The middle-aged man was Yu Huai. He was the son of Yu Mu, the seventh son among the second generation of Yu Clan, and Yu He's biological father. At the sight of him, Wu Qi had a feeling that this man was not a human at all, but a foul ghost who had climbed out of the hell.
He was a man of great stature, about nine feet in height, and could be considered a stalwart man if he had any muscle on his body. But, some evil mystic art he was practicing had left him with only a thin sheet of skin on his face, while the flesh on his body had completely merged with his skeleton. Apart from his head, he was a skeleton that shone with a faint golden glow.
Numerous thumb-sized blood vessels were attached to this pale golden skeleton. Every now and then, a fluid that flashed with a strong black light would flow through the vessels, making them writhe like some little serpents. A heart shining with bronze luster and looking as if it was forged out of some metal was beating strongly in his emptied chest. With every heartbeat, a loud noise like someone had just knocked a bronze bell would echo out, and the fluid flowing in the vessels would surge and produce a dull noise of metal clashing against metal.
Although he looked extremely ugly and ferocious, Yu Huai only had a black robe draped over his shoulder as he unashamedly showed off his skeletal body. Wu Qi could clearly see his bones, the vessels tangled around them, and the faint black mist that sprayed out of his joints from time to time. The black mist was so thick and sticky that it squirted out of his joints like glue, slowly sketching out one after another ghostly face in the air and gradually melting.
After staring blankly at Yu Huai for a long while, Wu Qi finally cupped his fist and said, "Greetings. I am Tan Lang, the Hundred-men Lieutenant of the Military Court in An He City."
The two faint eyebrows on Yu He's shriveled face knitted into a tight frown. "A mere Hundred-men Lieutenant?" He said in a deep voice, "Tsk, Yu He, it seems that I've been holding you up in the past. If you had left the clan a few years earlier and become the Great Oracle of some province, you might have already recruited a few more stronger helpers.
"The few brothers who are most likely to compete with you have been Great Oracles for a few years at the least, and many of the helpers they brought this time have broken through the Three Stars Realm of the First Pangu Heaven, and are all Thousand-men Lieutenants. A mere Hundred-men Lieutenant? Oh well!"
Yu Huai sighed deeply as he stared at Wu Qi and shook his head.
Wu Qi's lips curved slightly into a brief smile as he raised his left hand and gently shook the string of black beads on his wrist. Yu Huai's pupils constricted. "Oh? The Dark Evil Soul Beads is with you? You've concealed your cultivation base? No wonder I can't see through you." He chuckled while pointing one finger at his own chest, "Come, give me a full power punch. Let me see your true overall strength."
Bemused, Wu Qi turned to look at Yu He.
Yu He looked at his father hesitantly. "Are you afraid that this boy will hurt me?" Yu Huai yelled at him unhappily, "Give me a full power punch, so I can have some confidence in him! Hmph, if he is weak, it is better to not let him represent you!"
With his teeth clenched, Yu He whispered to Wu Qi, "If that is the case, punch as hard as you can!"
A full power punch? Wu Qi nodded. He waved his fist and suddenly took a deep breath. The cold and gloomy air in the great hall began to stir, and he nearly inhaled all of it with that breath alone. The ground trembled slightly as a few energy veins under their feet exuded a vast stream of purple energy, all of which surged into Wu Qi's body.
As the Dark Evil Soul Beads had concealed his aura, nothing out of ordinary could be seen around him. However, his right arm had grown double in size, with veins protruding from beneath his skin. The veins were emitting a dazzling gold-and-purple light, as if they were forged with purple-gold. Wu Qi spread his right palm, then clenched it tightly. The motion had made his right palm double in size. Dull cracking noise could be heard coming out from the fist, and its color had changed as well. Now, it looked like a metal fist entirely forged with purple-gold.
A sudden jerk ran across Yu Huai's skinny face. He gritted his teeth and cursed under his breath, thinking to stop Wu Qi. But, he was too ashamed to say that. He gave Yu He an angry glare, and suddenly waved his right hand to unleash forty-nine talismans, casting them all upon himself. A ring of faint black light enveloped his strange body instantly, and some sharp howling of ghost began to spew out from within his body. Vaguely, a gust of chilly wind was blowing out of his bones, multiplying the cold wind that had been swirling in the great hall.
Quietly, Wu Qi exercised the True Body of Heaven and Earth Scripture to gather all his physical strength into his right fist, then with the Fiend Celestial Battle the Heaven Script, he compressed the strength into an explosive force. He was all ready to show Yu Huai something unexpected.
'Since you want me to punch you with all my strength, for the sake of my future status and interest, I must not let you underestimate me.'
When everything was ready, Wu Qi let out a wild laugh as he made a dash forward, exercising the Kuafu Chasing The Sun Step and appearing in front of Yu Huai in just the blink of an eye. It startled Yu Huai, and he cried out shockingly, "Kuafu Chasing The Sun Step? Good lad!"
