Library of Heaven is Path
1630 Tantai Zhenqing
"I am Tantai Zhenqing, a descendant of Ancient Sage Zi Yu. It's my honor to meet the head of the Zhang Clan!"
The middle-aged man with a disproportionate face seated beside Nangong Yuanfeng stood up and bowed deeply. His manners and etiquette were truly flawless, making it impossible for one to pick a bone with him. Despite their visit being provocative in nature, his refined demeanor made it difficult for one to dislike him.
So, this is a true philosopher… Zhang Xuan remarked internally.
He had met plenty of master teachers and experts on his journey, and there was a handful who had conducted themselves with grace and propriety. However, none of them could match the middle-aged man before him.
With just a look, one could tell that he was a true Confucian.
"Elder Tantai, you are too courteous…" Zhang Xuan stood up and returned the greeting.
"I believe Brother Yuanfeng has already clarified the reason behind our visit. Kong shi's heritage is something that we hold dear, so I'm afraid that we can't give up on it easily. The young men behind me are my direct disciples, and they have studied under me for quite some time. So as to not sully the relations between us, I propose a duel of temporal laws with your esteemed clan between our juniors… Regardless of the outcome of the duel, we are willing to gift this inkstone once used by my ancestor to the Zhang Clan as a token of apology."
As he said those words, Tantai Zhenqing flicked his wrist, and a pitch-black inkstone materialized in the air.
"This is a possession of Ancient Sage Zi Yu?"
Sword Saint Xing and the others were astounded by the gift.
The inkstone wasn't too big, but it emanated a heavy aura that felt as if it could even weigh down the world. It was as though even disturbances in spacetime would be calmed by its presence.
This is… a true Ancient Sage artifact! Zhang Xuan's eyebrows shot up in astonishment.
The sword that Nangong Yuanfeng had offered back at the Luo Clan was only an artifact once used by Ancient Sage Zi Rong; it could not be considered a true Ancient Sage artifact. It was not to say that it did not have any value, but it was not something that would truly drive others frenzied over it. On the other hand, the inkstone before them was an artifact that Ancient Sage Zi Rong had used in his peak!
However, it's still far from matching my Dragonbone Divine Spear…
Putting aside the fact that Ancient Sage Ran Qiu had been far stronger than Ancient Sage Zi Yu, just the fact that the Dragonbone Divine Spear was an artifact intended for battle whereas an inkstone was a literary device, the primary purposes of their existences already varied vastly from one another.
Nevertheless, if they could just acquire the inkstone, its presence could help to contain good fortune within the Zhang Clan!
Zhang Xuan turned his gaze back to Tantai Zhenqing and remarked, "With the sincerity you have shown, I suppose it would be rude for me to turn down the duel then."
"I ask for your understanding for this matter," Tantai Zhenqing replied with a gentle smile.
"The Temple of Confucius a place that all master teachers of our generation hope to visit. Beneath the courtesy and politeness, competition over it is inevitable. Since that's the case, may the most qualified individual obtain the rights!" Zhang Xuan waved his hand with a smile as he stood up. "May I know what format you intend for the duel?"
The purpose behind the other party's visit was the Celestial Amulet of Legacy, and it was apparent that they had no intention of backing down. Since that was the case, there was no purpose in engaging in a verbal tug-of-war. It would be much better to get it over and done with.
"Since Clan Head Zhang has entrusted the decision to me, I shall propose a format for the duel then!" Tantai Zhenqing nodded. "Our Hundred Schools of Philosophers distinguishes duels into two main categories, namely academic and martial. An academic duel preserves the amity between two parties whereas a martial duel puts one's capabilities to the test."
"What would the academic duel and martial duel for this matter be then?"
"I have a Temporal Mirror here. Through reflecting one's Primordial Spirit on it, it allows one's consciousness to seep into the mirror. There are many Temporal Formations and time traps embedded within the mirror that the challenger would have to overcome. This is the academic duel," Tantai Zhenqing said as a golden mirror materialized before him.
Unlike normal mirrors, the surface of the Temporal Mirror was not flat. It had many different vertices that reflected off one another, forming a dizzying image reminiscent of a kaleidoscope.
"As for martial duel, we'll suppress our cultivation to the same level and duel with one another. All is fair game, and the one who boasts superior strength shall emerge victorious!"
After explaining the two duels, Tantai Zhenqing sat back and gazed at the crowd around him with a patient smile, waiting for the Zhang Clan to make their decision.
