“I’ll make it! I’ll make it in time!”
Liu Chong rushed day and night to reach Taibai County, without stopping once for food or drink. Motivated by the firm loyalty to Huang Shengyi, the Fire Devil, he did not even let his dear white crane take a break but rushed all along. Finally, it took him one day less to return than the onward trip.
“There is no aura of Sages’ fighting in Taibai County. Maybe Head Huang hasn’t struck yet. I can make it in time.” Riding on the white crane, Liu Chong rejoiced at the view of the tranquil Taibai County. He muttered, “Great! Thank god I’ve found the secret way to overcome the tactical deployment suppressing the Spiritual Qi in Guanshan City of our Holy Clan. As long as I hand it to Head Huang, he will be able to hold Li Mu completely in check…”
He gave the white crane a jerk and it swooped to Taibai County like an arrow.
“Head Huang, I, Liu Chong, am coming for you…” He cried as he dived for Taibai County.
At the front gate of the county government…
Li Mu was on the point of dragging the dead Huang Shengyi back to the government yard to ‘open the mail’. Just at that time, he heard Liu Chong’s shouts. Next, he saw a massive white crane swooping upon him.
“Head Huang, beware that Li Mu. That guy can control the Spiritual Qi in the county. I brought you the Deployment-dominating Tablet. It can restrain the star deployments…” Due to Huang Wenyuan’s death, Liu Chong was afraid that Huang Shengyi would take it out on him. So he started hollering from a distance to show his loyalty to the head and the determination to take the credit!
Li Mu clapped a hand over his eyes to shadow the sun. But when he looked up, he grinned broadly.
“Yo-ho, this old brat is back again!”
After he laid off Liu Chong the last time, Li Mu gave it a thought and felt quite guilty for doing that. “What a noble spirit Liu Chong displayed by traveling all the way here to deliver the mail to me! But I merely took a part of the shipped goods and kicked him off. In truth, Liu Chong’s white crane looks marketable. I could have retained it…”
But to his surprise, Liu Chong doubled back of his own accord.
“What a good comrade!”
Beaming, Li Mu waved at Liu Chong and yelled, “He is here! Here! Haha, come on, your Head Huang is here!”
When Liu Chong jumped off the white crane, he was bemused to see Li Mu in such high spirits. As he took another look, he noticed a man with black eyes and a swollen face lying unconscious on the ground. He did find the figure and his clothes a little familiar. But on no account could he have expected him to be Huang Shengyi. Yet, after Li Mu’s jubilant yells, his face fell at once.
“Is he really Head Huang?”
“Who are you kidding?”
Liu Chong could not believe it.
However, when he was closer and cast a scrutinizing look at the figure, he was instantly scared out of his wits. That man was truly Head Huang! The renowned expert who was only half a step away from the Sage Realm had been beaten into a pulp! At the time, he was sprawling on the ground, knocked unconscious, void of his respectable bearing. By contrast, Li Mu was standing by him, perfectly intact… “What on earth has happened?”
“What did you say you brought here? A Deployment-dominating Tablet?” Li Mu hailed enthusiastically, “Quick, let me have a look.”
“Er, I’m sorry. Your Honor Li, you might have misheard it. I got lost and wandered back to Taibai County. I’ve got to set off again…” Liu Chong hastily explained with an awkward look. Then, he whipped around and made to mount his white crane to take off.
“Hey, don’t go. I’ve got something to discuss with you.” Li Mu raised a hand to grab him. “Hello? Don’t go… You don’t want to behave, do you? You’re playing dumb? Well, get off the bird!”
Li Mu pressed a hand on Liu Chong’s shoulder and a shot of natural qi immediately subdued him.
“Your bird seems great,” Li Mu said with a smile, “I feel this bird shares a connection with me.” He reached out to stroke the white crane on the pretense of being close to the creature. But unexpectedly, the white crane did appear to be enjoying the touch. It rubbed its head against Li Mu’s palm and emitted a stream of low hoots out of affection. Quite amazed by its reaction, Li Mu roared with laughter and gloated, “Did you see it? It wants me to be its master…”
As Li Mu had been practicing the Xiantian Skill, his natural qi and aura became purer after he entered the Natural Realm. So, to those intelligent birds and beasts like the white crane, he was way more appealing than ordinary men. Naturally, the scene that the chrysanthemum leopard disliked him when he tried to subdue it could not be staged under that circumstance.
Tears coursed down on Liu Chong’s cheeks.
How else could he argue?
On that day, he was the meat on the chopping board while Li Mu was the knife. He would be held liable even if he farted. Anything he did could be a cause for Li Mu to bully him.
Therefore, very obediently, he did not raise an objection at all. Instead, he just gazed at the white crane with a grievous look. He knew he had to part with the dear creature from that day on. At that moment, he almost felt his lover had been taken away by Li Mu.
Nonetheless, losing a bird was much better than losing his life.
At last, Liu Chong meekly took out the Deployment-dominating Tablet he had obtained in Guanshan City and handed it to Li Mu, who also looted all those resources he had replenished from Guanshan City, leaving him with literally nothing.
“Senior, you’re a very generous man.” Li Mu patted Liu Chong on his shoulder gleefully and commented, “To tell you the truth, when I first saw you on that day, I thought the immortal-like man had to be generous and willing to distribute his wealth to the needy. Now, your behavior does prove me right. You must have traveled day and night to Guanshan City and then returned to deliver me so much gold, jade, and resources. Thanks a lot!”
Liu Chong glared at Li Mu in grief but could not utter a word.
The reputation of being careless of wealth but careful of virtue was the least he longed for.
Fortunately, Li Mu allowed Liu Chong to leave at last.
