The sun glowed happily, showering the land with warmth and tenderness.
The cave was damp but not dark. Four fist-size evening pearls positioned across the four corners lit up the cave, not quite as bright as the outside world but soothing and comforting.
In the corner, a pile of no less than 1000 spiritual stones glittered next to a few dozen jade vases filled to the top with Dans and a handful of other priceless artifacts left behind by predecessors who had ventured into the Hidden Territory. It was quite obvious that the Xuan Ming Snake had acquired a comfortable life for itself since moving in.
In the center of the cave laid a rug made from the skin of a snow tiger. Lin Qing Yi rested quietly on top of the magnificent rug, a sleeping beauty under a magical spell.
The poisonous dark mole had long evaporated. The ghostly pale complexion had turned a pinkish shade of blush.
The Flame of Purity had diffused the poison that consumed her bloodstream. Her body had recovered internally, but she had sustained significant external injuries during her battle with the Xuan Ming Snake which required more time to fully heal. Though, for now, Lin Qing Yi was no longer in danger. When she awakes, she could expedite her recovery.
"You lead a comfortable life here." Ling Xian smiled slyly. Everything from the priceless rug to the mountains of treasure pointed to a privileged life the Snake had carved out for itself.
"Hehe, Master, everything here has been prepared for you," the Snake hissed, stretching his slippery tongue. Its self-inflicted wound had healed. However, the Qi lost from self-harming had caused it to appear flaccid and just a little bit comical.
"Prepared for me? Are you a fortune teller? You knew you'd see me today?" Ling Xian's eyes narrowed.
The Snake tightened its posture in discomfort, then quickly relaxed and replied, "Not that I'm a fortune teller. We parted in such a rush. After I killed Fang Yun and went looking for you, you had already traveled so far and couldn't be found. So I settled here and ordered my subjects to seek information on your whereabouts while preparing all this for you for the day that you arrive."
Ling Xian shook his head and giggled controllably. "Only a moron would believe you. I couldn't care less. But these items in the cave, you can exchange them for your life."
"Take them, Master, they were all collected for you," the Xuan Ming Snake said, painfully. But it had to do anything to please this mass murderer.
"You're not needed here, you may go outside." Ling Xian waved his hand, signaling for the Snake to disappear at once.
"Yes, Master, if you need anything, just holler. I'll do anything for you, even if I have to sacrifice myself." The Snake couldn't wait to be dismissed. Every second spent in the company of this fearsome human felt like years. One wrong word, one wrong step could spell the end of its life.
Ling Xian's voice fell onto the Snake's ears mid-retreat. The Snake's heart skipped a beat. It turned around and let out a miserable, forced smile. "Master, what's your command?"
"Tell your subjects, they are not to breathe a word about what happened here today," Ling Xian's ice cold voice demanded. After a moment of pause, he continued, "Also, tell all the beasts to remain at least a hundred feet away from this cave. Do not come closer."
"Hehe, I understand, do not worry one bit. You and her do what you do, I won't let anyone come near you." the Xuan Ming Snake gave Ling Xian a suspicious smile, then turned around and slithered away.
Ling Xian was confused for a moment before slowly making sense of it. Shifting his gaze onto the sleeping girl, he blushed.
Lin Qing Yi rested quietly on the rug, dressed in a light green dress so tattered it barely covered her modesty, batches of her pearly white skin exposed to his gaze.
She had the most stunning features, an unearthly beauty. Her form was spectacular, enough to invite lust from the coldest of hearts.
Her beauty was out of this world.
This was perhaps the only suitable expression by which to describe her.
In the exact moment, Lin Qing Yi began to slowly emerge from her deep sleep, startled to see a stranger eyeing lustful after her.
She shot up in an instant and recoiled to a corner of the cave. Hugging her shoulders to protect what was left of her modesty, she appeared on the verge of a breakdown.
Seeing her in such a pitiful state, Ling Xian's protective instincts took over and pushed himself forward towards her. This motion came to an awkward halt as the girl screamed a warning.
"If you come any closer, I'll cut my own throat!"
Lin Qing Yi pulled a three-inch blade out of nowhere and held it against her neck. Ling Xian had no doubt she would do exactly that if he continued to move forward.
"Don't. Calm down, let's talk, I'm not the bad guy." Ling Xian smile gently.
"Who are you?"
Lin Qing Yi eyed the man carefully from head to toe. A hint of disappointment flashed across her eyes. This couldn't be him. Yes, his voice and his figure did resemble that of her cultivator, but this man is way too young. He can't be the master cultivator with those awe-inspiring powers.
"You don't remember? I saved you. You hadn't fainted when I came to save you," Ling Xian reminded her.
"I know you saved me, and I know you are the master to that Snake. I know you must have incredible powers, but don't think for even a moment you can make me submit myself to you just because you saved my life."
Lin Qing Yi would not relent, still holding on to the blade and glaring at Ling Xian with a cold indifference. "I owe you my life, yes, but you will not disrespect me, or solicit anything which I am not willing to give. If you insist, I will drench you in your own blood."
Inside the cave, a beautiful woman whose hair fell to her waist held a deadly blade against her throat, willing to die before her captor.
A dramatic scene that echoed through the ages.
Ling Xian's heart almost jumped out of his chest, but he decided to play along. "Drench me in my own blood? Do you think you can do that?"
"I…" Lin Qing Yi hesitated, knowing Ling Xian's powers and her own sad state. But she insisted, "If I can't do that, I'll make sure you're drenched in my blood."
Ling Xian was suddenly overwhelmed by a strong wave of admiration for her. Continuing his serious façade, Ling Xian continued, "Fine, I'll stop badgering you. I apologize for what happened, and I promise it'll never happen again."
"Of course, if you don't believe me and you want to leave here," Ling Xian pointed towards the opening of the cave, "you can leave through there. Be my guest."
Lin Qing Yi was slightly taken aback. "You're really willing to let me leave?"
"Be my guest."
Ling Xian let out a bitter smile and muttered, "You make it seem as if I captured you and imprisoned you here. I was only looking out for you, never thought you'd misinterpret my intentions and slander me like this."
"You… how dare you! If I hadn't woken up in time, you would've offended me!" Lin Qing Yi roared back at him, feeling fortunate but wronged.
First, she was poisoned by the venom of the Xuan Ming Snake, and while near death, this hypocrite barged in and seeing that she was attractive, saved her not out of pity but wanting payment for saving her life in the form of herself. This was definitely a well-rehearsed act. The Snake calls him Master. Of course, this was staged.
However, she felt fortunate that she had woken up in time and her captor is not insisting on that payment.
"Fine, I'm the bad guy, I'm the pervert." Ling Xian finally lost his patience. His hope that this misunderstanding would sort itself out was looking increasingly unlikely. Thus he extended his hand and signaled for her to leave.
"Hmm, good thing you have some redeeming qualities. A young lad like you, learn some good, stop with those perverted thoughts." Lin Qing Yi sneered coldly and headed straight for the opening. But after two steps, her body gave out, and she fell back towards the ground.
Ling Xian reacted instantaneously, taking a huge leap forward and catching her before she hit the ground.
The beauty had fallen back into his arms.