Chapter 242: A Strange Ending; The Delusion of the Poisonous Hitching Post
Translator: Transn Editor: Transn
"It's our misjudgment this time."
"No kidding." Junior Leopard's smile became even wider as he used his twin big hammers to prop him up from the ground. "I would've been done for if you three didn't attack me that way."
"You're right. But who thought that you can restrain the Hollow Magic Carpet?" The man smiled bitterly.
Junior Leopard returned his smile, but there was a great reluctance in it.
"Looks like the Cool Breeze Gang is destined to end." Junior Leopard's face twitched as he struggled to keep his smile. He didn't look very well. Inside, he was feeling a heavy sense of helplessness.
First, it was the Hollow Travel. Then it was poison. Had he known that it would be so easy to deal with this gang, he wouldn't have put so much thought into it.
This guy thought himself to be clever, or perhaps he truly was smart. He tried to distract Junior Leopard by talking as he released an invisible and colorless toxic gas. If the Poison-absorbing Green Bead on Junior Leopard didn't activate, he really wouldn't have discovered it at all.
The poison that the man used couldn't be ordinary judging by the reaction of the bead. It might even be deadlier than the Green-scaled Venomous Tarantula.
That was why Junior Leopard's expression was so ghastly and he was having such a hard time smiling. He couldn't even hold his hammers firmly.
But the smile on that man's face became even brighter.
"We shouldn't have resorted to unnecessary tricks. Your combat capability may be high, but you wouldn't stand a chance if the five of us teamed up against you. What a pity the Mansion Master and the First Elder disagreed."
"Elder Cui, you…!"
The man who was crouching on the ground and checking on the First Elder looked up with a darkened expression. "You!"
"Mansion Master, I once told you that we're assassins, not prostitutes. Why do we need to make ourselves known to the world?" Elder Cui said, smiling gently.
Realization dawned on Junior Leopard. His grip slacked and his twin hammers fell to the ground. "You used poison!"
He clutched at his chest, trying his best to recall the expressions and moves he saw on television. Anger flushed his cheeks.
"Correct! Of course I did!" Elder Cui's smile turned even brighter. With a wave of his sleeves, a fragrance drifted toward Junior Leopard and made him dizzy again. Fortunately for him, his Poison-absorbing Green Bead was fully activated. A watery airflow flowed through his tendons and meridians, helping him recover.
"Cui Hailong, what are you planning?!"
Lan Wu's voice was loud and full of anger. On the other side, Junior Leopard was finally feeling better.
"Not much. But don't you think you're not suitable to be the Mansion Master of the Cool Breeze Gang anymore?" Cui Hailong turned his head after seeing Lan Wu had also fallen. "If it wasn't for you, our gang wouldn't be reduced to such a state!"
"Are you rebelling?!"
"Why not?" Cui Hailong lifted his head and said calmly, "Is there a better opportunity than now?"
"You..." Lan Wu was fuming even as his body went limp and numb. Cui Hailong had always hidden his strength all these years, having entered Level Seven for more than a decade. When he first joined, Lan Wu kept his guard against him but soon realized he seemed to harbor no interest in authority. His interests seemed only to be fiddling with his venomous insects and rearing some odd creatures in his room. What was more, it was he who helped the gang when they got into trouble in the past and his solutions had always been perfect.
Hence, his distrust of Cui Hailong gradually eased.
To be fair, he wasn't familiar with any of the Elders in the gang. The existence of certain Jianghu rules meant it was troublesome for them to make a Level Seven expert an assassin. They could only ask them to assume personal command. But they could be considered as impregnable and secret as possible. There wasn't anyone like Junior Leopard who had ever broken into their nest. Secondly, they would be even more persistent in their pursuit of power after entering Level Seven compared to the average person. They would never show up unless it was necessary. He wouldn't see Cui Hailong, who practiced the Heavenly and Earthly Poisons Technique, around for months at a time. He didn't expect him to rebel at such a critical point, leaving him no time to prepare.
"There's no benefit for you to betray the Cool Breeze Gang!"
"I've never said that I'm betraying the gang. I just think you're not fit to be the Mansion Master anymore, so I'm replacing you."
"Replace me? I've never expected you to hide such wild ambitions!"
"There are even more things beyond your expectations." Cui Hailong snickered. "But you don't have to think too hard about it anymore."
