returnCH 144(1 / 1)  Estrangedhome

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Jiang Li had already changed the situation.

He was devoted and loyal to the Wanjian Immortal Clan. He also had a tender heart, and sometimes it seemed that he was indecisive and easy to manipulate or to lead into a deadly trap.

But he was not foolish enough to go against Immortal Luomei alone, let alone start killing people in broad daylight.

This obvious and self-compromising act could only be explained by one thing—Luomei had already captured Jiang Li and knew of Jiang Li’s intentions.

A person colluding with demons meant ruining their future prospects. If this happened to the master of a Daoist sect, their reputation and status would crumble in a matter of seconds, leaving them no chance to regain their eminence.

Luomei was ready to abandon his disciple completely.

Could it mean that Luomei had already extracted a confession from Jiang Li through torture? Had he learned of their plan from Jiang Li and was prepared for everything? What had happened to Yun Weisi and Yao Wangnian?

Jiufang Changming realized that once again, they had no guarantee of winning. Not only was Luomei’s cultivation terribly strong, but he also possessed another useful tool—the Wanjian Immortal Clan. He was practically invincible and had everything moving according to his schemes.

Compared to Luomei, they were mantises trying to stop a chariot—they were too insignificant to even be mentioned.

Sometimes, he even felt that if they lost again here, the world would continue to charge without restraint towards its doom. They could not return to the past and change it, and could only watch the world burn to ashes the way it was supposed to and never see it again.

A boat that stopped struggling against the flow would inevitably drift back. They could not go back now, and they would either win in this decisive battle, or die.

First Chi Bijiang, now Jiang Li. Yet another one of them had fallen into the enemy’s hands.

Only he, Yun Weisi and Yao Wangnian were still standing.

While Jiufang Changming was pondering, the disciple, seeing that no one else was approaching, started chatting with Li Muxing. He was bored by standing here for so long and was eager to share the details of what happened in vivid detail.

“I wasn’t present at that moment, but my shixiong was there. He said that someone who seemed lost came here all alone, which was very conspicuous. When shixiong asked who he was, the man answered that he was the master of the Wanjian Immortal Clan, Jiang Li. Of course, shixiong did not believe him, because Immortal Luomei had already arrived here earlier with several disciples and was just chatting with other masters inside at that moment. Shixiong was afraid that someone was posing as Jiang Li, so he immediately went inside to ask his superiors what to do. When Immortal Luomei heard about this, he went out personally with a few attendants. Who could have expected the man to start the slaughter even before they arrived, taking everyone by surprise? Many were killed or injured, but with Luomei’s timely intervention, the man was suppressed.”

Li Muxing was itching to know what happened: “Was that man really Clan Master Jiang?”

“At first, shixiong didn’t believe it either. However, when the two of them fought, they used the same techniques, and Immortal Luomei even told him:?‘I thought you would realize your errors and mend your ways, yet you refuse to repent and only keep on making mistakes. If I don’t put righteousness above my personal feelings today, I’ll have wronged the disciples that were injured by you’.” The disciple of the villa went on, “At that moment, Immortal Luomei’s sword split into two and he broke through his opponent’s defenses. He pierced his disciple’s shoulder blades decisively, and everyone who saw him gasped in admiration…”

Li Muxing interrupted his ceaseless talking: “What happened afterwards?”

The disciple said angrily: “Afterwards, Jiang Li was taken away. They say that Immortal Luomei is going to deal with him after the Qianlin Assembly comes to an end.”

It seemed that he did not know more. What happened to Jiang Li after that was not something a person of his status could ask about.

After the disciple at the entrance looked through their invitations, they were allowed inside, and another one escorted them to the place where they would stay for the night.

The Zhengrong Mountain Villa was built according to?the Eight Diagrams. The?Qian?and the?Kun?Buildings were for the disciples, and visitors were not allowed to go inside. So, they were sent to the?Xun?Building, which was one of those buildings for receiving guests. However, the guests were also assigned different grades according to their status. For example, the disciples of clans like the Wanjian Immortal Clan, the Celestial Abode Shenxiao, or the Qingyun School?obviously lived in the Zhen Building, while those who were from sects that no one knew of, such as Li Muxing and Changming, were assigned to the?Xun?Building.

The Eight Diagrams: the eight trigrams (combinations of three whole or broken lines) used in Yijing, a famous ancient book for divination:?qian,?kun,?zhen,?xun, kan, li, gen, and dui

Obviously lived in the Zhen Building: my guess is that?zhen?>?xun?because?zhen?is yang, force and dragon while?xun?is yin, submission and chicken, so it’s less auspicious

Nevertheless, the Xun Building was just as spacious too. In the center, there was a square built in the shape of the Yin-Yang symbol with three-storey bamboo buildings on both sides. There was a bamboo forest around that let the wind flow through here and paths paved with pebbles. It was clean and tidy and was a great place to rest in? seclusion.

