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Of course, Li Gang was not killing his men.
"The second prince is clearly too naive. He thought by sending a general from the imperial army over here could he plant his henchman in the main force of Chang'an and then infiltrate to the whole force. What he doesn't know is that the hunters who are most skilled at setting up traps are p.r.o.ne to fall in traps by the end."
At the time, the armored soldiers he killed were all Meng Wu's trusted subordinates.
Li Gang, the superior magistrate, watched the soldiers fall like cut wheat. Most of them were locals who were born and raised in Chang'an. At their death, however, Li Gang felt no stir of emotion at all.
He had started the purge with both the high moral ground and the end of personal gains.
Outside of the Xiongfeng Martial Art Club, Meng Wu, the Divine Horse Silver Spear who already suffered an avulsion between the thumb and the index finger, immediately learned what was happening inside.
He at once left the battle between Li Mu and the Long-brow Saint behind and rushed to the main altar of the Xiongfeng Martial Art Club. When he arrived, the ground was already covered with several hundred bodies and pools of blood, which were still issuing hot white mist against the freezing weather of the early winter. Since those victims were all full-blooded martial pract.i.tioners, their blood contained powerful energy and would not congeal right away after they died...
Those armored soldiers were his most reliable subordinates. He had provided them the best equipment, the most excellent practice resources, and trained them with the advanced drilling methods the imperial army adopted for a whole year. It could be said that they were Meng Wu's most treasured troop. That he dispatched them to attack the Xiongfeng Martial Art Club this time was because he intended to train them with the real fight. Although he knew some of them might be lost on the mission, now that the head of the Ghost Sect in the Celestial Being Realm would blaze the way for them, the casualty could not be heavy. By the way, he could also demonstrate his training skill to the second prince...
Yet, all of his soldiers were lost.
Glaring at Li Gang, Meng Wu demanded almost in a howl, "Your Honor Li, what are you doing? Why did you kill all my soldiers? Even though you enjoy a high position and control the military and political affairs in Chang'an, I think I still need you to answer to me on this matter."
Meng Wu was proud of his days in the imperial army and the fact that he was a disciple of Guan Minren, the Heavenly Exclaiming Broadsword, also one of the two most brilliant generals. In recent years, he grew more and more arrogant and high-handed. Deep down, he held the low-key governor of Chang'an in little respect. He merely pretended to be obedient and respectful for the convenience of life. But at the moment, the rage rising inside Meng Wu made him no longer want to disguise his real thoughts.
Li Mu, however, smiled faintly and said, "Why should I explain anything to you?"
Another jet of sword light zoomed past.
Meng Wu felt his soul was about to fly out of his body.
He only found the sword descend upon as if heaven-sent. The pressure and power the sword produced were not something he could dodge or fend off. A far-away aura flowed from the blade, encouraging him to die under the sword most willingly.
It was not a strike that any human being could launch.
In that instant, Meng Wu suddenly understood why the head of the Ghost Sect, already a Celestial Being, had been killed by Li Gang's one sword strike. Simultaneously, it also occurred to him that lately, the imposing t.i.tle 'Sword Whiz' the second prince mentioned to him was not an overpraise, though he had c.o.c.ked a snook at it.
Meng Wu felt death was befalling him.
Yet, precisely in that instant—
"Master Li, you are probably too blood-thirsty."
The voice of the second prince rang.
Along his voice came a shot of golden dragon fingerprint. The scales on it were distinctly perceived, the finger very vivid. It ripped open the thin air and stuck out through the hole in the void. Although it appeared after the sword light, it crossed the s.p.a.ce at an incomprehensible speed and pressed right against that divine sword light.
Dreadful energy fluctuations gave rise to waves of air, which could be seen with bare eyes.
The dead soldiers on the ground were at once reduced to dust by the energy fluctuations. The void trembled, and the experts in the Xiongfeng Martial Art Club all sensed waves of powerful qi were coming at them. They found they could hardly catch their breath. In alarm, they all started running their Cultivation Methods and retreating from the battlefield.
