“He still hasn’t come out?” In the Featherwood Guard’s branch master office, Thousandedge asked his assistant indifferently.
“He still hasn’t, Senior.” Forthwith, the assistant bowed and said, “Commander Xu has already been inside the cultivation room for close to five months. He hasn’t even sent a message.”
“Mhm.” Thousandedge pensively waved his hand. “As you were.”
The man left, and Thousandedge’s gaze contained a shred of cold intent as he watched his computer. On it, a red dot representing that Xu Yangyi was in the cultivation room slightly flickered.
“You really are patient, huh…” He sneered and licked his lips. “Could it be you want to cultivate to Foundation Establishment in my Featherwood Guard?” Holding a teacup, he gently took a sip. “Are you scared of dying? Trying to put it off? Hehe…”
“I have a lot of time…” He narrowed his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest like he was looking at a fly. “A Foundation Establishment cultivator’s lifespan is double yours, and a Core Formation master’s is six times greater… You want to drag things out?”
“Indeed… it really is audacious of you to use your life as bait and join the Featherwood Guard in such times. After you find yourself in doubt without path, entwined between mountains and waters and desperately meandering, to be welcomed by the spring of willow shadow and flower light… but…” He smiled as he tapped his teacup. “How will you handle your rating in these few years?” 
“When a mission hasn’t been completed, I have the means to drive you out from the Featherwood Guard headquarters. Besides, aren’t you in a rush to find your parents’ hated foe?”
“What a pity…” Thousandedge sighed quietly, “More often than not, a loyal person isn’t long for this world…” He peacefully sipped his tea. Just as he was about to set the cup down, his brows suddenly pinched together. “This is…” He carefully sensed for a few seconds, and his pupils suddenly needled. He gasped coldly in disbelief, swiftly disappearing from inside the room.
In a place tens of meters below the earth, there was an approximately three-meter-wide corridor. On both sides, there were Qi Condensation cultivators garbed in formal western attire. They stood at every three paces and took a beat of five. The floor was spotless white stone, but there was no light on the ceiling. Nevertheless, countless talismans made the inside seem to be daytime.
At this very instant, a dense cyan qi visible to the naked eye and similar to a human shape, converged together. It carried an ear-piercing, wind-breaking sound and charged in.
“Respectful greetings, Senior!” Without disorder, all the attendants leveled their bodies and took a knee on the floor in unison. However, the azure qi, no less than three to four meters long, simply didn’t pay heed to them. Rather, it rushed before a bronze door in a flash, using great speed.
The door was fastened all over with talismans, and the cultivators stationed there were all at the Great Circle of Qi Condensation. All together, they were seven. They didn’t wear suits, but tunic suits. Resembling bronze statues, they calmly meditated before the door. Presently, a feminine woman was pacing at the door in extreme anxiety.
“Your Excellency Branch Master!” Azure qi came rushing forth like a furious tide. The woman’s eyes brightened, and she cried out sharply, “Sir, you’ve finally come! Just now, in the Life Slip Pavilion…”
Pow! Before her voice even fell, the woman had already flown high into the air. She appeared to have been struck by a speeding vehicle, not making so much as another whisper.
“Open the door…” Thousandedge’s lips were trembling. That sensation just now… caused his heart to stop beating. It was so real, so true that he dared not even accept it.
“Respectful greetings…” Just as the seven attendants stood up, thumping noises followed. Astonishingly, all of them flew into the air and collided against the front of the bronze door. Thousandedge’s snarl soon arrived.
“Open this door right now!”
None dared to speak. The attendants stood up, not uttering a word. Each person took out a component and in three seconds formed a key. In the wake of a heavy creak, the tightly shut door slowly opened.
Thousandedge inhaled deeply. Just as he entered, he suddenly halted in step, his voice like a blade. “If anyone dares speak of this matter today, I’ll make you suffer a life worse than death.”
Boom. The door shut, and Thousandedge took a stride forward and charged ahead. Inside, there were jade slips that numbered in the thousands. Each one was set on a supply rack, radiating a light-green brilliance.
These were life slips!
The Featherwood Guard was an organization that no one knew whether they would be able to come back alive from a mission. Everyone left their information here, and once they died, their jade slip would subsequently collapse. Thus, this location was also called the Life Slip Pavilion.
