The mellow sun peeked through the darkness as dawn approached, bright and warm.
Inside a dark, damp cave, Ling Tian Xiang leaned against a giant rock, cradling the body of Ling Xian. Pressing his head against her chest, Ling Tian Xiang seemed to be dreaming of something wonderful as her lips twitched upwards into an uncontrollable smile.
She woke moments to an aching body. She had been holding another body in her arms, remaining in one position for way too long. But she did not mind one bit. Looking down at the pale face of the handsome youth, she couldn't help but reach out her hands towards his forehead and caress gently down his face. For him, anything was worth it.
Ling Tian Xiang smiled brightly as she pushed his hair away from his face. Her smile blossomed for Ling Xian alone.
Ling Xian woke in the same instant. Opening his eyes, he saw nothing but softness surrounding him, as if he had woken in a field of cotton. A hint of lavender invaded his senses, he parted his lips in astonishment and a small grape fell into his mouth.
"Hmm…" Ling Xian was not yet fully conscious and couldn't tell what he had just bit into. He twirled the object in his mouth then teased it gently, looking for a taste of familiarity.
"Ah…" Ling Tian Xiang exclaimed. Of course, it sounded more like a moan. Despite being fully clothed, she felt a wave of tender shock travel through her body, igniting a tiny flame on the tip of her heart and causing her to blush feverishly.
"Ling Xian… get away!"
Ling Tian Xiang felt infuriated. However, her demanding tone betrayed a hint of encouragement. At this moment, she was heavily conflicted. She wanted to push the youth away but did not want that satisfying feeling to end. More importantly, she did not want to hurt him.
Despite being young and naïve, she understood a little about proper interactions between a man and a woman. If it had been any other man who dared to humiliate her, they'd already been dead. But with Ling Xian, on top of anger, she found herself enjoying the attention.
"Ah… apologies, apologies." Ling Xian was now fully awake. Even though he didn't understand why Ling Tian Xiang was reacting so feverishly, he knew he must have been inappropriate towards her. Hurrying away from her arms, where he laid, Ling Xian noticed that there were no one else inside this cave.
Ling Tian Xiang sneered coldly in a pretend fury, but deep down, she felt a sense of sadness. Ling Xian's awake now, there would be no reason to hold him again.
In the past few days, she had enjoyed the feeling of holding him, caring for him, even though her body ached from holding him in one position for a prolonged period of time.
The atmosphere suddenly turned awkward. A lone male and an unwed female, allowing accidents to happen while unaccompanied, neither spoke.
Ling Xian let out an uncomfortable smile after a long, tense moment. "How long had I been asleep? Where are the others?"
"They're out hunting beasts," Ling Tian Xiang responded timidly, followed by a satisfied smile which she tried but failed to hide. "You slept for three days."
"Three days?" Ling Xian was startled. Injuries from several battles attacked at once and induced him into a deep sleep. He hadn't felt time fleeing at all, only that he was in a deep sleep in the comfort of a warm body and being caressed by the gentlest of touches.
What he didn't know was that Ling Tian Xiang had been worried sick during this time. She could neither eat nor sleep and for three days refused to move an inch. Even as a trained cultivator, her body had begun to retaliate.
"You have an incredible body, is it made of steel? You suffered such horrific injuries, but you are moving so swiftly. After only three days of rest, you are more than halfway healed," Ling Tian Xiang exclaimed. "The first time we met, you were only a young cultivator of the third realm. In only a month time, you've grown to become the best of the Ling Clan, no no, the best of your generation in the entire City of Qing!"
"The best of my generation, in the entire City of Qing?" Ling Xian giggled. "Too exaggerated! Says who?"
"Says me!" Ling Tian Xiang responded naughtily, flashing those big bright eyes at him. "Everyone has witnessed your powers, the best of the Fang Clan couldn't last one round with you. If you are not the best, who is?"
"Well, that is true, but being the best of my generation is not exactly my goal." Ling Xian smiled. Despite the burning sensation in his chest, he contained his excitement. This title was certainly tempting, but he would never let himself get lost in such a pitiful title. The City of Qing was too small for his appetite.
His dream lies above the highest cloud overlooking the universe, the City of Qing would be a mere speck of dust from there.
"Bold words! Then I shall wait to see you succeed." Ling Tian Xiang blushed, unable to hide her desire for the man in front of her. No one could ever move her as he has.
The mistress of the Ling Clan, one of the most honorable ladies of the City of Qing, arguably the most beautiful, sought after by countless nobilities. For 19 years, she had never been moved by anyone. Yet after one meeting, she managed to fall hopefully for him.
