Library of Heaven is Path
1209 Heading to the Marshlands of the Northern Meadows
Zhang Xuan could see through Luo Qiqi and Yu Fei-er's thoughts, but as he already had someone that he loved, he did not want to get involved with anyone else. While it was inevitable that they would be depressed for a period of time, this was at least better than prolonging their pain.
Often, hesitation and indecisiveness were what hurt others the most in a relationship.
After watching Yu Fei-er depart, Zhang Xuan stood quietly for a moment to calm down his vexed mind before heading to look for Hall Master Xing.
What was more important at the moment was to resolve the issue with Vicious. Otherwise, if they let that fellow be, it was only a matter of time before a calamity befell the Qingyuan Empire. Many master teachers would lose their lives, and even Zhang Xuan would be placed in a deeply precarious position.
After all, as a Celestial Master Teacher, his significance was simply too great to the Otherworldly Demonic Tribe. Even if Vicious was trapped at the moment and could not make a move himself, as long as he leaked the news, Zhang Xuan's good days would be over, and he would be forced into an endless game of hide-and-seek.
Upon hearing the story from Zhang Xuan, Hall Master Xing replied with a resolute gaze, "Our Combat Master Hall is a part of the Master Teacher Pavilion, so there's no way we can stay out of this! Zhang shi, I'll head to the Marshlands of the Northern Meadows with you!"
Given that an Otherworldly Demon actually dared make a move against the Master Teacher Pavilion, as the head of the Combat Master Hall, it was his responsibility to step up and vanquish that Otherworldly Demon!
"Alright. It'll suffice to bring two of your strongest subordinates along. It'll be best for our expedition team to not be too big, or else we will catch the enemy's attention easily. If the enemy notices our presence and guards against us, it'll make our mission more difficult than ever," Zhang Xuan said.
As an existence who had rivaled Kong shi in the past, Vicious was an opponent who they could not afford to underestimate. They might still stand a chance against him if they caught him off guard, but it would be a different story if he anticipated their arrival and made preparations to deal with them.
Even if Vicious had fallen from his former glory, the knowledge and experience he had accumulated over countless years were still far beyond theirs. The slightest carelessness against such an opponent could very well cost them their lives.
"I understand." Knowing how grave the matter was, Hall Master Xing nodded before taking his leave to make preparations.
Not too long later, Hall Master Xing appeared once more with Division Head Liao of the Heart Division and Division Head Wei of the Inner Breath Division behind him.
"They are the ones who started to cultivate the Vitreous Heart Tempering Sutra the earliest, so their mental resilience could be considered the strongest within the Combat Master Hall at the moment. If the other party is truly a soul oracle who specializes in soul arts, they will be the best candidates to bring with us for the expedition!" Hall Master Xing said.
Zhang Xuan nodded in agreement.
Soul oracles were skilled in confounding the soul, producing illusions and the sort to incapacitate one. Those with stronger mental resilience would be in a significantly safer position.
As the head of the Heart Division, there was no doubt about Division Head Liao's mental resilience. On the other hand, Division Head Wei was one of the first few to have learned the revised Vitreous Heart Tempering Sutra that Zhang Xuan had given to the Combat Master Hall, and his mental resilience had been reinforced significantly. Furthermore, the fighting prowess of the duo was second only to Hall Master Xing, so they were indeed the ideal candidates to fight against Vicious.
Zhang Xuan looked at them grimly. "This expedition to the Marshlands of the Northern Meadows will be very dangerous. Our opponent possesses means far beyond our imagination, and there's a good chance that you might not return alive. Even so, are you still willing to follow us there?"
Division Head Wei and Division Head Liao replied without any hesitation.
"Principal Zhang, we know that."
"The purpose behind the creation of the Combat Master Hall is to deal with potential threats that humanity may face on the frontlines. As long as we are able to protect our brethren, death is nothing to fear!"
Seeing the resolve that the both of them had, Zhang Xuan nodded in approval. "Well said! Alright, let's head to the Master Teacher Pavilion to liaise with Wu shi."
Thus, the four of them began making their way over to the Master Teacher Pavilion.
Upon arriving at the Master Teacher Pavilion, Zhang Xuan saw that Wu shi had also prepared four personnel to follow them to the Marshlands of the Northern Meadows. Three of them were 7-star pinnacle master teachers, old elders who had been in the Qingyuan Empire Master Teacher Pavilion since a very long time ago, so their loyalty was indubitable. The last one was surprisingly a familiar face—Zhang Jiuxiao.
"Jiuxiao has been to the Marshlands of the Northern Meadows before, and he entered the Ghost Cavern as well. I believe that the hiding place of the mastermind behind the Qingtian Emperor is likely related to that mysterious place, so I think that it would be good to have him lead the way for us," Wu shi said.
"This…" Zhang Xuan pondered for a moment before nodding.
