Scrap (Part 5)
Squall had an extremely hard time. He couldn’t locate his foe, and he was eager to make it quick, so he strung together one attack after the next. He was able to touch Hong Jiu in some way each time, but nobody outside the mist could hear a thing. The reason was that Squall’s force would disintegrate as if he was punching into water when Hong Jiu used Hunt to dismantle attacks. Since Squall had never heard of such a skill, he had no answer for it.
There was only one version of Yearning Broadswordplay. Howbeit, Bai Clan’s forefather never stopped members from inventing new skills. In fact, it was mandatory for direct descendants to create their own skills in the name of growing the clan. It wasn’t actually too difficult for them. Considering the depth of Yearning Broadswordplay and the diligence of their members, they’d have invented their first skill by roughly twenty years of age. One of Bai Zhiqing’s elder brothers created his first skill at twelve years of age, while his other elder brother created his first at seventeen.
Bai Zhiqing didn’t have the aptitude of his brothers, and he wasn’t as dedicated as them. Therefore, he was often mocked behind his back when he was still unable to create something past the age of twenty, not that it bothered him. It all changed when he met his wife. From the moment he laid eyes on her, she was his world. That emotional attachment brought out the potential of Yearning Broadswordplay because the discipline wanted its wielder to imbue emotion into the skills.
Following several sleepless nights of training with his feelings at the forefront of his mind, Bai Zhiqing came up with “Thousands of Autumns Passing By”. Just as his love for his wife was infinite, just as every thought about her connecting to another thought, his skill expressed the concept of “infinity”. Despite not having “do harm” as its aim, the techniques would empower the practitioner to dismantle all attacks.
Hong Jiu, so far, had employed a hard-hitting style, but his mind frequently started thinking about the broadswordplay recently. Even without practical practice, it seemed to just click with him. Owing to Hong Jiu having yet to master “Thousands of Autumns Passing By”, the mist was even harder to decipher.
Squall’s attempts to disperse the mist were constantly halted. However, his “Shrouding the Moon” was also a sticky style, so he wasn’t afraid. The problem was that he couldn’t disperse the mist if he was occupied with sticking to Hong Jiu. If the situation didn’t change, it would become a pure internal energy endurance contest. Given Squall had decades of training on Hong Jui, he was more than welcome to entertain the idea, except he felt the direction of the match was unsettling.
Once again, Hong Jiu deflected another claw attack.
Darkcloud didn’t hold back. While Squall didn’t know how Hong Jiu created the tornado, but he supposed it couldn’t have been magic, which meant that only violent internal energy manipulation could’ve produced it. Adding on the last slash that ended his brother, Hong Jiu should’ve been exhausted. Yet, here he was still able to last at the current high pressure.
show those living within the walls how miserable life is outside so that they’ll be satisfied with their lives inside the walls
No wonder why my brother lost to him. For a man of his age, it’s almost insane how much internal energy he possesses to sustain this pace for so long. If this is the level of Ming Huayu’s second disciple, his most senior disciple must be unbelievable. If I don’t kill him today, he’ll be a thorn in our side tomorrow.
Thus, Squall pushed harder even if it costed him more energy in order to make Hong Jiu’s injuries tire him. Strangely, even though he was feinting more than he was actually attacking, it was evident that Hong Jiu was growing while he wasn’t. In turn, he kept trying to raise his output. As a consequence, longer exchanges reduced in frequency. After two hours of fast-paced exchanges, in spite of him gradually gaining the advantage, and in spite of his superior condition, he just couldn’t penetrate Hong Jiu’s fortress.
If we sustain this pace, I’ll be able to finish him in less than three hundred exchanges, but I’ll be bedridden, lose a large portion of my abilities and lose twenty years of my life. It’s not easy to shake him off to disengage, though.
As he couldn’t think of any solutions, Squall decided to gamble on being able to disperse the mist with his full power, escape and then kill his opponent. To that end, he stopped trying to be tactical and went for simplicity that maximised his power – the same as the last technique his senior executed. This was a last resort for him because he couldn’t maintain the dragon form for a consecutive second usage.
