In a corner of the City of Indomitable, there was a small, una.s.suming building under heavy protection. The guards had sealed off all the roads around it and the rooftops nearby had been outfitted with two ballistae—not even a fly could get past the blockade.
A series of off-road vehicles arrived beneath the building. One could see, from their insignias, that the people getting off from them were all important characters.
Moments later, a car painted in the colors of the military stopped in front of the small building and out of it came Wu Daoyu and another general.
That general looked around at the defensive power around them and felt somewhat astonished. He whispered as they began walking into the building, “Marshal Wu, how come the Ancestral Fortune Palace is here with such a big lineup?”
Wu Daoyu’s expression was quite unsightly. “The proof is irrefutable in this case. No matter who comes, there’s no way they can turn the tables.”
The general replied hurried, “That’s true, that’s true.” But the worry on his face was unconcealable. Clearly, he didn’t feel that things would go so easily.
The duo arrived at the second floor and was led into the parlor.
At this moment, there were eight people in the small room. They were all commanding characters from the n.o.bility stationed at Indomitable. The only families that hadn’t arrived were the Zhao and Zhang.
Wu Daoyu took his seat and snorted, “What arrogance!”
The general quickly prodded the man. Only then did Wu Daoyu realize that his criticism just now also involved the Zhang clan. Nonetheless, he only responded with a snort. The marshal had always exhibited himself as upright and frank, so he had no intention of taking back his words.
Moments later, the people from the Zhang and Zhao clans arrived. The Zhang clan was represented by a middle-aged elder who held the rank of Marquis Mountainpa.s.s, a position just right for the event. Meanwhile, the Zhao clan fielded Zhao Junhong, which rather surprised everyone present.
This Zhao clan young master was the least heard of among the four and had only started to display his brilliance in the recent years. Although his steady and capable style had garnered the recognition of many people, he was still too young and lacking in both contribution and power compared to others at the scene.
Wu Daoyu’s face was full of dissatisfaction upon seeing Zhao Junhong, but the other aristocratic families were largely unmoved. The Zhang clan elder even greeted him at the door.
After everyone was present, a well-groomed man in his thirties walked out from the interior, greeted everyone with cupped hands, and then stood to the side. Soon afterward, a man with a meticulously trimmed beard, slender brows, and a n.o.ble demeanor walked in and greeted everyone with a smile.
Astonished, everyone stood up and bowed. “Prince Rui!”
Prince Rui nodded in response and picked a seat near the periphery. He then gestured for everyone to sit down, saying, “No need for formalities. I was bored at the imperial capital, so I asked the emperor for some random errands and took this opportunity for a stroll. I’m only here to spectate today. The actual matters will be decided by Sire Sun Chao from the Ancestral Fortune Palace.”
Sun Chao bowed expressionlessly and said with a monotonous voice, “This officer is Sun Chao of the Ancestral Fortune Palace, here on orders to investigate Zhao Jundu’s alleged collusion with the vampires.”
Two people in the audience were whispering to one another. “How come the Ancestral Fortune Palace is taking action this time?”
The other person replied, “Are you dumb? Zhao Jundu is the child of Princess Gaoyi and thus has imperial blood running through his veins. It’s only right and proper for the palace to appear.”
The first person finally understood, and then fell into contemplation.
The Ancestral Fortune Palace had always been a n.o.ble existence. They only paid attention to matters related to the imperial family, and ordinary ministers might never even see people from the palace in their lifetime.
Zhao Jundu was indeed the son of a princess, but his imperial bloodline was neither too strong nor weak. Sun Chao, on the other hand, looked like a man with a heart made of steel and stone. a.s.signing such a person to handle this matter was indeed very thought-provoking.
The audience returned to their seats, each with their own thoughts. Most of them had a.s.sumed a neutral stance before coming here, prepared to watch the debate between the military and the Zhao clan. To be precise, it was a contest between the Zhao clan and the minister of the right.
However, the appearance of the Ancestral Fortune Palace and Prince Rui himself made things a lot more interesting. Those at the scene began thinking whether they should take sides.
Prince Rui glanced at Zhao Junhong and nodded with a smile. This action put a new thought in the minds of many spectators.
Wu Daoyu wasn’t willing to let the situation develop toward his own disadvantage. He immediately began speaking, “Qianye is known as a human but is, in truth, a vampire. This evidence is irrefutable. Zhao Jundu had accepted Qianye into his secondary residence for a long time now. With the Zhao clan’s power, how can they not know that a vampire had been hiding amongst them? What is this if not a collusion!? According to the imperial law, those who collude with the vampires are common enemies and should be put to death. It’ll be difficult to placate the ma.s.ses without executing Zhao Jundu.”
