Chapter 306 The Qing Consortium changes hands .
The mountain located in Stronghold 111 was known as Mt. Ginkgo. In autumn, the mountain would shimmer golden. But in winter, the ginkgo leaves would fall and litter the valley, leaving behind only naked tree branches.
The prosperity was coming to an end and would be buried in mud.
Qing Zhen stood in his spot and looked at the withered scenery in the valley. He suddenly laughed and said, “What a pity.”
These were probably the three words that Qing Zhen liked to utter the most.
Next to him, Secretary Zhou frowned and said, “Men, remove Qing Zhen’s shoes and escort him up Mt. Gingko!”
But the soldiers responsible for guarding Mt. Ginkgo’s mountain roads did not move. Secretary Zhou was enraged. “How dare you disobey my orders.”
However, the two soldiers remained still. It was as if they could not bear to do what they were told.
Qing Zhen smiled as he looked at the slightly younger soldier and said, “I remember you. You’re Zhang Yuge, and you used to be under me. After you killed a member of the Pyro Company, you were recognized and awarded for your contribution.”
The soldier named Zhang Yuge got excited. He stood to attention and shouted, “I am Zhang Yuge from the 5th Combat Brigade. I didn’t expect you to still remember me, sir.”
Qing Zhen turned to look at the other soldier and said with a smile, “You’re Wang Hang, one of my soldiers as well. Is your mother feeling better yet?”
Wang Hang’s eyes reddened. “Thank you, sir. I didn’t expect you would still remember a small matter like that.”
Qing Zhen sighed to Secretary Zhou and said, “They’re all elite soldiers and should be out fighting the war, but due to their relationship with me, they were left behind here to act as watchdogs for the organization. What a pity. Let’s not make things difficult for them. I’ll head up myself.”
Secretary Zhou said coldly behind Qing Zhen, “Do you know that no Shadows in the history of the Qing Consortium have ever acted like you? All of them have bowed their heads to the organization!”
Qing Zhen smiled and said, “But I’m Qing Zhen.”
It was as if Qing Zhen’s name was supposed to have some magical ring to it. He had a pride that was embedded to the bone, and he would never yield to anyone.
Then Qing Zhen took off his shoes and socks and started walking up the mountain road littered with dead ginkgo leaves.
The cold winter wind howled down the mountain road, making the ground as cold as steel.
However, no one could see any pain or frustration on Qing Zhen’s face. After walking for a while, Qing Zhen suddenly pointed to a ridge on the mountain and said, “When I was young, I used to play in the mud there with Luo Lan. Back then, the river was very cold, so we would dip the persimmons we stole into the icy waters. It’s delicious to eat them after taking them out of the river. Back then, Qing Yun was always following us around, but I always had the feeling he hated me.”
Following him, Secretary Zhou remained silent. No one expected Qing Zhen would still be so carefree when he was on the brink of death.
“But there’s a hidden guard post over there now, so that place is probably sealed off, right?” Qing Zhen said with a smile.
Snowflakes suddenly floated down from the sky. Qing Zhen’s clean feet stepped on the thin layer of snow and left a line of footprints on the mountain road.
At the beginning, the snow was white while the footprints were black. Every step revealed the ground beneath the snow.
Secretary Zhou shouted from behind him in the snow, “Have you thought it through?!”
The snow gradually fell heavier, and Qing Zhen turned a deaf ear on him.
As he walked, the footprints in the snow on the mountain road started turning red. As he walked up step by step, it was as if he could not see the end of the road at all. However, Qing Zhen’s posture was still straight.
As Qing Zhen walked past the sentry guards along the way, they all turned away to look beyond the mountain.
As he walked, Qing Zhen’s feet numbed. He could not remember how far he had been walking. With every step he took, he seemed to be thinking about something.
From beside him, Secretary Zhou suddenly asked, “Why did you withdraw the troops last night and leave the Yang Consortium hanging?”
“Oh, you’re talking about that?” Qing Zhen said with a smile.
“Back then, Qing Yi clearly had not taken over the power of the military yet. You clearly know that Luo Lan is still in the hands of the Yang Consortium.” Secretary Zhou frowned and said, “The Yang Consortium must have placed Luo Lan under arrest now. A lot of people must also have caught wind of you being summoned back to Stronghold 111 by now, so they’ll probably think it was Qing Yi’s order to withdraw the troops.”
