Chapter 7: A Bolt from the Blue
The steward's words hit like a bolt from the blue. It wasn't just Yang Qi who was completely taken by surprise, Yang Zhan as well as numerous other experts were so shocked they went pale in the face.
"Where are they now?" Yang Zhan asked, his voice trembling as he rose to his feet.
"The first young master and second young master sent a message asking for help. I led several experts to their location and saved them. However, their assailants vanished without a trace. I brought both young masters back, but…." At this point, the steward trailed off.
"But what?" said a paled Yang Zhan.
Clearly struggling to find the right words, the steward went on to explain further. "Well… both of them suffered serious internal injuries. Their meridians were damaged, and they were poisoned. Even if they recover, their energy arts will have suffered a serious setback."
"What…?!" Yang Zhan blurted, staggering backward, seemingly aging by ten years as he did.
As for Yang Qi, his hands clenched tightly into fists, and his killing intent was already rising. "Steward," he said calmly, stepping forward. "Bring eldest brother and second brother here. Father's energy arts are profound; perhaps he'll be able to drive out the poison and treat their injuries."
"Yes, Third Young Master." The steward waved his hand, and immediately, a commotion could be heard outside as several special guards brought in two stretchers. There, spattered with blood, were two young men, one about twenty-five years old, the other about twenty. Their faces were ashen, and they both pulsed with a toxic aura. Palm prints could be seen on various locations on their body where they had been struck by some master of energy arts. Clearly, they both had broken bones and severely damaged meridians.
Even if they recovered, their energy arts would suffer a serious blow.
Rushing forward, Yang Qi said, "Eldest Brother! Second Brother!"
Unfortunately, the injured young men were both unconscious, and didn't respond in any way.
Yang Qi had matured a lot lately, so although he was angered by what he was seeing, he still kept his cool. "Who did this to them? Who hurt my eldest brother and second brother?"
However, it was in that moment that Yang Zhan finally took action. Waving his hand, he summoned a white stream of true energy that split into two, then formed two humanoid shapes that looked exactly like him!
The two figures moved like lightning, fusing into the bodies of Yang Qi's eldest and second brothers. Moments later, popping and cracking sounds could be heard as toxic energy was expelled from within them, and their meridians were repaired.
"Humanoid True Energy!" someone exclaimed. The other experts of the Yang Clan were clearly shocked at what Yang Zhan was doing. "I can't believe he can use Humanoid True Energy. He can take his energy and project it into a human-like shape! Only people in the Master of Energy level can do that."
"The ninth phase of energy arts! The Master of Energy level! That's when your true energy can take a physical shape with a bit of intelligence. I can't believe Yang Zhan has reached this level! Although his Humanoid True Energy manifestations don't have true intelligence, they're still extraordinary. Yang Zhan is definitely on the cusp of reaching the Master of Energy level."
"He's so strong…."
Yang Qi looked on thoughtfully. "So, father can actually shape his true energy into humanoid form." Yang Qi was deeply shaken.
Unfortunately, as the two manifestations of Humanoid True Energy entered his eldest and second brothers, and managed to restore their meridians and force out the toxins, it did little good, as the poison regenerated almost immediately.
It was clearly the type of poison that could not simply be driven away.
"Shadowblight!" Yang Xu said, shivering as if from cold.
"Shadowblight…." others whispered.
This was a consummate poison from a unique organization, and although it wouldn't necessarily kill whoever was afflicted by it, it would follow them like a shadow for the rest of their life, impossible to dispel, and a source of never-ending pain.
"So, it's shadowblight," someone else murmured, "which means that it's impossible to dispel. Supposedly, it's a consummate poison from the House of Shadowblight in the west. Not even someone in the Master of Energy level would be able to do anything about it. According to the rumors I've heard, only an expert in the Lifeseizing level could deal with it."
One of the young ones in the room suddenly said, "It seems these two are also cripples now, just like Yang Qi. They'll never progress in energy art cultivation ever again. Yang Zhan just said that his other two sons aren't crippled. Then, in the blink of an eye, that's exactly what they became. Heh! Three useless cripples!"
Although he didn't say the words very loudly, they were still incredibly biting.
When it rains, it pours. Everyone could tell that Yang Zhan was finished. After the council of chief elders learned of what had happened, how could they possibly allow him to continue to serve as the clan lord? With all of his heirs being crippled, how could he be entrusted with managing the affairs of the clan?
To be the clan lord, a man had to be powerful on a personal level, with incredible energy arts and cultivation base, but also had to have strong children. Because of that, when a new genius arose in the younger generation of a clan, his father would often also experience a rise in status.
Before, Yang Zhan had three sons who were all considered young elites in the clan. His oldest son reached the Energy Eruption level when he was only twenty-two. His second son was currently twenty, and was on the verge of stepping into the fourth phase, the Energy Refinement level. And his third son was even more of a talent, reaching the Energy Eruption level when he was only eighteen, although that was not yet public knowledge.
But now, his third son Yang Qi had committed a grave crime, had his martial arts crippled, and had led the clan into a catastrophe. Worse, his first and second sons had been struck with shadowblight, ensuring that they would live a life of torment. All of his sons were now crippled.
