Zhuo Fan eyed You Ming, “What is Prime Minister Zhuge talking about?”
You Ming explained, “Steward Zhuo, the emperor sensed his time was coming and feared a world with Prime Minister Zhuge in it would stir the lands. He had me put Prime Minister Zhuge down. But since I had answered Steward Zhuo’s call of wanting Prime Minister Zhuge, I had Prime Minister Zhuge fake death with a pill. Now, safe and sound, I gave the antidote.”
Zhuo Fan nodded.
Zhuge Changfeng said, “I see, Sir You Ming is with Steward Zhuo. What has happened? With His Majesty’s cunning mind, there’s no way he’d leave You Ming alive.”
The two laughed.
“He hasn’t been on my side since last evening. His Majesty had no way of figuring out our connection either. All we had among us was a transaction.” Zhuo Fan grinned.
You Ming nodded, “Before His Majesty’s jubilee, I and Steward Zhuo met, to my great benefit. In those times of anarchy, with everyone going for the throne, Steward Zhuo made me a promise. I had to do just two little things for him and he’d have me on board. No matter how much my future actions affected the Luo clan’s interest afterwards, once he seized the world, I could use this promise to join the Luo clan, becoming the victor in this civil war.”
Zhuge Changfeng gave a thumb’s up, “Steward Zhuo, why didn’t I think of that? Not only binding the opponent but enticing him as well. It will make roping others easier. And this method wasn’t successful on just him, right?”
“Just one other.”
Zhuo Fan shirked off the praise, “I made promises with potential candidates. One is You Ming, the other being Leng Wuchang.”
“What about me? Do I have no potential?” Zhuge Changfeng’s eyebrow shook.
Zhuo Fan laughed, “Prime Minister sir has that aplenty, but in those times you were just another contender. Was I supposed to draw in a rival? That’s like asking for it.”
“Ha-ha-ha, quite true.” Prime Minister Zhuge nodded.
You Ming continued, “Steward Zhuo had me urge the second prince into a quarrel at the jubilee, making up an excuse to leave the imperial capital to set everything up, while also instigating the war with everyone in passing. The other matter was egging on the second prince’s rebellion while he was fighting Regent Estate. Though there were many people asking me about this at the time, Regent Estate and Steward Zhuo both wanted to use an attack on the court as a way to delay Dugu Army. While the emperor used it to draw the Prime Minister out and take you down in one fell swoop by dumping the nation betrayer on your list of crimes.”
“Oh, the rebellion had been this old man’s greatest mistake. Uhm, let’s not mention it.” Zhuge Changfeng sighed.
Zhuo Fan and You Ming smiled.
You Ming added, “After these tasks, Steward Zhuo presented me with an optional task, saving the Prime Minister from death. I didn’t want to at first, afraid that the emperor would find out, but Steward Zhuo is just too mean, setting his sights on Hell Valley as the first house to wipe out. That’s like cutting my way out. Soon came the end of Regent Estate and I was only left with the imperial family and Luo clan. Of course, I had to listen to both of them. “
You Ming eyed Zhuo Fan with a bit of annoyance, yet the man had the same ineffable smile of a winner.
Zhuge Changfeng asked in doubt, “Steward Zhuo, why do you show me such care?”
“Ha-ha-ha, I respect Prime Minister’s ability and wish to invite you to Luo clan.” Zhuo Fan cupped his hands.
Zhuge Changfeng paused, “What would Luo clan do with me when it has the invincible Steward Zhuo? I will only become a burden to Steward Zhuo.”
“Prime Minister sir, I was able to see today only through some shady methods. But when it comes to governing Tianyu, Prime Minister takes the crown.”
Zhuo Fan turned forlorn, “To deal with Quanrong and imperial family combined, I had to tough it out and make a request to the Demon Scheming Sect, thus owing them. To return the favor, I have to report to the sect, unbeknownst when I’ll be back. I need Prime Minister sir’s wisdom to lead Luo clan, control the grand scheme of things and steer it clear from disaster.”
