"I can’t thank Steward Zhuo enough for saving me. I had let emotions get the best of me." Li Jingtian kneeled.
The shock was palpable. The strong and mighty Li Jingtian had utmost respect for Zhuo Fan but never as far as kneeling.
Only a great favor could drive such power to feel like words failing and only gestures fully showing his gratitude. As for how big a favor, none here was the wiser.
Zhuo Fan smiled, helping him up, "Elder Li, don’t be so distant. We’re on the same side."
"I will never forget what Steward Zhuo has done for me. Without you, I wouldn’t even have my cultivation." Li Jingtian shone with admiration.
It all became clear. Anyone would kneel when being saved from the pit of despair and given the chance to achieve what everyone in Tianyu sought but never grasped, Ethereal Stage.
Leng Wuchang muttered, "With Elder Li in Ethereal Stage, no enemy expert will be a match for him!"
"Don’t forget us!"
Qiu Yanhai and Xue Qingjian beamed as they walked inside with majestic power.
All were shaking to the core and gasped. The two were the hardest to deal with in Tianyu, yet now they were just a step away from reaching Ethereal too.
Their combined fire and water art had to wield the true power of an Ethereal Stage expert!
[Holy hell, Luo clan’s experts grow too fast. Just a few years and it has already raised three Ethereal Stage experts!]
[This is freaky, outrageous even!]
[Just what little tricks did Zhuo Fan use? They were merely unique experts before he came around.]
Besides confusion, what predominated was envy and admiration.
Another figure walked in to unravel the mystery.
Vicious Pill King walked cocksure to Zhuo Fan and bowed, "Steward Zhuo, allowing me to refine the 10th grade Heaven Reaching Pill, has given me time to familiarize myself with it. It will take some time but I promise to give every expert of our house one of the pill in a year and a half, to improve their meridians. This will give our Radiant Stage elders the prospects of reaching Ethereal Stage. He-he-he, you didn’t tell me the pill would be so incredible. The instant Elder Li and the couple took it, they broke through."
The crowd cried, eyes popping and looking at Zhuo Fan with slacked jaws.
[The punk Yan Song is a 10th grade alchemist now? More importantly, where did he get those high quality ingredients to make such a pill?]
[We have a thousand year old legacy behind us but even we don’t have a 10th grade ingredient.]
[So that’s why. All experts come into the Luo clan’s fold because of the lavish promises…]
The house lords wallowed in jealousy, though the looks Zhuo Fan got were those of desire and beseechment.
"You know, Steward Zhuo, we’re, after all, your old allies. With war at our doorsteps, we ought to raise our strength too…" Long Yifey rubbed his hands.
Zhuo Fan deadpanned, "Pavilion Lord Long, I’ve put friendship first, always. What’s mine is yours. But as you’ve very well put it, Pavilion Lord Long, war is upon us. As the Luo clan is leading this group, it is only fitting that I shield your young from spilling needless blood. I am not the one to sell out his friends!
"These pills will be given to Luo clan’s elders first, to give you much needed cover. When the war is over, everyone will be free to partake."
This meant Zhuo Fan was delaying it. Though not without dangling some hope to reign them. Those pills were just that intoxicating, giving Zhuo Fan the chance to lead them by the nose.
[He-he-he, you want it? March forward! Win and you’ll have it.]
Grinning inside at how easily he played them.
While everyone was thinking of the world, Zhuo Fan was planning for Luo clan’s granite foundation.
"But leaving two Ethereal Stage experts aside…" Leng Wuchang frowned. Zhuo Fan dismissed his worries, "Sir Leng, it’s all taken care of."
Leng Wuchang nodded.
He hadn’t been around Zhuo Fan since just yesterday. When it came to schemes, he would only point things out while leaving the planning to Zhuo Fan.
In short, his skills were shelved in Luo clan.
He was in no rush, knowing Zhuo Fan would be gone soon. And who would the Luo clan turn to next?
