In truth, Qiu Yin was quite excited.
Because both of the two who were about to strike against each other were legendary figures in the current martial arts society.
Yet, just at the daggers-drawn moment, the blond-haired Jiang Qiubai abruptly grinned and budged. “Okay, fine, I’ll go. Senior fellow apprentice, you’re still so humorless when after so many years. You get hot under the collar whenever you are teased… Haha, fine, fine, I’ll go now. But, senior fellow apprentice, you should give sister-in-law good protection. Or next time, I may get my way.”
After that, he waved at the crowd with great elegance. Then, like a painting discolored with age, he gradually faded into the void.
The pasture experts at his command also retreated rapidly. Each of them adopted a peculiar method to escape. Some leaned against a tree and vanished; some rolled into the high grass and disappeared out of sight; some directly leaped to midair and transformed into birds before soaring to the sky…
Guo Yuqing did not try to go after them.
Nor did Qiu Yin make a move.
“Ahhhh… I’m back!” A distant flash of light covered miles in a trice like a bolt of lightning and landed by the crowd. It was Li Mu who traveled back on his flying broadsword. But as he arrived, he was a little taken aback. He then inquired, “What happened? Where is that man?”
“He’s gone.” Qiu Yin said.
“Sh*t! He ran away just after he put on the show?” Li Mu roared with rage.
Ever since he set up the Dragon-assembling Pattern, he had triumphed over several impressive experts, including a Sage-to-be. Thus, these days, he was rather puffed up and reckoned no one in the world was his match. With that in mind, even when he learned the blond-haired Jiang Qiubai had the same cultivation as Li Poyue the Guanshan Master, he longed for a chance to challenge him all the same. But to his wonder… he was thrown to the air by his single punch.
It seemed that he had no way to erase that disgrace in a short time.
Therefore, Devil Li was quite distressed.
“Thank you a lot for what you did today, little brother. Otherwise… the consequence is unimaginable.” Guo Yuqing looked at Li Mu with gratitude and then turned to Qiu Yin. “I’ve long been informed of the honored demeanor number one young expert of the Guanshan Pasture. Today I finally saw you in person. You do live to your reputation. Thank you for rescuing my family.”
“Haha, brother, no need to be so polite to us. We are brothers after all.” Li Mu said with a hearty laugh. “All that matters are my niece, nephew, and sister-in-law are okay.” “As to those rats, they’re lucky to run fast. Otherwise, I’ll beat the sh*t out of them.” Li Mu added menacingly.
Guo Yuqing gave no comment, because he was already used to Li Mu’s ways.
“Big brother!” Yia Yia hailed Li Mu of her own accord.
Li Mu said, “You should call me uncle.”
“I am from the same generation as your dad after all.”
Guo Yuqing and Liu Zhiyuan both shook their heads with a smile.
Well, that was the way with Li Mu. He always appealed to kids and could easily mix with them.
Qiu Yin, by contrast, still looked a little humble before Guo Yuqing and he replied, “Don’t mention it. How do I dare show my insignificant skill before the old lord of the Everlasting Heaven and the mightiest expert on the vast pasture? Today, I just happened to seize the opportunity at the right time.”
Guo Yuqing laughed. “I’ve heard a lot about Broadsword Man. So, don’t be so courteous to me. Now that you are a friend of my little brother, you are a friend of mine, too.”
Li Mu patted Qiu Yin on the shoulder and said, “Haha, buddy, no need to be overly polite with us. Show the spirit you displayed when you did shots with me last night. Don’t get cold feet. Let’s drink with Brother Guo then.”
But Qiu Yin murmured something else in his head. “It’s fu*king true that the one who knows nothing fears nothing! Do you have any idea who this man is? Do you know how he once let the other heroes in the world make a fool of themselves?”
But since Qiu Yin was a typical heroic man in the martial arts society and born to be fearless, he did not feel wobbly at the knees like other people when he met the legendary man in the martial world. Adding that Li Mu was making all manner of quips and jokes at his side and Guo Yuqing looked quite friendly and easy-going instead of issuing any bit of the domineering aura as the legend had, he soon started chatting with the two lightheartedly after the hailing remark.
A while later, they all walked into Guo Yuqing’s home.
