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“Greetings to the lord Duke.” Wang Yan lead the inner courtyard disciples and outer courtyard disciples behind them in bowing to the White Tiger Duke. The Duke wasn’t just the marshal; he also stood at the apex of nobility on the entire continent. Naturally, they’re manners couldn’t be lacking.
The White Tiger Duke shook hands with Wang Yan, then said, “Everyone, please step inside. Let this Marshal act as a host now.”
Wang Yan smiled, then replied in a neither servile nor overbearing manner, “There’s no need for Lord Duke to be so polite. We’ve come this time to carry out our mission. It’ll be enough if Lord Duke can just give us some clues to help us out. We know that you have a multitude of problems to deal with every day, so we won’t bother you too much.”
The White Tiger Duke didn’t attempt to remain, he simply nodded slightly. “Since that’s the case, Elder Du, you’re in charge of taking care of these distinguished guests. If any of you wish to join the army once you’ve graduated, the Central Legion of my Star Luo Empire’s Western Army will always have its gates’ open to you. You might not get paid very well here. However, this is the best choice for men who want to accomplish something in life.”
Ma Xiaotao suddenly spoke up, “Lord Duke, are you looking down on us women?”
The White Tiger Duke was slightly stunned. He couldn’t help but reveal a trace of astonishment on his face when saw Ma Xiaotao; from his point of view, the young and beautiful woman in front of him held a wild aura. Furthermore, she clearly wasn’t weak.
“It’s not that I’m looking down on you, but because there are many inconveniences for women within the barracks. However, your cultivation is another cup of tea. If you’re willing to follow this marshal after graduating, I’d be honored to accept you.”
Ma Xiaotao revealed a brilliant smile, then remained silent; she looked very pleased.
Wang Yan was somewhat helpless. Even though he was the leader of the group in name, he was still inferior to Ma Xiaotao when it came to cultivation. Naturally, he couldn’t restrict a brilliant student like her. He apologetically said, “Lord Duke, we won’t bother you anymore then.”
“Alright then. I hope that I’ll have the chance to meet all of you again.” Once he’d said this, the White Tiger Duke turned towards the leather tent and entered it.
Huo Yuhao felt like a heavy weight had been lifted from his shoulders when he saw the White Tiger Duke disappear into the leather tent. He’d never felt this nervous before—not even during his fight against Wu Feng when he was much weaker. Currently, he felt like he was about to collapse.
Du Leisi led them to another tent, where he allowed them to rest after he’d arranged for some food to be brought to them. Afterwards, he went to gather the information that they needed. Before he left, he glanced at Huo Yuhao, Wang Dong, and Xiao Xiao with a somewhat doubtful look in his eyes.
Wang Yan said, “We’ll rest for six hours after we finish eating, then head into the Ming Dou Mountain Range. I’m confident that we’ll have the information we need by then.”
Everyone was somewhat exhausted after yesterday’s journey. Their current task was to ensure that their bodies were in peak condition before they set out for a fight in the mountains.
Xu Sanshi couldn’t help but ask, “Teacher Wang, since the White Tiger Bodyguards beneath the White Tiger Duke are so strong, why hasn’t the Duke simply sent them to eliminate the bandits?”
“He has,” Dai Yueheng replied for Wang Yan, “however, if he sends too many people, they’ll catch wind of it and run away. Contrarily, if he sends too few people, it won’t be of much use. The bandits from the Hand of Death are both rather strong and extremely crafty. They might even have a few spies planted within the army. Father has sent several people in the past to eliminate them, yet they’ve all returned without any success and a large number of losses. The area in which the bandits have stationed themselves is an extremely sensitive part of the border, thus the Central Legion can only endure silently, in order to prevent a needless war. As students of Shrek Academy, we’re different; we aren’t restricted by any countries. As such, we must make sure to thoroughly wipe them out this time.”
Once they’d finished eating, everyone immediately began meditating and recuperating. This was already a familiar task to the inner courtyard disciples, while Bei Bei, Xu Sanshi, He Caitou, and Jiang Nannan were relatively older, thus they were able to take everything in somewhat quicker. However, Huo Yuhao’s trio were merely twelve years old. This task was truly a bit too early for them. From another standpoint, they were just kids.
However, this matter had been decided by Elder Xuan, and nobody present could change that. Wang Yan clearly understood that Elder Xuan hadn’t done this in order to allow the preperatory team to directly participate in the massacre. Rather, he wanted them to experience what a mission was like first-hand, and hasten the growth of their mental maturity. No matter how good the academy’s tests and live-combat training was, it was still incomparable to the improvements gained from a real battle in a situation like this. In reality, the main combatants in this mission would be the seven from the inner courtyard.
Elder Xuan didn’t enter their barracks, as he wasn’t willing to concern himself with government officials. With his strength and status, he alone could represent Shrek Academy. However, an old man like him would never lose track of his students. Furthermore, he was confident that he could carry these young people through a battle if need be.
After six hours of meditation, everyone’s exhaustion had been swept away. Noon had already passed, and after they’d eaten the lunch that Du Leisi’s men had left for them, Du Leisi himself brought over the information that the Central Legion had gathered over for them.
According to the information he’d gathered, the Hand of Death mainly carried out its activities in and around the central region of the Ming Dou Mountain Range. When they had a designated target, they’d rush down the mountain and plunder them at the greatest possible speed. The entire bandit group numbered around three hundred in total, all of whom were young men in the prime of their lives. Of them, about a tenth of their entire group were soul masters. Unexpectedly, nobody knew who the leader of their leader was; the only thing they knew was that he was at the very least a Soul King. Nobody knew exactly how strong he was.
