Volume 5 – A Distance Within Reach, Chapter 22: A Hesitant Beginning
Qianye asked and found out that Wei Bainian had dispatched his guards to pay attention to his movements. That was why they had come to see him immediately after he stepped into the main gates of the mercenary corps. Some thoughts flashed through Qianye’s mind as he recalled what Song Zining had told him—about the Wei clan’s war with the dark races. It seemed the power structure in Blackflow City was about to witness some big changes.
By the time Qianye arrived at the Seventh Division Headquarters, he saw Wei Bainian’s guards hurriedly moving around. The open space near the main building was fully occupied with private soldiers who were in the process of packing.
Wei Bainian was personally waiting for Qianye before the door. He brought Qianye into the study and had someone deliver tea before closing the doors for a lengthy discussion.
Qianye exchanged some conventional greetings with Wei Bainian and then asked directly, “General Wei, are you about to leave?”
Wei Bainian sighed. “The Far East Province is now in a total war with the dark races.”
Qianye had already heard bits and pieces of information from Song Zining. Thus, he immediately asked, “How’s the heir doing?”
“The heir was also in the army at the time and returned with serious injuries. But Qiyang is brimming with talent. Not only is his Thousand Mountains already at the seventh realm, but he’s also awakened a powerful ability, Superhuman Recovery. Regardless of how grievous his injuries are, he’ll recover as long as he doesn’t die on the spot. Moreover, his recovery is over ten times that of a normal person.” At this point, Wei Bainian’s tone was full of praise.
Qianye couldn’t help exclaim in admiration after hearing of Wei Potian’s almost perverted ability. The Thousand Mountains was known as the best in defense. Add to that a Superhuman Recovery, this Wei clan heir was truly developing toward an indomitable direction.
Then Wei Bainian began to explain the general situation in Far East Province.
It turned out that a great general of the Wei clan had recently scored repeated victories against the dark races. Becoming quite conceited and making light of the enemy, he unwittingly found himself deep within dark race territory as he led his troops forward.
Surprisingly, the dark races wouldn’t let this go. It was as if they already had the intention to launch a war. They took this opportunity to pursue and attack the unit all the way to the jade gates where they were finally stopped by the natural stronghold and its fortifications.
Presently, the dark race troops outside of the Jade Gate had increased by several times. It was only by relying on the fortifications there that the Wei clan forces were able to hold onto this passage leading into the Far East Province and barely stabilize the general situation. The other defensive lines of the Far East Province were also fairly strained. The Wei clan was currently recalling their generals stationed in various enclaved domains. As a general famous for his defensive capabilities, Wei Bainian would definitely be assigned to oversee the Jade Gate Stronghold. This was a place of utmost importance.
It was currently unclear as to how long the situation in the Far East Province would drag out. It was a battle for survival, and the Wei clan was contracting all of its forces. With the exception of those stationed in some extremely important administrative enclaves, most of its troops had been transferred back to the main clan. Blackflow City was of little value to the Wei clan while Wei Bainian was one of its few great generals. As such, it was inevitable that the city would be included in the list of withdrawals.
The Wei clan had already dispatched an elder level attendant to discuss this matter with the Expeditionary Army Headquarters—they would assign a new division commander to take over the seventh division. The handover between the two parties would take place within a couple of weeks.
After informing Qianye of the developments, Wei Bainian asked meaningfully, “What do you plan to do after I leave?”
Some thoughts flashed through Qianye’s mind. “What is the expeditionary army’s attitude? Do we have any idea which general will take over the seventh division?”
Wei Bainian smiled faintly; these questions had struck the two most important issues. Due to Wu Zhengnan’s incident, the relationship between the expeditionary army and the Wei clan was bumpy at best. The new division commander might not have a good impression of Qianye. For a mercenary corps standing in opposition to the garrisoned expeditionary army, even survival would be difficult, to speak nothing of future developments.
