"Little brother here toasts to big brother." Shang Yi Fan stood up and bent his back while raising a cup of wine with a smile.
There were splendid lights all over the hall; singing and dancing were being performed, and traditional music flowed to everyone's ears. Everyone was enjoying the feast and the atmosphere was intense.
"Good." Shang Qiu Niu was standing on the main seat. He raised a cup of wine towards Shang Yi Fan and downed the wine in one gulp.
Shang Qiu Niu's advisor spoke, "Master Yi Fan, choosing to participate in young master Qiu Niu's banquet is no doubt a sensible decision. Do not worry, my young master will not treat you unfairly."
"Eldest brother Qiu Niu has always been my role model. In truth, I have always been wanting to get closer to eldest brother and learn many things under you." Shang Yi Fan smiled.
Shang Qiu Niu was head of the first major faction among the current young masters and he happened to have deep relation with Shang Yi Fan's mother's side. If Shang Xin Ci chose Shang Qiu Niu's side, she was certain to be pushed aside by Shang Yi Fan.
However, Shang Qiu Niu had already taken the initiative to send an invitation to Shang Xin Ci.
He would definitely be happy if Shang Xin Ci came.
Because on Shang Xin Ci's side were Fang and Bai, two great rank four experts.
This was something no other young master had, and many were envious of this.
"Young master, subordinate has inquired, that Shang Xin Ci went to …" At this moment, a Gu Master entered the hall and whispered to Shang Qiu Niu's ear with his waist bent.
Shang Qiu Niu's gaze turned slightly gloomy when he got the information.
Shang Yi Fan cautiously observed Shang Qiu Niu's expression and pondered, "Looks like Shang Xin Ci didn't choose eldest brother's faction, did she go to Shang Pu Lao's faction?"
Shang Qiu Niu had already experienced a lot of things, thus his feelings did not show clearly on his face. His expression also had no change, so Shang Yi Fan could only guess without any clues.
However, a short while later, Shang Yi Fan also received the news. Shang Xin Ci had accepted the invitation to participate in Shang Chao Feng's festival banquet.
This signified she chose Shang Chao Feng's faction.
Shang Yi Fan could not help but be secretly delighted immediately upon receiving the news, "Shang Chao Feng and Shang Fu Xi might be the third faction but they have been pressured from the start, how could they be Eldest Brother Qiu Niu's match? I have now even more chance to take the young master position!"
However, the old steward Zhang shook his head, his expression heavy, "Master, young master Qiu Niu's faction and young master Pu Lao's faction are locked in a fight. I am afraid the possibility of master borrowing the help of young master Qiu Niu to deal with Shang Xin Ci is not very big."
"At this critical moment, young master Qiu Niu cannot afford to make another enemy. Shang Xin Ci's choice is clever. She has avoided the political whirlpool and managed to watch from the sidelines for the moment. By the time the two factions resolve their issues, the competition for the young master position will already be over."
"Shang Xin Ci has two great rank four experts, any faction she chooses will readily accept her and make an alliance. Young master Shang Chao Feng will definitely help her."
Old steward Zhang gave an incisive analysis of the situation.
"That is to say, even though I joined Shang Qiu Niu's faction, I still can't deal with Shang Xin Ci?" Shang Yi Fan's expression became unsightly.
"I can only say that we cannot borrow Shang Qiu Niu's strength." Old steward Zhang stroked his grizzled beard, " However, Shang Xin Ci's problem is also not small. The most important thing is that she still lacks capable manpower. I heard that she has been trying to recruit Zhou Quan. Hmph, how can that even be possible?"
Old steward sneered and continued, "Zhou Quan was once a clan leader; he is proud and arrogant, and his ability is ten times of mine. How would it be possible for such a man to attach himself to this inexperienced little girl? I have already secretly mobilized people to create all kinds of rumors and slanders. Zhou Quan cares for his reputation very much, and the rumors have already prevented him from joining Shang Xin Ci. Shang Xin Ci is trying to recruit Zhou Quan secretly, but by failing to do so, she will lose a lot of her prestige and will have a disadvantageous beginning; she might even become a laughing stock. Hehehe…"
When he reached the end of his words, steward Zhou started laughing evilly.
Shang Chao Feng's study was arranged in a simple fashion; there was a wide stone table and wide backed stone chairs which gave a boorish and strong aura.
Just as Shang Yi Fan and old steward Zhang were talking, Shang Chao Feng, Shang Xin Ci along with Fang Yuan and Bai Ning Bing were also discussing something.
This discussion had already continued on for a while.
In truth, Shang Chao Feng was somewhat surprised at Shang Xin Ci joining his side.
He had thought Shang Xin Ci would join Shang Qiu Niu or Shang Pu Lao. His own faction was only ranked third and they were currently just watching from the sidelines while accumulating their strength. In normal times, they were very low key and would choose to retreat when there were problems or contradictions. They had never thought they could obtain Shang Xin Ci's interest.
