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Home > The Sage Who Transcended Samsara

304 "Missing" the Mark

 Jiang Hengchuan did not make too absurd a request in the case of Snake King resolving to kill them. Their plan would backfire then.

After briefly considering the pros and cons, Snake King's face full of wrinkles relaxed a bit. "Fine."

Thus, he made the Soul-pledging Oath as requested by Jiang Hengchuan. He swore that he would not use Secret Voice-sending that night, attack the two of them, or try to escape halfway through.

Meng Qi exhaled quietly after Snake King had completed his Soul-pledging Oath. That matter was finally settled.

The Soul-pledging Oath was an oath based on one's own soul and Vital Spirit. Therefore, its binding power was very strong. After the convergence of the inner and outer worlds, one's Vital Spirit would become much stronger and he would have a lot of secret skills. However, it was not enough to exempt one from his oath or withstand the counterattack damage, even for powerful individuals. Snake King was merely on the level of Half-step Exterior Scenery, and had not even attained the Heaven-man Connection before making his breakthrough. How could he use such high-end tricks?

Therefore, Meng Qi felt a bit more at ease.

"We'll go to that courtyard now." Guarding against any possibly troublesome delays, Meng Qi hurried Snake King along. He did not want him to get in touch with any of his subordinates.

Snake King did not object. He walked ahead of Meng Qi and Jiang Hengchuan, leaving the small tower from its side. Along the way, he did not seem to be trying to contact any of his subordinates.

Not long after the three of them had left the small tower, the swaying building finally reached its limit. There was a rumble as it crashed to the ground. Smoke and dust mushroomed into the air and snapping sounds reverberated in the air above the pond.

In the pond, there was nothing left of the assassins' corpses but white bones.

The three of them crossed North Street and arrived at the assassin courtyard a short while later. It appeared ordinary, but Meng Qi could sense that there was an assassin hiding in every possible corner of the place, all of them on very high alert. However, some of the assassins had revealed their tracks and the way they had hidden was flawed. Meng Qi could tell with one look that they were beginners in the art.

On the other hand, their exposed tracks attracted the attention of outsiders. It was the perfect disguise for the other assassins who had more skilfully concealed themselves.

"Knock! Knock! Knock!" Snake King suppressed his anger within as he knocked on the door.

All the concealed assassins recognized their own master. However, nobody dared to move in case it was an imposter.

After a while, the small door creaked open to reveal a middle-aged man who had completely concealed his breath. He respectfully bowed and said,

"Do you require our services?"

Li Xingkong had already spread the news, so everyone was aware that he wanted to exact revenge on Snake King. Even if he and his men were lacking in strength, they still had a chance at concealing themselves and defeating Snake King's subordinates. Hence, the manager of the assassin courtyard thought that Snake King had come at such a late hour to discuss how he would eliminate Li Xingkong and his men.

As for the activity at Snake King's residence, news of it had yet to travel to the assassin courtyard. That was because everything had happened so quickly, and the three of them had arrived so fast.

"Let's go in first." Snake King maintained the demeanor of a leader. He did not reveal his anger at being coerced.

The plain-looking middle-aged man stopped talking at once. He did not ask about the two people behind Snake King and led the three of them through the residence full of hidden assassins.

Meng Qi and Jiang Hengchuan followed behind Snake King. They carefully observed their surroundings, and watched Snake King's movements even more cautiously. They were afraid that he would convey information through a previously agreed on set of hand motions or speech.

The manager of the assassin courtyard was a skilled assassin himself. With his breath completely kept within, he appeared no different from the average man, and it was easy to overlook him in a crowd. If Meng Qi could have projected his will outwards to sense the flow of his genuine Qi and the response of his muscles, he still would not be able to tell that the man's strength was on the Seven Acupores level, and that he had prematurely formed his Inner World.

Even if he was stronger than others, it was still easy to be assassinated by him.

When they reached the room where he usually tended to daily administrative matters, his hands fell to his sides. He quietly stood in a corner and waited for Snake King's instructions.

