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A fearless spirit and a strong wind

Are all you need to sail rocky waters on your feet. [1]

The Platform of the Fearless was located in the heart of the Zhengrong Mountain Villa, right in the middle between the Qian, Kun, Zhen, Xun, Kan, Li, Gen and Dui Buildings. Jiufang Changming had always suspected that the entire Zhengrong Mountain Villa was just a huge formation, and that the Platform of the Fearless could well be the key to its activation. In case of an enemy invasion, the entire place would turn into a hell, entrapping them.

However, after all, a suspicion was only a suspicion, and he was not as versed in the art of formation as Chi Bijiang. He felt that this sect was built in a storm-summoning place that gathered spiritual power, but he could hardly guess where the centre of the formation was.

The people who had come to participate in this Qianlin Assembly were assigned a unique number, dividing them into groups according to their cultivation levels. The winner could continue to progress until they would have won all ten rounds.

But very few could win in all ten rounds, and those who had achieved that could be counted on the fingers of one’s hand. One of them was Yao Wangnian, the oldest disciple of the Wanjian Immortal Sect of the past, as Changming had heard from Jiang Li. At that time, Yao Wangnian was an extremely graceful and charming person who shone brighter than any of his peers. Once he got up on the stage with his sword drawn, countless female cultivators would be enamored by him. Yet now, his face was ugly, and he had gone insane, which made his old friends feel all the more sorry for him.

The Qianlin Assembly was not held each year, the breaks between the assemblies lasted up to three or even, five years, on occasion instead of one. Every host sect was a world-famous clan—they were sects with many disciples, rich histories, and were influential enough to send invitation cards to a wide range of sects, which got esteemed guests to participate. After all, many cultivators lived alone in seclusion, and it was hard to find them, so a common person would not even have a chance to see them, all the more to get them to come over.

The Zhengrong Mountain Villa had been established not more than thirty years ago, so they were only able to host the assembly because of their deep connection with the Wanjian Immortal Clan as well as not suffering from the lack of money. Their guests had come from all parts of the world, which made the Zhengrong Mountain Villa proud of its capabilities.

As Jiufang Changming saw it, the place was evidently influenced by the Wanjian Immortal Clan. Even the magnificent yet mysterious Platform of the Fearless could have been built by the Wanjian Immortal Clan.

Not far away, a string of bright and limpid crystal balls were floating in the air. The cultivators were standing nearby around the tiles laid out in the shape of the Yin and the Yang. When the next person was up for drawing lots, they would raise their hand, and one of the translucent balls would fly into their hand, breaking once it reached its destination in order to reveal a wooden plaque with the name of this person’s opponent for the round.

Xia Zheng was unlucky. In the very first round, he was matched with a disciple of the Celestial Abode Shenxiao.

“Fu Yunqi?” Lin Wenyu came over to take a look, “I’m not even sure whether it’s a guy or a girl.”

Li Muxing said: “I’ve never heard this name either. They must be one of the rising stars of the Celestial Abode Shenxiao, who is attending the Qianlin Assembly for the first time just like us.”

Lin Wenyu: “It’ll be easy if this is a woman. Dashixiong, don’t worry, you’ll definitely win this round!”

He was talking nonsense, and Li Muxing could not help but glance at him.

Xia Zheng frowned: “No matter the gender, I’ll do my best.”

When it was her turn, Li Muxing pulled out the name of a Buddhist cultivator of the Qingyun School.

Compared to these two, Lin Wenyu had gotten a lot luckier. His opponent was called Feng Tian, and he came from the Qinghai Sect. The name sounded?imposing, but in truth, the sect was small and obscure.

Imposing: Qinghai — “holding up the seas”

“Who has daoyou Sun pulled out?”

Changming did not hurry forward. When it was his turn, there were almost no crystal balls left. One of them floated to Changming immediately, and a wooden plaque revealed a name.

Celestial Abode Shenxiao, Fu Dongyuan.

Lin Wenyu exclaimed: “Why is it Celestial Abode Shenxiao again? Why is it the same Fu surname? Is he connected to this Fu Yunqi?”

Xia Zheng gasped: “This is the oldest disciple of the master of the Celestial Abode Shenxiao!”

