“The Zhu family’s youngest cultivator, Yao Ming who is part of my sect, is currently under the control of the Demonic Sect.” Shi Yue didn’t pull any punches and told the news directly. “Previously, he has tried to kill my disciple twice for unknown reasons. During the latest, third attempt, we have found signs that the Demonic Sect has used their newest weapon on him to gain complete control over him. We do not know where he currently is. The Grandmaster of the Zhu family is unwilling to believe me.”
The tension turned palpable. The words of two Grandmasters against each other created a situation that all of them wished to avoid. It was clear enough, though, that many were more inclined to believe Shi Yue, whose good reputation had been built over decades.
“What weapon?”, the sect leader continued to lead the questions.
Shi Yue summarised. He couldn’t tell them about the canyon - otherwise, he would risk them trying to descend into it to verify his words - so he had to use Xie Yi’s and Zhi Ci’s knowledge of the plants being in the Demonic Sect. He quickly explained the reaction that their own sect leader had had upon coming in contact with it.
Everyone turned pale, but the man who had been glaring at Xie Yi spoke up with a dark face. “It’s all nice that you deducted this, but there is hardly any evidence. How do you know it’s those flowers doing it? How do you know they create hallucinations? Those are holes in your story, Grandmaster Li.”
“And this is where I tell the good news. We have an informant who left the Demonic Sect.” This was the best story Shi Yue had come up with. Ultimately it came down to whether they believed him or not, but as the information he had was indeed correct, it was only a matter of time before it proved to be true.
“As you all know, my sword spirit is able to give prophecies. She was the one who led me to him.” Shi Yue paused and lowered his eyes. “The informant is a former human experiment of the Demonic Sect. He fled their side and is now working against them.”
Shi Yue reached into his sleeve and pulled out a scroll. He opened it up and placed it on the table for everyone to see.
A few people breathed in sharply and exchanged excited glances.
The map was the blueprint of one of the larger outposts of the Demonic Sect. Xie Yi had drawn it as accurately as possible.
Originally, Shi Yue had intended to suggest that some people would verify the authenticity of the map first. The outpost was a major place that they had avoided attacking due to its hidden dangers, so there was no way the Demonic Sect would have given it up on purpose to create the fake image of an informant.
Out of everyone in the room, four people did not need any more verification. After years of careful approach, they themselves had been able to create a similar - albeit incomplete - map of the same place that was only within their hands so far.
And the parts they had were absolutely identical with what was drawn on Shi Yue’s.
“Are you sure we can trust him?”, the suspicious man asked with squinting eyes. “This could all be a ploy.”
“It is a fact that the sect leader of the Virtuous Sect has been knocked out for weeks”, Shi Yue growled. “Are we forever going to be overly careful, never daring to take a risk and allow the Demonic Sect to chip away at us? We can never be certain. There is no such thing as full certainty in this world.”
The other sect leader stared mutely at the map for a while before closing his eyes and breathing in deeply. “I agree. I am willing to believe that informant… As long as Grandmaster Li takes all responsibility in case he turns out to be a liar.”
“I will take any vow to that”, Shi Yue decisively replied, earning more relaxed expressions of the people around him. He had not hesitated to vow for even a second.
“Isn’t it a bit weird for you to say that Zhu Yao Ming is colluding with the Demonic Sect? I believe you have always been at odds with Grandmaster Zhu, but his descendant is part of your sect, no?” Still suspicious, the old man leaned back with a frown.
“I did not say he is colluding with the Demonic Sect. I said he tried to kill my disciple for unknown reasons before, and is now likely under their control. I do not believe he is willingly following their orders”, Shi Yue corrected him.
Xie Yi, sitting behind Shi Yue, carefully lowered his head to hide the uncomfortable expression on his face. In this room, not everyone was on their side.
To say that all people would listen to Grandmasters was wrong. In the first place, not even the Grandmasters themselves stood united - that was how humanity was.
Some whispered that one had to be very careful in who to follow. Not every Grandmaster would be able to become an Immortal, and obviously you would want to follow the strongest one with a soul accepted by a higher plane.
It did not come as a surprise. Still, it was inconvenient right now.
While Xie Yi was thinking so, the discussion had continued on, with Shi Yue talking to everyone and informing them about other things.
“It is the most logical to ensure the safety of someone who is supposed to become their weapon, no? We should get that girl”, one cultivator argued.
Another one crossed his arms. “That’s all only if we believe the informant! Besides, we will alert them by rescuing her!”
“Should we not find Yao Ming first? We could find out more about this controlling spell.”
“I disagree. Now that we have a map, we should take out the outpost first!”
“I still think all of this is weird…”
The discussion would have appeared lively if not for the serious faces and the grave matter that was on hand.
Xie Yi tugged at Shi Yue’s sleeve, who gave a minor shake of his head. This situation, he could not intervene in. They’d have to come to a conclusion themselves. If he pressed too much, they might believe he was trying to influence them to his advantage.
Xie Yi scratched his cheek, then muttered something quietly. Maybe one of them would react to it and pick it up. “It’s not like everyone has to go everywhere…”
He was lucky.
The sect leader did hear him, and he nodded. “Indeed. It might even be detrimental if we all tried to focus on one thing.”
On the man’s words, people turned a bit quieter.
“For that girl, it might be better to send a smaller group. It’s too suspicious if a lot walk around and in fact, the informant will be needed to lead the way. Would they be willing to appear in front of us?”, the sect leader asked Shi Yue with furrowed brows.
Shi Yue answered for Xie Yi. He shook his head.
“So this task will have to be left to the Virtuous Sect anyway. If Grandmaster Li personally goes, then I see no reason why it shouldn’t be fine - a small, hidden group with high power has the best chance in this case.” The sect leader looked around and earned hesitant nods.
Xie Yi almost wanted to praise him.
“Yao Ming, on the other hand, can’t be planned. We can send out scouts to find him, nothing more. We should not focus our strength on the small chance of encountering him.”
More agreeing mumbles.
“Lastly, it makes sense for us, excluding maybe some help from the Virtuous Sect, to focus on the outpost. In fact, it wouldn’t even be weird if they did not participate.” He tapped on the table. “Their sect leader is still in a bad state. Why wouldn’t they stay in their sect? As for us, we decided to attack an outpost. Nothing weird with that, it isn’t the first time.”
Shi Yue shot Xie Yi a glance. This was why they had a good relationship with the Honourable Sect. Their leader was someone with a good brain in his head, even if they did not always agree on everything.
“Grandmaster Li, can we leave the rescue of the girl to you? The following procedures, as well”, the sect leader asked after a deep breath and steadily looked at Shi Yue.
The white-haired Grandmaster amicably nodded. “We have the girl’s older sister in our place as a refuge. It should be easy to keep her under control.”
“This will be risky”, a younger cultivator complained nervously.
Another one next to him gave a sad smile. “When has a war never needed risks? If the informant's words turn out to be true, you don’t truly think it will take long before we have to decide whether to take the chance and launch a fullscale attack, do you?”
Everyone fell quiet in an instant.
The mood took a dip.
“We will only suffer worse if we leave them alone”, Xie Yi said into the silence, his voice strong and tinged with dark memories.
Some cultivators twisted their face. Shi Yue looked around at the troubled faces before returning his gaze to the sect leader. “It was a lot of information. Shall we meet tomorrow again, when everyone could think for a bit?”
“That would be for the best”, the sect leader agreed with a sigh and knocked against the table.
Shi Yue and Xie Yi left the room as some of the last.