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Chapter 102: A Battle of Wisdom, A Battle of Courage (2)

"A newborn calf fears not the tiger…" Many of the words wished to be said converged into emotionally bestirred sighs of admiration. The gaze of a bald youth roamed, engraving Xu Yangyi's features into his heart: "This… is a complete offense against the Ming Clan… Even if each side and the current cultivation system maintains the frail and complicated surface peace, the slaying of a successor of God Ming… He's sure got guts!" 

"On his return… maybe he'll immediately be met with the Ming Clan's warrant. A scion of God MIng has been executed, and his head publicly displayed. This is already striking the MIng Clan's face…" 

Countless thoughts circulated about at the bottom of everyone's mind. However, there wasn't anyone who knew that THIS was actually Xu Yangyi's declaration of war against Daomaster Floatingcloud! Regardless of martial force, what was cared for was bravery and wisdom!

You think… a supreme Dao Master like you can seize the key moments at each step? In certain times at certain places, even a Qi Condensation cultivator like myself can guide the path for an immortal, as well!

Daomaster Floatingcloud's gaze faintly swept over Xu Yangyi. He said insipidly: "Sixteen years? Three years ago, the paragon was surnamed Chu, the grandson of Deputy Minister Chu Tianyi." His sight fell on top of the origin crystal. His heart ached in thrashing. Likewise… he dared not to make a gamble! One who feared not the thousand cuts would dare to unhorse an emperor, this could be said to be such a situation.*

Who didn't desire a demon core? Even they were incomparably tempted. It was very likely that it would allow them to break through to the next stage! To the extent that it would lead to the Grand Dao of Nascent Soul! However… right now, this origin crystal had transformed into an atom bomb, grasped in the hand of a madman. 

"That not right." Earthcleave's voice rang out almost simultaneously: "The Vermilion Snow Incident's verdict was rendered by myself. The paragon is indeed young friend Xu."

How dare you! The appearance of Floatingcloud's facsimile was as easy as clouds and gentle like wind, yet his heart blazed with a towering fury! But oddly, the object of his wrath was not Xu Yangyi. Rather, it was Earth Cleave! Few knew of his Black Kill Order, and moreover, no one was aware that Thousandedge has received the Black Kill Order as the branch master of Mingshui Province's Featherwood Guard!

Already for many ages, he had stood lofty and remote. In his impression, if he was going to crush Xu Yangyi to death, it was merely a question of an extending finger. What was troublesome was the checks and balances of other Core Formation masters. In case the Emperor Armament was learned of, the consequences would be difficult to imagine!

Without so much as a sound or trace, he had erased the matter of that year. Taking away the Emperor Armament was the primary task at hand. As for the possessor of the Emperor Armament… what of them?

Upon hearing the name Xu Yangyi, his heart had jumped. Nonetheless, over the course of several centuries of cultivation, he had long since ceased to be startled by great billows. Yet, he absolutely didn't expect that he would possibly chance upon Xu Yangyi here! Originally, he had even forgotten the other's appearance. Furthermore, he didn't expect that Xu Yangyi would have the audacity to introduce himself at such a time!

Xu Yangyi maintained a posture of cupped hands, simply daring not to hold sliver of a distraction in his heart and exerting his full strength to resist the Core Formation avatar's spiritual pressure. The cold sweat of his forehead quietly secreted. He, too, was making a gamble!

He was betting on cultivation civilization, that even a top figure was likewise restricted to an extent! This was the source all the world's affairs and all living things. Not to mention Core Formation cultivators, since humanity's emergence to this day, struggle and balance were frequent companions. Over several millennia, not once had this changed. Everyone had heard of the tale of the three Buddhist monks that had no water to drink.**

His gamble was correct. The hearts of men was the hardest thing to fathom. Earthcleave's first words didn't give face to Floatingcloud! How could such an opportunity, the presence of the cultivation court's Vice President Earthcleave, NOT be possibly grasped? Even if it was in the face of a Core Formation master's incarnation!

"Why haven't I heard about it?" Floatingcloud said, seemingly leisured. He began to narrow his eyes and imperceptibly glanced at the apparently respectful Xu Yangyi.

"This was told to me by your personal secretary. How is it…" Earthcleave swept an eye over Floatingcloud's facsimile: "That the Fellow Daoist could've possibly misreported the scene?" 

Floatingcloud acted like he was pricked by a needle and pursed his lips, uttering not another word. He was uncertain of Xu Yangyi's thoughts! Does he know I issued the Black Kill Order? Does he not? 

This was merely of Xu Yangyi's unintentional doing. Presently, everyone knew he was still alive, so the Vermillion Snow Incident would inevitably be raised! This was to lift siege for himself, the avoidance of danger! 

