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Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
When the flashy activity ended, mouths were seen hanging open. The nobles had wondered how much military power Da Xue had, but they had never seen Baiyi — who had a habit of showing off — flex his academy’s military capabilities this much before.
The marionette had been outshone by that the fluffy teddy bear that restored the burning forest to its previous state, using a mysterious superpower.
The same thought popped up in the minds of the nervous nobles: ‘ Showing off the powers you possess like this… Isn’t this just a calculating, roundabout way to force us to pick a side?’
The tycoons had come to the ball with their donations on them. They intended to get on Baiyi’s good side but not pledge allegiance to him. This way, they would not be enemies of the Church as well as Baiyi.
However, as Hope had seen right through their scheme, that thought had now gone out the window. He had placed the tycoons in between a rock and a hard place; they had to make a decision: ride… or die!
‘How atrocious of these Prisoners of Void! You people talk about peace, tolerance, and virtue, but when the chips are down, you bare your fangs and threaten us! Isn’t this just coercion?!’ Several tycoons thought as they struggled to keep their calm.
“Alright. Our entertaining little detour ends there. If any friend of mine is interested in the Phoenix’s development, I invite you to join me for a discussion after our main event is over,” Baiyi said as the teddy bear and the large creepy-crawly waddled out of sight.
“Shall we move on to the real reason we’re all here?” Baiyi announced, beckoning Vidomina and Mia to sit. Then, the Fifth Walker took out fifteen metal placard from his pocket. Holding up the placard with a “1” inscribed on it, Baiyi said, “Let’s us begin! Does anyone want to buy this seat?”
It was time for the bids to begin, but to Baiyi’s greatest shock, everyone was silent. The cold atmosphere left Baiyi speechless.
‘Okay. What the heck is going on? ‘ Baiyi examined the crowd and realized that the tycoons all had expressions of doubt. It was as though they were debating with themselves in their hearts.
He could guess what the nobles were thinking, so he said, “Did you all hear rumors lately and decided to make up some weird theories about them?”
Baiyi knew that the powerful and rich elites were paranoid and had overactive imaginations. They were always eager to piece together conspiracy theories just from a few rumors floating around.
A noble grew bold and answered, “Mr. Hope, before we start this auction, we… We deserve to know about the issue between you and the Church.”
“Hey, wait a minute!” Baiyi said, “Since when has become your business? Do you think I want to gain your support so that I can win the little argument between myself and the Church? Sigh. I can assure you, my friends, that you are all overthinking this. I don’t need your support.”
The crowd was stupefied. ‘ None of this is to vie for our support?! You weren’t trying to coerce us into taking your side? How do you expect us to believe that nonsense?! You suddenly increased the number of seats for sponsored students, started this auction ahead of its usual time, and then showed off two of your more powerful military assets on stage, in front of us all! You’ve deliberately created, watered, and enriched a bed for seeds of doubts to sprout, and now, you mock us for sowing them?!’
A noble could not restrain himself any longer and shot to his feet. “Master Hope, you’re telling us that you plan to fight the Church of God’s Grace with just you and Da Xue? Do you realize that your words imply that you have no need for our power and support?”
“Yes,” Baiyi answered, nodding. “Don’t take this personal: I don’t need anyone’s help, including the nobles, the royal family, and the Northerners. I may get some help from my barbarian friends, but that’s the extent of it. See? You all have no reason to be concerned!”
The nobles glanced at each other in disbelief. Those words… could only come out from the mouth of a madman!
No one denied that Da Xue was the best academy, leading in academic achievement and standard of education, but these feats would not hold water in matters outside education! The Church definitely would not go easy on Da Xue just because it was an elite institution!
The Church had been in existence for thousands of years, and it had followers in every part of the world. Its followers were obedient and obeyed its teachings without question. Furthermore, the Church’s military capabilities were terrifying to behold. The number of soldiers they had rivaled that of the Empires, and after the Duat invasion, that number and the Church’s influence had multiplied greatly. It would not be wrong to say that the Church had reached the height of its power and influence, a few hundred years after their last heydays!
No one was crazy enough to do battle with the Church, let alone fight on their own!
The Fifth Walker was clearly insane!
Hope was overwhelmingly powerful, yes, but wars were not fought or won by one person. The Church was not short on powerful warriors, either; those it considered cannon fodder were incredibly challenging to defeat. Just how many of them would the mighty Fifth Walker be able to take down on his own?
