“It is time!” Jin Caitan announced. “Competitors, please come into the ring.”
Elder Shou languidly said, “We can proceed, but this old one has something he would like you to understand.”
Jin Caitan saluted Elder Shou: “My ears are yours, Elder.”
From Li Clan’s pavilion, Ming Feizhen voiced, “I also have something to say! Do not say I did not warn you beforehand.”
“Please speak freely.”
“I, Wudang Sect (Li Clan), hereby declare I am pulling out! We are not participating any further!”
Thank god I told them Empyrean Zha is an ally in time.
How else was he going to fight? Right hand versus left hand versus his head? Mountain Monster and Zha Pi certainly could go into their ring as substitutes, but there was no leash to keep them on, and Jin Caitan was far too perceptive for Ming Feizhen to manipulate them using Shadow King String. Besides, Luo Ming already witnessed the style once, so it was even easier for him to recognise it the second time. In addition, it was risky for the two since they had yet to see what other tricks Luo Ming had up his sleeve.
Empyrean Zha (Ming Feizhen) returned to the ring, greeting everyone affably as though he was heading in to collect his trophy, though his attention was actually dedicated to monitoring Luo Clan’s patrols, especially the head count at Luo Ming’s pavilion. The change there was an indicator that Luo Ming had switched to a substitute plan due to Feng Jian failing to come out on top.
“In that case, the winner of this competition and the recipient of Luo Clan’s divine weapon shall be Quanzhen Sect’s Empyrean Zha!” Jin Caitan broadcasted.
As cheers began to rise to the firmament, Luo Ming glided in, performing the same qinggong Feng Jian employed with better execution. There was no chance Ming Feizhen was going to be able to billow Luo Ming out of the ring.
Continuing with his façade, Ming Feizhen politely expressed, “It is a pleasure to meet you, Patriarch Luo.”
Once Luo Ming acknowledged the greeting, Jin Caitan conveyed, “This one has not let you down, Patriarch Luo. Regretfully, we did not have the privilege of viewing another marvellous spectacle. Nevertheless, Empyrean Zha has proven himself worthy of the victory. This one is ashamed he was unable to identify any of your techniques despite his experience as a referee and his studies, Empyrean Zha.”
“You need not berate yourself. This one could not identify his magnificent techniques, let alone you. If you are ashamed, this one might as well retire.”
Luo Ming spoke with a smile, but his interrogative gaze on Ming Feizhen was all-telling; even Jin Caitan could hear the scathing sarcasm.
“This one heard you have lived for hundreds of years, Empyrean?”
“This one is only meeting you for the first time today. Who is this person you heard from?”
Since Ming Feizhen wasn’t down to engage in his game, Luo Ming changed the topic: “Congratulations on your victory. In saying that, this one does not recall sending you an invitation.”
Ming Feizhen politely replied, “From this one’s observation of the stars, he gleaned an ominous fact that a demonic star had infiltrated Huzhou and, therefore, invited Erlang down from heaven to consult him. He stated that one of his own kind had evil intentions. This one, consequently, came to investigate and decided to join the competition while he was at it. This victory is all the work of the heavens.”
“Which means that you invited yourself?”
“As it is divine providence, what difference does it make if you invited this one or not? Patriarch Luo, let us not concern ourselves with trivial appearances. How about we discuss the fact that you never intended to give the divine sword to an outsider? Are you emotionally attached to the sword?”
To the audience, it was nothing more than a bewildering exchange. To the two conversing, though, it was mental warfare. If any of them could not keep up with the pressure, they would not have any opportunity to speak. The internal energy Luo Ming oozed from his sword was unable to shake up Empyrean Zha, signifying the latter was the real deal.
“Luo Clan shall honour the promise as you have won. That being said, everyone might doubt your victory as Li Clan and Wudang both pulled out. Additionally, it has ruined the entertainment aspect. How about we have three exchanges as an exhibition match? Whatever the outcome happens to be, we shall proceed with forging the sword. Our match can be considered the warm-up for the main event.”
The audience certainly wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to witness a fight between two martial artists of their calibre. Ming Feizhen was cognisant of the fact that Luo Ming proposed the idea in hopes of identifying him.
My job is to stall him. Besides, nobody will suspect me in this appearance…
“If we’re going to have a match… why stop at three exchanges?” Ming Feizhen reached for the sky, sending a thin white thread heaven bound whilst brimming with passion for a fight on his face. “If we’re going to fight, how about we go until there’s no doubt who the winner is?”
Ming Feizhen whipped the thread down the same way a whip wielder would, Ancient King Thread – God Whipper! Luo Ming had no time for analysis, raising his sword overhead from his side. The shockwave generated from the impact battered Jin Caitan out of the ring. Eight bricks at Luo Ming’s feet failed to withstand the pressure.
“… They say Night Fortress was able to rise so fast because a reclusive demon of the pugilistic world was running it behind the scenes. I assumed it was your shifu… You’re good at keeping secrets, Night Fortress’ master, rather, Ming Feizhen.”
“Saves me trouble if you’re going to be so straightforward. How about we finish the fight that we didn’t see to the end that night… Patriarch Luo?”