At this point, they stood at the precipice of a major development. It was a matter of life and death, and the outcome could very possibly be determined by the period of time to come. The people of the Barren State could also sense that this unrest would definitely lead to great changes in their state.
It was within this period of calm that a party of dozens of people arrived at the Holy Zhi Palace in the Barren State. They were all from Zhisheng Cliffs, and they were all strong. Just as the Palace had predicted, Qin Zhong did not return to the Barren State again. A Son had perished in the Barren State, and Qin Zhong had suffered a defeat as well. This definitely was anything but good news to Zhisheng Cliffs.
With the arrival of the party from Zhisheng Cliffs, the Holy Zhi Palace naturally had to step up and welcome their guests properly. Liu Chan personally came to greet the party, which included Kong Yao as well. It could be seen that Kong Yao was one of the leading figures within Zhisheng Cliffs. After all, other than the Saints, there was no other person who was stronger than Kong Yao, who was ninth in the Sage Ranking. But here at the Barren State, Kong Yao was held at bay by the holy ritual implements.
"Liu Chan, since you're here, I'll get straight to the point," Kong Yao declared.
"Go ahead," Liu Chan replied.
"The Holy Zhi Palace of the Barren State is a place to pass down divine teachings, just like Zhisheng Cliffs of the Yu State," Kong Yao began. "As regions designated as places that fall under the orthodoxy of Emperor Xia, the Barren State and the Yu State are connected to each other as well. With regard to the matter at hand, I had previously requested that the Holy Zhi Palace step in and resolve the issue. Zhisheng Cliffs did not get involved, but since the Palace avoided the matter as well, I stepped in personally. But now that a Son of Zhisheng Cliffs has perished in the Barren State and the various powers of the Barren State are now at war with Zhisheng Cliffs, the Head Saint is very displeased."
Liu Chan sighed internally. Zhan Xiao was one of the Nine Warriors of Zhisheng Cliffs, which meant that he had been chosen to be in the running alongside eight other disciples to compete for Sainthood one day. Even if Zhan Xiao's death was not enough to elicit a reaction from the Saint, he would, at the very least, be aware of what had happened. Liu Chan did not say anything in response but waited for Kong Yao to continue speaking.
"The Head Saint has personally declared that since this has all occurred in the Barren State, given that the Palace is the true site of Emperor Xia's orthodoxy in the Barren State, he hopes that the Palace can take care of this matter properly," Kong Yao continued, his expression cold. "If the Palace does not handle this matter satisfactorily, then Zhisheng Cliffs will step in. The Head Saint will also report this matter to Emperor Xia such that the Holy Zhi Palace's special status will be revoked and replaced by powers in the other eight states. Then there will no longer be any reason left for the Holy Zhi Palace to exist."
Liu Chan's heart thumped wildly at Kong Yao's words as he recalled Sage Wanxiang's predictions. Could this be the crisis that was about to befall the Palace?
Kong Yao had said the exact thing that had been worrying Liu Chan the most. The Barren State had not seen a Saint amidst its ranks for many years, and the Holy Zhi Palace was indeed at constant risk of being replaced. Perhaps Emperor Xia usually didn't have the time to personally look into matters regarding the Holy Zhi Palace, After all, the Palace was in no way important enough to warrant such interest from the Emperor. However, should a Saint report to Emperor Xia about the Palace, it was highly possible that an order from the Emperor would be enough to turn the Palace into history.
Liu Chan himself was very clear about the sort of situation the Palace was facing right now. He knew that the sole reason why the Palace had not been bothered despite not having a Saint was that it was still recognized by Emperor Xia as a site to pass down divine teachings. If not, there would be no way that Kong Yao and the rest from Zhisheng Cliffs would be talking about the Palace being connected to them in any way.
"How should we take care of this matter then?" Liu Chan asked. What would Zhisheng Cliffs demand from the Holy Zhi Palace in response to Zhan Xiao's death?
