Despite Mr. An not coming off as dominating as Luo Ming, Ming Feizhen never doubted the disorganised-flitting black silhouette would jump him faster and more precisely than Luo Ming.
“We don’t have a grudge we can’t talk out, do we?” Mr. An gave the impression he was beaming affably underneath his mask with his tone, but he was actually hiding the niggle at his shoulder. Ever since mastering his signature style, it was first time experience an ache again.
Has he already reached Mountains and Oceans Realm? Yijin Jing’s inheritors really are tough to deal with. Well, on the flipside, he wouldn’t have been able to off Luo Ming for me so that I could pick up the sword for free.
Even though Luo Ming was in power, Mr. An would still stick out because he was a new face that showed up out of the blue ten years ago. He had Luo Ming take in three more disciples on top of Feng Jian when he came back from Nanjiang, which was great news for the clan, so nobody objected. The plan helped him slip even under Luo Yan’s radar. In the ten years at Luo Sword manor, Mr. An got a sneak peek at Luo Clan’s swordplay and learnt their smithing techniques. Therefore, he planned to forge the sword if Luo Ming failed.
Everything unfolded according to plan. For the record, though, neither did the organisation nor Mr. An expected Luo Ming to be so competent. Due to the cost involved with the project, Luo Ming quickly burnt through his capital, leaving him with no choice but to seek out Evil Spirit’s help. If that was hard, then inviting so many heroes across the land was an even more ludicrous idea that Mr. An couldn’t see succeeding. It took Luo Ming years to set it up as it impacted the internal strife between the Seven Champion White Princes and martial arts community. This all had to be completed without the imperial court catching on. Frankly, Mr. An would’ve preferred to keep Luo Ming around for his service. Sadly, it wasn’t feasible anymore.
The only mistake in the plan – if it could be considered part of the plan – was Ming Feizhen’s involvement. Mr. An had been watching Ming Feizhen before the organisation even knew of the latter. He monitored Ming Feizhen’s every move, collating his exploits and examining every piece of information on him. While Mr. An couldn’t claim to know Ming Feizhen, one could say he was practically the consistent audience member of every event Ming Feizhen had involved himself in. If he was ever interviewed on how he evaluated this plan, he would assert with his chest that it would’ve been significantly more chaotic had Ming Feizhen not stepped in, and the world wouldn’t be the way it is now.
The first time Mr. An saw Ming Feizhen in the capital, he had an impulse to race back to headquarters right away. He had his subordinates investigate the recent history of Demon Sect, League of Assassins, Mount Daluo, Wudang, Shaolin and Western Regions. It took him seven days to confirm that their most recent reports were still valid.
When Ming Feizhen joined Liu Shan men, Mr. An took over and investigated Ming Feizhen personally for he was the only one who could complete the task without Ming Feizhen catching on. Ming Feizhen travelling to Huzhou with Emperor Yuansheng was within Mr. An’s predictions.
The sole reason Mr. An never had any motivation to attempt assassinating Emperor Yuansheng in spite of crossing the latter multiple times was because he knew he’d never succeed for as long as Ming Feizhen was on the island.
If anyone could feel for Mr. An, it was Ming Feizhen because the latter still only had a skeleton – an incomplete one – of the organisation’s plans.
The approach Mr. An used to manipulate Luo Ming was the most vile, though undoubtedly most effective. The plan would only work if Mr. An was incredibly patient as it demanded a mental and physical investment.
Ming Feizhen wasn’t going to hold his breath, hoping to chance upon some evidence Mr. An happened to accidentally leave behind. From what Ming Feizhen gathered, Mr. An might be mentally warped, abnormal and violent; however, Ming Feizhen could still detect a human part living inside. That human part was a valuable clue and, as of current, the only means of seeing through Mr. An’s façade.
“Still not going to attack?”
“All righty, haha. Let’s see how much you’ve improved over these years.”
“Sounds like you’ve known me for years?”
“Hehehe, does it” – Mr. An curved his torso to charge up for an attack – “even matter anymore?!”
For the first time, Mr. An used his elusive manoeuvre as a means of advance, slinging himself forward. Ming Feizhen uncorked a quick punch to keep up, colliding with Mr. An’s open hand. After two more heavy blows each, the two stepped past each other.
As soon as Mr. An reset, he sneered: “Not having a challenge for many years has made you rusty, hasn’t it?”
Once Ming Feizhen stopped, blood sprayed from his chest.
“You know, I always thought you were tough, but… killing you doesn’t seem to be so difficult.”
“You sure talk a lot.”
“You never learnt any style to strengthen your body and barely have any defensive skills. All you do is count on your potent internal energy to do the heavy lifting. You think that’s enough to save you from the best techniques out there? Combine skill with one of the Nine States Enervating Blades, and you’ll die here.”
“Yeah? You talking about” – Ming Feizhen pointed the tip of a shiny sword at his opponent – “this one?”