NETS - Chapter 112 – Buffer Sea
Lu Ping's closed-door cultivation session didn’t last long.
Half a year later, Li Zi-Ming called a meeting amongst the Zhen Ling Sect cultivators in charge of Huang Li Island. He announced that there was an important task and asked all the Blood Condensation Realm island disciples to participate.
Lu Ping came to the council palace and found out that the three Mid Blood Condensation Realm cultivators on the island had arrived. Even Zhang Zi-Feng, the only Late Blood Condensation Realm cultivator, who had been in seclusion, had also come and was seated at the main seat in the palace.
After everyone had arrived, Zhang Zi-Feng said solemnly, "I think that you all have heard about the series of murders of cultivators that have occurred in the buffer sea region that our Zhen Ling Sect is in charge of.”
Lu Ping had been in closed-door cultivation all this while to hone his arcane energy, so he was not aware of the recent events on the island. After hearing Zhang Zi-Feng, he looked at Hu Lili, who helplessly explained to him about the recent events that unfolded in the buffer sea.
It turned out that after the lifting of the sea ban, due to the entry of a large number of human cultivators, the buffer sea basically became a battlefield for cultivators to hunt and kill monsters. Some cultivators even went deeper into monster waters and extended the battlefield there. This was originally a good situation.
However, a series of organized robberies and killings of cultivators in the buffer sea under Zhen Ling Sect’s control, have recently occurred one after another.
Originally, it wasn’t surprising that some cultivators would take extreme measures such as killing each other in order to gain more resources. However, the murderous cultivators have specifically targeted cultivators returning from the buffer sea.
Most of the cultivators that adventured to the buffer sea often worked in groups, in order to increase their safety. Yet despite this, there have been several groups killed by the aforementioned murderous cultivators, which is a testament to their unordinary combat strength.
“Furthermore, there should be more than one group of these brutal cultivators. Since, there have been multiple murders occurring in a short duration of time, at different locations far away from each other. Equally, it cannot be ruled out that these cultivators, who are preying on others, belong to a single organization alone; one that is strong enough to plan multiple attacks in several places at the same time.”
After listening to Hu Lili's explanation, Lu Ping had a general understanding of what had happened recently. At that time, Lu Ping heard Master Immortal Zhang Zi-Feng say, "This series of cultivator hunting incidents has caused great panic among the cultivators at sea. Many cultivators have asked us, Zhen Ling Sect, to regulate the order of the buffer sea. Otherwise, these cultivators can't go to hunt monsters without fear, and will have to leave the buffer sea region of Zhen Ling Sect.”
Lu Ping frowned and asked, "Master Immortal Zhang, how did the news about cultivators being robbed and killed at sea get out? How can one be sure that these missing cultivators were killed and hadn’t just left the sea, or that they were not killed in retaliation by the monster race?"
Li Zi-Ming snorted and said, "Junior Martial Brother Lu, do you think the others didn’t think of this? The reason why the cultivators were confirmed killed instead of leaving the sea is because their bodies were found at the scene. If the murders were the handiwork of the monsters, their bodies would have been torn to pieces or eaten already.”
Li Zi-Ming finished his speech and pretentiously sighed, he said, "Junior Martial Brother Lu is young after all. You have good cultivation progress, but your experience is lacking. It’s no surprise that you missed to notice such obvious things."
After saying that, he also shook his head with a rather disappointed look.
Zhang Zi-Feng didn't know of the conflict between them was about to say something when suddenly Lu Ping smiled and asked Li Zi-Ming, "Senior Martial Brother Li, if you were the murderers who robbed and killed the cultivators, would you have left the victims’ bodies at the scene?
“Wouldn’t the bodies be a clear reminder to the cultivators at sea to be more vigilant, and at the same time make their presence known to us, Zhen Ling Sect? Is this group of cultivators so dumb that they don't know how to hide their tracks in order to reap bigger rewards?
“Or is it that Senior Martial Brother Li thinks that this group of cultivators has the strength and audacity to provoke our Zhen Ling Sect's authority, which is why they have no intention of hiding and are intentionally revealing their very existence on purpose?"