"Some changes have to be made to the structure here in the Barren State," Kong Yao replied. "Also, the Head Saint wants two people alive in particular."
"Who?" Came the question.
"Gu Dongliu and Ye Futian," Kong Yao answered. This was not his own opinion, but an order that had come from Zhisheng Cliffs. Kong Yao guessed that the reason lay in Zhan Xiao and Qin Zhong's defeat.
Liu Chan's eyes flashed at Kong Yao's words. The Saint of Zhisheng Cliffs was after Gu Dongliu and Ye Futian. The fact that he was after Ye Futian as well was interesting.
Back during the battle before Xuanwu Tower, at the base of Crouching Dragon Mountain, Gu Dongliu had overpowered Zhan Xiao and defeated him with one strike. Now, he had even killed the man. Ye Futian had also defeated Qin Zhong, the most talented of the Nine Warriors of Zhisheng Cliffs, despite only being a Grade Two Noble himself. These were probably the reasons why Zhisheng Cliffs wanted these two alive. If not, there was absolutely no point to their demands and it would be easier to just kill them.
"This is a very serious matter. I'll have to call for a meeting between the six palaces," Liu Chan replied.
"Sure, I'm in no hurry," Kong Yao replied coolly. It was because of his rage that he was not in any rush to settle things. Since the people of the Barren State had dared to put up a fight against Zhisheng Cliffs, then he would play along with them for now. This time, if he didn't get a conclusion he wanted, he would not leave the Barren State. What the Palace refused to do, he would take all the time he needed to achieve it himself.
Liu Chan furrowed his brows at Kong Yao's tone. Kong Yao seemed to be in a completely different emotional state as compared to the last time he had come to the Palace. While he seemed calm now, he was actually being much colder than before.
"Then, I'll take my leave for now." Liu Chan turned to leave. After a short while, Liu Chan called for a meeting at the Holy Sage Pavilion. The various Palace Lords had all arrived, and many elders were joining the meeting as well.
"I'm sure everyone is aware of the arrival of a party from Zhisheng Cliffs," Liu Chan said. "I'll now tell you what Kong Yao has said to me."
After repeating Kong Yao's previous words, Liu Chan asked again, "What do you all think?"
Sage Zhandou spoke up, "With Kong Yao being hindered by Zhuge Qingfeng and Yuan Hong, Zhisheng Cliffs has not been able to resolve this matter in the Barren State themselves. Now, they're attempting to bring a close to this entire affair through the hands of the Palace. Liu Chan, do you not think this is ridiculous?"
"But this matter concerns the future of the Palace as well. If the Saint of Zhisheng Cliffs really were to report this to Emperor Xia, what would become of the Palace? This doesn't just concern the Palace either. If the other eight states were to invade the Barren State, things will no longer be as they were, and who knows what will happen then?" Liu Chan said, "Besides, there are indeed some powers in the Barren State who need to be put in place. Even though Bai Ze was killed in the Palace, Ye Wuchen and Xu Que have not been found even today. I'm sure everyone here understands the reason behind this."
Everyone knew what Liu Chan was insinuating. There was no doubt that Tingxue House was behind this.
"A holy ground is not determined by its form. Without destruction, there can be nothing new constructed. If this is the end of the Palace, then fate has determined it to be so. In the face of this crisis, change must happen in the Barren State. Why go against the current?" Sage Douzhan replied. "As for Bai Ze, even if he was the younger brother of Bai Luli, do you not think he deserved to die, Liu Chan?"
Everyone else looked towards Liu Chan and Sage Douzhan. Right not, the two most powerful figures in the Palace were at odds with each other, further signaling that the will of the Palace was no longer one.
"Douzhan, aren't you being too impudent with your words? Is it appropriate for you to say that this is the end of the Palace as the Palace Lord of Battle Saint Palace?" Sage Tianxing commented coldly. "Regarding Bai Ze's death, even if he was in the wrong, it should have been a matter for the Palace to handle. The Tianxing Pavilion would have taken care of it. Since when was it the place of a bunch of disciples to overstep their boundaries and take matters into their own hands? What they have done is to murder their own peer."
