47 The Five Element Clan
Yi Ping sighed regretfully at the appalling sight that he had seen on the way to the Holy Amalgamate Mountains. There were many fallen clan banners, dead exponents and fighting as they were nearer and nearer to the Holy Amalgamate Mountains.
Exponents from dozens of martial clans in the martial fraternity had fought with one another with appalling results. It was not just a battle between the unorthodox and the orthodox clans. The feud between the Holy Hex Sect and the Honor Manor awakened old hatreds between all the martial clans, who had made used of the unrest to settle old vendettas with one another.
The Unorthodox Clans began to fight with one another openly while the Orthodox Clans began to fight with one another subtly. Even the heretic dark secret sects were also surfacing in the martial fraternity, creating more chaos and unrest.
In short, the martial fraternity was now embroiled in a battle for order or supremacy!
Old alliances were broken and new alliances were forged in just a matter of weeks. Altogether, more than a hundred major martial clans fought for supremacy and territories, embroiling hundreds of smaller major clans!
Lingfeng was anxious as she said, "When I left the Holy Amalgamate Mountains, things are not like this. In fact, there are quite a few unorthodox clans that suddenly cut off ties with the Holy Hex Sect, angering my brother. Now it seems that everyone is heading there now."
They had visited one town along the way but did not stay long for there were numerous conflicts and they were afraid of being recognized. They had waited until nightfall to visit the town discreetly for provision and left quickly once they were done.
Nangong Le was downcast after visiting that town. When Nangong Le had entered a merchant bank to take some silver teals, he had discovered that he had been disowned by his father.
He was now penniless…
Yi Ping comforted him, "Worldly possessions are just materials. As long as we are alive, we can earn it back."
Nangong Le smiled bitterly, "Brother Yi Ping, you have no idea how long it takes to earn even one silver. Without money, nothing is possible and we will lose plenty of friends and enjoyments."
Yi Ping just smiled coolly, "And you are spending tens of silver every day when you are still the Young Master of the Nangong Clan?"
Nangong Le said, "That's different. Back then, I don't have to earn it."
Yi Ping asked, "You need one silver? That's easy. Maybe I can help you."
Nangong Le was startled, "You look every single bit as penniless as me. If you can really produce one silver in front of me, then it is really a miracle. Money just does not simply drop from the sky."
Yi Ping called to Yujian, "Yu'Er, Brother Nangong needs one silver tael. I don't have any money. I wonder if you can give it to him?"
Lingfeng was surprise, "The sun has risen from the west. You didn't ask me for any money this time."
Yi Ping laughed, "Along the way, all our expenses have been paid by you. I feel bad if I ask you."
Lingfeng smiled alluringly, "Hmph, you still not completely heartless to remember that."
Yi Ping kept quiet immediately.
Yujian laughed softly as she reached into her pouch that was dangling on her belt.
She quickly flashed a silver tael in front of Nangong Le, much to his astonishment.
Nangong Le sighed, "Now I really regret spending all my silvers on entertainment and should have found myself a rich wife instead…"
Yujian laughed softly, "Here is one silver. The interest is one cash every day till you can return the principal sum."
Nangong Le was startled, "Yu'Er, you…I am Yi Ping's brother and you actually charged me interest? You are so shrewd…I am so pitiful…"
Mei'Er interrupted merrily, "You are a high risk debtor. Consider yourself lucky that we didn't ask for any pledges from you. Why do you need so much for?"
Nangong Le looked at everyone, "I just thinking of eating something good in town."
Gongsun Jing smiled bitterly, "You…you are simply too extravagant. One silver tael for a meal! Have you forgotten that we are still on the run and are fugitives?"
Nangong Le said awkwardly, "I used to spend more than ten silver taels on a single meal…"
Qiu Wufeng was in a daze; He was born in a wealth martial clan but the amount of silver that Nangong Le had spent daily was simply too extravagant even for him. He said, "Brother Nangong, do you know that for one silver every month, you can buy the life of a martial exponent to fight for you? The Qiu Clan only pays Lu Baiyun two silver a month."
