Rampas was trembling in fury. He didn't want to argue with the Great Elder anymore, so he turned around and stormed off. His father was the Second Elder; his authority within the sect was only one rank below the Great Elder. He wanted to see his own father.
Unfortunately, regardless of whether it was his father or the other elders he was close with, they were of the same attitude: to ignore without exception. They felt that this was only a minor issue. Garen of White Cloud Gate threatened to obtain the Secret Martial Art collection but failed, then left in anger. Such display was not rare among the many small sects.
Representatives or Sect Master of these small sects often come over and take advantage of the times when Seven Moon Gate was in need of strength. Money, Secret Martial Art, precious herbs, power and resources, and so on; they've requested all manner of favors.
Initially, Seven Moon Gate received them with the intention of making more friends, but their demands became more and more outrageous as time passed. The whole sect gradually became more indignant and agitated about it.
Garen and Grace walked out of the Seven Moon Gate building with somber expressions. It was then that they saw a few other people walk out of the building furiously, obviously suffering the same fate as them.
"Seven Moon Gate, they're too much!" A fit old man was panting in anger as he walked out of the building accompanied by his two disciples.
"They are financially sound and have substantial power and true strength. They don't need common Secret Martial Art practitioners like us. Let's just pack and leave. The whole Southern Twelve Gates only needs Seven Moon Gate, the other sects are redundant," a group of brawny men said in an off-tone. "It's not just our two sects that have been driven away these few days. Of the Southern Twelve Gates, only Red Obsidian Gate has been shown meticulous hospitality, whereas the rest… hehe…"
Garen shook his head, speechless. He led Grace to the side of the road, ready to hail a ride.
"Senior Brother Garen?!"
Suddenly, the cute voice of a girl sounding surprised came from his left.
"Is it really you, Senior Brother Garen?"
Garen and Grace turned around. They saw a pretty girl dressed like a high school student carrying a small white satchel rushing towards them.
The girl was one of the members of Circling Dance Gate they met on their way back. Even though Garen didn't have any recollection of her, it was apparent that she viewed the strong and striking Garen with great admiration.
The girl ran to them. When she saw their somber expressions, she instantly guessed the situation.
"They are too much! They've even rejected Senior Brother Garen! Seven Moon Gate is really…" The girl was indignant.
"You're from Circling Dance Gate. You're…" Garen hesitated. "Sorry, I have a poor memory…" He smiled in embarrassment. On that journey back, everyone from Circling Dance Gate—from ordinary disciples to the Eldest Senior Sister leading the group—completely didn't register with him.
I am Imogen Lilliette from Bodia. I'm a fifth generation disciple at Circling Dance Gate, ranked second! I'm twenty-one this year," the girl patted her chest as she introduced herself with pride. Only when she approached did he realize, her height was only up to Garen's chest; she looked like a young teenage Lolita, only about 120cm tall.
Seemingly aware of Garen and Grace's strange look in their eyes, Imogen Lilliette anxiously emphasized at once, "Twenty-one years old!"
"Yes, we know you're twenty-one years old…" Garen was speechless.
"Fine. I'm used to it anyway," Imogen Lilliette said helplessly. Her expression returned to normal and said, "Senior Brother Garen, you're here for…? Anything we can help you with, Circling Dance Gate will be behind you in full force!"
"Initially, I wanted to take a look at the low-level Secret Martial Art collections of Seven Moon Gate, as reference material. I didn't expect them to refuse me, so I just left," Garen shrugged.
"If you don't mind, you are free to refer to the Secret Martial Art of Circling Dance Gate, including the hereditary Secret Martial Art of our sect," Imogen Lilliette said solemnly. "We've heard about the situation at White Cloud Gate. If you need funds, we've just raised two million on our end. You can have it to tide you over."
"You have the authority?"
"I do! Because this is my mother's intention," Imogen Lilliette chuckled.
"This is our first meeting. Thank you so much, Mr. Garen, for escorting my daughter safely home," a calm female voice came from behind them.
Garen was stunned. He didn't notice anyone approaching him from behind. He frantically turned his body sideways to look behind him.
Suddenly, he saw a beautiful blonde with a calm temperament standing behind him. Her smooth blonde hair draped over her shoulders. She had delicate skin and features, and blue eyes as clear as the sea. She was a beauty who constantly radiated a cool temperament.
Garen was considered calm compared to Grace. She jumped in shock and almost twisted her ankle.
"Apologies." The blonde lady smiled apologetically at both of them, but it seemed as if she was not used to smiling; her smile gave an odd and awkward impression. "I am Imogen Lilliette's mother, Jaimea Lilliette, also the current Great Elder of Circling Dance Gate."
"Why are you all here at Seven Moon Gate…" Garen was confused. His nose caught a hint of fragrance, and out of courtesy, he distanced himself away slightly.
"The headquarters of Circling Dance Gate and Seven Moon Gate are both in Dinah City," Jaimea Lilliette explained. "My daughter and I were just out to buy some sundries and coincidentally passed by. We didn't expect to meet the two of you from White Cloud Gate. Even though we're insignificant compared to Seven Moon Gate, but if you don't mind, why not come over to Circling Dance Gate for a while?"
Garen quickly thought about it, then accepted the invitation.
"Yes, that sounds lovely. Just as well we could pay a visit to the headquarters of Circling Dance Gate."
Jaimea Lilliette had a cool temperament and was somewhat blunt in the manner she spoke, but the way she looked at Garen and Grace was indeed sincere.
