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143 The Fiend

 One could get the Gist of Trueness through the picture of an upwinding smoke plume, but it would be too hard for those gluttons to be satiated even with dire. Some coveted someone younger, sexier, comelier, and shyer after marrying a plain wife; some desired an empire after acquiring a huge estate; some overpowered a county but sought for absolute authority on the life and death of others; some swept over the feeble powers in a limited region and thought to be the first between the heaven and earth...

The grey-haired senior stared at the glint of the sword enveloped in the worldly affairs. He watched Ze Luoju kneel down before him, asking to be spared and to be at his every beck and call.

He had once been the leader of a certain ring of horse bandits who accidentally established his fame. Unfortunately, Ze Luoju targeted him and subdued him. Therefore, he had always desired to beat Ze Luoju and dominate the Evil Ridge to become one of the strongest leaders of the horse gangs.

He snapped back to reality with a sudden stab of pain in his chest. He saw the Commandment Blade cut deeply into his skin and penetrated his flesh.

He was a veteran horse bandit who had fought countless battles. He knew he would not be able to avoid Meng Qi's attack with his current strength. The only hope for survival he had was returning the attack with his own.

Drawing back his upper body, he slashed his Horse-cutting Blade at a slant as if he was ready to die with Meng Qi.

That slash emanated a coldness that seeped deep into the bones. Meng Qi could not help shuddering despite having the Golden Shield protect him, Meng Qi felt the chill emanating from a single blade strike. His flesh seemed to have been frozen, causing his movements to be stiff.

Was his blade art also derived from the Gist of Trueness?

The intent of the blade had preceded the physical contact, freezing Meng Qi!

Clang!

The blade fell on the right side of Meng Qi's chest, leaving a crack that revealed a shining dark, golden light. A deep gash was formed, revealing wriggling bones and muscles that clamped the blade. Blood trickled along the side of the blade.

Without the protection of the Golden Bell Shield and its ability to minimize the lethality of the slash, it would have definitely taken Meng Qi's life!

However, the grey-haired old man was not any better either. Though Meng Qi's delayed blade slash had spared his life, his stomach was almost cut open and his intestines were pouring out. His injuries were much worse as he did not have a supreme martial protection like Meng Qi's Golden Bell Shield.

This was not the first time Meng Qi met an adversary who had inherited the Gist of Trueness. Gu Xiaosang's Anjati Finger had been even more formidable. But he had never expected this to come from a mere horse chief. Why did it felt so easy to encounter people who had mastered such mystic moves?

Earlier, it was just an accident. Meng Qi refused to retreat, only advance. He wanted the fight to end as soon as possible and not be entangled with it. Thus, he did not hesitate nor feared in the slightest. Ignoring his wounds, he slid to his side and averted the blade aimed at his face. His mid-brows swelled and he concentrated his will and landed a ferocious hit on his opponent.

He unsheathed the Ice Palace Sword with his left hand and thrust it upward, making an invitation gesture.

The grey-haired senior withdrew his blade and put up his defense. When he tried to stabilize his wound, he felt a sudden drumming in his ears. His head was already spinning after losing a large amount of blood, but he became even dizzier.

In his daze, he faintly saw a sword light coming at him. It was pure and luminous but rife with killing intent. It was as if he had seen the summon of Yama.

It would be too late to parry with his Horse-cutting Blade. Without even looking at him, Meng Qi withdrew his blade and rushed over to Kang Zhi.

A trickle of blood ran down from his mid-brows. Disbelief colored his eyes and he slowly fell down.

Several of the Enlightenment masters who had caught up to them and the horse bandits who had remained were dumbfounded to see the battle end so soon. However, it was as if the chariot of battle remained persistently on its path and was unstoppable. The number one fighter under the leader of Eight Apertures level, Keeper Luo Hui had was planted face-down without any sign of life!

How could this be?

Luo Hui had once had a fortuitous encounter and inherited the impartation of an Exterior Level blade move. He developed this Bone-chilling Flurry. Even the leaders of Eight Apertures level facing him could not say with certainty they would win. Yet he had only hung on for a few minutes against such a young brat!

What a fearsome brat!

In the next moment, their footsteps slowed as if they were waiting for their companions to be the first to charge at Meng Qi.

Like them, Kang Zhi had not expected Luo Hui to fall with just two strikes. He had no time to trigger all his other preparations at all. Fear gripped his mind.

Not daring to confront this thug, he immediately turned around. He planned on escaping from the yard and running towards the crowd of horse bandits.

Meng Qi powered his legs and used the Arresting Wind and Capturing Shadow. Within the span of a breath, he had already closed their distance.

Kang Zhi was scared witless and ran with all his strength, trying to rid himself of the fiend behind him.

Just then, Gu Changqing appeared before him to block his escape.

Kang Zhi was proud of his ruses, not his martial skills. He had zero desire to fight to his death. Facing Gu Changqing and his eyes burning with fury and vengeance, he only tried to run past him from the side.

Trapped between a rock and a hard place, he had never felt more desperate in his life.

A sudden shadow flew in from outside the yard. It was like a huge eagle baring its claws at Meng Qi's head.

"Head Hong has made it back!" It was another Seven Apertures master who realized something was off and made a U-turn. When the other horse bandits saw him, they rushed over more hectically, clamoring for a share of the would-be loot.

Having spent time with Luo Hui, they knew using just one sword move of Exterior Level cost large amounts of energy. Now that they were backed by such a strong master, their fears were subdued and replaced by the desire to gain merits.

Kang Zhi also heaved a sigh of relief. Finally, someone had come to save them!

He pulled himself together and pasted a wicked smile on his face as he pointed his folded iron fan at Gu Changqing.

This kid appeared good-natured yet was carrying a deep grudge and the fiend behind him had mastered either the Golden Bell Shield or the Vajra Unbreakable Force. How could he not guess their identities?

He thought they had gone back to the Central Plains after not hearing from them for a month. The news had just spread too, so that was why they were caught off guard. Who knew these two would be in Tan Han?

Humph! When this kid left for his travels, he only had an enlightened eye. Now he was at most at the Four Acupores level. But it was too bad for him because this was Evil Ridge and each master was stronger than the one before it!

Gu Changqing was not only retaining his composure in the face of Kang Zhi's attack, he also seemed relieved as if he had gained something he had always desired. He took a step forward and wielded his sword directly toward Kang Zhi's five deadly points.

That was Sword Upon Five Peaks, the most powerful strike from the Swordsmanship of the Gu Family. It was not something one used unless he was prepared to gamble with his life!

Meng Qi felt no surprise when he saw the Seven Apertures master flew in like an eagle. He concentrated his will into a spike once again, hitting his opponent with it.

Then he slashed his sword with his left hand at an angle, sending Yama's Invitation to meet the two 'claws' in the sky.

He cared for nothing. He completely had no defensive measures against the 'eagle claws' but he could only advance, not retreat!

That rigid, gloomy sword light once again appeared before all the horse bandits. The light revealed an unconcealable resolution: There was no pulling back once the sword was struck out and there was no need to pull back!

The Seven Apertures master who practiced the Hawk Attack teetered above. If he was on the ground, it would not have mattered. But he was airborne so it would be a critical hit!

The luminous sword light blinded all who were present.

When the sword light faded, a man fell and the victor stood alone. It was Meng Qi, who held his hand across his forehead, covering a deep cut square at his mid-brows. The wound drenched the palm and stained his face with blood.

It was just a less than an inch, just an inch and he would have completely blocked the slash from his opponent!

Had he parried off that strike, Meng Qi would have been exposed under the hawkish claws. His Golden Bell Shield and the Achilles' heel around his temples would be torn. If not dead, he would be severely hurt at the minimum. If his opponent had not let down his guard, he could really have dragged Meng Qi with him as he died.

This single strike was where two enemies met face-to-face and the braver one prevailed!

Having withdrawn the Ice Palace Sword, Meng Qi glanced at the blood and frost on the sword. Within the span of two breaths, he had galloped over the cadaver and headed straight for Kang Zhi.

Another Seven Apertures master was slain!

There were no more Seven Apertures masters left in that camp!

