"Lord Jian Wei had asked me to present to your majesty these gifts in his place. I hope they are to your liking." Zhang said politely and with a wave of his hand various things appeared.
Many people were stunned by these "gifts" Aurora was gifting to King Huang He.
"I present to your majesty a golden throne from the lost Sai Empire and ten bricks of ice jade. And to the minister of War and the minister of finance five bricks of ice jade each." Zhang said.
"I couldn't possibly accept this, it's too much." King Huang He said. The throne was extremely extravagant and beautiful while the ice jade bricks were extremely precious. To receive twenty bricks total was something unbelievable.
"But Lord Jian Wei had ordered me to give your majesty and the ministers these gifts." Zhang said. In fact, Jian Wei had arranged for him to give something else but Zhang had a good impression of the king so he decided to give something better.
And of course he was not going to cheap out on his father and Ling's father. By giving them such things in front of a wide audience it symbolized that Aurora was trying to make friends with them. This might provide a deterrent to their political enemies.
“How about this I’ll only take five pieces of ice jade and you can keep the throne and the other five pieces.” King Huang He said.
“If that it your wish then I’ll have to comply with it your majesty.” Zhang replied and with a wave of his hand the throne and five bricks disappeared back into his ring.
" I couldn't give them more than five to father and uncle or else people would become suspicious." Zhang thought. He had hundreds of these bricks in his interspatial ring so twenty was not much. But it would be odd if he gave the ministers more than the king and he did not wish to give the king too many gifts so this many would do for now. He would secretly give more things to his father and Ling's father later.
Zhang personally took five bricks to Ling's father and while doing so grasped Ling's hand and lead her back to his table to sit with him.
Then he preceded to hand five bricks to his father. But when he handed the ice jade to his father the man would not stop staring at him. And likewise Zhang did not go back to his table. After a while there was an awkward silence.
"Is something wrong?" Huang He asked.
Huang He's words served to wake up the father and son from their daze.
"Ah might I ask your name young man." Zhou Cheng asked Zhang.
"Minister Zhou my name is Zhou Zhang." Zhang replied with a faint smile on his face as he walked back to his table.
Zhou Cheng's face was a mix of emotion after hearing those words. However, no one else was very surprised to be honest there were only so many surnames and names so people with similar surnames and names were very common. And it was not like Zhou Cheng went around describing his dead son to everyone.
After everyone got back to their seats the festivities began once more. With many people envying the gifts that Zhang had given out. Ice jade was very precious and even large kingdoms did not casually give it out. But Zhang or in their eyes Aurora was and each piece was the size of a brick.
Toward the end of the banquet king Huang He got up once more to make an announcement.
"In a week's’ time the tournament will begin. The tournament will be divided into three categories. These three are survival, strategy, teamwork." Huang He said.
"For the first part of the tournament all of the participants will have to survive five days and five nights in the Demonic Forest. During this time each participant will have try to acquire a golden flag, which is a part of a set of ten. Those who have flags at on the sixth day will be called commanders." Huang He Said as he picked up his cup of wine and drank from it.
" The 2nd part will commence after the three days. Those who manages to become commanders will pick from those who did not manage to find flags. This will serve as the strategy part of the tournament. The 3rd part is when the commanders lead their soldiers into battle. They will be defending or conquering ten towers in the colosseum with a golden flag at the top of each tower. If the flag within the tower is taken, then that means the tower was conquered. Each tower's flag will represent one item they can take from the treasury. If someone manages to conquer all ten, then they will be able to select ten items from our treasury. All the people who acted as soldiers of course will receive some gold." Huang He finished saying.
"Interesting." Zhang thought. Realistically speaking there was a high chance of there being ten winners because if everyone stubbornly defended then it was highly possible that no towers would be conquered. Also if ale own solely focused on conquering then their tower would be conquered.
And after the king's explaining the tournament the banquet came to an end.
Zhou Cheng was the first to leave saying that he was not feeling well.
Soon everyone headed back to their lodgings. Well everyone but Zhang, Yuying, Ai, Ling and Ling's father. Along with their guards they secretly headed for the Zhou mansion.
"The look on your father's face when you handed him the ice jade was priceless." Ling's father said to Zhang. They were all currently in the same carriage.
"Brother so that was your father?" Yuying and Ai asked at the same time. Strangely recently the two of them have been very in sync and said things at the same time.
"Yes that's my father and soon he will be your father too." Zhang said teasing them.
"Who's going to be your wife!?" They replied in unison.
"You are!" Zhang replied although the he would have liked to embrace them Ling's father was still in the carriage so he did not.
