While the lands ruled by Aurora was filled to the brim with a festive mood and beautiful decorations lined every street corner, that was not true for other places. Under the gaze of the watchful moon and cradled by the gentle waves of the sea, hundreds of ships littered the water’s surface. Where they are headed no one knows but one thing that is certain is that despite sailing together out in the lonely sea these ships did not serve a single master as four or five different symbols and images could be seen fluttering in the gentle breeze.
These ships, of course, belonged to the various provincial lords that had fled the Warring States Region before it’s unification. Since they had left long before any of the forces of Aurora arrived and did not leave a single trace as to where they were headed, they were able to escape from Zhang’s grasp despite the amazing speeds that the Sky Fortress could move at.
Atop a large ship that stood out amongst the rest, a small round table was set atop the ship’s upper deck. If one looked closely than six men with varying ages and appearances could be seen sitting underneath the moonlight as dozens of torches danced and flickered not too far from them.
“How much longer until we reach the Lanyu Continent?” One of the men at the table asked as a few beautiful young women dressed in skimpy outfits exited a door that led to the lower decks and began dancing.
“There’s no need to rush since revenge is a dish best served cold.” Another man at the table said as he sipped a cup of wine.
“The thought of those smug bastards enjoying their days leisurely as we have to flee, makes my blood boil.” The man that spoke first sputtered as his brows furrowed.
“If the Lanyu Empire is willing to lend us their aid then let alone the Southern Region, the entire Warring States Region and perhaps a few of its neighboring kingdoms will be ours for the taking.” A third individual said.
“Judging by the pace that we are moving, it should take a few more months to a year before we reach the Lanyu Continent so there is no need to work yourself up now.” Someone else at the table spoke.
“I must thank you brother, Niao Feng, for lending us the use of your Golden Winged Eagles.” Someone said to Niao Feng who had been sitting in silence and sipping a cup of wine.
“No need to thank me, since you’re willing to loan me a few of my ships and guide us to the Lanyu Continent to ask for aid, it’s only natural that I lend a helping hand.” Niao Feng said with a slight smile.
After failing to steal Zhang’s heavenly energy and witnessing Zhang ‘s battle with Xue Huo and the lesser saints, Niao Feng had ordered his men to quickly pack their things and fled the Golden Peak Province to ensure the safety of the sacred egg that his family has been guarding for countless years. But with no destination in mind and no other form of transport besides the Golden Winged Eagles, Niao Feng, and his people did not know where to go.
That was when they found themselves in the Shadow Hex Province restocking on various supplies and as one thing led to another, Niao Feng and his people found themselves headed toward the Lanyu Continent along with a few other forces led by other fleeing provincial lords.
At first, Niao Feng was fairly surprised as to how the lord of the Shadow Hex Province knew the location of the Lanyu Continent when there was little to no communication between the two landmasses and what little communication that did occur was amongst various traveling saints who roamed the open sea and the endless land. But after he committed to joining their trip, Niao Feng had lent out the strength of his Golden Winged Eagles and had them pull the ships during the day, thus increasing the fleet’s speed drastically making it so that by the time Zhang’s Sky Fortress reached the Shadow Hex Province there was not a single trace of their departure.
“Do you think they’ll take up our cause? Considering the people, we will have to convince to aid us are saints.” Someone said.
“It should almost be exactly a thousand years and some odd years since the last time anyone from the Lanyu Continent appeared on the lands of our Wulin Continent and if I recall my clan’s ancestral text correctly the event that prompted the saints of the Lanyu Continent to attack is nearing. If we play our cards right they might allow us to govern over the lands they conquer and since the two continents are a considerable distance apart from each other we won’t have to answer to anyone.” The previous lord of the Shadow Hex Province said with a grin.
“A thousand years ago? Wasn’t that around the time the Heilong Kingdom was founded after some great calamity occurred?” Someone asked.
“The calamity that resulted in the creation of the Heilong Kingdom is directly related to the invasion of the saints of the Lanyu Continent. That year hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of people perished and countless saints fell from the sky. Niao Feng said with a sigh.
