Chapter 219: Breaking the Cycle
With the arrival of the Dragon God Palace and the appearance of the eight massive Ice Dragons, all forms of battle ceased and everyone began to separate from each other, regrouping with their comrades as a wave of murmur arose.
While many had expressions of dread and dismay, Zhang had a wide grin plastered on his face, now that the Dragon God Palace had shown itself, Zhang’s chances of survival had greatly increased.
Some may wonder how the arrival of a hidden enemy would up Zhang’s chances of salvation and the answer would be simple, now that the Dragon God Palace had been lured out from the shadows before the battlefield was truly littered with corpses and all of the forces present had suffered a massive blow, before everyone expended all of their strength fighting each other, before their numbers diminished to the point where resisting the Dragon God Palace was futile, if Zhang could rally together everyone present then he could strike a bargain with this enemy that would be otherwise unbeatable.
“Damn the Dragon God Palace…” Yu Xiang cursed after receiving Zhang’s transmission through his divine sense while countless soldiers clad in blue colored scale armor, and thousands of people dressed in long flowing black robes, shot out from the depths of the sea and formed a large ring around what had been a battlefield moments ago.
“I take it you guys have come for these?” Zhang asked in a loud projected voice as he held up three seemingly normal looking ripped pieces of paper, one with the image of what appeared to be a part of a woman’s dress, one with what appeared to be a lake and another that showed what appeared to be a part of a mountain. Overall with these three pieces alone one would not be able to make out what the entire painting was about.
“If you know what it is that we have come here for then obediently hand over those three pieces of the painting.” Lord Long Zhiming said in a haughty tone while reaching his hand out, gesturing for Zhang to hand over the pieces of the Ascending Beauty Painting.
“Good… Good… I’m glad we didn’t need to go back and forth and spout a bunch of rubbish before you admit your objective. I admire straightforward people like that.” Zhang said with a smile.
“I’ll be straightforward also… What assurances do I get for handing over these to you? What is to say once I give you what you want, you won’t just kill me and everyone else here? Also, of the eight pieces of the painting, I only have three, which wouldn’t do you any good. As the strongest force in the Eastern Sea, why do you need to the painting? Perhaps you’re going to strengthen your forces and claim the sea for yourselves like the Sea Beast Sect had once done. I mean why else would you set up my Blood Coral Cove against the Starry Sea Sect and Golden Pearl Sect from behind the scenes...” Zhang said, underlyingly placing doubt and fear into the hearts of the other people present, regardless of whether they had a piece of the Ascending Beauty Painting in their possession or not, upon hearing Zhang mention the Sea Beast Sect’s past ambitions, a hint of doubt was planted into everyone’s minds.
“The Dragon God Palace wishes to revive the Sea Beast Sect?” Someone murmured.
“Aren’t they powerful enough? Why do they want the Ascending Beauty Painting?” Another person thought.
“If what he says is true then the Eastern Sea will be cloaked in chaos once again…” Someone else mumble.
“Does that mean the current rulers of the Dragon God Palace are going against the wishes of their creator and attempting to subdue the Eastern Sea for themselves?”
“Maybe they were pretending to be a neutral force this entire time and building up power to kill us all.”
“It can't be! Don't believe his lies!” A few yelled as they refused to believe the Dragon God Palace was anything but good.
“Those bastards… To think I looked up to them…” A young man said while biting his lip.
“Lies!!! Absolute rubbish! The palace had always sought to ensure peace throughout the Eastern Sea, do not believe his lies!!” An elderly man roared angrily.
The seeds of doubt that Zhang had planted began to sprout and grow until the noble and majestic image that the Dragon God Palace had built over the years began to crumble in the hearts of some of the Cultivators present. While in the hearts of others, the prestige and noble image that had been built by the Dragon God Palace over the last few hundred years had remained unshaken.
Simply said, something that had been ingrained into the minds of all of the practitioners of the Eastern Sea for hundreds of years was very hard to change.
