“They say Wudang disciples are losing their edge and will no longer be as revered in another ten years. In my opinion, as long as he remains with Wudang, Wudang will continue to thrive,” Tie Hanyi commented.
Dugu, the only person in his group who could still put up a fight, was busy removing his shirt to replace the medicine patches on his wounds.
“Why do you all look depressed? Can His Majesty trust you to rescue him if he were to see you?” Shen Yiren questioned, strolling into the pavilion.
“Wh-why are you here?” Long Zaitian finally loosened his grip on his wine cup. “Miss Shen, you were just over there. Where have you been? We have been worried sick.”
As Su Xiao lacked experience and arrived on the scene late, the information he could provide was limited. Consequently, Shen Yiren sneaked over to Long Zaitian’s pavilion during the intermission to gather more information.
“I see… Feng Jian. I better remember the name. I came to tell you I have a plan to sabotage Luo Ming; however, we need time…”
“W-will it really work?” Long Zaitian asked after hearing Shen Yiren’s plan.
“It’s the only way when there’s no way. It’s the only chance we have at extracting His Majesty.”
“The second match in the first round will be between Mount Lu Sword Sanctuary, Wutong Jin Yuxuan and Nanjing’s Li Clan. Please prepare,” announced Jin Caitan.
The worst possible outcome was Emperor Yuansheng’s group having to fight early because, if they were eliminated in the next round, then Shen Yiren could cover for them. Unfortunately, their wounded personnel were the only ones who could buy time, while she was the only one who could proceed with the operation to thwart Luo Ming.
Long Zaitian voiced, “Worry not. Wutong Jin Yuxuan is also taking part, and they’re good, close friends with Ming Feizhen. How about asking him to ask Interim patriarch Yu to smash that Ling Jerk on our behalf?”
Huofeng was already in the ring: “Wutong Jin Yuxuan has no weapons to offer and, therefore, cannot compete.”
People were disappointed in Wutong Jin Yuxuan’s decision as they were looking forward to Mount Lu Sword Sanctuary and Wutong Jin Yuxuan going head to head. After all, they didn’t give a toss about some Li Clan that popped out of nowhere.
Wutong Jin Yuxuan weren’t happy, either, since they heard Luo Clan took the weapons from their owners right after Wutong Jin Yuxuan returned them. Perhaps nobody dared to speak out owing to what they witnessed on Dragonroot Island from Yu Feiyaun.
“… We can only reveal His Majesty’s identity, then. As in-laws, Mount Lu Sword Sanctuary wouldn’t dare to oppose us. I know it’s dangerous, but it’s our only recourse,” opined Long Zaitian.
Shen Yiren couldn’t decide how to proceed.
“Agreed.” Upon spotting Kuang Lu enter and flick Dugu a challenge using his eyes, Tie Hanyi changed his tone. “He is not with Ling Clan, so… I don’t think that is going to work.”
Engaging Kuang Lu’s gaze, Dugu declared, “I’ll go.”
Shen Yiren argued, “But you’re inj-”
“I’m okay.” Dugu pulled his shirt back up and walked off. “If I die, tell His Majesty that I’m sorry for failing him.”
“The view is nice from here, is it not, Brother?” Ever since Emperor Yuansheng was detained, all he could do was sit in a blind spot behind Luo Ming. Luo Ming might’ve sounded smug, but he never shamed Emperor Yuansheng. “Golden Cicada, Dugu Ye… Auspicious beasts have always been titles reserved for The Ultimate Three. If you’re calling him a cicada, he must be close to their level. Good judgement. He really does have immeasurable potential.”
Immobilised, Emperor Yuansheng questioned, “… Compared to Feng Jian?”
“We’re only going to know if they fight. You must be bleeding inside as he is bleeding outside right now. A young elite you raised is about to sacrifice himself for you. It’s quite heart-warming.”
Kuang Lu was doing all the attacking, and Dugu was just deferring the inevitable.
“If just one of The Ultimate Three were here, you wouldn’t be able to enact your plans.”
“You’re right. That’s always been a fact. Your forefather established the three offices as well as Liu Shan’s Elites Rankings to help him manage the martial world – commendable foresight, I must admit. You may have inherited the surname, but you’ve been Emperor for too long that you have forgotten your family is originally a family of soldiers. Your forefather and Hero Shenzhou were venerated vassals of the imperial court back then.