Lu Ping's series of questions caused Li Zi-Ming’s face to turn red in embarrassment. After listening to Lu Ping's analysis, everyone else in the room was deep in thought, with only one exception – Hu Lili, who was nodding in agreement, as she had already thought of these things earlier.
Zhang Zi-Feng agreed, "What Junior Martial Brother Lu has said makes sense, but then Junior Martial Brother Lu, what do you think is the purpose of this group of cultivator hunters?"
Everyone looked at Lu Ping, even Li Zi-Ming was no exception. But looking at the expression on Li Zi-Ming’s face, if Lu Ping couldn’t give a reason for his conjecture, Li Zi-Ming would definitely jump in and try to embarrass Lu Ping again.
Lu Ping thought for a while and said, "Perhaps the purpose of these cultivator hunters is to cause panic among the cultivators at sea. Master Immortal Zhang mentioned that the general cultivators have claimed that if our Zhen Ling Sect is unable to eliminate these cultivator hunters, they would have to leave the buffer sea region under our control."
As soon as Lu Ping finished speaking, Li Zi-Ming sneered, "What a joke, if all the cultivators left our buffer sea, there would be no more targets for those cultivator hunters to plunder. That's just like killing the chicken for its eggs. That’s not a good explanation!"
This time, Master Immortal Zhang clearly noticed that something was wrong between the two of them.
But Lu Ping just ignored Li Zi-Ming and continued to explain, "Since the last time when the monster race took advantage of the confrontation between Zhen Ling Sect and Xuan Ling Sect to launch an invasion, all sects in the North Ocean Alliance have suffered heavy losses.
“Our Zhen Ling Sect suffered the least amongst the alliance, and even managed to kill two palace masters of the monster race, including a Mid Core Forging Realm palace master, and seriously injured two other palace masters. Albeit at the cost of two of our Early Core Forging Realm Enlightened Masters.
“We are the only sect that prevailed in the confrontation between the North Ocean sects and the monster race, and ever since the sect’s reputation in the North Ocean Alliance has grown tremendously.”
Lu Ping paused for a moment to organize his train of thought. He noticed that everyone was listening carefully, even Li Zi-Ming had quietened down.
“After the invasion of the monster race, North Ocean Alliance counterattacked by lifting the sea ban to allow North Ocean cultivators to hunt monsters at sea. Our Zhen Ling Sect has taken charge of a section of the buffer sea, which is considered the safest area by North Ocean cultivators. This in turn, has attracted a large number of cultivators to come and adventure in our area.
“As far as I am aware, the buffer sea under Xuan Ling Sect’s ruling hasn’t attracted as many cultivators as ours has. Therefore, Zhen Ling Sect’s buffer sea is the only area in the entire buffer sea that has the upper hand in the confrontation with the monster race.
“A lot of cultivator groups have already explored the monster race waters and secured good harvests. The recent auction on Di Kun Island half a year ago is the best proof of this.”
At this time, the others more or less understood Lu Ping’s thoughts. Master Immortal Zhang nodded his head and said, "Junior Martial Brother Lu's analysis is reasonable. It seems like there are certain factions that are so jealous of our Zhen Ling Sect’s harvests that they need to resort to dirty tactics to push some of the cultivators away from the buffer sea of our Zhen Ling Sect.”
Master Immortal Zhang suddenly realized something, and said, "I think the sect also has the same thoughts as Junior Martial Brother Lu. No wonder the sect ordered all island disciples on islands near the buffer sea to patrol the region.”
A Mid Blood Condensation Realm cultivator next to him said hesitantly, "Senior Martial Brother Zhang, there are only 11 Blood Condensation Realm island disciples on Huang Li Island. If we were to patrol the sea, it would deter those cultivator hunters with the prestige of Zhen Ling Sect. But if something really happens, I'm afraid that we won’t have enough manpower to handle any emergencies. Not to mention we have to guard Huang Li Island."
Zhang Zi-Feng said, "It’s fine. The sect’s reinforcement will arrive in three days. There will be 20 Blood Condensation Realm cultivators led by two Late Blood Condensation Realm senior martial brothers, including six Mid Blood Condensation Realm junior martial brothers. With the reinforcements, it will be enough to secure our buffer sea region.
