The main hall in the middle of Yu Residence was an eye-opener for Wu Qi. Unlike the other palaces in Great Yu, it was very strange in appearance. The hall that was constructed with big, dark rocks looked like a bull's head with many horns. It had a total of eight pointed cornices, and was encompassed by a ring of three hundred and sixty huge stone pillars, each of which was carved with countless patterns of ghosts and deities. Naturally, a fire bowl was placed atop each pillar, where pale-green flames rushed up to a height of tens of feet.
Inside every cornice was an archer tower, where Feathermen were posted to guard the perimeter. A row of over one hundred Long Bo men stood guard before the hall's entrance, all clad in pure gold armors, which shone brilliantly and made them look mighty and glorious. There were also several thousand soldiers clad in heavy armors patrolling the surroundings, filling the atmosphere with a stern pressure due to their loud footsteps. Wu Qi gave those Long Bo men and soldiers a brief glance and discovered that all of them possessed the cultivation base of Heaven Immortal and above. They were all elites.
In the past, Yu Clan was not among the five strongest clans in Zhong Province. Although they did live an extravagant life, it was not as magnificent as today. Since Yu Mu betrayed Feng Lingling, and after the great purge was carried out in Zhong Province, Yu Clan had gained a huge political and economic benefit. Now, it was the number one clan in Zhong Province under the newly appointed Prefecture Overseer, Bo Zhongfu. As a result, no matter it was their buildings or private armies, both were significantly different from before.
One perfect example would be the stone pillars circling the main hall. Every day, each of them would burn off one hundred and fifty kilograms of incense oil extracted from the bodies of Mermen and whales. In the past, the Yu Clan did not have so many resources to erect so many pillars, and they had only built twelve to meet the custom. But now, they had three hundred and sixty of them which burned ragingly day and night, filling half of Zhong Ning City with the aroma of incense oil. It was the symbol of their wealth.
Led by the Elders of Yu Clan, Wu Qi and the others walked into the main hall.
From the outside, the hall was only a thousand feet in both width and length. But just like Yu Huai's great hall, its interior was deployed with very profound restrictive spells. Once inside, the hall measured about one hundred miles in circumference, high near the walls and ever lower toward the center, descending into a flat ground fifty miles in both width and length and surrounded by terraced seats. Dozens of chairs were seen floating above the flat ground in the center.
Countless giant stone carvings were carved on the walls in an extremely primitive manner. Wu Qi glanced at them with his Chaotic Divine Eyes and found that they were the tributes to the virtues and achievements of Yu Clan's ancestors. There were scenes of battling with dragons, fighting ghosts and deities, shattering meteors, harvesting various spirit items from stars, and many others. A few of them were of particular interest to him. Judging from the carvings, it seemed that a large number of humans had joined hands with Immortals and fought some enemies hidden in the smoke. He wondered when that had happened.
A large number of torches made of stone were fixed on the walls between those carvings, each burning with a pale-green flame. The fuel was the same as those stone pillars on the outside, the incense oil extracted from Mermen and whales, and blended with some rare spices. The hall was brightly lit with fragrance filling the air, but the faces of all were reflecting a miserable-looking green light, which added a bit of mystery to everyone.
The hall was so cavernous that it could house hundreds of thousands of people at once. More than a hundred lineal descendants of the Yu Clan, who were of the same generation as Yu He, arrived in it with their subordinates, yet they only totaled to tens of thousands. The hall still looked empty with them sitting at random in the seats.
Wu Qi looked around at these sons of Yu Clan. Each of them was separated from their brothers by a long distance, clearly portraying the alienation and isolation they had adopted toward their own kin. As all of them were rivals in the struggle for power of sixteen ninth-grade provinces, it was natural that none of them would show any affection.
This was the case with the sons of the big clans. The so-called kinship and friendship were worthless in the face of great interest.
Sitting beside Yu He, Wu Qi felt countless glances sweeping past him. But with his aura concealed by the Dark Evil Soul Beads, he appeared just like an ordinary human warrior. Therefore, after briefly glancing at him, no one was paying him attention again.
Exercising the Chaotic Divine Eyes, Wu Qi got himself a clearer look of those who would compete with Yu He.
No wonder Yu He said that there were seven brothers he could not defeat and dare not confront. Wu Qi saw seven youths who were tens of years older than Yu He, each with six to seven crescent moons embroidered on their sleeves. Apparently, they were far stronger than their brothers of the same generation. And among the subordinates who sat around these few youths, many of them had crescent moons on their sleeves as well. Compared with the two hundred Star Oracles who Yu He brought here, the gap in their overall strength was too great. It was no wonder that Yu He dared not to compete with them.
Most of the other brothers were weaker than Yu He in term of their cultivation base and subordinates. However, there were a dozen of them whose cultivation bases were at the same level as his, and were surrounded by a few subordinates who had crescent moons on their sleeves. Wu Qi nodded silently. From the look of it, if Yu He had not found him as a helper, it would have been very difficult to stand out and compete for the power of a ninth-grade province.
The door of the main hall was flung close when all the sons of Yu Clan were seated. A gust of chilly wind rolled out of the ground, and in the next instance, the dozens of large stone chairs floating in the middle of the hall were suddenly filled with people. Unsurprisingly, among the people who sat in the center of the chairs were Yu Mu, the Grand Oracle of Zhong Province, and Yu Miao, the Left Minister of Zhong Province. At the moment, these Elders of Yu Clan were smiling from ear to ear. Obviously, they were in a good mood.
