The Westflower Hall, the Royal Capital,
The West Capital, the Great Jin—
There were only two people in the huge Westflower Hall. Yan Yuntian, the Emperor of the Great Jin, held a newspaper in his hand and wore a weird expression.
Ming Yuesheng had changed his clothes, wearing a magnificent robe. He strolled leisurely and aimlessly inside the Westflower Hall with a cup of insipid tea.
"I've eaten too much greasy food at noon, so this tea should be more insipid!" He blew away the heat and then looked at the few tea leaves in the cup while frowning.
"If you want to drink tea, I'll send another carriage of fresh tea to you tomorrow." Yan Yuntian shook the newspaper in his hand. "What's your opinion about Zhou Bao? How surprising his relationship with Wang She is! I still cannot understand why a Chief of Tian Long Taoism should be connected with a common disciple of the Wu Family."
"Your Majesty, Zhou Bao truly is a rare teen expert, but experts in the world are neither too many nor too few. Experts at Zhou Bao's age are few, but there are still some and they just can't match his reputation. I really wonder why you insist on paying attention to him."
"Sure! Experts in the world are neither too many nor too few, and there are some other teen experts in the world as well. But, it's definitely difficult for a young man like him who was born with a poor background to earn such achievements in his youth. He must have a shocking secret!" Yan Yuntian lost himself in thought.
"Everyone has his own secret. There are numerous secrets in the world!" Ming Yuesheng didn't care. "We've clearly investigated his background. There's nothing wrong. Even if his combat capability reaches Level Eight, he still can't make any trouble for us, let alone that he's just a teen expert at Level Seven. Your Majesty, what on earth are you worrying about?"
"I have no idea. I only have a premonition. Every time I hear about Zhou Bao, I feel something weird."
Looking at Yan Yuntian, Ming Yuesheng seemed speechless. "Then why not have someone sound him out?"
"No. Those fools of Tian Long Taoism have sounded him out already!" Said Yan Yuntian. "Some people thought Zhou Bao was too arrogant. They wanted to teach him a lesson, so they commanded him to take part in the World Hero Competition in the name of Tian Long Taoism and the Four Great Families. As a result, Lin Xiaoqing from the Lins was badly wounded and carried away. Before the Lins looked Zhou Bao for trouble, Wang She suddenly exited training and banished a lot of disciples who belonged to the Four Great Families in Tian Long Taoism, claiming to support Zhou Bao. What do you think?"
Ming Yuesheng glanced at the newspaper in his hand and laughed. "It illustrates that Wang She isn't as weak as what's said in the rumor. Maybe he even has gotten some insights during critical conditions and gained amazing benefits. What's Yu Baimei's opinion?"
"Yu Baimei should pay no attention to it at all, which is exactly what surprised me the most!" Yan Yuntian pondered. "Yu Baimei must acquiesce in having them teach Junior Leopard a lesson and try to bring him under control. Generally speaking, Junior Leopard's attitude obviously has hit Tian Long Taoism in the face. However, Yu Baimei seems to be indifferent to it. Intentionally or unintentionally, he is somewhat partial to Wang She. Why would he change his attitude all of a sudden?"
"It seems that Your Majesty's attention to Zhou Bao is reasonable!" Ming Yuesheng was reminded by his words. "Zhou Bao may truly have some big secrets. After all, with an identity of a master, Yu Baimei shouldn't worry too much. Look at it this way, we should have arranged his fief into the surroundings of the millennium families and perhaps he can make great trouble for them."
"What's done is done. Now we should figure out the countermeasure."
"A countermeasure? What countermeasure? We don't need to do so!" Ming Yuesheng replied. "Since Zhou Bao has something which Yu Baimei also scrupled about, we should exclude him completely. It's better that he doesn't take part in the World Hero Competition, otherwise he may disrupt our plan. As for the other things, let's just talk about them when the World Hero Competition is finished."
