Watching Cao Chengli's frantically escaping silhouette, Zhang Xuan smiled quietly for a moment before rising to his feet and flinging his sleeves. 

Hula!

All of the corpses lying around the residence burst into flames. In just a moment's time, they were all reduced to ashes.

With another fling of Zhang Xuan's hands, all of the ashes flowed into the underground drainage and vanished from sight.

All traces of the battle that had gone on earlier vanished entirely, as if nothing had happened at all.

Zhang Xuan walked into the room and sat down to meditate so as to replenish the zhenqi in his body. He had to say that the medicinal water from boiling the Dongxu Gourd was really effective. Not only had he recovered from his injuries, his body had also managed to adapt to the space and spiritual energy in the Azure, allowing him to move and absorb spiritual energy more easily.

He cultivated for roughly two hours before finally coming to a halt. He pondered quietly for a short moment before directing his consciousness toward his dantian and asking, "Gourd, what the hell are you?"

This question had bugged him for quite a while now.

He was well aware of how severe his injuries were, but just drinking the medicinal water from the Dongxu Gourd allowed him to make a swift recovery. Most likely, the Dongxu Gourd was a being more fearsome than he had ever imagined.

Thinking back, it was worth wondering why Ancient Sage Qiu Wu would set up a Spatial Formation just to nourish a Dongxu Gourd for tens and thousands of years. Most likely, there was more than meets the eye.

"There is a lot more stuff that I can eat here. As long as you can give me enough food, you'll know in due time!" the Dongxu Gourd readjusted its position to find a comfortable spot before lying down leisurely.

Zhang Xuan tried asking a few more questions, but the latter simply ignored him. Sighing deeply, he took out his Ethereal Token and immersed his consciousness in it once more.

… 

"Why aren't they back yet?"

In the City Lord Manor, Xue Chen was pacing around with a tight frown on his forehead.

Under normal circumstances, the elites he had dispatched should have already killed that trash and returned by now. Two hours had passed since then, so why were there no one to be seen?

"You, head over to take a look!" Xue Chen turned to a nearby guard and ordered.

The guard swiftly put on a set of dark clothes and flitted away. Soon, he returned with a bizarre look on his face, "Sir, nothing seems to have happened to the Dan Clan at all. Dan Xiaotian and Dan Yi are completely unharmed!"

Xue Chen was bewildered by the report, "How can that be? Are my commands not clear?"

He had instructed the guards to eliminate those three at the Dan Clan Residence in the swiftest time possible, but nothing had happened even after two hours had passed? What was going on here?


"Investigate the matter! Find out where did the earlier team go to!" Xue Chen bellowed furiously.

The guard hurriedly rushed out, and an hour later, he returned and reported, "Based on the footsteps, all of them have entered the Dan Clan. However, there are no traces that they have left the premises… My guess is that they might have been killed, and their corpses have been disposed of too!"

"They have been killed? By those three?" Xue Chen was stunned.

Those fifty elites he had dispatched were all Great Sage 1-dan cultivators, and the leader was even at Great Sage 2-dan. Their combined strength would make them a match even for a Great Sage 4-dan cultivator. Yet, they were defeated silently like that, such that none of them even got to send a message back… 

Given that the opponent was just the crippled Dan Xiaotian, weakling Dan Yi, and a severely wounded young man, this shouldn't have happened!

Or… could it be that the bandit was right? Xue Chen suddenly remembered Cao Chengli's words.

The latter mentioned that Dan Xiaotian had a formidable horse and a carriage that could use martial arts.

Could, by any chance, those two actually existed?

"Sir, what do we do now? Shall we continue dispatching people over?" the guard asked.

"There's no need for that… If the guards were really killed by them, their guard must be up by now. For the time being, we need to gather more information and reassess Dan Xiaotian's strength before making a move!" Xue Chen shook his head and said.

"Besides, the sun is about to be up soon. If we make a commotion now, we would risk sullying the City Lord Residence's reputation."

"But… are we going to let that bastard off after so many of our brothers have been killed?" the guard asked anxiously.

