Chapter 14: Zuo Tianyi
The grand hall of the Gongsun Manor was huge and majestic. It was divided into three colored walls, gold, silver and bronze colors. And the pugilists were partitioned within these walls according to their clan repute in the martial fraternity.
Gongsun Bai was the most powerful and most influential man in the entire martial fraternity for the past ten years. The Gongsun Martial Clan under his leadership had attracted many top martial exponents into the clan. Even top exponents like Gu Tianle the Warrior-God and Jue Yuan the Merciless was now in his protégé clan, the Honor Manor.
As the Grand Master of the Honor Manor, Gongsun Bai was also well-known for his martial abilities, the Ironclad Claw Skill and the Invincible Divine Force Skill.
In the martial fraternity, there was no one else other than Old Man Zuo the Sword Saint and Gu Tianle the Warrior-God that could rival his martial level. Old Man Zuo the Sword Saint had passed away last year and Gu Tianle the Warrior-God had joined the Honor Manor.
Now Gongsun Bai was not only the most powerful man in the entire martial fraternity, he was also the martial fraternity number one top exponent.
To be invited to the Honor Manor, even for those at the bronze seating, was a great prestige and honor. There were countless pugilists that were denied this opportunity and because of this, hundreds of small fights broke out in the martial fraternity to seize the invitations.
Needless to say, all the pugilists here presented today were fearsome exponents and experienced pugilists.
Nangong Le had a gold invitation. Naturally he was supposed to be a seated in the golden section, the closest to the host.
When he had entered the grand hall, he was instantly recognized by many. Unlike the other three young masters of the martial fraternity, Nangong Le spent most of his time in the martial fraternity and was acquainted with many.
Nangong Le fraternity name was ‘The Joyous’ for he was always smiling and in light spirits. And today he had reasons to smile.
When he first entered the grand hall, there was a sudden silence. Everyone seemed to turn their attentions to him. Even though his role in this congregation was minor, he seemed to be stealing the limelight and that he was causing great envy among many of the guests.
When Yi Ping and Ji Lingfeng entered the grand hall with him, the pugilists had never seen such a matching couple in terms of looks and magnetism. They had instantly captivated the attention of everyone, causing them to be awestruck.
Young Master Qiu Wufeng and the Heartless Scholar were among the guests presented. Even though they had met Yi Ping before but they failed to recognize him. It was because the Yi Ping they had briefly known then was a rugged traveler and this Yi Ping was clean and had a noble air around him. Moreover the Yi Ping then was just a nameless nobody. No one would pay him scant attention.
But today, he was in the company of Nangong Le and the opponents of Nangong Le would naturally be interested in anyone that was with him.
Ever since Young Master Qiu Wufeng retreated from the Heavenly Mountains, he had been thinking of the Celestial Fairy. He began to lose interest in his food and in other ladies. It was because he had never seen anyone as mesmerizing as the Celestial Fairy, until now.
Gongsun Jing recognized Yi Ping immediately. He wanted to recruit him to be his follower but a fight broke out between them. He thought, “No wonder he rejects my overturns. It is because he is already Nangong Le’s follower. What a pity!”
Jue Yuan had recognized both Yi Ping and Ji Lingfeng. He had tried to kill Yi Ping back then and had thought that Yi Ping was a protégé disciple of Young Master Qiu Wufeng. The Qiu clan had always opposed the Gongsun Clan. His first thought was, “Have the Qiu Clan and the Nangong Clan forged a secret alliance already?”
Gu Tianle the One-Arm Warrior-God had recognized Yi Ping and was relieved that this young man was well. He did not know that instead of helping Yi Ping that day, Jue Yuan had actually tried to kill him. Even though he had a grudge with Qiao Feng the Shadow Kicker, his intent was not to hurt him. He had thought that Qiao Feng was nearby and had wanted to settle a score with him.
Yi Ping however recognized them all. He thought, “Good! Even though I am being outnumbered today, I am not afraid of death. Let settle our scores once and for all today!”
He scanned his eyes for Gongsun Bai but it seemed that the host had not arrived yet.
He took a quick look and saw that only six out of the seven leading major orthodox clans were presented in the golden wall section. Judging from their colorful banners, the six major orthodox clans that were presented were the Infinity Sword Clan, the Zen Sect, the Monument Monastery, the Divine Sword Martial Clan, the Universal Truth Clan and the Traverse Clan.
The Ironclad Clan was inconspicuously absent from this meeting.
