Chapter 326 – The Affairs of Life are no Different from Chess
Just as the school leaders were about to strike, Altar Lord Black Lotus said, “School leaders, do you only look right in front of you and never behind you?”
“What do you mean?” Liu Zhangqing asked.
“This is both my designated end, as well as the Academy of the Hundred Schools’ designated end.”
“You can’t talk yourself out of this. Are you just trying to make time? The academy is protected by a great formation. Even if the White Lotus Mother comes in person, she won’t be able to break through it so easily.” As Liu Zhangqing said that, his expression suddenly changed.
He took out a formation disc coiled with dragons and snakes. The glow it had originally shone with had actually vanished. The various school leaders all knew what this meant. The Formation of Dragons and Snakes that guarded the academy had fallen!
Qian Rongzhi watched as a white lotus grew in the formation. It swayed about, pure and beautiful.
The stream of spiritual qi that constantly gushed into the air was immediately severed. The formation was powerful, but it required great precision too. It was like a machine. As long as a single component became defective, the entirety would be affected.
The sky twisted. It remained just as blue as before, but the mist that surrounded the various islands of the academy gradually dispersed under the winter sun.
A few fishermen who happened to be on the lake gazed at the islands before them in surprise. They had already heard about how immortals occupied this place, but this was the first time they had seen it in person.
“What’s going on!?” Disciples of the various schools all emerged from the buildings and gazed at the sky, discussing among themselves. They had even thought that the formation had encountered some sort of difficulty in its operation.
Hua Chengzan was the first to sense that something was off. He said in surprise and fury, “Qian Rongzhi, what are you doing!?” Then he spotted the resplendent white lotus. His surprise and fury turned into disbelief, as well as a sliver of fear.
He already knew that Qian Rongzhi was a spy in the White Lotus cult, but he never expected her to actually become carried away with it. The White Lotus cult had become an existence hated and loathed by all a long time ago, only growing worse as time went on. Their members were always in precarious situations. With how clever she was, why would she become so devoted to their cause?
Qian Rongzhi said, “Commander Hua, I’m just an insignificant soldier carrying out orders, so why must you make things difficult for a mere woman like me?”
Why would Hua Chengzan listen to her? He lunged over straight away. Before anything else, he had to destroy the white lotus so that the formation could begin operating again. Otherwise, the consequences would be unimaginable.
Qian Rongzhi did not try to stop him either. She took several steps back in retreat, which surprised Hua Chengzan slightly. However, he seemed to see a white figure flash through the depths of the bamboo forest from the corner of his eyes, appearing before him.
It was an old woman with grey hair. Although her face was covered in wrinkles, she seemed extremely benevolent. Her deep creases from smiling made her seem like she was constantly smiling. She held a white lotus in her hand, but it was close to withering away. Her gaze towards Hua Chengzan was so gentle too, like she was looking at her own son or grandson.
However, Hua Chengzan experienced an almost suffocating pressure. He turned mid-air and leapt backwards. A few people appeared beside him before he knew it. There were men and women, old and young, but they all smiled.
They were not sneering or smiling sinisterly, nor were they faking their smiles. Instead, it possessed joy from the bottom of their heart, as if everything in the world, no matter how insignificant, brought them delight.
A cold sensation filled his head, running all the way to the soles of his feet. He was familiar with all of these people apart from the old woman, having heard about them many times. The bounties on their heads were astronomical. The remaining Altar Lords of the White Lotus cult had all gathered here.
Qian Rongzhi bowed politely, “Disciple Qian Rongzhi welcomes the holy mother’s esteemed presence, the various Altar Lord’s presence.”
Hua Chengzan was shocked. Sure enough, the old woman was the White Lotus Mother, but wasn’t she rumored to be a middle-aged woman?
“Get up. There’s no need to dwell on these empty gestures. I still need to thank you for opening the door for me. I’ve made you take on quite the risk.”
“To share the holy mother’s burden is my responsibility.”
“His name is Hua Chengzan. He’s a Scarlet Wolf commander, and he’s a trusted subordinate of Gu Yanying.”
Only when she heard Gu Yanying’s name did the White Lotus Mother look at Hua Chengzan carefully. “You really are quite a rare handsome man. If I were a little younger, even I’d probably be interested. It truly is a waste for you to serve below that Gu Yanying who doesn’t know the wondrous essence of life.”
Hua Chengzan knew that he was probably done for this time. He smiled. “It’s just a pity that I don’t like old women.”
“Oh? Then what do you think about this?” The White Lotus Mother was not bothered by that. She underwent an alarming transformation. The wrinkles on her face smoothed out bit by bit as her withered lips gradually reddened. Even her grey hair had turned black, and her skin had become snow-white. In the blink of an eye, she had become a beautiful young woman. The white lotus in her hand seemed to rejuvenate too, returning to a state before it had bloomed.
The White Lotus Mother said with a clear voice that sounded like an oriole’s song, “Although I seem a little old sometimes, I’m still a person after all. Is he on the list too?”
Qian Rongzhi said, “Yes!”
“Then take him back. Enlighten him to the righteous cause and turn him into a member of the White Lotus cult!”
Before he could even see what the White Lotus Mother had done, Hua Chengzan collapsed on the ground helplessly. Although he was still conscious, he could not even move a single finger or mobilise a single shred of true qi.
A thought filled his head for no reason. Is this the difference that exists between me and her?
The White Lotus Mother left behind an Altar Lord to watch over the formation and directly made her way over to Contention island. The other Altar Lords ventured to the other schools and islands with their various cultists to gather resources and find people on the “list”.
This list had originated from Qian Rongzhi. It recorded all the talented disciples of the various schools.
