Li Qiye noticed Hong Tianzhu’s awkward demeanor and flatly said: “I understand now. You no longer have the contract from back then! It was written by the ancestors from the Zhang Clan, so their withdrawal cut off the alliance between you and the Exquisite Valley!”
“How do you know that?!” Hong Tianzhu was shocked to hear this. This was a story so ancient that even their lake had almost forgotten about it.
Hong Tianzhu wouldn’t have recalled this matter if Li Qiye didn’t bring up working together with the Exquisite Valley. Even juniors from the lake didn’t know about this contract, let alone outsiders.
Li Qiye didn’t answer his question directly: “After severing this contract, your lake’s descendants didn’t have the ability to form another one. In the end, the valley stopped caring about your lake.”
Hong Tianzhu’s old face became a bit hot. He coughed and said: “I, I won’t deny that. Dongting Lake is indeed inferior compared to the past. We descendants have not done well, so the lake isn’t strong like before. This inevitably made others underestimate us.”
Hong Tianzhu sighed after saying this. Suddenly, he felt as if he was one generation below Li Qiye in the hierarchy.
Li Qiye sighed as well and stared at Hong Tianzhu. He couldn’t give up on him, so he pointed the way for him: “The valley didn’t ignore you because of the decline. Even though the Zhang ancestors were the ones who signed the contract, the Hong and Xu ancestors were most likely involved in passing it down as well.”
“Take a moment to reflect on what your lake has become. The clans are distancing themselves from each other, and all of you have long forgotten the teachings of your ancestors. Today, one clan will be on top, tomorrow, another will take its place. Everything has become such a mess with a total failure to comply with your legacy’s own teachings.”
Li Qiye paused before continuing: “With this abandonment, your sect has become chaotic. All of its energy and resources are consumed by internal conflicts, do you feel that your lake can still be powerful under these conditions?”
Hong Tianzhu was a bit tongue-tied after hearing this.
“The lake was built upon the labor of all three clans. Without this system that was fortified by an agreement, your group is nothing more than a bunch of stray dogs competing for a piece of meat! Think about it, the continuous changes in leadership in such a capricious manner rendered the entire system useless. Do you think the valley would want to be involved with your lake under these circumstances? Each of your clans has their own agenda while lacking the will to carry out a strategy that will benefit the entire lake as a whole.”
“I…” Hong Tianzhu didn’t know how to respond.
Li Qiye gently sighed: “It is not impossible to form an alliance with the Exquisite Valley. The descendants of your clans need to sit down. Let go of what should be abandoned, do what must be done, follow your lineage’s old teachings and become a solidary whole once more. Repent and more opportunities shall arise.”
“Well…” Hong Tianzhu hesitated. He didn’t know why Li Qiye knew so many things about them, but he was taking Li Qiye much more seriously.
He eventually said: “Young Noble, this isn’t that simple. Even if I want to reform the union, the other ancestors might not necessarily agree. Moreover, the clans themselves might not be willing to follow the ancestral teachings again.”
Hong Tianzhu’s remark was not unreasonable. After all, who would be willing to give up their power after being in charge? This was simply asking for the impossible.
No one could withstand the temptation of power. This was precisely the reason why several generations later, the lake abandoned their teachings and contended over resources and authority. This led to the chaos in the lake and, not long after this, many long-term agreements could no longer be sustained.
Li Qiye nonchalantly replied: “Let the souls of your ancestors decide in accordance with their ironclad teachings. Kill those who dare to disobey without showing mercy.”
Hong Tianzhu was dazed after hearing this. It sounded like a joke, but he didn’t dare to say it.
The souls of the ancestors were an intangible and spiritual matter. It was only a way of commemorating the ancestors and their glorious achievements.
It was impossible to seek these spirits and ask for their arbitration. Who would listen to such an ethereal idea?
