Chapter 138:

Battle of two Sects (2)

Mad God


When the Skyshark landed and Aerthus walked down from it, there was no concrete welcoming entourage waiting for them, only curious people who had never seen the flying ship before.


“Let’s go and find a place to set up camp. We still have a day before it starts.” Aerthus said as he looked around.


“Sect Head Aerthus.” Came a voice, belonging to Kaipan who approached them, cupping his hands towards the group.


“King Kaipan. Or should I call you Elder Kaipan now?” He responded with a small smile, returning the gesture


“Either is fine. The latter is only an empty title as I barely held a few lessons over the years. I have no disciples to my name.” Kaipain shook his head while hearing his question. The youngsters behind Ren and the rest grimaced at his words, clearly feeling the sarcasm behind his words, aimed at his ‘own’ sect. “I am here to invite you to our camp.”


“For?” Aerthus asked with a smile but Kaipan also just returned a simple smile.


“For tea, of course.”


“Sure. Ren, come with me. Leinor, take the rest and find a suitable campsite.” Aerthus said, scanning the field around them.


“Understood.” Leinor nodded while Kaipan looked over their disciples.


“We are happy to welcome everyone.” He said but it was clear that he did so only out of courtesy. He was aiming to speak with Aerthus privately.


“No need, but thank you.” Ren replied as they finally left with him.


“What do you think they want?” Toobu sent over a voice transmission to Ariana but he made sure the rest of the disciples also heard it.


“A favor.” She answered after a little bit of thinking. “I perceived him to be resigned. Also he is angry. But not at anyone else but at himself.”


“Because of Elder Lulu?” Sylvett questioned.


“I doubt it. Everyone knows they hoped Senior Sister would relay our techniques and spells to them yet she did not do it. Like… ever.” Ariana continued. “They were, in the end, also happy with how things turned out. I think they came around, especially after Zelig reappeared. With trading with us, both of Senior Sister’s brothers passed their tribulation and reached Harmony. One at the 7th one at the 8th stage.”


“Don’t forget they also have a few dozen other people under them who reached Harmony, albeit at lower stages.” Zaphil also interjected.


“That is a strong fighting force.” Jishan continued. “My family back home is considered a medium-sized noble family. My parents both reached Harmony at the 6th stage. That counts as powerful! Not to mention we had four experts who also took their tribulation when they were at the 4th stage! I know that those who are higher ranked nobles than us, they are a bit stronger but still… It counts as a strong force! We are just too used to seeing powerful people around us.” He smiled proudly.


“A-a-are t-t-they s-strong…? R-r-really?” Wyland asked with a doubting voice, raising one eyebrow.


“Ahahaha!” Toobu laughed, sounding like a bell in the others’ ears. “That’s my good brother!” He patted his shoulders. “I’d love to fight someone at their stage!”


“Big dummy!” Kyu’s voice resonated out suddenly as she kicked the shin of Toobu who was walking before her. “You scared me! I was sleeping! Why do you need to shout so early in the morning?!” Came a dozen more small kicks at him, making it look like they were performing some kind of weird dance as Toobu was trying to dodge her.


“Thank god! I thought I’d need to carry the little princess everywhere!” Shadow moaned who was acting as her babysitter now, rubbing his arms tiredly, making the rest truly laugh.


“It seems they are not even worried.” Zern said with a smile, speaking to Leinor while watching them.


“It is the best outcome.” He nodded. “Have you been briefed?”


“Yes.” Zern answered, turning more serious. “Master told me everything. Don’t worry, I’ll keep the kids safe, whatever happens.”


“Thanks.” He patted his shoulder with a brotherly smile. “You are the best amongst us if it comes to defense. Also, don’t fall for their provocations! We are sure there are going to be some attempts. Pretty nasty ones.”


“Don’t worry, I’m not Isha.” He chuckled.


“Heh, yeah, she would flare up way too quickly, that is for sure! By the way…” Leinor looked into his eyes but Zern just shook his head.


“No worries. It just did not work out. That’s all. We are already past it, and stayed friends. That is the best outcome.”


“No, I’m asking because you are rarely back at the Sect. You are always traveling outside with your disciples. I was a bit worried.”


“Thanks… but that has nothing to do with it.” Zern shook his head. “I realized my training method relies on actual experience. I’m not that good of a speaker like Master, to explain complicated theories or formulas… I need to show them in person or put them into positions where they can draw out their potential.”


“I see. I am glad then!” Leinor smiled at his friend who he grew up with essentially. He saw Zern as one of his brothers even if they were not related by blood. “Speaking of the trio. How are they?”