It was well known that the Ironclad Clan and the Heartless Scholar who was a follower of Young Master Qiu had a feud with one another and the Ironclad Clan would often be absented from any meetings that involved the Qiu Aristocracy Martial Clan.
There were at least thirty other clans that were seated in the silver and the bronze sections of the hall.
Yi Ping thought, “This Gongsun Bai is indeed influential. He is able to invite so many martial clans to this congregation. But where is he? Why is that I can only see Gongsun Jing? Maybe it is not the time for him to show up yet? His status must be really prominent to keep the martial congregation waiting for him.”
Gongsun Jing laughed gently and walked over to Nangong Le respectfully, saying. “Welcome, welcome Young Master Nangong! We have been waiting for you to start the meeting.”
Nangong Le laughed, “I am so honored. I don’t think I am so important to keep everyone waiting.”
Gongsun Jing smiled, “Not at all, Brother Nangong. We are honored that you have decided to grace the congregation with your presence.”
Nangong Le smiled bitterly, “Not at all. Unless I am really weary of living, I would never think of not attending the congregation.”
Gongsun Jing asked quietly, “What do you mean by that? …”
But before he could finish, he was interrupted by Priest Bai Chongzhen, who was the protégé master of the Traverse Clan, “Brother Ling, how are you?”
Priest Ling Kongquan smiled awkwardly, “Not as well as the Traverse Clan for sure. Look at the Tranquil City, we only got a silver invitation.” He purposely looked at Gongsun Jing for a second.
Gongsun Jing smiled, “Next time, we are sure to issue the Tranquil City a gold invitation.”
Jue Yuan the Merciless smirked, “It still depends if the Tranquil City is fit to deserve a gold invitation from the Honor Manor.”
Priest Bai Chongzhen stared at Jue Yuan and questioned, “What do you mean?”
Jue Yuan said, “If the Tranquil City thinks that it deserves a golden seat, then its protégés must be able to prove that they are deserving of the honor.”
Jue Yuan looked at Yi Ping, Ji Lingfeng and Priest Ling Kongquan before saying, “Just because they are acquainted with Young Master Nangong Le, they think they deserve a seat in the golden section? Is it fair to the other pugilists?”
He deliberately said it aloud and aroused the attention of many of the pugilists.
Gongsun Jing smiled awkwardly, “Master Jue Yuan…”
But Jue Yuan ignored the awkwardness of Gongsun Jing and continued to say aloud, “Do you think you deserve the honor?”
There were muttering among the pugilists and quite a few were shouting, “Prove to it that you are deserving of the honor!”
Gongsun Jing continued to smile awkwardly. It was because Jue Yuan was his protégé master and as his disciple, he had to pay due respect to him even though he had a higher status than him in the Honor Manor.
Gu Tianle knew immediately that Jue Yuan had wanted to embarrass Nangong Le and his acquaintances.
But of course, he did not know the Jue Yuan was still sore that Yi Ping and this beautiful mysterious maiden had escaped from his fists. No matter, he would teach them a harsh lesson that they would never forget today!
Priest Bai Chongzhen smiled wryly, “Have you forgotten that the Tranquil City and the Traverse Clan hail from the Emei Clan?”
Jue Yuan said unhappily, “There are so many Emei Clans in the Western Fraternity. Just because the Tranquil City is also an Emei Clan, they deserve the golden seating? Fat hope! I afraid the Priest Ling Kongquan still has to prove it!”
Priest Ling Kongquan was really upset, “You stupid monk! Are you really picking a fight with the Tranquil City or just me?”
Yi Ping was amused. It was obvious that Jue Yuan was intentional provoking them. Just when he was about to step forward, Ji Lingfeng inconspicuously pulled his sleeve and he stayed his cool.
Zuo Tianyi, the young protégé master of the Infinity Sword Clan and also one of the four young masters of the martial fraternity fame, was staring at Ji Lingfeng with bewildered eyes. He had taken over the mantle of the leadership of the Infinity Sword Clan when his grandfather the Sword Saint had passed away last year after a deadly duel with Ji Wuzheng, the Holy Sect Leader of the Holy Hex Sect.
In fact, besides Zuo Tianyi, many other pugilists were also staring at her mesmerizing beauty. Only a blind man would fail to notice her. Only the protégés of the Monument Monastery did not stared at her.
It was because the clan protégés of the Monument Monastery were all monks. When they saw Ji Lingfeng, they lowered their heads and looked the other way. The younger monks who were accompanying their elders were blushing all of a sudden and began to chant softly.
