Chapter 42: Who Dares to Touch Him!?
“So, it turns out it’s Fellow Daoist Zhou Yanyun,” said the beautiful, middle-aged woman, greeting him with clasped hands. Even hulking Zhao Shanling gave him a silent salute in greeting, a look of fear hidden in his face.
Seeing all these sudden developments, Meng Hao’s heart began to pound. This was the first time he had seen so many powerful people from so many Sects. He was especially impressed by the appearance of the members of the three Great Sects from the colossal Southern Domain that Chen Fan had told him about.
“The Southern Domain…” Meng Hao sucked in a deep breath. Xu Qing stood next to him looking calm. It was impossible to tell what she was thinking.
In the back of the main temple hall, Chen Fan, pale-faced, sadly lifted his right hand up and pushed down on a hidden spot on the statue.
Immediately, the entrance to Patriarch Reliance’s meditation zone closed without a sound and disappeared. Actually, no one inside or outside of the Sect caught any sense whatsoever that this was happening, not even Zhou Yanyun and the others from the Southern Domain.
“Patriarch, Disciple Chen will keep you safe and sound,” he said, his voice filled with righteousness. “I will not allow any of these people to disturb your meditation.” He was faithful and true to the Sect, willing to protect it even at the greatest risk. When his plan succeeded, he let out a sigh, feeling not even the slightest regret.
Meanwhile, in the secret chamber beneath the Reliance Sect catacombs, Patriarch Reliance watched the proceedings triumphantly, filled with excitement.
“Soon, they will find my meditation zone entrance. Then they will charge in and break open my hidden chamber. At long last, I will no longer be stuck in here.” Even as he excitedly spoke these words, his face suddenly changed.
“This… This… Dammit! You… You… What are you doing?!” He watched as Chen Fan, with utmost caution, began to move. Patriarch Reliance watched on in a daze as the entrance to the meditation zone quietly disappeared without a trace. He couldn’t believe it.
Of course, the failsafe had been set up by him years ago as a backup in case a powerful adversary arrived. He had passed on the secret to his successors, and it had been handed down through the generations, the method to prevent outsiders from entering the meditation zone.
Once it was activated, no one would be able to find the entrance, excepting for someone at the Spirit Severing stage. At the time he had set it up, he had been filled with pride, for he knew that he would be perfectly safe.
But he had never imagined that this day would arrive, years later. He had actually forgotten about the whole arrangement, but … there were others who had not.
“Damnation! I should have left orders not to accept any people of moral character into the Sect! No righteous people, no good people. Kid, you, you, you…” He sat there in a daze, muttering to himself, wanting to weep, but having no tears to shed. He thought of the stone stele, of his carefully laid plans, of the blood he had sacrificed, and how it was all ruined by one person. Of course, this person’s intentions were good, but as he thought about his unflinching bravery and faithful demeanor, Patriarch Reliance began to tremble.
Just when he felt he was at the height of despair, Zhou Yanyun of the Solitary Sword Sect arrived. He gazed over the Sect, casting his senses across it, as did the beautiful woman from the Black Sieve Sect and hulking Zhao Shanling. With their powerful senses, they poured over the Reliance Sect, searching it in thorough detail.
The experts from the State of Zhao watched on in fear. And then, they too began to search about with their senses.
After some time, Zhou Yanyun of the Solitary Sword Sect frowned. He could sense the aura of the Sublime Spirit Scripture within these mountains, but also knew that it was not in the possession of any of the Reliance Sect disciples. He just couldn’t find it.
It was not just him. The beautiful woman, as well as Zhao Shanling, also frowned. They descended to the ground and began to search about in person.
The experts from the State of Zhao did the same, and soon people filled the Reliance Sect. Meng Hao and the others were kicked out of the main temple hall, whereupon it was searched to the point of being wrecked. In the sky, the strange sign began to fade, and yet, no one had found even a single clue.
People even descended into the underground areas to search, and yet, they came up empty-handed.
They watched the sign slowly disperse, transforming into a crystalline glow that eventually disappeared. The aura of the Sublime Spirit Scripture disappeared, too, as if it had come and gone with the sign.
