Using this technique at the third level allowed Zhao Wugang to increase his strength by several degrees, as well as his speed. Grinning hideously, face full of greed, he charged toward Meng Hao, sharp claws glittering in the sunlight.
He brimmed with confidence, certain that Meng Hao’s fear would break him. Flee he might, but escape he could not.
“Run,” laughed Zhao Wugang with a ferocious smile, his powerful voice reverberating through the air. “You can’t escape the skills of Zhao Wugang.”
When Zhao Wugang shapeshifted into demonic form, Meng Hao was fleeing up ahead. He saw what happened out of the corner of his eye, and a look of surprise filled his face. But then, it seemed he’d thought of something, and a different, stranger expression replaced the surprise. This demonic form looked exactly like the forms of the various beasts that had been exploded by the copper mirror. In fact, he had even more radiant fur covering his body than those other beasts had.
Meng Hao looked carefully at Zhao Wugang, the strange expression still covering his face. The thick, golden fur made him look like some sort of king of beasts.
When Zhao Wugang saw the look on Meng Hao’s face, he felt astonished. When he had broken through to the third level of Qi Condensation, he had tried out the Were-demon form, but this was the first time he had revealed it to another person. Meng Hao’s strange expression irritated him. He let out a cold harrumph, and a murderous look appeared in his eyes.
“I think… you’ll probably like this copper mirror,” said Meng Hao. Seeing Zhao Wugang’s speed increase so much in his Were-demon form, he realized that he would close the distance between them rapidly. He took a few steps back and slapped the bag of holding with his right hand. Instantly, the copper mirror appeared. With the strange expression still covering his face, he shined the mirror onto Zhao Wugang in all his arrogant splendor.
As soon as the mirror began to shine, Meng Hao felt it begin to emit a burning heat that he had never felt before. This was a much stronger reaction than when it had encountered other demonic beasts, as if some sort of powerful thirst had been unleashed within it. At that moment, a sort of invisible aura burst forth from the mirror and shot forward.
Zhao Wugang leaped toward Meng Hao, his aura radiating murder and ferocity. Suddenly, he felt strange, as if some sort of gas had entered his body. It roiled violently within him, and from the outside it looked as if the aura was trying to claw its way out. Zhao Wugang’s expression changed. He felt severe pain in his organs, which quickly rose to a critical level. Without thinking, he pushed the aura down to his dantian region, in order to force it out.
The aura was powerful, and it seemed to be seeking a weak spot in his body to emerge from. When he pushed the aura down toward his dantian, it rushed directly toward his buttocks, and in an instant, exploded out with violent, gut-wrenching pain. Zhao Wugang let out an uncontrollable, blood-curdling scream.
He had never made such a sound before in his life, because never before had he experienced something like this. His body began to tremble, and he glared wrathfully at Meng Hao. The murder in his bloodshot eyes grew fiercer.
“Elder Brother Zhao,” said Meng Hao, his heart thumping. This was the first time he had ever fought someone. “Why don’t we end things here? If you don’t make things hard for me, I won’t make things hard for you. A happy ending.” He clamped his hand over the mirror. The sound of his opponents scream had unsettled him. He couldn’t take it. After all, this was a person, not a demonic beast.
“You little bastard!” shouted Zhao Wugang. “Today, I’m not just going to kill you; I’m going to go down the mountain, find your family and kill them too! I’ll humiliate your entire clan!” The pain had caused him to nearly go mad. His eyes burned, and with a roar, he pounced toward Meng Hao, sharp claws preparing to rip him to shreds.
Meng Hao was just a scholar, and had never been in a fight. But he possessed courage, and hearing Zhao Wugang say such things caused murderous intent to shine in his eyes. There was no point in trying to talk reason to a person who clearly wanted to provoke him. He couldn’t bear to hear the miserable screams, but hearing such threats would cause anyone to lose their temper. He took a few steps back and unflinchingly held up the mirror.
As Zhao Wugang approached, he felt something roaring toward him. Once again, the terrifying aura entered his body. Considering what he had just experienced, he protected himself, sealing off the aura so it couldn’t escape. But just when he was feeling confident in his success, it shot through his body, rumbling, then exploded out of his left ear.
The pain was many times more severe than before, and he let out a horrible, shrill shriek that was impossible to describe. Then, his right ear exploded, showering out blood.
His head felt as if it were about to split down the middle, and his face had grown pale white. Dumb with astonishment, he stared at Meng Hao. Then his face filled with monstrous savagery.
