“S-S-S-S-Spud…” After an unknown passage of time, Mao Ba’er said shakily, “C-C-Can y-you repeat that?”
“I know everyone has their doubts…” Xu Yangyi’s smile vanished, and he looked at the group. “So, we’ll only be conducting an investigation of the surroundings.”
“This isn’t a question of doubt!” Mao Ba’er’s fur was raised on edge, and he suddenly hopped on the table. “The Eight Great Deadlands! This is one of the Eight Great Deadlands! This is the business of dead men! Allocate me to luggage! Dispatch me to luggage! There’s no way I’m going!”
“Commander…” At this instant, Peony came to her wits and looked at Xu Yangyi, not daring to believe in her commander. “We… No, not even us, among all the current legions, none of them risk challenging the Eight Great Deadlands. Firstly, the Xingtian Legion’s just been set up. It hasn’t even been broken in yet. Secondly, are we sufficiently equipped? There aren’t enough funds!”
“Spud, tell me!” Mao Ba’er roved over to Xu Yangyi, his bearing proper and his words austere. “Which level of the dream realm are you in right now?!”
Li Zongyuan’s face also morphed abruptly. He hadn’t expected that the Xingtian Legion’s first mission would actually be exploring Danxia Temple!
Xu Yangyi paid no attention to everyone, and after waiting a brief moment for the commotion to pass, he said indifferently, “I’ve already decided. If you’re not willing to go, you don’t have to. You can still stay in the Xingtian Legion. But…” He stood up and picked up his coat. “I’m going.”
“In five days, I need to see the budget for exploring Danxia Temple’s surrounding danger zone.”
Thud! The door closed, everyone’s expressions incomparably complex. None of them had predicted that the difficulty factor for the Xingtian Legion’s first mission would surprisingly be so high! The surroundings? These surroundings were a deadland’s surroundings!
Ever since a Red Spider Lily had bloomed in the sky above the Heavenly Pit, the names of the Eight Great Deadlands had truly caused the entire cultivation world to turn pale at their mention!
The room was morbidly silent. It wasn’t known after how long, but Zhou Tingting weakly raised her hand and said, “Everyone, uhh, colleagues… it’s just the surroundings… I’ve heard of Danxia Temple too, but everyone says…”
“Says what?” Peony’s face was chillingly frosty. “In 1962, Daomaster Ancientpine forced his way through Danxia Temple. In less than 700 meters of his entry, he spat out blood and escaped. It took him a full several decades to recover, and he’s kept watch over the northwest since then, not even taking a step out no matter what.”
Zhou Tingting was rendered foolish.
“In 1978, three of Daoism’s grand ancestral halls and Greenwall Mountain’s Dao Child, Chang Shengzi, charged together into Danxia Temple with Greenwall Mountain’s almighty Nine Bearing Immortal Punishment Formation and thirty Dao protectors. And while they traveled the path that Daomaster Ancientpine had walked over a dozen years ago…” Peony glanced at the stupefied Zhou Tingting. “I believe you know the names of Daoism's Three Great Halls. Greenwall, Cranecry, and Dragon-Tiger. As to how much of an outstanding talent their Dao Child was, it’s pointless for me to keep on going.” 
Zhou Tingting dumbly nodded. She’d never heard of these things in the past and asked robotically, “And… And afterwards?”
Peony was ashen-faced and forced herself to laugh. “No one came out.”
“Ten days later, an old white-haired Daoist who was carrying a peach leaf came before Danxia Temple. He burned incense for three days and a blood-covered Nine Bearing Immortal Punishment Formation flew out, yet it was ruined down to a single piece.”
“The grand mountain-protector array, the N-N-Nine Bearing Immortal Punishment Formation broke?” Not only Zhou Tingting, this time, Cheng Jianfeng and Li Zongyuan both jumped in fright.
“This was one of Daoism’s Three Great Ancestral Halls, the Greenwall Mountain’s omnipotent mountain-protector array. Although it wasn’t carved by Celestial Master Zhang himself, it was passed down for over a thousand years. It’s said that the great Tang dynasty cultivator Li Chunfeng and Yuan Tiangang cooperated to carve the inscription.” Peony looked coldly at her fellow colleagues. “Everyone, do you still think it’s just the blooming of the Red Spider Lily in the sky above the Heavenly Pit? That the other deadlands just fill in the numbers?” 