"You..." A heavy sense of exhaustion clouded Lan Wu's mind. He tried to operate his Internal Qi to resist the poison but failed. His limp body fell on the ground, where he twitched and foamed at the mouth. He finally went quiet after a while and huddled up at last, losing all his vitality.
"You gave us different poisons?"
Junior Leopard slowly propped himself up with his hands as he watched the dramatic scene in front of him.
"Of course. There's nothing about the gang that is a secret to me, but you're different. You must be hiding a great secret to achieve Level Seven at the age of 17! How can I let you die so easily?"
"What if you go for wool and come home shorn?"
Cui Hailong burst out laughing and said, "Do you know what you're poisoned with?"
"Don't you know I have a Green-scaled Venomous Scorpion on my hands?" Junior Leopard's lips curled and revealed a strange smile.
"What?" Cui Hailong was struck dumb, not grasping Junior Leopard's words. While he was still confused, Junior Leopard swiped his twin hammers at him as rapid as lightning.
"You…" Clang! Thud!
A scream was followed by a low sound, finally ending with the ear-splitting sound of hammers knocking down a body.
Junior Leopard didn't give Cui Hailong much time to think. He picked up his hammers from the ground and bashed Cui Hailong's head. He hadn't expected Junior Leopard to be untouched by his poison, so he didn't put up his guard. With just one hit from Junior Leopard's hammers, his head exploded like a crushed watermelon.
"I thought it's me who wanted to end the Cool Breeze Gang but looks like it's the God who wants to end it. He's just doing it through my hands."
Junior Leopard didn't feel any happiness at killing the final expert of the Cool Breeze Gang. Rather, he felt as if his actions were controlled by an invisible hand.
The battle that he had been anticipating ended without any fanfare. Junior Leopard silently killed the most powerful Level Eight expert just like that while he was controlling the Hollow Magic Carpet, leaving him no chance to demonstrate his true strength. The unlucky Lan Wu didn't have any chance to fight either, having been poisoned by his partner. Cui Hailong, on the other hand, was so confident in his poison that he didn't even put a guard and was smashed to death.
This was so easy that Junior Leopard felt like it was something right out of a movie.
The Cool Breeze Gang had many departments and assassins, but their true strength lied in their four experts and a master with an expert's combat capability. The First Elder, a Level Eight expert, was particularly powerful. Yet they were inexplicably killed. The remaining assassins, the tiny fish who had escaped Junior Leopard's net, were too insignificant to care about.
In the past 300 years, how many people had the Cool Breeze Gang assassinated or offended?
Now that their most powerful assassins were killed in one clean sweep, the influences and schools who had their men killed would definitely not give up this chance to kick them while they were down.
Having considered this point, Junior Leopard slowly walked toward the bodies of Lan Wu and the First Elder. He raised his head and a ball of golden flame flashed, reducing Lan Wu's corpse into ashes. He didn't dare to treat the First Elder corpse lightly and carefully controlled the remaining undamaged Demon Devil Needles. He pierced the First Elder's head with the needles to make sure that he was truly dead.
He didn't dare to burn him with fire for the Hollow Magic Carpet was still on the First Elder's body.
Now that he confirmed the First Elder to be truly dead, he lifted his hand and retrieved the Magic Carpet that helped the First Elder to travel in the void. He felt a familiar spirit the moment he touched it. It was the Flickering Light Evil Qi. However, it seemed to be too heterogeneous. It was no wonder there would be a tremendous space fluctuation each time the carpet was used.
He pondered for a while and finally understood why. He lifted his hand again and the Dragonslayer flew into his hands. It was the same thing that cut his Demon Devil Needles and broke his Demon Devil Formation.
"Is this a Mysterious Level celestial device?" Junior Leopard mumbled to himself as he examined the eccentric cyan weapon. "If this is one level higher than my Demon Devil Needles, then what level do my needles belong to? I knew celestial devices and magic weapons have their classifications, but I've never learned any details. Would the Cool Breeze Gang have any information on them?"
He wrapped the Dragonslayer with the Hollow Magic Carpet before strapping them to his belt. He looked up to the sky and then down at the messy courtyard. He frowned and walked toward the mansion of the Cool Breeze Gang that was burning halfway already.
