Editor: Dhael Ligerkeys
There were nine provinces in Jiu Zhou. They were Ding Zhou, Qing Zhou, Lei Zhou, Yun Zhou, Wu Zhou, You Zhou, and Cang Zhou.
Qing Zhou and Wu Zhou belonged fully to the Grand Sky Coalition, while Yun Zhou and Lei Zhou to Thousand Demon Ridge. The other five provinces did not fall under one particular cultivation faction. They weren’t neutral, but they were constantly changing sides depending who was stronger at a given time. To give a metaphor, sometimes the eastern wind was stronger than the western wind, and sometimes it was the other way around. Both cultivation factions fought tooth and nail to control them.
Thousand Demon Ridge was the one who wanted to talk peace, so the right to choose the meeting location went to the Grand Sky Coalition as a matter of course.
There was a massive mountain range at an intersection point between Qing Zhou and Yun Zhou. It was like a massive dragon that split the earth and separated the two provinces.
Its name was Crouching Dragon Mountain. It was where the meeting would take place.
When Tang Yifeng and Pang Zhen arrived at the meeting location together, a dozen or so figures were already waiting for them.
Not only were they all Divine Ocean Realm cultivators, they were the cream of the crop.
Most people thought that this meeting would be as terse as the one at Weishui right now, but in reality it was the opposite. Not only was there no conflict, they were chatting and mingling with each other like old friends. An ignorant person would have thought that they belonged to the same cultivation faction.
Did they not hate each other’s guts for one reason or another? Of course not. There wasn’t a single person here who hadn’t killed a mountain of cultivators to reach where they were. They had long since forgotten the amount of lives they had taken.
The reason they did not act standoffish was because the point of this meeting was to negotiate a compromise regarding the conflict at the Spirit Creek battlefield. Because of this, there was zero chance this meeting could devolve into physical conflict. Since there would be no fighting, why would they act standoffish with each other? It would only be a waste of energy.
The socializing stopped when the two men from Bing Zhou arrived.
“Apologies for being late,” Pang Zhen said while cupping his fist in greeting. That was what he said, but they weren’t actually late. It was the others who had come too early. It just showed how desperate Thousand Demon Ridge was to have this peace talk.
The leader of the Thousand Demon Ridge group was an old man with waxy yellow complexion. He said, “Since we are all here, let’s get started, shall we?”
There was no objection. Pang Zhen immediately flicked a jade slip toward the old man. To put it simply, the jade slip contained the Grand Sky Coalition’s list of demands. He had messaged his Divine Ocean Realm peers and finalized it on the way here.
Grand Sky Coalition wanted the peace talks just as much as Thousand Demon Ridge. The impasse they were currently in suited them just fine because they didn’t want their “children” in the Spirit Creek Battlefield to go to war either. However, Thousand Demon Ridge must pay the price since they were the ones who wished for peace.
The old man caught the jade slip and inspected its contents. He then passed it to the person beside him wordlessly. Everyone’s expression varied after they had all read the list of demands.
The old man said, “Pang Zhen, don’t you think your faction is asking too much?”
He already knew that the Grand Sky Coalition was going to bleed them like a pig, but he still underestimated the faction’s greed and determination. They weren’t just compensation in the form of resources, but also land. To be exact, they were demanding that they give up half a province.
The amount of resources the Grand Sky Coalition was demanding was already shocking, but half a province? There was just no way in hell they could accept these demands.
If they didn’t know better, they would have thought that the Grand Sky Coalition wanted to instigate a war.
Pang Zhen let out a chuckle and said, “That’s fine. That’s the reason we’re here, aren’t we?”
“Sure, but the little fellas in the Spirit Creek Battlefield can only wait so long. They are all young and rash. A lot of people will die if someone loses their cool.”
The old man’s Divine Sense stirred for an instant before he returned the jade slip to Pang Zhen. “Here is our counter offer. We can go home right now if you think it’s acceptable.”
Pang Zhen caught the jade slip and checked the amended list of demands. He immediately shook his head and said, “I can’t see any sincerity in this.”
He tried to pass the jade slip to Tang Yifeng, but the sect master waved his hand and said, “I’m too old for this. Please, feel free to discuss this among yourselves.”
Lu Ye was the one who caused all this, so the Crimson Blood Sect was sure to profit no matter what the final compensation might be in the end. Naturally, the sect master could not be bothered to get involved.
So, Pang Zhen passed the jade slip to another Divine Ocean Realm cultivator. It would continue to be passed around the Grand Sky Coalition cultivators until it finally circled back to his hands. After inspecting the latest list of demands, he threw in a couple more lines and finally flicked it back to the old man.
And so the jade slip went round and round among the Divine Ocean Realm cultivators seemingly without end. The list was amended again and again, but they were ultimately unable to arrive at a consensus.
The old man leading the Thousand Demon Ridge group had claimed that the Spirit Creek Realm cultivators could only wait so long, but in reality he spared no effort to go through each and every line before making the appropriate adjustments. It was the same for the others.
More than half the day passed just like that. When the jade slip returned to his hands once more, he discovered sheepishly that the latest content was almost the exact same as the initial list.
“Can you please show some sincerity already, Pang Zhen?”
“That depends on you, not me.”
One side wanted the moon, and the other wanted to give nothing if possible. It would be stranger if they managed to arrive at a consensus.
Tang Yifeng closed his eyes in recuperation. He had a feeling that this farce was going to continue for another week or two at least.
The situation at the Spirit Creek Battlefield seemed urgent, but in reality it wasn’t that bad. Thanks to the natural stronghold that was Weishui, neither side dared to launch an attack. Plus, the Spirit Creek Realm cultivators were also waiting to hear the outcome of the peace talks.
