Hai Lan spoke first, "Are you saying the demon is dead?"
Zheng Dao nodded in answer, "I guarantee it. I cannot feel it at all."
Hai Lan wasn't suspicious; she had heard from the others that Vigilante A had shape-shifted into a dragon to swallow the demon, so the demon's confirmed death was just a matter of time. Half a day had past, which meant half a year had passed by in the realm of the demon. Now that it was useless, its death was inevitable, and the time was just right.
She nodded at the Qiao siblings, who were standing next to her, "Vigilante A will be appearing soon."
Zheng Dao was confused, "Who is Vigilante A?"
To which Hai Lan answered, "The person that killed that demon."
Zheng Dao's eyes lit up with gratefulness; so it was him that had saved Zheng Dao from his nightmare, he must properly thank that person.
Zheng Dao then said, "Since that demon is dead, am I free to go?"
Hai Lan shook her head, "Although we've found out that you were just the demon's vessel, we still have procedures we need to follow. You're not only innocent, but you even quelled the demon's murderous intent multiple times, saving a lot of the innocent. We can only let you go after we're done processing everything relating to this incident."
Zheng Dao was already over forty-years-old, so he knew of the procedures and protocol they had to follow, which meant he wasn't angry in the slightest.
He only nodded his head, "Then before I can be let go, can I at least get a room with an attached bathroom?"
Hai Lan was confused at the request, "You'll definitely be getting a better room, but why the specific request on getting an attached bathroom?"
Zheng Dao laughed bitterly and awkwardly said, "I've been plagued by the demon's frightening images for so many days, so it's weakened my bladder significantly."
"Haha, that must've been terrible, Mr Zheng," laughed Qiao Zishan.
Hai Lan's face showed no expression, but Qiao Zijiang's face reddened slightly upon hearing what Zheng Dao had said.
Hai Lan then said, "I'll immediately get you a new room."
The following night, Hai Lan and the Qiao siblings as well as a few personnel members were busy preparing for an open-air banquet atop a hill in the gardens. The banquet was meant to take everyone's minds off the terrifying incident and help them get over the shocking ordeal.
To ensure that the banquet would run smoothly, Hai Lan had especially discussed things over with the logistics team. In order to highlight the sincerity of their apology, they had purposely ordered ingredients that were nurtured in a place that was brimming with vitality. With the recent improvement of Vitality Recovery, they had recently just received a huge batch. The internal department wouldn't even be able to enjoy it for the next few months.
Eating these ingredients provided many benefits to the body in the long run. Consuming these ingredients once would improve your psyche greatly as they were in a completely different league as even the most expensive ingredients that one could get normally. By allowing these plutocrats to get a taste of these ingredients, they would then be lured into investing in the farming of these ingredients.
Before preparations for the banquet had begun, "Fang Ning" had also said that he was best at cooking with medicinal herbs, so it would be best if they ordered more of those. However, medicinal herbs and normal ingredients were on different price points. Just how big of an appetite did these plutocrats have anyway?
Wouldn't the medicinal herbs just be eaten by her and her staff in the end? They've endured training for such a long time, so their bodies had been pushed to the limit for a while. The appetite of one of them could rival five of the plutocrats.
After getting the approval of the institute's top management, she immediately allocated medicinal herbs from their storage. The quality of the medicinal herbs, of course, could not be compared to those readily available on the market; not only did nurturing these herbs needed a lot of Vitality, it also needed cultivators to contribute to its nurturing.
The other ingredients were easier to prepare since they were readily available in the institute's canteen. "Fang Ning" also needed around twenty people to support him in preparing for the banquet.
Hai Lan, who was particularly interested in Fang Ning's culinary skills, was of course curious as to why he needed so many people. The banquet would be attended by forty guests at maximum, so four or five chefs would be more than enough.
However, it could also be because Fang Ning wanted to show off his skills properly. She wouldn't exactly know just how many people you needed in the kitchen, since she's never cooked herself.
It was the cusp of winter in the northern region, so not only did the sun set earlier than usual, it was cold too. Organizing an open-air banquet as a time like this was just asking to freeze to death…
However, the guests arrived at the venue on time. Despite how doubtful they were about an open-air banquet atop a hill, they were pleasantly surprised to realize that the venue was warm like a greenhouse.
When they looked up, the stars in the sky blinked back. They could see the tall trees by the venue clearly too, so they were sure they hadn't entered a greenhouse of any kind. For a brief moment, nobody thought of the Truth Department's underlying motive. Even the most suspicious ones lowered their guards for a moment; at least they didn't have to worry about any over-the-top prices.
The hilltop also featured a plain, lit up brightly by the time the guests had arrived, and covered a green carpet. This reminded them of the season of spring.
Banquet tables and chairs were placed on top of the green carpet while a red stage was located at the very front. A few people stood on top of the stage, patiently awaiting the arrival of the guests.
Very soon, personnel members were verifying invitations and leading people to their assigned banquet tables.
Hai Lan stood on the stage and waited for everyone to take their seats. She then proceeded to introduce the sturdy and rough-looking middle-aged man by her side, "Dearest first batch of members of the Aristocratic Cultivation Club, we sincerely apologize for the series of accidents from before. As the Minister of this institute's Security Department, I express my deepest apologies and regrets. This man is the Vice Principal of our Institute for Special Training, Vice Principal Qiao Anping. He had rushed back from an outstation trip after hearing the news and he will be personally representing the institute in handling this matter."
