"Your disciple is disloyal. Your disciple has thought long and hard after the defeat that day. After 10 days of consideration, your disciple realized that, while not an expert myself, the Wang Family’s combat style has many innate flaws. Your disciple has come to this decision after much consideration," Wang Zishi spoke every word clearly, but the pain in his eyes were apparent, betraying how much he had suffered to come to his decision, and the determination that he had within him.
Wang Lu’s heart ached at the sight of his beloved disciple’s haggard look, but was immediately angered when he heard him said that the Wang Family’s combat style was flawed.
Everyone around them was silent. All the villagers looked to Wang Zishi with anger, but none of them said a word.
"Well, well, well," Wang Lu spoke staring straight at Wang Zishi. His voice was so low and strained to the limit, so near the breaking point. "Who’d have thought that the Wang Family combat style would be looked down upon by one of our own."
With that, his eyes left Wang Zishi and went for Rui Bing, still sitting straight in her room.
He breathed in deeply and raised his voice, "Wang Family’s Wang Lu would like a match with my Lady, please do me the honor!"
Rui Bing opened her eyes, but she sighed inside.
From the moment Wang Zishi kneeled, she knew that this fight was inevitable. No combat school could accept his behavior, much less letting it happen in their own backyard. Ye Chong might not understand these subtleties, but as someone who was well versed with all the rules in the world of combat since she was young, Rui Bing knew the consequences of Wang Zishi’s actions.
She had no way of backing out. They would not let her. Even if she admitted openly that the Wang Family’s style was better, it was too late now.
Every school had their own reputation and pride that should never be stepped on.
Knowing that words would do no good now, Rui Bing stood up and came out. She said plainly, "Please go easy on me, Mr Wang."
At that moment, Ye Chong was still discussing alchemy with Master Yan. While they frequently discussed things, they never tried to pry into each other’s lives. Since they had both disguised themselves, it was clear that neither wished to share their own histories.
At first, Master Yan did not mind the problem of Ye Chong’s background. Unless it was some very obscure school, he could usually quickly tell which school an alchemist belonged to. However, to his surprise, he could not say the same for Ye Chong. As they discussed more and more subjects, he found himself unable to come to a conclusion.
"The cottonia grass, for example, is a good neutral reagent, but its dosage is a bit troublesome, requiring a supplanting technique. You can use the tristellar rock in powder form instead, using an alternating hot and cold treatment process, but the result is more inferior. There are 31 kinds of neutral reagents that are so sensitive to temperature, and I’ve never seen many of them," Ye Chong said this with regret.
Master Yan was surprised, shocked even. Use of the cottonia grass was a secret amongst the Qian system, and he himself had known about it due to some connections with members of the Qian system. This man here was aware of even the supplanting technique! Could he be a member of Qian system?
What Ye Chong said after that surprised him even more.
Using tristellar rock powder in place of cottonia grass was an idea that came from one of the ancestors of Master Yan’s own school of alchemy.
Who was this man? Master Yan’s face was unreadable. His facial disguise was the only reason he did showed a wild range of expressions right then. That he was able to sit calmly as someone else spoke of a secret technique of his own school, which also spoke volumes of his mental fortitude. Moreover, he was chilled by the thought of there being 31 kinds of reagents - he himself could only think of 17 kinds, where the other 14 kinds were unknown to him.
Ye Chong was quickly becoming an enigma to Master Yan.
Wang Lu was a respectable person in the Wang Family Village, not because of his expertise in combat, but his honorable and down to earth nature. Many of the people present had never seen Wang Lu fight before. It was only now that the Wang Family villagers realize that this inconspicuous and honest elder was actually a master of combat.
The Wang Family’s combat style specialized in sword techniques, and Wang Lu was able to demonstrate the full power of this technique. Wang Lu struck again and again with his sword in a seemingly leisurely pace, but the long sword was like a cocoon, trapping Rui Bing’s movements.
Rui Bing wore a calm expression, stepping lightly and quickly as she returned an occasional blow, always enough to interfere with Wang Lu’s attack. She seemed to be in a tight spot, but the reality was the exact opposite. There were not many people in this world who could fight on the same level as Ye Chong in close combat. Rui Bing and Ye Chong sparred frequently, never going easy on each other. Hence, Rui Bing did not panic while facing her current opponent.
She observed coldly, and slowly began to understand the Wang Family’s sword technique.
