Chapter 196: Visitor (Part 2) [Volume 3 – The Place Where My Heart Feels At Peace]
A certain graceful figure slowly appeared from the shadow at the base of the wall. Two fallen leaves that were rotating in the air ruptured like soap bubbles and vanished completely.
Qianye forced out a helpless smile as he resheathed the Radiant Edge. “Zining, how did you find me here? And please stop playing with my intruder alarm. That sound isn’t very comfortable to hear.”
Song Zining stood there rather engrossed. His right hand waved to and fro as he controlled a hazy mass of glowing azure origin power, shifting it from top to bottom along the wall. The intruder alarm installed in the area would emit a sharp whistle whenever his hand waved past. It sounded, to Qianye, as if several people were jumping into the courtyard.
Song Zining withdrew his hand and smiled at Qianye. “It’s simple. I knew you’d be with Wei Potian these days. I can easily find you after finding him. That muscle-brained idiot doesn’t know anything about hiding his tracks. It’s almost as if he wants the whole world to know he’s here.”
Qianye felt a headache after listening to Song Zining’s malicious evaluation of Wei Potian. “Zining…” The two had been quite upset with each other over various misunderstandings since the Profound Heaven Spring Hunt. Even after things were made clear, the tension between them failed to ease and, on the contrary, seemed to be intensifying. Song Zining had always acted the part of a typical aristocratic scion in public—he was cultured, refined, and elaborate—but would change utterly and completely at the mere mention of Wei Potian.
Song Zining retorted, “Did I say something wrong? He allowed you to fall into a dangerous situation in Wei clan’s territory. Humph! The expeditionary army actually dared to dispatch two regiments to launch a cross-region attack on their property, and the local garrison decided to turn a blind eye. The Wei family has truly lost the prestige of us upper-rank aristocratic families. As expected, it's better if they stay quietly in their Far East Province and don’t come out.”
At this moment, Qianye understood that Song Zining had already found out about what happened at the Far East Heavy Industries mines. “The cause of this incident is still me.” He smiled ruefully after seeing Song Zining still somewhat angry. “Zining, when you first met him, you said the heir of Marquis Bowang isn’t a fool.”
Song Zining replied, “I was telling you to be on your guard against him. Don’t think everyone who looks foolish is a good person. Furthermore, what does his not being a fool have to do with his idiotic actions?”
Qianye finally understood that he had no way to convince Song Zining regarding this matter. Instead, he seemed to be pouring oil over fire the more he talked about this. At that point, he invited Song Zining into the house and asked, “I guess matters on your side have been progressing quite well, seeing as how you came to call on me so late at night.”
Song Zining stepped into the room and swept his gaze over the simple furnishings within. He then glanced back at Qianye’s somewhat difficult expression and decided not to express his negative views on the living conditions. “Things have gone without a hitch on my side. I’ll go into the details later. Do you still remember that I said I’m going to obtain some important merchandise? This is the present I prepared for you.”
“What is it?” Qianye asked curiously. Anything mentioned so seriously by Song Zining had to be rather unique.
Song Zining lightly clapped thrice. His actions were gentle and almost didn’t use any force, but the sharp and clear sound of his claps was transmitted quite far. After it, Qianye heard the alarm in the courtyard ring twice, and two people covered in black cloaks walked into the room in the blink of an eye.
The aura of the two mysterious characters wasn’t very powerful, probably at rank three to five.
Song Zining pointed towards them and said, “This is the present I prepared for you. Why haven’t you two taken off your hoods yet?”
The two lifted their hoods as instructed, revealing two identical faces that were exquisitely beautiful. They were actually a pair of twins—young, beautiful, and as clean as clear springs.
Song Zining smiled. “How are they? Not bad, right?! They’re already at rank four at only 16 years old. They were trained stringently since a young age in a variety of skills, from assassinations and battle to statecraft. They know a bit of everything. Such first-rate goods are extremely limited even in the whole empire. I rushed over as soon as I received the news and bought the two with great difficulty.
“You bought them?”
“Indeed. These elite slaves are handpicked by the Hidden Spring Merchant Group since a young age, going through long periods of training and numerous selections. You’ve perhaps heard of the Hidden Spring, one of the higher ranked trade conglomerates. Their underground slave trade is quite large, and they’re famous for training slaves for various applications. They recently held an auction in Evernight Continent which is where I bought them.”
Song Zining pointed towards Qianye and said to the two girls, “He’s your master from now on. Go and greet your new master.”
