Lei Wujie raised his head towards the outside of the courtyard. There, along the not too distant walls of the temple was a broad silhouette, with an unusually gigantic blade in hand, coldly eyeing them.
“That’s exactly it, that’s exactly it.” Lei Wujie mumbled repeatedly to himself.
“What do you mean, that’s exactly it.” Xiao Se’s brows furrowed as he said that.
“The Lunar Maiden bids with a smile, the Nether Duke kills in fury. It fits perfectly! They are the infamous duo, the Lunar Maiden and the Nether Duke, one of the top five groupings on the martial world’s assassin ranking board!” Lei Wujie proclaimed.
Xiao Se, on the other hand, was a lot more dismayed, “So what you’re saying then is, since they’ve just given us an invitation card, they’re…”
“Trying to kill us!” Lei Wujie nodded his head without even a trace of anxiety on his face. Instead, there was excitement in his voice.
“But why are they even out to kill us?” Xiao Se turned towards the lady at the entranceway who was still smiling thinly as before, not at all about to refute what he just said.
“No idea…” Lei Wujie shook his head.
Finally, the Lunar Maiden briefly shook her head and began explaining, “Honestly, that invitation was meant for that other friend of yours inside. However, our rules state that anyone who receives an invitation has to die. That’s why I’ll have to request that the both of you leave your lives behind as well.”
“I’ve received that invitation card before, but I don’t remember being dead either.” A sonorous voice echoed throughout the courtyard at that instant. All that could be seen by Lei Wujie of this voice was a black shadow that smoothly landed in front of him, blocking the path between him and the killers.
“Who might this brother be…” Lei Wujie eagerly stepped forth as he said that.
“Tang Lian.” The Lunar Maiden smiled sweetly once more. “Isn’t that exactly why we came all this way? Of course it’s to kill you.”
Standing atop the walls of the dilapidated temple, the Nether Duke lifted his gigantic blade onto his shoulders.
“Tang Lian! You are THE Tang Lian!” Lei Wujie yelled in surprise. “The head disciple of Snow Moon City, Tang Lian! Then that makes you my… elder martial brother! My name is Lei Wujie, I hail from the Incendiary Hall of Jiangnan’s Lei Clan and I’m heading towards Snow Moon-”
“Watch out!” Tang Lian furiously yelled before shoving Lei Wujie out of the way, a flash of silver whizzing out from his fingers in the process. There, just a mere ten steps away, was a gigantic blade that had just been stopped in its tracks by a throwing dagger.
“Haha, the Nether Duke has an inborn aversion to talking, so he absolutely despises dealing with people who prattle on like that.” The Lunar Maiden chuckled.
“Such a massive blade!” Even though it was clear from a distance that the Duke’s blade was unusual, seeing it up close still surprised Xiao Se. That wasn’t just a blade anymore, it was basically a door at that point! Three or even four normal men might not be able to lift it up and yet this man, the Nether Duke, was able to wave it around freely with just one arm.
In comparison to that, Tang Lian’s weapon was the complete opposite, similar only in the way their sizes were both unusual. His weapon was smaller than a normal dagger and could barely be seen unless one paid close attention. Under the glow of the moonlight, it almost seemed like a streak of light was resting in Tang Lian’s palms.
“You’re injured.” The Nether Duke muttered as he retreated backwards. His voice was extremely deep and hoarse like he had just forced it out from the depths of his throats.
“I see that you haven’t completely recovered from the Hundred Fragrance Powder either, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to block that blade strike just now.” Tang Lian replied while wiping out a fresh trickle of blood from the corners of his mouth.
“The next strike, won’t be blocked…” This time, it was the Lunar Maiden who replied.
“I’ll be the one who blocks that!” Lei Wujie stepped forth in front of Tang Lian. “Elder martial brother has taken a hit for me, so now it’s time for me, your younger martial brother, to block one strike as well!”
“Oh, so our little brother here is a member of Snow Moon City then? Killing you wouldn’t be wronging you then. However, the Nether Duke’s blade isn’t that one that can be pulled out so easily, how about you have a taste of my sword first.” The Lunar Maiden gently tugged at her waist. A crisp twang resounded in the air and her silvery belt straightened into the shape of a sword that glittered with an icy shine under the moonlight.
“The Corset Sword?” Xiao Se noted with admiration. “Your weapons really do compliment each other well.”
“The Corset Sword and the Golden Titan’s Blade. Not many are able to witness these two weapons in one night, so my dear little brother, you’d better watch carefully!” The Lunar Maiden launched into the air with a gentle leap, sleeves dancing in the moonlight. All that could be seen was a flash of purple before her sword had stabbed its way to the front of Lei Wujie’s chest.