Ye Chong and Master Yan were still deep in discussion. Master Yan’s knowledge in alchemy was a lot deeper than Ye Chong’s, and he was much more experienced as well. Ye Chong often learned something new when Master Yan recounted some of his past experiences. As for Fei Si, she could only listen to them, barely keeping up.
Wang Family’s sword techniques were slowly revealed to Rui Bing. Wang Lu’s expression turned grim, and the people around began to look worried. Everyone could tell that the longer the fight dragged on, the more disadvantageous it would be for Wang Lu.
A woman in white danced easily between the raining sword attacks.
Wang Lu understood where this was going. He was about to speed up his attack when Rui Bing made her move. Rui Bing darted forward, grazing past Wang Lu’s longsword by mere millimeters and went for his body.
Wang Lu was caught off guard. He flicked his wrist, and the sword hilt was driven towards Rui Bing. Rui Bing blocked it off with one hand, her eyes shining brightly, and swept her leg up silently into a kick.
Rui Bing’s sudden approach surprised Wang Lu, but he kept his calm. He let go of the sword in his right hand and tried to fight Rui Bing with his bare hands. He lifted his left leg up, blocking the kick from Rui Bing. Wham! A wave of energy came from the attack, driving Wang Lu backwards as he stumbled a few steps behind. Wang Lu was surprised by her strength. No one could imagine so much raw energy in a woman like her!
Rui Bing’s eyes flashed, her bent left leg straightened as she swept towards Wang Lu like a white swan, staying close to the ground. That suffocating beauty harboured a cold killing intent. Rui Bing’s long hair trailed behind her, her eyes glaring sharp as a knife. She drew her right elbow back, her palm fisted, ready to deliver the killer blow.
This was the moment of truth!
Wang Lu looked deadly pale, watching Rui Bing coming closer and closer to him. He knew that he had lost.
Perhaps she would kill him! Everything around him slowed down, his senses turning sharp than ever close to his death. Being the challenger himself, there was no reason for her to leave him alive. Besides, he had attacked with his sword earlier with the intent to kill, and she would definitely have noticed it!
Wang Lu was right. Rui Bing did feel his killing intent. In challenges similar to this, Rui Bing would not usually fight to kill. However, Wang Lu’s strong killing intent had finally angered her. She could clearly sense his wish to kill her. As a true combat expert, she too had her own pride! Besides, she was no longer the naive young woman she once was.
She decided to teach Wang Lu a lesson.
Just then, a strong sense of danger striked her.
Rui Bing quickly angled her body as a flash of light drew across her sleeve. Rip! A long gash was left on the sleeve of her snow white training garb.
Mrs Wang held her sword, standing before Wang Lu. It was she who ambushed her. She was feeling very conflicted inside, since ambushing like this was a huge taboo. However, she also noticed Rui Bing’s intent to kill. She could not just stand by and watch her husband killed.
The Wang Family villagers who were watching all showed embarrassed expressions, but one of them said a word. Even Wang Zishi looked conflicted. He knew that his master, Wang Lu and his wife had gone against the rules of the world of combat, but he also found himself unable to speak out. After all, he could not just stand by and watch his master die too. After all these years of benefiting from their generosity, they were like parents to him.
A few spectators laughed, barely suppressing themselves. This was like a slap to the face of every Wang Family member. The people were reminded then that it was not only the Wang Family villagers that were watching, but many other outsiders. However, these outsiders were also smart enough to come out and offer a few words of wisdom. That would have been equivalent to suicide.
The Wang husband and wife stood side by side with their swords in their hands, their expressions unreadable.
Rui Bing’s face was expressionless. Her sharp glare made Wang Lu and his wife felt guilty. Rui Bing knew that was nothing she could say now to change the situation. With her left hand, she tore away the broken sleeve on her right hand, revealing the white smooth skin beneath.
Now this was just plain offensive. She never imagined that anyone would forcefully break an unbreakable rule of the world of combat. As a conservative, she was deeply offended.
She decided to fight with all she got.
Ye Chong stood up and bid farewell to Master Yan. He had learned much from their discussion today, just like the days before this. Master Yan, however, was feeling a little dazed. Ye Chong found it curious, but knew better than to comment on it. He never would have guessed that he was the source of Master Yan’s predicament.
Ye Chong headed off, along with Fei Si.