No one spoke. In a moment of rareness, even Mao Ba’er was silent.
“In 1983, the abbot of Mount Emei’s Baoguo Temple from one of Buddhism’s Four Grand Mountains was on the verge of passing into Parinirvana. Wielding a portrait of Samantabhadra, he led eighteen copper men at night into Danxia Temple to seek destiny. Ten days later, the golden-crowned Samantabhadra cried tears of blood. If you search for this incident in 1983, you can find it in the news, ‘Emei’s Golden-Crowned Bodhisattva’s Tears of Blood’. If you still have something to say now, the nineteen jade slips of Baoguo Temple’s Life Slip Pavilion all shattered at the same time.” 
One bloody case after another caused everyone’s faces to become even more unsightly. Zhou Tingting and Cheng Jianfeng didn’t say anything this time. Hearing so much about the deadlands, they were swiftly numbed. Carefully listening to an insider’s explanation now, they understood that these so-called deadlands were truly and genuinely filled with the lives of countless great cultivators within. It was by this that they were called deadlands!
Silence. A few seconds later, Peony stood up as well and pushed on her glasses. “Everyone, some oddity definitely exists in Danxia Temple. It’s something that turned that place into a deadland.”
“I don’t want Commander to give an order to access it. A place like this is too dangerous. How many Foundation Establishment cultivators and Dao Masters have come back with regrets? If our Xingtian Legion enters, there’ll only be death, no survival! Even if it’s an exploration of the surroundings, I can’t approve of this in any way!”
“We’re legionnaires. The Xingtian Legion’s first regiment of legionnaires. We have a duty to raise suggestions to Commander. I hope when the time comes to declare positions next time, everyone can consider things clearly.” No one answered. Peony nodded, pushed the door open, and left.
On the night of that day, Xu Yangyi received Zhao Wuye’s list of names. Altogether, it was seven people. Six at the middle stage of Qi Condensation and a rookie who was still drawing qi into his body. Furthermore, Zhao Wuye had rather considerately sent a list of possible cultivation instruments and devices to use. Xu Yangyi didn’t even look at it and tossed it directly aside to Peony. He entered the cultivation room again. This time, it was for nothing else, just to concoct pills.
Five days later in the cultivation room, he looked at the second medicinal pill which was floating before him, laughing in satisfaction. It was still the Spirit Strengthening Pill… the same familiar smell. Nonetheless, the time he spent concocting it was different! He was unfamiliar at first but soon grew comfortable. He barely used five days to refine the second medicinal pill!
“I should start…” Xu Yangyi slightly beckoned, and a scalding-hot Spirit Strengthening Pill flew into his palm. The light of his eyes flashed with a wisp of burning heat, hard-pressed to be tolerated. “To have the Xingtian Legion… tell this world, tell this cultivation world, the news that the Dao of Pills, lost for almost 200 years, has appeared in this world again…”
“This will serve as my first announcement to the entire cultivation world. For I, Paragon Xu Yangyi, who vanished for three years and afterwards bitterly cultivated for two years, it can’t be anymore appropriate.” Breathing in heavily a few times, he walked out of the cultivation room, washed himself with a Cleansing Talisman, and advanced directly to his office. Peony was already waiting there inside.
“Commander.” Peony bowed deeply and placed a large stack of data on Xu Yangyi’s desk. “I bring no disgrace to my mission. In these past few days, I’ve already calculated all the possible required matters.”
Xu Yangyi picked up a cup of coffee on the desk, looked at Peony, and laughed. “Why? Aren’t you going to advise me to give up?”
“And why’s that?” Peony replied with a smile. “I’ve always been Commander’s fan.”
Xu Yangyi raised a brow. In these past days… had Peony come around to the idea? It would be for the best if she had. He stowed his gaze. There were some affairs where he needed not a consultant, but rather an implementer. He understood very well what he was doing. For the first mission, a major legion commander still needed to seek others to handle tasks. Such a commander that didn’t do so wasn’t to be minded. In his legion, only he was king. Whatever he said he wanted to do was what he would certainly accomplish. Even if it was also the same as investigating a deadland’s surroundings!
