Guest from the North
“I’ve been waiting for that!” Baimu got within punching range and uncorked a punch that would inflict severe damage even if he just grazed his target.
The two brothers came from of a tribe of warriors, and they inherited their predecessors’ stellar combat prowess. Exceeding their own limits time and time again was typical for them as neither of them feared death or challenges.
Regardless of who was put before him, Baimu would find a way to win in order to grow stronger. Unlike his brother, however, he faced a plateau, while his brother continued to progress. It gradually dawned on the young guya that the sun only blessed his brother, while he was only a bonus basking in his brother’s glory.
Even though he was adopted and raised with the belief that his brother was his only biological relative, Baimu couldn’t stop perceiving himself to be a failure. Therefore, he never went to search for his brother after the latter called it quits. Instead, Baimu continued to train, hoping he could close the gap between them while his brother wasn’t improving. In turn, he gradually began to catch up to his brother’s fame and had few rivals left in Nanjiang.
Since the two brothers had fought time and time again in the past over disputes, Feng Xue’s mind was still. What bothered him was the young King’s stance on the political issue. In the two years he mentored Baimu’s Crown Prince – a fact few was privy of – he did what he believed was necessary to nurture the young man into a wise monarch. Feng Xue was expected to hold everything together when the boy’s father passed away, but he vanished without a trace. For his student to decree his execution upon meeting, there was nothing he could smile about.
Ever since Nanjiang’s martial arts became systemised, their golden standard was to go for the opponent’s weakness and take them out in one strike. That being the case, it made sense for their warriors to cultivate a skill they specialised in and polished it into an ultimate attack of sorts.
Baimu was capable of piercing through metal and iron a decade ago using his signature “Devil Claw”, yet he failed to catch even a centimetre of Feng Xue’s clothing when the latter didn’t move. In contrast, Feng Xue’s qi discharge splintered a wooden table and shifted a metre back.
“Your skills have improved, but you are still morose.”
Baimu coiled his extended fingers to follow up with a vacuum punch, setting Feng Xue’s shoulders as his area of effect. Like a whip, Feng Xue flicked his right sleeve up without moving any other limb to intercept the punch. The only two in the hall who didn’t wobble were the two brothers when the wind breaker emanated from their collision.
“I take that back. Your skills haven’t improved. All you do is rely on trickery.”
“The only one who’s still stuck in the past is you, Feng Xue, acting like you’re all that with your cool attitude when you’re the most condescending person. You won’t have any arms after today.”
A brownish glow emitted from Baimu’s black armour, forming the shape of a spike. Instead of being impressed with his brother’s Enlightenment, Feng Xue scoffed, “This is all you’ve achieved in ten years?”
Once Feng Xue spawned his faint purple glow akin to mist, the clash of Enlightenments cracked the jade columns in the hall.
“Enough.” Baimu’s King ordered, “Are you two trying to take my palace down along with your brother? Cease at once.”
Although he wasn’t heralded, the King didn’t inherit his father’s foolishness. He had confirmed the rumours that Feng Xue was now a cripple were false and, to the contrary, still rivalled the Eleven Sacred Beasts – if he wasn’t ahead them. That was sufficient to parley.
The two brothers did as they were told, cancelling out their Enlightenments at a close rate.
The young King bluntly said, “Feng Xue, you left without a word and now return for incomprehensible reasons. Don’t tell me you’re showing yourself despite the risk of punishment from the eleven states to make ludicrous claims of a wicked beast.”
“It is not a claim.” Unlike his brother, Feng Xue addressed the King with respect. “It is the truth. It has also finished building its nest. If we let it leave its lair, Baimu will be its first victim.”
“Baseless claim. What proof do you have?”
The royal families had continued looking into Nieyao City’s decimation over the centuries whilst silencing people; however, they were unable to verify what inhabited the city. Consequently, convincing them that whatever was in there could overrun their grand cities was tantamount to convincing them horses have feathers.
“This old one has personally ventured into Nieyao.”
“Y-you went in and came out alive?”
“Please rest assured, Your Majesty. Your secrets are safe with this old one.”
“… So you want me to ally with Hesina Tribe just as Heavenly Swordsman did?”
“Heavenly Swordsman was unable to severe Nieyao’s roots due to lack of preparation; his approach was not flawed.” Feng Xue’s genuine esteem for Luo Ming was as clear as day. “Your Majesty, Heisina Tribe has spent ten years preparing and have forged a viable weapon. Their clan knows Nieyao better than anyone. Therefore, they are the best ally to have. The fact that they have been able to survive through their long ordeal is proof that they can reverse the situation when you least expect it.”
“… I can ally with them. That said, I have one condition.”
“Please name it, Your Majesty.”