The Reliance Sect slowly began to quiet down. No valuable treasures had been found. Even the dragon’s cave in the black mountain had been searched. As for the corpse of the dragon, it had been removed some time ago by Wang Tengfei, leaving the cave empty.
As dusk fell, the search reached its conclusion. The three members of the Southern Domain’s Great Sects looked somewhat embarrassed. They had expended Spirit Stones to teleport here, and yet had come up empty-handed. They were left with the feeling of loss.
“This kid isn’t bad,” said Zhou Yanyun, standing on his massive sword, floating in mid-air. His eyes swept across the land, falling onto Chen Fan. “If you are willing to become a disciple of the Solitary Sword Sect, then come with me to the Southern Domain.” During his search for the Sublime Spirit Scripture, he had noticed Chen Fan’s latent talent, and it had met with his approval. He especially took note of Chen Fan’s righteous air, which fell in line with the Cultivation practices of the Solitary Sword Sect.
As he spoke, he lifted a finger, and Chen Fen floated up into the air. In front of the eyes of Meng Hao, Xu Qing, and all the Outer Sect disciples, he drifted toward Zhou Yanyun.
The experts from the State of Zhao looked on in envy, knowing how lucky the young man was. He Luohua and Grand Elder Ouyang looked on silently, their feelings somewhat mixed. In the end, they knew that the Reliance Sect was too small; they would be very happy if an Inner Sect disciple had the chance to walk a better path.
“Disciple Chen Fan…” began Chen Fan, his face filled with conflicting emotions. He looked down at the Reliance Sect, at He Luohua and Grand Elder as they silently nodded their approval. He looked at Meng Hao and Xu Qing. Then, determination filled his face. “I offer my thanks to the good will of the senior generation,” he said, lifted his head up as he looked at Zhou Yanyun. “But disciple is a member of the Reliance Sect. In this life, I cannot join another.” He knew that if he agreed, he would have much better opportunities in the future. But there are some things that a man just cannot do. For him, there would be only one Sect in his life.
His words seemed to leave the experts from the State of Zhao quite moved. Disciples like this were a treasure to any Sect! And yet, most of them also sported looks of pity on their face. Refusing the Solitary Sword Sect in this manner was courting death.
He Luohua said nothing. He looked at Chen Fan, feeling even more conflicted. He sighed inwardly, wondering how the young man could be so stubborn. There was no need.
Zhou Yanyun’s eyes glittered. He stared at Chen Fan for a while, then dryly said: “Do you know what the words ‘Solitary Sword Sect’ mean in the Southern Domain?”
Chen Fan was silent for a moment, then nodded. He had studied the ancient records, so of course he knew about the Solitary Sword Sect, the number one Sect in the Southern Domain.
“Then you must know my status in the sect.” Zhou Yanyun’s expression was grim, and his eyes radiated killing intent. Even the sky around him grew dark, as if it were being torn by the power of his aura.
“I know of the Solitary Sword Sect, as well as you, Elder Zhou,” said Chen Fan in a soft voice. “Everyone knows you. You are the current generation’s Dao Protector. Your Cultivation base is profound, and your name has rocked the Southern Domain.”
“So, you know me. Then you know what you are giving up by passing up this opportunity.” His voice grew colder, as did the temperature of the air.
“The Solitary Sword Sect has a history tens of thousands of years old. Their Cultivation shrines, their proliferation of powerful experts, the meteoric progress made by the Sect’s members, Chen Fan of the junior generation is well aware of all these things.” He held his head high, unwilling to back down. His glistening eyes held no sign of regret.
Zhou Yanyun looked at him, then suddenly began to laugh loudly.
“Originally I planned to make you an ordinary Outer Sect disciple. But with a temperament like this… Excellent. Excellent! You will be my personal apprentice!” Zhou Yanyun’s smile was filled with admiration. With a flick of a sleeve, he pulled Chen Fan onto the massive sword and prepared to leave.
Seeing the Solitary Sword Sect’s actions, the beautiful, middle-aged woman realized that taking a qualified disciple back with her was the only way to prevent this trip from turning out to be a complete loss.
