Those so-called upright men turned out to be discreditable in their ways.
“How can you get away so easily after you killed the people in my county?” Li Mu snorted.
Given that Liu Chong was at the fourth stage of the Celestial Being Realm and was from the Guanshan Pasture, one of the Holy Clans, he must have carried loads of treasures. Now such a huge post had been delivered right to him, it would be a shame if he did not take it in and unwrap it.
“Your Excellency, I’m totally ignorant of Young Master Huang’s schemes. I…” Liu Chong implored in shock and terror.
However, Li Mu whipped out the broadsword without further ado and knocked the immortal-looking old guy out on the spot.
As the power of heaven and earth was restricted, which in turn suppressed his internal qi, Liu Chong’s strength at that time was no more than an expert in the Master Realm. So, how could he stand a chance against Devil Li?
The outcome of that conflict was assured.
“Imprison them all and make a body search!” commanded Li Mu.
Huang Wenyuan’s guards, maids, and servants had long since been scared out of their wits. None of them offered resistance and quietly surrendered to the arrest.
Devil Li planned to open the posts one by one.
In the Taibai Sword Faction…
The sixtieth birthday celebration of Zhao Jianqing, an elder of the sect, was going on.
Zhao Jianqing was not very famous in Jianghu. Although he was engrossed in swordsmanship and worked hard to practice sword skills at an early age, the attainments he achieved in swordsmanship was not quite phenomenal. After thirty years’ worth of painstaking practice, he merely acquired the cultivation of a Great Master and still not entered the Natural Realm yet. In the Taibai Sword Faction, such achievement was only mediocre. Generally, with that kind of cultivation, he could hardly be at the upper levels of the faction.
Despite that, Zhao Jianqing did have an outstanding son and a smart daughter after he got married at the age of forty.
Zhao Yu, his first-born, was highly gifted in practicing sword skills. He was selected to be given special training by the faction since he was a child and soon became a leader among the disciples of the younger generation as his strength increased by leaps and bounds. Zhao Ling, his little daughter, was a born beauty, pure and free of all vulgarity. She grew up as the most beautiful flower in the Taibai Sword Faction. She not only had the necessary qualities for studying swordsmanship but also had the scarce talent in being a pharmacist, and that was why she also became a bright pearl among her peers.
As the father of the brilliant son and daughter and a senior in the faction, Zhao Jianqing, who always behaved himself and got on well with the others, saw his standing in the faction kept rising. Finally, thanks to the glory his son, Zhao Yu, brought him as he entered the Natural Realm a couple of days ago, Zhao Jianqing was promoted to be an elder of the Taibai Sword Faction.
It was natural for people to be in high spirits when involved in cheerful events.
Therefore, at Zhao Jianqing’s sixtieth birthday celebration that closely followed the promotion, he deliberately organized a grand feast.
Since he was popular among the faction members, many had come to the feast to congratulate him on that day.
And Zhao Xue, the current head of the Taibai Sword Faction, was one of those people.
Zhao Xue was already in his seventies. He had made his name years ago. But he was the late-blooming type and remained a nobody for forty years. Then, out of the blue, he made a staggering breakthrough and became the number one practitioner in the Taibai Sword Faction. When he adventured the martial arts circle later, he was seldom defeated on account of his excellent sword skills and profound cultivation. Given his remarkable combat record, he ranked the tenth strongest martial expert in the Western Qin Empire and gained quite the same regal bearing of the old Secular Sword Whiz, Li Gang, who used to be the top one swordsman in the empire.
However, in a battle twenty-five years ago, he lost to Li Gang, the Secular Sword Whiz, after his sword got snapped by him. Since then, he gloomily retreated to Taibai Mountain and became the head of the Taibai Sword Faction while furthering his cultivation in a low profile. Under his leadership, the Taibai Sword Faction also laid low those years and its popularity in the vast Jianghu gradually diminished, though its strength had enormously advanced.
The celebration was held in winter, at midday…
The fragrance of wine fluttered out.
Zhao Jianqing’s mansion was boisterous.
