The King of Special Warfare Chapter 46
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To Li Tianlan, that name sounded completely alien.
Though the Dongcheng Clan, a name of great prestige, was one that he was quite familiar with.
Never in his life had Li Tianlan laid eyes on anything related to the Dongcheng Clan. And yet, upon his arrival in Huating, he already found himself bombarded with tales of the clan. Numerous people had prattled to him about the Dongcheng Clan, about the colossus that had conquered the entire Zhongyuan Province. And if he were to keep count, then the number times that clan’s name had rung across his ears was second only to two other prominent names: the Northern Sea’s w.a.n.g Family and Kunlun City.
From everything he had heard, the Dongcheng Clan was a powerhouse in Zhongzhou’s military industry. It was the only clan ent.i.tled to represent all corporate giants in Zhongzhou. In fact, many of Zhongzhou’s top-secret military enterprises were either directly or indirectly under its control. And not to mention the hold it had over the Border Praetorian Corps, which was Zhongzhou’s most elite military force with an army strength of five hundred and fifty thousand.
Vague as they may be, such accounts had been more than enough to convince Li Tianlan that the Dongcheng Clan was indeed the most powerful clan in Zhongzhou.
But now, Qin Weibai had just revealed to him yet another shocker. Among the members of the Dongchen Clan, there was a Heavenly Son. His name was Dongcheng Huangtu, a man of truly unrivaled strength and who had the ability to single-handedly defeat an entire nation.
But that knowledge did not sit well with Li Tianlan. No matter how he thought about it, there was something in it that did not feel right to him, though as yet he had not an inkling of what it was. There was a missing piece somewhere, something that he could not shake off. Like a persistent and insistent thought which sat at the back of his mind, refusing to leave.
The Border Praetorian Corps. The Dongcheng Clan. The Xuanyuan Memorial of Kunlun. His own father. And Dongcheng Wudi, the current head of the Dongcheng Clan, also known as the G.o.d of Ma.s.sacre and the Commander General of the Border Praetorian Corps.
Somehow, Li Tianlan had a vague feeling that the gist of it all lay along those lines, and that there were certain things that only people on the inside could fully grasp. The room was swathed by veil of silence as Li Tianlan remained deep in thought. Though, all his attempts at comprehension were vain. Despite his efforts, the key to understanding had yet eluded him.
At this point, the only thing he could be certain of was that after his father, Li Kuangtu, had supposedly betrayed the country, the G.o.d of Ma.s.sacre, Dongcheng Wudi, had immediately taken over his father’s place as the Border Praetorian Corps’ Commander General.
Perhaps all the subtle and intangible things that had eluded him so far could be unraveled if he could figure out the significance of that sudden replacement of his father’s position back then.
Li Tianlan’s mind drifted away, as if he was floating away towards the edge of the horizon. And for the very first time, he felt genuinely curious about the Dongcheng Clan.
Zhongzhou’s G.o.d of Ma.s.sacre, Dongcheng Wudi.
The present age’s Heavenly Son, Dongcheng Huangtu.
And also the young prodigy of the Dongcheng Clan, Dongcheng Rus.h.i.+, who had entered Fire-flaming Realm at a mere age of 19.
So far, those were the only three members of the Dongcheng Clan that Li Tianlan knew of. Beyond those three, he knew virtually nothing of the clan. For a moment, Li Tianlan could not help but wonder just how many more extraordinary talents were hidden within the walls of such an outstanding clan.
“Dongcheng Huangtu, Dongcheng Huangtu,” Li Tianran murmured.
“How long has he been dead?” he said, his tone muted and faint.
“For a long time,” Qin Weibai said, the gla.s.s of water still cradled within her palm.
Li Tianlan shot her a glance.
When he first heard of the story, something in it had struck him as odd. Of course, at the time, he had been none the wiser. But now, it seemed he had finally figured out what it was.
And it had to do with the time when Qin Weibai first met Dongcheng Huangtu. The first peculiarity was the fact that she had been part of the same crew, which comprised only of Huating’s most prominent elites, sent to welcome Dongcheng Huangtu at the airport. Even if her status had been the lowest among the crew that day, it would still have been considerable.