These words were powerful and resonating, but all the aristocratic families remained expressionless, almost as though they were all deaf.
Zhao Junhong smiled faintly. “Our Zhao clan has pioneered new land for the empire and killed countless enemies. How many of our ancestors have died on the battlefield? If everyone starts making groundless accusations about negligible matters and speak without thinking, how can there be any loyal subjects left? I, on the other hand, want to ask Marshal Wu what he was doing at that time?”
Wu Daoyu jumped up from his seat. “A mere junior dares dishonor me? You’re courting death!”
With that, he raised his right palm and made to chop down. With the marshal’s strength, Zhao Junhong would have no power to resist if the attack were to land on him. Nonetheless, the Zhao clan young master seemed to be devoid of all fear. Throughout the entire process, he merely gazed at Wu Daoyu with a mocking smile.
Zhao Junhong’s perseverance seemed to have surprised the old man. Killing intent emerged suddenly in his eyes as he chopped down with his palm.
The moment his right hand moved, all members of the n.o.bility were astonished. Who would’ve thought the man would actually take action at such a time? Even those with a mind to interfere were caught off-guard.
Zhao Jundu was as calm as ever and seemed to have no intention of evading.
Wu Daoyu’s palm had only reached midway when the berserk origin power swept toward Zhao Junhong. The preceding palm winds were like sharp blades which cut through his billowing robe. A number of people shot up from their seats, unable to sit still.
The vicinity turned calm all of a sudden. Wu Daoyu quickly discovered that a barrier as gentle as flowing water had appeared in his way, and it felt like his wrist was being dragged away by a certain hand. The energy from his furious hack had actually disappeared without a trace.
The malice in Wu Daoyu’s heart vanished when he turned around and saw Prince Rui’s hand in the air—it was he who had pressed down the palm strike. This caused Wu Daoyu to become apprehensive.
Prince Rui had no grand ambitions. He had always lived a poetic life of freedom and was always kind to everyone he ever met. That was why few people were ever fearful of his name. However, Wu Daoyu realized from this exchange that the other party possessed astonis.h.i.+ng combat strength.
Now that the prince had taken action, Wu Daoyu knew that it was inappropriate of him to get entangled in this matter. He snorted loudly and said, “This marshal will sell Prince Rui a favor this time, but there will be no forgiveness if any more juniors dare to speak nonsense!”
Zhao Junhong, however, wasn’t about to give the man the opportunity to extricate himself. He stood up, brushed his torn robes, and said to Sun Chao, “My mother is Imperial Princess Gaoyi and hence I am also of imperial blood. When was a landowning household member ever allowed to a.s.sault an imperial descendant? Sir Sun, please rule on this!”
Wu Daoyu was furious upon hearing the words imperial descendant. He stood up once more to retort, but Sun Chao spoke up at this point, “This official is here on imperial orders, not to watch a childish play. If anyone else dares to attack in front of me, there is no longer a need to continue today’s discussion.”
The moment he said these words, many people trembled and felt their eyes ringing.
Wu Daoyu was shocked. Just from the origin power contained within these words, he knew that Sun Chao was not far from the divine champion realm. Looking again at his current age and status, his future was destined to be boundless. There really was no need to offend such a person at this moment. Besides, there was also Prince Rui overseeing the overall situation. Wu Daoyu cursed inwardly at the thought of this. Not to mention forcing a verdict, it would be difficult for him to even suppress the other party.
Zhao Junhong smiled coldly. “Why is Marshal Wu in such a rush to kill me? Don’t tell me you have a guilty conscience?”
Frowning deeply, the man roared, “This marshal has nothing to feel guilty about!”
Zhao Junhong suddenly raised his voice. “Then how will you explain the many vampire girls hidden in Marshal Wu’s residence!? How long have you been colluding with the vampires!?”
Caught off-guard, Wu Daoyu said in desperation, “Nonsense! Which residence doesn’t have vampire slaves and servants?”
After blurting out these words, the old marshal immediately realized he had made a mistake. Keeping vampire and demonkin girls was indeed a general trend throughout the empire and it was true that many households did have them. But, how could it be brought up in public?
As expected, the other aristocratic families wore una.s.sociated expressions, and some of them even moved their chairs away from Wu Daoyu.