He became a demolisher and hammered away at the mansion without hesitation. After tearing down the building, he even smashed the ground as if he had gone mad. After some time, he actually found a secret chamber hiding among the ruins.
The secret chamber was largely empty except for the gang's ledgers from over the years stacked on rows of bookshelves. He easily found the order for his assassination in the latest ledger and smiled when he saw the name. He tore the page off the ledger and tucked it into his bosom. Besides the ledgers, there was only one purple sandalwood box containing bills of every native bank in Great Jin. The impressive amount of bills were the entirety of the gang's fortune. The gang had more than 200,000 silvers in the Datong Bank alone.
These silvers were all dirty money. Being an assassin was also an illegal occupation in Great Jin. Naturally, the money wouldn't be stored under the gang's name. To the modern person, they were all non-tangible bonds accumulated during 300 years enough to drive people mad. Junior Leopard collected them all.
"No wonder there are so many who like being robbers. This is so much fun!" Junior Leopard created another fireball after exiting the secret chamber and burned it into ashes.
When he walked to the courtyard, he didn't leave immediately and bowed in the air. "Respected predecessors, I'm done with my show and will now leave. Any objections?" he asked. He waited for several minutes and when no sound came, he jumped out of the courtyard with a smile.
Did the Cool Breeze Gang end just like that?
In just half a day, the news of Junior Leopard wiping out the gang and its experts had spread wide and far in the Jianghu.
He caused a sensation as usual, but it didn't last long this time. People found themselves numb to his affairs. No matter how shocking his actions were, they slowly began to find it acceptable.
Though it was an unverified hearsay, it was much more shocking to hear about Junior Leopard killing Mie Chen after all.
This time, people were more concerned about the fortune that Junior Leopard had nicked from the gang.
The mansion wouldn't have stored all of the gang's fortune, but experts had witnessed him tearing down the place until he found a secret chamber. They knew he burned the place into ashes. Though they didn't know what was inside the chamber, they knew it was a fruitful trip for him judging from his expression after.
But no one was stupid enough to ask about or covet Junior Leopard's spoils no matter how curious or envious they were.
This time, Junior Leopard had demonstrated to the world not only his strength but also the network he had control over.
He had two Level Seven experts protecting his family to foil the Cool Breeze Gang assassins. It wasn't something the average person could do.
"It's not all that different from a hooligan snatching another hooligan's territory!"
The Jin Emperor, Yan Yuntian, squinted at the newspaper in his hand in Qianzhou, the capital city of Great Jin, and suddenly smiled. "When people first started roaming the Jianghu, they have no roots like duckweed that can be easily blown away. They can only fight it out by being more vicious and cruel than their rivals. They will slash each other and whoever falls first dies. The outcome supposedly justifies the means! Others will only have misgivings about scheming against you if you show enough malevolence and strength! In their hesitation, you have the time to grow. When your strength reaches a certain degree, those who want to scheme against you will hesitate even more in the face of your growing power. That's the only way you can grow and build your authority! That's what Zhou Bao is trying to do."
"You mean his viciousness was intentional?"
"It was definitely intentional! Before this incident, he already had strength and reputation but there was no lack of people aiming for his head. Many, including some eminences, targeted him precisely because he had no roots. He couldn't deter others simply on the virtue of his strength or relationship with Wang She. That was why the Cool Breeze Gang dared to accept the order to assassinate him and why someone dared to make the order. Thus, he acted so viciously in flattening the gang. If you put it nicely, he was asserting his authority but it was no more than a contest to see who could be crueler. Obviously, the gang lost to him in cruelty this time!"
"Looks like Zhou Bao is really something."
"He truly is!" Jin Emperor looked peacefully at the girl standing in front of him. "Do you want to meet him, Yan'er?"
Yan'er was a tall and slim girl dressed in pink. She had a beautiful face with bright and watery pupils that made her even lovelier. She appeared astonished by Yan Yuntian's sudden question. "Can I, father?!"
"You're not that young anymore. You'll be 16 tomorrow and of age to marry. Zhou Bao is also 16. He has great martial arts and good looks to boot. Most importantly, he's smart and has a promising future. Many eminences have their eyes on him, wanting to gain him through marriage. That includes the Li family in Pingzhou, the Yan family in the Shuo Province, and some other middle or small-sized well-known families. It's much better for you to marry him than the scions of the capital or the barbarian princes!"
