Though Junior Leopard was confident in the power of the Yin and Yang Heavenly Sword, he also knew that this huge python must have strong power. Therefore, after one strike he immediately retreated, and it turned out that he had made the right choice.
Stabbed by a sword at the throat, the python didn't die but became wilder as it was badly injured.
Its body, which was hundreds of feet long, extended to its fullest in a flash like a long whip. Compared to such a huge body, Junior Leopard was like a small ant. Planning to exhaust this monster, he shuttled back and forth flexibly in the gap of the python's huge body. But obviously, he had underestimated its vitality.
It was widely known that a reptile had dogged vitality. This huge black python had hidden in the Blacktail Plain for thousands of years. With open spiritual intelligence and its incredible cultivation, both the quality and quantity of its internal Demonic Qi far exceeded that of Junior Leopard, who had just achieved Level Seven. Even with his two External Elixirs added, he was no match for this monster which had cultivated for thousands of years!
Powerful as the Extreme Yang Heavenly Sword was, it could only pierce the monster's black scales from inside.
The black python had learned a lesson from the injury and it not only closed its mouth, but also covered the injured parts. Though Junior Leopard mastered the Three Realms Division, under these circumstances, he dared not take it lightly but used his Three Realms Division to look for the best chance.
"Damn it. I've far underestimated its spiritual mind!"
After several deployments of his Three Realms Division, Junior Leopard felt exhausted. The python's spiritual mind was far beyond Junior Leopard's expectation. Well guarded, it was able to perceive Junior Leopard's every movement and make targeted defensive maneuvers, leaving Junior Leopard no chance to attack.
But his Three Realms Division still worked. After a while, streams of blood could be seen flowing from the black python's mouth and injured parts. The thick smell of blood spread everywhere.
At this time, the black python seemed to realize that the situation was not to its advantage, because what it faced was not only this Junior Leopard, but also a powerful wolf.
Therefore, having realized that it could not beat Junior Leopard, it decisively threw itself into the muddy ground.
Regardless of its huge size, it acted like an earthworm in the mud and disappeared at an astonishing speed.
The python had plunged into the mud before Junior Leopard could wave his hammer. It reminded Junior Leopard of himself eating noodles. He could suck up all the noodles in one gulp if he wanted. It seemed that there was a suction force in the mud which sucked up this python as if it were noodles.
After the black python disappeared in the mud, Little Du collapsed on the grass as if it had run out of all its strength. It turned into the size of a pet dog and panted heavily.
Junior Leopard stood in the air. He raised his hand and was about to get Little Du's body up. He dared not lower his guard in this situation.
Unexpectedly, something happened when Little Du's body was lifted in mid-air.
Countless "hands" made of mud stretched out from the ground and headed towards Little Du.
"Humph!" Junior Leopard snorted coldly. He rushed to the back of Little Du in a flash. Dark red Sword Qi flashed from his fingers, cut off the mud, and Junior Leopard successfully caught Little Du.
There was a wheezing sound.
The grassland was flipping like boiling water. At that moment, the swamp seemed to come alive and moved without wind. As if it was controlled by an invisible hand, countless tentacles were formed and tangled towards Junior Leopard and Little Du.
"This monster even could do this!" Junior Leopard had no choice but to cease fighting and fly back to the garrison where his followers were.
"Your Excellency is back! Your Excellency is back!"
Seeing Junior Leopard fly back, everyone waiting there felt relieved as they had found their backbone.
"Your Excellency, you're finally back. We've been really worried about you!" Zhu Ba rushed towards Junior Leopard and showed his loyalty at once.
"Shut up. Did you find out anything from this guy?" Junior Leopard pointed to Sangkun who had been trussed up tightly and asked.
"Your Excellency, he was tight-lipped. He said nothing more than cursing!" Zhu Ba kicked Sangkun resentfully.
"What is that huge monster?" Junior Leopard approached Sangkun and asked.
It was obvious that Sangkun was shocked at the fact that Junior Leopard could come back. He raised his head and looked at Junior Leopard who was covered by mud and asked, "You... you haven't been killed?!"
"Humph. That monster is in fact very powerful. But it's not powerful enough to kill me!" Junior Leopard laughed grimly. He stepped on Sangkun's foot and trampled the bones into pieces.
