The Sea of Constellations Subjugation Crusade. On the surface, it looked the same as all the previous Subjugation Crusades. However, major changes were beginning to happen in the dark.
The Sea of Constellations Subjugation Crusade might seem like it was fair, and in fact, that was what it strived for. However, there was no such thing as absolute fairness in this world. The participation of the new generation under the command of the Six Sages was a prime example of inequality. Furthermore, since the Subjugation Crusade was organized in the Sea of Constellations, no one would believe it if someone were to say that the forces of the Yao Nation didn't hold an upper hand in terms of location.
Some things were not visible from the surface. But in the dark depths of the ocean, the water tribes were already beginning to spread the news, especially those that were already capable of thought but had yet to step foot through the gates of the cultivation realm. They did not fall within the criteria to be kicked out of the Subjugation Crusade and were already starting to spread the word about a certain individual.
The murderer behind the bloody incident of the Western Star Sea's Brass Gong Fort all those years ago, 'Niu Youde' had appeared once more and was a participant of the Subjugation Crusade. His true name was called Gu Sanzheng. He'd previously battled Yao cultivators at a certain location and brutally murdered a large number of them. Hei Langjun of Jade Stream Manor had revealed his true identity. Hei Langjun then requested all the Yao cultivators of the Western Star Sea to join hands and hunt this criminal down!
The various water tribes quickly spread the information, and a majority of the Yao cultivators participating in the Sea of Constellations Subjugation Crusade began to make their move after hearing the news.
That Niu Youde was the one who angered Western Constellations Palace Master Fu Qing. Fu Qing had declared that any who could apprehend or kill him would be heavily rewarded!
What kind of person was Fu Qing? He was one of the four most high-ranking Demonic Behemoths! Not even the Six Sages dared to offend him so easily. Whoever was capable of completing the task given by Fu Qing and gain his approval would definitely be granted a limitless future within the demonic tribes!
If someone were to accomplish this deed and report it to the Western Constellations Palace, at the very least, Fu Qing only needed to give the word, and they would be able to escape the turmoil that was the Sea of Constellations Subjugation Crusade. The Six Sages would not deny Fu Qing this right. After all, he had a good enough reason to do so.
The majority of the Yao cultivators participating in the Subjugation Crusade immediately began to move. They were all rushing to the area where Niu Youde was spotted.
The sands were clean as the waves gently rolled to shore. A man and a woman suddenly surfaced from the depths of the sea and went ashore.
The woman was garbed in a light blue muslin dress. Her lush hair tied high in a bun, her brows delicate as though taken from a portrait, and her figure seductive and alluring. She exuded an aura of nobility, her blue muslin dress gently fluttering in the wind with every step she took.
And the black-robed man running after her was none other than the man who had barely escaped death by the skin of his teeth, Hei Langjun. At the moment, he seemed a little restless.
The two of them stopped in front of an abandoned cave on the island. The woman turned around and said, "Wait here. I will send word to the Young Master."
Hei Langjun nodded and humbly said, "This lowly one understands."
The woman then quickly entered the cave. By the sides of the entrance, two people stood unfalteringly and next to them, a peculiar looking beast was lying on the ground. It seemed like a Qilin. Its body was crimson and covered in fish scales. It had the head of a lion, the mouth of a dragon, the tail of an ox, the claws of a tiger, and the antlers of a deer.
The beast had only opened its eyes by a little, and yet Hei Langjun was already feeling anxious by the look directed at him.
Hei Langjun was completely surprised. If he guessed correctly, this should be what the 'Tempest Beast' was supposed to look like. But wasn't the Tempest Beast supposed to be Yao Sage Ji Huan's personal mount? Why would it appear here? Could Ji Huan have loaned his own mount to some Young Master participating in the Sea of Constellations Subjugation Crusade?
Hei Langjun thought that wasn't likely to be the case. The Tempest Beast was capable of treading on clouds and riding on the wind. Needless to say, it could gallop upon the waves of the ocean as well. It was a top-tier spiritual beast in the cultivation realm. It was truly too much of a cheat to ride on such a beast in the Subjugation Crusade.
He had only just heard from the woman in the blue muslin dress that the Six Sages had sent participants over as well. Wasn't this setting everyone else up for failure then...
