Chapter 146: Unexpected Situation

While Zu An had managed to deal with two enemies thus far, he dared not let his guard down at all.

While he was clashing blows with Shi Zhenxiang earlier, he realized that even though he had defeated a fifth rank cultivator and killed a fourth rank cultivator before, there was a lot of luck at play there. In a real fight, defeating a fourth rank cultivator was definitely no easy feat.

It was fortunate that he had Poisonous Prick and the armor-piercing arrow he had picked up earlier, or else he couldn’t even breach their ki armor. The remaining duo was of even higher cultivation rank, so defeating them would pose much more of an issue.

It looks like I can’t brute force my way through. I need to think up a strategy and make it work.

Looking at Shi Zhenxiang’s corpse, an idea floated into Zu An’s mind.

… 

Meanwhile, after searching the forest in vain for quite some time, the remaining two killers realized that they might have run in the wrong direction. So, in accordance with their previous agreement, they headed back to where the bow user was supposed to be camping to meet up, only to bump into one another.

The sword user asked, “Brother Jia, did you find anything on your end?”

“I couldn’t find anything. What about you, Brother Zhen?” asked the spear user.

The sword user’s name was Zhen Liumang whereas the spear user’s name was Jia Zhengjing. They were both death soldiers groomed by the Shi clan. It was in the recent two years that they were dispatched to the Brightmoon Academy, and they soon got on fairly good terms with one another.

“I couldn’t find any trails on my side. Could he have headed northward, to where Shi Zhenxiang is?” asked Zhen Liumang. “Should we head to the north area to take a look?”

Jia Zhengjing shook his head. “Let’s meet up with Brother Po first. If Brother Shi hasn’t returned yet, we’ll head northward to take a look.”

“Alright then!”

With someone to cover them, their movements were less careful this time around. They swiftly raced back to the area where they left Po Zhongyou.

“Say, if neither of us found any traces of Zu An at all, is it possible that he has turned around and headed back to where Brother Po is?” asked Jia Zhengjing.

Zhen Liumang replied with a laugh, “Brother Po would have long shot Zu An to death if he spotted him. Even we would have trouble dealing with his arrows if we can’t get close to him.”

“That’s true.” Jia Zhengjing nodded. He suddenly noticed a silhouette in front and remarked, “Ah, Brother Shi is… back…”

His words carried a hint of doubt as he realized that Shi Zhenxiang was standing a little too high above ground. They quickly rushed over, only for their faces to pale in shock. They realized that Shi Zhenxiang was hanging off a tree with a noose around his neck.

“Brother Shi!” exclaimed Zhen Liumang in horror. 

They had been together with one another in Brightmoon Academy some several years now, resulting in them forging a bond of camaraderie. He was horrified to see the other party hanging off the tree. Without any hesitation, he rushed forward to sever the rope so as to put Shi Zhenxiang’s body down.

“Be careful!” warned Jia Zhengjing.

However, it was already too late. The moment the rope was severed, a black shadow suddenly darted across the air.

Stuck in midair, Zhen Liumang was unable to dodge the arrow at all. Fortunately, he wasn’t completely unguarded. He swiftly swung his sword to deflect the arrow, but before he could even heave a sigh of relief, something on Shi Zhenxiang’s body suddenly exploded.

With a scream of horror, he quickly tossed the body away. It was fortunate that he had activated his ki armor to protect himself earlier, so even though the explosion had dealt significant injuries to him, it wasn’t fatal.

The shockwave of the explosion pushed him toward the ground. He was just about to curse at the evil bastard who lay out this series of despicable traps when the ground beneath him suddenly caved in, and he fell into a pit.

Ahhhh!

A scream of horror sounded. There appeared to be some kind of mechanism inside the pit to deal with its unsuspecting victim.

Everything happened in the blink of an eye, catching everyone off guard. Jia Zhengjing was horrified too, but he held back his urge to check on his comrade. Instead, he scanned his surroundings carefully. 

All of a sudden, a silhouette darted toward him from the side with a black dagger in hand.

“Over there, huh!” Jia Zhengjing’s spear rushed forth like a silver dragon rising from the sea. In terms of force and speed, his spear thrust was indubitably far stronger than the dagger brandished by the silhouette.

