Published at 19th of March 2019 12:35:50 PM
Chapter 414

Meng Qi picked up the True Emperor Seal . He briefly studied it before pocketing the Seal . He had neither the greed nor desire to keep the artifact for himself, despite possessing the inherent Fortune of a Destined Ruler which was commonly represented by the color yellow . He harbored no ambition to be king, desiring only a carefree and jaunty life . A life where he could wander through Jianghu, free of hindrance and obstruction . A life of his own path and vocation .

What was more, Meng Qi did not truly appreciate the value of the True Emperor Seal . Some of the rumors were probably true, based on the fact that the Seal held the breath and energy of the Sword of the Human Sovereign . The late Emperor Ai had primarily searched to his utmost for the Sword, excavating even the Dragon Stand in his vain pursuit of the fabled relic . Finally, in his critical and pressing need, he had commissioned the forging of the Seal in his equally futile attempt to salvage his kingship .

Long before in the twilight of the Kang Dynasty, the imperial court and the Han Clan had not produced anyone with skills of the Dharmakaya, otherwise, they might have been able to hold and maintain the status quo for another two or three hundred years . The desire for options to lengthen his rule, the forging of the True Emperor Seal was his final and only hope . Yet, it had neither the power nor performance of the Sword . This was further proven in the end when the Emperor Ai had taken his own life atop Misty Rain Mountain .

If the Seal held omnipotent powers indeed, it would have been presented as a gift to the ruling Emperor by Sikong Tu without the need of any disguises or theatrics . He would not have to suffer the ordeal between the prowling risks issued by the parties of the Crown Prince and Prince Jin . The reward from the Emperor would most certainly be handsome and he would have legitimized his standing and redeemed his reputation to pave a way for his son's future, a bright and prosperous future for his offspring to inherit the righteous and honorable traditions, teachings, and prestige . His son would grow up, a most esteemed and respected individual by his peers without suffering scrutiny and disenfranchisement as one of ignoble lineages .

"I wonder how much would the Seal be worth if it were to be traded to the Dominator of the Six Realms of Samsara . . . " Meng Qi wondered as he leaped across walls and turned to hurry back to Happycloud Heights, the True Emperor Seal safely hidden in his robes .

"It would be more profitable to keep half of the profit of the sale, if Sikong Tu had not revealed the final stroke of the Ananda Oath-breaking Bladesmanship, the Karma Fruit, using his mystical technique of Karmic transference . . . "

It had always been a concern of Meng Qi's, a throbbing curiosity which he had failed to comprehend . "The fabled namesake of the bladesmanship, Ananda, had achieved skills of the Golden Body of the Luohan . How could the bladesmanship which bore his name only have the power of the Exterior Scenery?"

From an earlier glimpse of the essence of the Karma Fruit stroke, Meng Qi had surmised that the principles of the bladesmanship were predicated on one of the fundamental teachings of Buddhism . Yet it puzzled him that its power was only of the Exterior Scenery . But he was no longer one of the Shaolin . He could not visit the Temple and refer to the notes and memoirs of the past Elder Monks who had once trained in the bladesmanship for any helpful insight .

Additionally, the famous relic of the Shaolin, the Blade of Ananda, was a true trophy of the Buddhist sect . A Supreme Weapon equal to the powers of the Dharmakaya!

"Both renditions of the disciplines of the bladesmanship held by the Shaolin Temple and the Dominator were only of the Exterior Scenery . But disciples of the Temple were not taught the techniques of this discipline . The bladesmanship was kept, inscribed only in hidden, secret scriptures rather than the Impartation of Trueness to the younger generations . Thence the discipline of the Ananda Oath-breaking Bladesmanship had only the powers of the Exterior . . . I understand now . . . It was traded to the Dominator by a Shaolin monk who was swept into the Samsara Realms? The Dominator had not the disciplines of the bladesmanship, but the monk had traded to the Dominator the contents of the hidden scriptures of the temple . . . Hence the sameness?" Meng Qi's pupils constricted while he was deep in thought . "Could this monk be a Senior Monk who had already passed on, or one who is still within the Temple?"

If there was a fellow traveler of the Samsara Realms who was still hidden in the temple, a monk who could have traded to the Dominator the disciplines of the Ananda Oath-breaking Bladesmanship, much could be said of the Muscle-Bone Strengthening Scriptures . . .

"Indeed, more secrets abounded the Impartation of Trueness . The designs of Ananda himself, it could even be . . . " An icy cold trembled through him, making him shudder at the very thought .

