"You..." Stammered Zhao Ling, who was at a loss for words.
"How audacious you are... You should bring a rod on your back and go to our Taibai Sword Faction to ask for punishment!" A male disciple hollered.
The other disciples immediately murmured their agreement to that proposal.
"Li Mu, you killed Lu Yun and the other three disciples but are still faking your innocence. You're a butcher, a killer!" Zhou Zhenhai, who had been hiding behind the disciples of the Taibai Sword Faction during the whole time, finally could not bear his irritation and jumped out to stir up the trouble.
"Who are you?" Asked Li Mu.
He cast his eyes on that hideous-looking old man who evidently was not a disciple of the Taibai Sword Faction.
Li Mu had not met Zhou Zhenhai before, so he was clueless about the old man's identity.
"How do you have the face to ask who he is? Well, listen up, this sad and lonely old man is exactly the father of the Deputy county magistrate Zhou Wu that you killed!" Fuming, Zhao Ling tugged Zhou Zhenhai towards the front of the crowd. "Look at this poor old father who lost his son. Can you feel any sting of guilt at all?"
Li Mu gave a cold smile and said, "Oh, it's this old bastard... No, I feel nothing."
"You... You really have no heart!" Zhao Ling stuttered out of rage again.
This beautiful girl on her first adventure out of the faction was simple as a pure white flower. Accustomed to living in the loving and harmonious atmosphere within the faction, she just could not imagine why there were people like this county magistrate who was so cold-blooded and shameless.
The other disciples of the Taibai Sword Faction also could not help rebuking Li Mu's callousness.
Gradually, the county magistrate's expression became ice cold.
"Elder Zhou, I suggest that you make those dumbasses behind you shut up at once. I'm not in a good mood today. If I lose my temper and hurt any of those saplings living in the greenhouse, it won't look good on either of us." Ignoring Zhao Ling and the other young and simple-minded disciples, Li Mu turned and directly spoke to their outer school elder Zhou Zhenyue.
"You... Shame on you!"
"You dare to insult us?"
The young disciples of the Taibai Sword Faction were all bent out of shape now.
In terms of age, those disciples were already 17 or 18, several years older than Li Mu. But the cold-blooded county magistrate referred them as saplings in the greenhouse. That was a huge offense to them. Being rash and arrogant, those immature disciples all unsheathed their swords and directed them towards Li Mu.
"Quiet! How ill-behaved you are... Back off now."
Zhou Zhenyue ordered the disciples.
Imbued with strong internal qi, his voice reverberated in the ears of each disciple like claps of thunder.
Actually, Zhou Zhenyue was a little disappointed at their behavior.
He had intentionally kept his tongue tied for a while to let those young disciples have a chance to sort the problem out by themselves.
He thought perhaps after the analysis and lecture he gave them in the Righteous Manor, the new doubts they discovered in the case would teach them a lesson. He believed that they would at least act more rationally when they came here. However, after they met the uncompromising Li Mu and heard Zhou Zhenhai's provoking talk, those youngsters all turned petulant and reckless again.
In Jianghu, numerous stubborn and imprudent young experts like them were killed every year.
Even the disciples of the Taibai Sword Faction could not all return safe and sound once they went out to adventure in Jianghu.
"Without my permission, no one shall say a word!" Bellowed Zhou Zhenyue.
He took a deep breath and threw a harsh look at Zhao Ling.
Too scared to defy the elder, Zhao Ling stepped back and fell in silence. But she still kept her head up, her supple and exquisite face brimming with disgruntlement and stubbornness. She was goggling at Li Mu, as if her gorgeous eyes would carve out a piece of flesh of Li Mu.
The rest of the disciples also glared at Li Mu, not daring enough to voice their second opinion.
Li Mu, however, seemed totally oblivious of their grudge.
He understood quite well that the young disciples of the Taibai Sword Faction were just being impulsive. Also, he knew their passion and dream as green hands in Jianghu. He even found their cranky behavior a little adorable.
But that did not mean that he had to accept and tolerate the hostility of those halfwitted disciples.
If it hadn't been for the good reputation the Taibai Sword Faction gained all along as the largest decent faction with no reported wrongdoings within the area and their crucial contribution to the peace of the Taibai Mountain region, Li Mu would have slapped those disrespectful youngsters already.
"Elder Zhou, I'm a busy man. I don't have time to tangle with you guys. Whether it is for your personal enmity or for the interest of your faction, can you just tell in which way you want to settle this problem?" Li Mu said, rather agitated.
His perfunctory attitude instantly put the young disciples of the Taibai Sword Faction into an uproar.
But Zhou Zhenyue was very calm. Not turning a hair, he proposed, "I want to settle the private and public matters with two sword strikes."
"Two sword strikes?" Li Mu was a little surprised.
"Right. Since the two issues only concern people in the martial arts circle, we should sort them out in accordance with the rules of Jianghu— combatting against each other. If your honor could fend off my two attacks, I promise you, our faction will never come to bother you for these two matters."
Those words made Li Mu speechless for a second.
He did not expect Zhou Zhenyue could really offer a viable solution.
Franking speaking, that proposal was quite fair and reasonable. It would not make things difficult for him or cause him to budge by endless pestering.
Li Mu agreed without hesitation.
"Let's finish this quick. Elder Zhou, bring it on."