With time, this love had developed deeper and eventually developed roots.
It was not her fault. Ling Xian was too bright of a star, handsome, brave, honorable, and ambitious. He was every girl's Prince Charming.
Not to mention, he appeared when she was most vulnerable, saving her life more than once. How could anyone not be swayed?
Sensing a hint of obsession in her gaze, Ling Xian let out a silent sigh and averted her eyes. He understood her feelings, her intentions, but he couldn't accept. So he changed the topic. "During this three-day sleep, did anything happen?"
"Not between us, but the Hidden Territory has become more volatile. The beasts have gone crazy, slaughtering humans at random. Good thing this cave is relatively hidden. Even then a few beasts had managed to intrude, all killed by Ling Zhan and the rest." Ling Tian Xiang sighed in disappointment but went along with the change in topic, a smart girl.
Ling Xian was uneasy. The beasts couldn't find him, so they directed their anger at others.
"Brother, you're awake!"
An excited voice echoed inside the cave. Ling Hu had returned carrying the corpse of a silver wolf. The rest of the crew followed him inside, all excited to see him awake.
Ling Xian felt warm air overcome his body. He laughed. "Don't worry, I'm fine."
"Ha ha, you're finally awake." Ling Zhan let out a roaring laughter, blinked an eye and continued, "Did you know, our mistress Ling had held you for three days, never moved an inch. Yesterday I offered to take over and let her get some rest, and she yelled right back, refused to let you go!"
Hadn't moved in three days?
Ling Xian was startled, a warm sensation rose up to his heart. He turned to look at Ling Tian Xiang and exclaimed, silently, beauty favors the brave!
"Don't listen to him, that's because I…" Ling Tian Xiang blushed, trying and failing to explain. She was surprised to find that she couldn't come up with a single excuse. Cradling a man for three days without complaint or thought for herself. Only love could inspire such kindness.
"Because you what?" Ling Xian looked at her with amusement, then said, "Thank you."
"Don't thank me, you saved my life, this was nothing," Ling Tian Xiang finally found an excuse, only to be followed by a deafening silence, causing her to blush harder.
"Ling Xian saved my life too, why won't you let me look after him?" Ling Fei asked, bitterly.
"Ha ha, that's right, Ling Fei was also worried out of her mind. Ling Xian, you're quite the ladies' man, I'm a little jealous." Ling Zhan patted Ling Xian on the shoulders but quickly shut his mouth as he felt two murderous gazes shoot towards him from two directions.
"Since everyone's alive and well, then I bid you all goodbye." Ling Xian smiled softly.
"Goodbye? You don't want to stay with us?" Ling Tian Xiang frowned in disappointment.
"Not that I don't want to, but I can't," Ling Xian responded with a hint of shame. "To be honest, I was one that started the chaos amongst the beasts in the Hidden Territory."
Everyone inhaled a mouthful of the freezing air. Ling Tian Xiang could not believe what she had just heard. "You mean to say those beasts are looking for YOU?"
"Yes, so if I stayed with you, you could get involved, and get hurt." Ling Xian sighed. His current level of strength was enough to fend of all beasts except for the Almighty rulers. Even if he did encounter them, he could swiftly escape using his lightning speed.
Therefore he wasn't overly concerned for his own well-being. However, if the beasts attacked and he couldn't protect all members of his clan, he would live forever in shame.
"The Heavens! How many beasts did you kill to invite a Killer Order from the Almighty and the Privy Council?" Ling Zhan plummeted into a state of shock.
"I haven't counted, perhaps a few hundred," Ling Xian casually threw out a number.
Another mouthful of air. Everyone gazed at Ling Xian as if eyeing a terrifying ghost.
Killed a few hundred? By yourself?
My heavens! Is he really a cultivator of the sixth realm, or of the Foundational realm?
"Then you absolutely must stay! It's too dangerous for you, stay with us, and we can face them together if they find us. We owe you all our lives, at least we'd die with you if we must." Ling Tian Xiang looked at him hopefully, then shifting her gaze towards the others and asked, "What do you all think?"
"Of course, Ling Xian saved our lives, we're not afraid of death!"
Ling Xian had descended from the heavens and saved the lives of everyone here. To them, he had given them the gift of rebirth. Regardless of their fears and reservations, they answered the call to die with him if it ever came to that.
Ling Xian was touched. This was heartfelt, he was certain of it. They wanted to shoulder the burden with him. But the more they insisted, the more he needed to leave. He folded his hands together and begged, "Everyone, please, quiet down, and listen to me.
The crowd fell silent immediately.
Evidently, their respect for Ling Xian was beyond compare.