“I will kill your entire family, and then eliminate your whole clan! I’ll make them all feel pain like this, then let them die screaming!” Enduring the pain, and also deaf, he leaped toward Meng Hao, filled with insane determination to kill his opponent.
“I give you face and you ignore it!” said Meng Hao, gaping. He had never seen the mirror explode an ear before. Looking stern, he retreated further, again shining the mirror onto Zhao Wugang.
“Meng Hao!!” screamed Zhao Wugang, his right ear exploding into shreds. Both ears swelled. His expression was no longer one of ferocious rage but rather astonishment and dread. He turned, faster than he had ever turned in his life, and made to flee, having lost any desire to mess with Meng Hao. But the fear in his heart caused him to tremble so violently that he couldn’t even flee. Instead, he focused, and once again, summoned his desire to kill. He would inflict pain on Meng Hao’s family, and also take away that damned copper mirror.
However, even as he turned, the mirror, for the first time ever, flew out of Meng Hao’s hands. It seemed its interest had been aroused. It flew after Zhao Wugang, attacking him multiple times. Zhao Wugang’s eyes filled with desperation; it appeared as if some incredible power had entered his body. He screamed uncontrollably, unable to flee. Something tossed him into the air and his left ear, right ear, chest and legs all exploded violently.
As the aura exploded out, it sent mists of blood into the air, and in the space of time it takes to breathe ten times, Zhao Wugang’s eyes grew dark, and his body slowly shifted from Were-demon form back to normal. The fur disappeared, and seemingly because of this, the copper mirror lost interest and flew back to Meng Hao. Zhao Wugang’s body dropped to the ground.
Blood covered everything. Zhao Wugang’s dead eyes still shone with horror and despair. Anyone who laid eyes upon him would surely tremble.
Looking at Zhao Wugang’s corpse, Meng Hao sucked in a deep breath. The copper mirror flew back into his hand, whereupon his body shook. Awe and veneration filled his eyes. Seeing some wild animals explode was not a big deal, but this time it had been a living person. Seeing the blood and gore everywhere, he trembled. The stench of death on the mirror caused him to want to get rid of the mirror. He loosened his hand and tossed it to the ground.
He was just a scholar, after all. The mirror had seemed interesting at first, but now it seemed incredibly gruesome, and conflicted with the Confucian ideals which Meng Hao believed in.
He stood in silence for some time, feeling flustered at heart. The frustration could be seen in his eyes. In his heart, he was still a scholar from Yunjie County. He spoke the truth to people, and had never been in a fight, let alone killed anyone. That behavior was deeply rooted in his heart, and could not easily be changed. As he contemplated the situation, his heart struggled.
“The etiquette, happiness, kindness and justice of Confucianism, and its search for truth, demands a refraining from killing. But the Sect says ‘the strong shall prey on the weak.’ Now I understand the truth of that saying, but to actually put it into practice is different…” Trembling, Meng Hao felt frightened even just thinking about what had happened. After a long time, he let out a long sigh and started to walk off.
But having taken only a few steps, he ground his teeth, turned, and walked back to Zhao Wugang’s corpse. He picked up his bag of holding, then summoned a Flame Serpent and placed it onto the body.
The fire didn’t completely eat up the corpse, so Meng Hao consumed a Spirit Condensation Pill, then shot three more Flame Serpents down. Soon the corpse had withered up to the point where it was unrecognizable.
He did some breathing exercises, gritted his teeth, then shot down two more Flame Serpents. Now, the corpse was completely ash.
Glancing at the mirror on the ground, he clenched his jaw, walked over, and picked it up, gripping it firmly.
Still feeling conflicted and afraid, Meng Hao left, walking back to the Immortal’s Cave as quickly as possible. He sat in a daze. For a long time he just sat there, before finally moving again to open Zhao Wugang’s bag of holding. When he saw what was inside, his eyes glittered. The dark mood caused by his first kill suddenly changed.
“This guy was so rich,” he exclaimed, sucking in a breath. The bag of holding contained eight Spirit Stones, seven Spirit Condensing Pills and a bone fragment covered with strange symbols.
He looked at the bone fragment, then immediately tossed it aside. It described the Were-demon technique. He didn’t dare to even touch it. He didn’t want to turn into a Were-demon and then be destroyed by his own copper mirror.
As he tossed the bone chip aside, he suddenly remembered the flying sword. He immediately walked out of the cave and tracked it down in the jungle. He lifted up the short white sword and returned to the cave to examine it, eyes glittering.
Meng Hao couldn’t think of how to reconcile the differences between the ways of Immortals and the path of Confucius. He decided to stop thinking about the matter. Maybe he would understand it one day, but for now, the most important thing was to figure out a way to stay alive in the Sect.
Eyes filled with resolve, he took the Spirit Stones out and felt them. Then he pulled out the copper mirror and put it down next to him, looking at it for some time.
“Elder Brother Zhao provoked me,” he murmured. “I had to strike back. I tried to smooth things out, but he refused. I killed someone, but I tried to be reasonable. I tried to be kind, but he rushed into death.
“The mirror reeks of blood. In the hands of an evildoer, it would be a tool of evil, but in my hands, it will be different. I have Confucian kindness in my heart, and this treasure is mine. It will be different.” He looked down at the mirror and took a deep breath.
“It doesn’t just explode things, and doesn’t just seek blood. In the future, I will use it carefully.” He muttered to himself like this for some time, then lifted his head, thinking about the other mystery of the mirror, and his hope. He ground his teeth.
“Success or failure. Now we’ll see. If it’s a success, then Meng Hao’s cultivation practice will be anything but ordinary.” With no more hesitation, Meng Hao pulled out the Demonic Core and a half-Spirit Stone, then placed them down onto the mirror. He waited with nervous anticipation.
Enough time passed for half an incense stick to burn, but absolutely nothing happened. The Demonic Core didn’t change, the Spirit Stone didn’t disappear. There was still only one Demonic Core.
Meng Hao frowned. He paced around the cave for a bit before looking back at the mirror.
“It can’t be. Last month it definitely made two…” He stared at the Spirit Stone on the mirror, lost in thought. After a while, he slapped the bag of holding and pulled out another half of a Spirit Stone, which he carefully placed down onto the mirror.
Almost as soon as he put the Spirit Stone down, a black aura flashed across the surface of the mirror, and it seemed to turn into a lake. The two Spirit Stones sank down, and the blackness rippled, condensing onto the Demonic Core. And then, next to the first Demonic Core appeared a second!
Meng Hao was stupefied. Even though he had prepared himself in heart, he was still shocked. After some time passed, he picked up the two Demonic Cores and examined them excitedly.
“So it’s true! How profound!” He began to breathe hard, and took some time before he could pull himself back together. Suddenly everything seemed possible. He took a few deep breaths, then tried out the process again.
One Stone, two Stones… nine Stones, he only had one left over. In front of him were four full Demonic Cores. If you counted the original, that would be five.
The stones emitted a sweet aroma which grew thick in the air, leaving him feel intoxicated. A silly grin on his face, he realized that this was the most wealth he had ever possessed in his entire life. It was a sight none of the disciples of the Outer Sect had even seen.
His excitement lasted until deep into the night. Clutching the Demonic Cores, he placed one onto his tongue and swallowed it down. Two hours later, he opened his eyes and took another pill.
He had never done something so extravagant before. By the time the seemingly boundless energy of the two Demonic Cores was fully dispersed in his body, dawn had arrived.
His body thrummed, and gobs of filth had been excreted through his pores. When he opened his eyes they shone brilliantly.
“The third level of Qi Condensation!” Meng Hao was still not content. He looked down at the remaining three pills. He took another one. By the dawn the next day, he had consumed all the Demonic Cores. His Cultivation base was just a hairs breadth away from being at the peak of the third level of Qi Condensation.
As for the eight Spirit Condensation pills, they would not be of much use to Meng Hao considering his current Cultivation base. Even taking all of them at once wouldn’t do much good. He suspected that it had something to do with the Demonic Cores. Considering that the Spirit Cultivation Pills were regularly distributed by the sect, they shouldn’t be so ineffective.
“A small amount won’t do. Even if I took dozens, it wouldn’t have much of an effect.” Meng Hao closed his eyes, concentrating on the spiritual energy in his body. It was no longer a stream; it had turned into a river. It was not a massive river, but definitely larger than a stream. As it circulated through his body, it gave him a feeling of power. He could sense an astonishing amount of energy filling him.
Considering the shocking level of power, Meng Hao knew that compared to yesterday, he had undergone a thorough rebirth. Before, he was a weak Cultivator who anyone could push around. Now, amongst the third level disciples who could occupy the Public Zone, his Cultivation base was so high that it placed him as one of the most powerful.
He waved his right hand excitedly and a Flame Serpent as long as his arm roared to life. Its heat immediately filled the Immortal’s Cave. The fierce Flame Serpent, filled with awe-inspiring savagery, spit out a blast of fire.
If he had encountered Zhao Wugang with this level of power, his Flame Serpent would have flown forth. It would at the very least have seriously injured him, if not left him dead.