Volume 3 Chapter 3: Tiger King Sprouting Wings
The winding road connecting the east and the west rambled through the mountains. Traversing this passage was a challenge. Sometimes, it passed through tunnels and caves. At other times, you’d have to hike up half a mountain. The mercenary company and travelling merchants journeyed through the boundless mountains.
Every day, the Little Princess would be noisy and rambunctious. She had already gotten over her moodiness from a few days prior. The continuous, unending mountain range was blooming and verdant throughout all four seasons of the year. The mountains were filled with all kinds of unknown and unheard of rare things. Most of her attention was focussed on those rare, exotic beasts.
As they travelled, she plucked many vibrantly coloured wild flowers and picked many refreshing wild fruits. Once in a while, she would scream in fear when an exotic animal suddenly pounced out of the forest and onto the road.
The beautiful landscapes and splendid trip caused the princess to gradually forget about her status as a captive. As the journey progressed, she found that this sort of wandering lifestyle was increasingly more enjoyable. Of course, only the Little Princess, the heavenly daughter who rarely left the imperial palace of royalty, would feel this way.
There were indeed some bandits who appeared on the road, but confronted with the attacks from the formidable first ranked magus and the terrifying Land Dragon Rider, those gangs were very rapidly obliterated.
For the Little Princess who wanted to watch a good show, this was very dissatisfying. She repeatedly scolded those bandits for being useless. The merchants and mercenary corps looked at each other in dismay upon hearing her words. They even cleaned out their ears, suspecting that there was a problem with their hearing.
Later, whenever Chen Nan snapped his fingers, the princess would painfully groan. Those with ability would look towards them, inwardly sighing at how truly ‘unusual’ this girl was.
Neither dragons nor ancient giants presented themselves en route. Only a few magical beasts from the west appeared, but they were all immediately dealt with by Big Moustache Guan Hao. Whenever he fetched the magicite core from within the corpses of the magical beasts, the Little Princess would curse at him for being such a ruthless miser.
After an explanation from the mercenary company’s chief, Chen Nan understood that Guan Hao absolutely wasn’t rapacious. He desired to study profound skills at Shenfeng Institute in the City of Crime, but apparently, the tuition fee to attend the school was extravagant, to say the least. He did everything he could think of in order to raise money for his tuition.
Nearby, the princess curled her lips. “Shenfeng Institute only accepts young ranked experts. You’re already how old, and you still want to go? Even if you go, they won’t want you.”
Guan Hao angrily said, “Who says I’m old? I’m only twenty nine years old! As long as you’re under thirty, you’re allowed to register to participate in the entrance exam for acceptance into Shenfeng Institute.”
“Heavens, you’re twenty nine years old?! Why did I think you were a thirty nine year old uncle!”
Guan Hao turned incomparably forlorn. He fished out a razor and quickly shaved his face clean from the beard and moustache that concealed his face. His appearance was indeed similar to that of a youth.
After learning this detail of Guan Hao, the Little Princess no longer cursed him for being a greedy miser. She began to genially call him Hao-zi.
This made Guan Hao even more depressed.
“Please, little lady, if you don’t want to address me as dage, then call me Guan Hao. You don’t have to call me a rat1.”
“Hehe, it’s you who thinks that way. That meaning was never my intention, but since you’re the one who brought it up, I won’t be impolite. From now on, I’ll call you a rat.”
Everyone laughed out loud. Guan Hao was so angered, he wanted to vomit blood.
Five days later, they arrived at a valley etched between the mountains. It was currently close to noon. The towering trees at either side of the road shaded them from the blistering sunshine, so no one felt that it was too unbearably sizzling hot.
At the moment, everyone was cooking lunch in their fire pits that they had dug. Suddenly, a fishy-smelling wind blew forth from the forest, and the earth began to lightly quake. Flocks of wild animals appeared running out of the forest, all heading in the same direction. Some of the bigger animals included feral elephants, lions, and tigers, while some of the smaller animals included foxes and snow rabbits. Fortunately, none of the animals attacked anyone.
The chief of the mercenary corps gave a loud, disproving call: “Not good!” He urgently gathered everyone to prepare for battle.
“Brothers, raise your weapons. We’ve come across trouble. A formidable magical beast should be appearing in front of us soon.”
Guan Hao quietly explained to Chen Nan, “According to the current situation, a second ranked magical beast probably succeeded in advancing to the third rank, and the powerful aura willed all the nearby creatures to charge forward and worship it.”
