GDK 788: Exceed the quota
Ralph stormed off. After his figure had completely disappeared from the party, Aobashi put on a big smile and said, “Well done, Bryan!”
Aobashi and Erebus did not get along well with Ralph. It was easy to see why they would be supportive of Han Shuo’s actions. As soon as Ralph left, they started praising Han Shuo.
“Bryan, this Ralph has always been an arrogant one. Don’t take the matter too seriously,” consoled Erebus. He then let out a light groan and said, “His Second Corps have gotten on top of me for too long. I will make sure that it won’t happen again!”
“Save it. Your Third Corps is no match against him. The Second Corps is formidable in team combat strength. If my First Corps have no confidence in defeating them, what hope would your Third Corps have?” said Aobashi. She clearly did not believe that Erebus’ divine guards could defeat Ralph’s.
The Divine Guard Chiefs of the City of Shadows knew each other’s strengths well. Their divine guards had fought against each other in the centennial competition many times and they knew their level of strength. It was clear to Aobashi that Erebus’ divine guards were hopeless against Ralph’s.
“Bryan, that Ralph is not easy to handle. But as we are all Divine Guard Chiefs, he wouldn’t dare give you any trouble in private. Don’t take what happened just now too seriously. His main goal in coming here was to diminish our morale while trying to learn about our situation. When it’s time to fight, I will make sure to give him a beating!” Aobashi said to Han Shuo.
Han Shuo smiled. He knew that both Aobashi and Erebus had taken his claims as nothing more than conceited, nonsensical words just to infuriate Ralph. The two did not feel that Han Shuo’s Fifth Corps had any chance of defeating Ralph’s Second Corps.
Soon after that, Han Shuo decided he had enough chit-chat for the day and left the party.
Carmelita followed him out cheerfully. As soon as they left Aobashi and Erebus, she remarked, “Bryan, you really know how to keep things low key!”
Han Shuo had never demonstrated his mighty strength to Carmelita the entire time. Although Andre and Wallace had shared a few things with her and she had learned about Han Shuo giving Portlem a beating back at the banquet hall in Celestial Pearl, Carmelita had never seen Han Shuo in action and therefore never really treated Han Shuo as an expert of equal class.
But finally now, Carmelita had witnessed with her own eyes how Han Shuo forced Ralph to stumble backward with one little punch. It was very surprising to her considering that Ralph was one realm above her!
Carmelita suddenly caught a cheerful mood for no apparent reason. She recalled the time they first met and thought that no wonder Han Shuo had managed to survive and even rescue her from danger when all the divine guards were killed back in that treacherous mountain range.
It turned out that he was a formidable expert all along who had been concealing his true power!
Not knowing how to respond to Carmelita’s fascination, Han Shuo forced a smile. He did not know how to explain it to Carmelita. Han Shuo could try to be frank and tell her that he was only a lowgod back when he joined her mission in that mountain range. But if Han Shuo said so, no one in the world would believe his words, let alone Carmelita.
This was because no one on Elysium had ever managed to transcend from lowgod realm to highgod realm in such a short time!
“Carmelita, that Ralph really has an attitude. I would have expected that he would at least give you face!” said Han Shuo, trying to divert the topic.
Anger could immediately be seen in Carmelita's eyes as she was about to ask Han Shuo about something. She replied, “That guy is totally a mad dog that my father keeps! He will bite at anyone he sees - as long as the person is not my father. But no one can disagree that the fella has outstanding strength and is very capable. Even his Second Corps divine guards are astonishing in strength. He always manages to somehow solve all the difficult problems that the city has faced. It doesn't matter that he is as wild as a mad dog, his position in the city will remain unmoved!”
Han Shuo had heard plenty of rumors about Ralph. Wallace the City Lord would assign some of the most dangerous, sensitive, and despicable missions critical to the City of Shadows to Ralph. And Ralph did not disappoint. He accomplished all mission objectives as demanded of him. It was also because of this that Wallace trusted him more than any other Divine Guard Chief, so much that Wallace would even dismiss Carmelita’s complaints against Ralph.
“Don’t worry, after the competition, Ralph will learn to behave himself!” Han Shuo seemed unmoved as he said, “My Fifth Corps will defeat his Second Corps in the team competition!”
Carmelita was astonished to hear that assertion from Han Shuo. She did not know where that confidence of Han Shuo’s came from. Although Carmelita was skeptical of Han Shuo’s claim, as Han Shuo had taken a jab at Ralph for her just then, she did not express her doubts but patted on Han Shuo’s shoulders. She forged a side smile and said, “It's down to you!”
Han Shuo nodded. The two parted. Han Shuo returned to the Fifth Corps campsite while Carmelita returned to the center region campsite where Wallace and Andre stayed.
Among a luxuriant forest in the southeast region of Soaring Cloud Mountain Range stood a large number of emerald green camps. They were the temporary shelters for the divine guards of the Second Corps.
