In the following days, the Barren State was as peaceful as ever. However, Tingxue House in the Zhongzhou region, Alchemy City in the western region of the Barren State, and the Zhuge Family which was located to the north of the Zhongzhou region all received visitors from the Holy Zhi Palace.
Right now, Sage Tianxing had come personally to visit the Zhuge Family at Crouching Dragon Mountain and was meeting Zhuge Qingfeng. At his quarters, Zhuge Qingfeng looked at Sage Tianxing, who stood before him, and asked, "Has the Palace finally decided to involve itself in this matter?"
"Qingfeng, you all have already caused so much chaos and bloodshed within the Barren State. So many have died in the last battle alone, are you going to stubbornly carry on this way?" Sage Tianxing questioned Zhuge Qingfeng, looking straight at him. "Take my advice on this—now that Zhan Xiao has been killed, there is no way Zhisheng Cliffs is going to let this matter go. They've explicitly stated that they want Gu Dongliu to be handed over to them. The Palace is still unsure where Zhisheng Cliffs will draw the line regarding this, but we're hoping that the Zhuge Family can be left unharmed by this as much as possible. As such, necessary sacrifices have to be made."
"I'd like to know what the Palace would do if Zhisheng Cliffs asks for Bai Luli one day," Zhuge Qingfeng asked, glancing over at Sage Tianxing.
"You're still stubbornly refusing to come to your senses," Sage Tianxing commented coldly, staring at Zhuge Qingfeng.
"Answer my question first. Would the Palace sacrifice Bai Luli?" Zhuge Qingfeng was still staring at Sage Tianxing determinedly, refusing to budge until he received his answer.
"Bai Luli is the future of the Barren State," Sage Tianxing responded, returning the other man's stare. At this, Zhuge Qingfeng smiled. It was just as he had expected.
"Bai Luli represents hope for the Palace and for the Holy Sage Pavilion, not for the Barren State," Zhuge Qingfeng stated. "You were there at the battle between Gu Dongliu and Bai Luli. Did Gu Dongliu really seem weaker than Bai Luli then? Even if you consider him to be weaker, can he really be that far off from Bai Luli in terms of ability? As for Ye Futian, is he any less talented than Bai Luli? Between the two of them, they've defeated Zhan Xiao and Qin Zhong respectively. Why aren't they seen as hope for the Barren State as well? Why does the Palace want to kill off this strand of hope?"
Facing the barrage of questions from Zhuge Qingfeng, Sage Tianxing was rendered speechless for a moment. Zhuge Qingfeng stared at him, and continued rather aggressively, "Being from the Palace myself, I definitely understand Teacher and Uncle-Master's intentions. But you all have become so fixated on your own beliefs that you refuse to admit that you're wrong. Now that Zhan Xiao has been killed and Zhisheng Cliffs is advancing upon us, the Palace is the only force in the entire Barren State that can do anything about this situation. However, the Palace's actions thus far have been very disappointing to me."
Sage Tianxing stared at Zhuge Qingfeng. He had come with the intention to advise and persuade Zhuge Qingfeng, but at this very moment, the roles had been reversed, and Zhuge Qingfeng was trying to give him advice instead. With this, he understood that neither of them would budge in this conversation. It was evident that Zhuge Qingfeng did not intend to give up anything.
"Wanxiang divined that a crisis would befall the Palace. If this matter isn't handled properly, then great changes will occur within the Barren State. Zhuge Qingfeng, think carefully about what you have done," Sage Tianxing warned the other before turning to leave. As he left, he cautioned once more, "If the circumstances call for it, the Palace may take action. Now that you've left the Palace, I hope it won't be you standing opposing the Palace."
Zhuge Qingfeng watched as Sage Tianxing left. He knew that the Palace was about to involve itself properly in this matter, and once the Palace decided to capture Gu Dongliu, there would not be much question as to how the situation would end.
Two figures appeared behind Zhuge Qingfeng. It was Gu Dongliu and Zhuge Mingyue.
