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238 Violent Thunder Shocking the Sky

 Meng Qi gently nodded, appearing calm. However, he was overjoyed inside. That was exactly the kind of feeling he wanted! Unfortunately it was hard to come by, so he was going to enjoy it while it lasted!

Meng Qi leaped into the ring. His first opponent was Gao Yang from the "Iron Sword of Hui County". He was older than twenty and hugged a Long Sword, looking cold and stern.

Upon seeing Meng Qi with a knife and sword on his back, Gao Yang lightly sucked a breath in. He solemnly bowed and said,

"Young Master Su, please teach me well."

With that statement, all the joy and arrogance Meng Qi had vanished. He entered a state of emotionlessness and mentally prepared himself for battle.

All his various past encounters and glory would not affect his mindset in battle!

"Please!"

His Long Knife reflected light off its gleaming body, giving off chilly vibes.

The month or so after that saw the Military Selectee smoothly proceed. The matches held in the arena differed from fights to the death, so many opponents were unable to use ultimate moves as acts of self-preservation. Meng Qi swept through the matches like a hurricane using his strength alone. He remained undefeated and eventually became the most outstanding participant of the Huan Province Military Selectee. Hence, he would head to Luo Yang next summer to fight for a place as a Presented Scholar.

...

An elegant courtyard near Zhou County had a martial arts practice room specially constructed as the former Master of the place had been a Green-ribbon Arrester with the skill level of Half-step Exterior Scenery. The room was almost soundproof and was able to block out most breathing sounds.

Occupying high ground, Meng Qi swung down with his Long Knife. In a flash, he executed nine strokes in quick succession, with each being faster and stronger than the previous one. It built up into an overwhelming fierceness that sucked in the surrounding airflow and vitality. A thunderous rumble sounded out of thin air, causing the room to slightly vibrate and the pillars to tremble.

The force of the nine strokes seemed to transform into terrifying streaks of "Thunder Light". They were wild and unyielding, striking the ground with loud crackles. The earth split apart and soil and gravel flew everywhere. The entire house felt like it was swaying as crashes rung out.

Meng Qi sheathed his sword and attempted to catch his breath, the satisfaction on his face evident. He had been training for the Military Selectee since more than half a month ago, and now he had finally managed to incorporate the Gist of Trueness of the "Nine Annihilation at Heavenly Nights" he had been lacking into the Purple Thunder Bladesmanship! The first part of the "Violent Thunder Shocking the Sky" was finally coming together so he could now use it as his ultimate Exterior move. After almost 20 days of repeated practice, he was able to control the "Violent Thunder Shocking the Sky". When conditions were right, success followed naturally - his move just now had proved it to be true.

However, he did not activate the "Purple Thunder Force" hidden in his Dantian. First of all, it would have created a huge ruckus, alerting the nearby yamens of Six Fan School and residence of the Wang family, and give them clues about his whereabouts. Secondly, the Purple Thunder Force relied on accumulation on a daily basis. It would take around three days for him to collect enough energy to use the "Violent Thunder Shocking the Sky" just once. Moreover, at that point in time, he could not store more than three rounds' worth of energy, as it would clash with the genuine Qi of his Golden Bell Shield and Eight Nine Mysteries in his Dantian.

"I guess it'll have to do. Huff, all I have to do is wait for the Death Task in peace." Using one stroke of the "Violent Thunder Shocking the Sky" caused Meng Qi to expend a large amount of energy. Controlling a bladesmanshipas fierce and wild as the one before meant he was mentally exhausted too, causing him to pant even as he spoke to himself.

He put away the "Whisper Sword" and picked up a handkerchief to wipe his sweaty face. He then brushed the dust off his black clothes and left the practice room, having some tea and calm himself down.

A series of knocking sounds came from the door.

Meng Qi used his senses to feel the familiar breath on the other side of the door. He realized it was Kong Yu who was making the visit thus late at night and opened the door, thinking it strange.

"What's up, Old Kong?" Meng Qi was just that casual once he was familiar with someone!

Kong Yu stepped into the courtyard and closed the door behind him. He scanned the surroundings for a moment, then gently nodded, "I have news about the Demoness of Grand Luo."

"She has returned from the historical remains of Ninth Heaven?" Meng Qi furrowed his brows.

Kong Yu thought about it for a while, then replied, "Perhaps she has returned since a while ago, but recently, she revealed her tracks because of her punishing the Luo Denomination traitors. It seems she is currently heading down South by boat, and many experts of the Exterior are giving chase."

"Based on Gu Xiaosang's personality and tricks, the exposing of her tracks seems more of an intentional act." Meng Qi spoke like an old friend of Gu Xiaosang's. He wondered if she had killed the Real Body of the Successor of Mystic Fairy yet...

