The Portal of Wonderland Chapter 465: Little Hints
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"That is unnecessary. I work alone," The green-haired girl replied in cold indifference without giving as much as a glance at Tian Huan.
Tian Huan's mouth opened as if he wanted to react to her, but the girl spun instantaneously and left without further ado.
The green-haired girl's appearance had been brief, but Shi Mu still found her quite memorable—it wasn't because of how beautiful and ravishing she was, but because she was the first Early Earth-rank fighter who had dared left them and be alone.
"What a stuck-up!" Tian Huan muttered under his breath as he watched the girl's beautiful figure vanished from sight. He turned and scanned the surrounding placidly before finally leaving with those three men behind him.
After he took off, several more left on their own as well until there were only about twenty-odd Early Earth-rank fighters left behind.
It was then when a voice towered above the din in a rather intrusive manner, "Fellow Sect Gentlemen and Ladies! I'm called Ji Jiang, and I have a proposition for all of you."
Shi Mu, surprised, turned instantly to the source of the voice along with everybody else. It was a Demon race youth with black scales on his cheeks, who was now bowing slightly before everyone.
As Demon races were wont to be, he was taller than an average human, but as he was very skinny, the long, blue robe he donned over his body was sliding down from his shoulders, which resulted in his flesh-formed wings to be half-exposed from the openings comically.
"Everyone here surely agrees that there are more than generic, mystical beasts roaming through the Verdant Hills of the Green Waters—there is an abundance of rare, mystical herbs for all of us to harvest. You see, this lowly one knows his place very well—as a lowly Earth-rank martial artist, this lowly one never actually believed that he would prevail in this prestigious competition as the one-in-a-million victor. He is merely here to widen his horizon," The skinny youth who had called himself Ji Jiang started, "Now that we are all here today, together, it may be a sign for a budding friendship for all of us. Why don't we band together and combine our strength and skills, so that we can watch each other's back and achieve our goals together?"
He had just finished his proposition when a lone voice stood out almost instantly, "It's all dandy to talk about the power of friendship now, but what happens when we managed to bring down a demon beast, huh? How are w supposed to divide its Demon Nucleus?"
Easily, the lone voice of dissent had ignited the crowd's furor in a second.
"I think you're missing out a larger, more imminent issue that precedes even that, my friend. Here, we are in a land none of us are familiar with—a land where dangers and threats lurk in the shadows or even in the open. If you're going to remain a lone wolf, you'll have to brace the full brunt of a demon beast alone, and that's not all; Who is going to watch your back when you're absorbed in that battle? Who's going to back you up when other demon beasts, or more realistically, other groups target you?" Ji Jiang rebutted calmly. "By that point, exploring the land would have become more or less a luxury next to trying to stay alive, no?"
The crowd went silent.
"When we band together, the rate of success over killing an advanced-stage demon beast and the chance of all of our survival improve dramatically. As to that question someone had brought up from before? My suggestion is that whoever finds any rare herbs and Xian Tian Demon Nucleus, those objects belong to that discoverer alone; As for the Demon Nucleus of a demon beast at Earth-rank or above, it will be divided according to the proportion of their contribution," Ji Jiang added. "Is that not fair?"
Quite many were moved by his apparent foolproof suggestion and so they quickly announced their decision to join his band. A few of them, however, decided against his suggestion after some consideration and so they left.
Ji Jiang didn't mind those who left. Very soon, he started to talk about his plan at length.
"Sect Fellow Ji, I've been to the area you're talking about now ten years ago. I can tell you that the most we can find there are Xian Tian level demon beasts while not a single rare herb could be found. Methinks it's a waste of our time and resources to go there," Just as Ji Jiang was engrossed in divulging his plan, a muscular man with purplish-green skin, messy sideburns, as well as eye pupils as slim as slits, interjected.
"Oh, but this area is important and worthy for another reason—it is the fastest route to the deepest part of the land. According to an intel this lowly one had procured through quite an exorbitant price, there is an Earth-rank demon beast's den there unbeknownst to many. What I'm planning, therefore, is to have all of us go there and slay it together," Ji Jiang explained.
Hearing that, the muscular man with messy sideburns nodded thoughtfully. As the rest of the group was made out of a dozen of Early Earth-rank fighters, they were pretty much on board with the plan too.
Once the arrangements had been made, Ji Jiang finally noticed Shi Mu and Zi Ling, who had been standing outside their ring of discussion for a long time. He scanned them quickly… until his eyes landed on Zi Ling alone.
"Please excuse my candidness, but this little girl here is not welcomed into our team," Ji Jiang said without mincing his words.
"Sect Fellow Ji," Shi Mu said, his eyebrow raised. "This girl, Zi Ling, is with me."
"But… Sigh. Look, no offense, but she's a human. She lacks the physical fitness to keep up with us, and most of all, judging from her aura alone, I can tell that she had just made into Earth-rank very recently. She hasn't even stabilized her powers yet," Ji Jiang said. "She is only going to drag the team down, which I'm sure is not something the rest of my teammates would want."
Ji Jiang turned and looked at the crowd behind him who was just about to depart.
"Brother Ji took the words outta' my mouth—I don't want a drag in our team. It's fine for her to sabotage herself, but it's unfair for us to be the casualties along with it!"
"Urgh, please don't bring her in… I'm not stoked on babysitting!"
"Do you see what I mean now, my Sect Fellow?" Ji Jiang turned his palms up at Shi Mu and assumed a helpless expression. "It's not that I'm barring her from joining us; It's just the wish of the majority."
Shi Mu looked down at Zi Ling, who was grinning at him as if they weren't discussing about her.
