372 Plum Blossoms Blooming in the Snow

    "You, you..." The man who had fallen off the roof looked at Meng Qi with fear and hatred. He tried to speak, but after twitching a few times, he spewed foam from his mouth and his breath cut off, still bleeding from his Seven Acupores.

    Did he die just like that? Wen Qichang, Chi Feng, and the rest looked at the corpse lying on the ground, various thoughts crossing their heads. They were shocked to the core.

    Had he been so badly roared at that he had experienced countercharge from his kungfu and suffered Qi-deviancy Derangement? Redline Lady and Holy Hunchback Beyond the Great Wall sucked in a breath. Was this the profound school's orthodox Verbal Skill, specifically used to break through heterodox arts?

    Meng Qi caressed his knife and smiled. "This is the Seven Magical Sounds from the Tai-yin Devil-Rinsing Scripture. Unfortunately, he didn't cultivate its art, only the Tai-yin force. That's why he became neither human nor ghost and was defeated by my sound that imitated the heavenly punishment."

    His tone was relaxed and he talked tirelessly as if his Thundering scream that shocked his enemy to death was only a trivial thing. He was incredibly calm.

    The Tai-yin Devil-Rinsing Scripture had once fallen into their hands, but they had exchanged it with Dominator of Samsara in Six Realms afterward.

    "Rumor has it that the Seven Magical Sounds can assault one's Vital Spirit and activate the power of heaven and earth. I can't believe that's the creepy feeling we felt just now," Redline Lady cried, having come to a realization. No wonder Taoist Qingyuan could break through with a single note.

    Holy Hunchback Beyond the Great Wall guarded against the outside and asked seriously, "Where are you from, little Daoist disciple? Are you perhaps a moralist?"

    "I'm a mere Rogue Cultivator. I've only been able to reach such a bladesmanship realm today thanks to the advice of Heightslord Huangfu," Meng Qi replied honestly, maintaining his smile.

    Redline Lady and Holy Hunchback Beyond the Great Wall hadn't even had the chance to ask him when Taoist Qingyuan had met Huangfu Tao when the window door was knocked open and several shadowy figures leaped in. Under the cover of the faint moonlight, they surrounded and tried to kill the three of them.

    The figures were somewhat vague, holding inconsistent forms. It was difficult to distinguish between what was real and what was imaginary. Wen Qichang and the others sucked in breaths of cold air. It was indeed the orthodox impartation of the Moon Village. Though they didn't know the identity of the person who had been killed by a single sound, it was apparent that he had held a position of certain significance considering he had cultivated the Seven Magical Sounds. He had likely been one of the Deacons that the Moon Village used for their dirty work.

    Pallid light shone from the hands of the shadowy figures, not swords but rather their own nails. With their horrific appearances, they resembled neither humans nor ghosts.

    Redline Lady unsheathed her long sword and prepared herself to fight. All of a sudden, she saw an incredibly fast silver and white flash in front of her like lightning.

    Clang! She heard the sound of a long saber being sheathed even before she had clearly seen the knife energy.

    The crisp sound was like a command. Shadow after shadow collapsed to the ground as splashes rang out at the same time.

    However, due to the differences in their postures at the time, some fell forward while others fell sideways, revealing their wounds. All suffered a thin slash at their throats.

    All dead? The others stared at Meng Qi, wide-eyed. All they saw was that his long saber was in its scabbard and his posture was idle. He didn't look as if he had drawn his blade the entire time.

    However, they all clearly knew that the handsome Taoist had indeed unsheathed his saber. They hadn't seen him in action simply because he was too fast. Hence, only the bright white and silver remained in their sights.

    On top of that, he had killed nine men with one strike!

    What kind of amazing bladesmanship was that?

    "If they were able to turn an orthodox kungfu like the Tai-yin Devil-Rinsing Scripture into something like that, I guess the Moon Village isn't all that bad," Meng Qi said, a faint and barely-there smile on his face.

    Anyone could hear the mockery in his words.

    As an experienced Jianghu man, Holy Hunchback Beyond the Great Wall quickly regained his senses. He sighed and said, "There have been rumors of the village secretly training dead soldiers using the accelerated method of the Tai-yin Devil-Rinsing Scripture. I can't believe it's true."

