Different Year, Same Thing (Part 15)
Murong Song’s seamless combo seemingly covered up every inch of space, much to the delight of his allies, who were envious of the speed none of them could match. Howbeit, one person radiated as if he was enjoying himself, while another youth with red hair, Ling Xuezhao, had the corner of his lips hiked up, finding Murong Song’s idiocy to be amusing.
Clang! The clang was the distinct sound of a hammer slamming on a blade during the forging process, not the sort that would be audible when blades clashed. A heavy weapon dropped. A body crashed into the ground dozens of metres away and Mount Lu Sword Sanctuary’s group rushing to Murong Song’s aid or cursing, Ling Hanzhong stood still in place, replaying the “clang” sound in an infinite loop in his mind.
Years after the encounter, Ling Hanzhong would wake up in cold sweat whenever he heard the same “clang” again in his nightmares for he knew that only might beyond human imagination could produce that sound.
Clang! Once the dust settled, there was Ming Feizhen, still looking indifferent. He turned his shoulder slightly to cast his gaze on Ling Hanzhong and called, “Next.”
Ling Hanzhong’s men couldn’t believe their leader took a step back. Little did they know he had forgotten all about fighting back. Ming Feizhen put one foot in front of the other consecutively as though he was walking through a path his subjects cleared for him.
“I’ll see what he’s got.” Ling Xuezhao, a man of immeasurable talent, aimed straight for Ming Feizhen’s eye, thinking, “I want him to spill blood!”
Ling Xuezhao abstained from killing after the battle at Lawless Cliff, leaving him in a famished state. He did get into fights, but he’d call it quits part way through the duels and disarm, lying down to take a nap, instead. Owing to there being nobody who could pique his interest or motivate him, he eventually stopped training all together.
Ling Hanzhong took issue with Ling Xuezhao slacking off. Nonetheless, Ling Xuezhao didn’t like anyone telling him what to do. When he went on out jobs thereafter, he’d go on murder sprees, giving Ling Hanzhong a headache again, only through different means. For the first time ever, Ling Hanzhong wanted Ling Xuezhao to kill with every fibre of his being.
Ling Hanzhong didn’t realise his hands were shaking as he shouted, “Xuezhao, kill that… that…” He couldn’t find the word to describe Ming Feizhen.
Seeing the tip of his blade sinking into Ming Feizhen’s throat, Ling Xuezhao inwardly cried, “Yes! Blood! Blood! Deeper! Deep-”
Clang! They heard the clang, yet nobody saw when Ming Feizhen moved or the blood Ling Xuezhao projectile vomited. When their brains computed Ming Feizhen had extended his arm clutching his armament, they finally realised Ling Xuezhao was missing from their sights.
When Ling Xuezhao, who saw the world in slow motion as he went reeling through the air, flew past Ling Hanzhong, the latter reactively blurted, “Monster…”
Ming Feizhen lowered his weapon and resumed marching forward: “Next.”
Feeling his plans ebbing away, Ling Hanzhong lost his composure in his men’s presence.
That kid can’t defeat all my men at once, but if he defeats all of the cream of the crop, our morale will hit rock bottom! I can’t let historians write he defeated our sect all alone! If we don’t finish him now, I’ll be next!
The short-haired youth cushioned Ling Xuezhao’s fall with one hand before anyone noticed, saving the latter from kissing the ground. From his appearance to his mannerisms, it wasn’t hard to ascertain Ling Cong was only a teenager. Mount Lu Sword Sanctuary’s fourth rank top swordsman had his pearly whites visible to all.
Ling Cong palmed Ling Xuezhao on the back, causing the latter to convulse and cough up clogged blood. Although it wasn’t enough for Ling Xuezhao to regain awareness of his surroundings, he no longer appeared in critical condition.
