Zhuo Fan sat up with a start. A ray of sunshine shone through the cave’s mouth and forced him to cover his eyes.
To his surprise, he found that he could actually move.
Although still weak, he was mostly recovered. Inspecting himself in detail, he found the Blood Infant laying depressed in his Dantian but its life was no longer hanging by a thread. Even its eyes were trembling, on the verge of waking up.
Being shocked was an understatement. Zhuo Fan knew the expert he met last night was someone who rose above the mortal domain. Or he wouldn’t have had the ability to heal his wounds overnight along with Blood Infant’s.
“But… why did he choose me?”
Zhuo Fan rubbed his forehead, recalling that the man had planted something there. But his weak self didn’t allow him to see clearly what it was.
He shook his head in the end, [It doesn’t matter, anyway he saved me. Whatever his reasons are, I will figure them out sooner or later.]
With his current strength, what could he do against that man?
Mocking himself, he realized that he was overthinking things sometimes. It had to do with the fact that he was in the 6th layer of Qi Condensation with the heart of an Emperor Stage expert. [What a pain!]
So, his current objective was to boost his strength. The strong had the final say in everything.
He sighed as he looked at the incoming sunshine. Despite the somber feeling exuding from the burned trees, the sun brought a ray of hope.
A groan interrupted his musing and Zhuo Fan found Xue Ningxiang’s weak figure in a pool of blood. He rushed to her and fed a Heart Protecting Pill.
A gentle Yuan Qi traveled within her body and Zhuo Fan breathed easy.
The girl’s wounds were only skin deep. She had overused her Yuan Qi in her fight against the Bloodthirsty Wolves and needed just a few days to recover.
But the pale face of Xue Ningxiang brought another wave of worry in his heart. He then started to remove the dirt from her face.
Feeling his rough hand, Xue Ningxiang cracked her eyes open and showed a sweet smile.
“Brother Zhuo, are we dead?”
“Rest easy, we are alive and well!”
“Liar, how are you able to move when you were so hurt?” Xue Ningxiang mumbled, “But… at least we died together…”
And the girl faded into unconsciousness at the last word.
Zhuo Fan watched her peaceful expression and carried her inside the cave to lay her next to the Soothing Grass. It was the best item for relieving fatigue for humans.
Now he was standing beside the unconscious Xie Tianyang, with a not so friendly face.
“Yo, get up, up I say!
Zhuo Fan kicked him lightly, twice for good measure, but he was still as a rock.
Zhuo Fan sneered and swung his leg way back before kicking with enough oomph on Xie Tianyang’s ass!
A wail that shook the heavens and the forest was heard. It even frightened the spiritual beasts around.
[I say, what’s with this ghastly yell? Trying to wake the heavens? The Allbeast Mountain Range doesn’t lack dreadful monsters you know…]
Xie Tianyang shivered as he reined in his tears, “What is this place? What did I ever do to deserve such cruelty even in death?”
“Is kicking once cruel? You, a Sword Marquise Abode young master have seen nothing yet!” Zhuo Fan smiled at Xie Tianyang’s shocked face.
Xie Tianyang was startled seeing Zhuo Fan, “Did you kick me? Why the hell… we clearly died together, so why can you hit me?”
Zhuo Fan grinned, “If we’re dead, all of us would be equals. Too bad, we are alive and kicking. And since you weren’t moving…”
“What, we’re alive?”
Xie Tianyang stopped listening after that and laughed, “Ha-ha-ha, it’s the same cave. We are alive!”
But then his mood soured, eying Zhuo Fan up and down before yelling, “Why are you able to move while I can’t? You had it far worse than me and your cultivation is weaker too…”
Zhuo Fan shrugged and perked an eyebrow, exasperating the self-entitled genius disciple.
Xie Tianyang’s lip quivered as he wailed in frustration, “Freak!”
Not for the life of him could he comprehend how Zhuo Fan was jumping around after having his life hanging by a thread just two days ago! Even he, a Bone Tempering expert, would need two months of recovery to be able to stand.
He was vexed enough knowing that Zhuo Fan was stronger than him, despite their realm difference, and better skilled than him, despite their differences in background. Now though, this damn punk showed a miracle, jumping back on his feet in no time at all.
[How can one even bloody compare? It’s like being left light-years behind…]
“Zhuo Fan, tell me the truth. Who the heck are you?” Xie Tianyang spat.
Zhuo Fan lost his smile and patted Xie Tianyang’s shoulder, “Human of course, though just slightly above-average!”
Xie Tianyang was pissed off by Zhuo Fan’s attitude. But his bad state didn’t help him vent.
And even if he could move, Zhuo Fan’s array would just splatter him into pieces.
This made bitter tears flow down his cheeks. A genius disciple’s pride was crushed completely!
Nonetheless, Zhuo Fan moving about had its upside. He could set up an array to defend them.
Xie Tianyang had nothing to say to that. It brought far more advantage with Zhuo Fan recovered than if it was him instead. His cultivation only helped protect himself in such a place, let alone others.
