The Sage Who Transcended Samsara Chapter 472
Zhao Heng’s gaze was set upon Meng Qi. Moments slipped by before he could utter a word. “Bold and empowered by invincibility, it seems…” said the prince of his companion.
The consummation of the deed had to be like clockwork, every calculated step had to be exact to precision. Meng Qi was to be able to accomplish the deed and assassinate his victim, a warrior of the Half-Step Exterior in mere strokes. The closeness of the Duozi Alley to Changming Street had allowed Meng Qi to reach Zhao Heng’s manor in a few breaths in case he was pursued and hunted down for his crime. There could be no margin for missteps or blunders!
The success of the execution by Meng Qi’s design would not have been possible without the utmost certainty and tenacity in his abilities and strength, as well as the study of his prey and the patrolling of the sentries. Not one detail could be overlooked, or room left for carelessness at any point. For this reason, Zhao Heng sighed in admiration towards his companion.
Meng Qi’s shook his head as he laughed gently in reply, “I would have withdrawn immediately if the deed could not have been completed in a few strokes. I do not seek death.”
Unbeknownst to himself, Meng Qi had adopted the methods of the Wolf King in the culmination of his assassination attempt.
The information that the Immortals had supplied Meng Qi with only left him with divided confidence in assassinating Yang Wuliang with rapid speed, but Meng Qi was sure that he would not be able to withstand his assault.
“Really, surely there is no need for such reckless foolhardiness. Webs of deceit and intrigues are far more weaved throughout the capital of Luoyang. I am sure there will be plenty of opportunities rearing their heads in due time; say, when my third brother attends the banquet,” Zhao Heng frowned at his friend concerning his rashness.
Meng Qi savored a sip of the tea before him. He calmly replied, “I do not want any loose ends that may entangle with other unrelated matters. Hence my decision to resolve the matter with haste.”
The assassination assignment was nonetheless a mission delegated to him by the Immortals. Complications could surface if the deed was ensnared in any unsuspecting turmoil that could unfold during his main task, possibly putting his identity as Heavenly Primogenitor in danger. The news of his presence in the capital was yet undiscovered, offering him some freedom and confidence.
Understanding that nothing would be gained by a verbal fight, Zhao Heng could only offer another word of caution to his friend, “News of a retainer of the Half-Step Exterior who was in service of a noble during his death would throw the capital into turbulent strife. Agents of the Six Fan School will comb through the city in search of traces of the murderer. You would do well to lay low for now.”
He heaved a sigh as he paused before continuing, “Well, the deed was not without its merits. You have rattled the bush. Now we can sit in the shadows and observe my third brother…”
“And that, is one of the many purposes for my haste, ” Meng Qi boasted in shameless modesty.
Meng Qi had indeed harbored such notion of doubt and suspicion. However, the nature of their main task was still unknown. He could not risk the objectives of the main task implicating the Third Prince and the people that shadowed him. So, he discontinued any further pursuit on the matter.
News blazed through the capital with the resemblance of a bushfire in its fervor. Anger thundered from the halls of the Imperial Court so loudly that blood could be brazenly and recklessly spilled right under its nose. Decrees to the Six Fan School were dispatched with haste, demanding extensive investigations and apprehension of the culprits. Such shame and dishonor descended upon the doors of the Six Fan School that agents of the formerly-prestigious defense bureau scoured through every fen and hollow for traces of the murderer. They conducted exhaustive arrests of many notorious wanted characters, solving many old crimes. Various sources from the underground society within the capital were pestered for tips on the criminal, but nothing was found on the perpetrator who was last seen in ragged blue clothing.
Tales from the gutter spoke of a soothsayer who had tried to divine the identity of the brazen murderer. However, the signs he had seen showed him that the heinous act was wrought by immortals or deities, much to the amusement of the public.
Any deed executed by Meng Qi under the guise of the Heavenly Primogenitor, assuming the immortal’s appearance and the use of his skills and techniques, would be borne by The Immortals. Signs of divinations and Karma would point to The Immortals indefinitely, as Meng Qi had not leaked anything that could be traced back to himself. The utmost need for mystery and secrecy had long protected the members and associates of the mythical guild from being hunted with vengeance and malice!
