A fight to the death! Tianming would die standing, not on his knees!
"I know you’re still dreaming of the chance to kill me. So, I'm giving you this one chance! Yuwen Shendu, let my sister go. You’re someone with ambition. Don't abandon your ideals and become a coward. I never imagined I’d have to deal with you now. This might be the most foolish decision I'm making, but I don't fear you. If you have any ounce of dignity, fight me to the death in the First Grand-Orient Battlefield! Only the victor deserves the chance to take back the Grand-Orient Sword. The one who dies shall be buried here!"
Tianming wasn't being arrogant; he simply had no other way to save Qingyu, who could die at any time from having her neck crushed. That was especially the case with Yuwen Taiji's appearance. He would definitely make sure he dealt with Tianming here and now. The only thing he could do was change a trade for his life to a battle to the death. At least that way, there was a chance for both siblings to survive.
"Big Brother!" Qingyu hadn't shed a tear when faced with Yuwen Shendu, but her eyes were now flowing like a waterfall. While crying didn't look particularly good, a brave girl like her would look pretty no matter what. She had done well this time, and Tianming didn't think she’d gone into trouble on her own accord.
"Qingyu, you did me proud. These heartless people deserve a thousand times what you did to them! I want you to know that it's not just me, all of us love you dearly. Life and death is just that. Nobody can avoid it. We never wished for anything as grand as rising back to the top. All we want is to live up to our consciences!" As he spoke, he turned to Yuwen Shendu. "Now, what's your answer?"
As the audience watched, Yuwen Shendu finally opened his mouth. "Fine. Li Tianming, I’ll fight you to the death! We won't stop until only one is left standing!" He then turned to the elders and said, "I hope the council will seal the arena with a heavenly pattern barrier. Do not let anyone enter before one of us dies. We’ll fight with the thirty-three elders and hundred thousand audience members as witnesses!"
It was the first time Yuwen Shendu had decided something without his father's input. He turned to Yuwen Taiji, who stared back. "Dad, if I can't kill him and die inside, it’ll be akin to me atoning for my weakness with my life. That way, I no longer owe you or the clan anything, right?"
Yuwen Taiji took a deep breath, patted Yuwen Shendu on the shoulder, and looked at Qingyu. "Let her go."
"Shouldn't we wait until we’re inside the barrier?"
"There's no need. People who value their word so highly will go in and die sooner or later." Yuwen Shendu knew he was referring to Tianming. That youth seemed like the kind of person who would never run after giving his word.
The duel to the death had been formally established. At that moment, Tianming mustered his courage and fighting spirit to once more shake the whole sect. Everyone looked at him expectantly; not because of his talent, this time, but because of his bravado and sense of responsibility. It was a quality that one needed to truly command respect.
They all knew this was no different from a moth flying toward a flame, Tianming included. However, he felt it was worth it if he got his moment of burning bright with glory. So what if he died from the fire? At least he would go out with a bang in a way no one else could. There was no way he could live in peace if he ran away from his responsibilities, anyway. So he stood his ground. As long as he didn't leave the First Grand-Orient Battlefield, that would do.
"Tianming..." Shaoqing muttered as he watched him blankly.
"Master, that's enough. Just make something delicious for me to eat when I come back."
"I will! You definitely must walk out of here alive!" Ye Shaoqing had forgotten how many years it had been since he’d last shed tears, but he felt his eyes moisten up at this moment. Looking at the dedicated young man, he knew there was no way he could bring him away. The only thing he could do was respect his choice.
After that, the Yuwen Clan and their allies moved Yuwen Shengcheng's corpse away. Yuwen Taiji turned and left without delay. Only Yuwen Shendu remained. He put Qingyu down, and at that moment, Qingyu only just realized she had been sweating from anxiety. She felt as if she had escaped with her life.
"Your brother is rather decent," he said.
"You're rather decent, too. At least you're still human. However, you'll definitely die today!" Qingyu said. She turned and saw Tianming waiting for her.
"Don't cry and wait for me up there," he said before she’d had time to process her emotions.
"Qingyu, let's go," Ye Shaoqing said.
"Big Brother, live on. Otherwise I'll never feel happiness again."
"Looks like I'll have to pull out all my tricks to humor my little sister."
"I'll be waiting at home." She couldn't control her tears and turned to leave, not daring to look back. When the rest had left, only Yuwen Shendu and Tianming remained.
