Volume 5 – A Distance Within Reach, Chapter 21: Sign of Resurgence
Qianye had dared challenge one who was three ranks above him and won; his strength and courage were indeed commendable. But there was no lack of geniuses in this world, and he certainly wouldn’t be able to perform such feats forever. It was quite likely that he would be forced to return in low spirits had he attempted this against the descendants of the other three clans.
From a different perspective, being forced to leap ranks despite one’s low level was a strategic mistake in and of itself.
At the mention of Qianye, it was inevitable that the other Song clan disciples would be brought up. Prince Rui finished a cup of wine and said calmly, “Zicheng isn’t bad. He has a calm temperament and a magnanimous character without foregoing strategic methods. I heard he had formed an alliance with Song Zining since before the examination and, in the end, placed second in the martial assessment and first in the strategic and political assessments. Now, he firmly holds the first place successor position. Zicheng’s talents are upper intermediate, and he’s also diligent and hardworking. His ability in your future military power might not exceed the previous or current situation, but he’s more than enough to preserve familial accomplishments.”
The Song clan people nodded in succession. Even Duchess An was also in agreement.
Afterward, Prince Rui frowned indecisively and only spoke after a while, “As for Song Zining, it’s truly difficult to judge him. It’s said that the Three Thousand Flying Leaves Art is a divination art, but its combat strength isn’t weak at all in Zining’s hands. His realm advancement is in fact quite fast, but he left no traces of an unstable foundation. This is simply too rare, but I sometimes hear that he’s quite indulgent in the female charms? Moreover, he’s engaged to a landowning household?”
Song Zhongnian and the grand elder’s expressions turned rather awkward. This matter was the result of the elders’ collective evaluation. Actually, the power balance within the clan was also a reason.
But no aristocratic clan, even the branch families, would be willing to have their descendant marry someone from a landowning household. Song Zining’s parents belonged to a weak branch and his cultivation talents back then weren’t ranked too high. Yet, he was a lineal descendant by right.  As such, he was chosen by the elders. In order to appease the clan members, Song Zhongnian gave them a tacit approval by not speaking up for this grandson. As the clan lord, he had to make some sacrifices for the clan.
Who would’ve thought Song Zining would amaze everyone with such a brilliant performance. One had to know that the resources he had obtained from the clan couldn’t compare to Song Zicheng and Song Zian. And yet, he was able to achieve such accomplishments. If this wasn’t talent, then what was?
After this exam, Song Zining had become publicly accepted as the number one genius of the fourth generation. It wasn’t just limited to the fourth generation—even the previous generation was swept away by him. The Ningyuan Group founded single-handedly by Song Zining also displayed its strength by means of that grade-six equipment set.
Judging from this, Song Zining possessed both martial talent as well as management skills. He could be considered a crane in a flock of chicken, at least among the younger generation of the Song clan. As long as it didn’t affect his cultivation, his romantic temperament and pursuit of miscellaneous arts would only add to his sophistication. Only those who indulged in such things without a solid foundation were considered hedonistic.
But the biggest problem at present was that Song Zining had already been pushed out to marry a landowning family. Those of the imperial aristocracy would never accept a landowning class woman as the mistress of a clan. Moreover, with that prior engagement in effect, no high-class lady would be willing to become his second wife.
Even if the wedding was called off in the future, it could hardly wipe away this blemish. Regardless of the reason for the breach, he would be clearly dishonored, and the social status of his future wife would also fall by a level. At least the imperial clan would never consider such a marriage.
This was Song Zining’s actual shortcoming. A marriage of two families was the merging of two lineages. In this chaotic world where one had to depend on powerful alliances at all times, failing to form a marital relationship with a major clan meant one had lost half of all assistance.
Prince Rui’s first wife was the lineal daughter of Song Zhongnian’s first wife. He was in charge of civil affairs in the imperial court and also required the Song clan’s support in many areas. As such, he had no apprehensions about speaking his thoughts on such an occasion. However, he had no intention to dive too deep into the Song clan’s internal affairs—seeing that the atmosphere had turned awkward, he deliberately changed the topic of conversation.
Prince Rui hesitated for a moment and then said, “Come to think of it, there are some movements that might be worth paying attention to. Firstly, it’s said that Zhang Boqian will challenge the Grand Duke of Profound Order once his injuries are healed.”
Everyone was astonished as soon as these words were spoken!
Due to their ancestral grudges, Zhang Boqian had never concealed his enmity toward the Song clan. However, he had shown little movement due to the presence of Duchess An. But if Zhang Boqian were to successfully advance to the rank of heavenly monarch, many people from different levels of society might get ideas even if the Zhang clan kept on biding its time.
