"Having more sons is a problem."
Sitting under a huge old tree in the backyard of the mansion, King Yang Shan sighed and said to Wu Qi.
Opposite him, Wu Qi and Ji Ao sat side by side. There was no one nearby except the three of them. A gentle breeze blew through the nearby woods, bringing them a trace of coolness. The thick branches and leaves of the old tree formed a massive canopy above them, keeping the sunlight from shining through. Between the branches were many nests of Green Jade Birds. Tiny as a thumb, these sweet-sounding birds were singing happily under the cover of the leaves.
"And when every son is so talented, it becomes an even bigger problem."
Holding a teacup carved out of black jade, King Yang Shan sighed again somewhat helplessly, his expression quite gentle. To those who knew him, the look was nothing short of a miracle. He had long been known as a ruthless and cold-blooded man, so an expression like that of a woman who had just found out that she had conceived after praying a long time for a child should not have appeared on his face.
Wu Qi gave Ji Ao a look. The latter was sipping tea, his stiff face expressionless.
"Ji Ao, like his brothers, wants to inherit my title," said King Yang Shan as he gently tapped on his teacup with a finger. "There are thousands of Kings in Great Yu, but only eighteen of them, including me, hold the highest position. Unlike the other Kings, these eighteen imperial Kings are eligible to succeed to the throne of the Human Emperor."
Wu Qi was startled, and he could not help but give Ji Ao another look. Could this fellow, who had just been rewarded by the Heavenly Dao an eon of life, really have a chance of becoming the Human Emperor in the future? If it were true, it would be a stroke of luck for Wu Qi!
King Yang Shan went on in a deep voice, "Take Ji Ao as an example…He is already promoted to King Yue Feng for his great service, but even if he were made a King of my rank, he could not become the Human Emperor."
He put down the teacup, then said while counting on his fingers, "If the Human Emperor passes away and the crown prince is too incompetent to hold the world in awe, or if there are other reasons preventing the rest of the princes from succeeding to the throne, then the Elder Council of the Tribal Alliance will choose one of the eighteen imperial Kings to succeed to the throne."
Ji Ao raised his teacup to his lips and emptied it, then placed it on the small table beside him. Meanwhile, Wu Qi nodded slowly; no wonder Ji Yue and the others treated him that way.
King Yang Shan sighed softly, then shook his head and said, "It seems to me now that Ji Ao is the ablest one of all his brothers. Most likely, he will inherit my title after I pass away. No matter what, you and your brothers shouldn't fight amongst each other over this." He lifted his head as he stared at Ji Ao and said, "If you dare to harm each other, I will kill you myself. I don't mind losing a few sons. Don't you forget I'm still young and my seeds are strong, so I can always have more sons!"
Ji Ao pressed his palms against the ground, then bowed to King Yang Shan and answered respectfully, "I understand!"
Then, King Yang Shan turned to look at Wu Qi and said, "As for you, Tan Lang, do your best to assist Ji Ao, and you'll certainly receive a lot of rewards in the future. I'm surprised at what happened to you today too. Who exactly planned Prabhutaratna Buddha's death? That old fool Gouchen Li is not someone who can come up with such a scheme. I'll look into this matter, you just be careful."
He paused, pondering for a moment, and said again, "As for what Ji Yue and others did to you...Well, in any case, they are my sons, just like Ji Ao, and you're only Ji Ao's subordinate...So I've no choice but to ask you to suffer a little loss and swallow some humiliation. It happens that I've found an excellent treasure recently, and I'll give it to you…Take it as an apology from me on behalf of Ji Yue and others."
After saying that, King Yang Shan inclined himself to offer Wu Qi a slight bow.
"I don't deserve such courtesy, Your Highness!" Wu Qi hurried to his feet and returned the gesture with a deep bow. King Yang Shan made a favorable impression on him. At the very least, while Ji Yue, Ji Dai, and Ji Lan were constantly demanding King Yang Shan to punish him just now, the father flew into a rage and ordered his three sons to leave You Xiong Plain immediately, asking them to return to their own fiefdoms at once.
The three brothers had originally come here for Ji Ao's award ceremony, and they could stay in Liangzhu for another half a month after the ceremony was over, according to Great Yu's rules. But unfortunately, as they had angered their father, they were kicked out of here and sent back to their fiefdoms.
King Yang Shan's handling of his own sons left Wu Qi with little to complain about. And now that the former had formally apologized to him on behalf of his sons, what else could he say? He enjoyed such an attitude, and the pent-up resentment in his belly gradually dissolved away.
They continued to talk leisurely until an old man in black walked slowly up to King Yang Shan and whispered something in his ear.
King Yang Shan smiled as he nodded to Ji Ao and said, "It's almost ready. The treasure was meant for your thirty-seventh brother, Ji Jiao. However, now that you've found Tan Lang, and he has proven himself to be a talented man, I've decided to give it to him."
Before Wu Qi and Ji Ao could ask what the treasure was, King Yang Shan rose to his feet and gestured them to follow. He led them down a path through the woods into the depths of the mansion, passing several heavily guarded checkpoints, and came to a hill, at the foot of which was an entrance to an underground tunnel. "Come with me," he turned around and told them, then strode into the entrance.
