The four guardians had almost the same status as the chancellor. Although Zhao Yuanji was about the same age as Wei Zikun, Wei Zikun was only a mere hall overseer in the institute. Clearly, Wei Tiancang’s descendants weren’t faring that well.
Right now, the ones in control of the sanctum were either Wei Tiancang’s brothers or his disciples.
“Apprentice-brother, he must be that Li Tianming, the one with perfect synchronization. I’ve just heard the news.” Zhao Yuanji looked at Li Tianming.
“Yeap, find him three advanced source-ranked battle arts,” Mu Yang requested. That was Li Tianming’s own request, since three battle arts were enough for him to chew on for a while.
“Alright, Mo Lin, take your junior apprentice-brother with you and let him pick three arts,” Zhao Yuanji instructed.
A teenager walked out from the hall, his slender figure dressed in a black robe and his long hair reaching his waist. His handsome features gave him a quiet, scholarly look, his mild demeanour adding on to that impression.
He first greeted Mu Yang with a bow, before gesturing towards Li Tianming. “Apprentice-brother Li, please, come with me.”
Li Tianming followed him as they passed through the various chambers in the hall. The youth guiding him must be the disciple of the Guardian of Combat, Mo Lin.
“I just heard that apprentice brother Li has perfect synchronization. Congratulations.” Mo Lin turned and smiled at him. His movements were effused with grace, the bearings of a confident, assured teenager.
“Thank you, elder apprentice-brother.”
“No worries. This is the region for the source-ranked arts, and the advanced ones are all the way inside. Feel free to help yourself, and do ask me if you have any queries.” Mo Lin smiled. He was merely a guide and nothing more, treating Li Tianming like any other disciple. This was something Li Tianming didn't encounter often, considering that everyone was biased against him given his 'reputation'.
After thanking him, Li Tianming entered the room. Its interior was simple, with all the battle arts stored on wooden shelves, unlike the Xing & Chen Repository. But despite the room's austere decor, any battle art here was actually worth a fortune.
After going through almost all the arts in the room, Li Tianming finally found two advanced source-ranked battle arts.
The first one was a movement art known as ‘Flaming Shadow Flash’. It was a more advanced version of his Confounding Mirage Walk, allowing him to retain the mirages while increasing his speed. Once mastered, he would be like a flaming shadow that could appear anywhere in the blink of an eye. A flexible move, it would definitely come in handy when dodging his opponent’s attacks. Even the little chick could make good use of the Flaming Shadow Flash with its tiny figure, turning it into an even deadlier assassin.
The second art Li Tianming had picked was named the ‘Three-Spring Heavy Strikes’. Unlike the Dragon-Mammoth Heavy Strike he knew, this new boxing art took inspiration from solar flares. Furthermore, it contained a fiery aspect to it that could utilize their Aeternal Infernal Beast Ki better. The destructive move not only suited Li Tianming’s black arm, but its beastial art version, the Three-Spring Heavy Claws, also synergised well with Ying Huo’s claws. Like its name, the art was made up of three different stances, each blow more powerful than the last one.
Li Tianming also wanted to look for a whip art that he could use with his grade five weapon, the Blazing Dragon Chainblade, but he couldn’t find any.
“Elder apprentice-brother Mo Lin,” Li Tianming called out.
“Yes?” Mo Lin walked into the room.
Li Tianming didn’t expect Mo Lin to be actually waiting outside while he was looking through the battle arts. Li Tianming treasured that respect this apprentice-brother had shown him.
“Out of interest, what is brother Mo’s cultivation level?” Li Tianming asked with a smile, realising that they should be about the same age.
“Eighth level Spiritsource,” Mo Lin replied.
“What about your synchronization level?”
“I lose out to brother Li in terms of that, since I can only cultivate in the fourth ring.” Mo Lin smiled.
“The guardian must be proud to have a disciple like you.” Li Tianming complimented, knowing that Mo Lin was about Wei Guohao’s standard.
“Haha, I hope I don’t bring shame to my mentor.”
“Will you be making a trip to the Abyssal Battlefield soon?” Li Tianming asked.
“How do you know about that? My slot hasn’t been confirmed, and I’m awaiting the sanctum’s final decision,” Mo Lin said.
“What will you be going there for?”
“I’m sorry I can’t tell you about that, since the sanctum has yet to announce it officially.”
“Never mind then.” Li Tianming paused for a while, before he continued, “Brother Mo, I've been looking for a whip art, but I don’t seem to be able to find any here.”
“Whip art? Let me take a look.”
Mo Lin started searching in the room. About fifteen minutes later, he returned to Li Tianming with a black-covered book, but he didn't pass it to Li Tianming.
“This is the only whip art we have, but I’m afraid I can’t pass it to you just yet,” Mo Lin said.
“Firstly, this is a supreme source-ranked battle art, while the Vice-Potentate told you to pick three advanced ones. Therefore, I must seek their opinion before giving this to you. Secondly, this is a vicious and cruel battle art. It's not suited for disciples since it is only intended for killing others. Finally, your level of cultivation is not enough for you to understand this art,” Mo Lin explained.