"Listen, you're already dead meat. If you tell me what that huge monster is, I will give you a quick end. If not, I will let you wish you were dead!"
"Humph!" Sangkun held his neck stiff and turned around. His body trembled because of the sharp pain in his foot, but he still said nothing.
"You've got a lot of nerve. But I don't like this kind of person!" Junior Leopard laughed grimly. He lifted his foot and kicked slightly on Sangkun's several key acupoints. At the same time, a hot strength ran inside Sangkun's body through those several key acupoints and began to circulate in his tendons and meridians.
Endurant as Sangkun was, when the stream of airflow above 100 degrees circulated in his tendons and meridians, he couldn't stand it.
If it was not for that Junior Leopard hadn't used full force, he would have already been killed instantly by this internal Qi.
Sangkun lay flat on the ground like a cooked shrimp, his body hunched and he couldn't help twitching. He let out a desperate roar, which could be heard in the distance. Junior Leopard remained unmoved and looked at his twitching body coldly.
"I'm not patient enough. So if you don't nod within an incense worth of time, I won't ask again and I'll let you roar here, just like now, but for seven whole days!"
"I'll tell you! I'll tell you everything!"
Sangkun nodded fiercely. He was a tough guy, but he wasn't a fool. It was definitely not a good choice to roar here for seven whole days!
"You wouldn't have needed to suffer if you said that earlier. Son of a bitch!" Zhu Ba swore at one side.
"Then say it!" Junior Leopard kicked at Sangkun and scattered the internal Qi inside his body, at the same time, Junior Leopard blocked his Qi so that he would not have the strength to commit suicide.
"That's the Black Demon, Chama!" Sangkun panted and said slowly. "That's the devil in the legend of our Blackwolf tribe. It's the devil of the Blacktail Plain. 2,000 years ago, the Number One Warrior in our Blackwolf tribe used to go into the Blacktail Plain and meet this monster. He knew it had great power. In addition to its huge body and unparalleled power, it was also able to control the swamp in the Blacktail Plain where it was the king!"
Sangkun said that in one breath. He stopped and then said, "That's all I know!"
"That's all you know?" asked Zhu Ba fiercely. He didn't believe this at all.
"No matter how you torture me or even kill me, I have no more information for you. Every tribe to the north of the Dragon-pressing River knew that the Blacktail Plain is a forbidden area and there were swamps everywhere. Therefore, no one would step on this forbidden area. With the Black Demon Chama hiding deep in the Blacktail Plain and no treasure of heaven and earth, even the soldiers of the big tribes wouldn't come here. Therefore, we prairie folks know little about this place just like you do!"
"You know little about this place and you dare lead us to this Blacktail Plain. It seems that you are determined to die with us!" Junior Leopard laughed grimly.
"Humph. Since I have been caught by you, I am bound to die. It's just a matter of time. Two Southern people had died for me, so it's worth it even I die now!" Sangkun seemed relieved. He smiled, closed his eyes and waited for his death.
"You Bastard!" Tie Kongyi couldn't bear it anymore. He roared and rushed forward and then kicked and punched Sangkun.
Junior Leopard didn't stop him. In fact, he didn't look at them at all. He waved his hand and summoned Wendu. "Wendu, you live on the prairie. Though you've never been to this Blacktail Plain, you must have heard of it. We are not in the deep of the Blacktail Plain yet. Are you able to bring us out?"
"I'll try! I'll try my best!" Wendu answered hastily.
"It's not enough to just try your best. If you can't bring us out, you'll have only one choice... death!" Junior Leopard laughed grimly. "But if you can lead us out, then you will render outstanding service and I won't treat you shabbily!"
"Don't worry, Your Excellency. I will definitely lead you all out of here!"
Hearing Junior Leopard's words, Wendu was overjoyed. He knew an expert like Junior Leopard would not make a promise easily. But once they did, they would definitely keep their promises. "Junior Leopard had said that he wouldn't treat me shabbily if I could get them out of this Blacktail Plain. Maybe I could take this chance to get out of slavery and have a position at Junior Leopard's side."
"You traitor! Bastard!" Sangkun swore. Junior Leopard was surprised to find that Sangkun could still hear their conversation while being wildly beaten by Tie Kongyi. It seemed that Tie Kongyi dared not really beat Sangkun to death in this situation where no one could ensure that they could get out of the Blacktail Plain.
