Chapter 426: On the Verge
At this moment, the middle-aged man had finished reading the secret message. He said while stroking his short beard, “The other party has sent word that the princess will only stay here for one day and not a second more. With the princess taking action, it's useless no matter how many reinforcements the Song clan arranges. This matter is settled. We’ll take action as soon as the princess arrives tonight.”
Gu Liyu opened his mouth but couldn’t say anything since a thousand reasons wouldn’t be enough to make them listen. His background was humble, but his heart was proud and arrogant. He snorted coldly and left the tent without turning back.
Naturally, the expressions of those in the tent turned rather unsightly. An energetic youth sneered, “A hired thug thinks he’s really something. It’ll be more appropriate if that Song clan member were standing here!”
These words weren’t spoken softly, and it was enough for Gu Liyu to hear clearly. His expression immediately turned more solemn.
Blackflow City, Dark Flame headquarters. Song Zining was sitting in the study while contemplating in silence when a series of clamor came through from outside the window and broke his tranquility.
At this moment, people were rushing through the city in disorder. The fifty-thousand-strong dark race army was already within a hundred kilometers and would arrive within a single day. Although most of them were cannon fodder, it was hardly something a single division could handle. Blackflow City had never engaged in a battle of this scale since its founding.
A big army was pressing down upon them. Most of the adventurers and mercenaries in the city wanted to escape after receiving the news because only death awaited them once the city was breached. However, Song Zining had issued an order in advance to close the main gates and disallow all forms of entry or exit.
With the battle close at hand, he naturally wouldn’t give the dark race spies any opportunity to send information. Song Zining’s response wasn’t slow, but people were still anxious. Add to that the transfer of Dark Flame soldiers everywhere to bolster city defenses, the entire city was in a state of constant agitation and flowing rumors.
Additionally, there were hearsays that the dark race army was here for Song Zining, and that they would retreat if he were handed over.
This rumor spread rapidly throughout the city. Under normal circumstances, Song Zining’s status was enough to deter anyone from having thoughts about him. But danger was imminent with the big dark race army bearing down upon them. Even if the Song clan were to retaliate for handing Song Zining over, that was a matter for the future. If they didn’t, however, the entire population would be butchered once the city had been breached.
The rumors started like a prairie fire and spread in the blink of an eye. Eventually, people stopped bothering to check whether the contents were true as their hearts became increasingly unstable and restless. The adventurers and mercenaries in the city started to clash with Dark Flame soldiers, and the conflict eventually turned into violence.
Song Zining was sitting silently in the study just as before. Beyond the walls, he could faintly hear the chaotic ruckus of the city. However, he seemed completely oblivious to everything as he sat completely still. His brows were locked in a slight frown, and no one knew where his thoughts were. After a long while, he got up and poured himself a cup of tea from the long table.
At this moment, a knock came from the door and in walked Duan Hao. “Seventh Young Master, we’ve already found the dozen or so people who were spreading rumors. As expected, they are all deeply connected to the Nangong family. But there are several others that we can’t confirm at the moment. I’ve already dispatched men to keep an eye on them. What do you think we should do?” The strategic point Duan Hao was in charge of was the closest to Blackflow City. He hadn’t expected to encounter such a situation soon after being summoned back.
Song Zining held the glazed porcelain cup in his hand and allowed the fragrance to fully seep out. He then finished the tea slowly before speaking in an indifferent manner, “Since you’ve found them, just kill them all.”
Duan Hao was momentarily stunned. “Seventh Young Master, this isn’t very appropriate, is it? Some among them haven’t been confirmed as the mastermind.”
Song Zining said calmly, “Extreme times call for extreme measures. It’s no longer important whether or not they’re behind this matter. People’s hearts are unstable at the moment. Not to mention hoping for their strength in battle, must I divert my attention to guard my back? Moreover, ten thousand lives will be lost once the city really falls. Don’t you understand such a simple logic?”
Duan Hao had followed Song Zining for many years before coming to Dark Flame and understood this seventh young master’s temperament quite well. He knew the angrier the latter was in his heart, the calmer he was on the surface. Merely from Song Zining’s countenance that was as tranquil as still water, one could see that he was already extremely angry. Duan Hao immediately bowed with a rueful smile and left to attend to the matters at hand.
Moments later in a downtown area of Blackflow City, a thin young man was captured by several ruthless Dark Flame soldiers and pressed to the ground.
The man wasn’t in much of a panic and, on the contrary, even began to cry loudly, “What right do you have to capture me? Is there still law and order here?”
An officer sneered, “Deluding the people with lies is a sure way to seek death. Rest easy and be on your way!”
The man finally realized things weren’t looking good when the officer drew his handgun. He shouted while struggling with all his might, “Do you know who this daddy here is? I’m from the Nangong family’s direct line. A lowly commoner like you dares move against me? I’ll kill your entire family!”
The officer pulled the trigger with a cold laugh, and a large caliber bullet immediately blasted half of the man’s head apart.
Several of the spectators immediately began to edge back quietly. Such a scene played out in ten-odd locations throughout the city. Everyone quickly saw the danger, and those whispering idlers immediately lost the greater half of their zeal.
Song Zining watched the execution scene from one of Dark Flame’s lookout towers, then instructed Song Hu who was standing behind him, “Set up a banquet today and invite every leading character in the city over. Give an invitation to anyone with strength, regardless of status.”
Song Hu was quite adept at such matters and handled it perfectly. By evening, several dozen men had already gathered in Dark Flame’s main hall and taken their seats. It could be said that people from all trades had been crammed into a single hall. There were aristocrat representatives, leaders of squads that had come for the bloody battle, as well as mercenary corps leaders. There were even two leaders from Blackflow’s underground organizations.
The two so-called leaders were, in fact, ruffian bosses who had no right to step into Dark Flame’s gates under normal circumstances. But despite their lowly status, they were like the shadow of the city and grasped no small number of hidden information channels. Thus, Song Zining had invited them over with some coercion.
The statuses of the dozens of people at the table were extremely different, and it would normally be impossible for them to gather together. Now that they were all present at once, there was a certain degree of awkwardness among them.
Only when everyone had arrived did Song Zining appear to take his seat. He was wearing Chinese robes on his body, a frivolous smile on his face, and was waving his fan in a leisurely manner. Behind him was an entire row of delicate and sweet-looking maids whose emergence served as a merciless eye-opener for most of the Evernight natives.
Song Zining raised his wine cup toward everyone and said with a smile, “Since everyone came to grant me this rare honor, this young master will drink first as a sign of respect!”
With that, he emptied his cup and the guests reciprocated in succession. Two more toasts were offered afterward. With three cups of wine in their stomachs, the atmosphere at the banquet gradually became more relaxed and warm.
However, some people revealed disdainful expressions. They were all born of aristocracy and viewed Song Zining as an insincere hedonist. A while ago, a lot of news had spread of his brilliance and might, but apparently, it was someone’s flattery.
Two rounds of dishes followed the three cups of wine as those beautiful maids shuttled back and forth within the crowd.
Song Zining saw that the time was just right. Only then did he rise to perform a polite bow and said with a smile, “This young master hails from the Song clan. I’m sure everyone already knows of this. These big clans all boil down to two things: one is that they find safety in numbers, and the other is that they like face and hold grudges. It wasn’t easy for this young master to come to Blackflow City. It’ll certainly be embarrassing if I were to run with my tail between my legs. So, I must hold this city at all costs. I also hope everyone will do their utmost to help.”
After a short pause, Song Zining’s smile grew even more resplendent as he said word by word, “If Blackflow City falls, the day of the breach is the day everyone here dies. At that time, regardless of whether you’ve accepted money from the Zhang clan, the Li clan, or the Nangong clan, you’ll have no life left to spend it.”
For a short moment, the entire hall was so silent that one could hear a needle drop to the floor, but it was immediately followed by a commotion. No one had expected Song Zining to actually say such things. Such a direct, undisguised threat was tantamount to shedding all pretenses and leaving no leeway at all.
Everyone was shocked and angry in equal measures. Someone cried out, “Song Zining, is your Song clan so tyrannical?”
Song Zining replied with a laugh, “My Song clan is indeed tyrannical. Does this sir have a problem with that? In fact, I can be even more tyrannical. Do you want to see?”
The person was exasperated with cold sweat dripping down his forehead. What else could be more tyrannical apart from murdering him on the spot?
Song Zining glanced at everyone in turn, and everywhere his gaze passed, people would lower their heads. The handful of aristocratic descendants among them couldn’t compare at all to Song Zining in terms of status. Regardless of sincerity, they still lowered their heads because anyone with half a brain wouldn’t want to stick out at this time.
But with so many people here, there was bound to be an unusual person. A small voice broke the suppressive silence. “The Song clan handles things in such a despotic manner. Aren’t you afraid of the damage to its reputation once it’s known?”
Song Zining covered his mouth with the fan and chuckled. “You took so much of the Nangong’s money and plan to sell out Blackflow City entirely. Now, you’re worried about the Song clan’s reputation? Don’t you find that odd?”
That person’s expression immediately shifted, and he replied with some difficulty, “The Song Seventh Young Master jests.”
He hadn’t even finished speaking when the maid nearby produced a dagger and, in a flash of cold light, sent his head flying into the air! The slash was so fast that the man’s body was left in its sitting posture. A fountain of fresh blood gushed out and drenched the guests from head to toe.
A single drop of blood flew far enough to land on Song Zining’s face. His smile, as gentle as spring water, immediately dazzled everyone like infernal flames.
The banquet went on until late at night before it was dispersed. Everyone only found out after leaving that the dark race army had already arrived outside the city and was preparing for a siege.
After reaching this stage, the people’s hearts grew calmer instead. There was still hope of escaping before the dark race army’s arrival, but now, leaving would only mean death. The four major dark races each had their own specialty, but none of them were weak in terms of speed. A running contest against them in the wilderness was a surefire way to seek death. The human race’s advantage had always been their machines and solid city defenses.
Defensive preparations in Blackflow City had already been completed. All of the important defensive structures had been heavily garrisoned and were standing off against the opposing dark race army. The battle could break out at a moment’s notice.
When Song Hu arrived hurriedly at the study, Song Zining was practicing calligraphy with great interest. A long piece of fine paper hung from atop the wall all the way to the floor. His elbow moved with great fluidity as he inked the words upon the paper—every stroke felt as though the clang of swords, and sabers would emerge from within.
“Seventh Young Master, the dark race army is moving. They’ll attack in one hour at most.”
Song Zining responded with an “oh” and slowly put down his brush. “It’s about time. Men, help me don my armor!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Jarvis!!! My suit!!!
TL: Legion ED: Moxie