It wasn’t just Li Tianming that didn’t understand what Liu Qing was talking about. Most of the crowd, including even Madam Mo and Li Zifeng, had no idea that there were others participating in the selection. After all, there were only so many competitors in the vicinity of Flamehaven, all of them renowned.
Li Yanfeng’s gaze towards Li Tianming turned even colder, but as he turned back to face someone else, a gentle smile appeared, tenderness and praise written all over his face.
“Qianyang, although you came from another place, you’re also a citizen of Flamehaven given that I have married your sister.” He looked at a boy about the age of fifteen sitting behind him, immediately putting him in the limelight. “The teenagers in Flamehaven are way too inexperienced, and have no idea what a real prodigy is capable of. You may be young, but remember as my brother-in-law, you have higher seniority than them all. Now go show them true talent. ”
“Go, Qianyang.” Liu Qing urged the boy, while still holding onto Li Yanfeng’s hand.
That was enough information for everyone! This boy, Liu Qianyang, was Liu Qing’s brother, meaning he was also from the Lightning Manor!
“The first wife’s brother is considered part of Flamehaven as well. So the governor wants him to contest for the Flameyellow Order as well? Did they just agree on this, or had they planned this all along...” Most people were taken by surprise, considering that this didn’t look like a spontaneous decision. Li Yanfeng apparently never intended to hand the Order over to Li Zifeng, which explained why the Order wasn’t passed to him, despite announcing him as the heir.
The two sons were fighting over the prize, but it was actually prepared for his bride’s brother?
No one dared to question or contest the governor, and the entire place was dead silent. Everyone stared at the boy from Lightning Manor as he rose up from his seat atop Zephyr Tower. As people gradually got a clearer look, it was blatantly obvious that the so-called ‘geniuses’ of Flamehaven were fireflies compared to this real prodigy!
He looked younger than Li Zifeng, his skin a pale white and his looks resembling Liu Qing’s. He had an elegant and intelligent look, and his eyes sparkled like gems in the dark. Perhaps most impressive was the grace that infused his every movement. Only a colossus like the Lightning Manor could nurture someone with such aptitude!
In comparison, the noisy, ruthless Li Zifeng was nowhere close to Liu Qianyang. Liu Qianyang’s appearance alone was enough to gain the praises of the crowd, just as he was surely capable of making people forget about the youths of Flamehaven.
“Qianyang, if you want the Flameyellow Order, you have to earn it.” Liu Qing advised as she adjusted his clothing.
“Yes sister, and thank you brother-in-law.” The boy was very polite, giving him a gentle and obedient image. But that in no way meant he was weak, as everyone knew what his appearance meant.
Li Yanfeng was still one step ahead of Li Tianming. Li Tianming thought that by defeating Li Zifeng, he could obtain the Flameyellow Order, but he hadn’t expected the existence of Liu Qianyang, especially as the true recipient of the Flameyellow Order!
From the warmth Li Yanfeng was showing Liu Qianyang, everyone knew that he had made this decision long ago. After all, he never even showed his two sons this kind of care before.
To be honest, Li Tianming felt like he underestimated how low Li Yanfeng’s bottom line was.
More importantly, the sight of Liu Qianyang’s face, one that resembled a girl’s, had dredged up a memory or two. Three years ago, Lin Xiaoting of Lightning Manor had many followers, some of them as young as eleven or twelve. Even if the boy in front of him had grown up, Li Tianming could roughly remember his appearance back then.
That’s right, Li Tianming had seen Liu Qianyang three years ago!
Having obtained permission from Li Yanfeng, Liu Qianyang leapt off Zephyr Tower, his crystal clear eyes locked onto Li Tianming. “Li Tianming, when big brother Xiaoting executed your lifebound beast, I was there to witness it.”
Indeed, it was him! In his desperation and rage that day, Li Tianming had burned every face from Lightning Manor into his memory to keep track of who his enemies were, and that included this kid right here. Of course, he was now a young boy.
“You were just this tiny bit close to getting the Flameyellow Order. What a shame. It’s troublesome to get the Order in the competitive environment of Ignispolis, so I chose the easy way of entering the institute through Flamehaven instead.” As he landed onto the stage, Liu Qianyang stated his purpose here. As the brother-in-law of the governor of Flamehaven, this was by all means a legal move.