The two girls stepped forward gracefully and prostrated themselves on the floor, drawing out their bodies in supple and elegant lines from neck to waist.
“I’m called Lil’ Seven,” said the girl on the left.
“And I’m Lil’ Nine,” said the girl on the right.
Song Zining proceeded to explain about their odd names. “They joined Hidden Spring as nameless infants. Every batch would be differentiated by their numbers. This is both a tradition and a trademark of Hidden Spring. You can name them if you care or you can just use their numbers; it really doesn’t matter.”
Song Zining’s smile deepened at this point as he blinked his eyes and said, “The two of them should be quite… useful. Do you want to try it now? Haha!”
“...” Qianye was absolutely dumbfounded at this point. Song Zining still had the habit of gifting him ladies, just like when they were back at the Yellow Springs Training Camp. Could this be a means of socializing common to all aristocratic scions? One had to admit that such a habit would certainly be quite well-received among the empire’s nobility.
Qianye thought about it for a second and then said firmly, “Zining, you know I have a whole heap of unsolvable problems. It’s truly not a good time to add more people to my side.”
“The two of them are quite capable. Not only will they not be a burden, on the contrary, they’ll be of assistance to you. The Hidden Spring’s training methods tend to overdraft one’s potential, but with their talents, they may still reach rank seven,” Song Zining said with a smile while patting Qianye’s shoulder.
Qianye suddenly felt a sharp pain on his shoulder—a thin needle had pierced into his body, following which, a cold sensation spread out from the point of contact. He jumped up in shock and instinctively moved to the wall in the blink of an eye. At this time, the threads of cold sensation had already melted into his flowing blood.
Song Zining placed the slender syringe on the table and laughed. “Qianye, your awareness is truly lacking. Also, shouldn’t you be retaliating after being ambushed?”
Qianye didn’t know whether to laugh or cry after hearing this. “Are you regretting that I didn’t stab you?”
Song Zining laughed as he picked up the syringe and shook it. “Don’t worry. This drug is just to add a certain element to your blood and has no other effect on living beings. However, it’s a necessary drug for them. They’ll become restless and anxious if they don’t get to drink your blood within half a year. They’ll then live suffering from thirst and cravings until they go completely mad.”
Qianye was startled. “Is this the Hidden Spring’s method to control them?” He understood the principles behind this method—there were also similar drug interrogation techniques within the army.
Song Zining nodded. “Yes. A specific type of drug is assigned to every type of elite slave. Additionally, the drug for every batch is different and there’s only one dose of each. It’s impossible to duplicate.”
Finally, Song Zining shrugged and said, “Now they won’t live past a year if you don’t take them along.”
Qianye shook his head. “Is this really necessary?”
Song Zining smiled. “Of course it is! Otherwise, how would you be willing to accept them?” Song Zining turned towards the two girls and said, “You two go back first. Come back tomorrow with the things I prepared for your master.”
Lil’ Seven and Lil’ Nine bowed, put on their hoods, and withdrew silently. They returned the same way they came, by jumping over the wall.
Song Zining beckoned with his hands after he looked up to see Qianye still keeping his distance. “Now let’s discuss proper business.”
He took out an unremarkable wooden document box and placed it on the table. “This is an ancient cultivation scroll from my family. It’s said to have existed since the Battle of Destiny. The Song clan didn’t even exist at the time.”
Qianye returned to his seat across Song Zining and was just about to take the scroll to flip through when he was startled by Song Zining’s words. His hand froze midway. The ancient arts of the aristocratic families were, without exception, clan-defining treasures. Never were they known to be divulged to an outsider.
Song Zining opened the box nonchalantly to reveal a volume made of three pieces of jade strung together. The surface of the jades had dimmed due to the passage of time. He removed one of them and stroked it lightly, immediately revealing a reserved and mellow brilliance from within. It was evident, just from the jade’s quality, that it was a priceless item.
Song Zining placed the jade booklet before Qianye and said with a chuckle, “This is the genuine item. You can throw away the useless Nurturing Rain Art from the Yin family.”
Qianye was stunned—a clan elder would always make a separate copy when aristocratic families passed arts to outsiders. The Nurturing Rain Art he’d obtained from the Yin family was also similarly copied. If they gave him the original, what would the Song clan descendants do when they wanted to learn the art?
Song Zining seemed to have figured out Qianye’s misgivings. “It doesn’t matter. I’ve already placed a few counterfeit items in the family storehouse.”
