With the formalities over with, everyone dispersed and strolled around the mountain. The many powerful figures had dismissed their disciples so that they could talk privately. Small groups formed up as people joined with those they were familiar with.
In the meanwhile, Senior Qing and the other elders returned to the halls. With the Shattering Heart Manual in front of them, they all took a look at the pages.
"This isn't fake, it's the real manual", said Wen Jing.
"Everything in here had been recorded word for word", Dong Kuai added on.
"How can they have a copy of this? It was lost to us years ago, burned in the fire!" Xian Han stated at the manual with disbelief.
"No, this isn't a copy of it. It's the original one", Senior Qing confirmed the manual's authenticity.
"It's the same one I used to study with", she added.
Indeed, this manual was what brought her fame and strength. The foundation of her martial arts, it helped create her own unique version. This manual was the most difficult but it was definitely one of the deadliest techniques. Through the use of one's energy, the user would infiltrate their opponents body, wrapping their heart with energy. With a single thought, the heart would shatter under the pressure, an instant death. But it took incredible amounts of focus and a certain mindset to use such a technique.
Through her own ingenuity and years of practice, Senior Qing had altered the technique, creating several versions. Changes in power would affect the chance of killing, targeting different parts of the body have varying effects. But the truly terrifying part of her skills was the execution. Attacking the inner organs without them noticing, winning the battle with just one move. Such ability was very fearsome.
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How she achieved such level of control is a mystery. It wasn't just inserting their inner force into someone else's body but integrating it, weaving it in so that it would be undetectable.
But with such renown, there were those that did not wish for another like her to appear. Losing through one move was humiliating and such humiliation could bring rash decisions.
It did not take too long for Senior Qing to guess how the Tao Feng Sect got a hold of this manual. The Tao Feng had always been setting their sights on Clear Spring Mountain, trying to find opportunities to swallow them up. However, Senior Qing and the other elders would always prevent such a thing from happening.
But on one such occasion, the Tao Feng had arrived with hundred of disciples, looking to take the mountain by force. What came after was a swift and violent battle that ended with multiple destroyed buildings one of which was the technique hall. In the middle of such a battle, the Tao Feng took advantage of the chaos to attack their resources, setting fire to much of the mountain. Hence, this was the reason why there were so many little houses with gardens to tend to.
Despite putting out the fires and driving the Tao Feng away, multiple manuals and rare treasures were lost. But now, with the Tao Feng returning this manual to them, the original no less. This meant that they did not destroy but rather stole them.
Senior Qing felt enraged by the thought of such a thing but kept this to herself. She would not declare battle with them nor would she make some rash decision. But she would not let them off so easily.
Returning this manual to them was like a slap to the face. A message that they will be the ones to humiliate Clear Spring Mountain. There was no doubt in her mind that the junior sect leader of theirs would attempt something.
She looked back at the elders.
"Stay vigilant, watch the Tao Feng Sect carefully", she said.
Everyone nodded in agreement, knowing that something will happen on this day. They left to entertain the guests of their celebration.
Meanwhile, Zuo Er spoke with the two seniors as well as Kuang Li. Their entire group had been isolated from the others as no one wanted to approach them. It was clear that they were not welcome but Zuo Er was not bothered by such a thing. Rather be found it perfect because now, no one would know what he would be planning.
'Well then seniors, now that I have returned the manual. There is no doubt that they would be on guard now. Kuang Li, I trust that you know what to do when I make the sign. Out of everyone here, you should be most familiar with the mountain. Once you make that opening, send out the signal and finally we will be able to control more than just this mountain", he looked at Kuang Li with the same smile he always wore.
This time however, there was a sinister feeling with it, changing from a charismatic leader to that of a scheming criminal.
Kuang Li nodded in assurance, once he was done with this. He would be allowed access to almost all of the resources in the Tao Feng. This was the reward he had waited for. With it, he was sure that there was nothing that could stand in his way.
As for the two seniors, this was perhaps the event they waited for. If they were to succeed, they would gain praise and rewards. More than that, they would be known throughout the world for doing what many would think to be impossible.
But of the four of them, Zuo Er was the most excited. As the sect leader's personal disciple, he was set to be the next head of the Tao Feng. This was a plan he had long be working on and succeeding upon it would only cement his place even further.
With everything under his calculations, he only had to wait for the celebrations to proceed.
Not long after, Senior Qing and the other elders returned to speak with the other leaders.
"Soon", Zuo Er thought, "All of you will become my stepping stone."
He looked at all of the older generation cultivators with contempt. He looked past all of them, setting his sights on something much greater.
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