Chen Nan was perplexed. “Something like this actually happened?”
Guan Hao nodded. “Yep. Normally, this road is very safe; very few travellers encounter this kind of situation. I didn’t expect us to have such bad luck. A powerful magical beast that just advanced to the next rank is bound to challenge enemies in order to consolidate its power. When that happens, an unavoidable battle will break out.”
The Little Princess looked excited the instant she heard this. She almost clapped her hands and cheered.
Chen Nan flicked her forehead. “Little demon, you just want to watch the world burn. If a magical beast really comes seeking blood, everyone will be too busy looking after themselves; let’s see what you’ll do then.”
“Hmph, you dare let a hair of mine be harmed? My jiejie wouldn’t forgive you. When that happens, you’ll die brutally.”
Chen Nan was spurred to laughter by these words. “Haha, little demon, you’re truly naïve. You still dare threaten me at this point in time? If I were afraid of your jiejie, would I have captured and brought you here? En, I know you. Little girl, you’re full of crafty tricks. Don’t pretend to be ignorant of the affairs of the world in my presence—stop trying to pull tricks on me.”
Just then, a roar suddenly thundered from the distance, shaking the sky: “Hou~!”
The horses that were tasked with pulling the carriages began to incessantly neigh. They restlessly began to struggle against the reins.
The travelling merchants were in a state of panic. Not only were they scared of some powerful magical beast that had yet to show itself, but they were also worrying over the horses being too startled to follow the road properly. They feared the horses would abandon the road, taking the merchandise with them.
After the chief of the mercenary corps noticed the panicked horses, he shouted, “Hurry! Knock all the horses unconscious.”
The mercenaries began to move in succession. With either clubs or palms, they firmly smacked the heads of the horses. The twenty or so horses immediately collapsed onto the ground.
The chief was mounted on top of his Land Dragon. He yelled, “Prepare to fight!” With that, he took the lead and rushed forward. With their weapons at hand, the mercenaries followed him to battle. The deputy chief used a hovering spell to fly into the sky. He positioned himself at the rear of the company.
Chen Nan and the princess followed them.
Up ahead of the road was an expansive, open clearing without any tall trees. Only a few lowly shrubs grew there. In the clearing was a massive congregation of feral animals prostrating all over the ground. The scene was quite spectacular.
Among the creatures prostrating up ahead was a giant beast covered with bright fur as white as snow. It resembled a tiger, but it was many times fiercer and stronger. It was three zhang long. It quickly rushed towards the chief’s Land Dragon. This giant magical beast gave everyone an intense uneasy feeling, because it really was too large.
The spectacle before them seemed quite like human society—lowly subjects bowing in respect to their grand monarch. It was truly incredible.
Someone cried out, “A White Tiger! But it’s way too big. Has it transformed into a spirit?”
“Even if it were a White Tiger, it’d still have stripes. This was never a tiger to begin with.”
“Then, what is this monster?”
Everyone commented on the scene before them.
The Little Princess sighed, “How powerful and pretty. It’s really too cute!”
Everyone was speechless.
Guan Hao explained, “In these boundless mountains, monsters appear with no end in sight. This Tiger King ought to have come from a White Tiger and a Magical Tiger’s interbreeding.”
The chief nodded in agreement. “The greater variation that these magical beasts have, the more terrifying they become; their power has the capacity for growth. It has already successfully advanced from the second rank to the third rank. This is the time when it wants to consolidate its power. It just happened to have encountered us. This upcoming fierce battle is nearly impossible to avoid.”
The Tiger King deserved to be called the monarch of all the creatures in its vicinity. It didn’t care about the humans in its presence at all. It simply gazed at them icily.
The deputy chief descended from the sky. “The magical elements around the Tiger King are fluctuating intensely; its magical attack must be utterly dreadful. Everyone needs to be careful.” He noticed everyone’s nervousness and added, “If we can kill it, the magicite core that it possesses will be incredibly valuable.”
With a barely discernibly voice, the chief sighed, “That’ll be hard. This is a magical beast of the third rank. Although we have three practitioners of the first rank on our side, we can’t just simply add up all our ranks to make up for the disparity of strength between us and that magical beast. Even if all we mercenaries attacked together, this bout can still go either way.”
The deputy chief suddenly cried out, “Not good! It has already prepared its attack. I can already sense the magical elements that it has accumulated.”
The mercenaries were in an uproar. They had to deal with a powerful Tiger King of the third rank. It was a terrifying magical beast that was a whole two ranks higher than their chief’s Land Dragon.