Inside the cave, a beautiful-looking youngster dressed in luxurious robes sat upon the throne. A golden crown adorned his hair, his handsome face exuded a regal aura, and his bearing was modest and gentle. A black gourd hung by the jade belt on his waist.
Two burly men stood by the side below the throne, unmoving and expressionlessly in place. They commanded a domineering presence just like the two outside the gates that made Hei Langjun feel anxious and tense.
The woman in the blue muslin dress walked to the base of the throne and cupped her fists as she greeted, "I respectfully greet the Young Master!"
The youngster seated above smiled lightly and asked, "Lan Susu, have you clarified the story?"
This youngster was none other than Ji Meimei's son, which also meant that he was Yao Sage Ji Huan's maternal grandson, Bai Ziliang. Ji Meimei had personally come over to the Western Constellations Palace to support him.
And the woman called Lan Susu was his handmaiden.
"I have already asked the water tribes to find the person in question. He is waiting outside for an audience with you, Young Master," Lan Susu politely replied.
Bai Ziliang nodded, "Since you've already brought him here, let him enter."
"Understood!" Lan Susu turned around and shouted, "Hei Langjun, the Young Master has granted you an audience. Hurry up and come in!"
As he waited outside, Hei Langjun hurriedly lowered his head and entered upon hearing her. He walked up to the base of the throne, not daring to lift his head even once to glance upon the Young Master. Their statuses were simply too far apart. The other party could send him to a miserable death with a single word. He didn't dare do anything disrespectful without approval. With his head lowered, Hei Langjun cupped his fists and said, "Hei Langjun respectfully greets the Young Master!"
Bai Ziliang asked, "I hear you belong to the Jade Stream Manor?"
Hei Langjun politely replied, "Yes."
"I've met Bi Youpo a few times myself. I guess you can consider us acquaintances," Bai Ziliang said idly, then asked, "I heard that the Niu Youde that made a big mess of the Western Star Sea and angered Lord Fu Qing has reappeared, and that you crossed fists with him?"
"That is correct! His true name is called Gu Sanzheng."
"Gu Sanzheng? What is his background?"
"This… This lowly one is not sure. I did not have the chance to find out at the time and went straight to battle."
"You don't even know what background he possesses. How can you be so sure that this Gu Sanzheng is the same Niu Youde who made Lord Fu Qing so furious?"
"This lowly one's subordinate was one of the people who served Lord Bi Youpo's concubine, Madam Wu Hua, back then. When Niu Youde killed her, that subordinate saw his face. He discovered that this Gu Sanzheng looked very similar to Niu Youde, so this lowly one had personally asked Gu Sanzheng himself. This Gu Sanzheng was absolutely arrogant. He proudly admitted that he was the one behind the bloody incident of Brass Gong Fort all those years ago!"
"He admitted it himself?" Bai Ziliang raised an eyebrow and mused, "Does he not know the consequences of admitting to such a crime?"
"He had indeed admitted it himself. This lowly one is willing to stake his life on it. Furthermore, this lowly one was not the only one who heard him. He admitted it in front of many others." Hei Langjun cupped his fists and added, "Even if this lowly one were any bolder, he would never dare lie to the Young Master! Not to mention, if this lowly one were to utter even a single lie in regards to this matter, this lowly one would not be able to shoulder the responsibility of inciting Lord Fu Qing's fury!"
Bai Ziliang gently nodded. This, he believed. He added, "Explain what happened to me."
"Understood!" Hei Langjun then politely recounted the incident, albeit adding his own touch to the story.
Obviously, he adorned himself with various accolades, such as how he exposed the true identity of the criminal behind the bloody incident of Brass Gong Fort. He had to tightly hold this glory to himself. The few words that Pi Junzi had said were not worth mentioning. Hei Langjun was not strong enough to kill Gu Sanzheng, so it was all he could do to take this glory for his own. He also glossed over certain parts of the story. Naturally, he refrained from saying how miserable he was at the time, and not a word was mentioned about how he pushed his own women out as meat shields.
After the story was clarified, Lan Susu excused Hei Langjun.
"Young Master, time is of the essence. We should head out immediately and apprehend that Gu Sanzheng before anyone else does," said Lan Susu, her eyes brightening.
Bai Ziliang mused glumly, "Won't it look bad for us if we tried to take this honor away from the others?"
