The young man jumped off the airs.h.i.+p, his nail-studded boots producing a swoosh as they landed firmly on the ground. He was clad in a leather suit, and beneath his unb.u.t.toned lapel was a black s.h.i.+rt with a large wolf-head embroidered on it. The b.l.o.o.d.y fangs on it were exceptionally eye-catching—it was almost as though he wanted everyone to know about his relations.h.i.+p with the Wolf King.
There was a row of daggers within the lining of the man’s clothes, ranging from blades as thin as a finger to serrated ones as thick as a forearm. He made no move to hide these daggers and, on the contrary, was even showing them off.
A dozen or so youths in black leather suits, all of them sporting the crest of the wolf king, jumped off behind this person.
The young man walked over to Iron Bear and said frivolously, “So, you’re the leader here?”
“I am. May I know your name?” Iron Bear asked cautiously.
The young man patted his chest and said proudly, “I’m Xue Ding, you might not recognize me, but you must’ve heard about me before. The Wolf King is my foster father!”
Iron Bear was startled. Everyone knew the Wolf King was a werewolf—this fellow before him was clearly human, yet he had recognized the Wolf King as his adoptive father and was even so proud about it. As for the name Xue Ding, he had never even heard of it before. But regardless, the Wolf King was the ruler of the Eastern Sea, an expert Iron Bear had no hope of catching up to. His adoptive son wasn’t someone Iron Bear could afford to offend.
As though he had noticed Iron Bear’s expression, Xue Ding walked over and said while tapping on Iron Bear’s chest, “What, do you suspect that I’m pretending?”
A strong whirlwind kicked up around the two, sending Little Knife and the others around them reeling and unable to find their footing.
Iron Bear’s expression changed drastically. He could clearly sense four powerful origin vortices in Xue Ding’s body, whirling violently like a blue-green tempest.
After Xue Ding’s display of power, Iron Bear immediately collected his thoughts and dared not reveal any opinion.
The young man pointed to his group of black-robed youths and said, “These are the Black Wolf Guards, my personal guard force as well as a replacement for the Wolf King’s Guard.”
“The Wolf King seems to favor you quite a bit.” Iron Bear offered a stiff flattery.
Xue Ding, however, seemed to be enjoying it. He said, following a burst of loud laughter, “My foster father indeed treats me well. Now, do you still doubt my ident.i.ty?”
Iron Bear began to sweat. “I don’t, I wouldn’t dare. Who would dare offend the Wolf King’s people in the Eastern Sea?”
“It’s good that you understand.” Xue Ding patted Iron Bear’s shoulder and walked into the town. “This place is quite run-down, but I’ll improvise. Prepare something for me to eat and then let’s see if there’s anything fun to play with.”
“Everything’s ready, please follow me.”
Iron Bear led the entourage into the small town. In order to establish their might, these Black Wolf Guards kept their auras fully released. A dozen or so rank-eight warriors was enough to intimidate the forces of this town—even Iron Bear himself would have to pull back before them.
Xue Ding stopped a pa.s.sing young girl and groped her a couple of times. He then pushed her away, saying, “No flesh at all.”
The girl hurried away as though she had just escaped from death, triggering a bout of laughter from the Black Wolf Guards. Most of the townsmen simply watched on. Some of them seemed angry but didn’t have the courage to speak out. The four powerful origin vortices on Xue Ding’s body were like four mobile storms that could easily crush anyone in the town.
Xue Ding soon arrived at Iron Bear’s residence and simply took the central seat. Meanwhile, Iron Bear ordered his men to serve up the wine and food, which more or less filled the entire table.
Xue Ding’s eyes lit up. “I wasn’t expecting it, but this little place has some really good stuff!”
He pulled out a dagger, used it to fork a large piece of meat into his plate, and then began chewing on it. While eating, he said in an ambiguous tone, “This is really not bad! This taste, mm, this isn’t the iron-horned rhinoceros. It’s the meat of a slaughter-bull, and a violent one at that! I only get to eat such good things at my adoptive father’s place.”
Xue Ding offered so much praise that Iron Bear could no longer remain calm. He hadn’t expected the man to evaluate this roasted meat so highly. To be honest, he couldn’t really identify the creature’s species when Qianye had brought a creature that looked like a cross between an armored bull and an iron rhino. There were simply too many species of beasts in the neutral lands. Thinking that it was an ordinary beast, Iron Bear had handed it to the kitchen for the welcome feast.
While eating, Xue Ding complained incessantly about Iron Bear’s chef for wasting such a high-grade ingredient. Iron Bear hadn’t realized anything, but Little Knife quickly caught onto the man’s hint. “There’s still a large piece of this meat in the kitchen. I’ll have someone pack it up and deliver it to your airs.h.i.+p.”
“This boy is smart, he knows that I’m eager to eat this.” Xue Ding laughed while patting Little Knife’s shoulder. “Why not follow me in the future? I like smart people. You can choose to be a Black Wolf Guard.”
Little Knife replied with a smile, “I thank Young n.o.ble Xue for his favor, but my wife is pregnant right now. I’ll join you once she’s given birth.”
“Very well, it’s decided then. I’ll be waiting for you!” Xue Ding was apparently quite heroic.
