GDK 755: Make a name

After Lamont and his bunch were kicked out from the Fifth Corps, there were less than a hundred divine guards remaining. The numbers weren’t enough to form one whole company!

It was impossible for the Fifth Corps to function properly with less than a hundred men. Therefore, the first thing Han Shuo did after taking over the Fifth Corps was to recruit for new divine guards.

At first, Han Shuo assumed that he would not have to worry about being unable to recruit suitable candidates as he could flaunt the name of the Fifth Corps. But soon after he started executing the plan, he realized that although the City of Shadows was enormous, it was not easy to find good divine guards.

He found out that all those who were capable had already joined or been recruited by large family clans in the City. Meanwhile, all the powerful experts would be invited over by representatives from various family clans as soon as they entered the City. These highly sought-after talents were drawn in by representatives from various family clans before they even had the chance to look at the City or the Fifth Corps.

Although the House of Han had gained a reputation in the City of Shadows, for most outsiders, the family clan became famous only through the Celestial Pearl. They believed that a family clan that rose through trade and commerce would fall short to those large and ancient family clans in the City in terms of strength. Therefore, if offered the same deal, they would much rather work for those large, ancient family clans rather than the young House of Han. 

Even though the Fifth Corps was severely lacking in manpower, Han Shuo remained very demanding in the selection process. He would rather have no men than to have mediocrities. With Stratholme, Bollands, and the others doing the interview on Han Shuo’s behalf, most of the candidates were rejected. Only a handful managed to pass the interview.

Time flew by rapidly. After a month, the Fifth Corps had managed to recruit less than forty new members. Most of these new recruits were just barely passing the standard and deemed undesirable by the large family clans.

Naturally, Han Shuo was not happy with the situation. Andre had hastened Han Shuo many times, asking him to solve the issue as soon as possible so that the Fifth Corps could fulfill its duties. Han Shuo had racked his brain filling the nine-hundred-man vacancy. He had even utilized the Celestial Pearl’s resources in placing scrolls for recruitment in various forts and satellite cities.

In an expansive meeting hall in the Fifth Corps, Gilbert angrily complained, “Around eighty people entered the City in the past few days. About twenty of them were midgods. Of them, thirteen had clean backgrounds. But as soon as they stepped into the City, they were all invited to the three large family clans. Hell, they actually told me that they have never heard of the House of Han. It’s beneath their dignity to come to our Fifth Corps. They are all so fucking haughty!”

“Bryan, both the House of Han and the Fifth Corps don’t have much of a reputation as we are so newly established. To those capable experts who wish to rise and stand out among others, we do not look like the best choice. I’m afraid that the situation will remain so for quite a while. I believe it’s time to change our strategy!” Stratholme, who once served as the State Preceptor of the former Verdun Empire, was an insightful man. He too was concerned about the issue.

It wasn’t that the City of Shadows lacked people. Lowgods cultivating in all sorts of fundamental forces could be found everywhere on the street. They were eager to squeeze into the Fifth Corps or the House of Han. But unfortunately, those weren’t the people Han Shuo was looking for. He required the candidates to have at least midgod strength to be a Fifth Corps divine guard. On top of that, the candidates must pass Stratholme and Bollands’ examination on temperament and moral character before they could join the Fifth Corps.

With the majority of the suitable candidates invited by the large family clans, and the remaining ones heavily filtered by Stratholme and Bollands, it was to be expected that their progress was slow.

“What do you propose?” asked Han Shuo. He knew that Stratholme was an insightful person good at solving problems.

“We make a name for ourselves!” answered Stratholme in a bright smile.

Ayermike then helped him with the explanation, “I have discussed the problem with Stratholme. We feel that it is only by raising the prestige of our House of Han in the City of Shadows and altering people’s impression of our family clan that we can attract talents. For all this while, when people thought of the House of Han, they thought of the Celestial Pearl Pharmacy. For those who want to outshine others, a shop, no matter how big, remains a shop, and it could not give them the prestige and power they desire. But if we become famous for our strength, it will be a different story!”

Both Stratholme and Ayermike were experienced and scheming characters. Now that they were working for the House of Han with their hearts and souls, they would provide Han Shuo with good suggestions on various matters, saving Han Shuo a world of trouble.

Han Shuo thought about their words for a moment before he nodded and said, “I get what you’re saying and can see where the issue lies. But how are we going to make a name? We can’t just go to the streets and shout ‘The House of Han is very powerful! Come join us!’, right?“

“Of course not!” Ayermike put on a smile and said, “But we can achieve that through events and perhaps publicity stunts!”

“Tell me more!” said Han Shuo as his interest was aroused. He knew Ayermike well and understood that Ayermike must have a plan.

