3:26 – Karma – VI
“Tch. I knew it wouldn’t be that easy.”
The nameless man pulled his sword out from the White Tiger’s heart and frowned. The black blade thrummed with energy, having drained the essence of the White Tiger, but continued to emit an attractive force, as if still unsatisfied.
But before the nameless man could think about it more, a dozen powerful energy signatures flared. Saint-level auras swiftly approached, each stronger than the last. The Bai Clan’s finest didn’t intend to take the White Tiger’s death lying down, it seemed.
The air rippled and suddenly became denser. An intangible change in the nature of space itself. A quick probe revealed that the chamber had been locked down, preventing spatial transfer. A powerful formation empowered by those same approaching experts.
It would take a few moments for even him to break it and escape… not that he intended to.
Instead of dwelling on the approaching experts, the nameless man took a look around.
In front of him, the White Tiger’s corpse lay slouched upon a pristine cushion the color of freshly fallen snow. Yet, like the tiger’s own pelt, that cushion was slowly turning crimson, dyed a deep red from the blood spilling from the tiger’s fatal wound.
Besides that, there were eight pillars in the chamber, arranged in a circle around the tiger. The nameless man believed that they were originally meant to protect the White Tiger by serving as the foundation for a defensive formation. Unfortunately, to him who could hide from the world itself, it was meaningless.
…Well, not entirely.
The eight pillars suddenly flared, revealing complex patterns and symbols that resonated with each other to form a barrier on top of the one locking down space. At the same time, whatever formation it powered had hidden the pair of doors that the nameless man had used to enter the White Tiger’s inner sanctum.
“Those guys were really prepared, huh?”
The nameless man admired the caution. With the double-layered defense, it would have been impossible for anyone to escape before the Bai Clan’s forces arrived. The spatial lock made it impossible for anyone below the level of a Saint to move, and even if one had that power, they would be suppressed quite a bit. Then, to escape, they would have to break the eight pillars to reveal the exit, or shatter the barrier itself. Yet, from the aura emanating off the pillars, that would require overpowering the layered strength from twelve different Saint-level experts.
In short, barring someone that had broken through the Door of Immortality, no one could escape.
Fortunately for him, he was exactly that ‘no one’.
“Hm… I might as well experiment with what that One Tin showed me.”
A realm separate from the physical world and yet interacted with it all the same. A place where ‘karma’ overlapped and entangled with ‘fate’. The nameless man dismissed his sword and then focused on that peculiar sensation from when he met ‘One Tin’. The moment he did, countless threads and colorful lines filled his field of vision.
Curiously, none of them interacted with him. The few that did twisted and fell apart the moment they drew near.
It was odd, but that could be saved for later. At the moment, he couldn’t maintain the realm for very long since his familiarity with it was still low. Only a few breaths time… maybe a minute, tops.
The nameless man turned his attention to the White Tiger and held out his left hand. “If my hypothesis is correct, then…”
The myriad lines of karma surrounding the White Tiger’s corpse frayed. In their place, dark threads swiftly formed, wrapping up the corpse like a spider did its prey. The moment that the White Tiger was completely covered, the nameless man clenched his left hand.
The dark threads condensed, and then the White Tiger vanished into oblivion. At the same time, the nameless man felt a peculiar aura form in the depths of his being, ferocious and crackling with energy.
He was surprised, but didn’t have the time to dwell on that. The moment the aura formed, he slipped back into the normal world and faced the suppression of the barrier and spatial lock again.
When he reemerged in reality, a powerful aura surged. The strongest of the Saint-level experts approaching him.
Before the nameless man could react, space ripped open and someone emerged in front of him.
It was a heroic man wearing silver robes. Long black hair tied in a ponytail fluttered behind him, shifting along with his robes in an unseen wind. His sharp gray eyes narrowed like swords and he swept his gaze across the chamber before settling on the nameless man standing before the White Tiger’s cushion.
“You,” the heroic man said. “What did you do with the White Tiger?”