The Monument Monastery was famous for its seventy-two epic martial skills, with each warrior-monk practicing at least one epic martial skill in their lifetime.
But the real reason why Zuo Tianyi was looking at Ji Lingfeng was because he had recognized her!
His father died in a duel when he was still very young and he was brought up by his grandfather. And now, his grandfather, Old Man Zuo the Sword Saint had died because of her brother!
The reason that Zuo Tianyi had recognized her was because they were both presented at the duel between the Sword Saint and Ji Wuzheng, the Holy Sect Leader of the Holy Hex Sect!
Zuo Tianyi’s fingers began to twitch and tremble slightly…
One year ago at the summit of the Lofty Green Mountains, Ji Wuzheng had the tenacity to challenge the Sword Saint. At that time, he was with his grandfather and Maiden Ji was with her brother.
The Sword Saint asked, “You have come to challenge me?”
Ji Wuzheng said coolly, “I dare not!”
The Sword Saint asked again, “Then why did you send me an invitation to come here for?”
Ji Wuzheng smiled, “It is not me that is looking for a challenge but you are.”
The Sword Saint said, “Oh?”
Ji Wuzheng said, “You are a peerless swordsman and there are none in the fraternity that is your match. Don’t you feel lonely at the very top?”
The Sword Saint said, “Indeed. No one else understands my feeling. There were once two super exponents during my time that could be my match. One was Yi Tianxing and the other one was your late father.”
Ji Wuzheng asked, “You seem to have forgotten about the renowned Gongsun Bai and Gu Tianle the Warrior-God. In the martial fraternity, they are ranked among the very top.”
Old Man Zuo the Sword Saint stroked his long white beard and said, “Indeed they are but not twenty years ago.”
Ji Wuzheng said, “And yet you did not mention them?”
The Sword Saint answered, “Twenty-years ago, they are nowhere near my martial level and I didn’t notice them.”
Ji Wuzheng said, “Don’t forget that Gu Tianle had killed my father.”
The Sword Saint said, “Even though I was not there, I know that your father had a secret duel with Yi Tianxing that worsened his existing internal injuries. To say that Gu Tianle had really defeat your father, is an overstatement.”
Ji Wuzheng said, “You know that my father had internal injuries?”
The Sword Saint nodded slowly, “I was there when Yi Tianxing and your father fought against one another. It was just that they did not notice me.”
Ji Wuzheng and Ji Lingfeng were both stunned as they both asked together, “You are there?”
Old Man Zuo the Sword Saint looked at the drifting clouds and said, “I too, want to challenge your father with my Infinity-Two. After watching that duel, I knew how unfathomable their martial levels had been. Inspired by that duel, twenty years later, I have finally achieved the Infinity-One.”
Ji Wuzheng said, “In the present fraternity, Gongsun Bai and Gu Tianle are formidable fighters and their martial levels are unfathomable. They have few worthy opponents too. Are they worthy to be your opponents?”
The Sword Saint said, “They are now.”
Ji Wuzheng asked, “What about me?”
The Sword saint said, “I presume that you have sent me an invitation is because you have mastered the Holy Amalgamate Skill?”
Ji Wuzheng said, “Indeed I have.”
The Sword Saint laughed, “Excellent! I have waited for over twenty-years to find a match.”
Ji Wuzheng said coolly, “Unfortunately, I am still not your match in swordsmanship. I have long heard that you have fully mastered the Infinite Swordplay. I am still young and have no wish to experience your invincible Infinite-First.”
The Sword Saint said, “What do you propose?”
Ji Wuzheng said, “I have heard that you are seeking a breakthrough for the Infinite-First. But without meeting a worthy opponent, no matter how long you meditate upon it, it is extremely difficult for you to unravel the Infinite-Zero.”
The Sword Saint stroked his long white beard and said, “Indeed! And this is my greatest regret.”
Ji Wuzheng said, “You are so close yet so far from it.”
The Sword Saint nodded sadly, “Indeed!”
Ji Wuzheng said, “The secret to unraveling the Infinite-Zero lies with the Infinitude Recite Skill. The Holy Amalgamate Skill and the Infinitude Recite are two of the top epitome skills in the fraternity. If there is a skill that can help you to gain a new understanding of the Infinitude Recite, it has to be another unfathomable skill like the Holy Amalgamate Skill.”
The Sword Saint said, “Indeed. You are not afraid to die?”
Ji Wuzheng said, “If I am afraid to die, I won’t be here.”
The Sword Saint roared with laughter, “Marvelous! Let us go then.”
