Jing Meng Hun continued to chase for half an hour. Eventually a great mountain appeared in his sight. A section of forest spanned across the mountain. Suddenly, his entire body shook. His eyes turned lifeless as he witnessed the scene unfold before him, and his mind went completely blank.
The corpses of the Golden Horse Riders Department experts who he had ordered to guard the North Gate were scattered over the ground.
All 103 people were lying dead on the ground.
It was critical to guard the North Gate to prevent King of Hell Chu from escaping. So, King Level Expert Jing had selected his best men for the task. These men were elites among elites. They were his most-trusted subordinates too. But now they were dead; all of them.
A black figure stood with his hands crossed behind his back besides the corpses.
"Who are you?" Jing Meng Hun felt as if his heart had been fried in oil. He gave out a loud shout and rushed forward.
That black figure slowly turned around and his cold gaze fell upon Jing Meng Hun's face. He then coldly snorted and insipidly said, "It's me!"
Jing Meng Hun's body suddenly halted as he exclaimed in surprise, "Prime Minister?"
It was Diwu Qing Rou.
"The culprit has already left; more than an hour ago," Diwu Qing Rou stated in a low voice.
"Left… that… they..." Jing Meng Hun looked at the corpses of his subordinates and his face contorted. His facial muscles began to convulse due to sheer anger.
"They're all dead. They died very serenely." Diwu Qing Rou's seemed intrigued from his voice. It was hard to tell whether he was feeling sorry for them… or just mocking them. Then he added, "It seems like they died happily. They must've willingly eaten King of Hell Chu's poison. It seemingly brought incomparable satisfaction to them as they died. There are no traces of any fight or struggle."
"This… how is this possible?" Jing Meng Hun was dumbfounded.
He looked stupefied as he took a good look at the faces of those corpses. He noticed that there was faint smile on every face. Their facial expressions revealed tranquility and utter satisfaction. Judging from their facial expression — it could be assumed that they must've been very happy and satisfied in their last moments.
However, they had still lost their lives in the midst of such bliss!
Jing Meng Hun trembled as he felt a chill running down his spine. He just couldn't imagine how King of Hell Chu managed to pull-off something like this. [These were more than 100 experts of the Revered Martial Artist rank or above… not a flock of 100 pigs you know!]
[Though that King of Hell Chu was disguised as me… how can his disguise be so flawless? And even if there were no flaws in his disguise… but how did he single-handedly feed poison to more than 100 experts and caused their deaths… and that too with so much serenity?]
Jing Meng Hun's entire body shivered as he looked at the frozen smiling expressions on the faces of the corpses.
And then he smelled a faint fragrance of orchids; it was seemingly drifting-in from every direction...
"It should've been some bizarre poison." Diwu Qing Rou indifferently stated, "A strange meat." Diwu Qing Rou's voice contained an inexplicable flavor; it seemed as if he was lost in deep contemplation.
He had never seen such a poison in his entire life. He couldn't stop his heart from trembling at the realization that even he may not have been able detect this poison… but what if he ended up consuming it someday?
Jing Meng Hun nodded. His mind hadn't recovered from the shock yet.
"King of Hell Chu has traced his own blood on the bodies of hundreds of horses and has made them run in different directions. We cannot track him now that we're surrounded by the fragrance of orchid." Diwu Qing Rou's squinted at Jing Meng Hun and said, "You don't need me to tell you what needs to be done next, right?"
Jing Meng Hun was frightened for a moment. He then recovered his composure and said, "Yes!"
Diwu Qing Rou coldly snorted and said, "Blockade the entire northern border! Jing Meng Hun, if you fail to catch King of Hell Chu this time — I will ensure that your head rests in your hands!"
"Yes," Jing Meng Hun's heart sank. It was obvious from Diwu Qing Rou's tone that he was very much dissatisfied with his subordinate.
"That King of Hell Chu is worthy of being called 'cruel and ruthless'! He can even give 'me' a competition in this regard," Diwu Qing Rou slowly took two steps and raised his head-up to sniff the orchid's fragrance. Then he shook his head and said with a sneer, "To think that he was capable of seeing through the function of 'Orchid Heart Chasing Soul'… that is hidden in my 'Destroying Soul and Breaking Heart' palm technique... is very surprising. He should be seriously injured, but he has still inflicted self-harm and spent so much blood in order to smudge it over-on hundreds of horses before he scattered them in different directions… I must say that he's really brave.
"So brave that he's putting his own life in danger for his trusted comrades," Diwu Qing Rou smiled faintly. He then looked towards the mountain forest and was lost in his thoughts. After a while, he smiled again.
"King of Hell Chu was seriously injured, but he still went for self-mutilation. He's lost a lot of blood. It seems like he wants to tread the road to disaster." Jing Meng Hun was extremely mad at Chu Yang. He felt that Chu Yang was the reason why he had landed in such predicament, and was going through such an embarrassing situation. Naturally, there was no trace of politeness in his tone.
"Place somebody on a field of death and they will fight to live... (1)" Diwu Qing Rou sighed softly. His intonation was long and leisurely; as if he was recalling something. Then, he slowly said, "To conduct oneself in the society — one needs to put oneself in a deadly situation. An unbelievable ability may emerge within oneself after that. It will either cause one's demise or help one soar …
"If you don't compel yourself to take command of your own death — then someone else will force death upon you! But there will be a way out if it's 'you' who forces yourself. However, you'll beyond saving if others forced you into it..."
Diwu Qing Rou looked at the nimbus clouds floating above the mountain forest with a complex look in his eyes. He spoke in a very depressed tone. There was a strong sense of regret in his voice. He gave a somewhat muddled laugh after a while, and stated in a low voice, "So, before others can force you to death… you do it yourself in advance… then they won't be able to force you… they just cannot...