The reason why there was so little information about them was because the Hand of Death never left any survivors; their methods were extremely brutal.
The most recent piece of information was from roughly half a month ago: They’d fled into the Ming Dou Mountain Range after looting a group of merchants. This report also included the general direction in which they’d fled.
The army only had this much information because there was a possibility of a quarrel if they were to enter the domain of the Sun Moon Empire. As such, the Western Army couldn’t help them out at all, to the extent that they couldn’t even bring the flying-type soul tools they’d been lent into the mountains.
However, time was of the essence; they still had to participate in the Continental Advanced Academy Soul Duelling Tournament. Hence, they immediately set off once they’d obtained a map. They first flew to the entrance to the mountains under the guidance of the White Tiger bodyguards, then descended and handed back their flying-type soul tools. After that, they immediately entered the Ming Dou Mountain Range and began to utilize the map provided by the army to navigate the mountains.
“Maintain your formation. Dai Yueheng, Chen Zifeng, and I will remain in front. Control-type and auxiliary-type soul masters will remain ten meters behind us. Huo Yuhao, come over here. Follow me, and make sure to keep your Spiritual Detection up. Bei Bei, Xu Sanshi, you two keep up the rear. Let’s set off!”
The person who’d sent out their commands was their leader, Ma Xiaotao. Huo Yuhao felt very depressed when he was expropriated by her. Thus, he could only follow her orders and release his Spiritual Detection Sharing.
His omni-purpose skill once again helped enormously. In complicated terrain such as a mountainous forest, the three-dimensional image provided by his Spiritual Detection was an enormous benefit. Even though Huo Yuhao could only extend it ten meters from him, these ten meters were still enough to allow everyone to enjoy its benefits.
With Ma Xiaotao’s trio leading the way, they travelled forwards at an extremely rapid pace. The effectiveness of Chen Zifeng’s Soulchasing Sword was extremely evident; as he hold his sword in front of them, the brambles in front of them were all cut apart rather quickly. Combined with Dai Yueheng and Ma Xiaotao’s strengths, they were easily able to cut a smooth path through the foliage in front of them. They’d already penetrated deep into the Ming Dou Mountain Range by the time that the sky had begun to dim.
When Wang Yan saw that the sky was beginning to dim, he reminded Ma Xiaotao, “Let’s let everyone take a rest and eat something.”
Ma Xiaotao nodded. “Everyone, let’s rest where we are for now. Don’t light a fire, so that we don’t alert them inadvertently. I’m afraid that we’ll have to continue our search throughout the night.”
The students sat in a circle to rest, but Teacher Wang Yan soundlessly left. Ma Xiaotao didn’t pay any attention to the fact that he’d left. Instead, she turned towards Dai Yueheng, who was next to her, and said, “Dai Yueheng, your father’s rather handsome.”
“When my father was young, he was the number one noble of our Star Luo Empire,” Dai Yueheng indifferently replied, “it wasn’t because of his looks, but because of his ability. He didn’t enter our Shrek Academy to study, but rather followed his father onto the battlefield at the age of thirteen. He began as an ordinary soldier, then was able to accumulate enough merits to be promoted to a squadron leader, then a team leader, then a mid-team leader, then a large-team leader, then a battalion commander, then a regimental commander… all the way up until he managed to become a Legion Commander at the mere age of twenty-three. At that time, nobody knew where he’d come from. After a large battle, my father achieved outstanding merits, and was called to the imperial capital to hold a post. When he accepted a reward from His Majesty, His Majesty recognised him due to the similarities in his appearance and my grandfather’s. Overjoyed, His Majesty entrusted the Western Army’s Central Legion to him. Furthermore, he even stated that ‘with Dai Hao, the empire will have no worries for a hundred years’ in front of all of the ministers.”
Ma Xiaotao’s eyes lit up. “If you put it that way, is your father still a hero?”
Dai Yueheng revealed a trace of pride in his eyes. “My grandfather said that father’s talent is comparable to that of our ancestor’s, the leader of the first generation of Shrek’s Seven Monsters. Father is now forty-three years old, and he’s commanded the army for twenty years already. How could the number of battles he’s participated in be limited to just a thousand? You know how strong the Sun Moon Empire is, but my Star Luo Empire’s western border has always been invulnerable to attack. That’s all due to the presence of my father! If we were to say that only one person could be called a hero in my Star Luo Empire, then that title definitely deserves to go to my father!”
Ma Xiaotao’s eyes immediately brightened even more. “Then how many wives does your father have?”
Dai Yueheng was stunned, and his gaze immediately turned somewhat strange. “Only my mother. In our generation, there’s only my brother Huabin and I. My father’s extremely self-disciplined in the field of women. He’s always said ‘if a man can’t control his lust towards women, he won’t have any large accomplishments’. Why do you ask?”
Ma Xiaotao stared at him, “Can’t I admire him? A man like your father is definitely a true man. You should learn from him.”
A light flickered through Dai Yueheng’s eyes. “Once we’ve finished this task, I’ll have completed thirty Guardian missions. Once I’ve graduated from the academy, I’ll enter the army. However, I won’t stay in the Western Army; I’ll head to the North, even though there are fewer wars there. I want to follow the same path as my father: I want to carve out my own path, solely relying on myself.”