Chapter 313: Our Country [Volume 5 – A Distance Within Reach]
The final assessment was quite simple. Every contestant would compose a political strategy for ruling the country and governing one’s house. He would then be interviewed by the various elders and finally be given a score by the elder group.
This part of the examination was the most transparent because all examinees could listen during the interview. However, it was also one of the most debatable areas. Everyone had different opinions and points of view—some advocated for defense, some supported radical expansion, while others wanted to maintain a middle ground. In order to gain the recognition of most of the elders, one had to have the appropriate ability.
Song Zining was quite relaxed and contented. He casually produced a strategy and dealt with the interview and, without even waiting for the results, ran back to his own courtyard to enjoy warmth and tenderness. Someone had recently gifted him two little beauties who were reportedly rare experts in roomcraft.
Qianye was no longer willing to accompany Song Zining in fooling around and seized the available time to browse through more ancient martial arts classics. His scope of study had already expanded to the various entry-level melee combat techniques.
Hence within Deep Cloud Hall, Song Zining was unrestrainedly hugging the two newly arrived beauties while Qianye sat within the study, going through ancient books. Number seventeen, who had once shared a brief night of fateful grace with Qianye, waited upon him in silence, pouring him a new cup of tea periodically.
Qianye suddenly felt that such silence and comforting moments were indeed a type of enjoyment. He could single-mindedly push forward on the dao of martial arts and had no need to think about the troubles of the secular world.
At this time, the study door was pushed open and Song Zining walked in with a relaxed expression. “Your simple life isn’t so bad, I see!”
Qianye looked up at him and said, “You’re like this every day. Aren’t you afraid your cultivation will fall into neglect?”
Over ten days had passed since the two arrived at the Song clan up until the end of the examination. During this period, he had never seen Song Zining cultivating. He went out to meet friends almost every day and returned late at night, suffused with the scent of alcohol and cosmetics.
Song Zining sat down on a wide ceramic couch facing the desk and leaned on the backrest in a semi-reclining position. Only after making himself comfortable did he say, “Following one’s nature is also one of the great daos. Moreover, I’m only like this when I return to the clan. I’m very restrained normally.”
Qianye sighed. Even back in their days at the Yellow Springs Training Camp, no emotions could be found on that young Song Zining’s face. Back then, there was a certain coldness and pride between his brows, befitting of a person born to the highest order of society. He also possessed a certain ruthlessness and wouldn’t allow anyone to offend him—he had definitely killed more students than Qianye.
Song Zining had already transformed into a different person when they met again several years later. He almost seemed like a standard clan descendant—bright, cheerful, and gentle. But this was merely a mask with which to hide his emotions—his delight, his fury.
Only after coming to the Song clan did Qianye understand why this clan descendant of noble bloodline turned into such a person. He had wanted to talk to Song Zining since the end of the martial assessment, but he wasn’t quite adept at expressing himself and never found a way to bring this up.
Qianye put down the jade scroll in his hand and shot a glance at Number Seventeen. The clever girl immediately understood—she withdrew from the study and carefully closed the door.
Song Zining was resting silently with his eyes half closed. A moment of silence pervaded the study.
“Zining, it seems you’re about to go through a period of trouble. Do you have any plans?”
Song Zining didn’t open his eyes and replied carelessly, “After this examination, my successor rank will be entering the top three. This is a wonderful development. What trouble can there be?”
“Will Song Zian and his elder generation endure such a loss?” Qianye believed that the great elder Song Zhongcheng had really wanted to kill him at the scene. Duchess An punishing the entire branch of his family would only serve to deepen his enmity and make it difficult to resolve.
Song Zining laughed lightly. He raised his hand to cover his eyes, which also conveniently concealed his expression and said indifferently, “So what if they’re not willing? They only have those few bargaining chips. The Yin family and Yin Qiqi will have to try much harder if they want to occupy the leading position. The Wei family and Marquis Bowang definitely won’t care about such matters. As for that boar, it’s not even sure whether he can leave the battlefield alive…”
Song Zining’s voice suddenly stopped here after noticing he had spoken too much.
He lowered his hand to glance at Qianye’s expression and said with a laugh, “Twenty days ago, the Wei clan suffered a crushing defeat on the Far East frontline, and Wei Potian was reportedly in the army at the time. The situation there is quite tense at the moment. It’s likely Wei Bainian will be summoned back to the main family when you return to Blackflow City in a few days.”
Qianye was astonished. The Wei clan’s Far East Province, as a frontier fortress, had been campaigning against the dark races year round.
Within the information Song Zining had just revealed, the most important detail for Qianye wasn’t Wei Potian’s safety since there would definitely be safety measures to protect the Wei clan successor on the battlefield. But Wei Bainian’s departure meant that the expeditionary army would dispatch a new division commander to take office.
Regarding the previous incident involving Wu Zhengnan, it was unsure whether the expeditionary army headquarters knew of Qianye’s involvement in the matter. However, just from the Dark Flame Mercenary Corps’ closeness with the Wei clan, Qianye’s relationship with the new division commander might not be that great.
But Qianye wasn’t distracted by Song Zining’s words. “Even if you feel Song Zian isn’t a threat, then what about Song Ziqi? Isn’t he the one after your life since the beginning?”
Song Zining’s lazy attitude completely disappeared at this point. He sat up straight and said with a calm expression, “Don’t worry about me. The old ancestor won’t let him act too excessively within the clan. As for incidents outside of the clan, why would I have to be afraid of him?”
“Why is that?”
Seeing that Qianye insisted on getting an answer this time, Song Zining said differently, “Perhaps because I was thrown into a engagement with a landowning household. Oh right, it might also be related to the level of my talent assessment.”