“Hahaha, good!” Lei Wujie slammed his palms together, catching the sword midway. However, her sword strike was swiftly followed up by a kick to his chest that forced him to abandon the captured sword post haste. A glimmer of steel flashed conspicuously on the tip of the Lunar Maiden’s feet; to think she hid an immensely thin blade there and that blade just sliced across Lei Wujie’s chest!
“Rumors speak of how formidable the firearms of Jiangnan’s Incendiary Hall are, but they make no mention of our little brother’s impressive Internal Force. Never would I have expected that my Corset Sword would be caught barehanded.” The Lunar Maiden stated with admiration.
Lei Wujie took a deep breath. “I’ve seen your sword now, but my fist, you’ve not experienced it yet!” He tightly clenched his fists. A burst of heat gushed out from his body and with a roar, he threw a punch at the Lunar Maiden.
This punch was thrown with utmost ferocity and strength. Before his fist even reached her, the snow behind her scattered.
“The Lei clan’s Unseen Fist, before their fists arrive, their qi strikes first. It has been said that the third master of the Lei clan, Lei Lie, once injured the head of the Murong clan from ten meters away. What he used then was this very fist technique.” As he said that, Tang Lian gave the teen a wave of silent praise, though Lei Wujie might seem inexperienced on the surface, his accomplishments with this fist technique had reached an extraordinary level.
At that very moment, the Lunar Maiden had just evaded the roiling currents of his fist with a deft leap into the air. She raised the Corset Sword high into the air, its silvery sheen reflecting the moonlight and bathing those below in a burst of light. Faced with this sudden glare, their first instinct was to cover their eyes, at which point the Corset Sword seemed to meld into the moonlight. Then, the Lunar Maiden smiled, radiant sword still held aloft, the very definition of resplendence.
Even Xiao Se couldn’t help but admire the dazzling sight, “So that’s why she’s known as the Lunar Maiden.”
Lei Wujie had his head lifted up to observe that chilling light as well. There, he witnessed the very instant when the moonlight coalesced on the surface of the sword and just a split second later, it scattered!
“That’s not light, it’s her sword!” Came Tang Lian’s hurried reminder.
The moment those words left Tang Lian’s mouth, Lei Wujie leaped towards temple’s doorway in a single bound, closely hounded by a stream of moonlight. In the midst of all that, his fists never once stopped in their furious dancing, a dance so intense that it seemed to create a circle that forcefully deflected any incoming moonlight. From a distance, it almost seemed like Lei Wujie was dancing under a dome of moonlight.
Back at the other side of the courtyard, the area was now filled with a myriad of afterimages, each depicting the Lunar Maiden either brandishing her sword on flat ground or diving her with back towards a shining moon. There were even those that were already stabbing at Lei Wujie from a meter away. Yet no matter how much her Corset Sword danced, she just couldn’t seem to break through that circle created by Lei Wujie’s wild punching.
Both were locked in a deadly stalemate and both of them were patiently biding their time for that one crucial window of opportunity. The Lunar Maiden was waiting for Lei Wujie’s circle to show a sign of weakness. All she needed was that one crack in its defenses and her Corset Sword would easily penetrate it. On the other hand, Lei Wujie was waiting for her attacks to relent just a tiny bit. He was waiting for that one moment when she faltered to go on the offensive and settle this match with one decisive punch!
Suddenly, the Lunar Maiden sheathed her sword and the moonlight scattered along with it.
“Now’s the time!” Lei Wujie was ecstatic. His left fist still maintained the circular stance but his right fist had already launched ahead towards the Lunar Maiden.
No, now’s not the time! Tang Lian yelled in his heart.
Yet it was Lei Wujie who was more astonished now. Because, while his fist had just punched through the Lunar Maiden’s body, it struck air instead. The Lunar Maiden shot him a brief smile before disappearing before his very eyes.
An afterimage? Lei Wujie breathed in sharply.
To be precise, it wasn’t just an after image! That was the realization he came to when he saw her shadow suddenly rise from the ground. A silvery flash of light burst forth and that black shadow turned into a purple figure, the very figure of the Lunar Maiden clad in her purple dress. As for that silver light, it barrelled through the air right towards his chest.
Unfortunately for Lei Wujie, his circle defense was no longer complete, so it wasn’t able to fend off this sudden attack at all. Furthermore, it was now too late to retreat so all that remained was going on the offense, but there was no time for that too!
Yet he still made it in the end. Because his surname was Lei! Lei, of Jiangnan’s Incendiary Hall!
“Break!” Lei Wujie roared before stomping both his feet firmly on the ground.
