"Of course we were hired! When has the Dongfang Family done anything without a payment?" Dongfang Wen Qing asked as he stared and chided, "This is our family’s fundamental principle!"
"Oh… ha… ha…" Jun Mo Xie was dumbstruck for a while, but then he suddenly broke into laughter.
This was a genuine case of "having many common traits".
[I follow the same principle.]
"What are you smiling at?" The three men stared at Jun Mo Xie. "Your grandfather used to call us ‘profiteers’ in those days. Don’t tell me, you also… humph!"
"I’m not smiling at anything. This is exactly how things should be done. One should earn money and avoid calamities. It is natural that you should receive remuneration if you’re going to do something. How is this ‘profiteering’? Do I have to do everything free of charge so I can seem honorable? That’s just too…" Jun Mo Xie laughed happily, "What’s the quotation for this mission?"
"A hundred-thousand silver taels. Actually… it’s a hundred-thousand per person. Therefore, we’re earning a total of three-hundred-thousand in silver taels!" Dongfang Wen Dao spoke with some arrogance. He stretched his fingers to demonstrate the value, "Pretty good a sum, right?"
Jun Mo Xie was stunned speechless.
"We will take this three-hundred-thousand back to the family, and it will be able to procure provisions for our family for a long time," Dongfang Wen Qing sounded content. He stroked his beard, and narrowed his eyes. It seemed that he had accomplished something great.
"Bang!" Jun Mo Xie suddenly fell down. His head hit the table the candle was set on. The candle got extinguished as a result. The small lamp jar also tumbled, and his face was splashed with the oil.
"This… what on earth is this?" the three Dongfang men cried in shock, and hurried to support the Young Master Jun. [Has hearing of such a high price for our mission shocked him that much?]
Hit-man Jun was admittedly very shocked.
However, the reasons behind that shock…
"A hundred-thousand for one person… and three-hundred-thousand for the three of you…? That’s extremely cheap! I drink flagons of wine that are worth more than that! Since when did the price of Spirit Xuan experts’ service become reduced to that of a daily wage worker?" Jun Mo Xie’s shocking words made his three Spirit Xuan uncles feel somewhat ashamed.
The Young Master Jun hadn’t spoken lies either… He had auctioned his exquisite wine at the Aristocratic Hall at very high prices. However, that wine was truly worthy of being called the ‘Heavenly Grade Wine’. Everyone who had lived to taste it had gone crazy over it. On top of that, its price had sky-rocketed even further because its supply was limited, and only the people from the highest echelons of the Tian Xiang Empire — true aristocrats — could enjoy it. So, its value had obviously increased because of its rarity. Many besides those within the boundaries of Tian Xiang Empire had the good fortune to taste the wine. And, they too ended up admiring it greatly.
The highly expensive price of this wine didn’t drop at all. The noise about this "one-in-a-million wine" didn’t fade after the Aristocratic Hall announced that it wouldn’t sell any more of it. So, some of it appeared on the black market soon after. Some magnate fortunate-enough to have purchased it at the auction had put it on the black market. And, Jun Mo Xie had found out through Fatty Tang, Hai Chen Feng and other people that the price of that wine had shot up even higher. The price of a single jar had reached over three-hundred-thousand in silver!
"Bullsh*t! Is the wine you drink fermented with gold and jade? Does your wine cost more than a hundred-thousand in silver? Does your family pay a hundred-thousand to a daily wage worker?!" Dongfang Wen Dao retorted gloomily. However, he was aware that the lifestyle at the upper echelons households in Tian Xiang City was extremely extravagant. The riches and opulence in that city was far higher than any other place on the continent. Moreover, he was aware that these words had come from the mouth of the infamous Jun Family’s debauchee of a Young Master. Therefore, he feared that the statement wasn’t actually fake or exaggerated.
Speaking of the Dongfang Family… it was once considered one of the great aristocratic families. And, it was quite powerful even if it wasn’t as strong as the Silver Blizzard City or the Xue Hun Manor. It merely conducted itself in a quiet and discreet manner in order to attract less attention. But, they had still possessed commendable resources at their disposal.
However, the family has been cut-off from the world for ten years because of that damned pledge! It had seemed like the entire Dangfang Family had disappeared. Everyone from this family had withdrawn from society to live in their secret holdings, and they had fully disengaged from any interaction with the outside world as well.
The many Great Masters had kept a close watch for the first few years since they had feared that the Dongfang Family wouldn’t adhere to the condition. The Dongfang Family had no choice but to give in under such strong pressure. Therefore, they became completely isolated from the world. However, the family had several people, and a lot of clothing and food was required for them. They had a profound background, but they were slowly unable to make their ends meet. Many years passed, and it had started to seem that they were feeding on empty air. Soon, several major forces started to contact the Dongfang family, and expressed their desires to resume business with them.