Ling's father could not help but smile at this scene.
Soon they arrived at their destination. As they got off the carriage a middle aged servant from inside the mansion came out to greet them.
"Ah Minister Wu you've come to meet the lord today?" The servant said. However, when he saw Zhang who was not wearing a helmet anymore he became speechless.
After a while he was able to squeeze out some words.
"You-young master? A-am I seeing things? You’re not a ghost right?" He said while looking at Zhang with somewhat frightened eyes.
"If I was a ghost how could I do this to your uncle Zhao." Zhang said as he hugged the servant.
This servant had been living in the Zhou clan for many years and Zhang had grown up to view him as an uncle. He was always around and pretty much like family.
"Please lead the way to where father is." Zhang said after making sure there were no outsiders around using the Underworld Heart to scan the area.
It was fairly late in the night and most if not everyone had gone home. So there were only people Zhang trusted around.
As uncle Zhao lead the group into the mansion the walked through some very familiar looks hallways for Zhang at least. Oddly everything in this mansion looked the same as the mansion that was in Blue Tear city.
"Ah young master you probably are wondering why everything looks so familiar." Uncle Zhao said.
"Yea everything looks exactly the same as our home in Blue Tear city." Zhang said.
"That is because the lord ordered for everything to be reconstructed to look exactly the same as the old mansion. He had said that since the old mansion was now a crater if the young masters spirit returned it would not have a home to return to. So he had everything remade to be an exact replica of the old mansion. Even the squeaky door to the kitchen was remade." Uncle Zhao said.
Zhang did not say a word but simply continued walking. Listening to uncle Zhao's words made his heart ache. It has been so long, so very long and finally he could reunite with his family. Everything that happened so far seemed as if it was a dream and as he walked through these familiar halls he was waking up.
"No place like home." Zhang thought as a smile appeared on his face.
"So this is how the house brother grew in looks like?" Ai asked as she looked through every door down the hallways. She had little interest in everything besides things related to Zhang. And being in his family's home peaked her interest.
Soon uncle Zhao had led them in front of a room with a light lit inside. This was the lord of the mansion's study.
"Milord you have visitors." Uncle Zhao said.
"Visitors? At this time of the day? Tell them to go home and come back tomorrow." The voice from inside said.
"Brother Zhou you're telling me to go home?" Ling's father Wu Tong said with a laugh.
Soon the doors to the study creaked open.
Although Zhou Cheng was a bit surprised when he saw so many standing in front of his study he did not give such a reaction.
"Ah young lord of Aurora welcome to my home. What brings you here are such a late hour." Zhou Cheng said.
"I'm here to meet my father." Zhang replied with a smile on his face.
"Your father? I don't think any other guests are currently in the mansion. Perhaps your father is staying elsewhere?" Zhou Cheng replied somewhat confused. He had told himself many times that the young man he met at the banquet was not his son so by now he no longer believed Zhang was his son.
"Oh I know my for a fact my father is here within this mansion. In fact, I can see him right now." Zhang replied.
"Where?" Zhou Cheng asked but before he could finish his sentence Zhang had gotten on his knees?
"Why are you kneeling? Get up?" He proceeded to say but like before he could finish his sentence he was cut off.
"Father your son Zhou Zhang has been unfilial." Zhang said as he began kowtowing to his father.
Hearing these words all of the confusion in Zhou Cheng's mind was washed away.
"My son! You're alive!" He yelled as he hugged Zhang who was kneeling on the ground.
He no longer question if Zhang was his actual son or just a look alike any longer. Perhaps somewhere deep down although he did not acknowledge it he had always thought that young man from the banquet was his son.
"Get up. Why are you kneeling. You have finally come home." Zhou Cheng said as he helped Zhang up.
"Father it's been so long." Zhang said as he hugged his father.
"Where have you been all this time. We searched all around what's left of Blue Tear city. You don't know how many people and how many times I personally went there to look for you." Zhou Cheng said.
"Father where is mother? I'll tell you both what happened." Zhang said.
"Ah yes your mother. She will definitely be happy to see you. All this time she still believed that you were alive." Zhou Cheng said with a pained expression of his face.
Soon they all walked to the room where his mother stayed. Once they entered the room they could see a beautiful lady sitting grooming her hair.
Zhang was the first one to enter the room. He went directly to his mother and hugged her.
"Mother I'm back!" Zhang said.
Hearing these words, the beautiful women stopped what she was doing and turned back. One she saw Zhang's face tears began rolling down her cheeks.
