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787 Acquisition

 There wasn't any special reason for their gathering; it was just a few good friends catching up. After returning from their team mission, Sharmie exercised her privilege as a woman and forcefully implemented this rule for them to meet up every so often. According to her, one needed to put effort into maintaining relationships, as some friendships just fade away with time. One should cherish their friendships and meet up with friends whenever they could.

Sharmie seemed brave and confident when she said that, but in fact, everyone knew that the experience with the Lava Monster Leader left a very deep impression on the newcomers. Frankly speaking, they already encountered such a dangerous thing in a B-rank secret realm. What would happen if they went to an A-rank or S-rank secret realm in the future? Cultivation was an act against God's Will, pursuing immortality by making your physical body stronger against natural laws. It pushed one to attain a level of power ordinary humans didn't even dare to imagine, going against the heavens and earth in the process. Any practitioner that was on the path of cultivation - no matter how strong they were - could die at any moment, let alone a bunch of insignificant people at the Heroic Soul Stage who just started on their cultivation journey. Meeting up more often when they were still alive was a way to avoid leaving regrets in case someone suddenly died.

These six people stayed extremely far apart from each other on Earth, and in the CHF, they were opponents. They didn't expect to come together and bond in the Holy City because of various reasons. After witnessing how cold and cruel the Holy City was, everyone especially treasured this friendship that didn't come by easily. Recently, their friendship was growing stronger at a very rapid pace.

The Queen's Bar certainly didn't lack drinks and alcohol. It was just past noon, and the bar had just opened so it didn't have much business. There wasn't deafening music in the bar, but only yawning bartenders who didn't have enough sleep and a few people chatting casually.

Wang Zhong enjoyed this type of ambiance. It was a leisurely afternoon, and meeting a few friends to chat about stuff other than cultivation was the best way to relax that he could think of.

"I ended up being the last one among all of us!" Sharmie was holding a wine glass in one hand and placed the other on her hip, putting her foot on the table. However, her tone was full of confidence, contradicting her words. "Well, I made it anyway. As the last person to reach the Middle Phase of the Heroic Soul Stage out of the six of us, I think you guys should show a little appreciation and give me a red packet or something?"

"That's a must!" Napier appeared to be rather generous. "As our team's future firepower marksman, we need to focus on grooming you. I suggest everyone give her a big red packet of at least a thousand!"

Sharmie sent a flying kick in his direction. She had gotten to know Napier's personality well, and it would be normal if he suggested everyone give her one Holy Coin each. However, a thousand per person? He was definitely talking about Federation credits.

Everyone laughed, while Grai said, "Talking about cultivation, I suggest for everyone to try to reach the Peak Heroic Soul Stage before the Holy Disciple Test."

"That would only concern the higher-ranked Holy Apprentices which are you two, Wang Zhong and Napier. I'm sure everyone is thirsting after your second-class apprentice status." Sharmie wasn't worried about this. "People like me who don't have any status here will just be spectators at the Holy Disciple Test."

Grai shook his head. "Previously, when I interacted with Great Teacher Elvis, I heard him talk about the Holy Disciple Test. There's a new test that the Holy City came up with recently this year, so the examinable content might be slightly different from what we heard. Anyway, it's better to be safe than sorry. Besides, the sooner you reach the Peak Heroic Soul Stage, the faster you can come into contact with the true cultivation world. Don't keep thinking about consolidating and accumulating your skills since there is a fundamental difference between the Heroic Soul Stage and Casted Soul Stage.

"Also, I think it would be better to stop badgering our team captain to accept missions. Earning money is important for us newcomers, but we should keep to a limit and focus on building our foundation to reach the Peak Heroic Soul Stage. A beard lathered is half shaved. When we have more power and accept higher rank missions, it will be less dangerous for us and also increase our efficiency in completing missions."

Everyone knew that, but no one understood it as well as Grai. Even Wang Zhong was only enlightened by Lan Daier yesterday, let alone the others. If they had to make a choice between cultivation and going on missions with the team, Sharmie and the others would probably choose to go on missions, not caring whether their cultivation was affected in the process, but that would be a wrong choice.