As for the other Voidwalkers, how many of the Church’s warriors could they take on before their rickety suit of armor bodies broke down?
Other than the Voidwalkers, who else could Da Xue deploy to fight the Church’s massive army? The little gorgeous ladies around Hope? If not for the tragedy that was sure to occur, that would have been a great joke. How would the little girls hope to fare against the Church’s armies of priests, crusaders, and others? How would they fare against the Church’s most elite and fearless warriors — the Templars?
Baiyi’s words were so ridiculous, even the Southern Duke, who always tried to convince others to join Baiyi’s side, jumped to his feet. “Are you mad, Mister Grand Principal?”
When the Southern Duke learned of the Empire’s stand on the matter, he decided to stand by Baiyi. He had attended Da Xue’s ball in hopes of persuading nobles to side with Baiyi.
The Southern Duke did not find it difficult with Baiyi; after all, he had already expected a war between the Voidwalkers and the Church to break out at some point. What he had not expected was how soon the war would begin.
If Hope showed some sort of urgency for the war, which was going to happen soon, everyone would understand, but not only did he not do this, he also announced quite boldly that he had no need for the nobles!
The nobles at the ball were in agony when they realized that Hope did not give a s**t about them. They would rather be forced to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea than to be unceremoniously dismissed like this.
Watching his business partner, the Southern Duke, question his reasoning made Baiyi realize how important nobles perceived themselves to be. He shrugged and replied, “No offense, but I really think you all, including the Emperor, are reading too much into this. You all seem to think that I would need your help to win this little skirmish. I don’t, but maybe the Church does — I don’t know. What I do know is that I do not need external help to win!”
Baiyi seemed so confident that the nobles present almost believed him.
“Look: I called this feud a skirmish because that’s what it’ll be. It will not escalate into an all-out war, where one lives and the other dies. It’ll be nothing more than a brief clash of swords. The Church might really be nursing the intention to remove a “heretic” like me from this world, but I do not harbor that sentiment towards them. Everyone knows that I am a big softie; I do not like my hands stained with blood,” Baiyi said. “My intentions are not malicious. I just want to force them to accept the existence of the Voidwalkers and keep quiet about our development and research. This way, we, the Voidwalkers, can return to this world and live normally like everyone else. That’s all we ever wanted; it’s not too much to ask, is it?”
Complicated expressions surfaced on the faces of the nobles present. If Hope’s words — and by extension, the Voidwalkers’ promise — were true, then his refusal to acquire external help was not as insane as they had initially thought. Hope really could use a small and controlled clash to force the Church to back off. It was very plausible, especially he had already had a scheme devised.
As Hope did not require them to join him, the nobles could choose not to pick a side, giving them the freedom to watch from afar as events unfolded. This way, they would be unable to influence the outcome of the battle, but that was not such a bad thing, as both side wars were huge entities. Staying neutral was perhaps the wisest choice they could make.
The nobles, however, had attended the ball with so much tribute on their person for a reason. However, they could now rest easy. Hope’s words meant that their dreams of staying neutral had come true, even before they had offered their presents!
“Master Hope, if this really is your intention, why have you increased the number of sponsored students?” The Southern Duke, who looked as though he was undergoing an internal struggle, asked. He was just a duke, but he possessed a large amount of authority within the Empire. Being told to sit out a clash for dominance between two huge forces made the Southern Duke uneasy.
“Because we have some new projects in the works, and we need more funding for them,” Baiyi answered. “That marionette you just saw is one of the many projects we are working on. You’ve seen its power and its size, right? We plan to improve those, but we can’t do that without monetary support.”
“Are you…Are you telling me that you only intended to conduct a few non-war related business transactions with us?” Another noble asked, completely taken aback.
“That is correct,” Baiyi said in affirmation. “The conflict I have with the Church concerns only me. You do not need to bother yourselves with it.”
The crowd fell silent. A few moments later, the Southern Duke said, “If it’s possible, we may need some time alone to deliberate on this matter.”
“Just do it here,” Baiyi said and nodded to the two girls sitting beside him. The trio stood up at the same time, and after the girls grabbed his arms in a docile manner, the trio exited the hall.
The moment Baiyi and the girls left, a heated debate between the nobles was ignited.
