It was true that Li Mu was fleeing like a startled bunny.
He would be out of his mind if he did not choose to run away at that time.
Although he was bumptious and liked staying in the limelight, he definitely would not make himself a fool by believing he could take on the five Celestial Beings under that circumstance.
Anyway, he had reached the goal of honing his skills through the battle.
So, he chose to escape right away. And he fled in the precise direction of the main altar of the Xiongfeng Martial Art Club, which was where Li Gang was.
For the moment, the mean magistrate was unmistakably the biggest backup in the entire Chang’an he could find.
At the same time, the second prince noticed the direction of Li Mu’s flee from the loft. However, with a stir of his mind, he uttered the order to stop the five Celestial Beings from chasing after Li Mu.
Li Mu soon made his getaway from the battlefield without difficult.
“Your Honor Li, how are you…” Li Mu approached the magistrate. His blood ran cold at the sight of the severely injured Li Gang.
“No way! My strongest backup is wounded?”
Since the fight with the five Celestial Beings was too intense, Li Mu had no attention to spare for what was going on on Li Gang’s side at that time.
Li Gang shot a glance at Li Mu and cocked his eyebrows. Then, he muttered, “Don’t forget the promise you made the other day.” At their meeting in the Chang’an government, Li Gang made an astonishing announcement to Li Mu—he was planning to kill a prince. For that purpose, he required to meet the sect behind Li Mu and solicit their cooperation. But what Li Mu replied was that he had full powers to make any decisions on behave of his faction.
Looking distressed, Li Mu rubbed the spot between his brows and said, “Er, actually, I was just kidding on that day.”
“Oh my solid backup, you don’t just have such weak ace card, do you?”
“Placing your hopes on a purely imaginary sect is not much of the style of such a strong backup like you!”
But Li Gang almost spat blood out of his mouth.
The word ‘evil-spawn’ was already on the tip of his tongue.
Coughs sounded from a distant pile of rock pieces. From there, Cao Bingyan, the Rival Energy against Star River, who was half-intangible half-solid, stumbled to his feet while coughing blood. Li Mu could see a stream of mingled emotions whirling in his eyes.
He was dying.
He had spent all those years to practice martial arts. He even discarded his dignity to use the Star River Sword with evil means and debased himself by being the henchman of the royal family to obtain resources and Cultivation Methods. Despite all that, after twenty-one years’ suffering, he was still not the equal of Li Gang. Even though he had the assistance of the second prince, who launched a sneak attack at Li Gang, he failed to kill the Sword Whiz anyway.
The Secular Sword Whiz would, indeed, be eliminated.
The second prince designed the plot for years. He even brought the imperial edict there, so Li Gang would undoubtedly die.
But what grieved him was that it was not him who finished Li Gang off.
The grudge he held on to for twenty-one years still was not lifted.
Birds cry plaintively before they die, and men speak kindly in the presence of death.
The sufferings and adversities he endured over the past twenty-one years replayed in his mind at that second. Cao Bingyan’s eyes set upon Li Gang, then, swiveled to Li Mu. During those days, he served the second prince, and he had access to many informants. So, it was no surprise that he heard all about Li Mu and was also aware that the young man was the son of Li Gang, his sworn enemy.
He was an abandoned son.
“Well, such a good son was banished by Li Gang.”
“Now, Li Gang must regret that decision very much. Yet, given the pride of this Secular Sword Whiz, he won’t admit it no matter how remorseful he is.”
“Hem, hem, hem…” At that thought, Cao Bingyan unexpectedly broke into a fit of hearty laughter.
Moreover, an utterly ridiculous idea irresistibly wedged its way into his mind.
“The Star River Sword must be passed on. I need a successor…” He spilled out a mouthful of blood, and a dot of starlight emerged in his palm. It gradually swelled up and rose to the air. Like a shining star falling to the mortal world, it twinkled and soared towards the spot between Li Mu’s eyebrows.
Li Mu was shocked.