"The sects also considered that possibility. She may have other motives," Kong Yu agreed. Demoness Gu had always been unpredictable.

Meng Qi gave it some thought for a moment, then asked in a serious tone, "I wonder what her level of strength is now?"

"I don't know what rank that Luo Denomination traitor has within the group, but he possessed treasures despite being only at a Nine Apertureslevel. He once drew in a battle against a Half-step Exterior Scenery master sent after him and managed to escape. In the end, he was captured and killed by Gu Xiaosang. The commotion it caused was so big that it revealed her tracks." Kong Yu gave a brief description and continued, "She should be able to open the Hidden Latch of Life and Death anytime now, but has been repressing herself to wait for her Energy, Qi, Spirit and Will as well as her physical body and level of Kungfu to reach their highest level at this stage. Then she could make a perfect breakthrough, just like 'Shapeless Sword' He Jiu had."

The "Shapeless Sword" He Jiu was ranked first on the Ranking List of Young Masters. His rank had been unchanged in the past three years!

"It would seem that Gu Xiaosang has gained some benefits from her trip to the historical remnants of Ninth Heaven, but they're probably not much. After all, with her current level of strength, it's quite the challenge to immerse herself... Moreover, it appears that there was no tension between her and the upper brass of Luo Denomination. Does that mean she really shared the location of Ninth Heaven with them? But that doesn't seem like her style..." Various thoughts flashed across Meng Qi's mind. He finally opened his mouth to say, "Even if the chaser with Half-step Exterior Scenery couldn't kill the traitor, someone else could've done it. Luo Denomination still has Cultivators and their 20 Oracles, why would a Goddess like her risk making a move?"

Everyone knew about the Sanskrit Dharmara from the upper brass of Luo Denomination. He was the "World-Crossing Sanskrit Dharmaraja" who claimed the "Vacancy Dharmakaya", His Eminence of the Luo Denomination. The man ranked sixth on the Celestial Rankings. A few of the other Oracles were also relatively renowned; some of them were even on the Terrestrial Rankings. Hence, anyone with a bit of knowledge was aware that the Luo Denomination had 12 Oracles, many of whom were grandmaster.

Outsiders did not know what the positions below Oracles were, but Meng Qi had heard the term "Cultivator" from Gu Xiaosang's mouth itself. He suspected those were the experts of the Exterior below the Oracles, and thus mentioned the term.

"Cultivators?" Kong Yu nodded as he seemed to ponder about the word, but did not probe further. Killing Blade Su Meng had indeed "co-operated" with Gu Xiaosangfor a period of time after all. "I think there's some deceit going on as well. The Luo Denomination is huge and established. How could they be troubling a Goddess with such trivial matters all the time? In any case, it would be best if you were careful."

Of course, Meng Qi had no intention of being careless with Gu Xiaosang. The demoness was unpredictable, cunning and cruel. Who would dare be careless around her?

After giving Meng Qi his word of advice, Kong Yu revealed a small smile. "Little Meng, the Military Selectee ended more than half a month ago. Have you ever thought about joining Six Fan School?"

If he thought about the hidden danger of how the Sect of the Plain Lady would be suspicious of him after his identity was exposed, and the amount of information and resources he would require, Meng Qi was inclined towards joining Six Fan School. He considered being a Secret-searching Nark there. However, as of now, the Death Task was imminent. There was but a few days left. Even if he agreed now, he would have to wait for a reply from Luo Yang, then make a long, arduous journey to the Luo Yang headquarters. He would not be able to obtain any immediate benefits at the moment, and thus he saw no reason in troubling himself with it.

"In another ten days, I shall give you my answer." Meng Qi replied.

Seeing that there was a definite date for his response, Kong Yu left, satisfied.

Five days later, as Meng Qi was concentrating on the eighth aperture point associated with the Mouth Aperture, he felt a sudden sense of slight vertigo. Even when his eyes were closed, he could still feel the darkness before him, which quickly changed to brightness.

He opened his eyes to Qi Zhengyan, whom he had just seen the day before. The man was as expressionless as ever, resembling a zombie. Jiang Zhiwei, whom he had not seen in a while, was glowing and full of heroic spirit as she stood there like an unsheathed sword. He also saw Zhang Yuanshan and Fu Zhenzhen. Both of them seemed to have improved their skills; evidently they had had some breakthrough of sorts. Luo Shengyi stood ramrod straight with his Protective Upstanding Qi already surrounding his body, while Ge Huai'en in his scholar's robes held on to copper coins, wooden sticks and the like, appearing very odd.

Ruan Yushu was there as well. She was hugging her old zither and garbed in pristine white robes, refined and coldly elegant as usual, although she seemed to be chewing something in her mouth.