Yan'er stood there quietly, her face completely flushed. After considering for a moment, she said, "Father, do you have high expectations of him?"
"Why do you ask that?"
"He's now a mere County Governor and his fief is so far away in the Northern Yuan. He's not the only one who had contributed to the downfall of the Northern Yuan in the war, but I see he's the only one you're concerned about. And now you want me to marry him. Doesn't this show your expectations of him?"
"Yes, I do have some expectations of him. But I have yet to figure out his true relationship with the Tian Long Taoism. We can talk about this when I know for sure."
"So you want me to..."
"No, of course not. Do you think I'll make you marry him to figure out his background?" Yan Yuntian shook his head. "You're too smart, Yan'er. It's precisely because of your wisdom that you'll think and consider more. Before I figure out his background, I won't give him your hand in marriage. I only want you to meet him and see what you think of him. After all, you're a good judge of character." He then smiled.
"Thank you, father. I understand what you want me to do!"
Junior Leopard gently unfolded his claws that gleamed with a dark green ray of light and experienced the strands of Pure Yin Qi in the moonlight. They traveled along the pores of his skin and gradually seeped into his body before turning into fine light particles. They merged with the subtle airflow inside his body and returned to his Dantian.
Perhaps Dantian was the final destination for all airflow!
There wasn't any need for cultivation methods or an understanding of tendons and meridians. It was an innate instinct!
The strands of Pure Yin Qi in the moonlight merged with the essence of the world and entered Junior Leopard's body through the Green-scaled Venomous Scorpion's acupoints. He only needed to make sure his consciousness follow the direction of the airflow. It was the only way to prevent the airflow from vanishing in its path back to the Dantian.
For the next two months, he would repeat the same practice every moonlight night. He focused all his efforts on the Green-scaled Venomous Scorpion. Though he couldn't guarantee it would be a true Demonic Cultivation, he did gain something out of his persistence over the two months.
His Green-scaled Venomous Scorpion had become stronger and its venom seemed denser and thicker too. More importantly, he found that scorpion's stinger had become harder and more impregnable.
While he absorbed the essence of moonshine, he could clearly feel some of the airflows would be intercepted by the stinger each time it passed inside him. If he did this on purpose, nearly all the airflow would be consumed by the stinger without limit. But he didn't know how this would help him.
"Could this be the legendary Poisonous Hitching Post?" A strange idea popped up in Junior Leopard's mind. "The Demonic Cultivation is so absurd that I don't have anything to use as a reference. It's better to focus on this stinger. Maybe it'll surprise me one day!"
Just as he was still caught in his wild fancies, he felt the carriage stop.
He transferred his divine thoughts from the Green-scaled Venomous Scorpion back his own body immediately as it continued to absorb the Moon Essence. That was the advantage of using thoughts to replace the soul. It allowed him to practice 24 hours a day, absorbing the Sun Essence during the day and the Moon Essence during the night.
The scorpion would faithfully execute whatever his idea was, as long as it was conveyed to his thoughts. It would completely meet his requirements.
"Your Excellency, there's a river up front!" Junior Leopard raised his eyebrows. Caught in his joy of fantasizing about the Poisonous Hitching Post, he nearly misheard it as, "Teacher, there's a river up front!"
He wasn't Monk Tang and Zhu Ba wasn't Pigsy!
He looked helplessly at Zhu Ba who had lifted the curtain and shook his head. A bitter smile appeared on his face. "What river?"
"We don't know, Your Excellency!" Zhu Ba was also distressed.
They were on their way to Junior Leopard's fief, the Blackstone Valley. But no one knew what the fief, all 300 kilometers wide of it, covered. That included him and the man who gave him the land, Yan Yuntian. When Yan Yuntian and the imperial court arranged the enfeoffment, their first consideration was the location of the fiefs of the eminences and great schools in the martial arts world. They didn't care about what was on that fief. Those like Junior Leopard were given fiefs at random. The officers of the Hanlin Academy had divided the map of Northern Yuan into over 1,000 pieces and pointed at random, thus deciding everyone's fiefs that way.
To the officers and Junior Leopard, the Blackstone Valley was just an unfamiliar name on the map. 5 Best Chinese Romance Books of 2018 So Far