The Signs of Battle. A Deity Descends. (Part 2)
“Relax. Don’t act like a panic-stricken plebeian!” rebuked Green Prince.
Luo Siming held his inhale and then exhaled slowly: “Thank you, Brother. I feel a lot better now.”
“Your defence fell, and your uncle is coming for your head. Big deal. If you can’t even handle this much, don’t tell anyone we’re related,” Green Prince reproached while hiding behind Yi Wangyou.
Luo Siming shook his head out: “Brother, y-”
“This one will not allow any harm to befall His Highness,” assured Yi Wangyou.
“Yeah, exactly. At the end of the day, this is your clan affair, so it’s not my place to interfere. I don’t see you losing, so I’ll make my way out. Just be careful of dirty fighters.”
Luo Siming offered a palm and fist salute: “Thank you, Brother. Please go on ahead.”
“You can’t go through with it, can you?” Green Prince suddenly asked.
“… I admit I don’t have the resolution to be vicious right out of the gate.”
“I knew it. Here’s a suggestion.” Green Prince pointed down to the sword at Luo Siming’s sword. Once Luo Siming’s reaction showed that he understood, Green Prince explicated, “If he tries to snatch Siming Sword from you, then it means our suspicions aren’t unfounded. That is your cue to put him away.”
After Green Prince and Yi Wangyou departed, the sound of weapons clanging perceptively rang louder in Luo Siming’s ears. He was right to assume that the fighting was more serious than on New Year’s Eve, though.
A contest between users of the same style tends to be fairly even. Today was not one of those “tends to be” occasions, however, with the raiders mowing down everything in their way.
Coming face to face with his uncle, who led seven men, rendered Luo Siming sullen and upset even though they never got along affably. No matter how many times he was told his gallant and loyal uncle had turned on them, Luo Siming couldn’t get used to it because Luo Siming genuinely respected his uncle as his father’s silent guardian in the shadows for decades, never asking why.
“Second Uncle…” Luo Siming choked out, surprising himself with the emotions gushing up. “Why?”
Like his shadow that the sun cast on the ground, Luo Yan didn’t move or give any response.
“You’re the weapon hunter, aren’t you? Was all of it to frame me? I always believed you would be Second Uncle, the pugilist everyone in Luo Clan respected, regardless of how much you detested me. What are you doing this for? … Luo Yan, are you listening to me? The clanging and twanging outside is our people fighting each other. The bangs and thuds are our clansmen absorbing blows and falling! We are killing our own clansmen right now! Quit with the deaf and mute act! Hold Flame Emperor. Hold your pride, and tell me this is all your brainchild!”
“Nothing you say or think will change the outcome.” That deep, raspy voice was the voice of a dangerous man who had been cornered and was ready to turn around to bite the hand feeding it. “Winner takes all. If you can defeat me, everything will be yours. Should you lose, you ought to return to the island with me as my subject.”
Though there was no means of confirming whether or not Luo Yan meant it, it didn’t change his goal. He drew Flame Emperor from his back and lit up the blade made from a firecell stone as well as the combination of a three-legged crow and rare beast’s blood.
Yang Realm internal energy stands out among the seven alternatives as it’s a monster when it comes to brute strength; it’s the only internal energy type that can give weapons trouble. Reach the apex of Yang Realm internal energy and expect to melt even your own weapon with the amount of heat energy exuding from your body. It’s the only internal energy type that has that drawback.
Flame Emperor was one of the few weapons designed to withstand advanced Yang Realm energy and maximise its wielder’s internal energy.
“It’s winner takes all, advance!”
The seven elites in black advanced on Luo Siming with their leader. The Four Samuume Swordsmen, who didn’t lift a finger until the eight were within striking range, performed blazing-fast sword draws, intercepting the enemy attacks before their opponent’s even realised it. With that kind of speed, it was no surprise that their next strikes were game over for seven of their opponents.
Only those who were caught in The Four Samuume Swordsmen’s siege formation – Concealed Sword Formation – would know how challenging it is to tackle their deft strikes that come from unexpected angles. Black and White Reflection ranked Concealed Sword Formation above Mount Hua’s Skydragon Swordplay, Kun’s Desolate Sword Dance, Wudang’s Tai Chi Swordplay and Mount Daluo’s Ultimate Sword Manual.