The City Lord Manor might be rich, but grooming fifty guards like that took up a great deal of effort and resources too. For all of them to be killed just like that… this was really a little hard to swallow.

With a livid look on Xue Chen's face, he said, "I want you to take a trip to Hongyan Market and check plausible ambush points along the way. Try to find the corpses of the bandits or signs of battle!"

"Yes, sir!" the guard replied before leaving the room. A while later, he returned and reported, "Sir, in the frontmost alley near Hongyan Market, we found some corpses, bows, and arrows. They belong to the deceased bandits!"

"Good. Get your men to get rid of the corpses of those bandits. After which, I want you to smear some armor with blood and secretly bury them in places near the Dan Clan Residence!" Xue Chen harrumphed as a cold smile crept onto his lips.

"Sir, you want me to bury our weapon and armor around the Dan Clan Residence?"

Seeing that the guard was confused by the order, a glint flickered across Xue Chen's eyes as he explained, "Dan Xiaotian has always been a weakling, and there's no one in town who doesn't know that. If it were to be found that many guards of the City Lord Manor has disappeared overnight, and the weapons and armor of both bandits and guards alike were found near the perimeter of the Dan Clan Residence, what do you think people will say?"

"What… people will say? They will probably say that Dan XIaotian has colluded with bandits to kill the guards of the City Lord Manor…" As the guard spoke, his eyes slowly lit up in excitement.

If they were to do so, even without making a move on Dan Xiaotian straight, they would be able to corner him and force him to submit to them. If things go well, not only would they be able to sully Dan Xiaotian's reputation, they might even be able to push for his execution!

Due to the evil committed by the bandits over the past decade, they were a bunch deeply abhorred by the ordinary civilians. If people were to learn that Dan Xiaotian had colluded with the bandits, he would surely be condemned for it.

And that would give the City Lord Manor a legitimate excuse to reject the marriage agreement.

After all, how could the noble city lord allow his own daughter to marry a person with questionable morals?

"That's right! I want you to spread the news tomorrow morning, saying that fifty of our guards have found traces of the bandits and had set forth to take them down. However, they went missing in the midst of the operation, so we are going to launch a citywide search for their whereabouts… Make sure to hype the matter up as much as possible. It would be best if the entire city learns of the matter!" Xue Chen instructed with a smile.

"When the news has finally ripened enough, we'll head to the Dan Clan and search their premises under the pretext of investigating the whereabouts of the missing guards. There, we'll find the weapons of the bandits and the bloodied armor of our guards… There's no way Dan Xiaotian will be able to free himself from this!"

"Yes, sir!" Hearing how Xue Chen was able to make such an ingenious move despite the disadvantageous situation they were in, the guard bowed deeply out of admiration. He pondered over the plan for a moment before asking, "But sir, what if Dan Xiaotian refuses to plead guilty to it even with those evidence in place?"

With chilling eyes, Xue Chen said, "He can deny it all he wants, but it will all be futile. As long as we can find a reason to drag him to the City Lord Manor, he'll be ours to deal with. We can simply pin whatever crime we want on him an sentence him accordingly!"

"That's true…" the guard nodded. "I'll go make the arrangements right now!"

… 

"Second Young Mistress, you were looking for me?"

While Xue Chen was arranging for Dan Xiaotian's downfall, Xue Qin had returned to her bedroom, but she was unable to fall asleep. Eventually, she called for one of the youths serving by Huo Jianghe's side to come into her room.

This young man was from the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion as well, and just like her, he was a menial disciple. He was in charge of attending of Huo Jianghe's needs so that the latter can focus his attention on cultivating.

"This money is a token of my goodwill. Please, accept it!" Xue Chen said politely.

With a wave of her hand, a maid quickly passed a sachet of gold coins over. Before passing the sachet over, the maid casually shook the sachet a little, and the resounding jingling of coins echoed in the air. From the looks of it, it appeared that there were at least a hundred coins inside.

"We are all from the same sect. Second Young Mistress, there's no need to stand on ceremony…" the young man's eyes lit up as he kept the sachet.

A menial disciple like him wasn't entitled to a lot of resources in the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion, so naturally, he was more than delighted to accept Xue Chen's generous gift.

"May I ask you if Senior Huo has said after returning back to his quarters at night?" Xue Qin looked at the young man intently and asked.

"Senior Huo didn't say anything…" Perhaps it was due to his inexperience, it was only at this moment that the young man finally understood Xue Qin's true intentions. He pondered for a brief moment before adding, "Right, he told us to keep a lookout for a person called World's Edge in the Ethereal Hall. He sternly instructed us to inform him as soon as that person appears!"

"World's Edge?" Xue Qin frowned.

"It's like this…" the young man swiftly filled Xue Qin in on what had happened in the Ethereal Hall.

"I see! If World's Edge really appears, I would like to trouble senior to inform me in advance. I would like to be the one to deliver then news to Senior Huo!" Xue Qin said as she passed another sachet of gold coins over.

"Of course, that isn't a problem at all!" the young man nodded vehemently with light gleaming from his eyes.

In the first place, this matter was nothing to him at all. If he could benefit from this so easily, there was no reason for him to take up Xue Qin's arrangements.

Barely after saying those words, the young man suddenly lowered his head and took out a jade token. He took a look at it, and his eyes lit up, "Second Young Mistress, you are truly lucky. World's Edge has just entered the Ethereal Hall. Let's go look for Senior Huo together!"

"Yes!" Xue Qin quickly got to her feet and followed the young man into Huo Jianghe's residence.

It didn't take too long for them to arrive at their destination.

"He's there?"

Hearing their report, Huo Jianghe narrowed his eyes.

"Senior, this is an Ethereal Token from Starlight City…" Xue Qin quickly presented two Ethereal Tokens over.

As valuable as Ethereal Tokens were, it was a common commodity to the City Lord Manor.

"Un!" Seeing that the young lady was on the ball, Huo Jianghe nodded in approval before rising to his feet and saying, "Enter the Ethereal Hall with me. I'll show you what the true swordsmanship of our Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion looks like!"

"Thank you, senior!" Seeing that the other party didn't blame her for what happened earlier in the day, Xue Qin heaved a sigh of relief before immersing her consciousness into the Ethereal Token.

Weng! Weng!

The two of them entered the Ethereal Hall simultaneously.

… 

"It really is inconvenient bringing things around with me like that. Let's see if I can purchase a storage ring here!"

Too used to using storage rings in the Master Teacher Continent, he felt that it was a handful to lug his possessions with him around everywhere. Thus, he returned to the Ethereal Hall in hopes of finding a storage ring here.

While it was late at night outside, the Ethereal Hall was filled to the brim with people. Furthermore, the surroundings remained extremely bright, as if the concept of day and night didn't exist here. Zhang Xuan made his way over to the front receptionist and posed his question.

"Of course, there are storage rings on sale in the Ethereal Hall too! Each of them costs 500,000 Ethereal Coins!" the attendant replied cheerfully.

"500,000 Ethereal Coins?" Zhang Xuan's eyebrows shot up.

That was exorbitant!

It was no wonder why even a huge clan like the Dan Clan didn't have a single storage ring with them!

"I won eight matches earlier in the day. If I were to join the dueling ring now, will I continue on from the ninth match, or will I be starting over from the first?" Zhang Xuan asked.

Currently, the dueling ring was the fastest way to earn Ethereal Coins that he knew of. However, he had left halfway through, so if the count were to start again from the first round, it would really be a huge pain for him.

It was likely that no one would want to challenge him anymore by the time he reached the eighth round again.

After all, the Starlight City only had that much experts. There weren't too many people who were willing to spend money just to lose a battle.

"Since you have won eight matches, participating in the primary level duels don't pose too much of a challenge to you anymore. Unfortunately, there are no more matches for the intermediate level duels yet, and the earliest one would be two days away from now. Furthermore, it seems like your tier isn't high enough yet too," the attendant assessed Zhang Xuan's profile for a moment as he remarked.

"Intermediate level duels?" Zhang Xuan was stunned.

Primary and intermediate… Were there different tiers to the dueling ring too?

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