Qin Yanzi leaped forward and shielded Mrs. Tang and her two daughters. She crossed her arms before her chest, and then the gold boxing gloves gave off a layer of swirling gold light adorned with an enigmatic golden star deployment. The golden light shield miraculously neutralized most of the horrible qi waves flowing towards them.
"Back off!" She shouted at the others.
The experts of the Xiongfeng Martial Art Club immediately retreated into the main altar hall and turned on the defensive star deployment there to resist the stray qi waves generated by the fierce fight between the Celestial Beings.
"Good, good. The Dragon-commanding Skill of the second prince is even better now," complimented Li Gang.
He had long since acquired a thorough understanding of the sword heart. The sword could move at his will and wipe out anything in the blink of an eye. Although he just launched a strike casually, the attack was still filled with great sword intent. Nevertheless, the gold dragon fingerprint the second prince sent instantly offset his Sword Qi. He irresistibly felt that the young were to be regarded with awe.
"While Your Honor's Secular Sword kind of degenerates day by day." The voice of the second prince fluttered out from a distant loft, carrying a note of faint playfulness and sarcasm. "In the good old days, the Secular Sword overawed the capital and became one of the Four Great Legends at that time. But today, Your Honor's sword is not that sharp as it used to be."
Li Gang simply smiled in silence.
Then, the second prince spoke again. "Meng Wu is a disciple of Grand Chancellor Guan, the Heavenly Exclaiming Broadsword. He is from the imperial army, a rising star of our military force. His future is unlimited. So, why direct your lethal sword at him for no reason?"
"Sending the Red Blaze Battalion in the city short of my military order is a capital offense," stated Li Gang.
The Commander in Chief had the discretion to dispatch the three main battle forces of Chang'an to arrest wrongdoers and complete a military drill without the military order of the Chang'an magistrate. However, in the case of sending the troops into the big city, he must obtain the permission of the magistrate beforehand. In light of that, Meng Wu arbitrarily picking out soldiers of the Red Blaze Battalion to form the patrolling regiment and sending them into Chang'an was a severe blunder.
Those days, Li Gang had kept such a low profile that he could almost be ignored. Since the magistrate did not flare up upon the offense or issue any official warnings to stop Meng Wu, everyone turned a blind eye to it. But in nine cases out of ten, the problem did not just disappear even though no one paid attention to it. Now, when Li Gang brought it up with a serious air, Meng Wu came to realize that he seemed to have... fallen in a trap.
For a moment, even the second prince had no reply for that.
"Meng Wu has sent the force in town under my orders." After a few seconds, the second prince broke the silence in a different tone. "He is my man." Plainly, the second prince no longer wanted to play a fair game. As he could not explain himself based on reasons or laws, he resorted to power and hierarchy. Given the status and the intelligence of the second prince, it was apparent that he was more or less provoking Li Gang with that remark, presumably hoping to oppress him with his high standing.
He wanted to infuriate Li Gang.
But the magistrate just smiled coolly and said, "Precisely because he is a man of Your Highness, he must be killed."
As his voice died away—
Another jet of sword light shot out.
The sword light twinkled like stars and whirled like a galaxy.
In a trice, the jet of sword light penetrated Meng Wu. Next, the good-looking young man in white started to fade. The outline of his body blurred, as though an error slowly melting away in the vast secular world. With terror and despair, the figure disappeared into the background bit by bit as if a shattered dream.
The Secular Sword tore up the secular objects.
And this time, the second prince obviously had no time to save Meng Wu.
Or else, he had no intention to save him the second time.
"Like what I've said, Meng Wu was a disciple of Grand Chancellor Guan, the Heavenly Exclaiming Broadsword," the second prince repeated calmly. Li Gang murdering Meng Wu brought him a bigger benefit, for he could use that case to arouse the anger of Grand Chancellor Guan, the man commanding eight hundred thousand imperial soldiers in the capital, and to make him fight against their common enemy. Today's incident was a small turning point, but it could be beneficial. If he finished off Li Gang today, that Grand Chancellor at least would not have a conflict of interest with him due to Li Gang's death when he went back to the capital.
But there was still a hint of fury in his eyes.
He was not furious about Meng Wu's death. Instead, he had to affect utter protectiveness towards Meng Wu to show that the man had died despite his efforts.
Plus, Li Gang had shown him too little respect.
That was not how a subject should behave before his ruler.
At the words of the second prince, Li Gang smiled again. He looked steadily more composed and graceful. "Two decades ago, I already kept Guan Minren down-trodden. Now, two decades later, I certainly have fear for him as always. Let alone his disciple, if he has done something deserves a death penalty, I will send him to h.e.l.l as well."
The second prince slightly raised his eyebrows at his remark.
Suddenly, he felt something was not going in the same direction as he expected.
"Your Honor Li, you seem to be still engrossed in your old glory," The second prince said flatly, "I've been longing to witness the power of the Secular Sword, one of the old Four Great Legends, for a long time. I am wondering whether the Sword Whiz wielding the Secular Sword lives up to his fame."
That was a clear message of challenge.
A golden light was billowing around the second prince. All of a sudden, a stream of mighty surged up like a sea tide.
The power of heaven and earth began to twirl.
With the royal blood running inside him and the power of the royal treasures he carried, the second prince manipulated the power of heaven and earth at his will. No doubt that he would not fear the stringent law about banning the use of the power of heaven and earth within major cities, nor was he subject to the stifling power of the Sky-stabilizing Mirror, the magic instrument that protected the entire Chang'an.
Li Gang shook his head and said, "As a subject of the emperor, I can't defy the superior."
He refused to fight the second prince.
The second prince sniffed coldly and then doubted, "Really?" "Well, if the emperor wants his subject dead, the subject shall surrender to his fate. Your Honor Li, if I want you dead..."
Li Gang immediately cut him short. "You're just a prince, not the emperor of the Western Qin. What gives you the right to say things like that? Are you plotting to dethrone your father or not?"
The face of the second prince abruptly darkened.
He already found he could not outperform the brightest star in that imperial examination by arguing.
But at that precise moment—
A howl of pain resounded through the place, and a gush of blood blotched the sky.
The Long-brow Saint had lost an arm. Pale as a sheet, he beat a retreat.
Through the battle with Li Mu, he was shocked by the fact that he, a Celestial Being, was not the rival of Li Mu, an expert who had not even obtained the full accomplishment in the Natural Realm. What a shame it was that he also had one armed chopped off by the Natural Expert! Though furious and ashamed, he no longer dared to strike once more.
By that time, Li Mu had landed on the solid ground.
Twenty flying broadswords were dancing around him like a flock of birds. They glowed in holy colors, swooshed here and there thunderously. Each of them carried formidable broadsword qi, which was quite startling. Li Mu broke into an explosion of laughter before saying, "Celestial Beings are nothing more than this. They are so weak that they can't withstand a single blow of mine."
Although most of the audience were concentrated on the stand-off between the mean magistrate and the second prince when he fought against the Long-brow Saint, Li Mu felt the battle satisfyingly impa.s.sioned. He exercised all the tricks of the martial arts he grasped in the recent closed-door training in that battle, especially the Broadsword-commanding skill. Now, he could make the one broadsword split into twenty-four broadswords and attack. That was a qualitative leap he made. Also, it confirmed his expectation that the Broadsword-commanding skill could help him defeat the Celestial Being.
"Humph, how could I lose to you little kid had the magic Sky-stabilizing Mirror been lifted, and I was allowed to mobilize the power of heaven and earth?" Fuming, the Long-brow Saint spilled blood out of his mouth. He knew he had got himself in an inarticulate misery, and it was no use even if he expressed it in words. The Sky-stabilizing Mirror that was developed to check the qi flow was already activated before Li Gang turned up. With that instrument in operation, the power of all the Celestial Being in the entire Chang'an City was dented. That was why Li Mu defeated him.
Upon hearing his complaints, Li Mu laughed. "Well, you can blame no one other than your bad luck."