“Claiming the Eastern Sea for ourselves? Sea Beast Sect? Pitting you against the Golden Pearl Sect and the Starry Sea Sect? Ha, what a vivid imagination you have.” Lord Long Zhiming said with a laugh, denying Zhang’s accusations. Even if everything Zhang said was true, there was no way Lord Long Zhiming would acknowledge it as so.
To admit to wishing to claim the entire Eastern Sea for one’s self and associating with the Sea Beast Sect was an extreme taboo that would be the same as publicly declaring war on all of the other forces of the sea.
Regardless of how powerful the Dragon God Palace is currently, without an extreme expert like the master of the Sea Beast Sect or someone like Long Shijie to back them, going against all of the other forces of the Eastern Sea at the same time would only spell demise.
“Then please enlighten me as to why you wish to assemble the painting?” Zhang asked, hoping to lead Long Zhiming into a verbal trap.
“The palace simply wishes to gather all of the pieces of the painting in order to use it to locate the vast inheritance left by our sect’s founder and on top of things help further the cultivation of our disciples. Isn’t it the goal of every sect to help further the strength of their disciples?” Lord Long Zhiming said with a smile.
“Vast inheritance you say… How about we strike a deal? I had over my pieces of the painting, and anyone else who happens to have a piece of the painting will hand over theirs as well and we all can go look for this vast inheritance together. I’ll take a measly ten percent of everything we happen to find and in the end, you can keep the painting. This way we won’t have to fight and no blood needs to be spilled. You’ll get to maintain the great imagine that you’ve built for yourselves and reach your goal without having to suffer any losses.” Zhang said in a reasonable tone.
“Or I can simply burn these pieces of paper and we can fight to the death. I assure you if I’m going down, I’ll be sure to take as many of you together with me as possible.” Zhang said as he casually waved the Rising Moon Sword once and created a large singularity near where the eight massive Ice Dragons were, causing an intense suction force to act upon them and making the eight dragons slam into each other as they released pained wails while their snakelike bodies were completely dragged up from the sea.
“This guy is crazy… To threaten the Dragon God Palace…” A large number of people murmured as they witnessed Zhang’s unthinkable behavior.
“I agree with this young lad; our Golden Pearl Sect is also willing to hand over our piece of the Ascending Beauty Painting if we are promised a portion of this vast inheritance left behind by Master Long Shijie.” The ancestral master of the Golden Pearl Sect, Yu Xui, said as he arrived beside Zhang, obviously stating that he had no intention of pursuing what had happened to Holy Son Hui Ying or intended to battle against the forces of the Blood Coral Cove and Starry Sea Sect.
“You also have a piece of the Ascending Beauty Painting?” Lord Long Zhiming asked as a hint of intrigue appeared on his face. This was because according to the intelligence gathered by the Dragon God Palace, the Golden Pearl Sect was not even located on the list of people who have had possible contact with a piece of the painting.
“Of course he does.” Zhang with a grin has he handed one of the three pieces of the Ascending Beauty Painting to Yu Xui who accepted with a smile, showing that they were working together.
“Due to our alliance with the Golden Pearl Sect, our Jade Serpent Sect would also have to intervene.” Jian Lei said as he appeared beside Zhang.
“Our Celestial Mermaid Bay Sect also wishes for a peaceful resolution.” A young woman said as she arrived beside Jian Lei after seeing that the Blood Coral Cove and Golden Pearl Sect was working together. With flowing locks of hair tipped with a bright shade of blue, large round eyes and jade-like skin, this woman’s beauty was comparable to Yuying, Ai, Ling, and Lingqi.
“Our Divine Wave Sect also wishes for there to be peace.” A middle-aged man with three large scars that appeared to have been left by the claws of some ferocious beast said as he also joined the group gathering around Zhang.
