There were two statues of a beast carved from stone standing on either side of the palace doors. And as the mighty doors opened themselves, Grandmaster Qi Jie, Yun Guang, Hei Yun, Tang Jun, Hua Yu, Ji Meimei and the rest of the attendees appeared from within. Each person carried an exalted aura about them, as though without their presence, this place wouldn't be called the Western Constellations Palace.
Most of the cultivators who made their way up to the top of the cliff didn't know who these people were. However, their attention soon fell upon a woman in a red dress, whose near-divine beauty instantly drew in everyone's focus. There was no helping it as she was simply too beautiful. So enchanting was her captivating beauty and graceful aura that even the women had no choice but to admit their inferiority before her. Even a woman like Ji Meimei, who was already extremely beautiful in her own right, didn't wish to stand too close to this person, for fear of being overshadowed by her allure. This showed just how much of an impact she had on men.
And besides Fairy Hong Chen, who else could have drawn everyone's gazes so completely? Many of the men were utterly stupefied as they looked at her.
Seeing Fairy Hong Chen again, Miao Yi's lips curled into a bitter smile. Once upon a time, this red-clothed woman had been nothing but a pipe dream for him. Because the difference in status was simply too vast, he'd thought he would never get the chance to see her again in this life. He never would've imagined that he'd get the chance to meet her again today. 'Does this mean I've improved a little?'
The more experience one gained, the harder it was to be lost in one's fantasies. Back then, Fairy Hong Chen was the type of woman that Miao Yi wanted to marry even in his sleep. However, he now knew how unrealistic that was.
Behind Yun Guang, someone was looking straight at Miao Yi. When Miao Yi noticed this person, he couldn't help feeling shocked. 'Is that Luo Shuangfei's Senior Brother Zuo? Why is he here?'
Seeing Miao Yi alive and kicking, Zuo Nanchun heaved a sigh of relief. Otherwise, that little ancestor from the Great Devil Realm would surely kick up a fuss. After all, he was the one who took her back against her will.
When they caught sight of the people appearing by the palace doors, Kong Zhi, Yun Feiyang, Yue Yao, Hei Wuya, Feng Ruxiu, and Bai Ziliang all rushed forward to pay their respects.
"Senior Brother!" Yue Yao greeted Tang Jun.
Tang Jun swept his gaze across Yue Yao's body, heaving a sigh of relief when he noticed that she was alright. However, he still couldn't help shaking his head and smiling bitterly as he looked at her attire.
"Senior Sister, I've missed you terribly." Yue Yao then hugged Fairy Hong Chen's arm and began cheerfully chattering away at her ear.
Fairy Hong Chen simply smiled at her junior sister. The smile was enough to topple nations indeed. Even a hundred flowers paled in comparison to its beauty.
Many onlookers couldn't help feeling envious at the sight of this. Fortunately, they all knew that Yue Yao was a woman. If it were a man hugging Fairy Hong Chen like this instead, they would all surely die of jealousy.
On the other hand, Miao Yi was pleased to see that Yue Yao was close to Fairy Hong Chen. 'Nothing matters as long as Little Sister is doing well…'
"Reverend!" Kong Zhi and the other monks clapped their hands together and greeted Grandmaster Qi Jie.
The white-haired, gentle-looking Grandmaster Qi Jie revealed a tender smile in response. As he cast a piercing gaze at Ba Jie who was standing at the side, he asked, "Kong Zhi, I hope Ba Jie didn't cause you too much trouble?"
Ba Jie immediately glanced sideways at Kong Zhi. There was a trace of hostility in his gaze.
Kong Zhi responded courteously, "Reverend, there is no cause for concern. Ba Jie has been of great help on this expedition."
Ba Jie then chuckled and said, "It's my duty, after all."
Grandmaster Qi Jie simply shook his head and smiled. It seemed he was fully aware of his disciple's personality.
'Pa!' Yun Guang sent Yun Feiyang staggering back with a kick, then held a finger up to the latter's nose and barked, "Damned brat, you sure can run! Your old man's eyes could barely keep up with your antics these past nine years."
Aggrieved, Yun Feiyang mumbled softly, "There are so many outsiders here. Can't you show me a little face?"
"Does your old man still need to give you face? I'll break your damn legs once we get back. Let's see how much you can run then!" Yun Guang scolded harshly. He then asked, "Now tell me the truth. Why were you blindly running around?!"
