Ling Bi’er was an introverted girl. She’d begun to ponder the question ever since Huang’er’s initial revelation. There hadn’t been many that both girls had seen. Aside from House Yan’s scions, there were only two.
One was Sir Shao Yuan; the other, his student.
These two had stayed in the airboat the entire way. She’d seen them around; though they hadn’t chatted, Ling Bi’er’s instincts told her that it had to be him.
“Sister Bi’er, everyone said that you were the smartest at the Regal Pill Palace. You definitely live up to the reputation!”
Ling Bi’er’s breathing became ragged, her expression tensing. Though she was very much interested in the subject at hand, she didn’t want Huang’er to misunderstand.
Huang’er extended a light hand, gripping the other girl’s palm in her own. She felt the faint sensation of cool sweat.
“Big sister Bi’er, you aren’t mad at me for sticking my nose in, are you? Your junior brother only wanted to make sure you didn’t have to marry someone you don’t like. He didn’t want you to be stuck in a foreign land.”
“I… no, I’m truly grateful.” Ling Bi’er’s voice was barely louder than a buzz. She was perpetually uneasy before Huang’er, as if her feelings for Jiang Chen prevented her from facing her friend properly.
However, her words were indeed sincere. She really was thankful for Huang’er’s help. If not for the aid, she would’ve been forced into marrying some genius from that tournament. She couldn’t imagine the horror.
Her thoughts didn't remain here. No matter how pleasant Myriad Abyss was, what then? So what if it was a hundred times better than the human domain?
The only thing that kept her going was the prospect of returning to her long-departed homeland.
How could she not be excited that Jiang Chen had come to Myriad Abyss, and was here in House Yan at this very moment? Struggling to remain calm, she couldn’t disguise her surge of happiness.
What was so unforgettable about her former home?
Not just the land, but its people as well. Her father, her younger sister, Jiang Chen… These three people were the ones she thought about, every day and every night. Even Palace Head Dan Chi and the other important members of the sect didn’t come close to their prominence in her heart.
Ling Bi’er took a deep breath. “Sister Huang’er,” she asked quietly, “you’ve known junior brother Jiang Chen for a long time, right? Can I ask when you first met him?”
“I first knew of him when he was still in the Eastern Kingdom. But he didn’t have a chance to meet me much later, until after the trials in Eternal Spirit Mountain, in the sixteen kingdom alliance. I was afflicted with an evil curse that he diagnosed, then later removed.” Huang’er retold in detail everything she’d experienced with Jiang Chen.
Ling Bi’er’s heart soared. She was slightly envious of Huang’er, especially after hearing about her adventures with junior brother Jiang Chen in the world after the fall of the Regal Pill Palace. They had wandered long and weathered many storms together… the very thought of it made her heart ache a little.
Would my fate be different if I had been the one by junior brother Jiang Chen’s side?
Alas, any hypotheticals were meaningless.
Gathering up her attention, Ling Bi’er made another inquiry. “Miss Huang’er, I didn’t expect you to have experienced so much with junior brother Jiang Chen.”
Huang’er smiled and nodded. She was both happy and a little grieved. She suddenly clutched Ling Bi’er’s hands. “Big sister Bi’er, I have no regrets left in my life after Brother Chen’s love. If I really can’t escape my fate, I’d like to ask one thing of you.”
“Tell me.” Ling Bi’er was saddened on Huang’er’s behalf after learning about her circumstances. Why should such a nice girl suffer such injustice at the hands of fortune?
“If Xiahou Zong comes for me and Brother Chen hasn’t yet perfected his strength, you need to hold him back from doing anything rash. If I’m no longer around, you should take care of Brother Chen in my place. Have him bring you back to the human domain. Myriad Abyss Island is a deep and murky swamp. There’s no real reason to stay.”
Ling Bi’er quaked with apprehension. She shook her head fervently. “No, no, you’ll be fine, sister Huang’er! I’m sure heaven will bless your kindness with good fortune. You’re a perfect match for junior brother Jiang Chen. You said that if there were miracles left in this world, Jiang Chen would be the one to bring them about. You need to trust him. You’ve undergone so many trials together… are you going to lose your faith in him now?”
Ling Bi’er admired Jiang Chen – perhaps even loved him, and still did after all these years – but that didn't mean she would gloat at Huang’er’s expense. She had no intentions of taking advantage of the opportunity represented by her friend’s misfortune.
Her natural sweetness meant that she was only envious rather than embittered. Thus, she didn't quite agree with Huang’er’s pessimism. She wanted to Huang’er to remain healthy and happy.
Huang’er struggled to smile. “Sister Huang’er, I know that you’re always gracious and gentle. What I said is… just a possible eventuality. Even if nothing bad happens, I’d still like you to help me take care of him. The burden on his shoulders is far too heavy.”