A giant dragon silhouette spawned did just as when Darkcloud performed “Shrouding the Moon”. However, instead of spawning a dragon head as Darckloud did, Squall spawned a scaly dragon. Like the legends of old and the name suggested, the technique summoned a giant dragon soaring the skies, shrouding the moon and blocking out the clouds. If it descended, it would spell destruction for life below. What could alcoholic mist possibly do to stop a dragon embodying such might?
The audience finally got to see Hong Jiu. He was covered in blood; his eyes were empty. He looked no different to a man continuing to hold out purely on muscle memory.
The protracted fight was but a veil created from the alcoholic mist. By sticking to Squall, Hong Jiu saved the equivalent energy of several moves so that he could perform one heavy blow. His increasingly stronger counters were predicated on deliberately blocking several shots first. There was no way he wasn’t tired and hurt after fighting for so long. The smell of alcohol reduced the clarity of the smell of blood. As a result, even when Squall smelt blood, he mistakenly assumed it was blood from before they started, so he was unaware how debilitating Hong Jui’s injuries actually were.
As “Shrouding the Moon” entered its final phase, the dragon rose into the ether before it would begin its destructive descent.
Hong Jiu mumbled, “Wasn’t your brother a cold-blooded homicide monger? I made him lose the will to kill and to go out without taking a single life. Aren’t you careless? I wanted you to be cautious, to rack your brains and die without realising where you went wrong. You’re about to die, you know?”
“Your tough talk won’t save you now!”
Hong Jiu drew a circle in the air with his open left hand. The following instant, a huge crater formed where he stood. Even though a mighty creature once hailed as a ruler had forced itself onto Hong Jiu, the sensation in Squall’s hand told him that he hadn’t caught his pray. Accordingly, Squall began to analyse. Two things stood out to him – Hong Jiu’s affiliation and one of the disciplines he learnt.
Time seemed to freeze for Squall as he contemplated a question. Only now did it occur to him that, during the course of their prolonged fight, never once did they truly touch each other’s bodies, and never once did he see Hong Jiu use a technique from the discipline when it was the discipline he relied on most. Why?
Has everything he’s done been just to bait me into using “Shrouding the Moon” to maximise the flexibility of Mount Daluo’s Empty Palms?
Squall never had enough time to figure out if he heard the answer before or after his head hit the ground. As soon as a silver light curved through the air out of nowhere, there was an extra head on the ground. The sound of flesh hitting the ground was incredibly soft, yet everyone fell silent for they forgot to make a sound.
The man who had all eyes on him ambled over to Darkcloud’s corpse. “I beat power with power.”
He picked up a head. “I beat sophistication with sophistication.”
He picked up another head and tossed both to his feet. “Any of you have a problem?”
“We won!” Bai Zhiqing yelled.
Nobody reacted to the important announcement for they were still marvelling – or shocked. Hai Yecha had a fabricated excuse prepared in the event that Squall lost so that they could invade Valley of Yearning, yet even he was stuck in a daze for a while before saying, “You have my utmost respect, Hero Hong. Winning and losing are common in life. It’s our loss. We shall retreat. Haha, see you again soon.”
Bai Zhiqing frowned. “What do you mean, ‘See you again soon’?”
Hai Yecha answered, “We’ll be back in two to four hours. What a stupid question. Our score has yet to be settled, Patriarch B-”
Hai Yecha flinched as soon as he met eyes with Hong Jiu. Hong Jiu had the appearance of a man on the verge of death; even someone without any martial arts training could tell it’d be hard to say if he’d survive based on his shallow breathing alone. Yet nobody felt he was anyone’s prey. To the contrary, they felt he was dangerous. Hai Yecha couldn’t even find it in him to argue.
Hong Jiu only spared Hai Yecha a glimpse before shifting his line of sight to his sole target from the very start. Following a deep inhale, he roared, “Vivianite, show yourself!”
The area went dead silent again for a good while. Subsequently, a black mist formed in the centre of the area and gradually solidified. Nobody witnessed how he reached the location. His height and his broadsword made some people reactively jolt.
Hong Jiu and Vivianite had a long stare down before Vivianite coldly stated, “You, really have yourself a death wish.”