After all, the outside world needed to maintain its livelihood even if the Dongfang Family had been banished. But, the circumstances of the three Great Masters who had witnessed their exile changed with time. Yun Bie Chen got spirited away and disappeared. Li Jue Tian began to wander the world for years on an end, and became hard to find. Soon, Han Feng Xue was the only one who remained accessible. However, he went to the Silver Blizzard City soon after. Thus, all three of the greatest Masters had become secluded from the rest of the world.
The Dongfang Family had been rendered helpless. So, they had no choice but to send small teams to maintain its business. However, their old businesses declined after some time, and the new business required a lot of man power and resources. This obviously wasn’t easy to establish.
However, Li Jue Tian had personally approached the Dongfang Family with a plea for help this time. He then offered a generous hundred-thousand in silver for each person. This gesture had clearly demonstrated his approach, "I know you come out in secret, but I won’t interfere with it."
It could be said that this transaction was of great importance to the Dongfang Family. So, they decided to give special attention to this job. In fact, they were now indebted to the Xue Hun Manor. Therefore, they dispatched their three strongest warriors for this task. In order words, this matter wasn’t about their greed for the three-hundred-thousand silver taels alone.
"Your grandfather sends his troops to the Dongfang Family every year and every season. They deliver us with supplies in secrecy even though he shuns in front of the world. However, you grandmother still hasn’t forgotten about the past," Dongfang Wen Qing smiled bitterly and sighed. Who would’ve thought that the once great Dongfang Family would’ve been forced into such a miserable state…
Jun Mo Xie remained speechless.
It’s quite difficult to state who was wrong or who was right in that matter.
[How could grandfather not understand the manner in which people’s minds work? He had probably evaluated the situation a long time ago… The Dongfang Family was very powerful back then, and they even had justice in their support. But, it was bound to result in widespread outrage throughout the continent if they had rashly eliminated the Tian Xiang Empire’s royal family. Moreover, the Great Masters would be compelled to intervene due to their contract of alliance. In fact, even the present Eight Great Masters would rise up in revolt if the situation turned.]
[Moreover, their enemy was the Silver Blizzard City’s Xiao family.]
[Therefore, the only this matter would’ve only concluded with the destruction of the Dongfang Family and the Jun Family.]
[This would’ve been the only conclusion to this matter.] He was convinced that any man would think the same way. [My grandfather spent his entire life at the battlefield. His entire would be a waste if he couldn’t foresee this…]
[The weight of making a ‘preferable’ decision would’ve taken precedence in the presence of such pressure from all sides. And, the most important aspect is obviously to preserve the existence of the Dongfang and the Jun Family.]
This kind of a result was temporarily painful for everyone to bear, but it had ensured the safety of lives of people from both the families. Moreover, it ensured that the Dongfang Family survived a thorough extinction. Otherwise, how could someone with Jun Zhan Tian’s temper just submit without making any attempts to take revenge?
Jun Mo Xie had always thought that it was strange that his grandfather and third uncle — two genuinely iron-blooded men — had never tried to take revenge in all this time. But, his maternal uncle’s words had cleared everything, and had pointed to the real reason for behind their inaction.
Jun Zhan Tian wouldn’t worry too much about his own family getting wiped out while taking revenge. But, he wouldn’t stand getting the Dongfang Family involved in it… and being wiped out as well. He was a man who wouldn’t flinch at the prospect of his own family’s blood being spilled. But, he wouldn’t allow it happen to someone else’s family.
Jun Mo Xie thought that his speculation may not have been factually correct to the point. But, it was by-and-large correct…
"In fact, I think that living in seclusion for these ten years hasn’t necessarily been a bad thing for the Dongfang Family," Dongfang Wen Qing saw that Jun Mo Xie looked sad after he had heard everything. So, he smiled to console him, "My Dongfang Family’s assassination technique is famous throughout the world. However, the secret technique is also my family’s biggest concern and flaw!"
"Why is that?" Jun Mo Xie was somewhat puzzled.
"My Dongfang Family has existed for three-hundred years. And, it has produced a number of successive experts. But, it has never had a Spirit Xuan Master in its ranks," Dongfang Wen Qing spoke bitterly.
"Oh? What kind of an answer is that? The old lady of the family fought two Spirit Xuan experts from the Xiao Family on her own. Though, she didn’t win… but she could’ve. Such strength is nothing short of ‘astonishing’! Has she still not reached the strength of the Great Masters?" the Young Master Jun was quite puzzled.