However, he soon sensed that something was amiss and leaped backward. When he finally glanced downward to take a look, he realized that his armor had been slit open, revealing his inner shirt.

Had the enemy moved even a single inch closer, the dagger would have pierced through his skin and skewered his abdomen.

“Where did the dagger in his hand come from?” Jia Zhengjing was shocked. He had been maintaining his ki armor all this while, so ordinary attacks shouldn’t have possibly hurt him at all. Yet, that earlier strike actually managed to penetrate both his ki armor and the soft armor he had bought at a high price. This was inconceivable to him!

On the other hand, Zu An lamented over his failure. The earlier strike was a good one, but the short strike range of Poisonous Prick and the sharp reflexes of his enemy worked against him. Otherwise, he could have bragged about having killed a pinnacle fourth rank cultivator in a single strike.

Thinking about this, he suddenly found himself filled with awe for Dongfang Bubai. While he was lamenting about the shortness of his dagger, the latter was already dominating the world with just a couple of needles in hand.

The battle didn’t stop right after this clash. Jia Zhengjing was, after all, no ordinary student. He had been groomed as a death soldier from a young age, and he had learned many new things in Brightmoon Academy too. He swiftly recovered from his astonishment and charged forth with a furious roar, thrusting the spear in his hand toward Zu An.

With the earlier precedence, his movement was more controlled and careful this time around, but its force was still not to be underestimated. The spear seemed almost to be ripping vacuums in the path of its movement.

Zu An dodged sideward before attempting to make another frontal charge, but he suddenly felt a strong gale coming from his side. He quickly retracted his dagger and pulled it to his side, blocking off the sudden spear sweep.

Despite having successfully blocked the attack, the sheer force from the spear sweep forced Zu An to use Sunflower Phantasm to retreat a few steps before he was able to neutralize the impact.

On the other hand, a cold sneer formed on Jia Zhengjing’s face. He had been learning spearmanship from a very young age, so how could he possibly allow anyone to get close to him so easily? In fact, the attack he had made earlier harnessed the full force he had as a pinnacle fourth rank cultivator, and it should have been more than enough to crush the enemy.

However, the smile on his face soon froze. There wasn’t as much feedback from the blow as he had expected, as if he had struck a bed of cotton.

“Your movement skill…” mumbled Jia Zhengjing. He could tell that the other party had used his bizarre movement skill to neutralize the force of his attack.

He had also heard about how Zu An’s bizarre movement skill had won the limelight at the Clans Tournament, but the intelligence team had also figured out that while the movement skill looked impressive at first sight, it was riddled with openings.

But that was clearly not the case, be it when the other party attacked him or evaded his attack.

On the other hand, after neutralizing the sweep with some difficulty, Zu An charged toward the spear user once more. He heard a groan coming from the trap, which meant that the sword user wasn’t dead yet. He had to quickly eliminate the spear user so as to avoid it turning into a two-on-one situation. 

However, all of his offensive attempts were parried by the spear with loud clangs. This was the difference arising from their cultivation rank and combat experience. It wouldn’t be easy for Zu An to catch the spear user off guard.

Zu An’s face turned grim. He dished out blows at an increasingly faster speed, and paired with Sunflower Phantasm, he really looked like a specter haunting the battlefield.

Sweat began trickling down Jia Zhengjing’s face. He finally understood how a fifth rank cultivator like Yuan Wendong ended up getting crippled by Zu An. The world mocked Yuan Wendong for foolishly underestimating his opponent, but that was only because they had yet to have a taste of his swordsmanship themselves.

It was indeed the Thirteen Forms of Elementary Swordplay from Brightmoon Academy, but it was somehow elevated to another level in Zu An’s hands. His attacks looked straightforward, but when paired with the movement skill, they became nearly impossible to predict. 

Jia Zhengjing had managed to hold on thus far, but he definitely wasn’t as relaxed as he appeared to be. The cold sweat drenching his body was the best evidence of it. 

