“I am Wu Ping’s wife, Cuo Xitong, and your maker!”
Wu Ping collected a fair amount of black aurum over his lifetime, some of which Cuo Xitong used to make a key to the underground palace. She never cried or made a scene when she heard about her husband’s death. Instead, she pled Lady Bai to convert the key into the dagger she had taken out from under her skirt. With a blade made from black aurum and frost jade handle, she’d have no issues making iron look like mud.
Cuo Xitong was pretty, but she didn’t stand out. Ming Feizhen never even considered her a possible avenger. The only thing that supported her after learning of her husband’s death was the name of the culprit. Ever since she heard his name, she was resurrected; violence and hatred returned to her weak and lifeless body.
Cuo Xitong wasn’t trained in any martial arts, but the fluidity she demonstrated in setting the blade on Ming Feizhen’s neck suggested she had practiced it no less than a hundred times with intention.
“Ah! Ms. Wu! My god!” Ming Feizhen looked as glad as if pork shoulders just dropped in his lap. “Are you here for revenge or to retrieve your late husband’s belongings?”
No matter what trickery Ming Feizhen tried, Cuo Xitong didn’t stop, but his question managed to stop her in tracks. The joy he showed didn’t move her one bit, and nothing he said could change her decision to kill him. The last part, however, was something she cared about it.
“What are you talking about?”
Ming Feizhen showed a look of confusion. “Eh? You didn’t know? Did no one tell you? You got me good this time. I’m done for this time. That said, how do you not know when Hero Wu hasn’t passed on his most important possession?”
The two unrelated topics forced Cuo Xitong to divide her attention.
“I don’t know anything. What are you talking about?”
Ming Feizhen sighed in a way that made him seem melancholic without having to say a word. “Since we served different people, Hero Wu and I agreed to a duel. I killed him, and he hurt me, but I respect him as a man.”
Being the weakest among those in the underground palace, nobody cared about him, and he wasn’t given any respect in death. The families who searched for their family members with Cuo Xitong never cared for him or her feelings, either. Therefore, as the emotions rushed in upon hearing his killer talk about respecting him, she couldn’t help shedding tears.
“We got along. Sadly, we were on opposing teams. I serve the imperial court, and he was too strong. Otherwise, I would’ve done my best to not have killed him. The world could always do with one more hero.”
“You don’t need to keep blabbering lies.” Cuo Xitong wiped her tears and glared with the intensity of someone ready to eat him whole. “He was a man who kept to himself, disliked socialising and was never any great man. Nothing you said matches with who he truly was. I heard you lost your cultivation, so I didn’t believe you managed to kill him on your first meeting. Now that I’m watching you spew lies and play mind games once you’re doomed, I believe the claims. No wonder you were able to escape the underground palace alive. While my husband wasn’t as strong or quick-witted as you, nor was he any hero, he loved me more than he cared for his own life. I can’t call myself a human being if I don’t avenge him.”
“You’re formidable. I mean it. After all, you’re the only one who’s been able to catch me despite how many have tried.”
“You’re ready to accept death?”
Ming Feizhen smiled. “So you’re not curious what Hero Wu said in his final moment? You don’t want to retrieve his Melancholic Sword, either?”
Cuo Xitong pressed the dagger forward, drawing Ming Feizhen’s blood. “You can tell me, or I can finish you.”
“You’ll stab me either way. That being said, I have to tell you since I’m in your hands now. I just have one condit-, wait, wait. I have no hope of getting away at this point, and I am not delusional enough to think you would spare me. I just have one request. I just want to see Elder Yan so that I can at least see the appearance of the mastermind who caught me.”
Cuo Xitong wrinkled her nose. She never mentioned Yan Liren anywhere, yet Ming Feizhen somehow knew. Owing to the fact that she wasn’t a martial artist, she didn’t fathom the complexity of the chair’s contraption and weight of its materials. If she could’ve moved the chair around, then elephants could’ve climbed trees, not to mention it took more than might to smuggle it into the imperial city. Accordingly, the only feasible explanation was that Yan Liren brainwashed people to smuggle it into Taishu Hall.
Ming Feizhen successfully roused hesitation. After all, the information and sword were valuable to her, and what he requested was acceptable.
“Elder Yan, if you don’t come out, this won’t end tonight.” Ming Feizhen raised his volume, but he didn’t speak so loudly that he’d startle Cuo Xitong and make her stab him.
“Xitong, you’re still too soft-hearted,” Yan Liren said from the door. “Didn’t I stress not to listen to him and to end him as soon as he was in the chair?”
