Chapter 187: Besieged [Volume 3 – The Place Where My Heart Feels At Peace]
Xiao Lingshi stood up to retrieve a map which he then unfurled onto the table. The distribution of all human-controlled ore mines was recorded upon it in impressive detail.
He pointed toward the rather large-scale mines and said, “These locations all belong to the Huaiyang Wu Clan. They used to be content with their lot. Even though they had some minor deals going on under the table, they were always harmless on the surface.”
Song Zining listened attentively, knowing there would be a continuation to this introduction. Wu Zhengnan’s seedlings came from god knows how many channels, with some arriving from his allies whose benefits were closely related to him, while others changing several hands on the way. Most aristocratic families preferred clean business and weren’t too keen on earning money from a pot of hot oil.
“Perhaps they were motivated after seeing the people around them earn substantially by trading with the dark races, however, their choice of goods is rather problematic.”
“They’re trading humans and black crystal iron.
Song Zining’s eyes turned narrow. “Black crystal iron?”
Black crystal iron ranked above red crystal iron and was the raw material used to produce grade four origin firearms. The patterns within the origin array were made from this material. In comparison to red crystal iron, the value of black crystal iron as a strategic resource was miles ahead.
Song Zining immediately grasped the pivotal point. “The Wu clan mines produce black crystal iron?”
Xiao Lingshi nodded and replied, “They’ve been trying to keep this a secret all this time. However, while investigating recent transactions, my men discovered a batch of black crystal iron of unknown origins. My two appraisers believe that the black crystal iron was produced from the Wu clan mining area.”
Song Zining muttered to himself, “The Huaiyang Wu Clan, although only a third-rate force, is still an aristocratic family.”
“That’s where things get tricky.”
Xiao Lingshi’s tone sounded as if he was just chatting casually but Song Zining knew that this was the key point of today’s conversation. Their continued cooperation would depend on whether or not he could accept this matter. The benefits he had offered before, including the business regarding Wu Zhengnan, was only enough to have Xiao Lingshi “not get involved”. Money alone wasn’t enough if he wanted to have the latter slightly lean toward him in the case of a slip-up.
Xiao Lingshi had already established himself in the Evernight Continent, but when all was said and done, he was still a commoner of humble origins. The difference in identities would be magnified as soon as he left the continent—the reason why he placed this opportunity before Song Zining. In the end, family background was Xiao Lingshi’s only weakness. He had almost nothing to fear apart from this.
“Do you have any more information?”
“Please wait a moment.”
Xiao Lingshi left for a while and returned with a thick stack of files, all of which contained information related to the Wu clan mining area.
It was Song Zining’s turn to go over documents in detail while Xiao Lingshi waited at one side. This lieutenant general of humble origins didn’t show the slightest trace of impatience—it seemed as if he could sit idly for the whole day. Meanwhile, Song Zining read page after page, as if he had no idea a lieutenant general was waiting beside him.
Song Zining finished reading only after a whole hour had passed. He rearranged all the files and then proceeded to mumble to himself while tapping on the table with his fingers. “There’s some room for manipulation because these mines all belong to the third branch of the Wu clan.”
Xiao Lingshi nodded without saying anything.
Song Zining continued, “I have some people on the Qin Continent. Although it’ll be difficult for them to suppress the third branch of the Wu clan, they can definitely hold them up for a period of time. We can intercept the Wu clan’s caravan and occupy their mines while they’re too busy to attend to matters. We won’t need to worry about them denying their crimes as long as we can find the evidence to use against them. If at that time, we’re willing to return one-third of the mining rights, the third branch of the Wu clan will have no other choice but to obey. I’m quite certain they’ll have a clear view of things regarding their unspeakable relationship with Wu Zhengnan.”
Xiao Lingshi laughed, “Why would the stately Song clan have any difficulty dealing with a mere third branch of the Wu clan?”
Song Zining replied calmly, “The Song clan can deal with the Wu clan as easily as smashing ants. Why would they have any difficulty? The reason for this difficulty is precisely because it’s not the Song clan but I, Song Zining, who’s dealing with the Wu clan’s third branch.”
There was a huge difference between whether or not one borrowed the Song clan’s power.
Xiao Lingshi was finally moved and stared deeply into Song Zining’s eyes. “It is I who had made the wrong assumptions.” A solemn glow flashed across the depths of his eyes. Could it be that this low-profile seventh young master of the Song clan only relied on his own strength from establishing contact to making plans on how to deal with Wu Zhengnan? Xiao Lingshi wasn’t disappointed after discovering that he couldn’t borrow the Song clan’s power. On the contrary, he looked forward to things even more.
Song Zining smiled indifferently and didn’t continue with this topic. “The most crucial point is, what will we do if we raid the Wu clan’s mines and caravan but find no traces of black crystal iron?”
“What do you think we should do then?”
Song Zining replied calmly, “It should be fine as long as we don’t let them find out our identities. If they do find out, we just need to prevent them from speaking… ever again. However, I need more manpower to be able to do these things in the Evernight Continent. General Xiao, I’m sure you have such personnel under your command?”