“Every century, the Seven Corps of the City of Shadows compete to determine their ranking. Every Corps is limited to a single company of divine guards in the competition. In addition, there will be a separate competition between the seven Chiefs to determine their ranking,” Stratholme the old monster explained smilingly, “The competition is around the corner. In any case, our Fifth Corps has to put a company into the competition. If our Fifth Corps could surpass the other Corps in the competition, and if you could defeat the other Chiefs, then our Fifth Corps and House of Han will become famous.”

Ayermike nodded smilingly and said, “If you and the Fifth Corps rank in the top few in the competition, then the House of Han will free itself from being a commerce family clan, and establish itself instead as a powerful family clan with real power. By then, even if you do not actively recruit divine guards, people will swarm to the Fifth Corps and the House of Han, begging to join us!”

“Bryan, this is an extremely rare, perfect opportunity!” Stratholme persuaded, “Besides, the rewards are pretty enticing. It’s a waste not to take it!”

Han Shuo stared distractedly for a moment and asked, “What rewards?” 

Stratholme raised a tight fist and answered, “More power!”

Han Shuo was tempted and began asking for the details, “I have heard a little about the competition but did not take it seriously. I want details. We still have time to prepare!”

Immediately, Ayermike and Stratholme took out the documents they had prepared for Han Shuo and explained the competition between the Seven Corps in detail.

To improve the fighting power of the City of Shadows divine guards and promote healthy competition, every century, Wallace the City Lord would host a battle between the Seven Corps. The competition was divided into two categories - battle between the Chiefs of Divine Guards and battle between companies. The competition between companies was deemed more prestigious.

In all previous competitions, the House of Sainte had firmly secured the top three places in overall and individual strengths. In individual strength competitions, Aobashi had always ranked first. In second place would be the rather mysterious Chief Ralph of the Second Corps who was rarely seen in the City of Shadows. Erebus would be the third. The last four places would frequently alternate as the strengths of the four large family clans were similar.

However, when it came to overall power, the Second Corps would usually rank first. They were notorious in the City for their overall combat power. The divine guards of the Second Corps were valiant, courageous and outstanding.

The Second Corps was also called the shadow army of the City as they were in charge of killing some special targets. Those hidden enemies plotting against the City of Shadows would usually be silently murdered by assassins of the Second Corps. This made the Second Corps rather revered in the City of Shadows. Even the patriarchs of the three major family clans felt vigilant towards the Second Corps.

Han Shuo read the information in his hand while listening to Ayermike and Stratholme’s explanation. He soon understood the situation well.

After the centennial competition, the duties of the Seven Corps would be readjusted corresponding to their ranking. Those whose overall strength ranked first would even receive a special privilege - act first, report late.

This meant that if the Chief who possessed the special privilege considered that a person was a threat to the City of Shadows, he could kill the person on the spot - even if the person was a member of the House of Sainte. The Chief just had to submit sufficient evidence to Wallace after the event. This special privilege could easily be abused. The Chief with that power could kill anyone he disliked and then fabricate evidence against the murdered to justify himself to Wallace!

For many years, the special privilege landed in the hands of Ralph, the Chief of the Second Corps. Ralph had always been loyal to Wallace. Although he had this privilege, he had not truly put it to use. His actions and conduct were worthy of praise and he almost never made any mistakes during his many years of service.

“Kill first, report later? Hehe, sounds like a treat!” said Han Shuo in a mischievous smirk. He then announced, “Very well then, get ready, we must win the competition. For the Fifth Corps and for the House of Han, it is time to shine!”

Ayermike and Stratholme had been waiting to hear those words. They replied excitedly, “Even if we can’t get the first, we must surpass the divine guards of the other three family clans. If we can do that, those gods who enter the City will consider our Fifth Corps as an option and we can easily get suitable candidates!”

“How many men do we have right now?” asked Han Shuo.

“Including us, ninety-one. Just barely enough to form a company,” answered Stratholme in a wry smile.

“Quality is better than quantity. Ninety-one is enough. It seems that I will have to train these men personally so that we can triumph!” a flash of bright light shone in Han Shuo’s eyes. He said, “As the Fifth Corps currently has no official duties and there is still time until the competition, order every divine guard of the Fifth Corps to head to Fort Lasberg!”

Han Shuo, Bollands, Sanguis, and Gilbert arrived at Fort Lasberg in advance. They located a valley nearby and started getting busy. They redecorated the entire valley, erecting numerous towering dark pillars made of stone. The pillars were carved with all kinds of complicated and indecipherable patterns. 