"Going home?" Wouldn't it be nice if he had one? Ever since he had come to the sect, he thought he’d have nobody to rely on. However, Fatepath Peak had become his home. Returning home alive was sufficient reason for him to try his best. Perhaps 'going home' was the only phrase that could spark someone's will to live so strongly. Nobody would want to go back as a corpse to the dismay of their parents, siblings, and friends.
But he knew Yuwen Shendu was supposed to be the one who would go take the Grand-Orient Sword from Heaven's Elysium. He had trained for years and fought hard since he was three, not stopping to rest one bit. His gaze radiated willpower. He was different from a prime disciple like Su Wuyou.
Only one would survive the battle. There was little chance it would be Tianming. He had only done this to help Qingyu escape the fate of death. It was the only choice he could make as an elder brother. However, there was something he still agonized over. A little shakily, he asked, "Ling'er, why don't you... leave now... I'm afraid I'll get you killed."
He had traded his life away himself without asking Feiling about it. If he died here, there was little chance she would survive. He had dragged her into this, despite having promised the Vermillion Bird King he’d protect her.
"Big Brother, you're making me mad."
He didn't expect that to be her reply. She really did sound rather angry; something that she had never shown him before.
"I'm only worried about involving you."
"What do you mean involving me? Remember when you said we would be together in life and death? Big Brother, you shouldn't treat promises like that as jokes. I was serious about what I said. If we only stay together when we live well, but have to part ways when you die, you'll have humiliated me by making me an oathbreaker. I didn't come here with you for fun. I really want to help you and stay with you. Big Brother, I know I'm weak, but I'm not spineless. I hope you can afford me this respect," she solemnly said. Tianming often forgot how serious a person she was, thanks to how cute and uppity she could sometimes be.
"Lately, I've experienced far too much, far more than I ever imagined I would in a lifetime. Oftentimes I think the time I’ve spent with you is the best part of my life. I finally feel useful. I appreciate all this, and love all of you. I'm willing to stake my life on yours because I want to be with you, not because I want you to defend me. Big Brother, I believe I've fallen in too deep. I don't know what else I'll have in my life if I lose you. You don't have to worry too much about me. I can fight, trust me. Also, Qingyu is my friend and I’m willing to risk my life for her, too."
Her words were more serious than ever. They greatly moved Tianming’s heart. He’d always known she was someone he had to cherish at great cost, but what she said had proved him wrong.
"Actually, you're not wrong. You're just thinking too much like a man. What I'm trying to say is I don't want you to abandon me no matter what you do." She sounded far more relaxed now, without the slightest hint of blaming Tianming.
"I got it. There won't be a next time!" he promised. In fact, he found it rather heartwarming that she would be willing to enter the abyss with him despite his wishes.
"Brothers, what about you?" Tianming respected his lifebound beasts. This was a decision he had made himself, yet four lives, including his own, were involved. He wanted to ascertain their dedication one last time. He would never question their will ever again after this time.
Ying Huo, standing on his shoulder, chirped, "While it'll be nice to live on and all, the great Ying Huo doesn't want to do so as a bastard coward. I don't want to be a powerless person who can't protect who I cherish. It's only my life, so what's there to worry about? So what if I die? I'm not afraid. Not to mention, it's not even certain yet who’ll die! I’m a Primordial Chaos Beast. I don't believe he can kill me!"
"What about you, Meow Meow?"
"If I get to sleep for ten days after this fight I think it's worth it."
Tianming finally smiled. Now that he had made his decision and involved them, he was going to make sure he’d have no regrets. It was but a simple conversation, yet it had tightened their bonds more than ever before. From now on, all four of their abilities and wills stood together; only then could they exert through power.
"I was lucky to have met you all. After today, I will make sure never to disappoint you!"
"Me too!" Feiling said.
"I'm with you."
By now, a sturdy heavenly pattern barrier had sealed the First Grand-Orient Battlefield. All thirty-three elders sat outside the barrier to stop anyone from puncturing it, thereby ensuring the fairness of the duel.
They couldn't do much to remedy Qingyu's matter, nor solve it, as Yuwen Taiji had given them an ultimatum. Even Huangfu Fengyun had to leave it to fate. They had to prepare themselves for the loss of someone with so much potential like Tianming. If only he’d had the time to continue improving, he wouldn't have been forced on the path to death. Now, there was naught they could do but bemoan the loss of a genius like that.
