Since Nik decided to give Asmodeus headstart in the art of inscriptions, he dumped all the reading material onto her. Before leaving his spiritual world, Nik did observe the Egg for a moment, and failing to notice anything unusual, he returned to the real world. While the three high nobles... no, the two high nobles had a large estate on the outskirts of the city, a few of the lower-level and almost all the middle-level nobilities had property in the heart of the town.
This included the Winged Dragon Family, too.
Dressed in a casual outfit for a change, Ning'er strode within the hall of elders. Her father summoned her, and when encountering all the elders alongside her father sitting somberly on their seats, Ning'er felt slightly weird.
"Greetings, Father," In front of other elders, Ning'er had to remain formal. Xiao Yunfeng nodded towards her daughter and spoke up, "We all have called you to discuss a matter of great importance," Yunfeng hesitated slightly. If possible, he did not wish to burden his Ning'er once again after Sacred Family's pressure getting removed from her shoulders. But collective stares from his elders, the core members of the Family who remained a pillar for the clan even after his past transgression made Yunfeng speak up.
"Nik Faran, your master... he defeated the Sacred Family's Patriarch and exposed them for their acts of betrayal. Your master is virtually a hero..."
"In essence," Seeing that Yunfeng happened to be faltering once again, one of the elders spoke up, "We need you to repair your relationship with your master after your past errors."
He spoke calmly, but his words rung akin to thunderclaps that failed to empathize with her situation. Yet, the moment a peal of indignation and rancor burst within her chest, a servant came running and stated the arrival of the man that none wished to get a visit from. Notably, not a nobility.
"Lord, Elders! N- Master Nik is here!"
A wave of confusion sunk into spikes of panic, making all stand in tandem as Yunfeng took the lead and walked out of the hall, leaving an indignified Ning'er staring at her father's back with emotions far from love and respect for the first time in her life.
Meanwhile, Nik's eyes shone in appreciation as he took out his smartphone and clicked the image of the gates carved with ruins of scaled lizards with enormous wings. The grandeur piece of art made Nik recall Ignit as he snapped a couple of pictures in her remembrance.
Within moments, under the astonished gazes of the guardsmen, the gates opened, and Yunfeng led a stream of Elders out only for Nik to turn towards him. But his gaze never landed on Yunfeng, and he instantly locked his violet hues with a sad and embarrassed Ning'er. A broad grin made its way to his face, and his words made the color from Yunfeng's face recede dramatically.
"I am here to issue a challenge to Master Xiao. Please, do not resist the challenge," Finding out bitterness within Ning'er's gaze, Nik turned to face Yunfeng, "Resistance is futile."
Nik loved this particular line. He enjoyed the look on men's faces as they slowly lost their hope and ego before a mere gaze from him.
Nik had already defeated two of the Patriarchs, and when facing the third one accompanied by paper elders whose strength barely reached a Spirit Elder (Three rings), he took a step forwards and entered into a stance that Ning'er was all too familiar with.
Yunfeng's adam's apple bobbed as his throat dried out. The intensity behind Nik's gaze made him feel a pressure that surpassed almost all the opponents he faced in his life.
"Come on," Nik smiled, "Maybe, it is a good spar that might finally help you. I am saying this as Ning'er's teacher."
His words made others tremble as Ning'er's eyes widened. Her gaze traced her father's back, and as if guided by fate, Yunfeng looked back and matched Ning'er's gaze. Sadly, the deep-rooted pride within her gaze had long waned, and the realization struck Yunfeng with the force of a sledgehammer, and with his mind made, he faced Nik. To admit defeat and let his daughter's pride vain...
There are better ways to commit suicide than that.
Yunfeng decided as four spirit rings emerged behind him with his clothes and body getting covered with dark-crimson scales. His canines grew, and a pair of leathery wings emerged from his back. His thin mustache elongated and turned fleshy. In terms of pure appearance, Yunfeng looked the most impressive out of Nik's opponents.
"Patriarch, you cannot"
Fearing that an easy surrender might worsen their relationship with Nik, one of the elders hastily remarked only for Yunfeng to give a loud laugh, "Ning'er, henceforth, you are no longer my successor. You will remain an ordinary child of the Family," A feral grin on his face looked completely different from an astonished expression on Ning'er's face. The rings behind Yunfeng submerged within his body.
With his leathery wings turning solid and sharp, his claws glowing, a tattoo forming on the side of his face, and a ball of violet flame forming over his open maws, Yunfeng took the initiative as the spectators soon retreated to a safe distance.
To sudden challenges that Nik issued, there was no need for a proper location.
"Xiao Yunfeng, a power-type spirit master with basic body enhancement, sturdy real guard and lethal skills even to the higher-ranked spirit masters due to the potency of the Crimson-Clawed Draconic martial spirit."
Nik muttered out loud before while looking towards Ning'er, "In a situation like this, you use the opponent's force against them," Nik shot towards Yunfeng who kept on collecting spiritual energy within his mouth, forcing the man to punch out and get his arm clasped and his body rotated in the air and smacked into the ground.
"Now, you have two options," Nik continued leisurely and punched at Yunfeng's face squarely, making the incomplete attack dissipate. Yunfeng, though strong, was inexperienced in using such a time-consuming attack against Nik.
"You can land a blow on the opponent's face, or his or her crotch. It is painful for both genders."
Nik replied as everyone gulped before Nik raised his leg high, "And then you make sure that your opponent does not get the time to regain his bearings," Nik's leg moved down instantly, the tattoo on Yunfeng's face shown before he struck his fist out.
With Yunfeng punching out bare of any form, Nik quickly removed the obstacle Yunfeng's punch proved to be, but it gave Yunfeng enough to time to mobilize his wings, and they folded up to slice Nik's leg when he propelled himself on Yunfeng's fist, "And always remain on the opponent to keep him stressed," he grinned before jumping and pocketing his hands before straightening his legs and shooting straight over Yunfeng's body.
Yunfeng let out a pained cry as his body bent upwards from impact; for a moment, his consciousness slipped as blood touched his mouth.
The others spectating the match shivered. Nik's attacks were unorthodox and cruel.
The reflection of Yunfeng's bloodied face streaked within Ning'er's pupils as it brought a wave of recollection. Her first time getting the highest score, her first time asking her father to beat up a boy, her first time flying, her first time cooking...
And her first loss ever.
The loss of her mother."
Ning'er whispered as her nose soured, and her eyes felt warm. As much helpless, her father remained in the face of certain events; she was the first to lose her hope on her father. If she could just...
Believe in Yunfeng once again, Belief in his words and his back that could hold anything for her.
If she could just...
With her palms clenching each other before Nik raised his legs to smack Yunfeng's face again, Ning'er yelled. Her voice crackling and her face marred with tears!
"Papa! You can do it!!"
A single shout full of hope made Yunfeng's consciousness bang, and with a feral growl, he swiped his legs and propelled himself while his legs barely reaching Nik's chin in a failed attempt to knock him out.
But what did Yunfeng's actions achieved was him being able to pull some distance from Nik, and with indignation and relief coursing throughout his body, Yunfeng roared out, "Your classes end here, Nik. We fight serious now."
While Nik was tempted to point out the irony that he never took easy on his opponents, he decided to give his student's father respect that he would need to nurture her daughter with.
From the very beginning, this challenge wasn't about mission or Yunfeng. It was always about Ning'er.