Facing the sharp stare of the senior, Zhang Tie replied without any fear, "I just did what I should do!"
"What you should do?" A forbidding sneer appeared on the senior's face. "Don't you know that Huaiyuan Palace is enforcing military laws here? You think that's what you should do, but you might lose your life according to the military laws. Since its founding, Huaiyuan Palace has been strictly complying with the clan regulations left by Lord Huaiyuan for hundreds of years. Even an heir who once violated the clan regulations was abolished and imprisoned for the rest of his life by the clan. Do you think that you are unaffected by clan regulations just because of your all-purpose medicament? Do you think that Huaiyuan Palace won't kill you?"
"I'm just a small figure. I don't think I am great. If I violate any clan regulations, of course Huaiyuan Palace could kill me!" Zhang Tie raised his head. "But as a man, I have to do something!"
"Oh? You still have an excuse for your actions?" The senior turned his furious look into a smile. "Is your excuse more important than clan regulations? Tell me about your reason. Do they deserve what you did to them?"
"One of them saved my life before. I have to return the favour. This is the first reason!"
"What about the second reason?"
Zhang Tie kept silent for a short while before he continued with a lower, yet firmer tone, "The information that was gained at the cost of over a million common people's lives doesn't belong to a single individual, the six influential clans in Jinyun Country or their privileged lords. Nobody is qualified to hold this information personally. If the news about the holy war was locked, more average people would become cannon fodder as they wouldn't be able to prepare!‘’
"You really think so?" The senior of Huaiyuan Palace narrowed his eyes slightly.
"Yes!" Zhang Tie replied with a louder voice as he puffed up his chest. "In the last few days, many powerful people have already gained the information they wanted from Heavens Cold City. I don't think those big figures and influential clans in Central States Union are the only ones who have the right to know that the holy war will arrive next year, or even in six months. Why don't other people have any right to know about this information, which is so closely related to their lives?"
The senior fixed his eyes onto Zhang Tie's face. His sharp gaze almost shot through Zhang Tie's eyes and entered his mind. "Do you want to know why? Because only these people and clans can deal the greatest damage to the demons and keep more people alive. Because of their great combined power and organizational ability, they are qualified to know more information than commoners!"
"Therefore commoners are destined to die?"
With an extremely solemn face, the senior replied, "Have you seen how ants cross a river when it has flooded? Ants cannot swim, so all they can do is hug each other in a ball with tens of thousands of them and roll over the river. During this process, many of the ants on the outer sphere are flushed away by the flood, leaving those in the core alive. This holy war is akin to ants crossing a river. In the end, some ants would be flushed away by flood. However, some would survive. Sacrifice is unavoidable. While we cannot make sure that every ant will cross the river, we have to believe that only those ants who are powerful enough to unite can decide the future of the ants!"
Zhang Tie knew he was right. When the holy war arrived, most of commoners who were not powerful enough to unite with each other would not organize effective counterattacks towards the demons at all. Instead, they would only think about escape, escape and escape...
'At this moment, the big figures and I don't think the same. They pay more attention to the ants who can unite with each other. However, I want those commoners who cannot unite with each other, who are doomed to be flushed away by the floods, to make preparations ahead of the floods, even just a bit. They might not able to roll over the river like other ants, but at least they could have a chance to find a leaf for themselves.
'Is anybody wrong? Nobody is wrong. Each person has his or her own stance. Although my idea is almost perfect, I could actually only help a few "ants". A Thor Mercenary Army of only tens of thousands of people was nothing compared to those big powers. I was just trying my best to help them in case of regret.'
Before coming to Huaiyuan Palace, his family members in Blackhot City were those ants, doomed to be flushed away by this flood in the eyes of those big figures.
Thinking of this, Zhang Tie smiled with self-mockery. Until then he didn't realize that although he was rich and more privileged than before, it was impossible for him to become a person like Lan Yunxi or the elites from other clans, because he could not think like them at all. His life experiences at the bottom of Blackhot City had been deeply impressed in his soul. Deep in his mind, there was a small figure, a poor guy, a flesh bag in the Iron Thorns Fighting Club, who would always do something at the sight of someone like him encountering unfairness or doomed to be cannon fodder.
