Li Qiye came out of the hall and sat on a stone step to gaze at the vast sea and its unrestrained waves while the soft breeze blew. This went on quietly for some time.
Zhang Baitu didn’t know Li Qiye’s origin. In his eyes, the youth was too mysterious and simply impossible to speculate.
Zhang Baitu couldn’t help but ask: “Young Noble, where did you come from?”
“From where I should.” Li Qiye looked over at Zhang Baitu and said: “I see that your cultivation is needlessly complex and unrefined. There’s your own clan’s merit law, then there are the incantations from the sea demons and internal strengthening from the treants. This is very chaotic, so your blood energy isn’t flowing well.”
Zhang Baitu was surprised after hearing this. Li Qiye being able to see through him despite being so young made him feel quite dejected.
“After the seniors left, I couldn’t learn a lot beyond the elementary basics, so I had to go outside to find teachers. I joined many sects but failed to make much progress and had to return to the Hundred-Saints Hall in hopes of being able to live the rest of my life here like a falling leaf returning to its roots.” A great sadness was expressed by his eyes; there were too many words he wanted to say, but he kept it brief.
So it turned out that after the seniors of his clan passed away, he couldn’t learn the remaining merit laws as they were missing.
He wasn’t willing to give up, so he left his home to find masters. Who knows if it was due to his own inability or some other reasons? Either way, this search didn’t go smoothly.
In this process, he learned very slowly, and the same went for his cultivation. In fact, “very slow” wasn’t enough to describe his cultivation, “as slow as a snail’s pace” was a more appropriate analogy.
It was slow to the point where the sects he had joined agreed to let him leave. Sometimes he even left of his own volition.
For many sects, there was no leaving after joining. However, there was no cure for Zhang Baitu’s cultivation speed. To put it bluntly, even if he didn’t want to leave, they would want him to leave eventually. Having such a disciple was simply losing face.
Just like this, he joined one sect after another but amounted to nothing. He eventually joined too many sects in the Dragon Demon Sea and became quite well-known. Everyone called him Zhang Baitu. It referred to him being the disciple of too many sects. No one even remembered his real name. 1
In the end, he helplessly spoke with a dejected expression: “It is because I am too stupid and have an inferior constitution. I have let down my masters and seniors; I’m even weaker than a new disciple even after a lifetime of cultivation.”
He lamented with a sigh after saying this and felt despair. In the beginning, he thought that it was because he didn’t have a suitable merit law or a teacher. As time went on and he suffered many successive failures, he lost all confidence and began to consider himself stupid and unsuitable for cultivation. So in this way, he returned to his home, the Hundred-Saints Hall, to live out the rest of his life.
He mumbled to himself: “Maybe I was not meant to be a part of this world. I was born a mortal, why the need to enter the cultivation world?”
After joining so many sects and cultivating so many laws, he couldn’t blame anyone but himself.
Li Qiye looked at him and lightly said: “It is not that your constitution and talents are lacking nor is it due to your stupidity. All things in life have a cause and effect. It is just that you haven’t found your own karma yet.”
Zhang Baitu smiled bitterly and replied: “There’s no need to comfort me, Young Noble. Some seniors have told me the same thing. If it really isn’t due to my own constitution, then why haven’t I made a half-step of progress?”
From his perspective, Li Qiye was only comforting him with the same words he had heard many times before from the nice seniors of the other sects.
Li Qiye nonchalantly shook his head: “A child of the Zhang Clan is different after all. It will be fine if you cultivate your clan’s merit law.”
“Our own merit law?” Zhang Baitu’s surprise quickly turned into curiosity as he asked: “Young Noble, do you know our clan’s merit law?”
In fact, he was very interested because Li Qiye was able to open the wooden doors of the hall, something that no one else had ever done before. Thus, he suspected that Li Qiye was a legendary saint.
