At the rear mountain of the Fen Yang Sect, a group of beasts, resembling wolves but not quite, surrounded a young man. The fierce glint in their beastly eyes converged upon the adolescent boy, who found bared fangs on all sides, each creature seemingly on the verge of pouncing.
Unconsciously, Luo Xiu stepped back, his gaze warily inspecting his surroundings. Finding himself encircled by the menacing beasts, escape seemed impossible.
"Damn it, it's true that the outer sect sent word about a tree bearing Golden Pattern Deblossom fruit on the back mountain, but no one said anything about mythical beasts guarding it!"
Luo Xiu gritted his teeth and stared at the peculiar tree not far from the wolf pack. The tree was hardly lush, but a single, radiant ruby-like fruit hanging from its sparse branches naturally drew attention. The golden patterns adorning the red fruit shone particularly bright, as if hinting at a formidable power hidden within.
"The power contained in the Golden Pattern Deblossom would be enough to break through the Force phase and reach the Martial Apprentice level. With this, I would have had a full chance of passing the initiation test in a fortnight, but it seems..."
His gaze traveled from the fruit to the starving wolves before him, and Luo Xiu couldn't help but sigh in resignation: "I fear even facing these mythical beasts is a matter of life and death."
Luo Xiu was merely a commonplace disciple at the outer gate of the Fen Yang Sect, gifted with average aptitude and performance. An initiate for two years now, he still merely held a post-Force phase. According to the rules, one who fails the initiation test is delegated to perform miscellaneous duties at the outer gate forever.
Therefore, Luo Xiu had gambled on the baseless rumors circulating in the outer gate and had ventured to the back mountain in search of the Golden Pattern Deblossom. Unexpectedly, he had found it but had also unwittingly trapped himself within the encirclement of the post-Force phase Canine Toothed wolves.
"Had it been a one-on-one against a Canine Toothed wolf, I might have had a fighting chance. Now though, drastically outnumbered, is there any escape?"
Luo Xiu gave a bitter smile as even for the same phase, the sheer number of these ferocious beasts was enough to overwhelm him.
Then suddenly, he shook his head, seemingly shaking off these unsettling thoughts: "No way, I have to fight regardless!"
In the silence came a rustling sound. Just as Luo Xiu prepared to fight to the death, a strange sound from the front startled him and the wolves. Astonished, they directed their gaze towards the source of the sound, only to be shocked; the sound was coming from the exact location of the Golden Pattern Deblossom!
A shadow darted out with astonishing speed and without giving Luo Xiu and the wolves any time to react, the shadow reached the base of the fruit tree. With a planned move, unhindered by any hesitation, it leaped upwards, reached out and plucked the fruit. By the time it landed, the long-craved Golden Pattern Deblossom was already in its grasp.
Identifying the person's face, Luo Xiu felt quite surprised. This Zhang Chong was also an outer disciple of the Burnt Sun Sect, just like Luo Xiu, and was preparing for the entrance exam half a month from now.
"Luo Xiu, I really owe you big this time."
Zhang Chong handling the Gold-patterned Vermilion Fruit in his hand grinned at Luo Xiu, his smile, however, seemed rather distasteful.
Luo Xiu was taken aback at first, before he could respond, the Sabertooth Wolf by his side suddenly wailed—
Upon witnessing their Gold-patterned Vermilion fruit taken away, the pack of ferocious wolves became rambunctious, their intent to pounce on Zhang Chong built up rapidly. Seeing this, Zhang Chong remained cool and tossed up a paper crane. The crane expanded in the wind, and in a blink of an eye, it became as big as a person. Zhang Chong leaped onto it, the crane then flapped its wings, and took off flying high up.
A group of ferocious beasts snarled helplessly at Zhang Chong flying mid-air, with only their sharp teeth and continuous howls serving as their attempt to retaliate. Zhang Chong, hovering in mid-air, seemed to be out of the reach of the savage wolves, his face expressed calmness.
"Zhang Chong, what do you mean by what you said just now?" Luo Xiu clenched his fist, shouting loudly at Zhang Chong.
Zhang Chong let out a big laugh, showing no restraint and said, "You thought someone would be generous enough to discover a medicinal fruit and instead of keeping it to themselves, would spread the news?"
Upon hearing this, Luo Xiu's heart sank. He already had a good idea about the twists and turns of this situation.
"If it wasn't for the fact that I couldn't handle these beasts myself, do you think I would risk having the fruit stolen, to involve you?" Zhang Chong paused, then looked at Luo Xiu with a dismissive glance, "But all things considered, someone like you is only useful as bait to attract these savage wolves and create a chance for me to strike... So, I suppose I should really thank you."
"Zhang Chong!" Luo Xiu was immediately filled with rage, he clenched his fist and asked in a loud voice, "Months ago, you already advanced to martial artist, having enough capability to pass the entrance exam, why would you risk harming others for a Gold-patterned Vermilion fruit?"
"Who would complain about having too much cultivation?"
Zhang Chong glanced down condescendingly at the infuriated Luo Xiu and scoffed, "Besides, my aspirations are far grander than bugs like you. Not only do I intend to pass the entrance examination, but I'm determined to secure first place!"
By passing the entrance examination, one could turn into an official disciple of the Fen Yang Sect, and if one achieved the top result, not only would they receive extra rewards from the sect, but more importantly, they would catch the sect's attention, acquire additional resources, and be fostered as a seed disciple!
The title of 'Number One Outer Disciple' was a goal pursued by those disciples with exceptional talents in the outer sect, hardly something that mediocre disciples like Luo Xiu could dream of achieving, who merely hoped to pass the examination.
"Regardless, I have you to thank for obtaining this Golden Pattern Zhu Fruit today. I will remember your kindness. Now, you can go in peace. Hahaha..."
Breaking into hearty laughter, Zhang Chong turned around to leave on his Wind Riding Paper Crane, but he suddenly heard a determined voice coming from below.
"Zhang Chong, if I don't die today, I swear to seek a hundredfold revenge on you!"
Zhang Chong's face slightly changed. He was about to fire back, but instead sneered dismissively: "Humph, save these words until you manage to survive and return to the sect!"
As soon as he finished speaking, he glanced at the boy standing amidst the pack of wolves. When Zhang Chong locked eyes with Luo Xiu, he was taken aback by Luo Xiu's sharp, cold stare. A pang of inexplicable unease pricked at his heart.
"Humph, a mere outer gate disciple in the Power Martial Stage, I'd like to see you escape this impending disaster!"
Zhang Chong thought disdainfully, as if trying to convince himself that the boy, only in the late Power Martial Stage, wouldn’t be able to escape the wolf pack’s encirclement.
As the Wind Riding Paper Crane flapped its wings and ascended, Zhang Chong, who had successfully carried out his scheme, also took his leave. However, in this deserted wilderness, the atmosphere became even more ominously intense...