After making their way down the clean, brightly lit tunnel for a few miles, a cavernous hall appeared in front of them. Measuring several miles long and wide, the walls of the hall were carved with innumerable images of Ghost Gods, and in the middle, on a round altar that was about a mile in diameter, was a strange-looking monstrous beast who had his body lazily coiled up.
The beast looked like a dragon, but he had a huge belly, and the black scales covering his body were extra thick and heavy, appearing to be much larger than that of ordinary dragons. Normally, the body of a true dragon was slim and long; this beast, however, had a short and thick body, and was constantly sending forth a fierce and malicious aura. He had a large head with two thick horns; his eyes were deep and flashing with a dazzling blood-red gleam. On his face was a striking big mouth, and when it opened occasionally, Wu Qi could see a long red tongue and rows of sharp fangs.
At the sight of this beast, Ao Buzun said dryly, "Oh, a Taotie 1 ? Aye, and a full-blooded one? Is it male or female? Back when I was a young…"
Knowing that the fellow was going to show off his love affair again, Wu Qi quickly gagged him with one hand to save everyone from his nonsense.
Coiling atop the altar, this Taotie measured about a mile long. He was shrouded in an incredibly strong aura, while scarlet waves of air were constantly spreading out of his body. Hundreds of Oracles standing around the altar were struggling to protect themselves with a variety of magical artifacts, but could barely stand in their places. The scarlet waves repeatedly pounded against them, causing their magical artifacts to groan.
When he saw King Yang Shan enter the hall, the Taotie yawned lazily and stood up slowly, then nodded and said, "Where is your son, King Yang Shan? I must tell you bluntly that should he prove to be a worthless punk, don't blame me for swallowing his soul."
He stuck out his long tongue to lick his own nose, then said with a cold grin, "For someone with an incredible aptitude like me, I have to find myself a master whose aptitude is at the top of the world." A blood-red gleam shone from his eyes as he gave Wu Qi and Ji Ao a greedy glance.
The gleam was full of devouring forces. Unable to withstand the surge of such power, Ji Ao unleashed his Pu Lao, which shot out from the top of his head amidst a beam of green light. As soon as it appeared, the beast soul threw its head back and gave a frantic roar. The surrounding void rippled, and when the blood-red light emitted from Taotie's eyes drew close to Ji Ao, it was immediately ground to shreds by the twisting void.
Wu Qi gave a cold grunt. With a sway of his body, black flames emerged to engulf him as he rapidly grew to about a hundred feet tall, and black dragon scales flipped out from underneath his skin. In just the blink of an eye, a brutal and fierce dragon aura was seeping out from within him. Staring at Taotie, he let out a thunderous roar.
Ao Buzun's body had also rapidly stretched to about a hundred feet long. When he was done, he pointed one of his front claws at Taotie and said with a cold smile, "B*stard! If you had stared at me like this in the past, I'd have killed your father, raped your mother, torn you to pieces, and made you a dish that goes with wine! Why are you still staring at me? Looking to die?" He bared his fangs and made a ferocious face. Meanwhile, a dragon aura that was a hundred times fiercer than the murderous aura emanated from Wu Qi's body crept out of his forehead and smashed right toward Taotie's head.
Pu Lao's frantic roar, Wu Qi's thunderous roar, and Ao Buzun's threat of violence instantly subdued the ferocious and greedy Taotie.
But, it was not over yet. Coiling atop Wu Qi's shoulder, the two dragon python sisters suddenly darted into the sky and opened their mouths to let out the unique roars of the Dragon Pythons of Fire and Ice. The fearsome aura of dragon pythons which had held all the dragons in awe and fear since the ancient times immediately spread across the void like a tidal wave.
As soon as the sisters demonstrated their power, the soul of Pu Lao hovering over Ji Ao immediately slithered back into his body in a flurry, daring not to show up again. Wu Qi's body trembled and quickly transformed back to his human form while Ao Buzun, arrogant and domineering as he was, shuddered instinctively and instantly shrunk back to his initial size—a tiny, three-inch-long mudfish. Then, he snaked into Wu Qi's collar like a defeated warrior, so that he could escape the horrible aura that was almost the bane of all dragons.
Taotie, who was extremely unbridled and vicious a moment ago, immediately put up a flattering smile on his face. Nodding and bowing to Wu Qi, he said, "I suppose you are Ji Jiao, His Highness's thirty-seventh son? Haha, it's my blessing to be your beast soul, to stand shoulder to shoulder with you, and to live and die with you! Haha, are those two beside you really Dragon Pythons of Fire and Ice? Aren't they extinct already?"
A faint smile emerged on King Yang Shan's face. He patted Wu Qi on the shoulder and said, "This is my gift to you, Tan Lang. You haven't fused with any beast souls, have you? The warriors of Great Yu all need a powerful beast soul, so that they can exert all their power! Even if you are a genius who cultivates both magic and fleshly body, having a beast soul to protect you will help you a lot in the future!"
So, the treasure King Yang Shan mentioned was actually the soul of a Taotie?
Wu Qi was overjoyed. He hurriedly thanked King Yang Shan with a deep bow.
A beast soul? This was such an amazing gift!
What surprised Wu Qi the most was that it was the soul of a Taotie, who was one of the dragon's nine children. He laughed so hard that his eyes turned to two narrow slits!
Although he had gone through some terrible storms in this trip to Liangzhu, he had also gained many significant rewards! Taotie - One of the nine children of the dragon, who likes to eat and drink.