The oil lamp in the room suddenly spattered. It was a good omen, but a frown crawled across Hong Sixiang's gray eyebrows. He seemed displeased. His wrinkled right hand firmly gripped the chopsticks he was using to grasp deep-fried shelled peanuts. With little movement, he slowly swallowed the peanut mush in his mouth, savoring their taste. He took another sip from his wine cup, and stood up.
"For many years, no one has wandered within the palace walls." Eunuch Hong's eyes were muddied, and he looked dispassionately out the window as he spoke in a low voice, his finger softly twitching.
The door was open.
Like two strong arrows, the chopsticks in Eunuch Hong's hands were thrown, filled with zhenqi. There were two whooshing noises. In a flash, the window broke, and they shot directly at the dark corner where Wu Zhu's face was!
The chopsticks whooshed as they travelled through the air with shocking momentum. If anyone had been hit by one of them, it would have been like being hit with an arrow. For Eunuch Hong's subtle snap of his fingers to be so powerful was truly terrifying.
For some reason, Wu Zhu's reflexes were slower than normal. Unable to turn in time, the chopstick tore the fabric on his right shoulder.
Whoosh! The chopstick stuck in the muddy ground at an angle, the tail end quivering slightly.
Outside the pavilion, old Eunuch Hong looked at the visitor wearing gray. His brow trembled. His opponent's face was completely covered. There was no way he could see who it was. "Who are you?" There was a smile on Eunuch Hong's face. It seemed like this trespasser was a mere servant, but it was very clear that he was much more formidable than he appeared.
The clothes Wu Zhu was wearing that night were completely new, so he felt somewhat strange. He followed Fan Xian's plan, raising his head, seemingly "gazing" at his opponent. "Apologies. I am mistaken," he hissed.
"Mistaken? You mean you are lost?" Eunuch Hong laughed. "Good sir, you would be the first person to have become so lost that you have wandered into the palace. You have been here once before, five days ago. I have been waiting for you. I am very curious as to who you are. I think, save for a few old friends, no one else would be so bold."
Wu Zhu forcibly added a note of worried urgency to his voice, but he was no good at hiding his mood, so he appeared somewhat false. "I am a prisoner of this country. I had no choice but to enter. It is not convenient for me to salute you showing my true face. I ask that you forgive me, elder sir."
Old Eunuch Hong frowned, no longer amused. This person believed he belonged to the younger generation. This was nothing more than an apprentice of those old freaks. Looking at his skill, he was at least at the ninth-level, if he had been able to infiltrate the palace without being discovered. But his voice was clearly deliberately distorted by the muscles of his throat, so there was no way he could find out any useful information from his voice.
"This is the royal palace, my child." Old Eunuch Hong sighed. "Do you mean to tell me that you come and go as you please?"
Having said this, he opened his right hand, and his whole body began to glide along the floor, suddenly arriving in front of Wu Zhu. He moved his thin and wizened hand toward Wu Zhu's face.
Wu Zhu's face, hidden behind the length of black cloth, was without expression, but he knew that his opponent had misestimated his power. Now he had the chance to kill him - should he? In the past, this would not have been a question for Wu Zhu, but tonight, it was.
He thought quickly, and made a decision. Even if he killed him now, he would probably pay some sort of price. The key thing was that this might alert the palace guards, which would cause Fan Xian great difficulty in his ongoing operation.
So he took a step back, bent his knees, and lifted his elbows. Beneath his elbow was a thoroughl
y ordinary stainless steel sword. Skillfully plunging it into old Eunuch Hong in an armlock was the plan. More important was the intention behind it, which could make the person at its point suddenly lose all propriety.
But Eunuch Hong was no ordinary person. He laughed darkly and scolded sharply. "Evading the subject?" There was a hint of astonishment in his voice, but he was quick to take action. With the swiftness of a dragon, his left hand flew out of his sleeve and aimed toward Wu Zhu's chest. The blow flew with the wind, landing with great force. This was the greatest technique in the entire world.
Wu Zhu took another step back, straightening his knees and elbows.
He drew the greenish-black blade across his body, as if he were cutting his own throat, but he just managed to protect his chest, blocking Eunuch Hong's wizened palm strike.
"Overly cautious?" Eunuch Hong's voice sharpened. He retracted his palm, and from his waist upward, his whole body began to tremble. It looked very strange. With a groan, the old eunuch changed the zhenqi he had been cultivating for decades into countless streams of air, spurting forwards, trying to bind Wu Zhu.
Wu Zhu did not give him the chance, and coolly took two further steps backward. These two steps seemed simple, but moving so casually, in a flash – in the face of such a high-level grandmaster – he just managed to avoid a powerful qi attack. He had clearly been disturbed by Eunuch Hong's decades of powerful zhenqi, and seemed in something of a difficult situation.
