Chapter 455: Bottom Line
Only after following Song Zining into the living room and undergoing an introduction did Qianye discover that this old man who had been left alone for half a day was an elder from the Song clan. The man had steeped the pot of tea so many times that the beverage was almost as clear as water.
The Song clan elders held greater authority compared to those from other clans, and this was especially true while Duchess An was in isolation. With little actual power in the hands of the clan lord, every elder had the ability to influence clan affairs.
This elder named Song Qisi was a character from Duchess An’s generation. He was even higher than Song Zhongnian in terms of seniority, and three entire generations above Song Zining—the latter had to respectfully address the man as great granduncle. Even the two nephew generation followers he had brought along were two generations older than Song Zining, and all of them were main branch descendants.
But Qianye felt the scene to be somewhat peculiar, so much so that he couldn’t help but want to laugh.
Song Zining wasn’t lacking at all in manners and treated them with the utmost respect. In truth, he had left this great-grand-uncle here for so long and run off to paint in the study. Judging from the progress of that painting, there really was no telling how long this old man would have to wait if it wasn’t for Qianye’s timely return. Moreover, there weren’t any other refreshments apart from a few pots of tea.
This level of etiquette was rather interesting.
Qianye had guessed Song Zining’s thoughts but refrained from revealing them. He duly seated himself to observe the developments in silence.
“Zining! It’s not Great Granduncle wanting to blame you, but your handling of this matter is truly inappropriate! How can the young forget their roots and forget gratitude like so?” The old man immediately let loose a barrage of rebukes.
Song Qisi was at least over eighty years old. With his age and seniority, it couldn’t be considered excessive for him to lecture Song Zining. However, Qianye frowned slightly on the side after discovering that Song Qisi’s origin power was a mere rank twelve or thirteen. Considering all the years he had lived and the resources of the Song clan, his strength could be considered extremely mediocre.
The Song clan was, after all, one of the four major clans and likewise a thousand-year-old lineage. Even if their bloodline wasn’t comparable to the Zhang and Zhao clans who had risen along with the empire, it shouldn’t be inferior to a high-ranking aristocratic family at all. Talented descendants like Song Zining were present in every generation, but whether or not they could mature was a completely different matter.
Qianye understood the Song clan descendants more clearly after joining the Song clan’s decennial examination. Apart from a rare few like Song Zining, the other Song clan scions lived like princes—they lacked the assiduous will to advance and sought profit above all others. Their strengths were maintained at an acceptable level by relying on secret arts and vast amounts of resources. Their true combat strength, however, was vastly inferior and could be considered unworthy for a stately major clan.
Qianye felt that even he could easily take down someone of Song Qisi’s strength. He truly wondered where the man got the confidence to reprimand Song Zining. Could he be relying on the Song clan’s might? But what might was there to speak of regarding the present Song clan?
Song Qisi and his group noticed Qianye’s unusual expression. That wasn’t a problem either because Qianye didn’t feel the need to hide anything.
But a man standing beside Song Qisi was immediately angered. “How dare a mere fighter make faces while a Song clan elder is delivering words of admonishment! You’re simply asking for a slap!”
His words hadn’t even ended when the man really swung his palm at Qianye’s face!
It wasn’t just Qianye who was surprised at this point; even Song Zining was dumbfounded. That person was a rank-eleven descendant of the main branch and was a two entire generations Qianye’s senior. According to the strict hierarchy within the clan, it was quite common to rebuke or strike a younger generation descendant or subordinate.
But this wasn’t the Song clan.
Only a bang was heard. The one sent flying was naturally the assailant, and he even sprayed out a dozen or so teeth in the process. Qianye’s slap wasn’t light at all! Afterward, his hand reached out and pressed down in the air—the man was suddenly swatted to the floor like a fly and passed out after coughing a mouthful of blood.
Qianye was startled with his hand still frozen in the air as though he couldn’t believe the outcome. He glanced toward Song Zining and asked doubtfully, “He’s so weak! Are you sure he’s a Song clan champion?”
Song Zining covered his face with his fan as though he couldn’t bear to watch and sighed “It’s not that he’s weak. It’s you! Did you really need to use your whatchamacallit arts for a mere slap?”
Qianye was suddenly enlightened. “Ah! It was habitual.”
He had always nurtured his martial arts in battle and passed most of his post-advancement consolidation periods in combat—this time was no exception either. He had completely integrated the Profound Combatant Formula into his combat instincts and could activate it at a mere thought. He didn’t even think it through after being attacked and simply launched a retaliatory slap out of instinct.
But Qianye broke into a frown once again. He still felt that this person was too weak—so weak that he couldn’t bear to look straight at him. Not only was the man incomparable to the same-ranked champions of the Nangong family, but even the more powerful dark race knights might be more powerful than him.
Song Qisi and his other nephew were astonished since they had never experienced such a situation before and managed to recover from their shock and fury only after a good while. The former shot up and roared, “Brat, how dare you act atrociously on our Song clan’s domain?! This old man will slap…”
Song Qisi hadn’t even finished his words when a fan unfolded to block his line of sight, filling it with the scene of court ladies taking a spring trip. Song Qisi’s old face turned bright red as he stared fixedly at the depiction of a certain lady.
