AIP - Chapter 126: Internal Strife
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
A wave of spiritual energy blasted away all five of the Hawk Hall members.
Gu Changqing had struck in haste, and this palm could not have been a light blow. Shi Ke bore the brunt of the attack and vomited blood.
The five of them tumbled in the air and landed. Zhao Xinguo angrily shouted, "Gu Changqing, what are you doing?"
Gu Changqing was just about to reply when Tang Jie sneered, "You still need to ask? If he kills you, no one will know that I'm not Tang Jiye!"
Everyone shuddered and stared in disbelief at Gu Changqing.
Tang Jie was right.
So many people had died, the mission had failed, and they had no idea where the real Tang Jiye was. All of their efforts had been for naught, so Godhead Palace would not be happy. Eagle Master Gu had been charged by Godhead Palace with retrieving the Martial Mirror, so he would find it hard to escape the blame. How could he accept this outcome?
In comparison, people like them who had just been carrying out the mission wouldn't receive as much blame.
Thus, from Gu Changqing's perspective, Tang Jie was Tang Jiye, had to be Tang Jiye. No other possibility was allowed!
As this thought shot through their minds, everyone understood what was going on, and they all looked warily at Gu Changqing.
Gu Changqing was shocked and enraged. "It's not like that. He's Tang Jiye…"
Before he could finish, Tang Jie grabbed some sand and threw it at Zhao Xinguo.
Zhao Xinguo raised his head and dodged it, then he chopped his hand at Tang Jie. If this strike landed, Tang Jie would undoubtedly die. Gu Changqing had no time for explanations. He shot forward to protect Tang Jie, and as he blocked the strike, he shouted, "Don't kill him! He mentioned the Celestial Mountains just now. He's…"
"Raaa!" A palm thundered down. Kong Wulang had attacked.
Gu Changqing was so focused on explaining himself that he couldn't dodge. He took on the full force of the palm and was forced back several steps.
But though he had managed to get his words out, nobody cared.
The words "Celestial Mountains" had only been mouthed.
No one here had heard Tang Jie say those words, and in their indignant rage, they certainly hadn't been observing him. Thus, they tossed aside this explanation, neither caring for nor believing it. They didn't even bother to think about the significance of those two words!
If Gu Changqing had been given enough time, he might have been able to explain everything, but Tang Jie's actions had instantly pushed developments in the most intense direction, making it into an avalanche that would trample everything in its way…
With Gu Changqing pushed back by that palm, Shi Ke shot a bolt of wind from his finger at Tang Jie.
They were still somewhat apprehensive of Gu Changqing, so they didn't try to attack him because of this accusation, but they showed no mercy to Tang Jie.
Gu Changqing panicked.
He knew that Tang Jie had essentially tied the two of them together. So long as he wanted Tang Jie alive to hand over the location of the Martial Mirror, he could not let them kill Tang Jie, and this would confirm the accusation that he was "silencing witnesses".
He might have been in a panic, but that didn't mean he would just sit around and watch Tang Jie die. He could only rapidly retreat, grabbing Tang Jie and dodging to the side.
But now, Wei Yu, Zheng Fei, and Zhao Xinguo charged up. Without any visible sort of casting from Gu Changqing, his left hand suddenly grew. Five sharp talons of energy shot out of his fingers, forming a hawk claw that swept at the trio.
This was the Divine Hawk Claw that he was so proud of.
As expected given its name, the Hawk Hall had many spell arts connected to hawks and eagles, such as the Eagle Eye and the Hawk Claw, and these were all spells related to observation and capture. As the deputy master of the Hawk Hall, Gu Changqing was proficient in all of these spell arts.
He didn't intend to kill with this claw, only stop the attacks of the five. But as he attacked, Tang Jie's eyes suddenly flashed, and he thrust out a finger. A golden light shot through the dust toward Zhao Xinguo.
Suppressed by the New Rain on Barren Mountain Curse, Tang Jie was incapable of using spiritual energy. But he had never relied on spiritual energy, instead relying on his formidable constitution, and he had made this attack using purely the strength of his wrist. Moreover, given the innate sharpness of the golden needle, it was able to punch a small hole through Zhao Xinguo's left shoulder.
As blood flew into the air, Zhao Xinguo howled in pain, "Gu Changqing, as expected, you really are trying to silence us?"
Gu Changqing was also startled.
Tang Jie had thrown out his needle in an extremely surreptitious manner, and nobody had been able to notice that little golden light amidst the wind and dust. Everyone believed that Gu Changqing had done this, and even Gu Changqing believed that he had accidentally injured Zhao Xinguo.
He hastily said, "That's not…"
He still wanted to explain himself, but Zhao Xinguo was already punching out, unleashing a gust of wind. "Fuck you!"