Zhao Xue, Head of the Faction, and some elders had settled themselves in the seats of honor. Watching the talented disciples gathering around the table and chatting jubilantly, they felt elated for the prosperity of their faction.
In particular, Zhao Yu, the secretly slated future leader, seemed to have gained some enlightenment since he returned from that battle in Chang’an City. The bottleneck he had in practice was all gone. His strength grew rapidly and he soon became a Natural Expert and set foot on a broader road. Now that he had achieved that without difficulty, his future attainments would perhaps overtake that of his predecessor. The Taibai Sword Faction truly felt blessed to have such a talented young man.
On such a rejoicing day, even Zhao Xue who had always kept an imposing image irresistibly helped himself to more drinks than he usually did.
Everyone was slightly drunk and enjoying themselves.
Zhao Xue raised his wine glass to propose a toast. But at that precise moment, his expression changed. He instantly looked in the southeast, a shade of solemnity that no one had ever seen before appearing on his face.
The guests in the room were perplexed to see his look.
But the next second, the entire Taibai Sword Faction gave a slight shudder.
All the experts above the Great Master Realm sensed that the earth under their feet quaked violently as if some extremely dreadful power had flowed by. Then, the aura of an indescribably mighty power surged in the southeast. Even with their impressive strength and cultivation, they were still seized by spasms of consternation and uneasiness.
“An earthquake? Unlikely…”
“The power seems to imply the birth of a Sage!”
“It comes from the direction of Taibai County.”
The expression of all the experts of the Taibai Sword Faction altered drastically.
Zhao Xue gave no comment. He simply shivered and turned into a jet of sword light, which leaped up and suspended in midair several kilometers away from the ground. He stood at the tip of a cloud, his eyes lit by whirling divine light locked on the Taibai County.
Clusters of cloud drifted by. Rampant tides of Spiritual Qi were flooding in the direction of Taibai County.
Swoosh! Swoosh! Swoosh!
Streams of light zoomed up.
A dozen faction members in the Celestial Being Realm had also leaped to the sky and came to Zhao Xue. Yes, that was the result of more than two decades’ low-key development of the faction. It should be noted that two decades ago, there were only three Celestial Being in total in the Taibai Sword Faction, if counting in Zhao Xue, Head of the Faction.
“Head, the aura is quite unusual. It appears to be the power of a Celestial Being at the peak, doesn’t it?” A thin elder with white hair and a white beard said pensively as he stared in the direction of Taibai County.
The others looked overwhelmed as well.
However, Zhao Xue shook his head and said, “No, it’s not the power of a Celestial Being at peak.”
His cultivation was the highest of the whole Taibai Sword Faction, and his vision and experience were also peerless. Although his fame in Jianghu faded after that defeat twenty-five years ago, he was still held in awe in the faction and worshipped like a deity. Therefore, upon hearing his authoritative judgment, the elders and Guardians of Rules all breathed a sigh of relief.
Yet, Zhao Xue continued, “It’s the power of a Sage.”
“A Sage descended in Taibai County?”
“Which Sage? Could it be that one in the Guanshan Pasture…?”
The word ‘Sage’ was immensely enchanting and awe-inspiring. Those people turned wonderstruck the moment they heard it. They all let loose an exclamation and quite forgot themselves. Across the entire Western Qin Empire, the number of Sages was no more than three, and the most renowned one among which was Li Poyue, also known as the Guanshan Master. He was the present head of the Guanshan Pasture, the top one martial arts cultivator in the Western Qin Empire. Only he could have such a potent aura.
However, Zhao Xue shook his head again and sighed, “It’s not him.”
“No him?” The lean elder with white hair who was the first to speak added, “Rumor has it that there is a Sage in the royal family of the Western Qin Empire. Is it his…?”
Zhao Xue shook his head and stated, “The royal family mainly practiced the Dragon-commanding Skill. Although what they study can develop into a thousand different forms, the core of their martial art is the same—their focus is the Dragon Qi. By contrast, the aura rising above Taibai County comes from a sea of thunderclaps. It’s vast and mighty, just and honest, as though a manifestation of a deity. It contains no Dragon Qi but Thunder Qi. And through careful observation, you could see the Thunder Qi is just floating on the surface. Under it is a complete set of the righteous qi of the five elements. So, I’m positive that it is not issued by the royal Sage in tales.”
