Although most were brimming with excitement at first, once the airship disembarked, most of the disciples of the Misty Mountain Sect had gone into their separate rooms and indulged in much-needed rest. Simply said the tournament had been one hardship after the other for the disciples of the Misty Mountain Sect, particularly Zhang and Cai Cao who had made the most progress.
Sailing through the clouds, across mountains and rivers, the disciples of the Misty Mountain Sect slowly came made their way home as a wave of calm swept across the airship as the banner of the Misty Mountain Sect fluttered in the breeze.
The Red Cloud Sect’s tall towers and spacious courtyards slowly disappeared from sight and with time, paved roads turned into dirt paths, beautiful towers turned into enormous trees and lavish castles were replaced with tall mountains.
One had to say that as the trip back to their sect progressed, Zhang and Cai Cao were showered with admiration from their peers. On top of receiving a generous number of midgrade essence supplement pills, and a large number of low-grade talismans from the elders who were in charge of the trip, Zhang and Cai Cao also received an endless amount of praise and worship from the other members of the Misty Mountain Sect.
The same people who had looked down upon Zhang for being a mere fragment realm cultivator were now praising him for making it so far in the tournament. Zhang had basically earned the recognition of all of the other chosen who had lacked faith in him. On the other hand, Cai Cao who had allowed everyone to bear witness to the awe-inspiring sight of two midgrade lightning talismans in action would be swarmed by a sea of people whenever he left his room.
While all of the females who had been chosen to attend, the tournament fawned over Cai Cao and confessed their love to him one after the other, all of the males sought to become swore brothers with him. To them it was obvious that the usually reclusive Cai Cao was, in fact, someone who definitely possessed a shocking background, descending from a very influential family. Otherwise how else would he be able to get his hands-on midgrade talismans?
Of course, Cai Cao was quick to decline the little beauties who were basically throwing themselves at him while ignoring the shallow offers of friendship from those seeking to benefit off of him.
“Are you sure you don’t want to accept her confession? From the look of things, I’m sure she will grow up to be a gorgeous beauty.” Zhang said with a chuckle to Cai Cao who had just decline the confession of a girl named Mei Li, a girl who happened to be able to captivate the hearts of many of the Misty Mountain Sect’s outer ring disciples.
“If you think she’s so pretty then why don’t you go court her yourself?” Cai Cao retorted in an unhappy tone as he sat cross-legged on his bed with Little Blue in curled up in his lap.
“Court her? I mean I’m sure she will be very beautiful in a few years and many many people will wish to court her, but she can’t possibly compare to my Wenji.” Zhang said in a proud tone while puffing out his chest as he rubbed Little Red’s back.
“Your Wenji? Are you sure that she even likes you back?” Cai Cao asked with an intrigued look on his face.
“Of course she does! We did it!” Zhang said in a loud tone.
“Di-did i-it?! What-what?! Whe-n!? Di-d not!” Cai Cao said in a stuttering manner with a flushed face full of confusion.
“We shared a tent! Like my great ancestor said, as long you are able to get a woman to share a tent with you then you are on the right track to making her yours. There was also something about tricking the woman into letting you refer to them as your wife in public.” Zhang replied with sparkling eyes as he recalled a particular story passed down in his clan about how his ancestor had managed to trick two very beautiful young women into sharing a tent with him on a trip and eventually they both ended up becoming his wives.
Caught off guard by Zhang’s reply, Cai Cao was utterly stunned and did not utter a single word as a storm of thoughts arose in his mind.
“Just what kind of person was your ancestor… What kind of person teaches their descendants this stuff?” Cai Cao mumbled as he tried to piece together an image of the exalted ancestor that Zhang kept mentioning.
“So Brother Cai since we are on the topic of beloveds, do you have someone in mind? I mean if you're turning down all of these confessions then you surely have someone occupying your heart already, or you're into men. I mean if you were to dress in women’s clothing I’m sure many young masters would instantly fall for you. Although you'd be a bit lacking in the chest area when compared to Wenji though.” Zhang asked with a chuckle, teasing Cai Cao.