Li Muxing: “He is. I’ve heard that Fu Dongyuan has an outstanding level of cultivation and is most qualified to inherit the title of sect master.”

In a moment, the three of them looked into Changming’s eyes sympathetically.

Xia Zheng even patted Changming on his shoulder: “It’s fine even if you lose. There are nine more rounds, so don’t take it to heart.”

Li Muxing laughed: “In fact, I doubt that daoyou Sun will definitely lose.”

Lin Wenyu’s argumentative nature came into play again: “It won’t be easy for him to win against Fu Dongyuan. After all, he is the next master of the Celestial Abode Shenxiao. It’ll be great if he’s able to hold on for a while before losing.”

Xia Zheng: “Ershixiong, could you act nice for a second?”

Lin Wenyu pursed his lips: “This is called being upright and plainspoken. You guys are just sugar coating this.”

Jiufang Changming nodded, but did not seem discouraged.

“Daoyou LIn is absolutely right. I’ll do what I can.”

But in his heart, he thought about how he was just waiting for a chance to distinguish himself, and now Fu Dongyuan had sent himself straight to Changming, which was a wonderful opportunity to eventually force Luomei to fight against him. Today, if he met a deity, he would slaughter the deity, and if he chanced upon a Buddha, he would slaughter the Buddha—so he might as well start with Fu Dongyuan.

Even if this person was to become a sect master in the future, he would still become the first stepping stone for Changming.

Having their opponents assigned, the four of them went to their respective positions.

In order to save time, the battle stage was divided into four parts. It was surrounded by seats for the spectators so that they could watch all four battles simultaneously. A protective barrier had been put around the arena, preventing their chaotic spiritual powers from hurting the bystanders.

Changming looked around. He saw many cultivators, who were complete unknowns now, that were going to become some of the most powerful cultivators he knew. He also saw many of those who were famous in this moment but in the future, they would pass away for various reasons. Yet, except for Changming, not a single one of the cultivators present here knew their fates that had already been written down in the Book of Life and Death.

But Jiufang Changming also hoped that their fates, as he knew them, would change. After all, if the existing flow of events did not change, there was no point in his trip to the past that was supposed to rewrite everything.

He finally saw Luomei.

He had appeared a distance away and moved forward unhurriedly, surrounded by a crowd, just like the moon surrounded by stars. There were several strands of silver that were mixed into his hair, which only added charm to his never-aging face.

Near Luomei, except for the master of the Zhengrong Mountain Villa, Wang Jingyuan, there was also the current master of the Celestial Abode Shenxiao, Xu Wangshu, the head of the Qingyun School, Miao Du, and several others. Apart from those who could not coexist with them, like demonic cultivators, all others, like the Wanlian Buddhist Temple, the Zhenling Clan, and the Twenty Four Slopes were represented by their elders that were given places according to their statuses.

This assembly was not only an occasion for the major clans to exchange pointers and to show their strength, but also a chance to shake up the Jianghu and predict any future changes. The sect that was considered the strongest at one point would not necessarily still be flourishing in the future. The continued prosperity of a sect could only be ensured by having a group of talented individuals to succeed and continue the traditions of the previous generation.

Occasionally, there were some exceptionally gifted rogue cultivators with hidden potential. If fate allowed it, they could obtain an invitation to the Qianlin Assembly, and the major sect would use the opportunity to seek out their talents and ask them to join their sect. Missing out on such a chance to acquire a talent would be a mistake, so everyone was likely to participate.

For a sect, having another talented member could play a big role. This was an indisputable fact known to all masters.

He looked away from Luomei.

Li Muxing and Xia Zheng were also discussing all these master cultivators. Li Muxing saw that Jiufang Changming had fallen silent, so she came over and whispered in a soothing voice: “Don’t pay too much mind to Lin Wenyu’s words. Fu Dongyuan is indeed one of the brightest of our generation. I’ve heard that he has already participated in a Qianlin Assembly before, so I really don’t know why he came here again. No one would doubt your capabilities if you lose to someone with loads of experience and strength.”

Changming nodded: “Thank you for your kindness, daoyou Li. I’m not nervous.”

