3:25 – Karma – V
The nameless man clutched his head. “Tch. I’ll need to work on that soon.”
He managed to hide the traces of that One Tin guy stepping into another realm and using a conceptual attack beyond the world’s limit, but the backlash of it gave him a headache. Even at that moment, it felt like a dagger was piercing his eye, digging into his frontal lobe.
The nameless man sighed and glanced at his surroundings.
Although he had arrived late at night, he managed to find a room in an inn within Heavenspan. While it was in a seedy location, a few alleyways deep into the slums, a show of force was more than enough to stave off trouble.
The room he found himself in was cramped. Rickety wooden paneling, a cracked window, and a moldy mattress. Completely unsanitary for mortals and only barely hospitable for cultivators. Of course, he didn’t have any intentions to sleep, so the quality of the room didn’t bother him too much.
The nameless man shifted his black robe and then walked over to the broken window to peer outside. A brick wall and dark alleyway greeted him. The room he had was on the second floor, so there was a bit of a drop before the ground. Perfect for people with dubious intentions, or those trying to be discreet.
It was still dark, so the alleyway was hidden in shadows. However, the first rays of light weren’t too far away. If he acted now, it would be a mess.
“…Well, let’s try it anyway.”
If his suspicions about what he learned from that One Tin guy was right, as well as the true nature of the girl he took in as a disciple, then a plan C had just popped up, one better than trying to fight his way through the world’s most powerful beings just to open a door.
“I might as well get everything I can out of this run.”
The nameless man opened his window and jumped out onto the ground below. He controlled his descent with black qi, making him look every bit a villain. Paired with his pale skin and cold eyes, any onlooker would have screamed in terror.
But even if they looked his way, that scene would have never occurred, all traces of his being hidden away from the world itself.
The nameless man focused on the powerful auras emanating in the air. To the citizens of Heavenspan, it was a reassurance. To visitors, it was a warning. But to him, it served as a clear road map to his destination.
“That way.” Muttering those words to himself, the nameless man began walking while going over his objectives. “Kill a few Saints, send those guards on a rampage to disrupt city order, then do a speedrun on the beasts. If I mess up then it’s time for plan C.”
The nameless man tilted his head, cracking his neck, and said, “Might as well go all out then.” A pitch black sword formed in his right hand, laced with pulsing crimson lines. In the next instant, a dark blur shot through the air towards the central palace.
Night was slowly turning into day as the sun’s bright disk began sneaking over the horizon and shining its warm rays. But in spite of that comfortable light, Xinxin put on frosty expression and pointedly ignored Mu Tian as she walked towards Heavenspan’s checkpoint.
“Lady Xian. You must believe me! It was not my intent to do anything untoward!” Mu Tian called out from behind Xinxin. “You are in great danger, and I was acting to protect you!”
Xinxin scoffed, but didn’t react in any other way.
Great danger? Protect? Sure. That could be true. She would place it at about… 70%. However, despite the fact that Mu Tian was acting half-decent now and even went so far as to forsake his name, Xinxin still didn’t like him.
…It was irrational and petty, but that was what she felt.
Xinxin slightly turned her head and gave a sidelong glance towards Mu Tian. Perhaps because he had suppressed his cultivation base again, and because Xinxin had reflexively slapped him with all her might, Mu Tian’s face had a bright red hand print on his cheek.
Despite keeping her glance subtle, Mu Tian noticed. He sped up and tried to walk alongside Xinxin. “You have to listen to me, Lady Xian-“
Xinxin didn’t want to hear him so she picked up her pace. Since they were near the gate, she didn’t do anything unladylike as run, but she took wide enough strides to make her point known.
Mu Tian sighed. “Very well, Lady Xian. But at least slow down your pace so that we can enter together. Even a petulant lady like yourself knows better than to rush off without her guard, right?”
“Well, I would have thought a ‘guard’ would have known better than to act so intimate with his charge, but heaven has given us both plenty of surprises today, hasn’t it?”
Mu Tian sighed again and muttered, “You have no idea.”
“What?” Xinxin rounded on the former Wang scion. “Keeping more secrets from me?”
“But I just- haah. It is nothing, Lady Xian.”
“…It better be.”
The rest of the journey towards Heavenspan’s checkpoint went on in an uncomfortable silence. Xinxin refused to say anything else since she was still irritated at Mu Tian. What was wrong with him anyway? It was two steps forward and three steps back with the guy. Maybe she should just leave him behind after all?
