"Lord Patriarch, the surrounding clans have all denounced us for our actions against the Zhao Clan. They show signs of banding together in an alliance against us, supported by some unknown force."
A servant reported.
"Double the amount of resources we are giving out to each clan member and open the main family’s meditation room to those at the very Peak of Qi Condensing."
"Yes Lord Patriarch."
The servant scurried off to relay their orders.
"It looks like they’re on the attack again."
Wu Jian muttered to himself. Now was the worst possible time to move against him, the impending declaration of war put him on a time limit to clear his clan’s negative karma before it affected them in battle. As long as the heavens disliked them, unfortunate events would keep befalling them until their deeds were considered atoned for or their punishment served. It worked the same way as positive karma, those favourable sons and daughters of the Dao constantly running into beneficial encounters until whatever good deeds they had accomplished, in this life or the last, were considered repaid or they committed enough evil acts to cancel it out.
Still, he wouldn’t take back what he had done as it was the only way for him to have prevented a direct attack from the Gao Clan and certain vasalisation. He was just going to have to live with the consequences of it and try not to end up in a similar situation ever again.
Putting those thoughts out of his head, Wu Jian looked up as he sensed someone approach his office and hesitate at the entrance.
"You may come in."
He spoke into Rong Hu’s head through the door. She jumped at the sudden noise but quickly composed herself and pushed open the door.
"I greet the Wu Patriarch."
She bowed, voice steady despite her nerves. She had just seen part of what the man in front of her was capable of and was frightened by what she saw.
"No need for formalities here."
He waved for her to sit down, and she did, taking up the edge of her seat.
"It has come to my attention that you have a Dao Shrine."
Wu Jian said, and his guest visibly stiffened at its mention.
"I don’t know what you’re talking about Patriarch Wu."
Rong Hu replied mechanically, forcing her voice to be steady a little too well.
"Don’t worry, I won’t take it from you. It’s not suited for my clan anyway."
His guest relaxed a little, but still stayed a little tightly wound at her clan’s secret being revealed so casually.
"I thank the Wu Patriarch for his generosity."
She lowered her head to him as she thanked him.
"Now now, what did I say about formalities?"
He questioned rhetorically, leaning forwards.
"After all, we’re friends, and friends do favours for each other."
He looked her in the eyes as he spoke.
"What does the Wu Patriarch desire?"
She caught onto what Wu Jian was suggesting quickly.
"Well, a body cultivation training site may not be suited to my clan, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have talented juniors that are that way inclined."
"Then you may send those juniors to my clan and we will make sure to give them the best accommodations available."
Was her response.
"Thank you, Matriarch Rong, that would be most beneficial for us. You are a good friend."
He sat back in his seat.
"It is no trouble, Wu Patriarch. It is what friends do."
She had composed herself by now, having found out what Wu Jian wanted instead of being left in the dark. Giving up a few spots in her clan’s main training ground would slow the development of their cultivators, but it was way better than losing it all together or, worse, being annihilated to prevent its existence from getting out.
"Wu Patriarch... since we are friends, there’s something I would like to ask."
She said, tentatively.
"Ask and I shall answer to the best of my ability."
He promised, curious as to her thoughts.
"How did you come to know this information? If it’s okay to ask that."
She questioned, hoping to figure out where she had gone wrong in concealing its existence and thus patch up the information leak.
"I worked it out."
"You see, the Zhao Clan’s Clan Treasure had a certain Dao Shard within it, a Dao Shard that all your warriors seem to have some understanding of as they have incorporated it into their cultivation method."
He elaborated, pride getting the better of him.
"And Clan Treasures must be forged at a Dao Shrine, a place where a particular Dao is present above all others and the energy concentration is high."
He continued to explain his thought process.
"So naturally, I followed that thought to its logical conclusion, and decided that their origins must be the same as the chances of two Dao Shrines being so close to each other, let alone ones of the same Dao, is astronomically slim."
His smile grew wider as he realised he could flaunt his intelligence to the Clan Head in front of him as she had already seen his mind at work when he created the body cultivator powered formation.
"As for it being in your possession. Well, the Rong Clan seems to have many members with insights into the Dao of Heavy, whereas the Zhao Clan barely had one. It’s clear to see who has more access to it if you already know it’s there."
He finished, relishing the stunned expression on Rong Hu’s face.
"Now it’s my turn to ask a question, friend."
He grinned, immediately pressing the advantage Rong Hu’s unstable emotions gave him,
"How did your clan manage to hide it from the Zhaos? Surely they should’ve known at least the general location of the Dao Shrine used to forge their Clan Treasure."
This brought the dazed Rong Matriarch back to her senses.
She answered. Now it was Wu Jian’s turn to be shocked.
"Our founding ancestor was the one who forged both our clan’s treasures, taking an oath from the Zhao Clan’s founding ancestor as payment."
The pieces clicked in the Wu Patriarch’s mind, and suddenly a few more things made sense.
"So during our first meeting, where you pledged your clan’s allegiance to mine, you lied."
He reasoned, not asking his guest but telling her what happened. She nodded.
"The Zhaos did not refuse to call your warriors to arms, but they couldn’t. Your servitude to them was merely a facade to hide your weakness and their inability to do anything to you behind."
Another nod answered him. He smiled, a genuine, warm smile this time.
"It seems I have underestimated you and your ancestors. I believe our friendship will last a long time."
He stood and gave the Rong Matriarch a slight bow.
"May you find Longevity and the Dao, in this life or the next."
"May you find Longevity and the Dao, in this life or the next."
She echoed, standing as well and smiling nervously back at him. Then she departed the room, being dismissed by the farewell saying from the Wu Patriarch. As soon as the door closed, Wu Jian’s expression dropped. It seemed he would have to make a few moves to further suppress the Rong Clan to make sure they didn’t surpass or threaten his. They only needed a couple more Essence Refining Realm cultivators before they could enter the world of small-sized clans and make waves in it if they so desired.
He sighed, it was a shame really. Were it not for both of their responsibilities, they would’ve made such great friends. He had truly enjoyed talking to the Rong Matriarch, even if he had let his tongue run away with him. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be.
"May you find Longevity and the Dao, in your next life Rong Hu."
He whispered to himself, alone in his office once again.