The Aircloud Godcrane flew so high that it was above the vast sea of clouds. Tianming rode steadily on the crane, despite the turbulence around them. This beast could definitely fly much faster if it weren’t for the people riding on it.
"Grandpa Huangfu, can you have the crane slow down? We only need to reach Heaven's Elysium on the last day," Ye Shaoqing said. Huangfu Fengyun's age made him someone who could be his grandfather, after all.
"Shaoqing, you intend to have the junior sect master comprehend Myriad's Only by looking down from high above the clouds, don't you?" Huangfu Fengyun asked.
"That's one part of it. I also haven't explained the rules of the Realm Wars to him in detail yet."
"Alright. We'll travel at a leisurely pace then."
Tianming looked at the distant clouds and felt the vastness of the world. He wondered how many places beyond the Grand-Orient Realm were beyond his wildest imagination and wanted to know how puny the world an Aeternal Infernal Phoenix saw was.
"Have you seen the information I gave you back then?" Ye Shaoqing asked.
"I have. Apart from the seven elysian children, three other sects will be sending their own disciples to participate, right?" With his near photographic memory, he had memorized all the results, abilities, and possible trump cards of his prospective opponents.
There were countless sects in the Grand-Orient Realm, but most of them had been swallowed up and converted into Heaven's Sanctums or Flameyellow Scion Institutes by Heaven's Elysium. Among the larger remaining sects in the realm were four great sects that were considered second tier. They weren't referred to as a collective of five great sects, for Heaven's Elysium's might had greatly outstripped the other four.
Heaven's Elysium was the only supersect in the realm, having replaced the Grand-Orient Sect a millennium ago. Even now, they continued growing stronger. The other four great sects were the oldest sects in the realm, and their glory days were long past. Though at the very least, they managed to maintain a certain level of standard.
Based on the rankings of the previous sect battles in the realm, Heaven's Elysium took first place uncontested, while the Grand-Orient Sect placed fifth. The sect occupying second place was located in the west of the realm near Onyx Hole, called the Onyx Sect.
Ten thousand years ago, when Heaven's Elysium hadn't yet risen from obscurity, they were the principal rival of the Grand-Orient Sect. Many battles had taken place between the two powers, with most of them ending in Grand-Orient Sect's victory.
Yet, nobody could have expected that Onyx Sect would stabilize their heritage and legacy throughout the years while Grand-Orient Sect fell from grace to fifth place. In their current state, they might not be able to face off against the Onyx Sect, let alone Heaven's Elysium.
"Ten years ago, the Onyx Sect even engaged in a war against Heaven's Elysium, but they were defeated. Now, they've become minions instead," Ye Shaoqing said.
"Master, the information you gave me says that the third-ranked Southsky Sect has a good relationship with our sect, right?" Tianming asked.
Southsky Sect was located near the southwestern area of the realm on Southsky Island. It was much closer to Vermillion Bird than the Grand-Orient Sect was.
"That's right. Our relationship has always been decent. They’ve also supported us quite a lot in recent years. If not for our alliance with them, we would've faced even more oppression from Heaven's Elysium."
"Did it start all the way back during the ancestors' days?"
"That's right. The one who founded the Southsky Sect was the wife of the founding ancestor, Li Shenxiao: Weisheng Yuyin. It's said that they split due to differences in personality and forged their own paths. Despite parting, they remained friends the whole time. While their sect's descendants don't have Lifesbane, their heritage is actually pretty close to yours. You come from the same source, after all. Back then, the founding ancestor had a son and daughter. The one Weisheng Yuyin took with her was her daughter, who didn't have Lifesbane."
Tianming didn't expect the two sects to have this kind of relationship. It was no wonder they were able to maintain such close ties.
"Weisheng is a rather rare surname. Is it native to the Grand-Orient Realm?" Tianming asked.
"No. It's said that Weisheng Yuyin is someone the founding ancestor got to know when he was in the Theocracy of the Ancients. She came to Grand-Orient Realm with him."
Only the most powerful of people would become legends, Tianming thought. People even knew where his wife came from.
"What kind of place is the theocracy?"
"Since you came from Vermillion Bird, you know about commanderies, right?"
"I do. The city of Flamehaven, where I was born, is part of the Southfire Commandery, one of the commanderies in Vermillion Bird."
"In the same sense, the Grand-Orient Realm is a commandery of the Theocracy of the Ancients. The Elysian Emperor of Heaven's Elysium is known as the Commander of the Grand-Orient Realm."
Tianming was mind blown. He had thought that the theocracy was some kind of secret realm. He didn't think that the Grand-Orient Realm was actually a part of the theocracy instead. Given the number of talented disciples the Grand-Orient Sect had churned out through the ages, it didn't seem to be a mere commandery.
"Well, it's not that similar in principle. The Theocracy of the Ancients isn't a nation like the small country you came from. Instead, it’s been ruled by a grand dynasty since antiquity. The nation was said to have produced literal gods before, so it isn't weird that it can reign over a place like the Grand-Orient Realm. The history of this ancient dynasty stretches much farther back than Grand-Orient Sect's own. Our sect has only lasted some ten thousand years, during which it was appointed by the theocracy to rule over the realm," explained Ye Shaoqing.
