"It's mainly thanks to the sword Her Eminence gave me," Tianming said.
"It's definitely not the sword, but you," Xuanyuan Dao said.
"Either way, just consider me a third-level life phase samsaran then."
"It's not the same...." Xuanyuan Dao furrowed his brows. "If I’d known that was the case, I would've announced an even longer extension. I didn't think you weren't at the ninth level yet. That way, you won't be able to break through to the Samsara stage...."
"Sect Master, let me try using these two weeks to become a ninth-level empyrean saint then."
"I suppose that's all we can do. Do your best. The others don't believe that you alone can change anything, but I do. I've placed my hopes on you and got ridiculed for it. Don't disappoint me," he said with a sigh.
"I can't promise anything, Sect Master, but I'll do my best."
"Good!" He gave Tianming an encouraging shoulder pat.
"Sect Master, can you tell me what the situation is right now?"
"Let me summarize. Five of the divine realms have clearly expressed that they want to wipe out Her Eminence. The Biritual Demon Sect and Hexapath Sword Sect in particular want more than that. They want revenge and are trying to get the rest to exterminate our sect, most of whom don't wish for a fight to the death with us and only want Her Eminence dead. Nothing good is going to come of this, only death."
"I see. The other three are Quadform, Heptastar, and Nonahall, right?"
"Yes. As for Triflair, Pentaphase, and Octagram, they’re our allies for historical reasons. While they won't be able to help us with Her Eminence's matter, at least they won't be likely to betray us. However, I'm sure they're hoping that we can abandon Her Eminence too."
Biritual and Hexapath wanted all out war, and Quadform, Heptastar, and Nonahall wanted Feiling's death. The others were watching from the sidelines without getting involved.
"Sect Master, what of our internal affairs?" Tianming asked about a sensitive topic.
"You wish to know?"
"Yes, especially the Sterling House of Fang's attitude toward all this."
"Fine, I'll tell you. Fang Taiqing and his house desire for Her Eminence to lead us all to conquer the continent to some degree, but their selfish attitudes haven't changed at all. We can't count on them during a crucial time like this. If things turn out well for us, Fang Taiqing will be all too happy to play the hero and defend Her Eminence. Otherwise, he'll turn his back on us. That's just how it is. However, he won’t tell anyone of his stance right now."
"Why did he decide to host the Number One Summit then?"
"He said he wanted the young generation to take some risk and use this chance to test out the other divine realms' stance on us. We did fulfill the latter objective today, at the cost of forty disciples. He thinks it was worth it."
"So he was using us as cannon fodder after all."
"There are some things that aren't openly talked about, but known by everyone. Fang Taiqing basically wants to see how our sect will react when we're put under real stress, how many will give up and how many will wallow in fear and terror. He achieved his goal. The whole sect is in chaos now, and there are only a few that still have spines."
"Isn't he worried that Her Eminence will give him trouble for this in the future? Would she really lead someone so troublesome like that to conquer the continent?"
"At the very least, we can be thankful he hasn't done anything drastic yet. The Sterling House of Fang is indeed powerful, and a core of our sect's foundations. Not to mention, if he goes more and more overboard, we'll know how pessimistic he is becoming. We all know what's going on, but there's nothing we can do about it."
"Does Her Eminence know about it?"
"We don't dare to speak about this before Her Eminence. Among those that died today are some from the Sterling House of Fang as well. There's nothing we can say about it since they also paid their part of the price."
Basically, Fang Taiqing wasn't just selfishly furthering his ambitions without any cost to himself either. However, Xuanyuan Dao still couldn't be sure of his final leanings yet.
"There's also something else that puts Fang Taiqing in a bad position."
"What is it?" Tianming asked.
"The Yinyang Demon Sect hates the Sterling House of Fang to the bone and wants to wipe them out for good. That means Fang Taiqing will have a hard time leaving us with any hope of survival for his house."
"I see." The situation was indeed rather messed up with different people having their own goals. It was too bad that Feiling, while worshipped as a goddess, had no real agency of her own in the matter. Her fate would be decided by the sect's whims.
"What about the Draconis House of Jian?
"They have a grudge against the Hexapath Sword Sect, so they’ll probably side with us. However, Jian Wuyi has always been a rather secretive person. Who knows to what extent he'll stand with us?"
Tianming nodded. "Sect Master, I have a good relationship with a few tribulation elders."
"You're talking about Yi Xingyin, Ouyang Jianwang, and the rest, right?"