He sensed Cao Bingyan’s aura. Although the chief eunuch was on the brink of death, his aura was still extremely frightening, much more terrifying than that of Mu Qing, Long-brow Saint, and the other Celestial Beings. Thus, the first thought that came to him was that Cao Bingyan was furious about losing to the mean magistrate and so tried to secretly attack him as revenge.
But as he scanned the alien object with his spiritual force, he found the dazzling starlight contained no killing intent but a cloud of mental fluctuation which appeared to hold the secrets of martial arts. In a second, Li Mu understood what was happening.
“Gee! Did the old eunuch get a brain injury or something?”
“Passing on his know-how?”
“To the… em… abandoned son of his foe?”
“Does he have the Stockholm Syndrome?”
Li Mu hesitated for a moment before urging his spiritual force to wrap around the ball of starlight and pull it back before hiding it safely in the Five Elements Sky-flipping Seal. He had to be careful, in case it was Cao Bingyan’s trick. After all, it was almost impossible to defend effectively against an expert at that level if he decided to deceive the others.
Li Gang shot a significant look at Cao Bingyan but did not stop him, nor did he say a word.
In truth, he understood why Cao Bingyan chose to do so.
Twenty-one years ago, they both participated in that remarkable imperial examination. Few knew the reasons for the burst of talents were the coming out of ancient sects and the resuscitating era. Not only in the Western Qin but also in the Northern Song and Southern Chu appeared a large number of brilliant talents, though no one could ascertain which ancient sect each of those talents represented.
Cao Bingyan, the Rival Energy against Star River, was the one and only future leader, the old Star River Sword Sect, cultivated and sent out after a thousand years’ retirement from the world.
Unfortunately, he was broken by a single defeat and later took a wrong path.
“Perhaps before his death, he is finally brought to his senses. The second prince… Well, the royal force, in which he took refuge, treats him like a dog. Otherwise, the second prince wouldn’t have sent Cao Bingyan to take the brunt to get me to show my ace card when he already got the imperial edict at hand. Once Cao Bingyan is dead, the ancient Star River Sword Sect will be lost forever.”
At the scene, the second prince standing in the distance gave no reaction.
Being the successor of the Star River Sword Sect was indeed quite tempting. However, as Cao Bingyan was already at the peak of the Celestial Being Realm and the starlight contain his will to pass his know-how on to Li Mu, if Li Gang snatched it over against Cao Bingyan’s will, it would make no difference. He would only force the light ball to dissipate in a trice. So, Li Mu thought it was better to let Li Mu, the bird cooped in a cage, to receive his know-how and then force the answers out of him.
“Rival Energy against Star River overawed thirty thousand miles, while your sword chilled the nineteen provinces in the empire. Hahaha…” Cao Bingyan laughed wildly. He straightened up, but his body was growing steadily fuzzier, as though an invisible eraser was wiping him from the landscape. Though a little wobbling, he stood upright and yelled, “Li Gang, my successor will overtake you. The contest between the Secular Sword and the Star River Sword won’t end like this…”
As he finished that remark, he was fully engulfed by the torrents of secular dust and disappeared from the world.
Li Mu was left speechless.
“The old eunuch definitely got rocks in his head!”
“Damn, you overtake nobody! Didn’t you see the present situation? The second prince has put on airs and taken the upper hand!”
“You just wanted me to be targeted, so you picked me as your successor in such a notable fashion, didn’t you?”
“What if I fail to escape?”
Li Mu looked up at the bright yellow imperial edict floating in midair, carefully measured the pressure and energy it carried and wondered whether he could resist the enchanted imperial edict when activating the Five Elements Sky-flipping Seal.
At that time, Li Mu already had cold feet.
“If the mean magistrate, my backup, cannot withstand the pressure, I will adapt myself to circumstances and find a chance to run away. Maybe taking as many as I can reach to escape with me.”
“Li Gang, you are already out of options. Still won’t surrender to me?”
Looking down upon the ground from the high loft, the second prince had the air of confidence that he had got everything under his control.
With no Sky-stabilizing Mirror to suppress them, the five Celestial Beings had all recovered their full power and stood behind the second prince in a row.