"Brother Tie, just kill him. It'll always be a trouble for us if he's still alive!" Junior Leopard sighed silently. He knew it very well that ethnic contradiction is the most difficult to solve. As Sangkun was obviously an extreme nationalist, it was impossible to either subvert him or trust him. For this kind of person, no illusion should be held and the only choice left was to kill him once and for all.
Having heard Junior Leopard's word, Tie Kongyi hesitated for a moment, and then he kicked Sangkun in his nape and broke his neck. After that, he turned around and said, "Mr. Zhou, I'm so sorry for all this...!"
"Forget it. After all, it's not my men who have been killed!" Junior Leopard waved his hand and said, "We'd better leave here as soon as possible. Though the devil Chama was fought off by me temporarily, it might still come to us at any time. Although I'm OK with that, your men might be not, as Sangkun had said, it can really control the swamps in the Blacktail Plain."
Tie Kongyi dared not disobey, but nodded repeatedly.
Along the way, all the men and horses marched carefully in a row, especially Wendu who couldn't be more careful. Three days had passed before they finally got out of the Blacktail Plain and stepped on the solid ground.
During that time, another five or six people sank into the swamp but were all timely rescued. Junior Leopard's spiritual mind worked perpetually during those three days. That so-called Black Demon Chama was not an ordinary evil beast. Instead, it could control the underground swamps. If it refused to endure defeat and rushed out to attack them with the swamps, though he and Little Du would be fine, some of the people he led might not survive.
Not to mention those who were led by Tie Kongyi.
In fact, during those three days, he did sense the spirit of the devil Chama, and even its divine thoughts and spiritual mind. At least a couple of times, the monster was less than three miles away. Junior Leopard knew that at such a short distance, he could only protect a limited number of people if the monster really attacked.
But obviously, the monster was also very cautious, and it chose to yield when sensing Junior Leopard's spirit.
It was the instinct of every creature to draw on the advantages and avoid disadvantages.
Therefore, they had a narrowly safe return.
It was not until they were absolutely sure that they had walked out of the Blacktail Plain that they felt relieved. But Junior Leopard didn't join their jubilation.
He was still thinking of the devil Chama.
He was confident that he could draw Chama out and kill it. But he was thinking about others, how to tame it.
After Junior Leopard found out that he could use his thoughts to control living creatures and turn them into his puppets, he began hankering for those powerful living creatures.
Moreover, the devil Chama left him an indelible impression. What interested him most was that turning Chama into his puppet could bring great benefits to his future territory.
This Blacktail Plain was a natural barrier and it was not far away from his territory. If he could control this monster, he would be able to expand his territory surreptitiously.
It seemed that he had thought of something. He unfolded the enfeoffing map of the Northern Yuan, and his expression turned eccentric.
On that map, the Blacktail Plain was divided into six parts which belonged separately to six people or influences, and one of their territories happened to border on his. That was to say, if he could actually control this black python, he could probably disturb lives in others' territories so that they would have no choice but to withdraw from their fief!
This wicked idea flashed in his mind and then he smiled more broadly. "Heaven is on my side! Heaven is definitely on my side!"
It was not easy to surrender Chama as it had a cultivation of thousands of years. During those three days, Junior Leopard could obviously sense that it owned something like the divine thoughts. That was to say, Junior Leopard couldn't absorb its spirit with the power of his Fiery Eyes.
Useful as his Fiery Eyes were, there was still a limit. He could only absorb the complete soul of creatures who had low spiritual intelligence. As for those powerful ones like wild beasts including tigers and lions, he was not able to absorb their spirit in full, let alone evil beasts. If the spirit he absorbed was not complete, it would conflict with his thoughts and get out of his control.
On top of that, his Fiery Eyes could only be used to absorb a spirit once at a time because it required a great deal of energy and strength. Even though he was now at Level Seven and had a body of Tendon-Changing Realm, he could only remain in that state for an incense worth of time. The more powerful the spirit was, the more time was required. It would at least take him three days to be able to absorb a soul again. Additionally, for a creature, when part of its soul was absorbed, even just a small part, it would not be able to live longer than several hours.