The horse bandits who were ready to kill them earlier became dumbfounded. The fiend before them had killed all the Seven Apertures masters as if he was slaughtering mere chickens and dogs. What use was there if they went up to challenge him themselves? Whoever went first would die first!

Even if they did not fear to die again, they still had the ordinary fears and dreads of humans. In such a short time, the two Seven Apertures masters were slain seemingly without putting up a fight at all. The sight completely crippled their psychological defense.

They immediately dispersed, rushing out of the yard and toward their residences. They planned on packing up their loots and fled as far as possible from the fiend!

Kang Zhi was so frightened that his knees had gone soft. He was momentarily flustered as he dodged Gu Changqing's fearless attacks. When he found a chance to escape, he was caught by Meng Qi. A simplified move of Peace Quietude Split containing no intent ran ahead of him and hacked him, forcing him to the ground.

He actually had some life-saving measures. Those tricks may not be able to kill Meng Qi and Gu Changqing, but could possibly buy him a chance to escape. But he was so frightened after the deaths of the two Seven Apertures masters that he did not care for using them. He only wanted to run.

Gu Changqing threw himself at him, not killing him but blocking all his acupoints and stopping his bleeding.

"Do we take him with us?" Gu Changqing raised his head to look at Meng Qi. He wanted to find a place and properly torture Kang Zhi. But naturally, only if that did not interfere with their escape plan.

Meng Qi's expression did not change. "We're not running."

Running meant making a fool of themselves after all they had done!

Though Yama's Invitation did not cost as much energy as Peace Quietude Split and Mortal Dust Fall, it was nonetheless incomparable to ordinary moves. Meng Qi's stamina was largely drained after using Mortal Dust Fall and two attempts of Yama's Invitation. Unless he used Sacrifice Formula this time, he would not be able to defeat any of the formidable horse bandits when they arrive.

By now, the bandits from the other camps had gathered after realizing something was wrong. There were nearly a hundred of them, with no shortage of masters with enlightened Acupores.

"Storm in! Save the master!" someone shouted.

Though they were unsure about what they had to do, they were still brave. They planned on dividing their forces and tried to rescue Kang Zhi by storming the place from all directions.

Thud! A corpse was hurled out and fell in front of them.

"It's Keeper Luo!"

"Keeper Luo died?"

The exclamations continued endlessly. The bandits slowed their steps and the yard before them seemed to have transformed into a tiger's den.

Thud! Another corpse landed at their feet.

"It's Head Hong!"

"Head Hong is also dead..."

Whispers rang out among them. The bandits completely halted their steps. The only two Seven Apertures masters in their camp were all slain in no time. How terrifying would this make their enemy?

This was not a tiger's den! It was a dragon's pond!

Having cast out the two dead bodies, Meng Qi tore off his left sleeve and revealed the bleeding wound on his dark golden chest.

He dragged Kang Zhi out to the front door of the yard. He hurled him out in front of the hundred-strong horse bandits.

Seeing someone had come out of the yard, the bandits could not help taking a step backward. They saw a young man with an exposed left chest and shoulder, stained red with blood. His handsome face showed not the slightest hint of fear, yet his force was terribly intimidating. It was as if he was Asura who had just ascended from hell!

Meng Qi brandished his Commandment Blade.

"Today is the day I raze the Evil Range! These three corpses are your examples!"

He dashed to the closest horse bandit and slashed at him, sending blood flying everywhere.

"It's him! Thunder Blade Evil Monk!"

The bandits nearby were first stunned. When they recovered, they all ran for their lives.

With two Seven Apertures masters killed without being able to put up any resistance, what good would they be? And Kang Zhi seemed to have been killed as well! The other side also seemed to have the ability of the Exterior!

The bandits farther away saw such riot and also ran away for good.

The rear row of horse bandits almost completely collapsed. Naturally, they did not want to die either and clamored to run.

Meng Qi brandished his blade and hunted down the bandits at a checked speed as if they were a flock of animals.

Gu Changqing stood by the door and watched the scene, completely at a loss. To think Meng Qi had single-handedly sent nearly a hundred men running for their lives!