“Is the budget out?”
“Yes,” Peony laughed, “In total, it’s 3,500 middle-grade spirit stones, the equivalent of 700 million Chinese dollars.”
The cup of coffee set at the side of Xu Yangyi’s mouth paused, and he looked at Peony in surprise. “How much?”
“3,500 middle grade spirit stones. 700 million Chinese dollars.” Peony smile was still the same. “Commander, if entirely sold, our legion, in addition to those talismans and including our trademark, is valued on the market at roughly 900 million Chinese dollars. Our liquid funds are less than 300 million. I’m afraid it’ll be hard for us to bear the scouting operation on the surroundings.”
So Peony was waiting for him at this juncture!
Xu Yangyi didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Peony simply hadn’t abandoned the idea of urging him to change his objective. Instead, she had used another kind of method to admonish him. The exploration of a deadland wasn’t something that a new legion could trifle with.
“How’s it so expensive?” Laughing, Xu Yangyi curbed his smile, faintly knitted his brows, and asked.
“I calculated it based on necessary supplies. Protective to preventative goods weren’t factored.” Peony’s expression grew solemn as well. “Commander, I didn’t overstate the budget by a hair. A secret realm’s exploration—even if it isn’t a deadland—requires a perfect defensive formation magik. This isn’t a talisman, but a formation eye, the formation base of a true formation magik. The cheapest is around 700 spirit stones on the market. And we’re going to be headed into a deadland this time.”
“I believe the formation magik must not only maintain constant operation, but also be equipped with two kinds of functions, exploration and defense. A middle-grade one can’t be cheaped out on whatsoever. In merely this aspect, the price is over a thousand middle-grade spirit stones!”
“Second, we still need a life-saving item. It must possess instantaneous movement and extreme speed. Commander, on this single point, my appraisal is between 1,500 to 2,000 middle-grade spirit stones. This is our life insurance for entering the Danxia Temple deadland. For ten lives, 2,000 middle-grade spirit stones is still my conservative estimate. Moreover, such an item is basically set at a marketless price!”
She said with a respectful tone, “Commander, as for legions with backers like Commander Chu’s Hidden Dragon Legion, there are only two or three in China. If such an item exists, they would’ve already got their hands on it. Among the present Qi Condensation Legions, such a life-saving ace has never been seen.”
“If we don’t have an ace like that, I absolutely cannot approve of having a deadland’s surroundings as an objective.”
Xu Yangyi nodded. Peony was moderately preventing him. Although his decision wouldn’t change course, he couldn’t help but say that this intelligent woman, even if she was admonishing him, was very tactful in her methods.
“There are also all other kinds of detoxification and life-saving pill-elixirs and talismans. These things are at least 500 middle-grade spirit stones. 3,500 middle-grade spirit stones, and I even calculated less.”
Xu Yangyi slightly dipped his head in acknowledgement. In light of these computations, a deadland’s exploration was by no measure or pace a mission that a newcomer legion was able to bear. Nonetheless… that was regarding a newcomer legion that didn’t have a cheat. In his hands, he held the greatest trump! 
“First of all, let’s not speak of this business.” A thread of an expectant smile hung at the crook of Xu Yangyi’s mouth. “In two months, prepare to convene the Legion Inauguration Ceremony.”
“Sir, are you sure you wish to personally take charge of this matter?” Peony didn’t obtain an answer, yet she sensibly didn’t mention the issue again. She jotted down a note in haste, her eyes filled with disbelief.
Xu Yangyi laughed joyfully. He bent a finger and gently flicked a black object that flew towards Peony at lightning speed.
“What I want is how to get the Xingtian Legion to fire the opening shot. I have some small ideas. It just so happens that I have a friend who gave me a little something. Take a look, isn’t it fitting to amaze the world?”
3. Few things here. Parinirvana is a very specific term in Buddhism referring to the death of the physical body after attaining nirvana. In this line I THINK it is just a general term for a Buddhist’s death. Second, Baoguo Temple is a real place. Third, Samantabhadra is a bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism.