There was a middle-aged man walking behind Huo Jianghe. This middle-aged man had a tall silhouette, and he was donned with majestic armor. His eyes emanated imposing authority, reminiscent of a person in power. 

Xue Qin had been slowly walking away so as to listen to the proceedings when she heard the voice as well. Turning her head around, she was stunned for a moment before bowing deeply, "Father. Senior Huo."

The middle-aged man was no other than the person who was killed by Zhang Xuan with a single toss of saber back in the Ethereal Hall, the lord of Xuanjiang City, Xue Gan.

There were ten or so young men following behind the two. They were in their early teens, roughly sixteen to seventeen years old. Despite their young age, they seemed to wield incredible might in their grasp.

They were the examinees participating in the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion's trial.

"Master Huo…"

Upon seeing the two, Xue Chen turned a bewildered look to City Lord Xue Gan.

As the trial of the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion was of utmost importance, as the city lord, Xue Gan was required to be present at the venue to supervise the event. Yet, who could have thought that barely after the preliminary selection was completed, Huo Jianghe suddenly insisted on heading over to the City Lord Manor's court. This had left Xue Gan bewildered too!

"We'll conduct the second round of selections here. I can see that there are many people present here to witness the proceedings, and I believe that it would be good to showcase the fairness of our trial," Huo Jianghe arbitrarily made the decision himself as he walked right up to the centermost position in the room.

If it was any other situation, it would be a breach of formalities for Huo Jianghe to make this decision on his own accord, especially given that City Lord Xue Gan was present here. However, while this trial was underway, his words would represent the will of the entire Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion. As such, even Xue Gan had no choice but to accept his judgement.

On the other hand, seeing that the court proceedings were suddenly interrupted in such an unexpected fashion, Xue Chen was stunned.

What was he supposed to do now?

"Senior Huo, I am a citizen of Xuanjiang City as well. May I know if I am qualified to join the trial as well?" Dan Xiaotian asked with a resounding voice.

"Of course!" Huo Jianghe nodded.

"Master Huo, Dan Xiaotian is a mere Saint 6-dan cultivator. It would be a waste of time for you to invigilate someone of his caliber. Furthermore, he colluded with the bandits to harm the interests of the city. It would be an insult to the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion if someone as vile as him was permitted to participate in the trial as well!" Xue Chen said anxiously.

He knew that Dan Xiaotian wouldn't be able to clear the trial even if he were to participate in it… but it would undermine the legitimacy of the trial if Dan Xiaotian were to suddenly participate in the trial as well. Furthermore, he could tell that Dan Xiaotian had something up his sleeves, and while he was confident of his plan, he knew better than to allow Dan Xiaotian to get his way.


"You are saying that I'm weak?" Dan Xiaotian looked at Xue Chen and asked.

"Of course! As a crippled Saint 6-dan, your strength can't even compare to the ordinary civilians of our city. What else can you be other than weak?" Xue Chen's eyebrows shot up.

"Since that's the case, I would like to ask what's your opinion of Xue Qin's abilities then?" Dan Xiaotian asked.

Even though the situation was still against him, confidence seemed to be slowly building up in his voice. Initially, he was just timidly obeying whatever Zhang Xuan told him to do and say, but in face of Xue Chen's oppression, his words were slowly becoming firmer and more powerful. 

"Our Second Young Mistress is, of course, a genius! Despite only being sixteen this year, she has already reached Great Sage 3-dan consummation, and she could very well achieve a breakthrough anytime soon!" Xue Chen replied proudly.

"Is that so?" Dan Xiaotian replied calmly.

Weng weng weng!

Bursts of sword qi shot out from the tip of his fingers, slicing the handcuffs around his wrist into shreds in an instant.

At the same time, Dan Xiaotian released the seal on his cultivation, causing the aura around him to grow stronger and stronger till the equivalent of a Great Sage 3-dan consummation expert. His hunched back also slowly straightened, causing his perceived 1.6 meters height to rise to that of around 1.75 meters. While he wasn't as tall as Zhang Xuan, he appeared much more dignified than before.

More importantly, when he slowly walked forward, the limp in his leg had vanished without a trace as well!

Even his appearance seemed to have undergone some changes. Despite the glaring birthmark on his face, his features became more defined and elegant, giving him a masculine undertone.

"This is impossible…" Xue Qin's eyes nearly plopped to the ground.

All along, she had viewed Dan Xiaotian to be synonymous with weak and useless. She never thought that he could undergo such a huge transformation one day.

Paying no heed to the shocked Xue Qin, Dan Xiaotian walked straight up to Xue Chen. His lips curved upward as he asked, "Even though the two of us have the same cultivation realm, you think of me as a trash but Xue Qin as an unparalleled genius… I really wonder how you came to a judgement. Do you think with your toes?"

"You…" Xue Chen shook his head in disbelief as he took a step back.

When had this fellow become able to cultivate? Not to mention… Great Sage 3-dan consummation?

It wasn't just them. The crowd had fallen completely silent as well.

The previous motive they had attributed to Dan Xiaotian was based on the premise that he was unable to cultivate, such that he needed the support of the City Lord Residence in order to survive. However, if Dan Xiaotian was actually an expert himself, such a reason would be invalidated.

"All of you should come at me together!" Dan Xiaotian told the youths that had come with Huo Jianghe with a light chuckle.

"You want to fight all of us at once?" 

These youths were startled by the suddenly challenge. They turned to look at Huo Jianghe, and the latter gave a slight nod of approval. Thus, they raised the swords in their hands and charged forth.

On the other hand, using his finger as his sword, Dan Xiaotian jabbed forth and snatched the sword from the hands of one of the cultivators. With the sword in his hand, he easily deflected the offense coming from the others.

Tzzzzzzz!

Numerous surges of sword qi shot out from the tip of Dan Xiaotian's sword simultaneously.

While he had spent most of his time deciphering the 'sword toss' technique his teacher had imparted to him, he didn't neglect to work on his foundations as well. Even without using his trump card, his fighting prowess was still one to be reckoned with.

Dang lang! Dang lang! Dang lang!

With the outburst of sword qi, the swords that the other youths held were knocked out of their hands, falling to the ground amidst metallic clatter. The youths couldn't help stare at Zhang Xuan in horror.

The sword art which Dan Xiaotian had executed actually disarmed all of them in an instant.

It was fortunate that he had gone easy on them, or else it could have been their wrists that were severed instead.

Hu!

With a flick of his finger, the sword in Dan Xiaotian's hand flew out and stabbed into the ground right in front of Xue Qin. With an air of loftiness, he looked at Xue Qin and asked, "May I ask if the talented Second Young Mistress is able to do what I, a trash, am able to do?"

"..."

The crowd fell silent.

Under the encirclement of over ten opponents, Dan Xiaotian was able to steal a sword and knock out the swords in the hands of the others without even taking a step… The strength and swordsmanship he had displayed were truly terrifying!

If such a person was considered as a trash, what would they count as?

Xue Qin's face paled as her body trembled in fear.

Even though she was a Great Sage 3-dan consummation cultivator, she knew that she would definitely be incapable of such a feat.

If she were to attempt to do the same, she had little doubt that she would be overwhelmed in an instant and fall in defeat.

Xue Chen was silent for a moment before he swiftly rebutted, "Even if you aren't a trash, it's a fact that you have colluded with the bandits. Even your own neighbors have stepped forward to testify that they have spotted bandits entering your residence in the middle of the night!"

Hearing those words, Dan Xiaotian turned to look at the two witnesses and asked, "Are you certain that you have witnessed with your own eyes that there are bandits entering my residence?"

"Yes… There's no mistake about it!"

"We have seen it for certain!"

Under Dan Xiaotian's piercing gaze, the two neighbors cowered fearfully a little.

If Dan Xiaotian was still unable to cultivate, they would still have nothing to fear. But given the prowess that Dan Xiaotian had just displayed, they couldn't help but recall the imposing authority that the Dan Clan commanded ten years ago… 

Even though they were just revealing what they had seen, just the possibility that Dan Xiaotian could exact vengeance on them in the future for this made their words sound much less confident than before.

While their hearts were thumping fearfully, Dan Xiaotian spoke out, "The fact that you saw it means that… you are very sharp-eyed!"

"Huh?"

The two neighbors were stunned.

Sharp-eyed?

Boy, do you know what you are saying?

That's equivalent to admitting that you have colluded with the bandits! No matter how talented and powerful you are, there's no way the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion would accept a person who has moral issues!

As though a rock had been thrown into a pond, a huge uproar broke out amidst the crowd in that instant.

"Hahahaha! Look, Dan Xiaotian has finally admitted to his crimes! Since that's the case, I believe we need not continue on with the interrogation anymore. Men, capture that scoundrel who dares to collude with the bandits and lock him up!" Xue Chen was also stunned for a moment before his eyes lit up in ravenous joy.

From the moment that Dan Xiaotian revealed his true prowess, he knew that things had gone awry. If Dan Xiaotian were to vehemently refute their claims from then on, it would have been a very difficult fight for him. 

