Chapter 1384: Driving a Wedge!
The Mountain and Sea Realm was quiet. All of the surviving cultivators were gathered in the Ninth Mountain. There were only a few million, but those few million had survived a brutal war, and were the elite among the elite. Every one of them, regardless of the level of their cultivation bases, lived now after having braved endless carnage.
These were no longer amateurs when it came to battle. They had gained spirit and hope, and yet all of that... seemed to be wavering now.
How could they win...?
How could they even fight...?
Outside of the Ninth Mountain and Sea was an army of Outsiders tens of millions strong, who had the Mountain and Sea Realm completely surrounded. Further off in the distance were the 18th through 33rd Heavens, like enormous beasts that struck fear into the hearts of those who beheld them.
Most salient of all was the fact that leading this army of Outsiders were not just two 8-Essences Paragons. With the addition of the monkey Dao Fang, they now had three!
Three 8-Essences Paragons…. For all intents and purposes, the moment such a force had been revealed, the Mountain and Sea Realm was already defeated.
The world was lost, and the people were on the verge of being broken. The silent pressure weighing down on the Ninth Mountain and Sea made it seem like a dormant volcano.... No one spoke. Millions of cultivators looked silently at the scene surrounding them; virtually all of them were recovering from the wounds that riddled their bodies.
Did hope... even exist anymore...?
That unanswerable question continued to fester in the minds and hearts of everyone.
The war had turned truly bitter when the First Mountain and Sea was destroyed, and after that, one Mountain and Sea after another crumbled, until now, all that was left was the Ninth Mountain and Sea. Meng Hao looked out at that very Mountain and Sea, and his heart hurt as he realized that what he was looking at... really was his home.
But as the war raged on, death... became unavoidable. Family and friends alike were about to become nothing more than dust.
At some point, Xu Qing emerged from the crowd to stand at Meng Hao’s side. When he saw her, he reached out and clasped her hand. It felt cold.
As she gazed calmly into Meng Hao’s eyes, it seemed as if the mere act of holding his hand was the most important thing in the world.
The members of the Fang Clan also made their way to stand by Meng Hao’s side. His family came. His friends came. In this moment when all that remained of the Mountain and Sea Realm was the Ninth Mountain and Sea, for many people, Meng Hao was the standard-bearer of them all.
Further off in the distance, Patriarch Reliance sighed, carrying the State of Zhao with him as he also drew close. Also there in the Ninth Mountain and Sea were the Li Clan and the Wang Clan, cold and desolate, just like all of the other various sects and clans present.
Meng Hao could sense his sister’s aura on Planet South Heaven; she was with his parents.
As the Mountain and Sea Realm stood there in its silence, Paragon Sea Dream’s voice suddenly echoed out.
Looking up at Shui Dongliu, and doing nothing to prevent anyone from hearing her, she said, “You’re... really Nine Seals....”
When the Mountain and Sea cultivators heard her words, they also looked up into the sky. Even though not everyone could see what was up above, the bleakness in their hearts suddenly faded, and gradually, hope began to burn again.
They had all heard of Paragon Nine Seals, and throughout the events of the war, they had become more convinced than ever that he was a magnificent, glorious individual. To hear his name now suddenly filled them with deep anticipation.
Meng Hao looked up at Shui Dongliu, waiting like everyone else to hear his answer.
Shui Dongliu didn't say anything at first. But then, after a moment had passed, he nodded his head and said, “Yes, I am Nine Seals!!”
The instant he spoke those words, all of the cultivators of the Ninth Mountain and Sea were stirred into excitement. It was as if they had been resurrected from the dead, as if they once again had hope.
Nine Seals was a legend in the Mountain and Sea Realm, the Paragon who had actually created the entire Realm. In fact, he could rightly be called the ultimate Patriarch of every cultivator of the Mountain and Sea Realm!
Although everyone was excited, there were some people who reacted differently, including Meng Hao, Ksitigarbha, Sea Dream, the Mountain and Sea Lords, and select other individuals who were especially wise and perceptive.
“He’s actually not Nine Seals,” Meng Hao thought, sighing inwardly. He didn't speak the words aloud, but because of the Paragon's blood inside of him, he knew that Shui Dongliu... was definitely not Paragon Nine Seals.
There was something odd about how Sea Dream had worded her statement, as if her purpose in asking it was to get him to agree with her, and thus stir the passions of the Mountain and Sea cultivators.
If he went along with Sea Dream’s words, it would prove that he really wasn’t Nine Seals. If he denied her words to be truth... then the possibility still existed that he might actually be Nine Seals.
Meng Hao understood that, as did some of the others, although no one pointed it out aloud.
Numerous sea denizens who floated on the surface of the Ninth Sea first looked out at the scene beyond the Mountain and Sea Realm, then turned to look silently toward the Ninth Mountain. The entire Ninth Sea was currently blanketed by its will.
Even as Shui Dongliu’s words stirred the hearts of the Mountain and Sea Realm cultivators, the voice of the 8-Essences male cultivator rang out from within the ranks of the Outsider army.
“Immortals of the Mountains and Seas, you... have lost this war. There is no need to continue the fighting. I can represent the 33 Heavens to offer you a chance at survival.
“Surrender. Abandon all resistance. Willingly allow us to seal your cultivation bases and become our slaves. This war... is over.
“If you surrender, some of you may be executed, but the majority will survive. Some sects and clans may be allowed to continue to exist. You might have no freedom, but perhaps... that in itself is a sort of luxury. In any case, you have no other options.
