"An ordinary man is free of guilt and fear, but one with wealth has to watch his back!"
In a cave on the cliff side, Junior Leopard arranged all that Xue Wuya had left behind, and took one last glance at the instructions for the "Silver Moon Sword Technique". Just then, he happened to notice a small mark on it; as he got closer, he could see that it had the words "Yangzhou, He Yun" carved into it.
The name He Yun reminded him — wasn't Xue Wuya pursued by Lu Shaoyou because he had slaughtered a family of the surname He? Could it be that the reason he slaughtered this family had something to do with these instructions?
Carrying this type of thing around with him would clearly be inviting disaster, but he could simply seal the three Inner Elixirs that he had found in grease, and then put them with the Spiritual Stone and the exotic pearl in a little black bag to bury at the bottom of this cave.
I certainly shall not take all of these things back with me, lest I come upon any incident; and although I don't know what material this black bag is made from, it seems like it's air-tight enough — if I bury it in this desolate place nobody will ever find it. And if by chance it's somehow discovered, then that is unfortunate but much better than someone finding it being carried on my person!
After he had finished burying the black bag, he clapped his hands together to get the dirt off and took one last look around before throwing himself into the air, exiting the cave.
The speed of the Bloodfire Gang that Xue Wuya had used was extremely fast, and in a short space of time, he was already hundreds of miles deep into the Misty Mountain. It was lucky that Junior Leopard had remembered the direction of Xue Wuya's retreat, and that he had made big advances in the practice of his Yanfu Inner Strength and Lightness Skill. In the daytime he made use of the sun in the sky, at night time he took advantage of the starlight; and in only five days he was almost out of the Misty Mountain.
Although it was admittedly quite nerve-wracking, with the sharp coal dagger in his hand and the uniqueness of the Three Realms Division, he knew that he was in no danger.
After he had left the Misty Mountain, he dared not delay; he just quickly clarified his direction of travel and pressed ahead relentlessly, continuing throughout the night until finally, at dawn, he had reached his home.
As he entered the courtyard of his home, he felt a sense of relief coming over him.
Ah, the atmosphere here is so peaceful!
Junior Leopard hesitated, stroking the pit of his stomach, and did not enter his house; instead, he turned and entered the woodshed, approaching a pile of wood, and pondered carefully.
Should I pretend that I've just got home?
No, in this village I already have fame… this kind of thing, I cannot keep concealed from other people, just from one look it's easy to see how much I've changed in this last month, I just need to think of a suitable explanation…
Today Old Zhou was in a bad mood, because Junior Leopard had returned.
As far as Old Zhou was concerned, all his other sons put together were worth less than one Junior Leopard. However, it was obvious that this son's ability to make trouble and ability to make money was about even. That day he awoke early, and opened the woodshed, only to see someone sleeping inside it. He gasped in surprise, believed himself to have discovered a thief; but no, it was his own son.
Seeing that his son with the best future prospects had returned, he would normally have been overjoyed by this turn of events; but this way of being reunited was not as he had pictured it. In fact, as soon as he saw his son lying in a pile of wood in the woodshed, he felt like something terrible had happened; and the events which followed proved that this premonition was not in error.
Of course, Junior Leopard was not able to relate in detail to Old Zhou what had happened to him, he could only briefly summarize it as saying that he had provoked some serious trouble, and he absolutely could not let anyone discover why he had been missing for a month, and needed the family's help to cover it up. He also spat out some blood at a suitably timed moment, worrying Old Zhou out of his wits.
Old Zhou was merely a mountain villager and had seen little of the world. His understanding of the pugilist world was limited to rumors, and seeing his son's downtrodden appearance, he did not need for Junior Leopard to say much to trust him implicitly.
What most made Junior Leopard feel blessed was that in the last few days it had been raining continuously and the road was impassable; so Wang Tianlei and the others had not been to Qingyang Market. To Junior Leopard, this was very good news; this meant that Wang Tianlei had not been to Qingyang Market in the month since Junior Leopard had left, so the news that he had disappeared would not have reached them. This gave Junior Leopard a much better chance of remedying the situation.
And it made what Junior Leopard needed to do to remedy things much simpler; he needed only to make up a story.
"Old Zhou, where are you going, so early in the day?"
