A mess of emotions swirled in Jiang Chen’s heart. He was excited, thrilled, happy, and guilty.
There had only been a handful of people he was close to when he’d been in the Regal Pill Palace. Palace Head Dan Chi was one. Mu Gaoqi and Elder Yun Nie others as well. There were at most ten people he had a close relationship with, the Ling sisters included.
Ling Bi’er was as important to him as Mu Gaoqi. Even though their relationship had never been anything but platonic, she’d been his best female friend at the time. He enjoyed talking to her the most; they were on the same wavelength.
Ling Bi’er was usually quiet and difficult to approach, but he knew through their interactions that a caring heart burned beneath her cold appearance. From her love for his father, her protectiveness of her little sister, and her loyalty to her sect, it was clear that emotions ran deep.
He was beyond himself at seeing Ling Bi’er again in a different world.
Next to Jiang Chen, waves of emotion roiled in Huang’er as well. She’d seen Ling Bi’er when residing in the Regal Pill Palace, and meeting again here was the last thing she’d expected.
Unlike Jiang Chen, Huang’er didn’t have a close relationship with Ling Bi’er. They’d rarely crossed paths, but these two extraordinary women were aware of each other. Huang’er even knew that the Ling sisters were in love with Jiang Chen.
Seeing Ling Bi’er show up as the princess of Bluesmoke Isles both surprised and made Huang’er quizzical. She glanced at Jiang Chen out of the corner of her eyes. The look in his eyes betrayed the fluctuation of his emotions. She smiled knowingly.
She believed that her beloved didn’t have a relationship with Ling Bi’er, and that he didn’t desire her. Ling Bi’er, on the other hand, had been head over heels for him. Was she still the same woman after all these years? Was her love as pure and unwavering as it had once been?
Huang’er fell in deep thought for the moment. She knew that Jiang Chen wouldn’t abandon Ling Bi’er. If she was happy here in Bluesmoke, he might let her be. But was she?
Huang’er gave the girl another look. She at least didn’t look at all happy about being a princess. If she was satisfied with her life here, even someone as naturally calm as her wouldn’t be able to keep her joy bottled up on such occasion.
Yet Huang’er didn’t feel anything like that at all. Her instincts told her that Ling Bi’er had been forced to come to the event. She had no choice but to play this role.
Has Brother Chen noticed it? Huang’er wanted to bring it to Jiang Chen’s attention, but she couldn’t message him, lest the watchdogs of her family notice something off between them.
She smiled. “The princess is indeed beautiful enough to topple a city, cousin Qingsang. However, she doesn’t seem to be in a good mood.”
Yan Qingsang frowned. “Maybe that’s just how she carries herself?”
“Heh, she and I are both women. My instincts tell me that the princess doesn’t have much interest in this tournament at all.”
Yan Qingsang wasn’t convinced. “How so?”
“Look at her. She’s only given a token nod since taking the stage. Has she smiled at all? Has she acknowledged the crowd? Has she even looked around? In her eyes, the contestants and the audience might as well not exist.”
Her words were addressed to Yan Qinsang, but they were for Jiang Chen’s benefit.
Jiang Chen perked up. He well understood what his beloved wanted to tell him. Ling Bi’er might not have volunteered to partake in the tournament. Perhaps she was being compelled against her will.
A mess of tangled thoughts filled his head.
“Your Highness, many brave warriors have fought for you over the past month. Please share some words with them!”
Ling Bi’er threw a fleeting glance at the imperial prince before her eyes swept over the crowd.
“You have all fought hard. The royal family of the Bluesmoke Isles thanks you for your participation.” Those faint comments were all she said.
The representative of the royal family looked displeased, but the imperial prince was an expert in bringing an event to life.
“The princess is a woman of few words,” he picked up with a smile. “It’s rare for her to grace others with her voice. That’s it, brave warriors. Let the fights continue. The princess is going to watch the matches today and witness your glory!”
He gave her a meaningful look and transmitted, “It’s fine if you don’t want to talk, Princess Bi, but you have to watch the matches every day starting now. Orders from the emperor. You aren’t going to disobey him now, are you?”
