The morning sun rose above the mountains, casting the first of its incandescent rays onto the grounds of Ye Castle. Most of the members were awake by then, in fact Ye Moyuan had already begun hammering away in his shop, the sounds of metal clanking traveled across the streets in the neighborhood.
In the sparring hall, a group of youths could be seen training diligently.
"Ha! Ha! Ha!"
The sound of their punches clouded the air, syncing perfectly like the roar of thunder.
Heralding the start of a new day.
As Ye Changxuan strode past the sparring hall with Ye Chen by his side, the group of youths broke into an upright formation. Members of the clan crowded both sides of the hallway and looked at the ex-patriarch and his grandson, all clearly worried and eagerly praying for the two.
"Come on, let's go." Ye Changxuan patted Ye Chen on the head. Noticing Ye Zhantian and the others from the corner of his eyes, he smiled rea.s.suringly. "Relax, I'll do whatever it takes to ensure Little Chen comes home safe and sound, even if costs my life."
"Remember Chen, don't forget to seek grandpa's advice before you act on anything!" Ye Zhantian cautioned. Deep down, he was worried nonetheless.
"Yes father." As much as Ye Chen had begun to grow weary of his father's words, he nodded accordingly for he knew his father spoke out of genuine concern.
Ye Chen looked over to Ye Rou.
Her face was ridden with guilt. She had sought the elders' permission to tag along but they would not grant it.
Ye Chen reached over to stroke her forehead, "Don't worry, I'll be back in one piece."
"Stay safe, Brother Chen." Chimed Ye Xuan.
"I will." Ye Chen flashed her a smile, before departing with Ye Changxuan for Yun Castle.
As the two walked along, more clan members gathered behind them and accompanied the two, refusing to leave. They followed them outside of the castle, some of the elderly wept as they did so.
"G.o.dspeed, Elder Chief!
"A banquet awaits you upon your return, Elder Chief!"
"Safe travels, Elder Chief!"
Ye Chen was touched by the heartwarming farewells from the clan. Ye Castle reminded him of home. To him, every single one of them was family.
"All things must come to pa.s.s. It is time for Chen and I to go now, please take your leave." Saluted the ex-patriarch.
With that, Ye Chen bade the crowd farewell. Even as the two walked away, the crowd remained at the entrance of Ye Castle, refusing to disperse.
By the time the two were within the territory of the Lianyun Mountain, the castle was no longer in their sights when they turned their head backs.
"Little Chen, now that we're away from the castle, there's bound to be eyes working for Yun Castle along the way. Let us travel off the beaten path." Advised Ye Changxuan. It was a given for him to remain ever-so-vigilant. After all, the fate of the clan rested on his shoulders.
The distance between Yun and Ye Castle was twenty miles at best. That said, now that they were traveling off the beaten path, the journey had doubled or tripled in distance. Factoring in the rocky slopes, it would take them at least five to six hours to get there.
Little Tanuki perched atop Ye Chen shoulder, its eyes scanning the surroundings vigilantly.
"You saw something, Little Tanuki? Don't be afraid, it's all going to be okay." Ye Chen brushed Little Tanuki's back as he comforted it. Despite that, something about the demon wolves left Little Tanuki undoubtedly afraid. The moment they ventured deeper into the Lianyun Mountain, Little Tanuki begun to behave anxiously.
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Little Tanuki retreated into Ye Chen's embrace and snuggled tightly, letting out a coo or two.
In an act of response, the wolf too projected an ent.i.ty resembling an astral body and sent it charging towards Ye Chen's direction.
Ye Chen frowned. Looks like the also enemy possesses the ability to astral project its body though when compared to his own it was much less refined. Ye Chen reciprocated by conjuring a more potent form of astral projection. Manifesting above his head, the silhouette a.s.sumed the form of a sword-wielding soldier. It was only a specter but Ye Chen sent it dashing towards the sanguine wolf to attack it.
Regardless of how strong the wolf is, Ye Chen was prepared to take it head on.
As the wolf took a few steps further, its astral body caught the sight of a large corporeal figure charging from out of nowhere. It was a soldier with a stern expression and a sword in one hand. The wolf's hackles raised, bracing itself for a confrontation.
"It's an Astral Externalization! Split up and alert the boss that the tanuki is with a human-shapeshifting Daemon King!" The sanguine wolf, who was clearly scared out of its wits, scurried away in a different direction with its tail between its feet, as did the two other wolves.
Noticing that the corporeal soldier was still relentlessly pursuing it, the sanguine wolf increased it speed. Not realizing a tree in its way, it rammed its head hard into the tree, let out an anguished cry before resuming its high speed escape.
Now that the three demon wolves were gone and the coast is clear, Little Tanuki was finally able to settle down in Ye Chen's arms and rest peacefully.
"Astral Externalization? Daemon King? What are they?" Ye Chen murmured to himself. He didn't seem to understand any of it. Perhaps the sanguine wolf must have mistook him for some Daemon King and scared the living daylights out of itself.
"What are you mumbling to yourself, Little Chen?" Ye Changxuan questioned Ye Chen suspiciously.
"Oh, it's nothing." Ye Chen shook his head in response. After a little hesitation, he spoke to Ye Changxuan once more. "Grandpa, what's a Celestial Beast?"
Hearing Ye Chen's question, Ye Changxuan gave him a confused look. "Why the sudden question? Did you read about it from one of the cla.s.sics back home?" He looked over to Little Tanuki, who was resting in Ye Chen's arm, and continued, "Honestly, I'm beginning to wonder if that tanuki of yours is a Celestial Beast and not a Mystical Beast. Then again, Celestial Beasts are a rare sight and they typically reside deep in the forest where the Mystical Beasts roam, away from humans. Perhaps I'm just reading too much into things."
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