    He looked over at Meng Qi, face full of emotion. "Before, I didn't really believe that you had received Heightslord Huangfu's advice. However, I have no doubts after seeing that strike of yours. That was his famous White Steed Crossing Rifts. When he saved me back in the day, he killed the enemies with his spear in that exact same manner."

    Swift moves all resembled one another, and their Essences seemed similar too. Wen Qichang, Chi Feng, and the others didn't the vision powerful enough to see the slight differences between them. Now that Holy Hunchback Beyond the Great Wall had mentioned it, they were suddenly hit by realization. It really did look like the White Steed Crossing Rifts that their Young Lady and a few of the God-gathering Heights' Disciples had practiced. Did Qingyuan Taoist really obtain some pointers from Heightslord Huangfu?

    It was difficult to tell the similar Essences apart after bladesmanship had returned to normalcy. Had Meng Qi not mention that he had received advice in advance, Holy Hunchback Beyond the Great Wall definitely wouldn't have recognized it and wouldn't have thought of Huangfu Tao in turn. Like the most basic movements of slashing, cutting, wiping, and picking, they appeared similar regardless of who performed them. The degree of purity would appear different at most, but no one could distinguish the origin and background of someone's martial arts from such moves.

    "If not for Heightslord Huangfu, I'd probably have taken another year and a half to realize the essence of such bladesmanship," Meng Qi replied sincerely.

    Seeing that Meng Qi was one to uphold justice, Redline Lady seemed rather happy. "I've received advice from Senior Huangfu as well. However, I've never been able to apply the Essence of his spear to my own sword art. I'm far inferior to you. When did you meet Senior Huangfu?"

    Huangfu Tao had gone mad and left for the Thousand-mile Mountains for several years now, whereas Meng Qi only looked around 20 or so. It was no wonder that they were doubtful about the timing.

    "A few years ago, I think." Of course, Meng Qi had no idea how many years it had been since the last investigation of the Zhenwu's Decoy Grave.

    He laughed when he saw the suspicious and probing expressions on the crowd's faces. With his left hand on his blade, he stepped outside and happily explained, "I had an encounter when I was young. I fell off a cliff and obtained the profound school's orthodox heart sutras and supreme bladesmanship. Afterward, I ate a ten-thousand-year-old magic fungus and earned 60 years' worth of power, directly breaking through my Six Acupores. Then I met Heightslord Huangfu before leaving the mountain. He told me that my bone structure was amazing and that I was extremely talented, and proceeded to generously give me advice on kungfu. I've finally achieved mastery of it after many years of difficult training and set foot into Jianghu. Right now, I'm full of aspirations for the future."

    He turned around to look at everyone's blank faces and smiled.

    "If I said so, would you believe me?"

    "Nope..." Redline Lady answered straightforwardly.

    Meng Qi turned around once again, both hands clasped behind his back and his feet stepping on hemp shoes. He said with ease, "Everyone has a secret, why bother trying to dig so deep? It's obviously not that hard to come up with an exaggerated story or a reasonable story, but what's the meaning of listening to lies? We might as well keep silent..."

    He really did seemed like a Taoist... Wen Qichang sighed upon hearing such carefree words. When he was young, he too had yearned for such graceful bearing.

    Realization struck Holy Hunchback Beyond the Great Wall and Redline Lady. Could he be from the mysterious mausoleum? Had he experienced an adventure inside and then left, just like Heightslord Huangfu and the grandmaster of the Nine Villages did? Was that why he could obtain Heightslord Huangfu's advice? Could the latter be temporarily awoken?

    The thoughts came to their minds one by one. Redline Lady noticed Meng Qi was about to step out of the temple and called out to him in a hurry, "Where are you going, Daoist disciple?"

    Meng Qi extended his hand, catching some of the large snowflakes, and chuckled.

    "The snow tonight is perfect, so why not head to God-gathering Heights overnight? What do you think?"

    "Taoist Qingyuan, the disciples of the Moon Village are adept at ambushing and assassinating in the dark of the night..." Holy Hunchback Beyond the Great Wall subconsciously reminded Meng Qi. It was because of this that he and Redline Lady had chosen to wait in the temple overnight.