“But how old is Qin Weibai now?” Li Tianlan thought.
“And how old could she possibly be when she first met Dongcheng Huangtu?” he thought again.
Dead for a long time. Those were her exact words. But however long it was, surely it could not have been more than a few years before now.
Then he recalled the words that Zhuang Huayang had once said to him.
Zhuang Huayang had told him that for the past two decades, there had been major incidents happening in Zhongzhou once every five years.
Barring a few incidents that were either irrelevant or inconsequential to the Dark World, every other significant event happening in the Dark World followed that five-year pattern. Twenty years ago, Li Tianlan’s father betrayed the nation; Fifteen years ago, Tianling fell to the hands of w.a.n.g Tianzong; Ten years ago, Situ Cangyue killed Liu Tianqing; and finally, five years ago, Gu Qianchuan entered the Invincible Realm.
Those were all the big events that had reverberated through Zhongzhou’s Special Warfare System and the Dark World for the past two decades.
And yet none of them involved Dongcheng Huangtu.
Why was that the case?
Surely, it could not be that Dongcheng Huangtu had been dead for more than two decades. Since that would mean Qin Weibai had only been two years old when she first met Dongcheng Huangtu at the airport, which was impossible.
Was it a cover-up? Did the Zhongzhou government conceal the truth of everything that had happened to Dongcheng Huangtu?
Or was it Zhuang Huayang who had deliberately hidden the truth from him?
At that thought, Li Tianlan shook his head. Inadvertently, his hand went to his pocket, where he patted.
Meanwhile, Qin Weibai, whose attention had been completely focused on Li Tianlan, reached over towards the coffee table. From the drawer, she pulled out a cigar case. And then, softly, she said, “Looking for this?”
A dazed look crossed Li Tianlan’s features.
“It was specially prepared for you,” Qin Weibai said, “but then getting this brand wasn’t easy. And by the time it got here, you’d already left for the Sky Academy.”
Qin Weibai’s hands went to work on the cigar’s packaging, opening it. It was a wooden case, pale lavender in hue. Right in the middle of the lid, two Chinese characters were engraved: “英” and “雄”. Both engravings mimicked the style of calligraphy, flamboyant with powerful, energetic strokes. Together, the two characters meant ‘hero’.
The case opened, revealing its contents. Instead of the usual twenty, this pack came with only twelve cigars, each slightly thicker than the common variety. And the mouthpiece was longer by almost half of its typical length.
Qin Weibai removed a cigar from the case and brought it to Li Tianlan’s lips. She then pulled out a lighter. Chuckling, she began setting the cigar alight. “This ‘Hero’ brand of cigars,” she said, “is a special production of w.a.n.g’s family.” The cigar ignited and Qin Weibai put the lighter away. “They’re specially designed for the indulgence of certain core members in the w.a.n.g family. Also, the ingredients used for their fillers are different from what they use for the standard cigar. Apparently, this new concoction is less harmful to the human body.” She went on. “At the moment, I have three crates of these. Later on, you should give them to the old man, have him bring them into the Sky Academy. That way, Zhuang Huayang won’t be able to do a thing to stop you.” She paused, glancing at Li Tianlan. “Just imagine waltzing into Sky Academy with three crates of cigars. Going by their weight, you’d be losing quite a lot of credits.”
Li Tianlan took a long and deep drag. “Where did you get this?” he asked, feigning an air of calmness and nonchalance.
Though from his tone, Qin Weibai had caught whiff of his displeasure. They were subtle, perhaps so subtle that not even Li Tianlan had noticed himself doing it.
For a moment, Qin Weibai went still, staring blankly at nothing as she tried to puzzle out the sudden s.h.i.+ft in Li Tianlan’s behavior. Then it hit her, and she shook her head. “Not w.a.n.g Xiaoyao,” she said, “and technically, cigars are just like any other consumables. As long as you’re willing to pay a good price, they can be obtained. Besides, it’s not like the w.a.n.g family imposes strict control over the supply of its cigars or anything. So getting three crates isn’t really a big deal.”