If the stroke of the bladesmanship in question was the Devil's Coax or the Mass of Power, instead of the Fruits of Karma, he would not have even given it a second look . He would have even stayed his distance .

Since mastering the Violent Thunder Shocking the Sky technique, he had rarely used the techniques Peace Quietude Split or Mortal Dust Fall . Dreading the fallout of the continued use of said techniques, Meng Qi had even refrained from learning the ensuing strokes of The Ostensible .

Yet, the matter had remained a stubborn quandary . A constant bruise that has dawdled and troubled him still . He knew well, that the continuous tangle with the Great Power behind The Ostensible would one day culminate in an inevitable encounter under the influence of Karma .

He apprehended his incompetence with deep regret; all his struggles and toilings were but mere specks in the omnipotence of Karmic influences .

Persistent evasion would get him nowhere . He knew full well that he had to take the bull by the horns . With his usual fearless courage, Meng Qi would face the problem head-on when the time to cross the bridge came knocking! For wrath, for ruin and the bloody dawn of his future that awaits!

The chaos of Karma was where his troubles found him, thus that was also where the outcome would be decided!

The Karma Fruit was one of the few martial discipline strokes which could be mastered without attaining Dharmakaya . This was the one opportunity that he could not cower from simply because of fear .

Furthermore, the techniques of the Eight Nine Mysteries and the Heavenly Golden Scripture both required his attention . He needed to discover and train in the parts linked to the influence of Karma . Though uncertain about the Karmic connection of the Eight Nine Mysteries technique, he was sure that Karmic influence was present within the Heavenly Golden Scripture . The Heavenly Primogenitor was, notwithstanding, the origin of all Karmic consequences . Three of the Nine Seals were associated with him .

To survive in the tumultuous chaos of the Samsara Realms, he would continue amassing different arrays of mystic arts and arcane sorceries aside from his chief goal of continually enhancing his skills . He would endow and furnish himself adequately, in anticipation of meeting the inevitable when the time came . He would sever the influence of Karma that had gripped him with a determined smite! "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, and dust to dust!"

. . .

Thereafter Meng Qi quietly revealed to Jiang Zhiwei the True Emperor Seal, she teased Meng Qi about him being able to chance upon treasures even by wandering around . Meng Qi tried his best to remain impassive and omitted the finer details about the Crown Prince and Prince Jin . He abstained from any training sessions alone to avert suspicions that he had unknown secrets stashed somewhere .

Two days passed peacefully . All was placid and quiet in Ying City on the surface . Still, the hidden yet squalling tempest of fate was no less swift and fierce as tensions quivered . It was New Year's Eve, and so began the Party of Happycloud .

Evening came and the sun turned red in the horizon . Emblazoned lanterns began to glimmer from every prominence; from balconies, eaves and beams in every corner of the Happycloud Heights . Busy and anxious servants scurried about back and forth, making sure that everything was proceeding with oiled efficiency . The host, He Jiu had also invited members of the local aristocracy and prominent factions besides the ranked experts of the Ranking List of Young Masters . The local guests were closely tied with the Eastsea Sword Village, so their attendance was not only a gesture of respect but also an endorsement .

Apart from them, the lavish banquet was graced by the presence of certain individuals of extraordinary standing and influence . Before Meng Qi, stood one such person .

Zhao Yi, the Prince Jin, had made his entrance into the banquet hall with cheerful delight across his face . He immediately noticed and approached Meng Qi, beckoning the nobles accompanying him to come over . To them he said, "Young Master Su and Young Master Yan defended me from an attempt on my life earlier . I would have perished if not for their gallantry and valor . Still, they stayed humble and courteous, without any desire for rewards for their deeds . Seldom do we have such exemplary champions so moral and honorable!"

The prince demonstrated his accomplished skills in diplomacy and politics, cementing their relationships using so few words .

Meng Qi masked his indifference with an insincere smile, "You have been most gracious Your Highness . Surely Your Highness has no need for any distress when Eunuch Feng, your most obstinate retainer, is at hand . "

Eunuch Feng acknowledged Meng Qi's praises with a thin smile and a gentle nod, gestures of appreciation for his favorable remarks .

