Plundering The Heavens - Chapter 44
Chapter 44: The Leak-Proofed Package of Lies
’’As they picked out a location for the trap, a giant serpent suddenly came out and coiled around me. It was when Shixiong Qian Tong screamed 'we can't lose our bait' that I then realized that our bait was probably the serpent. Then all the shixiong came up to kill the giant serpent. All of them were very powerful and it was quickly killed by them together, but not long after it was dead, the Python Toad suddenly appeared. Since it had caught the shixiong off guard, they had to face the toad head-on....’’
Faced with the three elders, Fang Xing made it sound as though he was completely ignorant of the fact he was going to be used as the ’’bait’’ and that he had only escaped due to his extremely good fortune.
According to his story, the plan had been disrupted by the sudden appearance of the giant serpent. In order to protect their bait, they had to then kill the giant serpent without realizing the blood of the serpent had unexpectedly lured the hunting Python Toad towards them and without any other choice they had had to battle with the toad. After Zhao and Qian were killed, it was only Hou Qing and Lyu who were left barely surviving, and when Hou Qing ran to escape, the toad then went for him, killing him right there while Lyu lay upon the ground not moving. Fang Xing himself had been extremely terrified and so had been hiding behind a huge tree the entire time, which had spared him from the chaos.
Throughout the entirety of the tale, Fang Xing had painted the elders the picture of a standard ignorant bait who had only happened to survive thanks to sheer luck.
When it was mentioned that the killing of the giant serpent had lured the unexpectedly early visit of the Python Toad, an elder with a short beard softly nodded his head. ’’Python Toads like to hunt for their prey at night. It must have been the serpent blood that had attracted the toad in its hunt.’’
Fang Xing was once again interrupted by the awe-inspiring elder when he had mentioned Hou Qing had left Lyu behind to run off on his own. ’’Did you say that when Hou Qing asked Lyu San to stay behind so he could run away, Lyu San accepted?’’
To put it simply, the elder was not buying this part of the story.
Fang Xing gave a reply while pretending to stare blankly back at the elder, ’’Yes sir. I remember Shixiong Lyu San also told Shixiong Hou Qing to run as fast as possible while he laid on the ground quietly. But for some reason, the toad then decided to chase after Shixiong Hou Qing instead and completely ignored Shixiong Lyu San. Dear elders, this is the part where I still don't understand why it happened....’’
’’It is rather odd. Have you been lying?’’ the awe-inspiring elder firmly asked.
Startled, Fang Xing quickly waved his hands. ’’No, I promise I have only told the truth.’’
Seeing this, the short-bearded elder laughed and interrupted, ’’Don't worry too much, Shixiong Geng. You're probably unfamiliar with the characteristics of the Python Toad; it was born with a flaw where it can only see things in motion. Hou Qing may appear to have been treacherous to
run off by himself, but it was in fact he who had fallen into Lyu San's trap. When he chose to run away, he was as good as the toad's next meal.’’
The awe-inspiring elder was surprised upon hearing the explanation before nodding. ’’And then? How did the toad die?’’
’’When the Python Toad ate Shixiong Hou Qing, it came back again to where Shixiong Lyu San was. It then started a strange tornado to suck the corpses of Shixiong Zhao Zhi and Shixiong Qian Tong. Even Shixiong Lyu San did not escape it, even though he was still alive.... I did see Shixiong Lyu San activate his Flying Sword as he was being sucked in, though. I think....’’
At this point, Fang Xing looked somewhat astonished. ’’I don't know what happened there, but once the toad swallowed Shixiong Lyu San, it started to go mad, knocking down everything in its way, even the tree that I had been hiding behind was knocked down. I then saw some silver light inside its mouth, and I thought it was going to summon some scary spell so I made a run for it, and I was lucky that it didn't chase after me. After I'd dashed for a good hundred yards, I looked back and saw that the toad had stopped moving. I was too scared to go back to check on it though, so I ran again....’’
The cyan-robed elder quietly sighed. ’’Lyu San was indeed someone extraordinary. He must have killed the toad by slicing its insides with his Flying Sword after being sucked in by it. Fang Xing, tell us, did you go back to check on it again? Lyu San may have been sucked in by the toad, but there is still the chance of survival if he killed it fast enough.’’
’’I... I was too afraid. I didn't dare to return until a day later. By then ’’ Fang Xing was on the verge of tears once more as he sobbed on, ’’ by then, there wasn't much remaining of the toad. I... I even saw the corpses of the shixiong inside its belly. It was... it was... horrifying. I was... petrified....’’
The elders looked to each other one last time before sighing. They believed the story Fang Xing presented to them; this story had interwoven both fabrication and truth with many details and had a completely logical flow, and the elders could not spot anything wrong with it. Another reason was that they had all been through the same. They knew exactly some of the dirty business that went on between these disciples. In fact, even if there had been a few plot holes within Fang Xing's story, they would not bother with it as long as they had some manner of excuse and story if anyone was to ask.
