Waking up Tang He found himself back inside the carriage. Looking around with his eyes he recognised that he lied in the waggon he had travelled in for the last week and not too far from him he could see those four mercenary brothers talking about something.
But it seemed that they too noticed his awakening and turned back to look at him. Lei was the first who spoke up:
"You, boy are crazy!" with a smile "You ran for freaking 10 hours straight, do you know that?"
Trying to remember the day before Tang He answered:
"Not really, I just know I was running..."
"Yeah it was crazy... We would never be able to run that long..."
As Tang He tried to sit upright he suddenly noticed that he couldn't. All the muscles in his body were hurting like never before. Even though sometimes after training sessions his muscles would hurt afterwards as well but that was not even comparable to this.
It was as if his whole body was on fire.
< Your heart nearly gave in, you know? >
< Of course, your whole body would hurt afterwards... >
'AAHHHRRR... That hurts! But hopefully we showed that arrogant boy that he can't control everything about us!'
Just at that moment brother Hu remembered:
"Oh, yeah the young lord too was rather surprised when he heard about your feat and commanded us to send you to him when you wake up..."
"It is still early, so the young lord is most likely asleep right now. Shortly before we set off again we'll send you to him so for now I guess you can rest."
A bit relieved about not having to stand up right now Tang He closed his eyes again until he noticed that there was someone missing from the waggon who had been there on the last week of travel...
"Where is Su Liling? ..."
After a short moment of confusion Huan remembered:
"Ah, that girl who was with you? If I remember correctly she is in the carriage of the young lord serving him fruits and listening to him brag about stuff, haha."
Brother Fu cut in "Hey! Be careful what you say, if the commander hears you, you'll be in trouble..."
"Since when can you get into trouble for telling the truth?"
Like literally the whole carriage sighed after he said that... all of them were thinking "Since freaking always? ..."
After a small slumber Tang He was woken up to arrive before young master Yang.
When he stepped out of his carriage he was able to see a big forest ahead. Their camp was slightly out of its reach but one could absolutely feel the ominous aura it gave of. It didn't have to do much with logic or reason but it was just pure instinct which was shouting in his head: 'RUN! Run as fast as you can!'
Tang He couldn't run though. He had to walk closer to the noble looking carriage and after a small knock that noble-looking boy and a girl stepped out.
The girl was of course Su Liling and that time she was alone with the boy did seem to change her somehow. She had a small collar around her neck with another rather fine chain hanging down from the front.
If that had been all Tang He would probably not have minded but the main problem were her eyes... they were empty. If she had been an albeit sad but still lively girl, now she was just an empty husk with almost no emotions.
Tang He had been rather happy of his defiant feat before but now his eyes showed a murderous glint when they were looking at Yang Jie.
And he seemed to really enjoy that look:
"I knew it, tormenting her and seeing your expression afterwards would be much more fun. Maybe I'll let you watch next time? Hmm..."
With another smirk he commented:
"I am very glad that you were able to run the whole time yesterday. It would have been a bummer if you collapsed after an hour. It is just more 'interesting' like this. Don't you think so too?"
Tang He's face was rather unsightly after he heard all that and understood that it wouldn't really matter for him whether he ran a lot or not at all. It all boiled down to 'interesting'.
Still he had to answer even if he gritted it through his teeth: "Yes, young master Yang."
"It is really lovely to see how you still fight. 'She' had some fight in her in the beginning as well, you know?"
Showing a slightly disappointed look, he turned to Su Liling...
"...But it took me only a couple of hours to turn her into this..." *Sigh* "...you know I had hoped for her to have more of a fight inside. I only had to threaten the wellbeing of her father a little and say I would torture you latter too to make her fully obedient to me..."
He turned back to Tang He:
"...People like that are really boring, you know? Here you can have her for a while maybe she'll come back from this boring state of emotionlessness..."
"Before, I had actually wanted to kill you after some time of fun but your feat yesterday needs to be rewarded, doesn't it? Anyway, I decided to reward you too with a slave seal when we arrive in the next town..."