"They’re the true heroes. The sect has only been able to survive for such a long time thanks to pillars like that, rather than the parasites that grow on them. No matter how strong the pillars, the parasitic vines are just vines in the end!" He calmed himself down a little and continued, "Don't worry, we've already reached out to them." This was quite uncharacteristic of the proud Archaic House of Xuanyuan, but Xuanyuan Dao had made the move nonetheless.
"Are you afraid, Sect Master?" Tianming asked.
"Afraid of what? We all die, eventually. Such is life trapped in samsara. I've lived enough and have few regrets in life. The Archaic House of Xuanyuan will not relent while we strive to protect Her Eminence. Tianming, you weren’t born in our house, so you don't know what Her Eminence means to us. The Xuanyuan house was only able to rise to prominence thanks to the two ascendants we produced. Everything we have is thanks to them. Otherwise, a weak and pathetic clan like ours would've long been lost to the flow of time. Even though Her Eminence hasn't contributed much to us so far, she managed to ascend at the age of twenty and will always be our lasting pride. We’re willing to protect Her Eminence until what was lost is found again. Within ten years, she will surely be able to prove herself with miracles once again and help our house propagate for another million years!" His expression was one of intense zealotry and determination.
"Sect Master, as long as Her Eminence is around, the Archaic House of Xuanyuan won’t be disappointed." While Feiling wasn't actually Xuanyuan Xi, it made no difference at this point.
"Of course. Her Eminence is our progenitor, after all," Xuanyuan Dao said with pride.
"I’ll head to the Old Deepstar Path now, Sect Master."
"I'll wait for your good news."
Tianming entered the path from the entrance in the Heaven Branch and reached the part near the Deepstar Pool, where the Astral Wills were most concentrated. He passionately looked up at the stars, incensed by what had happened earlier in the day.
"Ancestors of the Xuanyuan house, please aid me in shedding my sainthood to become a samsaran. I know that you can all hear me! Your descendants are facing a huge crisis, so I hope your heroic souls will awaken! I’ll definitely repay this favor with my life!" he said sincerely.
He wasn't sure if he was imagining it, but the Astral Wills that gathered around him all seemed to be from members of the Archaic House of Xuanyuan. Now, he would no longer be leaving. He sat cross-legged on the path and wielded his sword in hand, allowing the myriad stars to circle around him as he rapidly took in their experiences. It seemed like they were talking to him as his Imperial Will absorbed them.
He had seen far too many lives and felt the hardship experienced by this ancient clan from antiquity, relishing in their stubborn will to survive and rise to prominence time and again. Every one of them had the stigma of the first ascendant. From them, he learned the history of the first to ascend to godhood on the Flameyellow Continent.
"The first god was known as Great Emperor Xuanyuan. Two hundred thousand years ago, the human race was weak. It's said that the demons used to exist alongside us, culling our numbers wherever we went. They were the dominant species and fed on our lifebound beasts. Great Emperor Xuanyuan rose from humble beginnings and became a god, creating symbiotic cultivation and sharing it with his kin in the process. He’s the Progenitor of Humanity! He ushered in the age of humans and wiped out the demons, creating the Heaven Cauldron and crushing the remnants of hell. From then on, the Flameyellow Continent was ruled by humanity!"
Tianming had just learned of how impressive the roots of the Xuanyuan house were. They were the origin of humans as they were today. The burden of that surname was far too heavy. Over the past two hundred millennia, they had risen and fallen time and again. Who could imagine that someone would succeed the Great Emperor Xuanyuan as a god, only to lose that power, resulting in the crisis they were facing today.
"Xuanyuan Yufeng, I take my words back. There is an eternal clan in this world."
Tianming's mind followed where the Astral Wills of the Xuanyuans took him. Eventually, eight whole days had passed and he encountered a unique Astral Will that was far too young. It was the Astral Will of Xuanyuan Yuheng that had only been in the Old Deepstar Path for a few days. For all the passion and potential he’d had, he had perished right before the Number One Summit.
"Li Tianming," Xuanyuan Yuheng said as he wrapped his arms around Tianming's head, putting his forehead against his. "I know you killed me, but it matters not. Now, you’re the one who must protect Her Eminence. From now on, carry my dreams and convictions with you. Follow Her Eminence, follow Great Emperor Xuanyuan. Let the Archaic House of Xuanyuan propagate into eternity!"Previous Chapter Next Chapter