The chief ordered, “Everyone, don’t be frantic. Hurry and scatter! Don’t converge together.”
These mercenaries have been experiencing life or death trials for a long time already. They rapidly settled down and quickly dispersed towards advantageous terrain.
Although the deputy chief was already over fifty years old, his reaction time was still nimble. He led the attacks on the magical beast. A glistening blade of wind shot towards the Tiger King with a hiss, aiming for its throat.
The Tiger King gave an enormous roar, as if it was condemning everyone for daring to take the initiative and attack first. It simply lowered its head, dodging the blade of wind with tremendous magical energy. It raised its head highly, looking at them with disdain.
Everyone rubbed their eyes in disbelief. Finally, they confirmed that the Tiger King had indeed shown them a look of disdain.
“This tiger has become a spirit. It can actually express human emotions.”
Everyone grew apprehensive.
The Little Princess excitedly said, “It’s really too cute.”
Chen Nan grabbed her by the collar and retreated from the dangerous battlefield.
“Degenerate, let me go! Hurry and let me go!”
The Tiger King gave another great roar. The creatures lying on the ground began to shiver. Trembling in fear, they all stood up simultaneously. They parted from one another in order to create a path for the Tiger King.
Chen Nan was amazed at this scene. He couldn’t help but say, “How strange… They really act like humans.”
At the moment, the Tiger King was squaring off against the chief, the deputy chief, and Guan Hao. All the other mercenaries dispersed into the surroundings. They formed an entrapment with it in the center. Afraid of the Tiger King’s might, the creatures shivered nearby, afraid to go over.”
“Hou~!” With a howl, the Tiger King opened its mouth and breathed out lightning. A streak of lightning shot towards the magus with a ‘bilipala’.
The magus promptly uttered a spell. The land in front of him began to bulge. A shield of earth appeared before him. At the same time, a shield of water materialized in front of him.
The lightning tore through the shield of earth. In a flash, it crumbled into a pile of earth and rocks. Then, it struck the shield of water. With a ‘bilipala’ and a flash of sparks, the shield of water also evaporated into a watery mist.
The magus hastily tumbled to the side, but the streak of lightning still managed to come into contact with his body. With a wretched shriek, every hair on his head stood erect as his entire body was thoroughly burnt black by the lightning arc.
If not for the shields of earth and water resisting most of the streak of lightning, the magus’s life would have been in grave danger. After a very long time, he crawled up off the ground, quivering.
At the same time, all the members of the hired mercenary company took action. Arrows shot out of their crossbows, ‘sousou’. A rain of arrows, like a swarm of flying locusts, was launched at the Tiger King.
Although the Tiger King’s body was large, it remained incomparably agile in its movements. With a few leaps, it jumped out of everyone’s encirclement. Afterwards, it swept its gigantic tail horizontally towards the mercenaries in order to inflict utter destruction.
Five mercenaries were whipped by the gigantic tail which seemed like a mace. Their bones and muscles immediately snapped into smithereens as they died violently upon impact. Everyone else’s courage was shattered and they quickly fled further away from the battlefield.
The chief rushed to urge his Land Dragon to charge forward. Guan Hao followed closely behind him.
In the sunshine, the Tiger King’s fur irradiated a sparkling light. Its robust body, covered in white fur, seemed particularly durable. It aggressively confronted the two men and one dragon that were flying towards it. An ominous glint twinkled in its eyes as it seemed to posture itself for a lunge.
In the blink of an eye, the chief steered his Land Dragon towards it. He carried a Dragon Slaughtering Lance and thrust it towards the throat of the Tiger King. Simultaneously, Guan Hao also arrived at the magical beast. He brandished his broadsword and slashed at the Tiger King’s flank.
With a howl, the Tiger King soared into the air, dodging those two attacks. It pounced towards the chief who was atop of his Land Dragon.
Actually, the Land Dragon was larger than the Tiger King, but in the face of such a formidable foe, the dragon still cowered.
The chief saw that there was already insufficient time to dodge. He promptly leapt off, running away.
The giant, three zhang long tiger fell on top of the five zhang long Land Dragon. It opened its giant mouth and bit into the dragon’s neck. The Land Dragon struggled to break away, but it wasn’t able to escape from the tiger’s jaws. Its neck was being chomped by the Tiger King. Blood wildly spurted out.
