Volume 6 – Sorrow of a Silent Parting (471 – 683)
Chapter 566: Ceremony (Part 2)
Zhang Boqian didn’t say much to Bai Aotu even though she was first place—the difference in treatment was clear. Moreover, the azure energy which had shot out from Zhao Jundu was the legendary Extreme Violet Yields Azure. He was even one level higher than Bai Aotu in terms of origin power purity.
The audience offered their congratulations upon seeing Zhao Jundu receive Zhang Boqian’s favor. Zhao Xuanji calmly returned the gesture without any excessive delight. This caused Bai Songnian’s smile to turn a bit unnatural.
Everyone began noticing that the two people activating their aura in front of Zhang Boqian was no coincidence. It was likely a public test from Prince Greensun.
The recipients would naturally feel Zhang Boqian’s might when standing in front of him. Dealing with such a power was reliant not only on one’s origin power cultivation but also his talents. This so-called talent wasn’t an intangible topic of discussion—it involved one’s origin power attribute, purity, and various innate abilities. One’s cultivation and future potential would be forced out by the heavenly monarch’s might. There was simply no way to fake it.
After Zhao Jundu had returned to his seat, people began paying more attention to the recipients that would come afterward. There were over a hundred candidates this time, but no more than twenty would go on stage to receive the rewards.
Zhang Boqian shot the list a glance and said with a constant expression, “Third place, Zhao clan’s Qianye. Second-class Merit.”
The entire scene fell silent for a moment, and then broke into an uproar. No one had imagined that the third place would also come from the Zhao clan, much less a rank-ten champion.
All those paying attention to the rising stars of the empire would know how Qianye had risen to fame during the bloody battle, but when all was said and done, he was only rank ten. His feats made sense under the limitations of the Iron Curtain, but it was already fortunate enough for him to return alive from Giant’s Repose—how could he have made so many contributions?
In battles throughout history with a focus on individual fighting power—like the Iron Curtain battle and Giant’s Repose exploration—the lowest rank qualifying for receiving a reward on stage was usually twelve.
After all, the so-called killing enemies above one’s level had its limits. One capable of killing an enemy three levels higher could be considered a genius among geniuses. For instance, Zhao Jundu’s domain during the final battle was able to restrain a rank-seventeen mighty marquis. This was enough to become a legend.
Moreover, there were no shortcuts to life and death on the battlefield. No matter how talented a person or how profound his combat arts were, it was impossible to last long without enough origin power. Even the chances of running away were slim. Qianye’s reward was justifiable if it was only for the bloody battle, but it wasn’t at all possible after adding in the exploration of Giant’s Repose and the final battle.
But not only was Qianye invited onto the stage, he was also ranked third.
The empire’s second-class merit required one to kill a marquis. As a rank-ten champion, it was naturally impossible for Qianye to do that. This meant that he had accumulated enough contribution points just like Zhao Jundu. The rank of enemies he could kill was even lower than Zhao Jundu’s. It must’ve been a terrifying number of kills.
A certain person’s countenance shifted after performing a detailed calculation. Some others recalled that Qianye might’ve obtained something in Giant’s Repose. Whether it was obtaining an ancient essence fragment or killing a Sky Demon avatar, people simply couldn’t believe it. Even if everything could be attributed to luck, that, in and of itself, was also one of his strengths.
Qianye’s heart couldn’t help but skip a few beats even though it wasn’t the first time he had come before Zhang Boqian. At this moment, Prince Greensun’s gaze was deep, clear, and unexpectedly mild. However, Qianye felt as though he were completely naked and was being seen through from inside out—it was inexplicably uncomfortable.
Soon, just like Bai Aotu and Zhao Jundu, Qianye felt the invisible pressure around Zhang Boqian. It was even more pronounced than his first meeting with the marshal. He felt the pressure on his body growing heavier and heavier until all of his bones were creaking and groaning. In the blink of an eye, his blood was surging, and his face was flushed red—he was coming close to coughing up blood.
Unexpectedly, the darkness power deep within Qianye’s body couldn’t move in the least. It was as though they were terrified by Zhang Boqian’s vigor. Both the dark golden blood energy and the Book of Darkness remained dormant, and even his blood core was in a state of deathly stillness.
In his astonishment, Qianye didn’t know whether he should be celebrating his escape from being found out. But if this were to continue, he would very likely collapse under the might of this heavenly monarch. It was at this moment that the origin vortex in his chest sped up its rotation, and the countless crystalline granules therein dissolved into the stagnant origin tides.
Qianye trembled as his origin power began to boil, and it felt as though his face and body were being branded. His body was soon covered from head to toe in scarlet origin fire, and within the blaze were specks of pulsing golden starlight.
“Venus Dawn!” someone gasped.
Bai Songnian glanced at Zhao Xuanji with an odd expression, but the latter’s countenance was as still as an old well. Even Bai Songnian was reacting in this manner, to speak nothing of the others who were seeing this for the first time. Everyone felt that their horizons had been broadened, and that this trip wasn’t a waste.
It was no secret that Qianye possessed Venus Dawn. It was also because of this that the Zhao clan had given him such preferential treatment. But hearing of it was one matter, and seeing it personally was another entirely. Only after witnessing the scene with their own eyes did the masses acknowledge Qianye’s talents and potential.
