“Zero” forced me to do a lap with Teng in spite of my protests. I think it was partially because she wanted to put me in my place for stepping out of line. My beef with it was that the punishment could very well escalate into my death sentence.
“Mr. Teng, this is my first time working alongside you. I never got to know you before; you don’t mind me asking you a few questions, do you?”
Teng gave me a creepy smile and nodded.
“What is your weapon?”
I was about to bolt for dear life as soon as Teng raised his arm. I only felt slightly relieved once I saw the thin and long thread in his hand.
I had heard of the Music Assassin, but there really was no shortage of musicians who played stringed instruments in Dongying, especially assassins. One of my trash friends was one such assassin, and he was the one who inspired my Night Net Silk skills.
Speaking of which, my discipline, which technically should’ve been categorised as a skill, differed from the typical martial arts. Manipulating strings to an advanced level was a rare talent for everyone’s fingers, finger mobility and understanding of space varied. Due to the individual differences, each person achieved different results – in terms of style, not proficiency. In combat, their progress in their respective internal discipline needed to be accounted for, too. Besides precise control of one’s true qi, one needed internal energy potent enough to actually inflict damage, after all. If their internal energy wasn’t up to scratch, their ability to use strings as weapons was also limited.
“That’s a curious weapon. How do you wield it?”
With a whip of his hand, Teng made a loud “crack!” sound in the air and left a whip mark on the wall.
Yep, his internal energy was potent.
“How much thread you have?”
“… Three hundred and thirty-three metres.”
That was the first time he spoke to me, wasn’t it?
Surprisingly, Teng’s voice wasn’t creepy, although his accent was quite pronounced. I didn’t really care about his voice or mature impression, though.
How many metres did he say?! You don’t find it heavy?! How badly do you want to kill me?!
“You won’t make it in time to rescue me from so far away, then.”
Teng stretch out his arm and then retracted it, and a fist-sized rock came back to his hand. “I’ll pull you back.”
… Are you implying for me not to try running away? Is now my only chance to run?
“If we’re too far apart…”
“I’ll always be within sixty metres of you.”
“Are you knots solid? How about I untie it and retie it for you?”
“… It’s my unique method.” Teng then flung the rock and began making it dance in the air with his left hand, yet the rock didn’t show any signs of slipping out from the knot. “… It’s my mentor’s secret method. Only three people in Dongying can undo the knot.”
… Was that a second to not try anything or fleeing? Is it too late for me to run now?
“… I need to go.” And then Teng jogged off behind me.
Don’t go! You’re in the zone, aren’t you?! You’re going to start ripping me apart, aren’t you?! Don’t go prepare!
It was painfully scary to walk silently all on my own. I mean, it’d be weird for someone hiding in the shadows to converse with me, but I felt as if I was a blind man walking the streets with a ghost tailing me.
“Mr. Teng, how about we chat? Hahaha.”
The silent reply I received even had a, “I’m speechless” vibe.
Obviously, we couldn’t chat when he was supposed to stay hidden. However! I had no reason to fear exposing him when he was the biggest mistake that could’ve possibly happened! Not only was he out of my field of view and behind me, but he even had a thread on me. What other conveniences did he need to assassinate me?
As I covertly undid the knot on me with my hands, I loudly said, “Mr. Teng, you must be really popular with the ladies given how cool you look, hey? If you’re single, I can introduce a few girls to you. I promise they’re all cream of the crop.”
All I could do was feel the terror mounting with every step I took for around fifteen minutes. Thankfully, I did stand to gain something. After all, I needed to have a better understanding of the contraptions if I was to escape. I remembered how to work the contraptions from when I visited with “Zero” as well as their locations. That said, I was bound to miss details with only one look. Whilst pretending to be indifferent and looking around as though I was checking out a hot chick, I was actually sneaking glances at the contraptions. Whilst pretending to, wait.
When I closed in on the third contraption a little more for a second time, I noticed someone had tampered with after I last saw it, and the one responsible was clearly not erudite in working contraptions – evident from the fact that they didn’t restore it to its original state. From the perspective of the ignorant, the arrangement of the rocks weren’t important. We experts, or handsome guys who’d seen the original arrangement, howbeit, could instantly tell someone had touched them.
There was a fat chance that the rat Ouyang Xiucai chased was the one who tried to work the contraption.
Why the hell does the rat care about the exit so much?
Suddenly, I heard a familiar breathing pattern, the only one that stuck out to me, coming closer.
Here he comes. “Zero” sure is good with predictions. Teng is still directly behind me, while this guy is coming from a different direction. Have I wrongly suspected Teng?
By the time I was done pondering, I already saw his dark silhouette in my line of vision. Despite not wearing his hostility on his sleeve this time, he closed in faster than last time. I stayed as cool as an iceberg in the ocean, the moon in a well, and used my immeasurable intelligence to bring forth an epiphany, a moment of wisdom.
Of course I screamed towards my back!
Teng yanked backwards as fast as “Zero” promised he could. The string I untied went zooming back faster than my eyes could follow…
I’m still here! You reacted too fast! Is this revenge for not introducing a girl to you?!
I sprinted for dear life. “Ouyang, Lang Qing, Zero, Lord San Shen has shown up! Come whoop him!”
My attacker stuttered, seemingly not expecting me to cry for help straight off the bat, and surveyed the surroundings to protect himself from an ambush. Once he realised it was a bluff, nonetheless, he resumed his advance.
Needless to say, the extra time I bought was worthless as I wasn’t able to run fast! Since I couldn’t use qinggong, it only took him two jumps to get behind me and within range to grab me. His refined technique and force created a suction force around us, but I managed to give it the slip. Before I could celebrate, however, I bumped into something.
“Wh-wh-who are you?!”
“… Your ally.”
“You fight. I hide.”
“… Be careful.” Teng swapped places with me without hesitation.
“You are a great man, Mr. Teng. To thank you, in our next life, we shall…”
Although you might not be able to tell from the fact that I ran fast enough to be able of your hearing range already, trust me, Mr. Teng. I’ll introduce a girl to you if I find one!
I had yet to get any meaningful distance away when I heard Mr. Teng eat a palm blow and collapse on the ground.
Teng was a specialist at assassinations from a distance, not close-quarters combat. He couldn’t retreat in the same direction I ran to maintain distance since he needed to buy me time. His fluid style was the easiest matchup for a hard hitter in close quarters. Now that he had been hurt first, too, he was at a massive disadvantage. To top it off, he was the inferior combatant between the two of them in the first place. Putting aside the fact that his internal energy was finite, fighting under conditions he was not trained for would burn through his internal energy stores even faster, and the effects of the injury he just sustained would eventually rear their heads. At the current rate, he was only about forty exchanges away from dying.
Cornered, I clicked my tongue and shouted, “I know who you are!” whilst continuing to run away. “I’m going to tell everyone who you are right now.”
I managed to ruin his rhythm for a second, but he promptly refocused and pressured Teng, showing he didn’t believe me.
Several metres later, I yelled, “You think I can’t identify you just because you’re using palm techniques? Your ‘Pure Yan One Qi’ is still immature. You think you’re clever? I don’t agree.”
I felt as though a big target was formed on my back.