returnCH 149(1 / 1)  Estrangedhome

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Jiang Li did not raise his head the entire time.

His slightly hung head was hidden by his disheveled hair, completely concealing his expression. Like a puppet, he was paraded through the assembly for everyone to see, pushed to the edge by the one he had once loved and respected as a member of his family.

In the past that Jiufang Changming knew, nothing like this had happened.

According to the original history, after failing his ascension, Luomei occupied his disciple’s body and lived under Jiang Li’s identity. Others thought that Jiang Li had taken over the Wanjian Immortal Clan and had become their master, which was reasonable and to be expected. Nothing went wrong, and after many years, Luomei had strengthened his rule. He got rid of all who opposed him, one by one, and in the end, became the only important figure on the board and laid out the foundation for his future schemes. Yao Wangnian’s name had never been mentioned again.

There were many who had been forgotten, and many who had died. There was now almost no one who could recall this particular weakness of Immortal Luomei.

Only Changming and his companions, in their desperate fight against mortal danger, had returned to the past and dug out these dust-laden cases that had been kept secret.

Jiufang Changming, who was supposed to be in the limelight, was cast aside.

All eyes fell on the figure in iron chains, who was barely able to drag his feet. These gazes, as if they were tangible and were piercing him, made the motionless person’s head shake slightly as he raised it.

His tangled hair parted, revealing his face, but even Changming could not tell whether Jiang Li was sane or bewildered.

“Several years ago, I entered seclusion in order to cultivate. I left the affairs of my sect in the hands of my disciple, Jiang Li, who was to take over my position for the time being. Originally, I thought that nothing could go wrong, yet one day, a disciple came to report something to me, distracting me from my closed-door cultivation. They said that Jiang Li had suddenly left the mountain for no apparent reason and disappeared.”

After Immortal Luomei started speaking, the whispers gradually died down, and many eyes shifted from Jiang Li to Luomei.

Luomei was standing on a high platform. The wide sleeves of his robes were fluttering in the wind. He did not need to speak loudly, and his expression never changed, but his intonation had an inexplicable allure. Without doing much, he made everyone feel sympathy for him, and the crowd listened to him attentively.

This was the highest level of a technique of moving hearts through words, which had been refined to perfection. It affected people’s hearts deeply as if it had happened to themselves. Ordinary people had no way of detecting this technique.

Jiufang Changming looked at Ouyang and Ren Yousu from afar.

As expected, Ouyang had frowned slightly, and Ren Yousu wanted to step forward, but the other had grabbed his arm to stop him.

The other grandmasters from the Qingyun School and other sects had also sensed that something was wrong.

But they had no intention of meddling in the affairs of others, and everyone was calmly watching the situation unfold. Cultivators like Xia Zheng and Li Muxing were taken by surprise and fell into the trap immediately.

Jiufang Changming thought that Luomei would not have chosen this course of action had it not been for the possible future troubles he had to prevent right now. This was too hasty for someone as meticulous and thorough as Luomei. However, he had no other choice. What happened in Hongluo had exposed Yao Wangnian and forced Luomei to cut through this knot with a sharp knife lest he wanted this little pawn, Yao Wangnian, to ruin his deliberate planning.

“As you are well aware, ladies and gentlemen, Jiang Li is not only a disciple of this poor Daoist, but also the master of this generation of the Wanjian Immortal Clan. As such, this incident has shaken the entire sect and had me leave the mountains in search of him.”

“Upon arriving at Hongluo, I found out that my unworthy disciple had colluded with a rebellious disciple of my sect, Yao Wangnian. What happened to this Yao Wangnian back then also weighs on my heart—after all, I only have these two direct disciples. Unfortunately, Yao Wangnian had gone astray and was found conspiring together with demons, which in turn bred disaster. I was not strict enough with them, resulting in today’s situation.”

“Today, as I stand before you, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to punish my treacherous disciple to honor those who had died yesterday. After this, this poor Daoist will enter seclusion again and will not interfere in my sect’s affairs.”

After Luomei finished talking, he turned his palm upward, and a sword materialized in his hand.