Li Tianlan kept smoking. Not a word left his soul.
Qin Weibai stared at him for a short while, uncertainty tugged at some invisible corner of her heart. And then, as if having a mind on its own, her body drew closer to Li Tianlan. “Are you angry?” she spoke, her voice measured and careful. “w.a.n.g Xiaoyao and I, we aren’t even friends. Other than occasional business interactions, I’ve never given him much thought. I swear I’ve never once reciprocated his pursuits. He was the one who didn’t get the hint. I…”
“I’m not angry,” Li Tianlan said, patting gently on Qin Weibai’s hand.
Like it or not, seeing her earnest attempts at some kind of explanation had stirred up a maelstrom in his heart. He was confused, no doubt. But amidst the confusion, something else lurked. Pride. Pleasure. A disgusting, odious sense of smugness and self-satisfaction. It brought a pang of guilt straight through his core. He smiled, though every inch of that smile was suffused with self-mockery. Grasping Qin Weibai’s hand tightly in his own, he murmured, “When Senior Yu told me that w.a.n.g Xiaoyao had been pursuing you for the past few years, I wasn’t happy, that’s for sure.” He shook his head lightly. “But I’m not angry.” He went on. “well, to be exact, I guess you could say that I had a bit of an inferiority complex. After all, he is such a powerful rival.
“I’m trying to keep you, a woman whom an elite member of the w.a.n.g family had been pining after for years, by my side. Things could be smooth sailing for all I know, but deep down, the insecurity will still be there. I guess when you come right down to it, it’s all me. Right now, I’m just too weak and too pathetic right now.
“If I could enter the Invincible Realm, then I’d get my confidence back for sure. But even so, the odds aren’t exactly stacked in my favor. I mean, on one hand, there’s a young and inexperienced n.o.body. And on the other, a young and talented billionaire. If both were to pursue the same girl, and if both held genuine intentions towards the girl, how many would pick the former over the latter? Not many, I reckon. Then again, I suppose I can live with that as long as I never meet such a girl. That way, at least I’d be spared from having to deal with a situation like this. But then, on a chance that is about as rare as acquiring a phoenix’s feather or a unicorn’s horn, I ended up meeting you. And somehow, I turned into this petty person who, just seconds ago, had been thinking how nice it’d be if you never see w.a.n.g Xiaoyao ever again.
“See? I’m petty. Pathetic. Insecure. And selfish. This is the type of person I am. At this point, I can’t even respect myself let alone have other people respect me.”
Meanwhile, Qin Weibai beheld the subdued form of Li Tianlan. Her eyes, which exuded nothing but tenderness, had not once left Li Tianlan’s form throughout the entirety of his self-deprecating spiel. There she sat, meekly, until the very last of those scornful words left Li Tianlan’s lips. And then, faintly, she said, “I don’t like it when you talk about yourself like this.”
There was a pause, which lasted several heartbeats. “However much w.a.n.g Xiaoyao has, they don’t belong to him alone.” She went on. “Those things belong to the w.a.n.g family, too. After all, they are part of the w.a.n.g family’s past and had been ama.s.sed over the course of several hundred years. Kunlun’s Xuanyuan Memorial had razed its old self to the ground. But even then, it had risen from the ashes and came back as strong as ever. So who says you’ve got nothing? Despite the heavy responsibilities you carry, you never once gave up. To me, that alone makes you far more dependable and reliable than most men. You know, I’ve got this feeling deep in my heart that your future self will be a man much greater and far more capable than anyone else.”
At her words, Li Tianlan felt a spark of something, like a rekindling of some dormant facet of his soul. He clenched his teeth together, trying everything to hold on to that spark of boldness, that sudden surge of bravado, before it had the chance to die out. Steeling himself, Li Tianlan pushed every drop of his newfound courage through his veins. Instantly, his hand shot out and brushed against Qin Weibai’s chin in a tender caress. Then, gently, he lifted, tipping her chin until their gazes met.