Eunuch Hong's frown deepened. "Do not presume that you may deceive people by changing the direction of the blade," he said coldly, looking at him. "Since I have taken a liking to you, you may stay here in this forbidden palace."
Wu Zhu lifted his head slightly to "look" at him. He did not know quite how he felt. His next step was to cup his hands in salute.
Old Eunuch Hong frowned in astonishment! With a rustling sound, Wu Zhu turned his body away. As if Eunuch Hong were not there behind him, he put his sword on his back, and ran toward the direction of the palace walls, his whole body moving quickly, trampling the grass into dust.
Placing his blade on his back was a simple move, but it was wonderful protection.
"Minding the rear?" A sudden gloom appeared in Eunuch Hong's eyes. He did not call for the palace guards. He shook his arms, and his whole body rocketed upward like a weak-chested, wide-winged blackbird.
A moment later, the two men were high up on the palace wall. Eunuch Hong looked coldly at the man in dark clothing in front of him. He wanted to see just how he would manage to vault over the wall.
Wu Zhu immediately rushed down to the bottom of the palace wall without losing speed, his right foot trampling ferociously on the stones at the bottom of the palace wall. The stones suddenly sank into the mud, and from this one could see that there was great strength behind these feet. And the forward-moving quickness of his whole body had been transformed into an upward force by this shock; his whole body flew upwards with force, following the palace wall in the gloomy night, floating upward like some kind of demon.
He had leapt ten meters in a single bound, and his momentum was sure to dissipate. With a whooshing noise, the ordinary blade in his hand was, for some reason, suddenly stuck deeply into the palace wall. Using the strength of the sword, he freed himself, and then like a stone, he launched off the high wall!
Eunuch Hong groaned, realizing that his opponent had planned all of it. The zhenqi in his body was swiftly released, and he floated up toward the palace wall, his posture elegant, all on a wave of zhenqi. Compared to Wu Zhu's ruthlessness, it seemed much more confident and at ease.
Leaping ten meters, the sallow old eunuch gently extended a finger, pressing on the hole Wu Zhu had left with his sword. With another burst of strength he rose upward, launching off the palace wall like a giant bird in the night, evading its glossy outer surface and slowly floating downward.
As he floated downward, his eyes like a hawk, unwaveringly scanning the night city scene, the incomparably quick forward-moving grey shadow laughed darkly, quietly floating over the tips of the trees, floating over houses, and he followed him.
The two top-class warriors pit themselves against each other without making a single sound, so the palace guards did not notice a thing.
Fan Xian sat in the darkness beneath the palace walls like a rat. He cocked his head slightly to listen out for a faint sound, stood up, and softly brushed the grass and dirt from his buttocks. He pressed his fingers into the glossy surface of the wall.
His body was not as valiant as Wu Zhu, and he did not have the deep neigong cultivation of old Eunuch Hong. But his zhenqi circulation technique was different from any warrior in the world. He had even managed to climb up the moss-covered overhanging cliffs outside Danzhou, not to mention this palace wall.
This was what Fan Xian relied on most. His whole body like a flightless bat, he slowly climbed up the palace wall. Although he was slow, he was steady. There was no way he could fall.
If it had suddenly turned to day, and someone was looking from a distance, they would find that there was a sudden, ugly, black spot on the vermilion wall.
Vaulting over the wall, carefully avoiding any possible hidden guards, Fan Xian's feet finally stepped safely onto the grass inside the palace. As he had sat in meditation outside the palace wall, he had gone over his map of the palace in his mind. Now he stood within the palace, looking at the enormous complex under the curtain of night, listening to the faint sound of drums in the distance. He felt slightly nervous, and somewhat excited.
The map seemed to have formed a clearly visible passage. After steadying his breath one last time, he merged into the darkness of the palace. Not only did he not make a sound, but his velocity did not slow even slightly. Relying entirely on the map in his memory, using the cover of the shrubbery and rock gardens, he made his way toward his goal. His method was very similar to Wu Zhu, but also had some subtle differences. After all, his ability for planning was still not like Wu Zhu's.
Deep in the night, most of the people within the place were asleep.
Fan Xian hid in the darkness in Hanguang Hall, confirming that there were no expert guards inside. The real armed guards seemed to all be in the front hall and the corners. This realization made him frown slightly. The security of the royal palace was rather weak; it was dangerous indeed. If Northern Qi were to send expert fighters to infiltrate the place, what would he do?
To worry about the nation and the people as a thief breaking into the forbidden palace at night, Fan Xian was remarkable indeed. But he was perhaps thinking about things too much. He knew that in this world, to be able to leap over a fifteen meter wall without alerting the guards was a feat that only a few of the world's most talented people could accomplish. If such a grandmaster were to come here, ordinary bodyguards would seem to be of no use whatsoever.
He had forgotten that he was the only person who had the skills of Spiderman.