The air inside the cave dropped to freezing temperatures.
Against the backdrop of the dark forest, a murderous vibe exploded from Ling Xian's pores, filling up the air inside and around the cave.
Fang Yun's words made him uneasy.
Most of the people from the Ling Clan who were currently inside the Hidden Territory were of no concern to him. However, Ling Hu was like a little brother to him, as well as the beautiful little madam who had taken a liking to him.
Those two must be rescued.
The Xuan Ming Snake flicked its tongue, gazing up at Ling Xian, puzzled as to why the master was fuming all of a sudden.
"This information in exchange for my life. What do you say?"
Despite the cold, murderous stare Ling Xian was hurling at him, Fang Yun felt this was his last hope of staying alive. Regardless of the danger, he must hold on to this glimmer of hope.
"Do you think you have the privilege to bargain with me?"
Ling Xian continued to stare at his captive with the cold, icy gaze that made his captive tremble with fear. During his constant battles with countless beasts over the past few days, Ling Xian had come close to meeting his creator many times. This man did not scare him.
Fang Yun bit his tongue with all his might. His body shook uncontrollably. Despite staring at death himself, Fang Yun knew if he revealed the details of the plan and the hiding place of the Ling Clan, he would be killed for it immediately after. Stubbornly, he responded, "If you do not agree to spare my life, I won't tell you anything more."
"Good, very good."
In the blink of an eye, Ling Xian disappeared and reemerged violently in front of Fang Yun, one hand clutching his throat, lifting his body off his feet and quietly said to him…
Fang Yun's face turned dark purple, deprived of oxygen, and nearly burst of blood. Dangling off the ground by no less than three feet, Fang Yun frantically clung onto Ling Xian's arms, desperately trying to relieve the pressure that was crushing his throat. "…No, yo...you don't promise me, I won't say…"
"You have no right to bargain with me." Ling Xian tilted his gaze, tightening his grip.
Near suffocation, Fang Yun was overcome by a pain he had never felt before. The last sparkles in his eyes were diminishing. "F…fine. Kill me then. But those students of the Ling Clan, they'll come with me to the afterlife."
Without breaking his gaze, Ling Xian let go of his hand.
Fang Yun collapsed to the group, gasping for air. He felt relieved that he was still alive, but also prideful that he made Ling Xian concede.
However, just as this thought crossed his mind, the cold voice of a ruthless killer rang out.
"When dealing with a madman, I have to lose my mind first."
With a flick of his finger, a silvery strand of flame dashed towards Fang Yun. Within seconds, Fang Yun's body became fully enflamed.
Fang Yun let out a devastating cry of pain. His insides felt like an explosion of fireworks that no earthly spell could contain. The explosion entangled his organs, strangling his heart and melting off his skin until he felt and looked inhuman.
His bodily fluids were slowly evaporating into thin air, his skin cracking into painful blisters, his cries growing more desperate with each passing second. Finding Ling Xian's gaze from across the billowing flame, Fang Yun could not resist the pain any longer and yelled, "I'll tell you, I'll tell you everything! Kill the flame!"
"Thought your bones would be a little sturdier than this." Ling Xian waved his hand, and the Flame of Purity vanished in an instant.
"Spare me, I beg you, stop the torture." Fang Yun again collapsed to the ground, his heartbeat on the verge of stopping. Gasping for air, more than half of his entire body had suffered repairable burns. Patches of his skin had melted off. His body no longer resembled that of a living human.
"Then speak up. I hate listening to nonsense. Tell me only what I need to know." Ling Xian did not raise his voice when he spoke, yet to Fang Yun, each word sounded like thunder piercing through his eardrum. He hurried, "Students from the Ling Clan, who are inside the Hidden Territory, have been surrounded by the Fangs. Not sure if the battle has already started, but by now it should have."
"The Fangs..." Ling Xian hissed, grinding his teeth. "How well trained are these students from your House?"
"Well…" Fang Yun hesitated. He didn't wish to divulge that information. However, he wanted the Flame even less. "One of the Seventh Realm, then three of the Sixth Realm, everyone else is of the Fifth."
The Seventh Realm?!
Ling Xian grew agitated. The sixth realm was the highest any of the Lings had managed to reach. They would have no chance against the Fangs. "Location?"
"This I don't know, but we can follow him." Fang Yun gestured. The Thousand Mile Crane landed swiftly in front of them.
"A Thousand Mile Crane?" Ling Xian frowned. Suddenly, everything before him became crystal clear. "You are a student of the Fang House. No wonder you're privy to this information. You were summoned and on your way to kill my brothers."