Willingly, Qin Weibai submitted to the ministrations of Li Tianlan’s hand, following its motion by lifting her chin. When their eyes met, Li Tianlan saw a glimmer in those clear orbs, a gleam of mesmerizing colors. Her eyes were filled with unspoken warmth and submission, so much so that his heart fluttered.
Somehow, a good half of all the bravado that Li Tianlan had managed to coerce out of himself dissipated, though his features betrayed nothing. He forced a good-natured smile onto his face, one that crinkled his eyes. “Even greater than Dongcheng Huangtu?” he asked.
Qin Weibai stood up abruptly.
And before Li Tianlan even had time to react, she planted herself squarely on his lap.
Qin Weibai’s fragrance, delicate and feminine, a.s.saulted Li Tianlan’s nose. And when their skins touched, he thought hers was smoother than even the most exquisite bale of silk in the world. It was a breathtaking experience, having a beautiful woman throw herself into his arms like so. Instinctively, Li Tianlan’s arms went around the delicate figure seated on his lap. And in that moment, he could feel nothing else but the overwhelming presence of her, her voluptuous figure, and her boundless beauty.
Amidst all confusion and bewilderment, Qin Weibai’s firm and earnest voice unfurled in the air with piercing clarity. “Of course you’ll turn out greater than him,” she said, “because you have me by your side, whereas he had a woman who would stab him in the back when things turn dire.”
By the time she finished, Qin Weibai remained nestled in Li Tianlan’s embrace. Every inch of her radiated delight and charm, as if she was some kind of beacon. A lull ensued after she went quiet, but it lasted only a short while. “I’ll feel the safest only when I’m in your arms,” she said in a low mumble, as if her words were part of a soliloquy rather than a conversation.
Li Tianlan’s arms tightened around Qin Weibai. And when he spoke, the lightness of his tone carried with it a fearless conviction. “Just by hearing your words,” he said, “I feel like if I don’t surpa.s.s Dongcheng Huangtu somehow, then I don’t deserve to be with you.”
Qin Weibai smiled and straightened herself. “I’ve got a file here I think you should look at,” she murmured, “I’ll go bring it here.”
“No need.” Li Tianlan blurted.
Li Tianlan felt the jitters slowly leave him. And he knew it was only because of the easy and candid interactions between himelf and his girlfriend. He loved the way her body fitted into his arms so perfectly, and the way his arms wrapped around her form as if they belonged there. But now, seeing as it was about to come to an end, Li Tianlan found himself unwilling to let go indeed. So his arms stayed where they were, and he chuckled. “Or you could just tell me the contents.”
“But I haven’t gone through it yet,” Qin Weibai said, staring at Li Tianlan unmovingly.
“When the files got here, I was already in Bili State.” She went on, her tone mild and gentle. “Why don’t I bring the files here, and then I’ll read it to you, how does that sound?”
“There’s no need to rush,” Li Tianlan said, his arms still wrapped around Qin Weibai’s body like a sash. “What are the contents about, anyway?”
To his relish, Qin Weibai did not make any further attempts to pull away. Instead, she began wriggling against Li Tianlan’s lap. Her movements were so soft and supple that they nearly drove Li Tianlan out of his mind. In the meantime, the lady in question seemed completely oblivious to what her actions were doing to Li Tianlan’s sanity. She kept wiggling and s.h.i.+fting until she settled herself into what she deemed as the most comfortable posture. And then, in a languid tone, she said, “It contains intel about the Sky Academy and all the students there that you need to watch out for. Some of these students you can bring onto your side, while others you can’t. Either way, the file should have everything on them. Background checks, their strengths, and weaknesses, the lineages of the martial arts they practice and such. Oh, and also intel on some of the teachers and academy higher-ups as well. Mostly records about their standpoints, personalities, et cetera. There’s only one thing missing though. And that’s the intel on the Group Leader of the a.s.sa.s.sination course. So far, all my sources had turned up empty on that front.