Lan Susu was hesitant to speak. She looked at the two standing below Bai Ziliang's throne. Then calmly signaled them to leave, "You are both dismissed for now."
The two turned to look at Bai Ziliang. Seeing as he did not refute her, they immediately turned around and took their leave.
Only then did Lan Susu say excitedly, "We are not trying to take the honor away from them. Even if Lord Fu Qing wishes to reward us, we cannot accept it. Instead, we will simply use this as a platform to establish a good relationship with Lord Fu Qing."
Bai Ziliang shook his hand and said, "Let's just forget about it. I didn't plan on coming to this Sea of Constellations Subjugation Crusade in the first place. If Mother hadn't forced me to come… I've already done as you two instructed. I'll simply try my best to place higher in the rankings. As for currying favor with Fu Qing, leave me out of it. I'm not interested."
When she heard him, Lan Susu, in all her excitement, felt like she had suddenly been doused with a bucket of cold water. Her expression darkened as she said, "Young Master, you not being interested in this is the same as not willing to improve yourself. I am sure that the Madam would agree with me if she knew of this."
Bai Ziliang shot her a glare and said in a foreboding tone, "Lan Susu, are you the master or am I?!"
Lan Susu sucked in a deep breath, and bluntly replied, "You have to go even if you don't want to. How can we miss such an opportunity?! The Sea of Constellations is the Lord Sage's place of origin, and he shares glory as well as shame with the Four Constellation Masters. With those four working together, even Lord Sage would have to give them face. As long as you can be on friendly terms with Fu Qing, it will be the same as being on friendly terms with the Four Constellation Masters. The countless expert Yao cultivators of the entire Sea of Constellations would stand behind you then. If you can get the Four Constellation Masters to support you, even Lord Sage would hold you in a much higher regard. You should be aware of your status within the 'Realm of Ten Thousand Demons'. If you do this, you'll no longer have to sway to the whims of other people to survive! The Madam has asked me to look after you. I can't neglect my responsibilities and stand idly by and watch you miss this opportunity!"
Bai Ziliang slowly replied, "Lan Susu. Don't overstep your boundaries!"
"I'm overstepping my boundaries?" Lan Susu laughed sarcastically and said, "Young Master, why don't you think clearly about who is overstepping his boundaries? Initially, you would never be chosen to participate in this Sea of Constellations Subjugation Crusade. You are just the Lord Sage's maternal grandson. Furthermore, one that isn't kindly welcomed. With the Lord Sage's direct lineage of grandchildren around, the Realm of Ten Thousand Demons would never choose a maternal grandchild like you to be its representative! Madam was the one who got you this opportunity. She was the one who went around begging her brothers to give you a chance. She was the one who humbled herself and pleaded for this opportunity from the other families. Did you really think there was no one else who wanted this? Otherwise, given your awkward status within the Realm of Ten Thousand Demons, who could you even win against?"
She then raised her hand and pointed to the gates, and added, "Do you know exactly how you got that infant Tempest Beast? At first, Lord Sage declined from lending it out. But Madam wanted to raise your chances within the Subjugation Crusade, so she knelt before Lord Sage and painfully begged him with her tears."
She then pointed to the gourd by Bai Ziliang's waist and said, "That 'Demon Refining Gourd' you have is also due to the Madam running off to the Boundless Nation to beg the Exquisite Refinement Sect Master to refine it. At first, the Sect Master declined, considering the Boundless Nation was sending participants over as well. He only reluctantly agreed to it after Madam went down on her knees and shamelessly knelt at the Exquisite Refinement Sect for over half a month. She did this just so you could possess a transcendent artifact that was within the limitations of the Subjugation Crusade but at the same time better than what the other participants had. Madam was even willing to cast aside her shame. Yet you say you're not interested?"
Lan Susu's voice cracked as she said, "Back then when Madam wished to be with the late Master, she received so many criticisms and suffered so much pain. Even now, the Master's death is shrouded in mystery! In order for you to not be frowned upon by others and for you to gain a foothold within the Realm of Ten Thousand Demons, Madam went through painstaking lengths to get you this opportunity to prove your worth! Yet you don't appreciate it? Just to show you her support, Madam personally came over to the Sea of Constellations to be confined for an entire decade. She did this just to see you succeed. Yet you don't know how to cherish it?"