A deafening explosion rattled the entire courtyard, scattering the moonlight in the process, allowing Lei Wujie to beat a hasty retreat. Roughly three paces later, he collapsed on the floor, chest heaving and back covered in sweat.
The Lunar Maiden, on the other hand, did a smooth cartwheel before landing on the snow.
“Moonlight Sword, Shadow Mimic, those are all unparalleled assassination techniques in their own right.” Tang Lian stated with a look of admiration at the Lunar Maiden.
However, she merely shook head. “No matter how unparalleled of an assassination technique they are, they are useless if they fail to kill the target.”
Lei Wujie sucked in a deep breath of air before wiping the sweat off his forehead. “That match, was your victory.”
“You jest, dear little brother. For us killers, there is no win or loss, only life or death.” The Lunar Maiden raised her sword once more.
Lei Wujie stood up as well, spirit even more excited than before, “To think my first steps into the martial world would be met with such opponents. This is my, Lei Wujie’s, fortune.” The scorching qi around him blazed once more. His crimson garments fluttered as if they were a bundle of fire under the moonlight, his pupils instantly turned a burning red.
“That’s…” Tang Lian furrowed his brows. Such a strange technique was unknown to him; one that even changed the color of one’s pupils red.
“Lunar Maiden. We’re leaving.” The Nether Duke picked up the giant blade and suddenly, but slowly, walked out of the courtyard.
The lady in question nodded her head, lowered her sword and stowed it around her waist once more.
“Hey, don’t just leave like that.” A confused Lei Wujie reached out with his arm in a bid to tug on the Nether Duke. The Nether Duke whipped around, his gigantic blade swinging through in a perfectly horizontal slash.
Such a stance was unbeknownst to the teen; like a thousand warhorses was charging right at him, bringing with them an unstoppable and overbearing tidal wave of pressure. There was no doubt in Lei Wujie’s mind that this single slash would easily sever a person in half through his waist. It wasn’t like that soft, unthreatening sense of danger that the Lunar Maiden emitted. It was a danger that heeded nothing. Straightness that brooked no opposition, no evasion. The only thing that could defeat it was…
An even stronger attack!
Lei Wujie immediately launched into an attack of his own with both his fists. Fist qi collided with the giant blade and he was forced three paces back before he was overwhelmed by a turbulent sensation in his chest which, despite his best efforts to calm down, culminated in a spurt of blood. On the other hand, the Nether Duke merely stood there, not even batting an eye as he blandly eyed Lei Wujie one last time before turning around to leave. The Lunar Maiden left as well and in a few heartbeats, disappeared without a trace alongside her companion.
“Strange, why did they leave all of a sudden?” Tang Lian furrowed his brows in apprehension.
Xiao Se casually stood up and fished out a small bottle from his pockets. From within, he took out a white pill and tossed it to the still shell shocked Lei Wujie. “Is there any person’s strike you don’t dare to receive.”
However, Lei Wujie only caught the pill in muted silence, eyes blank and mind just as empty. He was still caught in the moment of that strike. Never had he seen such a blade strike before. It was as if it tore through his world and there, within that very fissure, he saw a new world.
“Enough dreaming for now. As for that black clothed brother over there…” Xiao Se sighed. “Were you hiding something at the back of the temple? There was an intruder just then. I assume the two of them didn’t want another to profit off their work so–”
Without even waiting for Xiao Se to finish, Tang Lian had already rushed towards the backyard.
Xiao Se picked up that unusually long sack on the ground and tossed it back to Lei Wujie.
“Hmm?” Lei Wujie caught the sack having somewhat recovered from the shock.
“Follow them!” Xiao Se kicked him. “Aren’t we heading for Snow Moon City? The head disciple of that city is right in front of us now, if we don’t catch up to him now… Do you plan on blindly leading us around again?!”
“Oh, oh, oh, RIGHT!”
The pair dashed off to the backyard, but all they saw was Tang Lian sitting atop the roof of a carriage. Shattered blades and bodies were scattered about the area.
“A bunch of trash, skulduggery is all they’re good for.” Tang Lian scoffed.
However, neither of the two paid him any heed. As of right now, there was a carriage horse with its throat slit, lying in a pool of its own blood. The contents of said carriage revealed for all to see on the snowy ground.
It was actually a coffin, a golden coffin!
Xiao Se stepped forward, completely ignoring the throwing dagger that had already been pressed against his jugular. Oblivious to everything else around him, he gently stroked the golden covering of the coffin and its intricate carving. Finally, after a long pause, he said, “it’s pure gold, it’s definitely plated with gold, it’s a coffin forged entirely out of gold!”
“We’re rich!” That was the final conclusion he came to with a nod of his head.