Is he aware? Floatingcloud softly squeezed both of his hands at his back. A provocation. This was a provocation against his prestige, that of a Dao Master's!

If… Earthcleave wasn't here, and granted that he kneaded Xu Yangyi to death with his fingers, he, too, had his owns methods quelling the affair! At most, he'd have to pay some price! Yet the crux of the matter was… that Earthcleave had actually rushed over with his incarnation in person! The Cultivation Court's gaze was fixed the tightest on Core Formation cultivators!

Floatingcloud almost dared not to think of the following amount of the punishment ticket that awaited him if he squeezed Xu Yangyi to death in public! It was enough to bring fright to his heart and make his flesh crawl! In particular… he ventured not to touch the demon core. In case the other truly dared to force the demon core to self-destruct, whoever approached first would be out of luck. Death would not come, but there would be grievous injury. Murmuring to himself for a brief moment, he said indifferently: "I seem to have some impression."

"This really was one of God Ming's successors in order, ranked eighteen." Earthcleave's gaze casually brushed over the head in Xu Yangyi's hand, no longer speaking.

"Perfect." Daomaster Floatingcloud's avatar gently laughed: "Then, it'll be recorded as a great merit."

"Nonetheless, our young friend is still required to account for today's matter with the Cultivation Court."

"Thank you, senior." Xu Yangyi cupped his hands, not looking at everyone's gazes and clenched his teeth as he stored the demon core in the storage ring—the ring that was God Ming's middle finger. He brought his palm on top of his closed fist respectfully and said: "Junior has another matter I wish to report to senior."

"Speak." The final unknown figure spoke.

"Yes, that year when junior seized the paragonship, I once promised to join the Featherwood Guard. Yet because of my unexpected disappearance of three years…" 

"I have already recorded the report of that day on file. According to the 'Cultivators and Cultivation Corporations code of conduct', after five years, the contract may be nullified." Earthcleave interrupted Xu Yangyi's speech and said: "Besides, young friend can enter Mingshui Province's Featherwood Guard. The matter of the Four Great Joint Pools has already shocked the human world. Young friend, as the first to bury funeral dolls, the origin of this evil, you have the duty to actively make reparations in concert with the regional government."***

"Yes!" Xu Yangyi immediately gave his response, his voice clear. He glanced imperceptibly at Daomaster Floatingcloud's facsimile. 

Checkmate! Even with Floatingcloud's self-restraint, at this moment, his face twitched. Power was martial strength, yet it was by no way confined to merely martial strength! Courage, boldness, and wisdom were likewise a power of a kind! There was no division between former or latter!

This was a checkmate… This insect had the impertinence to checkmate him here! Floating Cloud's hand was already behind him, wringing with a cracking. After the blooming of the Red Spider Lily, never had he expected that events would unfold as to so far that he would be fiercely bitten by this insect!

From now on, everyone would know that Xu Yangyi was at a Featherwood Guard branch! Here onwards… everyone would know he was a person responded to by Earthcleave! From this day forth… this person… would leave a faint vestige in hearts of three Core Formation cultivators. Although it was light, it existed!

He was all too understanding of a Core Formation master's position. In case Xu Yangyi died, it was the Cultivation Court that compiled cultivator death statistics! After reported, and so long as Earthcleave was seen with so much as a furrow on his brows, then he might quip "How did he die?" or perhaps "Wasn't he at Mingshui Province's Featherwood Guard?".  

Immediately, there would be a thousand Foundation Establishment cultivators rummaging about like they were turning over the ground for this matter! Right away, the death of a Qi Condensation insect would transform into a confrontation of two great Core Formation Dao Masters! It would turn into a showdown between he, Floatingcloud, and the Cultivation Court's Skybearer and Earthcleave, two cultivators at the Great Circle of Core Formation! He was more understanding of Skybearer… the Chinese government's deathsworn who would absolutely not grant him a shred of face! 

This bastard… He gently gritted his teeth, his gaze coldly sweeping over the seemingly deferential Xu Yangyi. In his heart, a kind of disgusted feeling became even heavier. It practically… made him want to vomit!

On this day, Jadewave had fallen. On this day, Earthcleave had come, and on this day, Xu Yangyi had introduced himself. On this day, he had spoken of the Featherwood Guard's promise of three years prior! 

There wasn't a sliver of a relation between the Featherwood Guard's promise and Daomaster Floatingcloud! However, if Xu Yangyi entered Mingshui Province's Featherwood Guard, there existed a great connection! 

Mingshui Province's Branchmaster Thousandedge… had taken on Daomaster Floatingcloud's own Black Kill Order. Like so, how was Xu Yangyi to even be killed? Dared to be killed?