Spirit stones flew out of his ring and Zhuo Fan set up an ancient 1st-grade concealing array.
At that moment, the cave disappeared from this place and not even a 6th level spiritual beast would find it even if they passed through.
The trio could finally heal in peace.
Xue Ningxiang woke up three days later and was wild with joy knowing that they weren’t dead.
Then she wondered where those wolves went and why they didn’t eat the trio.
Xie Tianyang was unclear about this too but Zhuo Fan frowned, finding it tied to the expert he met in his consciousness.
It was in this manner the trio recouped for three months. Zhuo Fan was back to full health while Xie Tianyang could now exert 70% of his power. Xue Ningxiang recovered long ago and spent her time playing with the Burrowing Mouse.
Both of them were happy seeing her smile again, thinking of her like a little sister. Xue Ningxiang too started to feel more dependent on the two…
A hundred meters away from the cave, Xie Tianyang hacked a rock as he smiled towards Xue Ningxiang not far away. He clearly recovered to 80%.
Xue Ningxiang clapped excitedly alongside the Burrowing Mouse.
Zhuo Fan walked over with a smile, “Nice power you have there. You should enter the 8th layer of Bone Tempering Stage soon.”
“Didn’t you also entered the 7th layer of Qi Condensation after your wounds healed?” Xie Tianyang clipped, “Besides, Zhuo Fan, how can your eyes be that good? To detect me breaking through before I do?”
Xue Ningxiang waved her hand to placate them, “Why are you always arguing when you meet each other? You weren’t like this before!”
“Isn’t it his fault?” Xie Tianyang stuck out his chest and cursed Zhuo Fan, “After all this time, I still can’t forgive this brat for using Ning’er as bait! How can I not be pissed? What arguing, I’m itching to give him a beating.”
“Pot calling the kettle black. Who was it that said to dump her and stall the seventh elder?” Zhuo Fan countered.
“I never…” Xie Tianyang was at a loss, but soon recovered his courage, “I didn’t know Ning’er was so great, alright? Moreover, it’s far better than being used as bait.”
“I’m a demonic cultivator. It’s normal to be more immoral than a righteous cultivator like you.”
“Immoral? You’re a bloody criminal by comparison…”
Seeing Zhuo Fan and Xie Tianyang quarreling over her, Xue Ningxiang gestured for them to stop, “Come on, don’t argue, it’s all in the past. I don’t care anymore, so why are you bringing it up?”
“No, I want to give you justice.”
Xie Tianyang grabbed her shoulders while glaring at the smiling Zhuo Fan.
“It’s alright, we are friends who braved through life and death together. It’s water under the bridge!” Xue Ningxiang showed a smile at the two and extended a pinkie.
Xie Tianyang smiled wryly and was hesitant in extending his pinkie, but he did nonetheless. He was followed by an indifferent Zhuo Fan. The three pinkies touched and they started to feel warm and fuzzy inside.
Finding a close friend in life was hard, but finding one to brave death alongside oneself was even harder.
From now on, they would never abandon each other, no matter what. Zhuo Fan suspected he’d be hard-pressed to find any closer friends in this life.
As they took back their respective fingers, Zhuo Fan smiled, “Now that we have recovered, we will each go our own way.”
Startled, the two didn’t understand why he’d say this.
Zhuo Fan shook his head, “Sorry, that was my mistake. I want to leave. Xie Tianyang, I’m afraid I can’t take her out of the city. Help her in my stead.”
“Brother Zhuo, where are you going?” Xue Ningxiang felt nervous.
Zhuo Fan replied with a determined tone, “The third area!”
“What?” Xie Tianyang and Xue Ningxiang shouted, “At first we wanted to avoid the seventh elder by going there, but why would you still want to go?”
Zhuo Fan’s eyes flashed with guilt, “To be honest, it was my objective from the start. I wanted to go together because… you were useful…”
“Bastard, you wanted more baits?” Xie Tianyang cursed.
Zhuo Fan nodded, “Yes, so if you don’t want to die, run along. The farther from me the better!”
As he replied, Zhuo Fan turned to leave.
Xue Ningxiang pulled his hand with a shy smile, “Brother Zhuo, if you don’t consider me as a burden, take me with you. Even if I were to become bait, it is alright as long as I can stay with you!”
Zhuo Fan was startled and his heart throbbed.
Xie Tianyang advised, “Hey, Ning’er, this guy’s no good…”
But Xue Ningxiang’s gentle eyes only had Zhuo Fan in them, and so Xie Tianyang also reluctantly chose to put his hands together with theirs.
Zhuo Fan raised an eyebrow, “You too want to follow me?”
“Yes.” Xie Tianyang felt lifeless, “But don’t misunderstand, I’m not coming to help you but to make sure you don’t betray Ning’er.”
Zhuo Fan smiled.
[With how smart you are, I might go and betray you both!]
But he didn’t voice it, meeting the two of them could be considered as his fortune.
Friends in life and death were hard to find…