Concealed Sword Formation required Flame Emperor Swordplay and Siming Swordplay to learn. As with every style, the more advanced it is, the higher stakes involved when executing the manoeuvre. A lucky failure would result in qi deviation. An unlucky failure would be bidding farewell to this world. People believed Luo Ming was trying to master the remaining half of Concealed Sword Formation in his secluded training as he previously plateaued at the fifty percent mark.
To protect Luo Clan’s leader, the ancestors of Luo Clan split the style into four parts and enforced the rule that each part was strictly to be taught to a different individual in the head clan, each of whom would be bequeathed the four swords that The Four Samuume Swordsmen would go on to wield. Although it made it considerably easier to master as fragments, it wasn’t as lethal as if one individual was to master all four parts. Owing to its lethalness, The Four Samuume Swordsmen were highly regarded within every generation of Luo Clan.
From beginning to end, Luo Yan labelled Luo Siming the only threat for the former was positive Yi Wangyou wouldn’t involve himself in Luo Clan’s internal strife. Leveraging his knowledge of Siming Swordplay, Luo Yan brainstormed numerous ways of countering Luo Siming’s arsenal of tactics. The Four Samuume Swordsmen cutting down his men within two strikes was not within his predictions, nevertheless. Going off their young ages, Luo Yan expected them to need five to eight more years to reach the standard they just performed.
Since Flame Emperor Swordplay derives from Concealed Sword Formation, the former had a significant disadvantage when compared against the latter. For that reason, Luo Yan had to fall back on Flame Emperor’s sturdiness and Scorching Sun Spirit, striving to cut down one of the four in order to disable the formation.
The Four Samuume Swordsmen performed Earth Qi Shroud, while Luo Yan could only hold up Flame Emperor to prevent himself losing a limb as he charged toward Luo Siming. Before he knew it, however, the four had him moving backwards, putting him three steps further back than prior to their attack. Only when he settled down did Luo Yan notice the four manage to cut his clothing three times.
“This old one admits he cannot conquer Concealed Sword Formation… That said, you four are afraid of leaving your young master, so you can’t stop this old one from leaving. Even if you pursued him, you wouldn’t be able to catch him with a formation designed for defensive tactics.”
The four had no response as Luo Yan was on the money. Luo Siming, on the other hand, wasn’t done, demanding, “Step aside.”
“This is a family issue. You four don’t need to get involved,” Luo Siming asserted.
The way Siming walks and his face are so similar to Big Brother’s. Back when we wandered the pugilistic world and came under attack, Brother would step forward the same way to take on whatever they had to offer.
“You win for as long as your four bodyguards are protecting you. You sure you want to challenge me?”
“Luo Yan, I have every right and justification to take you down when you are trying to usurp power in the clan.”
“Now we’re talking.”
“I have a condition.” Luo Siming lodged Siming Sword into a rock and declared, “I won’t use Siming Sword, and you won’t use Flame Emperor. The swords exist for Luo Clan, not against Luo Clan.”
“Mm… All right.” Luo Yan strapped his sword to his back and then concentrated energy to his hands, dousing them in red.
“You have brought shame to Scorching Sun Spirit with your mutiny.”
“Ignorant runt, you going to fight or just flap your gums?!” Luo Yan shattered a chair beside him with ninety percent of his full power, igniting the strewn, airborne fragments.
Luo Siming’s swordplay rivalled Luo Yan’s, while Flame Emperor and Siming Swordplays had a counter for everything their counterpart had to offer. The difference between Luo Siming and Luo Yan were their internal energy development and experience, both of which Luo Yan had the advantage in. That was the reason Luo Yan had no intention of crossing swords from the beginning. In a drawn out fight, Luo Yan’s superior internal energy development would give him the overwhelming advantage.
Luo Siming placed his left hand behind his back then glued his right index, middle and ring finger together as a sword.
As Luo Yan marched forward, Luo Siming swiped white qi across the inferno on Luo Siming’s hand and then jabbed the former’s hand, winding Luo Yan as if he landed a liver shot. Luo Yan’s legs buckled involuntarily.
“… Y-you mastered Th-Three Silver Reflections?!”
“Every patriarch in our history mastered it. I merely learnt it sooner than our predecessors. Why are you surprised?”
The smithing department’s most advanced internal style was Scorching Sun Spirit, while the swordplay department’s most advanced internal style was Freezing Scripture; their names bespoke their polar opposites. Luo Clan’s patriarch, however, would have the privilege of learning a third internal style – Three Silver Reflections.
