Volume 2: Bane of Life
The fragments of the shattered Heavenly Pattern Barrier fell around them as the black sounds in the sky dispersed. Silence enveloped the region.
The Black-Devil Poison was slowly being removed from Jiang Qingluan’s body, and she woke up just in time to see the barrier disappearing. Even though Jiang Feiling was excited, it wasn’t a suitable timing for her to detach from her spiritual form.
As Jiang Qingluan opened her eyes, she saw the blurry image of a teenager looking at him. He wore a bright smile, one that was brighter than the sun, enough to cheer up anyone instantly.
“Li Tianming…” She was still on the ground, so Li Tianming helped her up, propping her against a rock.
“Is Ling’er with you?” That was the first thing Jiang Qingluan asked.
“I’m here, Qing’er. Big brother saved you.” Jiang Feiling whispered as she gathered her spiritual form and appeared in front of Jiang Qingluan briefly, before quickly going back into Li Tianming.
“Saved me...” Her head was a mess, and only then did she recall what happened.
“Right, where is that bitch Mu Qingqing? How dare she use the Purple Blood-Imprint! And where is Blue?” Jiang Qingluan looked around, and was relieved to find her Bluefire Vermilion Bird resting beside her. After listening to Li Tianming’s explanation about the poison, she kept Blue back in her lifebound space for it to rest. She was still weak, and barely had the strength to even walk.
“You saved me?” Jiang Qingluan gawked at him.
“Don’t look at me like that. I won’t accept it if you promise yourself to me. I’m not into love triangles, especially with my girlfriend’s best friend.” Li Tianming joked with a straight face.
“W-why don’t you die somewhere then...” Jiang Qingluan threw him a fierce stare. She was quite grateful of him at first, but now she just wanted to punch that stupid face.
“Was it all you?” Jiang Qingluan asked in shock, seeing Xing Que and Chen Hao with their head lowered, and Mu Qingqing lying on the floor unconscious.
She was especially glad that Mu Qingqing had been defeated. She too was aware of Li Tianming’s aim for taking part in the Abyssal Trials, and it was now clear that Mu Qingqing would not be joining Lin Xiaoting in the Elysium. She couldn’t help but recall how Mu Qingqing had defeated her with a squad of wildbeasts, and she was glad to see that Mu Qingqing being punished for that.
“Not bad. But don’t you dare think that I will let you be with Ling’er just because of that,” Jiang Qingluan said.
“Your permission? Is that edible? Because I don’t see a need for it.” Li Tianming rolled his eyes.
“Big brother, don’t be so harsh on Qing’er.” Jiang Feiling smiled.
“Whatever.” Jiang Qingluan’s primary focus right now was rest. With the current condition of her body, she might still need Li Tianming to carry her out of the battlefield later.
“How did the trials go?” Jiang Qingluan asked, and Li Tianming explained to her everything that had happened.
“Sooo… you got first place for the Abyssal Trials, and a profound manna to boot! What a lucky guy! And you will be going to Heaven’s Elysium too? Congratulations, Li Tianming! Good riddance, and don’t you think you can bring Ling’er with you!” Jiang Qingluan was both happy and worried for him. She found it hard to just let Jiang Feiling go, and was worried that Li Tianming couldn’t take good care of her. The world outside Vermilion Bird was more complicated than they could imagine.
“Well, we shall see. Who knows what we will get out of the trials,” Li Tianming replied. That said, he was about ninety-percent confident about his victory, since the profound manna was in his hands.
“Whatever it is, I guess we’ll congratulate brother Tianming first. From now on, you will be a disciple of the Elysium, but don’t forget about those of us in Vermilion Bird.” Mo Lin smiled.
As for Chen Hao and Xing Que, they didn’t utter a word. Even if Li Tianming said nothing to them, the two did not know how to face him, especially after all that mocking and jeering. Heck, they didn’t even know how to face their mothers. After all, they didn’t just fail to enter the Elysium, they were actually trounced in a two-on-one battle against Li Tianming.
What they dreaded most was Xue Lan. What thoughts would she have, once she heard about Li Tianming’s stellar performance? As his new status as a would-be disciple of Heaven’s Elysium? They didn’t even dare to think about it.
The disappearance of the barrier signified that the Abyssal Trials was ending. Li Tianming scanned his vicinity, looking for other surviving contestants. From what he saw, there were only two others in the region, a boy and a girl both dressed in the attire of Torch Dragon. When the profound manna first appeared, they resisted their urge to interfere, which was why they managed to survive.
Other than those two, there seems to be no one else left. That also meant that the participants of Aquamarine had been wiped out entirely. As for Torch Dragon, four had died, leaving behind two survivors and a Yueling Ji.
It was nothing short of a miracle for Vermilion Bird, what with Mo Lin needing rescue, Chen Hao and Xing Que admitting defeat, and Jiang Qingluan being kidnapped. None had died, with the one closest to death the unconscious Mu Qingqing.
