THE MARTIAL KING
"It's me, Zen Luo. I want to speak with Martin, if I might, please?" stated Zen as he neared the door.
As the light from the torches shone on Zen, the two soldiers could see it was him, and there was a look of shock on each man's face. With a grateful tone, one of the guards said, "Hey brother! I can't believe it. You're alive! Thank goodness!"
The two were soldiers of the Green Haze group, or more accurately, surviving members of the troop!
Usually, Martin's battle plans were impressive, and he took many precautions, so he never jeopardized the lives of soldiers in his platoon, and there was rarely a death under his command.
However, in the battle that day, dozens of soldiers perished, which was a terrible blow to the Green Haze group.
The survivors knew that if Zen hadn't drawn the queen blade locust away, none of them would have survived.
If Martin were the only one to have drawn the queen away, she would've caught up to the troops after killing Martin.
Thus, it was Zen's sacrifice that saved the rest of them.
So, the survivors would be eternally grateful for what Zen did!
Until just now, they all thought Zen died. So, they were astounded at his safe return!
The soldiers knew that Zen was an outer disciple from the Cloud Sect, and although he was only at the marrow refining level, Zen was stronger than other disciples at that same level. Even with his strength though, the gap between his power and that of the queen blade locust was immense. They didn't know how Zen escaped.
"Zen, the captain isn't at the camp," one of the soldiers informed Zen.
Wondering why, Zen asked, "Wait, you mean he hasn't come back?"
"Oh, no, he came back, but...?" the soldier broke off his reply, not sure whether or not he should disclose the truth.
Seeing the soldier's concerned look, Zen was confused and asked, "But what? What happened?"
"Zen, the captain was... locked up!" announced the soldier in a sad tone as he bowed his head.
Zen frowned and in a deeper timbre asked, "Locked up? But, why?"
"Yesterday, someone changed our regular marching route. It must've been someone who intended for us to travel a more dangerous trail," the soldier stopped relating what had occurred, inhaling before he suddenly furrowed his brows indignantly and with an inflection of resentment in his voice said, "Captain Martin went to the higher-ups and complained, angering his superior officer. So, he was arrested. I'm afraid they will punish him for insubordination accordingly, by martial law..."
'How did this happen?' speculated Zen. What the soldier had conveyed to him, irritated Zen.
Someone had intentionally changed their route, endangering all of the troops in the Green Haze platoon, and almost succeeded in getting them all killed! The disciples from the Cloud Sect, Roger, Sun, and Zen almost died, while a single slash from the queen blade locust brutally destroyed poor Tank! Examining the events in his mind, Zen became infuriated!
Granted, Zen had only known Martin for a short time, but, he appreciated Martin's leadership skills. On top of that, Martin courageously sacrificed himself by luring the queen locust away, saving his troops and the disciples. It was shocking to hear soldiers on the same side as him arrested him.
"Do you know anyone with authority who can assist us and intercede to have our captain's charges dropped, Zen?"
"Captain Martin wasn't in the wrong, and shouldn't have been unfairly punished!" All at once, both soldiers begged Zen.
Albeit, the two were the most ordinary soldiers in the Imperial Army, but, they had followed Martin for a long time and had a deep relationship with him. In the torchlight, Zen could see their eyes glistening with tears.
"Don't worry! I'm going to request an account of the events!" reassured Zen callously. Admittedly, Zen was nobody special here or at the Cloud Sect, but, that wouldn't stop him from trying!
Sun's jaw dropped open when he saw Zen walking into the room, and he stuttered, "Z-Zze-Zen..!? a-ar-are y-y-you a g-g-ghost?"
Roger, who was ordinarily so composed, stood, staring at Zen in bewilderment as well.
"Oh my God, Zen! Wow! This is unbelievable! You escaped the queen blade locust! Did a master come along and save you?" Allowing for Zen's strength, Roger thought Zen's surviving the queen locust attack was impossible without the aid of a much stronger refiner.
With so many powerful generals stationed at the Dragon Fort, it wasn't unreasonable for Zen to have been lucky enough to run into one out in the jungle.
Roger deemed his theory to be the most reasonable explanation.
Not bothering to respond to the questions, Zen just stared at them and inquired, "Are you already leaving?"
Smiling, Sun responded, "Yes, I'm quitting the mission."
Shrugging, Roger added in a bored tone, "I suppose. I wasn't in it for the points anyway."
"And, what about Martin? Yesterday, Martin risked his life to save us! Do you know where he is now?" demanded Zen angrily.