Gongsun Jing was startled, "That is so pittance! Jue Yuan and Gu Tianle got three silver a month!"
Nangong Le was startled, "You guys…now I know why they have betrayed your clan…even our lowest servants get four silver tael every month!"
Qiu Wufeng said, "That is really too much. Do you know how many mouths we have to feed in our martial clan?"
Nangong Le smiled weakly but he was thinking, "Then you have so many men, why don't put them to good use and get them to do some business and to earn back your investments?"
Gongsun Jing seemed to know what he was thinking for he was saying, "It's a pity that the martial exponents that we have are not good in doing business and can only be bandits…alas…"
Lingfeng had wanted to say she used to spend a hundred silver taels every month but did not say it aloud for it would give Yi Ping and everyone a bad impression of her.
But Yi Ping had already thought of her, "Lingfeng, you carry so much silver taels with you. What are your monthly expenses?"
Lingfeng smiled bitterly, "This is hard to say. Sometimes a lot, sometimes very little. Usually I don't get to spend any money until I met you."
Yi Ping could only smile weakly as he looked at Ding Yun and Youxue, "What about Yun and Youxue?"
Ding Yun smiled gently, "You seem to be checking our finances. Oh well, usually I don't have much money too. The Virtuous Palace isn't a well to do clan. At most I only get like ten to thirty cash a month. Sometimes, the Virtuous Palace does not even give me any allowances on time."
Yi Ping comforted Ding Yun, "Alas…pitiful Yun, don't be sad. I will work hard in future…"
Ding Yun looked at Yi Ping passionately, "I am not sad. Don't worry for me. We will earn our keeps in future…"
Yi Ping was touched as he looked tenderly at Ding Yun until his heart began to give him discomfort again. He quickly recovered as he asked Youxue, "Youxue, what about you? Alas, you must be the poorest…the same as me…you have wandered for three years…leading such a hard life…"
Youxue gave him a shy smile.
She looked adorably at Yi Ping, sighing. "That's right…"
If Yi Ping knew the reality was totally different from what he had thought, he would have fainted on the spot immediately.
Before Youxue had secretly left the Virtuous Palace, she had stolen all of Xiao Shuai's gold taels, causing him to almost suffer a heart attack! Not only that, through the years, she was constantly causing trouble for all the notorious bandits and fighters in the martial fraternity, using them to practice her martial skills and to lend a hand to their victims.
From these notorious bandits and fighters, she had taken their martial treasures, their unique weapons, their martial secrets and their secret martial manuals. Those that she did not need, she would secretly trade it on the black market for vast amount of silver and gold!
Needless to say, she had already cumulated a vast collection of treasures and riches that exceeded even the Nangong Clan in such a short time!
Yi Ping said gently to Youxue, "Youxue, don't worry. I will work hard to provide for your needs. I will not let you wander in the fraternity again. We will find a serene place with lofty mountains and tranquil rivers to settle. There I will be a farmer and…"
Lingfeng, Youxue, Ding Yun, Meijian and Yujian began to shift uncomfortably. Staying in an isolated place was actually the very last thing on their very minds!
Youxue pretended to nod…
Gongsun Jing clapped, "Brother Yi Ping. I admire your peaceful state of mind. Throughout the ages, there were just only a handful of heroes who could put down everything and retreated to the recess of the mountains. This is really admirable!"
Qiu Wufeng nodded, "If we survive this, maybe I would also retreat to the mountains as well. Maybe I will build a hut besides Brother Yi Ping. Haha…"
Gongsun Jing began to cough lightly.
Of course Qiu Wufeng was not serious. He just wanted everyone to admire his aspirations too. The only person that he could fool was Yi Ping.
Yi Ping nodded approvingly, "That's great Brother Qiu! If we can all survive this, we will do just that!"
Qiu Wufeng grinned but he was already thinking, "With so many martial clans that are gathering at the Holy Amalgamate Mountains, I may win renown for myself…"
Yi Ping asked, "What about you Brother Nangong?"