“Li Tianming, congratulations on winning the Abyssal Trials and becoming a disciple of the Elysium,” said one of the two survivors from Torch Dragon.
“How lucky of Vermilion Bird. There’s us two left, but when placed beside Aquamarine...”
Since Mu Qingqing killed two and Yueling Ji killed two others, the other three were either killed by Yueling Ji earlier or died for other reasons.
“Isn’t Yueling Ji from Torch Dragon as well?” Li Tianming asked.
“She got in last-minute. They said she was from a hidden clan in Torch Dragon, but I’ve never seen her before,” replied the young man from Torch Dragon.
“Hold your tongue, unless you find life too boring.” An unhappy voice rang out from around the corner. Yueling Ji, who had hidden on one of the islands after her defeat, finally made an appearance.
That made nine of them, with eleven dead. Li Tianming had killed one, Yueling Ji apparently killed eight. In that case, Mu Qingqing should have killed two others, the two being Gu Suyu and Li Qingcheng.
After hearing Yueling Ji’s threat, the other two from Torch Dragon stopped talking. Yueling Ji herself gave Li Tianming a cold smirk, waiting with arms crossed in front of her chest.
About a minute later, two people appeared in front of the disciples, one male and the other female. Both of them were middle-aged, and appeared to be immensely strong cultivators. The man was wearing a long black robe, a black flame burning within his hawkish eyes. In contrast, the lady was donned in a white robe that hid her figure completely, her icy features giving off an unapproachable air.
The duo’s appearance caught everyone’s attention immediately. With the aura they were releasing, it was clear that they were representatives of the Elysium. With their superior identity and their terrifying aura, one look from them could drop the youngsters to their knees. The two were in an entirely different world; even Mu Yang would have to pay his respects to them, for they were from the headquarters of every single Heaven’s Sanctum, Heaven’s Elysium!
“You are all still young, so most of you probably don’t know me. I am Jin Yixuan, and this is Song Yixue. We are the vice-inspectors from Heaven’s Elysium, in charge of the Flameyellow Scions Institutes of the eighteen nations in the region," said Jin Yixuan, his solemn voice weighing on them like a mountain.
Eighteen nations! When Li Tianming was young, he thought that Vermilion Bird was the entire world, and he only learnt of Torch Dragon and Aquamarine when he grew a bit older. But even if they were just ‘vice-inspectors’, they were in charge of a total of eighteen nations. That was enough to suggest that their positions were higher than even Wei Tiancang, who was the Potentate.
“Greetings to the two inspectors.” Jiang Qingluan gestured at those from Vermilion Bird, and led them to greet the two vice-inspectors. It was a basic knowledge for those born in the royal families to casually remove the ‘vice’ in front of the vice-inspectors' titles when making conversation.
“How strange, none of you got killed by that spirit hazard.” Song Yixue suddenly chipped in. The only one who saw Li Tianming absorbing all the lightning was the unconscious Mu Qingqing, and no one else, not even Mo Lin, knew that the phenomenon was caused by the birth of Li Tianming’s beast.
“That’s because we were in hiding,” Mo Lin said respectfully. Hopefully, that was enough to hide Meow Meow’s birth from the two seniors.
“Hm, the Abyssal Trials is over. Who obtained the draconic water obelisk?” Jin Yixuan asked.
And with that, the most exciting moment of the Abyssal Trials had arrived. With a single announcement from the inspectors, Li Tianming would join the ranks of Heaven’s Elysium as a disciple there, soaring into a world the rest could not possibly even imagine!
“Inspectors, it is I, Li Tianming of the Wei Clan from Vermilion Bird.” Li Tianming answered. As per his deal with Wei Tiancang, Li Tianming was a representative of the Wei Clan, and Wei Jing would be saved if he won honour for the Wei Clan.
However, Li Tianming realised there were no responses from the two inspectors after a while, so he looked up into their faces. Why was Song Yixue looking at that Yueling Ji in the distance?
“Inspectors?” From their look, it was evident that they did not monitor the trials live, and only came after the barrier had vanished. That would also explain why Mu Qingqing managed to get away with using the Purple Blood-Imprint. But why was Song Yixue looking at Yueling Ji?
“Li Tianming, show me the draconic water obelisk,” Song Yixue commanded, leaving no room for argument.
“Here it is.” Li Tianming thought they were making a final confirmation. But the moment he took the profound manna out, a small wave of water had swept away the manna, placing it in Yueling Ji's hand.
“Inspectors, what's the meaning of this?” Li Tianming asked. Everyone had the same question, because why would they reclaim the treasure that Li Tianming had so painstakingly fought for? Was the Elysium going to be so stingy that they weren’t actually giving him the manna?
“What?” Song Yixue stared at him.
“I don’t understand.” Li Tianming had a bad feeling about this.
Jin Yixuan smiled. “Let me do the explaining.”
“Li Tianming, how could you snatch the prize intended for the winner of the Abyssal Trials?”
Li Tianming froze on the spot, stupefied. Him, snatch the prize?