The two of them hid behind a shrub and waited fearfully. A flash of green light flickered past their direction and Li Chengfeng could feel the tension in the air ease. He stuck his head out to assess the situation. There was no one to be seen. He sighed a breath of relief, “They’re gone! That was so scary!”
“We really have to be careful with our words,” said Zhao Xiaobao, still paranoid.
“What did you just say?”
Xiaobao quickly changed the topic, “Master, how are we gonna go back to Cheng'an with all these things?”
Chengfeng glanced at the pile of money in the horse cart and fell into deep thought.
“We can’t take this money with us, it’ll be too obvious. We’ll hide this in a cave, and once all this blows over, we’ll retrieve it!”
Xiaobao hurried over to help Chengfeng, and both of them hid the money in the centre of an obscure cave. After that, they moved a rock over to seal the cave’s entrance and covered the said entrance with leaves and grass. They removed their clothes and buried it, then later changed into a fresh set of clothes. They sighed in relief.
“Mission accomplished! Once we’re over this, we’ll be rich,” Chengfeng said while wiping the dirt off his hand.
Xiaobao listened while bearing a resentful expression towards Chengfeng, but Chengfeng didn’t seem to notice. Chengfeng clapped his hands together and said, “Alright, let’s get a move on! No one is gonna cover our tracks.”
Xiaobao grabbed a tree branch and hurriedly swept their tracks clean. He then flung the branch far away from their direction. “Master, we should return soon,” rushed Xiaobao, worried.
Chengfeng nodded in agreement. The both of them got on the carriage, and headed to Cheng'an City.
As they travelled for roughly eighty kilometres, the skies were becoming increasingly dark. Chengfeng pointed to something and said, “Should we stop by at that inn over there?”
“Why not continue with our journey, Master?” replied Xiaobao.
Chengfeng slapped the back of his head. “Nonsense! Who travels this late at night? It’d be telling the world there’s something suspicious with us.”
Xiaobao obliged and drove the carriage towards the inn. There was a large, high-flying flag hoisted in front. Chengfeng got off the carriage and swaggered inside, Xiaobao soon followed behind after parking the carriage.
After finding a table for themselves, Chengfeng yelled for a waiter. Among the dishes he ordered were a catty of beef, half a catty of fine wine, and a plate of braised peanuts.
A little while later, the waiter came with their dishes. The inn was packed with guests, and practically every table was occupied. “Enjoy your meal! If there’s anything you need, I’m a call away,” the waiter said while serving the dishes, seemingly friendly and courteous.
Chengfeng tossed two coppers as payment for the waiter, who collected it with a smile and turned away.
Seeing Chengfeng spending money so frivolously made Xiaobao uneasy. He pursed his lips and made an uncomfortable expression.
As the waiter walked away from their table and towards the door, he abruptly bumped into someone. It was as if that someone had appeared out of thin air, which led to the waiter walking right into him.
The stranger grabbed the waiter’s arm. The waiter looked carefully: although the stranger was of short stature, he had an intense and frightening gaze, and to make matters worse, he wore a long grey robe with three yellow stripes on his sleeve, bearing the uniform of a Spiritual Mountain Sect priest.
The stranger’s intense gaze swept through the inn, as if looking for someone. He produced a poster with some people’s faces on it and asked, “Have you seen these two individuals?”
The waiter observed the poster. One of the faces showed an old man with a long beard, whereas the other face showed a coarse-looking individual with lots of stubble. The waiter thought for a while and shook his head.
The priest stared the waiter down. After deciding that the waiter was being honest, the priest sat down and ordered some dishes. “Bring me two catty of huangjiu wine and three catty of beef!”
The waiter fearfully rushed away to fetch the priest his dishes. The priest began to move from table to table, questioning the guests and making inquiries. By now, Chengfeng and Xiaobao were absolutely terrified. They kept their heads low, quaking with fear.
As the priest arrived at their table, he noticed how weird they were acting, which raised some suspicion. “Look at me!” he ordered.
Chengfeng kept his head low and replied timidly, “I wouldn’t dare to, sir. My face is so ugly, that it might just scare you off.”
“Nonsense! Show me your faces!” bellowed the priest.
Chengfeng slowly raised his head to face the priest. The priest was shocked. Chengfeng’s face was ridden with pimples and acne, his eyes crossed, and near his lips were a set of long, rat-like facial hair. It was grotesque.
The priest stood there, speechless. He faced Xiaobao and commanded, “You! Show your face!”
Xiaobao too, slowly raised his head to face the priest. The priest saw Xiaobao too had cock-eyes and buck teeth. It was almost comical.
The priest pondered. He had already questioned everyone else in the inn. He decided to sit with Chengfeng and Xiaobao.
Chengfeng and Xiaobao quickly stole a glance at one another and realised the gravity of their predicament. Their already low heads sunk even further.
Soon after, the waiter arrived with all of their dishes. The table was filled with dishes. The priest grabbed the beef with his bare hands and chowed down.
Chengfeng and Xiaobao raised their heads ever so slightly and hurriedly finished their food, beef and wine. After finishing, they both shared a glance again, and stood up in unison, preparing to leave.
