If there was one thing that Li Tianming didn’t expect, it was that news of his battle with Wei Guohao on the bridge, as well as his participation in the Abyssal Trials, had spread across Ignispolis. As the fateful day approached, the event that was originally meant to be a secret was now gossip for many in the capital. The rich and famous of Ignispolis knew how big the continent was, as well as how powerful Heaven’s Elysium was. It was the headquarters for countless sanctums across the continent, who then built the Flameyellow Scions Institutes. It was thanks to them that disciples were imparted with knowledge and power, and martial arts could be learnt by many.
Most of the people here had never left Vermilion Bird in their life, but they knew about the creation of Flameyellow Scions Institutes in every nation on this continent. The institute in Vermilion Bird was just one out of many of those. People feared and respected Heaven’s Elysium, and they knew how important this 'Abyssal Trials' was. The peninsula was too far away from the center of the continent, and the Elysium had almost never stepped foot here before. As such, thousands of years had passed without youths in these three nations obtaining such an opportunity. At the same time, the news of Lin Xiaoting being admitted to the Elysium had spread too, gaining the envy of many. Even the Lightning Manor seemed to have benefited from these rumours, their reputation now casting even the Occult Athenaeum in shadow.
Lin Xiaoting himself had become a legend of the nation.
“If Lin Xiaoting were to make a name for himself in the Elysium, then surely our nation will also benefit.”
“Imagine if those other six in the sanctum could obtain another position in the Elysium. If that happens, we'll soon be the ruler of this peninsula.”
The members of the public discussed such matters fervently, most of them optimistic about the nation’s future. Speaking of the six other contestants, Li Tianming was no doubt the strangest member on the leaked list. Many had initially dismissed it as fake news. But as details of the battle at the bridge spread, and members of the institute clarified things, people came to a realisation. The Li Tianming that they had laughed about had earned the blessings of the Flameyellow Rock, miraculously becoming one of the top geniuses in the sanctum! Apart from the blessing he received, opinions about Li Tianming were mixed. Many questioned his morality, but voices judging his talent were a lot quieter. At most, people could dismiss him for the fact that his lifebound beast was not a seven-star royal beast, making him inferior to the other five participants. Then again, the decision was made by the Sanctum Potentate himself, so no one could question that.
Thus, the hottest topics in Ignispolis right now were none other than Lin Xiaoting and Li Tianming. Coincidentally, these two had a shared history from three years ago, which was being brought up again. Now, people were looking forward to the impending clash between the chosen genius and the tarnished challenger. That being said, Lin Xiaoting was on the moral high ground and doubled as the face of Ignispolis; few would therefore support Li Tianming.
In the western district of Ignispolis, the Xing Mansion and the Chen Chateau stood as the fanciest properties. Even normal servants from the Chen Chateau were exotic beauties selected from various parts of the nation. Within the Daybreak Snow Pavilion, madam Xue Lan and madam Yuan Yu sat side by side by a table. Sitting opposite them were Chen Hao and Xing Que. There was a younger boy sitting at the corner of the table, looking rather lifeless. He was the Chen Yao that was defeated by Li Tianming during the ranking test, and was now just an ordinary member of the Hall of Manibeasts.
It was evident that none of them were in a good mood. This was especially true for madam Xue Lan, whose pretty face was twisted with anger.
“So, you are telling me that Li Tianming is such a big-shot right now that even the Potentate has to show him some face?” Madam Xue Lan gritted her teeth.
“Pretty much. At least, Vice-Potentate Mu Yang has been very helpful to him and his mother.”
“Mu Yang is stooping real low for his identity.”
“Wei Jing rejected him twenty years ago, and even now he wouldn’t give up. Is he retarded?!” Xue Lan smashed her fist on the table.
“Mother, please calm down.” Chen Hao’s head was lowered.
“That means the old hag still has a knack for flirting with men.” Madam Yuan Yu rolled her eyes.
“Rats like her never change,” Xue Lan added.
“But brothers, how did Li Tianming get such an opportunity? He got his lifebound beast through a blood pact and was about the same level as me just a month ago, so why can he go to the Abyssal Battlefield with you two now?” Chen Yao was the most confused. How could someone who was on par with him less than a month ago be in a completely different world now? Is he really still a genius of Ignispolis? That thought alone even made Chen Yao lose confidence in cultivating.
“It’s all because of the Flameyellow Rock and his perfect synchronization,” Chen Hao said.
“He just got real lucky,” Xing Que added.
“But he’d be looking for his own doom in the Abyssal Battlefield, since he only managed to defeat Wei Guohao with the help of Princess Ling. He is in fact just a little stronger than Wei Lingxuan, and we can easily cripple him should he run into us,” Chen Hao explained. The slap that Sage Chen gave him back at the Flameyellow Pagoda still stung. He wouldn’t forget the shame, nor would he forget his father's promise of an apology if he took first in the Trials.
“Then make sure you cripple him, make sure he doesn't succeed. I won’t accept it if Wei Jing survives this!” Excitement twisted Xue Lan's face.
“Sister, no need to waste your anger on people like her,” Madam Yuan Yu consoled her.