"The worst-case scenario would be death. However, you'll be relaxed to know that at least you can die on your accord... than at the hands of others..." Diwu Qing Rou heaved a sigh softly. Then, he suddenly turned his head and looked at Jing Meng Hun. His tone turned mild, and even had some traces of regret, "Meng Hun... you force yourself too much in not making the requisite effort... Otherwise, considering your achievements… why did you stop at the Ninth-Grade of King Level?"
Jing Meng Hun was standing in a daze. But he felt as if he had heard five thunderclaps at once as soon as he heard these words.
[That's right. I've been afraid to enter the Middle Three Heaven even though I'm a Ninth-Grade King Level Expert! That's because I know that there are countless King Level Experts over there. An insignificant Ninth-Grade King Level Expert like me may not stand a chance there. I may be called a 'king' in the Lower Three Heavens… but I can at-most become someone's sacrificial pawn in the Middle Three Heavens. A few incorrectly said words could offend some major force. And that would cost no less than my life!]
[So, I thought that it would be better-off to stay in the Lower Three Heavens and enjoy the sumptuous lifestyle of worldly desires. But as for taking a step further… I wouldn't dare to do it!]
[It's not like I cannot break through from the Ninth-Grade of King Level… but I don't want to! I'm too scared of the unknown-world that awaits me ahead!]
[I've been maintaining my cultivation constant for past 10 years with this mentality; there's been no growth! I require the spirit energy derived from the spirit beasts in order to make a breakthrough from the King Level into the Emperor Level. For that I must need to go the Cang Lan Battlefield. But I cannot even bring myself to do that. Therefore, I cannot make any progress… I'm stuck in an endless loop which has led to this embarrassing situation. And it has, in fact, originated from my own cowardice!]
[Where have I thrown away that 'fearless and indomitable' spirit I used to possess before I stepped into the King Level?]
[Why have I grown so cowardly? Did I turn timid upon my breakthrough?]
Jing Meng Hun couldn't help but sweat profusely at the thought of this. He had realized that he was very scared to enter the Middle Three Heavens. If he were asked to throw away everything he had built here, and enter the Middle Three Heavens… he would refuse.
It was easier said than done.
It is true that the vast sky is only a step away. But it is also true that that-very-step is… as vast as the sky...
The mentality of 'risking it all' is fantastic. And it is very difficult to understand. Just like in the modern era… some people in the business world have nothing in the beginning. They work hard and do their utmost to raise their own property. Now they only need to be courageous-enough to dive into the market, open their own company, and aim for steady development to make it bigger and bigger. However, most people cower back at this critical juncture. They don't dare to take that 'one' step. In fact, one-in-a-thousand individuals have the courage to take this step.
That's because they think: [I've obtained success and recognition. Why should I take such a big risk? I'll go back to being poor with no hope of reprieve if I fail...]
Only a few who take the step achieve success. The winners smile proudly in the clouds, whereas the losers return to being extremely poor. Even those who worry about gains and losses for a long time before taking this step find it very difficult to succeed.
That is the fault of their mentality. If one worries about gains and losses, and lacks the determination to take the risk — one cannot forge towards success.
That is why there are only a few strong people irrespective of time and space. Whether it's martial arts or business; it's the same. It has been like this since forever; and will never change.
Diwu Qing Rou had been carefully observing Jing Meng Hun's demeanor. He finally heaved a deep sigh and said, "King of Hell Chu is King of Hell Chu… and not because he is very wise. It's because he has kept his life on-the-line since the day he has made his debut. That is how he is able to make miracles happen…
"These miracles don't originate from his powers. They originate from his ability to compel himself to keep treading on the road to disaster! His ability to come-out alive from hopeless situations is his true talent. As they say, time and events create a hero... Meng Hun, you've really disappointed me!"
His last few words were so light that they were almost inaudible. Diwu Qing Rou sighed profoundly, and then his body floated-away like the wind and disappeared into the horizon.
The thundering sound of horse hooves could be heard at a distance. The experts of Golden Horse Riders Department were rushing-over like a swarm of bees.
Jing Meng Hun continued to stand there in a daze. He stood motionlessly for a long time.
Diwu Qing Rou had left.
As far Jing Meng Hun was concerned — Diwu Qing Rou had always harbored high hopes for him. Jing Meng Hun had a deep understanding of martial arts. He was proficient in pharmacology. He was relatively young age-wise considering his achievements. He could be regarded as a rare talent in the entire Nine Heavens Continent.
In fact, his achievements were somewhat higher than the youngsters of the Upper Three Heavens. However… one must know that Upper Three Heavens must never be compared with the Lower Three Heavens.
Jing Meng Hun had been able to attain such achievements in a barren place like the Lower Three Heavens. It was worth being proud about. In fact, no one would dare to disregard his achievements even if he had attained them in the Upper Three Heavens.
Therefore, Diwu Qing Rou had looked forward to Jing Meng Hun's future, and had waited for the time when Jing Meng Hun would rid his heart of his inner demons.
Diwu Qing Rou would depart from the Lower Three Heavens after the end of this war; regardless of victory or defeat. Diwu Qing Rou had planned to take Jing Meng Hun along if he were to eliminate his inner demons by then. Diwu Qing Rou had estimated that Jing Meng Hun would become an Emperor Level Expert in the shortest possible time… once given a chance to have vast future prospects.
However, Diwu Qing Rou had felt disappointed now since he had determined what Jing Meng Hun's inner demon was…
He was talented, lucky, perseverant, and also had an opportunity...
However, he was scared to succeed.
Place somebody on a field of death and he will fight to live (idiom based on Sunzi's 'The Art of War'. It basically means 'to fight desperately when confronting mortal danger' or 'to find a way out of an impasse'