“This girl isn’t bad. The Black Sieve Sect wants her.”
She had long since taken notice of Xu Qing. She approved of her beauty and coldness. Without waiting for Xu Qing to speak, she bent her finger, pulling her up onto the Feng Shui compass. Everyone watched in envy as she began to transform into a diffraction of light.
Fatty stood there, filing away at his teeth. In his eyes, the Sect being disbanded meant that he was now free. He was filled with a confused happiness. He had only been gone a few years, which meant that when he got back to Yunjie County, the house and the bride that his father had prepared would still be waiting. Soon, he would be able to enjoy the life of a rich person.
“Too bad I won’t be able to see Meng Hao. Oh well. We’re brothers, so I’ll help him pay back the money he owes to Steward Zhou. Eventually, I will absorb the wealth of all the surrounding villages, and then, the entire State of Zhao. Hahaha! I, Li Fugui, will be the richest person in the world!” The more he thought about his plans, the more happier he was. He stood there, filing at his teeth and feeling the anticipation for the future.
Right about then, hulking Zhao Shanling of the Golden frost Sect frowned. He was a bit late in acting. After seeing two of this tiny Sect’s Inner Sect disciples taken away, he glanced at Meng Hao. He was a bit taken aback as he noticed a faint trace of a Demonic aura within him. Muttering to himself, his gaze swept the rest of the Sect, whereupon he caught sight of Fatty standing in the crowd of Outer Sect disciples. He stared in astonishment as Fatty filed at his teeth with his flying sword. His eyes shone, and he completely forgot about Meng Hao and his Demonic aura.
“How exactly is this fatty practicing Cultivation? He’s managed to develop a set of Spirit Teeth. In our Sect, the technique to develop Spirit Teeth has been lost for eight hundred years. With Spirit Teeth, you can crush Spirit Stones with your mouth, which is necessary to practice THAT technique. It seems this trip wasn’t a waste after all. If we take this kid back with us, he will be a true treasure in our Sect.” His eyes glittering fiercely, Zhao Shanling lifted his right hand and snatched up the stupefied Fatty. “Kid, from now on, you are an Inner Sect disciple of the Southern Domain’s Golden Frost Sect.” He tossed wide-eyed Fatty into a gray-colored sack. Fatty’s shrill cries could be heard faintly as he disappeared inside.
Zhao Shanling turned. Followed by his retinue, he headed toward the immaterial fissure.
And thus, he, along with Zhou Yanyun and the beautiful woman from the Black Sieve Sect, all prepared to take their leave.
But then, Zhao Shanling suddenly remembered something. He turned back to look at the Reliance Sect, and his gaze came to rest on Meng Hao.
As he did, he stopped in his tracks, shocked. The beautiful woman from the Black Sieve Sect, as well as Zhou Yanyun, also stopped.
Meng Hao began to tremble. As the hulking man looked at him, it seemed as if he could see through him completely, as if his vision could pierce to his deepest parts, even to the Demonic Core which rested in his Core lake.
“This is…” the hulking man’s eyes narrowed, then began to shine. A moment ago, he hadn’t cared at all about this weak-looking disciple and had only thought to take Fatty. But something caught his eye about Meng Hao. He turned, and began to walk toward him.
“I want this kid too!” he said in a booming voice. Meng Hao’s face turned cold, and he felt as if his body were about to shatter into pieces. His Core lake seethed, and the Demonic Core felt as if it were about to be ripped out of his body by some invisible force.
Pain filled him, and he broke out in a cold sweat. He once again felt as if his body were being crushed, and he clenched his fists tightly. There was nothing he could do.
At that exact moment, a booming sound rang out from within the Reliance Sect. It was a voice, so powerful that it shook the heavens and earth. In the midst of moving upon Meng Hao, Zhou Yanyun and the beautiful middle-aged woman, as well as the hulking man, suddenly looked shocked. They turned their heads, their eyes filled with astonishment.
“I have one heir left in the Reliance Sect. Who dares to touch him!?”
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