“I see. If that’s the case, can you let me take a quick scan of the book while you confirm with the Vice-Potentate? Just tell him I want this art,” Li Tianming said.
“Thanks for the trouble.”
Mo Lin handed Li Tianming the book before walking out. He was right that Mu Yang only mentioned advanced arts, and supreme arts were miles apart from advanced ones, be it in terms of its power or its rarity.
This supreme source-ranked whip art was called the ‘Soulless Seven Howls’; the name alone already suggesting that this was a malevolent art. A brief glance through its content told Li Tianming that the art consisted of seven deadly stances. The most unique aspect of this art was that its user could vibrate the whip to produce a howling sound that could mentally affect the opponent.
“Attacking through a sound wave? I wonder how this would work when it’s coupled with my Bewildering Eye?” Li Tianming blinked twice, and continued to read.
According to the book, every time the opponent heard a howl, an illusionary ghost would descend upon them. Over time, the victim’s hallucination of being surrounded by more and more ghosts would intensify, peaking at seven such illusions. It was especially effective when used with his Blazing Dragon Chainblade, since it was easier to produce sounds with metal chains compared to regular whips. Li Tianming was already in love with this whip art before he even started on it.
As he was reading, Mo Lin had returned with a smile. “Congratulations, brother Li, the Vice-Potentate had agreed for you to take whatever you wished. Looks like he really trusts you.”
“You have my thanks, elder apprentice-brother Mo Lin.”
“You are welcome.”
Li Tianming kept the three arts and headed outside together with Mo Lin. Inside the courtyard, Mu Yang was playing chess with Zhao Yuanji, and the two disciples came out just in time to see Zhao Yuanji win the game.
“It’s been thirty years, yet you’re still this bad.” Zhao Juanji laughed.
“You don’t have to say that out, right? Save some face for me.” Mu Yang rose to his feet and beckoned at Li Tianming. “Let’s go.”
“See you around.”
The moment the two of them left the Hall of Combat, Mu Yang turned to Li Tianming and said, “I need to go too. Focus on your cultivation, and find me at the Mu Manor should you need anything.”
With that, Mu Yang disappeared in a flash, before Li Tianming could question him about the Abyssal Battlefield.
“Darn it. Looks like I’ll have to ask Jiang Qingluan instead. While I'm at it... let's go find Ling'er!” He had already visited the Nebulous Pavilion once this morning, and it was already nearing night time now — Jiang Qingluan probably wasn’t going to let him in at night. Therefore, Li Tianming returned to his own house to learn the new battle arts and work on his Bewildering Eye instead.
“If I continue cultivating my Godsoul Canon and reach Skypolarity Eye, the Spirit Core will open the gate to the Wondersky Realm. What would that place be like?” Li Tianming had always been curious about this mysterious power. As a result, he had never stopped cultivating his Bewildering Eye. Like a tireless ant, he continued to work on the spirit veins on his third eye, until the wee hours of the night.
Underneath the moonlight, Li Tianming took the second egg out of his lifebound space. Just as he placed it on the table, the egg shook violently and tilted from side to side — the creature inside was clearly having the time of its eggy life.
“I say, when will you come out? You’ve been shaking for at least a month already.” Li Tianming waited and waited, but his second beast just wouldn’t leave the egg. He had a feeling that even if this little thing hatched, it would probably be a lazy bummer, completely different from the hardworking little Ying Huo.
After staring at it for a while, Li Tianming kept the egg back into his lifebound space. It could take its time, since one Primordial Chaos Beast was already enough of a headache to him.
Speaking of Primordial Chaos Beasts, where on earth did Ying Huo go? Was it pecking at worms somewhere?
“Hey bro, I got some goooooood stuff for ya.” Speaking of the devil, Ying Huo had sneaked back.
“What?” Just as he turned around to find the chicken, a red undergarment flew right into his face.
“That’s Jiang Qingluan’s hahaha, you will have some explaining to do tomorrow!”
“Ying Huo, you little piece of shit!” Li Tianming quickly dumped it into the furnace and made sure nothing remained of it. Becoming an eunuch would be a reality if Jiang Qingluan saw that.
Unfortunately, there was nothing Li Tianming could do about that damned chicken.
It was still early the next morning when Li Tianming arrived at the Nebulous Pavilion. Because of that undergarment the little chick stole last night, Li Tianming was feeling uneasy when he knocked on the door.
“Better not give anything away, if not how will Ling’er see me.” He took a deep breath.
There was some bustling going on in there, and it took awhile for Jiang Qingluan to open the door with a frown.
“Still doing her makeup inside, why are you here again?” Jiang Qingluan stared at him.
“And why can’t I be here?” Li Tianming invited himself in. There was a clear displeasure with Jiang Qingluan’s vibes, and he wondered whether it had anything to do with that red undergarment.
“Bro, remember that red cloth you were using as a handkerchief last night? Do you reckon that vermilion bird sewed on it could be Princess Qing’s lifebound beast?” Ying Huo suddenly interrupted him.
“LI! TIAN! MING!” Fire spewed out of Jiang Qingluan’s eyes as she stomped towards Li Tianming.
“Just a misunderstandi—” Before he could explain himself, Jiang Qingluan’s hands had already found his neck…