Chapter 196: Schemers
While Ai’s laughter continued to fill the hall and while all sorts of thoughts were running through the minds of the saints and their disciples, Zhang spoke once more with the same broad smile on his face.
“First, I would like to welcome you all to our castle.” Zhang said with a smile as his gaze swept across the room.
“It took you long enough to arrive…” The impatient saint said with a snort in an unhappy tone.
“Secondly, I would like to kindly ask all of you to empty your pockets and take off your interspatial rings.” Zhang said with a smile and glinting eyes.
“Wha… what?!” All of the people in the hall exclaimed in surprise with confused looks on their faces.
“All of the furniture and things displayed in this hall are valuable antiques and irreplaceable. Normally, if someone has broken even a single vase in this room they will have their arms and legs cut off. However, since you're all my guests I can't possibly harm a single hair on your bodies right? So all I will ask for is a bit of compensation for all the things you've broken. Although I would be more than willing to let you all off the hook, sadly, my wives probably won't.” Zhang said as he looked at the broken items on the ground and inwardly chuckled.
After Zhang spoke, a series of complaints filled the hall as no one was willing to hand over their interspatial rings.
“Antiques? My lord, surely you're kidding. Even if these things are antiques, they couldn't possibly be worth all the contents of our interspatial rings.
“Darling! This one here is my favorite vase and someone broke it.” Lingqi cried like a spoiled child as she glared at the people in the hall, causing the lost silence to return.
“You! Yes, you there! The one with the funny looking face!” Ai yelled as she pointed into the crowd randomly causing everyone to look around in confusion.
“You there with the funny face! You are the one that broke my sister’s favorite vase, aren’t you? Step over here before I snap your legs.” Ai said in a haughty tone as she continued to point into the crowd, where few people walked forward gritting their teeth.
“It seems our little skit earlier was a success.” Zhang thought with a chuckle as his plot to exploit all the wealth of these saints and their disciples was going well according to plan.
“Madam, I came here with the intention to offer my utmost sincere assistance. If it'll appease your anger, then a few worldly possessions are something I am willing to give up.” A lesser saint said in a respectful tone as he presented his interspatial ring as well as his disciples to Ai.
“We as well.” Another group of lesser saints and their disciples called as they also offered their interspatial rings.
“Offer us your services? If that is so, then we can forget about what happened earlier. Since it's improper l to take things from one’s subordinates.” Yuying said in a gentle tone.
“Sister, don't you agree?” Yuying said as she looked at Ai.
“I guess breaking the legs of my own subordinate wouldn't do me any good.” Ai said after a moment of silence with a pouting face.
“My favorite table! How could someone do this to my favorite table!” Lingqi yelled as she could be seen looking at a shattered wooden table.
“Which one of you broke my sister’s favorite table! It’s you, isn’t it!” Ai said as she pointed into the crowd once again.
It was obvious that some of the guests who arrived had come to cause trouble. Zhang and the beauties were just using this opportunity to sort through and extort those with ill intentions.
It was obvious that those who came to cause trouble wouldn't even think about handing over their belongings for a few broken tables and smashed vases; while those who came to seek shelter under Zhang’s wing would be more than willing to give up their belongings to get on his good side.
Like what happened earlier, a few lesser saints and their disciples stepped forward and offered their interspatial rings which Zhang and the beauties would turn down.
Clearly seeing Zhang’s intention, soon enough the room was clearly divided into three groups: those who came to swear allegiance, those who came to challenge Zhang for dominance, the troublemakers and those who came just to pry but was frightened by Ai and Lingqi’s action and ended up offering their interspatial rings.
“Honey, it looks like those people don't want to pay for the things they broke…unlike these honored guests here who have enough manners to compensate us.” Ling said as she glanced at the group of so-called troublemakers causing an eerie chill drift into the room.
“Hmph! Just because the lot of you are full saints you think you can try to rob us blind without anyone daring to speak up? If you have the guts, then fight me one on one! Unlike those weaklings that had come to ride your coattails, I came here to show everyone that a mere human is not fit to rule the Blood Coral Cove. I, Nai Fan, will be the one to lead the forces of Blood Coral Cove against the Starry Sea Sect!” The impatient saint that had started the brawl in the gathering hall spoke out in an angry tone.
“Like that buffoon over there, I’ve also come to challenge you to a duel, and it will be I, Xiao Gong, who will lead the forces of Blood Coral Cove!” The child-sized saint who was battling the impatient saint earlier said in a loud and dignified tone, while the rest of those who opposed Zhang stood in silence and simply glared at Zhang and the beauties.
“Why you…” Nai Fan growled.
“Let’s say that I am indeed unworthy of ruling the Blood Coral Cove; if so then who among you is worthy?” Zhang asked with a smile.
“Obviously, only I am the worthy one to govern the cove after Shen Yue’s demise.” Xiao Gong said proudly.
“A midget like you? The only thing I can see you ruling over is a little sandbox.” Nai Fan sneered at the child sized saint.
“How about you two decide first which one of you is worthy to be the next ruler of Blood Coral Cove; thereafter, we can have a little chat. I’ll even hold your interspatial rings for you, so neither of you have to worry about the other person using too many weapons or anything.” Zhang said with a grin.
“You think we are foolish to fall for your attempt? You, reaping benefits without soiling your own hands?” Xiao Gong said with a laugh.
“Fight me, kid! Since only one of us is worthy of becoming the next ruler, we might as well settle things here and now!” Nai Fan said causing the Xiao Gong to face palm himself and sigh while causing Zhang and the beauties to chuckle slightly.