“Our Starry Sea Sect also wishes that there will not be any bloodshed because due to our pact with the Blood Coral Cove, we would have to intervene on their behalf.” An ancient voice sounded out in the distance as an elderly man garbed in black robes embroidered with golden stars leading a large number of followers came into view, behind the encirclement formed by the forces of the Dragon God Palace.
“Ancestral Master!” Shan Li said in a loud tone as he clasped his hands while a large grin appeared on his face, showing how happy he was to see this elderly man.
Before long, many of the forces that had arrived to watch the battle between the Golden Pearl Sect and the Zhang’s coalition began to unite. As leaders of their respective forces, those who gathered around Zhang were quick to assess the situation and deemed that only through uniting could they possibly leave the encirclement unharmed.
Though they cursed their luck and curiosity for landing them in their current predicament, it was obvious that if they did not band together, they fall under the mercy of the Dragon God Palace. Unlike regular practitioners, as the leader of their respective forces, the people gathered around Zhang knew better than to place their complete trust within the Dragon God Palace or rather anyone other than themselves.
From their sudden appearance and the encirclement alone, these respective leaders knew that the Dragon God Palace was up to no good.
“The Dragon God Palace will take sixty percent of the inheritance and the lot of you can divide up the rest. That is to say, all of you must put out your pieces of the painting” Long Zhiming said as a scowl appeared on his face upon seeing the other forces banding together and the once extremely favorable situation turning sour. Although the Dragon God Palace could still grasp victory if a battle ensued, it would be a costly victory that should be avoided.
“As long as I get my ten percent then it’s a deal.” Zhang said with a smile as he eyed the other people present.
“Deal.” Ancestral Sect Master Yu Xui said with a grin.
“Deal…” A man with sunken eyes said as he produced a piece of the Ascending Beauty Painting after making his way to where Zhang was.
In a matter of moments, the various owners of the pieces of the Ascending Beauty Painting assembled and the eight pieces of the most sought after painting in the Eastern Sea had been gathered for the first time after hundreds of years.
“To think so much bloodshed and misfortune had occurred due to these eight pieces of paper…” Ling mumbled as she and those who did not own a piece of the painting eyed the eight pieces and their respective owners.
Although many were filled with greed upon seeing the eight pieces of the Ascending Beauty Painting, no one dared to attempt to snatch a piece, and could only look on with envy and awe, well at least this was the case until Zhang broke the silence.
“Seeing that so many people have gathered and it would be a shame for all of you to go home empty handed, my Blood Coral Cove will offer up seven percent of whatever we get to any who are willing to temporarily join us.” Zhang said with a smile as he decided that it was currently not a time to act with greed.
As a matter of fact, Zhang currently did not want even a single piece of the so-called inheritance left behind by the founder of the Dragon God Palace. He simply wished to ensure his own safety and the safety of his four wives, and the only way to do so was to create a united front against the Dragon God Palace and then find the perfect opportunity to escape.
By using his words and the Ascending Beauty Painting as leverage, he was able to create a favorable situation for himself, however, he was still riding on the back of a tiger and needed to maintain the current favorable situation by making sure that the united front that had been created moments ago did not splinter apart.
Had someone else been in Zhang’s shoes then perhaps they would have just handed over their pieces of the painting to the Dragon God Palace in exchange for safe passage, instead of going through all the trouble of doing what he had done, choosing to submit in order to seek salvation. However, Zhang’s thought process was different, he figured that if he submitted and gave up his piece of the painting without even bothering to see the Dragon God Palace’s goal then sooner or later he would find himself in a worse situation than he is in now.
He knew that if they allowed him safe passage this time, there was a chance of history repeating itself in the future and his current troubles would continue to haunt him.
“They may let me go this time in exchange for the painting, however, the next time I won’t have anything to give them and then that’ll be the end of me…” Zhang thought as he determined that he needed to set up some sort of deterrence against the Dragon God Palace. He knew that he needed to create an alliance that could stand up the Dragon God Place.