There was not much about Vicious in the Qingtian Emperor's memory, and it had not been too detailed either. It was not due to the lacking ability of his Soul Search but because Vicious was a highly capable soul oracle as well, and he had erased the Qingtian Emperor's memory about him in advance in case a mishap happened.
As such, the information that Zhang Xuan had of Vicious was not complete.
Since Zhang Jiuxiao had been to the Ghost Cavern before, it would be for the best if he could lead them there.
Zhang Jiuxiao turned to look at Zhang Xuan and said with determination, "Zhang shi, I know that we had some conflicts in the past, but this matter concerns the future of mankind. As fellow master teachers, I hope that we can put our differences aside and work together on this matter."
Bewildered by Zhang Jiuxiao's words, Zhang Xuan replied in a daze, "My thoughts exactly…"
Due the affairs concerning Luo Ruoxin, he had inevitably become a little prejudiced against the Zhang Clan, thinking that it was a snobbish and domineering clan that paid no heed to the feelings of others. However, seeing how Zhang Jiuxiao was willing to put aside their personal grudges during a crucial moment like this, his opinion of the Zhang Clan could not help but change slightly for the better.
Just as Zhang Xuan was still harboring such thoughts in his mind, the eyebrows of the young man before him shot up as he continued. "You might appear to be an insurmountable wall before me at the moment, but it'll only be a matter of time before I surpass you. I'll have you know that I, Zhang Jiuxiao, am a true genius!"
"Surpass me?" Once again, Zhang Xuan did not expect Zhang Jiuxiao to have such thoughts in mind. He shook his head helplessly and said, "Whatever pleases you…"
Perhaps there might really be geniuses in the world who were capable of pulling it off, but without a doubt, the young man before him was not one of such people.
Be it in terms of state of mind, fighting prowess, supporting occupations… Forget it, he could probably list on till the end of time. As a human, it was still good to have dreams, no matter how implausible they were.
"Since everyone is here, let's set off!"
After confirming the personnel for their expedition, Wu shi found the strongest aerial saint beast in the Master Teacher Pavilion and had everyone step aboard it. Before long, they were already on their way to the Marshlands of the Northern Meadows.
The Marshlands of the Northern Meadows was slightly north of the Northern Meadows City, roughly several million li away from Qingyuan City. Even though the aerial saint beast they were riding on had already reached Primordial Spirit realm pinnacle, it would still take around six days before they arrived at their destination.
Seated in the wooden hut at the back of the saint beast, Zhang Xuan took out a few pills and passed them around. "Here are some pills that I have forged specially for this expedition. When we arrive at the marshlands, make sure to swallow one. It'll grant you immunity to whatever poison we will encounter there, and it will help to prevent any soul oracles from possessing your body."
All in all, including him, there were nine people in the expedition to the Marshlands of the Northern Meadows. Even though their fighting prowess was ranked at the very top of Qingyuan City, considering that it was Vicious that they were going to be dealing with, it would not hurt to be prepared.
The crowd took the pills and carefully placed them into their storage rings. The old adage always holds true—better safe than sorry.
"The collaborative formation used by the Combat Master Hall isn't too bad, flexible in terms of numbers, executable with any number of combat masters. However, it's a pity that it has quite a few flaws in it. Thus, I improved it a little earlier, and I have jotted down the formula in this book. Look through it quickly and learn it well." Zhang Xuan flicked his wrist once more to take out a book before passing it over.
Most combat masters and master teachers that were associated with a Combat Master Hall or Master Teacher Pavilion would practice a collaborative formation of some kind. To the eyes of ordinary cultivators, their collaborative formation was already plenty formidable, but to Zhang Xuan, it was filled with so many horrendous flaws that he could barely bring himself to look at it without cringing. Thus, he made use of the time on the aerial saint beast to quickly improve on it.
"You improved our Combat Master Hall's collaborative formation?" Hall Master Xing and Division Head Liao turned to Zhang Xuan with widened eyes.
They quickly took the book from Zhang Xuan to browse through it, and it did not take long for their eyes to redden in excitement and their breathing to hasten in agitation.
The collaborative formation of their Combat Master Hall had been refined by many predecessors, and it had long reached a bottleneck where it would be hard for any change to generate a net improvement in it. Yet, after seeing the improved formation that Zhang Xuan had written down, they realized that they had only been seeing the tip of the iceberg all along!
They swiftly browsed through the collaborative formation and memorized it.
After which, Zhang Jiuxiao also took a look at the improved collaborative formation, and his face gradually turned paler and paler. Eventually, all the emotions bubbling within him were released with a helpless shake of his head.
It seemed like there was no way he could match up to the young man before him in the field of formations. He would just have to find another field to compete against the young man in.
