Once again, the room lit up with the magnificent glow of yet another splendid treasure.
When the bright glow began to settle, a crystal tree the size of a hand emerged dangling effortlessly in midair. The object exuded a gentle, emerald colored luminosity.
A pure and magical aroma attacked Ling Xian's senses. He closed his eyes in pleasure. As the scent traveled throughout his body, he felt as though his soul was being cleansed.
Seeing that Ling Xian was drawn to the object, Gong Suo Xin felt her heart settling at ease. She was confident that by accepting such prized gifts, Ling Xian would not and could not refuse her request.
Ling Xian had completely lost himself in this aromatic world. He was drunk on delight and utterly oblivious to his surroundings. After a long moment of pause, he finally woke from his senses and exclaimed, "You dare to gift me the Exquisite Emerald Tree, this must be one monumental request."
The name of this item was indeed the Exquisite Emerald Tree, a cherished artifact of tremendous value and a dream object for millions of cultivators and treasure seekers.
Ling Xian had seen this artifact once inside his Fantasy Territory and thus recognized it immediately. The Tree was not manmade. It was formed naturally out of the rarest elements of Heaven and Earth and only under the most ideal conditions could it survive to maturity.
The Tree is mostly used to achieve three purposes. First, it has incredible calming powers that keep one from venturing off the true path of cultivation and into the realms of evil. This quality alone renders it priceless.
Secondly, the Tree enhances a cultivator's overall speed of development. Although it is not as effective as consuming Dans, it does not introduce crippling side effects either.
Lastly, the Exquisite Emerald Tree is a powerful object for healing. Life and death situations aside, for any average injuries, when consumed of its magical scent, the injuries would heal in mere moments. From this perspective alone, it was a life-saving object.
On the list of most priceless treasures kept by the Clandestine House, The Exquisite Emerald Tree is ranked 97.
"Ling Xian's wisdom far surpasses those of an average cultivator." Gong Suo Xin was once more taken back by this 15-year-old's knowledge of rare treasures.
"Read it in a book, good memory, you see." Ling Xian shook his head and continued, "Mistress Gong, please state your request. You have shown me too much for me to resist."
"Excellent! What I came to ask should not be of any difficulty for you." Gong Suo Xin smiled brightly. She knew the Exquisite Emerald Tree would seal the deal. Her sacrifices would all be worthwhile.
"I am listening." Ling Xian reciprocated her smile.
"As you know, Qi Zhen Pavilion is a well-known, well-established entity of high importance both to the Qin Dynasty and its surrounding neighbors. Therefore, it is collectively overseen by the leaders of the Twelve Tribes." At this point, Gong Suo Xing let out a hapless sigh and continued, "I am one of the candidates for becoming heir to the Seventh Tribe."
Ling Xian raised an eyebrow in astonishment, taken aback by the unexpected source of her strength and position.
The Pavilion was by no means an insignificant establishment. It was home to powerful cultivators and mountains of the rarest treasures. Its power and wealth rivaled those of the Dynasty itself. Clearly, Gong Suo Xin was someone of great importance.
"My position as a candidate is both a fortune and a curse." As if touched by the tragedies of her own past, Gong Suo Xin lowered her gaze. "To ensure I achieve my goal of becoming the Leader of the Seventh Tribe, I have done everything I could. From manipulation to trickery, I have done it all over the years. I live in constant fear. I never let my guard down. If I miscalculate one step, I will be ruined."
Ling Xian nodded without acknowledging her. He understood her plight, but it was difficult to feel any sympathy for her. Who knew if she was being genuine in her narrative?
"Every time I recall the sufferings I had endured, 'tragedy' is not a term overly exaggerated." Gong Suo Xin finally started shedding tears. Any man would feel protective towards a woman in her state.
But not Ling Xian, unmoved, he responded matter-of-factly, "Say what you want of me."
Gong Suo Xin glared at him and whined, "You're indeed a heartless creature."
Ling Xian waved her off. "Don't blame me for being heartless if you cannot be genuine. You are one of the candidates to become the next Leader of a Tribe. You would never tell these things to a stranger unless you needed something in return."