Therefore, Junior Leopard had nothing to do with those creatures with a powerful soul.
He could only do that after he had a more profound cultivation and the power of his Fiery Eyes was further enhanced.
Once they had gotten out of the Blacktail Plain, they began to speed up and they finally reached their destination half a month later.
Tie Kongyi's fief was right next to Junior Leopard's, but it was a little remoter. He needed to go through Junior Leopard's fief and walk another 600 miles. Therefore, the two groups parted at the margin of Junior Leopard's fief. To reach his fief most quickly, Tie Kongyi led his group to walk around the low mountains beside the Blackstone Valley. While Junior Leopard made his first patrol in his fief with his followers.
The Blackstone Valley!
It was the name of this fief, but actually, it was just an iconic name.
This was the north part of the whole prairie while the Blackstone Valley was a canyon between two low mountains. It was called the Blackstone Valley because most of the stones in the canyon were black.
The canyon was not long, about three or four miles. There were crushed stones everywhere and bushes and vines covering the mountainsides. Black rocks, some were of light color, while some of deep were exposed. Seen from a distance, this canyon was like a black passageway. Once Junior Leopard arrived in the Blackstone Valley, he went down from the carriage and walked through this Blackstone Valley with his followers. On entering the Valley, he saw a broken skeleton on a huge stone ahead. The skeleton was so broken that there was only a small part of the upper body covered by rags which were flapping in the wind.
Walking forward, they entered the canyon and found that the canyon was filled with broken bones, most of which were chewed apart by the wild beasts in the prairie. In fact, it was already lucky that some bones were left.
"Your Excellency, this Blackstone Valley used to belong to a middle-scale tribe in the prairie. But when Governor Ma mopped up the prairie, he encountered quite a fierce defense here. So when he conquered this place, he exterminated the whole tribe, and the corpses—"
Junior Leopard waved his hand and stopped him. Of course he knew what had happened. The destruction of the Northern Yuan by the Jin. For the Jin it was an immortal achievement, while for the Northern Yuan people, it was a disaster. As the saying went, what millions died that Caesar might be great. That war fulfilled the dreams of Ma Tianchang, of the Jin and of Yan Yuntian, but it also resulted in the broken bones all over the prairie. God knew how many people had died in it!
Junior Leopard had nothing to say about the destruction of the Northern Yuan. In fact, he even felt a malicious pleasure deep in his heart for such an extermination of a nation in the prairie. But now facing so many bones, he was more or less unhappy as no one would like his territory to be filled with broken bones.
Walking through the Blackstone Valley, everyone seemed in low spirits as they had seen so many bones. But after they passed, their mood was lifted all at once.
"What a beautiful place!"
Behind the Blackstone Valley was a region of low hills. There were rolling hills and criss-cross rivers. From northwest to southeast, there was respectively low mountains, hills, smooth hills and depressions. A flat and wide river ran through the low mountains and smooth hills, and then was divided into several branches which formed a tiny water network. Among the rivers was the green prairie.
The scenery was definitely beautiful, but the scene on the prairie was quite a turn-off.
"Such a killjoy!" Zhu Ba cursed.
There were dozens of people, and a few dozen sheep and cows on the prairie, but they were all besieged by a group of wolves.
The wolves benefited the most from the war. After suffering a snowstorm which came once in a blue moon, the badly sapped wolves suddenly found that their food increased so much that they didn't even need to hunt purposely. There were corpses for them to eat everywhere. People living on the prairie took the wolf as their totem and followed the example of the wolves. Now as they died after a war, their corpses fed wolves on the prairie. In this way, they had died a worth death.
"It seems that they are the survivors of this tribe. But they are all sick and disabled!" Junior Leopard frowned at the sight of that group of people besieged by the wolves.
"They are really lucky as they even survived the war and lived until now!" Jiang Xiao smiled and said.
"There are lots of sick and disabled people like these on the prairie. Ma Tianchang has already killed all of the strong men and left these people dangling in the wind. Most of them would definitely die, but some of them did survive!" Junior Leopard patted on Little Du, which was held in his arms, and the latter rushed out.
A loud howl came from Little Du's mouth and shook the earth.
The wolves which were besieging the sick and the disabled suddenly stopped and turned around towards Little Du with fright and subjection in their eyes.
