"Loulan, don't think too much. It's not how you think," Ye Futian said. "The Empress isn't as heartless as you think. She did all that for you."
Loulan Xue froze and looked at Ye Futian with her silver eyes. For her?
"I've truly been ordering you around these years and I've gotten used to it. I'm sorry. If you want to leave some day, you don't have to worry about me." Ye Futian sighed and turned to leave. He knew how calculating the Empress was. He could obviously see through her intentions.
The Empress had already planned to make him feel guilty about Loulan Xue so he would treat her well. She wanted Loulan Xue to keep journeying with Ye Futian. This way, she could see a bigger world. Her current cultivation plane was catching up to the Empress.
The Empress obviously knew about this. Thus, she decided to let go completely and let Loulan Xue fly with him. But she was worried Loulan Xue would be treated badly, so she yelled at Ye Futian.
Looking at Ye Futian's back, Loulan Xue quickly realized this. Then she looked to her mother's back and sighed inwardly. Had she disappointed her mother?
Ye Futian returned to the foot of the Holy Zhi Palace. As strong cultivators from the nine Holy Roads arrived gradually, Ye Futian arrived beside Zhuge Mingyue on the stairs.
"Futian, Jieyu, you'll watch the trial battle with me today," Zhuge Mingyue whispered. She looked forward. The battle would last a few days. Today was only the opening.
Ye Futian's pupils constricted. His second senior sister rarely called his name. Something seemed off with her today.
"Second Senior Sister, is something wrong?" Ye Futian asked.
Zhuge Mingyue turned towards him. "What are you thinking? How can anything be wrong?"
"Really?" Ye Futian didn't believe her.
Zhuge Mingyue glared at him. Ye Futian's eyes moved away and then back. "Second Senior Sister, if anything's wrong, you can tell Jieyu and me. We can help share your troubles."
Zhuge Mingyue reached out to pat Ye Futian's head. Smiling gently, she said, "Kid, just work hard on cultivating and reach the Sage Plane soon."
"Yes, I will." Ye Futian nodded. "These three years, I never left the pavilion. I've been cultivating every second of the day. Three years ago, I was down there. Three years later, I'm watching the trial with Senior Sister. I believe that it'll only be a few years before the Barren Sky Ranking has my name—not for the fame but to prove some things."
Zhuge Mingyue smiled at Ye Futian. She knew what he was talking about. Bai Luli had become tenth on the Barren Sky Ranking soon after entering the Sage Plane. Gu Dongliu had challenged him once and lost. Bai Luli also had a complicated relationship with Zhuge Mingyue.
Ye Futian wanted to prove some things to the world.
"Of course I trust you." Zhuge Mingyue's smile was warm. "You're 25 years old now, right? I still remember how you were only 18 when you came to the Cottage. You were so cute."
Ye Futian was speechless. Cute? So Zhuge Mingyue had thought he was cute when they first met?
"Yes, I'm 25. Senior Sister, I didn't awaken my life spirit and start cultivating until I was 15," Ye Futian said while looking in the distance. "It's been ten years. These ten years, I went from the beginning stage to now. I'm only a Grade-4 Noble now, but if I'm serious, I can be at the top of the Holy Zhi Palace's rank. If I enter the top-level Noble Plane, no Nobles here dare to say they'll defeat me." His voice was extremely confident.
Zhuge Mingyue looked at the handsome side-profile and her eyes shone brighter. She knew that Ye Futian wasn't bragging. He just wanted to tell her.
"Seems like Junior has grown up," Zhuge Mingyue murmured. The three years passed in a blink and she could feel that Ye Futian had grown up. The 18-year-old who'd entered the Cottage was now mature.
"A poem says, 'if only life can remain how it was at the first meeting', but it's nice to see you grow up bit by bit."
Zhuge Mingyue patted Ye Futian's head. Feeling Zhuge Mingyue's gentle hands and affectionate eyes, Ye Futian was speechless. She said he'd grown up, but she was still treating him like a kid. Where was his image?
