Nangong Zhen laughed loudly with a mocking expression. “He’s important but not essential. In uglier words, with the Song clan’s current integrity, I can buy as many such people as I want as long as I’m willing to pay. Why wouldn’t I sell him to Seventh Young Noble for a good price?”
Duan Hao was furious and would’ve charged up to fight it out with the man had Song Zining not stopped him. Having come from the Song clan, Duan Hao could hardly endure such humiliation. In the end, the Yishui Nangong family was but a high-ranking aristocratic family and nominally one level lower than the Song clan.
Song Zining inhaled deeply then said with a sigh, “Quite skilled you are to make me lose my smile.”
Nangong Zhen said with a smile, “What is face compared to one’s life and profits?” In truth, he had never believed that the Song clan would throw their prestige onto the floor and allow the Nangong to trample all over them.
“Since Sir Nangong has such ‘sincerity’, what do you hope to obtain here?”
Nangong Zhen said in a serious voice, “Simple. Our Nangong family mobilized a division of soldiers and contributed to the battle by guarding the defense line behind Blackflow City. We want eight parts of the current military contributions!”
“Eight parts? Damn your mother’s nonsense!” Duan Hao cursed loudly. He had fought bravely during this entire bloodbath and lost a fair portion of his brothers in order to obtain this heavy share of contribution. Now that Nangong Zhen was asking for eight parts of it, this brave, hot-tempered general could no longer endure and not even Song Zining could keep him in check.
Nangong Zhen didn’t spare Duan Hao a single glance and only spoke to Song Zining. “Eight parts, not a bit less.”
Song Zining’s expression sank. No wonder the Nangong family could even let go of the losses to their core descendants—it turned out that they had their eyes on this. If he agreed to this deal, the Nangong family’s interception of Blackflow’s reinforcements would be painted as a defensive assistance on top of gaining them a large sum of military contributions, sufficient to push them to the top of the rankings. The inside story would be covered up lightly at that point, and even Red Scorpion and the Zhao clan wouldn’t be able to trouble them.
Song Zining chuckled. “Eight parts of this military contribution is enough to equip four regular divisions with just the empire’s rewards alone. Isn’t the Nangong family afraid of hurting their appetite?”
Nangong Zhen said indifferently, “That we won’t trouble you with.”
“What if I don’t agree?”
“Then perhaps our Nangong army will have to take charge of Blackflow City’s defenses.”
This was an undisguised threat. Dark Flame had fought an extensive battle with Luther and suffered extensive casualties. Meanwhile, the Nangong family’s division was honing themselves for a big push and also had many experts overseeing them. Dark Flame would truly struggle to defend if they were to launch an assault. No matter how proficient Song Zining was in commanding troops, even the cleverest of wives couldn’t cook without rice.
Song Zining sneered, “Sire Nangong is quite heroic. You’re even prepared to offend the expeditionary army to the very end.”
“The only one I’m offending is Xiao Lingshi. The expeditionary army has more than just one deputy-commander-in-chief,” Nangong Zhen said in a meaningful tone. “Moreover, the Iron Curtain won’t remain forever.”
All emotions disappeared from Song Zining’s eyes; they were calm without a single ripple within. It seemed Nangong Zhen had already grasped a fair bit of inside information.
Song Zining watched Nangong Zhen momentarily with narrowed eyes and said calmly, “Since that is the case, I shall welcome the Nangong army in Blackflow City. I’ll also get to observe Sir Nangong’s commanding skills in passing.”
Nangong Zhen was startled, and his expression sank immediately afterward. Apparently, he had never expected Song Zining to refuse him immediately. “I shall definitely let you experience it. You weren’t even born when this seat started leading troops.”
Song Zining paid him no further heed and said loudly, “See the guest off!”
Duan Hao immediately took a step forward and said with a sinister grin, “Sir Nangong, this way!”
Nangong Zhen let out a series of cold laughs. “Very well, let’s see how long you can hold out!”
Just as he was leaving, Song Zining suddenly spoke, “Sir Nangong, if you ‘greet’ us again just as you did when you arrived, our stronghold cannons might also misfire.”