It made one think of?the moon, which hung lonely in the skies, and even the air seemed to darken around it. That was the Guyue Sword that had passed through the hands of the first disciples of each generation of the Wanjian Immortal Clan.

The moon hanging lonely in the skies: Guyue = “lonely” + “moon”

It had previously belonged to Yao Wangnian, before being given to Jiang Li and eventually returned to Luomei.

When different people used the sword, the results would also be obviously different. Now, in Luomei’s hands, the Guyue Sword demonstrated hereto unseen force and skills. It cut through the air in a matter of seconds and swiftly reached Jiang Li’s head, ready to pierce through it.

And Jiang Li, bound by iron chains, was forced to kneel in the center of the square with a diagram of the Eight Trigram. The disciples who had been holding him up had left him, but he had no strength to evade the attack, so he could only raise his head while trembling. His eyes were unclear, and his mouth seemed to be moving slightly. But he was too far away, and even Changming could not even make a guess as to whether he was actually talking.

The chains trembled as well, but they were enhanced with talismans, so his weak struggle was futile, and Jiang Li had no chance to break out of them.

In his muddle-headed state, he vaguely heard a familiar voice coming from a distance. That was Immortal Luomei, the one who used to be his closest relative and respected mentor.

He noticed not those piercing gazes that fell on him, but only his shizun’s voice, which rang more and more distinctly in his ears.

He would have never anticipated that he would end up like this when he had decided to descend the mountains.

He had been utterly disgraced and was about to die without even leaving behind a grave.

He used to have boundless prospects as the honorable first disciple of the Wanjian Immortal Clan, and even the position of the clan master would be passed on to him sooner or later. Despite all that, everything had now been ruined just because he endeavored to uncover the truth. He did not think that he would have to pay with his life while trying to overcome the difficulties on his path.

Jiang Li suddenly recalled what Yun Weisi had said in Hongluo. The man said that Luomei had killed Yao Wangnian and planned to do the same to Jiang Li, and that Luomei had only let him become the clan master so that he could later covertly occupy Jiang Li’s body more conveniently. Jiang Li had not believed Yun Weisi. He could not have imagined the man he had venerated and held in awe to turn out to be a demon wearing a human’s skin.

Now, he finally believed Yun Weisi.

He struggled to raise his head to look at Luomei. The latter was standing on higher ground, which widened the gap between and showcased the difference between the master and his disciple.

Jiang Li seemed to notice the complicated feelings in Luomei’s eyes, which made him hesitate and stop the sword.

He laughed gloomily, and the corners of his lips curled up slightly.

Luomei might have held some warm feelings towards his disciple, but it was nothing compared to how important his plan was for him.

The sword shone brightly, occupying Jiang Li’s line of sight completely.

He closed his eyes, awaiting the end he could already imagine.

Jiufang Changming’s finger moved, but his expression did not flinch a bit. He looked like any other spectator who was curious yet disinterested.

He believed that Luomei would not kill Jiang Li that easily. After all, he wanted to use his disciple to lure out a bigger fish.

Just as expected, the sword flashed, and Jiang Li groaned in pain. Scarlet blood was dripping down his arm, splattering on the ground like ink.

The wound was so deep one could see his bones, but it was not lethal, only bitterly painful.

In a split second, the entire Zhengrong Mountain Villa was plunged into silence without a single whisper from the large crowd. The atmosphere of excitement had been entirely swept away.

Only one voice broke through the eerie silence.

“You say that Jiang Li has colluded with demons, but what evidence do you have?”

That was Ren Yousu, the master of the Kunlun Sword Clan.

Ouyang failed to stop him and could only sigh inwardly.

Luomei sighed as well: “Daoyou Ren only says so because you did not witness his killing spree yesterday.”

He waved his sleeve in the direction of Jiang Li, and a gust of black qi whirled up from him, turning into a hideous and threatening ghost mid-air.

“Wow!” Lin Wenyu gasped, “Was he contaminated by demonic qi?”

The majority of the cultivators had a similar reaction.

His exclamation was rhetorical, and no one answered him.

“No. Someone has sealed streams of demonic qi in the iron chains. They would move from a certain gesture so one can let others see it at an appropriate moment.”

Lin Wenyu could not hold back a question: “How do you know?”

