“Senior Cheng Hao! Brother Fu Yin! Brother Xiao Li!” Fan Lai dashed towards the group as soon as he saw them step out of the teleportation hexagram: for the past two days he had been worried sick as he had no news about the three of them.
Since the Maze was in another place altogether, he could not hear the screams not the cries coming from behind the light formation.
“Senior Fan Lai, we meet again!” Cheng Hao smiled and bowed to the approaching Fan Lai “I need to thank you for helping my sister! It truly was a lucky instance that you came across her, this truly is good karma!”
Fan Lai hurriedly bowed back “Senior Cheng Hao, Thank you very much for your help! About your sister… Wait… Sister?”
Fan Lai lifted his head and looked at the sleeping Xiao Wu: at the moment, the make up had been removed by Cheng Hao and her ponytail had also been freed.
“Ahaha, Fan Lai, our little sister apparently enjoys crossdressing, I was a bit surprised at first too!” Fu Yin patted Fan Lai’s shoulder and grinned “Don’t you have bad thoughts about her now! Let alone Cheng Hao, her alone would be enough to castrate you!”
Fan Lai gulped and Cheng Hao also laughed out loud “Ahaha, you are right on that, Fu Yin! Also, Senior Fan Lai, I am younger than you are (At least that is what I would like other people to believe) so you don’t have to call me Senior… Just call me little brother!”
Cheng Hao also approached Fan Lai and threw an arm around his neck. The three men stared at each other before bursting out laughing. At that moment, Xiao Wu slowly lifted her eyelids.
“Sister, you are awake!” Cheng Hao exclaimed. Fu Yin let her down and the girl yawned a bit before adjusting to the light.
“Brother… Where are we… Brother Fu Yin! Brother Fan Lai!” Xiao Wu exclaimed.
Fan Lai smiled “Did you have a good sleep miss Xiao Wu?”
Hearing that, Xiao Wu trembled and smiled innocently “What is big brother Lan talking about? I am a boy! My name is Xiao Li, not Wu!” The girl began to feel exposed so she denied the man’s claims.
“Xiao Wu, before you say that you’d better check your appearance first!” At Cheng Hao’s remark, her face turned red and she dashed to find a mirror. Cheng Hao removed one from his Dimensional Pouch and threw it at her.
“Now!” Cheng Hao clapped his hands and the pointed out “Shall we proceed? If I remember correctly, the entrance to the Outer Sect is right there!”
Following Cheng Hao’s finger, the group of nine turned their heads to see a massive teleportation hexagram. It was even larger than the one leading to the maze, probably because, this time, they would no longer be measly Vacant Disciples and the elders decided to make it a little bit fancier.
“Brother Cheng Hao’s right! Let’s go!” Fan Lai instructed and they slowly stepped on the glowing symbol. First were Fan Lai and all the former members of their soon-to-be Alliance except for Fu Yin. The group teleported away. Following that, Fu Yin bowed to Cheng Hao and waved at Xiao Wu “See ya on the other side!”
The white haired boy that had aided Xiao Wu so much during the Exam stepped on the hexagram and also faded away.
“Xiao Wu, go. I still have something to do here!” The girl nodded and stepped on the formation as excitement appeared on her face: she was, from then on, truly a member of the Mysterious Light-Shadow Sect!
After all, a Vacant Disciple can’t be really considered a member of the sect. It is just someone lodging on the sect’s grounds, only by becoming an Outer Disciple can one truly call himself a Mysterious Light-Shadow Sect member.
She smiled and turned towards Cheng Hao and, before she disappeared, she was able to say “Thank you, Brother!”
Cheng Hao smiled then turned towards the entrance of the Maze. He stood still for a while, his eyes scanning the area in front of him.
Cheng Hao nonchalantly waved his sleeve and yelled towards some bushes “Senior, may I humbly ask you to come out?”
Nobody answered but, hiding in the shadow of those same bushes, a figure trembled ‘How can this be? I’m a low Superior stage expert, how could this child possibly sense me?’
“Senior, I know you are there. I can tell you that you are not a person from the sect, please hurry out!” Cheng Hao bowed once, the action hiding his smirk at the same time.
‘Fool… How could you possibly escape my eyes? Such a low level stealth technique and you wish to hide from me? Ah, You wish!’