Tang Jie had chosen to attack Zhao Xinguo because, after several days of getting to know him, he had realized that Zhao Xinguo was very narrow-minded and arrogant. Gu Changqing had been somewhat able to restrain him and prevent him from causing trouble, but in dire straits, he was bound to cause trouble.
Now that he was injured, he truly believed Tang Jie was right and that Gu Changqing was trying to silence him, so he decided to attack Gu Changqing.
Unlike the others, he was the son of a True Person. While he normally treated Gu Changqing as his superior, when there was really a problem, even Gu Changqing would have to stand to the side, for he had the courage and confidence to fight back!
Gu Changqing grew angry.
He was still the Eagle Master of the Hawk Hall, Zhao Xinguo's direct superior. For daring to attack him, Zhao Xinguo had committed the crime of striking a superior.
"Seeking death!" Gu Changqing's eyes coldly flashed as he thrust out his palm, sending out a shockwave.
This rage-driven attack contained considerable power. It instantly scattered Zhao Xinguo's gust of wind, and the remainder of its power sent Zhao Xinguo flying into the air while also striking the other four.
The other four instinctively struck back to resist. Out of fear of Gu Changqing's strength, they did not dare to hold anything back. Four torrents of spiritual energy gathered together and then swept toward Gu Changqing.
Alarmed, Gu Changqing stopped holding back as well. A pitch-black metal claw appeared in his hand, and he waved it at them. Five sharp, claw-shaped energies instantly flew out.
"Watch out! It's the Soul-Seizing Claw!" Shi Ke shouted.
Wei Yu was struck by a claw, but as he flew into the air, he had already fired off an azure light from his hand. This azure light grew larger and transformed into a sword that slashed down.
Gu Changqing roared, and a golden armor appeared on his body. This suit of armor was much more dazzling than the one that Zhuang Shen had worn.
Gu Changqing swung at the air, and the Soul-Seizing Claw struck the azure sword. The azure sword energy passed straight through the claw and struck Gu Changqing's Godhead Armor.
The Breeze Sword Pellet was Wei Yu's ultimate skill that he normally kept in reserve, but when he did use it, it had a thunderous impact. He understood Wei Yu, so when he saw that azure light, he had immediately activated his Godhead Armor. But he was also enraged that Wei Yu would use the Breeze Sword Pellet against him. After some thought, he realized that Tang Jie had successfully riled up all these idiots and that it would be difficult for him to end things in a good way. If it was really no good, he would just have to kill them all.
When it came to battles, the more one fought, the angrier one became and the greater were the grudges formed.
It was often the case of "You heavily injured me? Then I'll make you suffer even worse!"
For Gu Changqing, using the Breeze Sword Pellet against him meant that the attacker had lethal intentions against him. But for Wei Yu and the others, wasn't Gu Changqing's Soul-Seizing Claw also an enormous threat?
With neither side trusting the other, the battle intensified, and their hostility to each other only grew. A misunderstanding quickly became a battle where only one side would walk away alive.
Everyone was serious now, neither side daring to hold back. The mountain path was immediately embroiled in dust and wind.
As the Eagle Master of Hawk Hall, Gu Changqing could fight five opponents without falling behind.
As the five of them attacked, Gu Changqing roared, and his body suddenly groaned and cracked. He erupted with a cold light that engulfed his surroundings.
"The Icesoul Radiance! Dodge!" Shi Ke shouted as he fell back.
He had been with Gu Changqing the longest and understood his techniques the most. Gu Changqing had extracted the extreme Yin energy from Thousand-Year Ice to cultivate this Icesoul Radiance. Those struck by it would be uninjured on the surface, but their insides would be burned by flames of ice, their organs destroyed. Not even Godhead Armor could stop it. It was an extremely insidious technique.
The other four paled at these words and immediately backed away. Zhao Xinguo used hand signs to instantly form several seals. At the same time, he shouted, "The Great Art is without obstruction; the five lightnings upset the heavens!"
As he shouted, light radiated from the top of his head and shot into the heavens. Clouds instantly gathered into dark masses that flashed with lightning.
"The Lightning Secret Art, the Thunderstorm Hand?" Gu Changqing paled.
The Thunderstorm Hand was the unique art of Zhao Xinguo's father, Zhao Tianlei (Heavenly Lightning). It possessed enormous power, and at profound levels, one could strike down their opponent with heavenly lightning from several dozen kilometers away.
This was also the biggest difference between the Spirit Platform Realm and the Mortal Shedding Realm. Spell arts broke free of the strictures of the body and could harness the power of the world to defeat one's opponent, so their power was many times greater.
Zhao Xinguo didn't have his father's ability, but he had some familiarity with the Thunderstorm Hand. Thunderclouds gathered thickly above him, and then lightning descended. Zhao Xinguo raised his hand, grabbing this bolt of lightning and hurling it at Gu Changqing.
"Gu Changqing, die!"