Who would not be nervous if their first opponent was Fu Dongyuan??Li Muxing did not believe Changming, thinking that he was only trying to put on a brave front. No one knew that Changming was actually pondering on how to not win against Fu Dongyuan too easily lest he attract unwanted attention from Luomei.

Moreover, the longer this Qianlin Assembly went on, the more time Yun Weisi had to rescue those Luomei had captured.

No more small talks could be done to soothe Xia Zheng’s nervousness since the next match was his.

When Fu Yunqi went up on the stage and stood in front of him, Xia Zheng knew that this person was a female cultivator. She was Fu Dongyuan’s younger sister, and even though she was not as remarkably gifted as her brother, her strength was well above average. Her double swords moved according to her will, calmly and impeccably.

Faced with an enemy like this, the worried and inexperienced Xia Zheng did not stand a chance. He barely managed to withstand the first hundred moves when Fu Yunqi’s sword dashed forward. He tried to erect a barrier around himself, but the swords shattered it, almost reaching his forehead.

“I admit defeat!” Xia Zheng had no choice but to shout.

The swords’ glow darkened in response.

Fu Yunqi raised her hand, summoning back her swords. Two rays of light reached her sleeves immediately and disappeared there.

“I wholeheartedly accept being inferior in skills!” Xia Zheng’s forehead broke out in sweat as he slowly came back to his senses.

When the attack had almost reached him, he believed he could have died right there.

And now, standing in the arena under so many eyes, he realized that this was a test of his ability to quickly adapt to the circumstances. He was not allowed to be lacking in either his strength, the speed of his reactions or his ability to stay calm. Even though no one in Xia Zheng’s sect was his opponent, that was only because the levels of those who had surrounded him were lower than his. This was the first time he had felt such an oppressive aura coming from someone of his age.

“Daoyou let me win,” Fu Yunqi said indifferently with a quick nod and turned around to leave.

Her steps were light and quick, like a dragonfly touching the water’s surface, gracefully and charmingly.

But Xia Zheng was not inclined to admire her gait. All he could think about was how formidable Fu Dongyuan should have been if he was stronger than his sister, Fu Yunqi.

When a person’s acquaintance encountered an even more traumatizing experience, that person would not suffer as much, and Xia Zheng was just like this. He subconsciously sympathized with daoyou Sun, and felt a bit better at the same time.

Very soon, Li Muxing and Lin Wenyu’s turns came as well.

Even though Lin Wenyu’s opponent was some no-name cultivator, they turned out to be more powerful than expected, and in the end, won without contest, which made Lin Wenyu indignant. After returning, he babbled a lot about what he could have done just a bit differently to change the outcome.

Li Muxing managed to surprise the audience. In her battle against the disciple of the Qingyun School, one of the competitors was a Daoist, and the other one, a Buddhist, but they seemed well-matched in strength. Both parties brought every trick and tool they possessed to the match, and after three hundreds of moves, Li Muxing overpowered her opponent, proving her skills superior.

Due to the fact that their battle was much more entertaining than the other three that had been going on at the same time, many eyes were riveted on them, and even the master of the Zhengrong Mountain Villa inquired after Li Muxing’s name and background.

If Li Muxing’s performance did not decline over the course of the other matches, she would surely be remembered by many people by the end of the Qianlin Assembly, and her cultivation would rise a great deal thanks to everything she would learn.

Changming’s match was the second to last.

Many people looked forward to the match because of Fu Dongyuan’s reputation, but now, seeing that his opponent was someone whose face they had never seen, they lost all hope of seeing a decent battle and just waited for it to finish without paying much attention to it.

Changming had restrained his aura so well that even Fu Dongyuan, who would be known as someone sly and clever in the future, did not notice that his opponent was?pretending to be a pig to eat the tiger.

Pretending to be a pig to eat the tiger: to behave foolishly in order to full your opponent and win

“Daoyou Sun, I presume? Please, start first.”

He waved his hand, letting Changming strike first. He did not want others to say that he was oppressing novices because of the backing of his famous sect.


[1] A fearless spirit and a strong wind are all you need to sail rocky waters on your feet: two last lines from “To Zhang Woquan, at the Bracing Pavilion of Huangzhou” by Su Shi, translated by G. Osing, J. Min & H. Huang (1990).?Link?(there is also an analysis of the poem)