Chapter 488: Childhood Education
The air was filled with the intense fragrance of wine and roasting meat, the latter originating from the racks fixed above the crackling bonfire. There were people wrestling nearby, and the spectators would occasionally erupt in loud cheers. The coarse and clamorous scene of army celebration was quite similar everywhere.
Qianye lay in the luxuriant crown of a large tree with his hands behind his head, gazing at the deep night sky and the Gemini-α constellation which had taken up a good chunk of the firmament.
After such a long time under the Iron Curtain, even the scarlet moon would feel like an old acquaintance.
Zhao Jundu’s figure suddenly appeared through the branches and sat down beside him. “Are you trying to avoid the liquor or are you evading the fights?”
“A little of both,” Qianye replied honestly. There was a wisp of helplessness in his expression. He had just realized how famous he was among the Zhao clan combat squads.
The Zhao clan was a war-like entity. These valiant private soldiers who had survived after several months of fighting in the bloody battle were all veterans of a hundred wars. Since there was usually no status discrimination during such occasions, Qianye was able to feel the overwhelming passion of the Swallow Cloud cavalry. After overturning a company’s worth of soldiers in wrestling and drinking with half the crowd, Qianye finally gave up and ran away into the tree.
“The units will rest and reorganize for five days, then we’ll make further plans according to the situation of the Iron Curtain and the emperor’s orders,” Zhao Jundu continued, “so what are your plans?”
“I’m going back to Blackflow to take a look. The Iron Curtain might be drawn open any day. I fear the Nangong family won’t take such a huge loss lying down.”
“If it’s Song Zining you're worried about, it’s unnecessary. The Nangong family is arrogant, but they’re not idiots. They won't try to kill Song Zining brazenly with all the attention he's been receiving recently. Elsewise, any chance of them being promoted to a major clan in the future will be forfeit.
Qianye shook his head and said, “It’s me the Nangong family hates.”
Zhao Jundu frowned. “Nangong Xiaofeng’s attack on Zhao Yuying hasn’t been resolved between Duke You and the Nangong family. If they dare come to you, I’ll surely let them know that it’s not their turn to take advantage of the Zhao clan, with or without the Iron Curtain.”
Qianye realized at this point that Zhao Jundu knew a fair bit about his enmity with the Nangong family. Zhao Yuying seemed not to have mentioned Nangong Xiaoniao’s matter, but Qianye had no intention of having the Zhao clan take action for him, either. “I can deal with this matter myself.”
Zhao Jundu’s solemn expression didn’t relax. “The empire has certain rules. Matters in the bloody battle must stay in the bloody battle. Every family follows this law on the surface, but an open enemy is easier to deal with than a stab in the back. Since this matter began with Yuying, it’s only natural that our Zhao clan steps forth.”
Qianye gave it some thought before saying, “I also have a private debt to settle with them. Some things can’t be measured in profit.”
With his level of intelligence, Zhao Jundu was easily able to discern Qianye’s implication. The diplomacy between clans has always been about the pros and cons—even someone of Zhao Yuying’s status was only a bargaining chip on the negotiation table. The only difference was the value.
But what would’ve happened to Blackflow City had Song Zining not struggled against all odds to produce a miracle? Although they had won a great victory, in the end, Qianye wasn’t about to forget the Nangong family’s actions. Moreover, he wanted to put an end to this enmity in his own way.
The two quieted down.
The atmosphere on the distant drill grounds was almost aboil, but only some notes of merriment managed to pass through the exuberant leaves, forming a contrast with the calm silence of this little world.
Zhao Jundu spoke all of a sudden, “Actually, I disliked you the most when I was young.”
A startled Qianye glanced back at him. Zhao Jundu’s flawless countenance was almost glowing.
“The first time I saw my mother crying secretly behind everyone’s backs, I knew it was because of you.”
“You were sitting beside the window back then. A small boy… not much bigger than the flower vase.”
“I pushed you onto the bed and we struggled for a long time. I pushed you down when you sat up, but you would simply get up again. You were so stupid that you didn’t even know how to cry.”
“And you didn’t speak at all until you were two.”
“Father saw me visiting your courtyard all the time and thought I liked you a lot.”
“The first wet nurse who took care of you was quite lazy and often didn’t dry your hair off completely after a bath. One day, you caught a cold and became feverish. Your face was flushed and hot, but you didn’t cry. You only said, ‘It hurts’.”
Zhao Jundu’s words were intermittent and barely formed a complete story. It was almost as if he were talking to himself. His gaze was fairly calm. He stared into the air as though he could see therein the river of time flowing in reverse.
Qianye listened patiently. That was also his life despite him having no recollection of it.
The wind whistled through the land of Evernight, and the rustle of leaves grew increasingly loud. Zhao Jundu’s lonely voice became more and more fragmented until it stopped completely at one point.
Qianye left quietly at dawn and returned to Blackflow City.
He could hardly remember the jubilant and clamorous city before him. It was ten at night when he returned, but the city gates were open to admit the long line of people and vehicles waiting to pay up and enter.
The interior of the city was brightly lit, and he could vaguely hear the fervent clamor of people speaking and even some music.
