While leaving Uncle Cheng and the rest of their subordinates to make what could only be described as a fortune through the sales of heavenly healing dans, Zhang and Wenji mounted a pair of large steeds and rode off toward the base mountains with Little Blue and Little Red following closely behind them.
“Although we may get there a bit early, it’ll be better than traveling when the road is littered with people.” Zhang said as he whistled and signaled for his horse to gallop faster.
“Arriving early should give us a bit of time to scout of the area and on top of things we’ll be able to get a good look at the people who will become our competition.” Wenji replied in a yell as she also signaled her horse to gallop faster, chasing after Zhang.
Seeing their masters speeding away toward the Black Demon Mountains, where everyone who was taking part in the opening of the tomb was to gather, Little Blue and Little Red both howled before energetically pursuing the.
Despite departing from Twin Blade City as early as they did, Zhang and Wenji, surprisingly still spotted others who had left toward the mountains before them. Besides a few lone unnoteworthy individuals, Zhang and Wenji spotted three groups that stood out above the rest.
“Those guys over there should be from the Tiger Claw Dojo.” Wenji said to Zhang as she pointed toward a group of roughly two hundred men garbed in robes that had a tiger paw emblem sewn onto them.
“And those guys over there should be from the Jian Clan, judging by the banners they are carrying.” Zhang said as he pointed into the distance toward another group of roughly two hundred men, all of whom were clad in grayish colored iron armor.
“I wonder which force those people to belong to… Of the three groups, they appear to be the most powerful.” Wenji said while gazing at a group of roughly one hundred young men who were all wearing matching black colored robes with a white lotus emblem sewn on the back.
“Eh, regardless of which force they belong to, we should keep out distance and not mix with any of these groups of people. I’m sure at least a few of them had been there when we were setting up shop.” Zhang said with a chuckle as he withdrew a black colored scarf from his interspatial ring and wrapped it around his face.
“So, what if they recognize us? A previously disfigured girl and a beggar who recently regained the use of his legs can’t go exploring ancient tombs? Is there some kind of list of requirements that I need to fulfill in order to put my life at risk?” Wenji said in a half serious and half joking manner as she retrieved a white colored scarf from her interspatial ring and wrapped it around her face like Zhang had done.
“Let’s go let and let the horses and pups have a drink of water at that pond before we continue toward the mountains.” Zhang said before jumping off his mount and leading it to a small pond where the disciples of the Tiger Claw Dojo, the members of the Jiang clan, the mysterious group clad in black and other treasure seekers were gathered.
Filled with water descending from small streams that flowed down from the Black Devil Mountains, the watering hole was crystal clear and void of impurities.
With vigilant eyes and cautious steps, Zhang approached the watering hole, since everyone present could be all considered competitors it would be idiotic to not be on high alert.
Bolting past Zhang and arriving at the watering hole first, Little Red and Little Blue bent forward preparing to take a few gulps of the crystal-clear water to quench their thirst, however, strangely after sniffing the air the two pups retreated and toward Zhang, not taking even a sip of water.
Seeing something was off, Wenji handed Zhang the reins of her horse, briskly toward the watering hole and dipped her slim hand inside.
“Let’s just rest a bit by one of those trees before hitting the road once more. We have quite a long distance to travel and should leave as soon as possible.” Wenji suggested as she returned by Zhang’s side and took back the reins of her horse.
“Alright, we haven’t traveled the long anyway so they shouldn’t be too thirsty yet...” Zhang said while nodding and rubbing Little Red on the head.
While attracting as little attention as possible, Zhang and Wenji found an open spot underneath a tree nearby and sat down for a few minutes before jumping back onto their steeds and racing toward the mountains.
“I don’t think it would be wise for us to stop by anymore watering holes along the way. If needed, we can use some of the water stored away in our interspatial rings.” Wenji said as she pulled out a pitch black colored needle from her sleeve and showed it so Zhang.
“The water was poison?” Zhang said in an astonished tone. Although he already had suspicions, he still couldn’t help but be slightly stunned once they were confirmed.
“I don’t know who did it, but the poison they used is a very slow acting one that takes days for symptoms to show. The most frightening thing about it is that unless one actually tests the water or possess extremely keen senses, there is no way to normally detect it, even core realm cultivators would be left in the dark after consuming such a poison. Had it not been for these two rascals, I might not have noticed either...” Wenji said while eyeing the pups and smiling brightly.
“I’m sure it was the Mang Clan who did this… However as long as we don’t drink from any of the water sources in the mountain, this is actually great news.” Zhang said after a slight pause as a devious grin slowly appeared on his face.
“Indeed, thanks to the contaminated water most of our competition will effectively be eliminated. Then when the time comes we simply need to act our part and wait for the right moment to strike.” Wenji said as an equally devious grin appeared on her face.
Simply said, one’s misfortune is another’s fortune, in this case, not only will Zhang and Wenji’s competition be greatly trimmed down but they will also gain the element of surprise as long as they pretend they are affected by the poison when the time comes.
If they were facing the Mang Clan alone, this pair of partners in crime didn’t have much to fear. With Zhang’s mystifying powers and Wenji’s unique skill set, the two of them along with the two pups were more than enough to deal with the few core realm cultivators that were a part of the Mang Clan.
At the very least they were certain that if they wished to flee there would be few people within a hundred-mile radius of Twin Blade City who could stop them.
Thus, while rejoicing over the misfortune of others, Zhang and Wenji continued up the mountain with Little Red and Little Blue. Taking a few stops along the way and avoiding the watering holes, Zhang and Wenji eventually arrived at the gathering point.
“These guys work quick.” Zhang said as he stared at a large and newly erected fortress.
“it's only been about two weeks since the fire.” Wenji commented as and Zhang rode past a pair of large iron gates.