He was still attempting to launch attacks initially, but after trading several blows, he was forced to take on a defensive position. It was only at times after Zu An failed an assault that he was able to sneak in an attack, but then Zu An would swiftly retaliate with a counterattack, nearly doing him on several occasions. In the end, he was forced to go into full defensive.

He desperately swung his spear to form an impregnable defensive shell around him, reminiscent of a barrier.

It was incredibly frustrating for him. He should have been at an advantageous position here, but he could only resort to holing himself up like a tortoise here.

On the other hand, Zu An’s hands were starting to feel numb from having clashed with the spear user too many times. There were several occasions where his dagger was nearly jolted flying when they crossed blows, but having learned a lesson from his previous encounter with Shi Zhenxiang, he made sure to hold it tighter than ever. 

After several blows, Zu An didn’t dare to go too aggressive anymore. He chose to skirt around the spear user instead to wait for an opportunity to strike.

He knew that the initiative was in his hand right now. The spear user was swinging his spear to create a defense shell around his body at the moment, but it was obvious that he couldn’t keep this up for too long. He was depleting his ki at a terrifying rate, and it was only a matter of time before his reserve emptied out.

The spear user would eventually have to thrust his spear outward to launch an attack, and that would create space for Zu An to enter and end the fight.

A short moment passed, and Zu An noticed that the defense shell had gotten smaller from before. It would appear that the spear user had noticed this problem too and was attempting to conserve his energy. A smile crept on Zu An’s lips. There was no way he would allow the spear user to catch a breather, so he headed inward once more to pressurize the other party.

At this very moment, Jia Zhengjing was feeling so stifled that his lungs were going to blow up. He had never felt so aggrieved in a fight before. He obviously had the advantage in terms of speed and strength, but the sheer elusiveness of the other party’s movement skill was more than enough to undo whatever advantage he had. 

He was still infuriated at the start, but soon, his heart turned cold upon realizing the terrible situation he was in. He would indubitably succumb to the other party at this rate and lose his life. He had to make a counterattack.

But the problem was that launching a counterattack would force him to expose his openings, and he might die even faster as a result of that. That pitch-black dagger Zu An was holding in his hands gave him dangerous vibes. Every time it came close to him, goosebumps would rise on his body.

However, a twist in the situation suddenly occurred then.

A silhouette leaped out from the pit and grabbed onto Zu An before shouting, “Brother Jia, kill him!”

It was Zhen Liumang! There was still an arrowhead stuck in his leg, and his body was filled with terrible wounds, but he was still alive!

Zu An realized that he had gotten careless. He could still hear groans from the pit at the start, but as the voice grew deeper and quieter, he thought that the other party had succumbed to his injuries and died. Yet, who could have thought that he was simply biding his time for an opportunity to strike?

This wily fox!

Zu An tried to break free of Zhen Liumang’s grip, but the latter was at mid fourth rank, an entire rank stronger than him. The sheer difference in their strength made it impossible for Zu An to break free.

“Die!” sneered Zhen Liumang.

In his view, the greatest threat Zu An posed was just his movement skill. So, he began channeling his ki to enhance his strength, intending to crush Zu An’s bones.

He might have sustained great injuries here, but it would be all worth it if he could kill this fellow. The young master had declared that he would handsomely rewarded the person who managed to kill Zu An. 

However, Zhen Liumang’s body suddenly froze up at this critical moment as he found his own strength seeping out of his body. The last sight he saw before everything went dark was Zu An nicking his arm with his dagger, then a bunch of profound, black runes began seeping in through his wounds.

“What dagger is that… How could it be this formidable…”

With those parting words, Zhen Liumang’s breathed his last.

Meanwhile, Zu An was feeling incredibly stressed out even though he had managed to kill one of his enemies. The problem right now was that the sword user’s hands were still fixed to his body. He would need a moment’s time to fully shake off the burden hanging on him, but it was clear that the spear user wouldn’t give him the chance to do so.

No matter how powerful Zu An’s movement skill might be, its prowess was bound to be discounted with a burden hanging off him.

Jia Zhengjing’s spear shot toward him with the grim reaper’s scythe. Now that Zu An had lost the advantage of his movement skill, he was no more than a moving target now.

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