Zhang Zi-Feng continued, "But before then, we have to go out to patrol the sea. I propose to divide the island disciples into three teams of three. Each team will be led by a Mid Blood Condensation Realm. Every day, two teams will go out to patrol the sea, and one team will stay on the island. As for myself, I will be staying on Huang Li Island to deal with any unexpected events."
The crowd had no objection to Zhang Zi-Feng's arrangement, and just as Zhang Zi-Feng was about to ask them to go back and prepare, Li Zi-Ming suddenly said in an eccentric manner.
"Senior Martial Brother Zhang, you seem to have forgotten Junior Martial Brother Lu. Junior Martial Brother Lu is the first island disciple of Huang Li Island who has even set up his cave-dwelling on the island. Normally, he is only focused on his own cultivation and doesn’t involve himself with the island affairs. But, now that it is the time for everyone to contribute to the sect, is he still going to stay out of it?"
Zhang Zi-Feng, felt that Li Zi-Ming’s point was reasonable. But because Zhang Zi-Feng was a core disciple of the sect, he knew some information about Lu Ping's previous merits and vaguely understood that Lu Ping had been appreciated by some of the sect's senior cultivators.
Hence, he said, "The manpower for the sea patrol is indeed tight. So, if Junior Martial Brother Lu is doing nothing important, then please also contribute.”
The people in the hall were a little surprised to hear Zhang Zi-Feng's polite words and his completely consultative tone. Lu Ping answered casually, "I’ll do as Master Immortal Zhang commands."
Zhang Zi-Feng was thinking about what kind of assignment to give Lu Ping when Li Zi-Ming said, "Why don't we have Junior Martial Brother Lu disguise himself as an ordinary cultivator and blend in with the cultivators going to the buffer sea. Then, Junior Martial Brother Lu will secretly investigate the whereabouts of the cultivator hunters in the dark while we openly patrol
the sea. This way, we can find out about the cultivator hunters’ whereabouts as soon as possible."
Zhang Zi-Feng was very pleased with the suggestion and laughed, "That's a good idea, but one person is not enough. Fortunately, in three days, reinforcements from the sect will come to support us, so we can assign a few more cultivators to investigate secretly at sea. Everyone should also pay attention to the secrecy of the undercover cultivator's identity."
After they agreed on their respective assignments, the cultivators were dismissed and returned to start preparing.
Lu Ping returned to his cave-dwelling and packed up some of the things he might need for the undercover mission, while thinking about what Li Zi-Ming had said in the meeting.
Li Zi-Ming's idea was very good, but because of the conflicts between them, Lu Ping didn't believe that Li Zi-Ming wouldn't try to find trouble for him.
Sure enough, Hu Lili arrived soon after and spoke to him about her worries. Lu Ping said, "Most likely, his plan is to secretly reveal my whereabouts to the public so the cultivator hunters will target me. I will be fine so long as I only report back to the sect about the results of my investigation and never mention my whereabouts.”
Hu Lili added, "We also need to change your appearance. We have to be careful as he could also disclose your image."
Lu Ping nodded, "That's definitely a possibility. But in that case, he has to take a risk too. Once the sect finds out that my identity has been disclosed and traces the matter back to him, he won’t be able to get away with it. After all, revealing my whereabouts can still be excused as unintentional, but revealing my image is definitely a deliberate action.”
Hu Lili said with worry, "Regardless of anything, it's still better to be careful."
Lu Ping nodded and smiled, "I am naturally concerned about my own life. On the contrary, your cultivation level is only at the Second Layer Blood Condensation Realm. Although going out to patrol the sea is generally safe as you are representing the sect, it is still dangerous if you encounter people who are crazy enough to disregard the sect's reputation and strength. So, here’s a small gift."
Hu Lili looked at the small and exquisite mid-grade inner vest in her hand and asked, "You sure are a man of many treasures. You have so many good things. Where did this inner vest come from?"
Lu Ping said: "Please don’t call me that, I don’t want to be targeted by others out there. This is from the skin of a Blood Condensation Realm monster I’ve killed. I contracted Chen Lian's father to craft it. There are two of these vests, one is on me and the other is now with you."
Currently translated up to Chapter 160.