"Don't worry too much about the theocracy. If you do manage to become a saint, you'll have a chance to roam the theocracy. The Grand-Orient Realm is a really distant place to the theocracy, so they basically don't really care about the internal struggles between the sects. At most, they come to visit once every decade to supervise the fight for the Grand-Orient Sword. Even then, they usually do it from the shadows, rather than appearing outright."
"So someone from the theocracy will come to watch over the Realm Wars?"
"Perhaps. It's said that they do send someone over, but no one has ever seen or received them before. Even so, their supervision is an edict from the theocracy itself. Even if they didn't send anyone over, the possibility that they did is enough to scare the various sects into not messing around during the Realm Wars."
"I got it now. Master, can you tell me more about the Prime Tower and Grand-Orient Sword?"
"These two divine artifacts are said to have been crafted by the gods. They were granted to the founding ancestor by the Primeval Autarch, when he was appointed to become commander of the Grand-Orient Realm. The Grand-Orient Sword is also called the Imperial Sword, and another name for Prime Tower is Undying Tower. Nobody apart from the founding ancestor has been able to unleash their true divine might.
"Ever since the founding ancestor's passing, the Prime Tower secured the sacred mountain with the power of its heavenly patterns, causing it to become a sacred training ground for the sect. Unless the sect is conquered and the Grand-Orient Mountains themselves are occupied, nobody will be able to take the tower away.
"As for the Grand-Orient Sword, it’s been passed down through the generations of Li sect masters. But when the Li Saint Clan fell from grace, the sword was taken away by the Onyx Sect. Then, when Heaven's Elysium rose to power, they took the sword from them. As the Grand-Orient sword is a divine artifact the founding ancestor received from the theocracy, it isn't something that can be taken on a whim. It was said that the theocracy sent someone to Heaven's Elysium when it was taken. Once they realized that the Li Saint Clan had fallen from grace and could no longer hold onto the realm, they devised the Realm Wars.
"It would be carried out once every ten years, during which the five great sects would send the disciples from their most current generation to fight. Any sect that can take the sword will be allowed to hold onto it for the next decade. Nobody from the senior generations will be allowed to interfere in that process.
"The theocracy's might is the reason the Realm Wars are still carried out to this day. If it weren’t for that, Heaven's Elysium would never offer up the Grand-Orient Sword for little kids like you to fight over."
In other words, Heaven's Elysium had no choice but to offer the sword as a prize due to the edict from the theocracy. Even if no one was really supervising the Realm Wars, Heaven's Elysium wouldn't dare risk breaking the protocol in fear of retaliation.
"The winner would be able to hold onto the sword for a decade. After that, another war is held to determine the next ruler of the realm. Don't look down on the sword. It's power is one thing, but its true value lies in its relation with the edict from the theocracy that states that the sect that manages to hold onto the sword for five consecutive decades will become the new ruler of the realm. That means five successive generations of disciples will have to take the Grand-Orient Sword in the Realm Wars.
"In the past thousand years, while the other three great sects have been able to take the Grand-Orient Sword, they only managed to hold onto it for ten years before Heaven's Elysium snatched it back in the next round. As for our sect, we've never once taken it back since we lost it."
It was truly embarrassing and demotivating. Not only were they unable to take back the sword, they had spent so many resources and much effort to nurture each generation of prime disciples. Even then, they still lost horribly and were traumatized for life, causing their future cultivation to slow and stagnate.
Ye Shaoqing sighed and patted on Tianming's shoulder. "Such is life. When we stood on top, we were the idols of many. Once we fell, even the ancestors of the Li Saint Clan would be disappointed in our sect's descendants. That’s why the Realm Wars is just as much a struggle for the Grand-Orient Sword as it is a battle for our dignity! And our sect has been the laughingstock of the others for close to a thousand years...."
Over the past thousand years, there had been a hundred generations of prime disciples, with each generation lasting ten years. They stepped into the battlefield and fought the Realm Wars with the aim to regain their sect's dignity, only to leave in shame. By now, winning the Realm Wars was merely the prime disciples' fleeting dream. Tianming could finally understand why Zhao Lingzhou was so pessimistic, and he also finally knew why Yuwen Taiji wanted so badly for Yuwen Shendu to take the Grand-Orient Sword back.
Yet now, the hope and dignity of the Li Saint Clan and Grand-Orient Sect were his burden, on top of the hopes of the countless generations that had come before. Those yearning gazes, as well as the ones filled with fighting spirit, were focused on him.
Though Huangfu Fengyun had plainly told him that not taking the sword back wouldn't really change much, Tianming couldn't feel casual about it at all after hearing about the humiliation his sect and clan had experienced.
"Dying is but a part of life, but living without dignity is unacceptable." He took a deep breath, his eyes filling with resolve as they looked to Heaven's Elysium's direction. This time, he wasn't just heading there to defeat Yueling Long.
He would also be taking back the dignity the past hundred generations of prime disciples had lost.
The five sects, namely, Heaven's Elysium, Onyx Sect, Southsky Sect, Cloudmist Sword School, and Grand-Orient Sect, would send their top disciples to fight for the Grand-Orient Sword. Who would have the last laugh? It wouldn't be the Grand-Orient Sect, thought many.Previous Chapter Next Chapter