"You heard everything?" Zhuge Qingfeng asked the two. Gu Dongliu nodded. They had heard the conversation between the two men, and it was possible that Sage Tianxing knew they had been listening as well.
"I'll head down to the Palace," Gu Dongliu declared. Zhuge Qingfeng turned and stared fixedly at Gu Dongliu, who stood before him. Gu Dongliu should know that if he made the trip, it was very possible that he would not return.
Zhuge Qingfeng's gaze then flicked over to his daughter Zhuge Mingyue. She was very calm despite Gu Dongliu's declaration, suggesting that she already knew his plans beforehand.
"Mingyue has agreed as well," Gu Dongliu explained. "Since this issue has to be solved eventually, why don't I take the initiative to do so?"
"Have you two thought this through?" Zhuge Qingfeng asked the duo. Back when Zhuge Mingyue was engaged to Bai Luli, she had been so stubbornly against it, and when he had actually appeared, she had given up everything to be with him. It was unthinkable that she would actually agree to let Gu Dongliu head over to the Palace now.
"Yes." Gu Dongliu nodded. From the time of the battle at Xuanwu Tower, he had already thought this matter through. It was just that his Youngest Brother had refused to give up then. While his Youngest Brother did manage to triumph somewhat the last time, it didn't change much. As such, it was inevitable that things had come to this.
"Father, let him go," Zhuge Mingyue requested as well. Zhuge Qingfeng looked at his daughter silently, unsure of what to say. In the end, he didn't say much. Turning away from them, he lifted his head to glance at the sky, before walking off. There wasn't much he could say anyway. After holding on for so long, was he going to personally agree to let Gu Dongliu head off to his death?
There were certain things that a gentleman would and would not do. While this son-in-law of his was starting to grow on him, the fonder he grew of him, the more difficult things were for him.
Gu Dongliu left Crouching Dragon Mountain alone. Zhuge Mingyue stood on the highest point on Crouching Dragon Mountain, watching as he disappeared into the distance. Her expression was exceptionally peaceful. It was hard for her to endure this, but she accepted the way things were. This was what made Gu Dongliu the man she loved after all.
Sage Tianxing took Gu Dongliu to the Holy Sage Pavilion of the Holy Zhi Palace. This was done at Gu Dongliu's request, who had wanted to see Liu Chan. Sage Tianxing had agreed to Gu Dongliu's request, which was why Liu Chan was currently standing opposite him.
Liu Chan was slightly taken by surprise. He had not expected Sage Tianxing to bring Gu Dongliu back with him so easily. But when Sage Tianxing secretly transmitted the events that had transpired to him, Liu Chan understood as well.
Looking at the man before him, Liu Chan felt a sense of admiration. Gu Dongliu had held up against Bai Luli in battle despite only being a Mid-Level Sage. He was insanely talented, the sort of powerful character one rarely saw in the Barren State. It was even rarer that someone like Bai Luli would be willing to sacrifice himself.
"What did you want to talk to me about?" Liu Chan asked Gu Dongliu. He had been informed by Sage Tianxing that Gu Dongliu wished to meet him.
"I'd like to ask you, senior, what path it is that you're pursuing?" Gu Dongliu asked, as his gaze shifted towards Liu Chan.
"The Divine Path is what I'm pursuing, naturally. And it's not just me, that is the path that every cultivator is pursuing," Liu Chan replied. "Of course, I think that's not what you're asking about. When it comes to the Barren State, the path I'm pursuing is the one that leads to a Saint appearing in the Barren State. I'm working towards a future where martial arts will flourish in the Barren State and allow it to contend within the Nine States. I want the Palace to be a place that trains generation after generation of strong disciples and carries on the important task of passing down knowledge and even the actual Divine Path itself. Not like what it is right now, being only a place for divine teachings in name."
"What makes the Holy Zhi Palace a holy ground recognized by the people of the Barren State? What would make it a place that meets your expectations, senior?" Gu Dongliu questioned further.
"It would be a place that stands apart from personal grievances and external circumstances, a place that exists only for the purpose of passing down divine teachings," Liu Chan replied.