Zhao Yi was exceptionally warm towards Meng Qi . He gently pulled Meng Qi to him as he spoke . The prince's amicable and enthusiastic conversation with him had earned him piercing and resentful looks from a number of the members of the local aristocracy . "We have not the powers or strength that he possesses, but we are, after all, respected and important figures locally . We have masters of the Exterior Scenery in our service and within our household that are most certainly superior to the likes of one so unremarkable as this Su Meng . " They quietly reflected among themselves with extreme jealousy .

Amidst the din of the gaily chatter and merry laughters, Zhao Yi quietly and privately slinked over to Meng Qi with an inquiry, "Little Su, word on the street is that you have ventured into the Luanfen Gorge just days ago with a swordswoman called Jiang from the Sword Washing Pavillion? Were you there to apprehend felons and evil-doers?"

Believing that their relations were amply close and warm, the prince had turned to addressing the swordsman as "Little Su" affectionately .

"Hehe, the climax is afoot . . . " Meng Qi gleefully thought . With a solemn facade, he disclosed the events of his excursion with disguised seriousness and integrity, "Yes my Lord . I was informed that a vengeful evil, a demon was nearby . The assistance of the Jiang Zhiwei and Senior Hong Qian of her sect, as well as other capable swordsmen, were enlisted to accompany me in my quest to apprehend the devil .  Alas, we were too late . The demon had slipped away . We only found the five holy monks, Dragon, Elephant, Tiger, Leopard, and Giant Bird; of whom were part of the Crown Prince's retinue during his visit here . Traces of the Master Thief, Sikong Tu were also detected . "

Zhao Yi's eyes half-closed at the information as he sank into deep thought, "The Crown Prince? How could it be that the Holy Monks were found in Valley of Unkempt Tombs?"

"I am afraid I have to plead ignorance, my Lord . I have not the slightest impression of the bizarre events . But the monks were dead by the time we reached them . . . Plum Blossom Darts, the favored weapon of choice of the Master Thief, were found to have struck the evil demon, but the thief was nowhere to be seen . I suppose he had fled," Meng Qi reported with his eyes twinkling, feigning honesty . He had disclosed most, if not all of the details of the scene in Luanfen Gorge . But he had intentionally left out any mention of the Myths, lest he incur the suspicion of the prince in the probable events that knowledge of the Myths' existence was made known to him .

"The Crown Princes's men . . . The Master Thief is alive, but there has not been any news of him yet . Has he vanished completely? And not a word from him thus far . . . " Zhao Yi nodded to himself quietly as he took in Meng Qi's detailed report . His gaze grew distant and cold like the winter snow .

It did not take long for a servant to loudly announce the arrival of the Crown Prince . Zhao Yi retreated from Meng Qi's company and rushed forward to receive the imperial heir without any impression of peculiarity about him .

Jiang Zhiwei, Wang Siyuan, and more guests followed behind thereafter . The members of the Jianghu bowed their heads slightly to the Crown Prince and Prince Jin, with apparent flippancy to the nobility of both princes .

Jiang Zhiwei had arrived with her senior, Hong Qian, the Star-Breaking Sword . With a few words of greetings, she had no further conversation with Meng Qi and quietly slipped through the throng of conversing guests to a table opposite from where he stood . She took her seat and awaited He Jiu's arrival without fraternizing .

The banquet hall was long and wide . A wide expanse which had appeared to be fashioned from a sparring arena . Numerous tables were set around a wide, empty space in the center of the hall .

Meng Qi waded among the crowded hall of cackling guests and the field of tables to find his seat . At length, he found a table with his name and settled there . A lean figure in white flowing robes drifted by, just as he raised his head while he sat . It was Wang Siyuan . He sat at Meng Qi's left, half-smiling, surveying him in awkward serenity .

Incomprehensible restlessness swept through Meng Qi as he felt Wang Siyuan's intent gaze fixed upon him . A calm clamor reared its head as he was worried that the "charlatan", the shyster that Meng Qi had always believed him to be, might notice that the True Emperor Seal was in his possession . Nervously, he asked him, "Master Wang, how can I be of assistance?"

Muffled coughs were heard from behind the cloth Wang Siyuan held to cover his mouth . He was still the invalid he was, but he appeared to be reasonably healthier than before . "Rest easy, Master Su . I have failed to see that you are in possession of the True Emperor Seal . " His voice resounded in Meng Qi's mind telepathically .

Meng Qi's expression froze, the muscles on his face threatening to give way to alarm at the mention of the Seal . "You've failed to 'see'?"

"Because it was not foretold using any skills or methods of divination," casually answered Wang Siyuan with a thin smile .

