Time slipped by swiftly as usual.
Another half a year flowed away just like water.
Junior Leopard had gradually established a foothold among the important inner core disciples of the Wu Family.
In fact, after defeating Shi Jing in one movement last time, he had established his reputation, though at the same time he made Shi Jing his enemy.
But he wasn't afraid, as his cultivation had already reached Level Two a year ago, ranking top among those important inner core disciples.
Among the whole Wu Family, only 17 people reached the Bone-Forging Realm and they were all Elders. Others were all below Level Four.
Besides the First Elder Lyu Yiyue and Xu Yong, only three or four of the Elders took disciples. Together with some immediate relatives of these Elders, the total number of important inner core disciples was only a dozen. Only four or five of them were of the same age as Junior Leopard.
And only one of them was Junior Leopard's enemy, and that was Shi Jing. Even so, he couldn't deny that Shi Jing had great talent in cultivation, as he had broken through Level One and entered Level Two.
Shi Jing had quite a good cultivation base. It was precisely because of such cultivation aptitude and savvy that Lyu Yiyue tolerated him.
After the lesson of the Fiery Eyes and Junior Leopard, Shi Jing backed down a little and he got along quite well with other disciples, except for Junior Leopard and his senior.
More than that, with generous character and high status, he got acquainted with a group of inner core disciples who would follow his lead. The shadow left by Junior Leopard faded as time went by, and he became haughty again.
As for Junior Leopard!
He was a quite mysterious person in the eyes of other inner core disciples, just like his master Xu Yong. Though seldom be seen in public, he was gentle and nice to all the inner core disciples. He had reached Level Two and stood out among all the inner core disciples. But that was all.
No one knew his real strength.
"You summoned me, teacher?"
It was a sunny day. Junior Leopard was practicing when he was called into the house by Xu Yong.
"You've been here for two years, right?" Xu Yong asked thoughtfully, stroking the short beard on his chin.
"Yeah. Already more than two years," Junior Leopard answered.
"Yeah. You were still a child when you came here more than two years ago. Now you've become a young man and made rapid progress in martial arts cultivation. It seems that I've made the right decision!"
Xu Yong smiled with satisfaction, looking at the young man standing before him.
In the past two years, with one teaching without reservation and the other learning by heart, Junior Leopard had made rapid progress in martial arts, and also accumulated a deep affection for his master.
Xu Yong was a low-key, humble, and steady man, having a character to Junior Leopard's liking. And he spared no efforts in teaching Junior Leopard, for which Junior Leopard was deeply grateful. Junior Leopard knew he must have important things to say by summoning him here, as he was quite familiar with his disposition.
Not surprisingly, after sighing, Xu Yong raised his head and said, "You've been here for two years. That's not a short time. And you've made great progress in martial arts. But you spent the whole two years here and seldom went out, nor engaged in any task, so you lack experience. Now that your cultivation has been consolidated at Level Two, it's time for you to take on some tasks. What do you think?"
Junior Leopard understood immediately. He'd been virtually too obsessed with martial arts in the past two years. Others might get bored cultivating in the same way as his. But he had too many secrets and things to study, and also great interest in martial arts, so he nearly forgot that as an important inner core disciple, he had access to many tasks.
In fact, in Xu Yong's opinion, he could have finished his apprenticeship long ago with his present cultivation base and his understanding of martial arts. Two years ago, Xu Yong had already taught him all he could, even including his experience of breaking through the Skin-Toughening Realm and entering the Bone-Forging Realm. So it was really all about Little Leopard himself in the rest of the study.
Teachers open the door and you enter by yourself. Now what Junior Leopard needed was the grinding and toughening of time.
So Xu Yong had long been waiting for Junior Leopard to come to him, asking for tasks to experience. But Junior Leopard was too emerged into the vast ocean of martial arts to notice his intention. In the end, Xu Yong even doubted that, if not reminded, he might spend his lifetime cultivating martial arts in this yard.
He had no choice but to summon Junior Leopard and ask him about the tasks.
The reason why he chose now was that he found a task perfectly suitable to Junior Leopard.
"A batch of goods of our Wu Family had been robbed at Black Shakou in zhonghe Prefecture several days ago, but the robber was not found yet. Here's a task of finding out the robber, and your senior brother Jin undertook it. He's calling up some inner core disciples to come with him. You should go."
"Yes, teacher!" Junior Leopard nodded, raising no objection.