Even though the influence of Circling Dance Gate wasn't as strong compared to Seven Moon Gate, they didn't seem weak either. Soon, two slightly old black cars drove over and stopped next to where they stood.
Garen and Grace stepped into the car at the back, while Jaimea Lilliette and her daughter sat in the car in front. Both cars slowly drove towards the other end of Dinah City.
Half an hour later, Garen was sitting face to face with Jaimea Lilliette and Eldest Senior Sister Vicard in the middle of a wooden dojo.
The dojo was a rectangular structure, made entirely of wood. It was slightly dilapidated. The entrance was to the left. On the walls at both ends hung two white paper banners with the words "Martial Arts" and "Dance" written in black ink separately.
The reddish-brown wooden floor boards were neatly arranged and well-polished, but defects could be seen in some parts of the floor, giving the sense that it was timeworn. Despite being slightly dilapidated, the entire dojo was filled with a faint scent of incense, and there wasn't a trace of sweaty odor; it was clearly well maintained.
In front of Garen was a glass teacup filled with Rainflower tea. The reddish-pink tea in the cup looked exquisite. Bits of flower petals were floating in the tea like watery red crystals and the tea had a delicate floral aroma: it was an exceptionally pleasant aesthetic experience altogether.
"Senior Brother Garen, thank you for your care before." Vicard was the Circling Dance Gate leader that Garen escorted. She looked dainty and adorable now.
The hosts were both clad in black robes and long black socks. Apparently, it was the standard attire here.
Jaimea Lilliette motioned to Garen to drink his tea. "Mr. Garen, you saved our Sect Master and several of our disciples, including my daughter. Even though we are a small establishment, we are clear that gratitude should be repaid as much as revenge should be exacted. Secret Martial Art and funds are not a problem. Whatever else you need, feel free to ask for it. I will fulfill your request to the best of my abilities on behalf of Circling Dance Gate."
Garen was undoubtedly touched.
"How did you know I needed Secret Martial Art?"
Jaimea Lilliette calmly explained, "Most people who have visited Seven Moon Gate of late are primarily after these two things. I apologize if I have offended you, but I am only telling it as it is."
Garen could tell that Circling Dance Gate was not doing very well itself. Despite the fact that the dojo was huge, it was dilapidated to the extent that they didn't even have the funds to properly maintain and repair it. Even White Cloud Gate was much better off. When he thought about how the headquarters of Circling Dance Gate and Seven Moon Gate were both located within Dinah City, the answer was obvious: the former must have been harshly oppressed by the latter.
In a case where they were not well-off but displayed generosity out of gratitude, such an attitude was in stark contrast to what Garen experienced at Seven Moon Gate.
Garen actually felt somewhat ashamed. He didn't pay much attention to Circling Dance Gate at the time, but just helped them out incidentally. He didn't expect that it would be this humble female sect that could help him out right now.
"Actually, we have no need for funds," Garen carefully thought about how to phrase it. "We at White Cloud Gate are not facing a huge problem with funding." This was the truth. The dojo account had tens of millions in funds. These were the sect funds voluntarily passed on to Collin and Simon by the stout Bouvini in charge of finances. Garen wasn't short of money.
Upon hearing that they didn't lack funds, the two from Circling Dance Gate were immediately relieved and felt even more grateful to Garen. It was apparent that they were extremely tight on funds. They haven't been able to cover their cost in recent years, with the dojo income decreasing rapidly. If it was money that Garen requested, they would have given it to him, but that would have put them in a tougher situation.
"I'm here not for money or whatever else. I'm here for Secret Martial Art," Garen said formally.
"No problem. Including our hereditary Secret Martial Art, you are free to study and record all the Secret Martial Art within our library," Jaimea Lilliette nodded in agreement.
"Hereditary Secret Martial Art is the foundation of a sect, I don't want it, and I have no need for it. I am merely looking for some low-level Secret Martial Art to broaden my martial arts perspective, for reference," Garen promptly explained.
"Regardless, I'll take you to the library at once. How does that sound?" Jaimea Lilliette resolutely stood up and asked.
"Uhh…" Garen didn't expect her to be so eager. "No hurry. Let's have a chat and rest for now."
"Very well." Jaimea Lilliette felt that she was slightly overeager, and slowly sat down again. "Excuse my manners."
And then it became a question and answer session between the three.
Garen asked, and they answered.
They were the type who wouldn't speak when not questioned and seemed as though they didn't interact much with people; their tone was somewhat blunt.
By casually asking a few questions, Garen gathered a general idea of Circling Dance Gate and understood the types of characters within it.
There was a total of twelve people in the sect, external disciples included. The modest and austere style of the dojo business made it unattractive. Coupled with the fact that they were oppressed by Seven Moon Gate, the entire operation was bleak, and they could barely make ends meet.
The dojo master in charge of the day-to-day was Jaimea Lilliette's father, a headstrong man advanced in years. He was adamant in preserving the estate inherited from their ancestors, unwilling to sell the current headquarters and dojo. This didn't help their poor financial situation.
Everyone in the dojo, including Jaimea Lilliette—regardless of their external personality— were tough and headstrong characters, all bent on preserving the dojo.
Originally, as a Secret Martial Art sect and one of the Southern Twelve Gates, they were entitled to a fixed income and certain benefits. This was the key reason Circling Dance Gate joined, and it was this fixed income that kept the dojo in business. But now Lucene Brotherhood, the strongest of the Southern Twelve Gates, has been obliterated. This sect was the leader and organizer of the Southern Twelve Gates. They were in charge of distributing the annual benefits and funds. Without that income, it had become more difficult for them to keep the dojo running.