Chapter 206: Shifting Tides
After a long conversation between Zhang and Holy Son Shan Li in regards to the destruction of the Golden Pearl Sect, a pact was signed and news was sent back to the Starry Sea Sect’s headquarters.
Despite failing his trial by fire, Shan Li was not punished, rather he would be rewarded upon returning home thanks to the fact that he and Zhang had wiped out a large portion of the Golden Pearl Sect’s forces.
In other words, he made up for his failure through success.
Of course, Zhang still kept his guard up in regards to the matter of the Ascending Beauty Painting. Although he had made sure to tell Shan Li quite a few times that he did not have the painting in his possession, Zhang knew deep down that the pact between their two forces was only temporary.
Once the Golden Pearl Sect was out of the picture and there wasn't a mutual enemy anymore, he was certain that the Starry Sea Sect would attempt to get rid of him also.
Thus Zhang had arrived at a crossroads, he could either prepare to annihilate the Starry Sea Sect before they could do him in or he could try to his utmost ability to befriend them and make their pact a lasting one.
“Regardless of what path I choose, I can only hope that in the end, they remain by my side, safe and sound.” Zhang thought as he glanced over at the beauties, who were currently sleeping soundly on a large bed, from his desk.
“If I play my cards right I might be able to also get my hands on another piece of that painting. If it really does possess the powers that the legend states, then I'll be able to grow exponentially strong and then no one will be able to threaten my love being.” Zhang also thought as his hand stroked the back of a certain fur ball that was curled up in his lap.
With a mind full of thoughts, worries, and dreams, Zhang sat quietly while petting Little White as he tried to plot the best possible route for the beauties and himself to take. A path that would not only ensure their safety but also help them grow strong.
Since in but a dozen or so hours, a coalition force made up of the forces of the Blood Coral Cove and Starry Sea Sect would set out and begin to occupy various settlements, islands, and cities within the territory of the Golden Pearl Sect, Zhang had to plan accordingly.
His biggest concern was the fact that the Golden Pearl Sect had a high saint amongst their ranks. Although Shan Li had promised that the Starry Sea Sect would send a high saint of their own, Zhang was still unsure of how things would play out.
“I have to figure a way to deter them from possibly turning their blades at me after they deal with the Golden Pearl Sect.” Zhang thought as one plan after the other began to take form in his mind.
“If only the Dragon God Palace had sent reinforcements, if they did then I could use them to keep the Starry Sea Sect from attacking me…” Zhang thought after a long silence as he suddenly thought about Lord Long Feng, who had not taken part in the battle that had occurred earlier in the day.
“In the end, neither he nor the Dragon God Palace can be trusted either… In the end, everyone is only looking out for themselves.” Zhang concluded as a new day began and the night came to an end. Of course, since he was currently located within the Blood Coral Castle, deep underneath the churning waves above, there was no rising sun or setting moon.
With the start of a new day, the forces of the Blood Coral Cove and Starry Sea Sect began to amass outside of the city with their respective leaders leading them.
Together, Zhang and Shan Li headed toward the territories controlled by the Golden Pearl Sect with eyes filled with anticipation and hearts brimming with fire.
These two young men were out to carve a path covered in blood. On one hand, Shan Li was hoping to prove himself to his master who was also his father, Zhang was hoping to solidify his power amongst the forces who governed the seas.
With countless possibilities ahead of them, Zhang, the beauties and Shan Li sped away from the Blood Coral Cove.
In an instant a few days soon passed by and as the coalition continued to near the outer ring of the Golden Pearl Sect’s influence, news of Holy Son Hui Ying’s death had been spread far and wide.
Atop of Hui Ying’s death, every respective force had also been alerted of the annihilation of nearly half of the Golden Pearl Sect’s forces at the hand of Zhang and Shan Li.
While many were taken aback by how quickly things had transpired ever since Zhang had become the new ruler of the Blood Coral Cove, others were filled with a mixture of newfound respect, intrigue, fear, and anticipation.
It was the first time in countless years that one of the top twenty forces that governed the sea could possibly disappear.
For some, after hundreds of years of peace and boredom, something interesting was finally occurring, while for others the thought of being dethroned sent a shiver down their spines. But nonetheless, no one was more caught up in the current situation then the Golden Pearl Sect.
At first when receiving news of Hui Ying’s death along with the deaths of all of the Saint level experts and many disciples that had accompanied him, when their Soul Bound Jade Slips shattered, the leaders of the Golden Pearl Sect were still able to keep calm.
It was because they had thought that the Blood Coral Cove must have suffered many more casualties and losses then they had. So even if they lost nearly half of their combat power, as long as they maintained their alliance with the Starry Sea Sect, no one would dare to cause them trouble.
However, upon learning about what had actually happened, a frenzy of hysteria swept through their ranks. From the proud and prestigious sect master to the grandest of elders all the day to the most insignificant of disciples, everyone apart of the Golden Pearl Sect was shaken to their very core.
Due to Hui Ying's failed plot, not only was the Blood Coral Cove not burnt to ashes and swept away by the raging waves of the sea, but it had joined forces with the Starry Sea Sect.
“That little bastard didn't listen to my warning and not only ended up dying but dragged us into such a horrid state…” The master of the Golden Pearl Sect cursed as a stream of reports began arriving about the coalition force that was inbound.
These reports soon turned into devastating news as Zhang and Shan Li arrived at a small out of the way outpost located in the far reaches of the Golden Pearl Sect’s influence. An outpost located on an island that many called, Razor Clam Island.
Geographically, Razor Clam Island was located not too far from a chain of islands on the very rim of the territory controlled by the Golden Pearl Sect.
