Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
Chen Mu didn’t much care about the Black-Line Star Listing rankings. As far as he was concerned, so long as he had a pretty good ranking, that would be enough for him to smoothly get on with the next activity. As far as how many names were in front of or behind his, he didn’t much care. His not caring didn’t represent other people not caring, however.
Bogner was very excited. “Ha ha! You got famous this time because of a single battle, Boss! This issue of the Black-Line Star Listing gave you a really high rating, ranking you 50th! You finally broke into the top 50, which isn’t easy at all. Tsk, tsk. Now that we’re talking about it, the boss has been the card artisan on the move on the Black-Line Star Listing across the past two issues. That’s pretty unusual!”
“Fifty!” Their spirits were given a boost. Sang Hanshui, especially, looked really surprised. Chen Mu didn’t have much feeling about the Black-Line Star Listing. After seeing such top aces as Tang Hanpei and Jiao Si, how could he be so interested in something that only ranked in the Heavenly Drum Village District?
Wei-ah, on the other hand, had looked numb when he saw Tang Hanpei. Chen Mu sometimes wondered if the flesh on Wei-ah’s face hadn’t been trained to the point where it was so hard that it couldn’t budge. But for someone like Sang Hanshui, who had been getting the Black-Line Star Listing for so many years, the listing meant a lot.
The large Black-Line Star Listing did have a few watersheds. The top 100 was the first one. To be able to get into the top 100, they would all be true aces in the Heavenly Drum Village District, and they could join the ranks of the aces in the federation. The second watershed was at 50, which was a big divide. It was strange to think the card artisan ranked 50th had a great difference in status and prestige compared to the one ranked 51st.
That kind of divide didn’t only appear at 100 or at 50. The 20th was the same kind of watershed. But the biggest watershed was at ten. The top ten aces would have huge influence in the entire federation, far beyond those outside the top ten. To actually get to that level would be extremely difficult.
As far as who was above and below among those aces, it would be hard to gauge using quantified indicators. They were never compared among themselves, so there was no way to tell who was really more powerful in the end. Therefore, it was clearly marked on the Black-Line Star Listing that the first ten weren’t only ranked according to their own fighting strength, but their ranking was also related to the power they belonged to, their fame, and so forth.
What did it mean to squeeze into the top 50? If one were to say a card artisan getting into the top 100 meant he belonged among the very top card artisans in a medium-sized city, being ranked among the top 50 would mean being a shaker in the most bustling of cities.
Taking a look at Chen Mu, Sang Hanshui had eyes full of envy. He knew Qiao Yuan had already become a truly hot figure. Beautiful women, status, wealth, and anything else he wanted would be his for the taking. He would only have to want something, and countless people would send it to him right away. What was there to be unsatisfied with to become a card artisan who could get to that point?
Sang Hanshui found Chen Mu’s expression a little strange. There didn’t seem to be any excitement on his face. He painted an interesting picture, with those around him all endlessly thrilled, while the one involved had no reaction at all.
Little Bu Mo was especially thrilled and was waving his fists. “Fantastic!” His small face had flushed red, and he was utterly excited. No hint of the fatigue he had been suffering showed on his face. Going through those last few days, he had long since become familiar with Chen Mu. Every day when they rested, he would go to Chen Mu’s side. Chen Mu was rather fond of that smart little guy, who could endure such suffering.
What really turned little Bu Mo’s eyes red with envy was the last move, when Chen Mu had killed Dang Han. But that move obviously made too many demands on muscle. Chen Mu’s whole right arm had also been nearly lost. Although little Bu Mo’s eyes were red, he wasn’t going to dare to try it.
The hottest topic by that time were conjectures regarding the cards and the skills Chen Mu had used in the battle. The new edition of the Black-Line Star Listing had even focused their evaluation on those two points. But they had dubbed the name of the card “unknown.” The last trick he had used was highlighted as a cardless sect skill.
Chen Mu had never thought he would finally trigger such hot discussion in a single blow. Countless people witnessed that battle and that weird move with their own eyes. Discussions about the trick could be watched on every platform.
After that move had appeared, the cardless sects were once again in people’s purview. Everyone finally discovered that the cardless sects also included terrifying killers. Cardless sect aces had no perceptual fluctuations on their bodies, and there were no energy fluctuations when they made their moves. That was terrifying to most card artisans.
The most excited might have included those who insisted on following the way of the cardless sects. They were sobbing in their agitation that after all those years, they finally saw a ray of light. They now firmly believed that the things that had been handed down weren’t just legends. Under that influence, the number of people interested in the cardless sects surged.
Wei-ah suddenly stood up and cast his gaze toward someplace deep in the forest, which put everyone immediately on alert.
Chen Mu had the most faith in Wei-ah in that regard, and he knew Wei-ah had certainly discovered something. Was someone tracking them? That was the first thought that popped into his mind. Too bad he had no way just then to deploy perception. Otherwise, he could have used the Snake Lens to do some probing.