Liu Zhiyuan told Li Mu and Qiu Yin to take a seat and then offered them the jam alcohol she brewed herself and some desserts. Liu Zhiyuan was a quick-witted and nimble-fingered woman with great tastes. The living room of the hut looked unique and snug thanks to her care.
“Thanks, sister-in-law.” Li Mu said softly with an air of benignancy.
Yia Yia, the little girl, kept edging her way towards Li Mu. It seemed that she liked Li Mu very much.
“Last night, I discussed martial arts with Little Qiu Yin at drinks until daybreak. Then, we kind of talked about you, big brother. Little Qiu Yin said he would be very glad if he could meet the hero. So, we tracked you all the way here and disturbed you and sister-in-law’s quiet life. For that reason, I shall take the first shot as self-punishment.” Li Mu remarked. He picked up a whole bottle of jam alcohol with a grin and drained half of it at one gulp.
Qiu Yin snapped, “Hey, for crying out loud, I’m a dozen years older than you. Stop calling me Little Qiu Yin, all right? You ought to show some respect for your senior.”
Li Mu curled his lips with a disdainful look and said, “Come off it! As I am the sworn brother of Brother Guo who is in the same generation as your master, now, you do the math and tell me what you should call me.”
Qiu Yin: “…”
“This order of seniority is… a little outrageous!”
Li Mu snickered and finished the last drop of the remaining liquor in one breath.
“Big brother is really greedy. Mommy only made that one bottle of wine to satisfy Daddy’s hankering for alcohol by working very hard. But you drunk all of it.” Yia Yia complained as she slid a finger down her nose.
“Er…” Li Mu gazed up to Liu Zhiyuan with a blank look and said, “Sister-in-law, I had no idea.”
Qiu Yin chuckled.
“It’s no big deal. The alcohol is made of wild fruits in the mountains. It just takes a little longer to brew.” Liu Zhiyuan said with a reassuring smile.
She was, in fact, very fond of the sworn brother of her husband, for the young man had a pure aura and never done anything affected. She had seen Li Mu once on the day of his inauguration. But at that time she had no idea that the young man who looked a bit woebegone would later become a big shot known across the entire Western Qin. Plus, Li Mu was not one of those so-called young heroes who rose to power by stamping upon others and made their names in Jianghu by being excellent killers. During the days she lived in the village, she had heard a great deal of the stories about the county magistrate, which all said he was a good magistrate, a rarely good magistrate. Furthermore, if it were not for Li Mu’s prompt appearance, Yia Yia would have been taken by those pasture warriors. So, Li Mu had done a huge favor to her.
Right then, Qiu Yin fished out his gourd and said, “It’s all right. I’ve got some Guanshan City’s bamboo alcohol here. Bro… Brother Guo, if you don’t mind, take this to satisfy your hankering.”
At that remark, Guo Yuqing went rapturous. “The bamboo alcohol of Guanshan City? Wonderful! That’s one of the ten finest liquors in the world!” With a look of exhilaration, he reached out for the gourd. But in that instant, something occurred to him and he timidly looked over his shoulder at his wife.
Liu Zhiyuan beamed at him and said, “Now we have guests here, just drink as much as you want.”
“Thank you for your generosity, my darling!” Guo Yuqing winked at her wife and took over the gourd. Then, he eagerly guzzled down three long gulps and praised, “Haha, good drink! Buddy, you didn’t sneak your master’s liquor out, did you?”
Qiu Yin propped a hand against his forehead and answered, “You guessed it right.”
The room was instantly filled with a burst of laughter.
The slight anxiety that made Qiu Yin ill at ease quickly evaporated in the laughter.
Moments later, Qiu Yin already swung an arm over Guo Yuqing’s shoulder while chatting and laughing aloud.
Liu Zhiyuan was busy preparing dishes in the kitchen. Upon hearing their laughter, a gratified smile also appeared on her elegant face.
She knew her husband was enjoying the relaxing atmosphere he could only feel when he was drinking with his close friends.
Back then when they were still living on the vast pasture, he also shared strong alcohol and delicious roast meat with those straightforward and honest men. He was there with them through ups and downs. Once someone called him big brother, he willed himself to be his big brother for a lifetime and dared to face death for the sake of his friends. But it had been a really long time since she last heard her husband laugh like that.
She was well aware that her husband was as bold and ambitious as an eagle. Even though he had been hiding in the valley, he was still longing for the blue sky.
It was just that during those years, something had tethered the eagle to the ground, preventing it from flying to the sky.