Shang Xin Ci's cultivation was only at rank one, while her aptitude was worse and she had almost no foundation in Shang clan city.
However, she had Fang Yuan and Bai Ning Bing.
These were two great rank four powers; even Shang Yan Fei when he was a young master, did not have such experts with him.
To be able to have two such experts under her, there were no young masters who did not feel envious.
Shang Chao Feng had also naturally sighed inwardly at Shang Xin Ci's luck.
Now, if he accepted Shang Xin Ci, he could indirectly obtain Fang and Bai's help. This was a temptation Shang Chao Feng could not refuse.
The atmosphere in the study was harmonious.
In the talk just earlier, Shang Chao Feng already sincerely expressed his intention to whole-heartedly support Shang Xin Ci in the young master competition.
"Sister Xin Ci, you have already earned three hundred thousand primeval stones from selling Gu worms. We can say that you are at the top currently, but just three hundred thousand is far from enough. What do you plan on doing next?"
Shang Chao Feng then added, "Just say it and I will help you to the best of my abilities."
Shang Xin Ci glanced at Fang Yuan; Fang Yuan faintly nodded his head.
She then said honestly, "I won't hide it from Big Brother Chao Feng, I am thinking of doing information-gathering business."
"Information-gathering business?" Shang Chao Feng could not help but raise his brows.
"Yes." Shang Xin Ci started to explain her plan in detail.
Who knew Shang Chao Feng's expression would change and shake his head after hearing it, "You want to do information-gathering business regarding the battle stage? It is not suitable, not suitable."
He said 'not suitable' twice, expressing his clear disagreement with Shang Xin Ci's plan.
"Ah, what could be wrong about it? Please teach me Big Brother Chao Feng," Shang Xin Ci said in a sincere voice.
"Xin Ci, I urge you to change this plan. You are a newcomer and so you aren't clear about it, it is understandable. You should not bump about with the battle stage randomly."
Shang Chao Feng heaved a sigh and continued, "Shang clan city's battle stage is different from other clans' battle stage. Here, demonic Gu Masters can become our Shang clan's external elders. This is a policy exclusive to our Shang clan and we have been able to obtain many talents from this. At present, there are five great elders in Shang clan, among which three are external elders."
"However, this policy has both advantage and disadvantage. The greater the benefits, the higher the chance of malpractice. External elders are the higher ups of our Shang clan, and if some trouble enters through it, it will be a great disaster to our Shang clan. Demonic Gu Masters are after all demonic Gu Masters, and even if they change and become righteous, their loyalty can still be questioned. At the same time, besides the demonic Gu Masters, there are also those righteous path clans with unfathomable motives. Thus, Shang clan's battle stage is the place which has always been attached with the most importance by Shang clan higher-ups."
"There was once a young master who suddenly got an inspiration to start a betting house for the battle stage's matches. The result was that he earned five hundred thousand primeval stones after just two days of opening the betting house. However, on the third day, the betting house was closed down and the young master was demoted and exiled. This is the best warning that shows that the battle stage cannot be touched randomly."
Shang Chao Feng spoke of a story only known to insiders.
This information was something Fang Yuan, Bai Ning Bing and Shang Xin Ci did not know.
Fang Yuan might have the memories of his previous life, but it was normal to not know of this small secret historical incident about the Shang clan's internal affairs, even more so when it was closed down so fast.
The battle stage was a forbidden zone. That young master touched this place and lost his young master position and was even exiled from the clan.
At present, Shang Xin Ci was still not a young master but had a plan towards the battle stage. This made Shang Chao Feng realize that ignorance was truly blissful.
"Xin Ci, your plan is a new approach and you have thought of it properly. If it is done, you will definitely make large amount of profits every day. However, the possibility is too low, don't take your own future prospects as a joke. I am in charge of the Gu battle zone and your thirteenth brother is in charge of the auction sites; you can lend us a hand in this field and will be able to go head to head against Shang Yi Fan." Shang Chao Feng gently persuaded.
Shang Xin Ci was silent.
Bai Ning Bing furrowed her brows.
The corner of Fang Yuan's lips curled up into a smile and he was about to speak, but after taking a glance at Shang Xin Ci, he changed his decision and swallowed up the words that were just about to come out of his throat.
For a moment, the atmosphere in the study room had become heavy.
After quite a while of intense pondering, Shang Xin Ci suddenly smiled: "Big Brother Chao Feng, I have a different viewpoint regarding the battle stage. This is well worth doing!"
"Huh?" Shang Chao Feng frowned and fixed his gaze at Shang Xin Ci.
Under the pressure from Shang Chao Feng's gaze, Shang Xin Ci instead smiled and showed her confident look.
