Chu Li couldn't stop fidgeting as he spoke. "Yue Jintao? Has Yue Jintao been found?"
Xue Ling shook her head and said, "No. Judging by the knife technique alone, it's the Duan Lidao technique from Yue Jintao. The Jingmen Association mostly dealt with private salt trades using violently overbearing methods, condoning acts no less than that of eliminating factions. Since they are low-level factions, our High Duke's Public House couldn't be bothered with them."
"Was it the Jingmen Association that was eliminated?"
Xue Ling said, "Not the Jingmen Association, but rather the Jingmen Faction. Jingmen Association is an outer division of Jingmen Faction. However, there exists no criminal evidence tied to the faction itself, which leaves our High Duke's Public House unable to take action against the Jingmen Association!"
Chu Li shook his head.
This was one of the weaknesses of the High Duke's Public House.
They were grounded with strict laws due to the fact that back when the grand ancestor first founded them, he wanted to prevent the High Duke's Public House from abusing their power.
However, in recent years, the martial art factions had done thorough research on these laws. Upon discovering the loopholes, the Jingmen Association and Jingmen Faction then started operating as they do now.
It didn't matter how wise and skilled the grand ancestor was in the martial arts, he was only one man. These martial art factions consisted of millions of people. How could one man take on the ingenuity from generations upon generations? Eventually, the collective mental power of the masses won, and they found ways to exploit their newly discovered loopholes.
However, the High Duke's Public House could only adhere to these laws. There was nothing they could do even though they knew that the laws were not foolproof.
Xue Ling continued, "In the end, this Duan Lidao eliminated them out of nowhere!"
"A charitable deed perhaps?" Chu Li asked.
Xue Ling shook her head and replied, "Though admittedly a charitable deed, we still need to capture Duan Lidao."
Chu Li replied, "The eldest master had dispatched men for the task, am I right?"
Xue Ling nodded. "Yes, but it seems like there is no news from them yet. However, Duan Lidao is a senior master and his knife technique is unrivaled. One could argue that he is just as skilled as you, master!"
Chu Li narrowed his eyes and looked at her.
Xue Ling smiled embarrassingly. "Master, I was wrong, alright? I shouldn't have mentioned your name! But when will you reveal your true identity?"
Chu Li shook his head. "I will die before that happens."
Xue Ling sighed. "As a figure who is as awe-inspiring as the famed trees, if everyone knew that you're the White Shroud Shendao, then you would be able to handle matters much easier, master!"
Chu Li replied, "This identity has other purposes."
Xue Ling sighed. "Ah, I should have figured as much. I can't think too much - but this is too frustrating!"
Chu Li grinned. "What is there to feel frustrated about? My goals do not relate to the underworld. It doesn't matter how famous my name is!"
"...Very well, I will follow you as you see fit." Xue Ling sighed helplessly.
She decided to keep her lips sealed. Every time she heard of others discussing White Shroud Shendao, praising how skilled or mysterious he was, even branding him as the number one swordsman in the martial arts world, she would have this strong intention to declare aloud that the White Shroud Shendao was, in fact, her very own master. It took all she had to hold back from doing so.
The next day, Xue Ling came with more news - another faction had been eliminated, and it was again the work of Duan Lidao.
Xue Ling's was face scrunched up as she snorted. "Master, this time, Duan Lidao left a message at the Crescent Lunar Sect. He demanded a duel to the death with you, master. If you don't seek him out, then he will eliminate another faction!"
"He's looking for me?" Chu Li didn't stop swinging his blade as he continued slowly practicing the Seven Forms of Godly Sword.
As expected, this Duan Lidao didn't attack Leisure Cloud Pub and Xue Ling, as per King An's orders. Instead, Duan Lidao decided to aggravate the High Duke's Public House directly by challenging him and forcing him to reveal himself.
Xue Ling suddenly burst out, "There is no way Eldest Master will allow him to fight you, master. We should first let the others take care of him! He has no right to challenge you, master!"
Chu Li pondered for a while before replying, "Surely he has left more than just that?"
Xue Ling hesitated, but eventually, she helplessly replied, "There were also a few insults claiming that you relied on Third Lady's good grace to rise to the rank of second in command of the guardsmen, achieving nothing from your own efforts."
Chu Li's face became gloomy. He didn't care if this man had insulted him, after all, his skin was thicker than an elephant's. These kinds of accusations had never bothered him. However, to think that this man had insulted Xiao Shi as well!
"He also said that you're not fit to be the Chief of the High Duke's Public House; you're too young; your skills in the arts are just average. That the only reason why you could rise to the top ranks is only because you got the attention of the Third Lady. He also said that the House of Duke had become more rotten and that it shouldn't exist any longer. Thus, it should be dispersed!"
Chu Li's face darkened even more.
Xue Ling shook her head and continued, "All in all, his insults are preposterous and should be ignored."
Chu Li replied, "If I don't accept, I will forever be remembered for being unable to defeat him. Won't my name be tarnished?"
Xue Ling remained silent.
Chu Li spoke calmly, "All the more reason that I should take care of him myself! Furthermore, I should not flaunt the powers of the High Duke's Public House anymore. Otherwise, I will become the laughing stock of the kingdoms, correct?"
"Ah..." Xue Ling heaved a sigh and spat out bitterly, "This Yue fellow is too despicable!"
"Very well, I shall see to him myself!" Chu Li replied.
"Master, you're really going?" Xue Ling frowned, "What if"
"Are you afraid that I will not beat him?"
Xue Ling frowned as she replied, "He's almost ninety-years-old. He has trained much longer than you have, master. Moreover, he has been famous for so many years and yet, has never been defeated. He is indeed a terrifying opponent!"
"Then let me be the first."
"Let me go with you, master. I shall support you with my blade!"
"You?" Chu Li shook his head, "You'll just be a burden if you were to come along. I can still run away if I were to fail."
Xue Ling said with disdain, "He intends to kill you this time, master. He wants to force you into a corner, afraid that you might run away. He is truly despicable!"
She could see through Yue Jintao's scheme. Many martial artists wouldn't be able to figure this out, all they would see would be that Yue Jintao issued a challenge towards Chu Li, thinking it will be an even fight.
Chu Li shook his head. "This could be anyone's fight."
Xue Ling stared at him, then sighed to herself.
Though her master was a genius, the amount of time he spent on training was still rather short. He rose to Grandmaster not too long ago, so how could he fair against someone who had been a grandmaster for decades?
This Duan Lidao was ten times more famous than he was. Many wished to kill him, yet he still lived a good life, which was a testament to how impressive and terrifying he was.
Although her master was impressive, she still feared the worst.
"I feel that elder master will not agree to this." Xue Ling said.
Chu Li shook his head. "Go and gather more information."
"Master!" Xue Ling said firmly.
Chu Li ordered, "Go forth!"
This frustrated Xue Ling, but she didn't dare disobey. She could only turn around to head out and gather intel.
The sun hovered above his head, blazing intensely.
The Li riverside.
Chu Li stood atop a large boulder near the Li River. He gazed down towards the rushing water below the boulder and watched the unendingly gushing flow of the river.
Duan Lidao's call for a challenge had triggered his bloodlust, and his blood silently boiled beneath his skin.
He also wished to see for himself just how impressive his blade skills really were. Was he the top Grandmaster of the martial arts world, or the second?
Furthermore, after many days of refinement, the Seven Forms of Divine Blade had transcended to Seven Forms of Godly Blade.
"Chu Li?" A middle-aged man slowly approached him. The man was wearing a coolie hat, a woven grass cloak, and carried a fishing pole in his hand. He bore the appearance of a riverside fisherman.
"Yue Jintao?" Chu Li set his eyes on the long sword that hung by the man's waist.
Yue Jintao undid his cloak, removed his coolie hat and pressed his hands against the blade. "You're a bold one!"
His features were that of a champion, dashing and sharp. He stood upright, and even though his hands rested upon his blade, he looked as if he had never once trained in the martial arts. He looked more like a scholar than a fighter.
However, Chu Li knew better and his heart sunk a little when he saw this. This was someone who had imbued every ounce of spirit into his blade, hence such movements came naturally to him. His mastery was of immense depth, a true grandmaster above all men.
Chu Li asked, "You wish to kill me for King An?"
Yue Jintao raised his eyebrow. "King An? It seems you already know. Not bad. In any case, I am here to kill you!"
"So it doesn't matter whether or not I fight for the side of justice, you will end me regardless?" Chu Li asked.
Yue Jintao slowly withdrew his blade and spoke coldly, "You are someone from the High Duke's Public House. It doesn't matter whether or not you fight for the side of justice, I will kill you regardless!"
Chu Li pressed his hands against his Modesty Sword and replied, "Though your tales speak of you only killing criminals, the truth behind your name says otherwise!"
"The High Duke's Public House are criminals! Watch out!" Yue Jintao cried.