Hai Lian looked at the man before him, and felt like he could not understand him at all. He had just told him that they were broke without any embarrassment, like he was only talking about the weather.
Hai Lian spoke more respectfully, "I’m not too keen on money. If possible, please give me a full-skeleton mech, and I’ll be most grateful." Someone as weathered as Hai Lian would know not to offer too low a price, so that there was room for negotiation.
A full-skeleton mech. Ye Chong quietly sighed in relief. To him, it was not too difficult. Ye Chong nodded. "Alright then. However, we didn’t bring any extra full-skeleton mechs. For a new full-skeleton mech, we’ll need some time to deliver." It would take time, whether it was building a new one from scratch, or getting one from the Sang Family Village.
"No problem," Hai Lian answered quickly, afraid that Ye Chong might take back his word. Heavens, he never thought Ye Chong would actually agree to it. To him, a full-skeleton mech would more than satisfy him, and now the man had actually agreed without hesitation. He could almost jump with joy.
He would risk his life for a full-skeleton mech, much less waiting for awhile. Besides, the other man seemed honest enough. More importantly, he understood his position in this negotiation.
The thought of having a full-skeleton mech was euphoric. Hai Lian almost fainted with joy. What’s in a full-skeleton mech? If someone were to offer a full-skeleton mech as a reward when hiring a freelance mech pilot, Hai Lian was sure that many would jump at the offer. An excellent mech to a mech pilot was like a finely honed sword to a swordsman, or a beauty to a playboy; besides, this was a full-skeleton mech!
The turn from downright miserable to absolute joy was like a dream to Hai Lian. He could feel himself enveloped in a dreamy sensation of happiness. Fortunately, the full-skeleton mech was only promised to him. If they were to present him with a full-skeleton mech there and then, Hai Lian thought he would probably faint on the spot.
"Since you’ve agreed, then let’s talk about how to make things work between us." Ye Chong’s voice broke Hai Lian’s reverie. Hai Lian finally came to, and remembered then that the mech would come at a price.
"Just let me know what I can do for you, sir!" With the full-skeleton mech as price, Hai Lian submitted unreservedly to provide his services.
Ye Chong continued evenly, "Hmm, we’re not asking for much, other than that you work as a reliable guide for us. On the other hand, don’t try to look into our background, and don’t tell anyone about us. Any action on your part must go through my approval. Oh, right, and another thing, I’ll leave the matter of our identification documents to you."
Hai Lian nodded as he listened. The job was not too difficult, reasonable even. Sang Pu and the rest listened on the side as well. The outside world was too unfamiliar to them.
Ye Chong took a glance at the villagers and continued, "What we have to do now is to stay low, our safety is top priority. All your plans must be based on this." He then turned to look at Sang Pu and the others and said, "The same goes for all of you."
"Yes sir," Sang Pu and the rest bowed, answering in unison.
Hai Lian looked respectfully at Ye Chong. He could not understand how a young man like him could command such respect from these people. Hai Lian himself was impressed by the discipline that this group had demonstrated. He was sure that, with the exception of the three main aristocratic families, no one in the He Yue galaxy could come close to this attitude.
Ye Chong took a casual glance at Hai Lian and said, "Since we have an agreement, I hope you’ll do your part. If you turn back on the deal, you should know the consequences to that, I’m sure."
Hai Lian could feel cold sweat rolling down along his back, down to the tip of his spine. There was a deep chill spreading from the depths of his heart. Ye Chong’s casual sentence came out like a blizzard.
Hai Lian quickly replied, "Don’t worry, sir, I will do my best." He was moaning regretfully on the inside. The full-skeleton mech will not come easy, indeed.
Sang Pu, Sang Fan and the others quickly passed the word from Ye Chong to the rest. The Sang family members were all used to hunting, and had lived under the laws of nature. No one understood better than Ye Chong what disaster they would cause once they stepped into human society, since he had done it before himself.
Looking back at those days, he would not have survived without Mu and Shang. His own journey was not all stars and glory, but littered with a good many deadly battles.
Human society was too complicated. He was still continually vexed by it. Once, he would leave such problems for Mu and Shang to worry about; now, it was up to him to solve their predicament. Moreover, it was not just him now, but a whole 5,000 Sang family villagers. He must take every step with the utmost care.
While Ye Chong was not familiar with this kind of problem, he was at least able to calculate the best solution, out of influence from Mu. The order he just gave was based on his considerations of the situation at hand.
The only ones in the world whom Ye Chong would sacrifice so much for would be Mu and Shang, but this did not mean that Ye Chong would act irresponsibly. He would do his best to protect the 5,000 Sang family members, even if he would not die for them.
Ye Chong asked, "Are you familiar with this place?"
Hai Lian nodded. "Yes, I’ve been around for years."
"Are there many visitors?" Ye Chong asked.
Hai Lian shook his head. "Not many. The wild animals here are nasty things, plus the land is difficult to travel. Aside from independent hunters, and mech pilots here for actual combat training, no one really comes here."
