Qianye was stunned by Caroline’s sharpness. He gave her a nod but didn’t explain further. This was related to the core control rights to the dragonship; the fewer people who knew this, the better. The girl was smart enough, so there wasn’t really a need to explain further.
Caroline also understood this. She stopped asking questions and fell into her own contemplation.
The Martyr’s Palace flew through the void and eventually arrived in the Eastern Sea. Qianye brought Caroline off the airship and the duo flew toward Southern Blue. The palace remained on standby in the void.
Not long before Qianye’s return, a commotion broke out in Southern Blue. Many people ran out onto the streets and looked up at the sky.
A massive shadow was washing over the city as an airship of unprecedented size descended upon it.
The airship was hundreds of meters long, akin to a gigantic cargo vessel, but that kind of beauty, elegance, and stable cruising ability wasn’t something a cargo ship could possess. The long ballistae poking out from the airship’s bow and stern were killer weapons that the neutral lands had never seen.
It wasn’t just the bow and stern; there were rows upon rows of side-cannon ports that could deliver terrifying firepower.
Even people who had no idea at all about airship battles would be shocked by such a sinister-looking monstrosity. It wasn’t just peerless in the neutral lands—few could ever hope to match it even in the Evernight world.
Under the eyes of everyone, the giant ship slowly descended to Dark Flame’s airship port. The port had been expanded to twice its size and many of the facilities had been moved away, but even then, the parked airship looked rather cramped.
Many people wanted to run over to watch the liveliness, but the mercenaries of Dark Flame had long since received orders to seal off the paths leading to the airship port. Three guard perimeters were more than enough to block everyone out of the street.
This perimeter wasn’t enough to block out true experts, but none of the more powerful people would provoke Qianye and Song Zining just to watch the liveliness.
The giant airship was painted in the classic dark grey of Imperial warships. All they did was erase the vessel name.
The cabin doors opened slowly, and a row of Imperials—led by a lieutenant general—walked down from the vessel.
Qianye and Song Zining were already waiting on the airship port. The lieutenant general said with a bow, “Bao Yantu of the Great Qin Empire is here for the handover!”
Song Zining returned the bow. “There should be five more corvettes, right?”
Bao Yantu said, “Those ordinary airships can’t catch up to this warship, but they should be here soon.”
He pointed at the sky, bringing to attention a number of faintly discernible dots over the horizon. They eventually grew clearer and bigger until everyone could see the airships flying toward Southern Blue.
The shaky airships flew far less elegantly than the cruiser, but they were much better than the centuries-old antiques available in the neutral lands. The corvettes were small, but they were slower and less agile compared to the landed cruiser. No wonder Bao Yantu wasn’t too impressed.
Song Zining was familiar with the various warship models of the Empire. Just by looking at their external appearance and speed, he could tell that these five corvettes were the primary models in the Empire’s employ. These warships had been in service for less than three decades, and could be considered the backbone of the armed forces. They might not be able to offer the highest performance, but they were reliable, well-documented in battle, and replacement parts were easy to come by. One could see just how sincere the Empire was this time.
Bao Yantu said, “All six airships are here. The cargo fleet carrying the cannons and ammunition will arrive one day later. The blueprints you wanted are in this… patrol ship’s hold. Please check and receive.”
Song Zining nodded. The technician team he had prepared boarded the ship to perform the takeover procedures. At Bao Yantu’s signal, a group of burly men in civilian clothing ran over and formed a square behind him.
Bao Yantu said, “These are old veterans who have served in the army as non-commissioned officers for many years. Each of them specializes in different mechanical fields. They’ve left military service and have volunteered to work in the neutral lands, a small gift from General Lan.”
Non-commissioned officers were a special rank in the army. These people might not be strong, or have any hope of becoming champions, but they were specialists in certain fields. Their role was especially important in the Imperial fleet, where they enjoyed a salary comparable to a general’s.
With the dozen or so non-commissioned officers, Qianye and Song Zining would have an easier time controlling these warships, especially the cruiser. Lan Xincheng’s present was rather significant.
Naturally, Qianye and Song Zining didn’t refuse. They ordered some men to lead these officers away and settle them in.
The corvettes had all landed while they were speaking. After the handover was completed, Bao Yantu said, “Sires, I’m not sure if it’s appropriate, but I have something I wanted to say. If you’re trying to build an airship fleet, the current combination isn’t really the best. The Empire has only three of these cutting-edge cruisers. They’re more suited to solo combat or in a conjunction with high-speed destroyers. These corvettes are too old to keep up.”
Song Zining laughed. “The military won’t give me high-speed destroyers even if I wanted them!”
Bao Yantu was momentarily stunned, but his expression proved that he had come to understand the reason. High-speed, long-distance destroyers were the Empire’s newest model, and only two have been produced thus far. Naturally, they wouldn’t hand them over to the neutral lands. Destroyers one grade below that made up the core fighting force of the Empire’s void fleet. Even the top clans could only get their hands on a few. There was really no telling if the military would say yes or no if Song Zining were to demand them.
