Chapter 257: An Arm A Friend
“First off I would like to congratulate you all for turning misfortune into fortune and overcoming the inevitable. I congratulate all of you on becoming saints and joining the ranks of the Blood Scale Army!” Zhang said as he stood in front of a handful of individuals who had recently ascended into sainthood.
Contrary to Zhang’s expectations, his workers had actually managed to tap into the Dragon’s Vein ahead of schedule, while there were some losses, much to his joy a handful of full saints were added to the ranks of the Blood Scale Army.
While their deaths could only be blamed on bad luck since all the workers were supplied with protective talismans, Zhang had made sure to give all of their families’ proper reparations before doing anything else.
“While I'm sure many of you are probably thanking the heavens for blessing you good fortune, you shouldn't be. For it was not the heavens who bestowed upon you what you had just achieved. It was through your quick thinking and determination that such a miracle occurred. Unlike the many who had fallen due to panic and fear, you chosen few have transcended into a greater realm and for that you should be proud of yourselves, you should feel that you've earned the right to don the red armor that you are currently wearing.” Zhang said, causing proud smiles to appear on the faces of many of those who stood before him.
“As of now you are all Aurora’s protectors, as of now you are tasked with the duty of protecting our empire, you will be given three days to visit your families and settle any personal matters that needs to be settled. Of course, you are to refrain from breaking any of our empire’s laws or else the consequences that you'll face will be the same as if you were a mortal. After all your personal matters are settled you are to all report back here to commence your training. If any of you have any concerns or questions feel free to ask me now. If you have any grievances I am also willing to listen to them.” Zhang said as he gazed at the faces of all his new subordinates, trying to peek into their thoughts through their facial expressions.
“Faces brimming with joy, faces filled with murderous intent, and faces brimming with satisfaction and pride. Hopefully all of these fellows heed my words and do not do anything dumb or else I'll have to deal with them.” Zhang thought.
Unlike saints who had spent hundreds if not thousands of years to reach their current state of power, these individuals who were currently standing in front of Zhang had not undergone the same hardship. Even when compared to Zhang their experiences would still be considered shallow so as a result their minds had yet to be steeled and their thoughts and emotions could still easily affect their decisions and causing them to be drunk on their newfound power.
“My lord if I may speak.” A middle-aged man said in a humble tone as he removed his helmet, revealing half a head of hair, as a show of respect before kneeling on one knee.
“Speak.” Zhang said as he watched the middle-aged man intently.”
“My lord, your humble servant Yuan Kang, would like to ask you to grant my dear friend, Di Li, the same opportunity I was blessed with.” Yuan Kang said, causing a stir amongst the other newly ascended saints.
“I'm sure both you and your friend know how dangerous the process is.” Zhang said.
“If he wasn't willing to undergo the danger he would not have asked me to plead for him.” Yuan Kang said while still kneeling on one knee and looking at the ground.
“So, he is willing to undergo the danger, however what merits has he accomplished that would prompt me to grant him access to such an opportunity? Let alone him, what merits have you accomplished?” Zhang asked in a raised voice.
“My lord, although I have not many contributions to our empire yet, if you wished I would be willing to climb a mountain of blades, and swim across a sea of flames without any hesitation.” Yuan Kang spoke in a clear and resolute tone.
“Is that so? Show me your determination. If both you and your friend pass my test I'll make an exception and grant him an opportunity of becoming a saint.” Zhang said.
“Whatever task it is you wished accomplished my lord, please tell me.” Yuan Kang said.
“First off bring your friend Di Li here.” Zhang said moments before Di Li was brought before him.
Standing side by side in front of a dozen or so full saints and Zhang, Yuan Kang and Di Li stood erect like statues.
“As I person I treasure loyalty and brotherhood above all else, so my test will be simple. If you, Yuan Kang, me how strong your brotherhood is, then Di Li will be granted the opportunity of becoming a saint.” Zhang said as he casually waved his hand and conjured a translucent crystal sword from thin air. With another casual wave of his hand he made the sword plunge into the ground in front of Yuan Kang and Di Li.
“If you're willing to cut off your arm then your friend will be granted the opportunity to become a saint.” Zhang said in a cold tone.
“Brother Yuan Kang, don't do it. Even though I dream of becoming a saint, it's not worth having you become a cripple for my sake.” Di Li said after hearing Zhang’s conditions.
“Say no more, even with one arm I will still be able to make something of myself.” Yuan Kang said as he reached forth and grabbed the hilt of the translucent sword that Zhang had created. Although there was a hint of hesitation after he grabbed the crystal sword, Yuan Kang took in a deep breath and with all of the courage he could muster severed his arm.
