Chapter 180: Growing Together
By the time Zhang reached his fortress hidden within the clouds, the moon, and the stars had completely taken over the sky. With clouds completely covering its bottom half and the moon and stars providing a backdrop, the Sky Fortress appeared like an otherworldly kingdom that had come from a distant star.
Flying directly to the tallest tower in the center of this kingdom of the sky, Zhang entered the top floor of the Azure Tower where a table full of delicious looking good could be seen.
Upon landing on the balcony and walking into the room our young prince found himself at the mercy of four lovely tigresses. Immediately after entering the room Zhang was pounced on and fell onto the floor as the scent of flowers flowed into his nostrils.
“What took you so long mister?” Yuying said with a grin.
“Was out collecting gifts for my lovely wives.” Zhang said with a laugh as he slipped the Ruler’s Domain Ring off of his finger and held it up toward Yuying while still being pressed on the floor by the beauties.
After a barrage of playful laughs and a few gentle kisses, Zhang and the beauties skipped dinner to inspect the contents of the interspatial rings that Zhang managed to obtain.
As one interspatial ring after the other was emptied and its contents poured. Before long a pile of essence stones stacking up to form a mound that took up half of the room could be seen. Considering how large the top most floor of the Azure Tower was one could only imagine how many hundreds of thousands of essence stones Zhang had acquired.
Besides essence stones, there were also hundreds of weapons of all shapes and sizes littering the floor, thousands of various manuals that contained information about things such as cultivation techniques, lost history, pill concocting formulae, and a countless number of other topics.
There were also hundreds of bottles of pills that of course were either medicine meant to cure illness or poisons meant to claim lives.
“I almost forgot due to so many things happening …” Zhang mumbled as he waved his hand and in an instant, the entire top floor of the Azure Tower was flooded by a sea of gold and hundreds of magical items. This, of course, was a part of the treasure that was claimed in the cave.
“Alright with this many essence stones and along with the heavenly energy within those corpses of the lesser saints I'm sure that all four of you can break through.” Zhang said with a smile.
“But first, we have to find somewhere safe so that no one can bother us.” He added as he recalled all of the saints that came to hinder his ascension.
“How about somewhere out at sea? If we go far away enough from the land, then I think we will be alright.” Ling suggested.
“Maybe…” Yuying murmured in a low tone to herself as she seemed to recall something, however, she did not speak and kept to herself.
“Then we can go to the beach afterward.” Ai said with twinkling eyes.
Seeing the excited look on Ai’s face Zhang couldn't help but break out into laughter. It was just like her to blurt whatever came to mind even when considering the importance of the discussion currently taking place. But perhaps it is because of this that Ai is considered the purest one out of the group of four beauties.
Never with an ulterior motive, never scheming and never really with a care in the world she remains aloof and unbound by the chains that tether everyone to the ground.
“Okay, we will go to the beach after you all breakthrough.” Zhang said as he stuck his pinky finger out toward Ai who moments later hooked it with her own pinky finger.
After promising with Ai to take her to the beach, with a wave of his hand Zhang stored away all of the thousands upon thousands of essence stones and began dispersing the rest of his harvest with his wives.
The sea of gold coins was equally divide into six shares, one share for Zhang and each of the beauties with the sixth share being for the Imperial Institute’s expense fund. Since Zhang wanted to keep the Imperial Institute an independent entity within the Aurora Empire, he had decided to personally fund it himself.
This was mainly due to the possibility of someone possibly using their wealth and influence to drag the institute into some politically struggle within the empire, this thought alone made Zhang unhappy. Since the main purpose of creating the institute was to create a force that would be able to ensure the longevity of the empire that he had worked hard to help create.
Zhang believed that in times of need even when he wasn't around perhaps due to death or some other reason, the Imperial institute would forever remain a symbol of security and the empire’s might. For that to happen the institute must remain free of all influences, so that it can remain completely to the empire.
After the gold was divided up, Zhang and the beauties began to pick out a few magical weapons to use as rewards for their students who had completed the challenges set for them during their field trip.
In the end a large number of interspatial rings, which Zhang managed to obtain thousands of due to the fact that every disciple of the Sun Hall Sect and Earthly Palace Sect owning an interspatial ring, a few sets of magical armor, a few dozen magical weapons and a large quantity of pills were picked out as rewards.
“I bet you they'll be surprised when they see the rewards, considering how lacking our lands are in cultivation materials, high level equipment and magical items.” Yuying said with a smile as she held a small dagger that gave off a faint amount of killing intent, showing that the number of lives that it has claimed so far is not a small one
“Eventually when the empire’s domains are completely mapped out hopefully cultivation resources won't be so scarce.” Zhang replied.
After spending a bit more time picking out prizes for the students of the Imperial Institute Zhang and the beauties retreated back to their chambers and went to the land of dreams with brimming smiles on their faces.
Like a passing breeze, morning soon arrived and all of Zhang’s soldiers, and all of the teachers and students of the institute were assembled around the Azure Tower.
With teachers standing around the tower facing their students atop a stage that circled the tower and hundreds of thousands of soldiers standing in neat rows behind the students, it was a sight to behold as Zhang and the beauties made their way out of the Azure Tower.
