Ling Xian was not an idiot. Though he was only a 14-year-old youth, his rough life experience has shaped him into one with a mature attitude. He was somewhat certain that the lady standing before him was developing feelings for him.
There was nothing unordinary about that. First of all, Ling Xian had a satisfactory appearance and looked older than his actual age. Second of all, when Ling Tian Xiang was in grave danger, Ling Xian saved her life in a god-like manner. At the time, Ling Tian Xiang didn't know him, nor the fact that they had a nephew and aunt relationship. Therefore, it was natural for Ling Tian Xiang to be interested in Ling Xian.
The problem was that their titles were nephew and aunt after all. It was unchangeable and morally speaking, it was somewhat wrong. Ling Xian could not accept that.
"I don't think so. I'm not very interested in battling within the clan." Ling Xian smiled lightly.
Ling Tian Xiang was a little disappointed. She could not really explain the complex feelings she had toward Ling Xian. She just wanted to see him, talk to him, and hang out with him.
Therefore, when she heard about Ling Xian's news, she came here in a rush. Inviting him to the competition and telling him about the token of entrance to the hidden territory was her way of helping Ling Xian improve, and for fulfilling her own selfish desires of spending time alone with him.
But now, she was rejected by Ling Xian. On top of her own disappointment and embarrassment, the heart that has never been wavered before, was hurting badly.
"If that's the case, I won't force you then. However, I do still want to properly thank you for stepping up and saving me when I was in danger. Tonight, in Song He Tower, I will treat you to dinner as a way to express my thanks. What do you think?" Ling Tian Xiang swallowed her pain and asked again, refusing to give up.
"There really isn't a need. Based on our family tree, I need to call you my aunt. A nephew saving his aunt is an unalterable principle. There is no need to be grateful," Ling Xian purposely enunciated the word "aunt".
"Then… alright," Ling Tian Xiang's heart shook again. How could she not have realized their nephew and aunt relationship? She was simply running away from it and did not want to think about it. Now that Ling Xian has pointed it out, she had to face the problem.
Sighing lightly, her pretty face became cloudy. She muttered in a low voice, "In three days, the competition will start. If you change your mind, remember to enter on time. I really do believe that you have a lot to gain from it."
Ling Xian nodded, indicating that he will remember.
"Then, I will leave now." Ling Tian Xiang managed to squeeze a smile before walking out the gate.
When she came, she was a bundle of happiness. When she left, she was clouded with sadness.
Ling Xian watched her disappointed silhouette disappear and shook his head. "Clan's combat competition… should I attend?"
The Clan's combat competition was an annual event where the top ten competitors got handsomely rewarded. Anyone in the clan, regardless of age or level of training, could enter. Many talented collateral siblings enter for the prize as well as to seek acknowledgement from the clan leaders. The direct siblings of the Ling family often entered to enjoy great popularity.
With one of this year's rewards being the entrance token to the hidden territory, it was likely that there would be more participants than usual.
After thinking about it for a while, Ling Xian decided not attend. After all, he had the right to enter the hidden territory already. There was no point in attending, since it was unlikely that he will place first. He had no knowledge of any techniques, he never truly trained his spiritual energy, and there was no way he was going to use his Eyes of Execution in front a group of people.
A dull-thunder like voice interrupted Ling Xian's thoughts. Hearing this voice, Ling Xian's lips couldn't help but curve upwards.
In the entire Ling Clan, only one person was close with him enough to call him brother. It was Ling Hu, a young man Ling Xian grew up with, and the only person who did not intentionally distant himself from Ling Xian due to his inability to practice Taoism. Even though the two had no blood relations, they were closer than real siblings.
Ling Xian pushed open the door and saw that outside his garden, an olive-skinned youth stood.
His face was bold and contoured, and his body was sturdy. Though he appeared to be 18 or 19, he was actually the same age as Ling Xian. He was also tall and strong, which made him look a lot older physically.
"Come in, why are you restraining yourself in front of me?" Ling Xian smiled as he looked at the only brother he had.
"Hehe." Ling Hu scratched his head and sneakily grinned. "I just saw Lady Ling leaving your place crying. Brother, could it be that the rumor is true?"
"When did you start to enjoy gossiping?" Ling Xian laughed but ordered, "the rumor is false. Do not tell anyone that she was here at my place. Remember that."
Ling Hu grinned again, his dark face clearly stated that he did not believe what Ling Xian said. When he saw Ling Xian's cold stare however, he immediately said, "yes, I'll remember, brother. I won't say anything to anyone."
Ling Xian nodded and said, "come in, sit wherever."
"Brother, I heard that you can practice Taoism now? I also heard you defeated that arrogant Ling Bai bastard and broke down the Tidal Sword Technique?" as soon as Ling Hu sat down, he asked.
"Yep. What do you think? Pretty cool eh?" A smile escaped Ling Xian's lips.
"Cool! I knew it! You were a dragon in disguise. I knew that you were going to fly one day!" hearing Ling Xian confirming the rumor, Ling Hu laughed from his heart. He was truly happy for Ling Xian's breakthrough.
Ling Xian felt a wave of warmth washing over him. He reminisced how Ling Hu and his mother had taken care of him all those years and he felt tears form around his eyes. He pounded Ling Hu's shoulders and said in a serious tone, "Hu, thank you. Thank you and your mother for taking care of me all these years. From now on, I will find ways to repay you!"
