“Of course, the Wolf King is no idiot. He knows what he should do.”
“Is there no way to bring him to our side? I mean, as a true ally.”
Qianye shook his head. “No. We still haven’t made clear what his true intentions are, or even why he appeared in the neutral lands. An alliance under such circumstances is extremely risky. I still don’t trust him even now.”
Caroline smiled. “Then how can you trust me? You even gave me partial control over the Martyr’s Palace.”
Qianye didn’t know how to reply for the moment. He tried to respond vaguely and get away with it. Of course, there were a lot of reasons—the war on the void continent, Caroline risking injuries to defend the Martyr’s Palace, etc. She had spared no effort on her part, and comrades who had fought through life and death were naturally dependable allies.
However, Qianye felt a bit guilty even as he was saying these things. He would be rather dumb if he still hadn’t noticed Caroline’s feelings at this point. It was just that he would rather keep this layer of mist undispersed, and certain things, unrevealed.
A flash of disappointment flickered through Caroline’s eyes. She then said in a more spirited manner, “It’s a good thing that you’re willing to trust me. How about this? Let’s head back to Thunderfrost Temple and recruit more people to help. I think I can split two-thirds of the temple guard squad for our operation.”
“Nothing can be better!” Qianye said, delighted.
The members of the temple guard were all attendants who had to be at the level of a human champion to be assigned to the role. They were the result of the temple’s many years of accumulation, the elites of their clan. At this point, there were only a dozen or so members in the temple guard. If Caroline was going to bring two-thirds of them, this meant that Qianye would have around seven or eight champion-rank experts to aid him.
Qianye seemingly thought of something as he glanced toward the airship’s bow. He patted the ballista cannon beside him and said, “Remove this.”
The ballista was ten meters long. The ammunition in it was also several meters in length and looked extremely powerful. One could tell at a glance that this was a cruiser grade main cannon. Yet, it bounced away with a casual slap and fell with a muffled thump. This certainly wasn’t the sound of metal; it sounded like wood instead.
A number of warriors arrived to carry the giant ballista away toward the crane. Their steps were light and unlabored. The ballista cannon’s bottom part was actually covered in wood patterns. Turns out, their so-called main-cannons were models carved from wood.
“The Wolf King will see it if you remove them now,” Caroline reminded him.
Qianye smiled. “That’s the point.”
Meanwhile, Qianye was ordering the crew to remove the dummies one after the other.
Within the Totemic Castle, the Wolf King had just sat down when he heard hurried footsteps in the hall. A young shaman pushed open the door and entered, saying, “Great Chief, you had best come and take a look.”
Seeing the shaman so anxious, the Wolf King chose not to blame him for the lack of manners, and only followed him to the main tower of the castle. Gazing up, he saw the Martyr’s Palace currently in ascent. With his eyesight, the Wolf King naturally saw that the ballista cannons on the side had disappeared. Someone of his intellect could easily put two and two together.
In the blink of an eye, most of the cannon ports became empty. There used to be dozens of ballista cannons in varying sizes, half of them representing terrible cruiser-grade firepower. Now, only a single cruiser and five destroyer main cannons were left. It was even less than the odd number from the previous count.
The werewolves on the ground looked ashen. Who wouldn’t see that they had been tricked?
The shaman clenched his jaws in hatred. “You actually dared lie to us! Great Chief, we can’t let this be. No matter what requests he made, we should just go ahead and uproot Southern Blue. We’ll see what tricks he has up his sleeve then.”
The Wolf King broke into sudden laughter after some thought. “Don’t mind him, we’ll stick to the arrangement we had before. Relay the message to all our troops, no one is to touch Southern Blue from now on. It’s settled!”
The werewolf shaman was stunned. “Great Chief, you saw what he did just now!”
The Wolf King said indifferently, “Of course, I also know that he’s doing that for me to see. So, we continue as planned.”
The shaman was baffled. Judging from the Wolf King’s reaction, not only was he not angry, but he was actually more willing to compromise now. All the shaman could do was to issue the order for now. After everything was done, he planned to visit the great shaman and seek advice. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to sleep that night.
Southern Blue became extremely busy. Be it recruitment or outfitting, everything Dark Flame did caused a big commotion that would move countless people.
On the top floor of one of Southern Blue’s taller buildings, a number of people were gathered in front of the window, looking down at the soldiers training on the drill grounds.
Dark Flame was constructed within Southern Blue, so many of its facilities were open to public sight. Song Zining didn’t consider the drill grounds very important, so he made no special effort to cover it up.
Roughly three thousand soldiers were currently training in groups. The drill grounds wasn’t big, and a couple thousand men looked rather cramped in there. There were thousands of new recruits to the side who had finished their initial training and were waiting to register their new gear.