Three Silver Reflections, a style designed solely to win through overpowering cold internal energy, not techniques, built off Freezing Scripture and created the chink in Scorching Sun Spirit. In other words, Three Silver Reflections was invented to ensure Luo Clan’s patriarch would be able to cull traitors from the smithing department.
Luo Ming mastered Three Silver Reflections at the age of thirty. Luo Siming was twenty-five years old.
“Y-you have been planning to purge me?!”
“I never did. This is my swordplay department’s roots, and it is my duty to master it.”
“You! You!” Immobilised after absorbing Luo Siming’s strike with his accupoint, Luo Yan was relegated to coughing on the ground until blood littered the ground.
“Are you all right, Second Uncle?” Luo Siming pressed his hand onto Luo Yan’s back to help the latter adjust his qi circulation.
Luo Siming never forgot the days his uncle taught him equestrian and smithing during his childhood. Back then, Luo Yan’s back was erect. Nowadays, Luo Siming could feel the forward arch in his uncle’s back.
“Why are you doing this, Second Uncle? The thought of harming you has never crossed my mind… Do you really want to be patriarch that desperately?”
“Siming…” Luo Yan’s hair hung over his face, staining it with blood as he looked down. “You’re a good kid… I’ve always known you’re a good kid. Unfortunately, you’re too merciful. A merciful man isn’t the suitable to lead this clan.”
“See, if you finished me off, you would’ve won.” Luo Yan caught Luo Siming off guard, clutching the latter’s neck and igniting him. Luo Siming was as good as defenceless without Three Silver Reflections due to the disparity in their internal energy development. Luo Yan, however, didn’t finish the job, tightening his hold as he muttered, “Not yet. Not yet. I shall do it.”
Neither Luo Siming nor his bodyguards understood how Luo Yan could still put up a fight when Luo Siming was supposed to have his accupoint sealed. Nonetheless, duty-bound, they surrounded Luo Yan immediately.
“Nobody moves or this old one will kill him right away.”
“Traitor… You… You really intend to usurp power?”
“I don’t have time to talk about it. I need you to come with me. I told you: it’s winner takes all today. You lost, so you must submit. You only have yourself to be being soft. My brother would’ve killed me if he was in your shoes. You wouldn’t be in this predicament if you finished me.”
Luo Siming tried to covertly mould qi. Alas, Luo Yan had Luo Siming’s meridians on lockdown. In saying that, Luo Yan didn’t have the upper hand yet, not when he was at the centre of Concealed Sword Formation again.
“Move or I will kill him!”
The four regarded each other then backed off a step, compelling Luo Yan to dial down his vigilance, and then bridged the gap right away. Due to evasion being out of the question and the time restraint, Luo Yan brought down his executioner hand on Luo Siming. To his surprise, Ao Xue shoulder charged Luo Siming out of the way and took the blow on her back.
One person among the four commanded the others while implementing Concealed Sword Formation. In this generation, Ao Xue was their commander, a fact that Luo Yan was oblivious to. When the four regarded each other prior to backing off, Ao Xue signalled that she would dive in to free Luo Siming. It didn’t matter which of them dove in for all of them placed Luo Siming’s wellbeing above their own. The reason they agreed to let Ao Xue charge in was purely because she was the fastest among them.
Unable to tell if the hot liquid on his chest was Ao Xue’s tears or blood, Luo Siming assumed she died and howled, “Luo Yan!”
Luo Siming’s true qi somehow ploughed through his blocked meridians in his right hand, allowing him to fetch Ao Xue’s sword and attempt to plunge it into Luo Yan, forcing his uncle to release his hold. Luo Siming’s three bodyguards promptly tried to capitalise. Sadly for them, Luo Yan had no difficulties slipping out of the incomplete formation to find Luo Siming’s back.
Luo Yan was in position to make one of either decision: option one was to kidnap Luo Siming, successfully completing his mission. If he turned around, he could draw Siming Sword, the key to absolute authority in Luo Clan, from the rocks that Luo Siming slotted his sword before they scrapped. In the end, Luo Yan opted to take Siming Sword, grantingg Luo Siming’s three bodyguards time to get into position in front of Luo Siming and Ao Xue.
Embracing Ao Xue, who bled profusely, Luo Siming roared, “Luo Yan, you are hereby exiled from Luo Clan! Should we meet again, I will kill you where you stand!”
That is what you should do every time, Siming.
With that, Luo Yan departed with the symbols of absolute authority in Luo Clan.