Qianye couldn’t help but inhale deeply. Even though he had guessed these things, it still felt extremely uncomfortable to hear Song Zining speak about it in an unperturbed manner.
That year, Song Zining’s talent assessment was obviously suppressed by someone and most of the resources entitled to him were given to someone else. This was perhaps an unavoidable part of family infighting, but as a victim, it would feel as if there was no justice in the heavenly dao.
There was only coldness in the depths of Song Zining’s eyes despite the faint smile on his face. “But I’ve already decided not to fight for the clan lord’s position no matter what. This piece of land is already rotten and it’s no longer possible to build tall buildings on it. I might as well develop a new territory on my own.
Qianye laughed wryly. If Song Zining was really so open-minded, he wouldn’t have been so out of sorts these days. “Since that is so, what else is on your mind?”
Song Zining turned silent and appeared distracted for a moment. He only spoke moments later, “This is terrible. It seems you always see through my emotions,” he continued calmly, “I’m regretting things. Qianye, I shouldn’t have dragged you into this.”
Qianye laughed and said, “I gained a lot of benefits this time.”
These words absolutely weren’t just to comfort Song Zining. He was able to use the sky-grade cultivation room and obtain the heavy sword East Peak as well as three refined silver bullets. He also received enough equipment for a reinforced company in addition to a battalion’s worth of cargo trucks. An ordinary mercenary corps commander could never amass such wealth even in his entire lifetime. What helped Qianye the most was still the Song clan depositary. The multitude of basic martial arts knowledge made up for his final shortcoming. As of this moment, he only needed to digest and comprehend them slowly.
Song Zining no longer attempted to hide his emotions since he had already revealed the matter. “I still failed to observe the situation clearly. You shouldn’t have had to engage in life and death battles in the arena.”
“Zining, you’re overthinking things. There’s really no difference whether I fight life and death battles on the battlefield or in the arena.” Qianye knew Song Zining hadn’t taken this examination seriously since the beginning, and neither did he pay any attention to Song Ziqi’s death threat.
In truth, Song Zining had no intention to deal a deadly blow to Song Zian and Song Ziqi. Despite his scheming and decisive nature, there was still a subconscious weakness against blood relations. The incidents following this examination made Song Zining realize a certain truth—he couldn’t avoid conflict just because he wasn’t contending for certain things unless he was willing to be a mediocre person and let things take their course.
“Let’s go to Evernight together and build our own nation. A country founded according to our ideals.”
“… Very well.”
Duchess An’s Lotusheart Residence within the Enlightenment Manor. At this moment, someone was discussing the two friends.
Although it was called a residence, the building occupied a large area and even included a man-made lake in the courtyard. A banquet was currently being held within its main hall with only one table and five seats. Naturally, the guests were extremely important characters.
Duchess An was sitting at the master’s seat, and beside her was a graceful middle-aged man with long brows, narrow eyes, fair countenance, and no facial hair. The current Song clan lord Song Zhongnian, Elder Lu, and another grand elder accompanied them on the lower seats. Judging from how he was invited to this banquet, it was obvious that this Elder Lu’s status wasn’t as simple as it seemed on the surface.
Duchess An spoke first, “It must’ve been a tiring period for Prince Rui. The younger generation’s performance was quite clumsy. They’ve truly made you watch a joke.”
This middle-aged man was, in fact, Prince Rui of the empire. He was also the nephew of the current emperor. Although his influence in the imperial court couldn’t be considered enormous, he was still a character of distinguished status. Even within the Song clan, only a select few people knew that someone from the imperial family was actually spectating the decennial examination.
Prince Rui said, “Old ancestor’s words are too serious. There are a number of talents among the younger generation who can be nurtured. As for their lack of battle experience, what’s there to worry about? They’ll naturally be tempered when they go into the battlefield in the future. There’s no need to be too concerned.”
“What does your Excellency think of the champion, An Renyi?” asked Elder Lu.
Prince Rui also had a deep impression of Qianye who had taken the first place. He immediately replied, “Naturally, that child’s talent is extremely good. Unfortunately, like an unpolished jade, he wasn’t carved well. His talent is rather special. At first, there were signs of Venus Dawn, but instead of a twilight radiance mounted upon the stars, it actually turned into endless flames and finally condensed into a pair of luminous wings. It seems my knowledge is quite limited since I have never heard of such a talent.”
Everyone here couldn’t help but make a few comments on this matter. Of course, no one came up with an answer. In truth, Duchess An had already noticed the wisp of darkness origin power on the East Peak’s edge when it collided with the Moonchaser. Qianye’s daybreak origin power was so pure and intense that he could draw upon the origin power of the heaven and earth even at rank-eight. This was a clear indication of his outstanding talents.
Prince Rui said with some regret, “He’s not a clan descendant and thus missed the best time to build his foundations. If I’m not wrong, his origin power circulation method is actually the Combatant Formula. A fighter king who’s cultivated to rank-nine would have too many internal injuries at this point. Even if he can become a champion in the future, how far he can progress will only depend on luck.”
The Combatant Formula was the human race’s number one accelerated cultivation art, but its greatest hidden danger was the damage it caused to the body. A rank-nine fighter king like Qianye had most likely reached the end of his road. If he continued cultivating, his body would fall apart before the age of thirty. Even if he switched to another art before that and healed his internal injuries, he could hardly reverse the damage to his foundations. This would adversely affect his future accomplishments as a champion.
There was one thing, however, that Prince Rui refrained from saying in order to preserve the Song clan’s prestige.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
I've been commissioning a number of artists recently; some are in the draft stage and some near completion. The plan, in the long term, is to gradually build a small collection of artwork for the novel. I will incorporate that into future sponsorship goals. Sponsors will be able to see the new artwork first hand and take part in shaping the future ones.
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Teaser Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dusDiKHrCk4