Ji Wuzheng laughed, “Good! Let us go now!”
Zuo Tianyi and Ji Lingfeng were the only ones that were left behind. It was because it was a secret duel between Old Man Zuo the Sword Saint and Ji Wuzheng.
They had left at dawn and returned at dust.
Needless to say, Zuo Tianyi and Ji Lingfeng had spent a full day together.
When Ji Wuzheng and Old Man Zuo had returned, they were both seriously injured and were supporting one another as they walked towards Zuo Tianyi and Ji Lingfeng. But their eyes were beaming and they were laughing aloud.
Zuo Tianyi could still remember that day very well; his grandfather had gripped him very hard as he was exclaiming excitedly, “I have finally deciphered the last intricate word of the Infinitude Recite! I no longer have the mental strength to unravel the Infinity-Zero but you can!”
Not long after, his grandfather the Sword Saint crumbled to his injuries and passed away. The Sword Saint had never blame Ji Wuzheng and the Holy Hex Sect even in his final hours. In fact, he was grateful and hoped that Ji Wuzheng would survive his injuries and be a worthy opponent for his grandson, Zuo Tianyi.
It was because even though Zuo Tianyi knew the final intricate formula now but it would still be many years of hard work and mediation before he could even grasps the true essence of the Infinite-First and Infinite-Zero. The final intricate formula was just a clue and would still change depending on the martial progress of the practitioner. But it was a huge step forward.
Zuo Tianyi was a prodigy since he was young. At the age of twenty, he had grasped the Infinity-Five and by the time he was twenty-eight, he had attained the Infinity-Two. His grandfather, the Sword Saint had only grasped the Infinity-Two when he was forty and the Infinity-One when he was sixty.
In this fraternity, no one other than his grandfather knew the progress of his Infinity Swordplay. It was rumored that he had mastered the Infinity-Nine but none had dared to try.
When Ji Lingfeng saw Zuo Tianyi looking at her intently, she immediately averted her eyes and Yi Ping noticed it immediately.
Yi Ping thought, “They know one another? Isn’t that the insignia of the Infinity Sword Clan? This man, he should be the Zuo Tianyi, one of the four young masters of the martial fraternity and is also the clan leader of the Infinity Sword Clan. Does Maiden Ji know him as a friend? Or does he recognize her as his enemy?”
He really wished that it was the latter.
All of a sudden, Jue Yuan was shouting angrily, “He can stay but they must not stay!” He was pointing at Yi Ping and Ji Lingfeng.
This did not make Nangong Le, Priest Ling Kongquan and Priest Bai Chongzhen glad at all.
It was like Jue Yuan was giving Priest Ling Kongquan the honor of sitting in the golden seat because of Priest Bai Chongzhen.
Nangong Le said solemnly, “They are my guests and I have personally invited them. Moreover, do you know this young man Yi Ping is the…”
Jue Yuan interrupted, “I know this young man. He is nothing but a trouble-maker. If he wants to sit in the golden seat, he must prove his martial abilities first!”
Jue Yuan began to display his merciless strokes which he had innovated against Yi Ping.
Yi Ping could feel a flurry of windforce raining down against him. He immediately raised his hands to counter-attack. Judging down by the downward poise of his attacker and after exchanging a few blows, he knew that Jue Yuan was using a type of martial arts that could neutralize his opponent strength.
As he had already been forewarned by his father of this deadly martial art that could neutralize the strength of the opponent and its devastating effect, Yi Ping did not dare to move lightly but focus on exchanging blows with Jue Yuan with his forward fists.
Jue Yuan was confident that in less than twenty strokes, this young man would be subdued by his merciless subduing stances. But to his surprise, Yi Ping was able to block, disengage and to counter attack against him no matter how fast his strokes were!
Jue Yuan was mystified. How was it possible for this young man to fight like an experienced exponent and the speed that Yi Ping had disengaged from his blows were startling!
All of a sudden, Yi Ping rolled his hands together and struck hard into the face of Jue Yuan! Jue Yuan was forced immediately to take five steps backward!
Jue Yuan was not injured seriously but he was enraged. He immediately mustered his martial power and thought, “If he dares to accept my blow, then I can overpower him with my martial power. If he dodges it, then I have an opening to subdue him. Either way, it will be advantageous to me!”
Yi Ping knew that Jue Yuan incoming blows had been charged with his martial power and if he did not dodge it, the consequences might be fatal. But he raised his martial power to accept the incoming blow…
All of a sudden, there was a huge clashing thunderclap and Jue Yuan took six steps back before he could steady himself while Yi Ping took three steps back.