"Senior Sister, who's the most popular for the battle this year?" Ye Futian's gaze moved to the examination grounds. There were countless people now. Most of them would be eliminated.
"Zhongzhou City's large forces all have talented figures in every generation. It's the same this time. Amongst them, the Ximen Clan and the Thunder Courtyard both have one very talented figure. People have high expectations. Other than that, the Yan Jiu that you'd defeated last time has a sister. She's even more talented than Yan Jiu and she's here. The Zhuge Family and White Cloud City also have powerful figures."
Zhuge Mingyue smiled and continued, "But no matter how talented they are, they can't surpass the last round."
"Of course," Ye Futian said, smiling. "Look at who was in the last round."
Zhuge Mingyue smiled at Ye Futian with pride. She left after the first day. Ye Futian and Hua Jieyu stayed beside her the whole time and Ye Futian felt keen that something was wrong. He said many things to her. Some of them seemed arrogant, but Zhuge Mingyue must have understood his intentions.
Ye Futian continued watching the other battles because Long Ling'er was there, along with Long Mu and Gu Yunxi.
Long Mu had truly improved greatly these past three years, perhaps motivated by Ye Futian. Long Ling'er was only 18 years old, but she'd already shown her shocking talent as a Dragon Master. She was even more talented than Long Mu. The battles this year were still spectacular. There weren't any underdogs like Ye Futian and Yu Sheng who reached the end, but many talents were still very shocking.
Ximen Gu of the Ximen Clan was first while Yan Qingyan of the Sword Saint Mansion was second. She was Yan Jiu's sister. Her swordsmanship was precise and graceful. She'd added her own thoughts to the Nine Swords of the Celestials. Third was a pride from the Thunder Courtyard. Last time, neither the Ximen Clan nor theThunder Courtyard had been able to enter the top ten. This time was a boost to their ego.
Ximen Gu entered the Holy Sage Pavilion and Yan Qingwu entered the Sword Pavilion. Three years ago, the Sword Demon hadn't wanted Yan Jiu, but he was impressed by Yan Qingwu.
When the strong cultivator on the steps announced the end of the battle, the vast space fell into an uproar. Some were happy while others were upset.
Ye Futian walked down to Chen Yuan's group. He looked at Long Ling'er and saw her grinning. "Brother Futian, how was I?"
"Yes, the Daozang Pavilion made an exception for you. Seems like little Ling'er has grown up." Ye Futian patted Long Ling'er's head. At 18 years old, she was only in the upper Arcana Plane, but Sage Daozang had personally made an exception to accept her. Clearly, her talent had been very impressive.
Sage Daozang also knew Long Yitian. Coming from the Divine Sky City of the eastern Barren State, Long Yitian had been on the Barren Sky Ranking. He'd been incredible and shone for a while before passing like a shooting star. He saw yet another Dragon Master in Long Ling'er.
"Of course." Long Ling'er was a bit proud. Chen Yuan and Madame Long were also happy. They'd thought Long Ling'er wouldn't achieve anything and never thought the Daozang Pavilion would make an exception for her. It was a great surprise.
"Long Mu, you did well," Ye Futian said to Long Mu. He'd entered an island on the Thousand Holy Islands. This counted as entering the Holy Zhi Palace too.
"I'll catch up to you." Long Mu looked at Ye Futian. The disdain still existed, but it had become his motivation to keep improving. He was especially affected when he saw Ye Futian get first place three years ago and had cultivated crazily.
"Then you better work hard," Ye Futian said, chuckling. He'd moved on from the past conflicts.
Madame Long smiled at these juniors. Her smile was just as beautiful as when she was young. She was obviously happy seeing the juniors like this. Long Mu had finally grown up. In the future, he could be a good and reliable man like her brother, Long Yitian.
"Are you going back with me or entering the palace directly?" Madame Long.
"I'm not going back. Mother, tell Father that I didn't disappoint him this time," Long Ling'er said.