Nangong Le managed a weak smile, "I don't want any renown. I don't want to be a hero or be a hermit in the mountains. I just want to beg my father for forgiveness…"
Yi Ping patted him on his shoulder, "What a filial son! This is most admirable! The ancients say one of the seven virtues to uphold is filial piety. I didn't expect this from you."
Nangong le laughed, "Thank you, thank you!"
Everyone except Yi Ping was looking at Nangong Le in disgust. It was because they all knew that the last thing Nangong Le had in mind was filial piety but his parents' wealth.
Yi Ping was suddenly sorrowful as he said to Yujian and Meijian, "Both of you are so young…alas…I wonder if it is the right decision for you to follow me…"
Mei'Er was woeful and she was expressed with a hurtful look, "Master, we have accompany protégé mistress since little. Other than her, you are the closest to us. If even you do not want us, there is no point for us to live any longer."
Yi Ping sighed, "The fraternity is so big and there be plenty of hardship with me…"
Yu'Er interrupted with silent determination, "Through weal and woes, we will follow you. We have little possessions and if Master does not despise us and willing to take us in, we…are just too grateful. Yu'Er just wants to sing and play the music for you every day…"
Yi Ping suddenly began to bend forward as a painful agony seized him!
Yu'Er, Mei'Er, Lingfeng, Ding Yun and Youxue were quick to surround him as they displayed their affections and concerns!
"Master…what is wrong!" Mei'Er gasped.
"Yi Ping…are you alright?" Lingfeng asked with great concern.
Yu'Er helped to support Yi Ping…
Ding Yun was checking his pulses…
Youxue was asking softly, "Yi…Ping…"
Yi Ping smiled weakly and his eyes shone with appreciation as he looked tenderly at all of them, "I don't know why but lately, I have been experiencing some discomfort on my chest…"
While Gongsun Jing and Qiu Wufeng were looking worryingly at Yi Ping, Nangong Le was staring at the translucent jades that were on the twin sister's wrist.
Nangong Le was thinking, "These translucent jades are priceless and worth a huge fortune anywhere…"
He could not resist asking Meijian, "Mei'Er, the jade bangle you're carrying is fragile. You may break them in an ensuring fight. Then it will be terrible, isn't it?"
Mei'Er laughed merrily, "Don't you worry! I have more of these jade bangles at the Eternal Ice Palace."
Nangong Le was secretly startled but he quickly recovered his composure. These precious translucent jades were said to have originated from the Heavenly Mountains so it was not entirely surprising for her to have some. But still, translucent jades were still extremely rare find…
All of a sudden, an idea struck him…
Nangong Le laughed, "Well…In that case then, do you mind selling me for one silver tael? There are two good reasons for selling to me…"
Before he could finish, Mei'Er had replied icily. "Dream on!"
He was not someone to give up easily and was about to point out the advantages of selling her translucent jade bangle to him when he noticed that Lingfeng, Youxue, Gongsun Jing, Qiu Wufeng, Yu'Er and Ding Yun were all also looking icily at him.
Lingfeng said icily, "You are desperate, isn't it?"
Nangong Le smiled awkwardly.
He was only saved from further embarrassment when everyone's attention was distracted by a young man in his twenties who was traveling on foot.
The young man was peculiar. He had five swords on his back and he was carrying a martial clan banner. From the characters that were on the banner, it appeared to be that he was from the Five Elements Clan.
Chi Zhengqi, a young man had caught sight of a group of martial exponents walking rapidly along the desolate mountain paths. This group carried no banners and consisted of four men and five maidens. They were all armed with swords except for two of the maidens. He had not used the main road because it was too dangerous in the current martial situation and he had decided to place a gambit on the lesser known paths to the Holy Amalgamate Mountains.
As he was unsure if this group of martial exponents were friends or foes and being outnumbered, he wanted to turn back immediately.
But he soon overcomes his hesitation. He got quite a brave heart or else he would not have dared to go travel to the Holy Amalgamate Mountains alone.
But the only reason that he could muster his courage to approach them was because he had suddenly noticed that the five maidens were all fascinating beautiful even though they had veiled their faces with a veiled straw hat. He had never seen such elegant and graceful maidens…
Also, their glances were investigative and had no malevolent air; that was why he had dared to approach them. Upon seeing that they did not draw their swords when they saw him, he mustered the courage to quicken his steps and to greet them.