Jiufang Changming seemed to not have sensed his suspicion: “Look at the north-eastern corner.”

That was the Xun position, the one where they had originally been staying at. Lin Wenyu saw nothing out of the ordinary, but Li Muxing could vaguely feel that something was not right.

“Something seems to be fluctuating there?”

Jiufang Changming: “That is the weak point of the formation. If you want to break it, you should start from there.”

Lin Wenyu was still doubtful: “Why would you want to break it?”

Jiufang Changming: “The creator left this weak point on purpose to lure somebody.”

Lin Wenyu still did not get it, but Li Muxing understood his words.

“Daoyou Sun, are you trying to say that clan master Jiang… That he has an accomplice that will come to his rescue? So Immortal Luomei chose this place on purpose to force that person to appear?”

“Daoyou Li is quick to catch on.”

Before Li Muxing could reach the next conclusion, the ground under their feet trembled, and a huge wave of spiritual power rushed from the north-eastern corner. It headed towards the cultivators, so everyone took a step back subconsciously, while unsheathing their weapons.

But what came surging at them was an unprecedentedly dense and sinister qi!

Everyone’s faces betrayed their shock.

“My weapon!” someone shouted.

Everybody looked at the person who had shouted and saw that the weapon in that person’s hand had shattered suddenly like frost when the black qi struck, and even their hands were stained black. This person was startled first, but quickly became angry and rushed towards the source of the black mist.

The thick black fog slowly scattered, revealing a person in black robes.

No one knew who that person was.

No one, except for Jiufang Changming and Immortal Luomei.

Yao Wangnian’s ghost qi made everyone pale, and as the crowd stepped away from him, those who moved forward to surround him looked terrified.

The faces of the masters who stood on the high platform turned more solemn.

“Where did this ghost cultivator come from?!”

“Preposterous! Is the Qianlin Assembly some kind of common gathering where anyone can come and leave as they wish!” said villa owner Liu, who was outraged.

At this moment, Ouyang heard Ren Yousu muttering.

“Why does this person seem familiar?”

Ouyang looked more closely and also felt that this cultivator felt like an old acquaintance of his.

But this individual’s robes covered most of their face, and only left out the chin, while their entire figure was wrapped in the netherworldly qi. Ouyang could not recall ever making an acquaintance out of a ghost cultivator.

“Jiang Li was wronged.” The person was talking indistinctly, and his voice, like a ghost, reached everyone’s ears, chilling them to the bone. “His only mistake was his limitless adoration towards his shizun. He didn’t believe what his master really was and wound up where he stands today because he wanted to ask him in person. Luomei, do you at least think of your two disciples in your dreams in the middle of the night?”

“I remember…” Ren Yousu gasped with astonishment, “He is Yao Wangnian!”

When the name was uttered, even Luomei who stood far away flinched slightly.

“Who is Yao Wangnian?”

“Luomei had two direct disciples: Yao Wangnian and Jiang Li. The older one was even more powerful than Fu Dongyuan or Sun Wuxia who fought today, a truly gifted genius!”

“Didn’t he die under some strange circumstances? How could he have appeared here?”

“What does he mean? Did Immortal Luomei kill his own disciples?”

The crowd buzzed loudly, coming up with all kinds of explanations.

Immortal Luomei looked calm.

“So, you have come out. Very well. Your shidi fell to this state because of your schemes, so I, as your master, have no other choice but to eliminate evil and right the wrongs according to the Heavenly Dao. Good and evil can surely trade places, but humans and demons are incompatible. The Wanjian Immortal Clan will not tolerate a disciple who has colluded with demons!”

After he finished his speech, his expression changed abruptly. With exceedingly high speed and force, he leaped up and rushed towards Yao Wangnian.

At the same moment, the Guyue Sword that had been hovering above Jiang Li’s head plunged down. Jiang Li was unable to move, so he could only wait for his death.

If Yao Wangnian wanted to save Jiang Li, he would have to turn his back towards Luomei and die for sure. However, if he wanted to reflect Immortal Luomei’s attack, he could not rescue Jiang Li who was in mortal danger.

