Wu Qi, Su Qin, and Yan Bugui were all stunned when they heard the unpleasant knocking of a clapper, which was obviously made from a bamboo stick. They had never encountered such a thing before. But, although it sounded very unpleasant, it did not come with any killing intent. Instead, it was filled with a laziness. None of them knew what that actually meant.
Suddenly, someone was shouting from outside the courtyard, "Brother Hu, are you in there? The local authority has sent someone here. We need to quickly gather at the village entrance!"
Wu Qi turned to look at Su Qin, and the latter waved his hand vigorously. "Don't count me in! I'm just a wandering old man who brother Hu Bugui picked up from the wilderness. Mm, and I've yet to recover from a serious illness. Where do I find the time to see those people from the local authority?" Su Qin shook his head and twitched his lips, his heart still fluttering with fear. "This Pangu Continent is a strange place. Although I've only made a few contacts with the local authority, they greeted me with sharp blades and swords every time. I don't want to see them again!"
Wu Qi shook his head and rose to his feet, following Yan Bugui out of the cottage, as he was curious to find out what was going on. As all his fake Nascent Souls were destroyed by the Primordial Gold Talisman, as long as he concealed his aura, nobody could tell that he was an Immortal cultivator. At most, they would take him as an unlucky fellow who was seriously wounded. It was even easier for Yan Bugui; since his internal energy was scraped and left with only pure muscle strength, he did not worry that anyone would find out his true identity.
With hurried paces, both men came to the village entrance. Several hundred villagers had already gathered under a large ash tree. A military officer clad in a bronze armor and followed by a dozen of soldiers behind was seen standing on a large rock next to a low-ranking official, who had a green hat on his head and was clad in a green cloth. Both were looking down at the gathering villagers. Next to the large rock stood a junior official, who was feebly knocking on a clapper made of bamboo, producing a loud noise that made one's ears hurt.
After a while, seeing that there were no more people walking out of the village, the military officer gave the low-ranking official a look.
The green-clothed official bowed slightly to the military officer. Then, he stuck out his chest and spoke with a loud voice, "My villagers, here's some good news for you! The Punishment Court of Zhong Province is in needs of filling up the ranks. And this time, we've got ten slots for this village!"
The villagers were stirred by the news, and some youths had their eyes shining with a bright light.
The green-clothed official continued with a smile, "Everybody knows that being a soldier of Punishment Court is a great job. The salary is more than that of the soldiers of Military Court, while the food, drink, and equipment are the best among others! The ten soldiers we recruit here will be given a silver ingot each as the settling-in allowance. We only need ten soldiers from this village!"
Yan Bugui gave Wu Qi a quick gaze and whispered, "The Punishment Court is recruiting new soldiers. Is it because of what you've told us?"
Wu Qi nodded, confirming Yan Bugui's speculation. Previously, when he told Su Qin about his recent encounters, he had mentioned Myriad Immortal Alliance, as well as the bounty of killing the few armies sent out by the Punishment Court of Zhong Province. Supremacy Three Flame alone had slaughtered nearly two thousand soldiers, and coupled with the losses of the other few armies, the Punishment Court needed about ten thousand new recruits to fill the ranks. If every village were given ten slots, that also meant they were recruiting from over one thousand villagers.
Noticing the commotion in the villagers, the official smiled and said, "I should tell you this, joining the Punishment Court army is similar to reaching the sky in a single bound. You will be able to practice the body tempering technique that only those in the army could have learned. And, if you manage to attain a sufficient result, once you retire from the army and return to your village, tsk, tsk, your village will be prosperous. Also, if you perform deeds of valor in a battle and get promoted to Captain, perhaps you will be conferred as a Marquis in the future. At that point in time, all your descendants will bear the status of a Marquis!"
The green-clothed official sure had a silver tongue, as he kept explaining the benefits of joining the army in an extravagant way.
The crowd suddenly split from the middle as a couple dozens of young villagers pushed through them and came to the front, each shouting excitedly, "Sir, I'm willing to join the army!"
Even as Wu Qi frowned his brows slightly, both he and Yan Bugui heard Su Qin's voice, "Bugui, go! Join the army!"
Immediately, Yan Bugui extended his arms to push away the villagers in front of him and shouted, "Sir, I'm Hu Bugui, and I'm willing to join the army! My family is ruined and all my siblings are dead. I have nothing now but a great strength! I'm willing to put it to a good use, so as to bring myself a great future!"
The military officer nodded with satisfaction, running his eyes across Yan Bugui and the other young villagers like a sharp blade. Then, he pointed at Yan Bugui, the burliest among all with clear outlines of muscles, and said smilingly, "That guy! You said your name is Hu Bugui? Come here, find a rock and lift it up!"
Yan Bugui tightened the robe strapped around his waist and strode towards the big ash tree, stopping before a large rock about six feet in diameter and weighing more than several thousand kilograms. He bent forward, clutching both hands tightly on the sharp edges of the rock as he let out a deafening roar. His face shot with blood immediately, and cracking noises could be heard coming from the joints between his bones. The ground shook a little as Yan Bugui lifted the rock up and slowly straightened his arms, lifting the rock up and over his shoulder.
