"My grandson Tianming has lacked proper guidance in the past sixteen years, having had to train in a backwater nation, so naturally his level isn't that high. After all, he doesn't know how wide the outside world can truly be, and that restricted his advancement. He didn't have any good cultivation techniques, which turned out to be quite a huge handicap that weighed down his natural talent... However!"
Li Jingyu's tone suddenly grew tense. "By the time you all know how truly talented and powerful my grandson is, I bet everyone here will kneel and shiver before him!"
She had kept her misgivings and hatred to herself for so many years. Back then, she had seen her son fall from the skies with her own eyes, never to truly rise back to his former heights! Yet such a heaven-defying 'grandson' had suddenly appeared before her!
Even so, her emotional speech merely triggered the others' laughter.
"Matriarch, please let me inspect his talent."
"Oh, no need to wait. I can't wait to kneel to him right here and now!"
"Matriarch, please hurry his cultivation up! I'm afraid my knees are already giving way! I might finish kneeling before he makes it!"
Seniors and juniors alike burst into laughter. There wasn’t a shred of respect at all! Li Tianming felt his fuse burning as he watched the old woman forced to bear all that ridicule. However, all he did was unfurl his hand and slowly walk towards the crowd.
"Mutts, make sure you take a good look!" He gave all of them a sweep. Now, the aura and atmosphere he gave off wasn't that of the Spiritsource realm, nor did he appear to be an actor one bit. It only took one yell for him to shut Li Xuanhe and the rest up. They squinted and scrutinized him. How could a mere Spiritsource beastmaster call those of the great Seven Starry Wind Branches mere mutts? Provoked, their rage flared.
But at that moment, Li Tianming pulled up the sleeve covering his right arm, revealing the rings on it one after another. Everyone in the Li Saint Clan paid heavy attention to Lifebane rings. In most cases, the rings wouldn't change after they appeared and would stay with one for the rest of their life! They were representative, unalterable marks.
Most began counting them one after another, and the sharper-eyed among them could already tell something was off. They counted the rings again and again, as if there was something horribly wrong. Three bane-rings signified that someone would become a genius worthy of the Li Saint Clan's name. Four bane-rings was a sign of hope for the clan's revival! However, Li Tianming had more than that.
In the clan's history, only the first person to break the curse of the Lifesbane got five bane-rings, and that was the number of rings on Li Tianming's arm!
"He has five bane-rings!" Li Jingyu stated the obvious.
Everyone widened their eyes and stared at Li Tianming in a stupor, their legs already quaking. Some were even on the brink of kneeling.
"Five bane-rings? Impossible! This can't be real!"
"Only the founding ancestor has five!"
"Everyone, go take a closer look! Did he draw the bane-rings himself?"
"That's right! His hair is probably dyed too!"
Amidst the chattering crowd, the head of the seven branches, Li Xuanhe, took one step forward and immediately appeared before Li Tianming. His palm shook as he picked up Tianming's arm and gave it a close look. The harder he squinted, the more he shivered.
"Alpha Ursae Majoris Branch Head, are they fake?" the other leaders scrambled to ask.
"I... I can't tell!" Li Xuanhe took three steps back and glared fiercely at Li Tianming.
"There's definitely a problem here. If he has five bane-rings, he wouldn't have only amounted to this little no matter how bad his techniques were!"
"That's right. I'm sure all of us know what having five bane-rings means."
"After passing it down for so many generations, even Li Wudi's son couldn't possibly have five bane-rings!"
"There must be a trick, Matriarch! Did you somehow make five rings appear on his arm through means unknown to us?!"
They were freaking out from the fact that Li Tianming had five bane-rings alone. What if they found out that he had ten bane-rings in total? It would only be even harder to believe then. Having five bane-rings alone was unprecedented.
The founding ancestor himself only had five! How could anyone have more than him?
Their disbelief was fully within Li Jingyu's expectations. After all, Li Tianming was only at the Spiritsource stage. Even if he really were sixteen, he would only be average. No matter how bad someone with five bane-rings was, they wouldn't be that bad.
However, Li Tianming knew the key to convincing them: now, they didn't really seem to doubt his identity as Li Wudi's son.
"These people really are hard to please! They won't believe me even after I showed them!" Li Jingyu snapped in anger.
"Granny, don't get mad over a bunch of shortsighted fools," Li Qingyu consoled.
"That's right. However, their constant prattling is really getting on my nerves."
At that moment, Li Tianming turned back and said, "Then should I chase them away?"
"Can you do that?" Li Jingyu felt a headache brewing.
Li Qingyu didn't really believe he could, either. Those people were almost infamous for being hard to deal with.