The fact that they had chosen to hold a public trial was a double-edged sword to them. They would have to find conclusive evidence in order to indict Dan Xiaotian, or else the reputation of the City Lord Manor could be sullied as a result of this matter. 

Yet, who could have thought that Dan Xiaotian would foolishly admit to the matter at this moment… Not to mention, in front of so many people at that!

With this, Dan Xiaotian's fate was sealed. Just by this confession in itself, they would be able to push for Dan Xiaotian's execution!

"Aren't you being too hasty over here? I didn't know that the City Lord Manor has a habit of jumping to conclusions!" Dan Xiaotian sneered coldly. Turning to Huo Jianghe, he clasped his fist and asked politely, "Senior Huo, I would like to summon an eye-witness to the court."

"Go ahead!" Huo Jianghe nodded.

"Come in!" Dan Xiaotian glanced outside and ordered.

A figure covered tightly in a black robe and a straw hat walked from the midst of the crowd. Standing at the center of the court, he slowly took off his hat.

"He's Cao Chengli!"

"You mean the leader of that band of bandits?"

"He actually dares to walk right into the City Lord Manor? How dare he! Kill him!"

"He's the eye-witness that Dan Xiaotian is summoning? It seems like the two of them are really colluding with one another!"

… 

Upon catching a closer look at the silhouette, the crowd went completely frenzied.

The person who had just entered was no other than the leader of the bandit band, Cao Chengli!

This fellow's hideout was hidden in the depths of the mountain forest, and he was extremely skilled at navigating around the complex geography. As a result, the previous attempts by the City Lord Manor to apprehend him fell empty. Yet, he actually dared to walk right into the City Lord Manor… Just who in the world gave him the guts to do so?

"Is everyone seeing this sight? Cao Chengli is actually heeding Dan Xiaotian's words! It's obvious that they are in collusion!" Xue Chen was so excited that he nearly leaped into the air.

Everything that had been presented thus far was just speculations and circumstantial evidence. Yet, that fellow actually brought the leader of the bandit band right in… 

Was there a worse move that one could make in this situation?

"Collusion?" Dan Xiaotian suddenly roared in laughter as he looked at the black-robed bandit. "Why don't we hear from the person in question who he was truly colluding with?"

"It's him!" Cao Chengli stepped forward and pointed to Xue Chen and Xue Qin. "She was involved in it as well!"

"What nonsense are you spouting? Don't you dare spout falsehood in this sacred place of justice!" Xue Chen's eyebrows shot up and he swiftly denied Cao Chengli's claims.

"Spout falsehood?" Cao Chengli's fists clenched tightly together from rage. He turned to the crowd and began recounting his story loudly, "Yesterday night, Xue Chen paid me a visit and requested that I kill a man for him. As long as I successfully assassinated the target, he would pay me a handsome sum of 50,000 Ethereal Coins. I did a bit of investigation and found that the person I was intending to assassinate is a weakling, so I swiftly agreed to his request!"

"Assassination?"

"Weakling?"

There were plenty of smart individuals amongst the crowd who had already roughly guessed what had happened, and their eyes swiftly turned to Dan Xiaotian.

In recent years, those were the words that had been used far too often to refer to him.

"Indeed, the target of assassination was no other than Dan Xiaotian!" Cao Chengli answered the doubts of the crowd. "So, I prepared an ambush for him last night… but Dan Xiaotian turned out to be much stronger than I thought, resulting in the failure of my assassination attempt. My entire band of bandits was slain by him…"

It would simply be too shocking if he were to say that his subordinates were killed by a horse and a carriage… Since that was the case, it would be more viable for him to spin up a more believable lie.

"It was out of sheer luck that I managed to escape with my life. I immediately went to meet up with Xue Chen, and I demanded compensation from him for his inaccurate information that led to the deaths of my subordinates. Yet, he only paid me 500 Ethereal Coins… Infuriated, I followed him all the way back to his place, hoping to uncover his identity, but what I saw instead was Xue Chen entering the City Lord Manor, and that was when I finally deduced his true identity. Furthermore, by sheer coincidence, I managed to record this scene down on a Record Crystal. Please have a look!" Cao Chengli said as he began playing the Record Crystal he had recorded the previous night.

The video reflected the courtyard of the tightly-guarded City Lord Manor. The first thing that came into sight was a huge group of soldiers standing in a neat formation. Under the commands of a middle-aged man, Xue Chen, standing at the forefront of the formation, these soldiers stripped their armor and donned the clothes of the bandits. After they had all changed into black garments, Xue Chen emphasized imposingly that Dan Xiaotian and those around him must be killed by hook or by crook in this operation!

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