“Fight, or surrender? I will give you the time it takes an incense stick to burn to think. For those of you who wish to surrender, you do not need to state that desire out loud. Doing that might get you killed on the spot.... After the time it takes an incense stick to burn, the 33 Heavens will begin the final charge. Fellow Daoist Xuan Yin, Fellow Daoist Dao Fang, and myself, will also join in to attack the Mountain and Sea Realm full force!
“During the fighting, any who wish to surrender can simply switch sides and fight the Mountain and Sea Realm. We will accept that as your form of surrender!” Eyes glittering, the 8-Essences Paragon waved his hand, causing a stick of burning incense to appear.
What savagely malicious tactics!
By offering such hope to the Mountain and Sea Realm cultivators, he also sowed discord among them. When it came time to fight, the cultivators would have to worry, not just about the Outsiders attacking openly, but about their fellow comrades-in-arms. No one could say for sure... what choice people might make in a moment of mortal peril.
Meng Hao’s pupils constricted as he realized that, even among the Fang Clan, there were people who appeared to be hesitating in contemplation. Although such expressions quickly vanished, it was impossible to tell whether their temptation had been dispelled, or merely concealed.
The Mountain and Sea Realm was deathly quiet. The cultivators couldn’t help but ponder the words of the 8-Essences Paragon. It was a critical juncture, and with the threat of death looming overhead, the idea of becoming a slave, despite being repugnant, was a way to stay alive.
Sea Dream said nothing. Shui Dongliu didn’t say a word. The Ninth Sea was completely silent.
The incense stick burned, and time passed. The silence became pressure weighing down on everyone. If Shui Dongliu hadn’t just stated that he was Nine Seals, then the Mountain and Sea Realm would likely have already dissolved into chaos.
When faced with life or death, one’s choices can easily become irrational....
However, even Shui Dongliu claiming the identity of Nine Seals did not have a huge impact. After all, the overall situation... seemed to be a completely hopeless one.
It was at this point that Shui Dongliu spoke, his voice both ancient and exhausted.
“Life and death are important things to everyone. Ensuring that one's traditions and values can be passed on to future generations is something important to all sects and clans.... To me, being able to pass on the Joss Flame power and the bloodlines of the Mountain and Sea Realm... is also very important.
“Therefore, considering we have fought this war down to this point, any individual, any clan or sect, who wishes to surrender to the 33 Heavens may do so without my interference. I won’t kill you. It is your decision to make.
“Make your decision now, and I won't question it. Everyone has their own fate, and I dare not interfere with that. However... once this moment passes, and the fighting begins, anyone who turns traitor on the battlefield can rest assured that even if I die, I will be sure to take those traitors with me into death, along with the Mountain and Sea Realm! Therefore, those of you who wish to surrender will leave the Mountain and Sea Realm post haste!” Shui Dongliu’s voice contained no viciousness, but instead, an unswerving decisiveness that everyone could detect.
Silence filled the Mountain and Sea Realm. The army of Outsiders looked contemptuously at the cultivators, as though the current turn of events were splendid entertainment.
Then, just when the incense stick was about to finish burning, a sigh rang out from the Ninth Mountain and Sea, from within... one of the great clans... the Wang Clan!
“I speak for the Wang Clan.... We choose to surrender!
“The earliest ancestor of the Wang Clan was not from the Mountain and Sea Realm, and only ended up here by accident.... Therefore, this war of the Mountains and Seas is something we shall not participate in.” The words spoken by the Wang Clan Patriarch caused most of the Wang Clan cultivators to sigh in relief.
However, a few of their number were clearly furious. One of them was Wang Mu, who tried to charge out from the ranks of the Wang Clan. Before he could, an ancient-looking hand reached out and grabbed him.
“NO!!” Wang Mu's eyes were completely bloodshot as he screamed in defiance. However, the old man behind him sighed, then rendered him unconscious with a palm strike.
In that same moment, a beam of light shot up from within the Wang Clan, as a tall, elegant young man appeared. It was none other than... Wang Tengfei. Although he had his grievances with Meng Hao, in this moment, when the survival of the Realm was on the line, his choice was to stand with the Mountains and Seas.
However, the Wang Clan would not permit it, and he was prevented from leaving.
At the same time that the Wang Clan chose to surrender, the skinny old man in the Wang Clan’s bamboo forest sighed.
“How embarrassing....” he muttered. Shaking his head, he closed his eyes. He would not fight in the battle, but he wanted to see if the Mountain and Sea Realm... might be able to make a comeback.
After a moment of silence, a bitter voice spoke out from the ranks of another of the great clans, the Li Clan. “I speak for the Li Clan.... We surrender....”
When that voice echoed out, Li Ling’er, who was currently standing next to Paragon Sea Dream, began to tremble.
Tears flowed down her as she cried, “Patriarch, w-what... what are you doing?! We are cultivators of the Mountain and Sea Realm! I… I can’t believe... I’m even related to you!”
Note from Deathblade: Fellow Daoists, at this late stage in the novel, the theme of "you can't trust what characters say" has been pretty well established. Don't we all remember the Meng Li / Resurrection Lily incident? Don't be so quick to just believe what you hear the characters say. I continue to see comments which quote or reference character dialogue as though it were a definitive explanation of cultivation ranks, plot points, history, etc. Just as in real life, the characters in Er Gen's novels can be wrong, can lie, can make mistakes, etc.
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