Of course, he didn’t know what a saint or sage was. They were only figures of the old tales after all. Despite all the rumors about the Hundred-Saints Hall being protected by the wise sages of the nine heavens and ten earths, the descendants of the three clans had never seen any of them before.
Li Qiye faintly smiled and replied: “If you want your clan’s lost merit laws, then just go back to Dongting Lake. In the past, the Hong, Zhang, and Xu Clans should have had some treasures. Perhaps you can find your laws there.”
Zhang Baitu slightly opened his mouth but ultimately refrained from saying anything and only sighed.
Li Qiye asked: “Could it be that Dongting Lake has been snubbing your Zhang Clan?”
Zhang Baitu paused for a moment before answering: “I don’t know much about the business of the elders, but the lake does care about me. They don’t try to push me away.”
“It is you who doesn’t want to go back.” Li Qiye understood his pride right away.
Zhang Baitu didn’t answer.
Li Qiye went on: “Let the past disappear. Your ancestors’ power struggle is ancient history. The Xu, Hong, and Zhang Clans once fought together; friends to the death, friends on the battlefield. They never gave up on each other even in the most brutal of times. Even if it was blood for blood, they would still support each other to live on…
“As the descendants, all of you are indeed unworthy. Excluding each other just for a little power using treachery and deceit — this is simply throwing away all your ancestors’ face and tarnishing their great friendships.”
Li Qiye stopped for a moment at this point: “After so many years, those who competed for power are probably no longer there. It is time for you all to come back and mutually support each other as a big, interdependent family again. Only in this way will your Dongting Lake be able to survive in the future.”
Li Qiye would rarely give out advice in such a well-meaningful manner to outsiders. This was indicative of his respect for the ancestors of the three clans.
Zhang Baitu had no response. As a descendant, he wasn’t in a position to comment on his ancestors’ business. Perhaps he was feeling a bit resentful as well.
“The people from the Zhang Clan are always a bit too proud.” Li Qiye just smiled since he understood Zhang Baitu’s feelings.
He continued on: “You might be angry and unhappy with the Hong Clan pushing your ancestors away from Dongting Lake. The Zhang Clan was one of the founding families, so this feeling of indignation is unavoidable.”
“I don’t know.” Zhang Baitu spoke: “Dongting Lake has no ill-will towards me, as far as my generation is concerned. I don’t know much about the conflicts back then, only that after leaving, my ancestors didn’t want to return to the lake. They settled here instead, and this has been our home ever since.”
“A thousand years of anger… it is time to let it go.” Li Qiye only grinned. He didn’t know much about the power grab between these descendants since he couldn’t bother finding out about this rotten business.
Nevertheless, he still hoped that these descendants could come together some day. These clans used to coexist and not one piece could be missing. Only through unity would the lake be able to survive in the future.
“When I was younger, this resentment was more or less already there.” Zhang Baitu smiled wryly and sighed: “But now, I am closer to the earth than the sky, so I don’t care too much about unnecessary things. All of this no longer matters. The enmity between the ancestors, just let it go; right and wrong is already in the past.” 2
After personally uttering these words, he felt quite relaxed. The enmity between their clans should disperse like smoke.
During those years, their Zhang Clan was pushed away from the central power of the lake. Their ancestors furiously moved out and decided to guard the Hundred-Saints Hall instead and cut all ties with the lake. Because of this, the Zhang descendants harbored resentment for many generations and didn’t want anything to do with the Hong and Xu Clans.
Li Qiye glanced at the old man and said: “It is good to think this way. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. One day, you will be able to laugh while thinking of these old grudges.”
“Crash!” At this time, the water started to splash violently as more than one hundred Ironscale cultivators rode the waves to come closer.
“Not good, the Ironscale Schoolmaster is here in person.” Zhang Baitu’s expression quickly changed after seeing these wave-riding experts. He didn’t think that the school would come so fast. Moreover, the schoolmaster and the elders came in person.
1. Baitu = Hundred-Disciple. 2. Closer to the earth than the sky means close to death.