Two days later, Tang Yunhe, Wen Jiu, and Yang Jian had fully recovered their spiritual essence.
Though their appearance remained tattered and unruly, their aura had transformed into one that was more vibrant and attuned with the earth, as though they were its ambassadors and not practitioners of the path of cultivation.
By daybreak, they had readily manifested their respective flying swords, their countenance a mix of relief, excitement, and impatience.
“Old Shen, hurry up, ah!”
Yang Jian called from atop the enlarged broadsword, his brows slightly furrowed in worry. From time to time, the handsome man glanced towards the distance, his eyes flickering with an unusual stillness.
Tang Yunehe commanded his atrocious jian to move towards the middle-aged man, his countenance tinged with a sinister interest.
“Brother Shen, just what kind of tool did you receive from your Master, that you wouldn’t show it to your brothers?”
Shen Haoren roared as he wrenched a wooden pad from his spatial treasure ring, his countenance flooded with a scarlet flood in the next moment.
With a solid clap and an explosion of spiritual essence, the small wooden pad rose to hover in the air.
Compared to the mighty appearance of Yang Jian’s broadsword and the grotesque beauty of Tang Yunhe and Wen Jiu’s flying sword, the wooden pad of oak could only contest with a feeble grin.
And with Shen Haoren’s bulky potbelly extended its two legs to step evenly on either side of the pad… its embarrassment was magnified to an unprecedented degree.
“Brother… Brother Shen, this…”
Yang Jian, who was usually the stable-minded of the four brothers of the Du Zhou Province, couldn’t help but splutter in shock at the bizarre scene.
The others could only stare with flabbergasted and highly entertained expression as Shen Haoren’s countenance became thunderous and extraordinarily malignant, until –
“Hahah – old man, you’re… you’re – haha…”
An Fei clutched her stomach with both hands as she doubled up in laughter, the little raven and the small fox crying out in surprise as the young girl nearly fell from her perch.
As if his perpetually downcast spirits had recovered in the brief moment he proved witness to a heavenly peal of laughter, Wen Jiu angled his jian to face the young girl, his countenance blank and suffused with curiosity.
“Young Miss, something wrong?”
“Pad…” the young girl echoed, tears nearly spilling from her eyes.
“Pad?” Wen Jiu echoed, blinking twice before erupting in an expression of enlightenment and schadenfreude.
“Pad… paddle! Brother Shen, surely that’s not the paddle your Master used to discipline you with when we were younger!?”
Shen Haoren’s eyes bulged with fury, finding himself unable to speak or even move his gaze in his anger.
The middle-aged man took several deep breaths to temper the rampant spiritual essence coursing through his veins, causing the wooden pad underneath his feet to jostle and quiver as though an abused animal.
Finally, the man had suffered enough damage to his dignity for the day.
Shen Haoren roared towards his brothers who were hiding their laughs behind ironclad expressions, as well as An Fei who conveniently utilized Yang Jian’s heavily built body as a shield.
The middle-aged man waved his right fist in the air, his voice echoing throughout the empty plains to be matched with an earthly roar.
“We leave now, before I shoot another Heaven and Earth Cannon towards that creature and fully wake it up!”
Thus, three flying swords and one holy wooden paddle ascended into the air, ferrying their passengers to safety.
When she obtained the opportunity to observe the empty plains that encompassed the Wu Ji Forest from above, An Fei didn’t know whether she wanted to thank or slap the jiaolong on the head.
Damned forest protector, how was this taking her outside the forest and into mortal civilization!?
Due to Yang Jian and the others’ flying swords having to accommodate additional passengers, they were only capable of sustaining high-speed flight a mere fifteen meters in the air.
As they passed by, An Fei could accurately spot one landmark to the other, prompting her lips to draw into a small pout.
Nonetheless, fifteen meters above the ground was sufficient to survey one’s surroundings with ease.
…not to say that the empty plains that surrounded the Wu Ji Forest on all fronts, was anything but empty.
Grassland towards the north, grassland towards the south, grassland towards the east, and… more grassland towards the west.
