Ao Xie Yun was desperately fleeing at present! His embroidered moon-white robe – which had made him look very graceful and elegant in the past – was already torn and tattered. Moreover, it was also covered in bloodstains…
His body was also riddled with scars. His hair was a bit messy. His lips were dry, and his eyes had sunken deep into the eye sockets.
Ao Xie Yun had never been in such a difficult situation. After all, he was an heir to the clan that was recognized as the top clan in the Middle Three Heavens. He was the direct line of descents of the Ao Clan, and the top contender for the Clan Lord’s position.
Moreover, he had never been hunted down like this. Nor had he fled from danger like this before!
He had been escaping for more than three months by now!
He had been attacked and forced to flee ever since he had left the Northern Wilderness. And, he had been forced to struggle for his life every day over these more than three months of time. He had found himself on the verge of death several times a day! Moreover, this Evil Young Master had lost a whole lot of people…
Many enemies had continued to appear from god knows where. All of them would be clad in black clothes, and would be wearing masks. One group of attackers would appear after regular intervals. Moreover, he would face an ambush at every strategically advantageous spot!
This whole journey had been riddled with fights and bloodbath. The fear of death had left them scared witless.
The enemy had used a stealthy poison mist in the very first wave of contact. And, they had thus eradicated most of Ao Clan’s people at once. The four Martial Emperors had done their utmost to protect Ao Xie Yun. But, the other King Level Experts had perished in this attack.
In fact, the entire team would’ve been annihilated if not for Ao Xie Yun who had constantly been on his guard against sneak attacks from the Black Devil Clan.
However, things had become even worse since the invisible falcons they used to communicate with the Ao Clan had also perished in that poison-mist attack! And, this had pushed them into a state of absolute isolation and helplessness.
There was a long road ahead. And, there was danger at every step…
After that, an unceasing wave of enemies had begun to appear in order to harass, attack, slaughter, and hunt down…
Only two Martial Emperors remained at Ao Xie Yun’s side as of now. The other two had died in order to protect Ao Xie Yun during an ambush.
It had obviously been a desperate ambush-battle. After all, the enemy had dispatched a total of 8 Emperor Level Experts! And, they had ganged up on Ao Xie Yun’s 5-member-team.
However, Ao Xie Yun had suddenly experienced a flash of realization, and had broken through to become a Sixth Grade Martial King in the middle of that battle. Else, he would’ve turned into a frozen corpse by now.
Ao Xie Yun and his team had been forced to deviate from the route of returning to the Ao Clan. After all, heading back home using the original route would undoubtedly amount to an act of courting death.
[The enemy is hell-bent on attacking us. So, how would they ever be willing to allow us to return safely to the Ao Clan? After all, not a single clan in the Middle Three Heavens could afford to withstand the crazy all-out blows of the Ao Clan!]
[Therefore, we must be extremely careful. We will die during this escape if we show even the slightest of negligence!]
Ao Xie Yun had been extremely careful. However, he had still become extremely tired after being on the run for three-and-half months without a break. There were more than 30 severe wounds on his body. And, these wounds were constantly reminding him that he couldn’t escape any further! And, that’s because he was likely to succumb to his own injuries if he tried to escape further… even if he didn’t get captured by the enemy!
The two Martial Emperors at his side were already on the verge of dying. It could be estimated that they would’ve died by now if it weren’t for their strong conviction to protect their Young Lord.
The cultivation of both men could be considered top-notch — Fifth Grade Emperor Level!
This could unconditionally be considered the peak strength in the Middle Three Heavens! However… the issue was that these two Fifth Grade Martial Emperors have had to face the joint attacks of at least seven-eight Emperor Level Experts every day… and that too more than once day. In fact, more than twice on some days!
They would face a dozen or more waves of attacks a day! Even a man of iron would get grinded into molten iron if he were to suffer through this.
“Young Lord, I’m afraid that it’s going to be a major event this time,” a Fifth Grade Martial Emperor of the Ao Clan – Du Qing Yun – said while panting for breath. His eyes were full of hatred and sorrow.