“After the previous Group Leader was killed in the line of duty, the a.s.sa.s.sination course had been temporarily a.s.signed to Yao Ji. But now, since a new term has begun, and a rather special term at that, so I’m guessing that Zhuang Huayang would be looking for someone new to fill the position, probably some super-a.s.sa.s.sin who’s capable of a.s.serting total control over any situation. And if you’re looking for someone like that, there’s no other place that fits the bill more than Sigh City. Well, there have been ongoing negotiations between Zhuang Huayang and Sigh City, but at the moment, it’s still too early to tell which a.s.sa.s.sin they will send to the academy. It’s also why that part of the intel was missing from the file.”
Li Tianlan stole a glance at Qin Weibai. “Even so, it’s still impressive. I mean, to any student of Sky Academy, these are all highly valuable intel. So I’ll make sure to go through them carefully,” he said in a soft voice.
“But regarding the other students,” he went on, “I’ve got that covered, so it shouldn’t be a problem. I’ve already got a pretty good grasp on all their capabilities and skill levels after going through the admission drills. There are, indeed, some exceptional ones. But there aren’t many on the opposing side who could pose a huge threat to me.”
As he spoke those words, Li Tianlan’s eyes glazed over. And all of a sudden, he thought of w.a.n.g Yuetong.
They no longer owed each other anything. But how were each of them going to handle themselves in the Sky Academy hereafter?
“You can’t let your guard down,” Qin Weibai said, shaking her head. “like I said before, this term will be special. If you look at all the students in Sky Academy as a whole, you’ll notice that their strength levels far surpa.s.s those of the students in the Deep-sea Academy in Youzhou. And from the looks of things, we can only conclude that are still a few young prodigies who are most likely to enter the Sky Academy but haven’t yet done so. But it won’t be long until they do, though. I’m guessing they will be officially enrolled by the end of the break. Well, yes, it’s true that late admissions are against the rules. But rules and regulations will never escape the confines of nepotism. When things like favors and friends.h.i.+ps come into play? Allowing a few late admissions is pretty much nothing.”
“But why? Why such a huge gap between the students’ abilities?” Li Tianlan asked, his brows raised in surprise.
As far as he could tell, the Sky Academy and Deep-sea Academy had always been on par with each other. But now, Qin Weibai had just told him that this term, the overall quality of students in Sky Academy would be far superior to that in Deep-sea Academy. “Is there a special reason for this?” Li Tianlan thought.
“Because of Huating’s current state of affairs,” Qin Weibai said softly, her delicate brows quirked into a frown.
Although the two of them were nuzzled up against each other in a posture that could only be deemed as inappropriate or even salacious, the contents of their discussion were anything but frivolous. “There aren’t any prominent families in Huating right now,” Qin Weibai said, “Huating is a treasure trove full of benefits and potential. But then no local corporation are even capitalizing on it. Which is why all outside eyes are set upon Huating right now. It’s like we’re a piece of succulent meat that’s been thrown amidst a pack of hungry wolves. Everyone wants a piece.”
“No prominent families in Huating?” Li Tianlan muttered to himself, disbelief dripping from his voice.
Huating was the engine which drove the economy of Zhongzhou. And it was the most advanced munic.i.p.ality in the country as well as one of the most prosperous metropolises in the world. How could a place like that be wanting in prominent families?
Such a thing was outright inconceivable.
“Putting it that way might sound a little exaggerated and far-fetched, but most of what I told you aren’t fict.i.tious or contrived. There’s actually quite some truth in them. Well, yes, there was once a time when Huating was teeming with wealthy families. I suppose that’s only natural. “Just a few years ago, Huating was w.a.n.g family’s st.u.r.diest stronghold. But five years ago, the Prince Group had seized upon a golden opportunity to break through that stronghold.”
As she explained, Qin Weibai exuded an air of earnestness. “Failing to safeguard Huating,” she went on, “well, it was considered as the w.a.n.g Family’s most devastating failure in recent years. By that time, the Prince Group had taken the full helm of Huating. And shortly afterward, many corporate giants from other parts of Zhongzhou began swarming in. Since then, the circ.u.mstances and state of affairs surrounding Huating have been a complete mess. Well, at this point, one could be claiming that Huating is a warzone between feuding corporate powerhouses and it still wouldn’t be far from the truth.
