Chapter 305: Price [Volume 5 – A Distance Within Reach]
Within an external courtyard near the summit of Cloud Mountain, the eldest young master of the Song clan, Song Zicheng, sat upright behind a desk, looking through the examination register with rapt attention. An old man sat resting with his eyes closed in the elder’s seat on the right-hand side.
Song Zicheng read everything in detail down to the last line before looking up with a smile. “I’ve troubled Sixth Great Uncle this time. I still want to look through these documents, so I’ll return them to you tomorrow. Additionally, I’ve prepared a small gift. I’ll have someone deliver it to your residence shortly.”
The Song clan elder waved his hand while laughing. “This is a small matter. Why the need for gifts? I watched you grow up, so there’s no need to act like strangers. But you mustn't be careless in this examination. You should also draw-in the other old fogeys. I heard Song Zian has come up with some wild schemes to drag you down from the favorite position. He’s determined to win this martial arts contest.”
Song Zicheng’s expression turned slightly more serious. However, he wasn’t flustered and replied calmly, “Rest assured, Sixth Great Uncle. I have the advantage in politics and the same goes for military strategy. He can’t topple the general situation as long as I’m not left too far behind in martial arts.”
The elder smiled while stroking his beard and said, “You, Zicheng, have always been reliable in handling matters. Very well, I should avoid arousing suspicions before this exam, so I can’t stay here very long.”
“Sixth Great Uncle take care!” Song Zicheng got up and personally sent the elder off to the gates before turning back.
Song Zicheng summoned his trusted aides and advisors to begin studying this registry of examinees. The rules in this category of individual arena matches were an elimination system and the sequence of contestants hadn’t been scheduled just yet. They were currently discussing how to exert some influence on this sequence.
Song Zicheng’s contacts among the elders afforded him the convenience of making small modifications to the order of matches. This also meant that he could choose to avoid a certain person during the first couple of rounds or get his own warriors to face some weak opponents first. This would allow them to conserve combat power and snipe the powerful enemies later on.
It was just that the arrangements had to be reasonable in public eyes and not too excessive.
At this time, the group of advisors had looked through the name list—the rank-eight warriors stuck out like a sore thumb among the virtually uniform list of rank-nine warriors. Most of them were Song clan descendants who were participating in the examination, and Qianye was the only guest warrior at that rank.
An advisor said while pointing at the documents, “This An Renyi is only rank-eight. We should let one of our men meet him in the first round.”
Another advisor spoke, “It’s the Seventh Young Master’s man? That’s odd, I heard he has brought together no small number of powerful experts outside. The three strongest under his command are known as the Three Tigers of Ningyuan. This time, only Gao Junyi, the leader of the three tigers, came, and he is indeed an expert. Could it be that this rank-eight An Renyi is even more powerful than the other two tigers?”
Another person said, “I feel something odd here… I think I heard someone say before that this An Renyi is in charge of certain grey businesses under the Seventh Young Master. This kind of person must have some special advantages.”
Song Zicheng said pensively, “I heard there was some friction between Old Two and Little Seven at the cultivation grounds?”
It just so happened that the aide who had reported this matter was in the study. After hearing this, he said, “That’s right. That An Renyi was also at the scene. The Seventh Young Master had given the man his quota for the sky-grade cultivation room.”
Numerous people in the room let out sounds of astonishment.
Song Zicheng also raised his eyebrows—conflicts between brothers weren’t anything new. Back then, he had only listened to the general outline and didn’t bother to ask the details. Only now did he realize there was such a case.
He couldn’t help but break into a laughter. “So that’s what happened. Bullying a guest warrior for no reason, what was Old Two thinking? He should still give Little Seven some face even if it’s because of the Yin family woman. So he wanted to cripple that An Renyi just because Little Seven cares about him? Old Two always flaunts himself as frank and outspoken when, in truth, he’s the one who’s always scheming.”
It was at this time that a personal guard hurriedly entered and whispered into Song Zicheng’s ears, “The Seventh Young Master is here to see you.”
“Zining? What’s he here for?” Song Zicheng felt surprised.
The relationship between him and Song Zining wasn’t bad, but not especially close either. Basically, they had little dealings with one another, but their occasional cooperation while working on clan affairs could still be considered quite delightful. However, Song Zining’s visit during such a critical period might have different implications.
Song Zicheng instructed his guards to lead the guest to the reception pavilion in the front courtyard. He then pondered for a moment while tapping lightly on the table and said, “What does everyone think?”
A certain advisor said hesitantly, “Seventh Young Master has made quite a number of enemies recently. There’s been a lot of tension with the Second and Third Young Masters.” Accepting a friend also meant accepting his enemies—the advisor’s opinion was to keep things simple.
Another person sneered. “That makes it sound as if the Second Young Master won’t fight for the first place anymore if we don’t receive Seventh Young Master.” Song Zian’s ambition for the successor’s position was known by everyone, and he had always been Song Zicheng’s greatest rival.
The previous advisor argued, “But the Second and Seventh Young Masters’ hostility arises from Yin Qiqi, and Seventh Young Master was in the wrong regarding that matter.” At this point, everyone in the room wore ambiguous expressions. The advisor added, “Besides, Yin Qiqi has the heir of Marquis Bowang behind her back.”
After the Profound Heaven Spring Hunt, Song Zining’s successor ranking fell by two positions. Such a severe punishment wasn’t due to Song Zian’s efforts, but an action taken by the Song clan to appease Yin Qiqi and Wei Qiyang, Marquis Bowang’s heir.
The contradicting advisor laughed even louder. “Yin Qiqi and the Second Young Master are in-laws, and the same goes for Yin Qiqi and the heir to Marquis Bowang. Those people won’t stand behind the Eldest Young Master even if there wasn’t such an incident.”
