Teng Qingshan sat cross-legged on Little Blue's back. With a cold light flickering in his eyes, he looked down at Qing Hu Island as it turned into a sea of fire. "Qing Hu Island, back in the day, weren't you formidable and tyrannical? Today, this fire is the start of your funeral procession! Blind Tie, you think that because you've gone into hiding somewhere, I won't be able to find you?"
"Little Blue!" Teng Qingshan pointed out a direction to Little Blue, whose wings immediately shook, and she flew toward a distant place.
Although he was burning down Qing Hu Island, Teng Qingshan was very clear on the fact that… before this, the Blind Swordmaster had definitely already moved Qing Hu Island's elite disciples, important people, as well as many treasures, off the island. All that remained on the island was merely an empty shell. Burning it down would not adversely affect Qing Hu Island's strength much.
However, it would be an extremely big blow to their morale.
Their base, which was over a thousand years old, was just burned down like that. It was likely that any of Qing Hu Island's disciples would very naturally think "Even the Island Lord, Grand Supreme Elder, and the others have all given up and left the island. Immediately after, the island gets burned down by an enemy. It's certain that the Island Lord believes he's not a match for the enemy." With this sort of thinking, it was likely that in the midst of the war's course of events, many disciples with unstable wills would surrender directly.
"No, no. This isn't real!"
At the middle of Qing Lake, there were currently many people smacking the lake water. Suspended on the surface of the water, it was guaranteed that they wouldn't sink. Every one of them was watching Qing Hu Island as it turned into a sea of flames. There were some old men with already graying hair who had spent their entire lives on the island. Their loyalty to Qing Hu Island had long since been etched into their souls.
Yet today, Qing Hu Island was burned down. To them, it was the same as if the sky had collapsed.
On the shore of Qing Hu's lake, there were two youths hiding amongst the weeds as they watched the distant island that was the heart of the lake. The expressions of the two people were extremely unsightly.
"Qing Hu Island has been burned down," One of the youths, who looked honest and sincere, said gloomily.
"Gui Yuan Sect is truly ruthless," the other youth seethed while gnashing his teeth.
"This is what war is like. If it isn't you who dies, then it's me. Can't really talk about who is being ruthless," the honest and sincere youth said softly. "Junior, this is just burning down Qing Hu Island. Those remaining in Qing Hu Island are all old, weak, and disabled soldiers… The war between Gui Yuan Sect and Qing Hu Island has only just begun. As to who will win… it's still uncertain!"
"Mm, quickly pass this information on to the Island Lord."
The two young intelligence gatherers left quietly.
Around a thousand Li away from Qing Hu Island, in an ordinary city, Lu City, in a seemingly ordinary residence:
Inside a dark study room with the doors and windows shut tight.
A gray-robed, blond-haired, man was currently sitting cross-legged in the study. This person was Tie Pan, the current Island Lord of Qing Hu Island, which was one of the Nine Prefectures' seven major sects. He spent a lot of time just quietly like this in the study...
"Island Lord," a voice called from outside.
"Come in," Tie Pan said quietly.
Creak! The door of the study opened, and a thread of sunshine shone inside, causing Tie Pan to squint his eyes. A bald man entered the study and then closed the door to the study again. After that, he respectfully offered up an intelligence report. "Island Lord, this news has just come over from Qing Hu Island."
Tie Pan took in a deep breath before taking the report.
When he unfolded the report and took a look…
Tie Pan's complexion instantly flushed red.
"Teng Qingshan!!! You have really gone too far!!!" Tie Pan could not help growling deeply. Although he had long since been prepared for this, he still got so angry that his body shook.
"Leave," Tie Pan barked.
"Yes, Island Lord." The bald man withdrew, closing the door behind him.
Tie Pan read the intelligence report carefully, reading it over and over. There was only a simple description in the report: "A person riding on a flaming divine bird arrived at Qing Hu Island and sent down an endless blaze. Qing Hu Island was turned into a sea of fire." It seemed simple, but this island was the foundation of their Qing Hu Island after all!
Knowing that their foundation had been destroyed, Tie Pan got so angry that both of his hands clenched into tight fists.
It went from afternoon until dusk.