The White Lotus cult had clashed numerous times with the Hawkwolf Guard. They had sustained heavy losses, and they had been labeled as a heretic cult too, so they were oppressed from all directions, almost to a point where they had run out of successors. The plan this time was for resolving this issue.
This “list” would replenish the White Lotus cult with new blood. In particular, tenth layer Qi Practitioners like Hua Chengzan just needed to be “enlightened to the righteous cause” and producing a few more Altar Lords would not be an issue.
As for the people who failed to make it onto the “list”, they would be cleansed of their sins and sent off to paradise.
Among the academy, the most battleworthy school leaders had all set out to kill Altar Lord Black Lotus. How could the remaining school leaders match the White Lotus Mother? Right from the beginning of the battle, victory was already guaranteed.
After hearing Altar Lord Black Lotus’s words, the various school masters were all stupefied as they hovered above Ancient Wind city. These outstanding disciples they had carefully chosen and nurtured slowly over time were exactly the most important aspect of the academy.
If anything happened to them, the entire Clear River prefecture would be drastically weakened. More terrifyingly, it was very likely for these people to become their future enemies. It was rumored that the White Lotus Mother could forcefully pour the doctrine of the cult into the minds of cultivators, turning them into comrades.
Wang Pushi finally understood the greatest miscalculation in his plan. If Qian Rongzhi had actually met the White Lotus Mother, then she would have been filled up with the cult’s doctrine too. Any of her free thought, such as her ability to weigh advantages against disadvantages, would no longer exist. Even if she were to die for the White Lotus Mother, she would be willing. The Altar Lord right before them was a living example.
The Altar Lord said, “Will you be rushing back to provide reinforcement, or will you be staying here to kill me? I hope you can decide soon. Being indecisive is not a good idea.”
“I’ll kill you wretch first!” The One Thought master let out a lion’s roar. His pewter staff exploded with light and struck towards Black Lotus.
In the courtyard within the bamboo forest, Hua Chengzan moved his lips with difficulty. He looked at Qian Rongzhi in confusion. “Why did you do this? Has the White Lotus cult really brainwashed you?”
“I’ve already said, I have no other choice.” Qian Rongzhi sighed. If it were possible, she would much rather remain on the lookout for opportunities and slowly strengthen herself instead of becoming involved in a dangerous struggle like this. Achieving success was not so easy. No matter how much a measly Qi Practitioner racked their brains, they still needed some luck to survive. However, she only ever took gambles where she was guaranteed to win. The thing she hated the most was luck.
Now, she had completed everything that she could do. All she was waiting for was the judgement of fate, as this time, she was not the chess player, but the chess piece, and a chess piece that could be controlled by both sides. The dangers and feeling of helplessness involved was so great that there was no point for her to tell anyone about it.
Now, all she could do was wait for the appearance of the other player.
A white shoe landed on the lotus heavily, even grinding it forcefully. The white lotus that even lightning could not shake had been immediately ground to dust.
The shoe was embroidered with beautiful, detailed silver lines, which twisted into a profound glyph. On the ground, Hua Chengzan recognised it with a single glance; it was an arcane artifact. He tried his best to look up.
There was a set of graceful, free-flowing white clothes embroidered with wings. Under the beams of sunlight, the person’s face was slightly blurred, but the smile formed by the corner of her lips would always remain so clear and give him such a lasting impression.
Qian Rongzhi immediately stood up. She bowed towards the owner of the shoes in a rather exhausted manner. “Subordinate Qian Rongzhi has been awaiting great commander’s arrival for quite some time now.”
Suddenly, Hua Chengzan understood everything. I see! After completing her trial mission, he followed the rules and brought her to the Ruyi commandery to see her. They had a private conversation. Everything must have originated from there!
The expression of the Altar Lord who had stayed behind changed drastically. Every single cultist of the White Lotus was far too familiar with this figure. She was basically on par with the White Lotus Mother herself. He immediately fled using a technique. In the blink of an eye, he had already arrived over three hundred meters away, pulling far away from the formation.
The jade folding fan suddenly unfurled, and she swung it casually.
The Altar Lord felt a slight breeze brush past him. He called out, “Holy mother, escape!” His body suddenly split into two.
The bamboo forest remained silent for quite a while before falling apart with a rustle. Looking from above, the neat shape of a fan had suddenly appeared in the forests of the island.
“White Lotus, it’s checkmate!”
The White Lotus Mother suddenly looked back. Light rushed towards the sky once again from the Cloudwisp island, and the Formation of Dragons and Snakes began to operate once more. She had entered this place after disabling the formation, but she was now trapped within the formation.
What was going on? Just which part went wrong? It was impossible for Qian Rongzhi to betray her after being filled up with the cult’s doctrine.
Gu Yanying patted Qian Rongzhi’s shoulder, showing her approval. Being able to remain true to themselves in the face of the White Lotus Mother’s Heart Cleansing Technique of Clear Ripple despite only being a Qi Practitioner was truly rare. She obviously had to make use of such a rare opportunity.
No one knew when, but a group of cultivators in white clothes appeared in the bamboo forest. They stood behind her, awaiting her command.
Like she was wielding a blade, she gently swung her finger.
The refreshing breeze stirred the lotus.
Ancient Wind city had been reduced to ruins, and the Qian estate had already been reduced to dust.
Only the pond which the black lotus had been planted in remained the same. The carp swam around leisurely in there as the pond reflected Li Qingshan’s expression of contemplation.
Li Qingshan stood beside the pond as thousands of thoughts filled his head.
The affairs of life were no different from chess, all within the control of those familiar with it.