Cheng’an City, Prosperity House.
“It’s snowing, it’s snowing!”
Children screamed as they ran around on the path in front of Prosperity house. It was the first snow of the year for the north. White dots flustered down to the ground, covering the city in a layer of white.
Moderate snow was an omen for a prosperous year, plus the children’s shrieks of delight brought joy to the city. Even the adults were glad, admiring the snow happily.
However, Zhan Qisheng within the first room of Prosperity House was not happy at all. He paced uncomfortably in front of the window, even the expensive and luxurious incense lit in the room could not calm him down.
On the large bed were two of his servants. One lay unconscious after sustaining serious injury while the other was using his powers to treat him.
Zhan Qisheng stood as he watched this servant hold a mudra while the other hand hovered above the unconscious servant’s *Shanzhong meridian point. Yellow light flowed continuously from his palm into the unconscious servant’s body.
[*Note: this meridian point is the centre point between both nipples]
Zhan Qisheng raged, “Uncle Li, how is Uncle Sun? Will he live?”
He knew what while these two looked like servants, they were actually sent by his father to protect him. They were both soldiers who had gone to battle with his father for many years, each rich with experience. If anyone of them died, even if he had been chosen to enter the Spiritual Mountain Sect, his father would still punish him severely.
Who would have thought that an unknown puny boy from the northern Cheng’an City could injure this battle-hardened cultivator so severely?!
When Uncle Li heard Zhan Qisheng, he looked up but did not answer. After a while, when he was done revitalising the Qi and treating Uncle Sun, he walked over and said, “Fourth Young Master, don’t worry, he’ll be alright. He has just suffered trauma to his internal organs and requires rest.”
Zhan Qisheng heaved a sigh of relief but once his concerns were addressed, anger came. Furious, he swore, “How dare he touch the Zhan family! He will die for this!”
Uncle Li furrowed his brows slightly and his eyes darted at his master. He sighed soundlessly, explaining patiently, “Fourth Young Master, before we left, Eldest Young Master had already repeatedly reminded us to keep a low profile, we cannot…”
“Why is it always him? He’s not even the patriarch yet! Why are you so happy to listen to his orders?! What trash is the Cleansing Moon Li family anyway?! And what is Cheng’an? Anyone who dares challenge the Zhan family must pay! I want his entire family to die! This is the price to pay for offending the Zhan family!”
Uncle Li was stunned for a moment. “But… Fourth Young Master, while the Zhan family is powerful, it is only true in the northwest. We are far up north now, there is a saying that *the dragon cannot touch the native snake. Although we are powerful, we still have too many enemies after so many years, it’s best we don’t…”
[*idiom - even one of great power cannot defeat a local villain on his own turf]
Zhan Qisheng turned with a pathetic expression, “Have you thought about this?”
Uncle Li was confused. “What?”
Zhan Qisheng sneered. “If we do not respond to this at all, then everyone targeting the Zhan family will notice a problem!”
Uncle Li shuddered. “What problem?”
“If even a nameless man can bully the Zhan family without a response from us, then everyone will think… that the Zhan family is collapsing!”
It sounded unreasonable, even a stretch at best but Uncle Li understood that there was an undisputable rule in this world: to pay for blood with blood!
The Zhan family could survive in the dangerous environment of the northwest only because of their ruthless iron grip!
When Marquis Zhan was anointed, the emperor had showered him with unfathomable riches for his efforts. Since the Daqi empire did not crown kings of different surnames as the emperor, he was named the Champion Marquis, ranked first out of all the marquis. To control his expanding powers, the emperor rewarded him with regions that were constantly warring: the northwest Baiye, Rehe, Qishui and Da’an Counties.
Although they were four counties and they were led by their respective chiefs, these places did not have the beautiful sceneries of the east; nor the agreeable weather and prosperous food supply of the south; nor the stability and fortune of the north. All that existed in the northwest was an endless expanse of yellow sand, poor yet violent enemies, poor resources and the world’s most important prison!
The Zhan family sacrificed uncountable resources and human capital, generations after generations just to guard this place!
All because this place was ‘Heaven’s Corner’, containing the seal on the demon realm, also a connection to the ‘Nine Hells’ and the ‘Immortal Pass’ that connected this realm to the immortal realm!
Almost yearly, magical beasts or other powerful enemies would escape, sometimes even arrogant cultivators forcing themselves into the immortal realm. This was enough for the Zhan family to have sacrificed at least a thousand youths on the battlefield!
That was also why the Zhan family developed ruthless warring temperaments: never surrender, never retreat, never admit defeat! Even if there was only one person left, he must fight until he bled his last drop of blood to defeat the enemy. They never asked for the reason for a fight!
Zhan Qisheng’s words sent Uncle Li into deep thought. As an old advisor and soldier for the Zhan family, he was very familiar with their personalities.
However, the Champion Marquis had sent these two advisors because he knew of his son’s arrogant manner. He needed two matured men to suppress his son so he would not cause trouble.
But what was to come, would come!
They had been so careful along the journey to the foot of the Spiritual Mountain Sect, yet this Fourth Young Master still managed to get himself into trouble in the end!
