Atop the peaks of Mount Cangshan…
A black-robed scholarly figure sat there with a chessboard in front of him and a metallic black spear lying next to him.
The Spear Immortal, Sikong Changfeng.
White chess piece in hand, he took a deep breath before finally making his move.
He laid down his piece and, lo and behold, a hole was formed in the chessboard just like before.
He grimaced and smiled wryly. “Do you still remember what I told you a few days ago? I met a Lei Clan disciple beside Tang Lian while he was in Khotan. He knew the Blazing Arts and, if I’m not mistaken, he should be a disciple of Lei Hong.”
“I’ve heard that he has already entered the lower city and is in the process of ascending the tower. If I’m not mistaken once more, he should be here for you. I’m afraid that old score between you and Lei Hong can’t be avoided any longer.”
“Hmph.” A cold snort echoed from nowhere in particular.
“That kid is dressed in red as well. Do you still remember his mother, she used to love dressing in red when she wasn’t in her swordsman garb.” Sikong Changfeng laid down another piece.
This time, the figure hidden in the shadows didn’t use his sword qi to punch a hole through the board. Pausing for a long while, he finally said, “You’re sure that it’s him?”
“If you saw him, you would be sure too. His brows and eyes are just like his mother’s. His airheadedness, on the other hand, leans more towards his father.” Sikong Changfeng chuckled at that point.
“The seeds have grown…the chess pieces have finally entered the board.” The hidden figure sighed.
“That’s right, Tang Lian is a seed, Qianluo is a seed, and now the third and final seed has entered as well. Looks like it’s about time for that fourteen year old pact to be fulfilled.” Seeing as his opponent was no longer in the mood for chess, he folded up his board. “Not many holes in the board this time around, should be fine for another match after I patch up the holes.”
“The pieces have entered the board, but what about the chess players?”
Sikong Changfeng stood up and picked up his spear. “There are no players for this game of chess, everyone is a chess piece. If there has to be a chess player, then he’s already dead, from the moment the match started.”
“Any takebacks?” Sikong Changfeng felt a breeze blew past him with a leaf trailing behind. A figure clad in white with a longsword held behind his back stood before him.
Sikong Changfeng merely shook his head, “A gentleman doesn’t take back his move.”
“But I’m no gentleman.” The sword-wielding figure strode forward at that point.
Sikong Changfeng hastily caught up to the figure. “You’re off to see that kid? With his prowess, he should’ve only been able to reach the twelfth floor, but a certain nosy fellow gave him some Dashing Snow Moon to drink. As of right now, his martial level has risen by three whole tiers so I’m afraid he might just be able to reach the sixteenth floor.”
“Dashing Snow Moon? Him?”
“Where is he now? Why isn’t he with you?”
“He said he was off to the immortal mountains beyond the sea to seek that last ingredient for his Granny Meng’s Soup.”
“Granny Meny’s Soup? Does he truly wish to forget that incident so much?”
“What he wishes to forget is merely that one incident. Yet in order to do that, he doesn’t mind forgetting everything else, just as long as that incident is erased.”
“Well, he isn’t the only madman here. Other than that disciple of Lei Hong’s, there’s another madman’s disciple here as well. Dressed like a scholar with a young daoist in tow, the two of them have already entered the city, riding leisurely atop an old horse.”
“Daoist? You’re referring to him?” The sword-wielding figure stopped in his tracks.
“Mount Qingcheng’s Zhao Yuzhen.” Sikong Changfeng softly said. Yet before the ‘zhen’ could leave his mouth, a white shadow flashed past him – the sword-wielding figure was already dashing down the mountain.
“Sigh, and it’s supposed to be my daughter guarding the fourteenth floor too; I’m not even as anxious as you are.” Sikong Changfeng sighed then leaped down the mountain as well.
Looking at the birdlike shadow behind Lei Wujie, Tang Lian frowned and stated, “The sixth realm of the Blazing Arts, Garuda realm? If it already has such strength at the sixth realm, how strong was Senior Lei Hong’s ninth realm Blazing Arts back in the days?
“Senior brother, here I come.” Lei Wujie took a bold step forward and threw a punch with his right hand.
Yet before his fist could hit, his qi struck first! The Lei Clan’s Unseen Fist!
However, things didn’t progress as Lei Wujie expected. Though he had merely intended that attack as a feint, Tang Lian made no attempt to dodge the strike at all, choosing to receive the blow squarely on his right shoulder. Tang Lian’s jaw immediately clenched down in pain and his left arm shot up to cover his right shoulder. Retreating three paces back, he yelled, “Such strength!”
“Huh?” Lei Wujie’s eyes went wide.
“As expected of the Lei Clan’s star disciple! That Unseen Fist must’ve been thrown with the power of the ninth realm!” Tang Lian exclaimed with a voice straining from his exaggeration.
“What are you talking about, senior brother? I just threw that punch out without much effort!”
“Eat my Heaven and Earth Net!” Tang Lian waved his hands, causing that Heaven and Net made from the River Hades’s Blade Wire to close in. Faced with such skillful manipulation of wire, normal men would have no choice but to await certain dismemberment!
However, Lei Wujie was no normal man. With his Blazing Arts activated to the Garuda realm, his body burned with a coat of blazing qi. In order to hurt him, normal weapons would first have to make it through that layer of qi. Yet the blade wire of River Hades was no ordinary weapon either!
“Break!” Lei Wujie immediately mustered up all the qi in his body to counter the net.
