Chapter 185: Gathering at the Song Clan
Silence reigned outside of the Battle Arena. Hundreds of Solitary Sword Sect disciples stared at Meng Hao in shock and disbelief. As the seconds ticked by, their eyes filled with intense fear.
In the Cultivation world, respect is delivered to the powerful. Meng Hao was only at the mid Foundation Establishment stage, but the efficiency with which he had vanquished the great circle of late Foundation Establishment left a deep impression on everyone. Their fear transformed into respect. Respect for Meng Hao.
No one said anything. They watched him as he left the Battle Arena, the shy look still on his face as he walked back to Chen Fan.
Chen Fan gaped at him for a long moment. And then, a smile broke out on his face and he started to laugh. His laughter shattered the silence, and a hubbub immediately broke out.
“Who is that guy?!”
“He’s at the mid Foundation Establishment stage but actually defeated the great circle of Foundation Establishment! This type of Cultivation base… this type of power… he can’t be a nobody!”
“He… seems almost like a Dao Child! The magic he just used seemed somewhat familiar. It was like the Black Sieve Sect’s 19 Black Cloud Strikes….”
The sound of discussion echoed about. Zhou Shanyue’s face was pale as he staggered back a few steps. He tilted his head and stared closely at Meng Hao, the first time he had done so. Previously, he had thought Chen Fan was the one he needed to pay most attention to. His eyes filled with an intense, venomous hatred and rage.
“You despicable, shameless bastard! You’re a swindler!! You obviously know the power of your Cultivation base and pretended to be weak! You avoided battle before with the sole purpose of picking this fight!! Your depravity knows no bounds!!” Zhou Shanyue was gnashing his teeth and cursing as middle-aged Li exited the Battle Arena, his face pale. He chuckled bitterly, looking at Meng Hao with complex expression that included hatred and other emotions.
He still didn’t understand. Clearly, he had been played. He’d thought he had the situation completely under control, and yet it turned out that his opponent had effortlessly tricked him.
Then he thought of the Spirit Stones he had wagered, which weren’t even his. He had borrowed them from surrounding fellow Sect members and had to pay back everything with interest. His face grew even more ashen.
Meng Hao gave a light cough. His expression bashful, he said, “You were the ones who insisted on the match.” Zhou Shanyue trembled. With the flick of a sleeve, he turned to leave, clearly intending to go back on his word and not hand over the jade pendant.
Chen Fan gave a cold snort. “Junior Brother Zhou,” he said coolly, “The stakes of a bet mean nothing, but the prestige of the Solitary Sword Sect is everything. Don’t tell me you intend to break your word!?” Instantly, the eyes of all the surrounding Cultivators came to rest on Zhou Shanyue.
They were all Solitary Sword Sect disciples. They might not always be able to measure up to others in terms of skill, but the importance of upright conduct had been drilled into them from the moment they joined the Sect. One’s word could not be broken.
Zhou Shanyue felt the eyes of hundreds of his fellow disciples upon him, and his expression flickered. He stamped his foot angrily on the ground. Heart aching, he took off his life-saving jade pendant and threw it toward Meng Hao. He also tossed out a drop of his own blood.
He glared at Meng Hao, his eyes filled with fury and disgrace. If he could, he would kill Meng Hao hundreds of times over. Finally, his body turned into a colorful beam that shot off into the distance.
Meng Hao coughed lightly again. Such gazes were not unfamiliar to him, and he was actually used to them. His eager gaze next fell upon Li’s bag of holding. Inside were the tens upon tens of thousands of Spirit Stones which he had put up as stakes in the bet.
Pale faced, Li couldn’t help but wonder how he would possibly pay back his fellow Sect members. Then he thought about how he owed literally hundreds of people, and his vision grew dim.
Without the slightest trace of politeness, Chen Fan walked up and grabbed the bag of holding. Li did nothing to stop him. He could only smile sadly. Chen Fan was just about to turn and walk back, when Meng Hao coughed again.
“Elder Brother, there’s also a sword worth tens of thousands of Spirit Stones.” Could Meng Hao really forget that? Considering how much he cared about Spirit Stones, as well as desire to join a Sect, he might be able to forget about other things. But he could never forget matters related to Spirit Stones.
“The sword?” Chen Fan said to pale-faced Li, holding his hand out.
Face bitter, Li produced the sword. His heart trembled, and felt as if it would tear in half. He handed it over to Chen Fan, and from his expression, it looked like he was handing over the love of his life.
He glared murderously at Meng Hao, the venom in his eyes growing stronger and stronger.
“No shame whatsoever!” he said, clenching his jaw. He flicked his sleeve, turned and left.
Chen Fan gave a cold snort, and then hurried away with Meng Hao and all the winnings. They returned to his house, their faces covered with smiles.
“Little Junior Brother, we won out this time. But next time,” he exhorted earnestly, “you can’t do something like that. That was extremely dangerous, and also, you now have to worry about those two trying to get back at you.”
Meng Hao nodded, knowing that Chen Fan was simply concerned for him. With a smile, he said, “Elder Brother, how about I take the Spirit Stones, and you keep the jade pendant?”