“It seems like you all don’t even know what you have lost.” Li Qiye shook his head and said: “After abandoning your union and contract, even the ancestors have been forgotten. It’s no wonder why the valley looks down on your lake. It has thrown away all of its ancestors’ prestige and even the most precious inheritance they left behind. Why would the valley care about you?”
“You think that the Hundred-Saints Hall is storing treasures, right?” Li Qiye coldly stared at Hong Tianzhu.
Hong Tianzhu became quite embarrassed. Some of their ancestors did think that the hall stored treasures. Some of them had even tried to open it to no avail.
Li Qiye felt a bit helpless at these descendants and told Hong Tianzhu: “Then let me ask you, has your lake been worshiping the souls of the ancestors and the lake itself?”
“Well…” Hong Tianzhu coughed awkwardly and couldn’t say anything for a long time.
The frustrated Li Qiye shook his head and said: “I don’t know what to say regarding your stupidity. If I was your ancestor, I would surely strangle you group of fools with only power in your eyes!”
“Do you actually think that you have been able to defend Dongting Lake because it has a superb defensive terrain with your insignificant strength? Don’t you know how important this treasure ground is? Your ancestors expended countless efforts in order to obtain it. In the Dragon Demon Sea, all of the great lineages like the Seven Martial Pavilion, the Roaring Conch, and the Dream Empyrean could easily destroy the lake whenever they want!”
He went on to say: “Do you think defending the lake is to your group’s credit? To put it bluntly, the Dream Empyrean’s Meng Zhentian can easily annihilate you all by himself, so why is it that none of them have maneuvered against the lake? Is it because of your few contemporary ancestors? Haha, in the eyes of others, these ancestors are no different from insects.
“The real reason why your lake has survived till now is due to the souls of your ancestors protecting everyone. Because of them, your enemies do not dare to act recklessly! Without their protection, within this Dragon Demon Sea where the sea demons reign supreme, you ants would have been treated like fat pieces of meat and torn asunder by a group of bloodthirsty sharks!”
He snorted sarcastically as he finished his monologue: “But today, you have forgotten about their souls! To actually not be performing the lake ceremony as well as worshipping your ancestors… how ridiculous!”
Hong Tianzhu stood there murmuring to himself: “The souls of the ancestors…?”
Li Qiye gently shook his head again with frustration: “You can’t be thinking that their souls are just an intangible concept?”
Hong Tianzhu smiled wryly and had no response again. Hong Yujiao, sitting to the side, couldn’t comment either because she didn’t know about the souls of the ancestors. As for the teachings and contract, she wasn’t privy to them either. Many of the current elders in the lake didn’t want to mention them.
Of course, it was their direct ancestors who chose to abandon these rules in favor of power; they naturally wouldn’t want to bring it up again.
Hong Tianzhu mustered up his courage and asked after some musing: “Young Noble, if we were to let the souls of the ancestors make the decision, how do we go about it?”
“Do you really have the determination?” Li Qiye looked at him and said: “Right now, your Hong Clan has a lot of power at the lake and the Xu also have several docks, right? The poorest among the clans is the Zhang, they don’t even have a place to stay despite the lake being so large.”
Hong Tianzhu didn’t know too much about the power struggle back then either, but he had heard a few things about it. Even though the Zhang ancestors lost, they still had one dock remaining out of the eighteen. However, these ancestors were furious at that time and chose to leave Dongting Lake. The rest of them then divided the Zhang Clan’s assets; this wasn’t a proud event at all.
Li Qiye nonchalantly looked at him and said: “Will your Hong Clan be willing to give up your power and resources?”
Hong Tianzhu eventually answered: “I don’t know what the ancestors will say, but you are right, our lake is indeed in disarray due to the power struggles. We only do what we want, so many of our covenants and pacts with others can’t be implemented. If this keeps up, the lake will be even more fragmented and become weaker.”
“I understand after listening to you today.” He gently sighed: “We must be the ones to reshape the order of the lake. Otherwise, no one will respect us.”
As the master of the lake, he understood that many of their current agreements couldn’t be carried out at all.