Chapter 235 – Weary Dragon Soaring to the Heavens!
「Boss, have you thought this through properly? Without the Tuoba Family’s protection, do you think Clear Sky is just going to let you be?」Cold Peak asked worriedly. Those who had split from Azure Falling Sky knew exactly what kind of person Clear Sky was.
「I’ve already made up my mind. I definitely cannot stay here anymore. I’ll just hide somewhere down South,」Aqua Smoke Stub confirmed. He refused to believe that Clear Sky could track him down after he moved.
「With the boss gone, what’s the point of staying here? I’m also leaving Withered Leaf! Hmph! I’m through working here as well.」Cold Peak had followed Smoke Stub out of Azure Falling Sky. Both of them had endured the same persecution and exploitation over the last six years, and had formed a completely unshakeable friendship.
「I’m done too! Isn’t it just a measly early termination fee? I’ve long since saved up enough to pay for it. If not for the boss, I would’ve left Withered Leaf long ago!」Wood Grace agreed.
「I’ll leave as well,」Samsara Lord echoed.
A bunch of Withered Leaf players immediately joined the tide of leaving members, speaking up one after another to declare their position. Many of them were also from the original group that split off from Azure Falling Sky together.
To Smoke Stub’s surprise, over a hundred of his five hundred plus brothers in Withered Leaf wanted to quit with him. What’s more, most of the others were only staying because they couldn’t afford the sky-high penalty fee.
「Cold Peak! And you, Wood Grace! The hell are you doing? Both of you are already breadwinners for your families, so how could you have a tantrum like a little kid?」Smoke Stub scolded. It was already painful enough for him to leave Withered Leaf. He didn’t want his brothers to go through the same troubles. Leaving the organization was a personal matter that he didn’t want to drag others into.
「This isn’t a tantrum! Boss, do you remember what you told us as we left Azure Falling Sky together? You said we’d start over from scratch, and that people can lack money but not ambition. You promised that even if you had just a single bite of food, you would never let us brothers go without. Do you remember how hard it was when you first founded Withered Leaf? We had absolutely zero business, and could only rely on selling equipment online. We were on our own every step of the way. Also, we got regular threats from Clear Sky, and our headquarters even got smashed multiple times! Despite all that, we still pulled through, didn’t we? Everyone had to go through terrible struggles before we got to where we are today. Now that everyone has their share of riches and glory, almost everyone has saved up a million yuan. Some of us have even have ten million to our names! Why can’t you let us share some of your burdens again? You insult us! You think that you can just leave Withered Leaf without us brothers following you?」Cold Peak said resolutely. A friend in need is a friend indeed. Was it even possible to count all the things Smoke Stub had done for them back when they were still struggling? They all knew just how much they owed him. A person mustn’t forget their roots!
「Cold Peak is right. Even if we end up as beggars, so what? So what if we end up being cleaned out of house or home? Haven’t we worked our way up from nothing once already? As long as we’re together, we can just do it again! How much money have we tirelessly earned for Tuoba Hongye over the years? Did he even consider our thoughts before telling us to leave Asskickers United for Victorious Return? Props to him for having the face to say such a thing, but returning kindness with evil? That’s just petty!」Wood Grace spat.
「He’s right, boss! You promised never to let us down, but isn’t telling us to stay in Withered Leaf the same as telling us to become petty villains?」Cold Peak added.
「Think of your wife, your children! Do you really want to drag them down with you on this thorny path?」Smoke Stub was touched by the words of Cold Peak and Wood Grace. But to quit Withered Leaf was a major decision, one that shouldn’t be made so hastily!
「Standing firm in the face of adversity is good fortune for the family. Only by weathering the storm together will we truly learn to treasure what we have and each other.」
「We only have one boss, and that’s you. If you withdraw from Withered Leaf, what is to become of us?」
「Screw this! I’ll go get a loan from the bank to pay this fee. I refuse to believe that I can’t pay it off as a professional gamer. Plus, there’s always the option of taking missions as an agent for the Union of Assassins.」
As he listened to his brothers speak, Smoke Stub’s nose became stuffy and his eyes glistened with moisture.
「Boss, just say the word. Us brothers are here. Even if we leave Withered Leaf, we could just start Red Leaf or Purple Leaf or something. After quitting Azure Falling Sky, we vowed to brave the storms, side by side! After sharing great fortune, we naturally have to share such hardships as well. No matter how hard it is, we still have each other!」Cold Peak shouted desperately, worried by the lack of response from Smoke Stub.
「Yeah boss, money can always be made but a person cannot lack camaraderie. Wherever you go, we will definitely follow. As long as you don’t think we’re holding you back, we will follow!.」Wood Grace proclaimed as well. With their group’s strength, so long as Smoke Stub didn’t lose hope, it wouldn’t be a problem to once more rise from the ashes. Even if they never regained the splendor of their peak, they would each be able to scrape together a living. However, from Smoke Stub’s current expression, Wood Grace couldn’t tell if his boss still had the old resolve.
Smoke Stub’s heart trembled. He took a deep breath to steady himself before announcing,「I, Aqua Smoke Stub, feel that just having you guys as my brothers makes everything we’ve gone through worth it. If any of you wish to follow me, the promise is still the same: as long as I have just a single bite of food, I will never let you go without!」
「Boss, with these words of yours, we can finally feel confident. With the skills of our group, there’s absolutely no fear of failing to earn food and board for ourselves,」Cold Peak answered emotionally. Having heard those words, his eyes teared up as he realized he was once more looking at the same valiant boss who’d quit Azure Falling Sky in disgust all those years ago.