"In your dreams!" Gu Changqing grunted.
He slightly raised his head, a strange whistle coming from his throat. A phantom pair of crow-black wings suddenly grew from his back. These wings flapped and then came together. The bolt of lightning struck the wings, and though electricity crackled along the wings, Gu Changqing was unharmed.
"How could that be?" Zhao Xinguo was stunned.
Gu Changqing chuckled. "If your father were here, I might not have been able to block the Thunderstorm Hand, but that little trick of yours is far from his level. Eaglesoar Flash!"
Gu Changqing shot at the five like a bolt of lightning, leaving afterimages in his wake.
He moved with incredible swiftness, his Soul-Seizing Claw swiping at Shi Ke.
He hated how talkative Shi Ke was, so he attacked him first.
Shi Ke let out a strange shout and tumbled in the air to try to dodge. At the same time, he used several defensive spells.
Gu Changqing pursued like a shadow, and Shi Ke's dodging proved fruitless. The Soul-Seizing Claw came down, piercing through all defenses and striking Shi Ke in the chest. The claw landed on Shi Ke's Godhead Armor, and the talons closed, releasing cold energy. It was the Icesoul Radiance.
Icy energy flowed into Shi Ke's body, rendering it stiff. Gu Changqing seized the moment to swipe at Shi Ke's throat with his metal claw.
Shi Ke grabbed his throat and fell back. Meanwhile, two bolts of lightning shot at Gu Changqing from behind—attacks from Kong Wulang and Zheng Fei. Gu Changqing turned around, dodging the attacks by a hair. Laughing, he said, " After following me for so many years, have you forgotten that my specialty is speed? You think the five of you can deal with me? I'll have you all die one by one under my claw!"
He blinked away, leaving behind multiple afterimages as he rushed at Zheng Fei.
Zheng Fei instantly knew that he was in trouble. He thrust out his palm and shouted, "Meru Palm!"
His palm attack instantly expanded into a giant hand.
At the same time, Kong Wulang howled, a three-legged golden eagle with blue eyes taking flight from his head and lunging at Gu Changqing.
Wei Yu had also already used his Breeze Sword Pellet, unleashing a storm of swords.
At this stage in the battle, everyone was using their strongest techniques, forgetting their time as fellow soldiers and striking out with the intent to kill.
In the end, Gu Changqing was a high-tier Mortal Shedding Realm expert. Even though he was up against five opponents at once, he was still more than strong enough to deal with all of them. He dodged Kong Wulang's strange bird and Zheng Fei's palm mountain, then he suddenly raised his body up and clawed at the golden eagle with murder in his eyes. "Puny beast, trying to show off here!"
The Soul-Seizing Claw flashed with a bloody light, the five talons growing bloody edges more than a foot in length and savagely stabbing into the golden eagle's head, instantly obliterating it.
"Little Black!" Kong Wulang howled in grief.
Gu Changqing vanished like a ghost, appearing at Zhao Xinguo's side and swinging down his claw.
Zhao Xinguo bellowed, lightning crackling out of his hand.
Gu Changqing laughed, taking the Thunderstorm Hand and thrusting his palm at Zhao Xinguo.
Boom! The lightning exploded on Gu Changqing's body and turned his flesh into a mangled mess, but Zhao Xinguo had five holes in his palm thanks to Gu Changqing's fingers.
Gu Changqing had only suffered a surface wound, but Zhao Xinguo's hand had essentially been crippled for the moment.
Gu Changqing kneed Zhao Xinguo in the abdomen and sinisterly said, "You five want to kill me? You don't have the right yet!"
Zhao Xinguo vomited blood as he was knocked away. At this moment, Kong Wulang suddenly hugged Gu Changqing's leg, glaring in hatred at Gu Changqing. "You killed my Little Black! You killed my Little Black!"
Gu Changqing wanted to kick away Kong Wulang, but Kong Wulang was holding on with all his strength, and the Dragon Coil spell art had even more firmly bound him to Gu Changqing.
At the same time, Wei Yu, Zheng Fei, and Shi Ke attacked together. Though Shi Ke had taken a blow to the throat, he wasn't dead yet. After all, he was at Hundred Refinement, so he possessed an abnormal vitality.
Their attacks arrived simultaneously, and Gu Changqing, unable to dodge, had to take them all and was dealt significant damage.
In truth, he had been restraining himself all this time, had truly not intended to kill, only to defeat them and reprimand them, after which he could explain everything. But Kong Wulang was so griefstricken by the loss of his beloved bird that he was determined to take down Gu Changqing.
At this point, Gu Changqing had to stop holding back. The Soul-Seizing Claw flashed with bloody light once more, and the five talons plunged into Kong Wulang's head.
The five talons encountered no resistance, deeply embedding into Kong Wulang's skull.