Everyone from the Song clan wore anxious expressions. Duchess An, on the other hand, asked in a seemingly unconcerned manner, “What other news is there?”
Prince Rui replied, “I and a number of other imperial brothers went to observe the various clans and found a batch of young people who had advanced rapidly in the recent years without any signs of an unstable foundation.”
“They didn’t just rely on medicines to catalyze their progress. Almost all of them cultivated champion level secret arts or techniques since the fighter stage and had achieved minor success. For instance, the Zhao clan Duke Chengen’s second young master, Zhao Junhong. Just like Zining, he had ranked up continuously since the Profound Heaven Spring Hunt and had already touched the threshold of a champion. The Far East Wei Clan’s successor had advanced four entire ranks in the past year!
“There are also a number of such cases among the Zhang and Bai clans, as well as few among the other aristocratic families. Perhaps, before long, we will see a batch of champions in their twenties.”
Everyone was visibly moved after hearing this.
The direct major clan descendants had no need to worry about resources as long as they were sufficiently talented. As such, they placed a lot of focus on solidifying their foundations—their advancement speed prior to the champion rank wasn’t fast compared to the descendants of landowning households and humble families. Sometimes, they might even fall behind, but their champion breakthrough rate was much higher, their foundations solid, and their origin power pure. The disparity in combat strength would increase evidently after their advancement.
According to the empire’s past convention, one would be worthy of the title genius if he became a champion before the age of thirty. For instance, Bai Longjia of the Bai clan had reached the champion rank only when he was close to thirty years old. However, he skipped right over the brigadier general level and possessed the combat strength of a major general.
There were two accepted paths when breaking through to the champion rank. One was to advance when the conditions were right. This involved routine cultivation and the condensation of one’s qi into a vortex, followed by a direct advancement. The second method was to suppress one’s level and repeatedly temper oneself during this period in order to refine, condense, and remove all impurities in one’s origin power. The closer one got to the origins of daybreak, the more powerful he would be after breaking through to the champion rank.
But not everyone could take the second path. Most people would fail to contain and control the tremendous origin power when condensing the vortex, leaving them with no choice but to advance. The major clan descendants had various secret methods to attempt a suppression. Normally, those who could suppress rank advancement for a year after the initial vortex formation could be considered a genius. Zhao Jundu was likely the only one in the empire who could stall for an entire five years.
Prince Rui’s words clearly meant that a batch of champions in their twenties was about to appear whose post-champion-rank accomplishments were apparently unaffected by rapid advancement.
Song Zhongnian said in a solemn tone, “Could this be a sign of the empire’s resurgence?”
Outstanding heroes were born in large numbers when the empire had brought about the Guangwu resurgence hundreds of years ago. The so-called geniuses of the past immediately became lackluster in comparison. During that time, countless famed generals galloped through the battlefield and beat the dark races into a progressive retreat. Not only did they claim the Eastern Continent for the empire, but they also occupied a third of the Flaming Beacon Continent.
During the latter parts of the Guangwu resurgence, the number of great clans in the empire grew from three to nine. The standards for the great clans had never changed since the establishment of the Great Qin empire, hence, the growth in number signified an increase in the number and strength of experts.
Could it be that another era of resurgence was about to arrive after hundreds of years?
“It would seem so.” Prince Rui nodded. “I and most of my royal brothers believe this to be the case.” However, there wasn’t a lot of joy on his face.
Those from the Song clan also wore serious expressions.
This so-called imperial resurgence almost meant that a period of turmoil was about to arrive. The effects of this would not only manifest on the battlefield against the dark races but also in the imperial court and the civil affairs involving all levels of society. There was also a truth no one here had brought up—the imperial family’s strength was far from its former era of glory.
Throughout the history of the Great Qin empire, it had always been the imperial family and the major clans who ruled the world together. The foundation of the empire was based on awakening and possessing clans with great power, establishing its territory on the four continents with the blood of their countless descendants. This also gave the human race a vast world to rest, recuperate, and develop.
Through the 1200 years, the clans had always enjoyed special authority while, at the same time, taking on the responsibility of protecting their territory. In the eyes of their descendants, the clan, their name, and their bloodlines were the most important. The empire controlled the world and commanded the three hundred provinces, but could hardly interfere with the internal affairs of the major clans. In the eyes of the common people, the clan laws had always been more effective than the imperial laws.
Under such circumstances, the imperial family would also produce talented people during this era of resurgence. However, there was a significant difference between their base numbers, and they had far fewer people compared to the clans. When this batch of young people matured ten or twenty years later, the imperial family’s power over the general situation would fall to a dangerous level.
Conversely, the clans’ influence would expand, and it was difficult to say whether one or two ambitious characters who wanted to command the world would appear.