From his words, Li Zifeng was fated to be a joke today too as his limit was the position as heir, while the Flameyellow Order was an unreachable dream. The real prodigy of Lightning Manor stood at heights that Li Zifeng would never match.
“Your attempt at a comeback today was not bad. Too bad it’s nothing but a final attempt. Do you know why big brother Xiaoting didn’t want to kill you? It was because he didn’t want to destroy all your hopes. After all, it’s far more entertaining to see you struggle, no?” A cold smile crept up his cheeks. Liu Qianyang wasn’t the good boy he appeared to be, with every word he spoke intended to crush Li Tianming’s will.
One of the main reasons why Li Tianming wanted to return to Flameyellow Scions Institute was to seek his vengeance on this bunch of geniuses, but who knew one would find his way all the way to Flamehaven.
“It really does sound funny when you put it that way. I’ll struggle mightily to change my fate, only for you to crush me again?” Li Tianming narrowed up his eyes.
“Your self confidence is quite delicious. Let’s not waste time — let me see how much you’ve improved in these three years! ” As he spoke, Liu Qianyang summoned his lifebound beast. Flamehaven consisted mostly of avian beasts, but things were different today when a cheetah leapt out from behind Liu Qianyang! The cheetah was swift yet massive, its claws razor-sharp, and its distinct feature the bolts of lightning running through its body. It was a five-star lifebound beast, the Lightning Bolt Cheetah, a lightning-type terrestrial beast!
The Lightning Bolt Cheetah was a creature slightly stronger than the Four-Winged Goldroc Li Tianming used to have. After all, five-stars was the bare minimum for someone to be considered a ‘prodigy’ in Lightning Manor.
Liu Qianyang smiled, confident in his bloodline and his strength. A battle between a fourth and ninth level Beast Vein? Surely no sane individual would try that, since that would just be plain stupidity.
Li Tianming just needed one glance to know that it would be a one-sided battle. The reason he could beat Li Zifeng was mostly because of his fire immunity. But against the lightning-type foe, the cheetah alone would make short work of the little chick.
“Well let’s test you if you are not going to respond!” A thunderstorm brewed with a single palm from Liu Qianyang, bolstered by beast ki from his ninth level beast veins. It was a ghastly move, and just the pressure from the attack was enough to suffocate Li Tianming! Overwhelmed by the attack, Li Tianming was forced off the stage. As the storm persisted, the gust caught up with Li Tianming, forcing him back another thirty steps!
The difference was simply too huge! With a difference of five levels, Li Tianming could barely stand straight in the face of the storm!
Despite his raging hatred, Li Tianming remained rational. Three years of hardship and tolerance had taught him what it took to be a hunter. A real hunter never tackles the beast head-on, but instead waits for the perfect moment to land the deadly strike!
What happened today couldn’t be altered, and he undoubtedly failed to achieve his goal. Nonetheless, Li Tianming had proven himself. By defeating Li Zifeng and shaming Li Yanfeng, Li Tianming showed that he wasn’t some trash that they could toss away on a whim!
As he landed, Li Tianming looked up towards Liu Qianyang sitting on his Lightning Bolt Cheetah, who said mildly, “Your beast ki can only reach the sixth level of Beast Vein. With this one-star lifebound beast of yours, what difference is there from being crippled for life? If this is all you are capable of, then begone. You aren’t worthy of being my opponent.”
Looking at how Li Tianming couldn’t even put up a fight against Liu Qianyang, the crowd realised the difference between Flamehaven and Lightning Manor was beyond what they had ever imagined. This Liu Qianyang was younger than Li Zifeng and yet he was two entire levels higher!
“Before I go, let me ask you a question.” Everyone thought Li Tianming would be disheartened by now, but his composure turned a few heads. However, no one noticed the murderous look he was giving Liu Qianyang. He would return the humiliation of this palm back to him eventually.
“Sure,” Liu Qianyang said, as his Lightning Bolt Cheetah gradually grew impatient, growling restlessly.
“When will you be leaving Flamehaven?” Li Tianming raised up his head. If Li Yanfeng couldn’t scare him, why should Liu Qianyang?
