Chapter 298: East Peak

Chapter 298: East Peak [Volume 5 – A Distance Within Reach]

The rosy peaks surrounding the Cloud Mountain were elevated in gentle gradients. The dark azure mountain range spread out windingly across the vast plains near the middle stretches of the Lan River.

The numerous exquisite pavilions and courtyards built against the mountainous terrain resembled the layers of a terraced field. All of these buildings belonged to members of the Song clan. The Enlightenment Manor occupied the entire summit and was, most of the time, only faintly discernible amidst the mist.

The four generations of the Song clan lived under the same roof. Duchess An, whose one-hundredth birthday was imminent, held the greatest power. Not everyone was qualified to even enter the Enlightenment Manor, let alone live in it. As such, the surrounding areas became treasured feng-shui lands coveted by everyone, and after dozens of years, this impressive scenery was formed. Among them, the pieces of land with the best geography and scenery naturally belonged to the branches of the direct line.

While traveling up the mountain, Qianye experience just what it meant to have an extravagant lifestyle amidst tall towers and majestic buildings. Even the maids who would rush by from time to time were clad in colorful brocade.

There were ancient-style buildings everywhere. The perpetual dynamo tower and steam pipelines were either painstakingly hidden behind specially designed decorations or, with great effort, buried deep underground during construction, lest they ruin the scenery.

At the same time that Qianye sighed emotionally, he also vaguely understood why the old ancestor of the Song clan had changed the rules for the successor examination 30 years ago.

Compared to the Zhao clan city he had seen before, the Song clan’s pursuit of such fancy details in life and the unnecessary expenditure of resources was perhaps too extravagant in the eyes of the imperial nobility.

The group finally arrived past half-way up the mountain. Those living at this height could be considered people of significant status in the Song clan. Behind the cover of the trees was an array of seven or eight courtyards of fairly similar size and style. Apparently, they were constructed around the same period.

But from the state of the courtyard decorations and the flow of servants, it was clear that Song Zining’s “Deep Cloud Hall” was fairly silent and in decline.

Qianye discovered the reason for this silence after walking in. It turned out that the entire courtyard was mostly sealed off, and only a small courtyard on the eastern side was tidied up as their temporary lodgings during this period.

This “Deep Cloud Hall” was still listed under Song Zining’s father who had, since a young age, withdrawn from the center of Song clan’s authority due to his frail constitution. He had been recuperating in Enlightenment Hall all this time and hadn’t made a public appearance in a very long time. He had also never lived in this courtyard.

As for Song Zining himself, he had another garden courtyard where most of his servants and concubines were placed. But in order for them to prepare for the examination in silence, Song Zining, Qianye, and another guest warrior would stay here for a couple of days.

The side-courtyard was on the smaller side and possessed an ancient yet secluded appeal.

The courtyard was paved in slabs of limestone. There was soil only in the four corners wherein clusters of green bamboos and two banana trees were planted. There was also an odd rock and an ancient-looking octagonal well which brought out an otherworldly character.

Even though Qianye wasn’t a big fan of this style, he couldn’t help but offer some praise. “It’s a nice place.”

Song Zining received a pile of documents from the caretaker and gestured toward Qianye to follow him into the main hall. “The arrangements in the courtyard actually form an origin array. Every day, at dawn, it will double the accumulation of natural origin power. You can test out its effects tomorrow morning.

Qianye was somewhat startled and dumbfounded—he didn’t know whether he should praise the architect for remembering practicality while producing art or if he should sigh at how they had to be so creative even while building an origin array.

Song Zining went through the documents while walking and handed Qianye a couple of pages related to the successor's examination.

He said, “Your guest identity has been registered, and after a while, I’ll arrange for someone to bring you over to pick out your equipment. We’ll visit the depository and cultivation chamber tomorrow. Wait to have dinner with me tonight.”

With that, Song Zining instructed his aide a couple of things, including making arrangements for the person injured earlier, and left in a hurry. There were many things waiting for him to do. Not only did he have to rush toward the Enlightenment Manor and pay his respects to an entire list of his father’s seniors beginning with Duchess An, but he also had to report to a number of important elders and inform them of the results of the recent affairs he had been assigned to.

Qianye sat down in the quiet hall and flipped through the information Song Zining had handed him. He couldn’t help but shake his head.

Even an outsider like him could see that the changes Duchess An had made to the successor’s examination had already failed. Song Zining’s experience was clear proof of this.

The Song clan, due to its small number of direct descendants, had a different familial ranking system as compared to the other three clans. They weren’t divided into ancestral halls and family branches but arranged in sequence according to generation. Song Zining was from the great-grandchildren generation and was seventh among his siblings. From this, it was clear just how few their descendants were. Moreover, the Song clan had a system which suppressed the side branches and had firmly controlled the clan authority for hundreds of years.

Despite the severe lack of manpower, a talented descendant like Song Zining was actually designated as a marriage partner to a landowning household citing his lack of cultivation potential as a reason. One had to know that the aristocrats began origin power training at six to eight years of age—there was enough time to revise the results of this test.

However, Song Zining had chosen to enter the Yellow Springs Training Camp at the age of eight. This went to show the situation he was in at the time. A large part of this was because his father wasn’t at the center of authority and, as such, even a direct descendant who should’ve been greatly valued by the clan had lost protection.

If a clan had become so narrow-minded that they would withhold resources from descendants of lineages without authority, then it was inevitable that they would eventually turn into a pool of stagnant water.

Moreover, as a merchant clan, the Song clan was not required to cultivate and safeguard new lands, and as such, they had little experience with the perils of war and death. This, to a great extent, camouflaged the consequences of being so narrow-minded. This became so pronounced that merely changing a system could no longer turn things around because there was no longer any space for its implementation.

This wealthiest clan thus became the weakest in martial prowess. It was unknown whether the authoritative figures were able to see through the shadow looming behind the brocade of flourishing flowers.

Qianye rested for a short while after browsing through the documents. At this time, a personal guard came to report in, saying he was instructed to drive Qianye to the Song clan’s external armory. The guard also told him that Song Zining’s other guest warrior would only arrive at night the next day, and thus, Qianye would have to visit the depository on his own.

The Song clan had invested a great deal of resources for the successor’s examination. The benefits offered to the guest warriors were extremely bountiful, mainly in terms of weaponry and access to the depository.

After registering as a guest warrior, he could borrow a set of equipment from the external armory and could buy it at half-price as long as he won three rounds or more in the arena. It would be gifted free of charge should the participant win five rounds.

This money was equal to buying one’s life. Although it was considered a life and death arena, one couldn’t be free of all apprehensions when facing a Song clan descendant. But a clash between two guest warriors, on the other hand, was very likely to be decided by life and death, depending on their prior grievances.

The clan’s depository was even more so—it would never be open to outsiders normally. Guests were limited to certain shelves and could only read on site, but it was a rare opportunity nonetheless. If with luck, one were to find a suitable cultivation art, the benefits would be equal to ten years of service to the clan.

Only after arriving did Qianye realize that this so-called external armory was almost as big as a small town. He followed Song Zining’s personal guard inside and saw an old man nodding off in a small space between two file cabinets.

The personal guard first looked for the name An Renyi in the register, and only after finding it did he respectfully wake up the old man. “Elder Lu, this is the Seventh Young Master’s guest warrior. He’s come to select armaments.”

The old man gradually opened his eyes and shot a glance at Qianye.

When the man opened his eyes, Qianye felt as if a bolt of lightning had flashed through the room and was actually blinded for a moment. The bright sensation lingered in his consciousness—it felt as if his entire body from the inside out had been left behind within that flash of light and all of his secrets had been laid bare.

Qianye was overwhelmed and instinctively circulated the Glory Chapter of the Song Clan Ancient Scroll, sending pure origin power rushing out of his origin nodes. Presently, he didn’t even dare activate his Concealed Bloodline ability. All of his blood energy had been withdrawn. The dark golden blood energy had also scuttled into his heart and dived into its depths along with the ability rune.

The old man’s gaze swept over Qianye’s body several times. “So it’s the Seventh Young Master’s man. Not bad. In you go! Don’t forget to tell him the rules.” Saying this, the old man gradually closed his eyes.

The guard responded hurriedly, “Rest assured, elder.”

With that, the two prepared to cross through the giant indomitable-looking alloy door before them.

Elder Lu suddenly said from behind them, “Young people tend to rush things. The armory is quite big and there are a lot of things inside. Don’t rush, choose slowly.”

After hearing this, Qianye turned back to nod in gratitude and said, “Many thanks for Elder Lu’s advice.”

Elder Lu waved his hand and, once again, began to sleep.

External warriors were allowed to access the section with grade-five origin guns and grade-four weapons.

There wasn’t enough space in the arena to draw out the advantages of an origin gun. It was just that Qianye couldn’t pull out the Twin Flowers on stage, so he chose a random mid-range handgun and then focused his attention on melee weapons.

Qianye browsed as he went—he would frequently pick up weapons to weigh them and give them a few swings. The weapons entering his hands grew progressively heavier, but whether it was battle axes or heavy hammers, he was able to wield them with relative ease.

The guard following Qianye all the way revealed a doubtful expression because, as a rank-eight warrior, he was fairly familiar with the standard weight of these weapons. It greatly astonished him to see these weapons become as light as a feather in Qianye’s hands.

He couldn’t help but pick up the long hammer Qianye had just put down and was overwhelmed to find that he was unable to move it at all. He glanced at Qianye’s slender and somewhat frail figure with eyes of admiration.

Qianye had eventually covered the greater half of this area when he suddenly noticed a heavy sword leaning against a certain corner.

It was longer than normal swords by half and already approaching the length of a two-handed greatsword. However, its blade was only slightly wider than a normal sword.

He walked over and reached out to grab the hilt, wanting to lift it up and see. Unexpectedly, his hands sank down and the blade almost fell off.

Qianye was astonished because this weapon was many times heavier than the ones he had just tested. He no longer dared treat it lightly the second time—he grasped it with the right amount of strength and finally picked up the longsword steadily. He placed it at eye level and gradually pulled off the sheath.

The blade edge was pitch-black and unremarkable. Although it wasn’t especially sharp, it wasn’t one of those outlandish designs with no edge either.

There were numerous crude origin patterns on the spine which gave it a primitive sense of beauty. However, this also meant that the origin array didn’t possess any complicated function, just as it was impossible for even an expert with great attainments to narrate an extravagantly embellished story with only a few words.

Qianye observed the sword repeatedly to confirm its material. If he had to point out something special about the sword, then it would have to be its unusually heavy weight.

The more he observed, the more he felt that the blade was an incomplete product. It was like a piece of peerless material discarded by the artisan after a few crude strokes.

Qianye flipped the sword over and saw two words carved therein, “East Peak”.

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-Legion-'s Thoughts