Everyone knew who Hai Lan was, since they had been seeing her frequently over the course of two days. She was a cool and collected beauty, and never hid anything from anyone. However, from her gaze and her actions, all the guests felt that there was something just slightly off with Hai Lan today.
Without needing to use the megaphone, Vice Principal Qiao Anping immediately stepped forward to bow at everyone before he spoke, "Ladies and gentlemen, I, Qiao Anping, offer my sincerest apologies to everyone here. These past few days, I've been busy handling the giant rats' crisis with Elder Xu. My absence at this institute allowed that d*mned demon to infiltrate this place. It must have been a terrifying ordeal for everyone here.
I hope everyone enjoys themselves later so that they can forget about everything that has happened these past few days. I will personally gift everyone with a talisman after the banquet and I promise that nothing similar will happen to everyone and their family in the future."
The guests were shocked at first; this Vice Principal seemed like a mere traveller to them, but as they continued to listen to him speak, they couldn't help the elation that filled their hearts. This meant that they would all be getting a precious treasure that would be powerful enough to protect even their families; this compensation was more than what most of them had expected.
Right after he was done speaking, somebody among the crowd stood up. It was the 70-year-old elder who had rallied everyone together and helped solve problems while in the realm of the demon.
The old man then spoke, "Since Vice Principal Qiao has said so, I believe that it is only human to commit errors. I will not pursue the matter any further and I will graciously accept Vice Principal's generosity."
Under such circumstances, if anyone else asked for a better compensation, it would be equivalent to looking for trouble. They all came from influential backgrounds, so they couldn't take that risk.
There would be plenty more chances for them to ask for help from a special affairs agency like this in the future anyway. In the end, this was nothing but a false alarm; nobody truly got hurt. Although most were still unsatisfied with what they had gotten, at least on the surface, everybody expressed their approval of their compensation.
Seeing as how the situation had resolved more-or-less successfully, Vice Principal Qiao's expression was one of satisfaction. After asking the staff member by the stage for a cup, he immediately raised a toast, "The food is done and will be served shortly. I now officially announce the start of the banquet. I bid for everyone to eat and drink to their hearts' content…"
Just as he finished speaking, a staff member rushed on stage in a hurry to report something.
"What happened? Why are you in such a rush?"
"Reporting to Vice Principal Qiao. A man by the name of Vigilante A has suddenly arrived at the entrance to the gardens. He says he wants to enter to look for someone."
Qiao Anping's face lit up in joy, "That's perfect. We were just wondering how to thank that great hero. Without his help, our plan with Elder Xu would've gone to waste. I'll immediately sign for his permission to enter. Forget it, I'll welcome him myself."
With that, his silhouette shifted before he disappeared entirely from the stage.
Vice Principal Qiao's sudden disappearance came as no shock to the guests, as they've seen a lot of marvelous sights these couple of days, so Vice Principal Qiao's behavior was nothing worthy of surprise…
After Qiao Anping had left, Hai Lan felt nothing in particular. He could come and go as he pleased, she had wanted to ask him for advice after the banquet anyway. She wanted to see just how much of a difference there was between them. The more powerhouses she sparred with, the faster she would improve.
Suddenly, Qiao Zijiang, who had been standing by her side all this while, lightly pulled on her shirt and whispered, "Aunt Lan, how many ingredients did you prepare this time?"
Hai Lan was puzzled, "Why the sudden question, Zijiang? I prepared about enough for sixty people, since your uncle Anping is here and he has quite the appetite. This also counts as a welcome party for him so that we can relax and enjoy a bit, since we won't be able to eat such good food once we go back outside. Besides, I even invited that genius chef Fang Ning, so it would be good for him to taste Fang Ning's cooking."
Qiao Zijiang's face fell as she said, "Ugh, I'm not all that worried about my uncle. But with the presence of that genius chef, my uncle, and Vigilante A, we're in for trouble."
Hai Lan was confused,"What do you mean? Your uncle has always been a passionate, warm and loyal man; and that Vigilante A is chivalrous to the bone, entirely different from Fang Ning. I'm sure the three of them won't clash in any way."
Qiao Zijiang whispered again, "I'm not afraid that the three of them will clash in any way, what I'm afraid of is…"
At this moment, her words fell out of her mouth as two people appeared on the stage at the same time. One of them was the burly Qiao Anping, while the other one was Vigilante A, whose presence made everyone's eyes lit up.
His appearance was out of this world and his aura was incredibly imposing and incredible. From the first time someone laid eyes on him, his presence would reminded the masses of a dragon or a phoenix. It would be hard for anyone to forget him.
In contrast, Qiao Zishan, Qiao Anping, Hai Lan and the like were akin to background actors in a movie…
Qiao Zijiang could never say that her brother and uncle were like background actors to Vigilante A despite the fact that they were standing together. The reality made her feel slightly dissatisfied.
She thought to herself, (Continue laying your gaze on him. Soon, you'll go blind from his brightness.)