“As the future of the Aurora Empire, I applaud your achievements that many of you managed to accomplish during the duration of our little field trip. Thanks to your efforts, a large amount of medical supplies and pill concocting ingredients have been supplied to the Pill Division, a large number additional demonic beasts have been added to the Beast Den and lots of rare materials have been given to the Inferno Smelting Hall.” Zhang said in a loud tone that reached everyone's ears despite how large an area the audience occupied.
“As a reward for your efforts, every student will be given ten Cultivation Condensing Pills that will help you solidify your cultivation base and set you up to quickly break through.” Zhang said as he waved his hand and made thousands of red colored pills shoot through the sky and into the hands of every single one of the Institute's students, using the power of the Underworld Heart of course.
“Now on to those who have put themselves a step above their peers. As your names are called please head toward the stage.” Zhang said as the teachers and professors of the institute including Yuying, Lingqi and Ling began calling out names of various students.
Once nearly a thousand names were called out and many familiar faces arrived on the stage began to speak again.
“Now for those of you who have shown that you have what it takes to be exemplary examples for your peers, I give you the chance to pick out your very own rewards. Choose wisely because you will only be able to pick one reward.” Zhang said as he waved his hand and made a long rack of weapons containing hundreds of weapons, a huge bookshelf filled with hundreds of books and another large shelf lined with armor.
“Attack, defense, and intelligence, what will they pick.” Zhang wondered as the students began making their choices as the rest of the student body watched with mixed emotions. Adoring eyes, envious eyes, worshipping eyes and a mixture of others were all focused on the stage as the thousand or so students on it began to inspect the weapons, armor, and books that Zhang had left out for them.
While some students choose from the wide array of weapons and armor, other browsed the vast collection of books that were left on the large shelf, but regardless of what they were doing all of the students had brimming smiles on their faces for they knew with certainty that the items laid out in front of them could only be considered valuable treasures that would otherwise be near impossible to obtain due to the scarcity of things in the empire. So for many of the students present it was the first time that they were able to see such a large number things related to cultivation.
Even after the Aurora Empire was established, most magical treasures, high-grade weapons, cultivation manuals and other things of the like were kept out of the hands of the populous and either kept in the imperial treasury or sent to Zhang.
Soon after all of the students had picked their rewards and were instructed to leave, Zhang began calling up every one of the institute’s instructors.
“As the instructors of the institute who have to guide the future of our empire, none of you should be lacking in terms of cultivation either. Regardless if the subject that you teach has anything to do with cultivation or not.” Zhang said as he made all of the instructors of the Imperial Institute pick out a few technique and cultivation materials along with various pills that would help them break through.
“We will do our best not to disappoint you, your highness.” All of the institute’s instructors said in unison as they bowed and began to depart.
Since his current objective was to elevate his forces as much as possible, although it costed a fortune, Zhang even provided every single one of his soldiers with cultivation pills on top of having the elite guard teach them a few of the spell formations that he obtained from the interspatial rings of the saints that he had run into near the Lunar Mountains.
“Continue to grow stronger, continue to strive to reach the top and one day all of the land under heaven will be ours! For the empire!!!” Zhang said in a loud voice to the sea of soldiers standing in front of him, trigger an endless amount of cheers from the men who act as the swords and shields of Aurora.
“For the empire!!!”
“Long live his highness!!” Hundreds of thousands of soldiers began chanting.
Perhaps if given enough time Zhang would have an army of level ten warriors or perhaps even saints under his command, if things reached that point then without a doubt he could conquer the entire continent and unite it under one single banner but before that time comes he had to establish a force strong enough to defend his empire against the many neighboring kingdoms that lined its northern border.
Although the Aurora Empire wasn’t extremely wealthy yet he was certain that after a few years with all of the policies and technological advancements that he helped implement the empire would grow extremely rich and become a juicy looking piece of meat that its neighbors will seek to claim for themselves.
Despite saying that he wanted them to become strong so that he could conquer the continent or to defend against foreign invaders, a part of Zhang simply wished that these men would be strong enough so that he does not have to leave them behind as he continues to grow stronger.
Many of the soldiers present had followed Zhang for what seemed like an eternity, from the time that he had only been a commander of a few thousand men to the time when he conquered his first province and finally to the time when the empire was creating. Through thick and thin they were extremely loyal and had basically become his brothers. Unlike any other prince or general, Zhang had remembered the names of most if not all of his soldiers, which goes to show how much he cared about them. In a time and age where most generals treated their men like fodder, he was one of the few exceptions.
After distributing cultivation resources to his people Zhang and the beauties returned to the topmost floor of the Azure Tower where they proceeded to gaze out into the vast sky ahead of them as the Sky Fortress flew south-east over a large mountain range and toward the open sea.
“To the beach!” Ai’s voice could be heard echoing out of the Azure Tower as the sun began to set.
“To the beach!!” Yuying, Ling and Lingqi’s voices soon followed as Zhang’s laughter was soon added also.
Peering into the Azure Tower, Zhang and the beauties could be seen sitting atop a comfy looking cushioned couch and looking out of the balcony at the sunset enjoying each other’s company.
“Oh shit… I forgot…” Zhang soon yelled.
“What?” The beauties said in unison as they gazed at their husband with curious looks.
“I forgot to go capture that Charizard that was not too far from here!” Zhang cried.