there was no hope. Besides, Qianye was flying Nan Ruohuai’s flag—this prince had already taken the throne and gained great fame, with no small potential for unifying the country. Put between a rock and a hard place, the general suggested a duel between experts in front of the two armies.
The mercenaries readily agreed. When it was time for each side to field their champion-rank experts, over a dozen mercenary generals charged the defending general, overwhelming him in the blink of an eye. The rank-sixteen expert could defeat any single mercenary in single combat, but he simply couldn’t hold out against the wolf-pack. Within moments, he was on the floor as he took a hefty beating.
Without any other choice, the defending general had to surrender.
When the man pulled to his feet, his eyes and nose were all swollen, and his clothes and armor were in tatters. This fight was more of a group of hooligans ganging up on a man than a duel.
TL Note: Hui = IntelligencePrevious Chapter Next Chapter
TL: Legion ED: Moxie