17 The Secret Celestial Group
Xiao Shuai said to Ding Yunzi, "She is not here."
Ding Yunzi asked, "Could she be in that another location?"
Xiao Shuai said, "No matter what, we must leave this town as soon as possible."
Ding Yunzi asked, "Master, you are injured?"
Xiao Shuai shook his head, "But I have expended a great deal of my martial power. If there is another opponent like Gongsun Bai here, I cannot fight at my peak."
Ding Yunzi said coolly, "There shouldn't be anyone that can contest with Master. If she is not here, surely she could be in that another location? That is the most suspicious location after all. We should investigate it."
Xiao Shuai said, "I have a very uneasy feeling about that villa. I don't have that feeling for a very long time. Call it instinct if you want but sometimes we need to know our limits and be extra vigilant. That Gongsun Bai had thought that he was invincible and became careless. If he had been more wary, the final outcome would be hard to predict."
Ding Yunzi said, "Master, you are too caution. At your martial level, no one is your match anymore. Even without me, you can still defeat Gongsun Bai on your own."
Xiao Shuai said, "You are too young. Even an invincible fighter will have a moment of weakness and if the enemies have the heart to kill you, they will have already studied your weakness. That is why we mustn't reveal too much of our true skills to gain the best advantage in every situation."
Ding Yunzi said, "But there are only two young maidens in that villa. Surely, we have nothing to fear from them."
Xiao Shuai said, "Precisely that is why. There are too many unanswered questions about that villa. It is like they are enticing us to enter the villa."
Ding Yunzi sighed, "If I can be within three hundred paces of that villa, I may be able to know if Xiao Youxue is there…"
Xiao Shuai said solemnly, "Five hundred paces is the safe distance. Anything closer than that, we risk exposing our whereabouts."
All of a sudden, Xiao Shuai looked at the forested surroundings and sighed. "Just as I feared, they are here."
Ding Yunzi scanned the surroundings and immediately she said aloud, "There!"
She immediately unsheathed her long sword, whirled it several times and threw it as a flying sword in front of her!
Her flying sword flew into the dark recess of the forest and there was a mighty jarring sound as her flying sword struck against something metallic.
Ding Yunzi had extended her fingers out and to her surprise; her flying sword did not rebound back. It had simply vanished.
Xiao Shuai looked intently at the direction that she had thrown her flying sword and said, "They are still there and they are no ordinary opponents…"
Ding Yunzi immediately raised her scabbard in front of her in a defensive posture as she raised her fingers into the sword fingers stance. Even without a sword in her hands, she could still kill with her fingers and scabbard alone!
Two lookalike young maidens appeared from view out from the forest and walked very slowly towards them.
They were in black velvet silk dresses. Their black dresses were almost translucent and their faces were very white in contrast to their dressing. In their hands, they had brandished their long swords.
Xiao Shuai immediately brandished his long sword, whirled it in a circular motion and threw it towards them!
He said aloud, "I will like to see how you can deflect my flying sword!"
His flying sword flew and burst with startling speed against them!
The two young maidens immediately raised their long swords in front of them and when the flying sword struck their swords with a mighty impact; it was mysterious seized by another circular force as it spins in a reverse direction before dropping to the ground!
The two young maidens had taken three steps back as they displayed the Divine Emerald Skill with their long swords as they finally deflected the mighty force of the flying sword!
Xiao Shuai muttered, "These two young maidens have the martial power to withstand my flying sword directly?"
But even before they could steady their footing, Xiao Shuai and Ding Yunzi had immediately saw an opening as they filled their scabbard with their martial power and sent it flying towards the two young maidens at the same time!
The two young maidens gasped at the same time, "Oh no…"
It was because their opponents had seized the opportunity to launch another attack at the same time even before they could steady themselves. They had never fought against opponents that would react with such astonishing speed!
But to the surprise of Xiao Shuai and Ding Yunzi, just when their scabbards were about to strike their targets, another young maiden had appeared in front of the beautiful twins and deflected their scabbards to the other direction with her sleeve!
This newcomer was very beautiful and had the grace of a goddess. It was as though she was not from this mortal realm. Even Xiao Shuai who prided himself on his willpower was somehow moved by her sight…
It was not her unearthly beauty that caused Xiao Shuai and Ding Yunzi to be taken aback but they were startled at how easy she had deflected their scabbards!
It was because their flying scabbard technique was also one of their martial clan most powerful secret techniques and was even more powerful than their flying sword technique!