Donder told him that according to a discovery made by human psychologists before the Catastrophe, everybody was actually trying to do one thing——to make their personality formed in childhood more complete.
'I can hardly understand the "good intentions" of the big figures. Instead, I only want to do something to make me and my friends feel better. I am both resigned to the coming adversities and rebellious. I expect this world to be a paradise where "everyone is equal". Does this expectation come from the small figure in my soul?'
"You didn't have to attend this action. Nobody has forced you to do that. But you came voluntarily in response to the summons of the clan. Additionally, you are very brave on the battle field. I appreciate it very much!" Seeing Zhang Tie stay silent for a while, the senior sipped a mouthful of tea and continued, "As it's your first mistake taking people inside the city privately, I will punish you according to the military laws of Huaiyuan Palace in the name of playing favoritism. Your clan contribution points for this action will be fully deducted. Furthermore, you should accept one hundred whips. Do you agree?"
"A country has its national laws, similarly, a clan has its regulations. As I have violated the regulations of Huaiyuan Palace, I accept the punishment voluntarily!" Zhang Tie said in a low voice.
"Hmm. There's another thing that you need to know. Someone of the Zhen clan once worked in the Alchemists Association of Jinyun Country. The quantity of vials that you ordered from Alchemists Association was too large and had attracted his attention. Therefore, the Zhen clan arranged for someone to assassinate you on Hidden Dragon Island. Additionally, the Zhen clan are members of the Three-Eye Association, which was developed by demons among the human race. After they heard that you can realize mass-production of all-purpose medicament, the other clans and members in Three-Eye Association probably already knew about it too. Therefore, you are in a very dangerous situation right now!"
"Three-Eye Association wants to kill me?" Zhang Tie was shocked by this information. He thought that he had solved the problem after sweeping then Zhen Clan. However, he had not imagined that Zhen's attack on him might only be the beginning, as Three-Eye Association was backing the Zhen Clan and might still be watching him at this moment.
"Based on Three-Eye Association's style, when we are on the verge of the third holy war, they will eliminate anyone who can reinforce the overall strength of the human race and help the human race to fight demons. Recently many alchemists have been assassinated, and a senior clan of the Carlo Federal Alchemists Association was swept. According to our investigations, these actions were done by Three-Eye Association. As you are much more valuable than a common senior alchemist, Three-Eye Association will definitely try to find a way to get rid of you!"
"Thanks for your warning, senior. I will take care of myself!"
"After the Zhen Clan's real status is exposed, Three-Eye Association will be in the thick of the storm. They might be lurking for a while more. Therefore, you should still be safe for a short period of time. If you agree, our clan can assign powerhouses to protect you!"
"I think the best protection is to disappear. I prefer if nobody can find me, or if Three-Eye Association just thinks that getting rid of me is not worth the trouble. I will deal with it myself!" Zhang Tie considered for a short while before he refused the senior's help.
One minute later, Zhang Tie left the senior's room with a calm look.
To tell the truth, the Zhang Clan's punishment to him for bringing outsiders into Heavens Cold City was fair. Zhang Tie wasn't grateful or resentful towards the Zhang Clan for the punishment. Instead, he thought he deserved the punishment. However, through this he felt an invisible chasm between him and those big figures, which also existed between him and Huaiyuan Palace.
This chasm was not cause by interest disputes, but purely the differences in values and world views. The big figures' distant attitude towards small figures and average people from the event in Heavens Cold City made Zhang Tie very uncomfortable.
If the Central States Alliance or Huaiyuan Palace could make a detailed announcement about the coming holy war, they'd spare time for commoners to prepare and they might be able to save the lives of hundreds of millions of people. However, Zhang Tie knew that he was dreaming.
When he left the senior's room, Zhang Tie recalled the faces of his friends still in Blackhot City and Bulapei——Barley, Owen, Doug, Hista, Bagdad, Leit, Alice, Beverly, Hanna, girls of Rose Association and...Miss Daina.
Zhang Tie knew that these people were the "ants" that would be flushed away by the flood. During the long holy war, their lives had become trivial. If they could survive the holy war it meant they were lucky. However, if not it was nothing strange. Even though the holy war was coming, nobody felt it was necessary to notice them at all.
This made Zhang Tie uncomfortable and furious.
