A female voice could be heard accompanied by some groaning.
"Ugh...t-that feels strange"
The man groaned out while panting.
"Quite the cute sound there, for such a strong senior brother~"
The woman chuckled while some rustling could be heard.
"Hey, stop teasing... I'm trying my best here..."
The man replied in a shaky voice.
"Don't worry senior brother, I'll be as gentle as I can... just stay still for a moment...but you sure are quite large down here..."
The cute female voice proclaimed while more rustling was heard.
These two people were Zhang Xue and Huo Kong. The girl in question had her hands outstretched and a sphere of water was surrounding the man's abdomen. The youth had a sword wound on the side of his stomach that was slowly getting closed down thanks to Zhang Xue's healing arts. She couldn't use the holy element as her master, so she had to use the water arts from her clan. They weren't bad either, they just worked in a different fashion.
"Yes, those are quite the nice abdominal muscles there, you must have worked on them diligently."
The girl was apparently impressed by the man's physique. The girl was around muscular men, in the form of her own master and her big brother, that due to his body refining was turning into quite the beefcake himself. So she was now quite fond of the wider types, finding the manly ones superior to the more feminine dandy looking ones.
"I'm just glad that we got away from that group, we were lucky that those things started chasing after them instead of us."
The two ran into each other a day after the trial started, they formed a team but soon were discovered by a large troop that was gunning for their tokens. They were lucky enough to run through an area with a hidden treasure. It looked to be a sword surrounded by circular rocks, but when the people that were chasing after them tried touching it the rocks started shaking about.
They turned out to be humanoid looking golems, at least three meters tall and with heavy hammer-like fists. While the large band of monsters was trying to protect the weapon, Zhang Xue and Huo Kong made a run for it. Some of the enemies were indisposed so they decided to force their way through one side, the young man taking some hits as he pushed through the other participants that were blocking their way. He ended up injuring himself, getting a couple of cuts here and there but nothing that Zhang Xue couldn't heal.
"I'm feeling a lot better now, my thanks junior sister Xue."
The young man smiled awkwardly while looking at the white-haired beauty. He was quite enamored by the young girl's beauty and even more after he continued interacting with her. She wasn't haughty like some women with this type of beauty, she didn't seem too impressed in him being from a powerful clan either. She felt genuine and just all-around friendly, he didn't feel like she had an ulterior motive like some of the women that were after the prestige that his clan had going for it.
"No problem senior brother Kong, the elders told us to work together and I think they were right in doing so. There are really a lot of enemies in this trial."
Zhang Xue stood up after healing the red-haired man. She thought he was quite funny as he was always trying to evade her gaze and was blushing furiously whenever she touched him. He felt like a little puppy for some reason, she was used to getting stared at by the opposite gender. The gazes were quite different, mostly ones of attraction or possession.
It made her feel like the men saw her as some kind of trophy and not like a real person. This man, on the other hand, seemed too pure to even put her in that bracket. Which was quite funny from her point of view, the man's demeanor didn't fit his fiery appearance. He was quite the beast while fighting, she already saw that but the moment the two were alone he looked like a scared kitten.
"Senior brother, I don't think we should remain in this spot for too long. I bet those other people will try catching us again, we have to find out clan members there are too many of them for us to handle on our own."
Zhang Xue proclaimed while looking to the corridor that they came from, there were two other paths they could take. Xue could use her Master's detection technique, so she could somewhat spot people at the distance. But it wasn't as if this place was laced with traps and high levels of danger, like in the secret ground they were in. So she couldn't pick the right path, as well as the elder members, did back then.
"Um... think we should go with the left one..."
Zhang Xue said while focusing her senses on the two paths, the right one looked to be more dangerous.
"Yes junior sister, we should move... but don't worry, I'll protect you with my life if anything bad happens!"
The man proclaimed while smacking his chest with his palm. Xue just chuckled into her robe sleeve and nodded.
"Well, that's quite reassuring, senior brother Kong."
The man just smiled awkwardly at the girl and moved in front of her, he would be the vanguard as he was better in close range combat than the girl. The two had spent some time together, and this junior sister was quite the talented spear user. She even had some powerful range spear attack that could wreak havoc from the backlines.
The two both already had two tokens each as they had battled some other participants here and there. Most of their time was spent on running away though, the two knew that they couldn't really battle twenty cultivators at once. While the two moved through the similar-looking corridors they started chatting, not really having anything better to do.
"So, you are the son of that Huo Qiang... did he ever mention anything about a senior called Zhang Dong?"
The man had introduced himself as a young master from the Huo clan while shouting at the attackers so this much she knew. She knew that name as he was a close friend of her Master, he even made a pair of beautiful ruby gauntlets for the man.
"Did you s-say Z-Zhang Dong?"
Xue looked at the man, she could tell from his body language that something was wrong, he even twitched a bit the moment he heard her Master's name be mentioned.