Even though their flying scabbards were a straightforward attack, it was charged with their entire martial power and deflecting it was even harder than their flying swords. Much of their martial power was lost when the flying sword was spinning. But for their flying scabbards, the martial power retention rate was much higher and it was three times as fast!
Moreover they had thrown their flying scabbards at the same time. Deflecting one of their flying scabbards was difficult enough and moreover there were two…
And this young maiden from nowhere had simply deflected their flying scabbards with just her sleeve…
When Xiao Shuai had recovered from his initial surprise and looked at her face, he was even more startled even as Ding Yunzi analyzed coolly, "They are using a secret technique that is similar to the Invincible Divine Force. No one can deflect our secret techniques with just their martial power alone and if I am not wrong, they are using the Emerald Divine Skill, the nemesis skill of all missile projectiles. And in this fraternity, only the Eternal Ice Palace knows this secret skill."
Ding Yunzi had raised her right hand and moved her little finger slightly. As soon as Xiao Shuai nodded, she would attack again with another secret technique of the Virtuous Palace!
The newcomer was indeed Shui Yixian the Celestial Fairy. The two young maidens at her back were Shui Yujian the Jade Sword Fairy and Shui Meijian the Beautiful Sword Fairy.
The Celestial Fairy nodded slightly and said, "Your analysis is correct. We are indeed from the Eternal Ice Palace. Only the Virtuous Palace is capable of using the Flying Sword Technique. It seems that this battle between the Eternal Ice Palace and the Virtuous Palace is inevitable."
Ding Yunzi said coolly, "If you think that we are weaponless and defenseless, you are making a great mistake…"
Shui Meijian interrupted coldly, "Oh yes? The Penetrating Hands, the Penetrating Slash Technique, the Virtuous Divine Force, the Golden Impervious Skill…right, I am so afraid."
Shui Yujian smiled. She knew that her sister was purposely provoking her opponent. She immediately took a deep breath as she amplified her senses with the Dual Inertness Intricacy, a skill that she had newly acquired.
Ding Yunzi turned pale as she asked, "How did you know?"
Shui Yujian had immediately sensed that the heartbeat of this maiden had increased and she was nervous now. She blinked at Shui Meijian, hinting her of the information.
Xiao Shuai sighed deeply, "It is because I am the one that leak it…"
Ding Yunzi was shocked as she asked, "Master? You told the Eternal Ice Palace our secret techniques?"
The Celestial Fairy begun to look at Xiao Shuai closely, "You are Brother Shuai?"
Xiao Shuai laughed and he began to tremble, "Indeed I am. Sister Xian'Er, you have not really changed at all…I almost couldn't recognize you all these years. Or rather, you have become more and more beautiful. How long have it been now? Fifty years? I have never known that you are from the Eternal Ice Palace or else I would surely look for you there…"
The Celestial Fairy averted her eyes, "I didn't know you are from the Virtuous Palace as well…"
Shui Yujian, Shui Meijian and Ding Yunzi were stunned that their protégé mistress and master had actually known each other!
Ding Yunzi was even more startled, "This young maiden is actually the same age as my protégé master?! But she looks so young…" She began to look at Shui Meijian and Shui Yujian who looked equally young as well…
Xiao Shuai laughed bitterly, "Fate plays a cruel joke on all of us. Where is Han Shaodong? Are you together with him now?"
The Celestial Fairy shifted uncomfortably as she said, "The last time that I had seen him was also the last time that I had seen you."
Xiao Shuai laughed, "That is good news to me. You have left so suddenly that day…"
Ding Yunzi had never seen her protégé master laughed so merrily before.
Fifty years ago, a group of pugilists were all that were left from the aftermath of a bloody battle over a lost martial treasure trove. The survivors of that bloody aftermath were all above average pugilists. The reasons that they had survived were because they were not as greedy as the others or because they were smarter.
It was because the underground palace ruins that they had found had too many deadly traps and many had died.
Han Shaodong looked at the nine remaining pugilists; Xiao Shuai and Shui Yixian were among the group as well. He said in disbelief, "We risk our lives for just one small flask and some copper coins?"
Xiao Shuai said, "If you don't want that flask, you can give it to me. Maybe the pills in the flask are worth more than anyone of you think it is."
Han Shaodong laughed and he tossed the flask to him, "I will not have the courage to eat some unknown pills. They can be poison you know."
Xiao Shuai laughed, "Or miraculous pills you know."
Shui Yixian smiled softly, "So what are we going to do now? Continue the fight that some of us have left unfinished earlier?"
