"At one's darkest hour, a glimmer of hope always appears!" Bai Xiaochun hurried back excitedly to his command center, his mind abuzz with ideas. As soon as he got back, he had Zhao Long bring him a map of the area outside the Great Wall.
After studying the map for a while, he pointed at a little valley barely five kilometers away.
"That's the place!"
Looking a bit surprised, Zhao Long peered down at the valley, which seemed ordinary in every aspect, and was generally a place devoid of signs of life. In fact, he couldn't think of any reason why Bai Xiaochun would be pointing it out.
"Colonel, what's so special about that valley?" Zhao Long asked.
Waving his hand in a grand fashion, Bai Xiaochun replied, "According to the intelligence reports I have at my disposal, there's an early Nascent Soul stage soulhorn deer that lives in that valley. Anyone who can kill that creature and turn in its soulhorn will receive a battle credit reward. Go post the mission immediately."
"Huh?" Zhao Long said, confused. Soulhorn deer were native to the Wildlands. Not only were their horns valuable ingredients for medicines, but they could also be used as the primary component to make soulhorn bows. However, soulhorn deer usually gathered in locations where there were a lot of vengeful souls. Considering that the valley in question was only about five kilometers away from the Great Wall, there definitely weren't any souls there, which mean that it would be impossible to find a soulhorn deer in the same location.
Besides, battles were constantly being fought near the Great Wall, so even if a soulhorn deer happened to end up in the valley, it would quickly flee. After all, soulhorn deer weren't stupid, and definitely wouldn't choose a dangerous place like the Great Wall to settle down.
Most importantly, early Nascent Soul stage soulhorn deer were almost never found outside of the depths of the Wildlands....
After a brief moment of confused hesitation, Zhao Long looked over at Bai Xiaochun and said, "Um... Colonel, are you sure there's a soulhorn deer there? Also, major generals are the only ones who have the right to post missions. We--"
"Look, if I say there's a soulhorn deer there, then there is. Just put the mission briefing together and send it to the general." Bai Xiaochun waved his hand dismissively.
Zhao Long smiled stiffly, clasped hands, and asked, "Very well, sir. How many battle credits is the reward?"
Bai Xiaochun cleared his throat and then said, "Well, it's a very dangerous mission that will be filled with countless dangers. The chances of making it back alive would be small. I guess the only option will be to post a handsome reward. Very well. Set it at 100,000,000 battle credits."
Zhao Long's jaw dropped, and he gasped loudly. However, it only took a moment before he realized what was going on, whereupon a strange look appeared in his eye.
"Oh right," Bai Xiaochun said, giving Zhao Long a very serious look, "don't forget to remind the general to let me know just before he posts the mission. We definitely can't have anyone else snatching it up!"
Zhao Long gave another stiff smile, nodded, then hurried away. As he went along, he couldn't help but envy Bai Xiaochun's ability to embezzle so brazenly. Soon, he reached Bai Lin, where he reported in officially and then handed over the mission briefing.
When Bai Lin took the jade slip and looked at it closely, then saw that the reward was 100,000,000 battle credits, his eyes went wide and he almost threw the jade slip on the ground.
"This is highway robbery! If he wants battle credits, that's fine, but he can't be so obvious about it! A soulhorn deer in valley five kilometers away, and at the early Nascent Soul stage?! And then he has the nerve to put a reward of 100,000,000 battle credits!?" Bai Lin wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry. However, considering that he hadn't been able to convince the sect to exempt Bai Xiaochun from mission duty, he couldn't simply refuse to post the mission. After a bit of thought, he reduced the reward from 100,000,000 to 1,000,000, then sent it to the pagoda in the center of the city.
Even a reward of 1,000,000 was still significant, and would be enough for an ordinary soldier to get a promotion to captain.
"The brat's getting a lucky break this time." Bai Lin posted the mission a bit begrudglingly. After all, since it was a Skin Flayers mission, which meant that the reward would come from the Skin Flayers' coffers. Nonetheless, he posted the mission, sending a message to Bai Xiaochun right before it went public.
As soon as the mission appeared in the listings at the pagoda, it was noticed, causing quite a commotion to break out.
"A mission for 1,000,000 battle credits! Heavens! Quick, get it!"
"What... what mission is that? It's in valley five kilometers away? An early Nascent Soul stage soulhorn deer? How... how is that even possible?!"