"Don't worry. Let her join us—I alone will take care of her so that the others won't have to," Shi Mu declared.
"Uh. It's not that I'm delighted to be a busybody but… I really advise you against taking up a dead weight…."
Shi Mu raised his hand and stopped him. "I have made up my mind, Sect Fellow Ji."
Seeing how persistent Shi Mu was with his own decision, Jiang Ji stopped trying. To be frank, he wasn't thrilled to have Shi Mu—who was also a human—to be in his team, either.
So, with a "Suit yourself", he left the two and returned to the crowd.
Zi Ling yanked on a corner of Shi Mu's robe and whispered, "you're a good person, Big Brother Shi. Thank you."
"Oh, that was nothing. We're both humans, so we should have each other's back, right?" Shi Mu said, "Now, you follow me closely from now on. Don't stray too far and I'll do my best to take care of you."
"Mm!" Zi Ling nodded hard.
It wasn't that Shi Mu wanted to be with Ji Jiang and his gang; He chose to be a part of them for the time being because someone in his group had been here before. Therefore, he decided to tag along with them to know the area first before making any new move.
As for Zi Ling… Well, the fact that she was human, just like himself, played a big role; But it was also because she was quite endearing to him, so much so that he didn't find her irksome in any way. He was certain that as long as they were traveling in this outer, more-explored part of the Tenth Heavens World, they wouldn't be getting into trouble too much for them to handle. After all, this girl was still an Earth-rank fighter of her own right.
Once they had secured the route, the group started moving towards the deepest part of the savanna under the lead of Ji Jiang and the man with the messy sideburns.
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As they waged deep into the savanna, grasses grew taller and more in abundance than before until they were the height of an average human adult, therefore obscuring a person's view from the outside to see if there were, indeed, any demonic beasts hidden inside. As they advanced, a few of them had started to show off whatever techniques they had to scout for any possible danger.
Perhaps owing to the fact that they were still at the outermost layer of Tenth Heavens World, the most resistance they had met were from very few Xian Tian level demonic beasts. Of course, there was also zero sight of rare treasures and herbs.
Shi Mu and Zi Ling walked side-by-side at the very end of the line. It wasn't as hectic as one had expected at all; there were many moments when the two actually had pleasant small talks and conversations.
A few moments later, Shi Mu made a handsign at the grey Beast Soul Pouch strapped to his waist.
With a flash of light, Cai zipped out of the pouch and circled in the air for a while. "Woooo! You took a long time to finally remember me, Shi Tou… You almost suffocate me to death in that stinky bag, man! Pheww! The air here is hella fresh!" Cai cried out happily as it flew in the sky, attracting quite some attention from the group below.
"Oy! Get down now!" Shi Mu frowned and ordered Cai telepathically.
Reluctantly, Cai descended meekly and perched on his shoulder.
"Wow, what a beautiful parrot! Brother Shi, is this your Spirit Pet? It's adorable!" ZI Ling breathed, her eyes gleaming with stars as she watched Cai.
"The name's Cai. I feed and take it around, but it's not my pet at all. We're more like partners."
"That's right, young lady. Me and Shi Tou are equals!" Cai added, beaming proudly
The more Zi Ling looked at Cai, the giddier she became. She raised her hand and a single band of gentle, technicolor light emerged from her fingers to dandily wrap around Cai before pulling it into her embrace.
"A magician?" Shi Mu's heart skipped a beat. Cai may look like your garden-variety bird, but it was still known as a very agile bird with a penchant of escaping just about any normal capturing means. Yet, this little girl managed to capture it and pull it into her without giving it a chance to struggle just by a simple spell—which may as well belie the girl's hidden depth.
Shi Mu studied Zi Ling much more intensely than before, but he kept his conjecture to himself.
Meanwhile, Zi Ling had wrapped her arms around Cai while rubbing her soft cheeks on its feathers as if she was going to feed the parrot full with nothing but her love.
"Gah…! Urgh… Oyy, girl-brat! No saliva on my beautiful feathers, you hear? What the—" Cai struggled as hard as possible, but Zi Ling was like an inescapable bird trap. It tried again and again until it gave up, saving up all of his energy into a single death glare filled with resentment at Shi Mu.
Shi Mu, of course, saw its expression. He chuckled and gave the parrot a look that said, "That's what you get for all the troubles you got me into".
He did remind the girl, however, "Zi Ling, be vigilant. Remember that we're in a land of trials, so you need to be mindful of the surroundings other than playing around like that, okay?"
"Oops, you a point there, Big Brother Shi," Shi laughed bashfully as she reluctantly released it from her grasp. "It's just… This little parrot is too adorable!"
Cai didn't waste a single second to sprinted towards Shi Mu's shoulder, this time perching in the one that is farther away from Zi Ling.
"Cai, please help me inspect the surrounding. I got a feeling that it's not as calm as it seemed," Shi Mu said telepathically.
"Leave it to me! I'll be scouting around," Cai replied telepathically. It snuck a spying look at Zi Ling only to see that the girl had never taken her eyes off it the whole time, which shocked it so much it fell from Shi Mu's shoulder and flapped into the sky.
"Be careful, don't stray too far," Shi Mu urged telepathically, a bit worried.
"Oh, don't you worry about me. I totally know my boundaries, ahahah!" Cai cried, soaring into the stratosphere well beyond an average human could see until it was lost in the clouds.
"Big Brother Shi, why are you letting Little Parrot away into the sky?" Zi Ling's eyes followed Cai until she couldn't see it as she asked.
"Well, the bag can be a stuffy place to stay in, so I figure it will do Cai better to have a stroll," Shi Mu fibbed. At the same time, he released his spirit sense and started to scan the surrounding around them.