With so few people carrying wood, only thirty units arrived at Crane Summit. Even that amount was only possible with the enhanced strength from the physical Professions. However, it was enough to build two Meditation Halls, so there was no reason to go collect more before the sun set.
Everything was progressing slower than Cheng Yang would have liked, but there was no helping it. He would have to claim the other nearby Territory Altar tomorrow.
To help increase the strength of the new soldiers, Liu Wei and Lau Hui took them out to hunt monsters. They limited their range of operations to a kilometer away from the village. Their combat experience wasn’t enough to help if they ran into a large horde, but, with Liu Wei’s powerful Priest abilities, there was no need to worry about casualties as long as the number of monsters was less than five hundred.
After his new subordinates left, Cheng Yang used the Territory Altar to check the day’s Auction House earning. The Stones of Return had sold out today as well, allowing him to make up more than the deficit of upgrading the Bone-Gnawing Bead. The profits weren’t as incredible as the first day, but he earned almost six hundred thousand Experience Fragments.
After that, Cheng Yang used a Stone of Return to send himself back to Phoenix Village. Since Enlai was Cheng Yang’s Pet, he was forcibly sent to Phoenix Village as well.
Three seconds later, Cheng Yang and Enlai appeared in a random location on the outskirts of the village.
When they did, the civilians harvesting Alchemy materials screamed. Although those willing to brave the wilderness weren’t cowards, the relative safety of the area had lowered their guards. Thus, when a monster suddenly appeared, they were terrified.
However, that only lasted a few seconds. Once they realized Cheng Yang was there, they felt a sense of security. As if they were immune to harm as long as their Lord was there.
“This tiger is my Pet, so you’ll see him a lot more in the future. Warn the other civilians so they won’t react so strongly.” Cheng Yang said before riding Enlai into the village.
Along the way, Cheng Yang’s head turn rate was a hundred percent. Every person that saw him couldn’t help but turn around for another look. Of course, it was to see the white tiger he was riding, not him. No one had seen such a ferocious yet majestic creature before, so they couldn’t help but watch as it progressed through the Outer Village.
Things calmed down once Cheng Yang arrived at the Inner Village. There were fewer civilians around, and the soldiers were either training quietly or outside the village.
“Welcome back, my Lord.”
Cheng Yang turned around to see Xue Yu approaching him at a brisk powerwalk.
When Xue Yu saw Enlai, she couldn’t help but fill with jealousy. A Warrior’s steed was their pride, and seeing her Lord riding an outstanding one only reminded her of the one she was forced to leave behind.
“Thank you.” Cheng Yang replied. “Was there something you needed to report?”
“I do, my Lord. Old Lee told me that they noticed a spy lurking around the woods near the north of the village this morning. Unfortunately, they escaped capture using a Stone of Return.”
“That was probably one of Yuan Jianzhe’s scouts.” Cheng Yang wasn’t surprised. “It was inevitable that he’d try to find the village.”
“I also have a report from Liu Hau that an explosion nearly killed one of his soldiers while they were hunting near Joyous River Village. We don’t have any clues as to where the explosion came from, but Liu Hau is convinced it was Yuan Jianzhe. Although I’m not sure what caused the explosion, I’m afraid that man obtained the Artificer class.”
“No, that doesn’t make sense. Yuan Jianzhe can’t unlock any special classes even if he found an item for it. That was probably a weapon from this world.” Cheng Yang frowned. “I knew Yuan Jianzhe wouldn’t sit still, but it’s unfortunate that he isn’t willing to hand Cloud City over to me obediently.”
Cheng Yang knew about the Artificer class, but the first ones were from Cairo. Some kind of military-grade munitions definitely caused the explosion. Probably a grenade or landmine.
“My Lord, I recommend you immediately mobilize your forces and eradicate Yuan Jianzhe before he becomes a bigger threat.” Xue Yu said.
“I couldn’t even if I wanted to. The gods forbid killing within the safe zones, so unless I was willing to starve him to death, it’s impossible to kill him. We can’t waste time guarding the safe zone since it would limit our growth, and a protracted war would be more harmful to us than them since they have far more soldiers.”
“What do you plan to do, my Lord?” Xue Yu asked, “We can’t allow that commoner to continue causing trouble for us.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll deal with him.” Cheng Yang sneered. “If he tries to do anything over the top, I’ll personally drag him out of the safe zone and see whether he can die like the rest of us.”
Although Cheng Yang said that, he was hoping he wouldn’t have to kill Yuan Jianzhe. In his past life, Yuan Jianzhe could be considered the reason he had lived as long as he did. He had valiantly mobilized the military against horrible odds to capture the safe zone and rescue civilians. He also set aside Experience Fragments for food before he could be kicked out for not doing that.
As such, how could he not be lenient with Yuan Jianzhe?
Cheng Yang also hoped he would be able to count Yuan Jianzhe among his subordinates someday, but it seemed the man wasn’t the type to be someone’s second-in-command. He had hoped that just developing his forces would be enough to dissuade Yuan Jianzhe, but now he would have to change his strategy.
“Since you have a plan, this subordinate will not bring up the matter again.” Xue Yu said with a bow.
Cheng Yang sent Xue Yu away, then he visited the Territory Altar and sent thirty thousand Experience Fragments to Crane Summit. It was enough to level up the village and compensate workers for any collected materials.
When he was done, Cheng Yang left the village. He had a promise to fulfill.
Riding Enlai was a calming experience. Thorns and shrubs were crushed under his paws, and any monster they encountered were left in the dust. The combination of the safe environment and his boredom allowed Cheng Yang to think introspectively for the first time since he returned to the past.
When did he become a kind person? Why was he wasting time to rescue a pair of civilians that were utterly incapable of helping him? Although he’d focused rescue efforts before, it was always because he had more to gain by rescuing them.
He wasn’t this nice even before the apocalypse in his past life. In fact, he’d been rather selfish. He spent most of his free time gaming or sleeping but never helping others.
Was his experience as a Lord changing him? No, from the perspective of a Lord, this trip was even more wasteful since he could use this time to rescue more civilians from Yicheng.
Was he still the same person as before? When he returned to the past, did something change? He had only grown more vicious in his previous life, so what had happened? Did the gods meddle with his mind to make him some into an ideal person?
When was the last time he did something fun? Even before the apocalypse in this life, he never stopped to enjoy good food or rejoice over the lives of his friends? Did he not care about anything but power now?
Why couldn’t he forget the look in Qin Yiling’s eyes?
Why did the tired and defeated Qin Qiang fill him with sorrow?
Why did the thought of leaving those two to die on that ledge fill him with such remorse that he set out to save them immediately after returning to Phoenix Village?
For more than half an hour, all sorts of questions flowed through Cheng Yang’s mind. Although he didn’t have any answers, he knew something about him had changed, and he wasn’t sure how to feel about that.
“Mister! You came back for us!”
Cheng Yang’s thoughts were interrupted by the childish cry of Qin Yiling.
“Aren’t you afraid that you’ll attract monsters by shouting so loudly?” Cheng Yang asked with a bright smile.
“Dad! Dad, wake up! That uncle came back! Hurry and get up!”
Cheng Yang never got an answer since Qin Yiling was too excited to hear the question.
He slowly got off of Enlai while lamenting his new status as an “uncle.” Then, he quickly scaled the cliff.
The outcrop was much cleaner than before. The loose rubble had been thrown off the cliff, and a small shrine had been created for the grandmother’s body.