Chapter 8: Zhao Wugang
“It’s only one more month, but during that month, I must fight to increase my Cultivation base one step further.” He carefully put the copper mirror back into the bag of holding. He knew that he could not let anyone know of its abilities. If he did, it would be difficult for him to keep ahold of it, and he would surely lose his life in the process.
He looked down at himself, and the filth that covered him. In his excitement, he had almost forgotten about his dirty state. But now, he had calmed down quite a bit. He walked out of the Immortal’s cave to the nearby stream and washed off the grime and impurities.
By the time he returned, the sky was growing light. He took out the Qi Condensation Manual and began to study it.
“Upon reaching the second level of Qi Condensation, one can use Immortal Skills. Upon reaching the fifth level, one can study Wind Walking technique, which is an Immortal Skill similar to flying.” Meng Hao closed his eyes, feeling thorough anticipation regarding the Wind Walking technique of the fifth level of Qi Condensation.
In that instant, he suddenly felt the temperature increase rapidly within the Immortal’s cave. Then, tongues of fire appeared on his right hand. Considering that he still thought like a mortal, seeing this caused his heart and mind to feel great excitement, which in turn extinguished the flames.
Meng Hao promptly calmed himself and rotated his Cultivation base. Unfortunately, by the time afternoon arrived, after dozens of attempts, he still could do nothing more than produce a few sparks, whereupon the spiritual energy in his body would disperse.
“It’s difficult to use this Flame Serpent art,” said Meng Hao with a frown. But he had a persistent personality and would not be discouraged easily, so he practiced breathing exercises for a while before trying again.
Night fell, and then dawn came again. For two days Meng Hao tried again and again, failing each time, until he became completely exhausted. When the spiritual energy dispersed he would do breathing exercises, and the resolve in his eyes would grow stronger and stronger.
“I can’t believe I can’t use the Flame Serpent art!” said Meng Hao, grinding his teeth and slapping his palm against the bag of holding. Moments later, the Demonic Core appeared in his hand.
He knew that if he consumed the Core, and the mirror really had some other fantastic properties, then later when he had enough Spirit Stones, he would lack an original with which to make copies.
“Oh well, no need to worry about such details. Worst case scenario, I go back out into the mountains to look for demonic beasts.” He hesitated for a moment, then popped the Demonic Core into his mouth, closed his eyes, and began his breathing exercises. Spiritual energy exploded inside of him, pouring into every corner of his body.
Time passed, and soon it was afternoon. Meng Hao opened his eyes, and they flashed. His Cultivation base was still at the second level but was definitely much stronger.
“I think with three or maybe five more, I can reach the third level of Qi Condensation.” He felt somewhat disappointed, realizing that the higher his Cultivation base, the more difficult it would be to make progress. But anticipation filled his heart when he thought of the copper mirror. He raised his hand into the air and made a fist.
As he raised his fist, flames appeared, congealing on his right arm and creating a small flaming serpent as long as a finger, which radiated an oppressing heat. Meng Hao felt the spiritual energy in his body instantly reduced by thirty percent.
His face grew pale, but understanding flashed in his eyes and he smiled. He leaped out of the Immortal’s Cave and waved his right hand. The Flame Serpent flew, slamming into a nearby tree.
A banging sound rang out, and the entire tree was engulfed in flame, and within moments had collapsed into ashes.
“I have to find a chance to do this in front of Fatty. He’ll definitely praise me then.” He smiled broadly, feeling quite heroic.
Half a month’s time passed, during which Meng Hao searched the mountains for demonic beasts and trained his Flame Serpent art. He worked harder than he had in his secular studies, and soon was quite proficient with it, and was also able to reduce the amount of spiritual energy it used. But it still required considerable effort over the space of about ten breaths to be able to form it.
He also went into the Outer Sect and secretly tried the mirror out on some of the disciples. However, there was no reaction whatsoever. After a few tries, Meng Hao concluded that the copper mirror only worked on excessively furred creatures. A bit of a pity, but the mirror was still more powerful than he could have ever wished for.
Unfortunately, during the half month that passed, he never came across any demonic creatures, and his Cultivation base became mostly stagnant. Thankfully, every time after he practiced the Flame Serpent art, his Cultivation base would grow a little bit during the recovery period. However, he did not dare to engage in such practice in the wild mountains. Only in the Immortal’s Cave.
“There are ten more days until Pill Distribution Day. I’m going to go further out into the mountains.” Having made his decision, Meng Hao departed early in the morning, heading quickly out into the deep mountains.
He didn’t rest during the day, and by the time night fell, he’d forgotten how many mountain chains he’d passed through. Finally, at the foot of a black mountain, he ran into a bear-shaped demonic beast.
