In response to Bai Xiaochun’s words, all eyes in Heavenmaster Hall shifted to focus on him. The six heavenly marquises were clearly taken by surprise, and all of a sudden, they realized that Bai Xiaochun was the epitome of ruthlessness. Maybe he was a toothless tiger, but even still, he left them feeling very unsettled.
Chen Haosong and the beautifully bearded heavenly duke were visibly displeased, and their hearts were beginning to pound.
The grand heavenmaster looked over at Bai Xiaochun. When it came to his plan to cast him aside, it wasn’t the cause of even an iota of guilt within him. As far as he was concerned, everyone in heaven and earth was a pawn to be used at his leisure, and could be classified into only two types: useful, and not useful.
Before, this Bai Hao had been a useful tool. Now, he was not very useful. Of course, he hadn’t planned to kill him. Furthermore, the fact that he wasn’t useful at the moment didn’t outweigh the fact that he was important to both the Hell-Emperor and the Giant Ghost King. As such, he knew that he could potentially be made useful again later.
Furthermore, the words he had just spoken immediately sparked the grand heavenmaster’s interest. After all, he had not forgotten that Bai Xiaochun was the one who came up with the plan carried out during the ancestral sacrifices!
“Grand Heavenmaster,” Bai Xiaochun continued in a near growl, “your humble servant’s plan is the type which should not be made privy to too many people who are not part of it.”
Smiling, the grand heavenmaster waved his hand, and before the six heavenly marquises could react, they began to fade away, and were soon gone, removed to a location outside the imperial palace.
Unsightly expressions could be seen on their faces as they exchanged glances and then snorted coldly.
“He’s bluffing, that’s all it is. It seems this Bai Hao just won’t give up!”
“Hmph! Struggling all the way into the grave! Well, the more he does that, the worse off he’ll be!”
Meanwhile, back in Heavenmaster Hall, the grand heavenmaster’s expression was exactly the same as before as he said, “Go ahead.”
Other than he and Bai Xiaochun, the only people present were Chen Haosong and the bearded heavenly duke, who stood there motionless as they looked at Bai Xiaochun.
Bai Xiaochun’s eyes glittered as he looked over at the two heavenly dukes. As of this moment, he knew for sure that these two were trusted confidantes of the grand heavenmaster.
“Who would have thought that Chen Haosong is actually a close adviser to the grand heavenmaster….” His brow furrowed slightly as he thought back to everything he knew about Chen Haosong. Something about the whole situation seemed off, but there wasn’t time to ponder the situation right now.
Sighing softly, he looked at the grand heavenmaster and continued, “Your humble servant disagrees with Heavenly Duke Chen about what should be the priority right now!!”
Immediately, the grand heavenmaster’s eyes flickered, and the gazes of the two heavenly dukes turned sharper than ever.
“According to the traditions of the dynasty, there are 108 heavenly marquises, ten heavenly dukes, and four heavenly kings…. They are hereditary positions held in perpetuity, meaning that if a heavenly marquis dies, then as long as his clan isn’t exterminated, or some other drastic situations arise, then there is virtually no chance of someone outside of that clan taking on his mantle. Furthermore, only a direct descendant of the previous heavenly marquis can succeed him!” Bai Xiaochun spoke in an icy cold voice, and his eyes were both bloodshot and ruthless-looking. At the moment, he had decided to throw caution to the wind. Because he had no suspects in the disappearance of Bai Hao, he currently had to be suspicious of everyone!
“Even if there are no suitable successors because of cultivation base issues, the position will still remain with that bloodline, and they will simply wait for an appropriate person to rise up!
“That is why all heavenly marquises select their successors long in advance, and only from the direct bloodline of their clan. Special attention is given to that person in their cultivation, so that they can be groomed to be the perfect successor!
“That is how the arrangement works for heavenly marquises, and it’s the same with the heavenly dukes and heavenly kings!” Bai Xiaochun spoke with decisiveness that could sever nails and chop iron, and the grand heavenmaster listened with rapt attention. Clearly, he was very interested to hear what was to be said next.
Chen Haosong and the bearded heavenly duke were frowning, and were clearly completely in the dark about what Bai Xiaochun was getting at.
Flicking his sleeve, Bai Xiaochun raised his voice and continued speaking at a breakneck speed. “Because of this tradition, there are a bit more than a hundred clans who have an eternal place within the dynasty. Furthermore, they only grow more powerful as time passes, and accumulate staggering amounts of wealth!
“That wealth is the true source of their power, and their confidence! It is the foundation of everything! As long as everything goes their way, things are smooth. But with the right spark, they could erupt into violence with the resources of a whole nation at their disposal!