His glorious moment would soon arrive, no doubt about it…
With the toughest points smoothened out, Zhuo Fan issued the order for drafting.
He had the houses go to their domains and use the excuse of Quanrong’s invasion to recruit in the name of the emperor.
Being respected most in their own turf and with the name of the emperor behind them, the army ought to reach millions of heads.
While the houses were under a lot of pressure, from imperial family and Quanrong coalition in front and Zhuo Fan’s dangling pills behind.
It worked as an incentive and inevitable danger, boosting their morale.
They spread out fast as lightning, drafting, raking merits and working double hard.
With Zhuo Fan’s rotten style, maybe he’d put a merit system in place for pill rewarding.
So when Zhuo Fan adjourned the meeting, they were gone in a flash.
The Four Tigers of Tianyu frowned, with Dugu Feng speaking out, "Marshal, they’re all just rabble. Against the veteran Quanrong army, they will lose."
Zhuo Fan smiled, "The art of war has a saying, the right time, right place and right people. To prevail against Quanrong, we need to take these three conditions into account. There’s no better place to fight than our doorstep, with all the arrangements I’ve made. All that’s left is to lure them. Tuoba Tieshan is no fool, he won’t fall for an obvious trap. Which leaves making him come to us, ha-ha-ha…
"Another saying is ‘the highest form of generalship is to thwart the enemy’s plans’, to strike at their morale. I had the houses drafting not to use the rabble, but to force the emperor and Quanrong into a rushed war, here. Then we’ll fight to our heart’s content. They’ll come, but none shall leave!"
The tigers gasped, with Dugu Lin smiling, "Now I see why godfather made you the Marshal. You are a true commander, devising plans and controlling the scene from miles away. In godfather’s words, commanders are yin and yang. Yang commander wins one step at a time while the yin commander devises schemes. He and Tuoba Tieshan were yang, always fighting on open front. While with a yin commander at the helm, there’s another feeling to it."
"General Lin, I get that you are calling me cunning, but are you praising or criticizing?" Zhuo Fan smiled.
They all laughed.
[The new Marshal is surely yin enough, but he knows his way around an army.]
"Yunhai, as the Clan Head you will be in front of your clansmen. When you want something, you have to strive for it and shake the masses. Since your time in Dugu Army was short and you have been away from it for so long, not to mention you won’t be leading your fellow soldiers but Luo clan’s posterity, it’ll be hard to win. That being said, I have a team ready for you, come."
Zhuo Fan watched Luo Yunhai with a brilliant smile.
Luo Yunhai was stunned but followed with the tigers.
Only the elders got it, snickering to themselves.
They arrived at the bunker beneath Blackwind Mountain. Luo Yunhai found it the same as always.
Zhuo Fan grinned, "Growing for months beneath the earth, with the energy of the earth absorbed, it is time to come out. Why are you still hiding, come meet the Clan Head!"
The huge rumble revealed a shaking ground as the earth swelled in places, soon revealing yellow hands.
The bodies crawled out of the earth, presenting themselves to the stunned tigers.
[How are they people? With their sunken faces and bodies all shriveled up, they’re practically zombies.]
Not just a few, but a hundred thousand of them!
[And what’s with that ridiculous aura? Five thousand Radiant Stage experts, thirty thousand in the Profound Heaven Stage, and the rest are friggin’ Bone Tempering experts!]
Even without a formation, these numbers were shocking.
"Greetings Clan Head, Steward Zhuo, elders!" The army boomed.
Luo Yunhai fell back in shock.
Zhuo Fan smiled, "They are disciples of Luo clan that I’ve refined into war puppets, with steel bodies and capability of flight. Use this time to train them in formations. They will defeat the Quanrong and give you all the credit… "
The tigers felt a chill.
Even without military training, this creepy army could hold millions of soldiers at bay.
[Oh god, this is clearly aimed at taking over the world.]
[Steward Zhuo is the best steward yet, paving the way for his master’s glory…]