Immediately, Yun Feiyang puffed up his chest and said proudly, "I wasn't running around blindly. I was simply being fearless. All these years, I was constantly looking for opponents. Having failed to taste a single defeat, your son felt terribly lonely, so all I could do was keep looking for people to fight with. Little did I know that they would all run away the second they met me. What killjoys!"
Indeed, he knew full well the kinds of things his old man liked to hear. When Yun Guang heard his answer, his rage instantly turned to joy. While he was feeling happy inside, Yun Guang still put up a straight face and asked coldly, "Then why did you suddenly stop running towards the end?"
Yun Feiyang earnestly replied, "It would be unwise to act too showy. If I single-handedly dominated everyone, how will the others feel about themselves? I have to show them some face after all."
A brilliant answer indeed. Yun Guang couldn't conceal his delight any longer, and he instantly let out a hearty guffaw as he slapped Yun Feiyang's shoulder and said, "You are indeed my son!"
Beside them, Hei Yun gave a derisive snort. However, when his son, Hei Wuya, went over to pay his respects to him, Hei Yun immediately revealed a look of concern. Reaching out and pulling at Hei Wuya's clothes, he asked with an affectionate and tender tone, "I didn't want you to come, but you stubbornly insisted anyway. These past few years you've been constantly on the go, having nowhere to settle down. It must have been hard on you, right?"
"It wasn't hard at all!" It seemed that Hei Wuya found his old man to be a little unbearable as well. Noticing Tang Jun by the side, he cupped his fists and greeted, "Uncle Tang!"
Tang Jun smiled and nodded in response as he said, "It's good to see that you've safely returned. Hurry and tell your mother. Don't make her worry!"
It appeared that Yun Guang was right. This Tang Jun really was quite close with Hei Yun's wife, and abnormally so at that.
"Yes, sir!" Hei Wuya answered politely.
"Hmph!" Seeing this, Hei Yun made a loud snort, then turned his head to the side. He was clearly displeased.
Meanwhile, Feng Ruxiu and his master Hua Yu were quietly conversing in a businesslike manner, with the former replying to the latter's questions in an orderly fashion.
With heavy footsteps, Bai Ziliang gradually made his way to the expectant Ji Meimei and paid his respects, "Greetings, Mother."
Seeing the look on her son's face, and how Lan Susu was too scared to even face her, Ji Meimei could already roughly imagine what happened. Forcing a smile, she said, "It's good to see you back safe and sound."
Even though she had put it gently, Bai Ziliang still noticed the fleeting look of disappointment in his mother's eyes. He felt a terrible ache in his heart as he could already imagine how the people would mock him and his mother once they returned to the Realm of Ten Thousand Demons, and how his mother would pretend to be alright in front of him.
What lay before the other participants' eyes were either the sight of a family reunion or the coming together of master and disciple. While afraid to take a step forward, they still couldn't help mocking them deep down, 'Who would dare touch a single hair on your children and disciples' heads in this whole competition? You all make it seem as though they've just suffered some terrible ordeal. The truly unlucky ones, the ones who struggled and clawed their way through perilous dangers these past ten years are us.'
After a brief conversation with their children and disciples, Yun Guang and the others finally cast their gazes towards Miao Yi and the rest.
There was no helping their display of concern towards their close ones, but that didn't mean that Yun Guang and the rest were fools. They all knew full well that the ones standing before them now were the actual cream of the crop—they who had survived the grueling baptism of blood and slaughter. If transcendent artifacts were taken out of the equation, these people would not be any weaker than their children and disciples. Yun Guang and the others believed that they might even be stronger.
They also knew that by allowing their children and disciples to participate in the Subjugation Crusade, they had placed the lives of these normal participants in even greater danger and subjected them to further injustice. Hence, they decided to add another prize to the pot, allowing these people to choose the place they would be a Manor Head in once they returned to their own respective Earthly Branches. As long as you had what it took, you would be free to choose the most lucrative areas for yourself. This was their compensation.
And needless to say, most of those that survived the Sea of Constellations Subjugation Crusade were Blue Lotus Ninth Grade cultivators already. After overcoming such an ordeal, and with the large number of cultivation resources that they would obtain, it was merely a matter of time before they broke through to the Red Lotus realm.
