Inside a dark cave on the outskirts of Sunset City, Lin Qing Yi sat cross-legged with her eyes shut. She breathed gently, her wounds healing with each steady breath.
Beside her, Ling Xian rested against the rocky interior walls and pondered their next step.
It wasn’t fear that made him hesitate. The Third Prince was a powerful figure. Inside the borders of the Zhou Dynasty, he could not move an inch without bloodshed.
The Third Prince was the favorite to become the Crown Prince. His forces were widespread. Countless assassins would be mobilized on his orders to track down and neutralize Ling Xian.
He had to contemplate whether it would be wise to journey to the capital city and seek transport to the Wan Jian House.
Moments passed. Lin Qing Yi opened her eyes and exhaled softly. Her body had half recovered. But she was far from a full recovery.
She had been pursued for days. Her injuries were extensive.
Ling Xian smiled at her and continued, "How are you feeling?"
"Better, thank you." Lin Qing Yi paused a moment and beamed with delight. She asked, "Should I address you as a Master Ling, or Young Master Ling?"
"Call me Ling Xian."
Ling Xian returned her smile, not disputing the titles she had bestowed upon him.
"It was indeed you..."
Memories of their past encounters flashed across her mind, especially the scenes inside that cave. She let out a peculiar grin and continued, "You’ve tricked me."
"Well... I never intended to hide the truth from you. But as you know, I prefer to stay low-key," Ling Xian responded. He observed her carefully. Nearly a year and a half had passed since their last encounter, but she was every inch as flawless and tempting as he remembered.
Lin Qing Yi let out a snicker, "You slaughtered a piece of the Third Prince’s soul. You call that low-key?"
"Wasn’t that all for you?" Ling Xian beamed at her. He knew he had been momentarily taken down by rage and had not acted rationally. But he had no regrets.
If he had the chance to choose again, he would have chosen the same path. Perhaps, he would have been even more decisive and ruthless.
The three assassins had obviously been sent to pursue Lin Qing Yi on the orders of the Third Prince. Ling Xian would defend Lin Qing Yi to the death. Even if he hadn’t destroyed the soul of the Prince, they would be suffering the same fate now.
Regardless of the outcome, Ling Xian would have to face the Third Prince. If this would be the outcome irrespective of the methods used, there was no reason to hold back.
Lin Qing Yi swallowed hard and began to blush. Her exquisite complexion caused Ling Xian to momentarily lose himself in her charm. As he emerged from this temporary bedazzlement, Ling Xian sighed and relented himself to the fact that this was the first woman to captivate his imagination.
Lin Qing Yi had noticed Ling Xian’s momentary loss of self-control and smiled in satisfaction. She continued, "I could have never imagined how far you’d come in merely a year and a half – advanced stage of the foundational level, powers of the completion level, capable of destroying the soul of the Third Prince. You are arguably undefeatable in Yunzhou."
"You are not too bad yourself. While we were inside the Hidden Territory, you were no match for my pet snake. How did you become a foundational warrior in such a short period?" Ling Xian returned her flattery. He couldn’t help but feel a sense of regret over their lost time together.
Time waits for no one. A year and a half had passed in the blink of an eye.
This was by no means an extended period in the lifetime of an ordinary cultivator. But for Ling Xian, his life had been turned upside down.
He had grown from a useless mortal to a Heaven’s Favorite.
Of course, he owed everything he had to the Majestic Blood and support from Liao Cang Qiong.
"Why, only you are allowed to progress but not me?"
Lin Qing Yi mocked him then began recounting her story, "Long story short, I looked for you and waited for you for nearly half a year after leaving the Hidden Territory, but to no avail. Then, I left for a Dan Convention in the City of Cang Yun. While there, I saved the life of a lady. Then, with her help, I broke through to the foundational level. I found out later that she was the seventh daughter of the Emperor of the Zhou Dynasty. She’s called the Seventh Princess."
"The Seventh Princess?"
Ling Xian frowned as everything became clear to him. He sneered coldly, "A power struggle that implicated you."
Lin Qing Yi projected an expression of shock at how quickly Ling Xian understood her story. She smiled bitterly and said, "You are too brilliant. You saw through everything."
