While the Yueling Clan had an edge in all three generations, their strongest card was still their younger generation. They had Yueling Ji and Lin Xiaoting, who were both at Unity; that point was practically theirs.
The challenge wasn't a battle of strength, but more of a battle of numbers. Having two clans on one side of the battle was enough to tilt the balance of battle. No matter how strong Mu Yang was, Lightning Manor could keep sending fighters until he got exhausted. Lin Tianjian himself had five brothers, each of them at Heavenly Will and a decent threat in their own right.
In comparison, the Wei Clan was always a clan that remained low-key, and as a result they fell short when it came to numbers. Even if they could find relatives that could fight alongside them, it would be a fruitless endeavour. Firstly, no one would dare to go against the inspectors, since it seemed that the Elysium wanted the Wei Clan dead. Secondly, the members of the Lightning Manor were experts in their own right; few could stand against them.
The only faction that could possibly defeat the Lightning Manor was the Vermilion Bird Royal Clan, but the first reason was enough to deter them. Were they going to risk their own survival to save the Wei Clan? Li Tianming looked at the king, whose head was still lowered in front of the inspectors. At one glance, he knew that it was impossible. It was understandable, really, since the risk was too much for the royal clan. A single mistake would end the royal clan’s millennium-long reign, what with the Lightning Manor’s obvious ambitions. For the latter, trying for the throne was now not off the table.
As the only reliable person in the younger generation of the Wei Clan, Li Tianming knew that his battlefield had been determined. Even if that meant he had to fight against both Yueling Ji and Lin Xiaoting, he would go out with a bang, if need be.
He didn’t exactly have the most pleasant time with the Wei Clan, and he also fought quite a number of times with the youths from the family. But that didn’t mean he would give up on them. Li Tianming would never forget that it was Wei Tiancang that saved Wei Jing, curing her of the illness that tortured her for twenty years. He wouldn’t forget his grandfather's debilitated state that lasted a whole month, putting them in a bad place for the upcoming challenge. Most importantly, the Wei Manor was Wei Jing’s home for twenty years, where she spent her youth.
Of course, there was Mu Yang who had helped him consistently for the past few months. And for this challenge, there was no doubt that Mu Yang will be on the frontlines, fighting for his mentor’s honour. Li Tianming would gladly accept the challenge just for the sake of Mu Yang and Wei Jing, not to mention that this was the best chance for him to duel with Lin Xiaoting. This was the chance that he had been waiting for three years for!
“Lin Xiaoting, thank you for giving me this opportunity. I'll make sure not to disappoint!” Li Tianming’s eyes burned with fury.
Three years, and the chance had finally presented itself. It wasn't a chance to flaunt his ability, but a chance to announce to the world that Li Tianming was back to reclaim what he had lost! He would make them pay for stealing his Saintbeast War-Soul and taking Midas’ life! This was a blood debt that could only be repaid by the killer’s blood!
Li Tianming smiled at the thought. However, Wei Jing wore quite a different expression, her brows knitted together as she appeared deep in thought.
“How despicable! Earlier on, Lin Tianjian asked me how much your grandpa had deteriorated. Because he exhausted himself to save me, he can at most fight at sixty percent of his normal strength!”
For the Wei Clan's senior generation, there was only Wei Tiancang himself and Wei Qing. In comparison, the Lightning Seigneur had three brothers, and an extra Yueling Hong. If Wei Tiancang was in his best state, victory was still possible, considering that he too used to be the strongest person in Vermilion Bird. But Lightning Manor had seized the opportunity when he was weakened to strike.
Wei Jing lived, but at the expense of Wei Tiancang’s power. Who would have expected that? Even if Wei Tiancang did figure out their intentions towards the end, it was too late to react by then. Now what mattered was when the inspectors will set this challenge to be.
“From tomorrow onwards, the challenge will take place over the course of three days, with the order of the older generation, current generation and finally the younger generation. For the Yueling Clan and the Wei Clan, you have the night to prepare your strategies!” Jin Yixuan got up, wearing a expression of utter neutrality in the centre of attention. “The challenge will take place inside the Flameyellow Stadium of the Flameyellow Scions Institute! The battle will be open to the public throughout the three days, so those who are interested in reserving a good seat there might want to make a move soon.”
