Outside the Suncreek Villa.
Crowds were milling around, having seen dark clouds of gas rise up from the Suncreek Villa's courtyard.
In a nearby inn, a couple of excited lookers were eagerly waiting for something to happen as well.
They knew that the result might make or break House Luolan.
"These rumors in Xia City are getting out of hand. Are they idiots? No matter how foolish Li Luo might be, he wouldn't kill his branch artificers right in his headquarters."
The speaker was a slim girl with long, green hair, her mouth currently curled upwards in disdain.
House Jinque's Si Qiuying.
Beside her stood her brother, Si Tianming. They too had hurried over upon hearing the news. After all, House Jinque and House Luolan had some relations. If House Luolan suffered, then the general situation for House Jinque would not be good either.
"Rumors are scary precisely because they are spread by idiots," Si Tianming said with a laugh that did not reach his concerned eyes.
"Pei Hao really concocted a vicious scheme this time. The man is cruel and deadly—when he strikes, he always strikes for the heart.
"I wonder if Jiang Qing'e and Li Luo can tide through this one..."
Si Qiuying sniffed. "It's Li Luo's fault for being greedy. Those branch artificers were clearly there to cause trouble. Who asked him to invite them in? He could have ignored them and all would be well."
"That's naive, Sister," Si Tianming said, shaking his head. "If Li Luo hadn't taken them in, it would have been enough reason for them to attack. Besides, he doesn't lack guts and ambition. He clearly wants to absorb them and strengthen the Suncreek Villa."
"So he ate the pie without checking to see if it was poisoned." Si Qiuying scoffed.
Si Tianming turned to look at her. "You seem quite worried," he said curiously.
Si Qiuying jolted, baring her teeth at him. "I'm only worried about Sister Qing'e!" she said defensively.
"Oh? I've heard you mention nothing but Li Luo all this while. A while back, you couldn't even be bothered with the guy." Si Tianming smiled.
She sniffed. "I admit he's talented. I underestimated him before," she said honestly.
Indeed, she had thought nothing of the bumpkin lord fresh from the City of Southwind. But as he settled into the Astral Sage College, he started to grow into his strength, and was now considered second only to Qin Zhulu among the new students.
Si Qiuying might be prideful, but she was reasonable enough as well. She did not deny Li Luo's skill.
Si Tianming laughed. "Well, shouldn't you have... you know? Not looked down on him at the start?"
She reddened, reaching out to smack him. "Th-that’s none of your business!"
"What are you so happy about anyway? The more Li Luo's stock rises, the less chance you have."
Si Tianming sighed deeply. "There was never a chance."
Seeing her brother so resigned was a real damper on her own mood. She had thought of Li Luo as nothing but a pretty face, but it seemed like her brother didn't stand a chance now...
Li Luo wasn't just pretty, he was pretty good.
Her brother's chances were dwindling away.
In comparison, it was Si Tianming who was more open-minded. He fancied Jiang Qing'e, but he quickly dealt with his own feelings. His was one of the more friendly gazes currently fixed on the Suncreek Villa's headquarters.
"Hopefully, Li Luo gets through this..." There was nothing they could do to help, not against the sudden and vicious blow that Pei Hao had struck.
"I say, the Suncreek Villa surely will be ruined this time, right?" Duze Beixuan crossed his arms smugly.
"That Pei Hao is quite something... A vile, disgusting ingrate." Duze Honglian smirked.
"Well, an ingrate's ingrate is quite a lovable thing indeed." Duze Beixuan laughed.
"He even managed to move all the best healers away from the Suncreek Villa. That's quite a sum of money..."
"I think the Suncreek Villa will be dead in the water this time."
Duze Beixuan smiled with vindictive glee. If the Suncreek Villa was knocked out, House Luolan would be in deep trouble. Surely that would take some wind out of Li Luo's pompous sails back in school.
"Damn those assholes. How dare they attack my beloved brother Li Luo while I was gone."
A bunch of people were gathered outside the Suncreek Villa, an equal mix of boys and girls. One of them was swearing colorfully.
Who else could it be but Yu Lang?
With him were the usual suspects like Zhao Kuo, but today there were also a couple of unusual suspects, namely Bai Doudou and Bai Mengmeng.
They had come to Xia City to enjoy themselves a few days ago, but they had heard the news.
"And what could you possibly do?" Bai Doudou snorted.
Yu Lang sighed. "My good brother Li Luo is a naive boy. If it were me, I would have called a bunch of people to dress up in House Duze's livery, and beat the artificers to death at the door. Then I'd come out to scold them all very soundly. Moral high ground. No trouble."
"....." Zhao Kuo and the others stared at him speechlessly. This man was a genius. The entire plan stunk of Yu Lang.
"I suggest you find a job at House Luolan in customer service," Zhao Kuo said.
"20/20 plan, Yu Lang, but only in hindsight," Bai Doudou retorted. "Besides, you think House Duze's people would beat up resonance artificers for no good reason? You think people are dumb? Who'd you fool?"
Yu Lang grinned. "It's a dumb plan, but if no one caught me in the act, House Duze could scream the roof down and I wouldn't admit to it."
In any case, Yu Lang's dastardly ideas had put the mood of the group at ease.
Bai Mengmeng's wide eyes thoughtfully turned to the Suncreek Villa. "No wonder Leader was so anxious to get his hands on formulas for spirit liquids and purifying lights. So the Suncreek Villa was in trouble..."
Bai Mengmeng's long lashes fluttered. She had spent the holidays immersed in spirit liquid research, and she had gotten some inspiration that would probably lead to a breakthrough soon. Perhaps if it succeeded, it could help her leader.
Of course, she hoped that he would acknowledge her efforts and also work hard on getting her sense of taste restored...
"Wow, it's getting more and more crowded."
Pang Qianchi snickered at the crowd outside the Suncreek Villa. "It seems like the time of reckoning for the Suncreek Villa has come."
Pei Hao laughed. He had prepared extensively for this. Even Li Luo's healers had been mere pawns. There was no way Li Luo could turn this around.
And without the Suncreek Villa, House Luolan would become a huge weight around Li Luo and Jiang Qing'e's shoulders.
He stood up, walking over to the window. Finally, he was out of the shadows and ready to take centerstage, luxuriating in the fruits of his plan.
"The headquarters' gates are opening!" Pang Qianchi said excitedly.
Indeed, the doors began to part, as did Pei Hao's greasy lips in a grin of relish.
Surely it would be Li Luo and Jiang Qing'e, defeated and slumped?
Aha. He could see two people walking out...
And Lu Xiaofeng?
Damn his eyes, why were there ghosts walking around in broad daylight?
Pei Hao's smile froze on his face.Previous Chapter Next Chapter