Fear and panic gripped the hearts of the citizens of the capital. To make headway, Prince Jin declared a handsome reward for anyone who would come forward with clues or counsel.
Surprisingly, the sobriety of the prince in his governance of the affair had earned him many words of praise from many ministers and officials of the Imperial Court. Whispers of approval wafted in the cloisters and corridors of the palace, complimenting his fortitude and wit.
Days passed until one day the secret chamber that Zhao Heng had reserved for his personal training use was graced by the presence of a lady who had come visit. Adorned in robes as white as the moon, a silky white veil obscured the features of her face, despite the frosty charms that escaped her veil.
“You have reached the capital in good time. Much earlier that I would have expected, in fact,” smiled Meng Qi to his female companion.
The guest was none other than Ruan Yushu, her icy charm in full display as she removed her veil. None of her former innocence remained as she spoke placidly, “I prepared long before as it was made known that the main task would be completed in our realm. My family had been informed that it would be a trip of pilgrimage. When it was determined that we were to meet in the capital, my household was immediately informed of my intention to travel here.”
“An enlightened decision indeed!”Meng Qi’s eyes twinkled in gratitude as his thoughts rang,“It would hardly appear odd should there be any need to request resources from the Ruan Clan in Luoyang!”
He gave his companion a thumbs-up, praising her judicious acumen, “Wise indeed!”
Ruan Yushu tilted her head upwards slightly in acknowledgment. Her gaze wandered to the beams and pillars above them as she murmured, “My grandfather, my grandmother, my father, my mother, my brothers and sisters, and all my other grandfathers and uncles…”
Her sudden and continuous chants of the many names of her kin confused Meng Qi since he didn’t understand her intentions.
“… they praised me as well,” finished Ruan Yushu nonchalantly, without a shred of awkwardness or bashfulness. Her tone suggested a certain pride as sure as the rising and setting of the sun.
“The most doted on child of the household indeed… She happily relishes in compliments…” wondered Meng Qi as cold sweat broke out on his forehead. He diverted their conversation to other matters. “I have been to Northern Zhou and the grassland prairies further north. They have exotic taste in food which are much more varied compared to our local cuisine…”
Ruan Yushu immediately fell into her seat to listen to the details of his trip with great attentiveness. Curious questions and answers flowed occasionally as the tale of his adventure amazed her. Astonished when Meng Qi spoke of slaughtering the snow beast, she asked, “Can you eat it?”
“Hahaha… ” Meng Qi burst into roaring laughter. Her expression was completely like his when he first asked the very same question on the snowy cliffs of the frosty mountains.
Ruan Yushu had mistaken her question for an ill-suited inquiry. Dejected, she understood the laughter of her companion, “I suppose it is not fit for consumption.”
“The meat is sour,” Meng Qi revealed, stifling his laughter.
Ruan Yushu’s eyebrows twitched as she raked through her mind, “There are ways to dispose of the sour taste, but that depends on the meat itself. Some might suggest the use of culinary wines…”
The two companions were deep in their debate when Zhao Heng entered the chamber, followed by a stranger dressed in greenish garb. His appearance was plain and simple. They looked at the stranger who had just arrived.
However, Meng Qi raised his hand to beckon to their guest, having sensed the breath and aura of the stranger. He smiled as he said, “A year has passed, Senior Brother Qi. How handsome you have become. An impressive air of prestige can be felt…”
Impervious to Meng Qi’s nonsense, Qi Zhengyan blankly remarked, “My Purple Star River technique is complete.”
The consummation of his training for this very technique had been the purpose for his year-long training. With a serene calmness, he revealed his achievement, his tone devoid of arrogance and conceit, free of timidity and insecurity.
“Very good.” Meng Qi returned to his genuine self, replying honestly.
He was not surprised at Qi Zhengyan’s completion of his training. The training of the Book of Chaos technique included the channeling of the mystical energies of Nature, allowing its practitioner the power to wield a fraction of the force of Nature. Qi Zhengyan’s accomplishment in unsealing his Ninth Aperture and the attainment of the Heaven-Man Connection would hasten his progress.
