‘What did I get myself into this time?’ Cheng Hao sighed as he followed Bi Liang outside of the house. The man dashed at high speeds and the boy had problems keeping up with the man’s speed.
Although the Core Elder had already restricted his speed so as not to lose the boy, he was still going pretty fast, at the very limit of Cheng Hao’s potential of his fleshly body without using the Roc’s blessing.
They ran for about an hour, suddenly Cheng Hao sped up and approached Bi Liang, the sudden burst of speed shocking even the Sung stage cultivator. Cheng Hao panted for a while and, when he finally regained his breath, he asked “Brother Biang… That skill from before, was it by any chance an imitation of Aura Manipulation?”
Bi Liang was shocked for a second before nodding pleased “You have good eye and good knowledge little brother! That was indeed a Pseudo-Aura Manipulation. It has a few different concepts from the original, but about anybody with a decent cultivation would be able to do it after training for a bit”
Cheng Hao also nodded “From what I have seen, you analyze the surface of the object, create a layer of Aura and then pump air inside the object to give the impression of a three dimensional object. Truly ingenious, if other materials could be added inside it, then with the reinforcement of the Aura outside they could be turned in powerful weapons!”
Bi Liang chuckled “That is the basic concept behind the technique. It is mainly used for illusions and deception though, truly a waste. I must say, little brother, that I am surprised! How do you know about Aura?”
Cheng Hao calmly inhaled and explained “Oh? An expert told me, I stayed under his guidance for a few months and he imparted me with most of his insight and knowledge on Martial Arts and Cultivation” of course he couldn’t go around telling everyone that he was a thousand years old reborn soul of a person that supposedly almost destroyed the world once.
“An expert? Man, you are truly lucky! To have known about Aura, it means that he must have been either quite powerful or have a huge background!” Bi Liang commented “Still, I can’t help but think of this as the true version as there would be no other explanation for your knowledge and strength… Also, we are here, you can slow down”
Cheng Hao slowed down as instructed and looked ahead: in front of him there was a warehouse with barred windows and a chained up door. The boy looked confused, so Bi Liang took out a small round rock with a pattern of runes on top of it and spoke a few sentences.
Just beside the door, the wall slid to the side: a secret passage! Cheng Hao and Bi Liang looked around and then crawled in. As soon as the boy and the blonde man got in, the door behind them closed and artificial light from the torches shone from the walls and the ceiling.
Although it wasn’t really big, the warehouse was still spacious and the twenty or so people that stood here could easily stand and had a few cubic meters of space all for themselves.
There were a total of nineteen people sitting on chairs in the room, not counting Cheng Hao or Bi Liang, they were mostly middle aged or old men and all wore the white robes of the sect, the four black lines showed that they were all Core Elders.
“Everybody, this child here is called Cheng Hao! From now on, he is our companion and also our leader in the absence of Third Protector Lao as per his orders. Cheng Hao, please come forward”
The boy nodded: him and Bi Liang had already discussed this beforehand while they were still in the hut and the older man had explained to him the general situation.
Apparently, Lao Jianghu belonged to one of nine warring factions in the sect, each faction lead by a School Protector. According to Bi Liang, the Sect Head had fallen hill quite a few years ago already and is currently on his death bed, this was of course a chance for the Nine Protectors to rise in position and they had thus recruited subordinates and made allies in this free for all match for power.
Although on the surface there were a total of nine factions, actually only three big groups existed: the Yin Hei group, the Wu Rou group and the Lao Jianghu group. Also, the Lao Jianghu group was neutral and had hidden his strength for quite a while so that even the other two groups were unaware of its existence.
These two groups were respectively the Shadow Dragon faction led by the First Protector Long Yin Hei and the Moon Goddes faction led by the only woman among the nine protectors, Wu Rou the Second Protector.
This civil war mostly unknown to the Sect had weakened the two warring factions, so now the group led by Jianghu, the Golden Tiger faction, had decided to take action. They had been sharpening their fangs for too long now and it would soon come the time to strike, they only needed to wait a bit more for the Third Protector Jianghu to rise in power as to be able to fight those two monsters retaking the #2 and #3 position in the sect, second only to the sect head!
Back in the hut before they headed out to the warehouse, Bi Liang had explained it to him:
“Although they are almost all in the Reverend Stage, the Nine Protectors have very different levels of power, the weakest being at the high Sung stage, the strongest being at the mid Reverend stage, almost one whole stage of cultivation! Although father only had a cultivation of the low stage, he was still able to keep the third spot in the rankings simply because he was invincible in the low level Reverend stage” Bi Liang proudly pushed his chest out as he showed off his father’s might as if it were his.
“Unfortunately, even that kind of power isn’t enough to fight the two mid Reverend stage cultivators evenly as at that stage, one single level more or less would be the same as the difference in between Heaven and Earth, unsurmountable unless one had incredible talent and aptitude.”