"In other words, it would be an impartial place." Gu Dongliu nodded. "Then, what is it that would allow martial arts to flourish in the Barren State?"
Liu Chan stared at Gu Dongliu. He suddenly knew where Gu Dongliu was trying to steer him in this conversation. He also understood what Gu Dongliu was hinting at.
"Get to the point," Liu Chan ordered coldly.
Gu Dongliu replied, "If martial arts are to flourish in the Barren State, then besides having men of great talent, an impartial place established for the sole purpose of passing down divine teachings, like the Holy Zhi Palace, is necessary. If such a place is tainted by personal interests, then it would surely tamp down those that go against it, making senior's dream impossible."
He then continued slowly, "But now, what you are doing goes against your beliefs. If the Palace is going to focus all its attention on Bai Luli and pin all its hopes on him, how can the various cultivators rise together and allow martial arts to flourish in the Barren State? How can the Barren State contend within the Nine States then?"
"Right now, what the Barren State most urgently needs is a Saint," Liu Chan defended himself. He knew that ultimately, dreams were only just dreams and that one often had to consider reality as well.
"If your actions don't match your beliefs, then there's a flaw in your frame of mind that would destroy any hopes you have in advancing along the Divine Path." Gu Dongliu responded calmly, "Senior, won't you be destroying the path that you've been holding on to then?"
At his words, Liu Chan was slightly shaken. His frame of mind was stable, yet a few words from Gu Dongliu had stirred an unease within him today.
"Looks like you haven't given up completely," Liu Chan commented, looking at Gu Dongliu. Is Gu Dongliu trying to persuade me?
"If one has the option of living, who would want to die? Besides, my conscience is clear, and my frame of mind is flawless. Allow me to show you something, senior," Gu Dongliu requested, closing his eyes. A surge of Spiritual Energy emanated from him, strands of the energy seeping into Liu Chan's forehead. Soon, Liu Chan saw a flurry of scenes and images. Those images were from when Gu Dongliu and Zhan Xiao were together in the secret realm of the relic. Gu Dongliu was proving that he was not lying—that the holy item had indeed chosen him, and that Zhan Xiao had been the one that killed the Sages.
"What else are you trying to say?" Liu Chan asked.
Gu Dongliu responded, "The truth can be distorted, but one knows in their heart whether they're in the right or wrong. Since I've come here, I don't expect to leave this place alive. But you hadn't expelled my Youngest Brother from the Palace back at Crouching Dragon Mountain, Senior, then perhaps the Palace could have flourished even greater than what you hoped for in future. There's a saying that goes 'being unable to see the wood for the trees'. As the acting Palace Lord of the Holy Zhi Palace, you should not have been like that. If you still stand by your beliefs, senior, then I hope one day you'll actually live by them." After speaking his part, Gu Dongliu bowed slightly and turned to leave. He had said everything he wanted to say. He would accept whatever happened next with grace.
Looking at Gu Dongliu's disappearing figure, Liu Chan sighed. Sometimes, there was no turning back. Especially in this case, now that they had come to this point, there was nothing he could do but carry on.
Gu Dongliu was taken to the party from Zhisheng Cliffs and presented before Kong Yao. Kong Yao's gaze was cold beyond measure, and a murderous intent glinted in his eyes. The Palace indeed was the holy grounds of the Barren State. It was so much easier for them to get things done.
"Everything that has happened thus far arose from the bad blood between me and Zhan Xiao. Since Zhisheng Cliffs is the holy grounds of the Yu State, now that Zhan Xiao has been killed by me, you're welcome to take me with you. But I hope that Zhisheng Cliffs will not take give its holy grounds a bad name," Gu Dongliu said to Kong Yao.
"Are you trying to take on everything upon yourself?" Kong Yao asked, staring at Gu Dongliu. "Do you think that's possible?
"Where's Ye Futian now?" Kong Yao demanded, his demeanor frosty. Since Gu Dongliu and Ye Futian were both people singled out by the Head Saint, Kong Yao had to take them both to the Yu State!
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