"Miao Yi has run away. He just left. When he found out you were all coming, he simply left us behind!" Dong Quan replied.
"Why are you wasting your breath on them? Don't you feel tired talking from so far away? Let's just head up there first." Tan Lao scoffed, then turned to the Seeker Bird by his shoulder and chirped to it. The bird immediately flew off in front of them, keeping at a low altitude to guide them up.
Gu Sanzheng and the others agreed with him and quickly followed behind the Seeker Bird, avoiding the entrance of the flood trap as they galloped up the mountain.
When the people up the mountain saw this, they knew that they wouldn't be able to trigger their flood traps. It seemed that Zhao Lingtu had spoken the truth. Subsequently, this bolstered the confidence of Dong Quan and the rest that the three major sects would not easily harm the forces of the Fifth Earthly Branch.
At the mountaintop, the three Crystal-Armored Hurricane Beasts led the way and only came to a stop right in front of Dong Quan and the rest. Only now did the forces of the three major sects realize that there were almost a thousand troops up here, and not just seven to eight hundred people. It was truly apt to say that almost half of the administration forces of the Fifth Earthly Branch had gathered here.
The forces of the Red Scarves Alliance tried not to display any signs of hostility or arrogance. Dong Quan cupped his fists and asked, "Are the three of you Gu Sanzheng of the Sword Deviate Sect, Ye Xin of the Jade Lady Sect, and Tan Lao of the School of Imperial Beasts?"
The three of them felt slightly taken by surprise and couldn't help but exchange glances with one another. Gu Sanzheng furrowed his brows and asked, "We don't seem to be acquainted. How do you know who we are?"
"Brother Zhao Lingtu was the one who told us."
The three suddenly came to a realization. Gu Sanzheng nodded and said, "So it was Brother Zhao. We've fought together for a time before. I still remember the awesome might of Brother Zhao's Mountain Suppressing Hammer as clearly as if I'd just seen it yesterday. Since Brother Zhao is around, why isn't he here to meet us?"
Dong Quan smiled bitterly. "If you had arrived even half an hour earlier, you might have been able to see Brother Zhao for the last time."
'See him for the last time?' The three were taken aback once more. Gu Sanzheng's brows creased as he asked, "Did something happen to Brother Zhao?"
Dong Quan turned around and waved his hand to gesture those behind him to make way. He extended his hand and said, "Go and take a look for yourself."
The large army instantly split into two and allowed the forces of the three major sects to pass through.
The fifty troops passed through the middle of the thousand-strong army of the Red Scarves Alliance. Gu Sanzheng and the other two did not fret and were not the least bit afraid that the Red Scarves Alliance would suddenly make a move against them. The talented and skilled are bold indeed.
On the other hand, Su Jinggong and the rest who managed to escape certain death during the disembarkation swept cold gazes across the people around them, searching for a certain someone.
Those who Miao Yi had instigated into acting against the three major sects were all feeling anxious from their stares, worried that the three major sects would seek revenge against them as Zhao Lingtu said. They were a little regretful that they didn't choose to follow Miao Yi. Otherwise, they wouldn't be so restless now.
Dong Quan brought the forces of the three major sects to where the corpses of Zhao Lingtu and his fellow disciples lay. The frost on their bodies was already crackling away under the sunlight.
Gu Sanzheng and the other two fell silent after seeing that Zhao Lingtu's body had been split into two halves. After all, they were acquaintances who had fought together against Yao cultivators for a time. The three of them never expected that he'd die here.
Truth be told, back when the three major sects had teamed up with Zhao Lingtu and his fellow disciples to fight against the Yao cultivators, the three of them witnessed the powerful might of Zhao Lingtu's Mountain Suppressing Hammer and had invited him to accompany them on their journey across the Western Star Sea. This was simply because they had their orders to fulfill and would have a greater chance of accomplishing the mission handed down to them if they had another powerhouse supporting them. They'd never once thought of taking anything away from Zhao Lingtu.
However, Zhao Lingtu was firm in his narrow-minded perception of them. When he saw the disparity in numbers between his own forces and that of the three major sects, he became worried that they would plot against him and insisted on leaving. Gu Sanzheng and the rest couldn't do anything about it.
Tan Lao noticed that there wasn't a single drop of blood coming from the wounds on Zhao Lingtu and his fellow disciples. Perplexed, he asked, "There is something peculiar about the way they died. How exactly did this happen?"
