After crossing the bamboo suspension bridge between the first two peaks, they had now formally entered Celestial Mountain. No more would there be “rules for entering the sect” blocking their way. With Long Feiye bringing her along, anyone who wanted to cause difficulties to Han Yunxi would find themselves at a loss.
Tongues wagged in the wake of their kiss, but Long Feiye simply brought Han Yunxi along to continue their journey. They were different in many ways, but both of them had identical attitudes when it came to gossipers: ignore them utterly!
Many people would call this self-confidence, but it actually required an incomparably steadfast heart. Only by being strong within could one maintain one’s calm in the face of uproar and commotion to act as one pleased. Self-abasing types acknowledged themselves from the comments of others and changed themselves constantly to match their views. In the end, they could only lose to themselves.
After crossing over the second mountain, Han Yunxi was greeted with a new scene. There were multiple buildings scattered on the waist of the second and third peaks, consisting of halls and residences. They laid in picturesque disorder on the slopes and were dotted with white-robed disciples currently practicing their swordplay. Their figures were clean and their motions nimble, moving as floating clouds and flowing water. It gave one a sense of dignified vitality. As Han Yunxi watched them from a distance, she felt as if the entire mountain had been suffused in a sedate calm.
Here was the Celestial Mountain Sword Sect of her imagination. Those clamorous mouths and unkind jealousy from back then had no place on this peak. This was a land removed from the secular world, a clean plane above the dust and dirt of the mortal realms, even if its inhabitants were still engrossed in worldly affairs.
She couldn’t blame them. The world’s strongest martial arts laid in Celestial Mountain Sword Sect. Those who came to learn its arts from its masters were attracted on account of its reputation and harbored their own motives to learn. Wherefore could peace be found in this pure land?
Han Yunxi was quite clear that this shangri-la was simply the most unstable location in Cloud Realm Continent’s martial arts circles!
The distance between the second and third peaks wasn’t spanned by a bamboo bridge, but there was a giant stone sword that stood like a pillar to the Heavens stuck fast within the mountain. It was a grand and arresting sight that demanded respect. Han Yunxi looked at it in awe and was about to ask when Long Feiye dove into explanation.
“That used to be part of the mountain, but craftsmen carved it into the shape of a sword. It took three years to complete the work.”
He picked her up and pushed off against the mountain to soar into the skies, then pushed off against the giant sword to fly the distance between the second and third mountains. There were no bridges between the third and fourth peaks either, only another giant stone sword. Once again, Long Feiye pushed off the structure to reach the fourth peak. Han Yunxi couldn’t help but sigh.
“Long Feiye, without you leading the way, I’d never get on this mountain, much less get off!”
“Mm,” Long Feiye agreed.
Seizing the chance, Han Yunxi added, “So you’ll need to come back with me.”
Long Feiye didn’t reply, but Han Yunxi pressed on. “Answer me.”
“I already agreed last time. Don’t you trust me?” Long Feiye challenged back.
“Lie to me once and I’ll treat it as a hundred times!” Han Yunxi warned as she narrowed her eyes. She had said the exact same thing once upon a time.
“Mm,” Long Feiye agreed easily, almost as if he’d forgotten how he’d already hoodwinked this woman in the past.
Throughout their trip, Han Yunxi spotted multiple buildings and residence halls, as well as disciples training their swordsmanship--both males and females. She had always assumed that only the fifth mountain, Celestial Mountain itself, contained a couple of buildings at the peak, but never expected there to be so many disciples. No wonder Long Feiye could pick out so many outstanding junior brothers amongst them to make up his shadow guards.
Looks like Celestial Mountain is a huge sect!
Even standing midway up the fourth peak left Han Yunxi unable to see the top of the fifth. They circled around the back of this one until they found the suspension bridge stretching between the two mountains. She couldn’t see anything else beyond that, because fog had risen up to obscure half of Celestial Mountain in mist. Compared to the bamboo bridge from before, this bridge was wider and more stable. Long Feiye took Han Yunxi across while expounding to her on the various factions within the sect.
Although Celestial Mountain only had one internal cultivation method for inner energy, its sword arts were numerous and its factions broad. Just then, the disciples she saw were all members of different factions practicing the beginner and intermediate swordplay styles. After entering Celestial Mountain, all disciples would cultivate internal energy at Cang Qiuzi’s Lockheart Courtyard, then draw lots to see which faction they’d end up studying under for sword skills. The junior brothers that Long Feiye had called upon for help were not only the elite of their respective factions, but also outstanding members of the sect’s entire younger generation. That was because the Celestial Mountain Sword Sect hadn’t opened up its Celestial Mountain Assembly yet, which was only held once a decade. Thus, these younger disciples hadn’t gotten the chance to enter the two Depositories or Courtyards yet. The youngest members of those four elite factions were still around 30 years old.
The Celestial Mountain Assembly held every 10 years would be a contest to choose the rising stars of the next generation. Anyone who wanted to learn first-class sword skills from its four elders would have to participate in the Assembly’s competition segment. The top ten winners would earn the right to be promoted into higher ranks, while the rest would remain in the lesser, branch factions.
These ten winners would also earn the right to scale Celestial Mountain itself and choose a sword of their own from the Sword Depository. Then they could select one of the four elders to study superior, higher-tier sword arts. The so-called saying amongst the common people that Celestial Mountain took in disciples yearly was actually a reference to the power of the four elders. They had the right to break the rules and take in one disciple of their choice a year without going through the conventions of the Celestial Mountain Assembly.