“The expeditionary army’s attitude was exceptionally good. The reason, at least on the surface, is the total war between the Far East Province and the dark races. They don’t want to cause an obvious hindrance from behind lest they are blamed by the empire. In truth, I heard that a certain aristocratic family from the empire plans to extend its reach to Evernight Continent. They’ve dispatched a main clan descendant to develop territory here, and this happened to be a readily available opportunity.”
Qianye frowned. There was currently no way to judge whether this information bode well or not. If the expeditionary army was planning to bring about a peaceful handover with the Wei clan for certain benefits, they would have good reason to maintain the stability of the situation in Blackflow City. However, the effects it would have on Qianye and the Dark Flame Mercenary Corps was difficult to say.
Additionally, the new division commander was of an aristocratic background. He should be vastly different from most of the expeditionary army division commanders who had climbed up from the grassroots and fought for their accomplishments. It wouldn’t be easy to guess this person’s way of handling things.
“Do you know which aristocratic family?”
“The Sishui Dong Family,” Wei Bainian thought about it for a moment before adding, “their family title is that of a regional count.” 
Qianye had no recollection of this aristocratic family, but he knew that the title regional count was for a lower-ranking aristocratic family. The regional count had to maintain his feudal lands at the size of a major county or above and was always at risk of being demoted from nobility. It wasn’t surprising that they were anxious to break new grounds and had turned their attention toward Evernight Continent.
Wei Bainian said, “I’ll still be around for about fifteen days or so, and I’ll be taking all my men with me when I leave, so you should make plans in advance.”
Qianye nodded. Wei Bainian’s words meant that the Wei clan troops in the Blackflow City war zone would be withdrawn completely.
But Qianye had no plans for the moment. He might consider fighting for the position of the seventh division commander if he were already a champion, but he still needed some time. A division commander must be a champion; this was a rigid thousand-year-old rule set by the imperial military. Qianye wasn’t a true champion yet, despite his current power already being comparable to one.
In truth, Qianye’s response would largely depend on the attitude of this new division commander whom he had never met before.
Qianye left Wei Bainian with a heavy heart and returned to the encampment of the mercenary corps.
At this moment, the camp was extremely lively. A long line of cargo trucks was filing in, all of them outfitted according to imperial regular army standards. Each truck had a large caliber heavy machine gun mounted on top with two thick exhaust pipes standing tall and straight behind the driver’s compartment. Their bold appearance was truly unforgettable.
The two sides of the road had already been filled with people who had come to watch the liveliness, and more people was rushing over. This was the people who had spent the greater half of their lives on Evernight. How could they have ever seen such a large number of imperial regular army standard cargo trucks?
At this moment, half of those cars were carrying military grade cargo crates, while the other half was occupied by fully uniformed soldiers. These warriors were formidable in appearance and outfitted with excellent gear, also of regular army standards. Comparatively, the expeditionary army looked like beggars, and most of those mercenaries, hunters, and adventurers who made their living on Evernight Continent looked even worse.
Song Hu had long since received this news and immediately came out to receive them.
A burly man with a dark complexion jumped down from the leading truck. He then walked toward Song Hu with large strides and said, “Third special reinforced company of the Ningyuan Heavy Industries internal guard unit reporting in.”
Song Hu nodded and pointed toward the side. “That area will be your barracks. Park all the cars in the side courtyard parking lot. Move all heavy equipment into the warehouse after taking inventory and keep all light equipment at hand.”
“Yes, sir!” The company commander saluted Song Hu and set out to make arrangements for their establishment. The soldiers from the Ningyuan Heavy Industries quickly alighted. They began to move the equipment and set up camp in an orderly fashion. The entire process involved no idle chatter apart from necessary orders and inquiries.
Song Zining had dispatched this company to escort the prizes from the examination. It was also his first investment in Dark Flame Mercenary Corps. They would be assigned into the corps after they had completed their escort and delivery duties. This company was valued at a five percent share in Dark Flame Mercenary corps.