Although Liu Zhiyuan did not fancy going back to Jianghu and already grew sick of everything in the martial arts society, she did not oppose her husband’s hobby of befriending people in the martial arts society. After all, friendships were friendships. It did not necessarily mean they were involved in the martial arts world again.
Shortly, voices mumbling the Drinker’s Wager Game fluttered out from the hut.
Only the three men and a bottle of liquor were in the room.
Was there anything more pleasant than that?
As they were all merry and lively, Li Mu felt a little dizzy. Then, he thought of the ceremony for Duan Yu, Xu Zhu, and Qiao Feng becoming sworn brothers in the Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils written by Louis Cha Jing-yong and jumped to his feet with excitement. Then, he dragged Qiu Yin along to do the sworn ceremony again with Guo Yuqing. The other two were also thrilled at that idea. Without thinking, they agreed to it. They directly filled in the liquor, put three straws in a pot, and knelt down before it while vowing to be sworn brothers.
The three truly hit it off right as they met and then got along very well.
“Haha, now, you can’t call me Little Qiu Yin anymore. Because you should call me Second Brother.” After getting to his feet, Qiu Yin laughed gleefully.
Li Mu slapped the back of his head and moaned, “My mistake… Well, second brother!”
The three broke into laughter once more.
Guo Yuqing was the oldest among the three; next was Qiu Yin, while Li Mu was the youngest.
Liu Zhiyuan came in, holding a tray laden with dishes. At the sight of the sister-in-law, Li Mu took out several jade accessories he refined. Those accessories looked quite exquisite and contained tactical deployments, which could safeguard the wearer. He gave them to Liu Zhiyuan and her children as the gifts on their first meeting. Qiu Yin, too, fumbled out three treasures he kept…
As Liu Zhiyuan once studied in the Wendao College and was also used to Jianghu customs, she did not get affectedly bashful but accepted all the gifts without further ado.
Soon, when the three were extremely spirited, their topic naturally reverted to martial arts practice.
Li Mu demonstrated his Wind-Cloud Six Moves and invited his two sworn brothers to give some comments.
But suddenly, a quaking sensation traveled to the hut from Taibai County. Next, a wave of highly terrifying energy fluctuation radiated in all directions as though an earthquake had occurred…
Li Mu withdrew his broadsword and straightened up with vigilance. His expression quickly changed and he cried, “Someone is attacking the county government?”
In a second, he leaped onto his flying broadsword and turned into a beam of light before disappearing in a trice.
“I’ll go and have a look.”
Only then did his voice sound in the room.
Guo Yuqing and Qiu Yin exchanged a look. They were both stunned by the speed Li Mu displayed in that instant, for that speed already capped the highest limit that a naked eye could capture.
“Big brother, let’s go to have a look as well.”
“Yeah. It’s Jiang Qiubai’s aura.”
Due to their concern for Li Mu, they took the two kids and Liu Zhiyuan together on the trip to Taibai County, in case it was another diversion trap.
It was already too late when Li Mu raced back.
Someone had trespassed the Knife Hut.
And he had already left.
Li Mu furiously gnashed his teeth.
He had detected the residue of that man’s aura in the air.
Yet, it was too late to catch up with him.
if a superb master at the peak of the Sage Realm desired a departure, nobody could catch him. As Li Mu could no longer sense his breathing within the Taibai Mountain area, he had apparently gotten out of the place.
The tactical deployment in the Knife Hut started to repair itself of its own accord. The buildings were not destroyed at all.
However, a person had been taken away by Jiang Qiubai.
“Haw-haw, the effect is actually the same when I change to a different hostage. Anyway, my senior fellow apprentice is a man with high morality… Little boy, if you want your lover back, ask Brother Guo to come to the Wolf Temple with the key to the Grave of the Immortal King.”
That was the message Jiang Qiubai left behind.
It was pieced together with letters written in tree leaves like a kind of prank. Clearly, it was a slight provocation which proved that Jiang Qiubai broke through the tactic deployment in the Knife Hut with great ease.
The one he took was Shangguan Yuting.
As everyone in the world knew Hua Xiangrong was Li Mu’s female soul mate.
When Jiang Qiubai took off from the Eagle Beak Cliff, he did not really give up his plan but just changed his target. Sadly, Li Mu only registered that when the tragic had already occurred.