“En… Honorable Yang, do you know how much ground we’ve covered so far?”
An Fei tentatively called out from the back of the enlarged broadsword whilst copying Tang Shiqi’s mannerisms she had eavesdropped a few days before, her sudden question prompting for the other passengers to raise their eyebrows.
Tang Shiqi, who stood towards the left, even narrowed his eyes as his brows creased into a contemplative frown.
“How much ground?” Yang Jian muttered in thought.
“We’ve been flying for about three hours now… I suppose… five hundred kilometers?”
Five hundred kilometers?
An Fei gulped at the number loftily tossed at her head, her eyes nearly blanking in the process. The young girl’s body gently swayed as she glanced down towards the ground, her mind thrown into a mixture of bemused chaos.
Five hundred kilometers, and they still saw nothing but grassland…
How big were the plains that encompassed the forest!?
For the second time in a row, the young girl wished that she had not left the forest and its closed world.
It certainly would have produced a much better result than being stranded in the air and forced to stare down at small villages and campfires of wanderers…
If she were to walk the entire distance to Dong Lin City, just how long would that take?
Six hours afterwards, the plains finally gave way to civilization.
The sea of grass parted to reveal an enormous circle of stone, the tall city walls towering over the empty plains with a solemn and vigil gaze.
As the view of the city gradually eclipsed the corners of An Fei’s gaze, the young girl heaved an audible sigh of relief.
Ah, how great was it to know that at the other end of the city walls, there wasn’t the same sea of yellow grains and stalks of green grass?
“Brothers, let us descend here. Better not to antagonize the city guards, they’re men sent from the Tie Clan,” Yang Jian shouted as he urged the broadsword under his feet with a light tap of his heel.
The flying sword shivered with delight towards the mention of rest, and it dove towards the ground at a swift speed.
Halting several meters away from the massive stone walls of Dong Lin City, Yang Jian guided the passengers off the sword and stretch their sore limbs.
“Xiao Hei, this is really different compared to the Bone Spirit Town, even if the patterns of the wall are the same…”
An Fei murmured to the little raven perched on her shoulder, her fingers greedily suffusing themselves in the small fox’s fur and its heavenly softness.
The young girl’s gaze carefully swept over the entire city wall without sparing the smallest crack, heftily abusing the peculiarities of her spiritual essence to evade Yang Jian and the others’ detection.
If Bone Spirit Town’s circumference could not exceed a kilometer, then Dong Lin City’s frontal wall exceeded several dozen kilometers.
Furthermore, the walls, though made of a dull grey stone not unlike that of the former’s walls, the structure responsible for the defense of Dong Lin City released a faint cobalt and scarlet light in the young girl’s gaze.
And if it released particles of light at a fixed pulse, the object was bound to possess a significant quantity of spiritual essence…
“Ah… Dong Lin City,” Shen Haoren immersed himself in reminiscence as he blissfully gazed at the stone walls.
“Brother Shen, wasn’t this the city where you made the biggest mess?”
Tang Yunhe jostled the middle-aged man’s elbow as he sauntered over, a teasing expression on his countenance as he goaded the latter into spilling more secrets.
Shen Haoren nodded as the wistful smile on his lips magnified by the second, even morphing into a tangible sneer.
“Dong Lin City, didn’t they used to have that Tang Ling, the Young Miss of the Tang Clan who wouldn’t stop harassing the other members of the younger generation of the Hundred Clans Coalition? I remember, I did manage to give that brat a good private lesson – ouch! Sorry, Chuyan, it wasn’t intentional, nor am I unfaithful, I promise!”
The young woman besides him stared into the middle-aged man’s eyes with a baleful glint, causing Shen Haoren to gulp in panic.
As Tang Yunhe soon joined in to pour oil over the already blazing fire, Yang Jian silently approached the equally silent Tang Shiqi and An Fei.
“We’ve arrived,” the handsome man spoke with a blank countenance.
“Can you now give us an explanation as to why you needed to be here?”