The air trembled and a person clad in red appeared: he wore a long robe, his head was covered by a wide bamboo hat and he had a strange knife in his hands.
The only thing visible of the man’s face, his mouth, trembled and then asked “Child… Who are you? How did you notice me?” The man was wary.
He was also angry, angry that a small child could see through his disguise. If the word of that got out, he would become a laughing stock!
“Oh? I thought you people would know who I was as after all… You were searching for me…” Cheng Hao smiled and the smile turned into a devilish grin.
‘T-this child… Could it be…’ The man tightened the grip on the knife and entered a fighting stance. He felt a slight current pass by him and then a voice sounded out from behind him.
“Oh! Quite a stance you’ve got there! It is just too bad that the knife is a few millimeters too short to bring out its full power…”
‘What!’ The man turned and kicked off the ground to back away: Cheng Hao, who was standing a few meters away from the red clad man had appeared right behind him.
Only now did the afterimage fade away… ‘Scary… Too scary! I’m out of here!’
The man attempted to kick the ground to run away but he suddenly noticed a big, red object in Cheng Hao’s hands. It was contracting and blood was slowly flowing out.
The man looked down and he could see blood trickling down on the red clothes and a large, gaping hole on his left chest. He lifted his head just as blood surged in his throat. He spat it out and collapsed on the ground.
His consciousness was about to fade away and he looked at Cheng Hao. His lips were moving and the man heard a few words “Zhao family… Zi family… Doesn’t seem to change much, they are trash all the same!”
The man’s eyelids closed and all went dark. The last thing he saw was the boy crushing the heart in his hands and a golden blur opening its fanged mouth to bite down on him…
In the highest grade facility in the Outer Sect, the Outer Tower, an old man was calmly sipping tea. He was fat, had a short trimmed beard and a beautiful pair of handlebar mustache: it had been at most three days since the exam started and he was pretty confident that he would be able to enjoy at least a few more days before the reports began to fly in again.
Unfortunately, that was not the case. As the unspoken rule said, as soon as he entered the bathtub… Well, the phone didn’t ring, but somebody still called for him “Sir, we finally have the reports on the Outer Sect Exam results!” The voice came from behind the closed door.
The old man in the room was shocked and then answered “So early? Is it true?”
“Yes Sir, a few people have passed the hidden tests. Would you like to have their files?” The voice asked. The old man hurried, wore a pair of pants below, put a robe on top and opened the door, reaching out for the paper in the boy’s hands.
He skimmed through it and he was pleasantly surprised: these people were pretty talented altogether so there didn’t seem to be cheaters. He was surprised at Fu Yin’s report. He asked “How old is this boy?”
The youth bowed and answered “We have no clear information on his actual birthdate, but unfortunately he has already passed the fifteen years mark”
The old man’s surprised face turned into one of pity as he put down the paper and sighed “Didn’t make it again… Damn, why can’t they make the rules a bit less strict? I mean, this is already the fourth person in the twenty years that I had been scouting disciples that have barely passed the fifteenth year mark! They are still heaven-defying geniuses, for goodness sake!”
“If I can’t find another candidate soon, then the First Protector will kill me! His adopted grandson has enough talent but we can’t have a single person be a Twin Star, we need two! That old fart…”
The other man stood as still as he could, but it was still a bit clear by the tears in the corner of his eyes that he was holding his laughter in… “What is it, Nu Zong?” The older man asked.
The man coughed “Nothing sir. Here, please read the information regarding the last two!” The man pointed with excitement.
Following his subordinate’s actions, the older man looked down… Before jumping from his seat in fright “E-eight years old… mid level Basic stage???”
The elder turned and scolded the man beside him “What nonsense is this! Nu Zong! You have been my subordinate for three years, I didn’t expect a respectable man such as you to make a mistake like this!”
The old man was about to rip the report when Nu Zong’s voice reached his ears “Sir… Senior Bai Tong has checked it himself. It is no error nor is it a joke, it is the truth!” Hearing those words, the old man stopped instantly and tears began to swell up in his eyes.
Bai Tong was that elder at the Superior stage that had opened the portal to the Maze, if someone with his cultivation had scanned someone weaker with his Superior Will, there would be no chance of making a mistake.