As he approached the group, he was already startled; these maidens were indeed extraordinary beauties. He could see their facial features through their thin silken veils!
He was bewildered. What would have caused these maidens to be in these desolate wildernesses?
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Chi Zhengqi said respectfully, "I am Chi Zhengqi from the Five Element Clan. I am on my way to the Holy Amalgamate Mountains to witness a battle of the century. May I know your martial clan origin and names if you do not mind sharing?"
He paused for a while to look at each of them before adding, "I really don't see any martial banners…"
Yi Ping immediately bowed with his hands respectfully, "I am Yi Ping. We are from…"
As soon as Yi Ping greeted the stranger, everyone began to be tense and alarmed!
Lingfeng sighed silently, "This pig head is going to divulge all our details to a stranger. He is totally clueless on how treacherous the martial fraternity really is…"
But before she could interrupt Yi Ping, Ding Yun said coolly. "We are from the Righteous Axioms Clan."
Chi Zhengqi was startled as he thought, "I have never heard of it before. Judging by their experienced posture and keen eyes, they must be from a well-known but reclusive martial clan that seldom in the news in the fraternity. The righteous battle between the Honor Manor and the unorthodox clans has revived the interest of many prominent reclusive martial clans back to the fraternity. It is just that I have never heard of their clan before. If I say I do not know their clan, then they will know that my clan is just a small fry in the martial fraternity. I have better pretended otherwise."
Therefore he laughed aloud, "Yes, yes. I have heard of the Righteous Axiom Clan. Judging by the magnificent air displayed by your fellow clan protégés, your clan is sure to rank among the top tier martial clans in the fraternity."
Ding Yun asked, "You are alone? I have never heard of the Five Element Clan."
Chi Zhengqi smiled awkwardly. This maiden was simply too blunt!
It would be the first time that she was traveling in the fraternity and therefore she may not have heard of the Five Element Clan. But it was a good sign that she was talking to him. Maybe she was interested in him?
He said, "The Five Element Clan is just a small clan, occupying a small hill in the Central Fraternity near the Universal Mountains. But hey, surely you have heard of the Universal Truth Clan? Our clans are in close proximity with each other!"
At the mention of the Universal Truth Clan, he was grinning proudly.
Mei'Er said, "I have heard of the Universal Truth Clan alright. It is a leading orthodox martial clan and one of the seven major orthodox sword clans. As far as I know, there are nine other martial clans near the vicinity of the Universal Truth Clan…"
Chi Zhengqi noticed that this maiden who was talking to him had a sweet mesmerizing voice. When she mentioned that there were other martial clans in the vicinity of the Universal Truth Clan, he was secretly pleased as he thought. "This maiden does know the Five Element Clan after all. I didn't know my clan is well-known outside the Universal Mountains as well!"
Mei'Er said coolly, "…however, those nine martial clans are too puny and do not even qualified to be ranked as a third tier martial clan. It is not even worth mentioning the names."
Chi Zhengqi was slight as he thought, "You say my clan is a puny clan and not even worth mentioning? Are you sure? What about your, so call Righteous Axioms Clan? I have never even heard of it before!"
He quickly said, "Maiden, did you see the swords on my back? The Five Element Clan is famous for its five elements swordplay and techniques."
Mei'Er answered coolly, "Five swords may not be able to win one sword. How do you use five swords at the same time? Weird, you have five hands?"
Yu'Er began to giggle.
Yi Ping was feeling awkward. This young man did not seem to have any ill-intention. The way Ding Yun and Mei'Er were confronting him were a little too unfriendly.
Chi Zhengqi turned red as he said, "It is only because you are a maiden or else I will surely challenge you for belittling my clan's martial skills. But I, Chi Zhengqi will let it pass as I just assume that you are still young and have little experience in the fraternity…"
Gongsun Jing and Qiu Wufeng were exchanging humorous glances. It seemed that a fight would soon break out anytime soon. That young man had totally no idea that he was dealing with Beautiful Sword Fairy Shui Meijian, the direct protégé of none other than the Celestial Fairy herself!
