"Where is Teng Yue?" the empress asked impatiently. It was obvious that she couldn't wait to end his life.
"No idea—he was too fast and we were injured, so he got away. I'm pretty sure he'll be back in a few days since he thought that Your Majesty's injuries would need at least 10 days to fully recover. He'll most likely return within that time frame if he has not given up."
"That Teng Yue, was he injured?" Ren Baqian asked.
"Teng Yue truly lives up to his name as the Spirit Spear. Despite our group attacks, he managed to kill such a large number of winged cavalry warriors and sustained much lighter injuries than we did. With the right medicine, he could easily heal 60 to 70 percent of his light injuries by his next attempt, although he would have no chance of winning since Your Majesty has fully recovered," Xi Wanya analyzed out loud.
Teng Yue must die for disrespecting the empress and murdering this many winged cavalry warriors. Yet, as despicable as he might be, Teng Yue was still a powerful opponent.
"Hng!" The empress exhaled coldly. It was difficult for the empress to admit, but based on reports, she knew in her heart that Teng Yue was a little bit stronger than her.
The most pertinent issue was that of stamina. The empress could achieve extreme power levels through the rapid burning of essence and blood, but such a fighting style wasn't meant for drawn out battles.
The empress would automatically lose if the battle against Teng Yue dragged out.
She was able to swiftly kill Hua Sanliu in that heightened state, but killing Teng Yue quickly might prove to be a problem. Thinking about this, the empress realized that while the two were supposedly only one rank apart, Teng Yue was much more powerful than Hua Sanliu.
In the battle on Mount Wu, the empress had sustained some injuries after killing several Spirit Wheel experts and injuring many others. Comparatively, Teng Yue was able to leave relatively unscathed after gravely injuring Xi Wanya and the others.
This highlighted the differences between their fighting styles and reflected Teng Yue's advantage in longer battles. The empress knew her weakness, which was why she sometimes risked injury to eliminate her opponents rapidly.
Also, the empress would typically only be left with about 30 percent of her strength after a major battle and would take at least a month to fully recover.
This was also another big weakness.
"Is he really blind? How does he locate his opponent? Smell or hearing?" Ren Baqian found it incredible that a blind man could be this powerful.
Ren Baqian had good news if Teng Yue relied largely on his sense of smell. A single fortified smoke bomb would definitely make his life a living hell.
As for hearing, a sonic weapon would easily take care of him.
"Neither. It would be too easy to muddle his perception if it was any of those two. It's not possible for the fourth strongest expert in the world to have such a huge weakness." The empress swiftly rejected Ren Baqian's theories.
"Your Majesty is right," Xi Wanya agreed.
"Perhaps he senses changes in airflow using his skin? Or he has greatly enhanced senses of smell and hearing that allow him to minimize his weak spots," Gong Zhen suggested.
"Those are easily countered as well. Creating artificial airflow around him would render him blind again," Ren Baqian responded. Coming up with a fan large enough to do this would be pretty difficult, but creating a bomb that could momentarily influence his perception was possible.
"There is no need for this. I'll see for myself what he is capable of," said the empress, interrupting Ren Baqian's train of thought.
She continued and explained, "I believe he is using some sort of sixth sense of the mind. He probably sees even better than normal people."
Ren Baqian promptly cast aside all of his bomb ideas.
"We are done here." The empress waved them away and took her leave. Qing Yuan and Hong Luan rushed over with an umbrella.
"How's Lin Qiaole?" Ren Baqian asked after the empress left.
"Some light injuries, but nothing serious," Xi Wanya replied. "Those people that you kept around actually came in handy. I previously felt that your ideas would never come to fruition and that it would be simpler to just kill them. Seeing things now, they were indeed useful to keep around."
"It worked out better than I expected." Ren Baqian chuckled. Even he had not expected Qingyun Sword and the Spirit Wheel expert from the Lingshan Sect to lend a hand.
Since they had helped out, Ren Baqian decided to treat them less severely.
Ren Baqian went to visit Lin Qiaole. She was sprawled out on her bed and sleeping soundly in her undergarments. She looked perfectly fine except for a slightly swollen face that looked as if it had taken a hit from a pole.
Ren Baqian rubbed the swollen area with his fingers. Lin Qiaole wailed in pain and clawed at Ren Baqian's face.
"Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch!" Lin Qiaole glared angrily at Ren Baqian.
Ren Baqian hissed in pain with a string of swear words hanging on the tip of his tongue.
"Rest well!" Ren Baqian shouted as he flung a small bag of White Rabbit Creamy Candy at Lin Qiaole. It was a reward of sorts. Feeling the pain from the scratches on his face, Ren Baqian was slightly pissed that his kindness had been met with cruelty.
Ren Baqian touched his face and realized that he was bleeding. Lin Qiaole had disfigured him!
After that, he went to meet with Qingyun Sword and Zuo Cheng of the Lingshan Sect.
The two of them had approached Teng Yue with the main aim of restricting him, so they didn't suffer any serious injuries. Qingyun Sword was only slightly more injured than Zuo Cheng.
"Please take a seat. I thank you for your efforts." Ren Baqian smiled at the two of them.
They kept quiet.
"I am very happy with the choices that the both of you made. I'm not an unkind individual either, so I'm sure we can work something out." Ren Baqian took a sip of tea.
"I have mentioned before that I hope to see the people of Tianjing Basin work with the aboriginals to serve the empress. It would be great if the both of you could nominate a few talented people. I would like for them to work under me for a while, and when the time comes, I'll see that they get a suitable assignment," Ren Baqian continued.
Zuo Cheng and Qingyun Sword appeared to have been moved by his words.
Ren Baqian's words carried a lot of weight. His request was a lot more beneficial to both sides than merely giving them rewards.
He was Qi Zixiao's husband, and his words held considerable sway over the empress's decisions. Working under him meant that they had a powerful backer among the aboriginals.
In a future where Tianjing Basin had been stabilized, the other party would hold them in higher standing.
Working under him was also the first step toward walking out of Tianjing Basin for the natives.
Nevermind any official titles, working for Ren Baqian had more benefits than being some low-ranking official.
With Ren Baqian's support, the people of Tianjing Basin would have no need to defer to the aboriginals after they were eventually set free.
Ren Baqian wasn't just giving them a one-time reward, but was sending them a message. He was offering them a new way of life.
"Thank you, sir!" Zuo Cheng cupped his hands in respect.
Qingyun Sword remembered a conversation he had in the past. Someone had told him that this man, the one now sitting in front of him, was recruiting them to help him achieve his goal of consolidating power and getting a seat at the governing table.
The way things looked, he was very likely to succeed.
If they agreed to work with him, then their fate would become inextricably tied to his. His success would be their success, and his failures would be theirs to bear as well.
But they had no other choice.
This man was the only person who could give them a fighting chance and give them some hope.