Ye Chong was satisfied with that, since it greatly reduced the probability of the Sang family members being found out. Having 5,000 people suddenly visiting a city would have been big news, much less when they all looked vicious as h*ll.
"Is there any hidden place around here, big enough to fit 5,000 people?" Ye Chong asked.
5,000 people … Hai Lian was shocked. He thought there would only be around two to three thousand, but now … Keeping himself composed, he pondered over the question for a moment before replying, "Hmm, there’s a valley nearby, very much hidden, and spacious. I think it should be big enough for 5,000 people. It’s just that there are many wild beasts there, very vicious ones. I’ve only been there once, and nearly lost my life." Hai Lian spoke of his experience at the valley with lingering fear.
Wild beasts? Ye Chong believed that no animal would be more vicious than the ones at Archipelago. Animals that lived with such strong gravity would be so much more dangerous than the animals here.
"Gather them up," Ye Chong spoke with a plain but undefiable voice. He was beginning to accept and play the role of a leader. He was the perfect case study of a leader made, not born.
Sang Ling bowed, and did as commanded.
The Sang tribe was efficient. Even without communication devices, they still managed to work with such efficiency.
The 5,000-strong battalion stood in formation with a silent, imposing manner.
"There’s a valley nearby. We’ll have to clear the area of wild beasts. Sang Pu will lead the operation." Ye Chong had no idea how to give orders, and only spoke in his usual way.
"Yes sir," All 5,000 of them answered.
Hai Lian was pale, watching the events unfolding before him. Ye Chong’s seemingly unleaderly order had transformed the 5,000 people into formidable warriors. If those 5,000 people were like a sword in its sheath earlier, then Ye Chong’s order seemed to have unsheathed the sword.
The 5,000 strong formation did not move, and everyone’s expression was still as sombre as before, but now, one could feel the strong, deadly aura from them. Hai Lian had never seen anything like it, and was hence pale from fear.
"As expected, they’re killers," Hai Lian thought to himself. A friend once told him that this steady but deadly aura would only come from people who had have survived countless battles to the death. However, He Yue had never seen war for years. Why would there be veteran soldiers here? And why would there be 5,000 of them?
Where did they come from? That was the main question for Hai Lian. However, he was also well aware of the situation, and would not risk his life for the answer.
Under Hai Lian’s guidance, Ye Chong and the rest quickly found the valley.
However, what happened next shocked Hai Lian once again, till his face was drained of blood.
This .. This was a massacre! Heavens, who were these people? He had nearly lost his life here, but now the beasts were killed so easily that he was having a hard time to even breathe, taking in the spectacle.
He had seen so-called infamous mech pilot squads working, but they were like child’s play compared to what he was seeing now. He dared not record it, though. If he did, he was sure that their performance would cause an uproar in the world, and the cooperation they demonstrated would be a welcome addition into the curriculum for mech pilot group strategies as a case study.
That odd-shaped flying machine was packed with such destructive powers that Hai Lian himself could freeze in fear. The valley was scattered with blood everywhere. He could hear the animals howling in fear and pain. Their savage methods were enough to make even someone as weathered as him to squirm.
Even the Ye family, known for their savage ways in this galaxy, could not compare to this battalion. The Ye family preferred close range combat, but not in the crude and brute force methods of these people, crashing into their enemies without style.
However, the way they worked with each other was intriguing in a way that Hai Lian could not exactly describe. It was like watching a huge, bearded man swinging his two large iron hammers around as he yelled barbarically, but all the while moving gracefully like a dancer. The contrast was mind bending.
The clearing operation went swiftly. Only 500 people were involved, but their astonishing efficiency would satisfy even the most unyielding critics.
Hai Lian stared at the animal bodies scattered around the area. They could all be sold for money! If all these people decided to start working as freelance hunters, then the other hunters should just choose another line of work.
Ye Chong walked to one of the bodies, took out his dagger and slit open the flesh. He inspected the animal’s skeleton, and shook his head. If it were before he entered Archipelago, he would have thought these skeletons were excellent. However, now that Archipelago had raised the bar, he could no longer be satisfied with these skeletons. They were too inferior compared to those from the Archipelago.
Archipelago skeletons were still the best!
Ye Chong’s familiar movements and his ease around the bodies made Hai Lian understand that the young man, so respected by the battalion, must have had his own share of a bloody past.
Ye Chong had no idea how to set camp or secure the perimeter, so he left all the work to Sang Pu.
On a deserted plain on Soundfall, a group was advancing swiftly, fast like a falling star.
This was Ye Chong and his people. Once the battalion was settled, and instructions were given, Ye Chong led a team himself to survey the planet known as Soundfall. Together with him was Sang Fan and a few others. Sang Pu was left at base to handle any unexpected situations. Ye Chong’s order were for them to stay hidden; if they were spotted, leave no witnesses alive. The order made Hai Lian felt a chill reaching deep to his bones.
Ye Chong took eight people with him. Together with himself and Hai Lian, they made up a group of 10. The eight included Sang Fan and Sang Ling, and the rest were all elites like Sang Huo and Sang Tie.