Chapter 0218: A Poisoned Gift


Soon enough, Tang Yun was nearing completion.

A third-grade spirit liquid was truly nothing special for an experienced fourth-grade artificer like him.

Twenty minutes later, Tang Yun emerged from the refining workshop smiling triumphantly, a crystal vial in hand.

Within it, a pale-red liquid—the completed Birds of Passage spirit liquid.

There were cries of admiration at the speed at which he had made it.

They turned now to the other refining workshop, where Li Luo was still the very picture of concentration, carefully putting his ingredients together.

If speed was an indicator of ability, things were not looking good for Li Luo.

Still, the resonance artificers could not help but wonder. Why would a new third-grade artificer ever challenge a fourth-grade artificer like Tang Yun?

Was he prepared to lose the third round?

Did he intend to hand over the secret watersource to the Xiling branch without any trade-off? That seemed too easy.

Especially given how calm Jiang Qing'e was. Her golden eyes were unflinchingly steady, and when the headquarters' artificers looked over at her, they felt their hope renewed.

They settled back into a restless murmur, awaiting Li Luo's completion.

It took a full hour.

Li Luo had made many errors which had cost him time, but luckily not quality.

Finally, he emerged with pale-red liquid in his crystal test tube as well, and there was a collective sigh of relief from his supporters when they saw his refining go well.

Li Luo wiped the sweat off his brow. He had actually been prepared to fail and restart from the beginning, although thankfully his mistakes this time had not cost him too heavily.

He moved to the area between the two refining workshops, facing Tang Yun.

"Young Lord, your talent is incredible," Tang Yun said with sincere praise. Although Li Luo had taken a lot more time, he had ultimately succeeded.

Generally, the success rate of newly improved resonance artificers was quite shaky, but Li Luo had managed to produce the Birds of Passage spirit liquid under such high stakes.

A testament to his talent.

Li Luo smiled wordlessly and beckoned for the tempering measurement needles.

"We are at the final step now, President Tang Yun. Are you ready?"

Tang Yun's needle hovered above his product. "The Young Lord is generous." He sighed to himself. "I shall not stand on ceremony."

He plunged the tempering measurement needle into his Birds of Passage spirit liquid.

All eyes were on the climbing indicator as it slowly rose through the markings.

"57."

This result was greeted by many nods. The Birds of Passage spirit liquid was only a two-star formula, and so the limit of its tempering strength was roughly around 60 percent. 57 percent was not the maximum, but it was still a decent result.

Especially compared to a newbie like Li Luo.

Most fresh third-grade resonance artificers found it hard to break the 52 percent barrier.

Li Luo put the tempering measurement needle into his own.

He laughed.

"Well, I'll be... 58? That's lucky. Just a hair higher than President Tang Yun's..."

He lifted his needle high up for them to see.

All that could be heard was the collective thuds of the resonant artificers' jaws hitting the floor.

Li Luo's Birds of Passage spirit liquid had won? 

How?!

Wow!

And yet this was the same Li Luo who had reasonably heard them out, kindly offered them opportunities, and then won them over with sheer talent. The result might be surprising, but no one suspected Li Luo of rigging the contest.

Tang Yun was equally shocked. He stared mutely at the tempering measurement needle in Li Luo's hand. "Your talent frightens me," he said simply.

They had had the same ingredients - that had been checked endlessly. And both had refined openly before the others, so there was no question of cheating.

The result had to be accepted.

Tang Yun was forced to believe that Li Luo was simply a monster. He had heard of such geniuses before, their supernatural instinct giving them an exquisite control over each combination of ingredients.

Li Luo must be that.

Li Luo almost felt bad for Tang Yun as the latter tried to smile bravely. Under ordinary circumstances, there was no way he could have won.

It was all thanks to his waterlight resonance and the secret watersource he could produce as a result.

Still, it was not really cheating either. It was indeed a part of his skill, his natural talent.

Still, he wasn't about to explain this to anybody.

Li Luo turned now to the branch artificers, who were looking as shifty as ants on a hotplate. They had lost, and failed all three tests.

According to their agreement, they would return to Xiling and headquarters would never provide them with secret watersource.

Their time at headquarters was over.

The thought alone was enough to make their panic bubble over. Move away from these comfortable surroundings, back to the Xiling branch with no future?

There, they would eke out their existence day by day. Here, they could advance to greater heights.

They didn't want to leave.

But Pei Hao had sent them!

It had been Pei Hao who had instigated this entire affair, fanning the flames of resentment until they had mobilized and come here in protest.

It had been Pei Hao who had promised them fairness and justice.

How could headquarters still keep them now?

Li Luo stood up and addressed them directly. "If anyone wishes to stay at Suncreek Villa headquarters, I welcome you on behalf of House Luolan."

"Pay no mind to matters of the past, to whatever Pei Hao might have ordered you to do. You have my word that we will not pursue it; you've experienced as much in your stay here."

Tang Yun and Lu Xiaofeng breathed easier to hear that. It was good to see the young lord had ambition, and wasn't entirely inhuman.

He was aiming to recruit them all.

Could they stop it?

They exchanged a wry smile. This young lord had deftly maneuvered them from protesters to supporters.

Truly the son of the two House Lords.

But even if the others chose to stay, Tang Yun and Lu Xiaofeng would not. They still felt like they owed too much to Pei Hao.

Both stood up.

"Young lord, your generosity overwhelms us, and we have been blessed with it far beyond what we deserve. If our brothers wish to stay here for a brighter future, I beg you to let them stay." Both cupped their fists in respect.

Li Luo was surprised. "Will you not stay?"

They shook their heads with a pained smile, and turned to leave.

Dang!

Just then, a curious gong sounded out, sending a wave of sound rippling out through Suncreek Villa's headquarters.

As the gong rang out, Tang Yun and Lu Xiaofeng felt some wetness at the corner of their eyes. They rubbed it, and came away with hands wet with fresh, red blood.

Li Luo's eyes widened in horror. Standing between the two, he could see the steady stream of blood pouring out from their eyes, nose, and ears, running so freely that the red turned to black.

Li Luo was dumbstruck by the dystopic scene. He turned numbly around, only to see that all of the branch artificers were struck the same way.

In the middle of summer, the sun beat down on Li Luo's back, but his shivering would not stop.

As the screams started, Li Luo's eyes went flat.

So this was Pei Hao's plan.

A gift of poison.

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