Even though their rooms were nothing special, they were still more comfortable than the inns that they had stopped at on their way here. The four of them were given four adjacent rooms in one wing of the building.

Lin Wenyu kept glancing around, unintentionally looking like the newcomer that he was. While ‘the Twelfth Floor of the White Jade Capital’ sounded like a dignified name, the sect was not even one-fourth as good as the Zhengrong Mountain Villa, otherwise Lin Wenyu and Xia Zheng would have been in the Zhen Building. What he learned after they entered the Zhengrong Mountain Villa was enough to broaden Lin Wenyu’s horizons. For example, there was a rainbow in the sky and the golden light that shone down on them from time to time made them feel better—that turned out to be a technique. Everything was new for Lin Wenyu, so he could not help reaching out to a golden ray of light. Jiufang Changming said: “Someone added a touch of the Miracle Brings Back Spring Art to the rainbow. The warm light brings qi to your dantian.”

This light was actually useless for cultivators: it could neither heal them nor improve their cultivation, and could only make them feel refreshed. However, it was obvious from seeing this that the Zhengrong Mountain Villa did not lack money.

Lin Wenyu gasped: “Are there also such things in the Wanjian Immortal Clan and the Celestial Abode Shenxiao?”

Li Muxing and Xia Zheng had never been there, so Changming was the only one who could answer him.

“In the Wanjian Immortal Clan, there is the Ice Arch, and in the Celestial Abode, there is the Sun-Observing Phoenix. They are all almost the same—more decorative than they are useful.”

Li Muxing: “Daoyou Sun, have you been there?”

Jiufang Changming smiled: “I heard that from my shishu, who has been there.”

Of course, he wanted to know what had happened to Jiang Li, but it did not show on his face. He was looking around like everyone else, marveling at the views.

Although Xia Zheng was worried for the safety of his shidi and shimei, all in all, he was also a young cultivator who had just started his journey and aspired to become famous. Together with Lin Wenyu, he asked Jiufang Changming questions, putting his concerns aside for the time being. While talking, they went up the mountains of the Zhengrong Mountain Villa.

“I wonder what kind of opponent we will be against tomorrow. I’m afraid that no matter how strong you are, there is always someone better, and we might lose in the first round already. I’ll be too ashamed to show my face to my elders.”

“You’re wrong, daoyou Xia. For a member of the Jianghu, being able to participate in a competition like this already means being lucky. Even if you lose the first battle, and even if you turn out to be inferior to the others in terms of skills, you can still return to your sect to cultivate for a couple more years, and maybe then, you’ll be able to outdo the others and thrive.”

Xia Zheng was inspired by his words: “You’re right, daoyou Sun! I’m just getting myself worked up. No wonder daoyou Sun was selected to represent his sect! Both your state of mind and self-cultivation are a lot higher than mine, I am ashamed!”

While the three of them were talking, other cultivators were passing by one after another. Some of them stopped to introduce themselves and to exchange a couple of polite words, while others had come from prominent clans and were so arrogant that they did not even want to spend time on them. But every creature in the world was different, as were cultivators.

When they finally returned to their rooms, someone knocked on Jiufang Changming’s door even before he could sit down to cultivate.

“Daoyou Li? Please, come in.”

The person came inside. It was indeed Li Muxing.

“Daoyou Sun can tell who’s coming based on their footsteps?” she wondered.

“Not at all. Daoyou Li was silent all evening. You seemed very anxious and didn’t engage in our small talk, so I’m sure your mind was elsewhere. Since whoever came to me was walking so quickly, I assumed it would be you.”

“Daoyou Sun is truly a person of outstanding talent. You are able to guess so much from a small clue.” Li Muxing flattered him half-heartedly and quickly added, “It is the first time I’ve left my sect, so there are many things that are not clear to me about other sects. Daoyou Sun knows much more than I do, so I came for advice.”

“Please speak, daoyou Li.”

“My shifu has mentioned the Wanjian Immortal Clan many times before. If I remember correctly, Immortal Luomei entered closed-door meditation a long time ago, leaving the clan master position to Jiang Li. Yet now the two of them are suddenly at loggerheads. Is there some reason behind this that they don’t want others to know of? I don’t want to pry, but daoyou Sun, do you think that something might go wrong at the Qianlin Assembly tomorrow because of this?”