He was a peak Fifth Grade Martial Emperor. When had he ever been in such an aggravating situation? He had watched his old brothers die one by one at his side. However, he had been forced to flee with his tails between his legs like an old dog. This was far too humiliating!
However, he hadn’t dared to engage in a decisive battle! He would love to fight a decisive battle. But, what would become of the Young Lord? Who would protect him?
What would happen to the Ao Clan if it lost its Young Lord?
“Yes, the Jianghu seems to be in chaos,” Ao Xie Yun’s features looked wan and haggard. There was a look of anxiety in his eyes.
“Young Lord, there’s something that I must tell you in advance,” another Fifth Grade Martial King – Qin Zhan – said in a serious manner while breathing somewhat heavily, “I’m afraid I may not be able to run away if there’s another enemy attack. So, I will go all-out at the risk of my life, and block them. Meanwhile, Young Lord and Old Du must escape as a quickly as possible…”
A gloomy expression appeared in Ao Xie Yun’s eyes.
Qin Zhan had been fiercely thrashed and wounded during the escape. There were at least seven stab wounds on his body. He had sustained these in Ao Xie Yun’s place while guarding him. This was pretty evident from the tragic appearances of Qin Zhan and Du Qing Yun. In fact, Qin Zhan didn’t even need to put that in words…
“Old Qin! Don’t give up. We haven’t reached that kind of a hopeless situation yet,” Du Qing Yun said with some difficulty.
“What is the point of saying these words of encouragement after all this time?” Qin Zhan let out a carefree smile. He said, “Old Du, you and I have traveled around Jianghu throughout our lives. We have had 10,000 human lives under our control. What regret can we possibly have now? I will leave the Young Lord in your protection if the enemy caught up with us again.”
Du Qing Yun took a deep breath. He looked up at the white clouds as they slowly drifted on the horizon. Then, he nodded slowly.
“We have been ambushed by Black Devil Clan, and the poison users of Ou Clan on this journey. Furthermore, several others ought to be the members of the Tu Clan!” Qin Zhan coldly snorted. A killing intent surfaced in his eyes, “This debt of blood shall not be forgotten!”
“There should be other clans involved. They shouldn’t have been able to setup such an inescapable net by relying on these three clans alone!” A killing intent appeared in Ao Xie Yun’s eyes, “Tian Clan is also involved in this if I haven’t misread!”
Qin Zhan coughed a few times, and somehow squeezed out a smile. He then said, “This whole assassination spree is our preordained ordeal. Indeed, some people are trying to hurt our Ao Clan! But, this whole experience will have turned into an enormous boon for the Young Lord if you manage to return. So, it wouldn’t matter even if we few people end up dead.”
Du Qing Yun forced a smile and said, “Indeed, such an experience is hard to come by in Jianghu. And, it is also a rare life-changing journey. Young Lord, what are your thoughts and feelings about this whole journey?”
Ao Xie Yun’s eyes turned a little red.
[These two have always been my personal bodyguards. They’re also my own elders. However, their only concern is my ‘growth’ and my ‘realizations’ amidst all this bloodshed of life and death!]
[It’s because this stuff is what’s genuinely needed in this unforgiving and brutal world of the Middle Three Heavens!]
“My thoughts and feelings are very deep… this whole journey of thousands of miles has overturned my understanding of the Middle Three Heavens!” Ao Xie Yun restrained the tears in his eyes with great difficulty as he attentively said, “I was under the clan’s protection in the past. I’ve always had a smooth sailing. It didn’t matter where I’d go… there would always be people competing to give me face as long as I announced my identity. I could get anything done with only a few words from my mouth…
“Things have always been too easy!” Ao Xie Yun heaved a deep sigh and said, “They’ve been so favorable that I’ve never realized that it was making me somewhat smug and conceited. Then, I effortlessly seized the title of the first rank of the young generation in the Middle Three Heavens. And, that made me even more arrogant.
