“Jingshu, that’s enough. Don’t push the blame on others when you’re the one that’s scared of him.” Huangfu Fengyun frowned as he gazed in the direction where Zhao Zhiyuan had flown off. None of the elders could chase after him, so there was no chance of taking back the Grand-Orient Sword.
The rest of the wait was excruciating, as Shangguan Jingshu kept her distance from the rest of the elders with Tianming still under her control.
“I’m sorry, child. Run away from the Grand-Orient Sect while you still can and let the Ye Clan take you somewhere safe. With your talent, you’ll one day gain the power to fight Yuwen Taiji. And when that time comes, you’ll take back the sword and bring glory to the Li Saint Clan.” Shangguan Jingshu’s face was pale.
“How is Elder Shangguan so sure that with the sword, Yuwen Taiji is capable of defending our home from the combined assault of the three sects?” Tianming asked.
“At least he has better odds of saving us compared to your mentor. In fact, no one is more suitable for this role in our entire sect. Yuwen Taiji also has at least seven other elders supporting him,” Shangguan Jingshu explained.
“Then what if he joins hands with Heaven’s Elysium and turns against our own people?” asked Tianming. Perhaps, if he told her about Li Wudi, she may have regretted her choice.
“You underestimate him. I’ve known him for years, and no one in this world can make him kneel, not even the Elysian Emperor! He’s destined to be the owner of the sword for the next decade.”
Tianming knew he had no chance of convincing her. Sure enough, Shangguan Jingshu released him after an hour’s time. Despite her traitorous act, there was nothing the rest of the elders could do but reprimand her.
It was a battle against time, as Huangfu Fengyun rode his Aircloud Godcrane at full speed in an attempt to catch up with Zhao Zhiyuan. Tianming rode along with Ye Shaoqing on the Azureflame Dragon, since he no longer knew which elder he could trust.
“Shaoqing, you should bring him somewhere else,” Huangfu Fengyun suggested. The situation would be out of his control once they returned to the sect.
“Even if Yuwen Taiji gets his hands on the sword, he’ll need time to master it. As for me, I still have people to fetch back in the sect if I were to leave,” Ye Shaoqing sulked. The Ye Clan and Li Qingyu were still there, so how could he leave without them?
“Master, it’s not your fault that we lost the sword. They’re too cunning, and we failed to see through Elder Shangguan.” Seeing that Ye Shaoqing was in a bad mood, Tianming consoled.
“I should’ve stopped this from happening. I failed your father’s expectations,” Ye Shaoqing sighed.
“None of us expected her betrayal. Shangguan Jingshu was a respected elder who put in her all for our sect, so who could’ve known?” Ye Qing said.
“There’s no point in blaming yourselves. The real question is, what can we do now?” Tianming asked.
“Since Yuwen Taiji holds the Grand-Orient Sword, it’s up to him to defend the sect against Heaven’s Elysium. Once we get back, we’ll immediately gather our clans and find somewhere to hide. It doesn’t have to be too far away from the sect, and we can discuss the remaining details once your father succeeds and leaves the Li Mausoleum. No one knows how strong he’ll be then,” Ye Shaoqing said.
“That’s right. Yuwen Taiji’s target is only Tianming. Now that the war with the other sects is imminent, he’ll need all the help he can possibly get, which means the other elders won’t have to worry about being targeted yet,” Ye Qing explained. That was also the reason why they had the courage to return even though Yuwen Taiji was about to get a hold of the sword. The Grand-Orient Barrier required massive manpower to support it, so Yuwen Taiji should prioritize the sect’s survival and spare their lives. In fact, if the elders were to promise him their loyalty, he might even reward them. But the drawback of letting that happen was that they would never be able to take back the Grand-Orient Sword.
“The rest is up to your father.” Ye Shaoqing gazed into the distant hills of the Grand-Orient Sect with burning sword intent in his eyes.
A while later, the crane and dragon arrived at the sect. The fourteen returning elders, first returned to Fatepath Peak where ten other elders remained.
“What happened! Zhao Zhiyuan returned earlier and passed the Grand-Orient Sword to Yuwen Taiji. Things are getting troublesome!” The ten elders had clearly been anxiously waiting for their return.
“What happened then?”
“They left the sect, probably to find a hidden place where they can study the sword.”
“All of them?” Huangfu Fengyun asked.
“Correct. They’re probably afraid that you may try to steal the sword, so he has seven other elders, plus Zhao Zhiyuan, to be his guards.”
