Han Lingyun had yet to kill a human. Perhaps surprisingly even for himself, Han Lingyun didn't feel frightened by the prospect. He had already understood and even witnessed the brutality of the cultivation world, where children could lead to fight to the death.
Moreover, Han Lingyun had already seen the ugliness and filth of death when he had killed a wolf beast. He felt even less compassion for the target he needs to assassinate. His previous life's societal mental barrier against killing humans were gone. In the cultivation world, not only was killing others not seen as a horrible crime, but in a sense, it was even expected.
Indiscriminate killing was still frowned upon though. A cultivator doesn't kill for the pleasure of the act, he kills for the resources, he kills to pursue his objectives. In the cultivation world, nothing is free, not even murder.
Killing someone, even apparently insignificant, always has a cost. It creates grudges, sows bad karma and is always accompanied by a faint risk. Could this person have unexpected trump card, a powerful unknown backer? Therefore, an orthodox cultivator would be reasonable but calculative. Will killing this person benefit me?
On the other hand, there would also be some degenerate cultivators for which the power they obtained became enough justification to kill. This was another reason why the Black Skull Sect was everyone else's enemy. Those demonic cultivators enjoyed killing, and gained pleasure and power from these acts. If they were powerful enough, they would kill off the entire continent.
Han Lingyun had a reason to kill: to get the 2nd part of the blackbird art. In theory, the target's horrible side with the 'human trafficking' should be of secondary concern. Han Lingyun asked himself, would he still kill if the target was an innocent passerby?
The answer he came up with was 'Probably Yes.' The blackbird art had a direct link with his ability to survive. He was still glad that the target he had to kill was someone that deserved his death though, even if he had a family or whatever. Han Lingyun had chosen to keep his emotions after all. But if killing a stranger could help his odds of survival and make him progress on the road of cultivation, deep in his heart, Han Lingyun knew that he would kill without much remorse. He wasn't a kind hearted individual and he placed his life above all else.
Han Lingyun knew nothing about the town he had reached. After having travelled for a couple of hours, he was hiding in some trees to observe the type of people entering and leaving the town through the gate. They were mostly farmers and merchants.
To mix with the crowd, Han Lingyun stole a peasant's clothes from one of the nearby farms. Sadly, he didn't have any mortal money to repay the fellow so he discreetly did some farm work instead. The peasant had a good surprise when he saw the result. With his ability, it was quick work to spade a small field.
Han Lingyun then buried his white disciple robes under a recognizable tree, stole a hen from a farm that had too many and entered the city under the watchful eyes of the city guards.
He sold the hen at the market for a 5 copper but this sum of money wasn't enough to achieve much.
Han Lingyun wanted to examine Lai Chen's mansion first without being noticed. He followed his badge and arrived at the richer part of a town, where he acted like a young peasant boy being amazed by his first impression of a rich city.
He soon arrived in front of the most luxurious lot around. Brightly colored walls with guards every 5 meters couldn't hide the tall pagodas.
Han Lingyun innocently approached a guard. And asked with the thick peasant accent he had overheard. "Escus' me, is ze king livin' ere?"
"Don't dirty the roads here, move out!" the guard yelled back at the young boy.
Han Lingyun acted scared and hurriedly crossed the street, but still gawked at the house. Shortly after, the gate opened and a carriage surrounded by rows of armed soldiers zoomed out without stopping at the entrance for one moment. Han Lingyun confirmed through the open gate that the carriage came from the tallest pagoda of the estate. At the same time, he sensed that the direction his badge was pointing towards was following the movement of the carriage.
It worked like an exact tracker to the target. What a devious device! Han Lingyun wondered if it needed some blood or hair from the target, if it worked on cultivators and more. The implications made him shiver. The White Tiger Sect truly had some terrifying means.
Ever since he arrived near the estate, Han Lingyun noticed that several guards always kept a close look on his every movement. They took everyone as a threat, even a 10-year-old peasant. Well, this time, there caution wasn't unwarranted as under the gentle smile of a poor young boy, hid a powerful menace that could dodge their arrows and rip their bodies with his bare hands.
Han Lingyun walked back to the poorer parts of the city after giving another sideway glance at the mansion. The difficulty of the mission wasn't to kill the target, but to do so without being noticed by a soul. Han Lingyun made the decision: he would strike at night if the moons weren't too bright!
As Han Lingyun wandered around and entered a forgotten alley, a short guy and his two friends surrounded him.
The short guy chuckled. "Are you lost little friend? Don't you know people alone tend to disappear fast around these parts?"
Han Lingyun raised an eyebrow and silently chuckled. To think that some thugs would try to rob him.
With a heartwarming smile, he clapped. "Great, your clothes would suit me better."
"What?" A shiver went through the short guy's spine for some reason.
Han Lingyun left the alleyway with a new straw hat from one of the big guys, a decent attire and a wide smile. It was lucky that this short lad was his size. Han Lingyun had also obtained some money.
He used it to book for a week a room at the top floor of a decently maintained hotel in a quieter region of the town and waited for the night.
Han Lingyun concerns for the moons proved useless as the skies were covered by clouds on that night and it even started to rain without end. This was common occurrence during winter season in the region.
The atmosphere was rather gloomy and there was no soul to wander around under the freezing rain.
In the middle of the night, when the large clock in his room pointed at 3, Han Lingyun jumped to his balcony and took off with his flying sword. At more than a hundred meters of altitude, he made his way to the mansion. At this height, even with his superhuman body, he didn't want to test falling.
Han Lingyun arrived above the tallest pagoda with no one the wiser and came back down. He landed on the roof and activated his blackbird art. With the agility of a cat, or rather a small bird, he grabbed the edge of the highest floor and tried to scan the rooms from outside. The rain was still falling heavily and made a fair amount of noise by battering the roof. Han Lingyun discerned two guards that were stationed in a well-lit corridor that linked the stairs to some rooms and his badge was pointing to one the dark room inside.
The only access to that room was that corridor with the two guards. One possibility was to try and make them leave their post with a distraction but there was an important risk that they would sound an alarm if they had any doubt at unhabitual happenings.
The only other option was to enter the room by the window overlooking the 20m or so drop.
The window couldn't be opened by the outside so how could he enter?
Han Lingyun came up with a plan: with steady steps and his perfect balance, he first followed the ledge to the window and placed his hand on it.
He concentrated as deeply as he could and tried to guide qi to traverse the window. His palm was on the other side of the handle.
Han Lingyun was trying to turn the handle from the exterior by using qi.
It was a very delicate task as he had to avoid breaking the window or the peculiar sound might be picked up by some guards, even with the rain.
Beads of sweat mixed with the rain as Han Lingyun slowly persevered. 'Come on, gently through the window then take form around the handle and turn.' He didn't dare to use too much qi with the fear of messing up so the process seemed to last forever!
Finally, after 5 minutes of tense efforts, the handle had turned completely and Han Lingyun could open the window.
He quickly entered and loomed over the sleeping man that was his target. Han Lingyun could examine his face closely. He was actually a fairly handsome, 40ish year-old guy, in a richly embroidered night gown.
After a quick curious glance, Han Lingyun didn't hesitate further. He picked a pillow and forced it down Lai Chen's face. At the same time in the blink of an eye but with a careful strength application, he had put the man in a fetal position with his inhuman strength and held him in place. His other hand gripped his arms so he couldn't hit the bed and make a sound.
Soon Lai Chen's arms and legs went limp. After a short time, Han Lingyun made sure that his heart had stopped too. He could have just stabbed the guy in the heart but Han Lingyun wanted to disguise the assassination as a suicide.
The deed done, Han Lingyun picked up the corpse, exited from the window and climbed back up to the roof. He pulled out his sword and carefully gained altitude, still with Lai Chen's corpse in his hands.
Then, he let go the corpse from above the window and flew off while the corpse was falling down. That way, it would appear as though Lai Chen had decided to jump out of his window, perhaps burdened by his sins.
Han Lingyun was already too far away to hear the crash as Lai Chen splattered on the cold and heavy wet floor.
Han Lingyun was only hearing the sound of the cold rain that battered his face. What would follow at the manor didn't concern him.
He was soon back to his hotel room and dried himself up. Cultivators wouldn't feel burdened by such cold but this night, Han Lingyun felt glad the bed had heavy blankets to warm himself up. He snuggled inside and fell asleep soon after, this night had exhausted him.
The next day, the rain had stopped but grey clouds still loomed over the city. Han Lingyun had nearly slept all day and took off under the cover of the night once again. This time, he left the city from above, once and for all.
Han Lingyun found his robes back and headed to the sect.
In fact, the moment Han Lingyun had left Lai Chen's compound without anyone noticing him, his badge already indicated that the mission was accomplished.
The return flight felt endless for the eager Han Lingyun. After half a day, Han Lingyun finally faced the entrance of the sect's library again. He headed directly to the first floor and the elder from the other day at the counter.
"Good job, here is your martial art." the elder handed out with a nonchalant attitude.
Han Lingyun didn't care about the lack of interest portrayed by the elder; he gladly took the precious manual, bowed as custom and hurried out of the library.
At last, he could study a qi condensation martial art!
This better be worth all the requirements because it wasn't Han Lingyun style to play the silent superhero for nothing!
The next steps: learn the basics and fly back to his home to surprise his parents.