Song Zicheng, who had been listening to the debate, extended his hand and gestured with a downward motion. “Enough. All of you discuss the arena match sequences for now. I’ll go and meet Seventh Brother. Although Yin Qiqi and the Wei clan heir have personal relationships with Second Brother, they can’t affect the future of the clan. There won’t be a problem as long as I hold this position firmly.”
The Song clan’s relationship with the Yin and Wei clans was one between two clans and could hardly be influenced by individuals, even if that individual was the clan lord. Otherwise, there would be no need to struggle for the successor’s position—everyone could just compare their connections.
Song Zicheng entered the reception pavilion and sent away his staff.
Song Zining stood up and said, “Eldest Brother, I feel that I’ve always respected my elder brothers with sufficient respect and have never acted irreverently. But Second and Third Brother’s actions are leaving me without even a place to stand!”
Song Zicheng could vaguely confirm Song Zining’s intentions from this. Thus, he gently spoke a few words of consolation and then listened to Song Zining’s story.
Moments later, Song Zicheng gazed solemnly at this brother who was a fair bit younger than him and said, “You mean that you’ll support me on the inheritance rights and also sweep away the opposition for me in this examination?”
Song Zicheng picked up his teacup and said slowly while fiddling with it, “Seventh Brother is quite confident!”
Song Zining replied with a smile, “How would I dare come and find you if I don’t even have this ability? Not to mention other aspects and merely speaking in terms of military strategy, it won’t be a problem to defeat both Second and Third Brother even if they somehow joined forces.”
Song Zicheng slowly drank his tea in order to gain some thinking time. This mouthful of tea took a fairly long time, but he finally finished it. He then put down the teacup and asked casually, “I heard Old Three’s merchant caravan took heavy losses a while ago?”
“There was a minor conflict, then, Third Brother’s ambitious agents decided to outnumber and wipe out my men. But, in the end, his party was annihilated instead. I feel that Third Brother should train his people a bit more before bringing them out into public, lest he loses all face like that.”
Song Zicheng and Zong Zining didn’t bring up Song Zian. Both of them were clear that the former and Song Zian were enemies with completely no chance of an alliance. Song Ziqi, on the other hand, was a different matter. Actually, the Song clan’s eldest young master was now faced with a choice—one was his third brother who had already stepped into the champion rank, while the other was his seventh brother who had only recently started to stand out.
Song Zining lowered his gaze and focused on the steaming teacup in his hand. “What does Seventh Brother have in mind?”
Song Zining had long since prepared for this. “The assault airships produced by your Yuancheng Heavy Machineries are the top of their line among those of the same class. My Ningyuan Heavy Industries has recently built a number of industrial facilities, but unfortunately, we have no heavy heavyweight products. I hope Eldest Brother will transfer the technology to me. Additionally, you have a small number of mines on Evernight Continent. It must be quite troublesome for you to manage all the extraction and shipping. It so happens that your brother here can put them to good use. So, why not sell them to me at a discount, and…”
Every condition that came out of Song Zining’s mouth was of considerable value. They included technology, mines, and even two well-developed heavy truck production lines.
Song Zicheng felt his heart sink with each condition—it hadn’t sunk all the way to the bottom after Song Zining was done speaking, but it was already quite close.
“Seventh Brother, your asking price is a bit too high.”
Song Zining laughed. “Even if we disregard the potential grand position of clan lord, the stability of your position as the favorite successor should be worth more than just these things. Additionally, your brother isn’t one to destroy the bridge after crossing it. I’ll help you reach the top in this examination and also stand with you in all clan affair disputes hereafter.”
Song Zicheng pondered for a good while before finally making the decision. He reached out and shook Song Zining’s hand tightly.
There was some weariness on Song Zicheng’s face as he saw Song Zining out of the reception pavilion. He smiled ruefully and said, “My investment this time is truly big. Brat, you almost swept away the greater half of my family properties in one go.”
Song Zining smiled. “Eldest Brother has great aspirations. How can such small personal estates enter your eyes? Our Song clan is lacking in many things. What we never lack is property.”
At this time, Song Zicheng suddenly remembered something and hurriedly said to the advisor who was standing near the door. “Rearrange the sequence of the arena matches. Our men should be kept away from Seventh Brother’s men as much as possible.”
The advisor was startled and couldn’t help but ask, “But what about that rank-eight?”
Song Zicheng waved his hand. “Avoid.”
“But, in any case…” The advisor only brought up this subject, but his true meaning couldn’t be more obvious. A rank-eight warrior was virtually a forfeit, so why not give it to their own men?
Song Zicheng, on the other hand, maintained a forthright temperament and had no interest in taking this small advantage. He was more concerned with Song Zining’s feelings and immediately said with a frown, “It’s decided. No need to bring this up again.”
Song Zining heard this from one side and said with a smile, “Eldest Brother is wise.”
After seeing Song Zining off, the eldest young master of the Song clan, for some reason, couldn’t help but feel that his seventh brother’s smile had another meaning to it, and that made him rather uneasy.
Meanwhile, back in Deep Cloud Manor. Qianye had asked someone to open the drill grounds in the back courtyard and had arranged tens of steel training dummies in a tightly packed formation.
This site was an enclosed space and wasn’t very large. It became quite packed after stuffing so many dummies into it, and even swinging one’s sword without touching anything was a struggle.
Qianye drew the East Peak and began to size it up in detail.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
This Song Zining is quite the robber :P
3/7 of the week. Enjoy ^_^
Teaser Source: http://jasonyianakis.co.nz/2012/11/buyer-negotiation-101/