There were powerful binoculars on the building, and currently, two elders had their eyes pressed against one each. The scopes were clear enough to see the weapon and equipment models being passed out to the new recruits.
Using origin power to bolster vision was good and all, but that would easily attract the attention of the other party’s experts. Hence, it was still better and safer to use such equipment during times of peace. One could see just how careful these people were.
After gazing out for a good while, the two old men put down their binoculars and, glancing at one another, descended with the group in tow. They entered a sealed chamber and heaved a sigh of relief only after locking the door. The first elder said, “Brother Liu, what do you think?”
The other old man fell into deep thought. Only after a good while did he say, “Dark Flame’s outfit for the new recruits consists of more common weapons, barely premium goods. From what I know, they’re somewhat inferior to the Empire’s main army corps. It’s not like the bigger mercenary groups in the neutral lands can’t afford such equipment. To be frank, Dark Flame’s fifty thousand new recruits and this batch of equipment is comparable in cost to one main army division.”
Another person picked up the conversation. “The batch of new equipment that came a couple of days ago is the real high-end stuff. According to insider information, they’re custom made weaponry for the Empire’s elite corps. It’s just that the number is rather limited, reportedly two thousand sets. Half of them have already arrived.”
The elder surnamed Liu said after some thought, “That means Qianye wants to form an elite squad like Red Scorpion and Broken-Winged Angels, with the rest remaining at the top-standard for the neutral lands.”
A number of people nodded. “That should be the case.”
They had been observing Dark Flame for a good while. Combining their findings with intelligence reports from other sources, their guess wasn’t really too far off.
Moments later, someone finally broke the silence. “What do we do now? Shall we just watch them leave for Fort Continent?”
This problem plunged the room into silence. A while later, the old man surnamed Liu said, “Looks like it’s better to lie low.”
Someone objected immediately. “Won’t he grow stronger once he gains a stable foothold on Fort Continent? We’ll have even fewer ways to deal with him then.”
Elder Liu sighed. “No one wants to watch Dark Flame grow stronger, but we don’t have a good solution. Even if we want to fight, how do we fight and what do we fight? Qianye will surely bring his entire elite force and fleet on this expedition. What do we fight? Do we launch a surprise attack just to kill some ordinary mercenaries and plunder some resources? You saw it, they can recruit tens of thousands of those soldiers in a month’s time.”
Although the group had expected such an outcome, they were still reluctant to admit it when the time came. They had never expected that Qianye would use most of his resources to build a small elite-squad while leaving the majority of the forces at the neutral lands’ standards.
One of them laughed wryly. “Since that’s the case, let’s cancel the operation.”
“We’ve been preparing tirelessly for an entire month. How can we cancel just like that?”
“What else should we do? We don’t dare to make a move when Qianye’s around, and Dark Flame has no value when he’s not. The only things of value in the city are the workshops. Do we plunder ourselves then?”
“Ningyuan Heavy Industries have factories here as well, right??”
“Those factories only process raw materials and produce simple parts. The real factories that produce mechanical components are in the Empire. The parts in stock here are only valuable in Song Zining’s hands, it’s just a pile of scrap metal to us.”
The conclusion was very clear at this point in the discussion. Elder Liu said, “The plan has been aborted. Everyone, be careful not to reveal clues in your daily operations.”
One of the men said in dissatisfaction, “The gears produced from our factory are also important components for airships, only we can produce certain models. I don’t think Dark Flame dares to offend us.”
“Who do we sell those gears to, if not for their orders?” This stifled the previous speaker’s anger.
Everyone gradually departed as the meeting dispersed on bad terms.
Several days later, Qianye had finally finished arming Dark Flame. A big transport squadron took to the skies with twelve thousand soldiers, on track to rendezvous with the fleet in the void and head toward Fort Continent.
Several high-speed airships had already set out ahead of the fleet to establish content with local assets.
Afterward, the Martyr’s Palace, the battlecruiser, and some of the faster airships took off with two thousand elite soldiers on board. The ten thousand ordinary soldiers aboard the transports and older warships would slowly catch up from behind.
According to Qianye’s plan, these ten thousand mercenaries would be used to occupy territory and maintain order. It was fine even if they were a bit late.
Within the Martyr’s Palace, Qianye was confirming the elite-squad roster repeatedly. These two thousand men were the elites of Dark Flame, made up of Whitetown veterans, Highbeard’s top mercenary warriors, and talents selected from Song Zining’s personal guard. There were also some temple guards from the Thunderfrost Temple.
The makeup of this group could be considered complicated, but there was no other way to form a group comparable to Red Scorpion and Broken-Winged Angels. They wouldn’t even have half the required manpower if they didn’t absorb elites from other sources, and that wasn’t counting for the time these elites needed to mature.