Li Luo sprang out of bed the next morning, eager to visit the Tree of Resonant Power.
He washed up and then headed downstairs.
On the second floor, Xin Fu’s black hood was closely bent over a canvas. This time, Li Luo kept his concern to himself and headed downstairs.
On the first floor, Bai Mengmeng was busy in the kitchen, carefully preparing breakfast.
Looking at the beautiful girl, Li Luo sighed. They said beauty stimulated hunger, but he couldn't very well eat like that forever.
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. He opened it to a familiar and gorgeous face.
"Sister Qing'e?" Li Luo exclaimed with a delighted smile.
Her elegant figure was framed beautifully in the door, legs demurely put together from under her battle skirt.
She was glowing in the morning light.
Hanging on her finger was a little bag, which she handed over to Li Luo with a smile.
"This is the most famous red glutinous cake from the Astral Sage College's canteen. It's the best breakfast."
"You're a savior!" he cried, hot tears of gratitude almost leaking from his eyes.
"Any later, and I would be tortured again." He gestured ominously inside.
She looked past him to the cute figure of Bai Mengmeng bobbing around the kitchen. "Benefiting from the situation and STILL playing coy? Hmph!"
"You have to eat it yourself to know," Li Luo said morosely.
She ignored that. "Walk with me."
Clearly, she had something on her mind. He informed Bai Mengmeng and followed her out.
There was a lake nearby, its mirror-like surface unrippled as a light, morning mist protectively hovered above it.
Huffing and puffing students in troll armor occasionally jogged past them. They could not resist throwing intensely jealous looks at Li Luo, who had the privilege of taking a morning stroll by Jiang Qing'e's side.
After all, she was a Three Star Hall student and was famous throughout school. She was just about as popular as the Four Star Hall First Princess.
Li Luo had grown immune to those looks a long time ago. "So," he said through a big bite of red glutinous cake, "what's up?"
She regarded him for a moment with her golden eyes. "About the Nobles' Battlefield. Has your mentor told you about it?"
His hand paused midway to the bag of cake.
He nodded heavily. "No wonder you didn't tell me earlier," he said quietly.
"It would have been unnecessary stress."
"Well, I'm too weak to do anything about it," he said regretfully.
"Me too," she said softly. "There's no need to beat yourself up over it. A goal is not a bad thing."
He nodded. The pounding feet of morning joggers in step filled the silence. "I wonder how my parents are..."
"They're surely fine. We shouldn't worry ourselves needlessly. Rather than worry about their safety at the Nobles' Battlefield, we would do well to be more careful here," she warned.
He frowned. "What do you mean?"
She walked beneath a willow tree and looked down into the water. Li Luo sensed a hardness about her.
"You know how people are chosen for the Nobles' Battlefield?"
"Death lottery," he said.
"There aren't too many Duke experts in the Xia Kingdom, roughly a few dozen... Both the Master and Mistress drawing the black at the same time seems... too coincidental."
Her quiet voice barely carried across to his ear. He shivered in the rapidly-warming morning sun and felt some blood drain from his face.
"You mean... they were sabotaged?" Li Luo whispered.
She reached out to catch a falling leaf. "I have no evidence. Just a guess, an instinct."
"But manipulating the death lottery is beyond the average person. Who could be that powerful?"
She toyed absently with the leaf. "If I had to guess, only three factions in the Xia Kingdom possess that power."
"The Astral Sage College, the royal court, and the Golden Dragon Bank."
Li Luo swallowed a lump in his throat. Indeed, these three were the strongest factions in the Xia Kingdom. But what could be their motive? Was there really one?
"I know this guess sounds far-fetched, so I haven't voiced it yet. But now you are in Xia City, and also at the Astral Sage College. You're starting to move into the radar of various powers, so I thought you better be warned. Perhaps I'm merely seeing things in the shadows. But it's always better to be careful."
He nodded. "It all comes back to not being strong enough."
She nodded with deep feeling. If only she was a Duke already. She could pursue her suspicions freely then, with no fear of recourse.
They suddenly heard footsteps nearby, and both turned to face their source.
"Keke, Senior Jiang, I thought I recognized your back profile. It's really you." A cheerful voice called out. Li Luo saw that it belonged to a strapping youth.
He was reasonably handsome, with piercing eyes and a noble brow. He wore his troll armor easily, his expression untroubled. He was clearly quite a strong cultivator.
There were two stars on his uniform, marking him as a Two Star Hall student, which was one higher than Li Luo.
The stranger met his gaze with an affable smile. "You're Junior Li Luo? I've heard of you. I'm Ye Qiuding, a Two Star Hall student."
"Hello, Senior Ye," Li Luo replied back.
"You need something?" Jiang Qing'e asked mildly.
Ye Qiuding hurriedly waved. "We have just finished training and have picked this as our rest spot. I happened to spot Senior Jiang here and thought to come say hi. Did I interrupt something?"
Li Luo saw a big group of a few dozen resting nearby. They were all dressed in troll armor, panting and sweating heavily.
All of them were Two Star Hall students.
Some of the resting students were looking at Ye Qiuding talk to Jiang Qing'e, knowing smiles and sniggers on their faces.
Jiang Qing'e shook her head. "I just bought Li Luo breakfast."
Ye Qiuding looked at the red glutinous cake in Li Luo's hand enviously. "That's the first time I've seen Senior Jiang deliver anyone breakfast. Junior Li Luo, you're a lucky man."
"Keke, I won't intrude any further. Senior Jiang, please feel free to find me if you need me for any more missions in the future. I will definitely do my best."
He smiled cutely at her and waved as he left.
Li Luo sighed irritatedly as he left, then he pointed accusingly at Jiang Qing'e with the red glutinous cake in hand.
"Tell me, just what is going on here?
"From the moment I stepped into the Astral Sage College, it's been old lions and mean wolves salivating over you. And now this rambunctious puppy... My goodness, the variety is endless. Jiang Qing'e, are you asking to be punished by the House?"Previous Chapter Next Chapter