"Brother, what are you talking about? Back in the days, if you didn't give me all the money your parents left you to help my mom with her sickness, I would not even have a mother today. I should be the thanking you. The amount of kindness you've shown to me is something I cannot ever repay!" Ling Hu's eyes turned red as well.
"Between us brothers, we should stop discussing these things in this manner. How is your mother these days?" Ling Xian asked.
Instantly, Ling Hu's expression darkened. He drooped his head and did not make a sound.
"What is it? Tell me quickly!" Ling Xian felt his heart drop. He had a bad premonition.
Ling Hu thought about it for a second and whispered, "my mother did not want me to tell you in fear that you will worry, but I feel suppressed not telling you. My mother… she is not doing well… She is a mere mortal with no spiritual energy. Her body was already weak, and on top of it, she's been sick for a long time. A few days ago, the doctor came and said her disease has worsened and it has spread to her vital organs."
"The disease has spread?" Ling Xian's brows twisted together. His parents died young, and it was Ling Hu's mother who has always took care of him and given him the warmth of a family. Ling Hu's mother was born weak. When Ling Hu was seven, she caught a rare type of illness, and because the family had no spiritual stones to see a doctor, the illness dragged on until now.
"Yes… at first I wasn't sure what they meant. Then my mother told me that there was no way she will get well again." Ling Hu's head remained droopy. Two streams of tears rolled down his cheeks.
All men have tears and cry. The reason they don't let it out is because they aren't sad enough.
Ling Xian's stomach was full of sorrow as well. After a long sigh, he patted Ling Hu's shoulder and counselled, "Hu, don't be too sad just yet. You mother has always been kind to others. She has collected good karma, so she will for sure make it through this."
"What other ways are there?" Even though Ling Hu was merely 14 years old, he has always been mentally strong and acted like a true man. However, he could not control his tears. His giant hands were in tight fists, and almost whimpering, he said, "three years ago, a doctor said if I can get a Rejuvenation Dan, I can heal my mom's illness. For years I've worked for people and saved all the spiritual stones I earned. All I wanted was to cure her disease. Even now, I haven't saved enough stones for my mom, but the disease has already spread to her vital organs. Rejuvenation Dan will no longer cure her."
"Medicinal Dan…" An idea flashed across his brain, Ling Xian happily said, "Hu, I think, I think I may have a way."
"You have a way?" Like a drowning person who found something to hold onto, Ling Hu snapped his head up. He suppressed his tears as his eyes filled with hope.
Ling Xian nodded and said in a low voice, "yes. Since three years ago, doctors said a Rejuvenation Dan can cure her. If we can find a medicinal Dan that is more superior than a Rejuvenation Dan, then we can save your mother."
"You're right. Brother, you are so much smarter than me. My head is just a decoration. I am so dumb." Ling Hu hit himself in the head and jumped out of his chair. He started laughing for a minute, and then slumped down onto the ground. "Even if there are medicinal Dans that can cure my mother, so what? I can't afford a Rejuvenation Dan, even after saving for three years. Let alone Dans that are higher ranked."
His stern face was now full of helplessness. All the strength he usually showed have melted off him. His muscular and heavy body was now a lump of meat. He hugged himself as he muttered to himself, "no stones, dammit… no stones… dammit…"
This was a poor man's sorrow.
In a world where immortality could be reached, what kind of a big deal was a disease of the mortal? It was a pity that Ling Hu did not have stones. For without stones, he could not purchase a medicinal Dan.
He was born with great talent, however due to his mother's sickness, he had to waste all his time working for stones. If he could focus on training, he would not only have level three qi.
"Stand up! Look at yourself! Look at the mess you are. Are you still the man of steel that I know? So many years you have endured and made it through. Now that we have hope, you are giving up?" Ling Xian frowned. It was as if he wanted to turn iron into a steel road, but the iron was not cooperating.
"Brother! This is not hope! This is despair! A Rejuvenation Dan is 3,000 stones, how much more expensive would a better Dan be? I woke up before dawn and went home after sunset for three years, yet all I could save was 1,500 stones. Where am I going to get the rest…" Ling Hu screamed at the top of his lungs until his voice gave up and it turned into a whimper.
"Who said we don't have spiritual stones? You don't have any, but I do!" Ling Xian smiled.
"What!?" Ling Hu violently looked up and stared deadly into Ling Xian's eyes. He asked hurriedly, "brother, you really have them? Do not lie to me."
"When have I ever lied to you? What do you think this is?" Ling Xian waved his hand and 20,000 stones piled up neatly onto the ground. It gave off a dizzying ring of temptation.
Ling Hu looked at the mountain of stones with his mouth open. He was dumbfounded and stunned.
He slapped himself hard on the cheek with his own hand. Ling Hu began to laugh as tears rolled down his cheeks. As if possessed, he moaned and groaned, "I'm not dreaming. This is real! So many stones… so many stones… my mom can be saved… can be saved."
"A total of 20,000 stones. What do you think? Did brother lie to you?" Ling Xiang was happy and proud of himself as he looked at Ling Hu's exhilarated olive face. He was happy over the fact that they were now rich. Ling Hu could finally stop killing himself by working, and instead, settle down and concentrate on cultivating.
Ling Xian was also proud; proud of the fact that he finally had the ability to help out the people he cared about. He was also proud of the fact that he had the capital to live in this world and protect those he loved.
The feeling sure was wonderful.