While the Divine Ocean Realm cultivators were haggling like a housewife, Silverlight Island and Spell Essence Sect had already begun attacking Cloud Smoke Sect’s Outpost.
To say that the cultivators of Cloud Smoke Sect felt exasperated would be an understatement. This wasn’t the first time it had happened, and it wouldn’t be the last. Ever since Sky Pillar Sect had been crippled by the enemy, they had been bullied non-stop by their two neighbors.
In fact, it was getting to the point where they were getting used to being attacked. Besides those who were responsible for overseeing the grand ward, everyone else continued on with their life as usual. There was no chance the two sects would be able to breach the grand ward anyway. Worst case scenario, they lost some Spirit Stones to maintain the grand ward.
That was until the Legate controlling the grand ward saw a familiar face stepping out of the crowd. He was accompanied by thirty or so people.
At first, he couldn’t quite understand what was going on. Then, the group of thirty plus started bringing out their ward flags and moving into position…
The Legate’s face turned as pale as death. “The Vanquisher of Sects!” He blurted out in a trembling voice.
His mind turned blank. For a moment, he thought he was mistaken. After all, the Vanquisher of Sects should be standing off against their twenty thousand strong army on the opposite side of Weishui, right? That was thousands of kilometers away. It should be impossible for him to show up here so quickly and without warning, unless…
… unless he teleported over using the Divine Opportunity Column. The Spirit Creek Battlefield was huge, but the Divine Opportunity Columns were everywhere. Sure, it cost a ton of Contribution Points to perform a long-distance teleportation, but would the Vanquisher of Sects be wanting for Contribution Points? Of course not. God knows how many Thousand Demon Ridge cultivators had died by his hands. He would not be crowned with such a demonic title otherwise.
“Retreat! Retreat back to Jiu Zhou now!”
It took the Legate of the Cloud Smoke Sect only a moment to figure out the truth. Without further ado, He ordered his cultivators to withdraw back to Jiu Zhou.
Unfortunately, the cultivators of Cloud Smoke Sect were not gathered in one place. They were so desensitized with the frequent attacks of Silverlight Island and Spell Essence Sect that they had carried on with their life like it was just another day. As a result, everyone was scattered across the Outpost.
By the time the order reached everyone, they had already missed their best window of retreat.
The grand ward was breached, and the cultivators of Silverlight Island and Spell Essence Sect flooded in like hungry animals. With Lu Ye and Ju Jia leading at the forefront, it took them only a moment to unleash a river of blood.
After the Outpost was conquered, Lu Ye immediately entered the Sanctum of Providence and claimed his portion of the Blessings on the Divine Opportunity Columns. Before Luo Fu and the others could even finish sweeping the battlefield, he and Ju Jia had already taken to the sky and vanished into the horizon.
Luo Fu shouted, “Faster, faster, faster!”
The reason Lu Ye did not wait for Luo Fu was simple: he was on a time limit. The Divine Ocean cultivators of both factions were already in the middle of peace talks. They could take forever, or they could come to a consensus right now and give the order to cease fire. One way or another, Lu Ye wasn’t going to wait and see if his fears would come true. He was going to occupy as many Thousand Demon Ridge Outposts as possible not only to gather the Contribution Points he needed, but also increase his side’s leverage.
In fact, when Silverlight Island and Spell Essence Sect were still attacking Cloud Smoke Sect’s Outpost, two nearby Grand Sky Coalition sects had already assembled their forces and rushed to another Thousand Demon Ridge Outpost. Lu Ye arrived just in time to coordinate with them and bring down that poor Outpost’s grand ward.
Back at a Spirit Peak at Crouching Dragon Mountain, the atmosphere between the Divine Ocean Realm cultivators was no longer as amiable as before. They hadn’t dropped all pretenses and torn into each other yet, but people were starting to take shots at one another directly or indirectly.
It was at this moment the Thousand Demon Ridge old man received a message. After checking it for a second, he expressionlessly passed the jade slip back to Pang Zhen and said, “This is our bottom line. If the Grand Sky Coalition thinks it is acceptable, then we can sign a Sacred Pact right away.”
Pang Zhen was surprised when he inspected the jade slip’s contents. It was because the amended list of demands actually looked sincere this time. In fact, it was better than what he thought the finalized list would be.
A negotiation was like doing business. One side would raise the stakes, and another would do the opposite until they finally arrived at a compromise they could both accept.
The problem was that they weren’t even close to reaching that point. For Thousand Demon Ridge to compromise so much and without warning could only mean that something was wrong.
Pang Zhen was no inexperienced greenhorn. He knew that something must have happened to cause Thousand Demon Ridge to make such a drastic decision all of a sudden, but for now he did not know what it was.
His eyes glinted as he passed the jade slip to Tang Yifeng. “Will you please take a look, Elder Tang?”
The sect master stopped napping and opened his eyes. He had clearly stated that he wasn’t going to participate in the negotiation, and yet Pang Zhen was asking him to check the contents of the jade slip a second time. Something unexpected must have happened.
The sect master accepted the jade slip and took a look. Just like Pang Zhen, he was surprised by the extent Thousand Demon Ridge was compromising.
The sect master looked up and stared at the old man. Pang Zhen did the same thing.
The old man’s eyes twitched. Knowing that it was only a matter of time before the Grand Sky Coalition found out, he revealed the truth, “Cloud Smoke Sect’s Outpost had been occupied, and the Miluo Sect is under… hmm. Their Outpost had just been occupied.”
He then looked at Tang Yifeng and said, “Your new youngling is most impressive.”