“Impressive internal energy. I wouldn’t have been able to help Xuezhao unclog his meridians in even five days, yet Cong’er only needed one palm strike,” Ling Hanzhong praised to himself. “Cong’er, work with your Heavenly Realisation Sanctuary’s six elite swordsmen to show him our skills!”
Ling Cong sympathetically and softly protested, “Uncle, Brother Xuezhao’s injuries are far from fatal. Since he did not intend to kill, that is t-”
“Get him now before he gets you!”
Ling Cong offered Ming Feizhen a palm and fist salute: “I do not like to kill people. May I courteously ask you to leave?”
Hearing Ming Feizhen’s footsteps inch closer, Ling Hanzhong pestered, “Cong’er, hurry! Hurry!”
“Feel free to attack me,” verbalised Ming Feizhen, continuing forward with a smile. “I seldom see anyone like you among the Seven Champion White Princes.”
Ling Cong scratched his head bashfully: “P-people often say I’m unbecoming. To be honest, I’m scared of fighting you.”
“What are you afraid of?”
“I-I’m weak, and I often kill people.”
“It’s true! It’s true!” stressed Ling Cong, actually meaning it. “I’m not skilled. People always say I stole or lied about something and lash out at me. Before I know it, they have already swung at me. I would then reactively retaliate and accidentally kill them. If you refuse to believe me, don’t blame me if you die.”
Not even Ling Hanzhong dared to try competing against Ling Cong’s lightning style, especially since his nephew had no idea how to control his internal energy.
“Don’t worry. I won’t die. Give me your best shot. Everything you’ve got.”
“Mm… Okay, but let’s make it clear that you’re the one who asked for this fight. Don’t mock my skills or form a grudge over it. I can’t save you.”
“Don’t try to fool me. Uncle once said he wouldn’t scold me if I sparred with him, only to give me a tongue lashing after five exchanges. He even imposed a rule that I was only allowed to use my left arm and leg when sparring with him.”
Livid he was publicly shamed – the laughter behind him further lighting his fire – Ling Hanzhong fumed, “Stop the yapping, and attack him already! If you fear my nephew, just admit it. Don’t try to play mind games with children.”
“All right, let’s start.”
Somewhat glad to hear Ming Feizhen’s confidence, Ling Cong assumed what resembled a random stance, hands suddenly turning crisp black. His true qi started roiling more intensely than Dark Robe Brotherhood’s signature Forbidden Wind Lightning.
As Ling Cong shot off from where he stood, Ming Feizhen flowered inward and brought his weapon back down, both moving unimaginably quickly. Ling Cong slammed his hands together to catch Ming Feizhen’s weapon cleaving down.
Ling Cong was the only capable of stopping Ming Feizhen’s swing because the lightning strike he was hit with as a kid enhanced all of his senses, equipping him with the ability to see Ming Feizhen’s movements.
“Interesting,” complimented Ming Feizhen. “If you trained for another five to ten years, you’d be hard to match.”
Ming Feizhen gently drew his weapon out from Ling Cong’s clasp. Ling Cong stood unmoving, eyes triple their usual side and facial muscles frozen as though Ming Feizhen whacked his soul out of his body. Ming Feizhen pulled Ling Cong along with his free hand.
“I heard” – Ming Feizhen gently whipped his black weapon in a circle, prompting thirty-odd swordsman to flinch – “Mount Lu Sword Sanctuary is home to talent. I heard there’s a new monster referred to as ‘Exterminator’, who killed several of Demon Sect’s guardians. I’m keen to see who this swordsman is.”
Ming Feizhen stepped over incapacitated Ling Xuezhao.
“There was also the first-rank sanctuary master, a young man with the gift of the heavens, born with immeasurable aptitude and potent internal energy. Why don’t you dispatch him?”
Once Ming Feizhen released his hold on Ling Cong’s hand, Ling Cong slumped onto the ground, eyes listless.
“Why do you keep walking backwards?”
Not one of the swordsmen wanted to hear what they heard next.
“Who… is next?”