You Owe Me Sons!
“Brother Luo, why are you doing this?” Emperor Yuansheng didn’t let his livid feelings regarding his old friend’s betrayal override his composure as a monarch even though he had a blade up against his neck.
“Because you and I agreed to let Refining Divine Convention be the judge. In the pugilistic world, credibility is as important as life. Have you become a scoundrel now?”
Tie Hanyi had to cut short their strategy meeting for the next round when somebody outside hollered at them and never returned when he went out. Ye Luo, therefore, ventured out and never came back, either. Long Zaitian subsequently set the room alight, attempting to use the fire and smoke as cover for them to sneak away. Never did he expect the leader of the group outside to be Luo Ming.
Despite his best efforts, Feng Jian quickly subdued Long Zaitian, and Luo Ming subjugated Dugu after a hundred exchanges. Emperor Yuansheng eventually gave up resistance when it was clear that he wasn’t escaping Thunder, Rain and Fire – Lei, Yu and Huo, respectively – and opted to talk to Luo Ming.
“Luo Ming, why won’t you answer? Too ashamed to face me?! Show yourself, Luo Ming! I know you’re outside!” Emperor Yuansheng was stuck alone in a room, meridians sealed, and Feng Jian was the door sentry.
“Huh,” scoffed Luo Ming, in a tone that Emperor Yuansheng didn’t recognise. “It has been so long that I cannot remember when I was last tagged. Third rank Hidden Dragon, Duguye, he will be one of the people I never forget. Long Zaitian isn’t a proficient combatant, but he has keen senses. If I wasn’t able to hear what you were doing, his strategy would’ve let one or two of you slip away.”
“If we’re talking about talent, you also have a stable of exceptional men. Who is the swordsman who subdued me? He’s a magnificent swordsman. I don’t know about the others, but he used Luo Genesis Celestial Swordplay, the style you created in your younger days. When did you train up that disciple? Nobody in the pugilistic world has ever heard of him. Quite the ambition you have, huh?”
Feng Jian kept a straight face as the two continued to trade barbs.
“Luo Ming, since when did you become a coward? You spent ten years cultivating cowardice? You sounded as proud as ever when we last talked, so why are you scared of looking at me in the face now?”
“… You have a point.”
Once the doors opened, Emperor Yuansheng was beholden to Yu Jian pushing an ashen-haired elder in a wheelchair. “Br-Brother Luo, wh-what happened to you?”
It took Luo Ming a while of meditation to restore a comparatively healthy glow to his ghastly-pale face, rendering Emperor Yuansheng wordless.
“I was supposed to capture you in one breath. I didn’t expect you to have a subordinate capable of surviving a shot from Repository Sword Theory. Duguye, Duguye, truly a man worthy of plaudit.”
“What happened to you? Have foreigners attacked your islands? You should know better than anyone that we wouldn’t hurt you. There’s no need to suspect us.”
“My injury is not your fault. I know why I’m in this condition.”
Emperor Yuansheng could never determine if those barely-parted eyes were eyes of admiration or hunger for battle.
Luo Ming erased whatever was on his mind to look up with a warmer gaze. “Frankly, we should never have had to come to this standoff given our friendship. If you were to declare you would strip our title as one of the Seven Champion White Princes, I would be first to support you.”
“Even after what happened, I don’t hold you accountable. I just don’t understand why you’re a different man ever since coming out from seclusion – violent and cruel, shady instead of upright, overbearing and scheming. It’s… It’s not you. What happened? … Does it have to do with your sons’ death?”
Luo Ming unleashed a sword qi breaker, barely giving Yu Jian enough time to turn her face sideways before seeing her own blood, while Emperor Yuansheng felt his skin sting. Only Feng Jian remained unmoving.
“Take them out of your mouth.”
“What is this about? I do not know anything about it.”
“Of course you don’t. I’d already be dead if you did. In fact, you would’ve razed Luo Sword Manor to the ground a decade ago if you did.” Luo Ming’s voice was strangely raspy, and he spoke atypically fast. “I don’t have much time left. Even if I don’t have these injuries besetting me, I planned to die a martyr after I forged the sword. I was going to tell you then to see your reaction, but it seems I’ll be too busy for that.”
“What exactly are you talking about?”
“You remember when you came to me, seeking to form an alliance to remove the other six?” Luo Ming’s bitterness rubbed off on even Emperor Yuansheng. “Do you realise how ridiculous your request to strip us to complete your imperial kingdom and set your descendants up for success sounds? Huh? Hahah-”
Blood spurted in burst from Luo Ming’s mouth, running down the sides of his mouth as he laughed at the sky that every Emperor always claimed as his own. Composure, control of one’s emotions was always vital for martial artists, even more so as they advanced, because extreme joy or sorrow were both stressors that effected their physiology.
“Bring him in.”
Luo Ming’s subordinate brought in someone stuffed inside a sacked and then pulled them out.
“F-Father…” Green Prince mumbled with his head down. He then turned his head to Luo Ming and, in a far more firm tone, called, “… Adoptive Father.”
“Shut up!” Luo Ming thundered, pointing to Green Prince with fully scarlet mouth. “Emperor Li, you asked me how my sons died, didn’t you? Let me tell you: your son compromised my sons. Since your son got my sons killed, I want you to personally kill him.”