“But, these assassination attempts have made me fall from the ninth heaven… and straight into the abyss! It has crushed my delusions!” Ao Xie Yun sighed dimly, “I’ve realized that I was only relying on the name and influence of my clan; that’s all. I was just another good-for-nothing young master…
“They didn’t reject me or my demands because they wanted to get on good side of the Ao Clan. They only wanted to seek help from the Ao Clan for their selfish interests… or to exploit me to their advantage. But, they attacked me without the slightest hesitation once they determined that they could get even bigger benefits by getting rid of me!
“I considered Ou Du Xiao a friend. But, it’s the Ou Clan that has calculated my behavioral patterns to launch a ruthless attack on me! I also considered Tian Bu Hui a nodding acquaintance, and I got along quite well with him as well. However, the Tian Clan is sparing no effort in trying to kill me now. I once had a friendly chat with Tu Qian Hao over a glass of wine in the Lower Three Heavens. But, the Tu Clan is also trying its utmost to kill me now!
“I’ve also visited the Black Devil Clan once. The Black Devil Clan had welcomed me with open arms. The Young Lord of the Black Devil Clan has always been a mystery for everyone. But, he even made an exception that time, and showed me his true face. That was a sign of extraordinary respect and trust. However, the Black Devil Clan is now dead-set on assassinating me!”
Ao Xie Yun was talking in a low voice. And, the two Martial Emperors were listening quietly.
The mountain breeze was whistling in a calm manner.
“I always believed that I had a wide circle of friends. I assumed that I was rich and generous, and had friends all over the world. However, I never thought that the ones who would entrap me, harm me the most, make me suffer so incredibly… and even try to put me to death would precisely be those so-called friends of the past!”
Ao Xie Yun continued with a desolate smile, “I will consider a ‘lesson learned well’ if I can return to the clan!”
The two Martial Emperors remained silent for a long time. Then, Du Qing Yun heaved a deep sigh and said, “Young Lord, the word ‘friend’ can’t be used so casually. Similarly, the word ‘brothers’ can’t be used very casually. You have only seen the surface now. But, you still can’t see the essence of these two words.
“Benefits! They made friends with you for benefits. And now, they want to kill you for greater benefits! They want to kill you, but not necessarily for the purpose of killing you! There must be some hidden objective.”
Qin Zhan tried his best, and pushed himself. He then let out some meaningful and heartfelt words.
“Young Lord… Tu Qing Hao, Ou Du Xiao, and Tian Bu Hui… These people may be your brothers in name. But, they are also your rivals! You may be far stronger and much more talented than them. You may even have managed to take up the title of the rank-one in the younger generation. But, they still won’t be convinced about your achievements because you bear the name of the number-one clan! Therefore, you can’t be their friend.
“Moreover, there must be a ‘core’ when it comes to genuine friends or brothers. In other words, there must be a central figure that is admired by everyone. Everyone should obey him! Treating this person as the human core gives rise to sincere admiration. From admiration comes the desire to learn. From learning comes a deep sense of submission. And, a circle slowly forms around this central figure when one sees the others admiring this central figure as much as oneself. This then takes the embryonic form of a friendship!
“Then, they start doing things together under the leadership of this man. And, they gradually develop mutual sincerity towards each other — they become brothers. And, this brotherhood solidifies if they have survived though a life and death crisis. In fact, it solidifies to such an extent that it can’t be shaken by thunder. And, this brotherhood grows even stronger than metal and stones if they constantly survive through such crises of life and death!
“You don’t have such friends and brothers! You may have always believed that you did. But, the fact is that those so-called friends of yours have come to kill you now.
“Therefore, the first thing you must learn from this is that — you mustn’t trust your friends and brothers unless you don’t have enough benefits to provide!
“I’ve only seen a handful of people in your younger generation who can be called ‘true friends’,” Du Qing Yun gasped in admiration, “King of Hell Chu, Gu Du Xing, Dong Wu Shang, Ji Mo, and Luo Ke Di!
“These people treat King of Hell Chu as their core. It’s because King of Hell Chu can achieve feats which they can’t! So, they can only admire him! King of Hell Chu is someone who can topple the entire world with his own strength alone. And, this is something they can’t do. King of Hell Chu’s cultivation may be a lot weaker than theirs, but he can catch up with them at the fastest speed. And, that’s again something they can’t achieve! So, they admire!”