After that, Zhang Tie saw Lan Yunxi in the airship. A few days before, Zhang Tie had heard that Lan Yunxi forcefully triggered her ancestral bloodline and killed three powerhouses of the Zhen clan who were above level 10 when she assaulted Heavens Cold City. Because of this, her primordial qi was heavily weakened. She needed to recuperate for a period. Therefore, she left the battle field from then on.
Zhang Tie had seen many people to inquire about her whereabouts, yet nobody knew where she had gone. He even thought that Lan Yunxi had returned to Huaiyuan Palace for recuperation. Therefore, Zhang Tie was a bit amazed at the sight of Lan Yunxi in the airship.
She was followed by a man, who was over twenty years old. With sword-like eyebrows and sparkling eyes, the man was as white as jade. He was robust and tall in a blue silk warrior's robe. A long sword was hanging at his waist. What a handsome guy! Walking together with Lan Yunxi, the man was not overwhelmed by Lan Yunxi's qi field at all. Instead, he kept laughing and jesting with Lan Yunxi.
Zhang Tie passed by them calmly without even glancing at them.
When she brushed past Zhang Tie's shoulder, Lan Yunxi peered at him and slightly bit her lip instead of saying anything. In contrast, the man completely ignored Zhang Tie.
"Younger sister Xi, here's the Jade Marrow Primordial Qi Recovery Ointment. I had my man bring this from Shantai Family in Qinghua Mountain by airship. I hope it can help you recuperate as soon as possible."
After he'd walked two steps away from them, Zhang Tie heard the man's voice. He then clenched his fist and felt jealous inside.
Five minutes later, Zhang Tie accepted his punishment in the open square of the camp of Hidden Dragon Palace, which aroused the attention of many people.
"Zhang Tie, student of Hidden Dragon Palace, brought outsiders into Heavens Cold City privately by playing favoritism. As punishment, all the clan contribution points that he gained through joining the action of assaulting Heavens Cold City were cancelled. Additionally, he will suffer one-hundred whips!" A military inspector of Huaiyuan Palace declared Zhang Tie "guilty" after glancing over the onlookers. He then ordered a soldier to execute the punishment on Zhang Tie.
Hearing this, all the onlookers exchanged glances with each other. Zhang Tie's performance in Heavens Cold City in the last few days was very outstanding, which brought him a good reputation. However, it was really beyond everyone's imagination that he could suffer such a punishment. Therefore, everybody just watched silently.
A two meter high pile of wood was fixed on the ground in front of Zhang Tie. An iron chain was fixed on the wood pile which was used to handcuff the offender's hands.
The soldier then walked towards Zhang Tie and wanted to fix Zhang Tie's hands onto the wood pile.
"I will stand still right here, just whip!" Zhang Tie took off his shirt, exposing his robust back.
"The whip in the army is no joke. It's a dragon whip made of the large tendons of mutated killer whales and steel wires. An average person would pass out with only 3 whips. I suggest you to respect this whip. Otherwise, you might lose your honor in public. I respect you as a tough guy considering your excellent performance in Heavens Cold City recently, therefore, I am warning you about this!" The inspector murmured to Zhang Tie.
"Thanks, no need. I want to know whether the whips of Huaiyuan Palace can wake me up a bit!" After saying this, Zhang Tie smiled at Ma Aiyun and the other girls who had concerned looks.
After another glance at Zhang Tie, the inspector moved back as he nodded towards a muscular, barebacked, tough-looking guy who was holding a whip and preparing to execute the punishment. The tough guy then opened a rosewood box on his side and took out a black whip, which was as thick as a kid's arm. He then raised the whip in the air to show it around to the onlookers. After that, he dipped the whip in the water barrel before he pulled it out. After that, he slapped it towards Zhang Tie's back...
With an air-breaking sound, "Si..." he lashed the whip onto Zhang Tie's back, producing a crispy sound, "Pah..."
Hearing that sound, all the onlookers felt their hairs stand on end.
Although he had a blood stain on his back, Zhang Tie was still standing there as firm as an iron pillar with the exception of a slight frown.
After slashing Zhang Tie with the whip, the tough man found that Zhang Tie didn't respond at all. He then moved his whip in front of his eyes to check whether or not it was broken. After finding no problem with the whip, he continued.
