"My fellow clansmen! It is not that I, Ye Zhantian, cling to my life and fear for my death. Our clan is an ancient family that has persisted for millennia even when many great powers had risen and fallen throughout history. In the past, the Ye Clan had, more than once, stood magnificently above all other clans, prestigious and unchallenged. Yet, look at the state of our clan now! The House of Yun openly debases and scorns us. And to twist the knife further, they pried our ancestral mining mountain from us like a savage who was right at home, while casually taunting us with the threat to ma.s.sacre every one of our kins, just so that the n.o.ble bloodline of the Ye will cease to exist!"
"I beseech you. Is it wise for us to play right into their hands? For the sake of our clan, our generations-to-come, and our future, the clear answer is a resounding no! We shall not let them walk over us. and we shall not allow them the satisfaction of getting under our skin as well. My people, please have faith in my judgment, and be patient. The Grand Martial Tournament of the Eighteen Houses of Lianyun will be in fifteen days, and once that is over, I swear that the House of Ye will gather every capable combatant in the clan, and we shall deliver our swiftest vengeance to the Yuns!"
Throughout the speech, Ye Zhantian's voice was broken and quivering, his tears forced back into his eyes.
"I agree with Ye Zhantian's decision," Ye Changxuan added. "We'll wait till the Grand Martial Tournament is over. Then, the House of Yun will know that their foul deeds shall not go unpunished!"
Convinced by their Chief and Former Chief, the Ye clansmen nodded despite having residues of their lividity and grievances still echo in their minds.
Ye Chen quickly scouted some vulneraries and started to patch up the clansmen's cuts to stop their bleeding. Yet, even after the Chief's decree, the clansmen remained in the hall, not showing any sign of leaving. Meanwhile, the other clansmen who had been absent from the spectacle before were starting to gather outside of the hall. It fell on Ye Meng and his clan-brothers to announce the Chief and Former Chief's decree to these new attendees.
After news of the House of Ye's mining mountain being forcefully seized by the Yun's broke out, every single one of the Ye clansmen had joined in the general mood of mournful fury. The mining mountain was one of the keepsakes from their ancestors, handed down generations to generations without fault. It was never treated as simply a mountain because it was emblematic of the financial standing of the family!
It took a long while before the furor died down. By then, the clansmen finally left in droves.
"Chen'er, over here." Noticing his son, Ye Zhantian waved and beckoned him to come to him.
Spying the signs of great torpor in his father's face, Ye Chen's heart sank.
Seeing the young man approaching his father, Ye Changxuan and the rest turned their attention to Ye Chen too. The young man hung his head before he confessed ruefully, "I'm so sorry, Father."
Ye Zhantian ruffled his son's hair affectionately. "What are you sorry for?"
"I… I was the one who killed them," Ye Chen answered frankly, an expression of guilt crossed his face.
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Prior to his confession, Ye Zhantian, Ye Changxuan and the rest had already wondered if Ye Chen was involved in the murder of Yun Laoliu. Still, they had good reasons to dismiss that suspicion. To them, Ye Chen was just a fighter at the peak of the Fifth Stage while his foes included Yun Laoliu, an Eighth Stage master who was aided by two Seventh and two Sixth Stage pugilists. How could the young man alone suffice in dealing with so many fighters simultaneously? However, Ye Chen's confession had confirmation their suspicion, and understandably, the seniors were very intrigued.
"Yun Laoliu was an Eighth Stage master, wasn't he? What could you have possibly done that was so effective, you even overcame such a large gap of power between the two of you?" A thousand thoughts were rapidly firing in Ye Zhantian's mind.
"I was lucky that I had my Explosive Seeds with me," Ye Chen replied with an expression of anger crossing his face at the thought of the event that had just transpired. "I truly did not expect Yun Yixuan to have leveraged it for the Yuns' crooked goal!"
The seniors had seen his Explosive Seeds in action. It packed as much a punch as a Ninth Stage fighter, but a mere tool would never be equivalent to a human fighter! In a real fight, a weapon would quickly meet the limits of its attack, especially when the fight involved an Eighth or Ninth Stage enemy. The reason why these pugilists were renowned as masters by the time they had attained advanced Celestial Chi Stages was not based on their innate powers alone. It was also because, by then, they would have become veterans, seasoned with firsthand experiences in combat.
There was simply no reason why an Eighth Stage fighter would have stood there, unflinching, and offered himself an easy target for Ye Chen. Instead, the Eighth Stage fighter would have quickly and easily evaded any projectile through their agility! Perhaps Yun Laoliu had been acting recklessly at that moment, and Ye Chen's success was just a very fortunate fluke.