"Yes, you guessed it. Kill me if you want, just make it clean and swift." Fang Yun admitted. His burned body reminded him that this killer was not one to be messed with, or lied to. He had no more cards left. Life or death was entirely up to him.
"Very good, looks like you're ready to die," Ling Xian commented casually. Tossing his sleeves to the wind, the Thousand Mile Crane flapped its wings, flew out of the cave and towards the east.
The Thousand Mile Crane is a cleverly designed machine equipped with intricate systems that controlled its thoughts and moves. However, the one thing it couldn't do was identifying friends from foes.
The Crane had orders to find Fang Yun, deliver the message, and arrive at the location as a guide. It had not been programmed to ensure the person it was guiding was indeed Fang Yun.
That function does not yet exist on the messenger birds.
Ling Xian eyed Fang Yun one more time. He intended to kill me when I was injured. He was on his way to kill members of my House. These two crimes alone were enough to justify a death sentence.
However, if Fang Yun did not stumble upon an injured Ling Xian and proceeded to try to kill him, Ling Xian could not have learned about the plan. By now, all members of the Ling Clan would have already been murdered.
It doesn't matter now. This man can't live. He needs to die.
Ling Xian made up his mind. He turned away and exited the cave. Readying himself for a journey the Crane had set on, Ling Xian left the Snake with an order. The words echoed throughout the wilderness as he lifted off into the East.
"Xuan Ming Snake, you heard him, clean and swift…"
The sun burned through the midday calm, turning miles and miles of land into a sea of gold.
Above this boundless land, a tiny mechanical crane glided effortlessly through the air, followed closely by a speeding young man in a black traveling cloak.
Only 14 or 15 years of age, the youth possessed the appearance and demeanor of a legend.
If only he were smiling and pacing like an academic, anyone would have been swayed.
But this handsome face reflected of a murderous rage.
"Hold on, wait for me."
Ling Xian was worried sick, fastening his pace, anxious to get there before the battle began.
He was not particularly concerned with the fate of most people there. But neither Ling Hu nor Ling Tian Xiang must be harmed. Thinking of those dearest to him, Ling Xian forced his powers downward into his legs, frantically trying to fasten his pace even further.
It's a shame he couldn't fly. He hadn't reached the foundational level in his training. If only he had a pair of wings.
Suddenly, he remembered, the second transformation ability he had… was a pair of wings!
Overcome with delight, Ling Xian transformed one of his pupils black and the other one white. Waves of thin, murky smoke evaporated from his pores and surrounded his body. Sadly, regardless of how hard he tried, he could not sculpt anything close to a pair of wings.
"Perhaps I'm too weak? Need more training as a cultivator?" Ling Xian pondered for a moment. Then, spitting out a mouthful of blood, he was determined to force the wings out.
Unfortunately, despite the promising glow that lit up his body, he could not transform.
"Sigh… looks like I definitely need more training." Abandoning this idea, he kept running.
Almost immediately after Ling Xian decided he had no option but to continue running, an earth shattering stampede approached him from behind, followed by a wave of deafening roars.
"Damn, beasts." Ling Xian turned around and was confronted with a terrifying scene.
An army of more than a dozen hideous beasts of the ninth realm raced towards him. The ground shattered behind them, turning dust into clouds, erasing the line separating heaven from earth, and earth from hell.
The beasts' thundering roars were filled with anger and hatred, all directed at Ling Xian.
Ling Xian's heart sank. Had he been healthier, these beasts would have been no match for him. However, his injuries were still healing, and his focus was elsewhere, with Ling Hu, with Ling Tian Xiang. He didn't have, and couldn't use, the powers he needed to battle these beasts.
There was no other choice, he had to flee. He injected all the powers he had into his legs, but two legs could not outrun four. Within moments, Ling Xian found himself surrounded by herds of angry, red-eyed, bloodthirsty beasts.
"The roof falls just when it starts to rain. Can't believe they found me right when I'm needed elsewhere." Ling Xian was irate. He wasn't overly concerned with his own life. Worst comes to worst, he'll slaughter out a path lined with their blood and corpses.
However, this will waste too much time. Perhaps by then, Ling Tian Xiang and the rest of the House would have turned into corpses.
There was no use worrying. Ling Xian sighed softly. Gazing upon the Emerald Eyed Snow Lion, who was missing its left eye, Ling Xian greeted it as an old friend. "What a coincidence. We meet again. Looks like your left eye has gone completely blind."
The lion flew into a fit of rage. Its vicious roar sent the earth trembling and birds fleeing.
"You damned human! Come to die!"