Book 1: Winds Begin to Blow in Tai Yuan
Chapter 3 - Drawn Swords Opposing
On one side of the martial arena was sect master Lin Xuanyuan, sitting cross-legged and watching the center stage. It looked like one match had finished already, and that match didn't seem to have resulted in anything good, since his face color was slightly pale and ashen while he was sitting still and regulating his breathing. On the stage battling was a black-clothed man and a senior martial brother from the Profound Origin sect.
The black-clothed man's sword arts were extremely swift, at times like a million points of starlight and at other times like a coiling dragon twisting in the air. The waves of sword qi flew out in thousands of ever-changing forms, causing one who looked at it for too long to feel slightly dizzy from the myriad of variations.
Meng Fuyao heard one of her martial brothers whisper, "He's Vanishing Sword, one of the top ten swordsmen of Tai Yuan, and the most mysterious and eccentric of them at that! Who knows how White Mountain sect managed to get him to help?"
"I wondered why the annual Tai Yuan top ten sword sect competition suddenly moved forward, so it's because that old dog White found a helper! Looks like they just want to trample our Profound Origin sect."
"One person challenging our whole sect, he's a little too overbearing."
"So what? He has the ability, can't you see senior brother right now is overstraining himself merely trying to fight to a draw?"
"Ai ... seems like today we really are going to get trampled on ..."
Meng Fuyao indifferently continued to go forward, but just after walking a few steps, she promptly heard a loud shriek "Ahh".
From the powerful tornado formed from turbulent bloody gales in front of her flew a dark shadow, heavily smashing towards her. Fuyao frantically dodged to the side, and the large human body, trailing a line of blood pearls across the horizon, hit the ground hard right before her eyes.
Fresh blood splattered onto the weapons rack beside the stage, and soon after, thick droplets of blood dripped down onto the white stone floor. The scarlet blood and pale rocks formed a stark contrast, making for a shocking scene.
Not a sound could be heard in the arena. The astonished gazes of the Profound Origin disciples on site fell upon their senior disciple whose martial ability was the most outstanding among them, and who was currently rolling on the ground in agony, cradling his right wrist.
It took several seconds before people thought to rush forwards and prop him up, upon which they immediately let out a shocked exclamation.
Senior martial brother's right hand dripped fresh blood, and the tendons in his right arm were sliced.
What a ruthless sword art!
The Profound Origin sect was completely silent, making the wild laughter of the other sects in the arena even more ear-piercing.
Only the black-clothed man was apathetic, standing in the middle of the stage and coldly wiping the bloodstains off the length of his sword.
The piece of cloth he used to wipe his weapon looked very familiar - it was actually senior martial brother's half-severed right sleeve. The Profound Origin disciples all revealed indignant expressions, but Meng Fuyao only twitched the tip of her eyebrow.
What a fast sword! In only a brief instant, not only did it cripple the opponent's tendon, it also neatly cut off a section of his robe sleeve.
This was not even mentioning that his opponent was already an extremely fast, first-class expert!
White Mountain's chief was still continuing to laugh, in contrast to the deep sighs coming from the Profound Origin sect crowd. It looked like today the Profound Origin sword sect was going to lose quite a bit of face.
The current societal trend was for every states' influential powers to engage in never-ceasing conflicts, using the amount of victories to establish their statuses. Now that Profound Origin sect, one of the top three sword sects in Tai Yuan, couldn't gain victory in a one-versus-many consecutive battle in such an important sword sect conference, the spread of the news would certainly send their status tumbling down a thousand zhang.
The martial arena now settled into a lull, with attention fully gathered upon the wounded disciple in front of Meng Fuyao. Fuyao couldn't easily escape - when she tested moving her feet a little, the black-clothed young man on stage immediately shifted his cold eyes onto her. His expression was still rigid and unmoving, as if he was wearing a face mask. However his stare was chilly and penetrating, sharp like steel nails, drilling into the depths of Fuyao's eyes.
That gaze was murky and bottomless, like thousand ren1 deep whirlpools, distant without end. In the mysterious inner-most depths of his eyes there was an eerie glimmer of star fire, never-endingly swaying.
Under Meng Fuyao's hesitant vision, that tiny spark of fire was constantly drifting, whirling, and ascending; then suddenly, it exploded in her field of view.
A colossal ringing noise struck her mind, and the burst of incandescent flame expanded to cover the sky and fill her sight with a scintillating fire flower.
Fuyao became disoriented at once, stumbling back a step and colliding with the bronze pillar behind her. The coldness on her back awakened her, and she raised her head to look in the man's direction, aghast.
That was the unique befuddlement skill "Hidden Eye!"
What was this person's background?
The depths of his eyes were filled with hatred - he definitely wasn't here just to compare martial skills!
Meng Fuyao turned around, having thoughts of retreat, but behind her suddenly came the piercing voice of White Mountain's sect master.
"Doesn't your Profound Origin sect still have that Yan Jingchen!"
Lin Xuanyuan started, then answered "Jingchen left for the capital last night."
"Looks like he heard of our coming, and hurriedly fled in fear of defeat?" Several sect leaders laughed in unison.
