Yuan Jianzhe sighed. “I said you wouldn’t be penalized, but that was before you asked me to commit suicide. There are dozens of people with strength on par with Liu Wei at the village, and if the walls are as durable as the stores here, even explosives wouldn’t be enough to guarantee our victory. Not to mention Cheng Yang would also be there. Wouldn’t handing you over as a sacrifice work much better?”
“I…” Ding Ming’s words caught in his throat. Although he had some power in the safe zone, all it would take was a single command for his execution to be set in stone. “Commander Yuan, you can’t hand me over! I’ve loyally followed you for all these years. Was all my hard work for nothing?”
Before the apocalypse, this scene would be inconceivable. Even if he was a military commander, Yuan Jianzhe didn’t have the authority to order a lieutenant executed, much less exchanged with hostile forces.
“Commander, although Colonel Ding made a mistake, I don’t think it’s appropriate to kill him, even if its to appease Cheng Yang’s anger.” Lao Wu interjected.
“Why do you say that?” Yuan Jianzhe always considered Lao Wu’s words seriously.
“The first reason is that it would harm your reputation as well as the military’s if we can’t even protect a colonel from Cheng Yang. Secondly, Colonel Ding is a talented leader, so giving him to Cheng Yang would be a great loss for the military. Finally, if you are willing to throw away someone like Ding Ming for a single mistake, none of your subordinates will be willing to stay loyal to you.” Lao Wu succinctly summarized his thoughts.
Yuan Jianzhe nodded in response. It was a reasonable argument, and since Lao Wu spoke up, he must have had an alternative solution.
“Commander, I have a plan that may solve our current dilemma.”
“What is it?”
“Since someone needs to be sacrificed to Cheng Yang, we should use this as an opportunity to remove the thorns created by Project Uplift.” Lao Wu suggested. “There are a few new militia groups that have been causing trouble that we can hand over instead.”
“I understand your intentions, but couldn’t Cheng Yang ask our scapegoats if they were the culprits? I don’t think he’s a big enough fool not to.”
“There’s an obvious solution. The dead cannot speak.”
Most of the people present were old foxes, so Lao Wu’s intentions didn’t escape them. Since Ding Ming’s death would create a bad precedent for them, no one opposed the proposal.
“You have until Cheng Yang gets back. See that it gets done.” Yuan Jianzhe said after a few minutes of contemplation.
Lao Wu immediately excused himself to take care of it.
After that, Ding Ming was reprimanded by Yuan Jianzhe before the meeting moved on to a discussion of the future.
The conclusion was that the only way to deal with Cheng Yang would be to tear out his roots. As far as they could tell, his only weaknesses were the villages they’d discovered. Thus, to stop Cheng Yang, those villages needed to be destroyed. So, until they had the power to do so, they would have to accept Cheng Yang’s audacious demands.
Shortly after the meeting ended, the door to an apartment was locked.
“Fuck! After everything I’ve done for him, he was willing to toss me aside like garbage! When is that old man going to fucking die?” Roared a wild voice. Even so, the sound insulation for the apartment was unparalleled, so nothing could be heard outside.
“Old Ding, Yuan Jianzhe’s barely fifty, so how is he an old man?” Another man chuckled from his armchair in the corner. “If you want him to die, you’d better not be hoping for natural causes to take him out.”
“I’ll send him to his death soon.” The Old Ding in question was, of course, Ding Ming.
“Does that mean you’re still going to carry out your plan?”
“Of course, we just got unlucky this time since we didn’t manage to kill one of Cheng Yang’s soldiers. Otherwise, how could he be so passive after an attack? If it were me, I would siege the safe zone until the desperate civilians pushed Yuan Jianzhe out.”
“What a dumb plan, is that what you were hoping would happen?” The other man cackled.
“What do you mean?” Ding Ming frowned.
“You’re a colonel. You’d be forced out too, not to mention that we have more than enough Experience Fragments to feed the safe zone for a month. Wouldn’t that be enough time for Yuan Jianzhe to finish his plans and gain the strength to fight back?” The man said. “Even a fool would rather take the money. I thought you planned to get Yuan Jianzhe demoted.”
“That’s only a guess.” Ding Mind stubbornly refused to admit his plan was terrible. “Besides, if I didn’t endanger myself a bit, that old fox Lao Wu would see right through me.”
“Well, I can’t tease you anymore since Cheng Yang revealed strength far above even your estimates. If he wanted Yuan Jianzhe dead, his pet tiger could probably make sure it happens.”
Ding Ming was unconvinced, but arguing with that man was useless.
“I don’t understand why Cheng Yang won’t act. He must know he’s at a disadvantage if this goes on, right? How many people could he have in those villages? A hundred thousand? We have more than three times that, and thanks to Yuan Jianzhe’s crazy plan, three quarters are Professionals. The longer we’re allowed to grow, the worse it will be for him. If I were him, I would have crushed the safe zone first, so why hasn’t he?”
‘Because he’s not a simple-minded easy to manipulate fool like you.’ The other man thought with a sneer. ‘You get what you pay for, but this man really is too stupid. If he messes up like this again, I’ll need to take care of him.’
“What is an opponent?” The man asked Ding Ming. “Powerful individuals will only consider people on their level to be their opponents. Perhaps Yuan Jianzhe is nothing in Cheng Yang’s eyes? After all, the only real rivals for someone like him in this new world are the endless streams of monsters. There’s also a chance he’s going easy on us since we’re all humans. He should have noticed that even if he’s strong, without the rest of humanity as support, he’ll die just like us when if the monsters evolve faster than us.”
“Well, what should I do next? If my plan was so bad, what’s yours?” Ding Ming said with an annoyed expression.
“Since the city resources are split between Cheng Yang in the East and Yuan Jianzhe in the West, we’ll need to find a way to break that gridlock. Either we entice Cheng Yang to take over the East or force Yuan Jianzhe to try and take control of the West. Either way, we need to be discreet.”
“Why don’t we sneak through the East? We could try to challenge the instance dungeon or search for resources near the other village?”
“It wouldn’t be that easy. The instance dungeon is guarded, and the village has a road to Cheng Yang’s village in the south.” The man said. “No, our goal will be to take over that village in the North.”