Liu Jingtian didn't agree, nor did he disagree. For the time being, he made sure that Xiong Xiao stayed with his platoon as they travelled; it was the same as taking him hostage.
On the other hand, Xiong Xiao had an indifferent expression on his face. This time around, his orders from Yang Qing was precisely to gain Liu Jingtian's trust. If a normal cultivator had come to act as the hostage, it would have undoubtedly been difficult to gain Liu Jingtian's trust; a Mountain Chieftain however, held enough weight as a hostage.
Truth be told, Xiong Xiao was risking his life on this journey. If he let anything slip, then he was a dead man.
Xiong Xiao was indeed worthy of being Yang Qing's trusted subordinate. It had been worthwhile for Yang Qing to treat him favorably for so many years. In such times of need, he was willing to step up and take a risk for Yang Qing.
Naturally, this was related to the way Yang Qing disciplined his subordinates. He was able to create a circle of trust.
For example, as soon as Gongsun Yu, Wang Hai, Li Youqian, Zhang Yuniang and company saw Qin Weiwei fall into a heavy encirclement, they still decided to risk saving her despite knowing it was an ambush. Wang Hai had even given his life in that battle.
There was also Miao Yi who, because of his relationship with Yang Qing, decided to put his life on the line and forcefully slaughter his way through, opening up a path of blood to rescue Qin Weiwei.
Obviously, there had to be some sort of benefit for Xiong Xiao to take such a risk willingly; he was Yang Qing's trusted aide after all. If Yang Qing fell, then he, Xiong Xiao, wouldn't necessarily escape unscathed.
The skies began to shine, enveloping the earth with light peeking from the grey clouds up above.
Just outside of a palatial mountain-top hall, stood a madam dressed in long white robes. Her lush hair, tied high over her crown; her eyebrows, akin to smooth brush strokes on a painting; and her figure appealing in its proportions. She gently stepped onto the snow, making her way to the edge of the cliff as petals of snow fell softly about her, like plum blossoms. She gazed at the scenery in melancholy as she tried to admire its splendor despite not understanding its beauty.
This palatial hall was called the Suppressing Third Hall, and the madam that was admiring the snow by herself was none other than the Hall Master of Suppressing Third Hall, Wu Menglan.
Just as she was gazing over the vast horizon, her handmaiden rushed over and handed her a jade archive with both hands.
Wu Menglan held the jade archive in her hand and examined it. As she did, her eyebrows furrowed as she muttered, "Suppressing Second Hall has deployed its troops and invaded my territory? How is this possible…."
She had a secret pact with Hall Master Huo Lingxiao of Suppressing Second Hall. Others may not be aware of it, but how could those that have attained their level of cultivation not know?
The Six Sages were generally in favor of the skilled cultivators under them killing one another, but they didn't feel the same for veterans that have relatively high cultivations; only the new recruits could be chanced with. Otherwise, if the low ranking cultivators didn't get a chance to prove themselves, things would inevitably get chaotic. If everyone used underhanded methods to take one another's cultivating resources, it would have been impossible to maintain the current order that had been established in the cultivation realm. Only with the constant cycle of the new replacing the old, would there by no one capable of challenging the Six Sage's position.
She and Huo Lingxiao would not be so stupid, which was why they had established a secret pact to never deploy their troops and attack each other on a whim. The both of them had cultivations at Red Lotus Fifth Grade. In terms of strength, there were still a far cry from becoming Palace Lords. As such, it was a time for them to lay low, and slowly build up their cultivation.
If Huo Lingxiao's cultivation had broken through to the Purple Lotus realm and he aspired to become a Palace Lord, only then would Wu Menglan believe it possible for it to occur.
Furthermore, if those that have reached their level of cultivation really wanted to attack one another, they wouldn't go for an all-out massacre like their subordinates. If Huo Lingxiao really had such a desire, then he would definitely have come to get rid of her first. It would be a simple matter to settle down her subordinates once she was gone.
Thus, if Huo Lingxiao had really wanted to attack Suppressing Third Hall, he wouldn't have been so stupid as to send his lackeys for an assault. That was pretty much the same as letting her know beforehand, and giving her time to prepare herself. If that was the case, then it was more likely that Huo Linxiao was hit in the head.
"Have those on the ground confirm the situation, and tell them not to lose their composure. If someone was really launching an assault, if they can't even defend their own domain, what use do I have for letting these worthless idiots command a territory? Don't tell me they still expect me to go out personally?"
Wu Menglan sneered as she crushed the jade archive in her hand into dust, and let the cold wind carry it away.
Liu Jingtian continued to gather his men from the various Mountains as he led the charge, and his numbers kept increasing.