There was no denying the strength and abilities of those who had overcome the trial that was the Sea of Constellations Subjugation Crusade. Otherwise, they wouldn't have survived in the first place. As such, once these people broke through to the Red Lotus realm, their respective Palace Lords would surely hold them in high regard. Their futures were limitless indeed.
Naturally, any Palace Lord would wish to have more capable subordinates that they could trust to handle their business for them. What's more, it would take a long time before these people could catch up to their Purple Lotus realm Palace Lords, given that they would've just broken through to the Red Lotus realm. Hence, there was no need to worry that these people would take one's place, allowing the Palace Lords to use them freely.
This also meant that as soon as these people returned from the Subjugation Crusade, they would become an object of attention and be heavily cultivated by their respective Palace Lords. As such, it wouldn't be difficult at all for them to jump from Manor Head to Hall Master.
History had already proven that, besides a few of the unfortunate ones, most of the cultivators who survived the Sea of Constellations Subjugation Crusade had already become Hall Masters. The probability, as well as the ratio of these people being promoted, were significantly higher than the average cultivator. They were the ones who had the greatest chance of taking a Hall Master's seat while only having a Red Lotus First Grade cultivation. Hence, it was evident that risks and rewards always coexisted with one another. Everything that these people would obtain, they had earned with their lives.
These people standing before Yun Guang and the rest were all likely to become Red Lotus cultivators and Hall Masters in the near future, overseeing an entire domain and commanding the respect of over a hundred million followers. Hence, there was a sense of acknowledgment in the eyes of Yun Guang and the others as they looked at these people. After all, these were the elites who would one day help oversee and protect the domains of their respective nations!
They would naturally see them in a new light!
When facing Grandmaster Qi Jie, Yun Guang still had to conduct himself more respectably. After seeking the former's opinion, Yun Guang abruptly spread his arm out towards Miao Yi and the rest, and with a boisterous voice, said, "Come! The wonderful children of our six nations, show us what you've gained in these past ten years, and prepare yourselves to receive the admiration of cultivators from across the realm. Enjoy the rightfully deserved glory that you risked your lives to obtain, and let those common peasants grovel at your feet!"
His words set everyone feverish with excitement. As they thought about their struggles during the past ten years, they finally felt that it had been worth it now that they had come this far!
Miao Yi and the others followed behind the crowd, making their way through the imposing palace doors and into the majestic Western Constellations Palace.
At first, when they heard Yun Guang describing them with such splendor and how great of an honor their accomplishments were, everyone assumed that they would enter that most ancient and majestic-looking manor situated deep within the palace. However, contrary to their expectations, right after walking past the door, they were led into a small side manor.
Many of them couldn't help complaining deep down, 'You all sure know how to lead us on. You made it seem as though we were an impressive bunch. But as it turns out, we still lack the qualifications to officially step foot inside.'
Little did they know that even Yun Guang and the others couldn't step foot inside that particular manor. For that matter, they couldn't even venture too deeply into the main hall and were only allowed to walk around the front. How could they possibly bring the participants on a tour then?
As everyone entered the side manor that held the astrolabe, they immediately noticed the two-horned pythons coiled around the pillars. At the same time, they could smell the heavy fish stench that wafted between the halls, mixed with an overwhelming Yao aura.
"Yao Nation cultivators shall hand over their Geotranscendence Bangles on this side."
"Devil Nation cultivators shall hand over their Geotranscendence Bangles on this side."
One after the other, the six groups of people sent over by the Western Constellations Palace called out their instructions.
While walking over to the Yao Nation side to hand over his things, Bai Ziliang unintentionally turned his head and noticed Tao Yongchun and Pi Junzi were behind him. At first, he was initially surprised, but then his expression gradually darkened as he cast a piercing gaze at the duo, causing them to feel much apprehension.
Ji Meimei looked at the number of people behind her son, then glanced at the numbers in the other camps. The difference was just too prominent. Her expression instantly took a turn for the worse, becoming a little pale.
On the Celestial Nation's side, when he saw the number of people coming up to hand over their things, Tang Jun was immediately overjoyed. Tilting his head to Fairy Hong Chen, he said via voice transmission, "Junior Sister, looks like Little Junior Sister didn't fail to meet Master's expectations after all. If our final results are significantly better than the other five nations, I'm sure Master will be pleased. Perhaps we'll both earn Master's praise as well."