"All right." Yan Yuntian sighed lightly, saying. "I wonder whether or not we can detect their true power this time."
"The Pure Yang Celestial Device is definitely attractive. Otherwise, the Four Well-known Families wouldn't look for Zhou Bao so eagerly. It would be better if Zhou Bao doesn't participate in this match. It's really difficult for them to find the proper people so quickly. So they can only hold an indoor election. In this way, the privity among those well-known families will be broken and they must try their best to strive for it. Even if they don't try their best, we can take this opportunity to grasp the tip of the iceberg of their hidden power."
"Well, that's to say, Zhou Bao has helped us a lot by chance!"
"Hehe, yes! According to the way that Zhou Bao has always conducted himself, he hates making trouble. While at the same time, he hates being worried. So we should try to pacify such kind of people."
"Pacify?" Yan Yuntian nodded slightly. "In your opinion, is the thing that I mentioned last time feasible?"
"That's Your Majesty's private matter, so it's all up to you!" Ming Yuesheng smiled.
"You... What did you do to them?"
The Crescent Valley, the Northwest—
It was the Yin and Yang Dust Formation!
Looking at a dozen people who lay on the ground unconsciously, Cao Xuetang was astonished, although he was really well-informed. He knew all of those guys. They occupied important positions in the Sect of Flame. Among them were three Level Seven experts and one Level Eight expert, but they now all lay on the ground like dead pigs. At the first glance, Cao Xuetang even thought that they had died since they had become unconscious.
"They broke into my territory, so I'd like to teach them a lesson." Junior Leopard kicked the most strapping man on the ground. "I guess you know all of them, don't you?"
"They all belong to the same sect as me. This is Xie Haifeng, the great Venerable. Unexpectedly, he should be defeated by you!" Cao Xuetang sighed. His view toward Junior Leopard was mingled with a sense of fear. He had heard early on that Zhou Bao in the Wu Sect became famous when he was young and his combat capability was even greater than some common Level Eight experts. He only took them as rumors in Jianghu at that time, but now, he thought those rumors were not accurate enough to describe Zhou Bao's true power. Didn't everyone see that he had struck down three Level Seven experts and one Level Eight here? How could a common Level Eight expert achieve that?
Junior Leopard felt quite uneasy under his fiery gaze. After all, Cao Xuetang was not a beauty, so him staring at Junior Leopard like that was a little disgusting.
"It seems that the kindling of Nanming Ignis is so attractive that it causes many people in your sect to pay a visit to me. Brother Cao, since they are experts in your sect, I don't dare to deal with them on my own. Do you have any advice or comments?"
Hearing that, Cao Xuetang couldn't help pondering. Though all those men were disciples in the Sect of Flame, they belonged to opposing influences. They were his mortal enemies and had come here to hunt him down. Naturally, he was itching to kill all of them. He cared nothing about the masters of martial arts under Level Seven, but he had to pay attention to the four experts.
In the Sect of Flame, an expert who achieved Level Seven was called a Venerable, and when one's cultivation reached Level Eight, he would become a Great Venerable. Great Venerables had a higher position than common ones. Furthermore, every Great Venerable held some authority in his hands. Xie Haifeng was one of the most dominant Great Venerables recently.
Though the Sect of Flame had already been a huge influence in the world, it only had a few Venerables, let alone Great Venerables. Every Great Venerable had a pivotal position in the sect that was much more important than the common Venerables like him. If that Great Venerable died here, the Sect of Flame would not leave the matter at that. Even if he were to obtain the kindling of Nanming Ignis and reach Level Eight, it would be difficult for him to account for it.
"I know you the Sect of Flame possesses the vast property and lots of masters of martial arts and experts. I don't want to provoke you too much. I've already gotten them under control, so how to deal with them is up to you now." Seeing that Cao Xuetang had slipped into hesitation, Junior Leopard started to talk first and revealed his attitude clearly.