Chen Fan thought for a moment, and then replied, “No, I don’t need it. You take it. Listen to your Elder Brother. You take everything. This is my Sect, so I have everything I need. As for the jade pendant… consider this: You take it, but when Master emerges from secluded meditation, return it. After all, you will eventually be a member of the Sect.”
Meng Hao tried to convince him to take the piece of jade, but Chen Fan, although he didn’t directly refuse, declined to take it. Finally, Meng Hao collected together all his winnings, whereupon Chen Fan produced some more alcohol. The two Brothers sat down to drink, and chatted about the Reliance Sect.
A few days passed, and Chen Fan’s master continued to remain in secluded meditation. The date of the banquet at the Song Clan drew closer. Finally, one morning at dawn, the sound of bells filled the Solitary Sword Sect.
At the bottom of the mountain was a stretch of ground normally covered with restrictive spells. Currently, people were flying from all directions toward this very area.
Meng Hao was among them, flying alongside Chen Fan.
As he approached, the first thing Meng Hao noticed was an enormous teleportation portal, surrounded by nine stone pillars. Not far away from it, a gray-robed old man sat cross-legged and motionless.
“That’s the portal keeper,” said Chen Fan quietly. “His only job is to keep watch over the teleportation portal.” Meng Hao nodded, shifting his gaze to look at the portal itself as well as the surrounding area.
Other than Chen Fan and himself, there were three others present. They all wore the Daoist robes of the Solitary Sword Sect, and had large swords strapped to their backs. When he looked at them, they looked back and gave him slight nods.
With a smile, Meng Hao clasped hands and saluted them. They smiled back.
Despite the lack of any words being exchanged, Meng Hao could tell that they knew who he was. Obviously, his match with Li had gained him no small amount of prestige in the Solitary Sword Sect over the past few days.
Time passed, and more people arrived. After the time it takes half an incense stick to burn, there were about eighteen people present. None of them were very old; most were around thirty, and some seemed to be as young as twenty.
They seemed to brim with vitality, and were all extraordinarily good looking. Furthermore, all of them were in the Foundation Establishment stage, two of the group being at the late Foundation Establishment stage.
As they arrived, each one would look at Meng Hao. Some would then nod, others simply ignored him.
“Soon Elder Fan will arrive,” whispered Chen Fan. “He’ll lead us through the teleportation portal to the Song Clan. Your Elder Brother is going to work hard to get you a beloved!” He chuckled, but his expression was very serious.
Meng Hao gaped. This was the second time Chen Fan had brought up the matter. Meng Hao had a strange feeling about this trip to the Song Clan.
Time passed, and soon a beam of light appeared in the sky, a few dozen meters wide. In an instant, it had reached them, and an old man appeared, wearing a voluminous Daoist robe. His face was ruddy, and he had a full head of long, white hair. He carried a gourd of alcohol in his hand, and strapped to his back was a huge pitch-black sword.
He had a brandy nose, and his entire body emanated the smell of alcohol. His robe was wrinkled and messy. He burped.
“Greetings, Elder Fan!” said Chen Fan and the others, immediately clasping hands in salute. Meng Hao also bowed his head and clasped hands in greeting.
“Alright, you little brats. Let’s see if any of you are lucky enough to take that Song girl in marriage and bring honor to the ancestors of the Solitary Sword Sect….” The old man’s sonorous voice echoed out, shaking Meng Hao, and even the very ground, it seemed.
When he said the words “bring honor to the ancestors,” his voice grew especially loud, causing the gray-robed man to open his eyes and then slowly shake his head. He seemed to find the wording somewhat inappropriate. However, he said nothing.
“He’s definitely not a Core Formation Cultivator,” thought Meng Hao, taking a deep breath. He had seen Nascent Soul eccentrics before, and it seemed… that’s exactly what this man was! Nascent Soul stage!
Chen Fan stepped forward. Raising hands again in a respectful salute, he said, “Elder Fan, this is a disciple from my former Sect, my Junior Brother who….”
“Got it. No problem! Don’t forget to bring me a few jugs of your master’s alcohol when we get back.” The old man clapped Chen Fan on the shoulder. He glanced at Meng Hao, and then strode forward toward the teleportation portal.
Meng Hao hesitated for a moment and then said, “Elder Brother, this trip to the Song Clan….”
Chen Fan hurriedly replied. “The Song Clan has an urgent need for a son-in-law, so they’ve invited the five Sects and two Clans to visit. Little Junior Brother, if you play your cards right, you might have a chance. Whether you join the Solitary Sword Sect, or become a member of the Song Clan, you will soon have a proper foundation upon which to practice Cultivation.” He grabbed Meng Hao’s sleeve and dragged him toward the teleportation portal.
Meng Hao was hesitant for a moment, and then made his decision. “The people from the Solitary Sword Sect are here, so I can’t try to get the meat jelly to help me change my appearance. This isn’t really working out how I want it to. Oh well, once we get to the Song Clan, I’ll think of an excuse to get away.”