Chapter 69: Visit (2)
To Purple Forest Stream, going to the Zhu Clan’s prison to inspect the prisoners was merely a duty that he needed to fulfill. Even though he cared for the fate of these Harpies as a Harpy himself, these Harpies were not his goal in the end, so he could only apologize to them in his heart.
Of course, he still put on a caring act, as if the lives of these Harpies still mattered to him.
After entering the prison, he began to carefully inspect and note down the circumstances the Harpies were living in, saying things like “This place is too dim,” “This room is too small,'' “Why do you need to put them in restraints if their ability to use Origin Energy has been sealed?”, “They are all Harpies that will be freed soon, so they should not be beaten and interrogated,” etc.
Zhu Yunyan chuckled, “I can understand your desire to protect your fellow compatriots. But even though these Harpies seem quite dispirited, I can assure you that their condition is quite good. See? Aren’t they all alive and well?”
She pointed around herself. The countless Harpy prisoners gazed at Purple Forest Stream like they were looking at a lifeline.
Purple Forest Stream knew that he was about to let down his compatriots and sighed in his heart as he said, “Can I spend some time alone with them?”
Zhu Yunyan laughed drily. “You’re making things hard for me. You should know that’s not possible.”
Purple Forest Stream had said this on purpose, so when Zhu Yunyan refused him, he was able to use it as an excuse to leave. “Since that’s the case, then forget about it. I only hope that Patriarch Zhu can……”
A sudden cry from one of the jail cells interrupted their conversation.
As they turned around to glance at the source of the sound, they found a young Harpy standing in front of the door to the cell and yelling, “He’s not going to live for much longer! Please, save him, save him!”
Zhu Yunyan had just said that everyone was alive and well. This was equivalent to a big, public slap in the face.
Her expression sank as she walked over and barked, “What are you yelling about?”
The young Harpy said, “Please, Madame, look at him. He’s really about to die!”
Purple Forest Stream also walked over quickly
He saw an old Harpy lying inside the jail cell, his aura extremely weak.
He could not afford to pretend like he had seen nothing just out of principle.
Purple Forest Stream’s expression also sank. “Matriarch Zhu, you promised me before that these captives would be fine.”
“I already told you that one of the Zhu Clan’s members went crazy after drinking too much wine and wounded one of the Harpies. It seems like it was this one. Calm down, okay?” After confirming that it wasn’t a new Harpy captive who had been injured, Zhu Yunyan’s expression relaxed as she turned around and said, “Open the door to this cell and bring this old man out.”
A guard opened the prison door and brought the old Harpy out.
Zhu Yunyan took his pulse quickly and said, “He won’t be able to last past noon.”
When the young Harpy heard this, he knelt on the ground and began to bawl.
The old Harpy lay on the ground, staring at Purple Forest Stream weakly. He said in a low voice, “Is this…… Harpy…… here…… to save us?”
“Yes, but it seems like you won’t last until then,” Zhu Yunyan said.
The old Harpy lifted his arm, trembling as he pointed at the young Harpy behind him. “His name is…… Jade Brilliance…… Please…… Take him away……”
Purple Forest Stream frowned. “This……”
He had no heart to continue lying. In that moment, he had an impulse to tell those Harpies not to hold onto hope because he wasn’t even there for them at all. They were merely a cover so that he could carry out his mission.
Thankfully, he managed to wrangle his emotions under control, but he was going to have a hard time continuing to lie to this old Harpy who was about to die.
The old Harpy suddenly stood and charged forwards, as if the sudden surge of energy right before his death had spurred him into action. He shoved aside the guard next to him and leapt at Purple Forest Stream.
The wings on his back unfurled, blocking the pursuers in their tracks as he pressed in close to Purple Forest Stream.
“You?” Purple Forest Stream stared at the other party in shock.
The old Harpy’s eyes seemed to be glowing with fire as he grabbed Purple Forest Stream by the throat. He spoke in a low voice, “Save him…… He knows about Flowing Flame Oriole’s secret……”
A bolt of lightning seemed to have slammed into Purple Forest Stream’s head, totally stunning him.
An instant later, the old man’s wings retracted. The guards charged forwards and pulled the old Harpy aside, only to find that the old Harpy was motionless. He had already died.
So that lunge and grasp had expended the last bit of energy in his body.
At this point in time, his final wish had been fulfilled, so he died cleanly inside of slowly passing away.
“Matriarch, he has died. Forgive me for my inability, which allowed him to……” the guard said, trembling with fear.
“Forget about it. It’s not a big deal anyways,” Zhu Yunyan waved her hand casually, then stared at Purple Forest Stream suspiciously. “That old man…… did he say anything to you?”
Purple Forest Stream forcefully calmed himself down, then sucked in a breath of cold air. “No, he just hoped that I would be able to lead everyone out of here. He wanted to use his own life to exhort me. That old Harpy…… I feel sorry for him. No matter what, I will fulfill his last wishes.”
Purple Forest Stream knew that he couldn’t just try and save one person. It seemed like the only option available to him now was to save all of the Harpies.
All he could do now was hope that the young Harpy did in fact have the secret he needed.
Upon hearing Purple Forest Stream’s words, Zhu Yunyan chuckled. “Naturally. The Zhu Clan is also hoping to complete this transaction.”
Now that he had received such shocking news, Purple Forest Stream had no heart in remaining here any longer. After making a quick round, he left in a hurry. Zhu Yunyan chuckled as he watched his departing figure.
The old Harpy was naturally Su Chen in disguise.
The diplomacy group was incapable and couldn’t find the location of the brood mother. As such, Su Chen had been forced to think of a way to notify them himself.
How to notify them was a big problem.