“Good. Better than expected! They are a bit slow compared to the rest but they advance simultaneously. Right now they have secluded themselves to get into sync as they reached the 7th stage of body refinement. It may take a few months for them to stabilize their new cultivation levels, before we can travel out once again.” He grinned with a proud expression. “If we are talking about disciples… I also heard that you are a monster!” He elbowed Leinor who just giggled like a kid, scratching the back of his head.


“It turns out I act like Ren did when we were kids… and push them a bit… too far sometimes! They fainted on a few occasions. The funny thing is, they never complained! I was expecting it, truly!”


“Because you produce results. Look at them! They are one of the strongest duos in the Sect. Not even the core disciples under the tutoring of Elder Boursat, Elder Carthus or Elder Dermitos can catch up to them.” Zern said with a soft but proud sigh.


“Because they teach differently. Especially my father.” Leinor said. “The disciples he took in are mostly focused on pill making. Everything else is secondary. My grandfather… don’t even mention it. You know how he approaches things! He treats them like he treated the Shadow Corps. I don’t know how you can work under him, without your hair turning gray.”


“I’m used to it. It’s kinda nostalgic how he handles things. Don’t forget, I was a captain in the city guard once! Plus you know me… the Disciplinary Department is a place I am content with. It’s straightforward and easy to understand. Follow the rules and make sure others follow it too.”


While they were talking they arrived at a place that looked like it would be spacious enough for them to set up their camp. Just as Leinor wanted to reach for his dimensional pouch and let everyone bring out their own tents and set them up, a different group of people also arrived. They were wearing all white and purple uniforms, contrasting the Immortal Wonders disciples’ black and purple uniforms.


“This is our spot.” The group’s leader said, who was no other than Astair. He was leading four, younger disciples behind him.


“Really?” Leinor clicked his tongue as he raised his, looking around. “Did you see his name around here?” He asked as he turned towards Zern who just shook his head. “You?” He looked back at the rest of the disciples.


“None, Master.” Toobu answered loudly, crossing his arms, eyeing them with clear flames dancing in his eyes. Everybody was ready to fight at any moment.


“I thought so.” Leinor nodded. “Okay, let’s get the tents ready!” He clapped as he ignored the Heaven’s Gate disciples completely.


“I said-'' Astair stepped forward just to loudly bump into a wall that emerged around the group of Leinor. It came from out of nowhere and in a flash.


Zern was standing firmly with a smile as a 2 meter high wall emerged around them with an open gate and the words ‘Immortal Wonders Sect’ carved onto it. The walls simply grew out from the earth itself, completely smooth and looking like marble. It took only a few seconds for them to form a perfect circle.


“What are you waiting for?” Leinor asked, emptying his dimensional pouch. “Ignore the flies buzzing around and start setting up the tents! You have to finish before Sect Head and Junior Sect Head comes back! Or do you want to explain to them why there is an empty camp waiting for them?!”


“Yes!” Bowed every disciple, holding back their laughs as they got to work. Zern and Leinor just smiled at each other, walking towards the front gate to keep guard and not let anyone disturb their disciples anymore.


….

…..


It was already late afternoon when Aerthus and Ren came back and nobody asked what they talked about with Kaipan and neither did they mention it. The camp was already set up and the Sect Head with Shaman returned to the main tent. The disciples each had their own leather tents, covered in wool, already set up and ready for the still somewhat cold night.


“Master.” Ariana said as she walked up to Ren.


“Mmh? Is something wrong?” Ren asked, looking into her eyes, seeing the unease inside them.


“I feel.. Weird…”


“Is it that time of the month?”


“Ah… no!” She rolled her eyes, catching onto her words, making Ren chuckle.


“Relax, no need to be nervous.” She patted her disciple’s shoulders.


“No, Master… I mean… something is not right here. I can’t explain, I just feel it.”


“Come inside.” Ren shook her head, opening the flap of her tent, and sat Ariana down on a small, soft ottoman. Ren said nothing at first but just brought out a strange looking, metal pot. She lit a fire at the bottom of it, placing it on the table before them. “It’s from King Kaipan! He called it coffee! Honestly, it was new to me and even for Master. It is said to be the speciality of the Jakart Kingdom. They came up with it in the past century or so; it's still not widespread yet.” She explained while she brewed it on the little, portable device that she was gifted with when she asked for it. It did not take long and the inside of the tent was filled with the fresh aroma of coffee, a new, pleasant smell for both of them. “Nice, eh? I immediately fell in love with it!” Ren laughed while pouring some to her disciple.


“Master…” She looked at her worriedly, playing with her fingers. She knew that Ren was trying to ease her mind, but she couldn’t shake off the dreadful feelings.


