City of Southwind, east gate.
Li Luo stood before the carriage, looking out at the city with a complex expression. For as long as he could remember, most of his life had been spent here. And now he was leaving.
He let those memories play through his mind now. Finally, he turned and lifted the curtain, entering the carriage.
At his order, the convoy started to move. The road to Xia City was a long one. Even at full speed, they would take close to ten days. And since Li Luo was the young lord of House Luolan, safety was a priority. He had brought many bodyguards with him.
The convoy thundered on, leaving a cloud of dust in its wake.
Although they were moving swiftly, the wide, spacious carriage was quite stable. Li Luo sat cross-legged on one side. Opposite him, Cai Wei was sitting with one leg elegantly draped over the other, reading a book with great interest.
Deep in the carriage, there was a little space where Yan Lingqing was currently working on her spirit liquids and purifying lights to kill time.
The two women were accompanying him to Xia City, having completed the tasks that they had set out to do in the Tianshu Province.
"Sister Cai Wei, how is House Luolan looking right now?" Li Luo suddenly asked, turning from the scenery flying by.
She lifted her eyes from her book and considered his question. "Not too good. You should know that House Luolan has tempted many. It has many lucrative businesses all over the Xia Kingdom. Each year it turns millions of skygold in profits. It's enough to turn any eye.
"And now House Luolan is besieged with problems inside and outside. Its invited vultures, swooping around. If not for the remnants of House Luolan's strength and the potential that Jiang Qing'e demonstrates, I'm sure someone would have made a move on House Luolan long ago."
Li Luo was silent for a while and then shook his head. "If there was truly a power eying House Luolan, those paltry deterrences would not be enough."
Jiang Qing'e indeed had shocking potential, but potential was not strength. Besides, if not for the fact that she was protected by her status as an Astral Sage College student, there would probably be many who would attempt to kill her off.
Cai Wei looked at him with surprise. "What are you thinking?"
Li Luo responded slowly, "I think it's the threat of my parents… Or rather those powers cannot be sure that my parents are truly gone. They are worried that if they overstep, one day my parents will return... and they won't be able to save themselves."
The wrath of two Duke Stage experts was enough to give anyone pause here in the Xia Kingdom.
Cai Wei thought it over, then nodded in agreement. "The Young Lord's thinking is sound."
"Still, this threat will only weaken as time passes. We are fat cattle, too tempting for the hungry tigers." Li Luo sighed softly.
Even he did not know how long the threat of Li Taixuan and Tan Tailan could hold the scavengers at bay. Perhaps one day, any day, those other houses would gain intelligence confirming things, then it would only be a matter of time before House Loulan was finished off.
When would that time be?
Li Luo scowled. Very likely, next year's House Luolan Housemeet. Pei Hao would be the first to cause trouble and incite damaging moves against House Luolan.
Which meant that time was of the essence. He was but a Tenth Seal kid. These enemies were savage tigers and wolves. How he wished he had a few more years!
In a few years, he and Jiang Qing'e would both be at the Duke stage. At that time, they would rule this place!
Li Luo sighed deeply. Unfortunately, those people were not going to give him that much time.
"How are the elite powers in the Xia Kingdom treating House Luolan? On the surface," Li Luo asked.
"If you take away the Astral Sage College and the Golden Dragon Bank because of their unusual positions, the Xia Kingdom's royal court is the strongest among the elite powers. Although in recent years, the royal court has been in turmoil. The ruler is young, and a steward is governing in lieu. Below the royal court, there are various illustrious houses and the five Great Houses.
"Among the five Great Houses, Houses Duze and Jiyan have the strongest enmity with House Luolan. House Lanling sits neutral, while House Jinque has passable relations with us. Or rather... they have plans to use House Luolan to chip away at the other stronger houses," Cai Wei explained.
"These factions all have their headquarters in Xia City. While you were at the City of Southwind, you might not have felt affected. But once you step into Xia City, I'm afraid trouble will always be knocking at the door."
Li Luo nodded. He was prepared. Although Jiang Qing'e was handling matters on behalf of House Luolan, ultimately he was the rightful owner.
He had been left unmolested at the City of Southwind, ensconced away from the politics. Plus, his blank palaces meant that they had all ignored him as an invalid.
But now he was one step closer to the whirlwind of politics. It was unavoidable.
Still, this was his responsibility as the young lord. He could not leave Jiang Qing'e to shoulder all the burden. He might have been helpless and unqualified before, but now he had his own strength, and it was his duty to lend it.
Li Luo nodded thoughtfully. "My parents really left behind a mess, huh."
They were in a mess partly because he was not strong enough. He had to grow stronger, as quickly as possible. And in the Xia Kingdom, there was no better place for that than the Astral Sage College.
Therefore, he was very happy to have secured admission there.
The trip was not at all tedious, not with beauties to accompany him. It passed in leisurely fashion.
A few days passed in the blink of an eye.
Their convoy had reached the capital of the Xia Kingdom.
Li Luo stood on the carriage, looking far ahead. He could see the silhouette of a large metropolitan area. It was still some distance away, but already he could see how intimidating it was.
It took one's breath away.
The City of Southwind was not even a fraction of this.
"Well, as expected of the capital," Li Luo said.
Cai Wei and Yan Lingqing were smiling with pleasure. They were finally back.
"That was a smooth journey. Better than I expected," he said to them.
But just as he spoke, they spotted some people on a high slope nearby. They were raising a banner hurriedly.
Li Luo could see a golden sparrow on the flag, wings outstretched. It glittered in the sun.
"Is that House Jinque?" Cai Wei asked, surprised.
Li Luo was surprised too. He had made no effort to keep move to Xia City a secret, so it was not difficult for others to find out. He had imagined that his first encounter would be with unfriendly forces trying to stop or toy with him. However, he didn’t expect it to be with House Jinque, who was supposedly on decent terms with House Loulan, who had made first contact.
What did they want?
The question was answered soon enough. A messenger galloped over on a crimson horse-like creature, announcing loudly as he came, "The young mistress of my house invites the young lord of House Luolan to meet."
"The young mistress of House Jinque?"
Li Luo looked over at Cai Wei. "The young mistress is called Si Qiuying. She's the same age as you. She should be heading to the Astral Sage College as well," she answered. "I guess you two haven't met before?"
Li Luo pondered this. "Perhaps another one infatuated by my dashing looks?"
The two women rolled their eyes.
Li Luo chuckled. "Overthinking helps no one. I'll know when I meet her."
He leaped out of the carriage, landing lightly on the back of a sturdy crimson beast.
"No need for bodyguards?" Cai Wei called.
Li Luo waved her off. No one would be foolish enough to actually do anything to him in Xia City. No matter how much House Luolan had fallen, it still had some power.
The red creature brayed and then galloped back up the steep slope.
At the top of the slope, expensive fur rugs had been laid out on the grass. On it was a long table, behind which a green-haired girl sat in a kneeling position, her quiet eyes watching Li Luo's approach.
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