The chief was so enraged at this scene, his eyes were bloodshot. With a war cry, he charged up. The sharp spearhead of the Dragon Slaughtering Lance ruthlessly plunged into the tiger’s abdomen. A stream of blood spurted out. Guan Hao also brandished his broadsword and charged up, ferociously chopping down at the tiger’s back. The watery blood of the Tiger King flowed down its brightly white fur.
The Tiger King endured the pain and released the Land Dragon from his maw.
Upon receiving some time to breathe, the Land Dragon then flipped over. After undergoing the most agonizing suffering, it temporarily forgot about its fear towards the Tiger King that it so deeply loathed. It fiercely slammed into the Tiger King.
The Tiger King was slammed by the Land Dragon and was sent tumbling across the ground. All the surrounding mercenaries simultaneously surged forward. With their blades, spears, clubs, and cudgels, they all began to beat its body. In the blink of an eye, its body was already drenched in blood.
“Hou~!” With a great roar, the Tiger King shook everyone away and stood up. It opened its mouth and breathed out fire. Roasted by the blazing flames, the mercenaries screamed tragically and quickly drew back. However, they were still six people who were pursued by the Tiger King and forcibly eviscerated to shreds. Fresh blood dyed the road red. Everyone else was deeply frightened.
Everyone was currently imprisoned within a zone of danger. The deputy chief had finally recovered. He uttered a long spell. Magical elements began to wildly accumulate around his body. Afterwards, he lightly waved the magic wand in his hand. Tiny snowflakes suddenly floated into existence in the world. Even with the blazing summertime heat, everyone turned frigid.
Bountiful amounts of magical elements coalesced in front of the Tiger King as it bared its fangs and brandished its claws. A dense layer of ice began to appear on its body. The ice grew thicker and thicker, until it thoroughly froze it inside.
Surviving through this crisis, everyone cheered. The Tiger King had been frozen into a giant block of ice.
However, before everyone’s cheers stopped, the sound of the ice shattering rang through the air.
Crack after crack appeared on top of the block of ice and began tearing their way down. With a final bang, the entire block of ice completely shattered. The Tiger King once again appeared in front of everyone, but it was clearly not as energetic or tenacious as earlier.
The deputy chief, the chief, and Guan Hao seized this opportunity to launch their attacks. After the deputy chief read aloud a spell, a spear of ice materialized in front of him. Afterwards, it shot towards the Tiger King as fast as lightning. It accurately pierced into its breast. The chief and Guan Hao also individually brandished their weapons—a Dragon Slaughtering Lance and a broadsword—and stabbed into its abdomen. After that, they quickly vaulted on top of the tiger’s back and began relentlessly beating its giant tiger head.
The Tiger King’s body began to sway. Watery blood turbulently surged out of its body. At the moment, it was drenched in its own blood. Its previously bright snow white fur was now completely dyed a bloody red.
The chief’s Land Dragon was no longer afraid of the Tiger King. It crazily charged towards it. Its gigantic draconic body slammed the tiger, launching it soaring through the air.
The chief and Guan Hao floated off of the tiger to the side. When the Land Dragon bared itself to slam into it again, the swaying Tiger King suddenly stood up and roared. Its roar shook the sky and intimidated the Land Dragon into forcibly stopping in its tracks.
A strange scene began to unfold. A pair of flawlessly white wings suddenly sprouted from the Tiger King’s flank. It sharply contrasted with its body that was now drenched in blood. A single horn, as immaculate as impeccable jade, suddenly sprouted out of its forehead. It was about half a chi long.
This bewildering change rendered everyone present dumbfounded.
Chen Nan was inwardly apprehensive. He knew that this was the Tiger King’s genuine battle form. If it had revealed its true power a step earlier, there was no way anyone could have injured it.
An expression of delight appeared on the Little Princess’s face. “This Tiger King is really too powerful and pretty. It’d be great if it served as my mount!”
The chief loudly shouted, “Everyone, don’t be scared! It has transformed too late. It’s already injured; it can’t support itself much longer. Let’s attack it together.” With that said, he led the charge forward. Everyone followed him, but the Land Dragon was cowering. It didn’t dare advance.
The Tiger King soared into the air. In an instant, it flew incredibly high into the sky. It constantly snarled. Lightning struck down from the sky. Following that was a tremendously wide expanse of raging flames that swept towards the ground.
Lightning and fire madly danced in the air. Anguished cries erupted from the ground. In the blink of an eye, ten or so people were struck by the lightning and fell into the fire. A vile smell of burnt flesh diffused through the air.