The stadium was where the ranking test took place, capable of housing ten thousand people.
By setting the challenge to be tomorrow, they were clearly trying to exploit Wei Tiancang’s weakness. The older generation would be the first to battle, and Wei Tiancang would get minimal rest before he faced the onslaught of both the Yueling Clan and the Lightning Manor.
Since the challenge was a grand event that was impossible to hide, the inspectors might as well open it up to all citizens. This way, the challenge would also be more formal and credible.
As Jin Yixuan made the announcement, many of the guests were ready to take their leave, planning to head over to the Flameyellow Stadium as soon as possible to occupy a good seat. The battle was tomorrow, and no one wanted to miss what could possibly be the most exciting event in Vermilion Bird’s history.
While Wei Tianxiong was still petrified, Mu Yang had already risen to his feet.
“Ah, Vermilion Bird King, isn’t it a beautiful night? Will you like to take the two of us on a tour around the capital?” The moment the ceremony ended, Jin Yixuan and Song Yixue appeared in front of the king, brilliant smiles on their faces.
“It'll be my honour. This way, please.” The king forced out a smile. He didn’t have the chance to help the Wei Clan even if he wanted to, and neither would Mu Yang get the opportunity to approach him for help.
The king was now one of the three invigilators for the challenge. Thus, he could only stand idly beside the two inspectors and watch Mu Yang leave. Even if the royal clan was on good terms with the Wei Clan, there was nothing he could do.
At another side of the hall, Sage Chen rose to his feet and walked towards Wei Jing.
“Brother, don’t.” Sage Xing held him back.
“Brother?” Sage Chen gritted his teeth. They were brothers after all.
“The two of us started from scratch, and how much blood and sweat did we put in to form the Xing & Chen Merchantry? Think of all those who depend on us for a living, do you want to destroy everything?” Sage Xing’s voice trembled slightly as he asked.
Sage Chen took a deep breath. By the time he looked over again, Mu Yang, Wei Jing, Wei Tianxiong and Li Tianming had already left.
The horse cart rattled as it travelled down the street of Ignispolis. Night had fallen, but the whole city was boiling with excitement.
“It’s over for us.” Wei Tianxiong’ head was lowered, his fist clenched so hard that the nails were biting into his skin.
No one replied to him. Mu Yang opened the window and looked out at the boiling Ignispolis.
“Everybody dies in the end, but my master was the one that gave my life meaning. If it’s needed, I am willing to defend the family with all that I have, even if it costs me my life.” The determination in his eyes was incomparable to Wei Tianxiong’s. Beside him, Wei Jing was crying, her face buried in her hands.
“I shouldn’t have lived. If I had endured Lifesbane a while longer, father wouldn’t have to fight in such a state. With his age…”
Li Tianming could feel a fire burning in his chest when he saw her tears rolling down her cheeks. Gently, he used the corner of his sleeves to wipe the beads off her face.
“Don’t worry, your son will get rid of every last dog from the Lightning Manor. If they as much as touched anyone in the Wei Clan, I will make sure they regret it.”
It was bound to be a sleepless night in the Wei Manor. They would discuss, they would panic, and they would struggle to find their chance of survival. Because of that, Li Tianming chose to alight at the gate of the Sanctum, not returning to the manor. He was not interested in seeing them succumb to their so-called fate.
If he had the time to listen to their howling and crying, Li Tianming would rather spend it to understand that ultimate move, Apocalyptic-Will!
In the bridal chamber, Lightning Manor. Lin Xiaoting was slightly dizzy from all the drinks that he had, as he opened the door. He was immediately greeted by his bride, dressed in red and sitting at the edge of the bed. Her face was a faint red, tickling the desire in Lin Xiaoting’s heart.
“How bold of you to make me wait for so long. Don’t keep me waiting next time.” Yueling Ji pouted.
“Darling, it’s my bad.” Lin Xiaoting knew she wasn’t a woman whom he could fully control like Mu Qingqing.