But before he could finish, Mei'Er had already drawn out her sword with a sharp ringing sound, the icy aura of her unsheathed long beaming sword could be felt by everyone!
Yi Ping was silently praising her, "Mei'Er, it seems that your sword art has improved! This icy aura was almost similar to the Infinity-Two now!"
The sharp and piercing cold aura of her long sword was so resounding that everyone with the exception of Youxue, Yu'Er and Yi Ping, took a few unwitting steps behind to avoid the direct piercing glare of her cold sword energy!
Chi Zhengqi broke into cold sweat as he stared in utter disbelief that this seeming young maiden could possess such a remarkable high state of divinity in her sword arts and could already merge her intricate energy with the sword to utilize sword energy!
Her cold sword energy was so paralyzing that he could not move and his legs were trembling with fear!
Mei'Er said quietly, "Draw your five swords. I will like to see how you are able to use five swords at the same time!"
Chi Zhengqi found his voice again after a difficult struggle with the paralyzing fear as he said weakly, "Maiden…it is against the martial code of the Five Element Clan to fight with the weaker sex. Even if you have won, it is not a true victory…"
Mei'Er interrupted unhappily, "You…you are just a rascal! Quickly, draw your sword! My sword arm is tired!"
Chi Zhengqi smiled bitterly, "As a man, I won't fight with a lady. It is not only against the martial code of my clan as well as my personal principle…"
Mei'Er pointed at Nangong Le, Qiu Wufeng, Yi Ping and Gongsun Jing as she said coldly, "There are four men here. Have your pick and challenge any of them. If anyone dies, this is the will of the heavens and no one should cast any blame. I want to see your five swords in action."
Gongsun Jing, Nangong Le, Qiu Wufeng and Yi Ping were startled that Mei'Er had pointed at them.
Gongsun Jing, Nangong Le and Qiu Wufeng were smiling confidently. They were after all, one of the Four Young Masters of the Martial Fraternity renown and their martial skills were naturally not weak. In fact, they were a lot better than most exponents in the fraternity.
Chi Zhengqi was panicky as he thought, "What do I do now? I am struck in an awkward situation…"
Yi Ping stepped in front of Mei'Er as he said, "Please pardon Mei'Er. It is not her intention to make things difficult for you…"
Chi Zhengqi was relieved as he thought, "This Yi Ping…he seems amicable…"
Yi Ping said, "…now that Mei'Er has mentioned it, I am also intrigued by your impressive Five Element Swordplay. I wonder if young hero can do me the honor by sparring with me?"
Mei'Er laughed softly, "So even our Master is also curious."
Chi Zhengqi was startled as he thought, "This young man is her Master?! This young maiden is already so formidable then her Master will be even more formidable…how did this turn up like this? Will they kill me?"
In the martial fraternity, age was not used to denote seniority in a martial clan. Rather, direct protégés had a more senior rank and they were usually the ones that were taught the clan's secret skills.
Chi Zhengqi thought miserably, "Now it really becomes the will of the heavens and no one should be blamed if anyone dies. I am the one that fall into this bottomless pit myself…"
Yi Ping had already displayed a fighting stance!
All of a sudden, a thought struck Chi Zhengqi like a deadly thunderbolt!
"Did he say he is Yi Ping? The Honor Manor has branded Yi Ping as a wanted fugitive along with Nangong Le, Gongsun Jing and Qiu Wufeng…"
He began to stare at the three men that were behind men. He had noticed that all of them were inconspicuously touching their undrawn weapons lightly with their fingers except for the two weaponless maidens.
Lingfeng and Youxue were curious that Chi Zhengqi was suddenly looking at them…
Chi Zhengqi quickly thought, "I must stay calm and think of a way. These two maidens must be held hostages by this group of notorious heretics. Come to think of that, I can see their little fingers moving. Maybe they are already giving me so many hints already with their hand gestures. I must be idiot not to notice it much earlier. Maybe they didn't know that I have already known their identities?"
