As soon as Cinian and his fellows left, Li Yundong felt a dramatic change of atmosphere. The people present focused their eyes on him and, in their eyes, doubts, fear, awe, respect, and admiration were all are shown.
For a moment, no one spoke. The cultivators of other sects were afraid that Li Yundong would ask to continue to fight, but none of them was willing to stand out and be a villain as he had just extended a helping hand.
Li Yundong thought for a brief moment and figured out their worries. He smiled and cupped his hands to Wan Zhenyuan beside him. "Sect Master Wan, since the Japanese have left, let's carry on with the Taoist assembly! The fight can continue now and I'll watch from the side!"
Hearing Li Yundong make the request, Wan Zhenyuan immediately had a higher opinion of him. He said with admiration, "Zhenren Li, are you really going to quit?"
Li Yundong smiled and said, "Since we made an agreement before, I shall keep to it and not participate in battles, no matter what happens. Moreover, every Chinese cultivator is obliged to defeat his Japanese counterpart. It's a matter of national security. However, not all of us must play a part in the Taoist assembly's decision; that is just a matter of personal concern. We should not abandon private affairs in favor of public ones, but the opposite is even more true!"
Hearing his words, Wan Zhenyuan couldn't help holding up a hand and bowing to him courteously, praising, "Amitayus, you are young and promising. You possess marvelous strength, and what's even rarer is your broad-mindedness and generosity. Incredibly admirable!"
Li Yundong smiled and returned the salute. "Thanks for your kind words, Master Wan!" Having said that, he walked off the stage sedately.
When he got back to his seat, he saw Su Chan, Zi Yuan, Zhou Qin, and the others all smiling brightly, as if they were welcoming the return of a victorious general. Su Chan even gave him a thumbs-up with a smile and said, "Yundong, you are so powerful! It's just a shame for you to miss out on the opportunity to obtain an Immortal Pen!"
Ruan Hongling also said with a sigh, "That's right. Those people are so ungrateful and cynical. They bite the hand that feeds them. Without Li Yundong, they would not have been able to retain their elegance and dignity. Now they have forgotten it entirely and even want to contend for the Immortal Pen. Humph, who do they think they are!"
Li Yundong said with a disapproving grimace, "What they're doing is understandable. The Immortal Pen is far less important to me than it is to them. I stood up for Zi Yuan as well as the world of Chinese Cultivation, not for the magic item. You should not misunderstand me!"
Zi Yuan nodded in admiration. "You have handled this matter very well. In the process, you've shown generosity and magnanimity, acting as a great cultivator."
Ruan Hongling blinked slowly, glanced at Zi Yuan, and then at Li Yundong before smiling behind her hand. "Well, you always speak up for him! Okay, I'm the only villain, right?"
Zi Yuan glared at Ruan Hongling, saying with a slightly red face, "Enough!"
Ruan Hongling cried out, "I didn't say anything. Can't I call myself am a villain?"
Suddenly filled with shame and anger, Zi Yuan stamped on Ruan Hongling's foot under the table, causing her to immediately scream and yell, "Someone stepped on me. Li Yundong, avenge me!"
Li Yundong coughed and said, "Keep your voice down. People are looking at us!"
She quickly glanced around. As expected, she found that they were the focus of many eyes which shone with mixed feelings. She turned serious and whispered to Li Yundong, "Hey, I don't think there's much to see here any more. Why don't we just leave?"
Zhou Qin also whispered, "Yes, Master. After so many rounds of battle, I do not think there will be lots of high-level battles left for us to see. Let's just leave. I feel that there is something wrong with the way these people look at us. It's weird."
He looked around and thought for a moment before saying, "Well, since you all think so, let's go back."
He was just about to stand up when Wan Zhenyuan said to everyone with a sigh, "Brothers of the Tao, I would like to apologize to you for today. If I hadn't let these Japanese people attend, such a thing wouldn't have happened."
Although every cultivator present thought so, they all said forgivingly, "Master Wan, that's not true. Those Japanese came uninvited. If we had forced them out, they may have accused us Chinese cultivators of pettiness."
"Yes, Master Wan, it's not your fault. You don't have to blame yourself!"
Wan Zhenyuan laughed and said, "Thank you for your generosity, but I'm more or less responsible for this. There's no reason for me not to apologize."
The people around him laughed as well, then Dang Qiang chimed in and said, "Master Wan, since you feel so guilty, then let's ask the little girl who just sang the song to do a couple more!"
The crowd burst out laughing and shouted, "Yes, Master Wan, let‘s do it!"
Wan Zhenyuan chuckled and saw that the little girl who had sung to Little Qu was shyly standing in the corner near the back door with a pipa in her arms. She looked like a frightened deer, looking around at the cultivators with vigilance and nervousness.
Wan Zhenyuan waved at her with a smile, saying, "Little Qiao, come here. Everyone is waiting for you to sing Pingtan."
The girl named Little Qiao came over timidly with the pipa in her arms. She looked around at the crowd with her watery eyes and immediately lowered her eyes in a panic, like a stalk of mimosa.
Fang Qiang laughed and said, "Little Qiao? Is she the namesake of the beauty mentioned in Chibi by Du Mu, the famous poet of the Tang Dynasty?"