During the previous resurgent era, Emperor Guangwu was a peerless champion of the times both in strategy and in martial power. He had once retreated under the combined assault of three great dark monarchs and shocked the world. Although there were nine major clans in office at the same time, their reverence for the imperial family had far surpassed the previous generation and was only second to the empire’s founding era.
However, the current emperor stayed deep within the Unending Palace and rarely made an appearance. Among the empire’s core generation, the twin paragons Zhang Boqian and Lin Xitang shone brightly while Zhao Jundu displayed astonishing talent in the younger generation. Within the imperial family, it was still their two ancestral-generation heavenly monarchs upholding the general situation. Although there were also good talents among the remaining descendants, they were far from being able to stand shoulder to shoulder with the three people.
Amidst the silence, a thought emerged within everyone’s minds—a chaotic era was imminent.
Elder Lu suddenly said, “Since that’s the case, these old rules have long since expired and become useless. Why not let Zining assume the successor’s role and have An Renyi join the family by marrying Ziyan? With our Song clan’s resources, it won’t be a problem to make up for that child’s deficient foundation.”
Elder Lu’s words astonished everyone. Even the old ancestor frowned and began to ponder in silence.
The Song clan grand elder said with a laugh, “Old Lu, this matter is too shocking. How would the other major clans view our Highland Song Clan? Moreover, Duke Jin had thought rather highly of Ziyan during his imperial concubine selection. Don’t tell me you’d have her give up the position of Duke Jin’s main imperial concubine and recruit someone who might be the descendant of a humble family or even a commoner. Assuming we did agree to your plan, wouldn’t this be a grave offense to Duke Jin?”
Old Lu sneered, “This isn’t only about An Renyi’s background, is it? In the end, you people aren’t willing to admit to past mistakes and give the clan lord’s position to Zining! It’s just that even if Zicheng married a member of the imperial clan, he can at most secure a duke’s position and drag things out for one more generation. Have you never thought about how the Song clan would fare when the era of chaos actually arrives? Why not take this opportunity to destroy the old, welcome the new, and be reborn amidst the flames?”
Song Zhongnian and the grand elder glanced at each other with rueful smiles but didn’t retort. That was because they simply couldn’t bear to speak some of the truths out loud. Matters weren’t as simple as Old Lu said—the power balance had already been established, and even the clan lord Song Zhongnian couldn’t make everyone obediently welcome a new master with just a few words.
Song Zining’s foundations were simply too shallow and his age was too young. If he wanted a firm grasp on authority, he would have to uproot a couple of branches and establish his might. The great elder Song Zhongcheng’s branch was definitely one of them. There was no telling how much Song clan blood would be spilled during this process. The Song clan had never been abundant in population, so how could they afford such an internal friction?
They might actually turn to ashes before they could be reborn amidst flames.
An Renyi was indeed a good blade, but he was too sharp. If he didn't die and advanced to the champion rank, there would likely be no one capable of wielding him. Even Song Zining himself might have to expend a lot of energy to do so. Under such circumstances, how could Song Zhongnian and the grand elder dare to let him marry a lineal descendant and give him the power to establish a main branch?
Elder Lu’s shocking words deeply involved the Song clan’s internal matters. Prince Rui could only listen on the side and continuously drink his wine without even looking up.
In the end, Duchess An sighed and said, “Internal selection, the passing of inheritance to a lineal descendant and forbidding intermarriage between the noble and the humble are the founding rules of a clan. If we break those rules for no good reason, our Song clan will have made an enemy out of the world. We will fall into internal chaos even before the era of chaos arrives. This matter, we shall discuss later.”
Since Duchess An had spoken thus, it meant this matter was impossible. Elder Lu wore a resentful and dissatisfied expression but said nothing else.
Hence, the Song clan’s situation was like a tall building on the verge of collapse. Those who moved would be seeking death, those who did not could only wait for death. The choice between the two was extremely difficult.
While the atmosphere around “Lotusheart Residence” was becoming progressively stagnant, the ambiance in “Deep Cloud Manor” had already recovered its calm. After speaking all that needed to be said, Song Zining soon recollected his recent depressed mood and dragged Qianye out for a drink in the courtyard.
The two sat facing each other with a bottle of wine and a couple of side dishes. There were beauties to help them pour wine as they drank and sang in a leisurely manner. This could be considered their parting banquet.
The dust had settled over the examination, and the situation in Blackflow City would soon see a great change. Hence, Qianye didn’t linger—he left the Song clan at noon the next day and boarded an airship bound for Evernight Continent.
He rushed all the way back to Blackflow City. Qianye didn’t even have the time to hand Song Zining’s project to Song Hu before Wei Bainian’s personal guard came knocking on his door.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
5/7 of the week. Enjoy ^_^