As he glanced around at the sons of Yu Clan, Yu Mu slowly raised his right hand. Suddenly an absolute silence descended over the crowd, and no one dared to speak another word. Nodding with satisfaction, he said in a slow voice, "Today's council is a great celebration of the Yu Clan in Zhong Province. I will not waste everybody's time with superfluous words. You all know that we are given the power of thirty provinces, whose Prefecture Overseers will be the members of our clan. The power of fourteen provinces is allocated to your Seniors, while the rest of them will be decided today amongst all of you here."
He cleared his throat and said triumphantly, "The Prefecture Overseer of a province is a very important post. Therefore, we must choose the most elite sons to fill these posts. The first step is to examine your cultivation base. Only the strongest forty-eight sons will have the right to compete for the posts."
Yu He and many of his brothers looked around with Yu Mu's words, studying their brothers as they tried to find out who might be their competitors. Only the seven strongest sons remained calm. To them, the power of a province was already in their bags, and no other brothers could pose a threat to them.
Yu Mu nodded and said in a deep voice, "Of course, one's cultivation base is not everything. Apart from it, the ability to identify and use talented people is also of great importance. The second step, therefore, is for the subordinates who serve the selected forty-eight sons to fight against each other. There is no rule, no limitation, and death is permitted. In the end, sixteen sons who have subordinates still standing on the battleground will be able to take up the posts!"
As soon as Yu Mu's voice fell, Yu Miao added, "The priority of choosing the province will be decided by the number of subordinates remaining on the battleground. Since there are differences in the populations and resources among the sixteen ninth-grade provinces, the son who has the most subordinates remaining in the battleground will be the first to choose the province he will be in charge of in the future."
Not allowing them to speak, Yu Mu waved his hand and announced, "Now, we will examine your cultivation base. All the sons of Yu Clan, unleash your aura! The strongest forty-eight will send one hundred subordinates into the battleground!"
Wu Qi took a deep breath as he gave Yu Mu and Yu Miao a deep look. These Elders of Yu Clan were indeed despicable men. How could they come up with such a damnable way of choosing? He had nothing against the way they chose the strongest forty-eight sons, but he did not like the fact that these sons did not have to participate in the battle, and it was their subordinates who had to fight to the death!
With such practice, it was clear that they did not treat people as human beings. The sons of Yu Clan would not have to face even the slightest risk, as all the dangers were passed onto their subordinates. But, at the same time, Wu Qi also felt that there was some reason in the method. As they said, 'birds of a feather flock together'. The sons with strong personal abilities would naturally have elites as their subordinates. Likewise, the sons with insufficient personal abilities would never have any talented men willing to follow them. There was something interesting about the rule, if truth be told.
As thoughts were tumbling in his mind, Wu Qi squinted and remembered Yu Miao's face firmly in his heart. He reflected on the palm strike that nearly killed him when he had just arrived on Pangu Continent. 'Sooner or later, I'll make you pay for that!'
While Wu Qi was lost in thoughts, the Elders had chosen the forty-eight strongest sons with a mystic art. With the exception of the seven strongest sons, nineteen brothers possessed the cultivation base similar to Yu He, and twenty-one were slightly weaker than them. The rest was far weaker, and thus, disqualified from competing for the power of provinces.
Yu Mu nodded approvingly, then clapped his hands softly and said, "Very well! You are the elites of Yu Clan's younger generation. Now, quickly select one hundred subordinates and make them enter the battleground. The sixteen sons with the greatest number of subordinates remaining on the battleground after six hours will be appointed as the new Prefecture Overseers!"
Yu Miao chuckled and said in a flat tone, "To be fair, those guards who your Seniors have chosen for you are not allowed to take part in the duel. We know everything about you. Only the subordinates whom you have raised or recruited personally can take part. I will not allow you to do anything against the rules!"
Another Elder added, "Not only are you not allowed to send any guards given by your Seniors, those subordinates who take part in the duel can only use the talismans and magical items crafted by themselves. Otherwise, they will be deemed as violating the rules, and your right of becoming a Prefecture Overseer will be forfeited."
At least ten out of the forty-eight chosen sons had their faces fallen when they heard Yu Miao's announcement. Wu Qi found it amusing. These sons must have something up their sleeves, no doubt. Unfortunately, the Elders really wanted to select some elite sons to take up the posts of Prefecture Overseer. Their little tricks were useless in front of them.
Yu He drew in a deep breath as he turned to look at Wu Qi. "Tan Lang, I'm counting on you! Take care of them, as we'll have a bigger chance with every additional man that stays alive!"
Wu Qi nodded. As the result of the duel was decided by the number of people who stayed alive until the end, he had no other choice but to take care of Yu He's subordinates, and make sure not all of them died.
Then, Yu He told the Oracles around him that he wanted them to fight with all their might, and that if they died, he would treat their families well. He had also promised them that if they could survive the duel, they would all be able to hold the position of County Great Oracle by the time he came in power in the province.
His promise made the eyes of all the Oracles around him bloodshot. The position of County Great Oracle was more than enough for these little Oracles to risk their lives.
At the command of Yu Mu, parties of one-hundred-men who represented Yu He and the other forty-seven sons entered the battleground in the center of the main hall one after another.
Wu Qi strode into the battleground with ninety-nine Oracles who served Yu He as well.