“In fact, if drastic upheavals ever struck the Arch-Emperor Dynasty, and more than one hundred such clans joined forces, their profound resources would make them far too powerful!”
At this point, Chen Haosong realized what was going on. Eyes cold, he said, “Shut your mouth, Bai Hao. This is complete and utter hogwash!
“Perhaps the heavenly kings are exceptions, but the heavenly marquises and heavenly dukes run huge clans! They have to take care of every clan member, and make sure they have sufficient battle prowess, not for themselves, and not to rise up as independent forces, but as the reserve power of the Arch-Emperor Dynasty!
“In fact, you have simply no idea how expensive it is to take care of a clan and increase its battle prowess. And that's all to maintain the reserve powers of the dynasty!” As far as he was concerned, what Bai Xiaochun was currently saying was very dangerous.
“I don’t know?” Bai Xiaochun said, looking over at him. Although Bai Xiaochun generally feared death, and was usually a coward, he knew that now was not the time to fall back on such tendencies.
“I think there are probably few people in the Arch-Emperor Dynasty who know more than I do about such things. How many clans have you shaken down, Heavenly Duke Chen? And how many have I?
“Do you know how much wealth I saw in each of those shakedowns? How much reserve savings?
“Well let me tell you. In fact, I’ll spell it out very, very clearly. I’ve shaken down eighteen heavenly marquis clans!! And you know what? Every single one of those clans had amassed wealth that could only be described as sufficient to shake heaven and earth!
“The Li Clan had saved up 1,000,000,000 portions of soul medicine, 279 soulgrounds, and 1,000 inactive large-scale spell formations. And how about the Chen Clan? 2,000,000,000 portions of soul medicine! That alone could fund thirty percent of the military expenditures you just referred to, Heavenly Duke Chen! Can you imagine how many cultivators it would take to use up that many resources?
“In the third wave of shakedowns, the clan of Heavenly Marquis Gongsun Dao turned out to have hundreds of thousands of sets of materials to create spell formations! Plus, they had 10,000,000 soul bombs! If those bombs detonated, they could destroy most of Arch-Emperor City!
“If the heavenly marquis clans are like that, then what do you think the heavenly dukes’ are like?! In this matter, I will not be shutting my mouth. You will!” By the time he finished speaking, he was yelling. Chen Haosong’s chest heaved as he glared angrily at him, and yet, he was incapable of offering a retort. As for the grand heavenmaster, he simply sat there quietly, looking at Bai Xiaochun with shining eyes.
The one to speak next was the bearded heavenly duke. “Even if the heavenly marquis clans have deep reserve savings and power, Bai Hao, that only goes to show how strong the Arch-Emperor Dynasty is. One of the main reasons the Celestial can’t invade us easily is because of how intrepid and valiant we are. The resources we have help us groom our successors, and pass on their strength from generation to generation. They protect the glory of the Arch-Emperor Dynasty, and also ensure that there are only 108 heavenly marquises! In fact, that is also why the number of heavenly dukes and kings is limited!
“When you have a sharp blade, you keep it that way, you don’t grind it down until it’s dull!”
Bai Xiaochun waved his hand dismissively at the two heavenly dukes. Focusing on the grand heavenmaster, he said, “Wrong! I believe that the most important principle in the world is fairness. Fairness is the only way to ensure the continued growth of the dynasty. That is the only way to guarantee that a dynasty can stand strong and tall!
“Why do these clans only view their certain heirs as important? Why do those heirs get all the resources? Why are other children of the clan so vastly unimportant? It's not fair to the other children, and it’s especially unfair to the bastards!
“Why is only a designated successor allowed to take over for a dead heavenly marquis, and thus control the wealth of the clan? It’s simply not fair to both the other members of the direct bloodline, and the bastard children!
“Therefore, I suggest… that the wealth of the clans that make up the aristocracy be equally distributed…. Give that wealth to all heirs, regardless of their status in the bloodline, and regardless of whether or not they are bastards. Everyone should have the chance to become a successor, and everyone should have an equal share of the resources!
“Heavenly marquises. Heavenly dukes. Heavenly kings…. Their wealth and resources should be equally divided among all their children!
“That would be a gift to the people, and grace to the commoners. Only in that way can the Arch-Emperor Dynasty grow stronger than ever. I hope that in the future, we won’t just have 108 heavenly marquises. I hope that we will have many more. And more heavenly dukes too!
“At the same time, everyone will proclaim the glory of the grand heavenmaster, thank him eternally, and offer oaths of unending loyalty!!” As his voice echoed out with thunderous volume in Heavenmaster Hall, Bai Xiaochun flicked his sleeve to add emphasis to his words.
This was… a truly vicious plan!!