“Before he left, he told us to make sure that Li Tianming and Ye Shaoqing stay here, or all ten of us will die!” Even though their voices were trembling, there was an unmistakable hint of coldness when they looked in Tianming and Ye Shaoqing’s direction. Their fear of the Grand-Orient Sword had already determined that they couldn’t be reliable allies.
“To be frank, we never expected the junior sect master to be capable of winning the Grand-Orient Sword. But it’s even more absurd that you couldn’t even defend it! Don’t tell me that Zhao Zhiyuan is stronger than all of you and snatched the sword all by himself.” The ten elders couldn’t figure out what had happened. Still, they had no choice but to close in on Tianming.
“It was I who abducted the junior sect master, allowing Zhao Zhiyuan to bring Yuwen Taiji the sword.” To everyone’s surprise, Shangguan Jingshu stepped out and confessed.
“But why?” The others stared in shock.
“Because he has something to control me. I don’t believe I’m the only one, for that matter,” she explained.
“Elder Shangguan, you made a terrible mistake! As a senior, you betrayed Ye Shaoqing and the junior sect master’s trust.…”
Sadly, what had happened was already history, so they could only lament.
“We heard from Zhao Zhiyuan that the junior sect master battled seven elysian children, and even killed Elysian Long. His story would’ve been a legend in the entire Grand-Orient Realm, but it truly is a shame—”
“There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Let the junior sect master and the Ye Clan go, on my order,” Shangguan Jingshu interrupted.
“Are you sure about that, Elder Shangguan? Yuwen Taiji will have your head!” the rest of the elders said in unison.
“Then his wish shall be satisfied. But let me die in battle against the three other sects, where I’ll fight to my last breath to protect our sect. Even then, I won’t take back what I said. Handing the sword to Yuwen Taiji is our sect’s only chance of surviving this war!” Her last sentence was meant for Tianming and the Ye Clan.
At the same time, Huangfu Fengyun backed her up.
“For those of you that didn’t go to Heaven’s Elysium with us, you have no idea how determined they are to destroy our sect this time. We should let the junior sect master and the Ye Clan find a safe place to hide. As for Yuwen Taiji, he can do whatever he wants to me if our sect survives.”
With things looking desperate for the Grand-Orient Sect, the situation was different. All of the elders had spent their entire life in the sect, with their ancestry tracing thousands of years back. It would be no mistake to say that they loved the sect more than anyone else. While they used to fear for their own clans;survival in the situation that Yuwen Taiji obtained the sword, now it wasn’t just their own family that was at stake. The war between the sects would determine everyone’s fate.
“Let the junior sect master go. He’s the last hope of our sect and the Li Saint Clan. If we lose, at least old fools like us can leave this world knowing that not all hope is lost. And one day, the junior sect master can return stronger than anyone else, crush Heaven’s Elysium, and revive both the Li Saint Clan and our sect!” Tears flowed down Huangfu Fengyun’s cheeks before he could even finish his sentence.
“Junior sect master, just leave. I’m responsible for the loss of the Grand-Orient Sword, but I also wish that you can make it out of here alive. That’s the best outcome I can hope for.” Shangguan Jingshu was in tears as well.
Perhaps they were cowards that previously feared for their own life, but in front of the greater good for the entire sect, they were even willing to put their own lives aside. It couldn’t be said who was right or wrong, but one thing was true: they all loved their sect and were willing to see it to its end.
Led by the two of them, the more than twenty elders finally came to an agreement. As for the other ten, who were initially against it, they were eventually convinced after being told of the danger the sect was in.
“Let me gather my clan.” Ye Qing returned to the Azure Immortal Mountain. The Ye Clan only had about a dozen-odd members in its direct branch. While there were branches across the entire sect, they weren’t important enough for Yuwen Taiji to take note of. As for those remaining in Fatepath Peak, only Li Qingyu and Li Jingyu were worth his attention.
“Tianming, let’s go fetch grandma and Qingyu,” Ye Shaoqing said.
“They’re over there.” Tianming pointed at the Kunpeng Sacred Hall, and sure enough there stood an old lady together with a young girl. They had been waiting there for a while, and heard enough to have a sense of the future that lay ahead of their clan and their sect.
When Yuwen Taiji had left with the Grand-Orient Sword, he’d cast a glance at Li Qingyu. While he hadn’t acted then, he had specified that she was one of those to be kept under watch. But clearly, the twenty-three elders here didn’t intend to follow suit. It was probably because of their premonition that the sect wouldn’t survive this war, and securing two pentabanes was the best they could do. After being fence-sitters for so long, they had finally come to a firm stand.Previous Chapter Next Chapter