"The disciples of our Zhang Clan have never encountered the Temporal Mirror before, so they are unaware of the mechanisms and formations hidden within it. It'd be disadvantageous for us to face them in an academic duel. As for the martial duel, the Hundred Schools of Philosophers are known to wield superior battle techniques, so it won't be easy for our disciples to best them!" an elder remarked grimly.
"Aren't they simply proposing whatever is advantageous to them?"
"It can't be helped. Our Zhang Clan isn't weak, but the foundations of the Hundred Schools of Philosophers are simply too strong. Furthermore, they have already made their stand very clear. Whether we wanted it or not, we've stepped into the ring with them!"
"What should we do?"
The complexions of the elders in the room did not look too good.
While the proposed academic duel might have sounded fair, the asymmetry of information made the circumstances highly disadvantageous to the Zhang Clan. None of the disciples of the Zhang Clan had a clue about what they would face in the Temporal Mirror whereas the disciples of the Hundred Schools of Philosophers were likely familiar with it.
Even if their comprehension of temporal laws was at the same level as one another, the one who was more familiar with the Temporal Mirror was likely to be able to clear more obstacles than the one who was unfamiliar with it.
This was similar to running a marathon in another person's home turf. Even if the two runners were equally skilled, the runner who was familiar with the local terrain was bound to be in an advantageous position.
The same applied for the martial duel. The Hundred Schools of Philosophers had inherited their heritage directly from Kong shi and his direct disciples, so their collection of battle techniques and secret arts was bound to be far superior to that of the Zhang Clan.
It was true that the Zhang Clan had been blessed with plenty of incredible geniuses over the past tens of thousands of years, but it would be expecting too much of them to outdo Kong shi and his direct disciples.
In other words, be it the academic duel or the martial duel, things were not in their favor.
Paying no heed to the worried crowd around him, Zhang Xuan replied calmly, "The academic duel sounds interesting to me, but it feels like it'll be rather time-consuming. Let's just go with the martial duel and end it quickly!"
"Martial duel? Very well!" Tantai Zhenqing nodded with an amiable smile. He raised his hand, and a young man walked out from behind him. "This young man over here is Tantai Jiankui. He's my direct disciple and is thirty this year. His comprehension of temporal laws is still rather superficial, so I beg your pardon if his skills appear to be unpolished!"
Right after those words were spoken, the young man walked to the center of the main hall and halted. A forbidding aura burst forth from his body, exerting heavy pressure on those around him.
"Great Sage 1-dan Introspective Convalescence realm!" Sword Saint Xing narrowed his eyes.
To reach Great Sage 1-dan despite having only being thirty this year… Other than his son, there was no one in the Zhang Clan who could match Tantai Jiankui in terms of talent!
In fact, even Sword Saint Xing himself had been far beyond that age when he first stepped into Great Sage 1-dan.
"Tantai Jiankui. Please!" The young man clasped his fist and bowed.
"Xuan-er, even though your cultivation has already reached Saint 9-dan pinnacle, you have never systematically inherited our Zhang Clan's heritage of temporal laws… If you find yourself forced to a corner, do not hesitate to use your secret art. I'm referring to the secret art that you used to raise your prowess to the Sempiternal realm when you fought with me…" Sword Saint Xing sent a telepathic message to his son.
The most talented offspring below a hundred years of age within the Zhang Clan was indubitably Zhang Xuan.
If he used the secret art that he had utilized before, he would surely be able to defeat the other party with absolute ease.
"I'm afraid that I won't be able to use that secret art anymore…" Zhang Xuan shook his head.
He needed Kong shi's blood droplet in order to activate that ability, but he had already expended all three droplets. In other words, this trump card had already been rendered obsolete.
"You aren't able to use that secret art anymore?" Sword Saint Xing's eyebrows shot up in astonishment. "Then…"
Even though the opponent would be suppressing his cultivation, the difference in their real cultivation realms would still result in a significant gap in their fighting prowess… Even for his incredibly talented son, it would surely be a tough battle.
"Don't worry, I won't be the one fighting the duel anyway!" Zhang Xuan remarked with a light chuckle.
"You won't be the one fighting the duel?" Hearing those words, Sword Saint Xing was visibly startled.
The others also quickly turned astounded gazes over as well. If you aren't going to fight, who will?
"Of course, it won't be me! Don't you think that we'll be taking advantage of our guests here if I fight them?" Zhang Xuan scoffed matter-of-factly, and a smile crept onto his lips.
"I think that we should pass this opportunity onto the younger generation… Let my student, Zhang Jiuxiao, do the fighting instead!"