In a wink, the tough guy had lashed over twenty whips. Not only did the onlookers change their looks, but even the executor changed his facial expression. Such a whip could even leave a mark on a rock, not to mention a person. However, Zhang Tie just stood there, still as a statue. The muscles on his back didn't even twitch a bit.
At the beginning, Zhang Tie would slightly frown after each lash. However, after ten lashes, he wouldn't even frown a bit. Instead, he looked calm after each lash.
The onlookers had never seen a person who could stand more than twenty dragon whips without even moving a bit. They had not even heard of such a thing before.
More and more people came to watch, not only those from Hidden Dragon Palace, even many soldiers from Hurricane Army and Breaking Sun Army of Huaiyuan Palace had arrived. At the sight of Zhang Tie's performance they were all stunned.
After lashing the whip more than ten times with his full strength, the tough guy started to pant slightly.
"Harder, have you eaten food? This is no fun! Change to another executor!" Zhang Tie roared.
The moment he shouted, someone among the crowd instantly yelled, "Tough guy!"
With a solemn face, the inspector walked over. He took the whip and started to lash it onto Zhang Tie's back, causing a shrill, air-cutting and cracking sound on his back.
Then, gradually, all the onlookers started to count for him loudly.
The sound of counting grew louder and louder, which even aroused the attention of people far away.
Hearing the increasingly louder yells outside the airship, the senior of Huaiyuan Palace, who was tasting tea calmly in his room, frowned. He walked towards the window and looked outside. Because the body of the airship was very high, the senior noticed Zhang Tie, who was standing still like an iron pillar and suffering from the punishment.
At this moment another man also walked towards the window in the room and watched.
"What a pity." Watching Zhang Tie being lashed, he shook his head slightly. "This young man is too merciful. Since he experienced the assassination on Hidden Dragon Island, I feel he's always estranged himself from Huaiyuan Palace on purpose!"
"It's normal. After all, he's new in Huaiyuan Palace and has no strong background. For a young man who was to be assassinated by a guard arranged by the clan, he is already brave enough to keep the previous partnership with Long Wind Business Group and stay on Hidden Dragon Island!" Although having scolded Zhang Tie just now, the senior started to appreciate him at this moment.
"I think that Huaiyuan Palace should master the manufacturing method of all-purpose medicament. If this young man encounters a worse situation, I'm afraid that nobody else will be able to produce it any more! For the sake of the Zhang Clan, it's not a good thing for him or Huaiyuan Palace if all-purpose medicament is under the control of this young man! This is nothing different than a baby holding a treasure passing through the boisterous market!"
The senior of Huaiyuan Palace then smiled proudly, "The reason Huaiyuan Palace is so powerful is not because of a small bottle of medicament. No matter what, the manufacturing method of all-purpose medicament is in the hands of Lord Huaiyuan's descendant. That's enough! If Huaiyuan Palace forces or cheats him into submitting the manufacturing method for all-purpose medicament, it would ruin the cohesiveness of the clan members. If so, do you think that Huaiyuan Palace can survive this holy war, considering the powerful capabilities of those people who cast their greedy eyes on Huaiyuan Palace?"
"It's really pitiful..."That man sighed as he watched Zhang Tie from afar, "If this boy could be a bit more docile, he would become another ferocious general in Huaiyuan Palace in a couple of years. But now, I feel this brat is not completely standing in line with Huaiyuan Palace. As he dares to take outsiders into Heavens Cold City privately and violates the rules of Huaiyuan Palace, he might do something more excessive in the future. Additionally, I'm afraid that he will not help Huaiyuan Palace do anything after the one-hundred whips!"
"No matter who he is, as long as he violates the rules of Huaiyuan Palace, he should be punished! In future, as long as he doesn't betray Huaiyuan Palace, defame his ancestors or impact the interests of Huaiyuan Palace, just take him as a freak. Oh, what about that investigation?"