During the battle, he used the Flame Serpent art and the powerful copper mirror. A series of five explosions were followed by a miserable, reverberating scream, whereupon the creature died in a pool of blood.
He took its Core, and was about to head further along the black mountain when suddenly, the hairs on his body stood on end. Some distance ahead of him had appeared five demonic beasts with the heads of elephants and bodies of tigers. They stared at him, eyes cold.
With the mirror, he could easily handle one demonic beast. But five would be very difficult. He slowly retreated backwards, his right hand clutching the mirror tightly.
Suddenly, a massive roar sounded out from the trees covering the black mountain. It grew in intensity until it was like a huge explosion seething in the air. Meng Hao’s expression changed, and he ran away as fast as possible, without the slightest intention of slowing down even a bit.
Fortunately, the five demonic beasts didn’t pursue him, and he soon disappeared into the mountains.
“That cry sounded similar to when Uncle Shangguan called out. It seems there are a lot of demonic beasts in that black mountain, even Greater demonic beasts.” As he sped along, he looked back at the black mountain, more and more convinced of what a dangerous place it was.
Ten days passed by quickly. With the black mountain as his boundary, Meng Hao ventured into the mountains but didn’t come across any more demonic beasts. The Bear Demonic Core in his bag of holding seemed more and more precious, so he didn’t eat it.
Pill Distribution Day arrived, and the sound of bells filled the air. Meng Hao left the Immortal’s Cave and entered the Outer Sect. When he had departed a month ago, his Cultivation base was the first level of Qi Condensation, and now it was the second. Even though he was some distance from the third level, he speculated that if the copper mirror was as effective as he imagined, in the future he would progress by leaps and bounds.
As fearful as ever about suffering a loss, Meng Hao entered the Pill Distribution Square. Many of the disciples looked at him as he entered, obviously recognizing him.
His actions the previous month had caused quite a shock to the Outer Sect. Even though his cultivation level was low, and a month had passed, the matter had been discussed quite a bit.
This time, it was not Shangguan Xiu who presided, but another middle-aged man. Like last time, he distributed a Spirit Cultivation Pill and half a Spirit Stone. But there was no Individual Pill distribution this time.
As soon as the pill and the Spirit Stone were in his bag of holding, and the pillars grew dark, Meng Hao left as quickly as possible, not hesitating a moment. As he left, his eyes swept across the square, and he saw quite a few Cultivators blocking fellow disciples to take medicinal pills and Spirit Stones.
Elder Sister Xu’s blessing still seemed to have an effect. Coupled with his quick departure, the only thing he received was a few cold stares. No one attempted to take anything from him.
He breathed a sigh of relief. He was well aware that Elder Sister Xu’s name could only protect him for so long. This month was fine, but in a few more months, someone would surely make a move against him.
“As long as the copper mirror works, in a few months… we’ll see who will be snatching from whom!” Eyes glittering, he lowered his head and walked a bit faster.
He left the Outer Sect, eager to try out the copper mirror, walking as fast as possible back towards the Immortal’s Cave. When the cave was not far off, he suddenly stopped in his tracks, his pupil’s narrowing. A person had just walked out of the jungle.
He wore a green robe and looked to be about twenty-four or twenty-five years of age. He had an arrogant look on his fierce face as he stood there staring coldly at Meng Hao. His Cultivation base was not that of an ordinary person. It was the third level of Qi Condensation. The man stood there, blocking Meng Hao’s way.
“Greetings, Elder Brother Zhao,” said Meng Hao, his expression changing as he took a few steps back. He moved his left hand behind his back, and began moving about in the air. He had seen this person before. Just about everyone in the Outer Sect knew Elder Brother Zhao Wugang. He was cruel and ruthless, and quite a few low-level disciples had died by his hand in the Public Zone. He was the kind of person to ingratiate himself to disciples above the third level, but lord it over the first and second levels.
“So, you’ve heard of me,” said Zhao Wugang coldly. “I don’t need to make any more introductions. Hand over your medicinal pill and Spirit Stone.” Others didn’t dare to even touch Meng Hao, but Zhao Wugang had entered the Sect years ago and knew how things worked. Elder Sister Xu often secluded herself, ignoring the lives of the people beneath her.
“Elder Brother Zhao, can’t you make an exception?” said Meng Hao, taking a few steps back. “I… I’m just a simple scholar, and I just got the Spirit Stone and medicinal pill. Can’t you give me a bit of time with them?” This person’s cultivation level was greater than his by more than an entire level. Furthermore, he had never fought anyone before. His face grew pale from fear.
