"What?" Holy Daughter Manyflowers said with a frown. "Patriarchs Wind and Cloud, are you sure you don't want to think about the matter a bit longer?"
Grand Elder Godhawk burst out laughing in response. "That brat you brought along with you is no genius, Holy Daughter Manyflowers. Did you really think that Patriarchs Wind and Clouds would take him seriously? What a joke!" Considering that Grand Elder Godhawk had never gotten along with Holy Daughter Manyflowers, it was no surprise that he took advantage of the moment to ridicule her.
"You!" Holy Daughter Manyflowers shot back, her eyes afire. "Godhawk, you old codger, is it really true that a dignified grand elder like yourself has turned into a Crown Prince Society brownnoser?"
"That's enough," said the gray-robed Patriarch Wind. "There will be no quarreling here in Wind and Cloud Pagoda. I don't want our game of Go disturbed, understand? Holy Daughter Manyflowers, that brat of yours is clearly a far cry from being Yun Hailan's equal. The two of us can see that as clear as day."
"Exactly!" Grand Elder Godhawk added with a mocking smile. "I guess you're only capable of finding middle-of-the-road people, Holy Daughter Manyflowers. For example, your apprentice Yang Susu, who hasn't even passed Secondary Lifeseizing after ten years. If she was an actual genius, she would have achieved seven or eight lifeseizings already."
"My apprentice is no way deficient!" Holy Daughter Manyflowers said coldly. "Maybe you think this Yun Hailan is some sort of genius, but she can't compare to even a hair on my apprentice's head!"
Shooting to his feet, Patriarch Wind threw his game piece onto the board, scattering the other pieces. "Dammit! I said not to disturb our game, didn't I? I had a great strategy prepared, only to have it ruined by you brats!"
Silence reigned. Grand Elder Godhawk and Holy Daughter Manyflowers were both visibly taken aback by the fury of Patriarch Wind.
"Master, there's no need for you to be so angry," Yun Hailan said. "Grand Elder Manyflowers simply meant that you have poor judgment. She thinks that the apprentice you personally selected isn't as good as her own apprentice. Actually, I'm a bit curious to see if she's right. Is your apprentice better? Or is hers? I failed to bring gifts to offer upon becoming your apprentice, so allow me to earn some face for you. What do you say?"
"Very well, my apprentice. Do as you wish."
Patriarch Wind sat down, looking a bit calmer than before.
'This Yun Hailan really knows how to stir things up,' Yang Qi thought, a cold smile slowly spreading out on his face. Unfortunately, with so many other top experts here, it wouldn't be appropriate for him to speak up. Obviously, Patriarchs Wind and Cloud were both catering to Yun Hailan for the sake of the enigmatic Crown Prince. If it weren't for that, there was no way she could have earned their favor and been accepted as an apprentice so quickly.
In all likelihood, the Crown Prince had contacted Patriarchs Wind and Cloud ahead of time to arrange things. That would also explain why Yun Hailan had been so confident before entering the Minorcosm.
"Master, why not allow Grand Elder Holy Daughter Manyflowers' apprentice Yang Susu and I to exchange a few fighting tips? Then we can truly assess the level of her cultivation base. Unless I'm mistaken, Yang Susu is already a Secondary Lifeseizer. I, on the other hand, only just reached the Lifeseizing level. Primary and Secondary Lifeseizers are so different you can hardly even discuss them at the same time. Even still, I'm very interested to see if her energy arts are better, or mine." Up to this point, she had spoken in a very cool tone, but all of a sudden, her wording turned sharp. "Yang Susu, I hereby challenge you to a duel, right here in Wind and Cloud Pagoda. Do you accept? Or not?"
"Fine! I accept." Yang Susu chuckled coldly. "You used despicable methods to deceive my Qi'er, which resulted in his martial arts being crippled. I think today is the perfect opportunity to teach you a little lesson. In the future, you should avoid using plots and schemes to try to win glory."
At this point, Yang Qi's eyes flickered and he said, "Aunt Susu, why don't you let me accept the challenge for you? I'd prefer to solve my issues on my own."
Yang Qi was getting a very strange feeling from Yun Hailan, and was certain that she had some powerful hidden assets that were giving her the confidence to handle Yang Susu. He couldn't quite tell the level of her cultivation base, but he knew that she was far too adept at keeping secrets, and hiding her strength. Although he didn't want to reveal the full extent of his power right now, he also didn't want to see Yang Susu in danger.
"Stand down, Susu," Holy Daughter Manyflowers said.
"The Inter-Institutional Martial Arts Competition is just around the corner. Defeat her in a fair contest there, in front of all eyes. That's the way to earn praise."
Unexpectedly, Holy Daughter Manyflowers was actually preventing her apprentice from accepting the duel.
Apparently, Yun Hailan hadn't anticipated that Holy Daughter Manyflowers would reject the offer to duel, and wasn't willing to let the matter drop. "If you're strong enough, what's there to be afraid of? I'm ready to compete whenever and wherever."
