Song Zining said, “There’s no hurry to this matter since we have to think of the long term. First the Nangong, then the Bai clan—that’s the sequence. And the Nangong family has an entire division of soldiers nearby. They wanted to take over this battle line after Blackflow’s fall and thereby justify all their actions. But now that Blackflow City’s siege has been broken, we’ll have to face their desperate move.”
Qianye sneered, “They’ll need to reorganize for at least half a month even if they want to trouble us.” With that, Qianye recounted his ambush on the Nangong family’s base.
Song Zining couldn’t help but laugh out loud. “Well done! It can be said that the Nangong family went for wool but came home shorn. Among the high-ranking aristocratic families, the quality of their Xiao and Cheng-named disciples can be considered quite good. Now that they had taken such losses, it’ll be quite some time before they can catch their breath.” But Song Zining was also somewhat baffled. “How come the Nangong family’s methods are so crude and direct? It’s completely unlike Nangong Yuanbo’s usual treacherous style.”
It was Qianye’s turn to frown at this point. “Did something happen on your side? I encountered a Ningyuan Group caravan being ambushed thousands of kilometers away at the Sky River County. Moreover, why has the Song clan not made any statements up to this day? Even if their individual squads can’t match the Nangong private army, this matter is no longer a private conflict. The empire wouldn’t watch two clans go to war under the Iron Curtain, would it?”
Song Zining muttered to himself after listening to Qianye’s recount of his run-in with the Ningyuan caravan. “Bai clan? The empress’s family?”
An undisguisable expression of weariness appeared on his countenance as he leaned back on the chair. He remained silent for a moment before speaking with a smile, “I’m not sure how to tell you about this entire matter. In truth, I had no plans to defend Blackflow City to the bitter end. I would’ve broken through the siege on my own if things turned unsalvageable, bringing Nangong Xiaoniao along at most. The reason I didn’t order her Red Scorpion members to join the battle was so that they could guard her on the way out. But regardless of the circumstances, I’m not going to rely on the Song clan’s power again.”
Qianye was somewhat startled. He glanced at Song Zining’s expression and recalled the things he had set up in the recent months. “Does that mean you’ve decided to leave the Song clan entirely?”
Song Zining laughed bitterly and said, “Yes, that Ningyuan Heavy Industries caravan is my last contribution to the family, an attempt at digging out those disloyal fellows who were colluding with outsiders. As for whether the caravan can survive, it won’t affect the results of the general plan. Those with errant ambitions would surely have been exposed by now, but judging from the present circumstances, it would appear that the cleaning process didn’t go all that well. Do you think they’d fail to deal with such a small thing if they really put their minds to it?”
Qianye said, “Communication with the outside world must be quite complicated at this moment. We can have that Zhou Caiguang from Lone Ghost to deliver information to us. Then we’ll know the situation.”
Song Zining said indifferently, “He can’t inquire about things within the clan. As for the others, it’s no longer important.”
However, Qianye noticed a trace of discouragement from Song Zining’s tone of voice. The Song clan’s failure to rush to Blackflow City’s rescue could be considered a form of neglect, even if they had encountered some kind of trouble. The Nangong family’s domineering attitude was entirely born of the Song clan’s silence. The situation might’ve been completely different if the Song clan were just a little bit unyielding.
Perhaps Song Zining had never expected reinforcements from his family, however, anyone would feel as though being cut by a sharp blade when ignored in this manner.
Qianye didn’t know how he should console Song Zining. As such, he got up to the wine cabinet, brought out two glasses of wine, and passed one to the latter.
Song Zining withdrew most of his depressed mood in a short while. He received the glass and swirled it in his hand, gazing at the bizarre glow of the liquid as it hung onto the walls. He then raised his glass at Qianye with a smile and finished it in one gulp.
“Qianye, don’t worry too much. I’m now free. Isn’t that great?” At this point, Song Zining’s eyes lit up as he said with a smile, “The military contributions gained from the dark races outside the city will surely allow Dark Flame to advance in the expeditionary army. Do you want to assemble another field division for fun or upgrade the Blackflow defensive region?”
“I don’t have that big an ambition at the moment.”
“As long as you’re sitting on this seat, people around you will force you to have ambitions even if you don’t.” Song Zining chuckled.
Qianye also laughed as he took small sips from his wine glass. As the two chatted intermittently, they could vaguely hear the jubilant cheers from the city outside.
Many people were moving in and out of the Song clan’s Culvert Jade Courtyard at this moment. Numerous servants had cleaned every corner of the place—the large courtyard was filled with the colors of spring, and the air was suffused with a gentle warmth. Strands of daybreak origin power flowed out from the imitation mountains, pillars, and even the shrubbery. Taking in just one breath would uplift one’s spirit. In terms of origin power density, the cultivation chambers of the smaller clans could hardly compare.
The servants and maids were all cautious, fearful of making the slightest bit of mistake. Today, the routine elder assembly would convene here—with the old ancestor in isolated meditation, it could be said that all the important characters of the Song clan would be gathering in this courtyard.
Within the Hall of Honesty to the north of the courtyard, dozens of elders had been engaged in discussion for over half a day, covering a dozen-odd topics regarding the clan.
Song Zhongnian’s expression was solemn and devoid of all joy, while the former grand elder Song Zhongcheng was sitting across him with a face full of smiles. The latter was apparently quite pleased with himself and showed not a shred of gloominess at being removed from the grand elder position.
