“Mother! I'm over here!” Li Ming yelled while waving his small hands about as he saw the group of people who were searching for him.
“Young master! Don't run off like that! Did you know how worried you made the two madams?” A young woman roughly in her twenties said as she arrived beside Li Ming as she straightened out his garments and fixed his slightly messy hair.
From how Li Ming and the two middle-aged women were dressed Zhang could deduce they were of fairly high social standing. That is of course if one were to judge by a regular person’s standard sincere he had never had the chance to truly go out and explore the world of cultivators.
“Young master, I apologize if my son has been bothering you.” One of the middle-aged women said in an elegant manner while the group of what seemed to be twelve servants gathered beside her and gave Zhang cautious looks.
“Madam, rather than bothering us, Little Brother Li Ming was actually going to be a great help to us. My fiancée and I had gotten hopelessly lost and I was hoping to get directions to the nearest city.” Zhang said as he glanced at a subtly blushing Wenji.
“Thank you, great ancestor.” Zhang thought as he recalled his clan’s teachings in regards to capturing a woman’s heart.
After hearing Zhang’s words and refocusing their gaze off from Zhang and onto a beautiful girl with silky white skin and delicate features.
“Discrimination…” Zhang thought with a chuckle as he saw his everyone's expressions instantly softened upon looking at Wenji.
Their previously guarded and cautious looks were replaced with gazes of admiration mixed with slight hints of envy.
“I guess that's one of the perks of being beautiful.” Zhang thought as a crooked grin appeared on his face.
“We had been separated from the group we were traveling with in the woods and a certain someone suggested we take a small joy trip on a small boat we happened to find on the shore of the lake… a certain boat the happened to have sunk to the bottom of the lake…” Wenji said as she proceeded to pinch Zhang playfully after arriving beside him.
“Hey, you were the one that said that the scenery was beautiful!” Zhang complained as he pinched Wenji back, causing the two middle-aged women to slightly chuckle.
“ACHOO!” Wenji sneezed as she could be seen shivering while her wet garments stuck to her body, revealing her both skin and plentiful figure.
“Poor girl, let's go get you a change of clothes before you get sick. Our camp is just over there.” The women who identified herself as Li Ming's mother said in a gentle tone.
“Madam, are you sure it is wise to bring back a pair of strangers to our camp?” An elderly man dressed in red robes said.
“Uncle Pang, my husband said to be wary of strangers because they may turn out to be bandits. Do you think these two children look like bandits? Even if they were, do you think they could come up with such ridiculous circumstances as to how they ended up here?” Li Ming’s mother said in an authoritative tone.
“Uncle Pang, we know that you always strive for the best for our family, but throughout all of these years do you recall a time when elder sister ever misjudged a person?” The other elegantly dressed middle-aged woman said with a laugh.
“Then it’s, settled. If anything, I will talk with my husband and none of you are to be blamed.” Li Ming’s mother said as she gestured for Zhang and Wenji to follow her.
Glancing at Wenji who gave a small nod in response, Zhang proceeded forward as his two furry companions who had remained out of sight ran up alongside him.
Spotting the two pups, Li Ming who had remained silent upon his mother's arrival became energetic as he chased after Little Red and Little Blue.
“Madam if you don't mind us asking, could you possibly tell us where we are?” Wenji spoke, seeing that it would be easier for her to extract information then Zhang.
“We currently are in a place that the locals call the Forsaken Forest. The two of you are quite lucky to have run into us instead of one of the roving group of bandits that lurk in these parts. Had they spotted you first, perhaps then both of you would have ended up with a fate worse than death.” Li Ming’s mother said while giving Wenji a gentle smile as she spotted her son playing with Zhang and the two pups before giving off a tone full of concern.
“Young miss, might I ask what household you are from?” Li Ming’s mother asked as she tried to figure out Wenji’s background. Someone with Wenji’s looks and demeanor was without a doubt someone with an extraordinary background.
Like the old sayings go, one can not confuse a Phoenix with a chicken.
“Household? Madam, it's said to say but upon my birth, my parents had all passed away and I've been an orphan ever since. Drifting from place to place, without a home until a kind elderly man took me as his disciple. Sadly, good things and good people don't last and my master passes away not too long ago. Ever since then, I and my junior brother have been traveling to broaden our views.” Wenji said as a slightly sad expression surfaced on her face as she said a mixture of truths and lies.
Believing that she had brought up a sore subject, Li Ming’s mother no longer tried to pry into Wenji and Zhang’s background as she led them and the rest of her group through the woods toward a large clearing where dozens of people could be seen busily packing things away.
Upon seeing Li Ming, his mother, and the other elegantly dressed middle-aged woman, regardless of how busy everyone was, they would stop what they were doing and bow respectfully.
It was not until arriving in front of a chain of carriages and a valiant looking middle aged man who was cradling carrying a small girl who looked roughly six years of age, did the group stop.
“Who might we have here?” The middle-aged man asked as he spotted two extra additions to the group that had departed in such of his son.
“My lord, my name is Zhou Zhang, and this is my unmarried wife.” Zhang said in a respectful tone as he introduced himself.
“Pleased to meet you, my lord, my name is Cai Wenji.” Wenji said as she saw that Zhang was slightly hesitant in giving away her name.
Seeing that her Soul Shrouding Necklace had been destroyed and considering how many people there are out there with the surname Cai and the name Wenji, she felt there wasn't any need to go by an alias any longer.
“These two had been separated from their travel companions are have become lost in the woods. I was hoping to allow them to tag along with us until we get to Twin Blade City. Also, this young miss is in desperate need of a change of clothes.” Li Ming’s mother said with a chuckle to her husband.
“Since they are already here, I guess there's no harm in letting them travel with us. Also, no need for such formalities, call me Uncle Li.” The middle-aged man said with a smile.
