Qianye sighed inwardly. This was perhaps the price of war.
After half a day of peace, chaos fell upon Seagaze at twilight. Flames rose up everywhere in the city along with a symphony of killing, fighting, and the sound of the cannon turrets rumbling. It was just that some turrets were firing aimlessly toward the sky while others were picking out specific targets. One of the towers even started blasting at another tower, which soon collapsed with a boom.
Private troops scuttled hurriedly throughout the city, the Xue family’s men making up most of the lineup. They rushed into several family estates and killed everyone inside mercilessly. Even a small family that was usually on good terms with the Xue family wasn’t spared.
Several airships appeared in the night sky at one point. These vessels looked like ordinary cargo ships, but their firepower was inconceivably powerful. They would fire at and suppress all ground areas showing fierce resistance, allowing the Xue family army to claim quick victory.
The fierce battle lasted the entire night and only came to a close toward sunrise. The sound of scattered gunfire could still be heard every now and then.
Qianye was standing on the airship at this point, looking down on the entire city. The vessel spun about from time to time, trembling violently as it rained artillery upon the city below.
The suppressive artillery was extremely accurate, producing no unnecessary casualties as far as Qianye could see. This proved that the cannoneer was also an expert, at least a champion in cultivation.
The resistance of the families below gradually fell apart. An occasional dark shadow would jump out from the battlefield, with numerous others hunting him down. Those were the demonkin hiding in the various family estates who didn’t have time to escape before the upheaval began.
Only a handful of demonkin were killed, and they weren’t that strong, either. There wasn’t a single one on Eden’s level, so there was no need for Qianye and Ji Tianqing to take action. This was no secret—demonkin were proficient in concealment and ambushes. The true experts had already escaped immediately after the flames of war broke out. The remainder were just riff-raff.
Despite that, the demonkin force suffered greatly after this battle. Their vassal families were uprooted completely, depriving them of their claws, fangs, eyes, and ears—they would find it difficult to operate efficiently from now on.
This gap would afford Song Zining the time to set things up. Even though the authority wasn’t in his hands, the seventh young master still wouldn’t hold back.
The price of this opportunity was this burning Seagaze City and the destroyed families here. The hatred from tonight would go on for hundreds of years.
This was war.
After observing the battlefield in silence for a while, Qianye asked, “How many people did you send in?”
Ji Tianqing replied with a question, “You noticed it?”
Qianye pointed at a certain place. “Aren’t those the Broken Winged Angels? Their cultivation art is too obvious.”
“Less than a hundred.”
Although less than a hundred men had been sent in, all of them were elites. They permeated the battlefield in small groups that worked together to take down large targets. Their vigor and skill took Qianye back to the time when he was just a rookie.
No demonkin expert appeared from the beginning up until the end, so there really was no suspense in this battle. In the end, Ji Tianqing said, “Let’s go back.” Soon, the airship made a slow turn and flew back to Southern Blue.
The Dark Flame headquarters wasn’t filled with the joy of victory but, instead, with the smell of gunpowder.
Song Zining was seated in the conference room, waving his fan in a calm demeanor. The aides behind him, on the other hand, looked fairly nervous. Some of them looked angry, even. That was because all the blame in the hall was targeting Song Zining.
Yan Ding was on his feet, pointing at Song Zining’s nose as he roared, “Song Zining! What insolence! Who gave you the galls to take over military warships!? This is a crime worthy of familial extermination!”
Song Zining didn’t reply. Instead, he diverted the man’s finger with his fan and said with a calm smile, “General Yan, calm down.”
Yan Ding was trembling all over. “Song Zining! Well done! Aren’t you afraid you’ll invite a calamity onto your family?”
“Oh, I’m afraid… I guess.”
There were two more parties in the room apart from Yan Ding and Song Zining’s. At this moment, one of them couldn’t help but let out a chuckle.
Everyone knew that the Song Clan couldn’t be overturned no matter how great of a sin Song Zining had committed. This was a common tradition in the empire—the Song clan would, at most, drive him out of the clan. This was a special privilege of the major clans and aristocratic families. A landowning household in this position would be exterminated.
Yan Ding was raging because he knew of this point. If it wasn’t for the knowledge that he was not the seventh young master’s match, he might’ve attacked out of anger already.
Now that he could neither win verbally nor physically, he couldn’t help but flip out. “You aristocrats are poison to the empire. The empire will never see resurgence without uprooting you!”
These words caused everyone’s expressions to transform drastically. Basically everyone here was either born of or related to nobility.
Li Kuanglan broke into a frown, seemingly about to act up, but the elder nearby stopped her. He said to Yan Ding, “Families like us have spilled immeasurable sweat and blood since the founding of the empire. The empire stands as it is today because of our efforts. How dare an ignorant scoundrel say such preposterous words!?”
Another elder rebuked, “The military is just a group of hired thugs working for the empire. How come they’re so full of themselves recently? Do they not know their place?”
Another person said gloomily, “The military wants to unroot the aristocracy? Then who else do they plan to uproot after the aristocracy is gone?”
“Is there a need to ask? Whoever sits above them, of course.”
