Zhao Junyi was somewhat annoyed. He was supposed to be performing the final checks on the airship at this moment and then taking off after two hours. He had rushed back in a hurry after seeing the newest intelligence. As the recognized future leader of the Fire Beacon Corps, his trip this time was only to escort the Zhao clan transports. He would return to guard the Zhao clan territory for the remainder of the national war.
Zhao Junyi glanced at his origin sundial and said, “Old Two, stop beating around the bush. Do you two think father is so far that he won’t come to this floating continent?”
Zhao Junhong smiled wryly. He was just about to reply when Zhao Jundu stood up and said coldly, “Qianye can do whatever he wants to do. I’ll take responsibility for everything if father asks.” With that, he got up and left the tent.
Zhao Junyi’s expression sank. He slammed the table and said, “Zhao Guanwei’s matter hasn’t even been settled yet. Why is Old Four covering this Qianye?”
Zhao Guanwei’s matter seemed to have ended at that time. However, it stirred up quite a lot of trouble within the clan and badly affected Duke Chengen’s lineage. Back then, Qianye had badly injured the man and kicked him out of the camp. This caused quite a bit of backlash in the clan regardless of the reason behind his actions.
In the end, it was because Zhao Guanwei’s relationships were deep. Although his bloodline was far removed from the three dukes’ lineages, he was still a bona fide Zhao clan descendant. He had trained and cultivated the Zhao clan’s arts since youth and joined the private army after coming of age, accumulating many contributions in battle. Add to that his upstanding and frank personality, he was rather popular among the various branches of the clan.
Someone like Zhao Guanwei would always be a dependable cornerstone of the mid to lower tier forces in any branch. He was also a target of recruitment for many parties, and the Duke Chengen branch attached a fair bit of importance to this person. But now, not only had they failed to recruit him, but the two parties had even become hostile.
Zhao Junhong actually calmed down and resumed his normal expression. “Zhao Guanwei has always maintained a good reputation. But since he was willing to ignore the bigger picture and stir up trouble for Qianye on the frontlines, it shows that he has already been bought by the people from Duke Yan’s side. Even if it’s because of an owed favor as the rumors say, that favor must’ve been fairly big. We had no chance of roping him in from the start.”
Zhao Junyi’s expression relaxed.
Zhao Junhong laughed. “In the end, Qianye only served as a shield for fourth brother. His reaction was great, even I might not be able to do better if I were there.”
Qianye’s methods appeared drastic, but in truth, the two sides had already become antagonistic the moment Zhao Guanwei stepped out. Conciliation would’ve had no effect on him anyway. It would only serve to encourage the other Zhao clan soldiers to take chances. Only a thunderous response could suppress all adversary with military might.
Zhao Junyi himself was a leader of armies and knew the pros and cons in this matter. His expression finally eased as he muttered, “The clan elders will surely ask about Qianye fighting for the Li clan. Have you two prepared a response?”
“Brother, don’t worry. Who can find fault with the explanation I gave previously? If they’re so capable, why don’t they recognize little brother officially? Moreover, it’s unsure what those elders are planning. There are already people outside investigating Qianye’s movements during the years he was missing.”
Zhao Junyi’s brows jumped up with a peculiar expression. It looked like he wanted to say something but was hesitant.
Zhao Junhong sneered, “Do you know what our uncle Duke You said to Qianye after the matter with Zhao Guanwei? First, he told Qianye that the Zhao clan would belong to Jundu and him after ten years. The second part was that due to Qianye’s birth status, the clan lord’s position would only belong to Jundu. Uncle really thinks so highly of us brothers. At least, Duke Yan’s side isn’t showing any signs of giving up.”
Zhao Junyi’s brows knitted tightly. These words sounded like a man placing high hopes on the younger generation, but it was actually planting the seeds of conflict between brothers. “Did Qianye tell you all of this?” Someone who would pass on these words wasn’t quite simple, either.
It was unknown what Zhao Junhong was thinking. He simply shook his head and said, “No.”
Zhao Junhong didn’t offer further explanation. The one who had passed the message was Song Zining. He himself felt Qianye trusted Song Zining too much. No wonder Zhao Jundu wanted to beat the latter up upon sight. But the Song seventh young noble was indeed intelligent. It just so happened that this well-known trickster loved stirring up strenuous and unrewarding incidents between the brothers.
Zhao Junyi gave it some thought and said, “Let it be. Fourth brother must have his own plans regarding Qianye, so we’ll leave it at that. The present situation is rather complicated both inside and outside of the clan, and it’s best if he can stay outside for the time being. I’ll talk to father when I return to the Western Continent.”
Zhao Junhong asked all of a sudden, “Brother, has the family never received any news of Qianye in the past ten years?”
Zhao Junyi paused for a long while without replying.
Zhao Junhong continued, “Qianye’s martial path stems from Yellow Springs. That isn’t a place just anyone can enter, but we can’t seem to find out who sent him in. How many people are there in the empire that even we can’t touch?”
Qianye was trained in Yellow Springs, so there was no way his origin theft would’ve escaped the instructors’ eyes. The powers behind Yellow Spring were tangled and complicated. How could such a major discovery be silent from both the Zhao clan’s friends and foes?