「My most cherished memories are of the times when we brothers had nothing to our names, just trying to get us from one day to the next. Those were the good old days, when instant ramen was a rare delicacy to us. Now that we all have loads of money, I’m actually not enjoying myself as much since we rarely get trouble thrown our way. Recently, life’s been boring without any real struggle. Quitting Withered Leaf could let us go back to those days,」Wood Grace chimed in after a moment of sorrowful reminiscence.
This bunch of old brothers hadn’t changed a whit. Since they were still standing strong, how could he, Aqua Smoke Stub, back down now?
「Those of you planning to leave with me, first return your equipment to Withered Leaf and then gather at the Calore transfer point. Then, leave Withered Leaf and we’ll head south tomorrow.」Suddenly, Smoke Stub felt a moment of deja vu. He could see himself saying much the same all those years ago when he’d first quit Azure Falling Sky to start up Withered Leaf.
「Boss, you guys will go first. I still have some difficulties of my own. I’m afraid it’ll be quite some time before I can join you.」Some of these players’ families were living paycheck to paycheck, so they really couldn’t afford to pay such a huge fine.
「If any of you don’t have enough money, my family still has some capital. We’ll just call it a loan,」Wood Grace offered.
「Hey, since when has your family had a rich background?」
「This…」Wood Grace chuckled with embarrassment.「I’ve been investing my money and managed to earn a decent return.」
With this, he had solved quite a few of his brothers’ dilemmas.
「Since this kid seems to have a pretty good eye for business, how about we have him invest the money we get in the future?」Smoke Stub asked the group. He knew from experience that what they lacked the most right now was money.
When Smoke Stub got to the transfer point, Cold Peak and Wood Grace were already there and others were slowly trickling in. There were already around a hundred people gathered, which was more than he expected on such short notice. Besides the old brothers who had come from Azure Falling Sky together, there were also some recent recruits who had entered Withered Leaf later.
「Why isn’t that scrub Samsara Lord here yet? Did he go offline or something?」Wood Grace asked.
「His damn granny is offline! Lemme go drag him here!」Cold Peak cursed. Samsara Lord was part of the group who came from Azure Falling Sky. If he didn’t show up for this, those assembled here would see it as a betrayal.
「Samsara Lord might’ve logged off because he had something to do,」Smoke Stub interjected. The three people he had the most trust in were Cold Peak, Wood Grace, and Samsara Lord. Even if he was offline, there was no questioning his sense of brotherhood. Samsara Lord would definitely show up!
As even more people began showing up, it seemed as if their group would eventually amass over two hundred people.
After a while, Samsara Lord sprinted over haphazardly. Trying to catch his breath, he apologized,「Sorry, I had to go run an errand for my mom. There was nothing I could do. Thank god I’m not too late.」
「If you had dared to not come, I would have gone over to your house and pinched you to death!」Cold Peak threatened with a straight face. Samsara Lord had been with them from the onset, so it would’ve been a massive blow to their morale if he truly hadn’t shown up.
「How could that be? You have way too little faith in me. With the boss gone, how could I stay? You insult me!」Samsara Lord glared at Cold Peak.
「Ok, ok! I was wrong!」Cold Peak apologized as he broke into laughter, unable to maintain his straight face.
Aqua Smoke Stub, grateful that Samsara Lord had indeed shown up, clapped his friend’s back. His words had truly been prophetic.
「Oh right, Samsara Lord, I seem to recall that your early termination fee was thirty million yuan, almost as much as our boss’,」Wood Grace suddenly asked. Samsara Lord was one of the top three Priests in the game, so his contract was worth a lot. Plus, as a Priest, his salary wasn’t very high, so it might be difficult for him to come up with that much money.
Aqua Smoke Stub also thought about this problem before turning towards Samsara Lord.
Samsara Lord chuckled awkwardly as he scratched his neck.「Although it’s somewhat bothersome, it’s not enough to bankrupt me. Don’t worry about it.」
Aqua Smoke Stub and the others suddenly realized something. When Samsara Lord had gone offline, it was to gather money!
「Good brother, always feel free to tell us if you have any difficulties.」Smoke Stub knew full well that even if Samsara Lord said nothing about it, collecting so much at once would definitely prove to be a burden.
「For sure, Samsara Lord. If anything’s wrong then say so. There are enough of us here to overcome anything,」Wood Grace reassured as he patted his friend’s shoulder.
「Don’t worry about it,」Samsara Lord repeated.「It’s already done, but I might have some trouble in the future. I put up my house for mortgage, and borrowed some from my friends and family. For the time being, could I go and room with you boss?」Samsara Lord asked with an embarrassed chuckle.
「Why did you go and make yourself so miserable? You could’ve just borrowed from me, you know,」Wood Grace said.
「Who knew you were such a tycoon? I thought everyone would be near-broke after paying their fees,」Samsara Lord sadly sighed.
Aqua Smoke Stub looked at the brothers standing before him. They were all eagerly looking back at him. They had all been willing to bankrupt themselves and give up on comfortable conditions in order to follow him. He had to make sure he remained worthy of them. Even if Withered Leaf let them down, he could never do so! Starting from today, the weary dragon would soar to the heavens! As the head of this dragon, he would lead them to the highest heavens!