    Before he could even finish his sentence, he was already seeing the back of Meng Qi's robes. The latter had already stepped out of the temple's doors.

    Redline Lady whispered, "Taoist Qingyuan probably has powerful nine Acupores strength. Since he came out of nowhere, the people sent by the Moon Village to intercept those coming from this direction definitely won't be prepared for him. At most, they'll send out one of their eight generals. If we team up with him, we shouldn't have any problems charging our way through even if we're no match for them."

    Holy Hunchback Beyond the Great Wall contemplated for a moment before agreeing.

    The two of them hurried after Meng Qi, leaving behind Wen Qichang and the others who could only stare at one another helplessly.

    "Daddy, Taoist Qingyuan was so carefree just now..." a young girl with two pigtails said, her eyes were shining.

    Wen Qichang gave a bitter laugh. "You have to be strong in the first place... Taoist Qingyuan is a good man who understands our difficulties. I hope he'll be fine."

    Though Meng Qi's swordsmanship had been shocking, the enemies he had felled were weak. As such, Wen Qichang couldn't compare him to the Moon Village's eight generals and the two members of the Four Big Protectors who weren't on the level of Half-step Exterior Scenery.

    Those on the Half-step Exterior Scenery and Exterior levels were in a league of their own. How could mere bladesmanship possibly make up for the difference in strength?

    The faint moonlight cast its glow on the ground, turning the snow a blanket of pure white. Meng Qi raised himself and almost soundlessly tread on the tips of his toes.

    "Taoist Qingyuan, be careful of the assassinations of the disciples of the Moon Village," Holy Hunchback Beyond the Great Wall reminded in a loud voice.

    Meng Qi had his reason to make haste overnight instead of staying and basking in the admiration of the little girl and the others. He had taken into account the fact that he had come from 'outside' and the people dispatched by the village for interception definitely would've neglected his presence. Hence, he had to break through their interception and arrive at God-gathering Heights before they hear of him and call for reinforcements. After that, he would play it by ear. Even if Mr. Moon-washing or a stronger Half-step Exterior Scenery-level master appear, he would be able to escape even if he couldn't defeat them.

    He could then try to convince Huangfu Fei that the impartation was with the disciples and the human heart, not at the God-gathering Heights. Meng Qi would tell her that if she tried to sacrifice herself and the other disciples to protect the Heights, she would lose both their lives and the land. On the other hand, if she gave up God-gathering Heights and went far away, all of them would live.

    The world was a large place. The Moon Village wasn't that powerful. However, Huangfu Fei and the others were definitely not weak either. Under her protection, they could easily pass through after hiding their names. Once they mastered Divine Skills, rebuilding the God-gathering Heights would be an easy feat.

    If Huangfu Fei was still hesitant, Meng Qi would encourage her to pursue love. He would tell a tragic story to evoke her deepest feelings... But wait a minute! Meng Qi felt like he was becoming more and more like one of those neighborhood committee aunties...

    Just as Holy Hunchback Beyond the Great Wall called out, a figure dashed out from behind the snow-buried bushes. It leaped straight at Meng Qi's back, aiming for his heart. The figure was faint like the moonlight. If one wasn't careful, he would miss it entirely.

    After a burst of knife energy flashed, he turned to thank the two behind him. "Thank you for your kind reminder."

    Thud! The disciple collapsed on the snowy ground without a word. Blood flowed from his body, dying the pure snow a crimson red.

    "I've just left the mountain, so if you would kindly tell me more about the powerful individuals from the Moon Village..." Meng Qi was still talking when there was another flash of knife energy. Drops of blood splattered across the snow as the disciple that had been waiting to pounce fell into an eternal slumber in the cold.

    Killing people while cheerily talking... Holy Hunchback Beyond the Great Wall found Taoist Qingyuan to be too leisurely and carefree. He acted as if he was merely taking a stroll in a garden! Holy Hunchback took a deep breath and replied, "There's no need to ask. That's something that we should do."

    Thanks to the faint moonlight, Meng Qi could make out two pools of red against the snow. The contrast was stark, like plum blossoms blooming in the winter.

    He sighed.

    "I wonder how many plum blossoms will bloom in the snow tonight..."

    The heavy snow continued to fall and, bit by bit, covered the blood-red plum blossoms.
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