Xiao Shuai turned and looked at everyone, "It is a coincidental that we have all survived until this point and yet at the same time, we are all reluctant to reveal our true identities. We may not be friends as we may come from over all the fraternity and even the names that we use may be faked. But let us introduce ourselves anyway. You can call me Brother Shuai, Shuai being handsome!"
Shui Yixian laughed softly as she covered her mouth with her hands, "Hello Handsome!"
Xiao Shuai laughed, "Beauty, now it is your turn to introduce yourself. I am sure everyone would like to know your name. I had seen you kicking the asses of so many pugilists during the past week. Everyone seems eager to know your name."
Shui Yixian looked at everyone and she started to stammer, "I…err…Yixian…no…you can call me Xian'Er."
Everyone thought it was funny. It seemed like she was not an experienced liar and everyone secretly made a quick mental note to remember her real name.
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Han Shaodong said, "I am just a nameless nobody in the fraternity. I am not from the orthodox clans or from the unorthodox clans. My name is Han Shaodong."
Another young pugilist said, "That is right. Today, no matter where we are from, we should be friends. Actually for us orthodox clans, it is quite disgraceful for others to know we are fighting over a fraternity treasure…"
Han Shaodong said, "You just tell us that you are from the orthodox clan."
The young pugilist was startled and he looked embarrassed.
Han Shaodong assured him, "Don't worry. We will not force you to tell us your clan of origin. I am sure many of us here are also not using their clan skills too."
The young pugilist said, "You can call me 'Future Sword Saint'. That will be my fraternity name."
Another pugilist said, "Great aspiration! You can call me 'The Invincible Ironfist'!"
Another young pugilist said, "You can call me Tian Kui!"
When all the pugilists had finished introducing themselves, Xiao Shuai said. "Let us form a secret group and do something crazy for a while. We should at least do something that is earthshaking in the fraternity."
Han Shaodong asked, "What do you propose?"
Xiao Shuai said, "We need a leader of course. But if anyone wants to back off now, they can do it now. When the secret group is formed, we must be bound by our agreements. What does everyone think?"
The Invincible Ironfist smiled, "If Sister Xian'Er is in the group, I will join for sure."
Shui Yixian stammered, "When did I become your sister?"
The Invincible Ironfist laughed merrily, "If you are in the group, then you naturally will be our Sister Xian'Er."
The Future Sword Saint added hastily, "If she is in, I will be in the group too."
Han Shaodong said to Shui Yixian solemnly, "What do you think?"
Shui Yixian looked at everyone one by one. She could tell from their passionate eyes that they were all waiting for her to say yes to the idea.
Shui Yixian sighed and said, "Do I even have a choice?"
The idea of a secret group intrigues everyone!
Xiao Shuai said, "Excellent! Now we need to select a leader from among us or else we be a pile of loose sands. We also need to be bound by our holistic agreement on never to reveal our identities and what we have done in this group. Does everyone agree with it?"
The Future Sword Saint said, "We must never kill the innocents too or go against the martial righteousness."
The Invincible Ironfist said, "We should really restraint from harming anyone. But as for martial righteousness, we already broken that protocol or else we wouldn't be here."
Xiao Shuai said, "Agree! Unless someone really wants us dead or else we must not kill anyone needlessly."
Everyone nodded eagerly and was eager to know what exactly Xiao Shuai planned to do.
Han Shaodong said, "It seems that you are our candidate for the group leadership. Anyone else want to be the group leader? I am all for Brother Shuai to be the group leader."
The Invincible Ironfist said, "I nominate Xian'Er of course!"
Everyone looked at the Invincible Ironfist in shocked horror.
Tian Kui said, "What if she wants us to go up to the Heavenly Mountains to pick the Heavenly Mountain Lotus and other trivial things?"
Shui Yixian sighed softly, "Don't you worry about that part. That will be the last thing in my mind."
It seemed that Han Shaodong, Xiao Shuai and Shui Yixian got the most number of votes. In the end, Xiao Shuai was nominated the group leader.
Xiao Shuai said, "We must show great unity in the show of adversity. Only then can our group be the most feared and powerful in the fraternity."
To prove his point, he took out a chopstick and broke it into halve. "If we are individual, our fates will be the same as this lone chopstick and will be easy to break by others."
Next he took out a bunch of chopsticks and passed it to Shui Yixian, "Now try snapping these chopsticks with your fingers."
Shui Yixian took the bunch of chopsticks from him and snapped it into halves effortlessly.
Xiao Shuai and everyone looked at Shui Yixian in stunned silence…
Shui Yixian looked at Xiao Shuai and asked, "Err…I am not supposed to break it?"