“Looks like we have to sign up over there.” Wenji pointed out as a few long lines of people came into view.
“I'll take your horses to the stables for you, while you two go and register at one of the registers over there.” A young man said as he walked up toward Zhang and Wenji.
Nodding and quickly dismounting, Zhang and Wenji turned over their horse to the young man, thanking him before heading off to one of the registration tables.
“Everyone who wishes to take part in the opening of the ancient tomb must sign up and obtain a registration badge or else they won't be able to pass through the barrier that our clan Patriarch erected.” A member of the Mang Clan said in a loud and audible voice.
“One hundred gold coins for a copper badge that will allow you to enter through the barrier and enter the tomb an hour after it opens. Two hundred and fifty gold coins for a silver badge that will allow you entry into the tomb half an hour after the tomb opens! Five hundred gold coins for a gold badge, to be a part of the first group who are allowed to enter the tomb!” The member of the Mang Clan added.
“Th-this is highway robbery… on top of thirty percent of whatever everyone finds they are also charging an admission fee…” Zhang thought as he clenched his fists.
“If only I had been the one to find this tomb…” Zhang mumbled as he imagined the amount of money the Mang Clan will be receiving from admission fees alone.
Compared to the heavenly healing dans that he was selling, which was limited to the number of pills Wenji and her assistants could produce, there was no limit to the number of people hoping to enter the tomb. There were also no production costs, meaning everything was pure profit.
“We’ll take two gold badges.” Zhang said to a middle-aged woman, in a pained tone as he reached into his robes and pulled out a mid-sized pouch after arriving in front of one of the registration counters.
“Will those two dogs be going with you also?” The middle-aged woman helping Zhang asked in an indifferent tone.
“You couldn’t possibly mean…” Zhang mumbled in a low tone while a grave expression made its way onto his face.
“It’ll be two thousand hundred gold coins total if you two and the two mutts want to enter together. If not instead of two gold badges you can get four silver badges, then there’s always the option of not participating.” The middle-aged woman said in a snobbish manner as she saw Zhang’s hand that was holding his pouch of gold coins slightly shake.
“I-I-I will take four gold badges…” Zhang said after a long pause as he tossed the pouch of gold coins in his hand onto the counter before reaching back into his robes and fishing out another pouch. Of course, these pouches were all stored in his interspatial ring, however, when considering how highly valued interspatial rings were within Twin Blade City, Zhang figured it would be best to avoid using them in public.
“The opening of the tomb will begin in half a day, be there on time else you’ll have to enter with the second group.” The middle-aged woman said as she stored away Zhang’s two pouches of gold and tossed four golden colored badges onto the counter.
“Once we get into the tomb and everything is over, I’ll be sure to take back ten times much as what you bastards took from me today…” Zhang thought as his brows furrowed after grabbing four golden colored badges off the counter and walking off without uttering a word.
Seeing how Zhang was acting and guessing his thoughts, Wenji couldn’t help but chuckle slightly as she and the pups followed after him.
“I’m sure even if we manage to get a single item within the tomb, it’ll be worth way more than four thousand gold coins.” Wenji said, trying to comfort Zhang.
“You’re kidding me… This isn’t even real gold!” Zhang said as he came to a sudden halt.
“What isn’t real gold?” Wenji asked before arriving beside Zhang and seeing him bite down on one of the four golden badges that he had just paid for not too long ago.
“These are just made of iron and glazed with golden colored paint…” Zhang said as he presented the badge he had bitten into to Wenji, pointing to the parts where the paint had chipped off, prompting her to shake her head before bursting into laughter.
“You're too much sometimes.” Wenji said in a laugh while wiping away a fear tears of joy that had gathered at the corner of her eyes.
“They’ll rue the day they did this to me.” Zhang said while raising his fist toward the sky, prompting Wenji to burst into laughter once again.
“Let's go find a place to have a seat and perhaps eat a bit of food while we wait. I think they have a few stalls over there that are selling food and equipment.” Wenji suggested while playfully pulling down Zhang’s fist.
“Alright let's go.” Zhang said as proceeded to walk alongside Wenji who was walking with brisk joyful steps, showing the good laugh that Zhang had given her had given her a pretty uplifting mood.
Hoping to profit further off the opening of the tomb, the Mang Clan had at up a small market that sold a wide variety of things, of course, everything was marked up and much more expensive when compared to prices within Twin Blade City.
However, considering they were quite a distance away from the city and that there were no other vendors in the area, people either bought things or they kept their mouths shut, afraid of angering the Mang Clan.
“You're kidding me…” Zhang grumbled as he stared at a sign which listed the prices of food sold at one of the Mang Clan’s food stalls.
“Twenty gold coins for a fucken potato?” Zhang said in an unhappy tone.
“You didn't read the sentence underneath.” Wenji said with a giggle as she tried to contain herself.
“Ten gold coins to bake a potato… So, its twenty gold coins for a raw potato and thirty gold coins if I want a cooked one…” Zhang said with a frown.
“I'll definitely destroy the Mang Clan… Or at the least rob them…” Zhang thought as walked forth and bought four raw potatoes.
“We’ll save forty gold coins by cooking them ourselves…” Zhang said to Wenji as he went about making a small campfire at a relatively unpopulated area within the Mang Clan’s fortress.
“Sir! That will be five gold coins!” A member of the Mang Clan clads in leather armor said as he spotted Zhang making a fire.
“What?” Zhang asked with a confused look on his face.
“To make a fire within the fortress, you'll need to pay five gold coins.” The member of the Mang Clan said as he put his hand out waiting for Zhang to give him five gold coins.
“I will definitely kill all of you…” Zhang thought as a scowl appeared on his face.