Zhao Junyi tapped on the table with his fingers and said after a long while, “It’s been said that Marshal Lin Xitang’s foster son is a Yellow Springs graduate, but he died less than a year after joining the army.” He paused for a moment. “I don’t think Qianye has brought this matter up on his own, has he? Since fourth brother doesn’t even want to get him involved in the internal disputes of the clan, why the need to unearth the past?”
“Lin Xitang?!” Zhao Junhong lowered his eyes to hide the wisp of frostiness within. He then said with a nod, “That’s true.”
At this moment, Lin Xitang was seated in a jeep at the imperial capital, gazing absentmindedly at the omnipresent white outside the window.
The four seasons here were fairly clear cut. It was presently winter time, and the snowfall had been rather heavy since noon, pressing down upon the roadside trees until they were on the verge of collapse.
Fang Qingkong was kneeling on one knee beside the seat and hadn’t moved since boarding the vehicle—he wouldn’t make a single sound if Lin Xitang did not speak.
The marshal’s ceremonial motorcade slowly drove on and arrived before a set of majestic kinetic towers. This was merely the energy center of a certain street block, yet it was almost as large as a medium-sized city. Apparently, the residents here were of extraordinary status.
Lin Xitang said gently, “Qingkong, you shouldn’t have done that.”
Dissolving Zhang Boqian’s office was a proposal. It should’ve been personally submitted to court by Lin Xitang, but he hadn’t made it to the recent court sessions due to an exacerbation of his injuries. Fang Qingkong made no excuse and only lowered his body even more.
Lin Xitang sighed. “You’re only one step away from becoming a divine champion. If you can step through this threshold, your future won’t be limited to just being an inspector. Becoming a duke or a minister isn’t out of the question. How many people have been stopped here due to limited talents? You, on the other hand, have a good chance of breaking through within two years. Why would you provoke Prince Greensun at such a time?”
Fang Qingkong’s methods had always been vicious, and it was entirely due to his strength that he was able to survive up until now. He was trained in the Northern Legion’s reconnaissance battalion, but no one had ever imagined that a suicide warrior specializing in assassination would be able to reach the threshold of a divine champion. No wonder even someone like Lin Xitang, who had met so many geniuses, was full of regret.
Fang Qingkong said softly, “Someone has to do the dangerous things, and it shouldn’t always be you.”
Lin Xitang only said one sentence, “Qingkong, don’t let this happen again.”
Fang Qingkong replied, “Yes.”
Lin Xitang’s expression was indifferent. “If you feel indignant, go back to the army and accumulate more contributions for a couple of years. You might even be able to fight for a commander’s position. To be honest, it’s a waste of your talents to be working as an inspector.”
Fang Qingkong’s face paled. “Qingkong won’t ever do it again. Please don’t transfer me away.”
The car trembled slightly and came to a stop. There was a majestic building at the end of the road with green roof tiles, black eaves, and a sign that said Greensun. The style was an imitation of the ancestor’s handwriting—an inscription gifted to the first Prince Greensun form the founding emperor.
Lin Xitang left the car and his followers outside and walked up the stairs on his own. The Greensun Manor guards apparently recognized the marshal and had already received orders. They only performed salutations upon seeing him—no one stood forward.
Lin Xitang looked up to check the direction before heading deeper into the building, passing through many doors along the way. Eventually, the view before him widened as he arrived at the edge of a drill grounds.
There wasn’t a single person along the corridors. In the drill grounds, however, a mass of sword radiance was glowing even more brightly than the reflection of the heavy snow. The sword energy therein forced the snow to remain suspended in the air, yet there was no sound at all—only the faint rustle of the powdery snow.
As the sword radiance receded, an ancient-looking black blade appeared at the center of the grounds.
The Zhang clan’s Sword Rain Formation, Fading Notes.
Zhang Boqian returned to the corridor where a table, wine, and cup had been prepared. There was a cup full of golden spirit, but he didn’t touch it. Instead, he picked up the jar and poured the contents into his mouth. A good part of the alcohol spilled out, and the air was soon filled with a rich aroma.
Lin Xitang walked over to pick up the cup and took a sip. A stream of burning flames fell into his chest.
Zhang Boqian placed a seal the size of an infant’s fist on the table. The jade green object was carved in the most ordinary of square shapes, but the origin arrays that formed the seal patterns represented the will of one of the highest military authorities in the Great Qin Empire.
Zhang Boqian pushed the seal toward Lin Xitang. His attitude was fairly casual as though this were just an ordinary seal.
Lin Xitang’s expression froze for a short while. After a brief pause, he produced a palm-sized box and handed it to Zhang Boqian.
The latter didn’t open the box just yet and only flipped it in his hands.
It was so silent that only the sound of falling snow could be heard. Lin Xitang broke this stillness and said, “This is the Omen of Fortune you asked for.”
“Omen of Fortune” was a type of divination art. Reportedly, the diviner would draw upon the power of the stars to form various diagrams on a jade known as “Fortune” to divine the seeker’s questions. Additionally, the diviner wasn’t privy to the seeker’s question. This divination process was beyond mysterious, so much so that it was considered a form of entertainment instead of a traditional divination art.
The jade box suddenly broke down into fine powder in Zhang Boqian’s hands, which then vanished without a trace as they spread into the air.
Lin Xitang’s perpetually calm countenance was filled with astonishment.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Cryptic... is the theme of these two.
TL: Legion ED: Moxie