"Mother was admittedly strong-enough to singlehandedly overcome two Spirit Xuan experts. And, her strength was truly at par with the Great Masters. However, she hadn’t reached the true realm of the Great Masters! The Dongfang Family trains in ‘assassination missions’. We pay careful attention to the target… we strike it, and then we escape. However, an assassin is in no way a ‘warrior’."
Dongfang Wen Qing continued in a serious tone, "We have been trying to perfect the ‘assassinating technique’ since times-immemorial in attempts to make it perfect. The Dongfang Family’s generations have focused their attention on studying agility martial arts techniques; and, we’ve been making it increasingly exquisite. Therefore, our skills have become nearly perfect as a result.
"However, the consequence of this is that… one enters an incorporeal form, and lands up on a devious road. And, it’s very difficult to turn back from that devious road."
"A Devious road?" Jun Mo Xie looked thoughtful. His expression had gradually become pensive.
"Can you make a guess? You are extremely proficient in such martial arts. So, I presume that you’ll figure this point out very quickly," Dongfang Wen Qing asked. Then, he looked at Jun Mo Xie’s expression and sighed, "A Spirit Xuan expert who wishes to ascend to the level of a Great Master doesn’t seek for the conditions to be appropriate. Such an expert forms their own system. They incorporate their Xuan Qi into it, and develop a unique understanding. And, thus takes place the formation of a new field; a field which they develop in their own sphere. It can even be said that each Great Master is like the creator of a particular sect!
"And, one needs to explore themselves in order reach this stage. They need to explore their skills in order to sharpen them. And, where does this exploration process take place? It takes place in real-life battles! It comes from killing! One would discover their weaknesses during combat. And then, they would put their efforts into making an improvement. After that, they would again return to combat, and then become even better. They would eventually be able to attain spiritual comprehension after hundreds and thousands of attempts. This is the initial obsession of every Great Master! How would they ever be Great Masters if they weren’t obsessed with improving their Xuan efficacy?! How could they ever become a Great Master if they senselessly continued to cultivate their bodies?"
The Young Master Jun nodded in silence. He recalled that the Solitary Falcon didn’t hesitate to risk a gruesome death when he scaled the perilous snowy mountain to fight with the Xuan Falcons and Eagles. The man also didn’t hesitate to reduce his identity when he came out to look for a fight. [He did it all for this reason?]
"We assassins get to kill enough number of people. But, we don’t have enough direct combat experience by virtue of being assassins. After all, how can we be considered ‘assassins’ if we start getting involved in direct combat? It’s true that we assassins get to kill many people. But, we can only use this experience to perfect and enhance our skills. And, this renders us with the inherent inability to absorb combat experience while fighting someone since an assassin must necessarily kill with one strike when he takes on a mission. So, this one strike must be very sharp and incisive. But, an assassin’s weakness will only get exposed when he fails to kill his target in one strike. However, an assassin exposing his weakness in front of his opponent is like him signing his own death warrant!
"This has been the greatest flaw of our Dongfang Family! This was the reason why we couldn’t do anything when faced with the three Great Masters even though our power reached the clouds and we had numerous assassins! Therefore, Mother had no choice but to accept this extremely unfair condition."
Dongfang Wen Qing’s eyes shone as he looked at Jun Mo Xie, "You must’ve understood the reason I’m telling you all this… Your move is even stranger than ours! It’s more agile! No one who can kill you when you employ your skills! However, this is also the greatest barrier to your martial advancement!
"You won’t need to worry about your life once you can disregard any expert’s strength and defense. You would then move throughout the world unfettered since you’d find security in this knowledge!
"But, you have these skills to rely on! So, you won’t be worrying about your life. Why would you, right? However, even if you don’t wish to admit it… and even if you think you won’t be negligent… but… the fact is that having such skill and mindset is what makes you different from the ones who aspire to become a Great Master."
"You are already different from them because you won’t tremble in fear like they do. But, one can only have a tremendous breakthrough under the pressure of death! Otherwise, you will only make a breakthrough when the conditions are right. However, you won’t reap the unexpected rewards that come with the unexpected breakthroughs that one can attain under pressure. Hence, your chance of attaining the level of the Great Masters will eventually turn into a hopeless endeavor."
Jun Mo Xie was both frightened and emotionally moved.
The immense capabilities of the Hong Jun Pagoda had already guaranteed that he wouldn’t die… even if the Eight Great Masters tried to kill him together.
[I was always secure in this knowledge. And, that’s why I was so daring! I hadn’t even reached the Silver Xuan cultivation, but I had already gathered the courage to confront Sky Xuan and Spirit Xuan experts! And… there was no pressure or fear of death in my heart at that time either!]
[But, if I ask myself — what if I didn’t have the Hong Jun Pagoda with me? How many times should I have died because of my actions?]