“He’s gone.” Wei-ah seemed to know what Chen Mu was thinking when he said that.
“Is someone tracking us?” Chen Mu had a serious expression as he lifted his head to look at the fluttering snowflakes, a strong sense of danger arising from his heart. Such a big snowfall would cover any tracks they left. Chen Mu didn’t quite believe anyone could find them in such terrible weather.
“Mmmm.” Wei-ah grunted his response.
Everyone’s mind became abruptly heavy. Chen Mu had no fighting strength after being so seriously injured, and they would need to protect him. To run into an enemy at such a time would really be awful.
“One.” Wei-ah’s response was certain, and everyone felt a little more relaxed until he added, “An ace.”
Chen Mu’s heart skipped a beat. For Wei-ah to call someone an ace, he would certainly be an ace among aces. Thinking it over, even Wen had been scared off by Wei-ah’s murderous aura, so how could Wei-ah even call him an ace?
Chen Mu suddenly remembered the man with the bronze mask. Could it have been him? He didn’t know how powerful that guy was, after all. But he could be certain of one thing. Even if the man with the bronze mask wasn’t as powerful as Tang Hanpei, he should still be above the level of Jiao Si. Chen Mu couldn’t clearly remember many aspects of the situation that day, but he had no doubt about the determination of the man with the bronze mask to kill him. The more he thought about it, the more possible it seemed, and it would correlate with the conditions for him to be alone.
To have such a super ace on one’s trail, prepared to make a sneak attack at any time, would make anyone shudder. He wouldn’t be afraid if he were well. But, even if Jiao Si himself had come, no adversary would dare to make a move with Wei-ah there. He was now seriously wounded, however, and Wei-ah would never be a match for such an ace while he had him on his back, no matter how strong he was.
Since there was a powerful enemy alongside, no one dared to rest any longer. They moved on after a little cleaning up. They now hoped they could shake him off. They thought it wouldn’t be such a big deal to get rid of the pursuit in that vast forest.
But what they hadn’t thought of was that the guy in the dark would be hanging behind them in haunted ground. Chen Mu was already cursing the man with the bronze mask over and over, but the guy never showed himself. The more mysterious their adversary was, the more pressure everyone felt.
The guy was keeping a steady distance at a pace Wei-ah could least abide. At that distance, once Wei-ah went in pursuit, he could circle back to attack the other three. If he didn’t go in pursuit, they would always be sensing his presence. It was as though a phantom were lurking in the dark, and no one could relax their nerves.
Wei-ah was then the only protector. While Sang Hanshui did have some power, in front of an enemy with that kind of ability, he could only play a limited role. Moreover, could he turn against them? Chen Mu couldn’t completely trust him.
It could be seen from that how utterly shrewd their adversary’s moves were.
As he waited for his wounds to heal, Chen Mu would feel such hatred that while he was cursing his adversary, he would be looking forward to his early recovery.
Astonishingly, Jie Yanbai was present in a cheap little cottage in the capital that was a secret contact point for the Central Repository of the Classics. Just about everyone was trying to guess where Jie Yanbai had really gone, the order to chase him down having come from Tang Hanpei’s own hand. Just when everyone was caught up in the frenzy of chasing him down, no one thought he would actually remain in the capital, right under the eyes of the Federation Comprehensive Academy.
There was a screen in front of him, and he was in the middle of communicating with Madam Zhi Lian.
“I object to that proposal, Madam.” Jie Yanbai had a solemn expression as he slowly and firmly shook his head. “The master is still alive. Although he’s had a little setback, I still believe the master will be able to revive the repository’s prestige. While Yanbai has made some slight progress, I still don’t have the ability or insight to run the repository. Don’t worry, Madam; Yanbai comes from the repository. As long as there is a place for me, Yanbai will never dare to resign!” Jie Yanbai voiced that last phrase firmly and loudly.
Madam Zhi Lian looked at the current lead commander at the Central Repository of the Classics with a sneer. The exhaustion and anxiety during that time had made her well-maintained body seem to have aged all at once. She had never thought Jie Yanbai would actually refuse the position as master.
She had been presiding over the Central Repository of the Classics during that time. Having grown up there, she couldn’t watch it fall. The master had been defeated in one stroke. If it weren’t for her, she reckoned the repository would have completely collapsed by then.
She kept wracking her brains and using up all of her energy, but she could still find no way to reverse the repository’s decline. Then, just as she had started to lose hope, Jie Yanbai had suddenly come out of the blue as the lone challenger to the Federation Comprehensive Academy. It was like a shot in the arm for the Central Repository of the Classics, which was already on the verge of desperation.
In a single bound, Jie Yanbai had become the flag bearer for the Central Repository of the Classics. Madam Zhi Lian had inwardly breathed a sigh of relief when she had made the plan to make Jie Yanbai the new master to lead the Central Repository of the Classics forward. However, Jie Yanbai hadn’t hesitated to refuse a position countless people had been coveting.