He decided to take a gamble by saying, "I just remember that I have something important to do first. May we meet again…"
Before Yi Ping could say anything, Chi Zhengqi had already turned around and ran in the opposite direction!
Chi Zhengqi was relieved that they did not give chase to him as he thought, "Luckily, I am quick thinking or I will surely die in this desolate mountains. Alas…thanks heavens! The first thing that I am going to the nearest town is to inform the rest of the orthodox clans that the powerful Righteous Axioms Clan is on the way to the Holy Amalgamate Mountains. These notorious villains have also kidnapped innocent maidens along the way…alas…their poor fates. They outnumber me…it is not that dishonorable to run. The most important thing is to keep myself alive so that the righteous orthodox clans can guard against the schemes of the Righteous Axioms Clan. These despicable rapists…"
When Chi Zhengqi had departed, Lingfeng sighed softly. "Why is it that I have such a terrible feeling about all these and that young man?"
Yi Ping was saying, "What a pity. I really will like to see his astonishing Five Element Swordplay…"
Lingfeng said, "Yi Ping, you have better don't report your name so recklessly. We don't know if others are friend or foe. Don't take unnecessary risk, alright?"
Yi Ping clapped his hands, "Alas! I forget that I am a wanted fugitive. Why didn't you remind me earlier, Lingfeng?"
Lingfeng gave Yi Ping a hard kick immediately, "Why don't you go and die first?"
Yi Ping quickly recovered from the hard kick as he said excitedly to everyone, "Lingfeng, your kick just gives me an idea for the Celestial Star Formation. We should stick to Lele's original deployment for the Celestial Star Formation. Yu'Er and Mei'Er will be in the same group as me. Youxue, Yun and you will still be in the same group. Brother Nangong, Brother Gongsun and Brother Qiu will form the third group the Outer Star Formation. I think that Brother Gongsun makes a good leader…"
At the mere mention of the Celestial Star Formation, everyone seemed to have hurried their steps and rapidly walked away.
Yi Ping was bewildered, "What's wrong?"
It was because other than Lele, Yi Ping was the only one that could make sense of the Celestial Star Formation.
Even Lele had praised Yi Ping, "You have learnt the Celestial Star Formation previously? How did you memorize all the moves so quickly?"
Yi Ping had said, "No, this is my first time."
Lele was already thinking, "Can it be?"
She looked at Yi Ping with a curious look. There was something about Yi Ping that she could not pinpoint yet as she thought, "That's impossible. I take a hundred years to grasp it but he only takes a while?"
She was beginning to think that it was no coincident that Yi Ping had led them into the center of the Celestial Star Chamber…
The Celestial Star Chamber where she had found the golden scroll was located in the middle of several deadly Celestial Star Formations. It was almost impossible to find without first having the knowledge of the Celestial Star Formation or having profound knowledge in all the well-known formations…
But before she could ponder further, Lie Qing and Yixian had called out for her; they were also genuinely interested in the Celestial Star Formation and had encountered some difficulty in grasping the intriguing changes of the Celestial Star Formation.
She abandoned her pondering and flew happily to their side, explaining to them with great enthusiasm.
Yi Ping sighed as he recalled that scene back then…
Even though he had just left the Tranquil Mountains not long ago but he was already sorely missing Lele…Lie Qing and Yixian…
He was now clutching his chest again as a sudden pain overwhelmed him…
All of a sudden, there was a loud resounding voice in the mountains.
"Since your sword has already left its scabbard, isn't it a pity not to appease your sword first?"
Yi Ping was alarmed and he immediately sprung ahead.
Mei'Er was looking keenly at the surroundings, checking every single trees, thickets and overgrowths as she said, "Who are you?!"
"Who am I? Ha...Haha…I am the Mountain God." The voice was old and ancient.
Youxue said coldly, "Show yourself. How dare you pull such a roguish ruse on us."
Ding Yun had drew her sword as she said quietly, "God or Demon, you have to question the sword in my hand first."
Lingfeng raised her hands and threw dozens of secret projectiles in the direction of a thick overgrowth as she shouted, "There! He is over there!"