They were all in the Sparta Clan, listening to the same lessons, learning the same stuff, and interacting with the same people, yet Grai was able to understand more things than Sharmie and Mario, choosing the better path. This was probably one of the reasons why he was favored by Great Teachers frequently.

Their gathering lasted well into the evening. They went to roadside stalls to enjoy some grilled skewers before everyone went their separate ways happily. Before the sky darkened, Wang Zhong went to the lake to see whether Uncle Zhang was there since he was on leave today. Wang Zhong wanted to drink and brag a little and also see if there was any news from Gong Yi. Originally, he promised to contact Gong Yi once a week, but he was too busy recently and had forgotten.

Sure enough, he didn't see Uncle Zhang when he arrived at the lake. The Holy City's signal shield disappeared and his Skylink rang.

It was two messages from Gong Yi. The first message was sent many days ago, while the other was just sent yesterday. There weren't many words in the message, but every word weighed down Wang Zhong's heart.

"Wang Zhong, we're being targeted. Several Tutankhamun feudal lords want to take over Katchirda Town. I'm trying to mitigate, but I think we'll have to ultimately resolve this by fighting. Mu Zi disappeared for a while after going to the secret realm with you. Can you contact him? We might need his help. With Sister Hong and the soldiers that Reynolds is training, as well as some mercenaries, it's sufficient for overseeing the business in town, but it would be hard to hold our own against those feudal lords."

That was the message sent more than a week ago.

Having been through a life-or-death situation with him, Wang Zhong actually knew Gong Yi quite well. Even if there was an exceptionally big problem, it was hard to see him show a lack of confidence. As a gambler - no matter in public or private, or even when he was alone - he would stay absolutely calm as if everything was within his control. He would use his most confident self to face the results even if he knew there was only a low chance of victory.

However, in this message that Gong Yi sent, every word was filled with deep worry. To be able to bother him to this extent, Wang Zhong could only imagine that the situation was very bad over there.

In fact, everyone had expected this situation to happen when they first started working on Katchirda Village. Once they invested that huge capital in Katchirda and after Sister Hong and Gong Yi's business was set up in that dilapidated desert, they expected the desert to prosper at a fast pace and to attract many enemies looking to prey on them.

Even so, both Gong Yi and Wang Zhong didn't expect a challenge to come so fast. Katchirda Town had been built for merely four or five months since Wang Zhong left the desert. Based on Gong Yi's initial calculations, the timid Tutankhamun aristocrats would be mindful of Gong Yi's Federation citizen status, which would leave them with around one year to develop Katchirda Town. On the other hand, Mu Zi was there previously, and his strong power led Gong Yi to be overly optimistic about their odds when Katchirda faced a challenge. However, who knew that Mu Zi would disappear whenever he liked! Although he carried his Skylink with him, he didn't use it often. Mu Zi would only use it when he wanted to contact someone, but if someone wanted to contact him, they would probably have to wait forever.

Wang Zhong's expression darkened a little as he opened the second message that was sent yesterday.

Unlike the first message which gave a detailed explanation of the situation, this message only had a short eight words.

"Critical situation. We need help right now! Katchirda..."

It was obvious that this message wasn't complete, but the urgent tone of the message showed how pressing the situation was, even if it only had eight words.

......

In the remote Tutankhamun, Gong Yi had been trying to mediate everywhere and spread many pieces of news to divert attention and buy time. However, he had reached his limit without Mu Zi or Wang Zhong. It appeared that they would be alone in this.

Things were tense in Katchirda Town, and everyone was on edge. People from various forces were waiting for news at the border of the oasis as no bystander wanted to get into trouble.

Gong Yi and Sister Hong didn't give up during this period of time as they tried very hard to search for allies. There were people who offered to help, but they either had more malicious intentions than Caslort, or they wanted to take advantage of this situation and profit from it. They were extremely unreliable.

If you didn't fight, you couldn't kill your enemies. You wouldn't have any dignity, and you couldn't gain a foothold here. This was the way of survival in Tutankhamun, and also the fundamental principle behind why they fought with the beasts for a space to live in the desert.

What was left to do was wait.

Thereafter, an army troop surrounded Katchirda, and the time that Caslort gave them was up.

Before that, many spies from aristocratic families all disappeared magically like bubbles that had burst. However, everyone knew that they were hiding in those vast sand dunes.

