Chapter 28: Shangguan Xiu
Time did not permit Meng Hao to spend time thinking. The door to the building swung open silently. Inside was pitch black and emanated a sinister air.
“You still haven’t entered,” said Shangguan Xiu, his voice cold. Meng Hao hesitated, then, eyes flickering dimly, realised that he couldn’t retreat. After thinking about it for a moment, his nervousness grew. He stepped forward into the building.
Inside, rays of light gradually appeared which, though dim, revealed the surroundings. Shangguan Xiu sat there in his golden robe, expressionless, eyes cold as he watched Meng Hao enter.
Almost as soon as he stepped a foot inside, Shangguan Xiu’s eyes suddenly flickered, and he raised his right hand. A needle shot out, stabbed Meng Hao’s finger, then flew back in an instant. All his bags of holding flew away from him too, completely beyond his control, to land in front of Shangguan Xiu.
Some blood remained on the flying needle, which Shangguan Xiu licked.
“There’s no trace of heavenly material or earthly treasures…” Shangguan Xiu frowned. His gaze swept over Meng Hao as if he could see all the secrets he kept. The Demonic Core within Meng Hao stirred, and he did his best to conceal this from Shangguan Xiu.
Meng Hao’s face fell, revealing a terrified expression. He opened his mouth but didn’t seem to know what to say.
With another frown, Shangguan Xiu opened one of Meng Hao’s bags of holding. He rummaged around a bit, not even glancing at the large quantity of flying swords. It seemed as if he didn’t even notice the copper mirror. After finding nothing unusual, his frown deepened.
“Master Uncle Shangguan, what… what are you looking for?” His face was covered with terror, but inside he laughed coldly. He had long since made preparations for such an event. The wooden sword, along with most of his Spirit Stones and medicinal pills, were in Fatty’s safe keeping, hidden away.
“Let me ask you,” said Shangguan Xiu, his gaze falling like lightning upon Meng Hao, “How did your Cultivation base progress so rapidly?”
“Elder Sister Xu and Grand Elder Ouyang have been watching out for me,” he replied, beginning to tremble. “They gave me some medicinal pills…” He pretended to force himself to try to be calm, but inside he wasn’t worried. It didn’t seem he had been asked here because of what had happened with Wang Tengfei, but rather because of his rapid progress in Cultivation.
Shangguan Xiu frowned again. He obviously knew that Grand Elder Ouyang had taken a liking to Meng Hao, otherwise he would not have been so mild in his inquiries.
Just then, Han Zong’s voice drifted in from outside.
“Reporting back to Master Uncle Shangguan. Meng Hao’s Immortal’s Cave is empty.”
“You may leave,” replied Shangguan Xiu. He sat in contemplation for a moment as Han Zong departed. He stared wordlessly at Meng Hao.
Time gradually passed, and soon it was evening. Meng Hao’s countenance grew more and more nervous and filled with fear. Finally, he spoke, trembling: “Master Uncle…”
“Very well, you may go,” said Shangguan Xiu with a wave of his hand. He looked irritated.
Meng Hao stood, saluted with cupped fists, and left, feeling relieved. After reaching the bottom of the mountain, his speed increased as he raced toward the South Mountain.
As Meng Hao left, Shangguan Xiu’s expression changed. He lifted up the silver needle and examined it carefully, licking more blood off of it. His eyes glittered.
“Something’s not right. This blood has large amounts low-level Demonic Core aura. I didn’t notice it before because I was concentrating on Grand Elder Ouyang’s potential influence. But now that the blood has dried, it’s clear. He must have consumed hundreds of Demonic Cores. Where could he possibly get his hands on so many? This Meng Hao must be keeping some secret.” Killing intent filled Shangguan Xiu’s eyes, and his body leaped into the air in pursuit of Meng Hao.
Meng Hao sped along at high speed, feeling relieved, but also jumpy. He arrived outside the South Mountain Immortal’s Cave, and as he approached, he saw Fatty stick his head out of the trees in the distance. Catching sight of Meng Hao, he ran over.
“I was scared to death,” said Fatty, letting out a relieved sigh. “Meng Hao, you were gone the whole afternoon…” He took out the bag of holding Meng Hao had given him. “Thankfully no one noticed that I kept this hidden away.”
With a dignified expression, Meng Hao nodded and accepted the bag of holding. And yet, as soon as he laid hands on it, a whistling scream could be heard some distance away. A beam of prismatic light seemed to be approaching, within which could be seen an old man wearing a golden robe. It was none other than Shangguan Xiu.
He was flying! Only Cultivators who had reached Foundation Establishment could fly. With the assistance of magical items, one could glide for a bit, like Elder Sister Xu, but this was not true flight.
Seeing this, Meng Hao’s heart shook. He watched his opponent flying down from the top of the mountain. He moved with a speed similar to Meng Hao’s when he borrowed momentum from flying swords.
Shangguan Xiu immediately caught sight of Fatty handing the bag of holding over to Meng Hao, and his eyes flashed. Without a word, he shot toward Meng Hao, certain that he would be able to grab him. Today, he would learn Meng Hao’s secret. Perhaps this secret would be of great assistance to himself.
Meng Hao’s expression changed, and his emotions spun. But the situation was urgent, and he didn’t have time to think. He put away the bag of holding and grabbed Fatty. Then he leaped up, and a flying sword circulated around him to land underneath his feet. He shot off into the distance.
It happened so fast that Shangguan Xiu’s pupils constricted. He let out a cold snort and flew off in pursuit.
Fatty was so scared that his face was white. But he didn’t move, afraid that he might distract Meng Hao. He trusted that Meng Hao would not abandon him.
Actually, this was very true. Meng Hao was not that type of person. He knew that if he dropped Fatty, he might be able to move a bit faster. But he also knew that Shangguan Xiu would then vent his wrath on Fatty.
“Dammit. To this guy, Outer Sect disciples are like ants, only Inner Sect disciples are true Cultivators of the Reliance Sect.”
Gnashing his teeth, he looked back at Shangguan Xiu, who was getting closer and closer. At the same time, Meng Hao was dropping closer and closer to the ground. He wouldn’t be able to keep going much longer. He pushed forward as fast as possible, sweat breaking out on his forehead, his mind racing. He saw the Outer Sect up ahead, and suddenly he had a flash of inspiration. He knew what to do.
His eyes shining, he leaped down to the ground, dashing into the Outer Sect. Then, regardless of the effect on his Cultivation base, he gritted his teeth and once again leaped onto a flying sword. A whistling scream reverberated out, causing nearby Outer Sect disciples to crane their necks, dumbstruck.
Shangguan Xiu’s face grew dark. With a flick of a sleeve, he darted straight toward Meng Hao. The distance between the two grew closer and closer. When it reached roughly thirty meters, Shangguan Xiu’s face suddenly changed as he realized where Meng Hao was heading. By then, it was too late to stop him.
Meng Hao approached the Outer Sect square, with its dragon-carved columns. On the tall platform, Grand Elder Ouyang sat in meditation. Beneath him in the square, Wang Tengfei also sat cross-legged, meditating.
This was the registration location for the special promotion training!
“I want to sign up!” cried Meng Hao as soon as he entered the square.
“Me too!” shouted Fatty, the blood draining from his face.
Shangguan Xiu stopped in his tracks, just outside the square. Murder filled his eyes, but it quickly disappeared, replaced with a genial smile. Grand Elder Ouyang had opened his eyes. He looked at Meng Hao, surprised by his Cultivation base. He gave Meng Hao a look of praise.
Wang Tengfei also opened his eyes, seemingly completely uninterested in Meng Hao.
“Now that you have signed up,” said Grand Elder Ouyang coolly, “you must remain confined to this area. Training begins in two days.” His gaze swept over Shangguan Xiu, whose heart subsequently sank. Making his smile look even more amiable, he looked at Meng Hao, false praise in his eyes.
Meng Hao looked back at him, and when their gazes met Shangguan Xiu’s fury boiled. He could do nothing about it, though, so after a long moment he laughed and walked off.
Not much time passed before Han Zong strode up. He entered the square, glaring at Meng Hao. With a sneering laugh, he declared that he was registering.
As he walked past Meng Hao, he whispered, “You offended Shangguan Xiu. I dare you to stay here! The Inner Sect training is where you will reap death.”
Meng Hao’s eyes flashed as he stared coldly at Han Zong’s retreating back.
After that, the deadline for registration approached. Before Meng Hao had arrived, only Wang Tengfei had signed up. Then Han Zong arrived. Now, four more people entered the square.
They were no strangers to Meng Hao. Yin Tianlong and Zhou Kai were present. The other two each appeared to over thirty years of age. One of them was tall and stalwart, the other skinny and frail, with hideous scars on his face. Both emanated desolate auras of death. These were the other two members of the Sect who were of the fifth level of Qi condensation.
The four of them entered the square, casting dark looks toward Meng Hao and Fatty. The aggressive killing intent in their eyes was impossible to conceal.
Fatty started to get nervous, and Meng Hao narrowed his eyes. Now he knew the power of Shangguan Xiu’s influence.
Time passed slowly, and soon two days had passed. Now, only one hour remained until the registration period was over. The square was already surrounded by numerous Outer Sect disciples. They hadn’t come to sign up, but to watch the Inner Sect special promotion training, to maybe learn something, and to watch Wang Tengfei in all his glory.
Of course, there were eight people in the square, including Fatty, with his low Cultivation base.
Even as the sound of discussions buzzed, the time limit was reached. The sound of bells filled the entire Reliance Sect. They rang in succession, nine times, after which Grand Elder Ouyang opened his eyes and looked out at the eight people before him. He flicked his wide sleeve, and the large platform glowed with many colors then expanded outward until it encompassed a diameter of roughly three hundred meters.
He waved his right hand again, and eight jade slips flew out, toward each of the eight people. When the slips descended in front of each of them, they could see that numbers were inscribed onto their surfaces, from one to eight.
“Forfeiting before a battle is prohibited,” said Grand Elder Ouyang coolly. “In the competition for promotion to the Inner Sect, life and death are predestined. If, after stepping onto the platform, you feel you cannot win, you may admit defeat. First match, numbers one and eight.” Wang Tengfei opened his eyes, and raised up his jade slip, upon which was written ‘one.’ He stood and floated up to stand on the platform. The wind gently lifted his long hair. Clad in his snow-white robe, he looked perfect, beautiful, gentle and refined. He smiled. This caused all the surrounding Cultivators to let out a cheer. What none of them could see, however, was that beneath Wang Tengfei’s smile was concealed the bitter pain of loss and defeat.
At that moment, Shangguan Xiu appeared in the crowd, glaring menacingly at Meng Hao.