All the villagers standing and watching from near and far became quiet instantly. But, the silence was quickly broken by the loud exclamation of several hundred villagers. "Excellent!"
Wearing a happy smile, Wu Qi looked towards those villagers. He saw a few beautiful girls with lean bodies, their faces beaming with passion like the wild roses in the wilderness as they were gazing at Yan Bugui's muscular body with heated glances. All of a sudden, one of the girls shouted out, "Brother Hu, you're amazing! Your muscle strength is incredible!"
Yan Bugui laughed, lifting the large rock as he walked one full circle before throwing it back to the ground. A loud thud echoed out as the falling rock created a one-foot deep hole, sending dirt and sand everywhere. The military officer clapped his hand and laughed, "Good, good... You said you are Hu Bugui? Nice, just with your incredible muscle strength, I can tell that you will have a great future! This is great! I never expected that I would find a good candidate today!"
Without any lengthy process, the military officer had decided on the spot that Yan Bugui was one of the new recruits for the army.
A fist-sized silver ingot was given to Yan Bugui immediately, serving as the settling-in allowance. They had also given him a small plate made with hardened wood, which was the medallion for his status as a new recruit. The military officer told him to bring the wooden plate and assemble at a larger village not far away from here three days later - the 'Myriad Home Village', where he would group with all the new recruits from other villages before reporting at the Punishment Court in Zhong Ning City.
In other words, Yan Bugui had three days of time to settle his personal affairs. Nevertheless, he did not have many things to settle in this village.
In the presence of so many villagers, Yan Bugui gave the settling-in allowance to the village head, requesting help to take care of his home and farms when he was away in the army. The cottage was built by himself, and the farms were opened by him with his own labor. And, while he bore the status of a refugee whose hometown was destroyed in a flood and did not have any relatives, the arrangement was perfectly reasonable.
The village head gladly agreed to Yan Bugui's request. Wasn't that just cleaning the cottage and not letting the farms get emptied? With the silver ingot now sitting firmly in his palm, everything could be settled easily. The labor in the village was not expensive, and the silver ingot was more than enough to cover ten years of wages for the villagers who would take care of Yan Bugui's cottage and farms.
Joyful peals of laughter lingered at the village entrance. The remaining couple dozens of young villagers were going through a trial of strength, showing their competency in archery and some other skills. About an hour later, the other nine new recruits were selected. After giving them the settling-in allowance and wooden plates, the military officer and the green-clothed official mounted their steeds, brought their subordinates, and proceeded to the next village along the main road.
And so, the village had ten new recruits for the army. All the villagers were dancing and singing with joy, but those who were not selected looked rather dejected.
Wu Qi and Yan Bugui mingled among the villagers, listening attentively to the heated discussions.
A soldier serving the Punishment Army drew a very handsome salary. The annum wage and rice they received could be almost equal to the total annual income of twenty households. Apart from Yan Bugui, the families of the other nine new recruits could live a good life immediately.
On top of that, all the soldiers in Punishment Army would learn and practice a body tempering technique which was only taught in the human army. It would give them a muscle strength far greater than an ordinary mortal. When they retired from the army and returned to their villages, with the protection of these formidable soldiers, the village would live in peace for at least a couple dozens of years. Regardless it was the attack of wild animals or natural disasters, nothing would become a big problem before these young men who would possess an extraordinary strength.
Of course, if any of them were lucky enough to be promoted as a military officer, or even be conferred as a Marquis like what the green-clothed official had told them, it would bring an even greater benefit to the village. Perhaps, relying on some lucky fellow, this small village with its villagers mostly being relatives to each other would develop into a small town, with a population of several tens of thousands.
The gray-haired village head had already begun to excitedly reminisce the previous recruitment of soldiers in the village during his grandfather's time. The Zhong Province was at war with some unknown foe, and had taken fifty villagers from here as new recruits. Although in the end, only three wounded soldiers with broken arms and legs had returned, relying on their strength, the once tiny village with only about fifty families had developed into the current size, a village with over three hundred households.
In a high spirit, the old village head concluded that it must be the blessing of their ancestors that the village was presented with another great opportunity.
Wu Qi and Yan Bugui did not speak a word.
Wu Qi wore a faint smile on his face, dragging Yan Bugui as he walked towards the cottage at the end of the road, drawing further away from those excited villagers. These simple villagers could only see the benefits brought to them after joining the army. How could they ever understand the sorrow of those who were killed under Supremacy Three Flame's raging thunder-flame?
Even Wu Qi himself had slaughtered twenty thousand soldiers led by Feng Qingya in Qing Xu Immortal Pass.
Weren't the siblings of those now dead soldiers as excited as the villagers in this village when they were bidding farewell to their beloved family members?
Wu Qi raised his head to look at the sky, and did not speak a word. He had begun perfecting the plan that had just come to him, pondering how he was going to put An He City in good use and help Su Qin and Yan Bugui. Since he had met Su Qin and Yan Bugui here, he had to think of a way to settle Lao Ai.
When they returned to the cottage, what Yan Bugui said nearly made Su Qin be choked by his own breath with anger.
"Prime Minister, why are you asking me to join the army? Can you feed yourself on Pangu Continent?"