Thus Zhang, Wenji, and the two pups began their journey to Twin Blade city with the Li family.
Quickly befriending their benefactors, Zhang and Wenji were able to gather a substantial amount of information in next to no time at all.
They had found out that Li Ming’s father, Li Yang, Li Ming’s mother, Yue Yu, his stepmother Xiao Ka and her daughter Li Ling, along with the rest of their family were relocating their base of business to Twin Blade City. With Twin Blade City being the largest city within ten thousand miles, they were hoping to expand their business ventures.
They also found out that geographically they were located on the opposite side of the continent in regards to the location of the Misty Mountain Sect, at the very rim of what is perceived as the world of cultivators.
Meaning there wouldn't be any large or mid-sized sects in within many thousands of thousands of miles of where they currently were. At best, there would be a small sect or two, and at best these sects still wouldn't be able to compare to the Misty Mountain Sect.
It was safe to say that the Cai Clan wouldn't possibly find their way toward such a mundane place, making it a perfect place for Wenji to avoid being captured and forced to return to the clan to be married off.
“We will make camp here for the night, everyone.” Li Yang said as pulled his horse’s reins after locating an ideal spot to set up camp.
“Uncle Li, is there anything we can help with simply say the word.” Zhang said after he disembarked from the carriage that had been assigned to him and Wenji as he arrived beside Li Yang’s horse.
“Little friend, I'll keep your words in mind, but for now you are my guest and we have servants to carry out any menial tasks that are needed to be done, so you can simply sit back and relax. If anything, you can help me by keeping Little Ming and Little Ling company. There are many despicable bandits around these parts and it would be best if someone can keep an eye on the children at all times.” Li Yang said to Zhang with a smile.
“Alright, I'll help the two madams keep an eye on those rascals for you.” Zhang said with a chuckle before heading toward the carriage where Madam Yue Yu, Madam Xiao Ka, and their kids were.
From what little time that he had spent with this family, Zhang could tell that they were good people. Unlike many businessmen, Uncle Li had used solely hard work, good luck, and straightforward business ethics to accumulate his wealth.
Coming from a family that focused on business also, Zhang and Uncle Li almost instantly clicked, thus Zhang had a fairly favorable impression of this family.
As night arrived and the day came to an end, the Li Family’s servants had erected a makeshift camp by positioning all of the carriages in their caravan into a large ring and setting up dozens of tents inside.
Since no one in their family were cultivators, the Li family had hired a group of escorts called the Silver Guard Brigade? who were rather famous to the locals.
With roughly two hundred regular guards, twenty fragmented realm veterans, and five low-level elementary realm cultivators, to regular people the Silver Guard Brigade had quite an impressive lineup.
Had Zhang not witness the grandeur of the Red Cloud Sect and the might of the eight great powers, he may have thought the same, however with the powers granted to him through the Heavenly Devouring Technique, the Silver Guard Brigade did not amount to much.
Within a weak sect like the Misty Mountain Sect, fragmented realm cultivators were a dime a dozen while elementary realm cultivators not are rare as one would think.
In all honesty, if he wished, Zhang was now more than capable of culling as many groups like the Silver Guard Brigade as he wished.
But of course, he was not content with his current capabilities in the least.
To these people, he may be the equivalent of a soaring dragon but compared to a great power like the Cai Clan he couldn't even amount to a fish in a pond. With that in mind, Zhang continually reminded himself that he needed to get stronger, the stronger the better.
“Although, the people here don't seem very strong, along the way I was actually able to spot quite a few herbs that could be used to concoct a wide variety of pills that are very beneficial to one's cultivation.” Wenji said in a soft whisper as she and Zhang gazed into the sky toward a beautiful full moon while two fluffy fur balls could be seen cuddled up beside them.
“At least we won't have to worry about having to fight for a while. Once we get to Twin Blade City, we can quickly establish ourselves there using the gold left in my interspatial ring.” Zhang said after making sure no one was paying attention to his conversation with Wenji.
With the wealth stored inside the Zhou Clan’s ancestral tomb housed within Zhang’s black interspatial ring, the two of them wouldn't need to worry about living expenses for quite some time.
Although Zhang didn't know the true extent of the wealth inside the ancestral tomb, he was sure that it was an astronomical sum.
Using the teachings passed down by a certain ancestor, with every passing generation the hoard of treasure within the Zhou Clan’s ancestral tomb continued to grow until there was enough wealth within it to buy a city or five.
“It seems the night had been too peaceful.” Zhang said with a chuckle as he sensed four large groups of people approaching from afar.
“Too peaceful?” Wenji asked with a perplexed look on her face.
Although she was still currently an entire realm higher than Zhang in terms of cultivation, within the cover of night, thanks to the Heavenly Devouring Technique, Zhang’s power, and senses was amplified many times, allowing him to detect the presence of people who were roughly half a mile away.
“I'll be right back. Seeing as they are good people I'll go make surrender no problems make their way here.” Zhang said in a slightly excited tone as he got onto his feet and sped into the woods, leaving Wenji in a slight daze.
“Hey, Uncle you're not leaving me behind!” Wenji yelled after snapping out of her daze.
“Keep up to me if you can.” Zhang laughed as he stuck his tongue out at Wenji in a playful manner.
“Wai-wait! Where are the two of you going?!” Uncle Li’s voice could be heard as Zhang and Wenji dashed out of the ring of carriages with Little Red and Little Blue in tow.
“I'll be right back! I need to use the bathroom!” Zhang replied with the first excuse that came to mind.
“Bathroom!? Why are you two going together!?” Uncle Li asked as a confused expression surfaced on his face.
“Kids these days…” Uncle Li mumbled.