"Chen'er, do you know what your mistake was?" Ye Zhantian stared pointedly at Ye Chen, but his voice was devoid of any blame.
Ye Chen lowered his head. "I shouldn't have killed Yun Laoliu."
The Chief shook his head. "Oh no, you should kill Yun Laoliu. Killing him has greatly enfeebled the House of Yun's forces, which greatly leverages our chances. So not only are you completely guiltless, but you should also be merited for such valor."
"But because of his death, the Yun's has forcefully annexed our ancestral mining mountain as compensation," Ye Chen protested ruefully, looking at his father.
"Don't be naïve. Even without Yun Laoliu's death, these ruffians would still frame whatever issue at hand to further that goal. The mining mountain had been the target of their avarice for years, you see. So in a way, this was but an inevitable result," Ye Zhantian replied rea.s.suringly. The young man's moroseness was not lost on him, and so he had made effort to allay his son's feeling of guilt. "Son, your fault lies in not paying heed to family rules! Or more specifically, you broke our rules by sneaking out of the Castle late at night. You're fortunate that you weren't hurt or are in any serious peril. What would've happened if you chanced upon even stronger enemies, or even became a target of an ambush? Promise me that you'll never do something so heedless again!"
Ye Chen nodded docilely. "Understood, Father." He was touched that his father's consternation was, quite unexpectedly, on his wellbeing. On the other hand, his father's point of concern did reaffirm Ye Chen's decision to not mention that his midnight stroll had also include traveling deep into the restricted area of Lianyun Mountains. If Ye Zhantian knew about this, he would probably fly into a fit of rage rather than being this calm. Either way, Ye Chen decided to never divulge on Little Tanuki's background to his father.
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'If Chen managed to win against a formidable foe such as Yun Laoliu,' Ye Zhantian mused quietly, 'then he should be more than capable of protecting himself, especially if he stayed away from peak-Eighth Stage and Ninth Stage fighters in general.'
Ye Chen wished he could tell them that he had made his revision on some parts of the cultivation method, such that practicing Shadow Storm Talon would no longer yield these aforementioned banes. Yet, he was struggling with his words. Ye Chen had always regarded his father with a mix of respect and fear, possibly because Ye Zhantian had exuded a mighty and domineering countenance as the Chief.
"I say, we destroy this Shadow Storm Talon for the sake of our clan," Ye Zhantian remarked as his fingers clutched on the edge of the book — a sign of tearing the book into pieces.
"N-not so fast, Father!" Ye Chen blurted out frantically. Since he had made revisions, the martial technique had been upgraded to at least the third rank or above. It would be a tremendous waste for the clan to destroy it now!
"What is it?" Ye Zhantian fixed his son a questioning look.
"I read a little on the discourse," Ye Chen eyed his father's expression worriedly. Seeing that Ye Zhantian did not immediately launch into a fit of rage, he continued, "There were some faults in the cultivation method of Shadow Storm Talon, you see. For example, in one part, it says to revolve your Celestial Chi in the opposite direction through the Taiyang. But doing that for a long period of time ferments both tempestuous tantrums and bloodl.u.s.t in the pract.i.tioner. So, I made some changes to it so that it would no longer bear those harms."
Ye Changxuan, Ye Zhantian and the rest shot glances at each other. If Ye Chen was right, then the Ye clan could stand to preserve a third rank family martial technique like the Shadow Storm Talon after all. Though more pressingly, did Ye Chen just admit to amending martial techniques?
For centuries, only the most gifted member of the family could ever do that. Even so, all of them had only attempted so after they had attained the Ninth Stage or even the Tenth Stage!
Had these words came out from someone else in the younger cohorts, not only would they dismiss the veracity of his claim, they would even treat it as complete hogwash. However, they would not do so on Ye Chen's case, simply because the child had done so while being guided by the Ye clan's ancestral spirits!
Ye Zhantian flipped the book open and immediately noticed that there were, indeed, marks all over the pages. All of them were in his son's handwriting.
"I'm going to study this with your uncles and granduncle at my place. So before we make any definitive conclusion, please do not learn this technique on your own, understood?" Ye Zhantian warned.
Ye Chen wished he could boast to his father that not only had he mastered the technique, he even changed its elemental effect and turned it into Gale Storm Talon instead. However, the words never left his lips. No one in their right mind would have believed that one could possibly master a third-ranked martial technique in a single night. That very suggestion would stump everyone!
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