167 Chapter 167
A man with a slight hump on his back and quite the lengthy protruding upper teeth was looking at some papers. He was sitting in a large leather chair, the desk he had the papers on looked to be quite robust and made from some rare spiritual wood.
"The production has increased by 1% for this month..."
The man murmured to himself in a silent voice, the parchment he was holding had various numbers written on them. This was the monthly report from this spirit stone mine. Everything that was excavated was listed in here, how many tons of spirit stone ore there was as well as its quality.
The man took out a pen from the side and started scribbling something down on the same report. Some of the numbers slowly shifted to something else. He placed the pen that was made from a large green feather to the side and then he glanced at the parchment again.
"The production has decreased by 2% this month, think we'll have to make an example of some of the workers and cut their pay again, hehe~."
The man's eyes turned into crescent shapes, his thin, crack lips quickly turning into a devilish grin. The man didn't have much time to enjoy his scheming as he heard a knock on the door. He flared his nostrils at the sound and placed the paper down on his desk before replying.
"What is is? This better be important!"
At the call another person entered the room, he looked like your average cultivator. He gave the usual courteous bow before the man and then started talking.
"Reporting to the Grand elder!"
With annoyance the man waved his hand, letting the other person know that he was allowed to speak.
"An honorable guest has arrived today, he wants to meet you, Grand Elder Zhu"
The man raised his eyebrow wondering who this honorable person was.
"Well? Does this honorable guest have a name or title?"
The man already had beads of sweat forming on his forehead by just being here. The nascent soul grand elder was giving him the death glare, but he had to perform his job and bring the information over as the other person was even more frightening.
"Yes! It's Grand Elder Wu Ming from the main sect!"
The elder named Zhu showed a lopsided grimace after hearing the name of the person that had arrived.
"Elder Wu Ming?... did he say what he wants from me?"
Zhu moved one of his fingers to his mouth and started chewing on it, his eyes glancing to the paper that he just forged to show that the mine was doing worse than it actually did.
'Are they on to me? Did someone rat me out? Is it a coincidence... I was sure to not leave any evidence behind...'
The man started hastily contemplating, the voice of the other person in the room finally snapping him back to reality.
"Yes, Grand Elder Ming gave instructions. He wants to have a meeting with Grand Elder Zhu, he requested it be a secluded room. He mentioned that he doesn't want to be disturbed and that everyone should leave the premise for your discussion."
The man gave a rapid-fire recount of the order he got, the thing he wanted to do the most was to leave. The moment he mentioned Elder Ming's name the other grand elder started leaking his nascent soul aura. This spiritual pressure that he was exuding now was making this cultivator's body shiver.
"Grand Elder Ming said that he is in a hurry and would like to have a talk as soon as possible. That was all, Grand Elder Zhu!"
The man with the overbite looked down onto the desk while thinking.
'Why does he want to meet me in a separate room... maybe he wants in on the deal too?'
The man strained his brain trying to figure out Wu Ming's purpose here. Why was he making an unannounced visit to this cold and gloomy place? At first, Zhu though that he was ordered to check up on him by the other elders. But this was Grand Elder Ming, he was one of the stronger members of the sect. If there was a problem they would probably send an elder that was in the early stage, just like him.
'No, Ming only cares about face and treasures. He probably wants to extort me for some spirit stones. He probably needs more to satiate that treasure addiction he has!'
Wu Ming's love for treasures was widely known throughout the sect. The man spent most of his time going from city to city to visit auction houses. Some people even speculated that he was so easy to punish people for showing disrespect only to rob them and get his hands on their treasures and spirit stones.
'Shit, does he have some proof? No... he doesn't need it. If I deny him he can order an investigation!'
Zhu knew that if an official investigation took place, they would find inconsistencies in the numbers. He was fabricating the reports here and there to siphon spirit stones for himself, even if the amount was trivial he was still stealing.
The old man stood up and slammed both his palms down on his expensive-looking desk, the item almost breaking from the strike. This startled the messenger here, that was still standing there waiting for a reply or for a sign that he could leave.
"You... go tell Elder Wu Ming that I will meet him shortly, also guide him to my personal cultivation room!"
The man bowed and quickly shuffled out of the room, finally free from the oppressive aura. Elder Zhu on the other hand had his jaw clenched and was gritting his teeth.
'I have no choice, I have to share some assets with him. If he reports me to the council, I'll be severely punished and they'll probably resign me to the border region.'
The region that this elder was fearing was one bordering with a hostile sect. In that place battles between the two factions were commonplace and even nascent soul elders like him had to take part in them.
The old man put on his game face and headed out. He needed to at least get a good deal out of it, after Wu Ming was on his side he would also be implicated in the scheme with him. This might also be a good thing in disguise as he could get the backing of a senior Grand Elder.