He sounded one hundred percent sure about it.
“Em… Maybe it’s a certain rogue Sage who just traveled past Taibai County and revealed his aura.” Someone else surmised.
Zhao Xue shook his head at that idea.
Rogue sages were very rare, and most of them stayed in their places all the time. Only one or two of them loved traveling around the world, but they kept their whereabouts to themselves and never disclose their traces. Thus, they would by no means expose their aura like this…
And that was what baffled Zhao Xue.
These days, he had noticed many odd phenomena.
The density of Spiritual Qi in the secret practice spots of the Taibai Sword Faction began to drop. It was not a decline during the normal rise and fall but a dramatical plummet. That phenomenon covered all of the secret practice spots without exception. But on the contrary, the Spiritual Qi in every part of the Taibai Sword Faction grew notably richer. He was under the impression that the Spiritual Qi in those secret practice spots was evenly distributed to the entire faction.
What was more, the parts within the Taibai Mountain area other than the faction also displayed a sharp increase in the amount of Spiritual Qi. Further, weird tactical deployments had emerged in some places, which were so well protected that even Zhao Xue could not approach them and take a look.
But the place having the richest Spiritual Qi in the entire Taibai Mountain area was the Taibai County.
As a matter of fact, a large-scaled secret practice spot had been newly erected there.
Now, he caught the sight of the stunning view in the county. “Could it be… No way! That Li Mu is merely fifteen. How could he generate such a powerful aura?”
Zhao Xue felt very perturbed.
He suddenly recalled everything Zhao Ling told him after he came back from Taibai County.
Undoubtedly, some curious change was occurring in Taibai County, and that young county magistrate Li Mu who had taken the office barely for a year was the key to that change. But the question was… How on earth did he make it?
Zhao Xue’s mind immediately dwelled on the report Zhao Yu did on that battle in Chang’an City.
Just then, a shot of sword light swished past. It was Zhao Yu, the Rival Energy against Star River, who rode on a snow-white sword and flew to the crowd. That snow-white sword was called Taibai Sword, which was one of the most precious treasures of the Taibai Sword Faction. Head Zhao Xue had granted that treasure to him on his day of becoming a Natural Expert.
Zhao Xue glanced at the disciple he was most proud of and was amazed to see that he had grasped the true secrets of riding the Taibai Sword within such a short time and was able to fly freely. He was gratified by his progress. But shortly, Zhao Xue detected something abnormal—Zhao Yu’s aura contained a wisp of strange Sword Intent.
“Send someone to Taibai County to look into the change.”
Zhao Xue uttered his decision.
Then, he cast his eyes on Zhao Yu and said, “Yu, come with me.”
Two streaks of sword light shot across the sky.
The crowd also disbanded.
The task of probing and investigation would be performed by professionals.
In Zhao Xue’s study…
Zhao Yu was very much unnerved before Zhao Xue. After he recounted how he obtained the way of the Star River Sword from Li Mu, he finally admitted, “Master, I was overjoyed when I got the manual on that sword art. I practiced it in secret for a few days. I intended to report this to you after father’s birthday celebration… Master, have I done something wrong?”
Zhao Xue replied with a smile, “You didn’t do anything wrong. Instead, you’ve done a great job. The way of the Star River Sword is an advance secret manual that will help you progress all the way to the Void-breaking Realm. It’s your karma, as well as Li Mu’s generosity that blessed you with that manual. This time you’ve risked your life by going to Chang’an Mansion to rescue Mrs. Tang and her family. I think picking up the way of the Star River Sword is a reciprocation for your noble act.”
Zhao Xue was an open-minded master. He certainly would not forbid Zhao Yu from studying a more advanced martial art.
That was one of the reasons that the Taibai Sword Faction hade quietly prospered at such a fast pace those years.
At the moment, he had to give it some thought on how to deal with Li Mu.
Because he had a vague feeling that a new dominator was about to emerge.