The simplest method was to take on Halcyon Wing Streak’s identity and notify the diplomacy party of his own accord.
However, the Zhu Clan’s advisors rejected that plan.
Even though they were unclear what Su Chen and Zhu Chenhuan were trying to do, they had managed to guess some of the content based on the proposed scenario. As such, they pointed out that linking the person who had provided the information with the person who was infiltrating the higher ranks of the Harpy echelon was just being lazy. Clearly, they were just trying to avoid thinking too much.
The reality was that these two people didn’t need to be identical.
The person leaking the information could be one person, while the person infiltrating the higher ranks could be another.
There was no reason why these couldn’t be carried out separately.
Even if the person acting out both of these roles was the same person.
This made everything much easier to take care of later on.
The simplest explanation was that, even if Su Chen was exposed while assuming Halcyon Wing Streak’s identity, no suspicion would be brought onto the broodmother. On the other hand, if suspicion arose about the broodmother, Halcyon Wing Streak wouldn’t be implicated. Since the two were not linked, the safety of either side was much higher.
For this reason, the person to divulge the information about the broodmother needed to be another Harpy.
Jade Brilliance and the old Harpy had been chosen under these kinds of circumstances.
The old Harpy had indeed encountered Flowing Flame Oriole in the capital, but they had only just happened to bump into each other. There was no way that Flowing Flame Oriole could have told her secret to a stranger that she basically didn’t know at all.
But that didn’t matter. Using that encounter as a pretext was more than sufficient.
The group of advisors also came up with a plan to use two people to divulge the information. One would obtain the information from Flowing Flame Oriole, while the other would pass on the information to Purple Forest Stream. This would further ensure the isolatedness of the information. Flowing Flame Oriole had died, as had the old Harpy. The only person alive who still knew about the secret was Jade Brilliance. However, Jade Brilliance didn’t know Flowing Flame Oriole, which covered up most of any holes which existed.
Purple Forest Stream and his entourage could suspect all they wanted, but they would discover in the end that there was no way for them to verify their suspicions.
Not to mention that they had no suspicions about this in the first place.
They wanted the broodmother too much!
Under these kinds of circumstances, everything would become reasonable.
Purple Forest Stream met with Scattered Moon Mist again, and the negotiations the day after proceeded much more rapidly.
The diplomatic party agreed to the Zhu Clan’s requests. First, the Zhu Clan’s merchants were given express permission to do business in Harpy territory. This authority was limited to the Zhu Clan. Once every year, they could send no more than fifty people to do business, and at the same time Flat Sky City needed to allow a designated clan free passage through their territory as well. Second, they were given franchising rights over a number of resources, including twelve items of contraband, with restrictions in quantity. Third, forty humans with similar levels of strength would be released, with the exact individuals being determined later.
Special passage was an incredibly important privilege. Even now, very few individuals amongst the two races possessed this kind of authority. The granting of these special privileges often was the result of lots of political maneuvering and promises of financial gain. With this special passage, they would be able to travel between the borders of the two kingdoms as they pleased to do business.
Anyone who could obtain this privilege controlled the all-important flow of resources. Since very few people had the authority to do so, anyone who did could stand to make an incredible sum of money.
The management rights were for specific resources. The two races would occasionally need to exchange resources necessary for cultivation or battle, but this process was illegal without prior approval. Only people with the appropriate franchising rights were allowed to buy and sell these special resources.
The Zhu Clan and the diplomatic party had fought long and hard over this second condition.
There was not much to discuss regarding the first condition, since it was just a matter of whether the Harpies were willing to give it or not. Since there were already humans who possessed special passage rights, it wasn’t a problem to grant this privilege to a few more humans as well.
There were many details to be hashed out concerning the second condition, however, since both the quantity that could be sold and the different resources that could be sold were both negotiable.
The Zhu Clan had opened their mouth wide, demanding to be allowed to openly trade all contraband. The Harpies naturally disagreed, and the two parties had fought over this for some time. Since the Harpies had not originally planned on completing these negotiations, they had purposefully dragged their feet in accommodating the Zhu Clan’s requests. Now that they knew one of the prisoners possessed the secret of the broodmother, Scattered Moon Mist agreed to lift bans on twelve of the resources, which was quite generous. This was very accommodating.
As for the forty human captives, this was mostly done to save the Harpies some face.
Even though they framed it like it was an exchange of hostages, if they did a one-to-one trade, then why would the Harpies still give the Zhu Clan so many benefits? Even though technically the Zhu Clan had given the Harpies free reign as well, the Zhu Clan could only promise passage through Flat Sky City, while the Harpies had promised them passage through the whole Sky City. Were the two comparable?
The same went for the special business permissions. Flat Sky City had given the Harpies permission to buy and sell any local resources available, but how many contraband resources did Flat Sky City have in the first place? Could it compare to the resources that the massive Sky City would have?
This deficit of twenty humans was meant to make up for the other unequal exchanges.
This way, it would seem like the Harpies loved their compatriots more and were willing to give up more privileges just to save an additional person.
As for whether saving twenty extra Harpies was worth this kind of price - who dared say to their face that the Harpies weren’t worth it?
What was the value of an individual life? That was hard to determine.
In theory, the value of a life was very high, but in practice the opposite was usually true.
Throughout their negotiations, neither party had taken the captives seriously. Instead, they had used them as bargaining chips to probe the other party.
The Harpies waved the banner of righteousness as they happily signed an agreement with the Zhu Clan to purchase back these sixty…… no, fifty-nine captives. The Zhu Clan felt a bit embarrassed and offered to bring one more from the capital to return to them, but Purple Forest Stream waved his hand magnanimously and waived it.