A hundred man team was strolling through a dark and gloomy forest. They talked and laughed as if the deadly Beast King Mountain was a mere side show.
The youth in the lead looked thoroughly bored, making sure to point it out every other step with a long drawn yawn.
He was the fear of all Six Dragons and One Phoenix, the one and only Soaring Demonic Dragon, Zhuo Fan.
Ever since he rescued this lot, he was made leader on the spot and was now taking point as they trekked through the woods.
These guys were also weak as hell, being from third and second rate clans, hardly fast enough to keep up with him. And so, he had no choice but to put a break on things and slow down.
The start of the trek was filled with a sombre mood, in fear of what was to come. But after a few encounters with 4-5th level spiritual beasts, each punctuated by Zhuo Fan’s dirty look, it all changed.
They were enraptured by Zhuo Fan’s power, bringing not just a little sense of security in this hellhole. It got so bad they were treating the final battle as a sightseeing trip. As long as Zhuo Fan was around, their safety was guaranteed. Relaxation was given at this point.
Zhuo Fan wished nothing more than to dump their sorry asses, but with Luo Yunhai having received Dugu Zhantian’s righteous education, he was forced to bear with these dead weights in their painfully slow search for keys and exits.
Honestly, Zhuo Fan wasn’t looking for Brimming Sacred Pills but for a way out.
His dearest wish right now was for an exit and keys to get rid of those pests behind him and be home free!
Bummer he was still stuck in this forest and wasting five days on top of that. Not only he didn’t find a single key, the exits as well seemed bent on eluding him.
Zhuo Fan sighed for the umpteenth time, twisted his head back at the laughing bunch, and snapped, “Cut the chatter. We’re not on a tour here. Be more serious and keep a close eye out for any exits or keys. Leave no bush unturned. The faster we find them, the faster we leave this place! You’ll be safe then and I’ll be free, got it?”
“Yes!” A shivering response welcomed Zhuo Fan’s prestigious order. But gone three minutes and they were at it again. Without danger breathing down their necks every minute of the hour, anyone would chill out and relax knowing their lives were in safe hands.
Zhuo Fan’s mood sank even lower, wishing nothing more than to throw these useless guys to the wolves, or any spiritual beasts for that matter.
He couldn’t though, not with the genial and kind Xue Ningxiang around.
[Mercy me, since when was I such a softie?]
Zhuo Fan’s anger was flaring again.
Xue Ningxiang’s charming and sweet smile came just in time and she placed a bright flowery wreath on him, “Big brother Zhuo, for you. Please don’t be angry.”
“How could I possibly be angry?” Forcing a smile, Zhuo Fan felt like crying.
Luo Yunhai almost laughed. He was glad Ning’er was here to curb big brother Zhuo’s mean streak, or the man’d be sorting this chilled and disorganized rabble into shape by now.
And if one took his cruel methods into account, any shape these guys got into, well that would’ve been closer to hell than anything. But the real question was, how many would’ve gotten out with their lives?
Luo Yunhai felt a shiver the moment he recalled the survival rate of Luo clan’s guards’ training regime.
His ten guards were nothing short of freaks, but they all escaped death by the skin of their teeth. At one point in Zhuo Fan’s classic disappearing act, Captain Pang divulged the secret of this cruel and inhumane ‘training’.
When one out of a hundred elite youths to survive was a genuine cause for celebration.
He was scared witless back then. They weren’t shaping up guards, but killing machines at Luo clan’s beck and call.
He was in Dugu Zhantian’s army for three years by then. Although these young guards had uncanny powers now, stauncher than even a general with decades of wars behind him, the cruelty of their training left him devastated. After careful deliberations with his sister, they put a stop to it.
Luo clan was no longer welcoming youths to train.
He hadn’t met with a good opportunity to break this news to Zhuo Fan either. More like he didn’t have it in him. He was scared for his life that Zhuo Fan would flip out and would start cursing him to high heaven.
It got so bad that he decided there and then to keep this buried for all eternity…
The sudden movement from a bush earned Zhuo Fan’s interest, “Who’s there? Come out now or stay dead forever!”
“Uh, big brother Zhuo, i-t’s me!”
A shy voice followed the appearance of Dong Xiaowan’s red face followed by a sighing Dong Tianba. Every single time his sister saw Zhuo Fan, she’d swoon and turn bashful, despite the guy never giving her second looks.
And sure enough, Zhuo Fan turned to Dong Tianba. It was only Xue Ningxiang who rushed over and grabbed the girl’s hands in joy, “Sister Wan’er, you’re alright!”
Dong Xiaowan smiled and sneaked a peek at Zhuo Fan.