"I want that mission!" All of the cultivators who saw the mission instantly tried to do everything they could to be the ones to get their hands on it.
However, none of them were a match for Bai Xiaochun. He had been waiting for the mission to be posted, and had also received advanced notice from Bai Lin. Almost as soon as the mission showed up, he accepted it, and then swaggered away under the envious gazes of those around him.
"Trying to steal my mission, huh?" he thought. "I was the one who made the mission! Even if you got it, you still wouldn't find a soulhorn deer in that valley!" Feeling very pleased with himself, he peeked into his bag of holding, where he happened to have some soulhorns that he had requested as ingredients for concocting Soul Convergence Pills. One of them was clearly from an early Nascent Soul stage soulhorn deer.
"All I have to do is go over to that valley with my identity medallion in hand, then come back and turn in the mission." It was quite a stimulating feeling to be able to utilize one's power and connections to be able to earn battle credits in such an open and above-board way.
However, despite feeling so pleased with how things were going, he was still very cautious about going outside of the Great Wall. After much thought, he decided that he definitely couldn't take any risks.
"Even though it's only five kilometers away, I can't just casually head over by myself. I definitely need to bring some people with me." He was absolutely convinced that this would be the best course of action, although he wasn't sure if it made sense to bring his entire 1,000-man regiment along.
On the other hand, bringing too few people would be too dangerous. In the end, he gritted his teeth and murmured to himself, "I don't care about how it looks. Safety is the priority. I'm bringing all 1,000 of them with me!" Having made his decision, he quickly passed down orders to his subordinates, making it clear that they weren't to spread word of the matter.
None of them questioned Bai Xiaochun or what he was doing. He was their colonel, and had also saved all of their lives. Therefore, all Bai Xiaochun had to do was point in a direction, and they would fight with bloodthirsty ferocity!
It also helped that Bai Xiaochun had always treated them fairly. He had even spent his own battle credits to equip them with plenty of armor and magical items. He had also passed out a lot of medicinal pills that he himself had concocted. As a result, his regiment was better equipped and prepared for battle than most others in the legions.
After a few days of preparation, it came time to go out on the mission. That night, the moon wasn't very bright, and the lands were blanketed in darkness. The regiment dressed in disguises to make their passage outside the Great Wall easier, and then prepared to leave.
Everyone in the regiment had been stationed at the Great Wall for years, and were very familiar with how soul cultivators operated. Furthermore, they were all acquainted with the lands bordering Great Wall City. By disguising themselves as soul cultivators, complete with a few vengeful souls on display, they would definitely be less noticeable on the outside.
The only way their disguises would be pierced would be if some extremely powerful expert came along, or if they were forced to use a divine ability that required spiritual power.
After all, there was little fundamental difference between ordinary cultivators and soul cultivators. The main distinction was that the former used spiritual energy, while the latter used soul power.
The thousand members of the regiment didn't go out in battle formation. Rather, they scattered and headed out one by one. However, all it would take would be a single word from Bai Xiaochun, and they would all group back together.
After making all the arrangements for his subordinates, Bai Xiaochun nervously put on his own disguise, then gritted his teeth and went out beyond the wall.
Outside, he reached up to feel his face, and realized that he still didn't feel at ease. Therefore, he patted his bag of holding to produce a large bucket of water, which was full to the brim with Heavenspan River water. Inside of that water was a semitransparent mask made from flesh, the very same mask he had acquired from imposter Nightcrypt. That mask could change one's appearance and aura, and even the fluctuations of one's life force.
"There are some mysterious things about this mask, but at the moment, I absolutely have to hide my appearance and aura.
"I need to seize the moment! Go to the valley, come back, and then everything will be over.
"Besides, it's not like I'm going to run into some Wildlands army in a little valley five kilometers from the Great Wall. Things shouldn't be too dangerous."
With that, he took the mask out of the Heavenspan River water and put it onto his face. Instantly, his appearance changed. No longer was he a young man, but instead, a sallow-faced, middle-aged soul cultivator. Furthermore, his spiritual power fluctuations vanished, to be replaced by intense, rippling soul power.
As of this moment, he looked exactly like a soul cultivator!
It was only at this point that he finally started to feel comfortable, and began to speed across the lands under the darkness of night. The light of the waning moon made it just possible to see the shadows cast by the boulders that littered the landscape, as well as bones of the dead....
The occasional lonely soul could be seen floating through the air, and every once in a while, carrion-eating beasts would lift their heads to look around.