Qing Zhen laughed and said, “That’s because I knew you all were gonna come after me.”
“What do you mean?”
“When our father passed away, he insisted on having Luo Lan protect me. But you should also know what kind of person he is.” Qing Zhen chuckled. “He’s always eating and sleeping, and really rash as well, so why would I need him to protect me? It is likelier that I’d have to protect him instead.”
“So you allowed the Yang Consortium to arrest him then?” Secretary Zhou frowned and said. He actually did not understand the logic behind this, but Qing Zhen’s planning had always been a little more effective than other people’s.
“If I didn’t get someone else to arrest him, he would probably have rushed up Mt. Ginkgo to fight the old fogeys.” Qing Zhen sighed and said, “The Yang Consortium will not kill him. A fatty that’s alive is worth more than a dead one. Before they get anything valuable out of him, the Yang Consortium won’t take his life. It’s better than having him come charging back here.”
“But they’ll still kill him in the future,” Secretary Zhou said calmly.
“I’ve already prepared a way out for him,” Qing Zhen said.
Qing Zhen had turned on the alliance with the Yang Consortium, not for anything else, but so that he could make Luo Lan stay in Stronghold 88 and not come back here to die. That was because even Qing Zhen himself was not confident he could survive today.
Qing Zhen stood barefooted near the cliff of the winding, switchback road and looked out at the drifting snow. He said, “That fool, Luo Lan, if I were to die today, he would definitely weep his heart out for me. Our damned old man always said that a family needs to be harmonious. We can only exist if our family remains around.”
Secretary Zhou asked, “Then why are you still going against the Qing clan’s patriarch?”
Qing Zhen looked at the mountains in the distance, having figured out something. He said, “Now that I think about it, our family consists only of Luo Lan and me. The others don’t count.”
Then Qing Zhen turned back around and looked up in front of him. He suddenly laughed and said, “I didn’t even notice, but we’re almost there! Come on, let’s go!”
Qing Zhen walked in front with Secretary Zhou asking loudly again from the back, “It’s almost time! Have you seriously thought it through yet?!”
The snow fell heavy as the wind howled.
Qing Zhen said softly in the snowstorm, “I’ve thought it over.”
In front of him, he could see the Qing Consortium’s manor on the mountainside of Mt. Ginkgo. This place was still as brightly lit as he remembered. Qing Zhen stood outside the vermillion gate and said with a smile, “Now that I think about it, I haven’t been here but a few times.”
Secretary Zhou escorted him into the main lobby. Qing Zhen’s feet left bloodstains on the clean and extravagant marble floor. The servants in the hallway remained silent, and no one dared to go over to clean off the bloodstains.
Qing Zhen walked further inside. The door to the conference room was already open, and the Qing Consortium’s board members were all seated inside.
Qing Zhen walked down the long hallway and past a long hall. He walked by himself in front while the others behind him followed from afar.
Suddenly, someone realized that Qing Zhen’s back had remained straight even until now. Not once did he ever slouch.
When Qing Zhen walked into the conference room, he headed straight to the end of the table and sat down.
There was no one next to Qing Zhen. All the members of the Board were seated across from him, as though he were taking on the entire Qing Consortium.
The elder in the seat of honor said calmly, “Do you know what you did wrong?”
Qing Zhen also said calmly, “What wrong did I do?”
The elder’s eyes narrowed slightly. He never expected that the 21-kilometer-long mountain road would be unable to make Qing Zhen lower his head.
“Murder, mutiny, privately raising an army, and being disrespectful.” The elder said, “All of these crimes are enough to sentence you to death.”
Qing Zhen asked, “And I must die for that?”
“If you don’t die, I will not be at ease.”
These words were the true thoughts of everyone on the Qing Consortium’s Board. This Shadow who never respected the rules was starting to make them afraid.
They had never been so afraid of a Shadow before, so this Shadow had to die.
Qing Zhen’s troops had already been disbanded. Some of them had been tamed after getting incorporated into the various fighting forces, while others who were stubbornly loyal were chained up like dogs in the stronghold. As such, Qing Zhen’s influence in the military seemed to have been weakened to almost nothing.
Luo Lan had been placed under house arrest in Stronghold 88.
It seemed like Qing Zhen had even lost his last beam of support.
So when the plan was revealed, the Board was confident of their victory. They were pulling out all stops to ensure Qing Zhen’s death.