“Your forefather was skilled and quelled all of the rebellions in the Nine Provinces. When he decided to revolt, everybody joined his cause. Together, they won so convincingly that people gradually turned to him without a fight. It’s tragic to see the state of Li Clan now when one thinks back on the days of your clan’s glory.
“A hundred years ago, Luo Clan was already considered one of the main powerbrokers of the martial world. Although not as revered as in the present, Luo Clan stood tall all these years and is still respected. In contrast, the imperial family is closer to its erstwhile status as a vassal and is gradually becoming a part of history. Even though you are aware of it, you’re in denial.
“The reason your forefather kept The Ultimate Three system is purely because he didn’t believe his descendants could inherit his peerless skills, consequently seeing the need for an alternative measure to protect Li Clan. There’s nothing wrong with the system.
“Nobody in the pugilistic world can hold a candle to them, and I wouldn’t have such an easy time if just one of them were here now. You, however, have them guarding the borders, far, far away from you. What you’ve done is the same as a swordsman discarding his sword. I doubt your forefather ever foresaw his descendants losing wisdom along with his martial prowess.”
Emperor Yuansheng’s scowl fed Luo Ming’s joy.
“What? Don’t like it?”
“… The people… The people… need them more than I do.”
Luo Ming brought his eyelids closer together.
“I have imperial guards and White Princes protecting me in the palace. If The Ultimate Three are kept as my bodyguards, it is just wasting their prowess. How can I waste their ambitions, talents and rob them of their goals for my own selfish ends? It’s called a monarch’s loyalty to his vassals.
“I’ve never starved or been worried about basic needs in my life thanks to my people. If I don’t lend them my best shield in return, I don’t deserve their blessings. That is called a monarch’s loyalty to his people.
“You are a peasant who is good at fighting, so I don’t expect you to understand a sovereign’s inner workings.”
“You have a lot to say, don’t you? Do you know why Kuang Lu is representing Mount Lu Sword Sanctuary?” Luo Ming whispered something that had Emperor Yuansheng in disbelief and lost for words. “That’s why Dugu Ye needs a funeral for sure.”
“Shizun, Moyan Xiuluo requests an audience,” Feng Jian reported.
“Moyan Xiuluo?” Upon recalling the fearless man who refused to hand over a single weapon, Luo Ming said, “Let him in. I’d like to see what sort of man Blade Demon’s disciple is to oppose us in our territory.”
Moya Xiuluo and his two buddies refused to salute Luo Ming, just dropping a casual, “Hey,” as a greeting. Emperor Yuansheng’s appearance did catch Moyan Xiuluo by surprise, though he didn’t comment or seem to care.
Luo Ming, smiling welcomingly, inquired, “May this one ask how he can help you?”
“Just not liking some things, so I came to hear from you.”
“Not liking some things? After you refused to return the weapons?”
“No, no,” Moyan Xiuluo responded as he wagged his hand. “It is not I who wishes to opine but my companions.”
“Your companions? Who?”
“Have you already forgotten this gentleman next to me?”
One of them had his face concealed under the hood of his mantle. The other was a bald monk with a green dragon tattoo extending from his face to the side of his neck.
Wuqing pressed his hands together: “Correct.”
“So, how can this one help you?”
“It is not this one who wishes to see you.”
Confused, Luo Ming looked to the third individual with Moyan Xiuluo. “You are…”
“… It’s me.”
He generated a navy field around him, enveloping the pavilion inside the blue sphere. Those within felt a heavy weight shunt them toward the ground as though they were being washed under the ocean, prompting them to resist with their true qi.
If anybody was going to identify the sensation, it was Luo Ming. He couldn’t reproduce the full potential of the skill or control it with as much precision even though he had Repository Sword Theory.
The man pulled off his mantle and howled, “Luo Ming!”
Some call him Evil Eminence. Some call him a hero. Others call him a bandit. His name is all it takes to strike fear into the heart of a certain royal family. If you ever want to empty out their palace, you only have to mention his name – Bodhi Abels.
Auspicious beasts – creatures associated with good luck, such as dragons, phoenixes, qilins, turtles…
Golden cicadas – In ancient times, people associated golden cicadas with purity because they flew, didn’t care for food in the “mortal realm” and were proud. So, they (usually business people) believed, one, they would bring in endless wealth (the pronunciation); two, they say golden cicadas had premonition abilities – usually those with interests in mystical stuff would say this; three, students use it to describe their evolution from student to graduate (this is a new-age thing).