At this point, the top-three awards had already been decided. Although the Zhao clan hadn’t taken the top position, it had occupied both second and third places. Moreover, both the recipients had displayed outstanding talents that were even superior to Bai Aotu’s by a small margin. It could be said that the Zhao clan had still suppressed the Bai clan in this fierce contest.
Zhang Boqian’s eyes rested on Qianye for quite some time. He nodded moments later and said, “Not bad, but you have to try harder in the future. You must know that origin power is the source of myriad power. Being too low is never a good thing.”
These, too, were words of encouragement. They were far off from the ones Zhao Jundu had received, but they could be considered favorable compared to Bai Aotu’s. To be able to converse with Zhang Boqian, even if he was just stating Qianye’s shortcomings, was proof of the latter’s extraordinary qualities. It could be said that Qianye had taken half a step past the threshold of a divine champion.
A genius with great potential who was even younger than Zhao Jundu! Moreover, Qianye was reportedly a member of Zhao Jundu’s secondary residence, but he never moved into the clan. This meant that he was still an external general who wasn’t tied permanently to the Zhao clan.
The major characters of the aristocratic families began shooting sparks from their eyes. Even if Qianye couldn’t become a divine champion in the future, he was enough to become the biggest fighting force in their clans.
Most of them began calculating what kind of methods they should employ and what kind of investments they should make in order to make Qianye switch allegiances. The Zhao clan lord’s daughters would never marry into a landowning household, much less a civilian. This was a tradition people had always renounced. But this gave the other aristocratic families some space to maneuver.
However, not everyone had thoughts of appreciation. There were some who had lowered their eyes in order to hide their killing intent. Despite all that, Zhao Xuanji remained calm as though he couldn’t sense the undercurrents flowing all around him.
Qianye received the jade token and noticed that it was a little bit smaller than the first-class merit.
After him, seventeen other people ascended the stage one by one to receive the award. It was just that Zhang Boqian said nothing much to them—everyone was told to serve the empire better in the future.
Twenty awards had been given out after a while.
Zhang Boqian looked about and said in a deep voice, “The empire had stood for thousands of years and fought countless battles. Our forebears had fought the dark races for every inch of the four continents. There were seven major clans during the empire’s founding and nine at its most prosperous era, but today, we’re left with only four. The path of the strong is never constant. The rewards today will become the foundation of tomorrow. I hope everyone can rely on these rewards to pioneer new territory and become nobility!”
The entire army felt its blood boiling after hearing Zhang Boqian say these words. The rallying cheers spread out like a tsunami and echoed throughout the lands of Evernight.
The Zhao clan’s fame had once again shaken the empire during this ceremony. Anyone hearing about this had to say that they were all well deserving of their name. As for the Bai clan, everyone felt that they were still inferior to the Zhao clan.
For some reason, Li Kuanglan’s name wasn’t on this list. Qianye thought about it and figured out she wasn’t willing to appear in public. The latter was proud and unrestrained but not hateful. Qianye couldn’t figure out why Zhao Jundu and Song Zining were avoiding her like the plague.
As expected of the leader of the four major clans, the Zhang clan had four people in the top-twenty, exceeding the Zhao both in number and points.
This list was a vague display of the strength of each clan and family. The Zhang and Zhao clans were still able to look down on the world, followed closely by the Bai clan. The Song clan’s weakness was exceptionally pronounced. Only one made it onto the stage at the end of the list. Moreover, that person was a son-in-law from a side branch and not of lineal descent.
As for Song Zining, he didn’t enter Giant’s Repose during the exploration, and later on, he was mostly handling military affairs at the command center. Although there was surely a reward for him, he gained no fame in terms of individual contributions. Those who had seen the seventh young noble on the front lines found it to be a pity. However, with Song Zining’s attainments in the divination arts, it wasn’t impossible for him to be promoted via other means.
After the conferment, Zhang Boqian issued a command, ordering the entire army to retreat from Evernight Continent over the next three days. The army was to return to the mainland, while the aristocratic private armies would resume their former posts. With that, the entire army became busy as the soldiers began packing up all the armaments and camping equipment. The activity never stopped from dawn to dusk. It was a proverbial scene of weapons being stowed away and horses, set free.
Qianye remained alone in his tent for an entire day. He held the jade token in his hand with firmly knitted brows.
Song Zining had revealed that the battle at Giant’s Repose was only the prologue to the battle of national fate. The campaign for the flying continent was the true battle. This caused Qianye to feel restless.
This so-called battle of national fate would be on a completely different scale compared to the limited battles from before. Just like their assault on the Evernight main camp this time, rolling steel would flow as the great army moved. There was no individual action here. One could only move forward continuously until death or exhaustion. With Qianye’s current rank, it was too early for him to rampage through the battlefield—even Zhao Jundu could barely count as capable.
Anything could happen in the chaos of the army, and even a hero might be done in by a nameless enemy grunt. It was just that Qianye needed to accumulate contribution points, and there was no better opportunity than this. He became determined at the thought of this and immediately summoned a guard to accompany him to the command center.