She continued, "The young master before failed after opening the betting house, he was like a moth attracted to fire and was looking for his own doom. His punishment was only by being expelled from the clan; this can be considered merciful from our Shang clan. Why?"
In the study, only Shang Xin Ci's gentle voice continued to sound out.
"Like Big Brother Chao Feng said, our Shang clan's battle stage is of the highest importance and has been extremely guarded by the higher ups. Opening a betting house for battle stage to earn huge money will likely give rise to people who will manipulate the battle stage's result from behind the scenes. This will greatly wreck the Shang clan's external elder policy. It looks like one can make enormous profits from the betting house, but to the Shang clan's battle stage, it is a very large vermin. Sacrificing Shang clan's benefits to fill oneself, such actions definitely need to be eliminated and only then can it let the battle stage continue to mature."
Shang Chao Feng continuously nodded his head; Shang Xin Ci's words were incisive and had a type of aura that made people want to have faith in it.
"But the information business I want to do has a completely different nature from the betting house. I know Shang clan's biggest information organization Feng Yu manor has always been investigating into the demonic Gu Masters at the battle stage. They must investigate properly, to know whether these demonic Gu Masters harbor evil intentions. However, these investigation are done in secret and never openly. Why?"
"Hehe. This is because most of the demonic Gu Masters are filled with distrust, doubts and even are overly suspicious. They live in danger all year round in a situation where their life hangs on a thread, so the mental pressure on them is so great that they cannot even relax a bit. And if they were investigated after coming to Shang clan city, they would definitely react badly and be filled with hatred. If Shang clan wants to absorb even more and even better talents, they naturally can't investigate openly. However, not investigating is even more impossible and the clan cannot be at ease."
"In this situation, I am going to do information-gathering business. I am going to investigate every Gu Master's general strength, Gu worms and battle achievements, and sell this information. At the same time, I will be requesting experts and authority to forecast the results of important matches and make a ranking. This will be very important information to the Gu Masters participating in the battle stage. Many Gu Masters wish to obtain an external elder's position and they hope for more fame, and also wish to see their names on the rankings."
"These information will naturally not touch upon secret matters and will only be a summary and comparison of the strength showed by the Gu Masters. To demonic Gu Masters on the battle stage, this will be a great help. At the same time, this will allow the Shang clan to strengthen their grasp more on the battle stage. I think my lord father will definitely be happy about this, why would he suppress such a thing?"
Shang Xin Ci finished explaining her reason and looked at Shang Chao Feng with a smile.
At this moment, her eyes were burning bright with wisdom and confidence, displaying unlimited elegance.
Bai Ning Bing's brows had also smoothed out.
"This is it…" Fang Yuan inwardly smiled.
Shang Chao Feng slightly opened his mouth, looking at Shang Xin Ci with a stupefied expression.
After several seconds, he came back to his senses and could not help applauding and praising her, "Good point, your analysis is brilliant. Sister Xin Ci, you have a truly unique vision, a pure heart and spirit, I can't help but admire you. I will definitely help you with all my strength for this business. You lack manpower now, I can give you people from my side! You can have as many as you want!"
Shang Xin Ci shook her head, "Thank you Big Brother Chao Feng, but I have already made my choice regarding the manpower."
Shang Chao Feng looked like he wanted to help Shang Xin Ci on the surface by sending people, but actually, he wanted to place his own people to control this information-gathering business and also strengthen his control over Shang Xin Ci.
However, Shang Xin Ci immediately saw through it and tactfully refused.
Not all help comes with good intentions.
However, Shang Chao Feng was not willing to let it go; the information-gathering business he was avoiding so much earlier had become a rich treasure right now.
He continued to persuade: "Sister Xin Ci, I know you have been trying to recruit Zhou Quan recently, but this person is very proud and contemptuous. Shang Qiu Niu had personally tried to recruit him before, but was refused and was even reprimanded with the words: 'an inexperienced junior dares to recruit me, a hundred year old man?'."
Zhou Quan was now already over a hundred years old, and would not willingly submit to someone, especially a junior.
Shang Chao Feng was not optimistic about Shang Xin Ci recruiting Zhou Quan.
Zhou Quan had the ability and was also recognized for it, but he was too arrogant.
"Let's take a step back and say that you managed to recruit Zhou Quan. What can one man do? You still don't have middle and lower level subordinates. These people also must have some ability, most importantly they should be loyal to you. Establishing such force requires time, a long time. With subordinates that you don't feel at ease, even if you do this information-gathering business, it might very well be destroyed by Shang Yi Fan and he can even steal your gains." Shang Chao Feng might have his own intentions but his words were very reasonable.
Shang Xin Ci's beautiful brows could not help but furrow when she heard it.
"Regarding this… young master Chao Feng does not need to worry. I already have a plan." At this time, Fang Yuan suddenly spoke.