[I was immeasurably self-satisfied. I had thought that I had no need to have any misgivings because I possess remarkable abilities. But, will I be able to make progress to that level in the future if I continue to have such an attitude?]
A drop of cold sweat slowly trickled down as Jun Mo Xie thought about this. That sweat-drop made a crystal-clear "plop" sound as it hit the table.
Dongfang Wen Qing was aware that he had given his nephew something to think about. He could see that the young man was strenuously pondering over it, and shouldn’t be disturbed at any cost. Therefore, he stealthily waved to his two brothers, and the three of them quietly withdrew from the tent.
Jun Mo Xie sat motionless inside the tent; alone. His brows frowned in contemplation as the lights flickered.
[Perhaps… I should change?]
[The Hong Jun Pagoda is a treasure that goes against the heaven’s will. And, its functionality is extremely formidable because of this reason… But, it won’t help me much with my progress.]
Jun Mo Xie continued to ponder over this issue throughout the night… and up to the next morning. But, he hadn’t figured out a solution yet.
The Young Master Jun had dark circles around his eyes as he walked out of his tent the next morning and stretched his body.
Dongfang Wen Qing had been waiting for a long time. He was calmly standing under a tree in front of the tent’s entrance. The Spirit Xuan expert looked at Jun Mo Xie and asked, "What? You still haven’t figured it out?"
Jun Mo Xie forced a smile, and looked up to the sky, "But you gave me such a difficult problem! I have such a wonderful skill, and yet I shouldn’t use it? I should suffer even if I encounter an enemy who I know is stronger than me… but I shouldn’t use my skills? …Even as a Jade Xuan expert against a Great Master? Wouldn’t it be akin to courting death?"
"You were awake the whole night and this is what you’ve been able to come up with?!" Dongfang Wen Qing asked somewhat rudely. He stared at his nephew for a while. Then, he started to abuse him, "Fool! Idiot! You’re absolutely disgraceful! You’re an Idiot! A fool! How has my smart sister given birth to such an idiotic son like you? You have really rendered this old man speechless! Do you have fodder inside your head?! Or did a donkey kick your head when you were a kid?!"
"Huh?" Jun Mo Xie was confused. [There isn’t a single man who hasn’t praised my intelligence — whether it was in my previous life, or this one. But, he’s calling me stupid?] He felt like retorting. But, he couldn’t find the words, and continued to stare blankly.
"What I earlier said was that you should try as hard as possible to abstain from using your special skills to attain victory over someone at the same level as you! The harder it is to win — the better it is for your growth! You could even skip a few levels, and challenges the experts who are stronger than you. But, don’t ever try to handle things that are too much for your Xuan capabilities! But, you are an idiot! When did I ever tell you to go and challenge a Sky Xuan expert with your bare strength? Or worse… a Spirit Xuan or a Great Master?! Isn’t that akin to hating your life?"
"Uh…" Jun Mo Xie didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, "You didn’t state that very clearly!"
"This also needs to be stated clearly? Don’t you understand the difference between ‘hard to beat’ and ‘impossible to beat’? You have a wonderful skill, and your agility will naturally allow you to flee to safety… But, are you really that stupid?" Dongfang Wen Qing frowned in anger. [How could my nephew be so stupid?]
What he didn’t understand was — that the cleverer the person… the more difficult it was for them to come out of a single point once they were engrossed in it.
"You’re a Jade Xuan expert. So, wouldn’t you die the moment a Great Master touch you? How would you surpass your skills in such a case?! Idiotic boy!" Uncle Dongfang was at a loss for words. [I had told you to use your natural surroundings to fight and absorb as much experience as you could. I had never told you to throw away your life…]
"I understand it now… it’s so obvious!" Jun Mo Xie suddenly started to laugh. He then rose to the sky, and somersaulted several times as he went into the distance. He descended to the ground once he had covered a considerable distance. [God knows what else my uncle would’ve called me if I had stayed there!]
[He seemed so refined, elegant and graceful when I saw him yesterday. But, it seems like a huge misconception now! He was unexpectedly so fiery when he scolded me just now!]
Jun Mo Xie hadn’t noted this change in his behavior. He had intentionally-or-otherwise started to consider those three men as his uncles. In fact, he had actually started to equate them to his Third Uncle — Jun Wu Yi — in stature.
…because those three men had shown genuine care and concern for his well-being!
"You stupid brat…!" Dongfang Wen Qing was still mad at him for failing to meet his expectations. So, he wanted to scold him some more. However, he couldn’t even see his nephew’s shadow anymore…
Three days later…
Dust rose over the great road in the distance. The mountains started to shake. Tremendous and majestic sounds heralded the arrival of Commander Jun Wu Yi’s main forces.