The old man picked up the report from the desk as if he had seen the light at the end of the tunnel “After twenty, long years… I have been rewarded! A star! The missing star has appeared! Ahaha, I wonder, how will I be rewarded by the First Protector after this!”
The old man was jumping up and down from joy as he read the report again and again…
The younger male smiled and his eyes turned towards the last report from the original pile ‘This old fool truly has eyes but can’t recognize Mount Tai… He actually skipped the most interesting person in the group…’
Nu Zong picked up the report and then flashed away. When the old man turned, he noticed that the young man had disappeared but didn’t notice the missing report, happy as he was.
A few miles away, in the first ring, there were a total of nine great towers: they were called the Nine Knights and their King. That was because nine smaller towers surrounded a bigger one in the middle. In the nine smaller towers, also each one slightly bigger than the previous, resided the mysterious Nine Protectors of the Mysterious Light-Shadow Sect, while the Sect Head resided in the central tower.
They were huge and each one was made out of different materials. One was made of crystal, one was completely carved out of wood and another still looked as if it had been built out of human bones.
Each year, the nine protectors would have a private sparring match to decide the hierarchy, although some refused to participate, the strength of the nine protectors were pretty much about the same, meaning that even if the strongest wanted to act as a tyrant, only two more protectors would be needed to chop him down.
That was of course, except for the top two protectors, true dragons amongst men. One of them alone would be able to fight on equal terms with more than six other protectors! Although together they would be invincible, they did not get along at all.
One of the nine towers, which was also the third in size, was quite peculiar: it was completely made out of golden weapons. They varied from short swords to great swords, from knifes to spears, from bows to war hammers… All in all, it looked pretty domineering and it looked as if, with a single command, the tower would gain life and turn into a rain of slaughter.
Atop the tower was a single room. The decorations inside were pretty much nonexistent except from a few extremely fancy weapons hovering in midair. Everything was completely made out of gold, so almost everywhere one would turn he risked to blind him or herself.
In that single room, the air trembled and a figure appeared and sat on the throne. The young male from before snapped his fingers and his appearance turned into that of an old man. He had long, white mustache, white hair and sharp, penetrating, golden eyes.
As soon as he did that, a knocked out Nu Zong also regained his consciousness elsewhere.
“This Cheng Hao… He surely doesn’t stop to amaze me! To think that he has reached the mid Advanced stage so soon… If I don’t hurry as well I will be left behind!”
He waved a hand and his outer sect elder robe turned into a golden robe. On the back, words were written in a vertical manner: Lao Jiang Hu – Golden Tiger (NW: Laohu means Tiger. It’s a wordplay on his name)
“Still… To think he would be that much of a…” The man threw the paper in front of him. The paper fluttered a bit before falling on the ground:
‘Name: Cheng Hao;
Age: Eight Years – Nine Months old;
Cultivation: Low Level Advanced Stage
Special Notes: unable to see through his cultivation by normla means, had to rely on a special method; killing intent of a bloodthirsty beast; fighting power unknown’
The man smiled and continued “… Monster!”
‘Conclusion/Comments: Sir… He is a motherfucking Monster!’
Author’s Note: Lao Jianghu! “Who the hell is he?” you might ask. Just read the title of the fifth chapter…
Yeah, that’s him. Cool! Anyways, since I don’t wanna waste space in the following chapters, I will write it here: some may ask why an ‘outer sect disciple can go from the fifth to the sixth ring but need to go through a bloody maze to reach the fifth ring?’ Well, it is because of the sect robes.
Once one passes the Outer Sect Exam, he receives new robes with the design of two black stripes instead of one. If there is someone with one stripe in the fifth ring he will be killed on sight by the elders appointed to maintain the rules. Same thing in the other rings with higher tier sect members, the only difference being the difference in the punishment.
Once one gets the clothes, he gains the right to access to the teleportation hexagrams or to head through the main gates.
‘But Cookie’ you might say ‘Couldn’t someone just steal the clothes?’ Good question. But what the sect focuses on isn’t hierarchy but power. If someone is able to join the sect by stealing the clothes and successfully hides himself that would mean that a strong person would have joined the sect, thus strengthening it.