The Dark Flame officer at the gate recognized Qianye as he squeezed through the crowd and immediately performed a salute. “Sire Qianye, you’ve returned!” He then pushed open a path for Qianye through the people.
After stepping into the city, Qianye was so startled by the scene before him that he almost forgot to question the Dark Flame officer beside him.
The crowd on the main street leading to the west gate could only be described as jostling. There were numerous stalls selling all kinds of things on each side of the road. There was even a dancer twirling in the middle of the street.
Qianye was dumbfounded for a moment. He looked up at the sky and found the gloomy Iron Curtain still covering them like a tent. If not for that, he would’ve completely forgotten that Blackflow was still within the scope of the bloody battle.
“What’s going on?”
“The Hidden Springs Merchant Group is here! They’ll stay here for three days!” The Dark Flame officer’s voice contained a wisp of undisguisable excitement.
Life on Evernight Continent was mostly dull and uninteresting. Since its founding, Blackflow was only a third-rate city located near the borders. The visiting merchant caravans were mostly those that focused on practicality. Merchants carrying luxury goods were rarely ever seen, to speak nothing of a top-ranked merchant group like Hidden Springs.
Hidden Springs? That was where Lil’ Seven, Lil’ Nine, and the late Seventeen all came from. Qianye felt a faint stabbing pain in his head.
Soon afterward, Qianye recalled that it wasn’t just once or twice that Song Zining had persuaded him to visit a major city and watch the Hidden Spring Merchant Group’s performance—and also to buy some quality goods in passing. It was just that Qianye had always refused him. It never occurred to him that Song Zining would actually be able to invite Hidden Springs over to Blackflow.
The bloody battle hadn’t even ended yet!
Qianye’s countenance turned dark as he glanced at the bustling street in front of him. “How come there are so many people in the city?”
It turned out that the people visiting the city grew exponentially after Song Zining accepted the aristocratic family combat squads. These were all true noble scions from the upper continents. Even though life in wartime was simple, the goods Blackflow could provide were apparently too coarse and scanty.
These aristocratic descendants naturally weren’t lacking in money, and Song Zining had his own way of solving this problem. As such, all kinds of merchant groups arrived in Blackflow to do business, and the stream of people only grew larger. The liveliness was pushed to its very peak when the Hidden Springs Merchant Group, roaming the various continents, announced that they would be holding a three-day performance in Blackflow City.
Endless crowds rushed over from the neighboring Trinity River County and other places, even though Blackflow City was located under the Iron Curtain.
He thought about the dark race army stationed only a couple hundred kilometers away in the 87th mountain region and then glanced at the incomparably lively street block before him. Qianye didn’t know what to say because this place didn’t resemble a frontline warzone at all!
Qianye sighed in relief after entering the gates of the Dark Flame headquarters. Everything here was still fairly normal and in order. The sentry tower was heavily guarded, and the cold gleam of gun muzzles flashed occasionally along the highest points on the wall.
At the doors to the main building complex, Qianye encountered Song Hu who had just finished dealing with the military affairs for the day. He then headed over to find Song Zining after discovering that the latter was in the small drill ground adjacent to the armaments storage.
But Qianye had a weird feeling as he was walking over. It was very rare to see Song Zining cultivating in earnest. Reportedly, his martial dao was born of his comprehension in painting and calligraphy. He rarely even visited the virtual combat facility, let alone practice firearms on the drill grounds.
The small drill ground was located in front of an auxiliary airship garage to the north of the armaments storage. It was reserved specifically for high-ranking Dark Flame officials to practice in the open.
The small field was brightly lit with origin lamps, and the large doors to the warehouse were wide open. There was a small tow-vehicle parked beside the entrance with all kinds of melee weapons and firearms upon it.
There was a recliner in front of the car made of a rare type of wood, and the craftsmanship was fairly intricate. The smooth curvatures of its design gave one the feeling that it would be quite comfortable to lie down upon it.
Qianye could already recognize from a distance that the person dozing off on the chair was Song Zining. He was completely dumbfounded.
Naturally, there was another person practicing weaponry on the drill ground. There was a mass of white light rotating therein, a melee weapon resembling the long-handled sabers frequently used in frontline charges.
Qianye watched as the white light spun, slashed, and cut. Although the moves were simple, they were incomparably smooth and able to move heavy objects with relative ease. Apparently, the wielder was extremely suited to this type of heavy weapon.
But why was the white light’s position so low?
At this moment, the white radiance receded to reveal a small figure. The long blade, on the other hand, flew through the air and landed neatly in the tow-vehicle with various weapons on it. No crashing sound was produced at all.
Qianye gazed dumbfounded at the little figure as a peculiar thought emerged in his mind. Wasn’t there something seriously wrong with Zhuji’s childhood education?
Zhuji stood in place as she stroked her somewhat curly hair and straightened her ancient-style skirt. Then, she shot toward Song Zining like a cannonball, climbed onto his knees with great familiarity, and sat down properly upon him.
Song Zining moved a bit and slowly opened his eyes. A smile of unclear implications appeared on his face as he looked at Zhuji who was sitting so elegantly on his legs as though she were at a banquet. Afterward, he turned toward Qianye and said with a smile, “You’ve returned?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter