Three hours ago in the residential district of the Northern town.
A man dressed in dark blue clothes and a featureless mask was hiding over the roof of a house and looking at a courtyard. He had been in that position for many hours now, but was still not bothered. He had stayed there all this time, unmoving and nearly invisible.
Eventually, he saw an average-looking man approach the courtyard and then knock on its gates. A minute later, he saw the door of the house inside the courtyard open. A Shorthaired boy around the age of fifteen walked out and opened the gate.
Both of them talked for a couple of minutes before walking away. The man was leading while the boy followed behind him.
Seeing that his target was moving, the masked man finally got a chance to stretch his tensed body. While it was normal for him to hide like this for an extended period of time, as it was part of his job, it still tired him out every time. He was a cultivator sure, but he was only at the early stage of the Qi refining realm and was not like the tireless core condensation experts who could work tirelessly for weeks.
The masked man followed the pair until they reached the square that was located in the center of the residential district. He then saw them talk amongst themselves about the night vigil. They talked for about five minutes before they separated again and went in different directions.
The masked man followed the boy towards the northern direction, which was the same way they originally came from. He saw the boy look a little lost in his thoughts while patrolling the streets. The expression on the boy’s face actually reminded himself of his own situation many years ago.
He too was once lost in the world and didn’t know what to do. That was until he met his lord, who gave him the opportunity to become a cultivator. For this grace that his lord had bestowed upon him, he had chosen to serve him till his death.
He would jump into the inferno of hell if his lord so asked him to do. He was his lord’s blade, and such was his duty. He along with his fellow comrades all worked for the glory of his lord. They were all useless before; it was their fortune that they met their lord who had allowed them to become worthy.
Unknowingly more time passed, and an hour had gone by. The masked man had seen the boy mutter something to himself multiple times over the time period. He had found this a little strange, but had just attributed this to the boy’s eccentricities. He did not know why he had been ordered by his lord to watch this boy, but knew that all he had to do was to follow his orders.
The masked man had observed the boy for over a week and had found out that the boy was much stronger than he looked. To him, if he was not informed beforehand, he would only think that the boy was an average Body Tempering realm expert. But beneath that facade of naivety, it hid a full-fledged Qi cultivator.
The masked man could not figure out how the boy became a cultivator at such a young age. Even for him who had above average talent, it took him over a decade to be able to become a cultivator. It was a little shocking for him to see such a young cultivator in a small town like this.
While there were Young cultivators like this in Wu Lim city as well, they all belonged to influential families and clans. For an orphan boy with an insignificant background like his, it should have been nearly impossible, but here he was existing and defying the odds.
The masked man snapped out of his thoughts upon seeing that the boy was returning to the square. A few minutes later they reached the square, and he saw the boy talk with the three men standing there. One of the men was missing, and they seemed to be waiting for him.
After a while they started getting impatient, only to hear the boy speak out loud. The missing man had returned, but not without a pack of stray dogs chasing him. It was at this time that things started going haywire.
The masked man saw that the chasing dogs were not barking. This was probably the most abnormal thing, as dogs always barked while chasing their prey. Yes prey, he had seen the look in the stray dog’s eyes. They were fueled with blood lust and wanted to kill.
The masked man suddenly realized the reason for the silent but murderous dogs. They had been poisoned with Beast Inciting powder. The Beast Inciting powder was used to provoke beasts and create a rampage. It was outlawed in the Shuang Qian kingdom, and its possession was punishable by death.
The masked man could only think of a few people or organizations that could have access to it. The Beast Inciting powder was not only expensive but also difficult to create. To use them on normal animals such as these stray dogs was only a waste.
Then in the next moment, he saw something which he could not explain. The stray dogs halted before the five people and growled for a bit before yelping out as if they were scared by the most dangerous of predators.
He had never seen this before, as no beast affected by the beast inciting powder would ever flinch. They would mindlessly chase down their prey and tear them to shreds. The occurrence in front of him was simply unscientific.
Though this was not the end of the bizarre situation. The men soon talked amongst themselves and figured out the strangeness of the current scenario. Then the masked man heard something which made him realize that in all this mess, he had failed to recognize a huge thing.
While the stray dogs were barking and the man being chased was crying out for help, no one heard it. This was even more unusual than normal as all the residents of the town were rather anxious due to the recent string of disappearances and the spirit beast attacks.
They should have woken up rather easily, but even in all this hullabaloo, no one responded. The masked man then saw the men trying to alert the residents but to no avail. He even saw his ‘target’ the boy pull out a door from its hinges without any hesitation revealing a part of his strength.
Thirty more minutes passed by as the masked man saw the party of five people getting more and more anxious. They were searching for any resident that could be awakened. Even the masked man himself was worried because of this development.
The masked man knew that he would have to inform his lord about this phenomenon. It was not easy to incapacitate so many people without leaving a witness, thus he knew that someone big was behind this act. His lord had many plans and liked to know everything that happened around, hence this was definitely something that he needed to inform his lord about.
The masked man could not see what happened inside the house but could guess, and after hearing the conversation of the men he confirmed it. The people inside were alive but unconscious. Not just that house, but every house that the party of five men visited.
The masked man knew about some substances and techniques that could be used to put someone in a deep sleep like this, but not on an extensive scale such as this. Doing it at such a large scale would require a large retinue of people, and to do it covertly would require even more immense influence and power.
The masked man had thought that every person in the district was affected except for the five men, but he was soon proved wrong when they found another person. This person was an old man with a wrinkled face.
The masked man was a little surprised by this, but soon discovered the reason. That old man was a warrior. While it may not be apparent to most people, he had grown up seeing warriors fight and had even joined an organization that vetted out people through combat. He was able to sense the faint aura of a warrior on the old man.
As the man was very old, the aura had faded away yet even now he had the disposition of a warrior; his gait was still there when he walked without any support. The masked man guessed that the old man was at the tenth stage of the body tempering realm at the very least. He judged that the old man must have fought in the war that happened a long time ago and was now disabled and weak.
Because there was no other reason why there would not be a record of a tenth stage body tempering expert, as they were rather rare. Even the masked man himself was only at the eight stage of the body tempering realm. He knew how difficult it was to progress after that.
But now that he knew that whatever that was affecting the residents did not affect people of that level, he could narrow down the suspects. He still didn’t know why the five people of the night vigil were not affected though.
After informing the old man, the party decided to go and inform the guards, but even that seemed to be unsuccessful as all the guards were absent. The masked man narrowed his brows and started to get a little nervous himself.
He then saw his target separating himself from the party and going in the other direction. The masked man shifted in the shadows and continued stalking his target, completely unknown to the fact that he was soon about to be caught.