The nameless man smirked. He used his Absolute Memory and pulled out the useful information from the White Tiger’s remains. “Isn’t it obvious, Bai Wei?”
The heroic man, Bai Wei, frowned. “This…”
The nameless man stepped forward and swept out his arms. “I am the White Tiger.”
As if waiting to be acknowledged, when the nameless man spoke those words, a divine aura emerged. The White Tiger’s own spiritual essence filled the room, causing sparks of white lightning to form and crackle.
Bai Wei’s eyes widened just a fraction before narrowing again. “No. You are not.” The strongest of the Bai Clan’s Saints turned his body, shifting into a combat stance, and held out a fist. “I know not what manner of devil you are to have usurped the Divine Beast’s powers, but you will fall here!”
Bai Wei charged. A towering silhouette formed behind him, mirroring his movements, and pulled back its fist.
At the same time, the nameless man felt the rest of the Bai Clan experts arrive, as well as a surge of energy as countless techniques were focused on him.
The nameless man sighed. “Well, I tried.”
Bai Wei arrived in front of the nameless man and thrust out his fist. The towering figure behind him did so as well, sending forth a blow that seemed to twist time and space itself as it moved.
In the face of that attack, as well as the impending damage from the others, the nameless man didn’t move. Instead, he simply smiled.
Bai Wei’s expression flickered. Did he sense something?
Even if he did-
“It’s too late! White Tiger Roar!”
The nameless man’s smile turned into a grin and then there was an explosion of divine lightning.
Xinxin stumbled as a powerful aura swept through the air. Just as she was about to fall to the ground, Mu Tian reached out and grabbed her arm, holding her steady. Ordinarily, Xinxin would have scolded him for that, but instead she turned towards the center of the city.
White lightning crackled above the central palace, as if divine tribulation had descended upon Heavenspan as a whole. From that place, five men and six women flew through the air, rapidly making an escape. Yet, they couldn’t escape the bolts of energy pursuing them.
The men and women closest to the central palace were struck down in a flash of light, evaporating in an instant. The ones further away were more fortunate, but were still struck by lightning. While not fatal, their skin was charred black, their robes burnt, and their hair frazzled.
That was startling in itself, enough to catch the eye. But more than that, Xinxin could sense that those fleeing men and women were the ones that had locked onto her earlier. And only half of them remained. Just what could-
“Let us go, Lady Xian.”
Mu Tian tugged onto her arm and started walking back towards the checkpoint. “We can return after the situation has calmed down.”
Xinxin didn’t move. Not because she was stunned by the events happening, but because she felt something else.
Beyond the auras of the experts she felt earlier, there was something else. An intangible presence that clung in the air, something that tugged at her heart. A familiarity that had been etched onto her very being.
“Sifu?” Xinxin muttered that word and took a step forward.
“Wait!” Mu Tian tightened his grip around Xinxin’s arm and pulled her back. “What are you thinking, Lady Xian?”
The act broke Xinxin out of her daze. She blinked and then realized that Mu Tian was holding her back. She yanked her arm, trying to get Mu Tian to let go. “Release me!”
“No!” Mu Tian shook his head. “Did you forget where we are? If you cause trouble here, we will be facing twelve Saints! At once!”
Xinxin managed to wrench her arm away and said, “So what? Do you think any of them will be in fighting form after that?” Xinxin pointed towards the central palace.
“What did you call me, Mu Tian!?” Xinxin’s energy flared, releasing a bit of her cultivation base.
“I called you a fool! No, not just a fool, a foolish young girl! Just because there is a crisis does not mean that the Bai Clan’s twelve Saints are incapable! And what do you think will happen if you, a Saint-level expert, suddenly-“
Mu Tian’s eyes widened.
Before Xinxin could react, Mu Tian charged towards her and shoved her aside. At the same time, he drew his blade and slashed through the air.
A crisp note resounded before turning into a shrill screech as Mu Tian’s sword clashed with another. Shortly after, a calm female voice called out. “So there are others involved! You concealed yourselves well, but do not think that the Bai Clan will let you leave unscathed for harming the White Tiger!”
