A crowd gathered before Xuanwu Tower as various powerful individuals arrived. Huang Xi from the Sovereign Family had come as well.
Sitting down, Huang Xi looked towards a figure standing a short distance away. Clad in black robes, the figure was entirely shrouded in darkness. That was the Dark Sage, an incredibly prominent figure within the Barren State. The Dark Sage had many enemies, it was completely unexpected that he would appear as well.
"Everyone," Kong Yao spoke from a pavilion high up on Xuanwu Tower. The space instantly quietened down, and everyone looked towards him before he continued, "You all know that I come from Zhisheng Cliffs. It is a great fortune that I am able to meet so many of my peers here in the Barren State that I have heard much about. I have invited everyone here for two reasons, the first being the Divine Path. It has been ten years since the time Xia Emperor started the orthodoxy battle. Back then, many of you participated in the battle, and you have witnessed how cruel it was. Yet how many people actually managed to enter the Saint Plane?"
At Kong Yao's words, many people began to remember that battle ten years ago. Indeed, it had been a ruthless fight. Those at the top of the Barren Sky Ranking were all already at the peak of the Sage Plane. But even so, the path to attaining the Saint Plane was built upon the bones of many. Many amongst these people had even been afraid to participate in this most vicious of battles. There had been many before them who had lost their lives there. This had been the case for generation after generation, where countless battled to their deaths without regret. Even the Palace Lord of the Holy Zhi Palace had not left the Palace after so many years, and everyone present had a vague idea why.
Kong Yao said, "I know the Barren State has not had a person of the Saint Plane in many years. Is it simply a lack of ability on the part of the people here? Most of you here are incredibly talented, and for you to have been able to reach this stage, who would call themselves weak? An opportunity is what you all need. In every orthodoxy battle, the Holy Zhi Palace is the one leading armies into the fight. But compared to the other powers in the nine states, the Barren State has historically been the state with the weakest overall capabilities. I'm not saying this to belittle you, I'm merely stating the truth. This is why people from the Barren State have not stood a chance at the orthodoxy battle."
He then continued, "The Divine Path is an incredibly difficult one to take. Death is a constant threat, not just to everyone here, but to me as well. If you all are willing, join me at the next orthodoxy battle. You can increase your chances of success by fighting alongside Zhisheng Cliffs."
Everyone listened quietly. Even as they knew Kong Yao was speaking the truth, they were careful not to take his word completely. However, they had come here to meet him after all. Some had just wanted to catch a glimpse of Kong Yao from Zhisheng Cliffs to at least get to know him a little. Others had just come to see what was up. Of course, if Kong Yao was convincing enough, they would not have minded joining forces with Zhisheng Cliffs. As long as they were able to completely wipe out the Zhuge Family, there would be no repercussions.
After all, the Holy Zhi Palace and White Cloud City were also at odds with the Zhuge Family as of now. As such, Crouching Dragon Mountain had truly been isolated by the Barren State. If it hadn't been for Ye Futian involving Taihang Mountain in this matter, Kong Yao would have already teamed up with the City Lord of White Cloud City to attack the Zhuge Family.
"What do we need to offer?" a voice rang out. That voice belonged to Yan Wuji, the Wuji Swordsman of the Sword Saint Villa. He was 17th on the Barren Sky Ranking and the successor of the Blade Saint. As such, the intensity of his interest in the Divine Path was stronger than most other people. If there was no Blade Saint, Sword Saint Villa would not live up to its name.
Yan Wuji's own protégé, Yan Jiu had arrived as well. But Yan Jiu had lost his edge ever since his crushing defeat at Ye Futian's hands in the Holy Zhi Palace. Yan Qingwu was training at the Palace now and had actually gained some respect for Ye Futian. It was evident that they would not be able to reach Ye Futian's level, making it hard for Yan Wuji to count on the next generation. After all, not everyone had a Bai Luli within their ranks.
Kong Yao looked at Yan Wuji. Indeed, swordsmen were forthright with their words and intentions.
"Senior, Gu Dongliu of the Barren State stole our treasure and massacred the sages of the Yu State. Yet the Zhuge Family insists on protecting such a despicable man. Right now, even the Holy Zhi Palace and White Cloud City can no longer tolerate this injustice, but some people are causing a ruckus. And why is this so?" Zhan Xiao, who was standing next to Kong Yao, piped up, "Naturally it is because they want to take the treasure for themselves. For someone to dare to snatch the treasure of Zhisheng Cliffs, and to go to such murderous extents, they deserve to be punished at the hands of everyone here from the Barren State. As such, my Uncle-Master has invited all of you here, in hopes of joining forces with you to defeat the lowlifes of the Barren State."
Everyone looked calmly at Zhan Xiao. As much as he had been all righteous with his speech, he was only doing this for the treasure as well. But that Gu Dongliu had been bold indeed to even dare to snatch the treasure of Zhisheng Cliffs.
The leader of the Sacred Fire Sect was an elder, and he spoke up calmly, "The Zhuge Family is no ordinary power within the Barren State. Yuan Hong of Taihang Mountain has attacked White Cloud City previously. If this were to fail, what would be the consequences? Zhisheng Cliffs would not be affected very much, but all of us here at the Barren State will probably be counter-attacked out of revenge. This risk does not seem to be worth it if we're just acting on a promise Mr. Kong is giving us." This was a thought many other people had as well. The risk really did not seem to be worth it at all.
"Do not worry about this. I will give the Zhuge Family one more chance to hand over the person. If they still refuse, then they cannot blame us for being ruthless and exterminating all of them. With all of us acting in the name of justice, how could we fail?" Kong Yao's voice had a mighty air to it, and many people nodded in response to his words. Kong Yao was ninth on the Sage Ranking. As long as he and the rest participated, there was no possibility of failure.