"It was I who made the trouble. I really appreciate that you can help me out with that. How could I bother you further!" Said Cao Xuetang. "But we're going to find the kindling of Nanming Ignis now, so I'm afraid that if we let them go, they would make trouble for us. I think we'd better handle our business first and I'll take them away after that. How's that?"
"That's fine!" Junior Leopard nodded.
"They possess high cultivations, especially Xie Haifeng, who has reached Level Eight. I'm afraid that we can't keep them under control for long."
"Don't worry. I have a method to get them to stay here quietly until we come back," Junior Leopard replied confidently.
"Well, thank you for helping me!"
"Don't mention it, I only lifted a finger." Junior Leopard replied with a laugh.
Since he had to do Cao Xuetang a special favor, he would definitely make it a big one. Such an amazing special favor could both show his strength and force him to pay him back. Furthermore, he would be so impressed with Zhou Bao's kindness that, if they met with any problems, he might ask him for help. Little by little, their relationship would become closer and closer.
The Crescent Valley was very long. Standing on the ridge in front of Jilei Mountain and looking into the Crescent Valley, you could see a valley stretch out long and unbroken for 10 miles, just like a long snake. The valley was also very deep, reaching a depth of 200 feet. Both sides of the valley were strewn with cliffs like the huge canyon in the desert that he saw in his previous life. But now, he was inside Jilei Mountain, not the desert.
At the end of the valley, there was a bottomless cold pool. The shape of the cold pool was quite odd. From where Junior Leopard stood, if all of the water in the cold pool was drained, an obvious meteorite crater would be seen.
"Hehe, seemingly, a meteorite had crashed into it. From the distinct traces that are left on the ground, that meteorite must be very huge." Junior Leopard sighed in his heart. He then turned around and said to Cao Xuetang who stood beside him. "Brother Cao, if I guess correctly, the place you that you aimed at must be located in the depths of the cold pool!"
Junior Leopard pointed at the cold pool at the bottom of the valley as he spoke.
"Brother, you have good eyesight! Yes, Nanming Ignis is at the bottom of the cold pool. A predecessor in my sect came to this place by chance and found the kindling of Nanming Ignis 3,000 years ago. But he was badly hurt and was too weak to get the kindling from the pool at that time. When he returned to the sect, his injury became worse immediately. After writing the general location down on a note, he died. And the note has been hidden in the scripture library of our sect. Unintentionally, I learned this secret, so I decided to promote my cultivation with this kindling. Little did I expect that I would be chased. I'm so ashamed!" Cao Xuetang shook his head and sighed.
"Well, Brother Cao, no need to be so sorrowful. Few things in the world can be achieved easily. Just like now, as we are about to snatch the kindling of Nanming Ignis, it's still difficult for us to be successful even though we know where it is." Junior Leopard said with a smile.
"What are these statements?" Cao Xuetang changed his expression on hearing Junior Leopard's words. The Nanming Ignis that he aimed at was connected with his future and destiny, so any error had to be prevented. Now, upon hearing Junior Leopard's words, he couldn't help becoming nervous.
"I just have some premonitions," Junior Leopard said.
"Will there be any other people coming here to butt in?"
"I don't care whether there are other people that butt in or not." Junior Leopard laughed. "I'm just worried about the condition underneath the cold pool. After all, the kindling of Nanming Ignis has been in that pool for so many years. God knows what is underneath it."
"Sure!" Cao Xuetang nodded his head. "Your words make sense. We can't be too careful!"
Before their words were finished, they both jumped toward the pool at the same time.
Almost simultaneously, they fell into the cold pool. Cao Xuetang was covered with a layer of red Gang Qi while Junior Leopard was embraced by a layer of looming Green Mist. They both were insulated from the water.
"I didn't expect that you would have such a magical protecting weapon." Seeing the Green Mist around Junior Leopard, Cao Xuetang was inspired. He knew that Junior Leopard had been practicing the Nine Dragons Heavenly Fire Technique. If Junior Leopard had succeeded in practicing Gang Qi, he wouldn't present such an appearance. Then the only possibility left was that Junior Leopard had a protective celestial device. Though he had no idea about that celestial device, he instinctively wanted to keep away from that Green Mist.