’’Well, what's done is done and there's no point dwelling on it. What happened to the beast core of the toad? Did you bring it back?’’ the cyan-robed elder suddenly questioned after another sigh. The two remaining elders also looked on towards Fang Xing with deep concern; clearly, to them, the only thing that determined whether the mission was a success or failure heavily depended on whether he had the core or not. Even if someone other than Fang Xing did it, as long as someone brought the beast core back, the mission would be counted as a success.
’’I I searched everywhere for a long time, but I couldn't find it so I brought back this toad leg.’’ Fang Xing then placed the leg he had been carrying behind him all this time in front of the three elders, intentionally filling them with disgust.
The elders held their noses as the short-bearded elder waved his hand. ’’Useless! Too timid, you are! Leaving it out in the open like that for an entire night before going back to check, do you know how many beasts and wild animals would be attracted to its flesh and blood? With the
amount of Demonic Qi contained in that beast core, how could it still be there the next day? What does a single toad leg prove?’’
Fang Xing blinked his eyes, appearing as though wronged.
’’Don't feel dispirited. Even though the sect has its rules and the mission is counted as a failure, the fact you have survived is the biggest reward on its own already. Well, you may leave now. Actually ’’ the awe-inspiring elder comforted before remembering something, ’’ do you have their spirit weapons and tools? The ones that were provided to them need to be taken back by the sect; you cannot keep them.’’
Fang Xing hastily took out a cloth sack and placed it in front of the elders. ’’It's all here, I dare not to keep them. I had searched for a long time and these were all of my findings. Please, kindly check....’’
The awe-inspiring elder looked at Fang Xing as if to scan his body before nodding for him to leave. In fact, the elder was not interested in the spirit weapons of these low-tier disciples; it was just a matter of official procedure that he had to ask.
Of course, he did not know that Fang Xing had already arranged all of the loot into two portions. The one he handed over were items of no value, while those that were actually worth something had already been safely placed inside his storage ring. For extra security, Fang Xing had also dyed the outside of the storage ring into an unremarkable dirt-like grey to be tied into his hair, so that even the elders would not know what it was without really looking closely.
’’Yes, sir.’’ Posturing as though disappointed and reluctant, Fang Xing looked at the cloth sack once more before readying to leave.
It was then that the cyan-robed elder suddenly gave a command, ’’Wait for us at the outer hall, let us discuss this first!’’
Hearing these words left Fang Xing confused. He did not know what the elder meant yet still earnestly made his way towards the outer hall.
’’Shidi Yuan, what do you mean?’’ The other two elders were also just as confused. Since the mission had already been deemed a failure, what was there left to discuss?
The cyan-robed elder Yuan then smiled. ’’Shixiong, please listen to this. I think that everything the boy said is true. From the looks of the wound on the toad's hind leg, you can tell it's been cut off. If so, the Duty Talisman itself does only say 'to slay the beast'; in other words, we should count this a successful completion of the mission, shouldn't we?’’
The short-bearded elder was clearly unconvinced. ’’Without the beast core, there is no revenue for our Duty Talisman Hall already, and the Dragon Horses we lost from the Spirit Beast Department will also be added to our debts. If we were to consider this a success, we'd have to add a tier four beast core to our income accounts without actually having it. Regardless of how we do it, we're already at a big loss.’’
The awe-inspiring elder nodded in agreement to the one with the short beard.
’’Shixiong, this should not be the way we look at this. The new recruits have only just joined the sect, and the time they accept these Duty Talismans will be at its peak in another six or seven years. There are already rumors within the sect that have made the Duty Talismans look like a death penalty and all of these disciples have begun to avoid us like the plague. If they were to have any other options at all, no one would come and accept our missions.
’’This is not good news for us at all. Especially in the past few years, aside from the mandatory quota required for the inner court disciples, the number of those who have voluntarily come to us has been shrinking exponentially. They would rather steal, cheat, or rob their martial brothers than come to us for cultivation resources. The reason? It's simple.
’’All the disciples have villainized the Duty Talismans. Especially the outer court disciples, they think that anyone that comes here for a mission is more than likely going to die during it, and sometimes even if they do manage to survive, there's still no guarantee of a reward. It's only natural that, with time, nobody will want to give away their lives for nothing. That is, unless we have full control over things like Ore Essence Powder so they have no other methods of obtaining it; it's only then that they will come in teams for the Duty Talismans despite knowing very well there is a chance of never returning....’’
After listening to what the cyan-robed elder had to say, the other two elders could not help but to finally nod in agreement. It was the unfortunate truth.