"You back!" She said as she embraced Zhang. Having thought he was alive the entire time she was not surprised. Instead she was very happy that he came to visit.
"How are things in the academy? I know you've been studying hard to you haven't been able to come home to see me." She said to him.
"Yes mother I've wanted to see you for so long but I wasn't able to." Zhang said.
After hugged her son Zhen Ji noticed the people standing at the door way.
"Who are those two young ladies? Your friends from the academy?" She asked happy to see that her son was making friends and better yet two beauties.
"Ah those are your future daughter in laws." Zhang replied as he stopped hugging his mother and led her toward the group at the door.
"Daughters in law?" Zhen Ji said somewhat surprised.
"Madam." Yuying and Ai said while they did a courtesy to Zhang's mother.
"Come here let me have a closer look at you two." Zhang's mother said as she used her hands to trace the outlines of Yuying and Ai's faces.
"Zhang I never expected you to be such a ladies’ man. It's good that you weren't like your father at your age." Zhen Ji said with a smile.
"Unlike me?" Zhang's father Zhou Cheng asked.
"Yes unlike you brother Zhou." Ling's father said with a chuckle.
"You were lucky, sister Zhen even agreed to marry you. You know she was the prettiest women in our city." Ling's father Wu Tong added.
Leaving Yuying, Ai, and Ling to stay with his mother Zhang followed his father and Ling's father back to the study.
"I think it is best if we do not tell mother what I'm going to tell you father." Zhang said as he proceeded to recall the events after the Siwang empire attacked.
Zhang's father had the same reactions as Ling's father when Zhang told him the story.
"It doesn't matter how you got back, as long as your back with us everything is alright." Zhou Cheng said to his son as he patted him on the back.
"Also you brought back two very beautiful future daughter in laws for me." Zhou Cheng added. Regarding this he was very happy because it meant that his son would have many grandkids for him on day.
"So my daughter alone was not good enough?" Ling's father asked with a stern face.
"Ah brother Wu know I didn't mean that." Zhang's father said.
"Ha you should see the look on your face. I don't mind as long as my daughter is happy. It's not like it's uncommon to have three wives." Ling's father said with a chuckle.
Shortly after some chatting Zhang's father go up and closed the door to the study.
"Son I have something to tell you. This matter is not to be told to anyone or our entire clan and the Wu clan will be executed." Zhou Cheng said with a stern face.
"No one will hear a word of this father." Zhang replied.
Zhang's father then began to tell him about the plan they had concocted to get revenge for him. They had climbed to high positions in the kingdom to allow them to easily manipulate it.
With Ling's father as the minister of war they could easily move the force of the kingdom around. While as the minister of finance Zhang's father could use the kingdom's money to further their plan.
The two of them had arranged for all of the ally kingdoms to be present at the tournament. Then they would send a secret correspondence to the Siwang empire to fake their surrender. This correspondence of course would include a fake account of the Heilong kingdoms current number soldiers and finances.
They would have pretended to betray the kingdom by moving the soldiers along the border at the excuse of a military exercise during the tournament.
This would create a gap in the border where the Siwang empire could move its soldiers through. Then the Siwang empires soldiers would attack the capital during the tournament which would cause the alliance to take action.
Of course they would have provided a detailed path to the Siwang empires soldiers to allow involving civilians. Then once the Siwang Empire’s soldiers were close enough to alarm the alliance they would move the forces of Heilong kingdom to repel them.
By doing so they might be able to change the stance that the alliance was currently taking. They would possibly be able to convince the alliance to take the initiative to attack the Siwang empire.
Then using the power of the alliance they would invade the Siwang empire to get revenge for Zhang's death. Of course this was a very selfish action of a grieving father.
"Thankfully the heavens have its own plan and your back." Zhang's father said.
"Originally we were going to send the correspondence once the tournament happened. This would not allow the Siwang empire to mobilize that many soldiers." Ling's father added.
"Father I had asked uncle already but to asked you to also pack up all of our things and come back with me to Red Mist city. It is much safer there than here." Zhang said.
After a short moment of silence. "Certainly if that's what you want son." Zhou Cheng replied. Having gotten his son back he would accept any demand his son said.
"If we are moving then I will mobilize the soldiers." Ling's father said.
"Mobilized the soldiers?" Zhang asked.
"Yes although not all of the kingdom's army is loyal to us a portion of it is. Those generals and men of course would leave with us. However, for such a thing to happen we will have to keep all of it unwraps. Neither king nor anyone else can know of it. Because what kind of kingdom would allow a part of its army to walk away to join another force." Ling's father said.