Dong Quan shook his head and sighed. "If you'd all arrived even half an hour earlier, you would have been able to see it. This is the doing of Miao Yi's Mystic Yin Mirror. It is a Ghost Cultivator's transcendent artifact…"
He recounted the events that happened after the Red Scarves Alliance had obtained the Mystic Yin Mirror, to Miao Yi recruiting Zhao Lingtu and his fellow disciples, as well as the incident that had just occurred.
Naturally, he hid certain details from them and didn't mention that it was because they coveted Miao Yi's transcendent artifact. After all, he couldn't admit that they were the ones at fault in front of outsiders. He only mentioned that Miao Yi had been afraid of the three major sects closing in on him and insisted on leaving. Seeing this, Zhao Lingtu wanted Miao Yi to leave the transcendent artifact behind for the members of the Red Scarves Alliance to protect themselves. However, Miao Yi was unwilling to do so and was determined to take the transcendent artifact away with him. Afterward, he clashed with Zhao Lingtu and his fellow disciples and employed sneaky tricks to kill them all. Everyone else couldn't even save them in time.
"I have long heard that this Miao Yi person is devious and despicable. Today, I can see that the rumors are true. We cannot let this little rascal roam free!" Ye Xin scoffed disdainfully.
On the other hand, Gu Sanzheng felt as if certain crucial parts were missing from Dong Quan's story. He narrowed his eyes at Dong Quan and asked, "If this Miao Yi is really that despicable, how were you all able to live with him for so many years? If he is truly such a heartless person, given that you all forced him to hand over the transcendent artifact which he insisted on taking away, why did he spare you all when the Mystic Yin Mirror in his hands could kill Zhao Lingtu and the others so easily? Unless the Mystic Yin Mirror is not as powerful as you described… or is there something you're not telling us?!"
Ye Xin felt that Gu Sanzheng had a point and furrowed her brows as she swept a cold gaze at Dong Quan, feeling as if he'd fooled her.
"You lot, come over here!" Tan Lao pointed towards several of Zhao Lingtu's surviving fellow disciples who were spread out among the crowd. It was easy to recognize them because they all wore the same uniform.
Dong Quan's expression changed slightly.
Those that Tan Lao called out didn't dare to disobey and stepped forward restlessly.
"What happened exactly? Tell me the truth. If there is even a single lie, don't blame me for showing you no mercy!" Tan Lao shouted coldly.
Dong Quan hastily cupped his fists and interrupted, "I have told you nothing but the truth. It is absolutely—"
"We didn't ask you. Keep your mouth shut!"
He was abruptly cut off by Ye Xin. With a flip of her wrist, a black whip suddenly appeared within her grasp. It glowed with a blue radiance and instantly extended out.
A strange and sharp rustling noise resounded as the black whip, covered in thorns, coiled around like a vicious snake. It grew longer and longer, and the sharp, thorny tip stopped short of Dong Quan's eyes, as though warning him—'Your life is mine the instant you say another word!'
Dong Quan froze completely in place. Ye Xin then turned back to the people who were called out and yelled, "Speak!"
Startled, those people answered Tan Lao's every question as best they could, afraid to keep anything secret from them. Soon, the truth of the matter was made known to Gu Sanzheng and the others.
Dong Quan was so nervous that beads of sweat started to drip down his forehead. He had lied to Gu Sanzheng and the others, and he didn't know what they would do to him now that they'd found out the truth. If there were truly no other choice, then he would have to fight for his life.
After realizing the truth, Gu Sanzheng and the other two fell silent and couldn't help sighing inwardly. Miao Yi was clearly the one who'd managed to steal that Mystic Yin Mirror all by himself and had even rescued everyone. The Mystic Yin Mirror should rightfully belong to him. If they were in his shoes, they wouldn't hand it over either. However, these people before them repaid his kindness with treachery and plotted to steal his transcendent artifact multiple times. It just so happened that Zhao Lingtu and his fellow disciples drew the short end of the stick and fell into Miao Yi's trap, resulting in their deaths. If it weren't for Miao Yi's consideration for the time they spent together, Zhao Lingtu and his fellow disciples might not have been the only ones to die.
Furthermore, these people who managed to survive still intended to push the blame onto Miao Yi. Where was the justice in that? Alas, justice did not exist within the hearts of men; truth and deceit were always decided solely by one's strength!
