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It was about 10 minutes later that Tom finished the rest of his drink and got up to leave. Since he didn't order a new one, unlike everyone else in his group, he had finished drinking much sooner than them and was leaving first.

Tom wasn't particularly bothered about waiting around for them to finish up before leaving. He didn't know how long they'd be and it wasn't like they all lived at the Cardinal estate anyway, so, he saw no point in waiting for them. He said his goodbyes and proceeded to walk out of Benny's, onto the cold and wet streets of the city.

When he did so, the bearded man also put down his drink and got up to leave. He couldn't believe his luck. He'd told his friend that he would stay behind on the off chance that Tom would leave without the rest of his group and now it was actually happening.

He only said what he had because he knew someone would have to go and inform the boss and he didn't want to be the one to do it. The boss had a bit of a temper about him and would sometimes act out. The bearded man didn't know what he might do when learned of this information and for good measure decided to push this responsibility onto his friend. But more than that, he just wanted to continue drinking. Only one of them had to go and pass the information on, so he might as well be able to stay here and enjoy his drink. What he hadn't expected was that Tom really would get up and leave without the rest of his group.

The bearded man was excited to see Tom leave by himself. Now, he was actually presented with a golden opportunity to win some major merits.

He wasn't a particularly strong member of the bandit group, quite weak actually, but, right now he had the perfect chance to ingratiate himself with his superiors. If he got rid of this problem here and now, he reckoned he would be rewarded generously.

Thinking this, he exited the pub after Tom and started following him at a distance, just waiting for the best opportunity to strike.

Meanwhile, Tom was proceeding along his way, walking through the dark streets of the city. It was very late now and the only light was coming from the still lit lamps on select streets and in certain buildings.

When Tom had first travelled to Benny's he had only had a vague idea of where it was and had to travel along the major streets running through the city to find it, but, going from Benny's back to the Cardinal estate was a much easier affair. Using the well-lit governor's building, standing tall on its small hill, Tom was easily able to orient himself and determine the quickest path back to Cardinal estate.

Actually, Tom could easily remember the route he took to get to Benny's and given that that was also the most well-lit path, many people would choose to take it. But, Benny's was practically on the other side of the city from the Cardinal estate and the closest major street would take him the long way round. Tom had no intention of taking such a detour when he could easily make his way through the lesser travelled backstreets and alleys. However, it was this way of thinking that exposed him to unknown dangers.

The bearded man, who saw Tom start walking through the backstreets, couldn't believe what he was seeing.

Benny's wasn't attached to a main street. To get on one of the major and well-lit streets from where they were, it would require a couple of minutes of walking. The bearded man had figured that he had just a short window of opportunity to strike before then, but, to his surprise, Tom wasn't walking towards the well-lit main street, he was actually walking into the dark backstreets.

[Sweet mother in Heaven, oh how you smile upon me] the bearded man thought to himself, with a gleeful smile on his face.

[It's almost like I'm destined to be the one to kill him. Yes, that's exactly it. The heavens smile upon me. This is meant to be. It's finally my turn to shine]

Unbeknownst to the danger behind him, Tom passed from one back alley to another, getting further and further away from the light of the local night establishments.

Eventually, after Tom entered a particular alley, the bearded man could wait no more. There were no people around, nor were there any lit lamps in the surrounding buildings. Even if there were, the walls of the alley would have obscured them.

The man took a knife strapped to his belt out and increased his pace, getting ready to break out into a run.

The man had a clear memory of what had happened on that night 3 months ago. As far as he was concerned, Tom wasn't a cultivator. There was no way he, who was at the 4th level of body strengthening, would fail to kill him. The only reason he had waited this long was so that he would be out of the sight of other people. On the off chance that someone stumbled upon him when he was doing the deed it would be game over for him. After all, this city was still controlled by the Cardinal's, so he had to be at least somewhat careful.

Seeing his chance, the bearded man broke into a run. One quick strike and it would all be over.

Tom, walking along, heard the sound of rapid footsteps behind him as the bearded man's heavy footfalls echoed in the back alley. Curious, Tom turned to look behind him and saw the bearded man running at him, knife in hand.

Tom was shocked at this development. He could clearly tell that the bearded man was running at him and was not going to pass by, but didn't know why anymore would suddenly try to attack him with a knife. Nevertheless, the bearded man had gotten quite close and there was not a lot of time to process this information. Seeing the danger approaching him, Tom immediately went into fighting mode. He started sensing qi in order to determine the enemy's strength and when he saw that the opponent, like him, was at the 4th level of body strengthening, he chose fight over flight.