Xiao Lingshi naturally understood Song Zining’s notion. “I do have some men. Their loyalty isn’t a problem, and they can be considered to have some ability. None of their names can be found in any imperial record. Does the seventh young master intend to go personally on this hijacking business?”
Song Zining laughed lightly, “I naturally have to oversee such a big matter in person. Only then will I be at ease.”
Xiao Lingshi replied, “It’s said that privileged young masters should avoid sitting under overhanging eaves. The seventh young master’s wellbeing is of great value. Are you certain you wish to wade into danger personally?”
“If by privileged you’re referring to those distinguished clan and family names, they’re helpful early on but will turn into one’s shackles later in life. It’s better to depend on your own two hands to fight for what you want and shoulder all success and failure alone. Wouldn’t such a life be freer than struggling for family favors?”
Xiao Lingshi became momentarily silent before letting out a soft sigh. “The seventh young master’s aspirations are indeed broad. I am ashamed. All I’ve been thinking of after reaching this position is how to preserve my predecessors’ accomplishments. Heh, heh, it seems the impulsiveness of youth has been worn away.”
Song Zining replied, “General Xiao always considers the long term and is vigilant in times of peace. You’ll definitely move further onwards in the future.”
Xiao Lingshi laughed, “Then I shall borrow the seventh young master’s auspicious words.”
Song Zining left after chatting for a while longer and settling the details of their upcoming operation.
Song Zining saw an airship rise up over the distant horizon as he walked out of the administrative stronghold. The Far East Wei Clan’s insignia was visible even across such a distance. He wondered what Wei Potian had been dawdling over all this time as he gazed at the airship but soon turned away with a sneer.
Wei Potian was currently holding a feast on the airship with a large group of followers. He was slightly tipsy, and his uninhibited heart was full of joy and noble aspirations, feeling as if he was the greatest person under the heavens.
Even those experienced characters following Wei Potian felt baffled by today’s course of events—Xiao Lingshi wasn’t known as “Black-faced Xiao” for nothing. But as it happened, the latter immediately agreed to Wei Potian’s requests without the slightest hesitation.
These people knew there was definitely more to this than meets the eye but none of them were able to make a definite guess. Perhaps Wei Potian was the only one among the whole group who believed that Xiao Lingshi was convinced by his grandeur. His grandiose confidence was flourishing more than ever.
Naturally, Wei Potian wouldn’t admit Song Zining’s role in this matter even if he knew that it was the latter who had used half of the Chen clan mining rights as a door knocker followed by a series of follow-up deals in order to make Xiao Lingshi abandon Wu Zhengnan completely.
At this time, neither Song Zining nor Wei Potian knew of the two armies silently surrounding Qianye and the seedlings he had saved. They were waiting for nightfall to launch their attack.
Such cross-region troop movements naturally couldn’t escape Xiao Lingshi’s notice but this lieutenant general of humble origins had no intention of stopping them, and neither did he inform Wei Potian nor Song Zining. He believed it to be the best outcome if these seedlings were to disappear completely. These people would only become potential thorns in the expeditionary army’s side if they survived. As for the aftermath, the seventh division was already done for but he would have the accomplice 15th division cough up more of its profits.
After concluding matters at the administrative stronghold, Song Zining dispatched a few subordinates to visit Qianye and inform him of recent developments. He himself went to another city with a few trusted aides where an important matter awaited his personal attention.
The twilight gradually began to recede. Qianye stood on the sentry tower of this small village and gazed into the distance. The horizon was enshrouded in a fuzzy mist. The time was two o’clock, and the Evernight Continent was nearing nightfall. Fortunately, the bright full moon was already high in the sky. Under the lunar illumination, even humans with good vision were able to see a few hundred meters away.
Qianye’s pupils grew faintly red as he activated his night vision ability. The Evernight Continent appeared undisguised within his vision—all secrets became plainly visible. Qianye noticed, at the extremes of his vision, the minute differences between the dust clouds and the usual nocturnal mist. These were the dust and smoke produced by the movement of military trucks.
A large-scale unit was moving toward them and would arrive before the village walls in less than an hour.
The two guard captains of the Far East Heavy Industries stood to Qianye’s left. To his right was a young man and woman. They weren’t much older than Qianye and were likely to be in their twenties. Both of them were rank one fighters—the man was handsome while the lady was quiet and elegant—they were quality goods that could be sold to the vampires for a good price.
They were half-siblings. The young man was called Wu Shiqing, and the lady Wu Shiying. They were originally born to a declined landowning household but later ventured to the Evernight Continent in search of future prospects. But no sooner had they arrived than they were captured by Wu Zhengnan’s slave hunters to be sold to the vampire as seedlings.
Under Qianye’s command, they were goods no longer. The two siblings were able to exhibit their outstanding abilities during the few days of training, prompting Qianye to promote them and task them with temporary leadership over a batch of soldiers.
The two rank four guard captains tried hard to peer into the distant night but could see nothing apart from the hazy darkness. However, Qianye’s expression was solemn—he already knew what was likely to come from that direction. It was just that they were too far for him to see with naked eyes.
At this time, Wu Shiqing suddenly whispered, “So many people are coming from that side!”
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Chapter 2/6 of the week. Enjoy!
TL: Legion, ED: Moxie
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