“Mother, don’t you worry. If he’s unlucky enough to meet us, there’s no way we will show mercy to him.” Chen Hao puffed out his chest.
“That’s right, godmother. How could it be so easy to gain the recognition of Heaven’s Elysium? I will bring you my own head if Li Tianming can succeed,” Xing Que added, and madam Xue Lan finally let her pent-up tension dissipate.
Xing Que and Chen Hao glanced at each other, puzzled. Why did Xue Lan want that woman dead no matter what? That said, nothing wouldn’t change their opinion either, since they too didn’t want to let Li Tianming go, especially after that slap at the Flameyellow Pagoda.
“Mother, is there any story between you and that woman?” The youngest son, Chen Yao, asked at one side.
“Don’t be a busybody.” Xue Lan glared at him. Of course, she couldn’t say it was all out of sheer envy, but envy alone was enough to turn her into a devil. “Just cripple Li Tianming, and send him and his mother back to Flamehaven where they belong!”
Because of the Abyssal Trials, even the streets outside of the Flameyellow Scions Institute seemed livelier than ever. Passing residents would occasionally throw a curious glance as they wondered what would happen there in a few days' time. In an inn opposite the institute, a middle-aged man dressed in a red and black patterned robe relaxed on one of the window seats on the third floor. He stared at the traffic going in and out of the institute with a drink in his hand, his eyes hiding his true thoughts.
“Yanfeng.” A honeyed voice called out to him. Many in the inn looked towards the direction of the voice as a lady walked up the stairs. She had a hot and seductive figure that could invoke many thoughts within men. Walking behind her was a boy about the age of sixteen, his head lowered as if he was deep in thought.
Li Yanfeng beckoned. “Have a seat here.”
With a smile, Liu Qing tugged at Liu Qianyang’s hand as she walked towards the table and sat opposite Li Yanfeng. Her seated posture accentuated her curves even more, somehow.
“Yanfeng, how long has it been since Xiaoxiao went in?” Liu Qing asked.
Li Yanfeng's job was to protect Lin Xiaoxiao, but the institute was a safe place. Thus, he would always be waiting in this inn when she was cultivating in the institute. It wasn’t much of a difficult task, but it was inconvenient as he had to stay in the inn all the time, affecting his newlywed life. He even had to keep an eye out when doing that with Liu Qing, just so that Lin Xiaoxiao didn’t leave the institute in the middle of the night without him noticing.
“It’s been a few days. I reckon that she won’t be leaving until Mu Qingqing enters the Abyssal Battlefield,” Li Yanfeng said.
“I see, then I shall join you tonight.” Liu Qing’s face blushed slightly.
“Just stay here, I’m quite bored,” Li Yanfeng suggested.
“But sister needs to help with my cultivation…” Liu Qianyang stuttered.
Liu Qing frowned. “Just learn it yourself at the institute, I have little left to teach you.”
“Alright.” Liu Qianyang lowered his head again.
Li Yanfeng looked at Liu Qianyang, but it was another boy that was on his mind.
“Yanfeng, you must have heard about his story?” Speaking of that person, Liu Qing’s voice trembled slightly.
“I did. Sounds like a fairy tale.” Li Yanfeng shrugged with a mixed look on his face. Although he hadn’t seen Li Tianming personally, he did hear more and more stories about that boy. Who would have thought that after being abandoned by him, Li Tianming had made a name for himself as a rising genius?
“Then do you regret giving up on this son and turning to the Lightning Manor…” Liu Qing’s voice trailed off.
“What are you thinking? He wasn’t related to me to begin with. You're the one who matters the most to me now,” Li Yanfeng said earnestly.
“Aren’t you afraid he will come back for you in the future?” Liu Qing asked, only to be answered by his laughter,
“What do you mean, Yanfeng?”
“I didn’t expect Mu Yang to help him, nor did I expect the blessing from the Flameyellow Rock. But I do understand the Potentate of the sanctum.” Li Yanfeng narrowed his eyes.
“That stupid old man is as stubborn as hell. If Li Tianming decides to bet everything on this event, then based on my understanding of the Abyssal Trials, he will have a really bad time,” Li Yanfeng explained.
“Will you be sad if he dies?”
“Not at all.” Li Yanfeng stared outside the window coldly.
“You've been practicing the Heavenly Will techniques for some time. How long more do you need before you can breakthrough?” Liu Qing changed the topic.
“Can’t you see it?” Li Yanfeng grinned.
“What?” A smile crawled up Liu Qing’s face too.
“I made the breakthrough last night,” Li Yanfeng said.
“Wow, that means you are finally in the same league with the strongest cultivators in Ignispolis!” Liu Qing said excitedly.
“Nothing to be excited about.” Li Yanfeng reached out and patted her on the shoulders.
“I guess this definitely calls for some rewards tonight.” Liu Qing lowered her head, her face blushing a ripe red.
“Sis, I will take my leave first!” Liu Qianyang rose from his seat and ran off without looking back.
“He’s not a kid anymore, show him some distance,” Li Yanfeng said sternly.
Liu Qing nodded. "Yes, definitely.”