Stroking his chest to alleviate the suffocating sensation there, Zhang Jiuxiao consoled himself. Even the most formidable genius will have his flaws. There's no such thing a perfect man in the world, so he's bound to have a weakness, too. With sufficient time, I'll eventually find it!
Just as he was about to begin learning the collaborative formation too, Zhang Xuan suddenly turned to him and asked, "Brother Zhang, you are from the Zhang Clan, right? I happen to have a question to ask of you."
"Zhang shi, feel free to speak."
Zhang Xuan hesitated for a moment before asking, "I have heard rumors that there's an unparalleled prodigy in your Zhang Clan who possesses an exceptionally pure bloodline, may I know if that's true?"
As the saying goes, 'Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories!'
Since Zhang Jiuxiao was from the Zhang Clan, this was a good opportunity for him to listen into the affairs of the rumored genius of the Zhang Clan so that he could make some preparations in advance to deal with him.
"I am from a side family in the Zhang Clan, so I am not qualified to interfere or learn of the affairs concerning the main family. However, I have heard of the little prodigy you spoke about as well. If I'm not mistaken, he should be twenty this year. The talent that he wields is so great that it is truly not an exaggeration to call it 'unparalleled'!"
Zhang Jiuxiao hesitated for a moment before adding, "But those are only things I have heard. I have never met the little prodigy before either."
The astounding phenomena that had happened along with the birth of the Zhang Clan's young master had caused a huge ruckus, making his existence common knowledge among those of the upper tier of the Master Teacher Continent. As such, it was not a big deal for him to speak of it to Zhang Xuan.
"You have never met the little prodigy before either?" Zhang Xuan asked with a perplexed frown.
"Indeed. To be honest, members of the side family like me don't get many opportunities to interact with the members of the main family," Zhang Jiuxiao said as he sighed deeply.
"I heard that the little prodigy of your Zhang Clan is engaged to the little princess of the Luo Clan. May I know if that matter is true too?" Zhang Xuan asked.
"That… I'm afraid that I don't know much about the matter! The main family doesn't allow members of the side family like me to probe too much into their affairs, and we aren't allowed to speak of the matters in the clan lightly either." Seemingly a little fearful of the Zhang Clan, Zhang Jiuxiao was visibly reluctant to linger too much on this topic.
"I see. Then, of the disciples of the main family you have seen, how does their talent compare to yours?" Zhang Xuan asked.
"How does their talent compare to me? I am just a mere ant before them. Even if I devote my entire life to cultivation, there's still no way I'll be able to catch up with them." A bitter smile emerged on Zhang Jiuxiao face as he said these words.
He raised his gaze to look at Zhang Xuan before continuing. "Putting everything aside, Zhang shi, while it is highly possible that there's no cultivator in the history of the Qingyuan Empire who possessed as much talent as you, compared to the disciples of the main family, I fear that you are still severely lacking!"
"I am still severely lacking?" Zhang Xuan's eyebrows shot up in disbelief.
As a practitioner of the Heaven's Path Divine Art, while he dared not say that his rate of cultivation was fast, surely there should have been very few people in the world who would be able to match him. Were there truly people in the world whose talent surpassed even the might of the Heaven's Path Divine Art?
"That's right. Zhang shi, it's not that I want to traumatize you, but the more formidable inner disciples are able to easily reach the Primordial Spirit realm without cultivating just by awakening their bloodline. With that high of a starting point, it is truly a breeze for them to reach the Leaving Aperture realm or even higher! Against those monsters, there's no way ordinary cultivators like us stand a chance!" Zhang Jiuxiao said with a bitter smile.
The difference in talent from individual to individual sure was something frustrating and exasperating.
Taking the Otherworldly Demonic Tribe for example, every single one of them wielded the strength of a Transcendent Mortal from birth, and it was for this reason that mankind was at an inherently disadvantageous position against them.
Most inner disciples of Sage Clans were able to advance to heights that most ordinary cultivators dared not dream of just on the basis of their pure bloodline. Against such monsters, ordinary cultivators like them had no choice but to admit defeat.
"Awakening their bloodline? Does the improvement induced by the awakening of their bloodline depend on the purity of their bloodline?"
"That's right. In a sense, I guess you can say that this is similar to the case with saint beasts. The closer their bloodline to Ancient Beasts is, the greater the increment in their cultivation will be as a result of awakening their bloodline. It is on this foundation that the Sage Clans were able to remain the top powers on the Master Teacher Continent despite the passing of several dozen millenniums!" Zhang Jiuxiao replied.
"Does that mean your bloodline isn't pure?"
"To be honest with you, I can only be considered the side family of the side family, so there is no way the purity of my bloodline can be compared with that of the main family," Zhang Jiuxiao said awkwardly.
"If bloodline is that important, is there any way to purify one's bloodline or increase the tier of one's bloodline?" Zhang Xuan asked.