“The Demon Scheming Sect? That means you’ve beaten Quanrong and His Majesty all while keeping the empire’s three guardian sects from catching wind of this matter?” Zhuge Changfeng shook, “That will spell the end of Tianyu’s imperial family as we know it, becoming a puppet, with the Luo clan as the ruler supreme.”
“Ha-ha-ha, Prime Minister sir has the same vision as me. Coming to Luo clan, sir will have the stage set to display your skills. I will not disgrace the greatest mind of Tianyu.” Zhuo Fan smiled.
Zhuge Changfeng paced around the room, “That will make Luo clan’s steward position no different than Tianyu’s Prime Minister. And with you leaving, to whom will that fall to?”
Zhuo Fan beamed, “Prime Minister Zhuge has held Tianyu in balance for a century and knows the ins and outs. Since this position and Luo clan’s steward are the same, after I leave, it will belong to Prime Minister Zhuge, ha-ha-ha…”
It struck a chord in old Zhuge Changfeng’s heart. He’d been a Prime Minister for as long as he knew, yet had no hard feelings leaving that life behind.
Calming down, he realized he could do nothing else. But resuming his old trade, he wasn’t exactly used to working under someone.
This made the Luo clan’s steward position the best choice.
Zhuge Changfeng showed a bashful smile, “Uhm, the moment you leave, I’ll steal your position. That wouldn’t be very nice.”
“It’s all fine. The steward is in charge of all clan affairs. And with an ever growing Luo clan, those affairs will only expand. This position shall never be empty. Someone will always be there to take it. If Prime Minister Zhuge finds joining the Luo clan a poor choice, no problem, I’ll just have Leng Wuchang take it. He doesn’t like his current spot, as a military adviser.” Zhuo Fan grinned.
Zhuge Changfeng waved around, “Oh no no no, that will not do at all. Leng Wuchang has been a Regent Estate steward all his life, seldom minding matters. With Luo clan growing into its role as an emperor in the shadows, Leng Wuchang’s light experience wouldn’t help in dealing with Tianyu’s complicated matters.”
“I come from an even smaller clan yet you don’t feel the same about me?” Zhuo Fan darkened.
Zhuge Changfeng shook his head, “Steward Zhuo, please don’t tease. You are of unseen talent, capable of anything and everything, of immense majesty and open-mindedness. What small-time steward can do that? I don’t know Steward Zhuo’s past but I am confident you are a worldly talent.”
“Prime Minister Zhuge, you sure know how to flatter. It’s fine though. All I want to know is, are you in or out?”
“In.” Zhuge Changfeng nodded.
Zhuo Fan relaxed and presented a Bloodworm, “Per clan rules, any new addition needs to eat this.”
“What is it?” Zhuge Changfeng asked while swallowing.
Zhuo Fan would’ve long killed him if he wanted to. Why go through all that trouble? The wiser one was, the quicker Zhuo Fan laid out his conditions.
With a nasty grin, Zhuo Fan’s hand shifted into a sign and Zhuge Changfeng started sweating buckets from the bellyache.
Easing up on the sign, Zhuge Changfeng felt terror like no other despite how short-lived the pain was.
“Ha-ha-ha, this!” Zhuo Fan snickered.
Zhuge Changfeng grumbled and whined, “Steward Zhuo, was that necessary? I’m just a scholar. I’m no expert and don’t need these methods to control me.”
“Ha-ha-ha, scholar? Prime Minister sir is too modest, you’re a devious and unscrupulous mastermind. I won’t rest easy unless I have you on a leash.”
Zhuo Fan sighed, “Luo siblings are neither shrewd nor tough, mere sheeps. Bringing so many beasts around their pen is all to protect them. Yet by the time I return, won’t I have the pen empty from the beasts eating them all up? Giving you all a leash is within reason, ha-ha-ha…”
Zhuge Changfeng and You Ming shook their heads, finding no retort against this demon’s logic.
[‘Cause this Demon Archon is too damn right…]