Thousandedge served as the Featherwood Guard’s regional chancellor. He absolutely, unconditionally wouldn’t remember where a majority of people’s jade slips were placed and what their names were. However, there were few people he had to keep in mind.
Mingshui Province’s six great A-rank legions!
He gazed towards a place, absent of the slightest hesitation. In the next moment, he painfully closed his eyes. Twenty jade slips… All of them had shattered synchronously! His hand was fairly shaky, but he gritted his teeth and waved. The entirety of the jade slips floated up and flew into his hand.
Buried Flower Legion, Speechless. 
Buried Flower Legion, Sunshooter.
Buried Flower Legion, Li Xiaoyang.
Buried Flower Legion, Tian Anguo...
These twenty familiar names were the Mingshui Province Featherwood Guard’s absolute central force. The Buried Flower Legion’s jade slips had all fallen into pieces!
“How… How could this happen…?” He tightly caressed and stroked the cracks on the jade slips, as if he could make these cracks that almost broke the slips in two fuse back together in such a manner. He said shakily, “How could this be possible…?”
Beep beep beep. At this time, his phone suddenly rang out. Thousandedge calmed his emotions and snatched it up straightaway. “Hello?”
“Branch Master!” A panic-stricken voice came through from the other side of the phone. “Bad news! The Buried Flower Legion’s signal has completely vanished!”
Thousandedge sucked in deeply. “I know.” Without a doubt, the entire Buried Flower Legion had been exterminated… It was a squadron with Foundation Establishment cultivators! Twenty elites among elites! A good few who were paragons of past graduations! What type of place was able to wipe them all out?! Had they entered a red region?
No… Thousandedge didn’t pause to reject this answer. None dared to charge into the few major forbidden regions. That was to use one’s life as a joke. But nonetheless… the Buried Flower Legion’s commander, Fellow Daoist Speechless, was at the late stage of Foundation Establishment! A boundary even higher than his own!
“Whatever you know…” he said heavily, “carefully tell me without missing a word.” After ten minutes, Thousandedge pursed his lips as he set down the phone. Longsu Province… The location that the Buried Flower Legion’s signal had appeared last… Soon after, they were all eradicated within an hour!
“Longsu’s Danxia Temple?” In Thousandedge’s heart, a name he couldn’t be even more familiar with instantly arose, but he then overruled this inkling again. Only one of the great deadlands was capable of fully decimating a legion led by a late-stage Foundation Establishment cultivator in an hour!
“I-Impossible. This is one of the major forbidden regions… Fellow Daoist Speechless is no fool. He couldn’t have possibly gone there to court death…” But in that case, a problem arose. Where had Speechless died?
In the span of an hour, the Buried Flower Legion’s fifteen Foundation Establishment cultivators, one at the Great Circle, five at the late stage, seven at the middle stage, and two at the initial stage had met their demise. There were five at the Great Circle of Qi Condensation. One was an elite scout, one was an elite treasure inspection specialist, and one was a veteran geographer… What type of place was able to completely destroy soldiers who were able to assail the national rating? Or maybe… someone had brought these soldiers to utter annihilation?
Did someone dispose of them? Or was this the power of an ancient secret?
Thousandedge’s face ashened, and he left the room. Ten minutes later, he appeared again in his office. Already, his expression was totally calm. On the contrary, he was devoid of any further shred of alarm as he gently rubbed his chin.
“First of all, it has to be known if it’s a person or secret realm.” Swoosh… Along with the rustling wind, his black military overcoat spun as it fell over his body. He lightly tidied it and said in a dull tone, “Prepare a car.”
Inside the room, there was no one.
In the services department, a man was browsing a web page. He said, bored senseless, “Prices are going up too frickin’ much… The Bountiful Treasures Pavilion’s newly released Spirit Strengthening Pill Elixir extra-strength version actually costs a middle-grade spirit stone. I can’t afford it…”
“It’s used to break limits.” The man’s colleague at the side stretched his head out to take a glance. “It’s fortunate that the CSIB’s Branchmaster Fang refined a spatial magik treasure last month. Right now, it’s already open for business and the price got upped to ten supreme-grade spirit stones. Now this is what you call a rocketing price.”