"This is not a difficult guess. A Third Prince, a Seventh Princess. What else could this be but a power struggle for the Crown? But they shouldn’t have implicated you. That Third Prince deserves everything he got," Ling Xian mumbled angrily.
None of what these spoilt princes and princesses did in their fight for the Crown interested Ling Xian. He was only concerned with Lin Qing Yi’s well-being.
Seeing Ling Xian’s dramatic reaction, Lin Qing Yi knew she was the cause of all his rage. A feeling of warmth and comfort swept over her as she responded, "You are correct. But the Seventh Princess has always been kind to me. We have become sworn sisters. What happened today has nothing to do with her. It was the doings of the Third Prince. He wanted to deal her a blow by assassinating me while I was traveling."
"So what? I don’t care what her involvement is. This is her war. She should not have implicated you. If I hadn’t shown up where I did and when I did, you’d be dead." Ling Xian exhaled another sigh of relief. Even though he didn’t yet understand whether he had fallen in love or was simply infatuated with Lin Qing Yi, he knew he didn’t want her harmed.
"Speaking of what happened today, I haven’t thanked you properly." Lin Qing Yi smiled gracefully.
"No need for such formalities between you and I." Ling Xian frowned. He didn’t know why such a gesture had made him so restless.
Lin Qing Yi saw through his state of mind and felt another wave of warm air. But she feigned confusion and persisted, "Between you and I? Is there something between you and I?"
"How could there not be anything?"
Ling Xian responded cunningly. His lips curled up in both corners as he continued mockingly, "That day inside the cave..."
But before he could finish, Lin Qing Yi began to blush furiously as she hastily cut him short, "Ling Xian, stop talking."
"Ha ha, fine, I’ll stop." Ling Xian laughed and shook his head. Changing the topic swiftly, he asked, "Where do you plan on heading next?"
"Naturally, the Capital." Lin Qing Yi responded without hesitation.
"You plan to return to the Seventh Princess and continue to be embroiled in this power struggle for the Crown?" Ling Xian frowned in displeasure.
"Ling Xian, don’t worry about me. It’s you who you should worry about. You destroyed a piece of the Third Prince. He won’t let go of you until he has found you. The Seventh Princess is the only one of his siblings who is powerful enough to confront his forces. You should come with me to the Capital," Lin Qing Yi explained in a worried tone.
Ling Xian pondered a moment then shook his head slowly. "No, first, the Capital is the Third Prince’s home base. Perhaps the Seventh Princess has every intention to protect you, but she’s evidently not capable. She doesn’t even know you were in danger. I won’t leave your life in her hands."
"But that is the best option without leaving the Zhou Dynasty altogether," Lin Qing Yi reasoned.
"I have business I need to deal with first. We’ll figure this out when I return." Ling Xian looked out the cave and remembered his pact with Manager Zhao.
"What business?" Lin Qing Yi followed quickly. But she regretted immediately, not wanting to appear overly curious or nosy.
"No harm in telling you." Ling Xian smiled, "I need to make a stop at a branch of the Trade Convention in Sunset City. I need to buy some Dans and inquire about some magical items I’ve been looking for."
"Correct, have you ever heard of Mount of the Healing Soul, Lake of the Resting Soul, Iron of the Setting Soul, and Wood of the Warming Soul?" Ling Xian asked.
Lin Qing Yi looked at him, perplexed. "Of course, but what do you need them for?"
"I need them, desperately. To find them, I am willing to give up my life." Ling Xian sighed heavily, remembering the grave danger Liao Cang Qiong was in.
"Give up your life for these items?"
Lin Qing Yi understood his urgency. She inquired further, "Do you need all four? Or just one?"
"One is sufficient. If I needed all four, I would have given up long ago. There is no chance in heaven that I could track down all four of these rare items." Ling Xian let out a hapless smile then turned his attention to her. "Why do you ask such specific questions, do you have them?"
"I do not."
Then, she beamed. "But I know who does."
Ling Xian’s face lit up at the echoes of these words. As if someone had extended a life-saving arm that he hopelessly dangled on on the side of a sharp cliff. He asked hastily, "Who?"