“Counterfeits…” Qianye felt a corner of his forehead twitch and couldn’t help but rub it with his hand. Each of Song Zining’s words and actions tonight had left him absolutely speechless.
Song Zining actually dared to just take out such a valuable item, a genuine copy of his family’s secret art, and replace it with a counterfeit—his way of thinking was truly baffling. It might not end with him simply being expelled from the clan if things came to light. The more serious offenders would have their origin power destroyed and banished for penal servitude. Furthermore, based on his words, it seemed that he was bestowing this secret art upon an outsider without the family’s consent. It was inevitable that the recipient, Qianye, would also be chased down and killed by the Song clan.
Song Zining, however, played down the whole thing. “Don’t worry, there are over ten such ancient scrolls and all of them are there collecting a thousand years worth of dust on the innermost shelves. No one has ever cultivated this art successfully. It’s only there because it was left behind by the ancestor. It’s already been an eternity since anyone had gone to flip through them, much less was dumb enough to cultivate them.”
Qianye suddenly felt somewhat odd. What did he mean by dumb enough to cultivate these ancient scrolls? Before he had time to think further, he heard Song Zining’s eager words, “That’s why, Qianye, you must cultivate this art earnestly and do it quickly.”
Qianye almost began to sweat after hearing this. How was he supposed to successfully cultivate an art that no one from the Song clan had managed to in a thousand years? Song Zining had always been extremely meticulous with his methods, but this time, he’d acted rather presumptuously and without regard for consequences. “Zining, this kind of…”
Song Zining interrupted Qianye’s words and proceeded to brag delightedly, “You have no idea how difficult it was to persuade that elder from the depository. I’d planned this single-mindedly for quite some time before I was able to catch him in bed with his new mistress. This woman was the concubine of the Marquis of Xiangcheng, not someone he could easily deal with. You don’t know how brilliant his expression was when he jumped up from his bed!”
Qianye only laughed helplessly. “This… won’t this be a problem?” None of the elders from the aristocratic clans were simple, even those with a different surname. Yet, the one who had schemed against this elder was actually the concubine of a marquis—Song Zining was practically playing with fire.
Song Zining said indifferently, “Why should it be? I’m only asking him to do some small things despite having him at my mercy. Furthermore, I even remunerated him according to the market price instead of extorting him. Oh right, I’m actually planning to buy that lady from the Marquis of Xiangcheng and gift her to this elder. That should make him work for me with increased loyalty.”
A peculiar thought flashed through Qianye’s mind—Song Zining seemed amiable but was, in fact, unyielding and decisive. He was never one to explain his methods, much less brag about such shameful tricks. However, Qianye wasn’t familiar with the strategies of the aristocracy at all. After listening for a long time, he finally said, “By all means, be careful.”
Song Zining’s sitting posture became even more relaxed. He rested his head on his hand and said lazily, “One has to seek fortune amidst danger. This time, for instance, I cut off Wu Zhengnan’s black crystal supply. I’ve seized a good portion of the industry behind him and temporarily crippled half of the remaining channels. All of those trade routes will fall into my hands after he’s been officially overthrown.”
Qianye frowned involuntarily. It sounded like Song Zining intended to inherit these channels. As someone who had a vendetta against the dark races, he couldn’t help but feel a spell of discomfort even if it was only ordinary trade. Furthermore, their reason for toppling Wu Zhengnan wasn’t for seizing his trade routes, was it? However, Qianye didn’t inquire further on account of his trust towards Song Zining. In truth, he failed to notice that he was actually evading the issue out of instinct.
Song Zining observed Qianye’s expression attentively and then continued, “You have no idea how big the profits here are. These resources are all wasted in the hands of someone like Wu Zhengnan. If the profits weren’t big enough, how would I be able to trade for such authority and thus seize so many industries and routes? This can’t be done even with the Song clan’s name.”
Even someone as oblivious to trickery and tactics as Qianye was able to discern that something was wrong with the meaning behind his words. He looked up doubtfully and saw Song Zining gazing at him. At this moment, his warm, smiling face resembled a mask like never before. There were no fluctuations in the depths of his eyes and not even a strand of warmth.
“Qianye, aren’t you afraid I’ll become the next Wu Zhengnan?”
The suspicion within Qianye’s obsidian eyes gradually faded away when their eyes met. He didn’t reply immediately but instead brought up another matter. “What would you have done if my blood power had condensed into a vampire clan’s insignia during the Profound Heaven Spring Hunt?
Song Zining’s expression froze.
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5/6 of the week. Enjoy ^_^
TL: Legion, ED: Darkling