Han Shuo then sent the seventeen flying swords whooshing all around, cutting the stone walls of the valley into flat surfaces. Chunks of large stones were placed in certain positions. The Cauldron of Myriad then fluttered around the valley. Abstruse-looking symbols flew out from the Cauldron and adhered to the stones. The four also carved gulches in the ground and threw in materials with unique functions.

After buzzing around for around ten days, Han Shuo threw in some souls of ferocious beasts into it, activating the Eight Desolation and Torment Formation that would temper the divine guards physically and mentally. He also took out the most powerful demon general in the Cauldron made using Eugene’s divine soul to act as the formation crux.

A few days after the formation was set up, those divine guards of the Fifth Corps arrived at Fort Lasberg and were led to the valley by Candide. Han Shuo wasted no words. He swept his cold eyes across the divine guards and announced, “The competition between the Seven Corps is just around the corner. Although our Fifth Corps do not have enough numbers, we must participate in it. I have summoned all of you from the City to this Fort in order to temper and steel you, lest you humiliate me in the competition!”

“My Lord, how do you intend to temper us here?” asked a divine guard name Barnard wearing an emotionless face.

Han Shuo pointed at the Eight Desolation and Torment Formation filled with sinister atmosphere and replied smilingly, “There, you will all step into it. Inside, you will face your worst nightmares and various kinds of dangers. I will gradually raise the difficulty. You must learn to work with your teammates. Otherwise, if you suffer any kind of injuries, don’t blame me!”

Barnard came from a commoner background and was the leader of a ten-man squad. He nodded at Han Shuo and without hesitation, instructed, “Third Squad, follow me!”

As soon as he finished those words, Barnard took the lead and entered the formation. His Third Squad did not hesitate and followed behind him. The other squads also marched into the formation one after another.

These men had absolutely no idea about how demonic formations worked and did not think that it could do them harm. Other than various strange materials and Han Shuo’s unique energy, many demon generals of the Cauldron were inside. It would be a wonder if they came out unscathed. Just a moment after they entered the formation, bloodcurdling screeches came from within. It seemed that they had witnessed some extremely horrifying scenes and were scared witless.

The Eight Desolation and Torment Formation consisted of hallucination-inducing formations, mazes, and mind-attacking demonic formations. Those who stepped inside must face not just their worst fears, but also the attacks of demon generals in material form. The power of the demon generals was greatly amplified once within the formation. Taking the Cauldron Spirit and Han Shuo’s energy, they could wreak tremendous destruction on the divine guards.

Sanguis, Bollands and Gilbert laughed mischievously when they heard the terrifying shrieks. Once the formation was completed, the three were the first batch sent inside by Han Shuo. The trio had experienced all sorts of unimaginable and freakish scenes that still gave them shivers when they thought about it. The three, however, could not help but take joy in the horrifying experiences of those shrieking miserably.

“Master, these bastards ought to be tempered hard! They may follow your orders but in their minds, they do not accept you as their leader. Their gazes towards master are filled with doubts - as though they are sure that you can’t do the job well. I have been very unhappy with them for a long time!” said Gilbert.

“Senior, is it a little too cruel inside? We do not have enough in the Fifth Corps. If these guys cannot bear it and lose their lives inside, how are we going to find new recruits?” reminded Bollands after a moment of hesitation.

Bollands was a stone-cold killer. It was clear that he said these compassionate words because he gave thought to Han Shuo. He feared that Han Shuo would push too hard and kill all those divine guards, leaving the Fifth Corps with nothing!

“Don’t worry, they will be alright!” assured Han Shuo. He explained smilingly, “What they experience is not as intense as you three have experienced. I will gradually raise the formation’s power so that they have time to adapt. These men will be the pillars of strength of our House of Han and Fifth Corps. I wouldn’t let them lose their life like that!”

“Master, I think that in the future, we should place all the new recruits of the Fifth Corps for a round of beating in the formation. The cruel environment will allow them to grow at the fastest rate and become the talents that our Fifth Corps needs!” suggested Sanguis.

“That’s what I thought as well. We could spend a little more time to make this place a gymnasium specially to train divine guards. This place is rather far from the City and so there shouldn’t be much of an issue. These divine guards had no clue about how a demonic formation works. They wouldn’t even know what is happening when inside. We just have to place a few energy towers and boundary towers around it as a disguise!” said Han Shuo smilingly.

As the four happily chit-chatted outside the formation, inside, the divine guards of the Fifth Corps were facing perilous situations. Against the attacks of several hundred demon generals in material state, the divine guards automatically formed defensive rings. Their coordination and rapport gradually improved. After all, it was when faced with life-threatening crises that a person would be propelled to their fullest potential.

 

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