Seeing the unknowing look on Tang He's face Yang Jie laughed for a moment and continued:
"Oh, I forgot, you came from a small backwater village. Let me enlighten you..."
"This world has Qi flowing around everywhere and through special means one is able to do pretty nice things with it - Hanying show him some of your fire-art..."
"Yes, young master" The elder to the left immediately answered and raised his right hand for Tang He to see. There was nothing visible inside - an empty hand.
After a short moment of concentration, he bent his fingers inwards and with a small shout suddenly strong warmth was emitted from the elder's hand and then a small red flame could be seen wiggling on top of his hand. It was levitating a couple of centimetres above it and soon changed its form.
First it was a sphere then it distorted into something bird-shaped and after some time more details could be observed: claws, feathers, a beak. Soon, a small bird was flying around on top of his hand and then with a whish of his other hand it all disappeared as if it had never existed in the first place.
< Bullshit! >
Frank wasn't able to find any other word to describe the state he was in right now. If it had been a small flame above that guys hands he could have attributed it to some kind of trick with chemicals involved but that flame freaking changed its form and became a f*cking flying bird and with a bit of imagination one was even almost be able to hear it cry...
< Freaking No! That didn't just happen?! But I didn't eat or drink anything funny recently as well and those guys on the other side seem to find that totally normal? >
< What is he burning and how does he control the flames in all 3 directions? >
Seemingly very happy about Tang He's expression, Yang Jie continued.
"That is a Qi-Art our family was able to procure very recently. It is called the 'Cry of the Phoenix' and maybe it isn't that majestic yet with some training it will be!"
"You see, the Qi around us can help us do many things and some masters can even produce inanimate objects that can do those things as well."
Still seeing the non-understanding eyes of Tang He young master Yang chuckled again:
"Hehe, those Formation-Masters can inscribe special forms on paper so that others can use it and the slave seal we are going to buy is exactly that..."
Tang He somehow got an unsettling feeling from the tone the young master was using.
"Before I had deemed you too weak and useless but now I saw your determination so you both will come with me as servants into the sect, but I need something to guarantee your loyalty..."
After a short rhetoric break he continued, with an even more evil smile:
"Even though a slave seal is not cheap, if I use it on a mortal he won't be able to refuse any command I give him, any though against me will be restrained and his life will be mine to decide, forever ... So how do you like that?"
A look of horror spread across Tang He's face, before he was just in a position of weakness and couldn't really escape but if what that guy said was true, then after he got that slave seal he would not be able to escape at all.
< I'd say that is impossible, but I am not sure anymore. My experience does not help with this new kind of information... >
< He is probably speaking the truth. That thing may be actually able to restrain someone's thoughts even! >
'I don't want him to control my life! I want to be free! How??'
Yang Jie was extremely satisfied when he saw the crazed look on Tang He's face. 'Now he got it!'
"Hehe, even though I could have you killed right now, that is no fun. What will be fun though is watching your ever-changing faces when I make you do things you would despise and are so humiliated to you that you can't even imagine it yet..."
Then he switched his sight back to Su Liling and pondered:
"You see, it had been a long time since I last played with someone, so I guess I got a bit overexcited yesterday and broke her too quickly. Be a good slave and repair her for me, will you? If you can't I am sure I could wake her up as well, but as you can probably imagine my means could be a bit more extreme, hehe..."
With that he removed her collar and left her with Tang He to deal with.
"As an additional reward for your endurance yesterday I'll give you some leisure time with her in the carriage until we reach the next town... which should be ... in a couple of days actually, have fun!"
He turned around and stepped back into his carriage together with the slightly pale elder who had done that fire-art before.
Stupefied Tang He was left there together with Su Liling who just stood there still with a vacant look in her eyes.
< Poor girl! I have never seen someone like that. What did that guy do to her? >
Tang He too was absolutely helpless and just took the girl's hand to lead her back to the carriage where they had spent their last week together. She let him do as he wished with her and just followed silently without the blush she would have had before if he had accidentally touched her.