“Under those circ.u.mstances, the original powers of Huating had moved their headquarters elsewhere to save their own skin. They didn’t want to get caught up in the snafu and suffer its aftermath, so they left. As for the local powers who remained, well, they aren’t considered weak, just that they had poor prospects and are unlikely to be successful. In fact, only a small handful of them deserve to be called a superpower in Zhongzhou. So for you, and for other ambitious parties out there looking to secure a foothold, the present-day Huating has the perfect environment. Right now, it’s in total chaos. But at the same time, there isn’t much pressure coming from the powers that be, either.
“So with all its corporate powers being wary and distrustful of each other, Huating is pretty much like a treasure trove that’s been rigged with explosive mines. Risks are everywhere, but so are opportunities. Given such golden opportunities, who wouldn’t be here to take a gamble?
“This place is a true kingmaker. If you’re an emperor looking to build a stronghold, this is where you want to start. That is to say, if there’s anyone who can successfully rise above the chaos of Huating, and do so by catching a mackerel with just a sprat, then they’ll no doubt become the next big shot in Zhongzhou. Because of that, numerous corporate giants had been sending their young talents to Huating. Not only that, but there are also some powerful recluses who were brought out of their sh.e.l.ls by the tempting prospects of Huating. So, all things considered, the Sky Academy is destined to take the world by storm this term. Hidden talents will start showing up everywhere in the academy. You can’t let your guard down.” Qin Weibai urged with seemingly endless patience.
Li Tianlan nodded, his features placid and unconcerned.
“The intel I’ve gathered.” Qin Weibai piped up. “contains detailed records of several young prodigies who are likely to be granted late admissions. Want to have a look?”
Unconsciously, Li Tianlan’s arms tightened around Qin Weibai’s figure. “Nope,” he said, shaking his head unhesitatingly. “I’m in no hurry.”
Still draped in Li Tianlan’s arms, Qin Weibai chuckled, squeezing her arms around Li Tianlan’s neck with more strength.
Once again, Qin Weibai sang out his name in a beautiful and velvety voice. It was music to his ears.
“Hm?” said a smiling Li Tianlan. His eyes crinkled, forming two curved slits. And his entire face lit up in obvious pleasure.
Qin Weibai s.h.i.+fted on his lap, her face sidling up to his own. The scent of her fragrance wafted through his nostrils, flooding his senses altogether. All of a sudden, his entire body grew numb. And it was in the exact same moment that her mouth came right up beside his ear. “I know a way,” she cooed, bitting down on his earlobe, “to help you face people like w.a.n.g Xiaoyao. And you’ll never again feel inadequate when you do. Even better,” she went on, “you’ll actually have cause to turn up your nose at them. Do you want to know?”
As if by reflex, his body s.h.i.+fted beneath her. He pulled Qin Weibai away from his arms. “What way?” he asked, meeting her gaze.
“What say I help you enter the Invincible Realm in just one night?” she said, winking. Her face lit up in a teasing smile.
It was as if Li Tianlan’s conscious mind had abandoned all reins on his hand, which had shot out on its own and spanked Qin Weibai right across her rump. The touch did wonders to his tactile senses, which had instantly become aware of the feel of her body. Supple, and inordinately springy. That was what her body felt like to his hand. Now, as he stared appreciatively at the blend of exasperation and coyness in the features of this beautiful woman in his arms, Li Tianlan felt all the self-abas.e.m.e.nt dripping away from him. Unable to help himself, he reached out once again. And he smiled when his palm connected with her b.u.t.t in another resounding smack. “Be serious,” he said, still smiling.
“You’re the one who isn’t serious,” said Qin Weibai whose face was now sporting a deep shade of crimson.
Tucking herself closer, Qin Weibai buried her face in the crook of Li Tianlan’s neck. And then, with an intimate lilt, she grumbled, “You’re such an a.s.s.”
The King of Special Warfare Chapter 46
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The King of Special Warfare Chapter 46 summary
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