Teeth clenched, Cuo Xitong stabbed the table, then wiped her tears. “Elder, since you are here, please help me.”
Yan Liren pushed open the door. Although it was hard to tell exactly what the imposing man felt when he looked at Ming Feizhen, it was clear that he was trying to hold himself back from shredding Ming Feizhen.
“Long-time no see, Elder Yan,” Ming Feizhen sarcastically remarked.
“It’s our first meeting, isn’t it?”
“We did meet in Hangzhou, but we didn’t greet each other. You left a deep impression, having said that.”
Ming Feizhen managed to infuriate Yan Liren.
“Surely, you don’t think you can sweep the pain of losing my son under the rug.”
“Not at all.” Ming Feizhen grinned. “The first time I saw you, I knew you were a short-sighted, violent, insincere, impatient sack of dung who didn’t care about sacrificing people. You say one thing and do the complete opposite, all while thinking of another thing. The fact that you’ve been hiding until now further proves this.”
“You want to die so soon?!” thundered Yan Liren.
“You sure you want me to die?” Ming Feizhen hiked up the corners of his lips. “If I die, where will you get ‘Sinister Soul Breaker Palms’? Don’t tell me you aren’t here for it.”
Yan Liren went silent.
“Eld-Elder…” Cuo Xitong looked over to Yan Liren in disbelief.
“What were you expecting?” Ming Feizhen rhetorically questioned. “You wouldn’t have been able to kill me. The stabbing method he taught you wouldn’t have killed me; all you would’ve done is made me bleed out. He wanted to wait for me to be on the verge of death before showing up for his own ends. He won’t kill me. I can demonstrate if you don’t believe me.
“Ms. Wu, you’re actually pretty good. You’re mentally strong, have a strong physique and, most importantly, a good head. It’s fine if you haven’t trained before; as long as you invest the effort, you’ll surpass your dead husband. Well, he won’t have the honour of seeing the upgraded version of you since I killed him the first time we met.”
Cuo Xitong pulled the dagger out of the table and swung at Ming Feizhen’s head, but a burst of energy knocked it out of her hands before she was anywhere close to her target. She looked over to Yan Liren in utter despair.
“See? You think he’d be so nice? Had he not known that my weakness was people who aren’t trained, he probably would’ve seduced you already instead.”
“Shut up!” belted Yan Liren.
Notwithstanding Yan Liren being able to recover to a calm demeanour, Cuo Xitong had developed vigilance toward the elder who had always conducted himself with composure.
“Besides, Elder Yan probably doesn’t think that far ahead. I bet he only used you because of someone gave him the idea the same way he knows I know his family’s Sinister Soul Breaker.” In a louder voice, Ming Feizhen voiced, “Brother Jiangnan, is there any point continuing to hide?”
Yan Jiangnan showed up at the door.
Ming Feizhen figured the two identical pulses and breathing among the imperial guards had to be Yan Liren and Yan Jiangnan. In saying that, he struggled to hear their movements due to how cautious they were. Once he was captured, though, they had to personally show up, allowing him to pinpoint them. All the flattery and nonsense he spewed to Cuo Xitong was intended to avoid her making him bleed out. He had no qualms verbally blasting Yan Liren since he knew the latter wouldn’t kill him until he got his hands on the manual.
In spite of not having a detailed recollection of Ming Feizhen’s appearance, the tone and voice of the man who had everything under his control was an unforgettable nightmare for Yan Jiangnan.
“D-Dad, kill him already.”
Yan Liren didn’t respond.
“Dad, he’s trouble! If you leave him, he w-”
“Shut up! He lives until we get the manual.”
“Dad, he killed Big Bro. He killed your son. How can you not avenge your son?”
“Brother Jiangnan, you were the one who killed his brother. Telling your father to avenge his son would be making him relive the pain of losing a son again. Have you no pity for him?”
Yan Jiangnan ignored the specialist at sowing discord and continued egging his father on.
“Jiangnan, I’m not going to blame you for your brother’s death. He’s to blame. However, he has our family’s secret in his skull, and the secret is the key to our clan’s glory. You stay put! I’ll kill anyone who tries anything!” Yan Liren gave Cuo Xitong a warning with his glare that leaked internal energy.
Cuo Xitong felt her body go cold and started trembling. Except for Ming Feizhen’s snicker, there was no other sound.
“Don’t get smug.” Yan Liren flashed his fangs. “Taking back my family’s secret manual is fair. If you don’t tell me, I’ll make you wish you were dead.”
“Why wouldn’t I tell you? I can recite a section for you right now if you like.”