"Okay." Madame Long nodded. "Your Father's strictness was for the best of you. Now that you and Long Mu have entered the Holy Zhi Palace, you must cultivate well."
"I will," Long Ling'er said. "Mother, don't worry. I have Brother Futian and Sister Jieyu here."
"Futian, you'll have to take care of this girl," Madame Long said.
"Madame, don't worry. I won't let anything happen to Ling'er," Ye Futian said.
"I obviously don't worry with you. Alright, go on now," Madame Long said.
Ye Futian nodded and looked to Gu Yunxi. "Yunxi, don't be disappointed. You can cultivate well in the Starry School too."
"Yes, I will." Gu Yunxi nodded, but how couldn't she be disappointed? She'd already worked hard, but it still wasn't enough.
"Chief Chen, Madame, I'm going now," Ye Futian bid farewell to everyone and took Long Ling'er into the Holy Zhi Palace.
It wasn't just them. Many entered the palace directly instead of going back. With Ye Futian and Hua Jieyu, there was no need for the guards to lead the way. The group soared in the sky.
"Ling'er, I'll take you around the palace," Ye Futian said.
"Okay." Long Ling'er's eyes glowed with curiosity and excitement.
Ye Futian brought her around the pavilion's Law Power Zone. Long Ling'er looked down and said, "What is that? It doesn't look like a cultivation area. There are so many people there."
"That's a Law Power Zone. Some disciples plan battles there. Many enter the Law Rank there. You, newbies, are usually more interested in them," Ye Futian said, chuckling.
"Law Rank?" Long Ling'er was interested. "Brother, I want to go see."
"Okay." Ye Futian smiled. The group landed before the Law Rank and Long Ling'er rushed to the front.
"Brother Futian, you're number ten!" she exclaimed. Many people looked towards Ye Futian. The older disciples also looked at him. He'd already entered the rank more than two years ago. If he fought again, he would definitely be higher up. Many newbies were looking at him. Was this the winner of the last pavilion battle?
"You're Ye Futian?" A sharp gaze looked towards Ye Futian right then.
Ye Futian glanced over and saw a pretty girl dressed cleanly. Her entire body radiated with sharpness, giving her a different kind of beauty. This was Yan Qingwu, second of the battle and Yan Jiu's sister.
"Yes." Ye Futian nodded with a smile.
"It's because of you that my brother returned soulless that year. Someday, I'll challenge you," Yan Qingwu said.
"I'll be waiting," Ye Futian said, smiling. He didn't mind. His mindset was completely different from three years ago.
"Number one from the last round?" someone muttered, standing before the Law Rank with his back to Ye Futian. "It's a pity I wasn't in the same year."
Many people looked at the speaker. It was Ximen Gu, the winner of this year. Was this newbie challenging his senior?
Ye Futian glanced at him. He was really arrogant, but Ye Futian didn't mind. The winner of the battle would definitely be arrogant.
"If you're in the same year, you won't be anywhere near number one," Long Ling'er said.
Ximen Gu turned around. He looked at Ye Futian and then gazed at Long Ling'er. Chuckling, he said, "You're Long Ling'er, right?"
"Yes." Long Ling'er looked at Ximen Gu, not liking his eyes.
"Look at who's number one on the Law Rank," Ximen Gu said. Long Ling'er looked and saw that the name at the top was Ximen Hanjiang.
Ximen Gu continued, "My brother entered the Holy Zhi Palace six years ago and he was first in his pavilion battle. I entered this year and I'm first in my battle." He chuckled before walking away. "If you pretty girl wants to find someone to kiss up to, you can come to me."
"You…" Long Ling'er looked at his backside. Her expression changed slightly.
Ye Futian glanced at the Law Rank. Ximen Hanjiang was a strong competitor. If he could be first on the Law Rank, he was naturally very talented. The Ximen Clan had produce two winners of the pavilion battles. No wonder this guy was so arrogant.
"Wait," Ye Futian uttered.
Ximen Gu paused and looked up at Ye Futian. "Yes?"
"Apologize," Ye Futian said nonchalantly!