Their hired group of mercenaries suddenly announced that they were going to remain neutral. They could deal with all dangers that their employers faced, but this didn't include going against feudal lords from the Empire on the Empire's land.

Negotiation was out of the question!

The people in the Empire were barbarians, to begin with. Frankly speaking, Gong Yi and the others were initially able to develop successfully due to their Federation citizen status. However, none of the big shots from the Federation had stood up for them even now, when they were under attack.

Giving them 10 days made it seem like Caslort was trying to give them a chance, but it was just a buffer period for Caslort. He wasn't an idiot. If no big shots from the Federation stood up for them, it meant that Gong Yi and the others were just speculators from the Federation. Previously, this type of people got their way and had it good, but the people from the Empire weren't fools now.

"What a pretentious reason!" Reynolds was so pissed that a vein from his forehead popped out. If it had not been for his Soul Power protecting him, his brain would have already exploded.

"This is the true colors of the Empire. We were too naive." Gong Yi didn't say much. They hired a group of mercenaries as a way to deter their enemies, but it was for sure that the mercenaries wouldn't want to dig their own graves, especially with their situation now. Honestly, it was already considered good that the mercenaries didn't turn on them.

Before this, Sister Hong had been arranging escape routes for her subordinates. Those who wanted to leave could do so, and they would receive a small compensation fee. What was shocking was that no one was willing to leave. These girls were slaves that Gong Yi and Sister Hong bought. When they were slaves, they didn't feel like they were human beings at all. However, in the short time that they were here, they found their own dignity as humans thanks to these learned people from the Federation.

Other than this place, they wouldn't be able to get rid of their status as slaves anywhere else. The experiences that they went through would cause them to lead even more miserable lives.

They would be better off dead.

That was why they chose to coexist with the oasis and stand by it. Don't underestimate a woman's determination even if they didn't have much combat power.

The citizens of Katchirda didn't leave as they had nowhere to go anyway. Dozens of men stood up and picked up the weapons passed down by their ancestors, joining Gong Yi and the others, as well as the teenagers that Reynolds was training. That was their spirit and belief; they believed that it was a glory to fight for their home.

The teenagers were eager to fight while the middle-aged citizens had prepared themselves for death and accepted their fate calmly.

It was evening, and the gusts of wind stopped blowing. There was no more scorching sun, and dusk was the most beautiful time of the day in a desert; it was also the time that was most suitable for killing. Under the golden sunset, Caslort's army started their advance.

Gong Yi sighed. "It's my fault. I thought that these people could be negotiated with. I was blinded by the thought of development and failed to consider whether we had the power to protect ourselves."

Caslort offered them the option of surrendering, seemingly giving them a chance. However, Gong Yi knew better. Even if they agreed, the enemy would try to kill all of them slowly instead. Caslort was well known in the desert for his greed.

"Lao Gong, honestly, we are all people who should have died a few times already, so we should consider ourselves lucky that we survived until now."

"You're right. I have always been a person that wants to win, but I failed to consider that life just gives me bad cards sometimes."

"Haha, f*ck them. They need to have skills if they want to kill the three of us!" Reynolds was even less afraid. After experiencing the cursed lands, the three of them had made great progress too. The destructive power of a crazed Peak Heroic Soul Stage expert couldn't be underestimated!

Gong Yi did try to explain their situation via Skylink, but he didn't include the specifics as unless Wang Zhong found Mu Zi, he wouldn't be of much help either. If there wasn't any other solution, he would rather Wang Zhong not come. Gong Yi had prepared for the worst. If all of them died in this battle, someone would pass a letter to Mu Zi. It was fate that they had met; Wang Zhong had a bright future waiting for him and shouldn't have to die together with them.

The three of them gathered their Soul Power, exuding an aura over the desert, a suppression that came from the soul. It was as if there were three gods displaying their divine power. Confusion broke out amongst the feudal lord's advancing army, and many of them started to slow down. The army that had a neat formation initially became less harmonious.

"Hmph."

Boom!

Suddenly, a violent force swept through the desert, and the sand dunes exploded. A tall figure walked out from the sandy chaos, and a terrifying spiritual pressure descended over Gong Yi and the others like a tsunami.