"We've confirmed that this brat has nothing to do with that event. First, he's not able to do that, especially considering the many people in the conference room of the Zhen Clan Mansion. He would not be able to kill them all in a short period before some of them even moved a bit. Second, he was drinking with his friends in Jinwu Castle until midnight that night. On the 2nd day, he was still on Hidden Dragon Island. Unless he could fly, he could not swim over 1000 miles over night to do this. Additionally, no airships or ships were recorded as leaving Hidden Dragon Island that night, neither on the next morning. Last but not least, how could he know about Zhen's arrangement in Huaiyuan Palace? When the Zhen Clan was scheming about Huaiyuan Palace, he was still in Blackhot City. Therefore, we've confirmed that another powerhouse who cultivated Iron-Blood Fist must have been involved with the event in the Zhen Clan Mansion."
"Who could that guy be?" The senior of Huaiyuan Palace also frowned.
In another room of the airship, Lan Yunxi watched Zhang Tie from afar as her face started to turn pale gradually.
With the last cracking sound, the yells among the crowd stopped. Then, the onlookers became quiet. Everybody was gazing at Zhang Tie. At this moment, Ma Aiyun and the other girls who got along well with Zhang Tie ran over, full of tears.
Yuan Ziyi took out wound medicine and started to rub it over Zhang Tie's back. At the same time, Gu Caidie had brought Zhang Tie's coat over and put it on for him.
However, Zhang Tie kept watching the clouds in the sky, which looked like ants and robust dragons. The one-hundred whips really woke him up. Just now, among the ever terrifying pain, his mind was unprecedentedly clear. Watching the clouds in the sky, he thought through many things.
"Zhang Tie, are you okay?" asked Ma Aiyun. Finding Zhang Tie absent-minded, she touched his forehead out of concern. She was afraid that Zhang Tie was driven mad by the whips.
"Senior sister Ma, I'm okay!" Zhang Tie grinned with a big smile. At the sight of Zhang Tie's smile, Ma Aiyun finally felt reassured.
When he was being lashed just now, Zhang Tie didn't feel pain at all. However after the punishment was over, when he moved his hand intending to pull out something from his bag, he felt his whole body had been cut into pieces, which made his face twist slightly.
"What do you want? I'll help you!" Ma Aiyun pressed Zhang Tie's hand, "Do you want all-purpose medicament?"
"No, it's my purse!" Zhang Tie answered as he gasped, "Senior sister Ma, please take out my purse and help me buy meat and alcohol from the Logistics Division for 150 people!"
"You still think about eating and drinking?" Ma Aiyun popped her eyes out at once.
"I've promised some cavalry brothers in Taishi Clan I'd drink with them tonight. I cannot eat my words. You come together with me. Don't forget to call Liu Xu, Wei Wu and Liu Yunfei when they come back, just to see me off!"
"What? You want to go?"
Hearing Zhang Tie's words, Yuan Ziyi, who was rubbing medicine over Zhang Tie's back, suddenly shook her hand, causing Zhang Tie to frown once again.
Zhang Tie then nodded, "I feel it's not proper for me to stay here any longer!" After saying this, Zhang Tie saw the girls' faces turn ashen at the same time. Soon after that, Zhang Tie revealed a sunny smile as he lowered his voice and murmured with a sneaky look, "Are you wanting to see me raising my buttocks on the bed, my senior sisters? I don't know whether that gesture is sexy or not. If you really want to have a look, come for me in Jinwu Castle silently. I will show it to you for free, either with pants or not..."
Having felt like crying just before, Yuan Ziyi instantly burst out laughing. As she wasn't being careful about the force from her hands, Zhang Tie uttered a ground-breaking, miserable shriek at once as he almost jumped up, "Argh, d*mn, lighter please..."
The onlookers who had intended to move closer to him instantly stopped after hearing Zhang Tie's shrill shriek like a pig being slaughtered. They then exchanged glances with each other and questioned to themselves, "Where's that tough guy? How come that tough guy disappeared after being lashed? Was he pretending just now? Why not pretend a bit longer? Why so embarrassing now..."
That night, Zhang Tie, Taishi Ci, Liu Xu, Yang Yuankang, Ma Aiyun and some cavalry brothers of Taishi Clan sat around bonfires and drunk until midnight.
After Zhang Tie returned to his tent in a half-cocked way, a shadow drilled into his tent.
"Senior sis Ma..."
Zhang Tie became awake immediately. However, his mouth had been blocked by a hot face...
What a nice wet dream...