Once again, Li Chengfeng displayed his talent in talking his way out of situations. Putting on a stern expression, then smirking coldly, he said, “You Zhou clansmen are trying to diversify your sources of protection, borrowing Profound Life Sect’s power to suppress us, Spiritual Mountain Sect, therefore raising your status so you can pay less in offerings. But…”
A mocking look arose in his eyes. “You all are looking at the world of cultivators through the eyes of businessmen. Do you think you can compare offerings like common goods, driving down the price by comparing two suppliers? Have you ever considered this: would Spiritual Mountain Sect swallow such an insult, when it has to safeguard its dignity as one of the top three sects in the world?”
Chengfeng paced back and forth next to Zhou Ling and mused, “To you all, it is a matter of money! To the Spiritual Mountain Sect, it is a grand matter of dignity! Money has a price, dignity is priceless! You can earn money if you’ve lost it, but if we lose our dignity, our name can only be washed clean with blood! Our blood, and… the blood of Tong’an City’s six great clans!”
Zhou Ling was no idiot, but she had not thought of this problem due to the difference in societal status and environmental differences. Since she was young, she only heard of how the Spiritual Mountain Sect extorted money from Tong’an City’s great clans despite the payment also being considered a protection fee and method of obtaining a golden ticket.
But… none of the families had received a single golden ticket after fifteen years, despite never missing a payment!
As a businessman, an excellent one too, how could they endure paying for something without returns?
In the beginning, they still endured it but since the emergence of the Profound Life Sect, their eyes have strayed elsewhere. Especially since the time Spiritual Mountain sent its Martial Uncles out for battle, leaving behind a weakened sect, their hearts began burning.
From their perspective, both payments were protection fees so did it matter who they paid? Now with two parties squabbling over them, they could drive the prices down!
This was a typical businessman’s mindset.
Zhou Ling was not a businesswoman but she was surrounded by businessmen. Naturally, she did not have a true outsider’s point of view. Chills went down her spine the moment Chengfeng made this point, recognising the severity of their problem.
However, as a Zhou clansman, Zhou Ling still instinctively rebutted, “If you all attack us, what would the world think of the Spiritual Mountain Sect? Can you all still call yourselves a reputable sect?”
Chengfeng chuckled. “Compared to branding, dignity and status is more important! Your clan has made an opening for other clans. Don’t you think they’ll take this opportunity to also drive prices down, maybe even leave the sect? How will other cultivation sects see us? Will they take the opportunity to attack us? You must know that the Nine Cauldron Sect from years ago revealed themselves as weak and fatigued just like that, leading to a group attack by other major sects and its eventual demise!
“That is why while to you all it might just be a matter of money, to Spiritual Mountain Sect it is so severe it could be a matter of life and death! Tell me, what is reputation in the face of death? What’s the use of anything else once you’re dead?”
Chengfeng’s monologue was only to confuse and intimidate her- some seemed to make sense while other parts were purely for intimidation purposes. Some he deduced, other parts utter nonsense.
It was completely different to Zhou Ling. She felt he made complete sense- if she might have come to the same conclusions if she changed her perspective!
Suddenly, Zhou Bo snickered, “If that is true, why would they only send so few of you? Forgive me for being blunt but you few are no match for Profound Life Sect. Furthermore, Profound Life Sect is less than fifty kilometers from Tong’an with several secret transporters across the city. If anything happens, they’ll arrive in the blink of an eye!”
Zhou Ling’s opinion was swayed once again after listening to her, eyeing Li Chengfeng suspiciously, “That’s right- based on your explanation, why didn’t they send someone more powerful here?”
He chuckled, “Because we’re still an honorable sect. Teaching Profound Life Sect a lesson and giving you a warning are our true objectives. We’re not here to inflict violence and destroy the clan upon first notice, nor are we here to declare war against the Profound Life Sect!”
Chengfeng’s explanation was logical. Zhou Ling was swayed once again. This time, Zhou Bo had no rebuttal either. Seeing Zhou Ling’s wavering expression, Chengfeng knew to strike when the iron was hot and said, “We would still have escaped even without your help tonight! If we did not get caught on purpose, how will we strike them where they are most vulnerable?”
Zhou Ling looked at him in shock. “This… this was all according to your plan?”
He smiled and said with confidence, “Why would we come to Tong’an without being prepared?”
She hesitated, then whispered, “So… what do you want me to do? Will you all let the Zhou clan go when the time comes?”
Chengfeng smiled. “Our objective is to strike the Profound Life Sect and tame Tong’an City, we don’t want to exterminate clans. As long as you all do not deliberately go against us.”
“Then what should I do?”
The corners of his lips curled upwards, revealing a twisted grin. “Tell me where the Profound Life Sect cultivators are, if they have any defense mechanisms anywhere, and where their guards patrol.”
She gasped softly in surprise, “You plan to capture them?”
His eyes darted at the cell behind him. “It would be rude not to return their warm welcome! They even built these cells just for us, we naturally cannot let their efforts go to waste!”
Zhou Ling privately heaved a sigh of relief. To her, it was fine as long as Chengfeng did not kill anyone. This way, the Zhou family still could manoeuvre between the two superpowers.
After some thought, she whispered, “Follow us then, I’ll bring you there!”
As she spoke, she gave Zhou Bo a look and the two sisters who looked nothing alike crept out.
Ouyang Nan and the rest had watched Chengfeng convince Zhou Ling to help them so quickly, even volunteering to lead the way. At this point, they almost kowtowed to him.
Zhao Xiaobao whispered, “Young Master, are we going to capture the Profound Life Sect members?”
“Capture?” Chengfeng smirked. “No, kill!”
Zhao Xiaobao gasped. “But, didn’t you say…”
Chengfeng chuckled, “At this point we can barely protect ourselves, are you still fretting over our words? Plus, the fact these Zhou businessmen dared place Profound Life Sect so close to their homes mean they must’ve had a deeply entrenched agreement profitable to them. My explanations might’ve been enough to convince an inexperienced Zhou Ling but it’ll never pass with an old fox like the Zhou patriarch! That is why if we want the Zhou clan to pay up, we must strike decisively, forcing them into submission!’
Ouyang Nan sneered, “This is great. Those useless Profound Life dogs, I cannot wait to twist their necks!”
Su You’s eyes were fixed on Chengfeng when he suddenly asked, “Junior Brother Chengfeng, last question. All of this… did you really plan for this?”
Everyone stared at him but he only smiled mysteriously. “What do you think?”