While Niao Feng and the other various lords that fled the Warring States Region continued heading toward a new mysterious land and while the Siwang Empire’s naval fleet also disappeared without a trace, the war-ravaged land that now belonged to the Aurora Empire was undergoing a miraculous change.
A few months after the empire was established, thanks to his knowledge of his past life, Zhang enacted a series of changes throughout the far reaches of the Aurora Empire.
One by one, schools and various educational institutions popped up across the land under Zhang’s guidance. Since the children stood for Aurora’s future, Zhang decided to try to develop as many talents as possible and to use schools as a gathering place to do so.
Normally in other places only the wealthy or middle class could afford to pay for private tutors or send their children to boarding schools while the only chance given to poor people at a proper education would go be lucky enough to be admitted into a sect.
However now that educational institutes were set up and funded by the government, everyone can get an equal chance at receiving an education. On a top of becoming educated for free, the students at all of these schools would also receive a chance to be selected to attend Aurora’s Imperial Institute.
Much like the Heilong Kingdom’s Royal Academy, the Imperial Institute was established to help Aurora cultivate more high-level mages and warriors.
Unlike the Royal Academy, however, the Imperial Institute accepted an unlimited number of talented students that all came from the various schools within the empire. Each and every student selected would be given an opportunity to board the empire’s greatest symbol of power, Zhang’s Sky Fortress, where they would stay for a number of years to further their understanding of cultivation, military strategy, and a number of other various arts.
Among those admitted into the Imperial Institute, a few would be granted the opportunity to become direct disciples of Aurora’s princesses.
Surprisingly enough half a few months after all of the schools were constructed and operational, tens of thousands of students were selected and sent to the Sky Fortress. Contrary to Zhang’s usual hoarding of gold and riches, he spent lavishly to accommodate the students of the Imperial Institute.
Besides changes in the education system, Zhang also sent out thousands of teams to properly survey the land. For many years the empire was divided and lots of lands that was once known to be filled with important resources were left shrouded in mystery and inaccessible.
But now that survey teams were sent out, the empire would be properly mapped and explored, giving those governing over the land a better understanding of what resources they had to work with.
As reports came back to the capital from the various teams spread out across the empire, dozens of veins of gold, silver, and various other minerals were found. A number of rare herbs were also being steadily sent back toward the capital as the various teams explored regions that have barely been laid eyes upon by humans.
Of course much to Lingqi’s delight, she would be the first to have a look at and pick what she wounded from these stashes of rare herbs.
At Zhang’s orders, rare books were to be sent to the capital for safe keeping because of the knowledge that could be lost if these books were to be destroyed or lost. Little did anyone know, Zhang was actually gathering books so that he can use his newly invented printing press to produce copies of them.
Although he had thought about releasing the printing press to the public, he decided not to because of the economic impact it would have on a portion of the population who worked as scribes and made a living off copying books by hand.
Perhaps over time he would introduce this wonderful invention to the world but for now too many changes at once only served to unhinge and cause the people to be uneasy.
So for now instead of supplying everyone with inexpensive massed produced copies of text, Zhang provided every school with an adequate library for its students to use. But of course, no library in the Aurora Empire could compare to the one that was amassed in the Imperial Institute.
Much to Ling’s delight, the number of books that Zhang managed to collect quickly outnumbered the ones gathered within the Heilong Kingdom’s Royal Academy.
Zhang also introduced various agricultural innovations that would help increase the yield of crops produced in the Southern Region that is now being governed by the Liu Clan from what was the Dark Sea Province, who was being over watched by Zhuge Liang and Sima Yi.
“Have the teleportation platforms been set up yet?” Zhang asked from behind a desk covered in various documents.
“My lord construction has begun roughly a month ago and most of the platforms should have been finished by now.” A soldier replied to Zhang.
