“Marshal!” Everyone cried in worry at Dugu Zhantian’s pained look.
Dugu Zhantian had trekked these lands for decades, only to find himself another’s toy all along. It would make any man enraged, to say nothing of their grand Marshal.
Waving feebly, Dugu Zhantian’s eyes had lost their usual vigor. As his soul was chipped away, his greatest pride crumbled before his very eyes.
Dugu Zhantian spoke in a hoarse and weakened voice, “Zhuo Fan, I had said it before the Esoteric Debate, that you resemble me, just as loyal. You are striving for the Luo clan and I for the dynasty. If I am loyal to a fault, what then, are you fighting for?”
Zhuo Fan pointed to his heart, “This is what moves me, what drives me!”
Staring at his heart, Dugu Zhantian’s face enlightened, “I see, love…”
[I was talking about inner demons here…]
Zhuo Fan nodded even as his heart skipped a beat. A peculiar feeling wormed itself into his being. Dugu Zhantian stirred a deep corner of his heart and shook his mind to the core in the process.
“Bring me the Dragonslaying Crescent Blade.” Dugu Zhantian raised his weary hand.
The tigers finally recovered with Luo Yunhai’s pills and could move again.
Dugu Feng obeyed by presenting his cherished weapon on one knee.
Dugu Zhantian grasped it with a trembling hand, but his eyes shone as he laughed, “I asked Tianyu’s best tool refiner to make it the first time I went to the borders. I once absorbed the dragon soul of Quanrong’s lands and on that day, it became my greatest pride. It had been my cherished companion for many years and now I bid it farewell. “
Tracing its blade, Dugu Zhantian was filled with love. He flicked the weapon and pushed it forward, “Zhuo Fan, unlike me, you know what must be done. Take it and protect the Luo clan!”
The four tigers gasped, as did Luo Yunhai.
Though they could muster no complaints as they gazed into Dugu Zhantian’s steel look.
Zhuo Fan looked at the weapon and shook his head, “A man of honor does not take another’s prized possession. Although I am anything but, I know how much Marshal cares for it and so I must refuse.”
“What can a dead man do with treasures? Zhuo Fan, take it or I’ll have a bitter death.” Dugu Zhantian lifted the weapon and spoke with a resounding tone.
Zhuo Fan resigned and nodded.
[Asked by Marshal with so much fervor, refusing will be downright immoral. But the old coot’s respect isn’t the issue here, it’s how to use the tigers later.]
Refusing meant earning the four tiger’s ire. Zhuo Fan shouldered the blade and struck the image of a mighty general.
Dugu Zhantian smiled as all power left him, slumping in Luo Yunhai’s arms.
“Marshal!” Everyone cried tears of sorrow.
Dugu Zhantian looked at all his sons with ardent love, “No, not Marshal, I wish to hear… godfather…”
“Godfather!” The five shouted.
Dugu Zhantian’s mouth slumped as he let out one last hoarse grunt.
The five’s tears flowed without stopping as they called out, never to wake up the scattered soul of the old man. His face was not the face of agony, but that of peace and tranquility.
The commanding tent resounded with the sobbing of Dugu Zhantian’s five godsons, filling the whole Lone Goose Gorge. The soldiers sensed the deep sorrow it carried.
Gu Santong felt it too, his eyes getting red, his nose stuffy. He clutched at Zhuo Fan as he sobbed in his arms.
Zhuo Fan watched it all with a silent lament.
[Dugu Zhantian, a God of War gave his life for his country and died at its whims. What a poor man, worthy of all respect!]
[A true misfortune that the world changed as it did and made him to be discarded…]
The mourning went on for four hours and the five carried Dugu Zhantian’s body before the gathered army.
The military order said not to leave one’s post, but the chaos here left them uneasy.
They came to find…The old Marshal, pale and carried out. Their eyes grew heavy and moist, but no tears fell.
A man didn’t cry over nothing, while a soldier wouldn’t, even if bleeding!
It was one of the Marshal’s teachings.
Dugu Feng watched these soldiers bear the pain and spoke hoarsely, “Soldiers of the Dugu Army, something devastating happened today. The emperor betrayed us and our dear Marshal fell at Shadow Captain’s sneak attack at the emperor’s orders.”
“Marshal!” The army fell to one knee, roaring their anguish, but nothing could stem the bursting rage.
“But how the Dugu Army has always been candid, this matter can only be left to the new Marshal!” Dugu Feng shouted.
Zhuo Fan was perplexed. [Dugu Zhantian just died and there’s already a new marshal?]
[Dugu Zhantian must’ve settled this since long ago. That’s why the Four Tigers of Tianyu came to be. That’s for the best, for the godsons to take revenge for their father.]
Zhuo Fan figured it out in his infinite wisdom.
The Dugu Army looked around before finally settling on Zhuo Fan.
More like, the blade he carried.
Dugu Feng and his brothers looked behind and shouted, “Our second matter is to greet our new Marshal, Zhuo Fan!”
“Greetings, Marshal Zhuo!”
The godsons were the first to bow, followed by the soldiers.
Zhuo Fan froze with a goony look.
[Did I miss something here? How did I become the new Marshal?]
Though the sight of everyone bowing, even Luo Yunhai, woke him up to reality.
Luo Yunhai smiled, “Marshal, godfather had a rule. Whoever he gives the Dragonslaying Crescent Blade, shall be the new Marshal of Dugu Army. Everyone here knows this. He entrusted it to you on his deathbed and that makes you our Marshal. The millions strong Dugu Army shall henceforth obey Marshal’s orders!”
“We await Marshal’s commands!” The army’s roar shook the heavens.
Zhuo Fan was dazed, then his heart bloomed with joy. He was looking for an excuse to get Dugu Army on his side, but here it was, under his complete control. There was no freer lunch out there.
Zhuo Fan lifted his weapon and roared, “His Majesty is misinformed and killed his loyal official as a consequence. I, Zhuo Fan, take the seat of Marshal of the Dugu Army, to drive out the savage Quanrong and exact heaven’s will. We shall march north and cleanse our lords’ court, bringing light to Tianyu!”
“Charge out of Lone Goose Gorge. March for Windgaze City to prepare. We will split in four directions and get revenge for the old Marshal!”
“Revenge! Revenge! Revenge!”
The soldiers brandished their weapons with an unquenching thirst for revenge.
Shadow King had just escaped the gorge when he spat blood, “God damn that Zhuo Fan. He only keeps getting stronger. As a spirit puppet, I have no advantage over him. In fact, I’m weaker. How in the hell does he come up with so many soul martial arts? God friggin’ damn it…”
Shadow King fled with a wounded body, cursing all the while.
Thousands of Quanrong had come to meet him, with Slaughter Wolf in the lead…