Ling Bi’er froze at these words.
Help her take care of him?
Her face burned with embarrassment. The prospect made her heart race… in a taboo sort of way. She’d never even considered sharing a man with others before. But now that Huang’er had brought it up, it set her heart pounding with desire.
Was such a thing really feasible?
“Sister Huang’er, you… you…”
Huang’er giggled. “Don’t try to pull a fast one on me, big sister Bi’er! I’ve always known about your and your sister’s affection for Brother Chen. I’m a little surprised that you haven’t gotten over him after all these years, but…”
She flashed a radiant smile at Ling Bi’er as she said this.
The girl was totally flustered. She didn’t know how to react to Huang’er’s inquisitive gaze. It was as if someone had seen straight into her guilty conscience.
“I know you’re embarrassed about it, big sister Bi’er. We can talk about it another time. But there’s one thing you absolutely have to promise me. If … if something happens to me, you need to take care of Brother Chen. Don’t let his brashness take control, and don’t let him mire himself in despair. He’s a great man who has much riding on him. I’ve always felt that he’s keeping much from us. Perhaps it’s because their importance surpasses our understanding.” Huang’er was very perceptive of others’ feelings.
In her relationship with Jiang Chen, she had learned and understood much about him. Still, she believed deep down that he bore heavier pressures that were still hidden to her. He hadn’t told her about it not because of selfishness, but rather to avoid bringing stress to others.
She was most worried that Jiang Chen would behave irrationally on her behalf.
In Eternal Divine Nation, impetuousness against House Xiahou would only produce unthinkably poor results. Even though Brother Chen was exceptionally talented and a divine spirit reincarnated, he couldn’t stand against the entire house if he lacked the necessary cultivation and strength.
This was Myriad Abyss Island, not the human domain.
In the human domain, Jiang Chen had maneuvered freely about with his suite of trump cards and his unique advantages. In Myriad Abyss, however, there were far too many experts. Brother Chen’s ability and genius stood out among the younger generation, but it wasn’t enough to wage a war against an entire house.
“Big sister Bi’er, can you promise me this?” Huang’er’s eyes looked pleadingly at Ling Bi’er with all seriousness.
The girl being queried sighed softly, then replied in a quiet voice. “I’ll try my best. I’m just… worried… that my words won’t be enough to persuade him.”
“You’re his senior sister. He’ll listen to you! I know he will,” Huang’er encouraged.
“Are you sure there’s really nothing to be done about it, Huang’er? What if we run away together again?” Ling Bi’er ventured.
Huang’er smiled with intense sorrow. “I can’t,” she shook her head. “It’s impossible to run away, anyways. I’ll only drag other people into this. Elder Shun was the one who brought me out of Myriad Abyss, and his cultivation has been mostly crippled because of it. My father and mother are still trapped in the Boundless Prison too… there will never be an end to their suffering if I run?”
Ling Bi’er couldn’t suggest anything more after Huang’er mentioned her parents.
She remembered how her father had been poisoned and understood the kind of pain Huang’er was going through. “Little sister Huang’er,” she patted the back of the other girl’s hand. “Junior brother Jiang Chen will come up with a way. There’s been nothing impossible for him yet, right?”
Huang’er nodded. The two girls leaned against each other in comforting silence.
Jiang Chen, on the other hand, had been brought by a very enthusiastic Yan Qingsang to his own residence. The location where the young Yan genius lived was atmospheric and spacious. It had plenty of room for master and disciple, and probably twenty more besides.
“Brother, if you don’t find this place cozy enough, we can go live on one of House Yan’s holdings instead. The land is expansive and its inhabitants few, so we can do as we like.”
“Haha, the capital is better. It’s more active here and there’s more sights to see, no?” Jiang Chen had no desire to move to a more rural area.
He wanted to stay in the capital to come in contact with the highest echelon of Eternal society and understand the minutiae of the nation. This was more important to him than anything else.
Once the two young men were settled in, Yan Wanjun’s pageboy arrived with a message to ask his grandson to bring Sir Shao Yuan to him.
Yan Qingsang knew his grandfather likely had something to say, so informed Jiang Chen of the request; the latter readily agreed.
As Yan Wanjun’s direct grandson by blood, Yan Qingsang was highly valued. Yan Wanjun had two sons. One of them was Yan Qingsang’s father, and the other, Huang’er’s.
Yan Qingsang’s father was the elder of the two, less talented in cultivation but more in mercantile matters. Currently, he managed a lot of the house business.
Huang’er’s father was the younger son. Tremendously gifted in his youth, he’d surpassed his fellows in expertise and passion. Because of this, Yan Wanjun had allowed him to travel about the world, which ultimately resulted in his meeting and entering a relationship with a foreign woman. This provoked the enmity of his betrothed from House Xiahou, leading to the series of ensuing tragedies.