Besides various reforms and establishing hundreds of schools, Zhang also ordered for the construction of teleportation arrays to be built across the empire. Based on designs used by the Dark Legion and with a bit of tweaking from Yuying, countless teleportation arrays were quickly built for the exclusive use of the government. Since traveling by foot or by horse would take many months, making the transportation of food from one end of the empire to the other impractically, Zhang needed a better way to supply reallocate resources.
Thankfully after their master abandoned them, the former forces of the Dark Legion were easily persuaded to join under Zhang’s banner. After which they’ve help train Zhang’s soldiers on how to use spell formations and also have shared the blueprints on how to construct the teleportation arrays.
“Good, have the excess crops sent to the Northern Region after encasing them in ice.” Zhang said as he tried to redistribute the abundant food supply of the Southern Region to the Northern Region that was lacking food but had plenty raw materials.
“I’ll send word to the Transport Core and General Hei Ang right away my lord.” A soldier said before exiting the Azure Tower where Zhang had been spending most of his time. Once outside the soldier mounted a massive Golden Winged Eagle that had its mind rewired by Yuying and flew into the sky before descending toward the capital below and fly out of the city toward a midsized fortress.
“Ai, do you want to go for a walk?” Zhang asked after the soldier departed while looking toward a table not too far some his desk where Ai was sitting and enjoying a wide variety of snacks laid out in front of her.
“Let’s go!” Ai said with an excited expression.
Although Zhang did not act as the headmaster of the Imperial Institute nor did he take over managing the empire from Jian Wei he was still fairly busy while the other beauties were all caught up in doing their own thing, leaving Ai without anyone to spend time with for a large part of the day.
“Once the empire’s borders are reinforced and the army is restructured, we can spend all the time we want together.” Zhang said with a laugh as he and his beautiful wife descended the steps of the Azure Tower arm in arm.
After our lovely couple descended from the tower that pierced into the sky and began to walk about the newly constructed school campus, countless students could be seen roaming the grounds with arm fulls of scrolls and merry smiles on their faces.
“Your highnesses.” A few students said as they spotted Zhang and Ai, bowing politely to show their respect.
“You guys best be on your way or else you’ll be late to class.” Zhang said with a smile.
“If you late sis you’ll get a mouthful from sis.” Ai said with a laugh as she looked at a young girl who was dressed in black robes, symbolizing that she was one of Yuying’s disciples.
Once the school was started, three factions had emerged within it. Those who wore black robes with a red sash around their waists were Yuying’s students who studied the dark arts, those with white robes and green sashes were Lingqi’s students who studied medicine and poisons, those with white robes and blue sashes were Ling’s students who studied a large variety of things that included by were not limited to war strategy and literature.
Of course, there were hundreds of other teachers and educators in the institute, since occasionally Zhang’s generals would try teaching the students a thing or two about this or that, even Sima Yi had given a lecture or two when he was in the capital. But for the most part, student would identify themselves with one of the three beauties.
“Let’s go see how the smiths are doing.” Zhang said to Ai as they headed toward a massive furnace that could be seen spewing black smoke into the air.
After Zhang recruited the best blacksmiths within the empire to work in the Sky Fortress, creating various weapons and instruments that he drew up blueprints for, a few of the institute’s students took an interest to blacksmithing so a thus it was also added to the curriculum.
As Zhang and Ai entered the institute’s Inferno Smelting Hall they saw hundreds of students hard at work trying to craft swords and armor. Thanks to a bit of shared knowledge from Yuying and a few books that Zhang managed to gather, the students here were also being taught how to use inscriptions on their creations to create lesser magical items.
“This is a going to be a good one.” Zhang said as he watched a student pound away at a rod of iron until it flattened into the shape of a sword.
“Thank you for the praise your highness.” The student replied cheerfully with a smile despite the sweat that ran down his brow.
For the most part, Zhang’s attempt as running the academy came with many rewards as he was able to see the cheerful smiles on the faces of those who would otherwise not have a chance of bettering themselves simply because they could not afford to.
Although there were no graduates from the school yet, it was certain that whoever graduated from the Imperial Institute would not find themselves without countless job offers.