The clang of swords stopped, and the bamboo forest went silent at once. All the disciples turned their gaze at Shu Yue, who was still staring at the crack in the middle of the bamboo. She tilted her head, examining her handiwork, then turned to Lu Baiyu.
The old man's face was creased in concentration as he stared at the cracked bamboo cane. Based on the look on his face, Shu Yue didn't do great. But she already expected it because she failed on purpose. She didn't want to waste too much energy, so she didn't give her best executing the technique.
"Your posture and movement are correct," Lu Baiyu commented as he stroked his chin. "But your attack did not do much damage to the target. Try to put more force into your weapon."
"Okay, master," Shu Yue said meekly.
"Ye Fan!" Lu Baiyu called, and a young man stepped forward.
Ye Fan was of average height and build, with broad shoulders, and dressed in a dark blue robe with a purple belt. His long, black hair and wide sleeves swayed in the breeze as he walked.
Shu Yue remembered him, of course. He was one of the disciples on whom she had bet three weeks ago in the sparring competition. He was the one who was able to win the spar without resorting to excessive violence.
Ye Fan bowed his head in front of Lu Baiyu. "Master."
"Go ahead and show her," Lu Baiyu said.
Ye Fan nodded in understanding, then walked towards the tall bamboo trees. Clutching his sword, he whirled around and swung his sword at the bamboo in front of him, as though the it was a beast's claw rather than a blade. A gust of wind blew over, sending the bamboo stems swaying and the leaves rustling.
He raised his sword in the air. The sun glinted off the blade, and the lower hem of his robe and his sleeves fluttered dramatically in the wind, giving the impression that this was a heroic scene in which the hero had just defeated the final villain.
With a cracking sound, the bamboo split apart and fell to the ground with a loud thump. Leaves and dust rose up in the air from the impact.
Ye Fan turned to face them and bowed. The disciples began clapping as if they were the hero's proud subordinates. Lu Baiyu was nodding, a look of pride and satisfaction on his face.
He was good, Shu Yue would give him that. Recalling the scene of him fighting in the sparring ground, Ye Fan seemed to have greatly improved. Of course he did; he was now learning the Claw of the Eternal Beast, an ancient and powerful sword technique.
Shu Yue wondered if the disciples here had already seen the complete copy of the Claw of the Eternal Beast.
Does Elder Lu really have a copy of the complete version?
As Shu Yue pondered, Ye Fan walked over to her and stuck out his hand.
"Pleased to meet you, Chen Hui," he said, a kind smile on his face. "I'm Ye Fan."
Shu Yue politely returned his smile and shook his hand. "That was amazing, Ye Fan."
"Thanks," Ye Fan said and gave her a small, sheepish smile. "I've wanted to spar with you ever since I saw you at the sparring ground, but since I'm now learning this powerful sword art, I'm willing to wait a few days and let you train in the Claw of the Eternal Beast before we spar, just to be fair."
Ye Fan was still talking, but Shu Yue was no longer listening. She was staring at his sword, her eyes wide with shock and terror. She squeezed her hands into tight fists, hidden in her sleeves, and fought against a surge of anger. But it was getting harder and harder to maintain her composure the longer she looked at the marking on the blade of his sword.
It was a curved M with the final slash pointing upward with an arrow tip.
It was the symbol of the Scorpio.
"Chen Hui?" Ye Fan said with a frown, noticing her distracted attention.
Shu Yue didn't even bother hiding her surprise as she pointed a finger at the sword clutched in his hand.
"Why does your sword bear the Scorpion's mark?"
Ye Fan froze, his eyes widening, then took a step back. He then cleared his throat, regaining his composure.
"Master!" He called, turning to look at Lu Baiyu. "I think it's time to tell her."
"Tell me what?" Shu Yue asked in a slightly impatient voice.
Calm down, she reminded herself.
Lu Baiyu frowned at first, but when Ye Fan pointed to his sword, most likely to indicate that they had been discovered, the old man let out a sigh.
"All right. Come here, Chen Hui," Lu Baiyu said.
Fucking traitors. They fucking betrayed the Ophiuchus Clan!
Her nails dug into her palms.
Calm down. Calm down. Calm down.
Shu Yue dragged herself to Lu Baiyu. She tilted her head, waiting for her master's explanation.
Lu Baiyu sighed again. Then he smiled at her. No, he was grinning. "Chen Hui, since you have begun training in the Claw of the Eternal Beast, you are now submitting to the Scorpio Clan. But if you refuse to become part of them, I'm afraid we'll have to do it by force."