The banquet went on until the sun began to set over the Eastern Sea and only ended after it was dark. Xue Ding was fairly satisfied with the food and immediately promised to half the town’s taxes this year. Iron Bear was overjoyed at this development because the reduced taxes would enter his own pockets.
Iron Bear woke up only after a couple of pokes from Little Knife, quickly inviting Xue Ding to take a stroll around the town and take whatever struck his fancy.
The young man was greatly pleased and offered praises to Iron Bear and Little Knife for their thoughtfulness. He then went off to walk around.
The little town was rather poor and barren—only a couple of local products interested him, and nothing imported could really catch his eyes. There were, however, some pretty girls in town, including a few proactive ones shooting flirtatious glances at Xue Ding, hoping to hook up with the Wolf King’s foster son. The man didn’t reject anyone, either. He would grope everyone coming his way before pus.h.i.+ng them aside. It would seem he had no intention of bringing them back to his room.
“Eh?” He suddenly picked up a wooden sculpture along the way, one depicting a tall beast with slender limbs and a row of blade-like spikes stretching from head to toe. Vivid and lifelike, the wooden creature was full of energy and seemed like it would injure the onlooker at any moment.
“Blade beast? There’s actually such a beast here? To have returned alive after encountering a blade beast, this is no simple man!” Xue Ding said while fiddling with the sculpture.
Iron Bear didn’t remember where this sculpture had come from, so he pulled the peddler over and quietly asked him about it.
“It’s from the newcomer, he probably carved it himself. I saw that both the artwork and material were good, so I wanted to sell it deeper inland,” the vendor replied honestly.
Xue Ding’s expression eventually changed as he caressed the veins on the sculpture. After hearing the peddler’s words, he sneered, “This knife-work is well beyond good. This person might not be too far from me in terms of combat skills. Given a blade, he can easily kill everyone in this town!”
Iron Bear’s expression changed slightly. He couldn’t tell the quality of the artwork, but he knew Qianye’s strength was far above his own. With Xue Ding’s character, the former knew that trouble was not so far off.
As expected, the young man said, “He’s a newcomer, you say? Where does he live now? This is an interesting fellow, one worth visiting.”
Iron Bear replied, “He lives a bit far, and it’s already dark right now. You know, the journey there might not be very convenient.”
Xue Ding sneered, “Just some natives, you think I fear them?”
An idea quickly came to Iron Bear. “Very well then, I’ll arrange two cars for you. That place is a bit far and we need to pa.s.s through a segment of the Black Grove to get there.”
“Black Grove?” Xue Ding’s expression s.h.i.+fted slightly. He was clearly somewhat apprehensive about it.
“We’ll be pa.s.sing through its borders,” Iron Bear replied.
“Oh, that should be fine then.” Xue Ding seemed quite relieved.
While they were prepping the vehicles, Little Knife dragged Iron Bear over and asked in a whisper, “Are you really going to bring them over? That newcomer isn’t so easy to deal with.”
Iron Bear replied in a deep voice, “I know that, of course. That’s why I’m going to bring this b.a.s.t.a.r.d over. We can’t deal with him, but do you think Xue Ding can’t? Even if that really is the case, there’s no way he can stay in the Eastern Sea after offending the Wolf King’s foster son.”
Little Knife was astonished. “That’s not too appropriate, is it? That fellow is no saint.”
Iron Bear snorted. “This is my territory, and I won’t allow anyone stronger than me to exist here.”
Little Knife wanted to dissuade the man, but he withdrew after a moment of hesitation.
Moments later, a motorcade set out in the night and began driving toward the sh.o.r.es of the Eastern Sea.
The caravan didn’t travel very fast and was especially cautious as they were pa.s.sing through the Black Grove. Even Iron Bear, who had been living here for so many years, didn’t dare to be careless. However, they were delightfully surprised to find that the Black Grove had shrunk quite a bit. Iron Bear clearly remembered that the forest borders stretched a lot further when he was here the last time.
Although he had no idea why the forest would contract, this was definitely a good thing. For some reason, though, there was a feeling of uneasiness in his heart.
The motorcade pa.s.sed through the Black Grove before long. Only then did Xue Ding heaved a sigh of relief, saying, “How can you be so scared of such a short road?”
“The Black Grove used to be much larger.”
Xue Ding nodded after listening to this explanation.
The journey after pa.s.sing through the Black Grove was a flat expanse. The motorcade thus sped up and, very soon, Qianye’s little courtyard had come into view.
Xue Ding jumped out of the car and walked toward the courtyard. All of a sudden, he saw a silhouette by the seaside. His eyesight wasn’t poor—even from a long distance away, he could see that this person was shaving a piece of wood with a blade nearly two meters long, almost as though he were carving something.
“Is that him?” Xue Ding inquired.
“Yes, that’s the man!” Iron Bear replied.
Xue Ding stopped the Black Wolf Guard with a wave of his hand and walked toward the sh.o.r.e alone. Soon, he had arrived behind Qianye.
Qianye kept on carving single-mindedly, paying attention to neither his surroundings nor Xue Ding.
Xue Ding clenched his fist and said in a cold tone, “Are you looking down on me?”
“I’m busy.” Qianye didn’t look up. He was busy wrestling with the mysterious existence in the ocean. How could he have the leisure to glance at this pompous fellow?