“What’s wrong, did you not find any other allies? Then join us, the weak, women and the children team!” Zhuo Fan pointed back at the casual rabble.
Xue Ningxiang and Dong Xiaowan giggled. Xue Ningxiang rolled her eyes, “Big brother Zhuo, where are we weak? We, hundred, even fought back Lin Xuanfeng’s thousand. Though we were routed in the end and suffered a miserable defeat!”
Xue Ningxiang stuck out her chin, while the said hundred nodded with red faces.
In a dark brooding mood, Zhuo Fan glared back, “You dare admit it when you’re now just a lousy and lazy bunch?”
“Isn’t it your fault?” Xue Ningxiang smiled, her words were quite sharp, “It’s your fault for being so strong. With you being our bastion of safety, we have no reason to even think about fighting.”
Zhuo Fan felt like crying, [How is that sound logic?]
But thanks to Xue Ningxiang intervening, Zhuo Fan readily accepted those words. If it were anyone else, he’d kick him to the moon.
Dong Xiaowan looked at Xue Ningxiang in admiration for being able to poke fun at big brother Zhuo so casually.
Dong Tianba shook his head at his sister’s infatuation and said in all seriousness, “Brother Zhuo, I’ll be honest. I have been looking for you by the order of Edifice Lord Chu!”
Zhuo Fan felt uneasy, “Uh, shouldn’t she be out there looking for keys, exits, and Brimming Sacred Pills? What’s she doing going after me for?”
Dong Tianba said, “It’s not quite correct to say it’s Edifice Lord Chu, but Huangpu Qingtian issuing you a challenge! He has a Brimming Sacred Pill with him and heard of you taking Lin Xuanfeng’s hand without even showing yourself. He thus challenged you to try and take the pill from him!”
“So he picked a spot to defend, waiting for me to answer his challenge?” Zhuo Fan raised an eyebrow.
Dong Tianba nodded, “Yes.”
“Then let the sucker wait. I’ll just go get the other three Brimming Sacred Pills, the keys and find the exits. Only then I’ll get the last pill from him and I’ll be the true winner!”
Zhuo Fan grinned, “Ha-ha-ha, we now have time in spades and you guys need not worry about meeting Regent Estate. So split up and search, particularly for the Brimming Sacred Pill, and you’ll be rewarded!”
They cheered, infected by Zhuo Fan’s enthusiasm.
Dong Tianba was stunned, “Wait, brother Zhuo, won’t honoring the challenge make the people call you coward? You’re our ally. Don’t you care about our reputation? We will never be able to lift our heads in their presence, a laughing stock to the world. We are all waiting for you to bring about a reversal!”
“Fool, just say you didn’t find me. It’ll work just as well. Plus, what does some lame thing like honor help me anyway? Once I get everything, I’ll go bitch slap him good. That’s the best way to earn the ultimate victory. So what’s all the need to fuss about reversals and what not?”
Zhuo Fan grinned, finally in a perky mood, “I never ever cared about such empty things in my life. What I can feel and use is what truly matters, ha-ha-ha…”
The rest laughed as well.
Soaring Demonic Dragon was unorthodox, that was for sure. Now they saw why he was Regent Estate’s headache over the last decade.
[You think some measly challenge is enough to force one into showing up? For what, something as ephemeral as honor? While he in fact spits on anything remotely resembling it! He has none to begin with too!]
[So what are you going to do now, huh?]
[Soaring Demonic Dragon is not your average cultivator, he is the quintessence of demonic cultivation!]
None saw Zhuo Fan for a coward, despite how it looked. Instead of thinking he was a disgraceful and honorless bastard, they thought of him as a man of courage and deep cunning. He played his enemies like a fiddle. That was how a true leader should act.
[Following him, my future is limitless…]
Dong Tianba knew Zhuo Fan’s character and sighed, “I have no choice but to report back to Edifice Lord Chu about your response. But Edifice Lord Chu won’t just stand the humiliation and will one day…”
“Hold up, Huangpu Qingtian is challenging me. So if I won’t go, she’d only be shamed to have such an ally. What’s this stand for humiliation anyway?” Zhuo Fan bemused.
Dong Tianba sighed, recounting what happened, to the sombre Zhuo Fan.
Dong Tianba finished with, “In despair, Edifice Lord Chu told us to look for keys and go home. But Huangpu Qingtian’s challenge brought about a glimmer of hope. And since you refuse to honor it… “
“Fine fine, I get it.”
Zhuo Fan dismissed him. His eyes were raging, his fists clenched, “Since he started all this, then I will have to finish it!”
Dong Tianba was in glee, but not for long. What Zhuo Fan said next got him shuddering.
“He will have to pay dearly for messing with my people…”