An eldest young Miss like Cang Xiaoying was even more of an exception. She had been personally taught by Cang Qiuzi since her youth despite her less than stellar talents. Compared to the disciples in the lower mountains, she exceeded them by bounds. In the past, Duanmu Yao had still been a child who had to be carried around when the Western Zhou imperial court used their connections to send her to the mountain. Their original plan was to entrust her care into Cang Qiuzi until she grew old enough to practice martial arts.
At the same time, Tang Yiwan had also used her connections to send Long Feiye, who was only four, atop the mountain as well. They happened to bump into the Western Zhou group along the way. Back then, Cang Qiuzi was already in the habit of taking bribes and violating regulations to take in disciples. But he never taught any of them personally, preferring to toss them to his other disciples instead. Both Duanmu Yao and Long Feiye’s families had their eye on Cang Qiuzi, but as luck would have it, the sword sect grandmaster had emerged from his closed door cultivation on the same day of their visit and ran across this incident.
The sword sect master questioned Cang Qiuzi on why he was breaking the rules to take in those disciples. Cang Qiuzi had no choice but to claim they had excellent innate talents. Unexpectedly, the sword sect master decided to verify the claims in person. As it turned out, Long Feiye was a prodigy when it came to practicing martial arts, while Duanmu Yao’s dantian situation was very akin to the grandmaster’s late (and secret) lover.
Thrilled with the results, the sword sect master also broke his rule of not accepting disciples to take both Duanmu Yao and Long Feiye under his wing. Since Duanmu Yao was younger, she spent her days raised in the peak while Long Feiye began to study martial arts immediately. His progress was extraordinary, breaking multiple records in Celestial Mountain. After hearing all this, Han Yunxi finally had a better idea of what was going on.
In a worried voice, she asked, “Long Feiye, it’s not time for the Celestial Mountain Assembly yet, right?”
“That’s on the sixth day of the sixth month this year,” Long Feiye said simply. His other reason for coming to the mountain was precisely this assembly.
“Sixth day of the sixth month...in other words, it’s very possible those junior brothers of yours could betray you for Cang Qiuzi’s side then?” Han Yunxi asked seriously.
Long Feiye was going to face off against Cang Qiuzi and Duanmu Yao this time on Celestial Mountain to clean them up on behalf of the sword sect master. However, as the grandmaster didn’t take in any other disciples besides Long Feiye and Duanmu Yao, their numbers paled in comparison to the rest of the sect. Additionally, the two Depositories and Courtyards accepted new students every year and took in excellent talents from the lower level disciples every year. Their strength was self-evident.
Only by controlling the disciples of the lesser branch factions did Long Feiye gain his present foothold on the peak. His forces would suffer heavy casualties once the Celestial Mountain Assembly began. To those disciples, the Assembly was a critical stage in their martial arts career. So many trained for a decade just for a chance to participate in its competition! It wasn’t just the disciples, but the branch factions behind them that wished for a strong member to represent their ranks and enter the two Depositories or Courtyards. It would shine light on their own faction as well, thus elevating their status within the sect. Although Long Feiye’s junior brothers were loyal to him now, the draw of the Celestial Mountain Assembly was simply too great.
First, Long Feiye’s formidable martial arts skills didn’t change the fact that he was the sword sect master’s disciple. As his master wasn’t going to accept any more students, none of the other disciples on the mountain could rely on Long Feiye to climb the ranks on the mountain and learn top-tier sword arts. Their only options were to pass the Celestial Mountain Assembly and enter the two Depositories or Courtyards. Secondly, Long Feiye wasn’t planning to vie for the spot of clan head, much less stay around here long. He wasn’t a member of the martial arts circles and would return to the imperial halls eventually. How long could he protect anyone under his banner? Third, Long Feiye might be the sect master’s disciple, but his master had long stopped bothering with sect affairs. Instead, it was Head Elder Cang Qiuzi whose power was growing. Thus, Long Feiye’s speaking power within the sect was dwindling as a result.
Human hearts were hard to gauge, especially when Cang Qiuzi’s faction already knew that Long Feiye held sway in much of the branch factions. They would seize the chance at Celestial Mountain Assembly to weaken Long Feiye’s forces as much as they could. Han Yunxi had considered these points, but so did Long Feiye. He understood human hearts much better--especially those of the martial arts circles. Raising his head, he peered at the cloudy mists and remarked, “Han Yunxi, there’s another distinguished gathering before the Celestial Mountain Assembly. I will participate.”
Sensing his serious tone, Han Yunxi felt uneasy. “What kind of distinguished gathering?”
“On the fifth day of the fifth month, the sword sect will hold ranking matches,” Long Feiye said coldly. “All Celestial Mountain disciples are welcome to participate, but they’ll be responsible for their own life or death. The winners will be ranked from first to fifth by merit of their martial arts skills.”
Han Yunxi knitted her brows. “You mean to say…”
“Master won’t participate, but it’ll be easier to accomplish things with the winner’s title,” Long Feiye remarked.
The rules of the jianghu were simple: those with superior martial arts were kings. If he could rank first place in those matches, even the disciples of the Depositories and Courtyards wouldn’t dare to act rashly, leaving Cang Qiuzi bereft of support. His two motives for coming to Celestial Mountain this time were thus: 1) take Han Yunxi to meet his master and 2) destroy Cang Qiuzi.
The fastest method for the second would be to participate in the ranking matches and get the championship. To accomplish that, he had to undo the seal within his body. With the three nations still embroiled in war down the mountain and political battles still afoot, he couldn’t afford to tarry long here…Previous Chapter Next Chapter