“Hey. Didn’t our branch sign Commander Xu for a billion?”
After the colleague looked around his surroundings, he used his hand to cover his mouth and said lowly, “The total sum is valued at a billion. What he’s got in his hands is obviously just 17,000 spirit stones, plus the talismans, on the surface. To him, ten supreme-grade spirit stones is quick money! Straight cash!”
Prepare a car.
At this very moment, these faint words emerged in their ears. It seemed distant at the horizon’s edge, yet these words appeared right before them.
“Hiss!” Dazed for a second, the duo shot up as if they were pricked by a needle! At the same time, in the seven-story-tall Featherwood Guard branch, so long as one was a cultivator, these words emerged in the ear at the same time.
“What’s going on… The Branch Master is going on a trip?” A female cultivator who was still on her computer and posting on a forum a second ago had already colored her face with a proper look as she busied herself with a form. However, she continued to chat with the female cultivator at her side. “Branch Master hasn’t left his room for almost twenty years, right? Why is he leaving all of a sudden? It’s usually someone going to meet him…”
“Lower your voice a little… His Excellency Branch Master is a middle Foundation Establishment Senior!” The female colleague at the woman’s side rolled her eyes at her co-worker. “Didn’t you hear? There’s a high-grade Spirit Focusing Formation under His Excellency Branch Master’s room. Why is he coming out?”
The entire branch appeared to suddenly turn strict. Following the branch master’s departure, everyone sensed a kind of imposing might—needless of speech—once more.
“Respects, Branch Master!”
“Respectful partings, Senior!”
Swoosh swoosh swoosh! In the wake of Thousandedge’s shiny leather shoes stomping on the carpet outside, all cultivators in the building, regardless of male or female and so long as they were Qi Condensation cultivators, took a collective knee on the floor. With one knee pressed on the carpet and a fist placed on their chests, their expressions were incomparably deferential.
To them, a qi like a vast ocean radiated off of Thousandedge’s body. This was Thousandedge’s spiritual pressure. His overcoat draped over his shoulders, and he didn’t even glance at the Qi Condensation cultivators on both sides. He moreover didn’t care for the crowd of people that stretched no less than twenty meters to the elevator. Followed by the thump of his leather shoes, he walked towards the elevator, his footsteps cadenced.
No one said anything. None of them dared to say anything.
Two secretarial assistants, a man and a woman and likewise late-stage Qi Condensation cultivators, followed closely behind Thousandedge and left. They were similar to prideful peacocks, simply not sparing a glance towards others.
Downstairs, there was a Rolls-Royce parked. A driver with a youth’s appearance bowed and said, “Please get in the car, Your Excellency.”
Thousandedge calmly looked at the car for several seconds. Slowly raising his right hand, he gently flicked.
THUMP! A terribly extreme wind pressure overcame the male-female secretary pair in an instant! In the blink of an eye, the driver spat out blood and staggered back a few meters yet quickly took a knee on the ground. “Forgive me, Senior!”
“I…” Thousandedge’s voice was somewhat hoarse, and he said apathetically, “Want the Windflame Wheel.” 
The driver carefully opened a brocaded pouch. In the next second, a pair of flaming steeds pulling an ancient war chariot revealed itself before the trio.
“I’m going to the Cultivation Court headquarters.” Thousandedge slightly moved; he was already seated in the war chariot and shut his eyes. “Go with the fastest speed.”
Swoosh! The war chariot was akin to a speeding goose. In a twinkling, the vehicle faded away at the horizon. All that remained was a scarlet blaze and a whooshing sound that seemed to linger besides the ears.
1. This is a poem by a famous Song dynasty poet named Lu You. It is supposed to reflect the idea of finding another way to solve a difficult circumstance. Obviously modified to fit the overall situation.
3. The Windflame Wheel is a real treasure in Daoist myth. Its wielder is Nezha, a Chinese deity. Its scholarly name is “Wind Fire Wheels”. However, contrary to its depiction in this work, the real Wind Fire Wheels are just two wheels and Nezha stands on them. Fun fact: the Chinese characters for Wind Fire Wheels is also the same for the toy car brand “Hot Wheels”.