"Well then, go find your senior brother Jin. I've already talked to him about that. You need to obey his order along the way. He has nearly finished his apprenticeship and he has more social experience than you. Remember to ask questions when you don't understand, and don't do anything he doesn't let you—"
Xu Yong continued endlessly for a long time, carefully instructing him on matters that needed attention for the time it took several incense sticks to burn. Though bored, Junior Leopard was still deeply moved and dared not to retort, but nod in agreement.
"By the way, zhonghe Prefecture is not far away from Tian Long Mystic Mountain. If there's a chance, go there and finish that matter."
When Junior Leopard was going out, Xu Yong said suddenly, "Go if there's a chance; drop the matter if not. In any case, keep it secret!"
"Senior Jin, are you really taking that Zhou Bao with us?"
Not far away from the yard where Junior Leopard and Xu Yong lived, there was a larger yard where a group of young men gathered now.
The leader was 17 or 18 years old and six-feet tall. With a mole the size of sesame between his eyebrows, his narrow eyes gleamed. He had a long face, to be honest, a horse face. Quite a common face. Actually, he could have been easily forgotten and ignored if not for his mole.
This was Jin Nanqing, who undertook the task of Black Shakou. He was one of the important inner core disciples of the Wu Family and a direct disciple of Elder Hu Yi.
At that time, he glanced at the asker who was also aged 17 or 18, then laughed and said, "Elder Xu talked to me about this in person, of course I can't turn him down. Besides, despite his young age, junior brother Zhou learned excellent martial arts from Elder Xu, especially the Thirteen Punches of Desolation. I heard that he mastered it quite well, and his cultivation had reached Level Two. He's not even weaker than me. It should be a good thing that we go together."
"But senior brother Jin... "
"Zhou Zhengming, that's enough. I know you and Shi Jing are friends, but that's your own business, not mine. I advise you not to get involved in that. That's old scores between two core disciples. You're just a common inner core disciple, just mind your own business!"
Zhou Zhengming's face turned white and he swallowed what he wanted to say.
"OK, everyone, I know what you're worrying about. You're worrying that the remuneration will be difficult to distribute after the task once Zhou joins us, right? No need to worry. Elder Xu has already told me that junior brother Zhou would not compete for remuneration with us. He wants experience only."
Upon hearing this, everyone felt relaxed.
There were rules about taking on tasks in the Wu Family.
For example, the remuneration of this task was abundant, almost half the value of the lost goods. But it was also difficult for one person to fulfill it because the scene of the accident was thousands of miles away from Qinlingjun City and the specific details were not clear. In cases like this, a person would take on the task and then call up some inner core disciples as assistants. As for the number of the people involved and the way of distributing remuneration, that needed to be settled beforehand.
The amount of remuneration was fixed. One more participant meant fewer remuneration for everyone, so it was natural that those inner core disciples were not happy about it.
They were just unwilling to say that in public, as Junior Leopard was an important inner core disciple.
Nobody wanted to offend young but promising inner core disciples like Junior Leopard. Only Zhou Zhengming, who got along well with Shi Jing and knew they were incompatible, dared to raise the question. But he also received a retort from Jin Nanqing soon upon finishing the question.
Now hearing Jin Nanqing say that Junior Leopard won't compete for the remuneration, they wouldn't raise any objection anymore. Instead, they began to be curious about Junior Leopard, and were eager to see what thisinner core disciple has got.
The goods were robbed, how embarrassing! Don't know what they're thinking. Why not let the escort agency to do the delivering? Now that things turned wrong, they themselves need to be responsible for that. What a group of idiots!
Back to his room, Junior Leopard stroked his chin, pondering on what Xu Yong said, and his expression turned weird.
There were also escort agencies in this world. The Wu Family was a huge family monopolizing the iron business and it was always short of labor. Therefore, they would always ask a familiar escort agency to help them with the shipment. Actually, that was what escort agencies did.
However, this zhonghe Prefecture was quite special. The manager of the Wu Family here also had a family name of Wu and it was a branch of the Wu's.
The Wu Family had developed for many years and there were countless main and branch veins. Some had already collapsed, while others were still in power—the Wu Family in zhonghe Prefecture was one of them.
The branch vein of the Wu Family in zhonghe Prefecture was virtually one generation older than the main vein. Now the person in charge was Wu Yuntian, whose cultivation had reached the Advanced Level of Level Three, and was said to break through the Bone-Forging Realm soon. He was an arrogant man and had trained quite a large group of followers. Though not competing with the main vein, he had totally controlled the Wu Family in zhonghe Prefecture. That was why he was so flamboyant, and believed that no one dared to offend the Wu Family in the whole zhonghe Prefecture. Therefore, he never employed escort agencies to deliver goods. And nothing bad had happened until this time.