“Since you’re not willing to complete my other request, let’s make this a straightforward ransom.” Cheng Yang crooned. “You said there were tens of thousands of soldiers in your territory, and I’m going to assume that means around fifty thousand. If we take fifty Experience Fragments from each that comes out to two point five million Experience Fragments. Since you’re being difficult, I’ll round it up to three million. That should be reasonable.”
“That’s far too much!” Yuan Zhao blurted out in barely disguised anger.
Cheng Yang’s smile dropped. “Should I kill all of the prisoners then? You’ve already rejected my first offer, and I don’t give people more than three chances.”
“It’s just that your estimates are off by a bit.” Yuan Jianzhe calmed himself down. “There are far less than fifty thousand soldiers in the city, and most have less than ten Experience Fragments.”
Cheng Yang sneered at Yuan Jianzhe with contempt written all over his face. “How unfortunate, you can’t even pay that tiny amount. How about two million paid in installments? There aren’t fifty thousand soldiers, but you must have at least thirty thousand, right? We’ll do three hundred thousand points a day for seven days and consider the extra hundred thousand as interest.”
Yuan Jianzhe grimaced and carefully explained: “Two million is still a bit high. I’m the commander of the army, but I won’t be able to force the soldiers to hand over everything they have. That’s why half a million is the highest I can go, and the installments need to be much smaller.”
Cheng Yang knew from his past life that Yuan Jianzhe was telling the truth. Although he was the grand commander in name, unless the militia commanders supported his decisions, he didn’t have any power over most of the safe zone’s forces.
“Half a million? That’s embarrassingly small commander, and you call yourself a man. IF that’s all you can muster, I suppose I’ll have to accept it.” Cheng Yang did his best to humiliate Yuan Jianzhe during the negotiations. As for the money? Cheng Yang didn’t care in the first place since that wasn’t his real goal. “However, since you can’t pay, you’ll have to give me something else.”
Yuan Jianzhe wanted to be relieved that he talked Cheng Yang down but couldn’t help but fear what ridiculous demand Cheng Yang would make next.
“I have two new conditions. The first is that I’ll be free to walk around the safe zone and recruit civilians.” Cheng Yang said confidently.
Yuan Jianzhe initially hesitated. Although he couldn’t see what the catch was, he knew there had to be one. But, no matter how hard he looked, it seemed like a standard amnesty clause. The only thing he learned from the demand was that Cheng Yang had a way to perform class change ceremonies without the states in the safe zone.
In the end, Yuan Jianzhe agreed.
“My second demand is that we split Cloud City down the middle. My forces will take the Eastside, and yours will occupy the Westside. You can decide on the three other spaces. Either one of us owns the safe zone, and the other owns the North and South bridges, or we share all three locations. Of course, I’ll still be allowed into the safe zone either way, but I won’t use any of the facilities if you own it.”
This time, Yuan Jianzhe’s internal conflict was even stronger. As far as he knew, the only difference between the East and West was the instance dungeon, but since he had already ceded that, why would Cheng Yang impose a rule like that?
After some time, Yuan Jianzhe accepted that condition as well and chose to have sole control over the safe zone. His main reasoning was that he couldn’t bear to share the resources in the city with another force. The other was to gauge Cheng Yang’s reaction. Since he brought up the bridges, there must have been something he needed to protect on the other side. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been happy with such a lopsided agreement.
“Then it’s decided.” Cheng Yang said with a genuine smile on his face. “From now on, we own our respective areas, and any trespassers we catch will be given the death penalty.”
Yuan Jianzhe nodded after hearing that and added: “Since I’ve agreed to your terms, can you promise to not attack my forced until tomorrow so I can spread these new rules?”
“I can grant you that.” Cheng Yang said quietly, “But keep in mind the consequences of breaking our promise.”
“Of course. Although there are no laws in this world, you can believe in my character. I will not break this promise.” Yuan Jianzhe lied.
“As for me, if I were going to break the promise, I would just kill you now. Isn’t that neat.” Cheng Yang taunted, “Of course, if you want, we can write a contract and sign it.”
Yuan Jianzhe agreed to the proposal, and the two quickly wrote their verbal agreement down on two sheets of paper. Both sides then signed their names and kept one each.
“Alright, now that we’ve settled the matter, I’ll release these prisoners to you and leave.” Cheng Yang said once they were done. “Take those corpses with you. Even if we’re enemies, they deserve a proper burial.”
“Shouldn’t you wait for the people I sent after your companion to return?” Yuan Jianzhe asked while his subordinates helped their captured comrades.
“I don’t think they’ll be coming back, commander.” Cheng Yang said with a smile. “If Liu Wei weren’t able to protect herself, I wouldn’t have wasted time chatting with you.”
As if on cue, Liu Wei appeared from behind some rubble and walked over. However, the twenty people that had chased after her were nowhere to be seen.
“I see, so it was a trap.” Yuan Jianzhe said with a heavy heart.
“A trap?”Cheng Yang asked with a smile wide enough to fit a pie. “Hardly. It’s not my fault you mistook a wolf for a rabbit.”
Yuan Jianzhe fell into deep contemplation once he realized Cheng Yang’s companions were strong in their own right.
Seeing that Yuan Jianzhe wasn’t going to respond, Cheng Yang said: “All right, get out of here. By the way, I’ll visit the safe zone tomorrow to collect my first payment.”
Yuan Jianzhe nodded silently and led his soldiers away. After giving Cheng Yang a deep and pensive look, he came to terms with his first major loss in this lifetime.
He had set out from the safe zone in high spirits but was returning in utter defeat. Not only had he lost the city’s instance dungeon, but he had also lost over a hundred soldiers in the process. Although it wasn’t that many compared to the total number of soldiers under his control, the blow his prestige and authority took was going to be hard to recover from. Additionally, the twenty soldiers Liu Wei had killed were the closest to leveling up, and all had several pieces of equipment.
The worst part was that a single man had caused this whole ordeal.
Once Cheng Yang was sufficiently out of sight, Lao Wu walked up to Yuan Jianzhe’s side and whispered: “Commander, are we going to cede the Eastside of Cloud City to that bastard?”
“Lao Wu, do you think this piece of paper has any value in this world?” Yuan Jianzhe’s voice was filled with bitterness.
“I suppose it doesn’t,” Lao Wu answered.
“That’s right!” Yuan Jianzhe said before decisively shredding the contract. “Cheng Yang taught me a fundamental lesson today: The only thing that matters in this world in strength. Without it, you’ll just struggle in vain. However, think about Cheng Yang’s actions. If he had the strength to, he would have crushed us already. That means there’s still a chance to reverse the situation.”
Lao Wu frowned. “But commander, with his strength, Cheng Yang could still stop any resistance we mount.”
“Why do you think Cheng Yang wanted to control the North and South bridges? Why did he give up on the facilities in the safe zone?” Yuan Jianzhe asked. “It’s simple. There’s something he needs to protect on the other side, and its the source of his strength. If we crush that we can defeat him.”
“What’s your plan, commander?”
“The first order of business will be to redirect our efforts. Cheng Yang demonstrated that having a small group of elites is better than a large group. We’ll focus all of our resources on the soldiers with the highest grade Innate Abilities.”
“What about the money we promised Cheng Yang?”
“We’ll pay him.” Yuan Jianzhe gnashed his teeth. “And in the future, take it back a hundred-fold!”