Liu Su, the Young Master Lotus strode past with a small flask of wine in his hand . He stopped a moment and pointed to Wang Siyuan with a knowing smirk, "You owe me five urns of Guangling wine . "

Guangling was a city in Jiang Province . The ancestral seat of the Wang Clan of Jiangdong . The locally-brewed wine was thus called, a reference to the city of its origin .

"I am a man of my word, Master Liu . Rest assured you shall have your wine," Wang Siyuan cheerfully returned . Meng Qi noticed that they seemed to have a close friendship, .

This sparked a sudden revelation: perhaps his conversations with the Young Master Lotus on the boat and the disclosure of the Master Thief were not plain strokes of luck . . .

A little drunk and dreamy-eyed, the Young Master nodded in acknowledgment to Meng Qi before he staggered on and meandered to his seat a little further away .

Meng Qi's look of shock and fear betrayed him . Wang Siyuan returned his attention to him, amused by his expression, "The relic selects its master, Master Su . All is as destined . I will divulge to no one its secrets . "

"I am afraid I do not understand," Meng Qi asked using Secret Voice-sending . Tensity and nervousness were rapidly overcoming him as a cold sweat broke across his forehead .

But it did not take long for him to calm himself, seeing the futility of agitation .

"I have been asked by others to remain silent . Besides, not everything can be held and taken by force . Misfortunes might come upon he who steals certain objects or takes items by force . " As if he was in a trance, his eyes opened wide . They were dark, mysterious and deep . No one could detect a shred of emotion in them . Awakening from his rapturous stupor, he suddenly remarked with great malaise, "That said, the reckoning is at hand . Hereditary relics and ancient treasures spring to life out of the grass like dreams and legends . The age ripens in revolving fate and the relics and treasure shall find masters becoming of their possession . This is the measure that the Wang Clan of Jiangdong is currently employing in the face of the calamity . "

"Calamity? The reckoning?" The expression was news to Meng Qi .

"We, the Wang Clan of Jiangdong have, since ancient times, laid witness to countless calamities and disastrous events that have befallen the lands . The effects of the Demonic Buddha Holocaust would even be minuscule before the dangers and perils of this calamitous woe . Still, great opportunities are in store even in the greatest of pitfalls . Long have many slumbered and slept in anticipation of an opportunity as vast as this . Certain Great Powers of old might even mount a return from the Samsara . . . " Wang Siyuan's voice drifted into silence . His gaze was blankly fixed on Meng Qi, his thoughts far and distant . A sudden chill crept down Meng Qi's spine .

"Is this the Ananda?"

His question had barely left his lips when Wang Siyuan was caught in another fit of agonizing coughs . With much pain, his coughs threatened to tear at his body and very soul, to the point where even his maid was distressed with concern .

Specks of red blood blossomed on his handkerchief as he suppressed his coughs and breathed heavily . Panting, he remarked to Meng Qi, whose glance had never left him, "Progressions of Destiny are not to be divulged lightly, Master Su . You are blessed with great and robust fortuity, mark my words . "

Wang Siyuan's cryptic and ominous admonitions of "robust and great fortuity" and "mark my words" would certainly seem fairly ironic to the common folk or the Meng Qi of old . Having granted the advice and guidance by Master Lu and the Heaven-destined Cultivator, the words made perfect sense to him as he committed the words to his memory with foreboding reverence .

He Jiu swiftly made his entrance and strode through the banquet hall clad in lush-green robes suitable for battle . He stood at his seat of honor at turned to address his guests looking pleased,

"My gratitude to all of you for your gracious presence at tonight's banquet, the Party of Happycloud . "

Without delay, he inspected the crowd and from within, he looked at Yan Chong, the Unstoppable; Liu Su, the Young Master Lotus; Xuanzhen, the Buddhist Monk with the moniker, the Buddhist Heart Palm; and Meng Qi . In a booming voice and laughter, he exclaimed, "Young Master Su, Young Master Yan, Master Xuanzhen, Young Master Liu Su; I would like to challenge you to a duel . I shall fight you all alone . "

"BOOM!" The crowd in the hall erupted with a thunder of shock and exclamation . Barrages of gasps and disbelieving cries instantly followed and pierced the air .

"Crack!" Outside, fireworks lit up the spring night and put on a fascinating and exciting display . Colorful floral tributes illuminated the dark setting as the common folk outside continued their rejoices and celebrations of the New Year, still oblivious to the sinister gales of fates that continued to billow .

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