Ling Bi’er heavily disliked showing her face in public. She’d shied away from crowds when she was in the Regal Pill Palace as well. Given the circumstances, she didn’t have a choice. She had to endure all this for her plan to return to the human domain.
“Haha, the princess is in the audience, brother. I have to do my best.” Yan Qingsang patted Jiang Chen on the shoulder and flew to a stage.
Jiang Chen looked up at Ling Bi’er, deep in thought.
Huang’er turned to him nonchalantly. “Princess Bi is a rare beauty. Isn’t Sir Shao Yuan going to give it a try?”
Jiang Chen blinked. Was she joking, or did she have other plans?
She burst into a giggle. “Even I’m a little attracted to her beauty. I’ll have a go as well.”
She flew to another stage in a flash. Dressed as a man, she looked spirited and carefree, but also graceful and handsome.
Many male cultivators inwardly cursed at her. Where was this pretty boy from? This wasn’t the place for him. Had he joined in after seeing how beautiful the princess was? Why hadn’t they ever seen him before?
Being good-looking was enough to attract hostility from the other contestants. Incidentally, Huang’er didn’t realize how many people had taken an instant dislike to her.
She smiled calmly and cupped her hands. “I am Mu Gaoqi, a wanderer in the jianghu. I’m taking part because I couldn’t help myself after seeing the princess.‘
She raised a cupped fist salute and made a slight bow to greet facing Ling Bi’er.
Ling Bi’er froze when she heard the name, her indifference fractured. Surprise flashed through her eyes as she turned in Huang’er’s direction.
If she hadn’t been a naturally reserved person, her shock would have attracted the suspicion of the royals by her side. Fortunately, she was able to keep herself under control.
He said he’s Mu Gaoqi? Ling Bi’er looked over at Huang’er. Something about the man’s features did seem familiar to her, but she was sure she didn’t know the person. And, there was no way this person was Mu Gaoqi.
Did they happen to share the same surname and given name?
Ling Bi’er didn’t want to get her hopes up, but the name wasn’t a common one. She couldn’t have just randomly run into another Mu Gaoqi in the Bluesmoke Isles, could she?
Moreover, from the way the man introduced himself, he seemed to be purposefully emphasizing his name to her.
Was this someone she knew? Perhaps an old friend from the Myriad Domain?
Ling Bi’er combed through a mental list of all male disciples in the Regal Pill Palace, but she couldn’t find a match with the challenger. She expanded the parameters of her search to the six major sects in the Myriad Domain, but still there wasn’t someone like this man.
Ling Bi’er was at a loss, but she was convinced that this man must know her. She was thrilled even though she didn’t know who he was. It’d been a while since she’d seen someone from home, or even heard about home after coming to Myriad Abyss Island.
Even just a familiar name was enough to cause a ripple in her heart. I wonder who is he?
She wanted an answer. Her first guess was Jiang Chen, but this man looked completely different from him in body shape, temperament, and appearance.
She knew Jiang Chen was a master of disguise, but if it was him, why didn’t he just use his name? Her instincts told her that this wasn’t Jiang Chen. Even so, her mood was considerably improved.
Jiang Chen realized what Huang’er was trying to do and couldn’t be more grateful to her.
Huang’er, Huang’er... Waves of warmth rose from his heart. He couldn’t ask for more with a dao partner like her.
She’d had considerately solved the dilemma he was put in. She must know that he cared about Ling Bi’er, but he couldn’t possibly fight for her hand while Huang’er was here. That was why she had decisively entered the competition herself!
It was a move completely out of the blue, but a clever decision. It preserved his dignity and enabled her to take part in helping Ling Bi’er.
Jiang Chen was both impressed and moved by her quick thinking. Huang’er had done more than think on his behalf. She’d considered factors that he hadn’t even considered.
He’d been concerned, but now allowed himself to relax. Huang’er had gracefully accepted the situation. It wouldn’t do for him to be awkward and indecisive.