“You rascal! How do you know I would be lacking if I was a woman!?” Cai Cao said while shaking his head and chuckling as he rubbed the pendant dangling from his neck.
“Also, my heart has already been taken.” Cai Cao replied in a low tone as he eyed Zhang, waiting for a response.
“Oh! Do tell! Who is it? Is that person apart of our sect?” Zhang asked as a raging flame of curiosity ignited within him.
“My heart has been taken by the heavenly dao and the path of cultivation… You should also refocus your time to furthering your cultivation and break free of the fragmented realm.” Cai Cao replied in a bland tone, prompting Zhang’s the flames of curiosity in Zhang’s eyes to be extinguished.
“After absorbing all of the essence supplement pills we got from this trip, I’m sure I’ll be able to break through into the elementary realm in no time.” Zhang said while puffing out his chest once again.
“After consuming those pills I should be at the fifth level of the elementary realm. You better be quick or that Wenji of yours might fall into the hands of someone stronger.” Cai Cao said with a chuckle as he saw the determination in Zhang’s eyes.
Thus, Zhang and Cai Cao continued to chat for hours on end as their journey home continued.
Unknownst to Zhang and Cai Cao, however, the once blue sky outside became obscured by ominous black clouds, while the sprawling forest below was soon replaced by tall jagged mountain tops.
Before long, curtains of rain drops began to descend while flashes of lightning, roars of thunder echoed about and a small banner less airship came into view.
When compared this banner less airship was barely half the size of the Misty Mountain Sect’s ship, however from the beautiful carvings and intricate design it was obvious that this smaller airship was easy worth a dozen times more than the Misty Mountain Sect's ship.
“Who goes there!? State your name or forgive this old man for attacking without reason!” A thundering voice echoed out from the Misty Mountain Sect’s airship as a well-built man with a long beard came into view while the aura of a core realm expert was extruded into the air, alarming everyone in the vicinity and disturbing Zhang and Cai Cao’s chat.
“Elder Cai Long of the Cai Clan requests permission to board.” A voice rang out in response.
“Elder Cai Long? What is an elder of the Cai Clan doing here?” The well-built man a long white beard murmured as a hint of confusion appeared on his face.
“Pardon my rudeness, but how can we be certain that you are Elder Cai Long of the Cai Clan? Also, what business would an elder of one of the greater powers have with an insignificant force such as ours?” The well-built man with a long beard responded in a loud but polite tone.
“Insolence! A minor character in an insignificant sect dares to question us?” A haughty voice not belonging to Elder Cai Long rang out through the air.
“I-l apologize but I will not risk the lives of those aboard this ship by letting those with unclear identities board as they please.” The man with a long white beard responded in an adamant tone despite having second thoughts in the beginning.
One should know that for small sect like the Misty Mountain Sect, the Cai Clan was a lofty existence that they didn't dare to offend under normal circumstances.
Had it not been for the fact that Elder Cai Long’s airship as banner less than the elders of the Misty Mountain Sect would have possibly even invited them aboard. However, since that was not the case, the fear of inviting trashed on board had made the elder of the Misty Mountain Sect a bit apprehensive.
“You want proof?” Elder Cai Long’s voice reverberated through the air as a dozen or so silhouettes atop large flying swords shot through the air and surrounded the Misty Mountain Sect’s ship.
“Open your eyes! Here's your proof!” A scrawny looking individual clad in black colored leather said in a hostile tone as he flashed a Jade medallion with the symbol of Cai Clan’s disciplinary squad carved onto it for all to see.
By now, the majority of the people aboard the Misty Mountain Sect’s ship had gathered on the upper deck and were staring at the Jade medallion in the scrawny man’s hand, wide eye and with gaping jaws.