“By my orders” – a crafty curve came to the King’s lips – “Great Guya Baimu, immediately march on Heisina Tribe with two thousand men. Spare no one, hahaha.”
“Your Majesty.” Feng Xue wasn’t livid with his King; he was sad.
“That is my condition. You told me they can reverse the situation, didn’t you? If they can survive, I shall ally with them.”
“You will fail, Your Majesty. My brother will not be able to exterminate Heisina Tribe.”
That figuratively kicked Baimu’s King up the rear so hard that he spilt his own wine on himself. Letting his concubine wipe him, he fumed, “He is my greatest guya and no longer pales in comparison to you. What makes you think he’d fail?”
“You are mistaken, Your Majesty. He may have improved fast, but he has not caught up to this old one. Even if he was as strong as this old one, he will still fail. Though he is strong, his enemy is stronger.”
“What point are you trying to make? You’re telling me Heisina’s cur… has already surpassed you?” No matter how confident he tried to sound, Baimu’s King was already searching for other avenues in his mind.
“Not him. Very soon, Heisina Tribe will have a strong ally. Baimu cannot win by himself.”
“Hmph, is this ally you speak of Feng Xue, the one standing before me?”
“No.” Feng Xue pointed to the horizon. “They are from the north.”
“Your Majesty!” someone called from the door before Baimu’s King could catch on to what Feng Xue was implying.
The door guard nervously went in and whispered, “Your Majesty, a youth outside requests an audience with you.”
“Requests an audience with me?! Since when are people allowed to come to my place uninvited? Kill him.”
“H-he is really formidable. He has already defeated five guard captains. At this rate, we will need Guya Baimu’s help.”
“Then do that. Who is the cur?!” The King turned to his concubine. “Bring my golden seal!”
As the concubine prepared to get up, the guard carefully handed over a golden sheet. “Y-your subject is not sure if the mad man is breaching the palace, but he is polite and is not stepping into the palace. He only insisted your subject pass this on to you.”
Baimu’s King flapped his eyelids in confusion. “Bring it here.” He opened it up and read aloud, “Sixth disciple of Mount Daluo’s Ming Huayu requests an audience with Baimu’s King… Who is this?”
As she studied the painting, she filled the pauses in the tune she hummed with the crisp sound of her biting her yali – a type of pear unique to Hebei Province.
Ming Xiaolou, better known to those close to her as Xia’er, was gifted with the appearance of an angel and the havoc-wreaking personality of her mother. In addition, she was gifted with a father who never lectured her if she did something wrong. Unfortunately for her victims, she was close to The Demoness; that was how her nickname “The Demoness Jr.” came to be on Mount Daluo.
Xia’er graduated last year, but her fellow graduates were spread out all across the land. As such, she toured the lands until Hong Jiu recently found her and ordered her to stay on standby at Xiuyu. Having the advantage of arriving ten days earlier than Shen Yiren and company, Xia’er had a solid grasp on Xiuyu, which she used in the prank she prepared for them.
Xia’er grumbled to her “father”, “Uncle Tian, just say what you want.”
Uncle Tian, one of the elders of Mount Daluo’s branches, could be considered Xia’er’s steward since he waited on her since she was a kid.
“Miss… I do not think this is a good idea. Feigning ignorance and not contacting them is bad enough. Why are we even fooling them? If they really do fight Heisina’s group…”
“So what? Heisina Tribe also plans to enter Nieyao. Why not enter together? I’m being nice and introducing them to each other. They should be thankful. Besides, what business do they have slaying Six Evils if they can’t even handle Heisina Tribe? This is all for their sake.”
Like always, Uncle Tian had no recourse. “Even if that is the case, you should not have deceived Young Master Xiao. What if the young boy gets hurt?”
Smiling triumphantly, Xia’er responded, “Second Brother told me First Brother found a great disciple. If he’s First Brother’s disciple, doesn’t that make him my nephew? As his aunt, I am duty-bound to take care of him. Relax, I won’t break him. I quite like him, to be honest. He has a strong sense of justice just as Sixth does and luck with women like Dad. He’s still timid, though, so I’m training him.”
Upon hearing a knock at the door, Xia’er enthused, “Finally. Uncle Tian, make sure to not let him see through you.”
Xia’er had the ability to switch between her sweet, angelic persona and her crafty side at the drop of a hat. She had control over her facial muscles to the point that she could seemingly alter her appearance to play a younger girl than she really was.
“Good morning, Young Master Su. Eh? Why do you have such dark bags under your eyes?”
Su Xiao thumped his chest with a long face: “Miss Luo and Sister Ye didn’t let me sleep last night. I protested, but they insisted. I’m exhausted.”
Xia’er started questioning if Su Xiao really needed to be trained to be manlier…