Nangong Zhen’s expression turned ashen. Blackflow’s stronghold cannons had performed brilliantly during the war and made Luther suffer quite a bit. Who would’ve thought these rickety old things would possess such might? If the four of them were to fire at the same time, Nangong Zhen wasn’t confident he could block them all without suffering any damage. The regiment he had brought would surely suffer great casualties.
Nangong Zhen didn’t even bother with the pleasantries and left with a wave of his sleeves.
Just as Nangong Zhen’s figure disappeared outside of Dark Flame headquarters, even the cautious Song Hu asked, “Seventh Young Master, why don’t we give them a few blasts and seek revenge for our brothers?”
Song Zining shook his head and said, “No rush, we’ll collect both principal and interest sooner or later. Everything can wait until Qianye exits seclusion.”
With that, he rushed toward Qianye’s cultivation chamber after leaving the two with some brief instructions. Sky Demon’s aura had twice flitted above Blackflow City just now, and it was unknown how Qianye was faring.
Nangong Zhen wasn’t willing to linger and exited the city quickly after finding his command vehicle. Now that he had the opportunity, the aide asked in a whisper, “Sire, didn’t Elder Yuanwang tell us to negotiate for four parts of their military contributions?”
Nangong Zhen snorted. “How can four parts be enough? This seat wants two parts, and there are others we need to share with.”
“Doesn’t matter. Song Zining will have to deliver the contributions with both hands as long as we cut off all external communication from Blackflow City. The Song clan didn’t even make an appearance during the siege, to speak nothing of the present situation. As for Red Scorpion, they won’t meddle in other people’s business as long as we don’t touch that woman. Zhao Yuying… heh… she doesn’t have the right to represent the Zhao clan.”
His voice hadn’t even ended when Nangong Zhen suddenly glanced back after sensing something. In his perception, a beam of origin power rushed up into the sky from Blackflow city and actually pierced straight into the grey dome of the Iron curtain.
Within that split second, this origin power pillar was connected to the heaven and earth! The biting chill of a murderous intent poured out instantly in every direction.
“What is that?” Nangong Zhen couldn’t help but become overwhelmed. With his experience, he had an indistinct feeling that this was a worldly phenomenon produced during a breakthrough. But just what level of breakthrough could have induced a phenomenon of such scale?
Nangong Zhen’s expression was as gloomy as it could be. He spoke only several moments later, “Let’s go.” Even his previous thoughts about firing a few shots before leaving had vanished.
Many powerful characters in Blackflow City sensed this vision, and all of them were bewildered. Only Song Zining was greatly delighted because the origin power had arisen from the direction of Qianye’s isolation chamber. But his expression immediately changed as the Iron Curtain started revolving anew and Sky Demon’s aura returned.
Song Zining shot toward Qianye’s seclusion area at full speed, a glazed barrier emerging faintly around him. Three Thousand Flying Leaves Art—one leaf to prophesy, and another to blind the eyes—right now, he only hoped he could get there in time!
At this moment, Qianye’s initial shock upon seeing the shattered firmament barrier had passed, and he was sitting cross-legged on the ground in silence to facilitate his cultivation. Origin power cascaded down from the void like a waterfall and poured into his sea of origin power—every second, every minute was now comparable to days of bitter effort.
There were no longer enormous waves upon the sea of origin power, and the entire sea was revolving slowly to form a large vortex. The whirlpool looked serene but actually contained a world-shaking might which had far surpassed the giant wave of the Combatant Formula’s forty-ninth cycle. It seemed capable of sweeping in and crushing everything.
Boundless origin power poured through from the void, rushed into the sea of origin power, and was quickly assimilated by the vortex.
After the Combatant Formula surpassed the forty-ninth cycle to break through the sky barrier, the giant wave turned into a whirlpool of extreme absorptive power—a testament to the heavenly law that everything will move in the opposite direction after reaching an extreme. Afterward, a certain art appeared naturally in Qianye’s consciousness: Profound Combatant Formula.
This was precisely the cultivation art for the Combatant Formula past its fiftieth cycle. It contained a mere couple hundred words and was fairly simple, but the Combatant Formula at this stage was already approaching the realm of naturality and no longer required too many tricks. It would gradually approach a supreme status just by circulating in accordance to the rules.