Uncle Li was silent for a moment, then said, “I don’t know what technique this Li gentleman trains, I can’t believe he was not afraid of the Zhan spells. I could act now, and even if I win, I cannot stay here to watch over Fourth Young Master at the same time. And if it affects his selection results, then it would mean ruining the plan… the Marquis’ plan!”
Zhan Qisheng stared at him. After a while, he suddenly looked towards a small animal cage. He laughed coldly when he saw a bubbly squirrel jumping inside. “Uncle Li, you must be getting old! Have you forgotten something?”
Uncle Li’s face changed and blurted, “No! Releasing magical beasts is a major crime! And framing someone else for this crime is definitely a death penalty! Plus, they now know that we have enmity with the Li family. If the Li family was killed by a magical beast, the entire world will suspect the Zhan family! Do not do this!”
Zhan Qisheng was furious. He was about to yell when a voice came, “But if the Li family coincidentally meets a wild magical beast from the forest?”
Uncle Li’s face changed as he lifted an arm. Yellow sand flowed like streaks of venomous snakes, circling around his body and ready to swallow his enemy upon command.
Zhan Qisheng roared, “Who dares eavesdrop outside our door?!”
The door opened with a creak. Zhang Junheng was clad in casual clothing, smiling as he stood at the door.
“Who are you?!” yelled Zhan Qisheng.
Uncle Li regarded the newcomer and asked cautiously, “Are you the prefecture chief, Sir Zhang?”
Zhang Junheng greeted them. “Yes, I am.”
Uncle Li quickly bowed. “Apologies for not knowing you were visiting us, Prefecture Chief. I am Li Lianhai.”
Zhang Junheng chuckled and turned to instruct his two guards. “Do not let anyone near.” Then, he closed the door and entered the room.
Zhan Qisheng was not surprised that the prefecture chief had received news about his arrival in Cheng’an. He squinted, “Why are you here?”
It was a very rude question but Zhang Junheng did not mind. He knew how powerful the Zhan family was. If they weren’t situated in the northwest in a terrible environment, harassed by the magical race and having to disperse their forces to guard the seals, they would have conquered the world if they wanted to.
The youngest son of the Zhan family was still a very powerful man, much more powerful than a mere prefecture chief.
He smiled. “I heard you travelled far, and as the chief of this area, I would like to apologise for not welcoming you sooner!”
There had been conflict between him and the Zhan family previously. After Qiu Liansheng successfully solved his other problem by cutting that lady’s head off, his attention was now on repairing his relationship with the Zhan family. Knowing that the fourth son was here, he sensed that it was an important opportunity. He must borrow his ties with the family to erase the humiliation from Zhixi’s place!
Zhan Qisheng huffed and was about to speak when Uncle Li quickly interjected, “There’s no need for apologies, Prefecture Chief! My Young Master is here for the Spiritual Mountain Sect’s ceremony, we wanted to keep a low profile and did not wish to disturb anyone.”
“Forgive me but Fourth Young Master, did you know that the Marquis previously sent a group of subordinates to Cheng’an recently?” asked Zhang Junheng.
“When?! Why do I not know this?!” asked a shocked Zhan Qisheng.
“Prefecture Chief, you may not know that the Marquis has many subordinates who all have different jobs. They do not communicate much between departments, hence they do not know of our travelling and we do not know of their business either. That is why we do not know of their visit,” explained Uncle Li.
Zhang Junheng was slightly disappointed. “Just now, I accidentally heard that you want to strike the Li family, is that true?”
“What ideas do you have?” asked Zhan Qisheng with a smirk.
“Just as what Brother Li said, if you release a magical beast in Cheng’an to destroy the Li family, I’m afraid even the Champion Marquis will be unable to explain this to the emperor,” said Zhang Junheng with a smile.
Zhan Qisheng snickered. “Nonsense.”
Zhang Junheng’s eyes flashed with anger but he kept his smile. “But if the Li family leaves their house and was killed by a wild magical beast outside Cheng’an City, then your problems would be solved.”
“You can make them leave their house?” asked Zhan Qisheng, staring at him.
“Unfortunately, I can’t.”
“Then what’s the use of all this?!”
Zhang Junheng touched his beard confidently. “The Li family leaves to pay respects to their ancestors on the eleventh day of the eleventh month every year. They have not changed this ritual for many years, I believe this year will be the same!”
“What date is it today?”
Uncle Li interjected, “Eighth of November!”
“This is great, the heavens are helping me!”
Zhang Junheng sighed. “If the Li family dies from an encounter with a wild beast during their prayers, it will be a lucky day for Cheng’an! They have troubled the city enough.”
Zhan Qisheng clapped. “Good, we will be doing the citizens a favour!”
Zhang Junheng walked to the window of the guesthouse and looked at the snow falling outside. He smiled, “So much snow, looks like next year’s harvest will be good! Good snow is an omen for a prosperous year!”
Zhan Qisheng walked up to him with a smile. “I think it’s more like an unlucky omen for some!”
They both looked at each other and smiled at the same time.