"There is still this one." Among the sect leaders, the one from Shearing Cloud sect laughed as he pointed at the Meng Fuyao who was about to slink away. "What about this one? I recall that she has not yet come out to battle, what, are you trying to learn from Yan Jingchen and grease your feet while running away?"
Lin Xuanyuan's expression slightly changed, but did not speak up. One of the disciples by his side immediately used his hand to gave Fuyao a shove.
"What are you lingering there for? Don't appear in front of others if you have no ability, don't stick Master in a difficult situation!"
"Why don't you get out and go back to your room!"
Meng Fuyao's long brows twitched, and indignance welled up in her eyes. After a moment, she let out a breath, tightly clenched her fists, and silently walked away.
She wouldn't lower herself to wrangle with these supercilious disciples.
After being separated from her world for so many years, and suffering so much bitterness, the dry, meaningless quarrelsome nature belonging to that red-haired witch so long ago had not yet been completely grinded flat, but had learned to compromise.
However, she only managed a couple strides before she heard a crisp, delicate voice come from behind, like jade pearls falling onto a silver platter.
"This person, is merely a fiery little child in our sect. Please don't take her to compare with Yan martial brother, or else Yanjing's Pei family and Heyuan's Yan clan will both see it as an insult."2
Yanjing's Pei family, Heyuan's Yan clan, represented a branch of Tai Yuan's royal family and one of the empire's dukedoms respectively. The weight behind those words was realized by the various sect leaders, causing them to become silent.
Meng Fuyao turned back, and looked at the red-clothed woman who spoke. She was older than Fuyao by a year, with an already mature figure. Unlike Fuyao's delicate, still immature stature, the woman's body was bursting at the full sections and willowy at the slender sections; with the addition of the woman's preference for tight red dresses, her figure only became more enchanting and graceful. Even her face was dignified, with her eye corners slanted upward, creating a lustrous look not unlike a beautiful phoenix.
Noticing Fuyao's gaze, Pei Yuan only gave her a contemptuous glance filled with ice, then casually looked away.
"If the various sect leaders still have doubts, you are free to go to Nemesis Dynasty's capital city Pan and attend the True Martial conference, where the number one disciple of the Profound Origin sect martial brother Yan will naturally give you all a demonstration of his abilities.
Pei Yuan floated Fuyao a look, then turned her head to give the sect leaders a slight laugh.
"As for this person who dirties our presence just by standing by our side, how could she be worthy of your mention?"
A round of chuckles sounded out and even Lin Xuanyuan stroked his beard while nodding, thinking that this disciple was knowledgeable and sociable, a competent speaker. She had managed to shirk past the difficult situation with a couple words, even avoiding loss of the sect's face.
Amidst the laughter, Meng Fuyao stood there without moving.
One after another, past scenes began to cycle past her eyes - the warm hand that was extended to her in the wind and rain; the games of hide and seek among mountain flowers, laughter, and spring sun; the eye wrinkles from staring at each other and smiling under the moonlight; the spread mink fur on the snowy ground, holding her frostbitten feet.
There was the forehead heavily pressed into the mud; the time and time again when she hid her true strength, coming last in the rankings and kicked out of the martial arena; the bitter winter when she hung her clothes on the doorframe and bathed in the ice-cold river waters; the lunch meal when she came back from doing chores to gnaw on a cold mantou3 beneath the kitchen.
Those past times with both happiness and bitterness ...
The laughter continued unabated, no one knowing that the girl standing with her back to them had a fierce anger buried deep within her heart; and that finally, amidst that unscrupulous arena full of ridicule, that buried indignance would be set aflame and slowly expand into a raging inferno.
Meng Fuyao took in another breath, then suddenly let out a grim laugh.
With events having gone so far already.
The only way to teach them a lesson, was to draw her sword and slay the heavens, to fight a grand battle.
Originally her back was facing the stage when suddenly she twisted around and marched in front of the black-clothed man with long strides, along the way picking up from the ground the long sword senior martial brother dropped.
The martial arena stilled at once.
Wind gusted downward from the winding Profound Origin mountain range, broke through the mountain forests, and formed whistles and cries among the arena's huge expanse of white stone. Carrying sand and rocks, the fierce mountain gale caused the twelve gigantic bronze pillars surrounding the stage to clank and clatter, at the same time causing people's visions to waver and blur. When struggling to see through the wind, the savage-eyed, four-legged monsters carved into the bronze pillars seemed to be able to leap out at any moment and devour the world's people.
Standing under the pillars was Meng Fuyao, skinny, resolute, her backbone rigid and straight.
Although her frail figure seemed like it could be blown away by the wind at any time, it paradoxically also gave off a feeling of fierceness, as if she was made of the same material as the immovable bronze pillars behind her.
Countless indecipherable gazes were piercing her, yet Meng Fuyao ignored them all. She bit her lip, ripped a strip of her robe sleeve off, and used it to bind her eyes in a makeshift blindfold.
Using the afternoon sunlight, the long sword in her hand reflected a pure glow like clear autumn water. Underneath the consternation and disbelief of hundreds, the light shone directly at the black-clothed man, a clear provocation.