"Hmph! Do you think that I don't dare to fight the both of you?!" the Zhao Patriarch looked at them with confidence but inwardly, there was desperation.
It has only been a few days since his daughter had come back with the others. He was not prepared for such quick action by the two families. Nevertheless, it seemed that he has no other choice now.
He stepped forward and held his club up, a faint aura of metal emerged from his being.
There was a bit of ridicule on the faces of the Yong and Shi Patriarchs before shock overtook them.
"You've broken through?" they both pointed at him, "You were at the Mind Stage just two weeks ago."
"While the both of you were busy bickering, I have been working quite hard. You can't expect me to not have any secrets or trump cards", the Zhao Patriarch spoke as his aura grew stronger.
Ming Yue could faintly feel the cultivation of these three men, all were within the Earth Realm but the Zhao Patriarch was stronger than them by a fair margin. He was probably a stage or two higher then both of them. Judging by what the patriarchs said, the Zhao Patriarch must be in the Sight Stage.
The Earth Realm had seven stages compared to the nine levels of the Human Realm. The Human Realm focused on tempering the body, the physical vessel of energy. The Earth Realm was slightly different, this was the stage where one had to attune themselves to the world. Core, Mind, Sight, Feel, Emotion, Soul, and Edge were the names of the seven stages, each one focused on an aspect of the mind and soul connecting with the laws of nature.
This was the highest that most cultivators could go and it was because of the final stage, Edge. To break out of the world and reach the high heavens, it was more of a test than anything. Non-stop cultivation would do nothing here, instead the method to passing was unique. The world would summon a tribulation to those who want to pass, from lightning to fire, every person's tribulation was different. But those that survive would undoubtedly reach the Sky Realm.
Although, the Zhao Patriarch had only recently broken through to the Sight Stage, he did not seem very far from reaching the next bottleneck.
"Even if I lose here, I could take the both of you with me. Do you still wish to continue with this?" he threatened, raring to fight them. Behind him, members of the Zhao readied their weapons. They were not going to leave without putting up a fight.
The Yong and Shi felt hesitant, if they were to die here then all of their effort would be in vain. Someone appeared out of nowhere, most likely with a secret technique. Emerging from the shadows, it was the woman Ming Yue had seen before, Miss Ling. She walked up and whispered into the ears of the two patriarchs, who looked surprised from her appearance. She finished talking and left in the same way she entered, leaving the two patriarchs on their own. Before she left, she took one look at the Zhao Patriarch, not bothering to pay attention to anyone else.
"Good, good! You win! Everyone withdraw!" the Shi Patriarch announced angrily. They ordered a retreat and left quickly, leaving their sight within minutes. Their faces were somewhat bitter, unhappy that their plans were for naught. However, they were able to keep their lives for today.
The Zhao Patriarch sighed in relief before going back in to the estate, where he collapsed to the floor. Exhaustion had overtaken him and his servants quickly brought him to his room.
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"I only need time to rest. Do not worry" he told them, walking with the help of his daughter.
Ming Yue took another look at his cultivation again, finding it to have decreased by a large margin. His body was severely weakened and his meridians were slightly damaged. This would take at least a month to recover from but he probably has some medicinal pills to hasten his recovery.
"So it was a technique that allowed him to temporarily increase in power", Xuan Yin realized this, conversing with Ming Yue.
But she was too busy thinking about the entire situation. This attack seemed very random and at the same time, very strange. Why did Miss Ling want them to leave? If she hated the Zhao, then she would've helped the Yong-Shi attack rather than think of retreating. It all seemed unusual to her. The mysteries continued to grow with each minute.
"We should follow the woman and see what we can uncover" she suggested to Xuan Yin, who agreed.
"She is definitely the most mysterious one. We have to keep a close eye on her."
That night, Liqiu knocked on the door before letting herself in. Both Ming Yue and Xuan Yin were busy preparing for the night.
"What are the both of you planning tonight?" she asked.
"Just a bit of tracking" Xuan Yin answered cheerfully.
"I see..." Liqiu looked around awkwardly before finding a spot to sit.
"Do you think that this situation could be remedied?"
"Mmmm, I certainly hope so. It would be a bit sad to have your family leave their home."
"Yes, that's true..." Liqiu looked troubled by today's event. Evidently she felt a bit guilty about it.
"Was I too selfish to reject Shao Jin's proposal? Perhaps, If I had accepted it, my father would not be in the state that he is. If it weren't for the two of you, I would not have been able to live. I am at a loss as to what I want to do to help. I feel powerless..." she opened up to them about her doubts. Being the daughter of a noble, her cultivation and general ability was greater than the common man and yet, these past few days, she had not contributed much.
Liqiu was beginning to doubt her own ability as a noble. She was to be calm and decisive, able to understand the bugger picture. But with every decision she makes, the doubt in her heart grows. Were the choices she made correct? Was there another way? The more she questioned herself, the more depressed she felt.
Ming Yue was the first to speak up, "You did nothing wrong. If there was nothing else that you could've done then you did your best. There is nothing wrong with doing the best you can. Rather than wallow in self-pity, persevere instead. Talent can take you to the top but determination stops you from falling off."
She spoke from experience. Having decent talent was certainly helpful but her own grit had allowed her to survive a number of dangerous situation.
Liqu felt better about herself and thanked her before leaving. Ming Yue's words of encouragement had lifted her spirits. But since then, she started visiting and talking to Ming Yue and Xuan Yin, curious about their experiences. Despite being of a similar age to Ming Yue, Liqiu did not see the world, having only stayed in Maple Root City her entire life. The trip to the capital had been her first time outside. Xuan Yin did most of the talking, sometimes exaggerating her time in the Stone Forest as well as the fight with Tong Ku, the Lord of Torment. As for her partner, Ming Yue did not reveal much about herself, telling them that she had come from a obscure village.
"Maybe we should visit sometime!" Xuan Yin suggested, travelling with Ming Yue had piqued her curiosity for the longest time. Now this was an opportunity for her to find out.
She paused at her suggestion before answering, "You can't, it doesn't exist anymore."
She did not expect Ming Yue's answer and chose not to pursue it any longer. A village that doesn't exist anymore means one thing, it was destroyed.
"Come on, let's go watch her again", Ming Yue paid no mind to Xuan Yin's strange expression and left the courtyard. She recovered from her slight shock and followed her.
For the past several days, they've been keeping tabs on Miss Ling, watching her every move. However, she did not do much, only moving between the Yong and Shi Estates to maintain contact. At this point, there was no use in continuing to watch her, if this was all she did. Instead, they would probably help retake the properties that the Yong and Shi had taken.
They found her within the Shi Estate, strolling around her room. This was probably another day of nothing, no new information of developments. They watched for several hours from a roof top opposite to her room. But, their waiting was not for nothing, as she quietly left her room after blowing the lights out.
The both of them became fully alert and followed her as she left the city and entered the forest.
Was she meeting with someone?
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