“Ethereal Stage experts?” The house lords cried.
Tianyu had never seen the likes of an Ethereal Stage expert in its history, not until Li Jingtian. Yet finding three of them in one place had them all shell shocked.
Zhuo Fan knew this conflict was bound to lead to this, “Grandmother, please call Elder Li and the couple. I’ll stall them.”
“Steward Zhuo, can’t all these arrays stall them? Why must you go yourself?” Grandmother asked.
A kaboom sound gave the answer. A simple wave of Elder Lang’s sleeve made all the impervious arrays crumble.
The house lords were dumbstruck, staring into nothing. The arrays weren’t worth even a roadblock to Ethereal Stage experts.
Zhuo Fan was sweating, “Does that answer you? There’s a saying, beneath 7th grade, everything is ethereal. No array under the 7th grade can hold back an Ethereal Stage expert.”
The house lords stared dully at Zhuo Fan, their minds still catching up to reality.
“What are you looking at me for? Go get the elders!”
Zhuo Fan barked and they shot for Blackwind Mountain.
Against Ethereal Stage experts, Li Jingtian was the only one who could fight them.
Elder Lang mocked them, “Three Profound Heaven ants, trying to crawl away? Think again!”
He flicked again just as Zhuo Fan blocked him.
Elder Lang was taken aback for a second there, as were the others.
The only Profound Heaven cultivators they saw were the kind to flee at their sight. This sole exception had them lost.
Elder Lang faltered mid attack.
Tuoba Tieshan was coming over, leading his army with the fall of the arrays when he stumbled upon this scene.
They were just as dumbstruck.
“That’s Zhuo Fan. What’s this new marshal doing, stopping the old guys, looking to die?” Zha Lahan blurted.
It was the unanimous reaction on everyone’s faces. Only the veteran Tuoba Tieshan had a bad feeling from his honed instincts through decades of bloodshed.
“Kid, do you have any idea who we are?” Elder Lang snorted.
Zhuo Fan mocked, “How should I know? You didn’t tell me. And not to forget, who do you think you are to have the gall to destroy my five hundred arrays?”
“Ha-ha-ha, only an ignorant fool would block me!” Elder Lang cackled.
Zha Lahan was baffled, “Wasn’t this guy always clever? Even without knowing how to identify an Ethereal Stage expert from the crowd, that demonstration is obvious enough to make a difference. He should be running right about now.”
The others thought Zhuo Fan an idiot as well. Only a handful, Tuoba Tieshan included, sensed something odd.
“Then perk up your ignorant ears, fool, we are Ethereal Stage experts!” Elder Lang stuck out his chin with boundless confidence.
By his reckoning, the kid should now be soiling his pants and wailing in horror. After all, Ethereal Stage was the peak of power in the western lands.
And he, with his wolfish temper, just loved to toy with his food. First drive fear into their hearts then hunt them down in the cruelest way imaginable.
Zhuo Fan wouldn’t play ball though. The only look on his face was a long one, “Ethereal Stage expert… uhm, what’s that? I’ve only heard Radiant Stage expert as the strongest. Tianyu only has Radiant Stage experts also. My life’s goal has always been to reach it and become the best in the world.”
Elder Lang felt like talking to a wall.
[This kid’s ignorance is mind blowing, taking Radiant Stage as the peak of cultivation.]
[Which clan is he from? How sad that they know so little of the world.] His plan to act the blowhard went down the drain now that the audience was too dumb to ackowledge his greatness.
Elder Lang clenched his fist to get rid of this eyesore. And yet, he just couldn’t have the fool die without knowing his swag, that would be immoral.
And so, the fiend in him doubled down on giving him the ins and outs of Ethereal Stage with utmost patience, “Kid, Ethereal Stage is a level beyond the Radiant Stage. Even a hundred Radiant Stage experts can’t beat a single one.”
“Oh, so that’s how it is. That makes you awesomer than Radiant Stage experts!” Zhuo Fan bobbed his head, enlightened.
Elder Lang chuckled with pride. [Now that he knows to recognize greatness, next should be fear.]
[Once he runs, we’ll hunt him down, hi-hi-hi…]
Zhuo Fan had no such intention though, ever calm and ever baffling.
“Uhm, boy, don’t you know our greatness?” Elder Lang blinked.
Zhuo Fan nodded, “Of course, you’re Ethereal Stage experts, able to beat a hundred Radiant Stage experts, no? You already said that. Don’t tell me you forgot. Is senility setting in already?”
Elder Lang choked on his words and exploded, “Why aren’t you running scared? Where’s the horror, the panic? Why are your pants dry still?”
Looking back to see the house lords gone, Zhuo Fan snickered, “Because I can’t let you pass!”
“Say what?” The trio cried.
“When a Radiant Stage expert goes ethereal, his soul achieves enlightenment, free of the world’s bindings, crushing anything beneath 7th grade!” Zhuo Fan shook his head, his tone sarcastic, “I knew the instant you broke my arrays how strong you were. I was only faking it, play-pretend, act the fool to yank your chain. How else would those old buddies of mine make a run for it? What a stroke of dumb luck that I got stuck with you three morons to play twenty questions with.”
Lian’er giggled and the others chortled. The old ones were their helpers, but they didn’t win Touba Army’s respect in the least.
It sure livened them up seeing them toyed by a child.
Tuoba Tieshan nodded, [Old Dugu made the right choice, brave and shrewd, honorable and noble. He is the best choice to be Dugu Army’s Marshal. And yet…]
Tuoba Tieshan frowned.
“Rotten piece of scat! You dare to play me?” Elder Lang blustered, slapping.
A vile air gathered around his hand and that simple palm turned into a savage wolf, entering Zhuo Fan.
With a fierce headache, his soul felt gnawed at, his mind fading.
It was a perk of reaching the Ethereal Stage, soul destruction.
Radiant Stage could launch soul attacks, while Ethereal Stage took it one step further, making it materialize and even turn into a spirit.
Take Elder Lang for example, his soul turned into that of a wolf. It would enter the target and feast on his soul.
Zhuo Fan slammed into the city wall and got buried under the rubble.
Elder Lang wrote him off, turning away, “A puny Profound Heaven ant dares toy with us?”
“Ahe-he-hem, he only played you. We’ve got nothing to do with it.” Fierce Tiger excused himself.
Obscene Snake nodded.
With how an Ethereal Stage expert was duped by a Profound Heaven pup, he’d have no honor left to face the world. The best way out of it was to get that lame wolf to be the patsy.
Elder Lang was speechless realizing how honorless they were. [Like you saw through the kid’s act of stalling.]
[But weren’t we all taken in? You’re no better!]
“Alas, this shall be the second time in my long life that I shall mourn over the death of my adversary.” Tuoba Tieshan sighed, “First was old Dugu. And when I thought of Zhuo Fan to be my next adversary, he would meet his end before we could even test ourselves. Heroes always die young. This victory brings me no joy.”
The others nodded. Even as their enemy, Zhuo Fan had earned their respect.
Touba Lian’er sighed, recalling their ‘fond’ first encounter and was touched by sadness, “He did save me once, I guess.”
The rubble lit up with a flash of azure…