Despite how far and out of the way, Razor Clam Island was from the Golden Pearl Sect’s headquarters and any of its large cities or strategical locations, it held a hidden importance that few other places held.
“All forces prepare to move in and occupy the island!” Shan Li said as the moon shone down from above, revealing hundreds of thousands of faces that had been hidden within the waves.
“Have some of your men take the east and I'll have some mine take the west. Let's avoid having to spill blood if we can. Whoever can make it inside without alerting by the enemy of their presence until they are able to subdue the person in charge of it will get ownership of this chain of islands.” Zhang said to Shan Li as his head poked out of the water’s surface while his gaze was focused upon a fortress that occupied that entire circumference of Razor Clam Island.
With a nod from Shan Li, two small teams were formed and made their way onto the shores of the island, unbeknownst to its inhabitants.
Despite the hundreds of guards atop the walls, luminous torches and the bright rays of the moon, like formless apparitions, the members of the coalition force were able to avoid detection as they headed toward the fortress.
“Honey, if you'll do the honors.” Zhang whispered to Ling who replied with a nod before channeling the essence around her and manipulating the seawater around the island and turning it into a dense tsunami of fog that instantly cloaked the entire island.
Many may wonder why Zhang, the beauties m and Shan Li were going through all of the trouble of being stealthy when they could easily storm into the fortress directly with little resistance. But the answer was obvious, by sneaking in and neutralizing whoever was in control of the fortress, they would thus avoid having to kill a large portion or all of the island's inhabitants.
Since in the end, they would still need people to man the fortress after it falls under their control. If they were to kill all of the island’s inhabitants then they would have to leave behind a number of their subordinates to occupy it, rather than forcing the inhabitants into submission and having to only leave a few people behind to look over them.
As the wall of fog blocked all vision and blinded all of the fortress’s guards, Zhang, and the beauties along with a group of their subordinates leaped onto the top of the fortress walls.
Sneaking past the guards, maids and staff that worked within the fortress, without leaving a single trace of their presence, Zhang and all those who had come with him, quickly honed in on the location of the strongest cultivator within the fortress.
“Only a lesser saint, a small group of level ten cultivators, a dozen or so level six cultivators, and the rest are commoners.” Yuying said in a whisper as she and the others arrived in front of a large hall in the center of the fortress.
“Brother so if I catch him first then this island is mine?” Ai asked jokingly as she began to roll up her long sleeves.
“If you can catch him then you can have this island. I'm not sure what you'd do with it but sure.” Zhang said softly with a chuckle as he imagined what it would be like to live on an island governed by Ai.
“An island of randomness.” Zhang thought as he and the beauties proceeded to peer into the hall through a thin gap between a pair of large gates.
The inside of the hall was an extravagant view, littered with golden furniture, marble floors, and art embedded with beautiful gems.
There was also a middle-aged man sitting on a silver throne, roughly ten level ten cultivators split into two rows standing beside the middle-aged man, two rows of level six cultivators dressed in matching attire standing guard along the walls of the hall before them was a large group of young women and men bound by ropes and chains.
“Lord Cheng Huang, it seems, this time, the shipment of slaves we received is brimming with ripe bids for the picking.” One of the level ten cultivators who was dressed in long flowing robes said as he kicked his lips while eyeing a few of the young women bound by ropes.
“Those islanders sure know how to pick them.” Another level ten cultivator said with a hearty laugh.
“My lord, shall we send these women to your chambers? As for the men, shall send have them sent to the Essence Stone Mines?” Yet another level ten cultivator said.
Upon hearing the words that came out of the mouths of these level ten cultivators, Zhang’s eyes gleamed with interest.
“Essence Stone Mines? Could they mean, Dragon Vein vents?” Zhang wondered as he recalled the time he harvested thousands of essence stones from the various Dragon’s Veins scattered throughout the warring states region.
With still gleaming eyes, Zhang signaled to Ai had an equally excited look on her face.
“Each of you can pick one of your likings, as for the men, send them to the mines. This year the tribute we have to send to the main sect will be double what we had sent last year due to the death of Holy Son Hui Ying and the loss of so many of our sect’s main forces. So afterward go and round up a few more able men from the villages because even with this group we will still be short-handed down there. Make sure to keep an eye out for those things also...” The lesser Saint referred to as Lord Cheng Huang said as his eyes scanned the faces of each of the young women who were bound before him.
“Also double the number of guards, although I doubt those bastards from the Blood Coral Cove and Starry Sea Sect will come here but if they do I want to be alerted.” Lord Cheng Huang added.
“Thank you, for your grace my lord. We will be sure to carry out your orders as quickly as possible.” All of the level ten cultivators said in unison as they proceeded to all toward the group of tied up men and women with a lecherous gaze.
Seeing the looks and gestures the level ten cultivators were making, many of the young women became utterly fear stricken. However, none of them attempted to scream for help or break free of their bindings because regardless of whatever they did, there was nowhere for them to go.
The surrounding islands were all under the control of Lord Cheng Huang, and the Golden Pearl Sect. Also to begin with all of the people present today bound in chains and rope had been offered to Lord Cheng by their respective villages.
Thus without anywhere to go, everyone gritted their teeth, swallowed their anger and resigned to their fates.
However, a certain event would unfold in the not too distant future that would change the lives of every single person on Razor Clam Island and the surrounding islands forever.
Before any of the lecherous level, ten cultivators who were treated like gods by the islanders could even trace their hands through the hair of the ping maidens tied up in front of them, a deafening bang rang into their ears.