“Next up, let’s discuss the expenses of the sixth branch.” Song Zhongcheng hadn’t even finished speaking when Song Zhongnian’s gloomy voice cut him short, “We should be discussing how to rescue Song Zining! He’s been trapped in Blackflow City for over half a month now!”
Song Zhongcheng let out a cough and said unhurriedly, “Blackflow City is a dangerous location that’s already been surrounded by the dark race army. We only have a couple of squads nearby, and that’s not enough of a force at all. This old man has already ordered them to break through the defensive lines at all costs and reinforce Zining, but their repeated attempts during this half a month have failed, inflicting great losses with little progress. Sigh! Actually, the Clan Lord shouldn’t worry too much. It’s not a problem for Zining to break through the encirclement with his abilities.”
At this point, Song Zhongcheng shot a glance at another elder who immediately said, “All elders, this Blackflow City isn’t our Song clan’s area, and there are no Song clan combat squads in it. Don’t forget that Blackflow City’s contributions in this bloody battle are recorded in the Zhao clan’s name. As I see it, saving Zining and saving Blackflow are two different things.”
All the elders agreed in succession the moment these words were spoken.
Song Zhongnian’s expression was ashen—he snorted heavily but was helpless to do anything. All the combat squads outside Blackflow City were under Song Zhongcheng’s control. They only acted for show and exerted no real effort in this matter. As the clan lord, Song Zhongnian couldn’t do anything about it either.
Song Zhongnian said with a snort, “Then let’s discuss how Ye Mulan, Ye Muwei, and the three people from our clan colluded with the enemy and caused our Song clan caravan’s annihilation. This matter has been investigated thoroughly, and, with such concrete evidence, these people should be beheaded! What say all the elders?”
Song Zhongcheng stroked his beard and said, “That is the Ningyuan Heavy Industry’s caravan and not our Song clan’s. Zining has long since intended to separate himself, so how can we discuss his property as our Song clan’s? Hence, I think the two Ye family sisters’ collusion with the enemy requires further discussion. Moreover, this matter involves too many things and contains too many suspicious points. This old man thinks we should investigate in greater detail. We might as well delay this matter and continue at next month’s elder assembly.”
Anger flashed across Song Zhongnian’s face as he shouted, “Song Zhongcheng, you keep evading this matter in order to prevent Zining’s engagement from being canceled! Do you think I don’t know what you’re planning?!”
The smile on Song Zhongcheng’s face remained unchanged. “This is only an opinion born of my experience and wisdom. I’m not saying we won’t discuss this matter. We merely need to discuss further. Why is the Clan Lord so angry?”
Song Zhongnian’s face was ashen. “This won’t do, we shall discuss this matter now! Elders, do not be negligent!” At this point, Song Zhongnian’s tone of voice was entirely harsh.
Song Zhongcheng’s expression had also changed. He snorted and said coldly, “You can’t dictate the entire elder assembly! The handling of this matter must gain the approval of all the elders.”
Seeing how things were turning out, the elders spoke up one after another. However, most of them only wanted to play the peacemaker, and those standing on the Clan Lord Song Zhongnian’s side were not dominant.
Although Song Zhongnian held the position of clan lord, it was actually the old ancestor who truly decided everything. All major businesses required the old ancestor’s nod of approval before execution. As such, Song Zhongnian’s authority was quite limited, and the two branches were actually equal in influence before Song Zhongcheng was stripped off of his position.
The old ancestor suddenly announced that she would go into secluded meditation during these troubled times. Moreover, she ordered that no one must disturb her no matter how important the matter was. This wasn’t a good sign in the eyes of many people. There were rumors secretly spreading that the old ancestor had actually gone into a death meditation in order to seek an extension to her life. If she failed in this ordeal, she would either die or lose a significant portion of her cultivation.
Although Song Zhongcheng had lost his position as the grand elder, his influence was yet to be diminished. Having operated the elder assembly for so many years, his status there was still robust, and the two were evenly matched in certain matters.
Seeing the two gradually shed all pretenses, many elders began whispering in hushed tones. This Song Seven’s engagement had turned into a matter of enormous proportions.
Duke Wei had announced a while ago that he would be selecting a partner for his beloved daughter, Lil’ Xin, immediately causing a commotion among the talented youths of the empire. Duke Wei’s authority was like the midday sun, and Lil’ Xin was a good looking lady who enjoyed his favor. Marrying her would be an instant elevation to the groom’s status—few were untempted, even among the outstanding lineal scions of the four major clans.
Song Zhongcheng had also proposed a marriage to Duke Wei on behalf of Song Zian. Song Zian might be able to turn the tides and claim the successor position if he could pull off this marriage. As such, the former grand elder had pulled out all the stops and gone all out. Song Zhongnian’s original intention was also to release Song Zining of his engagement and pursue Due Wei’s daughter. After all, Duke Wei had praised Song Zining more than once during the Profound Heaven Spring Hunt. Moreover, Song Zining was widely known for his accomplishments and elegance, an inherent lady-killer.
At this moment, Song Zining’s engagement had become the key factor and also the reason why Song Zongcheng was resisting this matter with all his might. It could be considered a victory for him if he could drag this matter out until selection day.Previous Chapter Next Chapter