Though Lightford praised them on the surface, the wariness in his heart was hardly lessened. Their words and actions held no obvious problems, but he remained ill at ease for some reason.
He couldn't confirm whether this originated from paranoia or correct instinct.
“Master Lightford, fellow comrades. You came from Radiance and Sunrise, yes? The daoists garrisoned there must have fallen to misfortune, then.” Lan Tianhao’s voice was rather somber.
“Tell me all about Teng and Huang. What did they do after coming here?” Lightford asked suddenly. “Don’t withhold anything from me.”
Lan Tianhao repeated what he had said before, adding something extra. “When Daoist Teng departed, he gave us a so-called present for us to pass on to you, sir.”
“Why’s that? Couldn’t they have waited for me to come, then decide whether to leave or not?”
“They’re deeply remorseful about the defeat they suffered at Sandplain. It looked so genuine that we became conflicted. We should have let them in, but your orders, sir… we didn’t want to risk it.”
“Hmph, are they capable of remorse? If so, why didn’t they join me earlier? Right, what gift did they leave for me?” Lightford asked.
“Present it to the lord.” Lan Tianhao waved a hand. A cultivator stepped forward from behind him, bringing something to where Lightford and his underlings were.
Lightford’s expression darkened. He glared fiercely at the approaching cultivator, his eyes burning with a desire to see through him.
“Raise your head and look at me,” demanded the old man.
The cultivator seemed to shy away in embarrassment. He glanced at Lightford, but didn’t seem courageous enough to look into the old man’s eyes.
“I order you to open your eyes wide and look at me. Don’t avert your gaze!” Lightford’s tone was remote and oppressive.
The cultivator trembled, panic flashing through his eyes. He struggled to bring his eyes up to Lightford, who squinted with a nagging discomfort. The cultivator was only empyrean realm, and quite innocent, but Lightford felt disquieted nevertheless.
“Stop right there,” Du Zhen called out. “Let me examine it. Master Lightford can receive it if it is found worthy.”
There was no guarantee about a lack of trickery here.
“Daoist Du, what do you mean by this?” declared Xu Yigu angrily. “Are you saying that that we’d lie to Master Lightford?”
“Better safe than sorry.” Du Zhen grinned rudely. Now that Lightford was here to back him up, he had no qualms about crudity.
The cultivator with the gift suddenly calmed. He grinned back at the approaching Du Zhen, throwing the treasure in his hands into the air. There was a blaze of golden light, filling the air all around.
Agitation flickered across everyone’s minds. As the closest, Du Zhen felt the most unsafe of all.
The light took away the senses of those who perceived it. In particular, it was so blinding that they couldn’t open their eyes.
“Careful!” Lightford called out. “Form up and don’t panic!”
He was an experienced leader, and knew that fleeing right now was a wholly inappropriate course of action to take. Doing so would only put them in greater danger.
However, Du Zhen shrieked as soon as he finished speaking. He continued to do so intensely and regularly, though his volume slowly faded to nothingness in only a few instants.
“Du Zhen?” Lightford shouted.
He received no response.
“The rest of you, don’t overreact. Stay close to me. There is no cause for fear. I will protect you!”
Lightford knew that if the group was dispersed, his men would be eliminated one by one. Only by staying together could they preserve their group and formation.
The other seven gods inched toward Lightford without hesitation. “Lan Tianhao, Xu Yigu, you two bastards betrayed Master Lightford!” one of them cursed. “You deserve to die!”
Lan Tianhao’s response was carried over on the wind.
“Excuse our insolence, Master Lightford. The way you invited us to join you wasn’t exactly courteous in the first place. Today, we are only submitting our letters of resignation. Rather than betrayal, our paths never aligned in the first place!”
Evidently, Lan Tianhao and Xu Yigu cared about their own reputations. They didn't like being called traitors.
“Why are you reeling off such inane things?” Lightford spat hatefully. “What has the ten sacred lands promised you? What can they possibly give you? If I ruled over Myriad Abyss, I could give you a whole sacred land all for yourselves. Them? They wouldn’t give you a single island, much less a sacred land! Fools!”
“If I may be blunt, Master Lightford,” chuckled Lan Tianhao. “My friend and I never saw any possibility of you giving us a sacred land. You’re bargaining now because too many of your most loyal subordinates have died. You’re only saying this to encourage us to risk our lives for you. Alas, what you promised isn’t important to either of us.”
“Hmph. If wealth and authority aren’t important to you, what are you cultivating for?” Someone on Lightford’s side mocked.
“You lot are used to being lapdogs. How would you know what we long for?” Xu Yigu scoffed. “We want respect and freedom. Master Lightford, from the day you came out of the Boundless Prison, have you showed any genuine respect for any of your fellow divine daoists? You only order us around like slaves, expecting us to kneel and simper like pets. Is the word ‘respect’ even in your dictionary, much less ‘freedom’?”
This was an accusation that hit rather close to home.
Lightford’s anger flared up immediately. Xu Yigu’s words were very provocative.
If the seven gods that remained to him left him because of this, he would be a general without any soldiers.
Furious, he bellowed, “For you two clowns to betray me is one thing, why are you making so many sanctimonious excuses?! I will use my strength to teach you a valuable lesson. You will see exactly how stupid turning your backs on me is!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Wait, so what happened to that guy...? Hmmmm.
Er, I thought I released this three hours ago.
Turns out I didn't uncheck a box.
I are doofus.