"What're you eating?" Meng Qi blurted out.

"Langyadried dragon fish." Ruan Yushu pressed her lips together, as if she still had more to say. Then she coldly added, "They're my favorite snack."

Jiang Zhiwei giggled. She said, "I see you were pulled here when you were having your dinner."

Ruan Yushu gave a gentle nod. She looked at her old zither and continued in a whisper, "It's not that. When I think about how the Death Task is right before us, I realize that I might not get to eat it in future. So I decided to let myself indulge a bit and eat more of it."

"Indulge? As if you've ever restrained yourself..." Meng Qi demonstrated his skills in taunting.

Ruan Yushu's expression did not change. "Of course, I won't get carried away and end up with a nickname like Killing Blade."

"Haha, all hail you..." Meng Qi gave a dry laugh. It seemed the Ruan family's information network was pretty decent.

Jiang Zhiwei chuckled. She knew of Meng Qi's stubbornness towards his sobriquet. "Little monk, after that battle with Wang Zai, I'm afraid you'll be stuck with this nickname for a long, long time."

Meng Qi wanted to die...

"But I must say I didn't expect you to improve so much. In just a few years, you went from a little monk who hadn't even begun accumulating his Qi to a remarkable man ranked within the top 20 on the Ranking List of Young Masters." Jiang Zhiwei controlled her smile and gave a sigh. She added, "How far are you from Seven Apertures?"

She did not bother asking about the rest of his strength. Ranking nineteenth on the Ranking List of Young Masters was self-explanatory.

Zhang Yuanshan and Fu Zhenzhen were whispering to each other at the side, seemingly being affectionate while they still had time before the Death Task.

"I'm left with the last relevant acupore point. After that, I'll be able to try opening the Mouth Aperture," Meng Qi truthfully replied. "How about you, Zhiwei?"

"I opened Eight Apertures during the first month of the lunar year. I'm already able to control the more intricate areas of Refining Energy into Qi." As Jiang Zhiwei recalled the battle from half a year ago, her lips twitched. She appeared to be pleased.

Meng Qi then looked at Ruan Yushu, Luo Shengyi and the rest. "How about you guys? You've all improved, right?"

"I'm at the Six Apertures level and have mastered the Eight Non-human Sounds," Ruan Yushu was stingy with her words.

Luo Shengyi grinned. "I've begun mastering the Iron Fist of Nine Great Mountains after opening Nine Apertures and projecting my genuine Qi outwards."

As a Rogue Cultivator, he was naturally somewhat proud of being able to attain such a level.

"I've consummated my Four Apertures. Besides that, I've also worked hard at creating several elixirs targetting recovery and some rarer forms of poison." Fu Zhenzhen spoke of her hard work.

"I'm at Seven Apertures and can control the Burning Blood and Soul Technique. I can probably beat most people at the Nine Apertures level," Zhang Yuanshan said, calm and stable.

Ge Huai'en peacefully smiled. "I opened Four Aperturestoo, and I'm learning the 'Wang-styled Book of Changes'."

Although Meng Qi was aware of his strength, the others were not. Hence, Qi Zhengyan decided to speak up. "I'm at the Six Apertureslevel and I've completed the first four stages of the Book of the Chaos."

Just as Meng Qi was contemplating how to discuss what items to exchange for, the icy, apathetic voice of the Dominator of Samsara in Six Realms rung out.

"This time around, you will be facing a Death Task. Therefore I shall release some details about it first. After that, you have 15 minutes to prepare yourselves."

Meng Qi and the rest heaved sighs of relief. That way, they could exchange for specific items that they knew would assist them.

The Dominator of Samsara in Six Realms continued in a calm voice,

"For the Teachings of Buddhism, monk Xuanzang from the Tang Dynasty traveled to the West. Under the protection of the Great Sage Equal to Heaven Sun Wukong, the Marshal Canopy Zhu Wuneng, the Curtain-lifting General Sha Wujing and the third son of Dragon King Ao Lie, they managed to kill several demons and ghosts along the way. They conquered countless challenges and finally reached Holy Mountain, where they attained enlightenment and achieved Buddhahood through their efforts. This is the story of Journey to the West."

Meng Qi was dumbfounded, in a state of happiness mixed with surprise. He was happy that he had finally encountered a World of Samsara he was familiar with, but was also shocked that they would be participating in it. Based on their strength, they were not even qualified enough to serve as cannon fodder! Great Sage Sun was at least on the level of Dharmakaya, and he was no ordinary Dharmakaya!

Eight Nine Mysteries?

"This task takes place 800 years after Journey to the West, when monsters trampled the world."

Meng Qi's expression slightly dulled. I have no idea what is going again...