"This young master here has been separated from his nephew, who has been kidnapped here. Take him to go identify his nephew. Don't hide anything and just listen to everything he says," Snake King recited what Meng Qi was telling him through Secret Voice-sending.

The manager had the mannerisms of a professional assassin. He did not probe further and rose, saying, "Yes, Snake King."

Jiang Hengchuan stayed behind to watch over Snake King while Meng Qi and the manager stepped out of the room. They headed for the assassins' sleeping quarters.

"Where're the people Snake King has been meeting these few days hiding?" Meng Qi cut to the chase as soon as they had left the courtyard. He wanted to see if he could deceive an answer out of him. If it did not work, he would consider suppressing the manager's momentum and using the Supernatural Power of Shaking Heaven and Hitting Earth to crush his mental energy.

As an assassin, if he had not trained himself to have an outstanding Divine Skill, or a change in attitude altogether, there would definitely be a gaping hole in his soul.

The manager paused. Then, because of Snake King's instructions, he answered without another thought, "In the secret passage. The entrance to it is in that room we just left."

The manager had never met that man before. Could it be the nephew of the swordsman in white?

"So there really is someone hidden in the secret passage..." Meng Qi felt like he had actually found Wolf King's traces. He instantly turned around and ran toward the room.

Right then, Snake King's raspy voice rang out,

"Run!"

Even before he finished his sentence, the series of houses shook violently. Several tiles fell off the roofs and shattered in the courtyard.

A shadowy figure smashed through the window and hurtled toward the other side before Meng Qi could react. It flipped over the courtyard wall and disappeared into the darkness. It was none other than Snake King!

Upon hearing Snake King's voice, the assassin manager behind Meng Qi was initially shocked, in a daze. Then he swiftly turned around to escape. While Meng Qi was busy trying to stop Snake King, he took the opportunity to dash across the front of the courtyard and vanished from sight.

Jiang Hengchuan leaped out of the window soon after. He revealed a slight frustration at Snake King's absence. "I didn't think the Snake King would suddenly go off without warning. Maybe he noticed that something was amiss."

Since they had reached the assassins' quarters, it could not be considered a wasted trip.

"Maybe the phrase 'Don't hide anything and just listen to everything he says' alarmed him. Then he calmly instructed his subordinate so that when we separated, he could make a run for it and alert the person hiding in the secret passage at the same time." Meng Qi tried to casually analyze the situation while keeping his own frustrated feelings in check. At the same time, he took out the item Green-ribbon Arrester Dai Fei had given him and released a signal.

A stream of flying light shot into the sky and brilliant red fireworks burst from it. It looked like any regular plaything, but in fact, carried a certain symbol.

They might not be in time to find the exit of the secret passage and seal it, but they still had to properly do their work. Moreover, Meng Qi had no desire to hastily enter the passage while there was the possibility that a super powerful master like Wolf King was hiding there. He did not want to fight someone who was used to assassinations in the darkness of the secret passage. There was even the possibility of traps on top of all these considerations!

Caution had to be exercised before entering the woods, and the same went for secret passages.

The two of them searched the room for a while, and eventually shifted a vase sitting in one of the cubical shelves on the wall.

With a creak, the bricks behind the screen collapsed to reveal a flight of steps that led downwards. There was no light in the passage. It was total darkness.

Sliver-badge Arrester Yu Wangyuan arrived after another short while. He looked extremely serious, asking Meng Qi and Jiang Hengchuan about the details as he boldly marched into the secret passage.

Jiang Hengchuan struck a match. He and Meng Qi walked shoulder to shoulder behind Yu Wangyuan. They briefly described the events that had transpired while keeping an eye out for booby traps that could trigger concealed weapons.

Once they had descended the entire flight of steps, the secret passage began to grow wider. The smell of water hit them with an unnatural dampness.

"The exit at the other end is River Jin. It's already been open." Yu Wangyuan seemed to be disappointed.

After that delay, they could only hope that whoever had been hiding in the secret passage had escaped in a hurry and left some clues behind.

The trio carefully tiptoed around an obviously booby-trapped area and saw a few stone rooms. Only one of them was partially-closed. The rest were wide open and empty with nothing but furniture, like stone beds and stone tables.