However, as they stood, the priest stood with them. A little giddy from the alcohol, the priest quipped, “Where are you going? Come on, take me with you,”
Chengfeng stood frozen on the spot. He wanted to make a dash for it, but the drunken priest placed his hand on Chengfeng’s shoulder. They had no choice but to lead him out of the inn with them and towards the nearby outhouse.
The three of them stood outside the inn. The drunken priest lumbered towards the horse carriage and complained, “The wind blows and it brings the smell of horse crap with it! Makes me sick!” As he was complaining, he kicked and sent a rock flying towards the horse’s head, immediately killing the horse.
Xiaobao was stunned. As he was about to raise his head, a light kick from Chengfeng reminded him to maintain his composure. He would have to mask his anger for now.
As the horse laid dead on the ground with its head cracked open, the priest staggered towards the outhouse.
The outhouse was segregated by gender. The women’s outhouse occupied roughly twenty metres of space on the right side, whereas the men’s outhouse was absolutely exposed. It had three short trenches, on top of it were some wooden boards for support. The smell coming from the trenches was atrocious.
Chengfeng strained his voice and whispered towards Xiaobao, “After he takes a dump and if he doesn’t have anything else to ask us, we’ll make a move,”
The priest wrapped an arm over Chengfeng’s shoulders and laughed, “Don’t you guys have to take a dump too? The both of you ate quite a lot,”
“Not really,” Chengfeng played along, laughing meekly.
The priest roared with laughter. “Oh yeah, I have one more question for you. You may leave after you answer it,”
“Ask away, sir.” Chengfeng laughed.
“This place stinks a ton, and yet, you guys aren’t covering your noses or mouths.”
Chengfeng’s and Xiaobao’s hearts skipped a beat. The colour drained from their faces.
The priest didn’t wait for a response. At the speed of light, he slapped two paper seals on each of their chests. Immediately, they were shrouded in a glow of bright light, paralyzing them on the spot.
The priest laughed viciously. “You two ballsy thieves! How dare you cross the Spiritual Mountain Sect! Are you tired of living?”
Chengfeng and Xiaobao could only gawk in return.
“You dare deceive me, THE Sun Boren? I could spot your deception from a mile away! I even recognised your horse carriage! Now, where is the money?”
Boren turned towards the trenches and sneered, “Or I could toss you into the trenches and let you revel in the glory of human faeces! Perhaps that would be a good lesson to not mess with the Spiritual Mountain Sect. Quick! Where is the money?”
Before he could continue his sentence, Boren suddenly gripped the back of his head, as if in pain. His eyes rolled back into his head and he fell into the trenches of faeces.
One thought raced through his mind before he collapsed, ‘Impossible! My seals should have worked!’
Cultivation comprises of nine heavenly levels, where each level is a realm of its own. To extend their influences, each sect of the martial arts used the nine heavenly levels as their benchmarks, then each sect established their own checkpoints. For example, the Spiritual Mountain Sect established the Seven Colours benchmark, which contains the colours red, orange, yellow, light green, dark green, blue, purple, and an additional two colours, which are black and white. Hence, a total of nine levels. Each level consists of three grades; which are lower, middle, and upper. Three stripes indicate an upper grade, which allows the practitioner to ascend to a higher realm; whereas a single stripe indicates a lower grade, which puts the practitioner at risk of falling into a lower realm.
Sun Boren’s robe sleeve shows three yellow stripes, thus indicating that the level was just recently attained, and is rather new to the world of magic. Priests at that level are only slightly stronger than the average practitioner in terms of physicality. Otherwise, they are still very much vulnerable to physical harm and death.
Chengfeng had been practising martial arts since he was a child. In an act of protecting himself, he attacked Boren at the back of his head, which led to his collapse.
Chengfeng peeled the seal off from his chest and watched Boren writhe in the trenches of faeces. It was hilarious, as Boren accidentally inhaled some of the liquid crap, which in turn caused him to retch and puke more of the stuff.
Watching all of this, Chengfeng yelled out, “So what’s so great about the Spiritual Mountain Sect? Do you know who I am? Come on, tell him! Tell him who I am,” Chengfeng yelled out while turning towards Xiaobao, who was still paralyzed from the seal.
Chengfeng peeled the seal off Xiaobao. As the shroud of light gradually faded away, Xiaobao exhaled, relieved. He walked over to the trenches and yelled out at Boren, “Look like you’re the one who’s tired of living! You dare cross our Master? Now listen up! Our Master is…”
Chengfeng, who was watching with amusement, interjected excitedly, “I’m the leader of Ningdong’s Mountain Ocean Gang!”
Xiaobao was caught off-guard, but quickly collected himself and continued, “Huh? Yeah, yeah that’s right! You hear that?”
“You know what they call him in the underworld? They call him the Jade-faced White Dragon!” quipped Chengfeng.
“Yeah you heard that? Ignorant fool! If you show your face around the underworld, you’ll get beaten to a pulp by our Master!”
Boren was still groaning and writhing from the pain and the filth. He struggled to find his footing, but he managed to yell, “If you have the guts, why don’t you say your name?!”
Chengfeng roared with laughter, “Alright!”
Xiaobao nodded in agreement and yelled, “Listen up!”
“The Master’s name is…” started Chengfeng.
“You better remember it!”
Chengfeng continued with awe-inspiring confidence, “is… ZHAO XIAOBAO!”