Li Tianming merely smiled. He turned to them and said, "Everyone, you all only know that I'm sixteen. What you're unaware of, however, is that I only started cultivating at the age of fifteen. I have only spent five months cultivating. I wonder what you all have to say about the fact that I started from zero and made it to the eighth Spiritsource level in a mere five months."
Those in the crowd turned to each other at the sound of his words. In actual fact, Li Tianming wasn't really lying, just omitting some facts. He had in fact only started less than five months ago—started his second attempt, that is.
"So if I claim that I started training yesterday and reached the second level of Unity, does that mean I have six bane-rings?" said a blue-robed youth from the crowd. He stood beside Li Chenhong; he was probably his son.
The head of the Beta Ursae Majoris Branch was going to have Li Wudi adopt him, Li Kunxu, a beastmaster at the second level of Unity at fifteen years old, not that much older than Chen Yao! However, this youth's spirit and willpower weren't one bit inferior to Lin Xiaoting's. His gaze was rather domineering.
"You’re at the second level of Unity?" Li Tianming asked.
"That's right, and I only have two bane-rings. So, how could you expect me to believe you have five if you're still at the eighth level of Spiritsource at sixteen?" Li Kunxu smirked.
None of them believed it either even after seeing it for themselves, and for good reason.
"Alright, then it's an easy matter to settle. I will challenge all of you who aren't older than me! If I can beat you all, will you believe my bane-rings are real, and that I'm Li Wudi's son?"
His words sent ripples through the crowd. There were already many among them younger than sixteen who achieved the first level of Unity, Li Kunxu being one of them. How could someone at the eighth level of Spiritsource beat someone four levels above him? It was a fool's errand!
"Let's start with you, the noisy one." Li Tianming pointed at Li Kunxu.
"Me?" Li Kunxu broke out in frantic laughter and sought his father's opinion.
Li Chenhong narrowed his eyes with doubt. "Li Tianming, did you just say you want to challenge everyone younger than sixteen to prove your talent as someone with five bane-rings?"
"You're only at the eighth level of Spiritsource, but you might be faced with many first or second level Unity beastmasters. Are you sure you want to do this?"
"What if you fail?"
"I would rather discuss what happens if I succeed first. Will the Seven Starry Branches acknowledge my talent as someone with five bane-rings and Li Wudi's son? WIll you acknowledge me as the junior sect master?"
Was he really going to call Li Wudi his dad? Probably not, but he would at least be his godfather. But even he knew that the position of junior sect master came with many conveniences, and would make his cultivation path much easier in the future. He absolutely had to become the junior sect master!
Not to mention, he rather liked Li Jingyu and Li Qingyu. Since they were his allies, it would be no big deal for them to help each other out. As for whether he truly was Li Wudi's son, that was something only the others really cared about. As far as he was concerned, he was an honored guest. If he got along well with Li Wudi, he wouldn't really mind acknowledging him as his godfather.
The seven branch heads discussed the matter for some time. Finally, Li Xuanhe smiled and said, "If you really can defeat our sons who are four to five levels above you, we'll accept your claims and acknowledge your talent. Only someone who has five bane-rings should be capable of such a feat. Additionally, only the Apex Bloodline can possibly have a descendant with five bane-rings at such a critical juncture! We will also accept you as Li Wudi's son. In fact, when the other three bloodlines come, we’ll protect you!"
Everyone agreed with Li Xuanhe on that matter.
"Very well," Li Tianming said, smiling.
This matter was going to be really easy to settle. However, nobody knew where he found the courage to make such bold challenges. Li Xuanhe and the others were already smirking. They were going to follow up with the real kicker.
"Li Tianming, should you fail, we will not acknowledge you to have five bane-rings, nor as Li Wudi's son. After all, your level of cultivation is far too poor! If you become the junior sect master, the other three bloodlines won’t be happy with it either. In that case, we would rather just have Li Wudi adopt one of our sons instead." As he said that, Li Xuanhe shot Li Jingyu a glance. He needed her to agree with those terms! In other words, if Li Tianming failed, one of their sons would become the junior sect master!
If Li Tianming wanted their support, it came with strings attached as well. However, it didn't seem like a good deal to Li Jingyu. She found them troublesome and annoying. As far as she was concerned, it didn't matter if these people didn't believe her. At the end of the day, only the three other bloodlines mattered.
Letting Li Wudi take one of their sons as his own was a huge joke!
Though, Li Jingyu didn't expect Li Tianming to speak before she got the chance to.
"No problem," he agreed with a smile. "Let's make it easier for you. Have the seven sons of yours come at me one by one. Anyone who can defeat me will become the junior sect master. Don't hold back on me. I'll show you ignorant fools what a real possessor of five bane-rings is really like."
His words immediately shut them all up. By the time they snapped out of their stupor, the so-called sixteen-year-old had already left Kunpeng Sacred Hall!Previous Chapter Next Chapter