Outside Lu City, a large hole had already appeared in the center of one of the rocks. The hole stretched underground to a depth of roughly 100 Li, and sitting right there was a lean and black-robed blind person! Even if Teng Qingshan were to search everywhere throughout all of Yangzhou, he wouldn't be able to find the Blind Swordsman, who was 100 Li deep underground.
"Hm?" A strong light flashed across Blind Tie's gray eyes.
Like a sharp sword, he shot straight upward in a whirlwind. Along the way, he knocked against and shattered rock and sandy soil, and even dashed across a lava flow. After a short period of time, Blind Tie charged out from the floor of Tie Pan's study.
Peng! The crushed rock tumbled off him to one side as Blind Tie landed in the study.
"Martial Ancestor." The moment he saw Blind Tie, Tie Pan stood up.
"Has there been any movement today?" The black-robed blind man asked in a cold and detached manner. Ever since the day he foresaw the imminent danger coming toward him, the Blind Swordsman had been very cautious and timid, staying underground every day. Actually, for a blind person, there wasn't much difference between being above ground or underground. After all, they couldn't see with their eyes anyway.
"Martial Ancestor," Tie Pan said gloomily, "that Teng Qingshan, he used the Undying Phoenix to burn down the entire island."
The body of the black-robed blind man shook slightly and then stood firm.
"Gui Yuan Sect…has finally declared war toward us," the black-robed blind man said in a deep and low tone.
This fire was the beginning of the war!
"Sigh. If I had known back then that this Teng Qingshan would be this powerful, I would have spared nothing in order to kill him," Tie Pan couldn't help saying regretfully. In fact, back then, if they had let the Emptiness Realm Expert, Blind Tie, personally take action against Teng Qingshan, who had yet to step into the Emptiness Realm, Teng Qingshan would definitely not have been able to escape.
However, on one hand, when they sent Zhao Danchen to Yuzhou to pursue and kill Teng Qingshan at that time, the members of Qing Hu Island were already certain of a positive outcome.
On the other hand, getting an Emptiness Realm Culmination Expert to pursue and kill an Innate Expert… that was much too inconceivable.
No one was capable of seeing into the future. Now it was too late to regret.
"It's useless to regret that," the black-robed blind man said coldly. "We still have a big advantage, which are our great numbers of ordinary and elite troops. Compared to the Gui Yuan Sect, our occupancy has an absolute advantage. After all, they've only established themselves in one county. How many troops could they possibly produce? It'll be considered amazing if they can even produce 100,000 troops.
"However, so what if they have 100,000 troops? The entire Yangzhou is huge. Yangzhou has 13 counties. 10,000-20,000 troops are needed just to defend a single county-city, let alone besiege it. More than 100,000 troops would be needed to defend 12 counties. Gui Yuan Sect doesn't even have enough troops to defend their county.
"Whereas, my Qing Hu Island has over two million troops to drag out the war and kill him.
"Is it possible that the Gui Yuan Sect will always let the Emptiness Realm Expert take action? What a joke. Even if Yangzhou's 12 other counties surrender for the time being, the moment the Emptiness Realm Expert leaves, the surrendered troops will revolt… Don't tell me that they're going to suppress two million troops with their tiny army?" The black-robed blind man was very confident in ruling the prefecture as one.
Simply having an Emptiness Realm Expert that was strong enough wouldn't be sufficient for success. They needed strong basic army troops.
After all, regardless of how powerful the Emptiness Realm Expert was, he was just one person, and one person was unable to manage every place at the same time. This was the reason why the Heavenly God Palace had endured silently for so long, accumulating enough strong basic troops before rising abruptly.
During the pitch-black night:
Several thousand Zhang up in the sky, the Undying Phoenix had her wings spread open as she soared. Teng Qingshan was on her back, constantly detecting the presence down below with the use of his domain.
"This Blind Tie is indeed hiding in a really secret place. I've been searching for him for so long, yet I haven't even caught a glimpse of his shadow." Teng Qingshan shook his head. He'd been searching from afternoon till dusk and still hadn't found Blind Tie. When comparing an Emptiness Realm Expert's aura to that of an ordinary person, it was like the difference between the sun and a grain of sand.
An Emptiness Realm Expert's aura was powerful. As long as Teng Qingshan's domain covered it, he would be able to discover it instantly.