…No. Even if she didn’t like Mu Tian, he was still useful and seemed… somewhat sincere. Not only that, but he was a powerful expert who placed her interests above his own to an irritating degree.
Even if her Sifu could be heartless and leave her behind, she couldn’t quite find it in herself to do the same to Mu Tian.
“Tch.” What was the benefit of having her karma stolen if she couldn’t even sever ties with the one she had disdained for years now?
The pair finally arrived at the doors to Heavenspan’s checkpoint. A single guard stood at the ready. Bamboo armor covered his body while he held a spear at his side.
Was it because he had been out for too long? The guard simply stared at Xinxin and Mu Tian with blank eyes as they approached.
Xinxin smiled and waved her hand. “Hello there! You wouldn’t mind letting us into the city, would you?”
Mu Tian nudged Xinxin’s back and whispered, “Haughty lady, remember?”
Xinxin was startled, but managed to turn that into an impatient glare. “What? Do you dare stand in my, Lady Xian’s way?”
Maybe it was her current appearance, crimson hair and sharp phoenix eyes, or maybe it was her natural disposition, buried beneath the years of being meek and obedient. Either way, Xinxin’s words came out exactly like a haughty lady would speak.
Even so, the guard didn’t react. No, he did react. It was slight, but his gaze focused a bit and he turned to look at Xinxin.
At that time, Mu Tian stepped forward and held out a pair of jade slips. “Here you go.”
The guard took the jade slips and observed them for a bit before handing them back. “Very well. Lady Xian and Mu Tian, envoys from the Eastern Plains.” With those lines said, the guard stepped aside. The moment he did, the doors behind him swung open to reveal a place that looked like a barrack.
Cots lined the walls and various guards stood around on standby. However, the moment the doors opened, all the eyes were trained on Xinxin and Mu Tian.
Despite being used to attention, the intense gaze of those guards made Xinxin take a step back.
The sound of a sword being partially drawn caused the guards to look away.
Xinxin glanced back to see Mu Tian with his hand placed over his sword.
The former Wang scion caught Xinxin’s gaze and smiled. Probably to reassure her.
Xinxin scoffed and turned her head away. Still, she appreciated the effort. Not that she would let him have the satisfaction of knowing that.
The guard who let the pair in didn’t react to the exchange. However, he did wait. When the rest of the guards went back to what they were doing and Mu Tian sheathed his sword, the guard said, “Follow me. I will lead the way.”
Without any other warning, not caring whether the two followed him or not, the guard began walking through the room, as well as his peers that were mostly just standing around.
Xinxin quickly walked after the guard. Mu Tian did as well, although he remained behind Xinxin as a man of his assumed station usually would.
The rest of the affair went smoothly. The guard led Xinxin and Mu Tian into the city while the other guards gave them no more attention.
It made Xinxin wonder what was on the jade slips Mu Tian presented, but she decided to let that bit of curiosity be since it wasn’t too important. More likely than not, Mu Tian probably just prepared it with his deep connections in the past. Probably for philandering…
The guard eventually led the pair to another set of doors. After opening it, the guard said, “Enjoy your stay in Heavenspan.” With that said, the guard walked past Xinxin and Mu Tian, returning to his post.
Xinxin frowned at the callous treatment. “Do guards always act like this, Mu Tian?”
“Would they dare to act any other way in front of a noble when they are mere guardsmen?”
“True…” Thinking back to her own clan, the guards usually acted like that when any young master or lady showed up with their entourage. “But didn’t they seem a bit strange to you?”
Xinxin frowned, trying to figure out what was wrong. After a moment though, she decided it didn’t matter. “Never mind that. First of all, let’s find a proper place to stay for the night… or what’s left of it.”
She stepped forward to cross the doorway onto the main street.
“Ah, wait Lady Xian-“
Xinxin’s foot touched down onto the white marble stone used to pave Heavenspan’s streets. The moment it did, a dozen Saint-level auras pressed down on her.
She gasped and fell to her knees. However, the auras vanished as soon as they came, but not without leaving a faint trace in the air behind as a warning.
Xinxin spun around to glare at Mu Tian.
The currently average-looking swordsman shrugged. “I tried to warn you. The Bai Clan is a bit… domineering.”
“You don’t say?”
Mu Tian walked forward and held out a hand towards Xinxin.
She stared at it for a moment before sighing and grabbing it.
And then a thunderous tiger roar erupted in the air, along with a flash of pure white light.