"I have no other choice but to employ such a device. Though my cultivation has reached Level Seven, I can't find the proper Earth Vein Evil Qi to cultivate Gang," Junior Leopard said with a bitter smile, yet explained nothing about the Green Mist that was around him.
Cao Xuetang was a long-time Jianghu dweller. Since Junior Leopard refused to explain it, then he wouldn't ask or inquire about other people's secrets. Cultivation methods and celestial devices were especially private when one wandered in Jianghu. He now was joining hands with Junior Leopard and asking him for help, so definitely he wouldn't inquire further. However, when faced with Junior Leopard, he felt more dreadful. After all, few people could become experts with more than one celestial device at a young age like Junior Leopard.
Maybe even the sons of the Leader of those schools couldn't receive such treatment.
Junior Leopard had not only the Demon Devil Needles, but also an eccentric protective celestial device. Never did he believe that Junior Leopard was only a common disciple in the Wu Sect who was born in a small village.
The pool was very deep. The lower they went, the cooler the water was and the heavier the pressure was.
Cao Xuetang felt fine at first. But when they got down to a depth of 400 or 500 feet, however, he felt strenuous. The Ignis Mysterious Gang he had practiced was the Gang Qi of Fire while the pool water was cold. And as they went lower in the pool got, the water became colder. The chill cold began to counteract his Ignis Mysterious Gang. Thus, his diving speed slowed down.
Junior Leopard felt more comfortable as he went lower. The looming Green Mist entwined around him helped him separate the massive hydraulic pressure and absorbed the Cold Breath of Evil. For the Poison Cold Shield, the Cold Breath of Evil that the water contained was the best tonic. Therefore, Junior Leopard's speed became faster and faster.
"Brother Cao, how are you doing now? I guess we must dive for another 1,000 feet. Can you bear it?" After diving for a while longer, Junior Leopard stopped because the distance between him and Cao Xuetang was getting farther and farther. No sunlight could penetrate down to their depth of hundreds of feet, but Cao Xuetang's red Gang Qi was pretty well-marked, just like a big bright bulb.
"Never mind, I've got a plan. I just didn't imagine that you'd be so fast," Said Cao Xuetang. He took out a red stone from his chest and grasped it firmly in his hand. Then the Gang Qi around him became brighter all of a sudden, pushing the pool water away and rushing downward.
"A Fire Spiritual Stone?"
"I'm a Venerable of the Sect of Flame. We have some underground fire veins on hand, so it isn't difficult for me to get a Fire Spiritual Stone," Cao Xuetang said with a smile.
Junior Leopard nodded his head but said nothing. With the help of the Fire Spiritual Stone, the power of Cao Xuetang's Ignis Mysterious Gang strengthened a lot. They dove for 100 more feet and, gradually, they could see the bottom of the pool.
"Brother, look. It's over there!"
At the bottom of the pool, there was a black stone about 10 feet high lying peacefully. Half of its body was exposed while the other half was wholly covered by sludge. Judging by its appearance, it seemed to be nothing unusual.
"Is this big ironstone the one?" Junior Leopard slowly arrived down on the bottom and asked.
Cao Xuetang nodded. Even though he had a Fire Spiritual Stone with him, the chill cold and massive pressure on the bottom caused great burden to him. When he discovered that Junior Leopard felt so comfortable in the Green Mist, he envied him so much.
"If I had such a kind of celestial device, why would I take the risk of being chased to snatch the kindling of Nanming Ignis here from so far away?"
"Wait, why can't I feel anything unusual from it?"
When Cao Xuetang was still pondering, Junior Leopard had already walked to that black stone and took a roundabout way. He detected nothing. Upon looking up, he sharply changed his expression. "Watch out!"