Feeling slightly embarrassed, Sun had his cheeks turned pink, and he stated, "Zen, don't look at me! I'm merely an outer disciple from the Cloud Sect. What could I do about this matter?"
Roger looked offended. While it was true that Martin lured the queen away yesterday, his primary goal was to save his troops. By the same token, and for reasons known only to him, Roger didn't need to be rescued anyway.
True, Roger couldn't rival the queen blade locust's strength.
However, if he needed to, he could have used his mysterious weapons and escaped without difficulty.
In point of fact, Roger could easily intervene and bail Martin out. It would be a piece of cake to rescue Martin, and initially, he wanted to. However, when he discovered it might be big trouble for himself, Roger decided to stay out of the matter.
But now, Zen's words had overtones of calling Roger a coward which made him feel uncomfortable, so he arrogantly rebutted, "Zen, I won't meddle in Martin's matter, and I advise you not to involve yourself as well. The person behind it isn't one you should provoke."
"I shouldn't provoke him? Who is it? Roger, will you tell me?" Zen inquired.
"The Zhuge Clan is behind it," declared Roger menacingly.
Roger watched Zen expecting to see a look of panic in his eyes, considering that the top seven clans had a well-known reputation throughout the entire empire and that they were too large for Zen to go up against any of them.
However, Roger saw no such fear. As a matter a fact, Zen remained expressionless.
As it sunk in, Zen guffawed and asked, "The Zhuge Clan, again? Hahaha! I understand now!"
"Zen, what do you mean?" curiosity compelled Roger to ask.
Intending to murder Zen, someone within the Zhuge Clan devised this plot, without caring for any other life in the Green Haze group. They were just utilizing the platoon to push Zen into a desperate situation, not expecting he might be fortunate and escape!
Regrettably, many innocent people died, including Tank.
Zen didn't offer Roger a response, but, instead mockingly asked, "Roger, you are afraid of the Zhuge Clan?"
"The Zhuge Clan? Me, afraid? Of them?" Angered, Roger's face was flushed.
Typically, he was reserved, but, his pride was at stake, and he blurted out, "The Zhuge Clan might have power, but, the Meng Clan is prominent as well. Of course, I'm not afraid of them!"
As one of the top seven clans, the Meng Clan was known for their wealth and talented members which were on a par with the Zhuge Clan!
When people first heard Roger's surname and witnessed his proud temperament and magnificent clothing, they knew he was one of the Meng Clan.
However, since everyone was here to hunt blade locusts, they didn't care about Roger's identity.
"Well, in that case, why don't you save Martin?" challenged Zen.
"I'm not going to go looking for trouble over this! Plus, the loony Fren Zhuge came up with the scheme," asserted Roger smoothly. Children born into a prominent clan had the intrinsic sense of self-preservation and knew how to weigh the pros and cons in any given situation.
It was okay if Roger helped Martin as long as it didn't lead to trouble for him, but, it was stupid to provoke anyone from the Zhuge Clan just to assist Martin.
Zen's dare was transparent. How could he think Roger wouldn't know his true intentions?
Warily, Zen chuckled and pleaded, "Roger, help me this one time, please. I'll remember the kindness from you and the Meng Clan!"
Shaking his head, Roger Meng responded, "Zen, I'll admit, you're talented, but, that isn't enough of a reason for me to help you."
In all honesty, Roger wanted to befriend Zen, who was an uncommon genius even for Cloud Sect and might very well be an influential figure in the future, but, the future was far off, and after weighing the pros and cons Roger decided he couldn't help Zen.
Offending Fren for Zen's sake would be a stupid move in Roger's opinion.
Sure, if Zen were an invincible master already, Roger would help him, but Zen wasn't.
Despite Zen exhibiting an exceptional talent for refining, he could end up in an abyss for offending anyone in the top seven noble clans.
Just then, a look crossed Zen's face, and he reached into his space ring and pulled out the crystal core he had gotten from the queen blade locust. He waved it in front of Roger and Sun, exclaiming, "Roger, no one saved me yesterday. The queen blade locust is dead, because of me. That loony Fren tried to get me killed several times until now, and yet, I'm still alive! I'm bound to rise higher in the future! I'm confident I'll be in a position to help the Meng Clan, one day!"
The fist-sized crystal core gleamed brightly in Zen's hand, reflecting light onto Zen's proud, young face!
Zen's words sounded impertinent, but exuded confidence.
Seeing the crystal core in Zen's hand shocked Roger.
It wasn't that Roger cared about a crystal core, but, the fact that Zen had it meant the queen blade locust was dead! While it wasn't clear whether or not Zen killed the queen blade locust himself, it was obvious that Zen was somehow connected to her demise!