Passers-by who saw Old Zhou on the road, carrying a large pipe and with a small hoe in his hand as he hurried out of the village curiously asked him this question.
"Oh, I've just been digging up some medicine to take back for Little Shiba, the boy has a bit of a chill! He's having a lie down at home."
"Little Shiba, didn't he go to Qingyang Market to become an apprentice? Oh, that's right, I heard that he's already a teacher in the blacksmith's shop, even the people from Black Dragon Triad praise him… he really has a great future!"
The passers-by spoke with a tone of surprise and admiration.
"Oh, it's nothing, he's a bright little boy who works hard, that's all!" Old Zhou said, blushing as he waved his hands and quickened his pace.
"When did he get back?"
"He's been back for some time, but he has a cold so he's just staying at home... he hasn't been out at all!" Old Zhou said ambiguously. After a few words, he was already out of the village and hurried toward the old forest.
By the time he re-emerged at noon, he had with him a stack of medicinal herbs. In these mountains, those medicinal herbs were a folk remedy used for treating colds, and on the way back it was unavoidable that he would repeat the same conversation with the villagers he ran into.
Several days passed like this.
In the village, almost everybody knew that Little Shiba had already been back from Qingyang Market for several days, but because of a cold had not come outside.
And it was inevitable that this would become an object of discussion, and through discussion, it had been established as common knowledge that Little Sheba's worth had been recognized by the boss in the Qingyang Market ironware shop, and so he had been sent to leave Qingyang Market to go on to better things. This would need a long time, so he had been granted one month's holiday — but he caught a cold because of unexpected wind and rain on the road, and was now resting at home. He had been resting for a month, and now his health had recovered.
Along with this story spreading throughout the village, the silhouette of Little Shiba occasionally appeared in the fields at the top of the village. But the moments that he would appear were very strange; every time he went out someone would see him, but the person who saw him, either because they were too busy at that time or too far away, never got the chance to speak to him. It was like this until the beginning of the month when the weather became fine, and Little Shiba and all of the hunters were seen together at the gate of the village, preparing to head to Qingyang Market.
"Oh, finally I've come to that crucial moment!" Upon arriving at Qingyang Market, Junior Leopard treated Wang Tianlei and the others for a meal at the finest restaurant in Qingyang Market. After they departed, Junior Leopard let out a long sigh of relief. This crucial moment, he would have to force himself to face.
He would return to the Wu family ironware shop, meet Qin Xuanlong, and explain what had happened.
Thus passed another half year; Junior Leopard shut himself up in the Wu family Ironware shop, paying no attention to what was happening out the window and just single-mindedly forging metal, and making big advances in his cultivation. In the blink of an eye, it was already late autumn, less than two months away from the Wu family Selection Contest. As it was nearly 500 kilometers between Qingyang Market and the Wu family's headquarters in Yunzhou's Qinlingjun City, he needed to set off in advance.
Junior Leopard was not the only one from Qingyang Market taking part in this Selection Contest; there were also another two people, who were already in their thirties. Their cultivation was about the same as Junior Leopard's; they had reached the Level One phase, and their skill in metal-forging was most refined, again about the same as Junior Leopard. But considering their age, the cultivation of Junior Leopard was the thing that people were focusing on. The other two understood this clearly, and although they had some feelings of intermingled jealousy and admiration, they were at an age where they were able to approach the matter with maturity and expressed no hostility toward Junior Leopard. You could even say that on the road they took extra care of him; facing someone with such great potential, they took advantage of this time to get in good stead with him. So, although the journey was long, Junior Leopard traveled happily and comfortably.
After little over a month, the dusty travel-worn companions finally arrived in the center of Yunzhou, Qinlingjun City.
Gazing in the distance, they saw black colored city walls towering ahead, hundreds of feet high. Junior Leopard's eyes could not help flashing with excitement.
10 years, he had been in this world now for 10 years; and in those 10 years he had always been holed up in the mountain villages — it was enough to make him choke to death. He could not help from thinking about the big cities of his previous life and their advantages. In these two months on the road, although they passed by some cities on the way, they were relatively small-scale; in his previous life, they would barely pass for small towns. But today, gazing upon such grand and imposing city walls, he suddenly felt a swelling in his chest and his heart soared.
