Right before leaving, Cheng Yang found Yu Kai pacing around the pavilion of his Meditation Hall.
“Yu Kai? What are you doing here?” Cheng Yang asked in surprise.
“You didn’t come back last night.” Yu Kai looked like he hadn’t slept.
Yesterday was Cheng Yang’s last day in Copper Tomb Village, so he spent the night there wrapping up loose ends.
“Sorry.” Cheng Yang said. “Did something happen?”
“Someone is trying to infiltrate Silkworm Mountain. I don’t know who, and we don’t even know how many. They slipped in when the class change statues leveled up, and we recruited more soldiers.” Yu Kai explained. “They’re masters of deception and are great at hiding, so they must be from the military.”
“Are you saying Silkworm Mountain has been discovered?” Cheng Yang frowned.
He wasn’t particularly worried since he wanted to finish things today, but Silkworm Mountain was the weakest village in the Cloud City area. It separated from Phoenix Village and had very few high-level soldiers.
“I don’t know yet. We only discovered one person when someone found him wasting money in the Tavern. After some questioning, we realized he was from the safe zone.”
“It probably wasn’t Yuan Jianzhe, so what’s going on?” Cheng Yang mused.
“It wasn’t Yuan Jianzhe?”
“I caused a ruckus in the safe zone a few days ago, so with Yuan Jianzhe’s cautious personality, he would have spent the time I gave him trying to fix the problem instead of creating new ones. Someone else must have done it. Either a military official who went behind his back or an impatient militia captain. Maybe Yuan Jianzhe actually wasn’t responsible for the explosion?”
“What should we do then?” Yu Kai asked. “Should we ask Yuan Jianzhe to help us find the infiltrators?”
“No, why would we do that?” Cheng Yang sneered. “If Yuan Jianzhe wants to fish in troubled water, I won’t stop someone from stirring up silt. Let’s hope he doesn’t disappear under the murky surface.”
“Does that mean you’re planning to s-“
“Yes.” Cheng Yang interrupted. “As the saying goes, one mountain doesn’t allow two tigers. The Cloud City area can only have one ruler, and although he’s a competent leader, he’s proven unwilling to be subservient. As such, he’s unfit to run the safe zone for me.”
“Are we going to take over the safe zone then?”
“With the protection it has from the gods, forcefully trying to control the safe zone is impossible. I plan to fragment the people so that there’s a three-way or even four-way struggle for power. Only a united, safe zone is a threat to us. At most, one of the factions will be our representative.”
Three days from now, the massive influx of people would destabilize every safe zone in the world. Most of the people saved by the gods had at least a few Experience Fragments, so by pooling their wealth, new factions would form and strengthen instantly.
The same forces that prevented Cheng Yang from controlling the safe zone would work against established forces since they wouldn’t be able to suppress these new factions unless they left the safe zone.
At that point, Cheng Yang would only need a little force to make the Cloud City safe zone spiral into chaos. Then, even if he couldn’t control the safe zone, he could manipulate the situation to his benefit.
“Should we send someone to build a new force, or are you planning to buy one of the existing factions in the safe zone?” Yu Kai asked once he understood the situation.
A single man appeared in Cheng Yang’s mind. It was the image of a man with broad soldiers reaching into rubble to pull Cheng Yang out of darkness. Xiao Zheng, the militia captain that had saved Cheng Yang from the ruins of Cloud City in his previous life.
Xiao Zheng was a righteous person, which was rare after the apocalypse started. In his previous life, that kindness had gotten him killed, but if he had Cheng Yang as a backer, things would be different. A benevolent leader would win the hearts of the public, so Xiao Zheng was a great choice.
“Buy an established power. We’ll wait and see if we need to send a supervisor.” Cheng Yang said. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to meet with Yuan Jianzhe.”
“What about Silkworm Mountain? I’m worried that it will be attacked since its existence was revealed. Without reinforcements, we’d have a hard time defending, but if they can infiltrate the village, the walls might be useless.”
“If they attack, let them have the village. It will be the last thing they ever obtain.” Cheng Yang promised. “Take this. It will allow us to communicate in case something happens.”
Cheng Yang handed one of the Transmission Mirrors to Yu Kai.
“How convenient! If I see anything, I’ll call you. With your speed, we would only have to defend for half an hour.”
“I’ll make sure to show myself around the safe zone for the next few days. My presence might be enough to scare the infiltrators into action, so be ready.”
“I will be.” Yu Kai promised. If a conflict was inevitable, he was confident in being able to hold on until Cheng Yang arrived.
After that, Cheng Yang left the pavilion and rode to the safe zone.
Ten minutes later, he arrived. The journey was much more accessible now than the first time he visited Cloud City. All of the monster hordes were gone, and a broad path had been cleared through the forest. Although monsters still spawned, they were only a threat to civilians.
Cheng Yang was infamous in the safe zone. When Yuan Jianzhe was forced to pay a ransom, he spread Cheng Yang’s name far and wide as a villainous man. He claimed that if Cheng Yang’s demands weren’t met, he’d slaughter the entire city. It wasn’t entirely true, but it did help convince people to pay the ransom.
Then, a few days ago, Cheng Yang rode Enlai into the safe zone. The imposing manner had shocked the populace. Seeing the commander humiliated in public only added weight to Yuan Jianzhe’s accusation. Although they knew the murder was impossible within the safe zone, some people believed Cheng Yang might be capable of slaughtering them all.
As a result, instead of panicking when he arrived like last time, everyone ran away in fear. The only people that remained were a few militia members who ran up to him.
“Mr. Cheng, are you here to see the commander?”
“I am, is he here right now?”
“Yes, sir. He knew Mr. Cheng was coming today, so he’s waiting in the main plaza.” The leader of the group said. “If you follow me, I can lead you there.”
Cheng Yang nodded, then followed the group. Along the way, he tried to guess what kind of surprise Yuan Jianzhe had prepared for him.
Cheng Yang walked into the safe zone’s plaza, which was ringed by high-end villas. It was his first time coming here. He never bothered in his past life since these villas weren’t something he could afford.
At the same time, one of the villa’s doors opened up. One after another, the high ranking military officials and militia captains walked out, with Yuan Jianzhe at the end fo the line.
“Mr. Cheng, you kept me waiting!” Yuan Jianzhe walked over with a bright smile on his face.