A flurry of heads turned towards the owner of the voice.
He was one of three people on a nearby black lotus leaf, a scrawny youth currently rigid with righteousness and nervousness.
The whispers broke out.
"It's Wang Yufeng, a Two Star student."
"He's what? Top ten there?"
"And so he thinks he stands a chance against Senior Jiang? Nutters."
Li Luo's gaze flicked over and stayed on the two people behind Wang Yufeng.
Song Qiuyu and Difa Jingming.
Song Qiuyu had tried to help the Song family topple the Suncreek Villa back in the Tianshu Province, but Li Luo had foiled their plans there. So the feud had started.
And again, Li Luo suspected that her hand was in this disagreement…
"I've broken the rules?" Jiang Qing'e repeated calmly.
"Everyone knows that onyx lakes should be free-for-alls that depend on each individual's own ability. Senior Jiang is very strong. If you were here to take onyx leaves for yourself, none of us would resent that. But you're here to take them for Li Luo… That's a little unfair for the rest of us, isn't it?"
Song Qiuyu timidly tugged at his hand. "Yufeng, forget it. Senior Jiang is very strong. Let's just back off on this."
Wang Yufeng's face darkened further upon hearing that. "If strength alone could trump the rules, that would mean we don't respect the institution of the Astral Sage College."
These strong words had the students sitting up straight. Plus, if Jiang Qing'e had her way here, it would indeed cause all of them to lose out.
Now that Wang Yufeng had volunteered to stick his neck out first, they were happy enough to back him up.
The stirring and muttering grew more belligerent.
Li Luo looked at Song Qiuyu. That woman was truly skilled at manipulation.
Back at the Tianshu Province, her vehicle of mischief had been Mo Ling. And now it was Wang Yufeng eating out of her hand.
Although onyx lakes held vast reservoirs of energy, this energy was actually warped and mutated. Not even a Heavenly Dipper General could safely immerse themselves within one.
Then why come to an onyx lake, you ask?
Because within each onyx lake grew an onyx tree, which would produce leaves from condensed worldly natural energy, known as onyx leaves.
With each pulse of energy from the onyx lake itself, the tree would spit forth onyx leaves. These leaves were the treasures the students coveted. Each leaf could be split into three parts, and the squad members could place them on their tongues. It would give them immunity from the savage currents of energy in the onyx lake, and allow them to submerge fully and cultivate.
In other words, they were tickets to the lake. Get leaves, get in, and get strong. Or sit outside on the banks and watch.
Obviously, those who were closer to the front stood an advantage in catching the leaves. That was why Jiang Qing'e had chosen the spot.
"Ever since the onyx lakes were discovered, everyone has always competed by themselves," Wang Yufeng asserted again.
Jiang Qing'e shot him an angry look. "You're overthinking things. Of course Li Luo and his squad will snatch onyx leaves themselves. I do not intend to help them. I'm just here to take a spot on their behalf, which, according to my knowledge, doesn't violate any rule."
Her declaration calmed the crowd down.
Wang Yufeng started. He was stung—all that bluster and rhetoric was... for nothing? He felt a little foolish.
Song Qiuyu laughed. "Senior Jiang, do you really mean that? A newcomer team competing against the Two Star squads for onyx leaves?"
"Do I look like a liar?" Jiang Qing'e met her eyes coolly.
Song Qiuyu looked away, afraid. She inched behind Wang Yufeng for safety. "Well... but I mean... a newcomer team? We've never seen one before. They would be making history if they got any."
She said this in a neutral, almost admiring, tone, and yet somehow she managed to imply that the Two Star students would be extremely humiliated if Li Luo's squad succeeded.
"Song Qiuyu," Jiang Qing'e said. "That's your name, isn't it? I suggest you focus more on your cultivation. Hiding behind others does not make you stronger." Song Qiuyu reddened, flushing with humiliation and anger. Did Jiang Qing'e just imply that she was cowardly? Still, there was nothing she could say in the face of such power, and she prudently bit her tongue.
"Don't worry," Wang Yufeng said tenderly to her. "As long as Jiang Qing'e does not interfere, Li Luo's squad will not get any onyx leaves today."
Song Qiuyu nodded dispiritedly. Wang Yufeng felt angry seeing her that way. Jiang Qing'e was throwing her weight around against them. So be it. They would take it out on Li Luo.
Throughout all this, Difa Jingming had remained silent. He took one look at Wang Yufeng, whose thoughts could not be more transparent. Inwardly, he shook his head.
Oh, Qiuyu, why go up against Li Luo? Ever since he took first place at the Tianshu Province, he had been on a one-way shooting star to glory.
Woe to the one who decided to stand in the way of a shooting star. Burning was all that awaited.
Jiang Qing'e ignored them now. She had already lowered herself by replying to them in the first place.
"Go on, then. I've gotten you a good location, but getting the onyx leaves will be up to you. Remember that it's rarely a struggle of raw strength... which you guys can't win anyway. It's about fastest fingers first," she advised them.
The three nodded, then they moved onto the lotus leaf.
Qiu Bai and Tian Tian were sizing up the Two Star squads present. "Are you sure Li Luo and the others can do this?"
"Sounds exactly like what I was asked when I had them reactivate the level one purification tower on their own."
"Well, if you put it that way..."Previous Chapter Next Chapter