The painting was drawn in great detail—the girls moved like the wind with their clothes fluttering in a life-like fashion. But, that wasn’t the issue just yet. The first important point was that the ladies wore very little, revealing large parts of their spring scenery; it was more like a bath scene than a spring trip. The second key point was that a young lotus-faced girl depicted therein was identical to one of Song Qisi’s great-great-granddaughters.
Song Qisi clearly understood at this point that his most beloved great-great-granddaughter had some inexplicable relationship with Song Zining. The old man had hoped to send her into the royal palace to seek future prospects, but now, this painting was proof that his painstaking efforts had been for naught.
“Y-You…” Song Qisi pointed at Song Zining. He was so angry that he couldn’t find the words.
Song Zining folded the fan and pointed at Qianye with a spurious smile. “Great Granduncle, I introduced this Sire Qianye just now as the deputy division commander of Dark Flame Independent Division, but you still don’t know that he’s the actual city lord of Blackflow. My business here is only to give him some support.”
Song Qisi was skeptical after hearing this, but his gaze flickered somewhat.
Previously, the Song clan wasn’t quite sure of Song Zining’s business situation outside. They had only learned of his investment in Blackflow City during Ye Mulan’s case, and the fact that he had a share in the city was only proved when Song Zining himself stated it as a reason for his open conflict with the Nangong family.
The Song clan had naturally made inquiries before. The current dispatch division commander of Blackflow City’s expeditionary army was Zhao Yuying of the Zhao clan, but it was a common thing in the empire to register certain properties under a major clan scion’s name for convenience’s sake. Just the fact that neither the Zhao clan nor Zhao Yuying had appeared during the siege of Blackflow City was proof enough that this detail wasn’t important at all.
Song Qisi naturally thought the same and it was showing on his face.
Song Zining shot him another glance and said with a smile, “Great Granduncle, Sire Qianye just killed a powerful dark race general a while ago, the first-rank viscount Luther, and is still lacking in his sense of priorities. Please don’t take it to heart.”
Song Qisi’s face twitched involuntarily and knew not whether to laugh or to cry. He had understood the meaning behind Song Zining’s words—since the other party was able to behead even a first-rank viscount, wouldn’t he be able to kill an old fogey in a couple of moves? On a deeper level of consideration, those with combat strength surpassing their levels were mostly major clan scions. What exactly was this Qianye’s background?
Song Qisi’s hand was raised halfway, prepared to “teach Qianye a lesson” with a flip of his hands. He did eventually flip his hand but didn’t dare teach any lessons at all.
But he was also a smart old man. His expression changed as he shouted at the other follower, “What are you staring for? Drag your cousin out! We’ll punish him later after our return!”
The man was startled but didn’t dare disobey—he quickly carried his unconscious cousin and left.
Song Qisi was already full of smiles by the time he turned back. “As expected of a young hero and a talented good friend of our Zining.”
Qianye could only gasp in amazement at the rapid change in attitude as both sides sat down once more and began the chat anew. This time, Song Qisi behaved much better. He knew quite clearly that neither Song Zining nor Qianye respected him in the least. As such, he no longer dared play the elder card and proceeded to explain his intentions directly.
He had taken this trip, not out of impulse, but as an actual representative of the elder assembly. The elder assembly’s decision was mainly made up of two notions, and the first was to severely rebuke and lecture Song Zining for registering Blackflow City’s contributions under the Zhao clan’s name and punish him accordingly.
Qianye’s expression turned peculiar once again. He hadn’t heard wrong—the Song clan elder assembly had indeed taken steps to punish Song Zining. His successor rank would be lowered by three positions, all clan affairs withdrawn, and allowances reduced for one year. Moreover, his Song-clan-related personal assets would be frozen until the end of his punishment.
The allowance reduction was negligible. His successor position wasn’t important either since Song Zining’s ambitions lay elsewhere. But the frozen assets weren’t a small number—it encompassed a mine and two large factories situated in Song clan territory.
Fortunately, however, Ningyuan Heavy Industries wasn’t very dependent on the Song clan, and he had just moved a part of his industries to Evernight Continent a while ago. Otherwise, judging from the present situation, most of his officially owned estates would be confiscated on top of all the Song-clan-related assets.
Qianye saw that his good friend remain unmoved, but he clearly sensed the gloominess behind the latter’s calm demeanor. This Yellow-Spring schoolmate wasn’t an easily-bullied philanthropist. It was just that even the unconstrained Song Zining found it difficult to break the constraints of blood relationships.
As though he had sensed Qianye’s gaze, Song Zining looked up with a smile and shook his head lightly.
Qianye understood his meaning. The Song clan had long since crossed Song Zining’s bottomline, and he definitely wasn’t one to resign himself to destruction. It was just that Song Qisi hadn’t finished his words as yet, and he still wanted to see where the Song clan’s bottomline was.
The old man had enjoyed power for far too long. He failed to notice the odd expressions of the two and continued speaking with great assurance.
The second wish of the Song clan elder assembly was for the Song clan to formally establish the Blackflow war zone and have Song Zining continue leading Dark Flame. All contributions from the Blackflow War Zone were to be recorded under the Song clan’s name—private transfers were not allowed. Moreover, the three combat squads in the area would be incorporated into his forces, and their previous leaders were to aid Song Zining in commanding military affairs.
“Aid?” Song Zining repeated with a cold smile.Previous Chapter Next Chapter