“Fight? That's it?” Qianye found the young girl’s reply rather incredulous. Was this lively and elegant little girl a war fanatic?
“Of course it’s because of that! I can earn contributions by fighting, and contributions mean money. I’ve already asked clearly, there are no limitations in the exchange of contributions.”
“That means you’re not from the empire, right?” Qianye inquired.
The girl was startled and a dangerous gleam flashed through her eyes.
Qianye leaned back on the control panel with his arms folded. “Enough. Put down that gun under your cloak. It’s useless against me. You can’t kill me even if I stand here and let you blast me.”
The girl hesitated for a moment before pulling a handgun out from the cloak and putting it on the floor. The weapon looked like a handgun, but it was many times larger than an ordinary model—the muzzle alone was the size of a fist.
The thickness of the barrel caused Qianye’s brows to twitch. For some reason, it reminded him of Zhao Yuying’s Mountain Splitter. If this huge gun’s firepower was proportionate to its size, Qianye suspected the recoil might even break her little wrist.
“I had no intention to shoot you. I-I was merely a bit scared just now. I haven’t even paid you for bringing me to Blackflow City!” The little girl tried her best to explain.
Qianye shrugged. “Okay, that’s not important. But, are you really going to earn contributions in battle? The bloody battlefield is huge, so why did you choose Blackflow?”
“Because there’s a huge battle there. That’s the only battlefield that suits me.”
Qianye’s brows rose slightly. “Where are you from? You sound like you’ve fought many battles before.”
The little girl hesitated for a moment. “I’m a Highbeard, and I’m seventeen this year. I started joining battles at the age of ten. That’s when all Highbeard warriors become qualified warriors.”
“Highbeard?” The name sounded somewhat familiar. Suddenly recalling something, Qianye asked in astonishment, “The tribe that specializes in producing warriors?”
The young girl replied, “Us Highbeards are all natural warriors, and we live for battle. We have no fixed home. Where there is war is where we live.”
Qianye smiled. “But I heard that almost all Highbeards belong to the rebel army, while I belong to the imperial army.”
“That’s because the imperial army pays too little. Moreover, they always send us to our deaths. We’re warriors, not cannon fodder!” the little girl retorted.
“You claim to be a Highbeard. Prove it to me.”
After a moment of hesitation, the girl slowly removed her cloak and opened up her shirt to reveal the tactical vest inside. Her skin was brown, soft, and glossy—the most eye-catching, however, were the numerous silver lines on her skin which looked like the runes of an origin array.
Moreover, her left arm was half-machine-half-flesh. The components had sunk deep into her skin and become a part of her body. It was likely due to these machines that she was able to exhibit a strength disproportionate to her physique and brandish that hundred-kilogram-hammer. That was also the reason why she was able to use that powerful hand-cannon.
“As expected!” Qianye felt relieved.
“Y-You don’t think we’re monsters, do you?” the girl asked apprehensively.
“No, I don’t. I’ve heard of the Highbeards before although I’ve never seen one in person. Then, tell me your name.” Qianye signaled her to put her clothes back on and cover up her astonishing modified physique.
“My name’s Blackmoon, the youngest rank-three hybrid warrior in the tribe! I’m telling you, I’m super powerful!” The little girl puffed her chest out in a proud manner.
Highbeard was an unusual tribe whose members were mostly natural warriors or machinists. Their numbers were small, and they roamed the various continents. They were famed for their hybrid warriors, powerful soldiers born from merging their bodies with origin power machinery. The Highbeard tribe was far ahead of the Qin Empire in this aspect.
The empire had also engaged in many years of hybridization experiments. However, rank-two was the furthest they were able to reach before the subjects would pass away, unable to endure the drastic changes to their body. The Highbeard clan’s most celebrated hybrid warriors could reach rank-five. They were almost like metallic giants that were capable of walking and thinking—pure machines of war.
The empire reached an initial conclusion after many years of experimenting; the Highbeard tribe’s hybridization technology was related to their special innate constitution. To reach that strength, the empire would require warriors with the potential to become rank-thirteen champions or higher, effectively defeating the entire purpose of hybridization. Qianye had seen this conclusion back at Red Scorpion, but he wasn’t authorized to read the details.
Blackmoon had reached rank-three hybrid and rank-six origin power at such a tender age. She was truly a rare specimen.
Qianye believed her explanation after seeing that she was indeed a Highbeard. It seemed Blackmoon really was here for the military contribution rewards. Who would’ve thought the effects of this bloody battle would grow so progressively? It was like a giant whirlpool whose outer border was already beginning to involve the other continents and tribes.
“What will you do if you meet other Highbeards on the battlefield?”
“Fight them, of course. Killing an opponent with all one’s might is the highest form of respect for the opponent,” Blackmoon replied matter-of-factly.
Qianye was somewhat speechless. The Highbeards were, indeed, as the legends claimed, a tribe with fairly special and crazy beliefs.
The airship flew through the dark night. The rhythmic hum of the engine no longer felt noisy after some time. Blackmoon seemed to know no tiredness during the entire night of air travel—she climbed up and down the airship repeatedly and explored every place she could open. She even climbed up to the aerostatic balloon for quite a while to examine it.
Qianye stood quietly in front of the control panel and didn’t move at all for several hours. All he did was adjust the direction and altitude occasionally.
“How can you stand alone for so long?” Blackmoon appeared beside Qianye many times and asked curiously.
This overactive little fellow couldn’t understand at all why Qianye could remain immobile for so long and not even shift his standing posture. He would only respond with a smile every time and provided no answer to her question.
Qianye felt that he had become much calmer since condensing the blood core—exactly the calmness of a person waiting to see the vast world opening up before him.
Evernight, under the Iron Curtain, was filled with blade flashes and sword shadows. A small city in the north, however, was just as peaceful as before. It served as a transit hub for most of the imperial army corps and was also the command center of the Empire’s Twin Paragons. It was probably the safest place in human territory.
Daytime was fairly short on Evernight Continent even outside of the Iron Curtain. The sun’s beams were already leaning low at three in the afternoon, as though it would disappear below the horizon the very next moment.
Lin Xitang was walking slowly along a limestone street in the city, accompanied only by a trusted aide. He liked to travel the distance between his residence and the command center on foot. There were more armored soldiers in the city than there were ordinary citizens, and they would occasionally stop to perform a salute.
Suddenly, everyone glanced up at the sky as a long white cloud shot past half the city and landed toward the south—it almost looked like the contrail left behind by a high-speed airship. There was only one person who would dare cross the sky above the small city in such an ostentatious manner, and that was Zhang Boqian.
Lin Xitang retracted his gaze and continued toward his residence. His aide, quite fittingly named Shi Yan, followed the marshal in complete silence and uttered not a single word. 
The marshal’s residence was actually a small barracks set up in a battlefield operations layout. The two largest tents at the center belonged to Lin Xitang and Zhang Boqian. Beyond them were the living quarters of the Northern Legion and the Thunder Cavalry. At the outermost area were the residences of the other high-ranking officers whose legions had come to take part in the bloody battle.
Lin Xitang arrived in front of his door, but his outstretched hand suddenly froze midair as the door opened on its own. He was stunned for a moment as he gazed at the man clad in formal imperial attire with complicated decorations. “You’re finally back.”
With Zhang Boqian’s usual temperament, he would never wear such multi-layered formal clothing. He had left Evernight several days ago for the upper continent. Could he have gone to attend the court assembly?
Zhang Boqian’s countenance was gloomy as his tall, handsome figure stood towering like an indomitable mountain peak, emitting an incomparably heavy sense of pressure. His sharp, phoenix eyes peered straight into Lin Xitang’s pupils as he said in a cold voice, “What’s the meaning of this?!” With that, he hurled a certain item at the latter’s face.
Lin Xitang was startled. The item stopped 30 centimeters away from him without waiting for him to reach out and grab it. It was actually a stack of documents, but the format was different from those in general use. It was a thrice-folded parchment paper with an origin power glow flashing over it from time to time. It was a memorial used specifically by the empire’s ministers, and the origin array stamped upon it was actually an origin seal signifying the writer’s identity.
Lin Xitang was familiar with governmental affairs and was able to identify the insignias of several aristocratic families and imperial ministries. This was proof that the memorial was anything but ordinary—it shouldn’t have appeared here at all. Even if the contents involved things that needed to be carried out, only a copy should be issued, while the original should remain sealed within the court archives.
Lin Xitang reached out and collected the memorial into his hand. Without even opening it yet, he inquired in a mutter, “You brought this out from the imperial court?”
Zhang Boqian broke into an angry laugh. “Lin Xitang, these are all memorials impeaching you in the imperial court.”
Lin Xitang replied calmly, “Impeachment? Isn’t that normal?” The journey from the son of a first-rank count to his current position had made him countless enemies and was filled with storms of blood. An impeachment in the imperial court could be considered the most honorable of attacks.
Zhang Boqian said sharply, “An overwhelming number of your core Imperial Party members are accusing you of embezzling military contributions, accepting bribes at every level, harassing the order of the bloody battle, and forming a clique to repel outsiders. Is that normal?”
Lin Xitang had already seen that the insignias belonged to the departments headed by the new nobility and clans close to the imperial family. He remained silent for a moment before replying indifferently, “The imperial court has always been full of divisions and alliances. It’s all a matter of profit. The only one I’m loyal to is the emperor.”
Zhan Boqian’s attitude was frosty. “Although the Jintang Li family isn’t in this memorial, a lot of their relatives and in-laws are present.”
Lin Xitang’s brows rose ever so slightly, unsure why Zhang Boqian would bring up the present empress’s family. He then heard Zhang Boqian ask, “Was it your idea or His Majesty’s to confer me the title of Prince Green Sun?“
Lin Xitang remained silent. He replied grudgingly after a while, “Does it make a difference?”
Zhang Boqian being conferred the title Prince Green Sun naturally wasn’t due to a lack of new words. The Green Sun Zhang was an incomparably illustrious clan with four dukes. However, Zhang Boqian had always been engrossed in the martial arts and seldom took part in the clan’s day to day affairs. The Duke Dan lineage he had descended from wasn’t in charge, either.
Zhang Boqian winning a prince title would no doubt impact the power balance within the clan. The imperial court conferring him the title, Green Sun, the symbol of the Zhang clan, most certainly aggravated this conflict. At the very least, it would become a rather subtle problem as to whether Prince Green Sun or the current clan lord, Duke Hui, would represent the Zhang clan in the upcoming triennial grand sacrificial ceremony.
The imperial court’s intentions were none other than to cause trouble for the number one clan who had just produced a new Heavenly Monarch. A period of internal strife was unavoidable even though the entire Zhang clan could clearly see this overt plot.
Zhang Boqian laughed coldly. “There was no difference at first. What did you think I went to the capital for? Did you know that woman from the Pepper Palace wants to bestow me a marriage?”
 Shi Yan = Stone SpeechPrevious Chapter Next Chapter
Hey, stop trying to get me arrested!!! :P
TL: Legion ED: Moxie