"What?" Catching the sharp change in Junior Leopard's face, Cao Xuetang felt a piece of coldness flash through his heart. The Ignis Mysterious Gang around him also flashed immediately, but it was too late.
A swarthy tail abruptly appeared in the dark and whipped toward the red Ignis Mysterious Gang.
"Pow!" Cao Xuetang's Ignis Mysterious Gang turned bleak after that sound. He was whipped away by that tail. Till now, Junior Leopard had clearly seen that a 30-feet-long black water-snake appeared on the bottom.
It looked like a water snake, but actually was not so. This black water snake had so many scales, which were thickly wrapped around it like a mass of armor. But its figure was small — even though it reached 30 feet in length, it was only as wide as a bucket.
After whipping Cao Xuetang away with its tail, it shook its figure and began to attack Junior Leopard.
Junior Leopard pulled up the corners of his mouth and was ready to meet it head-on.
"Pow! Pop!" A fine muffled sound was heard. The Green Mist around Junior Leopard fluctuated slightly and then went back to normal. But that black snake was uncontrollably shaking. It hissed in a low voice and then was about to drill into the sludge. But before its body could get all the way inside, it was rooted to the spot like a tetanic stick. Even though the black snake was raised in the cold pool and had strong protection against the cold, it would be ruined by the psychological attack of the Poison Cold Shield's Evil strength and endless bane.
"That's right. That's the power that my Poison Cold Shield is supposed to have." Junior Leopard was satisfied with the Poison Cold Shield's power. He then raised his hand and cast a big golden net, covering that stone on the bottom firmly. But when Junior Leopard put forth his strength, he staggered and fell down hard on the ground.
This net was the one Lin Xiaoqing used to restrain Junior Leopard's Demon Devil Needles. It was called the Knotted Golden Net. Though Junior Leopard had broken it down with his fist, being a psychic celestial device, it was still very precious in the world. Only Green Spirit regarded it as rubbish. With Green Spirit's directions, Junior Leopard had already fixed the Knotted Golden Net.
"How heavy it is! I guess it must weigh over eight kilograms!" Junior Leopard tried to pull it, but failed. The stone didn't move at all, which greatly surprised Junior Leopard. At the same time, the sludge on the bottom surged again. Other several black snakes drilled out quietly. With lessons drawn from that snake's mistake, they didn't dare to take rash actions. And Junior Leopard paid little attention to them because of the Poison Cold Shield.
Seeing two of them swimming toward Cao Xuetang, Junior Leopards smiled bitterly. He withdrew his golden net and jumped in front of Cao Xuetang. And the green light in front of him was in full bloom and was about to scare away those two black snakes, which wanted to gain profits.
"Brother Cao, are you alright?"
Cao Xuetang looked pale. He grasped two Fire Spiritual Stones firmly. It was those Fire Spiritual Stone that had helped his Gang Qi to avoid being broken up on the spot. Even still, he had suffered a huge impact.
He was really unlucky. If it was on the ground above, merely some black snake couldn't hurt him at all. But they were on the bottom of the cold pool. His Gang Qi was almost counteracted by the surrounding hydraulic pressure and the endless Cold Breath of Evil. He had the least protection. On the other hand, the assistance of the cold pool added a lot of strength to that black snake's tail. Therefore, it nearly whipped Cao Xuetang to death in just one movement.
"I'm really ashamed. I didn't expect there could be such a fierce creature in the cold pool." Cao Xuetang was gray-faced. As a Level Seven expert, he had confidence in his strength. Unexpectedly, during the mission to snatch the kindling of Nanming Ignis, he was not only badly injured but also nearly beaten to death by a strange snake. He even had no strength to fight back. How shameful it was!
"Red-scaled Pythons! Those are Red-scaled Pythons! Why does their color change like that? Kid, don't misuse anything! Their blood is quite valuable. Quickly catch them with the net! Your net! I have a plan! Quickly!"
Green Spirit shouted in his mind.