It wasn’t hard to understand that one would fear for one's life. However, they would never know where Tianming found the will to fight a foe like Yuwen Shendu. Tianming and his lifebound beasts approached him as the audience watched.
Tianming had always had a surprisingly strong fighting spirit. Now that he’d had a heart-to-heart with Feiling and his brothers, his will to live was further cemented and he was further driven to defy his fate. Their existences, their heartbeats, and their boiling blood made Tianming understand that he wasn't fighting alone. His lover and brothers were with him! None of them were cowards who would abandon him when the odds weren’t in his favor. He couldn't have asked for a better entourage. Now, he had completely consolidated his willpower.
"Life and death are two sides of the same coin. There’s nothing more invigorating than overcoming the fear of death for the sake of others. For their sakes, I’ll bear this burden and fight to the end!" Tianming felt the blood in him boil. It was as if his ancestors were watching him, causing their clan's shared soul to resonate.
His foe stood there like a cold god of death. Even when he was facing Lin Xiaoting, Tianming had relied on absolute power to dominate. But Yuwen Shendu was out of his league. He had nothing but cold regard for Tianming's heaven-defying will. As he watched Tianming, he took out a dark grey warblade from his spatial ring and doubled down on his imposing stance. With his blade, he would claim Tianming’s life.
A dark unity field sprung from his body, enveloping half the arena in darkness. The darkness was so deep that one couldn't see their own outstretched fingers. Countless unknowns lurked in the world of darkness. Within the field, a gigantic spiked beast crawled out. When it roared, the heavenly pattern barrier shook. This beast had forty-five stars in its eyes; it was a rare fourth-order saint beast, called the Saintfiend Taotie.
The moment it crawled out of the darkness, Tianming understood what a herald of death truly was. The taotie was humongous, and thick, spiked scales covered its whole body. Its mouth opened wide, revealing dense rows of razor-sharp teeth that numbered in hundreds, each as sharp as Meow Meow's electric fang. Its thick tail was spiked like a morning star, and its claws and limbs emanated an aura of death that swirled around his body like snakes.
This beast was a true fighting machine. It didn't seem to have any weaknesses, especially its thick hide that was seemingly impossible to pierce. Though fourth-order saint beast it was, it was still not quite mature. Even so, it was still enough to send chills down others' spines. The beast rested its head next to Yuwen Shendu, who stroked its chin with one hand. They were also brothers who had fought through countless life and death battles. At that moment, they stared coldly at Tianming.
Yuwen Shendu raised his warblade that sported black heavenly patterns—it was a grade eight beastial weapon called Necrodiabolus. A deathly aura circled the blade like a spirit with an unresolved grudge, wailing and shrieking nonstop. His blade, lifebound beast, and stage of cultivation were the reasons Yuwen Shendu was far stronger than normal prime disciples. Even ten Su Wuyous wouldn't be his match.
With the deathly grey aura circling around him, he looked even more like a god of death. When the taotie charged, he also came charging with Necrodiabolus raised.
"Li Tianming, you might've been able to take me on if you had two months' time. However, it's too late now."
"Aren't you declaring victory a little early?" Tianming said with a hoarse voice.
"Nope, not really." The reason he dared claim victory was his certainty that Tianming had no counter to his move.
"I just managed to master a true heavenly-ranked battle art, you see. I'll test it on you first. At least Shengcheng won't go to the grave alone. You better survive this, because I want to execute the battle art in full." He turned into a shadow that covered the skies as he closed in with Necrodiabolus.
Before the taotie reached Tianming, it shot out countless grey snakes from its spikes. They numbered in the tens of thousands and pushed against the heavenly barrier. Darkness gripped everything at that moment. The grey snakes resembled flames as they crackled and approached Tianming. This spiritsource ability was called Necrohell.
The field was now the taotie's home ground. It had impressive physical combat capabilities, and looked like a mountain that was trying to ram its way into Tianming.
Standing above it was Yuwen Shendu, wielding his warblade and unleashing the essence of Heavenly Will from his blade. The true extent of a heavenly-ranked battle art was definitely far stronger than Tianming's simplified one.
The audience watched anxiously as chaos unfolded.Previous Chapter Next Chapter