He was, after all, not a homicidal maniac. What would become of him if he killed everyone he captured?
The Earth resident was not that unfriendly.
Anyway, Li Mu had long since noticed that in addition to the folks, guards and officials in Taibai County, many experts living in the remote mountains and on the ancient tree outside of the county had already learned about the battle. Thus, the news would spread out at the speed of a tornado. Even if he kept Liu Chong there, the Guanshan Pasture would soon hear the news. So, he would not make that pointless move.
“Guys, time to go back to your places.”
Liu Chenglong waved the onlookers away. Then, he lugged the senseless Fire Devil named Huang Shengyi along as he strode towards the yard of the old county government in a hurry.
He was truly in a hurry.
Because the Samsara Knife had been undergoing the refining in the deployment centered on the Five Elements Sky-flipping Seal. He calculated the time and thought the refining was about to finish. Just then, he really had to hurry back to polish that weapon.
The onlookers quickly scattered away.
Feng Yuanxing, Ma Junwu, Zhen Meng, as well as a squad of soldiers stood motionlessly on the street. They had just recovered from the stupefaction. Everyone’s face had reddened with excitement.
“His Honor won!”
“And he won so neatly and briskly!”
Li Mu’s victory indicated that the tribulation was over and the bright future was coming. Taibai County was truly rising to power.
That was because their magistrate was a man who could triumph over a Semi-Sage with some casual strikes. He was capable of bringing up a strong force on any part of the Divine Land. Even the top nine Holy Clans ought to hold such a superb master in respect.
Since Li Mu had reached that level, he was qualified to speak to the top nine Holy Clans, the three great empires, and many other forces on an equal footing.
Fighting was no longer the only means to solve all issues.
They believed that not even the Guanshan Pasture, one of the top nine Holy Clans, would simply try to conquer, to undermine, or to ruin Taibai County with massacres.
Because that jeopardized their interests. Sages had to be treated with respect, for they were too powerful and too vigorous to be killed. Once a Sage was enraged, he would seek revenge at all costs, bringing huge losses to the Holy Clans and the great empires.
That battle had thoroughly enabled Taibai County to hold the world in awe.
From that day, Taibai County would become a highly special place. With a Sage taking command, who had the nerve to belittle it?
Even the Western Qin Empire itself would no longer govern the place as before. It had to grant the county all kinds of favorable policies and privileges to cozy up to the county magistrate.
Having a new Sage was undoubtedly great news for the Western Qin Empire. Given that the Sage was already a government official, as long as the empire did not ruffle his feathers and cautiously befriended him, the strength of the empire would practically experience a hike and gain one more ace card in the check and balance mechanism among the great empires.
To Feng Yuanxing and other officials, as they were the trusted subordinates of the county magistrate, their status would certainly rise with the tide. No, perhaps shooting to the sky was a more proper phrase. Since they currently were the trusted men of a Sage, even the chancellor of the empire had to look at them in a different light, right?
Given that wonderful prospect, how could they not be thrilled?
Their previous steadfastness and risky decision turned out to be wise moves. They had all clenched their teeth as they placed all the stakes on Li Mu. Particularly, when they continued supporting Li Mu after they learned that Huang Wenyuan was the grandson of Deputy Head of the Guanshan Pasture, they were almost wagering their lives on the game… It turned out that they had won the bet.
The entire Taibai County was filled with a euphoric atmosphere.
However, some people could by no means feel the cheerfulness.
For example, Li Gang, who was standing on a cloud several kilometers away from the ground outside of the county, looked like he had just swallowed a dead rat.
His face was rather sullen. His refined, elegant, and charming features had at the moment taken on a hint of ferocity.
“Why did it turn out like this?”
Li Gang questioned himself.
He had just realized that he made a huge mistake.
He had just advised the crown prince to appeal to the cabinet and the emperor, persuading them to prosecute Li Mu for the murder of the second prince. That way, he could reduce the negative influence the death of the second prince had imposed upon the crown prince league to the minimum. Making Li Mu the scapegoat while letting the crown prince league rake in the profits was a perfect strategy. And his act of placing righteousness above family loyalty would unmistakeably earn him extra points.
Trading the life of a flighty black sheep of the family for enormous political benefits and fame was not only acceptable but a good bargain for Li Gang.
Li Gang had to think about how to explain the change to the crown prince.
As Li Mu was already able to defeat a Semi-Sage, his value suddenly became high. Even though he had killed a prince, he would still be a man that all the parties would vie to rope in. When the emperor came out from his closed-door training, he would not reproach Li Mu with the death of the second prince.
By that time, Li Gang could only hope the crown prince’s appealing file had not reached the cabinet.
Otherwise, the crown prince would become a laughingstock.
And the culprit for that would be Li Gang himself.
“What an error!”
Distressed, Li Gang swiftly turned into a streak of sword light and returned to Chang’an City.
Staring at the place where Li Gang disappeared, Zhao Xue smiled.
“Off we go.” He turned around to depart with Zhao Yu.
Zhao Yu asked, “Master, why not go into the county to meet Li Mu? Today, you have come with the best of intentions. Although we didn’t get to offer him any practical help, we have shown him our regards.”
“A hedge between keeps friendship green. Now that we failed to give Li Mu any help, how could we ask him to do us a favor to show his appreciation?” said Zhao Xue with a smile.
He was wearing a set of pure white clothes, his hair long and billowing. Against the surrounding flashes of sword light, he looked just like an immortal with peerless casual elegance and jake-like refinement.
That day he had gone there for the purpose of protecting a genius in the Western Qin.
Since he had reached that goal, it was sensible to depart.