Standing on the steps, he overlooked the crowd condescendingly.
"Your honor, I'll give you a few minutes to adjust your breathing and prepare for the battle," Zhou Zhenyue said sincerely, "because the two strikes will not only determine who is the winner but also decide who is the survivor. I'll spare no effort in this battle. If your honor loses to me due to the lack of preparations, I might not be an honorable victor."
This Elder Zhou was a very high-leveled cultivator. He already sensed the residue of the aura of some strong internal qi and certain mighty magical power in the front yard. Although the place had been cleared up, he still noticed some marks of a fierce fight. Obviously, there was a real death-match here before he and his disciples came in. Giving the magnitude of that fight, he reckoned Li Mu, who was undoubtedly one of the combatants, must have consumed a great amount of energy. If he asked Li Mu to enter another battle right away, he would be taking advantage of the circumstance.
"That's not necessary." Li Mu immediately turned that offer down, "It's just two sword strikes, not a big deal. I'm in a hurry now. We can start at any moment."
He was not pretending to be awesome. Instead, he was telling the truth.
At that time, he was really anxious to check on Qing Feng and the other injured.
Nevertheless, he was very impressed by Zhou Zhenyue.
"This outer school elder of Taibai Sword Faction surely has a laudable spirit that a Zongshi Master should have."
But the disciples, of course, took his words as haughty and ungrateful. Vexed, those green hands in Jianghu let loose of a series of curses under their breath, but they were also looking forward to the upcoming combat, because they could not wait to see Elder Zhou behead that despicable and vicious thug to avenge their dead fellows.
Even Zhou Zhenhai himself was excited. He gritted his teeth, hoping to see Li Mu's blood spill across the yard in no time.
After all, he and the disciples were quite confident about Zhou Zhenyue's strength.
Even those from other factions that followed the Taibai Sword Faction here were thrilled at the news of the one-on-one battle.
The Taibai Sword Faction had long since been respected in the northwest for the number of martial arts experts they fostered. An elder of its outer school certainly was a master of martial arts. Even though Zhou Zhenyue had been absorbed in practicing swordsmanship and seldom showed his face in Jianghu, people had heard many stunning stories about the occasional fights that he as well as other senior swordsmen from the Taibai Sword Faction had.
Moreover, if Li Mu was killed by Zhou Zhenyue, the Huya Faction, the Sky Dragon Faction, and other factions would not have to pay the sky-high ransom to rescue their members who were being held hostage in the county prison.
"In that case, we shall start right off as your honor wish."
Zhou Zhenyue slowly went up towards Li Mu as he activated his internal qi to make himself enveloped in whirling powerful energy.
Unhurriedly, he pressed his hand on the handle of his sword.
Li Mu narrowed his eyes in alert, for he detected an invisible wave of pressure coming from his opponent.
He knew the outer school elder of the Taibai Sword Faction was gathering his momentum.
And indeed, this elder was powerful.
Li Mu was under the impression that Zhou Zhenyue's cultivation was at least not inferior to that of Wei Chong, one of the twelve elders of Qing Sha Clan.
However, today's Li Mu was not the same man he was a couple of days ago.
Even he himself had no idea how strong his strength could be. The only thing he was sure of was that if he ever encountered Wei Chong again, he could definitely crash him single-handedly.
To Li Mu, the winner of this battle was already settled.
Very shortly, Zhou Zhenyue's momentum had reached the fullest point.
His robe began to billow even when there was no wind. His white long hair also fluttered up as if the gravity did not work on it. The sword seemed to have sprung to life and kept buzzing in the sheath. At the same time, a shot of energy was expanding over the place, which gradually materialized in the midair as an extremely sharp sword.
All the audience backed five meters away from the battlefield to stay out of the range of that terrifying power.
Zhou Zhenyue's eyes were flashing dangerously, reflecting the shining blade of his sword.
The hand he put on the handle was white and long-fingered. Slowly, he pulled.
The Super-dynamic Sword was unsheathed inch by inch. Each time the sharp and glinting black was drawn out one more inch, Zhou Zhenyue's aura and pressure hiked.
At that scene, Li Mu inhaled deeply and awakened his muscles.
He was ready to take that strike.
But precisely as Zhou Zhenyue's sword was one inch left from being fully drawn out and he was about to launch that first deadly attack, a change beyond everyone's expectation expected happened.
"Hahaha, Li Mu, you son of a bitch. I heard you're done fleeing and have returned. This time, I won't give you any chance to escape!"
A roar of pompous laughter came in from a distant place.
Like the raging torrent, that voice carried a huge amount of energy. It made the eardrums of those experts in the yard quake madly, as though they were about to be broken. The experts also started to see stars, so they were forced to enhance their breathing exercise in order to stay clear-headed.
Zhou Zhenyue's eyes were no longer sharp and menacing, and his sword was thrust back to the sheath in an instance.
Simultaneously, his formidable aura was withdrawn to his insides.
"It seems your honor have another guest to entertain," Zhou Zhenyue stated coolly as he took three steps backward, "I will launch the two strikes later after Your Honor finish your business with that guest."
Li Mu, who had already figured out who the uninvited guest was, nodded curtly and replied, "Okay."
Just when those words faded, a figure landed in the yard.
It was a burly man carrying a colossal hammer made of cold iron.