If all was of the other's machinations… Floatingcloud's facsimile eyed Xu Yangyi deeply. The other truly could be praised as having courage and wisdom, bravery and intelligence in spades! He switched gears, thinking that even if he was standing in the other's position, perhaps he wouldn't be able to accomplish such an insane matter. "It's yours… junior…" He sucked in deeply and uttered not another word.

The gazes of Earthcleave and the unknown avatar condensed on Xu Yangyi's body at this moment. After a while, Earthcleave sighed with extreme unwillingness: "Young friend, since the origin crystal has already acknowledged a master, you may stow it and leave. Leave the mountain on your own and go the Featherwood Guard to report in within a week."

"However, a man should know of his own contentment. Should you act frivolously, destiny shall taketh. The items on God Ming's person are your spoils of war. As for the other items…"

Anyone could hear the pain in his words. This was a Core Formation origin crystal… and like so… it had been taken away by a Qi Condensation cultivator! A cruel squandering of a heavenly object… too awful of a reckless waste!

Earthcleave's voice timely stopped, and Xu Yangyi tactfully cupped his hands in understanding: "Junior is not lost on this." 

"Good." Two voices echoed out simultaneously. No one had taken note that the word "good" had only been said by two people. Floatingcloud's facsimile didn't say a word. 

"I hold no interest in this." Several seconds later, Floatingcloud's image said slowly: "Since the two of you are interested, then I shall not be keeping you company." The blazing fury in his heart arched upward by the flame. He feared that if he wasn't careful, he would explode! Currently… he wanted, awfully desired to squish this repulsive insect to death. Nonetheless, he could not make a move!

He couldn't take action, couldn't stay, and couldn't look on. Such a feeling caused him, seated high for over a century, to harbor an incomparable wrath in his heart. It appeared to be a superficial introduction, but it was a true checkmate! It forced his esteemed self who had issued the Black Kill Order to the edge of a cliff!

If I can't kill, then I can only stay as is! I still need support! Floatingcloud ruthlessly twisted his gums. How many years… how many years had it been since he experienced this feeling of sullenness? Maybe the other was aware or perhaps he wasn't, but this was virtually a ferocious slap to him! 

His silhouette slowly faded away. As he departed, he seemed to glance at Xu Yangyi with deep meaning. The other was still deferential as ever, yet it caused him but to be unable to restrain a cold snort.

Very good… Kid… you've got guts… This time, on this day, favor stands on your side, as well as Earthcleave, that old monster. The benefits of checks and balances, the influence of equilibrium, and likewise the contest of interests between Core Formation masters… Today, I, a Dao Master, will let you off the hook… however, there are few in this world that are capable of forcing me to eat such defeat. You best savor the time you're still alive. Enjoy it well… In five years at most, the item in your hand is bound to end up in mine.

Floatingcloud's silhouette vanished, and Xu Yangyi let out a heavy sight. His back was already drenched in a cold sweat. Just now, there wasn't clashing of spiritual force whatsoever. What did exist was merely a game of words. A contest of courage, a match of wits. Now, this was a genuine battle of tongues. Each word had been pondered over since his meeting with Chu Zhaonan.

Earthcleave's unexpected arrival made his stake a few margins more generous. It was this that forced Floatingcloud to silently retreat. A wordless withdrawal where action was left undared. He clenched the demon core in his hand. This was his true ace. Once Floatingcloud arrived, as to so far as a god's descent, then… this demon core was his trump! A thousand-year-old demon, a Core Formation detonation. He was convinced that even if Earthcleave had not come today, then Floatingcloud would have to let him walk! He would always advance, never lowering his head!

"However…" He sneered as he looked towards the direction of Floatingcloud's departure: "You will regret it… immediately..."

"Perhaps you want to settle this business as soon as possible and then make me disappear with so much as a word, yes?"

"I." He clenched his fist and licked his lips: "Won't give you such a chance…"

"Even if you're Core Formation today, in the future… why can't I achieve Core Formation?!"

"When that time comes… we'll slowly figure things out then…"

T/N: So we finally have a table of contents! Now all that is needed is how to do footnotes/new summary

* "One who fears not the thousands cut will dare to unhorse an emperor." Chinese idiom. Thousand cuts refers to ancient Chinese punishment. Gist of the idiom is "For someone without fear, there is no obstacle that cannot be surmounted/challenge too great".

** The story of the three monks is well-known in China. Long story short, it refers to working together to overcome problems and adversity.

*** First to bury funeral dolls. Chinese idiom for "origin of evil" or "the root of the cause". I am actually unsure if I did my research correctly here, but from what I found, Chinese people would bury their dead with doll made from paper/pottery. The evil part of this refers to the first person who used a doll to stuff the mouth of a living person (to kill them) and then buried them. I think. 

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