“Hahaha!” Zhao Tiefeng responded with furious laughter, contempt rising in his eyes. “What would a venerated disciple of the Exalted Immortal Sect bother possessing a Nephrite buffoon for?
“Or perhaps Nephrite Major’s cultivators are intentionally breaking rules, then pinning the blame on someone else? My sect happens to be a convenient target for your finger pointing since I’m exposing your scheme, isn’t that right?”
That ‘Ge Cheng’ was dead anyway, so there was no evidence against his word. The Coretrial Arena had forced Ge Cheng back to the golden core realm, nascent spirit and all. Dying meant that the spirit had died within the golden core, so not a trace of anything could possibly remain.
“Using a dead man to accuse my sect? Pathetic.” Zhao Tiefeng continued to sneer. “Lu Yun and that Nephrite envoy Qing Han over there, if you two don’t give the Exalted Immortal Sect an adequate explanation, expect retribution tenfold!”
He didn’t dare do anything in Dusk Province, but his sect could pressure Nephrite Major to act.
“You want an explanation, is it?” Lu Yun swept back a sidelong glance, then nodded. “Alright, then I’ll give you one today. Get out here!”
“Get out here? Who are you talking to?” Zhao Tiefeng blinked before the color drained from his face.
Beneath the stage, the dead Ge Cheng suddenly stood up and a translucent human shadow stepped out from his body. It looked to be a soul fragment, but the man’s appearance drastically differed from the Ge patriarch in life. Ge Cheng was a middle-aged man with a rather sinister look, but this soul was a youth.
“That’s Lao Nuo! He was one of the Exalted Immortal Sect’s best disciples seven hundred years ago!” another immortal shouted hoarsely with surprise. “He’s been missing for all this time, what is he doing here now?”
Evidently, this speaker was the same generation as this ‘Lao Nuo.’
Zhao Tiefeng colored before quickly reacting to the accusation. “Lao Nuo? The man who betrayed the Exalted Immortal Sect seven hundred years ago? So I see he’s joined Nephrite Ma—”
“Zhao Tiefeng, you fecking bastard!” Lao Nuo cursed with outrage when he heard the accusation. “Seven hundred years ago, I snuck into Pill Fairy Yuying’s tomb with seven senior brothers on the sect’s orders. We were tasked with searching for the Panorama of Clarity, why has that turned to betrayal in your mouth?”
“What Panorama of Clarity? What fairy pill are you talking about? Cease this blasphemy!” Zhao Tiefeng’s facial muscles tensed and he rebuked indignantly, “Accursed child, how dare you forsake your ancestors?! Not content with betraying your sect, now you help outsiders slander it!”
“Hahahaha!” Tears streamed out of Lao Nuo’s eyes as he laughed hysterically. What incredible sadness did it take to cause a soul to weep?
He’d wasted seven hundred years of his youth inside a tomb for his sect. Alas, Yuying had destroyed his body on the brink of success, leaving only a soul fragment to escape and possess House Ge’s leader.
Despite those setbacks, he pivoted to using his new identity to compete for the ancient lord’s heritage on his sect’s behalf, only for Zhao Tiefeng to call him a traitor!
Though Lao Nuo was now Lu Yun’s Infernum, his heart burned with bitter resentment and tragic heartache.
“Zhao Tiefeng! You were one of those who plotted to steal Pill Fairy Yuying’s Panorama of Clarity. That’s why you interfered in her heavenly tribulation that year, which dealt her a nearly fatal injury—”
“Shut up!” Zhao Tiefeng finally became purple in the face.
There should’ve been no difficulties in Pill Fairy Yuying’s heavenly tribulation all those years ago. Without a doubt, she was qualified to become an immortal. Her failure and abrupt death had come as a surprise to all, including the youthful pride of heaven Wayfarer, who’d sunk into depression for quite a while.
The words of this ‘Lao Nuo’, the Exalted Immortal Sect’s supposed traitor, revealed a much better reason for that historical peculiarity. The strangest part of all was that Yuying hadn’t died. According to the long-missing disciple, she’d merely been recuperating from her injuries inside the tomb all this time.
“Heheheh, I’ve heard rumors about something like that, too. Twelve hundred years ago, the Exalted Immortal Sect pestered the pill fairy for quite some time to obtain her Panorama of Clarity. She was forced by the circumstances to seek Nephrite Major’s protection, which is why she became Dusk Province’s governor.”
The immortal who offered this was from Exalted Major as well, but his faction didn’t seem to be on the best of terms with the Exalted Immortal Sect. He seemed rather happy to see the latter’s misfortunes. “When the pill fairy failed her heavenly tribulation, eighteen tribulation-threshold cultivators from the Exalted Immortal Sect disappeared at the same time. There’s been no news of them since…”
“The Exalted Immortal Sect, hmm? Explain yourself, Zhao Tiefeng, or none of you will leave Dusk Province alive!” Two beams of faint silver light shot out when Qing Han opened his eyes, exerting a frightening amount of pressure that gathered from every direction. The pressure came from the celestial emperor’s token that was upon the young man’s person.
Beet-red blood trickled out of a corner of Zhao Tiefeng’s mouth.
“Is this your trap, Nephrite’s emperor? This is just a perfect excuse! You want to get rid of all the promising talent of the other majors in one fell swoop, is that it?!” He was causing a scene in the throes of desperation. “Or is the ancient lord’s heritage just a sham? It’s just a front for you to destroy the foundations of all the other majors!
“After framing my Exalted Immortal Sect with Lao Nuo, what other centuries-old lost person are you going to put forward for the other factions?” His words were filled with venom, and immortals of the other majors immediately shifted from schadenfreude to wariness.
Dusk Province was a special place. The terrifying restriction here forbade entrance by higher immortals. If Nephrite Major was really conspiring to kill the other majors’ geniuses here, no one would be spared.
“Are you a fool?” Lu Yun burst into laughter. “What’s Nephrite Major stand to gain from killing all the other young geniuses? What about Dusk Province, for that matter? Wouldn’t His Majesty be concerned about the reprisal from his sovereign peers?
“Do you not use your brain when you talk? Or maybe you’re just an idiot.” The young man sneered mockingly. “True or not, I’ve already reported all this to His Majesty and the other eight celestial emperors. We’ll see if Lao Nuo was telling the truth real quick, right after this competition.
“I recommend the Exalted Immortal Sect figure out a story as soon as possible. It won’t be easy for you to trick Their Majesties. As for Lao Nuo… this competition is a test of cultivation. What would I kill him for? Do you admit defeat, Lao Nuo?”
Lu Yun glanced at the ghost. Anyone he killed became one of his ghostly servants. He had mastery over their souls and existences; if he wanted, he could even send Lao Nuo back into Ge Cheng’s body.
“I do!” Lao Nuo returned to his prior vessel, then offered a shaky cupped fist salute. He leaped off the Coretrial Arena, hiding any hint of respect in his eyes as he did so.
A sullen meanness plastered across Zhao Tiefeng’s face and he glared daggers at Lu Yun. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much more he could say at this juncture. Anything more would have to wait until the nine celestial emperors completed their investigation.
“Well said, Governor of Dusk. We didn’t come here for the ancient lord’s heritage, we came to test our mettle against the realm’s finest! A few vague conspiracies aren’t enough to tarnish such a grand occasion!” a hearty voice sounded from a young man slowly ascending to the stage.
“Mo Chenfeng of the Mo Clan, Lazuli Major. Let’s see how we measure up against each other!” The newcomer was handsome in both complexion and dress, and his very presence exuded a stylish confidence.