Wan Zhenyuan chuckled and addressed the girl. "Don't you want to introduce yourself to the seniors here?"
Little Qiao lowered her head and stared at her shoes. She was too shy to raise her head, so with is still down, she said in a crisp voice, "My name is Song Yuqiao. Qiao means bridge, and it is a bridge over flowing water, not like the Little Qiao from the poem..."
Her crisp, delicate voice immediately made the cultivators feel refreshed, as though they had eaten a ginseng fruit.
Fang Qiang pointed at Song Yuqiao and said with a smile, "You didn't seem timid a moment ago. Why are you being so shy now?"
Song Yuqiao trembled imperceptibly. She looked up at the crowd momentarily before lowering her head again to an even lower position.
Everyone people burst out laughing. Although Wan Zhenyuan felt a little strange, he still smiled and helped to smooth things over, saying, "This is an outer disciple of our sect. She is inexperienced, so she might be a little scared by seeing you fight. Don't feel offended!"
The crowd said generously, "Of course we won't. It's already wonderful of her to sing Pingtan straight after seeing such scary battles!"
"Sect Master Wan, let the girl be my apprentice!" one cultivator cried.
Wan Zhenyuan glanced at the man with a smile and said, "Are you looking for an apprentice or a wife?"
All the people around fell about laughing, and Song Yuqiao's face turned even redder.
Wan Zhenyuan smiled and said, "Please let go of my little apprentice. If you want to listen to the song, let her sing it. We needn't talk too much."
Everyone settled down. Dang Qiang touched his own bald head with a deep laugh and said to Song Yuqiao, "Little Qiao, Little Qiao, what are you going to sing?"
"It depends on what you want to hear," she whispered.
Her voice was as soft as a mosquito's. Had the people present not been good cultivators, they would not have heard what she said.
An idea came to Wan Zhenyuan's mind. He said to the crowd, "Zhenren Li used his great power to drive away those unwise Japanese. We haven't expressed our thanks to him yet. Why don't we let Zhenren Li request a song?"
Everyone immediately said in unison, "That's a good idea!"
Wan Zhenyuan said to Li Yundong with a smile, "Zhenren Li, please go ahead. Just choose a song!"
Seeing that everyone was looking at him, Li Yundong didn't decline. He smiled faintly and said, "Well, which are you best at?"
Li Yunyang's gentle voice give Song Yuqiao a feeling of warmth like there was a warm current flowing into her heart, which easily earned Li Yundong her trust. She summoned her courage and looked up, only to see the man who had been so godlike in battle smiling at her, and she felt like his eyes were as warm as sunshine in April.
She couldn't help but feel a little curious. She thought to herself, "My master says Li Yundong is the worst villain in the world; he is greedy, lustful, and violent. But why do I feel the opposite? I feel like he is a great man who is courageous, loyal, and skillful? Is my master wrong? No, he can't be wrong... Maybe I am mistaken."
She stared at him, lost in thought. For a moment, she forgot to reply. Seeing her stupor, everyone laughed and said, "Master Wan, your little apprentice is falling in love with someone!"
Song Yuqiao suddenly came to her senses after hearing this mockery. She was so shy that her cheeks were on fire. She whispered, "The song I am best at is Legend of the White Snake."
When Li Yundong heard this, he thought to himself, "Why does this girl always sing songs with the theme of subduing demons?"
However, he didn't think any further and simply said with a smile, "Well, you can sing that then!"
Song Yuqiao didn't dare to look at Li Yundong again. She held the pipa in her arms and bowed to everyone before sitting down. At this time, another girl with a three-string sanxian in her arms came through the back door and sat down beside her.
When Wan Zhenyuan saw that everyone's attention was focused on the two girls, he smiled slightly, turned around, and walked through the back door.
As soon as he got outside, he turned around, passed through two corridors, and walked up to a classical wooden house. He pushed the double doors open and walked in.
Inside, he saw a tall man leaning against the window. His eyes were fixed on something outside, seemingly staring at the small building where the cultivators were gathering. After a while, a paper crane flew over to his hand.
Wan Zhenyuan asked in a low voice, "Did you see it?"
The man nodded slightly and did not turn around. His figure was like a silent mountain, making him an oppressive presence.
Wan Zhenyuan snorted coldly before saying, "Do you have confidence in your ability to control such a person? Can you imagine how strong a cultivator who can dispel a Mahamayuri in battle is?"
The man kept silent for a long while before signing softly. "Since the day he first stepped onto the Qinghai Tibet Plateau, I have been able to faintly feel his enormous potential, but I still underestimated him!"
"Are you sure that your plan is going to continue as designed?" Wan Zhen asked.
The man did not respond directly, instead of saying in a deep voice, "The arrow is on the string, so I must release it! Don't worry, I have got an idea!"
Wan Zhenyuan looked at the man's back, saying with an alternating expression of anger and excitement on his face, "You'd better handle the situation, otherwise... if you fail, I will fall out with you!"
After that, he snorted and strode out.
The mysterious man was alone in the room. He stared smilingly at the paper crane on his palm. With a shake of his hand, the paper crane took off with a whoosh and flew in the direction of the melodious sound of Pingtan being sung.
A meaningful smile appeared at the corner of the man's mouth as he muttered, "The show is just beginning!"