'Hm, with him on my side it would be less stressful to pull this off... and there is still a lot of spirit stones to go around...'
He left the room he was in and headed outside. The moment he went outside a cold breeze hit his face, the weather here was quite harsh. This wasn't much for a nascent soul master like him, his body had long since evolved. Things like trifling cold weather like this wouldn't even cause him the slightest shiver.
This wasn't the case for the workers here though. Elder Zhu slowly made his way through the pathway that was embedded into the side of the gorge. He could see the people that were pushing carts, blisters on their hands, and their feet covered in some makeshift wrappings.
The moment they saw the Dark Palm Grand Elder they averted their gaze. Everyone knew that this person was bad news, they already saw people get lynched for small offenses. The people that were working here weren't doing it by choice, this was a place that the sect sent offenders too. These could range for people that had some debt that they couldn't pay, to some that had killed or injured someone from their sect.
Human resources were quite easy to come by in this world, so no one really paid attention to the health of these workers. Even if they had short sentences, it was normal for them never to get released unless they had someone with enough backing for the Dark Palm Sect to honor their agreement.
Elder Zhu grimaced while looking at the prostrating mine slaves. Their shady appearance wasn't to his liking, he just wanted them to stay away from him otherwise he could even catch some disease.
"Damn useless bunch, work harder and dig up more stones!"
He said while walking past some workers that stopped with their work to bow before this man. His personal cultivation chambers were buried deep in the gorge as with the close proximity to the spirit stone ores it had superb Qi quality. Of course, there was a limit to how much Qi a cultivator could absorb, if they tried to cultivate hastily they could very well suffer a backlash to their cultivation. Still having a place with constantly replenishing Qi was something sought after and this was also one of the boons of being stationed here.
Zhu continued walking into the mine shaft, one of the branching paths taking him to a large door. Two people were guarding his entrance, they gave him a salute while also informing him that Elder Ming had already gone inside and was waiting for his arrival.
"Be sure to not let anyone inside, unless you have a death wish!"
He glared at the two guards that lowered their gazes. The door slammed shut behind him and he continued walking while increasing his speed, he couldn't let the man wait too long. Still, he felt that he was also a Grand Elder who didn't need to bow his head down towards other people at the same rank.
The winding corridor brought him to another door, this one was already open elder Ming probably being the one that did it. Zhu gave out a small sight after which he straightened himself out. Well, he at least he tried but his posture was quite bad. Inside was a large circular room, there were many blue crystals stuck in the walls. They were illuminating the whole area giving it a faint azure hue.
The first thing Zhu saw after he entered the room was the Dark Palm symbol on Wu Ming's robe.
'Hm, that robe... he really is here for a business talk if he is wearing that one.'
Elder Zhu smirked to himself and headed inside, making sure to lock the door behind him. He activated the protective seal so that the two men wouldn't be bothered by anyone else.
"Welcome Elder Ming, what brings you to this humble spirit mine?"
He waved his hand around while trying to show a faint smile, though it looked more like a devilish smirk from how this man's face was structured. The man with salt and pepper hair in front didn't reply though, he murmured something while not turning around.
Zhu wanted to lash out, but he held himself back this man was playing hardball.
"Heh, can't hide anything from you Elder Ming, what is the reason that you wanted to meet me?"
Elder Ming seamed to move his hand to his chin as if to contemplate but didn't reply either, Zhu in response started sweating and was the one to speak up first.
"I see... your silence says it all... You wouldn't have organized this meeting without the rest of the Grand Elder's if you didn't know. How about we do a 60/40 split..."
Ming looked to be shaking his head to that proposition which made Zhu's brows to twitch.
"... Do you want a 50/50? You know the burden of all of this lies on my shoulders! If someone finds out I'll be the one to blame!"
The distance between the two got smaller as Elder Zhu started approaching, the other party was keeping silent as if he wasn't satisfied with the deal.
"I'm not going below 45/55, you have to give me some face here Wu Ming!"
The man's eyes were bloodshot as he was staring daggers into the other Gran Elder's back. But then suddenly he noticed that something was off, he caught a glimpse of Wu Ming's side profile. The face was right, this was the man he knew, but something wasn't right.
"Wait...what is tha..."
Before he could react he saw the other man's body blur, a hand grasped his mouth and he felt foreign Qi forcibly getting injected into him. Now he finally saw what the problem was, this person was using some kind of disguising technique. The face and body structure was from the Dark Palm Elder, but the technique couldn't fool a nascent soul cultivators' senses that alerted him to the disguise.
"Dude, what are you even on about?"
The man impersonating Elder Ming finally spoke up, his head was tilted to the side and one of his eyebrows raised. This person was of course Zhang Dong, he wasn't really sure what this was all about but thanks to some kind of misunderstanding he was given a chance to catch this man by surprise.