"Yes, I'm sure they should be good brothers to each other... am I wrong?"
"Zhang Dong... brothers..."
The man mumbled something under his breath while spacing out slightly, then turned his head to the side to see Zhang Xue behind him.
"Could I ask what your relationship is with this... senior Dong?"
The girl didn't really know why the man seamed down after her Master's name was mentioned. She was now curious about the reason.
"Zhang Dong is our clan's Patriarch, but you probably already know that."
The man nodded, thinking that it would be hard to forget that man's name after what happened back home.
"Well... he is also my Master!"
The girl stopped, quite proud that she could call that man her Master. Her current disposition was all thanks to his superior techniques. Even though he was a bit distant, he was still a great Master that both she and her brother looked up to. She would defend Zhang Dong's honor if she had to, so she squinted a bit as the man in front of her started acting strangely.
"Is there some kind of problem, senior brother Kong?"
The red-haired youth stopped and looked back, his lower lip was trembling a bit. The man started thinking, the girl that he was fancing was part of that Zhang Clan, that was a problem of its own. Now it was even worse, as she was a disciple of the man he learned to despise. There was a reason for that, it started after his father returned from the secret ground.
He was the oldest son of Huo Qiang, also the son of the official wife and not a concubine. He had the highest status, but he still knew that his place wasn't set in stone. He tirelessly worked himself, training like a madman to be the strongest cultivator possible. He knew that his father was in line for the Patriarch spot, but he still wasn't the only one.
There were many clansmen going for that spot, he had uncles and aunts that could replace his father at a moment's notice. The expedition to the secret ground was one such thing. He didn't have any proof but he was sure that one of his family members that were next in line, probably set things in motion. It was lucky that his father made it out alive from that death trap.
Normally he would be proud of his father that proved himself to be one of the strongest. But his father changed, the moment he returned he couldn't shut up about the Zhang Clan or this Zhang Dong that was now apparently his sworn brother. Every day it was Zhang Dong this, Zhang Dong that. His father wouldn't stop, he even coerced the Patriarch to form a binding pact that would last for many years. Apparently he used some techniques that this so-called Zhang Patriarch gave them.
Huo Kong was highly skeptical about this, he thought that the Zhang Clan was of lower status and that this man probably tricked his father in some way. He wanted to even offer his older sister up as a bride, Kong protested this but got trashed by his own dad after saying some hateful words about Zhang Dong in a fit of rage. Due to this, he had a chip on his shoulder and a dislike towards this Zhang Clan and its Patriarch. Thanks to Xue, he had just recalled why he disliked them once more, he had almost forgotten it due to his hormones.
Huo Kong wasn't one to hold back though, he didn't like the whole cloak and dagger approach that other people used. In his opinion, only weak and cowardly people sneaked around, the truly strong let their fist talk instead.
"Problem... yes there is one...to be totally honest..."
Zhang Xue looked at the red-haired man, he looked as if he was going to say something that she didn't like. But before that could happen she felt a disturbance, someone was coming their way.
"Brother Kong, we will have to postpone our talk, I can sense other cultivators coming and I don't think they are friendly!"
The man stopped, he wanted to ask a couple of questions about this girl's Master. But apparently this would have to wait, he put up his guard and got moved forward, Zhang Xue run next to him as the two bolted further into the corridor some shouts heard behind them as the enemies were closing in.
"Here they are!"
"Quick before they can escape!"
"Halt, there is no use running just accept your fate and give us your tokens and you can leave!"
The two could hear the people shouting at them, but they didn't trust them to leave them be after giving up the tokens. Huo Kong wanted to stop and fight, but there was a large group behind him. Even though he felt that he could take on multiple opponents at once, he wasn't sure if he could take on ten of them.
"Go to hell you cowards, the only thing you can do is ganging up!"
He called out while gnashing his teeth. His lovely companion grimaced as she could feel the enemies closing in on them from multiple corridors. Were they being led into a trap like pigs to slaughter? She was sure that if they continued on their path they would run into another group of those cultivators.
There was nowhere else to go but forward though, would they have to fight it out in the end? Suddenly she felt a familiar aura signature, it was behind a wall quite close to where they were at. She took this opportunity, hoping for the best as she shouted out to her red-haired partner.
"Senior brother, help me destroy this wall, there should be something good on the other side!"
The man just looked at the spot that the woman was pointing out. He didn't really mind but he wasn't sure that they could destroy the wall or how thick it was. He also couldn't detect people behind it, the walls were quite good at blocking their senses.
"That wall?... Fine!"
The man's muscles bulged, and some strange patterns covered his muscular frame that made him look as if he was on fire. He then took off, charging at the spot that the junior sister pointed with a shoulder tackle. He looked like a mad bull covered in a blanket of flames, hoping that the spot that he was going for wasn't too thick otherwise his shoulder would be in a dire state.
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