These wolves were fierce. But no matter how fierce they were, they were just ordinary wolves while Little Du was an evil beast with the blood of primitive beasts. As a wolf, Little Du was born with the power to lead the tribe. What's more, in recent years, Little Du's strength had been drastically enhanced as he absorbed the fist intent of an expert at Level Eight. These wolves were no match for it at all, so only one howl could make them bow down. Of course, the Wolf Lord didn't seem to resign himself. But with only one attack, Little Du's sharp claws, like a silver lightning, had already torn the Wolf Lord's head and body apart.
After Little Du led the wolves away, Junior Leopard turned around and once again looked at the sick and the disabled people that had survived. He then sighed and said, "Jiang Xiao, take some men to accommodate these people. Wendu, follow them. It may be easier for you to communicate with them as you also live on the prairie. Also, tell them I'll be their master from now on!"
"Yes, master!" Wendu bowed deeply to Junior Leopard and then approached those people, following Jiang Xiao.
"I want you to explore the terrain with some brothers and find a place to encamp. You've been all very tired these days. Take a rest!"
"Yes, sir!" Wang Cheng took his orders and left.
As the former Vice Commander of the Navy of Jiang City, Wang Cheng was quite adept at leading troops. Though he'd never fought in a big war, it was still more than enough for him to command hundreds of people.
When all was settled, Junior Leopard leaped into the sky and used the Dragon Flying Technique to patrol his territory.
600 miles referred not to the area of his fief, but the circumference. In this way, with the Blackstone Valley as the entrance, his fief equaled to the area of one big state or two small states in Jin. For such a large an area, even if he had flown into the sky, he could not see its full picture. Junior Leopard could roughly see that his fief was mainly covered by low mountains and hills. But there was a huge mountain at the western border. The terrain was high in the west while low in the east. The large river obviously took its source at that huge mountain.
"This is actually quite a good place, but the population is too small!"
This was the biggest problem for Junior Leopard, also the biggest problem for all the power, families and individual who were enfeoffed.
A big enough population was indispensable for a fief to thrive. Without that, no matter how big the fief was, it was only a wasteland.
The Northern Yuan had already been destroyed, or to put it this way, it had been exterminated. The previous large and wide northern prairie was now empty of people. There was a huge mountain in the west of the prairie, and no one knew how long it was or what was inside. Compared to the Misty Mountain, that mountain was far more ancient and colder. It was covered by ice and snow all year round. Except for some experts who liked adventuring in mysterious places, no one would enter that mountain, let alone live there.
This mountain could only be climbed over by experts, not ordinary people. Everyone knew that behind the mountain, there were other countries and many people, but they could only make a detour if they wanted to pass it.
And the detour had a distance of tens of thousands of miles. Therefore, from ancient times, the two sides separated by the mountain had no contact with each other, let alone wars.
In the southwest was the northwest of the Jin. There was a large area called Western Region there. Western Region was of a similar size to that of the Jin. What made it different was that it was not unified. Instead, it was divided into hundreds of big and small countries which fought with each other all year round. However, recently, it was said that the tense situation had been eased. Several big countries there were quite wealthy and they had trade dealings with the Jin. Countries in the Western Region were rich in spices, diamonds and other specialties whose prices would jump at least 10-fold when traded from the Western Region to the Jin. Similarly, once traded to the Western Region, prices of goods from the Jin also would jump at least 10-fold. However, no matter if it was the Western Region or the Jin, they were separated from Junior Leopard's fief by boundless desert and vast ocean. The two places were only connected by one commercial route, which was quite similar to the Silk Road in Junior Leopard's previous life. On this road there were many bandits, so only a few wealthy businessmen could pass by negotiating with both sides.
For Junior Leopard, countries in the Western Region might be useful to him in the future. But now, they were worthless. What he needed now was not goods, but people, large amounts of people.
In the east and the due south were more than 2000 fiefs enfeoffed by the Jin. They were all facing the same problem as he was a lack of population. They had nothing to do with the empty prairie.
What about due north?
That was the Ice Field, the boundless Ice Field. There wasn't a single rabbit there, not to mention people.
"Damn it! It seems that I must cast my eyes at the Jin!" Junior Leopard thought secretly. This was his territory and he needed population. But as he didn't want to turn his territory into a place full of blondes or blue-eyed foreigners, he could only set his sights on the people of the Jin.
