Qiao Ran’s Master, whose name was Ling Ji, had also heard about this matter more than once. His lips softened slightly, and his voice became comparably gentler as he said, “I am already aware of this.”
“While this disciple was in Xingluo City, someone from the Southern Realm came looking for disciples from our sect. After investigating, I found out that the black-clothed man who was with Fellow Daoist Meng is the youngest disciple of the Anyun Summit’s Sect Leader. During his tribulation, this person fell into qi deviation and ended up stranded in the Eastern Realm. Somehow, he ended up staying with Fellow Daoist Meng.”
“Anyun Summit…” Ling Ji’s slender fingers lightly tapped on the bamboo railing again. “A sect that cultivates both swordsmanship and spells, ranked among the top three in the Southern Realm.”
“Yes,” Qiao Ran respectfully replied, “Later, for some unknown reason, Fellow Daoist Meng fell into the Starfallen Sea. Alongside her are the future sect leader of Anyun Summit, Demon Realm’s envoy Su Junmo, another demon cultivator Sikong Xing, and…” he continued, “the eldest son of the Xue clan Xue Chengxuan, Li Che from the Canghai Academy, and Xu Zijun from the Xingluo Pavilion. They should all be with Fellow Daoist Meng.”
“Not enough,” Ling Ji said calmly. “They may be outstanding among the younger generation, but their abilities alone are not enough to leave the Starfallen Sea alive.”
Qiao Ran remained silent. He lowered his gaze, noticing the hem of his Master’s robe. The blue robe seemed a bit old, probably worn for many years. The man who wore it clearly didn’t mind, and no one cared whether his clothes were old or new. Because, no matter who heard the name Ling Ji of the Duankong Sect, the first thing that came to mind was his sword.
“Has the main hall reached a decision yet?” Ling Ji asked casually.
Qiao Ran pondered for a moment and answered, “Not yet. Eldest Martial Uncle said that although ten years ago, when our Grandmaster passed away, everyone pledged to avenge the Grandmaster in order to qualify for the position of sect leader, the situation has changed. In these extraordinary times, with the sect on the verge of regaining its ancient prestige, we cannot remain divided, or we will miss this opportunity.”
Qiao Ran thought for a moment and added, “When this disciple left, the main hall was still entangled in this matter. Today, when I returned to Duankong City, a senior brother told me that the main hall is still debating over it.”
“Hmm,” Ling Ji replied nonchalantly. He tapped the bamboo railing again, and the large, yellowed bamboo made a crisp sound. In this tranquil bamboo forest, the sound carried quite far.
Ling Ji asked again, “What about the elders of the Medical Society Alliance?”
“They never quarrel with the sword or the spell sects. This time, they didn’t say much either, only mentioning that if they find Fellow Daoist Meng, they will naturally give Duankong Sect an explanation,” Qiao Ran answered.
“Ha…” Ling Ji’s laughter became even more ironic. “It’s not that they’re giving us an explanation. After spending thousands of years, they still couldn’t unravel the secrets of the Apricot Forest. They can’t accept the fact that a Golden Core medical cultivator with no sect affiliation obtained the greatest benefit from the Apricot Forest.”
“Meng Qi falling into Starfallen Sea is perhaps…” He tilted his head slightly and walked out of the bamboo house with his hands behind his back, heading towards the exit of the bamboo forest. “…not a bad thing.”
Qiao Ran and his fellow disciples quickly followed. Except for Qiao Ran, the other four disciples exchanged glances. Falling into the Starfallen, a notoriously dangerous place in the Three Realms, wasn’t a bad thing? If one couldn’t even hold on to their life, would it still make sense to talk about anything else?
Yet, none of the disciples dared to say a word as they silently followed Qiao Ran, walking behind Ling Ji as he made his way toward the main hall of the sect.
Many disciples of the Duankong Sect were standing in the square outside the main hall. Even before Qiao Ran and the others reached the hall, they could already hear a rumbling sound coming from inside. They knew that arguments were happening between experts whose cultivation base was at the Void Comprehending and above. As disciples with insufficient cultivation, they couldn’t hear what they were saying — all they could hear was the thunderous sound.
When the disciples in the square saw Qiao Ran and his group, especially Ling Ji, who was walking in front, their eyes widened in surprise.
Several disciples who were closer quickly saluted Ling Ji with great speed, “Martial Uncle Ling.”
“Greetings, Martial Uncle Ling.”
“Martial Uncle Ling, good morning.”
For a moment, the square was filled with salutations and greetings.
Ling Ji only had nine personal disciples, including Qiao Ran and the other four, while there were over a hundred people standing in the square.
However, regardless of which Master they were under, none of the Duankong Sect disciples dared to show any disrespect in front of Ling Ji.
Perhaps the people inside noticed the greetings from the disciples, but the main hall, which had just produced the rumbling sound, suddenly fell silent. The doors of the hall opened with a loud bang, and a solemn, aged voice came out, “Seventh, you’ve arrived just in time. Come in.”
Ling Ji took a step forward and passed through the door into the hall. All the disciples in the square respectfully lowered their heads and dared not even take a breath. It wasn’t until the doors closed again that the disciple closest to Qiao Ran quietly looked up and asked him in a low voice, “Junior Brother Qiao Ran, why do I feel like Martial Uncle Ling is becoming stronger? Is it possible…”
Qiao Ran lowered his gaze. “I don’t know.”
The Duankong Sect disciple pursed his lips and didn’t dare say anything more.
In the main hall, several luminous pearls were suspended in the air, illuminating the hall brightly. At this moment, twelve cultivators, both men and women, middle-aged and elderly, were sitting cross-legged. The lowest cultivation level among them was at the Void Comprehending stage. However, among the twelve, even the youngest-looking one seemed to be older than Ling Ji. These twelve cultivators were seated on both sides of the hall, all looking towards Ling Ji, who paused his step at the entrance.
For a while, the hall was engulfed in silence. “Seventh,” the person who had spoken earlier spoke again. He sat in the front of the six on the left side, his white hair flowing, dressed in a deep purple robe. “Since you’ve come, there must be something you want to say. Come and have a seat.”
Ling Ji cupped his hands and slowly walked in.
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