“Good, now that you've made your decision there is no going back.” Zhang said as a fountain of blood shot into the air as Yuan Kang’s twitching arm fell onto the earth. Once Yuan Kang’s arm laid lifelessly atop of the cold earth, the tips of Zhang’s fingers suddenly ignited and an instant later a flickering flame flew through the air, filling everyone's nostrils with the smell of charred human flesh.
“Now Di Li I give you two choices, if you're willing to give up your opportunity at becoming a saint and cripple your own cultivation then I’m willing to restore your friend’s lost an arm. If you merely take that sword and sever one of your channels your friend will have his arm restored and a limitless future awaiting him.” Zhang said as a wicked smile appeared on his face.
“My lord you can't… Brother Di Li don't do it...” Yuan Kang said as he saw Di Li eyed the blood-stained sword laying on the ground.
“My lord, if crippling my measly cultivation will restore brother Yuan Kang’s arm and his chances of greatness, then I am willing.” Di Li said as his hand reached toward the bloody crystal sword.
“Restrain him.” Zhang said, prompting four full saints to charge forward and hold down Yuan Kang, preventing him from budging from the very spot he had stood.
With no one to stop him, Di Li wielded the crystal sword and raised it up toward his arm where one of his channels were located. Although the crystal sword was actually as light as a feather, in Di Li’s trembling hands it seemed to weigh thousands of pounds. A single deep cut and all of his prospects, all of the efforts poured into furthering his cultivation would be erased, besides that his lifespan would also greatly dwindle. Without the use of essence to strengthen one's body and increase one's lifespan, Di Li knew that depending on his choice he would either be able to soar through the sky like a majestic dragon or toil in the dirt for the rest of his life.
“He was willing to give up an arm for me, he was willing to give up has future for me, and before he had been willing to give up his life for me, if I'm not willing to do this for him then what kind of friend am I? What kind of person would I be?” Di Li thought as the crystal blade slowly split apart his skin and sliced through his flesh.
“Alright, enough. You've proven yourself and have passed my test.” Zhang said as the crystal sword in Di Li’s hand disintegrated into nothingness.
“Di Li, if you were not willing to do that for your friend then I would have cut you down without a single thought. If you could not sacrifice for someone who was willing to lose an arm for you then how would you be willing to sacrifice yourself for me? In the end, you've both able me that u could place my trust in you.” Zhang said as a warm smile appeared on his face while a cloak of purplish essence envelopes both Yuan Kang and Di Li, mending Di Li’s wound and slowly regenerating Yuan Kang’s lost arm.
“If no one else has anything to say then you are all dismissed. Everyone but Yuan Kang and Di Li may leave.” Zhang said, prompting the dozen or so newly ascended saints to disperse into the sky and flew away into different directions.
“Yuan Kang follow me and bring your friend with you” Zhang said gesturing for Yuan Kang to follow him as his body levitated into the air.
Following closely behind Zhang, Yuan Kang carried Di Li by holding the latter’s hands and allowing the rest of his body to dangle. Flying at moderate speeds, Zhang led Yuan Kang into the Dragon’s lair where countless workers could be seen constructing hundreds of individual buildings of various shapes and sizes.
Now that access to the Dragon’s Vein has been established, instead of digging any further all of the workers under Zhang’s employment were tasked to begin constructing fortifications and various obstacles that would serve to protect what is now Aurora’s most sacred site.
Massive ramparts, large gates, sprawling pavilions and a massive castle were all currently being built around and within the Dragon’s Lair. While he did not plan for it, Zhang was fairly sure it would not take long for a large city to form around the Dragon’s Lair and that in itself will prove to provide another layer of protection for Aurora’s current source of power.
“What you did to become a saint was fairly risky and could have very well resulted in your death. Although I had said something contradictory previously, you should consider yourself very lucky.” Zhang’s voice echoed in Yuan Kang and Di Li’s minds.
“Hah, my lord you should know that ever since he was a kid, my friend here has been known to have absurd amounts of good luck.” Di Li said with a laugh.
“Then you should be hoping that a bit of his good luck has rubbed off on you because what you are about to take part in may possibly be the most dangerous thing that you’ve done in your entire life up until now.” Zhang’s voice accompanied with a chuckle reverberated in the minds of Yuan Kang and Di Li once again.
Arriving at the bottom of the Dragon’s Lair, Yuan Kang was the first to notice a large platform with hundreds of individuals sitting crossed legged atop of it. At the center of this large platform, amidst the hundreds of individuals sitting cross-legged was a beautiful foundation brimming with sparkling bluish liquid.
“Di Li, go have a small sip and begin cultivating. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that if you take in too much of that water at a time and become unable to refine the excess essence in your body quick enough then you’ll end up blown into a million pieces.” Zhang said to Di Li, giving the latter a reminder of what happens when one is not careful when around the highly-concentrated essence water.
“I will be sure to be careful, my lord.” Di Li said before walking toward the foundation and cupped a bit of water in his hand.