"Well, Yan Yuntian did have a perfect plan. He had enfeoffed more than 2000 vassals in the north without giving them population. It would at least take them hundreds of years to develop the Northern Yuan. At that time, even those vassals wanted to vie for supremacy, he had nothing to fear as the Jin not only earned three states from the war but also dissolved threats from the north. A lack of population, vassals like me who wanted to have a foothold in the north could only rob people from neighboring places. Yan Yuntian enfeoffed all the territory near the northeast to those aristocratic families, powerful family and schools like the Tian Long Taoism. To enlarge their population, those schools would definitely plunder people from tribes in order to attach themselves to the Northern Yuan. In this way, tribes which had the chance to take advantage of the destruction of the Northern Yuan to develop themselves would be suppressed. And the Jin wouldn't need to worry about them. Thus, if only the Jin didn't collapse from inside, no power in this world could threaten it. So what about next? What did Yan Yuntian plan to do?"
Thinking of this, Junior Leopard began to be interested in Yan Yuntian, the Emperor of the Jin who had made the immortal achievement.
"Yan Yuntian and Ma Tianchang are indeed somebody. Ma Tianchang used to keep a low profile and quietly got on with it in Yunzhou for a decade. Once he acted, he destroyed the Northern Yuan overnight. Taking advantage of the destruction of the Northern Yuan, Yan Yuntian not only successfully dissolved the potential threat from the Northern Yuan, but also directed the attention of well-known families to the northern prairie using enfeoffing. Every family got quite a large size of fief which was bordered by one another. In this way, those powerful families would keep a close watch on each other. Though they all knew it was poisonous fat, no one was willing to throw it away. They would all send people to develop their fiefs so as to leave themselves wriggle room. None of these families could be trifled with as they had developed for thousands of years or even tens of thousands of years. Every family had its profit space in the Central Plains, so the contradictions were hidden in the deep. But it was different in the Northern Yuan. Every fief was connected with each other. Even if they didn't have conflicts now, they were bound to have conflicts in the future. In this way, the attention of those families was naturally shifted from the Jin to the Northern Yuan and their influence at home would gradually abate!"
Junior Leopard slightly squinted his eyes. He thought of that enfeoffing map of the Northern Yuan. "Hehe. Lucky that my fief, though not small, was quite far away from theirs. I can also learn from Ma Tianchang and keep a low profile. To enlarge the population is indeed a tough problem, but it still can be solved. But I may have no chance to compete with those families as my foundation is too weak. I'd better make some plans!"
Standing in mid-air and looking at the large scale of fief under his feet, Junior Leopard frowned and thought.
"It was impractical to recruit people from the Jin. The Jin would definitely not allow this to happen. Even if it did, no one would be willing to leave their home and come to this bitter cold place in the north. Only a real fool would leave the colorful world in the Jin and come to this barren land."
"Then who would be willing to leave the Jin and come here?"
Suddenly, a chilling light flashed in Junior Leopard's eyes. A terrible idea came to his mind!
Something was wrong!
It seemed that the Jin Emperor had made a perfect movement, but actually it was a misstep, a misstep which would set about a disastrous path for the Jin!
"If I were the head of those well-known families, under the circumstances, I would support the Sect of Flame to launch a war. Though the Jin appeared to be stable now, once those powerful families spared no efforts to promote wars, the Jin would be very likely to sink into the swamp of civil unrest. If these families could keep a balance and made the war last for one or two decades, then there would be refugees everywhere. At that time, with some means, they could attract those homeless people to their territory and they would have a large enough population. As stable as the foundation of the Jin appeared to be, once those families tried to launch the war, they would definitely make it. If they had deeper thoughts, they didn't need to begin the war themselves at all. They could make it happen by pushing those several princes. In this way, once they abandoned the Royalty in the Jin and disturbed the whole Central Plains, they could get plenty of population. As for what would happen if the Central Plains were in chaos, in the eyes of the families who had their fiefs, it was none of their business. What they needed to do was to find a new dynasty. At that time, with a solid foundation in the Central Plains and fiefs in the north, their power would be improved to a new level. Oh, I'm such an asshole! How could I come up with such a wicked idea?"