“So, we are patiently waiting. Waiting for father to also reach the level of power of his opponents to enter the war openly with our heads raised high, without needing to hide like we were now”
Another thing that the Golden Tiger faction had been missing before was a seed that they could grow to become the tree with the sturdy roots that the group needed. Someone that would take the place of Third Protector Jianghu when his time would come.
“The Shadow Dragon faction has the First Protector’s disciple and adopted grandson, a young man not yet fourteen years old, Zhao Bu. He is a potential Twin Star as well as a remarkable genius, there is no doubt that he will be able to reach the Sung stage in his lifetime and possibly aim for the peak Reverend stage as well”
“His current cultivation is high level Advanced stage, and in a year he will step into the Superior stage even if he doesn’t rush. Seeing that the First Protector also doted on him a lot, he will have no problem becoming a twin star, it is only a matter of time”
When Cheng Hao had first heard about this he had unconsciously shuddered: with his present cultivation, he would have had no chance to fight for the title of Twin Star if a mid level Reverend cultivator stood in the middle of the road blocking him.
Most likely, amongst him and Xiao Wu, the two talents that could threaten his position as a Twin Star, he would have been killed as he was more talented and more of a danger to his grandson’s position as one of the future Stars rather than the younger girl was.
What’s more, Xiao Wu would soon grow up to be a beauty and a man in his teens like Zhao Bu would most probably choose a beautiful woman as his companion rather than a man.
Also, Cheng Hao couldn’t help but notice that the young child’s surname was Zhao, meaning that there was a high probability that he was affiliated with the same Zhao Clan he had enmity with ever since he had slaughtered the Zi Clan.
It truly seemed that the Heavens (again, the true Heavens, not Tian’s Nine Heavens) wanted him to clash with the Zhao Clan, truly amusing. Bi Liang had interrupted his pondering when he continued his report on the current situation:
“The Moon Goddess faction has the Second Protector’s disciple, a girl by the name of Sou Rou, also a talented cultivator in her late teens, unfortunately for her but luckily for us, her talent blossomed when she had already turned fifteen, thus closing her path to becoming a twin star”
“Still, she is not to be underestimated and has in fact already surpassed the Advanced stage and stepped into the Superior stage at the age of sixteen years and nine months. Now she was eighteen and was about to break through to mid level Superior stage”
“They are both your rivals and enemies, so you needn’t show compassion towards them. If possible, lure them into our faction, if not capture them or even cripple them, we will take responsibility. For now, we will hide your true strength and the fact that you even exist: that is also one of the reasons father made you act as trash, so that people wouldn’t remember you as the genius Cheng Hao but as the trashy cultivator that has lost his cultivation base, which nobody would remember, thus aiding us in hiding you!”
Bi Liang had firmly grasped Cheng Hao’s shoulders “Don’t worry, once this all ends, I assure you that you will be free and above all the rest in this sect, I promise!”
The people in the warehouse stood silent and stared intently at the child that did not look ten yet. Cheng Hao stepped forward and cleared his troath “Cough! Cough! From now on, we are companions but you are also subordinates. My subordinates. Show loyalty and hard work and your efforts will be rewarded. Disloyalty and slacking off will be punished by death”
After hearing his words, someone stood up enraged: he had lost his left arm and carried a heavy blade with a qilin carved on top of it.
“Kid! Those are some big words, especially from someone as weak as you! You don’t have a strand of cultivation, do you think that the people here, people that have been hiding their strength and fighting together for years, veterans of many battles would follow you just because you told us that? F*** off! I, Ran Min, will show you now who is the subordinate!”
The man spat on the ground in front of Cheng Hao and even wanted to charge towards Cheng Hao!
Another man stood up and blocked Ran Min and tried to calm him down: his name was Ge Bing. He had long hair and his eyes were covered by a piece of cloth: he was blind! “Brother Min, please, don’t! He is our superior now, although he is a kid, I am sure that Third Protector has his reasons for doing this!”
Looking at the situation, Cheng Hao smirked and a cold glint flashed by his eyes. He pointed at the two men and then at the spot on his right “You and you, come here, in front of me!”
Ran Min hesitated at first but then he was convinced by the younger Ge Bin: while Ran Min looked like a middle aged man, Ge Bin only looked around twenty five or thirty years old at most. The blind man approached first and got to Cheng Hao’s right and while he kneeled, his companion only halfheartedly bowed.
Cheng Hao waved his hands and told them to get up “Oh, dead men need not worry about respect, you needn’t bow, stand up and just do as you like!”
It took a while for the words to sink in but Ran Min was the first to argue “What! You bitch, are you fu**ing with us! What the hell did we do? I know that I acted rashly and that I was disrespectful, but was that truly enough to sentence a man to death?”
Cheng Hao coldly glared at them “Yes, they would. Showing disrespect to someone with a higher rank than you would mean death. But I am a forgiving person, so I gave you a chance to life, after all, we are comrades. It is just too bad…” Cheng Hao smiled ruthlessly as his eyes glittered “That I seldom give second chances to enemy spies!”