Qianye read through the couple hundred words of the art in an instant and mumbled with a soft sigh, “So, that’s how it is.”
The founding Great Qin Emperor had found enlightenment to this art while drifting through the overflowing blood and sorrow of the battlefield. The Combatant Formula’s circulation was actually emulating the great momentum of the heaven and earth. Just from this concept alone, it could be considered peerless among the extensive range of arts in the empire.
But how many people could stand abreast with the Great Ancestor and his extreme talents? The later cultivators only managed to copy the form but lost the spirit, thus failing to revive the Combatant Formula’s past glory.
It was during the era where the Great Ancestor started developing the empire that he contributed this art to the war for survival against the dark races in a bid to bring out more of the human race’s potential. The Ancestor made some modifications to the Combatant Formula at this point. The first part was the basic formula widely known in the army, while the cultivation method past the fiftieth cycle was hidden in the void via a shocking method.
If there was anyone capable of breaking through the fiftieth cycle barrier—going from tide to maelstrom—an origin pillar would shoot into the void and conjoin the heaven and earth. This would actuate the advanced Combatant Formula and grant him the inheritance.
It wasn’t that the original Combatant Formula couldn’t advance to the champion rank, but few could withstand the extreme pressure of that great origin power vortex past the fiftieth cycle. Qianye might have suffered heavy injuries from the pressure had he not formed his blood core and Auric Flame Blood. Ordinary cultivators couldn’t even surpass the soldier king threshold at the thirtieth cycle, to speak nothing of turning tide to vortex at the fiftieth and controlling that maelstrom to assault the champion rank.
But Qianye realized that this Profound Combatant Formula wasn’t complete. The pressure of the great sea vortex was too powerful and placed unbelievable demand on the cultivator’s body—it would be extremely difficult to take a single step forward. Perhaps that was why Zhang Boqian and King Wuwei stopped cultivating it after the fiftieth cycle.
How could the might of the heaven and earth be so easy to obtain?
Sky Demon’s mysterious aura once again appeared from the outer realm. Qianye’s heart trembled as he quickly withdrew the Combatant Formula.
The origin power pillar gradually dispersed, and the defect in the void filled up on its own. Sky Demon’s will roamed about on the Iron Curtain but gradually left after finding nothing.
At the same moment, Qianye suddenly noticed a familiar aura envelop the isolation chamber. The faint pressure and obstruction felt as though someone had opened up a domain.
Afterward, a fallen leaf floated gently in front of Qianye.
Qianye’s thoughts were still lingering on the moment where the tide had transformed into the great sea vortex, pondering the memorable profundities therein. He couldn’t help but laugh after seeing Song Zining’s symbolic leaf—he flicked it with his finger before withdrawing his origin power and walking toward the door.
A muffled groan unexpectedly came through from the other side. Qianye pulled open the door just in time to see Song Zining stagger with a pale expression.
“What happened?” Qianye asked.
During that single moment, Song Zining felt as though a boundless ocean pressed down upon him at full force! The domain of the Three Thousand Flying Leaves Art wavered and almost couldn’t hold on. Song Zining recovered swiftly, but the intent and aura of that single flick almost made him feel as though he were hallucinating.
Song Zining’s expression fluctuated wildly. In the end, he grabbed Qianye by the collar and asked furiously, “What art is that?”
“The Combatant Formula.”
Song Zining laughed coldly, “Who are you trying to fool?”
“It’s indeed the Combatant Formula at the fiftieth cycle.”
“You’re still denying?! Wait a min… did you say fiftieth?!”
Qianye nodded. “I just broke through.”
Song Zining drew in a breath of cold air. “Fiftieth cycle! Doesn’t this mean you’re already on par with Marshal Zhang back in the day?”
At this point, Qianye let out a frustrated sigh. “Actually, I just can’t figure out how Marshal Zhang broke through the fiftieth cycle barrier back then. The true Combatant Formula lies past that point.”
Song Zining said while gnashing his teeth, “What I want to know more is how you broke through?! Stop spouting nonsense and speak up! Do you still need to consolidate your realm? If you don’t, then get out there and earn some military contributions. It’ll be a waste if I don’t use such a good thug.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter