Chapter 54: An Old Friend from the Sect
“I… I’m just a scholar…” Meng Hao gaped, his mouth wide, unsure of how to respond. When he had bought things back in Yunjie County, he had never encountered a situation like this. To have a beautiful girl smiling sweetly at him, looking so charming, caused the red flush to suddenly fill his face once again.
Seeing Meng Hao’s embarrassed expression, the young woman covered her mouth and laughed softly. She turned, her waist swaying enchantingly as she walked over to the Pill oven. She lowered her head to speak to the middle-aged man who sat there in meditation.
When she returned, she winked at Meng Hao. “How about one hundred seventy Spirit Stones?”
“Many thanks, Fellow Daoist,” said Meng Hao, sucking in a breath. Looking pleased at having saved a few Spirit stones, he quickly saluted with clasped fists.
“You can call me big sis,” she said, holding the jade slips out to Meng Hao.
He accepted them, then cast some spiritual power into them. Immediately a vast tableau appeared in his mind. Glancing over it eagerly, he already noticed three of the pills that were contained in his bag of holding. He pulled out the one hundred seventy Spirit Stones and gave them to the girl, then cupped his hands together as he made to leave. The girl sighed and escorted him all the way to the door.
“My name is Qiao Ling,” she said, her eyes filled with an interesting look. “Remember to ask for me next time you come.” She looked him up and down as she spoke, her eyes charming and filled with poise. Meng Hao, face scarlet, saluted her and retreated as quickly as possible.
His heart pounded as he left, and didn’t calm down for quite some time. He looked back at the Hundred Treasures Pavilion and caught sight of Qiao Ling standing there smiling softly at him.
He felt even more embarrassed. She had taken liberties with him!
He had never experienced a feeling such as this before. It wasn’t a bad feeling, and he actually enjoyed it a bit. Coughing again, he lowered his head and continued walking.
About this time, a group of people emerged from the second floor of the Hundred Treasure’s Pavilion. There were about seven or eight of them, including men and women. As they walked, they chatted with each other. Among them was a young man wearing a light blue robe, walking in the back. He didn’t look like he belonged, as if he were an attendant.
As the group left the pavilion, the young man happened to lift his head and catch sight of Meng Hao.
“Meng Hao!” he cried, staring. This caught the attention of the other men and women, as well as Meng Hao, who stopped walking and looked back to see all of them looking at him.
His expression did not change, but in his heart he felt conflicting emotions. The young man was none other than Zhou Kai, former disciple of the Reliance Outer Sect. His Cultivation base was at the fifth level of Qi Condensation. On the day of the Sect’s dissolution, he had been rolled out by the red fog, and here he was today.
He seemed to be somewhat down and out, following a group of people dressed in expensive, brocaded garments. Most of them had threatening demeanors, and one of them was at the seventh level of Qi Condensation. The rest appeared to be at the sixth. They were clearly members of the great Sects of the State of Zhao.
Obviously, Zhou Kai had joined them after the dissolution of the Reliance Sect. For him to be with group such as this, he obviously could only claim the status of an attendant.
Meng Hao nodded to him but didn’t say anything. He turned and made to leave.
“Who is this?” said a young man who stood next to Zhou Kai. He spoke lightly, but his tone was one of pride and arrogance. He wore a resplendent robe and held a fan in his hand. He was at the seventh level of Qi Condensation, and the others standing around them began to whisper among themselves and watch.
“Elder Brother Sun, this is a fellow member of my former Sect,” said Zhou Kai hesitatingly, not mentioning Meng Hao’s name or his status in the Sect.
“Meng Hao… that name sounds familiar.”
“I remember,” said one of the women in the group with a laugh. “He’s the only remaining member of the Reliance Inner Sect. He looks a lot like the drawing.”
The eyes of all the onlookers suddenly began to shine. Two people dashed ahead to block Meng Hao’s path. In recent days in the Cultivation world of the State of Zhao, rumors of a shocking matter had been circulating.
The Reliance Sect had disbanded, but Patriarch Reliance wasn’t dead. He had put on a display of power all for the sake of a single Inner Sect disciple. He had frightened the most powerful experts of the State of Zhao, causing a huge sensation. After the experts had returned from the scene, these rumors had spread across the entire Cultivation world of the State of Zhao.
Even more hotly discussed was how Founder Reliance had given his Inner Sect disciple a precious treasure, something powerful enough to shake the heavens and earth and kill any and all Cultivators. These rumors spread fast and wide, and as inquiries were made of the former Reliance Sect disciples, this person’s name was soon revealed: Meng Hao.
If things had just ended in this fashion, then the matter would soon have come to rest. However, after returning from the Reliance Sect, the State of Zhao experts gradually realized something. Toward the end, it had seemed as if Patriarch Reliance’s power had begun to wane slightly. Furthermore, considering Patriarch Reliance’s famous temper, how could it be that they all were able to escape, without a single one of them being killed?
Speculation naturally blossomed, and many people began to pay more and more attention to the Inner Sect disciple Meng Hao. The three great Sects had issued orders that all disciples sent out of the Sect pay close attention and attempt to find Meng Hao. His picture had been distributed along with the order.
Now, people weren’t certain. Even if Patriarch Reliance was alive, was his Cultivation base as powerful as before? Filled with misgivings about the matter, the three great Sects had proclaimed rewards would be given to any disciple who, upon encountering Meng Hao, could get information about the power of the treasure he carried.
Meng Hao stood there, looking coldly at the two people blocking his way. He heard footsteps behind him as four others blocked his path of retreat. His left and right paths also contained people. It seemed he was completely surrounded.
Within the Hundred Treasures Pavilion, Qiao Ling looked down with a frown.
“May I help you, sirs and ladies?” said Meng Hao coolly, his gaze sweeping around. His expression seemed indifferent, as calm as still water. He seemed completely confident, yet also cautious.
“No,” said the extravagantly dressed young man with a smile, fanning himself. “We’ve just heard that Meng Hao has a gift bestowed upon him by Patriarch Reliance. Having happened to run into you, we were hoping to take a look.” Within his smile glinted an icy coldness. And yet, his heart was circumspect; any treasured gift given by Patriarch Reliance should be treated with utmost caution.
But, these were disciples of the three Great Sects, which granted them extremely high status. Therefore, despite Meng Hao being at the seventh level of Qi Condensation, they still felt themselves above him.
“That’s right,” said another of the people surrounding him. He laughed. “Fellow Daoist Meng does have the treasure. Why not take it out for us to have a look?” He clearly viewed Meng Hao as being completely boxed in, with no way out.
Meng Hao looked as calm as ever, his eyes shining with a cold light. His mouth twisted mockingly, and he suddenly slapped his bag of holding, causing the people surrounding him to dodge to the side. Some of them even pulled out magical items.
A beam of light flashed, and suddenly, Meng Hao’s iron spear appeared in his hand. He stabbed it down into the ground, imbuing it with some spiritual energy so that it appeared to be a mighty weapon. It hummed, the sound reverberating about, causing the surrounding people to unconsciously take a step back, their gazes fixed on the spear.
“Whoever wishes to die can come up for a closer look,” said Meng Hao coolly, taking two steps back and flicking his wide sleeve. He appeared supremely confident, especially his mocking eyes and smile, as if he knew beyond doubt that anyone who attempted to look closely at the spear would be killed by it.
Actually, Meng Hao had taken two steps back because it brought him closer to the city gate. As soon as the surrounding people walked forward to look at the spear, he would attack, then take advantage of the chaos to flee. After all, this city was controlled by the three great Sects, and he knew that he could not get involved in any trouble here.
Everything was quiet as the onlookers gazed at the iron spear. At first glance, it did appeare to be a bit beyond ordinary. It was covered with sweeping, decorative patterns, incredibly complex, dazzling even. The more people looked at it, the more amazing it seemed.
It glowed, its tip emitting beams of light which pierced the eyes like lightning.
Even Qiao Ling, up in the Hundred Treasures Pavilion, couldn’t help but gaze at it. More girls appeared around her, all of them staring down.
After looking at it for a while, the several disciples from the great Sects frowned.
“It doesn’t look like anything special; there are just some fancy markings on it. It doesn’t seem to have any incantations on it at all….”
The fancy young man with the fan also frowned. “That’s the treasure given to him by Patriarch Reliance?” After examining it, he laughed, then beckoned for Zhou Kai to step forward.
At this moment, the sound of footsteps could be heard from outside the East gate, drawing the attention of the surrounding Cultivators. Meng Hao’s eyes flashed, and then he frowned. Clustered outside the East gate was a group of ten or more Cultivators wearing white robes. Some of them looked familiar, and when he saw the color of their robes, he knew that these were the disciples from whatever great Sect had been holding the trial by fire.
As he saw them entering through the East gate, he realized that his path of escape was now blocked. His frown deepened, and his hand slowly lowered to his bag of holding.
The fancy young man with the fan looked at the white robed Cultivators, and his eyes gleamed. His face filled with reverence, he cupped his hands in salute and said, “Elder Brothers from the Violet Fate Sect, I am humble Sun Hua 1 from the Winding Stream Sect. Greetings, Fellow Daoists.”
Hearing this, looks of awe appeared on the faces of the surrounding Cultivators. They followed along with the first man as he saluted the white-robed Cultivators. They were famous figures from various Sects, and normally held a high position within the State of Zhao. But to meet disciples from a truly great Sect from the Southern Domain, they were instantly lowered down. Their expressions were suddenly that of longing and courtesy.
Recently, they had all received jade slips from their respective Sects reminding them that if they ran into any white-robed disciples from the Violet Fate Sect of the Southern Domain, they were not to provoke them.
As the white-robed Cultivators entered the city, they saw the State of Zhao disciples, but completely ignored them. Hearing their identities called out caused a couple of them to frown. Their eyes swept the surroundings, then came to rest on the iron spear stuck into the ground. They stopped in their tracks.
Other disciples who were watching the scene looked astonished. Their excited eyes flickered to stare at the State of Zhao Cultivators.
1. Sun Hua’s name in Chinese is 孙华 sūn huá – Sun is a common surname. Hua can mean many things bun in names, most likely “magnificent” or “splendid”