Or so it should have been. The moment the blade wire came within an inch of Lei Wujie’s body, it already began melting, causing the raring-to-go Lei Wujie to be more than a little confounded. “Senior brother, are you sure that’s blade wire? It’s spider silk, isn’t it? Just look at it snap so easily.”
“Rubbish, it’s clearly your Blazing Arts at fault here! My blade wire is a top-notch weapon, and yet you’ve broken it so easily with your formidable martial arts.” With every bit of seriousness he could muster, “You may proceed, I’m not your match.”
Not sure whether or not to laugh, Lei Wujie could only say thusly, “Senior brother, has anyone told you that your acting skills are terrible. Besides there’s only the two of us here, if you want to go easy on me, just do it -it’s not like I’m going to tell anyone.”
“How dare you! You’re insinuating that I, the head disciple of Snow Moon City, would go easy on you? Have a taste of my Lotus Blade” Tang Lian actually began the motion of throwing out said weapon. Upon hearing those words, Lei Wujie immediately tensed up in fright, his qi rising up once more to meet the deadly challenge. Yet after what felt like half a day, Tang Lian finally realised something, “Oh, I think I left it behind when I left in a hurry…”
By now, the usually stern and dependable head disciple of Snow Moon City was too lazy to continue with the charade. Waving his hands, he tossed a bottle of medicine at Lei Wujie, “Drink it, then head up to the fifteenth floor.
“What’s this?” Lei Wujie caught the bottle easily but was a little apprehensive about downing its contents.
“I’m sure you know that the Tangmen is the number one hidden weapons clan in the martial world. But did you know that us, the Tangmen, and the renowned sorcerous family, Wen Clan of Southern Xinjiang, are on par with each other?” Tang Lian declared with a hint of pride in his voice.
“Yes, I do.” Lei Wujie furiously nodded.
“That bottle is known as the Clear Ice Elixir. For normal people, drinking it would immediately turn their blood to ice and result in death. You’re different however, how do you feel after activating your Garuda state?” Tang Lian asked.
Lei Wujie grimaced, “Like my body’s on fire and I’m in a house of flames.”
“I knew it. Just looking at you activate your qi, I could already tell that your inner strength was enough to reach the Garuda realm. However, your body still isn’t able to bear that burden. Should you keep it on for an extended period, I’m afraid you might end up hurting yourself. And that’s why I brought you this bottle of Clear Ice Elixir. By drinking it, you should at least be able to protect your meridians from being burnt to a crisp.” Tang Lian explained.
Hearing that, Lei Wujie nodded his head gratefully before downing the bottle. All he felt then was a rush of icy coolness coursing through his chest. What was once a deadly poison was actually transformed into a miraculous cure just like that. He immediately felt that burning sensation in his body lessen and an indescribable sense of comfort wash over him. Despite all that, his Blazing Arts remained active, his Garuda state not even subsiding in the least bit.
“It’s really working. Thanks, senior brother.”
“Oh right, you mentioned before that someone once treated you to three bowls of Dashing Snow Moon and subsequently aided you in breaking through three tiers.” Tang Lian’s eyes perked up, having suddenly thought of something. “What did he look like? Roughly how old was he?”
Lei Wujie gave it a little thought, “I would say over thirty, blue robes, untidy hair and a goatee. Just like Xiao Se, he speaks with a lazy drawl.”
Tang Lian furrowed his brows. “Could it be…”
“Senior brother, I still have a tower conquer. Do you have any advice for the fifteenth floor?” Lei Wujie picked up his sack and prepared for the climb.
Tang Lian came back to his senses and laughed, “The fifteenth floor belongs to the Guardian Elder. In this tower, the floor guardians rotate on a daily basis, only the Guardian Elder is different: their stint lasts for ten years. Furthermore, I think you will find him rather familiar.”
“That’s right, very much so, in fact. That’s because his surname is Lei.”
“Mhm, the same Lei as you. He used to be really famous in the martial world so you should have heard of him as well.” Tang Lian turned towards the direction of the fifteenth floor. “He’s Lei Yunhe!”
Lei Wujie was stunned.
Of course, he had heard of that name. Back in the days, there were two youngsters who ventured forth from the Lei Clan and nearly turned the martial world upside down. One, was his teacher, Lei Hong. The other, was Lei Yunhe. Unlike Lei Hong, Lei Yunhe was born in the main clan, and was the eldest son of the previous clan head, Lei Luoshi. It was said that, in his hands, the long lost art of the Nine Heavens Thunder finally saw the light of day. He was someone who once stood at the top of the clan and had almost ascended to the position of clan head. However, news of him suddenly turned dark. Even his name became a taboo within the clan. There were even rumors that he had been killed by his own younger brother, Lei Qianhu, in other words the current clan head. Who would’ve thought that he was actually here in Snow Moon City.
‘Just like that, guarding the fifteenth floor? Even if this is the number one city in the martial world, isn’t that just a little too much? With his fame, he could have easily been on the same level as the three Citymasters.’
“Snow Moon City has a total of 28 elders. Though there is no martial ranking amongst them, it is understood that the Guardian Elder is the weakest.” Seeing Lei Wujie so shocked, Tang Lian couldn’t help but laugh a little, “You must be thinking how did the famous Lei Yunhe end up in such a state. Let’s just say that you will find out soon enough.”
Shocked though he was, Lei Wujie asked no more and merely nodded his head before rushing off for the fifteenth floor.
Tang Lian added, in a voice neither too serious nor too casual, “I’m still curious about what you’ve been keeping in that sack all this while.”
However, Lei Wujie never turned back in his climb up to the fifteenth floor.