“You call yourself a scholar?” He sneered, then laughed loudly. “Don’t tell me you were a scholar before you came here? Come, come, recite some poetry for your Elder Brother. Maybe you’ll lighten my mood and I won’t beat you and break your legs.”
“Elder Brother Zhao…” Meng Hao was extremely nervous, and quite angry as well, but he had no choice but to hold on and try to talk some sense into the man. “The sages said, if…”
“Shut up. I’ll take not only your medicinal pill and Spirit Stone, but the Immortal’s Cave as well. From now on, we are fellow disciples in the outside world, but in the cave, you will be my servant. If you say even one more word, I’ll help you to understand the meaning of the expression ‘death is better than life!’” Glaring murderously, he began walking toward Meng Hao.
His Cultivation base had already broken through to the third level, and needed large amounts of spiritual energy. So of course he had taken a fancy to Meng Hao’s Immortal’s Cave. However, he still feared Elder Sister Xu, so he had come up with the idea to keep him as a servant. After some time passed, Elder Sister Xu would surely forget the nobodies beneath her, and he could just kill Meng Hao. Or if he didn’t kill him, he could cripple him and force him to stick around reciting poetry to show how elegant Zhao Wugang was.
“The Immortal’s Cave belongs to Elder Sister Xu. How could I act as her agent? Elder Brother Zhao, please don’t make things so hard for me.” Behind his back, strands of spiritual energy had collected in Meng Hao’s right hand. He knew that he wasn’t a match for Zhao Wugang, but the Immortal’s Cave was just too important, and the Spirit Stone even more so. There was no way he would hand it over. Therefore, his heart filled with uncertainty and anger, he used the name of Elder Sister Xu.
“I give you some face and you ignore it,” said Zhao Wugang with a snort. “You’re just looking for trouble. I’ll definitely teach you what it means to prefer death over life!” An impatient expression on his face, he raced toward Meng Hao, his outstretched hands twisting like claws. Meng Hao looked completely shocked and frightened, which Zhao Wugang liked. He enjoyed seeing such looks on the face of people weaker than him.
He could just imagine Meng Hao dropping to the ground in front of him, trembling. Just when he was feeling most proud of himself, right before he reached Meng Hao, Meng Hao’s horrified expression disappeared, to be replaced with sternness. He flung his right hand out from behind his back, and a burning, finger-long Flame Serpent shot toward Zhao Wugang.
Meng Hao’s heart thumped furiously. He knew that the Flame Serpent art was not strong enough to kill his opponent, but he still hoped that it would at least slow him down. He could not bear to be captured, much less hand over all his possessions and become a servant. He would flee into the mountains in an instant if he could.
“Flame Serpent art!” Zhao Wugang’s expression changed, and he retreated backwards. His hand slapped his bag of holding and produced a small white sword, which he threw toward the Flame Serpent.
There was a bang, and the Flame Serpent disappeared. The white sword had been twisted and bent, so he kicked it aside into the jungle. Looking quite embarrassed, Zhao Wugang continued to move backwards, watching as Meng Hao fled into the mountains. He was both furious and astonished.
“He reached the second level of Qi Condensation so quickly,” said Zhao Wugang furiously. “Elder Sister Xu’s Immortal’s Cave really is effective. It seems I must kill this guy.” He raced off in pursuit.
After pursuing him for a bit, he found that Meng Hao was much more familiar with this part of the mountain than him. Furthermore, he ran very quickly. Zhao Wugang was having trouble catching him.
“You little bastard,” called Zhao Wugang in a sinister voice. “There’s no one out here in these mountains. Do you want to die? I’m gonna finish you!” Considering how quickly Meng Hao was running, he decided that it was time to use one of his more powerful techniques. He roared, and his body expanded, the hair on his body growing thick and golden-colored. Some of the hair even stuck out through his clothing. It looked as if he had transformed into something like a demonic beast.
This was a technique he had picked up before joining the Sect: the Were-demon skill.
It was a skill which could be cultivated after reaching the second level of Qi Condensation, but the demonic transformation was not very obvious. The body grew bigger and stronger, and more frightening. Such a skill would allow him to rampage among lower-level disciples. He could only use this skill for a limited time, but it was quite effective. His killing trump card.
Now that his Cultivation base had reached the third level of Qi Condensation, the skill was even more fully developed. Being able to grow such thick, golden fur was a pleasant surprise. Being able to shapeshift into a demonic form like this would enable him to easily shock his opponents. He brimmed with confidence, his thick, golden fur shining brightly, mighty and domineering. Fur even grew from his face. He looked exactly like a human-shaped demonic beast.
“You will be the first person to die under my Were-demon skill! How just and fair!”