“By orders of the Grand Elder of the Cai Clan’s disciplinary hall, you are to hand over the one named Cai Cao to us!” The scrawny looking man said in a loud demanding voice.
“Cai Cao? What did he do?” A sea of murmur and babble soon swept across the upper deck of the ship as a storm of questions arose.
To be honest the majority of the disciples who lived in the outer ring of the Misty Mountain Sect had little to no interaction with each other so they did not know much about each other, but it could be said that Zhang and Cai Cao were the only ones to be shrouded in complete mystery when compared to everyone else.
Their courtyard was especially secluded, their past and origins were unknown and besides each other they had little relation to any of the other disciples. They did not have distant relatives, neighbors or anyone who had knowledge of their lives prior to joining the sect.
“The Grand Elder explicitly said that if Cai Cao is not handed over to us then blood will be spilled and lives will be taken.” Elder Cai Long said while a friendly smile was plastered on his face while a heavy pressure was unleashed from his body, the pressure of a profound realm cultivator.
Upon hearing Elder Cai Long’s words, an eerie calm enveloped the upper deck of the Misty Mountain Sect’s ship as a shiver ran down everyone’s spine.
“Where is Cai Cap?” An elder of the Misty Mountain Sect asked.
“I think Brother Cai was in his room earlier!” Zhang’s voice echoed into the air.
“Go bring out Cai Cao!” The man with a long white beard said in a resigned tone, prompting a handful of disciples to make their way down into the lower decks of the airship.
“Elder Liang, we are really handing over Cai Cao just like that?” Another elder of the Misty Mountain Sect protested in a low tone.
“What can we do against them? We are the strongest elders on this ship and we are but at the later stage of the Core Realm, while they have a Profound realm expert with them. If we don't comply with their demands, then only death awaits us. If we all die here, then no one will be able to demand justice for us…” Eder Laing whispered in a low tone.
“I'm glad that the lot of you are reasonable people, and that we didn't have to needlessly spill blood.” Elder Cai along said with a grin as he waited for disciples of the Misty Mountain Sect to bring Cai Cao to the upper decks of the airship.
Charging down into the lower decks, tens of disciples hurriedly headed toward Cai Cao’s quarters while discussing amongst themselves.
“Did you see how haughty those bastards were acting?” A young girl who had confessed her love to Cai Cao complained.
“Are we really going to hand over Brother Cai Cao just like that? I'm not sure what kind of relationship he has with the Cai Clan but are we just going to hand over one of our fellow sect members just like that?” A young boy asked with a hint of dissatisfaction on his face.
“We else can we do? Didn't you see? Even Elder Liang who is said to be at the later stage of the core realm gave in to them. What can a few elementary realm cultivators like us do?” A timid looking boy said.
“Hmph! I say we tell Brother Cai Cao and help him escape instead.” Another disciple said.
“Let's do that!” Someone else said as they arrived in front of Cai Cao’s quarters, only to find that both the doors to Cai Cao and Zhang’s room were wide open and neither of them was in sight.
Moments later minutes, the team of disciples who had left to apprehend Cai Cao returned with a mix of emotion of their faces.
“Reporting to Elder Liang, Cai Cao had disappeared from his chambers!” The young girl who had suggested to aid Cai Cao in escaping reported while a faint smile was on her face.
“Disappeared!?!” Elder Cai Long roared as a scowl appeared on his face.
“What are the lot of you doing!? Search the ship! No one is allowed to leave until our target is found!” Elder Cai Long commanded, before the dozen or so core realm experts stormed into the Misty Mountain Sect’s airship without regard and began looking Cai Cao.
Hastily making their way through every nook and cranny within the Misty Mountain Sect’s airship in search of Cai Cao, the core realm experts of the Cai Clan made sure to not leave any room unchecked.
However, despite their efforts, they were still unable to locate Cai Cao at all and reluctantly made their way back to the upper deck of the airship to report back to Elder Cai Long.