"She's right, Holy Daughter Manyflowers," Patriarch Wind said coldly. "You just said your apprentice is stronger than my new apprentice. You brought this whole thing up, and now you're backing down?"
Patriarch Cloud let out a loud, impolite snort. "You, a little girl who isn't even a Legendary, brings two babies still wet behind the ears to disturb affairs at Wind and Cloud Pagoda? She even ruined our game of Go. Just leave, Holy Daughter Manyflowers. Come back when you're a Legendary."
"You have your apprentice, Patriarchs Wind and Cloud. But it won't be long before the martial arts competition comes, and I'll show just how bad your judgment is. And this young man who I was going to recommend to you will definitely surpass that apprentice of yours." Holy Daughter Manyflowers' words seemed to be filled with gunpowder. "Legendary? I'll definitely break through soon. And when that happens, I'll challenge the both of you, and we'll see who has a better understanding of magical law."
"Oh? Big talk, Holy Daughter Manyflowers. Not even a Legendary, and yet still you dare to call our sense of judgment into question? Are you conceited, or just arrogant? Compete with us? Do you know how many years we've been Legendaries?"
"It doesn't matter. Just wait until the competition. Everything will be made clear then." Turning to Yang Susu and Yang Qi, she said, "Let's go. We're leaving this Minorcosm World, but it won't be long before I'm back. Permanently."
Flicking her sleeve, she left Wind and Cloud Pagoda, followed by Yang Qi and Yang Susu.
Yun Hailan watched her go, her eyes flickering with disappointment.
"See? See!?" Grand Elder Godhawk said, clearly trying to add fuel to the fire. "Patriarchs, that Holy Daughter Manyflowers is wildly arrogant, wouldn't you say? I can't believe she dared to treat you with such disrespect. She definitely deserves a harsh punishment."
"She's simply too haughty," Patriarch Wind said. "However, she did reach Nonary Lifeseizing before forty, and is already about to break through to the Legendary Level. She's definitely talented. That attitude of hers came from the fact that we stripped her of a bit of face by not accepting that young man as a disciple." He chuckled coldly. "If we were out of the institute, we would teach her a bit of a lesson. But since we're in the Minorcosm World, we'll just let it slide. If we did something here, and the other old-timers noticed, they would accuse us of bullying.
"Very well, Yun Hailan. Now that you're our apprentice, we'll do everything we can to help you progress. And when the time comes for the Inter-Institutional Martial Arts Competition, you can drag Yang Susu down from her little pedestal. Maybe you can even teach Holy Daughter Manyflowers a lesson. Understand?"
"Actually," Patriarch Cloud added, "this Holy Daughter Manyflowers is quite shrewd. It seems to me she could tell that you used life force springwater on your dragonpearl to transform it into the nascent divinity of a divine dragon. With that, you have the power to dry up rivers and drain seas. She wasn't actually convinced her own apprentice could handle you, and thus backed down."
"Patriarchs, the two of you are profoundly insightful," Yun Hailan said, her eyes glittering.
"Well, enough of that nonsense. The time has come to pass on one of our energy arts to you, and then bolster your cultivation base. In two hours, you can leave. According to the institute's rules, you can come to the Minorcosm World every seven days for two hours. Only Legendaries can stay in for longer than that. Anyone else will be forcibly ejected by the magical laws here. After you leave, could you please tell the Crown Prince we already attended to the matter we promised to handle? And we hope that he will follow through with what he agreed to do."
"Of course," Yun Hailan said, smiling. "The Crown Prince is currently in another area of space-time working on his cultivation. Apparently, he's collected the remains of an ancient god-devil for the purpose of creating a magical item. I'm sure that he'll live up to his end of the agreement as soon as he returns."
"By the way, what was that young man's name?" Grand Elder Godhawk said. "You seem wary of him. His cultivation base appears to be fairly advanced, although not as much as yours."
"His name is Yang Qi," Yun Hailan said coldly. "When I first met him, he was nothing more than a fool. However, he got lucky and stumbled across some good fortune. I can handle him alone. There's no need for you to trouble yourself, Grand Elder, or you, Masters."
"Of course," Patriarch Wind said. "Considering our status, it wouldn't be appropriate to do anything to someone of the younger generation. You young ones can handle such matters on your own. Now, sit there cross-legged."
As soon as they were away from Wind and Cloud Pagoda, Yang Susu said, "Master, why did you prevent me from having a match with Yun Hailan?"
"Yun Hailan has incredible power brewing in her. Something wild, from times of yore. It's almost as if a primeval divine dragon has been resurrected inside of her. I'm afraid she's acquired the legacy of a divine dragon, as well as either a dragonpearl or a dragon egg. If that's the case, then you're no match for her. Considering how conniving she is, and how strong, you need to be careful of her in the future."
Continuing to absorb Nine-Yang Immortal Energy as they went along, Yang Qi said, "Aunt Susu, I'm going to kill that Yun Hailan one day. Don't worry. And as far as getting a master is concerned, it's not a big deal. Masters can be a crutch, and I'd prefer to do things on my own."
By this point, he had so many colorful dragons in his Hellfire Crucible that it was almost completely full.