Deep in the jungle.
Li Luo was sitting on a moss-covered boulder by the creek, his clothes tattered as if he had just been through a war.
Which he had. Just a while ago, he had fought off a dozen people here and there. It had taken him everything he had to get away.
He was exhausted. If not for his dual resonant palaces and his two resonance seeds absorbing worldly natural energy, as well as the stamina that his water resonance gave him, he would have been crushed by that gauntlet.
Li Luo shut his eyes, channeling his energy cultivation arts and healing as best as he could.
His hard-won peace was short-lived. His eyes flew open as he scanned the vegetation. Sure enough, someone walked out.
"How does it feel to be hiding like a rat?" the blue-haired man asked evilly. Who else but Duze Beixuan?
Li Luo looked at him gravely. "Duze Beixuan, if you're harrying me about becoming your brother-in-law, I have to advise you not to continue. Jiang Qing'e will not accept."
A vein pulsed on his temple. "Li Luo... Stretched thin but still with a foul mouth, I see.
"I want to see if that foul mouth of yours can still yap with my foot on your head."
"Stop, stop," Li Luo cried. "I just want to cultivate quietly in school."
"Trying to buy time to recover?" Duze Beixuan sneered. "You think you're my match even at your full strength?" Duze Beixuan was not looking down on Li Luo per se. He was simply confident in his own strength.
With an eighth-grade Deepwater Kun resonance and his resonant power already at the Upper Flowering, a Lower Clear like Li Luo was far from his level. 
"Then could you wait for me? If you give me half an hour, I'll concede that you're a true gentleman!"
"What do you think I should do?" Duze Beixuan smirked. A colossal kun surged up behind him.
Li Luo sighed. Damn, looks like House Duze’s young lord wasn't born yesterday.
He stood up from his boulder and faced Duze Beixuan. A lower eighth-grade resonance and an Upper Flowering tier cultivator—he had Li Luo beat in every aspect.
Every obvious aspect.
Who knew that Li Luo had two resonant palaces and resonance seeds, for instance?
In terms of raw power, Li Luo was actually equivalent to a Flowering Seed Tier cultivator.
The difference between them was not as large as it seemed.
He had been dealt a rough hand thanks to Shen Jinxiao. Just as Shen Jinxiao had said, the other four Violet Vibrance mentors might not risk offending him just to take Li Luo as a student. After all, they had to have some mutual respect as fellow Duke experts.
After all, he was not Jiang Qing'e.
Her potential was enough for them to chase shamelessly. Li Luo? Not there yet.
But he knew that he had to win acceptance from one of them. It was not just his cultivation at stake, it was his life as well.
Jiang Qing'e had already explained it clearly to him.
What was he to do?
Simple. Demonstrate his potential.
Show that he had enough potential, that he was worth the offense to Shen Jinxiao, and impress the Violet Vibrance mentors.
Duze Beixuan looked like the best stimulus.
"Well, then, if lying low won't do, I'll just have to..."
He whipped out the two shortswords from his waist, a confident smile on his handsome features.
"...blind them with my brilliance."
Their face-off was being displayed on the screen at the Newcomers' Hall, garnering lots of attention.
"House Duze's Duze Beixuan has cornered Li Luo."
"That's it for him, then. Duze Beixuan has a lower eighth-grade Deepwater Kun resonance, and he's an Upper Flowering, for crying out loud. Li Luo is screwed as can be."
"Still, he's held out unexpectedly long."
"It’s no use, he's gonna lose to Duze Beixuan here. He'll have to settle for a Gold Gleam mentor at best. Once you start off on the wrong foot at the Astral Sage College, it's very hard to catch up later."
"Yeah, the gap only grows."
"House Luolan will have to depend on Jiang Qing'e alone."
Duze Honglian was watching grimly, her arms folded across her chest.
"Bastard, let my brother stitch that mouth of yours shut."
Thinking of how Li Luo had sullied her reputation was enough to make her itch with frustration. Even as a baseless rumor, it was spreading all the same, and there was nothing she could do about it.
On the opposite side, Jiang Qing'e was watching just as intently.
She coughed disdainfully. “Just watch, Jiang Qing'e. Watch your future husband get stomped by Beixuan.”
"Duze Honglian keeps looking over with her ugly mug." Yan Lingqing whispered to Jiang Qing'e.
"She's lost to me too many times. She can't see any hope now, so she can only try to get some satisfaction out of Li Luo," Jiang Qing'e said unconcernedly.
Yan Lingqing nodded. "But that Duze Beixuan isn't easy to deal with," she added worriedly. "He's far stronger than Li Luo."
"I believe in Li Luo," Jiang Qing'e said simply, her golden eyes still fixed on the screen. "Which of you thought he would beat Shi Huang and win at the Tianshu exams?"
"That's naive," Yan Lingqing argued. "Duze Beixuan is much stronger than Shi Huang. A lower eighth-grade resonance is nothing to mess with."
"Neither are Li Luo's dual resonances."
High up on the spectator stands.
"Sis, can Li Luo win?" the little emperor whispered, his eyes glued to the screen.
He didn't like Duze Beixuan, not after their meeting at the Golden Dragon Bank. And although Li Luo had tricked him, his impression was much better. Li Luo had even given him the watersource, which had eased his pain, so he was rooting for Li Luo.
The First Princess' red, phoenix eyes were also fixed on the screen. "On the surface, Li Luo doesn't stand a chance." 
"Awww..." the little emperor groaned.
"Victory is not always determined by strength." She smiled with anticipation.
She had seen information on Li Luo. She knew that he had defeated Governor Shi's son, Shi Huang, despite the disparity in strength.
She sensed that Li Luo and Jiang Qing'e were built differently. Jiang Qing'e was an omnipresent light, illuminating the four corners of the earth with her radiance. Li Luo was a fathomless swamp, unremarkable on the surface but running deep underneath.
Of course, this was just her womanly intuition.
Whether she was right depended on Li Luo now.
Hopefully, he would not let her down.
After all, he was the son of those two, and Jiang Qing'e's fiancé.
Previous Chapter Next Chapter