“How did an idiot like this ever manage to successfully become a full saint…” Xiao Gong said with a sigh.
“I never said anything about fighting.” Zhang said.
“Hmph! Only someone with immense strength is fit to lead, so if we don't fight then how else would we prove our strength.” Nai Fan said in a domineering tone.
“Wrong! Only when one is truly powerful can they solve their problems without using their strength.” Zhang said.
“Solving one’s problems without using one’s powers? What rubbish, what’s the point of furthering one’s cultivation if not to use one’s power.” Nai Fan said haughtily.
“What? Are you afraid that you'd lose to me even if we don't use our strength?” Zhang said, attempting to taunt the impatient saint.
“Anything you can do without using your strength I can accomplish ten times better without using my powers.” Nai Fan said.
“Is that so?” Zhang asked.
“Absolutely!” Nai Fan said with a proud look on his face.
“Then I offer the both of you and everyone standing behind you a challenge if anyone of you can beat me in a contest where we will see who can accomplish three mundane tasks the best. If any of you can accomplish any two of these three tasks better than me then I will give up the entire Blood Coral Cove and allow the lot of you to decide its next ruler.” Zhang said as he inwardly laughed.
“But in the off chance I win then you willingly serve under me as slaves, on top of giving me all of your interspatial rings.” Zhang said with a grin.
“Giving you our interspatial rings is alright but to become your slaves?” Nai Fan complained.
“It is only right because it'll be all of you against me and I stand to lose the entire Blood Coral Cove.” Zhang said.
“The entire Blood Coral Cove is worth such a gamble; I agree to compete.” Xiao Gong said, prompting everyone else who opposed Zhang to agree also.
“Good, now I can rob the lot of you without any room to complain and gain a few more lackeys.” Zhang though inwardly as the grin plastered on his face widened and stretched from ear to hear.
Although Zhang and the beauties could have killed anyone of the people within the gathering hall, be it with little effort or not, they believed it would be much more beneficial for them to add to the number of saints under their command than to needlessly stain their hands with more blood.
To Zhang, the more saints under his wing meant the more saints he could use to battle the forces of the Starry Sea Sect and the more saints he could use in his future attempt to conquer more of the Wulin continent.
Some may wonder why Zhang and the beauties were bothering to attempt to turn people who are clearly opposing them into their subordinates, but the answer is quite straightforward. Since it would take some time before his trusted officers back in Aurora could even come close to becoming saints, with or without Zhang’s help, waiting on them on them would mean there would be more time for Zhang’s enemies to prepare.
Thus it would be much less efficient to gather and use subordinates who were already saints to further their plans.
“Since the forces of the Starry Sea Sect are only a matter of days away from arriving next here, the contest will begin in the next thirty minutes and before any of you jump to conclusions I will not be the one to decide what events we will be competing in. Rather I'll ask Lord Long Feng if he would be willing to choose the events we will be competing in. While a panel of judges will be selected at random, I hope that all of you will find these arrangement fair?” Zhang said and to his surprise found no objections.
Before long, everyone filed out of the gathering hall and into the Blood Coral Castle’s main courtyard where a massive banquet was still taking place.
After announcing the contest along with a small summary of what had occurred earlier, Zhang asked for volunteers to be judges. Within no time at all the entire city was in an uproar as everyone flocked to the Blood Coral Castle.
In one way or another, this could be seen as Zhang’s last obstacle to truly ruling over the cove. If he comes out victorious then there would be no one left to challenge his rule.
As people continued to gather in droves, a makeshift stage was assembled in front of the castle’s main gates. Atop this stage, Zhang and the beauties sat together on the magnificent throne Zhang had taken from the ruins of the Sai Empire’s capital city, while those contending against him stood on the opposite end of the stage in one large group.
“Let the contest of mundane tasks begin!” Lord Long Feng’s voice echoed through the air as the gates of the Blood Coral Castle opened and rows of maids and butlers filed out while pushing various pieces of equipment.
“Brother, do you know what the first contest will be?” Ai asked while sitting on the arm of the golden throne as her gaze shifted from the rows of servants to Zhang.
“No idea but I'm sure it'll be interesting. I'm also confident the judges will give me fairly high marks.” Zhang said with a chuckle as he glanced at Yuying who had a devious smile plastered on her face.
“All set will activate the inscriptions if needed.” Yuying relayed to Zhang through her divine sense.
“Since this is a contest of mundane tasks, for our first match, Lord Zhou Zhang and the rest of the contestants will be competing with their skills in the culinary arts. In other words, our panel of judges will be able to taste the delicacies that these various experts will be cooking up for them.” Lord Long Feng said with a hearty laugh while the crowd gathered around the stage became dumbstruck.
“A cooking contest?” A few people mixed into the crowd murmured.
“Lord Long Feng, please don't kid with us.” Xiao Gong said.
“A cooking contest! Interesting! Old Long you sure know your stuff. This is going to be good since that kid there probably still has his mother cooking for him.” Lord Chan Chu’s voice could be heard from the crowd, prompting a scowl to appear on Xiao Gong’s face and laughter from a majority of the crowd.
Like always, Lord Chan Chu's tongue was as sharp as ever and as toxic as the lethal poison that could be released from his pores. Although he was nowhere as strong as Lord Long Feng or the deceased Madam Diao Yu, Lord Chan Chu struck fear into the hearts of many who resided in the Blood Coral Cove. With his sharp tongue, and ruthless words that could shred most people's dignity to bits, most people who dared offend Lord Chan Chu found themselves tossed into a storm of gossip and ill rumors.