Ralph flew back to his camp dark and gloomy. Upon his return, Kiffan, the Captain of the Company that would represent the Second Corps in the competition, stepped forward, bowed slightly, and asked, “What ails you, my Lord?”
Kiffan was an illegitimate child from a small family clan where he suffered endless years of abuse and torture. There was only hatred in his heart and malice in his mind. As boundless as his hate was, alone, he did not have enough power to make retribution. But things changed when he met his mentor. Ralph took him into his Second Corps for he saw the rage and thirst for blood in Kiffan’s eyes. He trained Kiffan and helped Kiffan exterminate the family clan that afflicted him all the agony. He watched as Kiffan slowly killed his own father.
After Ralph assisted Kiffan in getting his revenge, he fully submitted to Ralph and took Ralph as his master. He had been serving Ralph faithfully for countless years and went through fire and water for him. Kiffan was also responsible for training the new Second Corps recruits with extreme measures. There was no regard given to their lives. At the cost of tremendous injuries and deaths, the Second Corps divine guards were transformed into bloodthirsty beasts.
“I have met that Chief of Fifth Corps - the one told in the rumors,” replied Ralph in a sinister voice.
A corner of Kiffan’s lips curled with icy disdain. He said, “That pharmacist from the Celestial Pearl? What does he know? That guy should be making medicines in his room instead of managing the Fifth Corps! How foolish of him to even participate in this competition. He needs to learn his place! My Lord, have you taught him a lesson?”
Ralph’s eyes twitched as he recalled Han Shuo beating him back with one punch. Ralph replied with a cold, loud voice, “He declared that he will defeat our Second Corps and the Company you lead will lose to his!”
Kiffan was astounded. After a long while, he snapped out of his daze and smirked, “Funny. Our Second Corps has stood tall in the City of Shadows unchallenged for many years. Does he really think he can surpass and unseat us right after becoming a Chief? How preposterous!”
“In every competition, every team is bound by a quota - a maximum number of casualties they can cause. Kiffan, when you are up against the Fifth Corps later in the competition, you may exceed the quota. I will handle all the repercussions!”
Kiffan was startled. He immediately knew that Ralph must truly be angered by that pharmacist from the Celestial Pearl. Otherwise, Ralph would never disobey Wallace’s orders and ask him to kill more divine guards of the Fifth Guards than the rules allowed.
Kiffan was a blind follower of Ralph’s. His loyalty layed with Ralph and not with Wallace. Kiffan made no objection. He quickly recovered from the shock and nodded, “Understood, my Lord. Once the Fifth Corps runs into our path, I will make them pay the price for offending Your Lordship!”
“Excellent!” Ralph could already smell the blood of the Fifth Corps divine guards as they were being annihilated.
At the same time, over on the other side of the mountain range, Han Shuo put on a grim smile and said to himself, “So there is such a thing as a quota for casualties. Hehe, Ralph, oh Ralph, let’s see who will have a higher number of casualties!”
Han Shuo quickly gathered Sanguis, Gilbert, Bollands and Barnard to give them a few secret instructions.
Three days later, the Seven Divine Guard Chiefs and their men assembled at the center region of the mountain range. Wallace and the patriarchs of all major family clans were present. At their center, on one of the viewing platforms, an enormous oval sand table was placed. The terrain of Soaring Cloud Mountain Range was reflected on the sand table. It was also filled with numerous markers and many red and blue lines.
Ralph had been gazing at Han Shuo with cold eyes ever since the moment Han Shuo showed up. The hostility in his eyes was not concealed at all. Wallace, Andre and others took note of it.
Han Shuo, meanwhile, completely ignored Ralph’s unfriendly gazes. He chatted with Aobashi and Erebus in a low tone. They would laugh loudly or exclaim from time to time. Clearly, Han Shuo was not in the least affected by Ralph’s hostile gaze.
Andre glanced at Han Shuo and then at Ralph from his platform distance away. His brows creased slightly.
Wallace had been talking with the other three patriarchs of large family clans. Finally, he went onto the stage and raised one hand to gather the crowd’s attention. When everyone looked at him in silence, Wallace began by giving a motivational speech before leading the crowd to kowtow and pray to the Overgod of Darkness.
Every century, a simple ceremony to worship the Overgod of Darkness was held to mark the start of the competition. Everyone was used to it and they followed Wallace’s lead in kowtowing. Han Shuo, however, wasn’t too willing to do so. The Overgod of Darkness wasn’t the god Han Shuo worshipped and he felt that he had no reason to be so humble. Seeing that no one was looking at him, he did not kneel on the ground, merely bowing his body slightly.
Han Shuo thought that no one would notice his sinful act of disrespecting the Darkness Overgod. But when the ceremony was near its end and he was ready to stand straight, he suddenly noticed that Ralph was watching him from afar. He was sneering as though he had caught Han Shuo in a crime.
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