Yan Ding was furious at first, but he was drenched in cold sweat soon afterward. These crafty old men never once mentioned his name, merely pinning all the blame on the military. If these traitorous words were to reach the empire, the big-shots of the military would never let Yan Ding off easily. The aristocracy wouldn’t even need to do anything.
At this point, Song Zining said, “I merely borrowed a couple of airships, why are you so irritated? Now they’re almost back, and I’ll pay you back if there’s any damage. You’ll also get a share of their contributions.”
Yan Ding was in an abyss of suffering at first. After seeing a way out, he immediately said with a deep snort, “If there are contributions to be gained, they’ll go to your party of course. How can this general claim them as my own?”
His expression was full of rage, but his feet took him back to his seat pretty fast. There were four parties in the conference room: Song Zining, Yan Ding, Li Kuanglan’s aristocracy, and the imperial family. The handful of people here represented the entirety of the empire’s forces in the neutral lands.
At this point, a well-groomed man from the imperial family cleared his throat. “Seventh Young Noble’s thunderous strategy does Prince Greensun’s commendation great justice, I am truly in awe. It’s just that this battle merely cleared out the surroundings a bit. The hiding demonkin powers have yet to be shaken. What is your plan here on out?”
Song Zining said without hesitation, “Attack Tidehark and take down the Great Maelstrom!”
These words shocked everyone in the hall.
The well-groomed elder from before couldn’t hold back his astonishment. “Is this a joke? How can we take down Tidehark with the forces we have?”
Song Zining replied, “The power we have at hand is indeed weaker than Tidehark’s, but it’s not as if we cannot fight. It’s not that hard to defeat the city guard, we only need to restrain the city lord, Luo Bingfeng, briefly and use diversionary tactics. At that time, Luo Bingfeng will fail without sufficient support and have no choice but to retreat.”
The old man said with a frown, “There’s too much risk involved. We know nothing about Luo Bingfeng, and how can it be easy to restrain an expert at this level? Also, judging from your plan, the dispatch and command of troops is the key to this battle. Who’s going to be in command?”
Song Zining said frankly, “Me, naturally.”
The old man frowned in silence, but Yan Ding sneered, “How will I know that you won’t send my men to their deaths? I’ve probably offended you enough at this point.”
Song Zining paid him no attention. He turned to Li Kuanglan and said, “What do you say, Young Noble Kuanglan?”
Li Kuanglan snorted expressionlessly. “Inappropriate.”
Song Zining was genuinely bewildered. He calmed himself and inquired, “What part of it isn’t appropriate?”
“It just isn’t!”
Song Zining opened his mouth but didn’t know how to continue this conversation. Judging from Li Kuanglan’s attitude, it seemed she was determined to go against him no matter what he said. Everyone, including a Li clan elder, looked at one another, unable to understand Li Kuanglan’s intention.
“Young Noble Kuanglan, this matter is extremely important, have we not already discussed this?” Song Zining’s words elicited a dissatisfied snort from Yan Ding. The old man from the imperial family looked pensive. Apparently, Song Zining and the Li family had already agreed to something secretly; it was just that no one knew how wide its scope was. For some reason, though, Li Kuanglan was now going against the agreement.
The Li family elder coughed. “Young Master, since you say it’s inappropriate, why not explain why it is so. The seventh young noble and our Li family share a good relationship. He’s offered us much help, and the empress has nothing but praise for him.”
Who would’ve thought Li Kianglan would shoot to her feet and shout, “It’s simply inappropriate. Continue the discussion if you’re willing, no need to seek me out.”
With that, she picked up her sword and left.
Song Zining was stunned, and all the aristocratic elders seemed puzzled. The Li family elder seemed more experienced in such matters. He immediately stepped in to smooth things over, saying, “Young Noble Kuanglan has important matters to attend to. Let us continue the discussion on our own.”
Although Li Kuanglan enjoyed the highest status among the Li family members in the neutral lands, she was focused on the martial path and had little interest in trivial matters. Her presence here was more of a symbol than anything. This Li family elder was the one doing the actual administration. After the initial surprise following Li Kuanglan’s departure, the discussion simply went on like before.
As for her temper, everyone was clever enough not to ask.
Yan Ding said unceremoniously, “Continue the discussion, I’ll be taking my leave first.”
Song Zining said with a smile, “Why the rush? The accomplishments for winning this bitter fight will be significant. No share will be too small.”
Yan Ding’s expression was disdainful, but his feet couldn’t move away.
The aristocracy and the imperial family looked indifferent. At this moment, everyone understood that the warships Song Zining had somehow snatched from Yan Ding’s hands would no longer return. Hence, the general’s presence in the battle for Tidehark City wasn’t that important. The only difference would be the lack of a rank-sixteen expert. The key to this battle was to restrain Luo Bingfeng, a fight close to one at the heavenly monarch realm.
However, Song Zining’s words contained certain implications—he was willing to share contributions with Yan Ding. Some of the elders nodded in secret, realizing that this youngster was indeed experienced and had great potential. Unknowingly, Song Zining’s evaluation had risen once again.
Only those truly familiar with Song Zining would know that the seventh young master’s thoughts were almost a mystery despite the smile on his face.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
TL: Legion ED: Moxie