"As for the promise everyone is worried about, does my reputation as the ninth in the Sage Ranking across all nine states not speak of my credibility?" Kong Yao responded calmly. Everyone was silent. Kong Yao would not be disadvantaged in any way by this matter. If he had publicly made a promise, indeed he should not renege on his word later on.
If they really were intent on their journey in the Divine Path, then a chance to live longer was akin to an additional chance to aim for the Saint Plane. Over at the Divine Path, being alive alone was an opportunity on its own.
In one of the quarters within Crouching Dragon Mountain, Gu Dongliu and Ye Futian were standing together, gazing towards Xuanwu City in the distance. They both knew that Xuanwu City was having a banquet this very moment that was organized by Kong Yao, who had invited various powerful individuals in the Barren State. They also knew that many of the Barren State's best fighters had arrived as well, including many powerful individuals in the Barren Sky Ranking.
By now, Ye Futian knew the reasons behind the bad blood between Gu Dongliu and Zhan Xiao and understood why Zhan Xiao didn't just want the treasure, but also to take his Third Older Brother away as well.
"Youngest Brother, do you still remember what I said to you before? In this world, reason is undeniable," Gu Dongliu said calmly.
"Yes, I remember. You told me that was what Teacher said, though reason may be undeniable, fists are even more powerful than reason. So oftentimes, it's more effective to talk using fists than with reason." Ye Futian nodded.
"Exactly. That's why reason right now seems insignificant, because Zhisheng Cliffs packs a great punch." Gu Dongliu spoke slowly. "Once a person has something they want to protect, they become wary and afraid of many things. From then on, they become cowardly as well."
"Third Older Brother isn't afraid for his own safety, of course," Ye Futain responded. He knew what his Third Older Brother was referring to.
"Fear is fear, there is no point trying to sugarcoat it," Gu Dongliu said, not minding the implications of his words. "At the same time, it is exactly because one has something to protect, that sometimes fear turns into courage as well. When one truly reaches that point, they'll be able to let go of everything."
Ye Futian remained silent as he looked at his Third Older Brother.
"I may be sorry about certain things in my life, but I don't regret anything." Gu Dongliu began to float up slowly.
"Third Older Brother," Ye Futian replied, his gaze hardening.
"If I could relive this life, I wouldn't change a thing," Gu Dongliu said, before turning into a flash of lightning and disappearing from where he was in a flash, charging out of Crouching Dragon Mountain. A brilliant streak of light shot through the sky, almost like a comet.
Ye Futian's heart seized up and he leaped into the sky, shouting, "Grandfather Ape!"
Thump. At the bottom of the Zhuge house, a crack of thunder was heard and Yuan Hong leaped into the air as well. Ye Futian landed on Yuan Hong's shoulders in a flash, and said, "Let's go."
Third Older Brother was right. If one thought what they were doing was right, then there was nothing to be regretful about. Now that things had come to this, there was nothing left to fear. Since those people wanted to massacre the Zhuge Family and take Third Older Brother away, why should they wait at Crouching Dragon Mountain for their arrival?
Thud. Yuan Hong stepped through the sky, causing it to shake. Everyone at the Zhuge house looked up towards the sky to see Yuan Hong leaving Crouching Dragon Mountain in just a few steps. Afterward, a greater thundering sound was heard as the demon ape of Taihang Mountain chased after Gu Dongliu.
Many figures began leaping into the sky. There was no sadness in Zhuge Mingyue's eyes. On the contrary, she was absolutely calm, a radiant smile on her face. When he had appeared that day at the wedding, she had already prepared herself. Whether she lived or died didn't matter anymore. He had not been wrong, and he would not have any regrets at the end of it. In a flash, she too turned into lightning and chased after him into the distance.
Zhuge Qingfeng looked at Zhuge Mingyue and spoke up, "Everyone, listen up." Countless people in the house looked up towards Zhuge Qingfeng. Could it be that the head of the family was really going to launch an attack first?"
"All of you, stay here at Crouching Dragon Mountain. You are not to go out and join in this tussle," Zhuge Qingfeng ordered, before catching up to Zhuge Mingyue.
Everyone at Crouching Dragon Mountain looked at Zhuge Qingfeng's disappearing figure and felt a sense of bleakness. This was the strength of one who was head of the family, he took on everything upon himself.
Before Xuanwu Tower, many people had gathered, and the powerful figures from Zhisheng Cliffs were mingling and chatting. It was a lively atmosphere. But then, the ground began to rumble, and Kong Yao, who was seated within the Zhisheng Cliff's pavilion frowned. He gazed towards the distance before his expression changed. Could it be that those people were coming down from the mountain on their own?
Everyone looked towards the distance as well. Very quickly, they saw a handsome scholar in a white shirt moving through the sky towards them. It was Gu Dongliu.
"Gu Dongliu," Zhan Xiao stared at him, and laughed coldly, "you finally have the guts to face us yourself."
"Zhan Xiao, you only know how to hide behind the power of your sect. Though you have the reputation of being one of the Nine Warriors of Zhisheng Cliffs, you are nothing but a despicable fellow. I, Gu Dongliu, am humiliated to be associated with you," Gu Dongliu shot Zhan Xiao a cool gaze, before turning to Kong Yao. "When I was training in the Yu State, I often heard of the sacred grounds the Zhisheng Cliffs, as well as your name. It's better to see for myself than to just listen to hearsay, and what I have seen of the people from Zhisheng Cliffs so far does not live up to the prestige of those sacred grounds!"
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