“I promise that this is the only time in my life I will keep you waiting. It is a happy day after all, and all my relatives and friends are too enthusiastic,” he explained.
“Hm, then I shall forgive you this time,” Yueling Ji replied, twiddling her fingers. She too was a young lady that just got married, and it was her first time as well.
What would be happening next was clear as daylight. Lin Xiaoting had imagined this night many times already, and he could barely wait anymore.
To practice his ‘Heavenly Yang-Thunder Manual’, Lin Xiaoting had refrained from the promiscuous lifestyle that many other youths his age had. For twenty years, he kept his distance from women, but when he finally entered Unity, his girlfriend of three years was destroyed and crippled.
And now, faced with the talented beauty who even had the support of the vice-inspectors, there would be no better time and target for him to grow from a boy to a man. He reached for her red veil, revealing a peachy face that was enough to make his blood boil.
“Hubby…” Her voice was trembling slightly. Her bashful tone was enough to turn any man into a beast. Lin Xiaoting’s eyes burned with desire, like a wolf ready to enjoy its feast!
“Don’t blame me if you can’t get out of bed tomorrow.” Lin Xiaoting smirked.
“No worries, we are not battling tomorrow.” Yueling Ji said with burning cheeks. Like Lin Xiaoting, she could wait no longer!
Just as he reached for her dress, Lin Xiaoting felt a sharp pain stabbed through his abdomen. With an ear-splitting shriek, Lin Xiaoting fell to the floor. His face was paler than paper, and his hands were cupped in between his legs as he screamed and writhed non-stop.
“Hubby!” Shocked, Yueling Ji watched Lin Xiaoting from atop the bed.
“AHH!” Lin Xiaoting’s face was turning from white to blue, as beads of sweat formed on his forehead. His eyes were going in and out of focus from the sheer pain, his only recourse rolling around the floor.
“Husband, what’s going on? What…” Yueling Ji jumped off the bed. Something was very wrong!
“Someone! Call someone!” Lin Xiaoting’s shrieks echoed in the chamber.
There was no need to call anyone, as the screams were enough to draw Lin Tianjian and his wife’s attention. What could possibly happen on the first night of marriage that can result in such a scream? Without a second thought, the two burst into the room, just to find Lin Xiaoting rolling on the ground in pain.
Lin Tianjian stepped up, feeling his son’s body. His face blanched a moment later, as he took an involuntary step back!
“Gelding Blight! Yueling Ji, you fed my son the Gelding Blight!” Lin Tianjian’s eyes widened, nearly fainting in shock.
“Gelding Blight?!” Lin Xiaoting’s mother let out a shriek before collapsing to the floor in a dead faint.
“I didn’t!” Yueling Ji was transfixed by that name. The Gelding Blight was a venom that made one heirless for the rest of his life! While it was harmless to the body, Lin Xiaoting was now impotent, forever!
The meaning behind that was obvious for Yueling Ji. Unless she made a divorce, happiness after marriage was now a pipe dream.
“I will kill you!” Lin Tianjian was now half-mad by the horror of his son’s impotence.
“Father, it’s not her…” Amidst his shrieking and groaning, Lin Xiaoting’s eyes suddenly opened wide. A particular figure appeared in his mind, a figure that made him tremble uncontrollably.
During the toast, it was her who filled his cup to the brim, and it was him who finished the cup! That figure usually dressed in white was now like a demon, bringing chills to every corner of his body! That woman…
Three years ago, she approached him with news of a Saintbeast War-Soul, asking him to cripple her boyfriend. When Li Tianming stumbled away on that stormy night with Midas’ corpse, she was there cuddled in his chest.
Now, three years later, she poured the Gelding Blight into his cup.
And wished him a happy future with many children.
“FInd Mu Qingqing, I want her DEAD!”
That night, the entire Lightning Manor trembled at Lin Xiaoting’s roar.
At the same time, at the millennium-old stone gate outside the Flameyellow Scions Institute, a coil of rope looped over the gate.
Shortly afterwards, a girl in white put her head in the noose, before she took one final leap.
And ended her own life.