All this while, Xiong Xiao had been following them in the center of the formation. There were four Mountain Chieftains accompanying him from his front, back, left and right respectively. He was clearly their captive.
A group of men came up from the front. Seeing as they were not his men, Liu Jingtian swiftly ordered for everyone to halt and get into battle formation.
However, Xiong Xiao laughed as he came out, saying, "These are my subordinates!"
Seeing as there were less than a hundred people, Liu Jingtian didn't make things difficult and simply let them through. They were placed in the center of his own troops. Clearly, he was holding Xiong Xiao, as well as his subordinates, hostage so that he could immediately surround and kill them in case anything happened….
Yang Qing continued to lead the pursuing army on as he ran; all the while, receiving a few spirit eagles. After reading the contents of the jade archives they were carrying, he raised his head and looked at the color of the sky, then turned his head around to gaze at the pursuing army engaged in their dogged chase. He smiled coldly as he waved his hand and shouted, "Return to South Edict!"
After a tiresome night of going around in circles, they were now going to return to South Edict Manor again. Yang Qing's subordinates were completely puzzled by his actions. Was he trying to make a fool out of Zhang Decheng's troops?
After chasing behind them the entire night, Zhang Decheng was beginning to feel nervous. How much longer must this chase continue? Even dragon steeds could not run forever; they would eventually get tired.
Zhang Decheng had rage brewing in his guts from the pursuit. 'Was this Yang Qing trying to test his patience? Lets see how much longer you can continue to run. Try and run endlessly without any rest if you can!'
In the mountains between South Edict Manor and Thriving Ten-Thousand Manor, taking advantage of the entire night's worth of time that Yang Qing had created, his six subordinate Mountain Chieftains were already assembled and ready, waiting for the moment to strike.
Leading his galloping troops, Yang Qing met up with the six Mountain armies that he had stationed, and immediately raised his hand, shouting, "Prepare for battle!"
The troops that had run about for the entire night, swiftly turned around and took the vanguard, as the six Mountains' worth of troops entered the formation from behind.
Air steamed out of the nostrils of the dragon steeds after running all night. The various Mountain Chieftains stood by Yang Qing's side and assumed a vigilant front.
Qing Mei returned Miao Yi his steed. She knew that a large battle was approaching and that without a high cultivation, Miao Yi had to rely on his steed and his full body of transcendent artifacts. An unfortunate cultivator at the back had to yield his steed over to Qin Weiwei.
After recovering for a night, Qin Weiwei's body was already back in prime condition. She casually tied her long hair to the back of her head, and brought out her Serpent Lance once more, as she glared coldly at the charging army before her. Only the blood stains on her white dress remained.
All of her own subordinates were dead—only Gongsun Yu, Li Youqian, Zhang Yuniang, Miao Yi and Yan Xiu remained. These were the only five people following behind her, the Mountain Chieftain. Mount Calming Sea was now an empty husk of its former self.
Thankfully, she hadn't brought Hong Mian and Lu Liu because of their low cultivation. Otherwise, they definitely wouldn't have ended up much better than the rest.
On a mountain ridge to the side, were another four hundred men all dressed in uniformly blue robes—it was obvious that they were from the School of Blue Jade. Yang Qing squinted at them, but he didn't see the other party having any intention of entering his camp to prepare for battle. On the contrary, it seemed like they were just going to stand by the sidelines and watch.
He also had quite a number of the School of Blue Jade's disciples within his troops, but they were already under his command. Those spectating from the side were the eleventh-hour support from the School of Blue Jade. However, they looked as though they had no intention of lending a hand, and Yang Qing's face gradually darkened.
At the frontlines, the approaching Zhang Decheng saw that his opponents were readying for battle, so he immediately slowed down and similarly organized his troops for battle.
A rider descended from the mountain ridge—it was Hong Zhanghai, the elder responsible for negotiations between the School of Blue Jade and South Edict Manor.
Yang Qing looked at him coldly as he asked, "Elder Hong, what is the meaning of your School of Blue Jade's actions?"
Elder Hong cupped his fists and replied, "Manor Head Yang, things are not in our favor. It is because someone from Suppressing Second Hall has issued a warning to our School of Blue Jade. If forces outside of Suppressing Second Hall were to interfere in their matters again, then Suppressing Second Hall will deploy its forces and crush the School of Blue Jade."
Yang Qing was quite furious then; he had already guessed who it was playing such tricks. Fortunately, he had another card to play. He asked, "Then what are you all still doing here? Coming to enjoy the excitement?"