Since he had the imperial edict suspending over their heads, he knew he was in an advantageous position.
At that moment, he felt no fear even if that eccentric, dark blue light shot out again.
Li Gang ceased running his Cultivation Method to cure his wounds. His countenance had returned to normal. Looking up at the loft in a distant, he said flatly, “I’m innocent.”
“Hahaha!” The second prince burst into an explosion of laughter. “Whether you’re innocent or not is not up to you to decide. Hasn’t you said that even though you had to die if the emperor wanted you dead, I was not the emperor, so you couldn’t follow my order? Well, now that the imperial edict says so, what other argument do you have now? Your doom has arrived. It is no use to quibble groundlessly. But given that you are quite a remarkable talent, I do want to let you die with dignity… Take your life yourself.”
Li Gang smiled and accused, “That’s merely a fabricate imperial edict… Your Highness, do you know deceiving people with a forged imperial edict will bring you the death penalty?”
At that remark, the second prince furiously raised his sleek brows and said in a cold voice, “Seems that Your Honor won’t shed a tear until you see your coffin.”
Li Mu listened to their conversation quietly at the side. But he felt their remarks were too meaningless.
Today, he had rushed there aggressively to get back at the second prince. However, judging by the current conditions, it would be tough since Li Gang could not provide the help he needed. By then, Li Mu still had a few tricks not used, but… As he was musing on how to deal with the situation, he looked over his shoulder and suddenly caught sight of the masked young man in white. Instantly, something clicked in his head and he curled his lips and whispered, “Psst… Psst, psst… Yo-ho, hey, you! what’s your name?”
“This masked young man is a genius for battling!”
“I have a feeling that I ought to befriend this guy!”
“Anyway, getting well on those talents is better than making enemies out of them. I won’t forget how many homebodies are fantasizing about going back to twenty years ago by time-traveling and befriending those who would later become the richest CEOs in the 21st century… Well, the principle also applies to them.”
The masked young man in white was badly wounded. He had just stopped the bleeding in his shoulder.
Registering Li Mu’s winks, he was reluctant to make any response. But considering Li Mu had just saved his life twice, he unwillingly and gingerly answered, “Zhao Yu.”
Li Mu immediately found that name familiar. Perhaps he had heard it somewhere.
After musing for a while, Devil Li pounded his laps as comprehension dawned upon him and cried, “Ah! I got it! That arrogant Zhao Ling, the girl I took in as a maid in the county government, said that she had a genius brother called Zhao Yu. You’re that Zhao Yu, the top talent of the young generation of the Taibai Sword Faction, am I right?”
At that, the masked young man in white was stunned. Then, his face turned purple in exasperation.
He had kept his face masked and carefully avoid exposing the source of his martial arts in every battle. He even firmly raised his sword to disfigure his face at that life-and-death moment. And the only reason for doing all that was to prevent the second prince and his men from finding out his background and causing the Taibai Sword Faction to get in trouble. But then, Li Mu cried out his true identity in front of all the enemies…
In that instant, he almost wanted to throw himself upon Li Mu and bite off his head.
However, facing Zhao Yu’s aggravated glare, Li Mu went on unperturbedly, “That arrogant girl told me that you are born to be the sword kernel or something, and have unparalleled gifts…”
“Fu*cking you the born sword knave!”
Zhao Yu felt the offensive remarks Li Mu just made could offset the two graces he granted him by rescuing him.
“You shut up,” snapped Zhao Yu.
Li Mu was a little stupefied at his reaction, but soon realized what he had done.
He clapped a hand over his forehead and said apologetically, “Er, I’m sorry. I exposed your sect. Umm, well, it’s already exposed. You can unmask yourself and breath some fresh air now. You must be suffocating behind that facecloth. For what it worth, facecloth is not as handy as a real mask. I know a workshop in Chang’an that specializes in making masks. The price is fair, and the shop owner is very honest..”
By then, Zhao Yu was convinced of the descriptions his fellow apprentices gave him.
Li Mu was truly a devil.
But as Li Mu cracked jokes and played the fool, the situation took a new turn.