As they steadied themselves, both were coughing out blood. The clash of martial power drained the practitioners of strength and could cause the vital energies in the body to be erratic, leading to death.
Jue Yuan could not believe that this young man had the internal strength foundation to withstand his attacks.
Rather than taking time to restore his vitality channels to prevent further internal injuries, the enraged Jue Yuan mustered all his martial power and charged towards Yi Ping once more!
When Yi Ping saw that Jue Yuan was charging towards him with all his martial power, he quickly displayed the Asper Horizon Hand and there was a shrieking explosive power in his palm as he met Jue Yuan’s two hands with his right hand!
Again, Yi Ping took three steps back as he coughed out more blood while Jue Yuan was sent flying back across the hall, much to the astonishment of the crowd!
Jue Yuan was one of the top exponents of the martial fraternity and was greatly feared by many! But today, a young man from nowhere had defeated him; it was truly unbelievable!
Gongsun Jing was stunned that Jue Yuan, a top exponent and his martial master was defeated by Yi Ping. He trembled and quickly said to the men behind him, “Quickly check on Master Jue Yuan condition.”
Gu Tianle was enraged and shouted, “You dare to go against the Honor Manor with your insolence?!” He immediately attacked Yi Ping.
But before he could land a hit on Yi Ping, he was intercepted by a shadow that dashed from the entrance of the hall. He immediately parried the attacker blows and retreated five steps backward!
Who had dared to fight with Gu Tianle the One-Armed Warrior-God?
It was Priest Liu Qingcheng, the Protégé Master of the Tranquil City!
Many of the pugilists had recognized him.
Yi Ping was grateful for the sudden help as he had not recovered his strength yet.
Ji Lingfeng had wanted to intercept Gu Tianle but Priest Liu Qingcheng was even swifter.
Gu Tianle smirked, “You dare to fight with me?”
Priest Liu Qingcheng said, “I dare not!”
Gu Tianle took it as a challenge, “But you have. And those that dare to challenge me will end up dead or crippled. Surely, you know my rule.”
Nangong Le quickly said, “Calm down. This is just a misunderstanding. This is only a matter of seating positions. I…we can sit in the silver seats. There is no need for us to harm our harmony.”
Gu Tianle said, “You are given a golden invitation and chooses not to sit in the golden seat. By not respecting the seating arrangements of the Honor Manor, you are not respecting our Master. Are you thinking of going against the Master of the Honor Manor?”
All of a sudden, Nangong Le felt a chill in his spine and he broke into a sweat. He began to take two steps backward as he could not stand straight. He had suppressed his injuries with his internal strength and the chilling speech of Gu Tianle broke his concentration and he had felt extricating pain from his injuries. He stammered, “Easy, I don’t mean that.”
Gu Tianle stared at Yi Ping, Nangong Le, Priest Ling Kongquan, Liu Qingcheng and Priest Bai Chongzhen before he said, “So the Nangong Martial Clan, the Tranquil City and the Traverse Clan intend to go against the Honor Manor?”
All of a sudden, Yi Ping took a giant step forward even though Ji Lingfeng had caught hold of his sleeves, “So what if I am?”
All of a sudden, uproars erupted from the hall as the pugilists were talking among themselves. It was because no one had dared to challenge Gu Tianle the One-Armed Warrior-God so openly before. And this young man had dared to!
Nangong Le turned ashen immediately. He had thought he could savage the situation and he was now in a real dilemma!
Ji Lingfeng nearly fainted from his imbecile actions. He was lucky enough to overcome Jue Yuan but Gu Tianle was on a different league altogether.
Yi Ping had thought that if he could win Gu Tianle, then he was one step closer to avenge his father. Therefore he did not think much. That was his intention today and he saw no point in disguising his purposes.
Gu Tianle stared at him and said slowly, “Then you have to pay for your audacious words today. You will regret for every single word that you have muttered and wish that you have never said it.”
Nangong Le was feeling awkward and at a loss. If he back off now, the Nangong Martial Clan would lose their honor but if he helps Yi Ping, the Nangong Martial Clan may risk extermination by the Honor Manor. And moreover, this was their territory and they were surrounded by numerous top exponents.
Gu Tianle said to Yi Ping, “You can make the first move first.”
Yi Ping said coolly, “Then I won’t be courteous anymore.”
Ji Lingfeng grasped and her eyes were beaming, “Let us go now…”