"Of course not!" Elder Hong denied. He added, "When we came, the Sect Master had instructed that the forces outside of Suppressing Second Hall were not to interfere, but they didn't mention that those belonging to Suppressing Second Hall could not. So long as Manor Head is willing to draft a few more of the School of Blue Jade's disciples into South Edict Manor, then there won't be a problem. No one else will be able to dispute that. These disciples were all personally prepared by the Sect Master for you, Manor Head. All that matters is how many you want. All rests upon the Manor Head's desire, the School of Blue Jade dares not force you!"
A great battle was at hand, yet he still dared say that this was not coercion? Qin Weiwei immediately glared over in anger. This was clearly taking advantage of their predicament and making things difficult for them just before the battle!
As it was, the disciples of the School of Blue Jade stationed in South Edict Manor were troublesome enough. If they were to let another large consignment of disciples from the School of Blue Jade enter South Edict Manor, then wouldn't South Edict become the School of Blue Jade's South Edict Manor? Would Yang Qing not become a Manor Head only in name? He could forget about giving orders in the future. Even if Yang Qing managed to win this battle, what was the point? It would still be the same as handing South Edict Manor over to another!
Standing in line behind Qin Weiwei, Miao Yi was just now beginning to understand the conflicts between Yang Qing and School of Blue Jade.
Just then, Elder Hong took out a helm from his storage ring and played around with it on his hand—it was that third grade transcendent artifact. It looked as though he was trying to make Yang Qing reconsider; otherwise, he wouldn't lend the transcendent artifact to him.
Yang Qing only narrowed his eyes at him coldly, before plainly saying, "Elder Hong, kindly return to your side and watch the battle. On this day, I will prove to Elder Hong that I, Yang Qing, need not rely on the School of Blue Jade for every single matter. Even without Elder Hong's grace, I, Yang Qing will certainly be victorious this battle!"
The Mountain Chieftains to Yang Qing's sides immediately swung their weapons and roared, "CERTAIN VICTORY! CERTAIN VICTORY!"
Qin Weiwei also followed suit. Naturally, Miao Yi and the rest who were behind her, also roared together that they would obtain certain victory.
"Since the Manor Head insists on doing so, then I will not disobey the Sect Master's orders. I shall retreat to the sidelines for now. I urge Manor Head to reconsider. When the time comes, you can still call for us. Our School of Blue Jade will be waiting by the side and we may still be able to respond in time," said Elder Hong as he tucked the transcendent artifact away; turning his dragon steed around, he retreated back to the mountain ridge.
On the frontlines, Zhang Decheng had already gotten his troops into formation. He was a little anxious when he saw the sudden surge of the School of Blue Jade's troops. He didn't dare make any sudden movements—especially after seeing the sheen of that helm, he was frightened out of his wits. However, as he gleaned that negotiations between the two sides had fallen through, he was ecstatic; he assumed that the deterrence from his backer, He Yunye, must have been effective.
Immediately letting out a cold laugh, he stepped forward to lead his troops. Standing at the fore, he shouted out, "Coward Yang Qing, why have you stopped running? Could it be you no longer have anywhere else to run!?"
Just as he finished saying this, the booming of thunderous hooves echoed out from behind him; he was taken completely by surprise, and turned to look behind him.
Yang Qing broke out in laughter just then. He invoked his arts and transmitted his voice; the sound reverberated throughout the battlefield as he said, "Zhang Decheng, you traitor. You have no idea that you're on your last strings. You still dare to spout nonsense!"
Zhang Decheng's men all turned to look behind them, only to find a large army swiftly heading their way—their faces couldn't help but contort!
The rear army was precisely the troops led by Liu Jingtian, who had managed to catch up after Yang Qing had stalled for an entire night. That voice transmission of Yang Qing's acted as a signal to begin the assault. Within their formation, Xiong Xiao's eyes lit up and he immediately approached Liu Jingtian to denounce Zhang Decheng for his crimes.
He then turned to address his own subordinates and, swinging his large hand, he commanded, "Zhang Decheng has nowhere else to go. Follow my lead to kill!"
Xiong Xiao raised his long blade as he led his troops in a frenzied charge.
To the eyes of Zhang Decheng's men, it seemed like the forces changing towards them were going to surround and assault them alongside Yang Qing's forces. Faced with such a large army, their morale instantly dropped, and they immediately began to panic.
How could Yang Qing let this opportunity slip? He raised his spear and bellowed, "Reinforcements have arrived. Kill!"
He charged ahead, going straight for Zhang Decheng.
The men behind him instantly had their morale lifted. They didn't think that Manor Head would have arranged for so many reinforcements. They immediately followed behind Yang Qing, charging at full throttle for the kill!