“I have been traveling in the Southern provinces for the past year and have gained much. Still, I daresay that you have enjoyed a more abundant harvest slaying Wolf King. Surely there have been substantial improvements in your strength, mind, and will…” said Qi Zhengyan firmly, with a note of admiration and wonder.
With feigned modesty, Meng Qi answered, “A little. I only reached the Oneness of Heaven and Man.”
“I am close to reaching the Oneness of Heaven and Man,” Ruan Yushu whispered suddenly.
“Oh?” Her abrupt remark took Meng Qi by genuine surprise. Ruan Yushu’s speedy growthhad exceeded his former expectations. He had anticipated that she was only close to the Heaven-Man Connection at most.
“Sister Yushu is remarkably gifted with the zither. It should be no surprise that she would enjoy swifter, smoother progress than most,” remarked Zhao Heng with a laugh.
This was the true gift of talent that none could begrudge.
Meng Qi was keen to notice a faint disappointment that seemed to fall on Ruan Yushu just as Zhao Heng had uttered the crude remark. In a stroke of a sudden wit, he noted with a smile, “Still, one does not achieve such improvement without tenacity, perseverance and high intelligence; not even with talent.”
The edges of Ruan Yushu lips rose slightly. She turned to look out of the window to hide her embarrassment. Still, she could not help but nod faintly in pride as she peered out of the window.
Just then, the voice of the Dominator of the Samsara in the Six Realms boomed,
“The team of four has arrived at the capital city of Luoyang. Thus ends the first main task. The second main task shall hereby commence.”
“Heed the objectives of your second task. You are to infiltrate the Sumptuous Fruits Banquet. The mission is a success if either in the team succeeds in winning the prize of the banquet’s contests. A reward of one thousand five hundred Karma points is in store for successful completion of the task. Failure to complete the task will result in the forfeit of the same number from your current surplus. Failure to gain entry into the banquet shall also be viewed as a failure.”
“The Sumptuous Fruits Banquet?” murmured Meng Qi, frowning in bewilderment. He flashed an inquiring look at Zhao Heng. As the only resident of the capital city among the four, surely he would know of the phrase.
Zhao Heng’s expression drooped, “His Majesty the Emperor has ordered a banquet, called the Sumptuous Fruits Banquet to be held during autumn. A contest of debates and martial duels is expected to take place. Word has it that the Crown Prince incurred the displeasure and wrath of the Emperor. His Majesty intends to put us all, the sons of the Emperor, to the test.”
“The Emperor wishes to appoint a new Crown Prince?”wondered Meng Qi to himself. Political shifts of such magnitude have never seemed to bring pleasant endings.
“How does one obtain entry into this Sumptuous Fruits Banquet then?” asked Qi Zhengyan, addressing their most critical quandary.
Zhao Heng grimly admitted, “Protocol dictates that I can only bring one guest with me.”
“Additionally, any members of the Myths present would discover his identity as one of the Samsara travelers if we attended the banquet as a group,” Meng Qi pointed out with concern.
“We shall have to seek other avenues of entry into the banquet,” said Ruan Yushu firmly. “Once inside, we will have to lend our assistance to help him garner the Emperor’s favor. The prize of the contest will have to go to one among us who would be best positioned.”
“Indeed.” Meng Qi voiced his agreement with a nod, “We also need to learn the requirements of attending the banquet.”
“Let us not forget, it is best if we find out ahead the terms of the contests,” reminded Qi Zhengyan. The prize of the contest was, nevertheless, the objective of their task.
“Where should we start?” Meng Qi glanced at Zhao Heng inquiringly.
A strange expression came across Zhao Heng’s face. “Su Li, the Lord Mightiness, is the Vice Commander of the Imperial Guard. He has the utmost trust and confidence of His Majesty. He would be responsible for overseeing the proceedings of the banquet…”
The fame of ruling atop the Ranking List of Young Masters did not come without its price. Meng Qi had become the center of discussions and debates across the entire Jianghu. The whispers and arguments around his name and feats had not ensued without the knowledge and information regarding his origins and past leaking into prominence. Instinctively, Qi Zhengyan and Ruan Yushu both turned in unison to look at him.
He had not expect the reckoning at hand. Flustered with embarrassment and shock, he stuttered hastily, “W-what are you looking at me for? I will not betray myself!”
He had uttered the words of his frustration in partial jest. There could not be any evading the task at hand. He should have known best.
Ruan Yushu let out a chuckle. In a streak of playfulness, she teased with a serious expression, “It would hardly be challenging for me to attend the banquet, with the aid of my household. You will have to do what is best for you then.”
Meng Qi sighed in perturbed exasperation, “First, I must slip out of the capital. I’ll have to return with a more distinguished entry back to the capital of Luoyang, as if I have just arrived.”
By the edges of the outskirts of the capital, a band of armed escorts was rushing around. None spoke a word as they ran, as if gripped by a muted numbness. Their footsteps pattered in silence, carrying an air of grim tension about them.
“Chief, why have Head Escort He had made such a hasty retreat? Everyone is stirring with fear and despair…” lamented one of the men.
The man looked to be in his twenties. His tight-nerved eyes shone with resolute steadfastness despite his bookish demeanor, portraying his strong spirit and resolve.
The chief of the band of armed escorts forced a smile as he answered, “Fear not, Changqing. The Head Escort only wishes to take precautionary measures given the seriousness of our present assignment. He must make a speedy retreat to the capital city using his Body Movement techniques.”
“Does the item of consignment holds great value?”Gu Zhangqing wondered to himself. The information was news to him. He was never informed that the item that they were escorting held tremendous value or significance.
No wonder the Head Escort had intentionally hidden himself amongst the convoy before slipping back alone!
“Are we the decoys, Chief?” asked another of the men.
The chief broke into great laughter, “What do we have to fear? The enemy has no reason to eliminate us when the item is not with us.”
The chief cast a glance at Gu Changqing, “Rally the men to quicken the pace, Changqing. We will pause for a brief rest after crossing the river.”
Gu Changqing steadily nodded in reply. He clutched the hilt of his sword tightly as he turned to the rear of the convoy to speak to the others.
“Fear not, Master Gu. Bandits would not begrudge us the absence of the Head Escort. Their main pursuit is wealth after all,” said an elderly armed escort of many winters, consoling Gu Changqing in return.
Gu Changqing’s head bobbed meekly in reply. He sighed and grumbled, “If only I had greater strength and better skills… We would not have to fear the likes of common bandits.”
He had endured three passing winters unwaveringly. With grit and persistence, he had trained hard and long to hone his skills. He was but a young fledgling who had barely unsealed his Fourth Aperture when he first set foot into Luoyang. After years of hard work, he had finally unsealed his Seventh Aperture, with the early conception of his Inner World. The tough grind of his training has finally seen him rising as the golden child of the Escort Agency of the Central Province as his formerly embittered kin began to warm up to him.
However, an endless pain stabbed his heart, inflicting anguish as he reminisced on his past whenever he was reminded that he still had a long way before he reached the skills of his nemesis.
A shrilling howl pierced the silence of the surrounding hilly gorges just as one of the men had begun to speak. Shadows and silhouettes of intruders began to emerge from everywhere, surrounding the convoy.
“Ha. Swift as the wind the old senile Jiang has fled, trying to draw us to himself. But the item of escort remains in your possession, doesn’t it?” said the leader of the marauders, wearing wide, flowing robes. His hair was a faint shade of green with the eerie resemblance of a demon in the darkness of the night.
The Chief of the convoy was stricken with the same alarm and shock that his pupils felt. Staggering backwards in fear, he asked, “Are you the Evil Spirit Cultivator of the Luo Denomination? Why would the item be in our possession when we can barely defend ourselves against you?”
The demon giggled with an icy chill, “Fear not. The Six-Annihilation Devilman of the Destruction Sect will make short work of your old man Jiang. We, of the Luo Denomination, have always been known to spare no mercy!”
“The Destruction Sect and the Luo Denomination are working together in a conspiracy?”The Chief and Gu Changqing, along with the others, could hardly believe their ears.