Naturally, regardless of how the three of them felt, they wouldn't uphold justice on Miao Yi's behalf. On the other hand, Su Jinggong and the others who were fortunate enough to escape Miao Yi's culling were secretly gloating. They didn't feel that Dong Quan and the others were despicable at all. Rather, they thought that Dong Quan and the others hadn't done enough and shouldn't have let Miao Yi escape.
"To be able to lead such a large force and hide in the Western Star Sea for so many years, taking advantage of the local terrain to fortify defenses, as well as ensuring the survivability of so many people—this Miao Yi is truly a capable man of both intellect and bravery. It's a pity we cannot walk the same path," Tan Lao said plainly.
"I have heard stories of him before as well. Despite being a White Lotus cultivator, he has accomplished great deeds while he was in the South Edict Manor. When he was still a Cave Master, he charged all the way from Suppressing Second Hall to Suppressing Third Hall and killed an opposing Manor Head. Afterward, he successfully made a full retreat. Furthermore, he even demoted all the troops of our three major sects. How can a man like this not be capable? Otherwise, he wouldn't have been able to become Mountain Chieftain while he was still a White Lotus cultivator, much less pull together so many people to create the Red Scarves Alliance here in the Sea of Constellations. And he did all that with just a White Lotus cultivation base. Not only was he able to command so many Blue Lotus cultivators, but he also managed to contend against strong foes and defeat numerous experts while taking their treasures away with him. It is not possible to accomplish all this simply out of luck. I must meet with him after this and see if he really is such a monster!"
There was a trace of admiration in Gu Sanzheng's tone. Those who were proud possessed a certain fire within them. Having yet to be fully shaped by the giant mold that is the cultivation realm, it was easy for him to feel sympathy for Miao Yi.
After he came to this still lake, witnessing with his own eyes and listening with his own ears about what happened, Gu Sanzheng felt even more strongly about pulling Miao Yi in to journey across the Sea of Constellations together. But alas, Miao Yi bore a deep grievance with the three major sects. While in the Sea of Constellations, Gu Sanzheng made all the decisions for the Sword Deviate Sect, so it would be a simple matter to let Miao Yi go. However, not only did Miao Yi kill Ye Xin's Senior Auntie, but he also murdered the grandson of Elder Wu of the School of Imperial Beasts. As far as he knew, all the disciples of the School of Imperial Beasts had received clear instructions from Elder Wu that Miao Yi was not to be pardoned and to ensure that he died in the Sea of Constellations.
Earlier, Ye Xin had remarked that Miao Yi was a despicable man, so even if she now knew that he was not the one truly at fault, it was hard for her to correct herself. However, a thoughtful expression hung on her face as she retracted the Ruyi Whip with a sweep of her hand.
Heaving a sigh of relief, Dong Quan was a little puzzled as he cautiously asked, "Brother Gu, just now you mentioned that Miao Yi only possesses a White Lotus cultivation?"
Gu Sanzheng replied with his own question, "Was I mistaken then? You have lived together for several years. Wouldn't you know better than I do?"
"...." Dong Quan was speechless. Before this, no one had ever seen Miao Yi's level of cultivation. He shook his head repeatedly and said, "That's impossible. His other feats aside, I saw for myself how he single-handedly battled against a large number of troops from your three major sects back when we'd just disembarked. He couldn't possibly have faked that level of skill."
Behind the crowd, Su Jinggong was immediately outraged when he heard this, as though someone had revealed an embarrassing scar of his. He shouted, "Bullshit! You truly think that little rascal is some mighty champion with a high cultivation who can contend against powerful warriors on his own? That little rascal tampered with our dragon steeds while we were on the ship and weakened them terribly, thus they easily collapsed from just the slightest pressure. As a result, we were helpless against him and handed him a large opening to strike us down. Otherwise, we would have definitely ripped that little rascal to pieces!"
"Ah!" Not only Dong Quan but even the others were left wide-eyed with their mouths agape. The Alliance Master who commanded the respect of almost a thousand Blue Lotus cultivators all this while was actually a liar whose strength was only skin deep?
'Is this true? He has really been lying to us these past three years?' The crowd still found it difficult to believe, since they had borne witness to what Miao Yi was capable of several times already.
Dong Quan shook his head in disbelief, "This can't be possible, can it? Even if he faked the incident during the disembarkation, on our end, we all bore witness to how he single-handedly defeated strong foes several times now. We have also seen for ourselves how he killed Blue Lotus cultivators. That cannot possibly be a ruse!"