“Relax. Take a sip first. I know why you are like this!” Ren smiled, pouring into her own cup, enjoying its smell and taste. “What you are perceiving is the hostility from the Heaven’s Gate people. It is not yet out in the open but it is aimed at us nonetheless.”


“It’s tasty…” Ariana murmured, looking into the black liquid, letting its hot steam rise upwards, while holding the cup between her fingers. “But is it really just that?”


“Explain.” Her master looked at her calmly and patiently, waiting for Ariana to collect her thoughts.


“I feel like we are being watched. Like when prey feels the presence of a predator, yet does not see it.”


“I see.” She murmured as she closed her eyes. Ren fell silent for a few minutes, just enjoying her newfound, favorite drink before speaking again. “It’s probably Ironclaw.”


“Are they here?” Ariana trembled.


“Of course they are.” Her Master chuckled. “They wouldn’t miss something like this! Don’t worry, we are expecting them. Leinor and Zern are tasked to protect you guys! They are here to make sure you are safe. If anything goes wrong, it is agreed that they are going to take you away on the Skyshark while me and Sect Head take up the rear and block anything that comes up. Competition be damned!”


“Isn’t this… too dangerous?” Ariana murmured as she looked at Ren with worry on her face. “What if you get surrounded?”


“Of course it is dangerous.” Ren nodded, leaning forward, holding her hands with a smile. “Ariana… cultivation is not without dangers. Sometimes you can’t avoid them no matter how hard you try. The only thing you can do is prepare yourself as much as you can and face them head on. There is no guarantee any of us is going to reach the Immortal Realm! Yet we are still trying to do so! Taking one step at a time, that is how it is done. Same is true to life; Just take one step at a time.”


“But if that step leads to danger…” She said but Ren just smiled at her.


“Then take it with conviction and face it bravely! Do you know how dangerous the tribulation is to reach Harmony?”


“Yes, you taught me about it.”


“Yet you are still going to take it because you are confident you can pass it! You need to apply the same thinking to everyday life, Ariana. Be confident in yourself and your own strengths! Trust your friends and have trust in your Master, okay?” She smiled, patting her hands.


“I… I just… I don't want to lose anyone again…” Ariana whispered, lowering her head, hiding the tears in her eyes.


“Me neither.” Ren said, raising Ariana’s head by her chin, watching her moist eyes. “Look at you… crybaby!” She giggled, making Ariana also chuckle a little. “There was once a cultivator who reached a really high level in ancient times. Do you know what he said when a disciple of his asked what was the most important skill to reach the level that he is at?”


“No…” Ariana shook her head. “What was his answer?”


“Luck.”


“Luck?” Ariana blinked confusedly.


“Yes. Luck. He could’ve fallen so many times throughout his life. There were countless points where he could have chosen the wrong turn on the road he walked. Many, many opportunities for his enemies to strike him down! Sometimes he was close to losing himself to darkness. Yet he survived. He walked forward whatever came before him and reached the top of the mountain. From there he looked towards the Sky. He finished walking and was ready to fly.”


“Did he… succeed?”


“Yes, he flew. But for only a little.” Ren smiled. “Then he tore off his own wings and scattered its feathers all over the world to let everyone have a chance to experience the same feelings.” She said, leaning back with a happy smile. “He decided to start all over again, knowing he may not have the same luck as before. He may never reach that mountain top or grow wings ever again.”


“Why…?” Ariana asked after thinking about her words, still confused by them. “Why risk it?”


“Because isn’t it much more fun to travel alongside others? Friends and family? He reached the top alone and when he did, he realized it was agonizing up there. He couldn’t share his joy with anybody else. He made sure that those he taught would never have to be alone! They are going to have others with them! He even hoped that they would take flight while he starts all over again!” Ren said while laughing happily.


“Master… I hope I can travel with you… until the end!” Ariana spoke up embarrassedly, trying to hide her cheeks which were turning bright red.


“Ahaha, me too!” Ren answered, rubbing her head. “I don’t know if I’m going to be lucky enough to reach the top with you but I won’t flinch and face anything that comes my way to be there!”


“Don’t say it like that! Please!” She spoke up hurriedly.


“The only thing we can’t improve is our luck, Ariana. This is why we must cultivate with our best efforts!” She said, finishing her cup of coffee as she stood up, patting her buttocks. “Because when our luck fails, our cultivation is the only thing that may save us! Now go! Relax your mind and accompany your friends! They are planning to look around the market before tomorrow's competition. Air out your head of the worries and focus only on your next step. Leave the rest of your worries, right here, with your Master! I’ll take care of them~”


Ariana only smiled softly, cupping her hands and bowing towards her.


“Thank you, Master.” She whispered before leaving the tent, joining the rest of the disciples to have some fun before tomorrow comes and they face the disciples of Heaven’s Gate.