Some nobles still believed that Baiyi had used a roundabout way to ask for support. Some other nobles were trying to predict the winner of the upcoming skirmish; they believed that the battle would be short and swift, as Da Xue intended only to teach the Church a lesson for its attempted silencing of the Voidwalkers. If this was truly the case, then Hope was right: Da Xue would prevail. A war that breaks out because of a difference in ideology could be settled through a brief display of military might, followed by the continuous application of soft power.
There were some nobles that thought it best to stand with Da Xue; they were reluctant not to join a side in such a pivotal event. Other nobles were worried that their kids studying at Da Xue would be perceived to have taken the institution’s side. This group of nobles could not help but wonder if the Church already considered them to be on the side of Da Xue. They also could not help worrying that the Church would punish those trying to befriend both it and Da Xue. They were unsure if the Church would seek to secure their support on other matters in the future.
Every noble in the hall had something on their mind. Only the Southern Duke and two other nobles were shrewd enough to focus on the new projects Baiyi had mentioned, rather than waste time on what had already been debunked.
One of these two nobles represented a family that owned a blacksmith-franchising business, while the other noble was in the business of reselling marionettes. These two nobles were supposed to compete with Baiyi for the Empire’s arms deal, but this did not dissuade them from sending their kids to Da Xue — an institution established by their rival. They also did not see anything wrong with getting in on their rival’s business projects, which was sure to grow more lucrative as time passed.
This was the nature of most nobles. Neither their friends nor their enemies were permanent. Only their interests took precedence.
While the nobles debated, Baiyi had returned to his room to rest, accompanied by Mia and Vidomina.
He looked relaxed and unworried, but the girls looked unsettled. Mia walked over and held his gauntlet with both hands. “Mr. Hope, do we really have to… fight the Church?”
As she had never really cared about these sorts of things in the past, Mia knew close to nothing about the feud. At the ball tonight was the first time she had heard of it. She had done her best to look unworried in the hall, but now that she was in a private area, she could not help but express her worry.
Baiyi pinched Mia’s cheeks. “You had to have expected something of this nature to happen at some point, right?”
Mia nodded a little reluctantly. When Baiyi’s true identity was revealed, Mia did expect him to clash with the Church, but she had not expected it to happen this soon.
Had the Church and Da Xue not been on friendly terms this whole time? She had seen any open display of hostility between both sides. Her close friend and sister, Laeticia, was even appointed a Saintess despite being affiliated with Da Xue.
Mia had thought that both sides would remain friends forever.
Vidomina, who knew more than Mia, did was less perturbed. She raised a glass of red wine to her lips and savored the taste. “Mia, you really do not need to fret. There’s no one in this world that can beat my Godfather.”
“I know, I know. I know Mr. Hope is the most powerful person the world has ever seen,” Mia replied. The faith both girls had in Baiyi was unshakeable. To them, there was no battle that Baiyi could not win.
“But I’m not worried about victory; I’m worried about Laeticia,” Mia said with worry.
“Me too,” Baiyi said. “This is one aspect I have no guarantee of winning, so I’ll need your help on this one, girls.”
Vidomina and Mia nodded obediently. Feeling pleased, Baiyi raised his hands and ruffled their heads. It felt good that he did not have to explain himself to them; they would support him regardless.
“Those nobles really do over-imagine things, don’t they?” Vidomina smiled. “Did they really think that we’ll need their help?”
“I agree. I had Mr. Bear perform his little magic trick to show these nobles that there is very little we cannot restore after our victory. But, I guess that implication eluded them,” Baiyi said in a low voice. As he spoke, his hand unconsciously slid down to Mia’s exposed back. He began to stroke the girl’s silky smooth back. So absorbed was Baiyi in the feeling that he failed to notice that his actions were inappropriate.
Mia did not seem to see anything wrong with it. She closed her eyes in satisfaction as she enjoyed the back rub. She did not seem to consider it inappropriate.
“That’s all the time they’ll get. We should return and begin our agenda,” Baiyi said, pulling his hand away. “If we let them continue unchecked, who knows what kinda crazy story they would come up with, this time!”
The trio disappeared from the room and appeared in the hall a moment later.
The nobles had not had much time to discuss. The length of time that Baiyi had given them to deliberate was incredibly short; it was only enough time for Mia to receive a little backrub. Biayi, however, considered it more than enough time for the nobles to understand the situation.
The nobles soon regained their cool and decided to focus — something they do at the auctions before this. Although it was not clear what had motivated them, the auction for sponsored seats begun, regardless.
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