Hence, Song Zining’s demand for the five corvettes was just a move to expand his own military power in the name of war. However, Bao Yantu wasn’t stupid enough to ask. “Since the handover has been completed, it’s time for me to go. Someone will deliver the next combat plan.”
Qianye and Song Zining saw Bao Yantu off as he boarded a corvette and left.
The seventh young master rubbed his chin, saying, “There are still a lot of honest soldiers in the Empire.”
Qianye didn’t say anything. The Great Qin had risen from the mud and stood tall for a thousand years, and even today, it was showing no signs of slowing down. All of that was possible because countless Imperial citizens and nobility had wrested these lands from the hands of the dark races. Unfortunately, there was rarely any certainty at the intersection of Evernight and daybreak—there was a lot of static in the path ahead for the human race.
With Bao Yantu gone, Dark Flame became busy at every level. There were a lot of inspections, maintenance, and repairs, in addition to protecting the airships against dark race assault.
Qianye and Song Zining returned to the command center and stood silently in front of the void continent map.
Moments later, Song Zining said, “Qianye, did you notice anything wrong with the plan?”
Qianye shook his head. “I can’t see anything wrong, and the risks are within normal range, but I have a feeling something’s not quite right.”
Song Zining frowned. “I feel the same, but I can’t put my finger on it. We’ll have to hold out behind enemy lines. The situation looks dangerous, but it’s not that bad in practice. If we can take hold of the advantage in the void, a steady stream of reinforcements will arrive to help us. Besides, we have the advantage of mobility and Zhao Jundu will be in charge of the central army. He knows your location, so he’s sure to charge over and meet up with you. The man isn’t dumb, he’s one to kill on the spot if the Empire plays tricks with the provided troops.”
“How about Princess Haimi?”
“The possibility is even smaller? The Eldest Princess was a legendary figure back in the year, even more famous than Princess Gaoyi.”
“Will we lose the battle?” Qianye asked after some thought.
Song Zining shook his head. “It’s fine even if we lose, we were already losing anyway. But if everything goes according to Marshal Lin’s plan, we might have a chance at victory.”
Qianye said, “Then it’s no use thinking about it.”
“Too bad I can’t use divination…”
Qianye was shocked out of his wits. “Don’t court death! You definitely must not use divination for this battle!”
The Empire had mobilized in full force for this war, and the Evernight side would surely do the same. With so many elite experts involved from both sides, there was also no telling which major character would be among them. There were too many variables here. Using divination carelessly at this rank would be courting death.
After some thought, Qianye said, “Don’t use it on me, either.”
Song Zining patted Qianye’s shoulder. “Rest assured! I’d divine everyone else but not you!”
Qianye cast a suspicious glance at Song Zining. Who would’ve thought the man would listen so readily? He had always been smug when it came to divination and was never willing to lose face. Why was he so intent on avoiding him now?
There was no point in discussing more battle plans at this point, so Song Zining and Qianye decided to split up to make preparations.
The next day, the main cannon and ammunition for the airships arrived. Qianye sent a part of them to the Martyr’s Palace, increasing the legendary airship’s firepower. In its current state, the Martyr’s Palace was still far from its maximum capacity.
After several days of training, the newly assigned crew were becoming familiar with the Imperial airships. Although they couldn’t be considered proficient just yet, they were not too far off from a passing grade. There would also be an Imperial officer at each critical post, so the entire airship was appropriately organized.
At the same time, Dark Flame also recruited close to ten thousand new mercenaries and started training them. The veteran members were integrated into the newly formed squads to serve as their backbone.
More cargo airships would land in Southern Blue with each passing day. These vessels would immediately undergo remodeling and become passenger transports. The remodeling wasn’t complicated since all they needed was to barely accommodate passengers. The conditions were crude, but the mercenaries in the neutral lands had long since gotten used to extreme environments. They didn’t really complain about being too crowded since more people meant more comrades in battle.
As the dark clouds of war drifted in, the preparation-work began to speed up. The various workshops in Southern Blue ran day and night, dropping their previous orders to provide equipment and supplies for Dark Flame.
The merchants didn’t complain about it even though most products were bought on credit. They knew that war was the best way to get rich. As long as they could support Qianye and Song Zining to victory, they would reap a hundred times the profit in the future.
The neutral lands was small and the population was sparse. Everyone here longed to head out and kill their way toward a better world. The special environment here offered protection, but it was also a restraint. The Empire and Evernight couldn’t handle the neutral lands, but outside, the neutral-land airships would be destroyed in the blink of an eye.
This time, Dark Flame was doing preparations on a grand scale, for a faraway expedition. These merchants were placing their hopes of expanding into the outside market on Dark Flame.
Amidst the tension and busy preparations, the command to fight finally came from the Empire.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
TL: Legion ED: Moxie