Because of the shelter provided by the trees, the travelling merchants far away from the battle were unable to adequate gauge how devastating the battle had become, but they could see the soaring flames and dancing lightning. They could also see that there was a giant, snarling magical beast in the sky. They were scared senseless, trembling in horror.
The giant tiger had suffered injuries already. After its crazy attack, it grew even weaker, but when its attack finished, over ten people on the ground could be seen to have had forfeited their lives.
Guan Hao collected a pike off the ground. With all his strength, he launched it up into the air. With a ‘pu’, it pierced into its right wing. It swayed in the sky, nearly losing its balance and falling to the ground.
The Tiger King exploded in fury again. It began desperately accumulating the nearby magical elements. A forceful wave of energy pushed down from the sky.
The deputy chief cried out, “Not good! The magical power is too intense this time. The Tiger King is risking its life for this attack. Everyone, hurry and run, or else we’ll just end up perishing along with it.”
Chen Nan originally didn’t want to meddle too much in these affairs, but seeing that the mercenary company was already no longer able to put up a resistance, he was forced into action. Seeing him walk forward, the Little Princess shouted, “Degenerate, before you walk off to your death, release the curse you placed on me.”
“Shut your inauspicious little crow’s beak.” He flicked the princess’s forehead.
The princess painfully cried out, “Damn degenerate, I curse you to be unable to return once you go.”
“Then wait for the wonderful feeling of the God of Imprisonment’s Finger to flare up in your body.”
Chen Nan quickly arrived beside the deputy chief. “Do you have any way to send me up to the Tiger King’s back?”
The deputy chief was momentarily stunned before he said, “You… Why have you come here? Hurry and leave. If you stay, I cannot guarantee your safety.”
Chen Nan raised his hand and produced some golden sword qi. “As long as you can send me up there, I can eliminate it.”
The deputy chief immediately sobered up. The youth before him was actually an expert, but he hesitated. “Can you do it by yourself?”
“Definitely. Don’t hesitate, or else if we wait too long and it finishes gathering enough magical energy, even more people will die.”
The deputy chief didn’t hesitate any longer. “Alright, thank you.”
He incanted a spell. An inexhaustible amount of wind elements immediately congregated around Chen Nan. With a light wave of the magic wand, Chen Nan was engulfed in a fierce wind and was sent soaring up into the sky straight towards the Tiger King.
In the sky, the Tiger King was still busily gathering magical elements. When it noticed the unexpected guest quickly flying towards it from the ground, Chen Nan had already arrived only three zhang away from it thanks to the speed infusion from the deputy chief’s spell.
It wanted to open its mouth to breathe fire, but Chen Nan was one step quicker. He launched a pike that he had prepared. The pike released a faint golden glow. In a flash, it pierced into the Tiger King’s neck.
The Tiger King released a long, anguished howl. It flipped over in the sky, blood madly pouring out. A rain of blood fell from the sky.
The deputy chief used all his remaining magical energy to send Chen Nan passed the last stretch to the Tiger King’s back.
The Tiger King had already lost its balance in the air. It constantly swayed, unable to regain its footing. Chen Nan’s hand shot out and grabbed its tail, stabilizing its body.
Gradually, the Tiger King was able to regain its balance, but its injuries were already threatening its life. It was no longer intending to consolidate its power for all the creatures to see. It quickly prepared to fly away into the distance.
Chen Nan was very uneasy. He swiftly climbed onto the tiger’s neck. After settling on its back, he brandished his fists to heavily pound its gigantic head.
“Peng!”, “Peng!”, “Peng!”…
The Tiger King’s body began to sway again. It quickly dropped towards the ground.
Chen Nan didn’t dare use too much strength in his strikes. The Tiger King was already incredibly weak. If he made use of his sword qi irrationally, he could easily kill it, but at the moment, he was also at risk of crashing into the ground and becoming utterly crushed. The wind thundered against his ears as they dove down. A feeling of nervousness swelled in his heart.
Right when they arrived less than ten zhang away from the ground, the Tiger King was finally able to regain its balance and put a stop to the downward momentum of their free-fall. At the moment, streams of blood flowed down between its nose and ears. Its flesh and muscles slightly convulsed. Critical injury after injury had left it incomparably weak.
1 A pun. 耗子/haozi/rat sounds similar to 浩仔/Hao-zi, a nickname Yu’er gave him that pokes fun at how young, like a boy, he apparently is.