Jiang Li was very important to Yao Wangnian. Not only was he a childhood friend, but he was also a piece of evidence that attested to Yao Wangnian’s unjust sufferings as his fate was almost the same!

The only difference was that Jiang Li’s tragic ending was unfolding now and could still be prevented. On the contrary, when Yao Wangnian encountered difficulties and his master plotted to kill him, no one had come to his rescue.

As long as Jiang Li was alive, Yao Wangnian was not fighting the war against Luomei alone. And if Jiang Li died, Yao Wangnian would once again stand alone against the entire world.

And most important of all, Yao Wangnian had already fallen to the point that his appearance was ruined, his body had been turned into that of a ghost, and he was all alone with nothing left to lose. In contrast, Jiang Li still had hope, a slim chance to survive, and avoid turning into that neither human nor ghost-like creature that Yao Wangnian had become.

In the blink of an eye, Yao Wangnian made a decision.

Overwhelming ghost qi gathered around him and suddenly launched itself towards the Guyue Sword!

After Yao Wangnian died, Jiang Li would be next.

After these two hindrances were gone, there would be no more hidden variables.

The spiritual powers surged forward in waves, almost blotting out the sky in endless torrents, making everyone’s heart fall.

This kind of power was the very definition of earth-shattering and sky-splitting.

Spiritual powers blended with ghost qi, dancing in the violent wind. The sand and the stones rose into the air in a hazy mess that obstructed their view. Everybody was forced to quickly retreat from the storm.

This was Luomei’s true power!

Ren Yousu and Ouyang looked at each other, both pale. The latter wanted to stop Luomei. No matter what one thought, the whole matter was suspicious. It was no longer an internal affair of the Wanjian Immortal Clan, but a larger issue that concerned an invasion of demons. Ouyang could not stand aside and watch Luomei kill them.

But as soon as he raised his hand, master Liu Zhengling of the Zhengrong Mountain Villa moved too, ordering his sword to obstruct Ouyang’s path forward.

“Master Ouyang, what do you intend to do?”

“Master Liu, please step aside!” Ouyang frowned.

“The Immortal is enough to deal with this matter. Master, lest you risk endangering innocent people, sit by and watch, and don’t rush into the conflict.”

“Master Liu, you have no right to interfere with my decisions.”

“This is an internal conflict of the Wanjian Immortal Clan!”

Ouyang was not in the mood to talk nonsense with him, so he just shook his sleeves. Of course, Liu Zhengling did not dare stop him by attacking, but even this little delay was enough for Luomei to reach Yao Wangnian’s back!

There was no doubt that Yao Wangnian was to die here and now!

Jiang Li raised his head abruptly to look at Yao Wangnian. His face was distorted from the excruciating pain and his body was shaking. He seemed to be struggling to break free from the chains, but no matter how hard he tried, in the end, he could only stand and watch his shixiong die.

No, there’s another person who can help.

Luomei suddenly felt a stark gust of spiritual power rush at him from behind. The cultivation base of his new opponent was, unexpectedly, not inferior to Luomei’s. He was forced to turn around to deal with the sneak attack first.

A figure descended from above, and their spiritual powers clashed. The two of them had to jump backwards from the shockwave, and as they landed on the tiles, the stones under their feet broke into countless pieces that flew in all directions.

Luomei squinted.

He felt that such tremendous pressure that assaulted him could only belong to one formidable enemy he had previously encountered.

Yet the one standing in front of him was “Sun Wuxia”, the one who took the first place in the Qianlin Assembly.

“Who. Are. You?” Luomei put stress on every word.

He was reminded of his battle against Jiufang Changming in Hongluo, but at that time, his opponent did not demonstrate such unadulterated power.

“My humble self is called Jiufang Changming.”

He raised his hand to his face, and it changed immediately, his black hair turning white near his waist. This was indeed Jiufang Changming.

“Impossible.” Luomei whispered. It was not that he felt fooled, but rather could not believe that his opponent could have reached such a breakthrough in the short time since their last meeting.

If the Jiufang Changming from Hongluo was an opponent Luomei would only bestow a single glance, the Jiufang Changming in front of his eyes was a powerful enemy that even Luomei was not sure if he could win against!