An Increasingly Audible Voice
Electing the ten individuals to bestow with the highest status in the martial world is understandably a stringent process. Candidates from outside the Nine Provinces also have to be factored in for a chance, and the timing of their coronation is equally rigorous.
Luo Ming was stripped of his rank when he had just returned from Nanjiang and was barely conscious. Emperor’s Entourage would’ve struggled to know as much as Supreme Saints Guild did on Luo Ming’s trip south even though they always kept a pulse on the Seven Champion White Princes’ activities.
Supreme Saints Guild is the name of the body governing Supreme Ten Saints. The person controlling the governing body, why the body was established or where the concept of Supreme Ten Saints came from is shrouded in mystery to all.
All that is known about Supreme Ten Saints is that they always chose the most influential adepts and hand out ten Dark Tokens to the chosen ten. When they hand out the tokens, they treat the chosen candidate with courtesy. When it’s time to retrieve the tokens, though, their attitude is abrasive. Rarely did anyone refuse them because, one, it’s hard to turn away the glorious title; two, they desire the token.
Each of the ten Dark Tokens are different in shape and manufactured using different materials. Legends claim the ten tokens used to be the tool an ancient dynasty used to hide one of the biggest secrets in the world. The one who ended up obtaining the token split the instrument in ten because they weren’t confident they could hang onto it when people laid down their lives to obtain them in those days. It made sense to trust something so important to the ten strongest people. It’s a reasonable explanation for how Supreme Ten Saints was established.
Assuming the authenticity of the story, the strategy worked based on the fact that nobody had collected all ten tokens after so many generations of Supreme Ten Saints. The ten didn’t fight amongst each other unless there were compelling reasons. Instead, they used their swaying power to squash a lot of bad blood in the pugilistic world. Owing to the prestige that came with the territory, howbeit, people started chasing a seat among the ten, which was something that presumably wasn’t foreseen when launching the concept.
“… If I refuse?” Abels rhetorically questioned.
Before Lai Jingzhen could penetrate Abels’ throat, River Monster yelled, “Wait!”
“Yes, Miss?” Lai Jingzhen stopped the blade an inch away from Abels’ throat.
River Monster couldn’t imagine Abels defeating someone who could take a sword through the chest without batting an eye – even more so when Abels was already exhausted and hurt. She took out a black token that resembled hardware of something more than an actual token and stated, “I… am holding onto it.”
“A-Lan, what are you doing?!” snapped Abels.
“Keeping you alive!” River Monster passed over the token.
“You shouldn’t be deciding on my behalf.”
“My man is without equal and ducks no fights. If you want to fight, fight. I will let you fight even if you will die, but I won’t let you die such an unwarranted death. He’s brimming with energy, while you still have injures besetting you. That can’t be a fair fight. Once you’re at a 100%, you can do as you please.”
Abels couldn’t see any chance of taking back the token now in Lai Jingzhen’s hand. Additionally, he agreed with River Monster’s reasoning. “All right. I’ll fight him once I’ve recovered.”
Lai Jingzhen went back to Emperor Yuansheng and saluted the latter three times. Emperor Yuansheng responded, “State Preceptor Lai, when I went to search for you, you went missing for eighteen months. You probably wouldn’t have ever returned if Empress Dowager Her Majesty didn’t go to pray at Mount Zisheng. You must have a lot of time on your hands if you are on an errand for someone here instead of guarding her on Mount Zisheng.”
“Sorry, sorry, Your Majesty. However, please allow your servant to ask, who is State Preceptor?”
While Emperor Yuansheng was trying not to fly off the handle, Shen Yiren surveyed the area with her new and improved observation and retention abilities. There were sword scratches and splits on the ground. The stone ring was in fragments. There was something at the centre emanating heat that deterred anyone from approaching.
What did Feizhen do… to disfigure this place?
Shen Yiren had been into the demolished smithing workshop with Ming Feizhen previously. Therefore, it wasn’t hard to navigate. Upon opening the door to a room, there he was – half-naked and with his head dipped into a wooden tub.
Until then, Shen Yiren assumed that, when she saw Ming Feizhen again, he’d be roughed up and covered in blood. She speculated he’d be hiding from Emperor Yuansheng or lying somewhere and sulking about being hungry or waiting for her to fetch him. She thought he’d crack a smile as he always did and do something shameless… as he had a knack for.
“She’s eighteen this year, the perfect age f-”
“… Ming Feizhen! What are you doing here?!”
Ming Feizhen ripped his head up, splashing black water left, right and centre. “B-B-Boss, wh-why are you here…?”
Shen Yiren tucked her arms under her twin mountains and narrowed her eyes: “What were you singing?”
“She’s eighteen this year. She’s looking for a m(an)-, I mean, she’s enlisting in the army in her father’s stead!”
“What are you doing here?”
“Uh… I’m… washing my hair.”
“Washing your hair?” Shen Yiren pulled a face of revulsion as she eyed the black water on the floor and lunged backward. “How filthy does your hair have to be to turn the tub black?”
I promised not to lie to her, and I’m technically washing my hair, but… how do you expect it to not be black when that’s hair dye?!
“Why is Yiren still not back? Could some mishap have befallen her? State Preceptor Lai, go check on her,” instructed Emperor Yuansheng.
“As you command.” Lai Jingzhen showed his hare feet right away.