The Future Sword Saint asked merrily, "So what the morale of this story?"
Xiao Shuai said after a while, "If we are like a bunch of weak chopsticks, we will be easily be broken by others."
He picked up a thick iron pole-arm from the ground and passed it to Shui Yixian, "But if we are as united as this iron pole-arm, then nothing can ever breaks us!"
Everyone began to shout eagerly and clapping when suddenly the iron-pole arm was snapped into half by Shui Yixian.
Everyone looked at her again in stunned silence.
Shui Yixian protested innocently, "Err…this iron pole-arm is of poor inferior quality…"
Xiao Shuai said, "You know, I totally agree with you that this iron pole-arm is of poor inferior quality…"
The Invincible Ironfist nodded, "Very, very inferior that even a lady can break it…"
Han Shaodong said, "Let's hope that our leadership is not equally inferior too."
Xiao Shuai looked at everyone and smiled bitterly, "You know, even before this leadership has officially started, it is so hard already."
Now that the ice between the various pugilists had been broken, Xiao Shuai suggested. "We will first need a fearsome name for the group. I have already a name in mind."
Han Shaodong asked, "Which is?"
Xiao Shuai smiled mysteriously, "The Celestials from the Celestial Palace!"
Tian Kui said, "We are using the name of the Celestial Palace and slandering them?"
Xiao Shuai laughed, "Indeed. No one really knows if the Celestial Palace actually did exist so it doesn't really matter."
Tian Kui said, "I am from the Western Fraternity. My grand protégé master says it does exist…"
Xiao Shuai said, "Whether it exists or not, it doesn't matter. This is the perfect name for us to spread our havoc!"
The Future Sword Saint asked, "Havoc? What kind of havoc?"
Xiao Shuai smiled mysteriously, "We will raid the various martial clans and sects for their secret manuals and then put it back secretly. We will start with the Infinity Sword Clan."
The Future Sword Saint said hurriedly, "You can't do it. That is something that only an unorthodox clan will do, not us!"
Xiao Shuai laughed, "Remember, we are not aligned to either now. We will put it back as soon as we have finished with it. So why not?"
The Future Sword Saint said, "That is because that is my clan you are talking…"
Everyone turned and looked at the Future Sword Saint, "So you are from the Infinity Sword Clan!"
The Future Sword Saint looked awkward.
In the end, the fake Celestial Palace group was still formed. In less than six months, virtually the entire central plain martial clans were turned upside down by the Celestial Palace. In years to come, the terror effect of the Celestial Palace was still remembered by many of the pugilists.
After six months, the terror of the Celestial Palace mysteriously disappeared from the face of the fraternity as though it had never started.
One of the main reasons was that Shui Yixian was caught finally for sneaking out of the Eternal Ice Palace and was forced to return to the Eternal Ice Palace by her older protégé sister Shui Yichi. After her departure, Xiao Shuai lost interest in maintaining the group and without Shui Yixian to support the group, they begun to lose some of their founding members too.
Xiao Shuai had never expected to find her again after fifty years…
He said, "Why is that you have not aged at all?"
The Celestial Fairy said expressionless, "I had not age at all when I was with everyone and my age then was already twice as old as the majority of you…"
Xiao Shuai muttered, "No wonder, you were always so cold to the whole lot of us except for Han Shaodong. Did he know?"
The Celestial Fairy replied, "No, he doesn't."
Xiao Shuai said, "I don't mind at all, you know…"
The Celestial Fairy interrupted coldly and looked at Ding Yunzi, "Why did you send her to the Heavenly Mountains to kill me?"
Xiao Shuai was startled, "I didn't."
Ding Yunzi said, "I have never been to the Heavenly Mountains."
The Celestial Fairy asked again, "You didn't? Who else knows the Penetrating Hands?"
Xiao Shuai sighed, "I think I know who you are looking for now. My late wife had a feud with the Eternal Ice Palace and my daughter inherited her hatred…"
The Celestial Fairy said coldly, "Where is she now?"
Xiao Shuai said, "I am also looking for her now. She has stolen something very important from me."
The Celestial Fairy said slowly, "I will find her and kill her."
Xiao Shuai looked at her into her eyes, "Xian'Er, you have changed. If you want to kill my daughter, don't blame me. I am now the protégé master of the Virtuous Palace. The martial skills and techniques that I have learnt and known exceeded your imagination. Even though your martial progression was higher than us in the past but you do not fight dirty. Your fighting style is too dead. That is your disadvantage and my advantage."