There was no denying that Li Muxing was an astute person. Even though she knew nothing, she felt that there was more to this matter than it seemed.

This master-disciple duo had such a strong disagreement that it even reached the eyes of others at the Qianlin Assembly. The problem was not small and even involved demons, which was bound to attract much attention. This could turn into a calamity that would shake the world at its core, and Li Muxing was afraid that she would also get involved.

She came to Jiufang Changming to discuss it because he had left a good first impression and seemed to have a better head on his shoulders than Xia Zheng and the others.

“You shouldn’t worry, daoyou Li. There are many masters at the Qianlin Assembly. Even if something unexpected really happens, there is always someone strong enough to catch the falling skies. Just stay as far away from this as possible, and everything will be fine as long as you’re not a part of it.”

Jiufang Changming could not tell her the truth, as she would have not believed him anyways. So he gave her a subtle hint instead.

Li Muxing’s intuition as both a woman and a cultivator told her that something would go very wrong tomorrow, but she did not know what. This shadow of doubt had not left her the entire time, so she could not entirely relax.

“I hope so. I’ll go to the Qian Buildings tomorrow in?the hour of yin?to draw lots. Don’t forget, daoyou Sun, if you come too late, many people will already have their opponents assigned, and those that come later might all be skillful masters.”

The hour of yin: 3 to 5 a.m. Poor her…

“Thank you very much for the reminder, daoyou Li. I’ll go with you at the hour of yin.”

“Good. In fact, when I saw your battle today, I understood the meaning of ‘no matter how strong you are, there is always someone better’. I’m afraid that I’m not fated to stand out at this Qianlin Assembly. However, daoyou Sun hides his true powers. I wish you to shake the assembly with your genius tomorrow and get the highest of honors.”

Li Muxing also asked him several questions about Daoist techniques. Changming was a grandmaster of his generation, so the questions were easy for him. Even if she asked about Demonic or Buddhist skills instead, he would have answered. The pieces of advice he gave were short but dispelled any doubts she had, making Li Muxing feel enlightened and more respectful towards him.

As she saw it, the man was not a novice at all, he was simply on her shifu’s level, though perhaps, even her shifu knew less than this daoyou Sun.

If the disciples of the Daoist Temple of the Imperial Palace were like this, just how experienced and knowledgeable were cultivators from sects like the Wanjian Immortal Clan?

Somehow, Li Muxing’s expectations of the disciples of the famous sects had risen a lot because of Jiufang Changming.

The sky darkened, and the disciples of the mountain villa delivered food for the guests. Everyone received four dishes and a bowl of soup. Whether to eat it or not was up to them, but the food was tasty and sumptuous, and was not inferior to what one could order from a chef at the capital.

Li Muxing wanted to ask more questions, but it would be impudent of her to continue to stay much longer. When Jiufang Changming took a cup of tea, she stood up politely, but was still reluctant to leave. After she was gone, Changming waved his sleeves to set up a formation around his room, preventing people from getting inside.

After all, the place was under Luomei’s control. Even though he had changed his appearance and aura, he dared not be negligent.

After the formation was set, Jiufang Changming sat on the bed to cultivate, quickly entering a meditative state.

His mind slowly drifted far away. He felt as if he had been walking a dark and narrow path surrounded by brambles. The sharp thorns were also sticking out from the ground and scratched his feet painfully, ignoring his spiritual powers.

Blood was oozing from the wounds and soaking the thorns which flourished quickly and soon wrapped their branches around his entire body. An omnipresent stench of blood filled his nostrils, strangling him. But the brambles felt familiar, so he did not want to push it away subconsciously and allowed it to embrace him.

The thorns ripped through his clothes, piercing the flesh underneath and causing pain but with some subtle pleasure within it.

He started gasping for breath and struggled weakly, but had already fallen under the control of the brambles.

His lower neck was grabbed firmly, and his thin lips were slightly parted. The smell of blood had silently enveloped him, trapping him inside the tender cocoon that kept shrinking.

This is wrong…

What is wrong…

What could break through his barrier without him noticing it and making him lose his will to resist…

He forced himself to open his heavy eyelids, and the world around him suddenly went dark, and the spiny branches turned into two arms that embraced him, which made him have an epiphany.

This was Yun Weisi!

Only he could break through Changming’s barrier, because their techniques had basically the same origin.

Why would Yun Weisi, who was supposed to hide himself somewhere in the Zhengrong Mountain Villa, appear here?!

Changming smelled blood, and it was not a creation of the land of dreams.

“Are you wounded?”