Mu Tian grit his teeth and shoved his attacked away before pivoting back towards Xinxin’s side. He glanced at her in the corner of his eyes and said, “See why I call you a fool!?”
Xinxin coughed, and then began forming a blade from her qi. “S-So what? All we have to do is fight!” With that said, she turned to look at their latest opponent.
It was a woman. Like Xinxin, she was beautiful. However, Xinxin felt that there was something off about that beauty. Pure, jade-like skin and profound blue eyes. Silky raven hair fashioned in a bun and held in place by a butterfly pin. The woman wore silver robes and wielded a pure white blade in her left hand, the one that she had used to attack earlier.
Powerful energy fluctuations emanating from her and the disturbance in the air revealed that the woman wasn’t a simple opponent either. She raised her sword and prepared to strike…
And then Xinxin realized what was off about the woman’s beauty. When she did, Xinxin laughed.
The woman’s blue eyes narrowed. “You dare laugh at I, Bai Yuyan?”
Xinxin shook her head and said, “Who wouldn’t at an old hag who hides her wrinkles with a transformation technique?”
“Xinxin!” Mu Tian called out a warning.
The moment that Xinxin’s words finished, Bai Yuyan charged. Her sword flashed a pure white and cut through the air like lightning- no, faster than that.
Xinxin couldn’t react.
Mu Tian moved to intercept, but he was a beat too slow, the result of Xinxin’s absurd declaration.
As a result, Bai Yuyan’s sword pierced Xinxin’s chest.
At least, it should have. Yet, instead of stabbing Xinxin’s heart and causing a spray of blood, the white sword halted a finger’s width before Xinxin’s chest, and with it, so too did Bai Yuyan.
Everyone froze, staring at where the sword tip halted. Mu Tian, Bai Yuyan, even Xinxin. The sudden attack and the unexpected defense made everyone unable to react. Not only was the sword and its wielder stopped in place, but, starting where the sword came in contact with Xinxin’s robes, it was slowly being ground away, turning into white dust.
Xinxin recovered from the shock first and then stabbed her blade through the woman’s chest. Unlike Xinxin, Bai Yuyan didn’t have any sort of protection. Blood sprayed from the wound and the Saintess staggered back, clutching at her chest.
Xinxin stepped forward to finish the job. However, before she could, Mu Tian swung his sword and split Bai Yuyan in half. Unlike Xinxin’s slash, no blood scattered with his attack. Instead, the air seemed to distort and then Bai Yuyan’s body crumbled into ash.
Xinxin dismissed her blade and rounded on Mu Tian. “I had it under control! What do you think- Hey!”
Mu Tian grabbed Xinxin’s right wrist with his left arm. “We leave, now!” With his free hand, Mu Tian cut through the air. Space, which had been weakened from his earlier slash, completely tore open.
Mu Tian didn’t respond. Instead, he turned towards the spatial crack and jumped into it.
He must have been expecting Xinxin to follow him. Whether because he thought she would realize his intentions, or because he thought she trusted him enough to just go with whatever he did, Mu Tian moved without another thought.
He shouldn’t have.
As Mu Tian’s body entered the spatial crack, Xinxin pulled back. It caused Mu Tian to spin around to face her, most of his body inside the spatial crack except for his left arm, and for him to lose his grip.
Spatial cracks were fundamentally unstable. While they could be used for traveling and quick escape, it took concentration to both open one and control it enough to direct its destination.
The sudden jolt from Xinxin wrenching back distracted Mu Tian, and he lost control over the spatial crack.
All Xinxin had the time to see was Mu Tian’s face distort in shock before the crack vanished, sewn shut as the world’s natural laws closed the torn seam in space.
Xinxin stumbled back, suddenly losing the resistance from Mu Tian pulling her. She collapsed on the ground, causing dirt to cover her violet dress.
And then something flopped onto the ground next to her. Mu Tian’s arm, cleanly severed at the shoulder and still reaching out towards her.