Qianye’s giant fleet drove out of the neutral lands and into the void. There, it adjusted direction before flying down toward the lower continents, away from the sun.
At the lead was the Empire’s latest battlecruiser, with the Martyr’s Palace in the middle of the formation and corvettes guarding the flanks. The high-speed transports followed closely behind the palace. Looking from a distance, the kinetic sails on the Earth Dragon’s back were moving about slowly just like a real void colossus swimming through the void.
Comparing the fleet to a school of fish, the Martyr’s Palace was like a giant whale and the battlecruiser, a small shark. As for the others, they could only be counted as tiny fish no matter their type and size. Actually, the Martyr’s Palace could easily hold two thousand men or even twenty thousand. It was just that this group was recently formed and contained a fair number of people Qianye wasn’t familiar with. He didn’t want them knowing too much about the palace.
The fleet traveled several days through the void before the silhouette of a continent appeared before them.
Qianye stood in the control room, facing a map of the Fort Continent on the wall. The diagram was full of markings, and the little note in the corner proved that this version was completed just last December. There was also a glaring skull on the map, a sign of confidential Imperial intelligence—those secretly in possession would be executed.
This map was naturally best for military purposes. The version circulating on the black market couldn’t compare in terms of accuracy and completeness. Song Zining had used his connections to secure this map and delivered it to the neutral lands along with the military supplies. It wasn’t too hard for him to get his hands on such confidential intelligence with his current status.
Qianye scanned the map carefully until he finally found the nation of Zheng. With the country as the center, he then expanded his scope of observation circle by circle.
From up in the void, Fort Continent was like a giant maple leaf. The top part was split into three parts, and the bottom was like a thin stalk. There were countless small islands around the continent, remnants of land left behind during the continent’s formation. Most of them were uninhabited apart from those closer to the mainland and inside the continent’s protective layer.
Zheng was at one of the maple leaf’s tips. In addition to its mainland territory, it counted hundreds of little islands as its own, a dozen or so of which was inhabited. It seemed Song Zining put in some effort to get so much detailed intelligence, but the information covered by the map itself was rather limited. Qianye would need to find out more in person.
Just from its position, one could say that Zheng was a nice stepping stone. Its mainland was equal to three Imperial provinces, and the islands added together would make for one.
This land area wasn’t small. The Zhao clan only oversaw two provinces at present and was in the process of engaging in a third. Even though there was a fundamental difference between a lower and middle-level continent, building such a foundation meant that the Zheng ancestors were indeed quite valiant.
With regards to the entire Fort Continent, Zheng was a medium-sized power that was neither big nor small. It was rather difficult for the corner nation to expand inland, but similarly, it was bordered by fewer powers. It was relatively safer since there were fewer enemies to face.
The Fort Continent was inhabited by a mix of races, and the biggest power was a nation named Getun at the center of the continent. This country was formed from various smaller tribes. In addition to the king, the Elder Assembly also held great power.
Qianye was interested in Getun because, with his experience, he could tell that the tribes forming the nation were likely werewolf tribes. This meant that the werewolves also held great power on the Fort Continent, in addition to their homeland.
Qianye rubbed his chin. “A continent governed by werewolves? Interesting!”
The werewolves’ power among the dark races had been on the decline throughout the millennium. The Empire had studied and come to a conclusion about this trend—the werewolves’ primitive combat style and abilities gave them no edge against the vampires and demonkin. At the same time, they were stubborn in nature and late to accept new things. This became more pronounced after losing their only absolute powerhouse on the sacred mountain.
At this point, the ancestral faction who wanted to return to their oldest traditions were still highly influential. Even the Summit of Peaks could do nothing to them.
The werewolves were used to governing as tribes. Even as a nation, a handful of tribes put together was no different from a scattered plate of sand. That was why the werewolves were simply not at the same level as the vampires and demonkin in terms of mobilization.
The drawbacks of the tribal system were clear to all those who had taken history lessons in the Empire. The twelve major vampire clans had undergone many changes in recent years, but the werewolves were intent on sticking to old traditions.
Under such circumstances, it was rather interesting that they could maintain authority over the Fort Continent.
Qianye began to think whether there was something especially useful to their race, perhaps a certain resource or the environment. There had to be something important here for them to come over and take roots.
While he was lost in thought, a knock came from the control-room doors, and an attendant walked in. “Sire, the envoy we sent out has returned, and they’re waiting for you outside. When would you like to meet them?”
“Back already? Very good, take them to the conference room, I’ll be there immediately.” After giving some orders, Qianye studied the map a bit more before heading toward the conference room.
There were several people in the conference room. Among them was a grey-haired young man who looked rather distracted and restless. He was still in a daze when Qianye walked in and only came to when someone prodded him from the side. He quickly performed a salute and said, “Junior Nan Ruohuai greets Senior Qianye!”
Qianye didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry as this was the first time someone had called him senior. He touched his cheek lightly—his skin was smooth and soft, without a single facial hair. Why would someone think he’s old?