"Taken care of it?" Sage Douzhan replied incredulously, looking towards Sage Tianxing. "Just as the Palace says, the Barren State needs a Saint of their own. To this end, even the Zhuge Family can be sacrificed. And yet you say you would have dealt with Bai Luli's younger brother? The son of the City Lord of White Cloud City? Would you have dared to do it?" His gaze was sharp, and he stared unflinchingly at Sage Tianxing. Everyone around them fell silent, watching them argue. They both had their arguments and stands, but there was one thing that was true. There indeed was no way the Palace could have done anything about Bai Ze, but what Ye Wuchen and the rest did was too extreme as well.
"When the Palace no longer is simply a place to pass down divine teachings but takes on a strong agenda of its own, then it signifies that the Palace has already become corrupted and that these holy grounds are sacred no more. And since these are no longer holy grounds, what's the point in keeping the shell around? Why not just go with the flow and rebuild from the ashes? If after several years there still isn't a Holy Zhi Palace, the Barren State will still be the Barren State," Sage Douzhan said coldly.
"Douzhan," Liu Chan chastised, his expression dark, "what you are saying is outrageous."
Sage Douzhan looked towards Liu Chan, and replied, "We once walked this path together because of our shared beliefs, and stayed in the Palace in order to pass on the divine teachings. Other than pursuing the Divine Path, everything else was for the betterment of martial arts in the Barren State. But now, I think our paths have diverged. As such, we should not associate with each other anymore." Sage Douzhan then stood up and addressed everyone, "This is my stance on this matter. Whether or not you will take it into consideration is no longer any of my concern." After speaking, Sage Douzhan left immediately.
Liu Chan was livid. What kind of stunt is this b*stard trying to pull?
"Everything I do is out of consideration for the Palace. My conscience is clear," Liu Chan said, though it was unclear whether he was addressing Sage Douzhan or the people around him.
"What do you all think?" Liu Chan asked the rest.
"For the Palace," Sage Wanxiang murmured, before saying, "I'll leave the decision to you."
Sage Daozang smiled bitterly. No one had expected that things would come to this.
"Sage Douzhan may have been a little extreme with what he said, but there is some truth to his words," the Sword Demon muttered to himself, looking up at the sky.
"Sword Demon, for the sake of the Palace's unity, there were some things I did not mention. But that doesn't mean I do not know it happened. You've let certain things pass under your nose," Sage Tianxing accused.
"Are you talking about Ye Wuchen?" The Sword Demon looked at Sage Tianxing. "I let him go because I too thought that it was right that Bai Ze was killed. If he deserves to die, it doesn't matter who his older brother is. Do you understand that though?"
The Sword Demon then stood up and turned to leave as well. There were certain things that everyone was well aware of but did not explicitly mention. It was not just out of consideration for the Sword Demon's dignity. They were also concerned that Bai Luli might have taken issue with him. But was it really necessary to keep it all under wraps? As such, the Sword Demon paid no mind to these concerns and revealed the truth directly.
Two of the six Palace Lords of the Holy Zhi Palace had walked out of the meeting. Looking at the two figures disappear, Liu Chan took in a deep breath and calmed himself down, before speaking again, "Right now, let's try not to cause too much damage to the foundations of the Barren State. As of now, we don't know where Zhisheng Cliffs will draw the line. But if Gu Dongliu and Ye Futian are what they want, then let's take them into our custody first. Tianxing, take some people with you to go see the Zhuge Family and persuade Qingfeng. He needs to let go of some things now. If not, no one can predict just what the consequences might be."
"Understood." Sage Tianxing nodded. In the end, Liu Chan had made a decision according to his own judgment. Now, they would try to end things quickly, and enable the Palace to tide through this crisis!