Sun Chao remained expressionless all the while. He was just about to speak when a loud explosion arrived from outside the window and the entire building trembled slightly.
Everyone here was an expert. Someone immediately said, “Ninety kilometers, Northwest!”
An explosion arriving from ninety kilometers away meant that there were true experts doing battle.
Wu Daoyu’s expression changed all of a sudden and was just about to get up but ultimately decided to sit back down. His little actions, nonetheless, couldn’t quite escape the eyes of the ma.s.ses.
Sun Chao’s expression sank. “Indomitable is the last bastion of the empire. How did we let the enemy beat us to this place? Who’s in charge of the area?”
Many people revealed peculiar expressions at this point—Wu Daoyu’s countenance was dark and Zhao Junhong snorted coldly with his eyes closed. In the end, Sun Chao turned to the Zhang clan elder with a frown. “Brother Zhang, can you tell me?”
The Zhang clan elder returned the greeting and said calmly, “This place was, at first, General Jundu’s defense sector. After the general was detained for the hearing, the imperial military dispatched troops to take over the defensive duties. That battlefront was two hundred kilometers away at first, but the dark races have launched a furious a.s.sault in the last seven days and pushed our forces to their current position.
Wu Daoyu could no longer endure. “The dark races are only attacking my sector, completely ignoring the nearby Zhao clan strongholds. How could this happen if the Zhao clan isn’t colluding with the enemy?”
Zhao Junhong sneered, “Have you no shame calling yourself an ex-marshal? Jundu’s defensive line is naturally the most dangerous and pressured land. My fourth brother never lost a single inch of land when he was in charge. How come you’ve lost over a hundred kilometers of territory in a single week? According to what you’re saying, defending one’s post is treason and being pushed back is justice? This brings us to ask, Marshal Wu, how many times have you been beaten back and how many times have our Zhao clan defended our posts?”
At this point, Zhao Junhong paused momentarily, and then rebuked with a wave of his sleeve, “Such an incapable person holding an important position and biting everyone around instead of fighting the enemy. What a bitter disappointment to all of the n.o.bility!”
Wu Daoyu glanced about and saw all the commanders of the aristocratic families looking at him with unusual expressions. As someone born to a landowning household, it was inevitable that he would think somewhat highly of himself after killing his way to his current position, his methods mostly fierce and cruel. He had also acc.u.mulated enmity with some of the aristocracy and naturally retaliated in kind after reaching a powerful position.
He had never imagined that Zhao Junhong would grasp and attack a single faux pas of his, going so far as to drag all of the aristocratic families into this.
After a moment of back and forth debates, Wu Daoyu actually fell to a disadvantage. Not only was Zhao Junhong’s logic watertight, but he would also launch surprise attacks from time to time, causing great embarra.s.sment for the old marshal.
All the representatives here were scheming people with deep foresight. After hearing Zhao Junhong’s earlier words, it was only natural that they didn’t look favorably upon Wu Daoyu. But that was the extent of it—stirring up these muddy waters with just a few words wasn’t all that easy. After listening on, however, their eyes began to glow, realizing that there was actually such a talented person in the Zhao clan in addition to Zhao Jundu.
As someone destined to become the next clan lord, Zhao Jundu was indeed too high of a starting point. Most of the aristocratic families simply didn’t have a suitable marriage candidate for him. That was not the case for Zhao Junhong. His position would grow increasingly subtle the more talented he was, and all aristocratic scions knew this. As such, many people began aiming to recruit him as a son-in-law.
The people at the scene had been fighting shoulder-to-shoulder for quite some time, and this prolonged a.s.sociation allowed them to understand quite a lot about one another. A single glance was enough to tell what the other party was thinking. All parties were lost in their own thoughts and actually tossed the present case to the back of their minds.
To them, the current case was nothing more than a farce.
Qianye’s origins were unknown, yet he was able to receive much attention from a heaven-bestowed genius like Zhao Jundu. Just when Qianye’s fame was at its zenith, the military found out that he had a vampire lover and he himself revealed his own ident.i.ty during the chase. The former half of the story was somewhat acceptable, but the wild accusations against the Zhao clan that followed were so full of loopholes that one could hardly stand to watch. Not knowing which clan’s scheme this matter was, even the aristocratic families who wanted to speak up didn’t know where to start.
As such, the important characters here weren’t interested in the process at all. They were merely waiting for the outcome of the wrestle between the Zhao clan and the power that had perpetrated this. The potential engagement, however, would mean an alliance. That was an important core strategy for the family that couldn’t be handled negligently.