In terms of actual fighting power, this special company might actually defeat the entire Dark Flame in battle, given that Qianye didn’t join the battle. If an outsider were to know of this converted price, they would surely believe Song Zining had taken a huge loss. Even Qianye himself thought so.
But Song Zining didn’t calculate in such a way. He believed that a single Qianye was equal to an entire division, and that he might even be comparable to a corps or more in the future. With such a calculation, he had actually profited considerably.
While the internal guards of Ningyuan Heavy Industries were busy with their work, some other people within the camp were paying attention to their movements. Apart from the blood seedlings he had saved, there were two neighboring mercenary groups Dark Flame had recently annexed.
The high-ranking officers of those mercenary groups all wore ugly expressions. They secretly drew some comparison in their minds and realized that they would be utterly defeated even if they pulled out four or five hundred warriors to fight against this reinforced company made up of a hundred-odd people, not to mention the heavy weaponry being unloaded continuously from the trucks. The sheer quantity made one’s scalp go numb.
At this moment, what little hidden intentions they might have had in their hearts had dispersed into thin air.
Qianye returned to the encampment in a dreary mood, and after seeing this buzzing scene, his somewhat low spirits were immediately uplifted. According to the plans between Song Zining and Qianye, the present expansion was only the beginning.
During the following period, Song Zining would use the Ningyuan Group’s name to recruit 500 more warriors, organize them into a battalion, and invest them into the Dark Flame Mercenary Corps. This kind of troop organization and equipment allocation would continue until they reached the strength of an imperial regular army corps. This would then become the first step in their westward project.
Qianye met Song Hu and the dark-faced company commander Duan Hao, then proceeded to make arrangements regarding certain corps affairs. He then stood in front of the map rubbing his tired eyes as he repeatedly compared a number of westward routes in his mind.
However, no path was completely certain when forming such a major scheme. The most important question here was the stability of their rear. A new seventh division commander with an unclear stance would only serve as a hidden danger. Qianye didn’t dare guarantee that their home base wouldn’t be seized while they were off developing land in dark race territory.
He gave it much thought but couldn’t think of any good way outside of expanding the Dark Flame Mercenary Corps once again and leaving enough troops here to ensure the safety of their base.
But this method wasn’t quite feasible. For one, Qianye’s financial strength was limited, furthermore, a rapidly expanded unit without sufficient combat experience would only cause their overall fighting power to decrease. Additionally, an infighting with the expeditionary army within the seventh division’s defensive region was a sure way to disaster.
Then how should he defend?
Qianye gave it some thought and then discarded this option. After a round of rapid expansion, the earnings from the defense of those surrounding small towns could no longer provide for the current Dark Flame. He could more or less make do if he was granted a contract for half the defensive region, but the issue loops back to the origin—with the seventh division here, how could they allow him to take away such a large share of resources?
Dark Flame continued to expand as planned while Qianye spent the few days drowned in hesitation.
Song Hu was overwhelmed with all the work since he had to reallocate officers, reorganize the troops, and supervise the construction work in addition to investigating the westward paths. Of course, he also grabbed Lil’ Seven and Nine, the Wu siblings, and some other outstanding warriors from among the seedlings to share his heavy responsibilities. This was also a good opportunity to nurture the new blood of the mercenary corps.
Meanwhile, Qianye spent most of his time cultivating. He had just advanced to the ninth rank and needed to solidify his foundations. During the remaining time, he would repeatedly ponder their future operations and corresponded with Song Zining regarding certain ideas.
It was during this period of peace that a small group of travel-worn adventurers arrived in Blackflow City, seeking a meeting with Qianye.
 The actual translation is “county count” which sounds kinda ridiculous to me. So I modified it a bit and named it a regional count. Neither of the two is an actual feudal rank.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
6/7 of the week. Enjoy ^_^