"Of course, but I am smitten with you. You are no stranger." Gong Suo Xin bit down on her lip, a fresh batch of tear came flooding down her cheeks.
Ling Xian coughed and darkened his expression, "If you keep stalling, I will return your Tree."
"Fine, fine, I'll tell you at once, what's the hurry?" Gong Suo Xin's tears dried up immediately, resuming her smile. "There are four of us. To become the next Leader, we must pass a series of tests and challenges. I have consistently ranked second. My last and only chance to become the next Leader of the Seventh Tribe is to come first in the last challenge, three years from now."
"You want me to help you turn the tides in your favor during the last challenge." Ling Xian frowned.
Wild ambitions could now be felt through her trembling voice. "The last test assesses a candidate's charisma. I need a prominent follower. I need you."
"A follower?" Ling Xian frowned. Without a second thought, he rejected her, "Impossible."
In the Taoist Community, a follower is a less degrading term for a servant or a slave.
Sensing anger, Gong Suo Xin immediately followed up with a smile and an explanation. "You misunderstand. I do not mean for you to actually serve me, only during the period of the challenge three years from now. After that, your obligation will be over."
"Hm… if only for a short period, that's not impossible." Ling Xian pondered a moment, then asked, "Someone of your stature can have anyone you want, why do you want me?"
"Because you are second to none, the undisputed best of your generation." Gong Suo Xin began showering him with praise.
"You flatter me. But three years from now, I will at most become a foundational level cultivator. Within your Pavilion, it is not difficult to find a cultivator of the completion level or higher. Why don't you find one of them?" Ling Xian inquired curiously.
Gong Suo Xin grinned, "Then the test would be meaningless. For the test, the age of the follower cannot exceed the age of the Master. In other words, the judges are looking for natural talent, not age-born talent."
"I see." Ling Xian finally understood. The purpose of this challenge was to see if the next Leader had a trustworthy follower who was young enough to advise the Leader throughout his or her entire lifetime.
If age were of no issue, then the oldest would naturally be the wisest. However, they will not have many years left in them to fulfill the role.
"You can rest assured, you shan't need to worry about a thing. Just show up in three years' time and pretend to be my follower. I ask nothing else of you." Gong Suo Xin turned on the charm once again. Perhaps not many men in this world could resist her at this moment.
Ling Xian hesitated. Even though he was only 15 years old, he had the soul and wisdom of a century-old Elder. He needed to consider her request and her intentions with care.
He understood the intricacies and darkness behind such rivalries.
An event as significant as this would introduce him to unwanted dilemmas and unavoidably get him entangled with dangerous businesses and characters.
Gong Suo Xin would not let him hesitate any longer. She walked straight up to Ling Xian, grabbed his arm and started whining once again, "You need to understand, whoever succeeds at becoming the next Leader will kill the rest of us. Would you rather I die?"
"Mistress Gong does not appear such a meek character." Ling Xian shook her off.
Gong Suo Xin took a few steps backward, crocodile tears came pouring down on cue. She sobbed, "If I must, I'll give you myself? My unadulterated body, all yours to…"
She bit her lips down, hard, then squeezed three words through her teeth, "...have fun with."
She grew increasingly irresistible with every tear. The combination of sadness and her feminine allure was enough to weaken any man at his knees.
Even if that man had willpower made of steel.
Ling Xian, on the other hand, felt a fiery rage erupt from the depth of his gut. He didn't know if to laugh or cry. "Put the act back into your bag of tricks. I'll do it. But you must promise me that after this is done, you and I go our separate ways, never to cross again."
"That is a must. I don't know how to thank you, except with my body." Gong Suo Xin's smile was now brighter than the sun. She came up to Ling Xian and gently massaged his face.
Ling Xian was growing irritated, fast. He hollered at her, "Stop with this nonsense. If you continue this act, I'll finish you off. You're no match for me."
"Ha ha, little brother, my fondness for you grows with every moment I spend with you."
Her laughter rang through the air as her body began to fade into oblivion. As she disappeared into dust, she reminded him again of her request.
"Three years from today, Emperor's Millennium Capital, do not be late."