The bearded man, upon seeing Tom take a defensive posture, laughed in his head. Even now, he was a little concerned that Tom would shout for help and he would be discovered, but, lo and behold, he was just standing there, not even trying to run.

[He must know its futile] thought the bearded man.

Thinking that, the bearded man was finally within striking distance. He thrust out his arm, the knife aiming for Tom's throat. A look of joy was on his face. He was already contemplating his success, thinking about how smart and lucky he was. Unfortunately, the turn of events he had pictured in his head did not come to fruition.

When the man thrust out with the knife, Tom finally made his move. He had been practicing hand to hand combat with both Avery and Pike and was no longer a complete novice at it. He back stepped and batted the bearded man's arm away.

At this moment, the bearded man was full of shock. He didn't know what had happened. His fool proof plan had just gone completely awry. The person in front of him wasn't even meant to be a cultivator, but he had just knocked his arm aside.

His first thought was 'my god, I've got the wrong person'. He believed that he had made a mistake and that Tom wasn't actually the person from 3 months ago, that he'd just attacked a random, unrelated person. But, looking at Tom up close, he was forced to throw this conclusion away. This was, undoubtedly, the man that had been killed on that night 3 months ago.

After the initial shock of it, having his arm knocked away had a sobering effect on the bearded man's mind. He couldn't understand how the person in front of him had blocked his strike, but, he undeniably did. Therefore, using the momentum of his run, he changed his knife lunge into a shoulder bash, knocking over both Tom and himself.

When the two of them fell, the bearded man lost his grip on the knife and it flew out of his hand. Nevertheless, since he had fallen on top of Tom, he had the advantage.

Tom was cursing in his mind. He had chosen to stay and fight this man but he had made grave miscalculation. He believed with his training over the past 3 months and his reaction time he would easily be able to deal with this attacker. However, this fight wasn't like those he'd experienced in training. There was no trading of blows per se. The bearded man knocking them both to the ground was outside of Tom's expectations.

Now, with his position on top, the bearded man raised his fist and struck down at Tom. Tom, seeing the incoming fist had no choice but raise both his arms to protect his face.

Blow after blow was landing on Tom's arms. Through the pain resounding in his arms, Tom had started feel a sense of danger. He understood that he was actually in danger. But, rather than fear, what he felt was an upwelling of pure unbridled anger. He'd came down to this planet as a way to accomplish his goals and just when he'd started to enjoy it and have some insights, some stranger had attacked him out of the blue and was about to ruin it all. He couldn't let that happen. He wouldn't.

Between the bearded man's strikes, Tom raised his left hand and grabbed the man's face, digging his fingers and nails in and pushing his head back. The bearded man had no choice but to stop his attack as he shouted in pain. He then proceeded to try and rip Tom's hand and vice like grip off of him.

Tom, taking this opportunity, reached his right hand out along the stone floor, searching for the knife that the bearded man had dropped. Meanwhile, the bearded man managed remove Tom's hand from his face, which now had five lines of blood where the nails had pierced the skin.

While Tom was still reaching his hand out and his face was unprotected, the bearded man launched another punch at him. The heavy blow hit him on the side of the face.

Although it hurt a lot, Tom was actually quite lucky. Not only had nothing been broken but the blow knocking his head to the side had also given him more leeway to extend his arm out further.

Unfortunately for Tom, he still wasn't able to reach the knife, but, he was able to clasp his hand around a large rock. 'Good enough' Tom thought to himself. He quickly raised his left arm to block the next incoming blow from the bearded man and grabbed the hair on the side of his head, using it as leverage to pull him off from on top of him.

After forcing the bearded man down to the side, Tom swung his right arm, rock in hand, aiming at the bearded man's face. Tom had managed to reposition himself so he was now on top but the bearded man was not yet in a position to block the incoming blow.

Tom's anger finally had a release as the blow with the full force of his strength landed on the bearded man's face and made a satisfying crunch. But, there was no way that Tom's anger could possibly be abated with just that. He swung again and again and again, until the he could no longer hear the moans of the man, nor could he feel him struggling underneath him and then continued to swing some more.

Eventually, when the rage in his heart had calmed down, he finally stopped. His arm felt exhausted and he was heaving heavily. Looking down, he saw his hand and the rock covered in blood and the bearded man's now unrecognisable face. The question of whether or not the man was still alive didn't have to be asked. He was dead. Tom had killed his first person since coming to this world.

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jmj1011995

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