His bronze heart was beating violently, the vessels tangled his bones squirming, and his entire body rang with the sounds of metal clashing on metal. A vast dark mist sprayed out of his joints and quickly transformed into a suit of black armor on him. It wrapped him in an airtight fashion, and there were ferocious-looking ghost heads poking out of his shoulders, chest, and all the important joints. The armor was sending forth a menacingly evil aura.
Borrowing the momentum of Kuafu Chasing The Sun Step, Wu Qi punched Yu Huai's chest with all his might. His fist trembled fiercely nine times, and each time, they shattered a layer of black defensive energy barrier while pushing the skeletal man one step backward. After the ninth time, the defensive barrier formed from forty-nine talismans was completely destroyed, and it was at that moment the explosive force Wu Qi had gathered in his fist thrust whistling out, smashing straight into Yu Huai's body.
A loud boom rang out, and a blinding light erupted from all over the place as countless restrictive formations appeared out of nowhere to protect the great hall. Yu Huai let out a muffled snort as he flew tumbling backward. Wu Qi's punch had sent him flying tens of miles away, slamming him headlong into the restrictive formation at the far end of the hall, where he finally managed to stop. The powerful force from the fist had thrown him up at the restrictive formation, and dazzling electric arcs were darting out endlessly from his body. The impact had nearly shattered the formation and sent him out of the hall.
The strong light flashed and blinked for almost the time it took to finish a pot of tea before fading away. Yu Huai slipped slowly to the ground and stumbled forward a few steps before he could stand on his feet. He was frozen in place for a little quarter of an hour before he slowly straightened up his body. As he did that, Wu Qi and Yu He could clearly hear the 'crunch' coming from his spine.
It was only a quarter of an hour again before Yu Huai retracted the black armor and slowly walked to Wu Qi and Yu He. His face trembled as he nodded approvingly to Wu Qi and said, "A good punch. I reckon you must have broken through the Seventh Stars Realm of the First Pangu Heaven? Well, your punch does come with a kick... Yu He will definitely claim the power of a province with your help!"
Reaching out one hand to give Wu Qi's shoulder a hard slap, Yu Huai said in a deep voice, "Help Yu He with all your heart, and I won't treat you badly!"
Then, he turned to look at Yu He and said, "The clan has decided that I will take up the position of Prefecture Overseer of the third-grade province, a reward far better than what a few Elders are given, and they hate me for that. You are to compete with your brothers for the Prefecture Overseer office of a ninth-grade province. Apart from the seven who already have the offices in their hands, all the others will certainly put their minds on you. You can easily tell that by the fact that someone was trying to kill you right outside of the main entrance."
Closing his eyes, Yu Huai said in a cold voice, "Now that they have resorted to such tricks, you shall have a free hand to kill them! Tan Lang, kill at your will, kill all the helpers who Yu He's brothers have recruited. Death is permitted during the council."
Wu Qi gave Yu He a glance, who looked as if nothing had happened. He cupped his fist and said respectfully, "Well then, I will kill them all." Those helpers were just retainers whom Yu He's brothers had recruited, and killing them would not bring him any psychological burden. It was how the world of cultivators operated. For the sake of resources and a glimmer of future, anyone could have his hand smeared with blood.
Yu Huai nodded with satisfaction. Then, he smiled at Yu He and said, "With Tan Lang's help, you've got a one hundred percent chance of winning. It's time for you two to go quickly. The refining of one hundred and eight Fiend corpses has reached a critical moment, so I will not attend the council with you."
Yu He bowed to his father while Wu Qi cupped his fist. After that, the two of them left the great hall with hurried steps. Even though Yu Huai was his father, Yu He was scared of this great hall, and he did not like the evil aura that filled the atmosphere.
When Wu Qi and Yu He had left the great hall, Yu Huai, who appeared to be perfectly normal a moment ago, suddenly sat down on the floor and coughed up a mouthful of black fluid. "Damn it! Where did this lad come from?" He cursed under his breath, "I'm sure he has broken through the Seventh Stars Realm of the First Pangu Heaven, and that puts him on the same level as me. How stupid was I to ask him to give me a full power punch? Damn it! It will take me a least a few months to heal this injury!"
His embarrassment had soon turned into anger. "Somebody, bring me the family members of that lawless fool who dared to attack my son! I want to teach them a good lesson!"
Amidst Yu Huai's furious roar, a clear chime of a jade bell rang suddenly over the Yu Residence. When the chime echoed throughout the entire residence, more than one hundred lineal descendants of the third generation of the Yu Clan in Zhong Province brought their subordinates and walked out from everywhere, all gathering toward the main hall situated in the center of the residence.
Wu Qi and Yu He, with two hundred Oracles, also followed the crowd to the main hall. Under the command of dozens of Elders, they entered the hall in sequence.