Of course, to see Yang Zhan experience such misfortune would make some people very happy. After all, when a clan lord fell, it would open the door of opportunity for many others.
Yang Qi's ears were so sensitive that he could hear the footsteps of ants, so despite the fact that the young man who had spoken had kept his voice down, Yang Qi had obviously heard him.
"Who?" he said loudly. "Who just said the word cripple? Step forward immediately!"
The speaker was none other than the young man standing behind Yang Shi, who was his son Yang Feng. 
He was twenty-six years old, with energy arts in the Energy Eruption level. He had reached that level when he was twenty-four, so after two years of cultivation, his foundation was very strong.
In the past, he had been somewhat leery of Yang Qi, whom had been close to reaching the same level as him before he was even twenty.
But now, his response to Yang Qi's rebuke was nothing but a cold laugh. Looking over with scorn and arrogance, he said, "What. You heard me! Are you trying to tell me you three aren't cripples? Your two brothers are poisoned, and will live lives of endless pain. And your sea of energy is destroyed. Crippled? You're worse than a cripple. You're a useless humiliation to our clan!"
"Oh really?" Yang Qi replied coolly. "You think I'm useless, Yang Feng? Alright. Let's have a little competition, right here. Let's see which one of us is really useless."
Beckoning for him to back off, Yang Zhan said, "Qi'er, now's not the time to try and show off. Stand down."
"Brother Yang Zhan," Yang Shi said, rising to his feet. "There's no need for you, the clan lord, to interfere in the squabbles of the younger generation. Despite the crimes your son has committed, he still wants to run his mouth? What the hell makes him think he has the right to do that?"
"Father, I know what I'm doing," Yang Qi said, his eyes flashing.
When Yang Zhan looked at his eyes, his own expression flickered with surprise, as though he had sensed something.
"What kind of a competition did you have in mind?" Yang Feng said. "Your martial arts are gone, so I could kill you with a single flick of my finger. Although, even if you hadn't lost your martial arts, you still wouldn't be a match for me." He suddenly clapped his hands together. "Well, if you really have a death wish, then I'll accommodate. Considering there are so many witnesses present, no one could accuse me of taking the initiative to try to fight you."
"That's right, Yang Feng," said another of the young talents. "Just hit him and see what happens. Yang Qi's probably hallucinating and thinks he hasn't lost his energy arts."
"Beat some sense into him!" someone else said. "Help him see the truth."
"Yang Qi was pretty amazing in the past," added another young one. "After all, he did reach the Energy Refinement level when he was only eighteen. But now he's a cripple, and still dares to brag. If you don't teach his stubborn ass a lesson now, then he'll probably end up getting killed by someone else…."
All of the young clan members in the hall began to laugh loudly.
"It shouldn't take long to see which of us is courting death, right?" Yang Qi said, clasping his hands behind his back casually, making him look very unlike a person suffering from crippled martial arts. "Those of you who laughed the loudest, why don't you come at me together? Aren't we supposed to have a big competition amongst us anyway? Why not do it now? Then we'll see which of you dares to laugh."
"What shameless boasting!" Yang Feng said through narrowed eyes. Suddenly, he thrummed with frigid energy; splaying his fingers, he summoned a web of it that immediately filled the air over Yang Qi's head.
"Frigid Net of Heaven!"
This was an energy art of the Yang Clan, one of many that were related to frigid ice. After trapping the opponent in the icy net, frigid energy would assault their meridians, and quickly freeze them.
Even as that net of energy spread out, Yang Qi made his move.
His muscles flexed, and then erupted with power like that of an ancient beast. A fiendish aura roiled out, causing everyone present to suddenly feel as if they were looking at some sort of devil escaped from a primeval hell.
Yang Qi moved so quickly that he seemed to vanish, and in the blink of an eye, was right in front of Yang Feng, toward whom he unleashed a fist strike.
When his foot touched down, it was like the stomp of an enormous mammoth, crushing the ground and causing the entire hall around them to shake. Even the pillars supporting the roof creaked, and dust began to drift down from the rafters above.
Yang Qi's fist strike was almost like a bomb exploding, powerful to the extreme.
Yang Feng's face fell, and he tried to call upon his frigid ice energy art to defend himself, throwing his arms out and shouting, "Flowing River of Iron Fetters!"
However, even as the words left his mouth, the fist slammed into him, sending him flying through the air, a streak that flew out of the hall, his arms broken and blood spraying out of his mouth.
When he slammed into the stone slabs outside, he tumbled head over heels, suffering more injuries. When he finally came to a stop, he looked up at Yang Qi for a moment, then collapsed into unconsciousness, unable to even say, 'You….'
Yang Qi had only used a single fist strike. But he was in the fifth phase, the Energy Eruption level, and thus, that single fist strike had hit Yang Feng with nearly deadly force. Even if Yang Feng had been fighting someone in the sixth phase, he would not have been so badly hurt, and would likely have been able to sustain three blows.
"What?!" Yang Shi blurted, gripping the arms of his chair so tightly that it shattered. Casting a glare at Yang Qi, he rushed over and picked Yang Feng up, pouring some true energy into him to begin the healing process.
Everyone stood there, blank looks on their faces. How could they ever have guessed that someone with crippled martial arts and a destroyed sea of energy could possibly be so strong?