Qing Zhen got up and walked to the window on one side of the conference room barefooted. Someone shouted angrily, “Qing Zhen, how dare you still act so arrogantly at this time!”
But Qing Zhen whirled around and asked Secretary Zhou loudly, “Zhou Qi, I’ve already thought it through. How about you?”
While on the 21-kilometer-long mountain road, Secretary Zhou had asked Qing Zhen twice in a loud voice. But now, it was Qing Zhen who was asking him back.
The world outside the floor-to-ceiling windows was vast and wide!
He did not want to be a Shadow anymore. He wanted to be the CEO of the Qing Consortium. ‘Breaking custom, I’ll shatter positions and destroy countries for me; without the turning of the world, there is no recovery!’
Qing Zhen asked again loudly, “Have you thought it through yet?!”
Secretary Zhou smiled. “I’m glad to be of service to you.”
Secretary Zhou, who had at some point placed himself behind the elder, grabbed a stream of thin air. The transparent stream split and flowed towards the necks of the members of the Board.
A cry of surprise from someone startled the security troops stationed outside the conference room, but Secretary Zhou was already prepared. The transparent stream further split itself and shot through the conference room’s solid wood door. Screams came from outside and then it went silent.
Continuous gunfire rang out on the mountainside as though to suggest an intense battle was taking place.
At the foot of the mountain, the soldier named Zhang Yuge shouted, “Everyone, today is the day we succeed!”
With that, a large group of soldiers emerged from the wilderness. Although he rushed up with them, the blood he spilled in battle flowed down the mountain road and melted away the thin layer of snow.
Meanwhile, in Stronghold 111, the manhole covers on the street were suddenly pushed up as troops dressed in black rushed out and headed for all the key military zones in the stronghold. When they encountered the regular troops of the stronghold, this army dressed in black was surprisingly brave and fearless in battle!
One of the soldiers in black sat down on the ground slowly after being shot. One of his comrades tried to help him up, only for him to grab his comrade’s hand and say with a smile, “The day has finally arrived. Don’t worry about me. Tell our commander that we’ve been waiting for this day for too long!”
Secretary Zhou smiled at Qing Zhen and said, “Was it because you weren’t sure about me that you didn’t want Luo Lan coming back here? We were friends who played in the mud together when we were young. You’ve made me really sad.”
On the mountainside, Qing Zhen had said he and Luo Lan used to play in the mud next to the river and ate frozen persimmons. But what he didn’t say was that Zhou Qi was also among those that played together with them.
Many people thought that Secretary Zhou had always treated Qing Zhen as a thorn in his side. This was also why the Qing Consortium’s Board liked to get Secretary Zhou to target Qing Zhen.
However, Qing Zhen and Zhou Qi had never been on bad terms. In the early years, they already had thoughts of changing the world.
After being questioned by Zhou Qi, Qing Zhen also smiled. “I really was a little worried about you. After all, when you were young, a fortune teller once said you had rebelliousness written in your stars.”
Zhou Qi choked. “Fuck that bullshit!”
The previously cultured and respectable Secretary Zhou suddenly did not look that cultured and respectable anymore.
The elder in the conference room said coldly, “Aren’t you afraid that Qing Yi will deploy the troops back here and kill you?”
Qing Zhen said, “What a coincidence. Qing Yi is also one of mine.”
“What do we do now?” Zhou Qi asked, “We’ve revolted, so we can’t leave any loose ends.”
Qing Zhen said, “Just kill them all. I was planning on making them walk that 21-kilometer-long road in the snow. But now that I think about it, there’s no need to be angry with them anymore.”
Victors should be magnanimous.
As soon as he finished speaking, the “fluid rope” on the necks of the board members tightened. They were shackled to death.
Zhou Qi looked at Qing Zhen, who was standing in a trance by the window, and asked, “What are you thinking about?”
Qing Zhen came back to his senses. “Oh, I was just thinking that I might not have time to cultivate flowers anymore in the future.”
Zhou Qi listened to the gunshots coming from the mountainside and adjusted his glasses. “You and your flowers…”
The board members did not die immediately. They wanted to rip off the “rope” around their neck but realized they couldn’t do anything about a supernatural being’s powers. The fluid rope felt just like a physical cable.
Winner takes all!
The Qing Consortium had changed hands!