Yu Wangyuan waved his tunic and created a wind that pushed open the partially closed wooden door. The interior of the final stone room was exposed.

"Sss..." All of them sucked in their breaths. Inside the final stone room were several human skins, all neatly hung!

Human skins with no blood, flesh or bones!

They did not appear to have been peeled off real living beings because there was no sign of them being cut open or any traces of tearing. It almost seemed as if the "people" inside had suddenly disappeared.

Such a scene immediately caused Meng Qi to realize who had been hiding in there -- it had not been the Wolf King, but Old Zhong who practiced the Kung Fu of Heaven and Demon!

"It was actually him!"

However, Meng Qi considered how Old Zhong had been tailing Qiu Fei for so long and had even used "Arrester Cai" to probe information. The man was extremely attentive when it came to matters concerning Dongyang Villa. So, it was normal that he would appear in Maoling.

"It's a powerful devil." As a senior expert of the Exterior, Yu Wangyuan made the same judgment according to the marks on the human skins.

Although they were both on the level of Half-step Exterior Scenery, the difference in strength between Old Zhong and Snake King was huge. It was probably bigger than that between someone capable of Oneness of Heaven and Men and an average nine acupores!

"It's the Eight-armed Flying Dragon and the Three Eagles of Cloud Ridge..." Jiang Hengchuan's eyebrows furrowed together.

"What?" Yu Wangyuan exclaimed. The Eight-armed Flying Dragon was renowned as a Half-step Exterior Scenery-level master. He was stronger than Qiu Fei, yet he had perished at the hands of this devil. The strength of the devil had to be at least near the Exterior level!

"So it's them... No wonder there weren't any bloodstains at the actual scene... No wonder they vanished without a trace after that..." Meng Qi was shocked as well. To think Old Zhong's strength had improved so much!

The Kung Fu of Heaven and Demon was indeed a Devil Path Divine Skill that allowed one to make rapid progress. As long as one could "suck up" enough masters, one could improve at a rapid rate in the initial stages.

Pointing at one of the human skins, Jiang Hengchuan explained, "The Eight-armed Flying Dragon has a mole on his mid-brows. I've battled him before, so I wouldn't mistake it."

"It seems that the chance has ended up in the hands of that terrifying devil..." he told Meng Qi at the same time via Secret Voice-sending.

Yu Wangyuan calmed himself down and spoke after some thought. "This is getting more and more troublesome. I'll have to ask the Yamen to send some people down to help."

After searching for a while longer, they could not find any other clues. The three of them exited the secret passage and allowed the arresters and constables who arrived afterward to deal with the assassins and the things inside.

"The activity tonight was on a very large scale, so I'm sure Han Sanniang should've sensed something. It'd be best if we didn't take any action for now." Yu Wangyuan gazed up at the night sky and sighed.

Meng Qi and Jiang Hengchuan were fine with that decision. The three of them walked out of North Street and headed back to their respective places.

"We were trying to find Wolf King but ended up finding Old Zhong. Isn't that a coincidence..." Meng Qi mumbled to himself as he walked. All of a sudden, something struck him. He immediately spun around and re-entered North Street.

Carrying his sword, he passed through the long street and arrived at Han Sanniang's private residence.

It was an intricately designed house with red lanterns hanging from it. A polite, naive-looking servant girl stood next to the door.

"Master Su, please." The servant girl did not appear surprised in the least to see Meng Qi. She simply bowed and invited him in as if she had been waiting for a long time.

Meng Qi said nothing. He did not appear surprised either as he followed the servant girl. They went around the screen outside the main gate, crossed the patio, and reached the Flower Hall.

In the hall sat two people. One was fresh and refined and had such a tall and shapely nose that it made one want to pinch it. She was North Street's biggest Controller, Han Sanniang. It was impossible to tell who she was from her appearance.

Opposite her, a young master garbed in white robes was gently coughing into his hand. His face was pale, like he was still recovering from a major ailment. With a half-smile, he said,

"So you still know to come here."

It was none other than Master Wang!