"So here is Qinlingjun City; no wonder this is the capital of Yunzhou, it indeed lives up to its title!"
Walking in the city's wide avenues to take part in the Selection Contest with Junior Leopard was Lin Hailong, a 32-year-old man from Qingyang Market who had been at the Wu family ironware shop for 23 years now, ever since he was nine years old. He was forthright and candid in his dealings with people and appeared to be carefree and casual. In fact this was a common trait with blacksmiths; they put all their minds into their smelting work and were no good at either refined manners or intrigue and scheming. Because of this and the camaraderie they enjoyed on their arduous journey, Junior Leopard had a good relationship with him and Wu Lin, the other participant in the Selection Contest.
Lin Hailong was the same as Junior Leopard; this was the first time he had seen such a grand city and so many people, and he also couldn't help himself from gasping in awe.
"Well, it's a bit like a bustling county town!" Junior Leopard said, smiling as he looked around his surroundings. "So many people… but in Qingyang Market, you can never see these many people!"
"Far more than Qingyang Market, on our way here we crossed through several big cities, but none with high city walls like this Qinlingjun City, and none with so many people!" Wu Lin also became excited. "If only we can pass the Selection Contest, then we can stay here!"
"Not necessarily!" Qin Xuanlong said, pouring cold water on the three companions' excitement. "Even if you pass the Selection Contest, if they do not consider you to have enough potential they'll send you off somewhere else. This isn't me attacking you, but of you three the only one with a chance of staying here is Junior Leopard!"
"Teacher Qin, you're joking again!" Junior Leopard's lips curved slightly into a smile, a look of bashful mirth flashed upon his face. "How can you say I have such ability?"
"Junior Leopard, you needn't be so modest! I know, you once had a moment of insight, and you have a great talent for smelting iron! Passing this Selection Contest will be no problem for you; your most important task is to stand out as much as you can during the contest, and attract the attention of the Elders. If you can catch their eye and be taken in, then your future achievements could be without limit!"
Thinking of these two words, "the Elders," Junior Leopard's mind couldn't help from envisaging a group of old and decrepit men, weak and wizened, with one foot in the grave.
"I don't know how powerful these old men are, I wonder if they're at the same level as Xue Wuya!" Thinking of Xue Wuya's savage expression as he faced death, Junior Leopard shivered. "My God, why did I suddenly think of such a terrible thing? Impossible, the Elders could not be as strong as Xue Wuya. The strongest in the Wu clan is only Level Seven, and his Gang Qi has not been cleared, how could they be better than Xue Wuya?!"
After thinking of the advantages he had gained from Xue Wuya, Junior Leopard couldn't help smiling; Yanfu Inner Strength, Silver Moon Sword Technique, Nine Dragons Heavenly Fire Technique, Blood Evil Harden Bone Fist, and the Three Realms Division that he had come across through his own good fortune. Who else here wouldn't smash the skulls of the other fighters in order to get these things? The Elder, Haha, do I value the title of Elder?
However, to use the Elders as protection is good enough. The Wu family's strength is considerable... If I can mingle with the Elders, then I'll be sure to have a good life!
He had never been somebody with too much ambition. As for the legendary iron blood of the pugilist world, he did not yearn for the glints and flashes of daggers and swords; he just wanted to train himself to do some martial feats, and these feats would be his capital. To live a steady and comfortable life was his greatest desire — to take a darling life and several pretty concubines and live a happy life like other men. After all, taking several wives was not illegal in this world.
But upon further consideration, if he really wanted to be taken in by the Elders, that would be of great benefit to his cultivation. Never mind anything else; he was qualified to enjoy the Bone Forging herbal baths, and although he may not be able to enjoy them often, he did have in his possession a recipe for Bone-Forging Pill!
The dose that a portion of Bone-Forging Soup needed could be used for making several hundred Bone-Forging Pills, and the efficacy of each pill was about ten times that of a potion. If he could have an opportunity to come across the ingredients for a potion, he would be sure to get more strength than others could from a lifetime of bathing in Bone-Forging Soup; and combined with the Bone Forging punching skills he had learned, he believed that by 20 years old he could have already reached the phase of a Level Four fighter, and perhaps even beyond that.