“Probably in a month's time.” Liu Qianyang thought briefly. His sister was married, and he had obtained the Flameyellow Order, so there was no reason for him to stay too long. A month felt more than sufficient.
“Very well. One month later, at this very place, I will punch that annoying mug of yours. If you lose, the Flameyellow Order is mine. Do you dare accept my challenge?” Yet again, Li Tianming made everyone’s jaw drop. He had admitted defeat, and there was no doubt his opponent was way more talented than he was. One month later Liu Qianyang would be even stronger, while he would still be just hanging off his one-star lifebound beast, so what even gave him the courage to issue that challenge? It wasn’t like he could improve tremendously in just a month.
“What’s in it for me?” Liu Qianyang snorted.
“Just my life.” said Li Tianming.
“The bet’s on. My brother-in-law raised you, taught you how to cultivate, even sent you to the institute. Yet you betrayed his trust, committed crimes, and refused to repent for your wrongdoings even after being punished by big brother Xiaoting! Today was supposed to be a happy occasion, and yet you chose to disturb the peace. An ungrateful little bastard like you should be removed. If my brother-in-law can’t bear to kill his own flesh and blood, I’ll help him clean house!” Liu Qianyang announced to everyone present at the Zephyr Square, the righteousness in his speech drawing praise, especially from the nobles in Zephyr Tower.
Li Tianming laughed. What a touching speech. To add on to the irony, Li Yanfeng had barely reacted to everything that Liu Qianyang said, making him almost doubt whether Li Yanfeng was really his father. Throughout the past three years, Li Tianming had asked his mother this question multiple times, and since his mother never lied to him, he had to believe it was true.
It was ironic indeed. An outsider from Lightning Manor, claiming to help Li Yanfeng to get rid of his own son, and Li Yanfeng didn’t even react. What’s more, he was holding this exact outsider’s sister by the waist, staring at Li Tianming indifferently from up high.
However, since he had long given up hope on Li Yanfeng, he found it amusing rather than upsetting. So much for parenting.
At least, he had secured one last chance to get the Order. It was the only way for him to return to the institute, and also for Li Yanfeng to send his mother and him out of the city with dignity! Everything that happened today, and the tricks Li Yanfeng pulled off, would only delay this.
The only real loser today was Li Zifeng. who was not only defeated by Li Tianming, but also had his Flameyellow Order snatched away. As he gazed mutely at Liu Qianyang, he probably felt the same way as Li Tianming did when he was abandoned by their father. Karma sure worked in interesting ways.
“So he’s going to challenge Liu Qianyang again in a month to compete for the Flameyellow Order?”
“Do you think that’s possible? The governor said he was just relying on his past experience and he can never go beyond the beast vein stage.”
“Then why did he act like he could compete with the prodigy of the Lightning Manor?”
“Ha! Of course he had to at least retaliate a bit before leaving, or else what is he gonna do, just crawl out like a dog?”
As everyone laughed, they looked at Li Tianming sympathetically. In the end, he was just a clown, dreaming of his dramatic revenge stories. Little wonder Liu Qianyang didn’t even bother with him.
Only Li Tianming himself knew that his statements were not meant as a joke. He took a final look at Li Yanfeng. On top of Zephyr Tower, the man had the young beauty in his arms, both of them chatting casually. Liu Qianyang’s appearance today had disrupted everything that Li Tianming had planned, getting Li Yanfeng out of a tight situation.
But could this be the end?
“Just you wait and see!”
Would it even take a month?
Night fell, as a sense of victory lingered in the bridal room. Li Yanfeng had a cup in his hand which Liu Qing refilled with alcohol constantly, the two of them clearly enjoying their time.
Liu Qing’s face was red from the alcohol, glowing faintly like a juicy peach. However, Li Yanfeng was properly dressed and seated, the beauty clearly not the first thing on his mind right now.
“Yanfeng, regarding the competition for manna at Red Twill Mountain, my brother will be relying on you.” Liu Qing refilled the glasses yet again, before finishing her own portion. Her snow-white skin was especially charming in the candlelight.
“Don’t you worry, Red Twill Mountain is my territory. Any manna there has my name written on it.” Li Yanfeng was very confident.