As for finding Tie Pan and Gu Yong, the difficulty was much higher. This was because they weren't Emptiness Realm Experts, so they didn't have the Harmonization of the Spirit with the Heavens and the Earth. Their aura was also greatly different from that of Emptiness Realm Experts, being just a bit more powerful than that of ordinary people. It would naturally be easy to find an intense sun-like aura amidst the countless auras of souls. However, it would be really difficult to find the totally unremarkable auras of Innate Experts, which were only somewhat stronger than those of ordinary people.
After all, with just one glance, one could find an iron ball that was the size of a head in a sand pile.
Whereas, one would need to spend a lot of time to find soybeans, which were just slightly bigger than the grains of sand, in a sand pile.
According to this reason, he wouldn't be able to find an Innate Expert in the midst of a crowd unless he stopped at every place for some time!
As for finding the Emptiness Realm Expert, Teng Qingshan could let the Undying Phoenix fly over a place like lightning. She just needed to flit across an area to know if an Emptiness Realm Expert was there.
If he wanted to find an Innate Expert, he would unfortunately have to get the Undying Phoenix to fly slowly. At the scope of every area, he would have to spend a few breaths of effort to identify if there was an Innate Expert. In other words… considering how vast and wide Yangzhou was, who knew how long he would have to search for?
"Little Blue." Teng Qingshan pointed down below.
During the night, the Undying Phoenix swooped down into the Teng Family Village. Teng Qingshan got together with Zhuge Yuanhong that night.
The candles produced a dusky illumination as the teacher and disciple sat opposite each other, drinking and chatting.
"Haha, I expected that since long ago!" Zhuge Yuanhong said while laughing. "It's very normal for that Blind Swordsman to go into hiding. If he really makes an effort to go into hiding, it'll be too difficult for you to find him. However, Qingshan, you went to Qing Hu Island this time and burned it down. That means our goal has already been achieved. Five days from now, our main forces can be dispatched."
"Five days from now?" Teng Qingshan was startled.
"Yes, five days from now." Zhuge Yuanhong nodded. "Burning down Qing Hu Island will have an extremely great impact on the morale of Qing Hu Island's main forces, particularly the county cities who didn't have much loyalty toward Qing Hu Island. Perhaps, when our main forces arrive, they'll open their gates and surrender. So… we'll wait for the news about Qing Hu Island getting burned down to spread around Yangzhou, then we'll take action. Five days… that should be enough time for the news to spread."
"Open their gates and surrender?" Teng Qingshan was somewhat astonished.
"There are 13 counties in Yangzhou. Among them are Xuyang County, which spent many years in chaos, and Tiannan County, as well as Chu County, which used to be Tie Yi Sect's. These three counties don't have much loyalty toward Qing Hu Island," Zhuge Yuan said with a slight smile. "With our current forces, we will be able to seize control of these county-cities very easily. Of course, our first battle should be to beat fear into Qing Hu Island, to fight until everyone in the whole world is astonished! We'll fight until all of Yangzhou knows that our Gui Yuan Sect not only has an Emptiness Realm Expert, but also an incomparably formidable army!"
Teng Qingshan nodded.
"Oh, right. Teacher, there's only so much Fiery Gilt Steel. There are no less than 12,000 people in the Long Gang Guards… There won't be enough sets of Fiery Gilt Steel Battle Armor." Teng Qingshan suddenly thought of this.
According to his calculations, that amount of Fiery Gilt Steel could only make 3,000 sets of Fiery Gilt Steel Battle Armor.
"It's true that it's not enough." Zhuge Yuanhong nodded. "We've managed to cast a total of 2,000 sets of armor entirely from Fiery Gilt Steel, which used up a large portion of the steel. These sets of armor are all Fiery Gilt Battle Armor. Simultaneously, the remaining Fiery Gilt Steel Ores were mixed together with Cold Steel and other types of ores. These were used to forge 15,000 sets of Flaming Feathers Battle Armor."
"Five days from now, with the Fiery Gilt Battle Armor and the Flaming Feathers Battle Armor, as well as the Long Gang Guards, it'll be time for everyone to see our Gui Yuan Sect's strength!" Zhuge Yuanhong's eyes lit up.
The Gui Yuan Sect will… climb up the ranks of the Nine Prefectures' major sects!