Now Kong Wulang (Hole Fifth Son) truly matched his name, his head bearing five holes.
"Wulang!" Wei Yu and the others shouted, sorrow in their eyes.
They had fled the bamboo forest together, but rather than dying at the hands of the Basking Moon Sect, they were to die in an internal battle? This simply wasn't the way to go.
"Bastard… Those who go against me die!" Gu Changqing roared.
He wasn't some domineering and tyrannical person, but at this point, words were pointless. It no longer mattered how overbearing he was, for the situation compelled him into action. He was forced to say such domineering words so as to intimidate his enemies.
But while Kong Wulang had suffered a serious wound, he was not completely dead yet. He continued to clutch Gu Changqing's leg, and the Dragon Coil spell had yet to dissipate.
At this time, Wei Yu and the others spoke in unison.
"Moon Demon Sword!"
All four used their strongest spell arts on Gu Changqing.
Gu Changqing saw that there was no evading, and the wings on his back flapped and enclosed him.
Boom! The wings blew apart, and Gu Changqing flew out, grunting in pain.
"My Ink Falcon Wings!" Gu Changqing howled in pain.
He had cultivated his Ink Falcon Wings for many years so that they could reach this level, but they had been half-destroyed under the combined attack. Of the two wings, only the spines were left, and his speed plunged as a result.
Though he was in pain over this loss, Gu Changqing charged forward and swiped his claw at Shi Ke. The Icesoul Radiance once more exploded, and this time, he showed no mercy. Five streams of cold energy coiled around Shi Ke while he embedded his claw into Shi Ke's throat.
With a shake of his hand, pa! Shi Ke's head broke free of his body and dropped to the ground.
"Shi Ke!" the remaining three shouted.
"All of you must die here!" Gu Changqing howled as he lunged at Zhao Xinguo.
But without his falcon wings, his speed was greatly reduced, and he no longer could move as he pleased. As the surviving three cast their spells, his surroundings once more rumbled with thunder.
There was another intense clash, and then a series of explosions. Zhao Xinguo, Wei Yu, and Zheng Fei vomited blood and fell back, but Gu Changqing was also blown out of the melee.
All four of them now bore heavy wounds as proof of the ferocity of the clash just now.
Even so, they were still glaring at each other like four frenzied bulls. It seemed like they would truly fight until one side was dead.
At this moment, Tang Jie suddenly shouted, "You're still fighting? The Basking Moon Sect is almost here!"
Everyone was startled.
Tang Jie suddenly opened his mouth and spat a large mouthful of blood, which struck Wei Yu and Zheng Fei, drenching them in his blood.
Tang Jie smiled. "But stained with my blood, some people will never be able to escape."
What? Wei and Zheng were both shaken. Enraged, Wei Yu shouted, "Even when you're about to die, you're still trying to drag down others!"
He swung his sword at Tang Jie.
But Gu Changqing would never let him succeed. He rushed over and blocked the attack. Tang Jie rolled on the ground, coming to Shi Ke's and Kong Wulang's corpses. With his one arm, he stripped the two of their Mustard Seed Bags and then began to run away. "You're still not leaving!? They're coming!"
Spiritual light surged up in the distance. The Basking Moon Sect's Wu Xianguang was returning from his fruitless search and was rushing back after sensing the uproar behind him.
Gu Changqing stopped hesitating. He shot out several bolts of black energy at the three survivors, and then he grabbed Tang Jie and fled. He was no longer conserving spiritual energy, leaving mist and fog in his wake as he turned into a bolt of lightning.
But he had been somewhat slow to escape and was wounded, so he was momentarily unable to throw off his pursuers.
At this moment, Tang Jie said, "The Cloud Marsh is thick with mists that will conceal spiritual energy pulses. You can avoid your pursuers in there."
"What are you scheming now?" Gu Changqing angrily asked.
Rather than answering, Tang Jie softly commented, "It's not important what sort of scheme I have. What's important is this: are you more willing to face me or to face Wu Xianguang?"
Gu Changqing shivered.
Tang Jie was like a devil who had his heart in his hand. Every one of his words was able to strike at his weak points.
At this moment, he could never admit that he was afraid of Tang Jie.
But on the other hand, the apprehension Tang Jie gave him surpassed that from Wu Xianguang and the other Basking Moon experts. At least these people had never been able to inflict so much damage on Godhead Palace.
As if he could see Gu Changqing's apprehensions, Tang Jie sighed. "The Cloud Marsh is huge. I can understand your mistrust toward me, but in the end, I don't have the ability to turn the entirety of the Cloud Marsh into my home court. You can choose for yourself a place to rest, and I'm not that impressive as to lay a trap that far ahead. Moreover, your injuries are not light, and you need to quickly heal up. Once we're there, I'll tell you what you want to know."
Gu Changqing took in a deep breath, and without another word, he charged into the Cloud Marsh.