The person beside Nan Ruohuai poked him again and whispered something in his ears. The man woke up with an “Ah!”, blushing as he bowed deeply. “I’m sorry, Sire Qianye. I was so anxious just now that I spoke incoherently. I hope you won’t blame me... I’m… truly….”
Nan Ruohuai was so nervous that he was about to cry. Then, he actually threw himself to his knees.
Qianye was between laughter and tears once again. With a sweep of his origin power, he brought Nan Ruohuai back to his feet and said with a smile, “Don’t be nervous, speak normally.”
Only then did the young man calm down and return to his seat. He kept his head down in utter silence and his fist, clenched tightly. His performance just now was terrible, but he had no idea how to make up for it. It was better to say less since there would be fewer mistakes.
Qianye couldn’t help but shake his head. Young nobles he had met on the Qin Continent, even people like Song Ziqi, would carry themselves with the style of a clan scion. He had never seen someone like this.
He said gently, “Now tell me who you are and why you’re here to see me?”
“My… father is King Zheng. According to age, I’m ranked thirty-first with nine little brothers under me. However… I’m of common birth…” Nan Ruohuai’s voice grew smaller at this point.
Qianye’s eyes were full of praise as he looked at the intelligence officer accompanying Nan Ruohuai.
This man’s talents were passable and his cultivation wasn’t low, but he was simply too timid and was clearly inexperienced. Most importantly, he was of common birth. Zheng’s system was basically a copy of the Qin Empire’s, and they attached the highest importance to matters of inheritance. This so-called common birth meant that he was born to a lady below the level of an Imperial concubine. Unless his mother was eventually conferred concubine status, he had no right to inherit.
Power and status in the Imperial harem were no different from the court; it was simply a contest of familial and personal strength. How could one convince the masses if they had neither? This was also why the Radiant Emperor suffered endless attacks and criticism following his succession. This happened despite the Solemn Emperor abdicating while he was still alive and observing court assemblies. After ascending the throne, the Radiant Emperor lay low for many years and only rounded up the court and government recently.
The smaller the nation, the more important the system was to them. This Nan Ruohuai must’ve been bullied quite badly to be so meek.
His maternal family held no power, and he himself possessed no definite opinion. He was still of King Zheng’s bloodline, after all, so his talents weren’t bad. He should have no problem becoming a champion, and there was no worry about his life being short. To Qianye, this was the best candidate. It must have been tough for the intelligence division to find such a target within a short time.
Qianye chatted with Nan Ruohuai for a bit and asked about his maternal family before allowing him to withdraw. He then looked toward the intelligence officer.
The man was in his early thirties with slender eyes and thin lips, someone who would be overlooked in a sea of people.
Qianye’s eyes turned blue as he looked on, the man’s image clearly reflected in his pupils. The officer’s expression changed drastically; his body tensed up before slowly relaxing again.
Qianye nodded as the blue hue faded from his eyes. “Your cultivation isn’t half bad, and your potential isn't, either. What’s your name?”
“This servant is called Song Lun. Both of my parents passed away when I was a child. I used to work for the seventh young master and was later granted the Song surname. I followed him to the neutral lands a while ago and began working for Dark Flame.”
Qianye nodded. Being granted this surname meant that he was a trusted subordinate and this person was indeed outstanding.
“You did well regarding Nan Ruohuai, good job digging him out in such a short time. How did you convince him to come see me?”
Song Lun replied, “That was easy. A young master like him who hasn’t experienced any hardships will turn obedient with just a few tricks.”
Song Lun explained the process. He had actually brought his men and seized Nan Ruohuai while he was hunting. He was indeed unimportant because there was only one attendant beside him, one he had raised since young. King Zheng was currently in bad health and all the other princes were fighting over the throne. Nan Ruohuai, on the other hand, remained unaffected by the conflict. No prince came to harm him and no minister came to join his side—there wasn’t even any probing. It seemed like he was entirely ignored.
Nan Ruohuai agreed readily under Song Lun’s threat. Regarding the consequences of bringing in a foreign force, there was really no use in him thinking too much about it. He had no objections about coming to see Qianye, either. He even said self-deprecatingly, “No one will remember even if I go hunting and never come back, a couple of days is nothing.”
Qianye couldn’t help but chuckle. “This fellow understands his situation.”
Song Lun said, “He has no choice. If he doesn’t understand, we’ll choose someone else. King Zheng might not be capable in other aspects, but he has a lot of children. Someone will eventually fit our bill. Even if all the princes don’t fit, there are a lot of princesses or even royal sons-in-law.”
“True.” Qianye nodded. “Then you follow Nan Ruohuai for the time being and teach him what to do. We can’t have him ruining the kingdom after he does become king.”
Song Lun was surprised. “You don’t plan on taking Zheng?”
Qianye replied, “Just a part of it, only as much as we need. Fort Continent is so big, why limit ourselves to just one corner?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
TL: Legion ED: Moxie