“Li Tianming, pay a visit to the entrance of the institute.”
Before the break of dawn, a crowd had already formed outside Flameyellow Scions Institute. Today was the first day of the challenge!
When Li Tianming rose to his feet from beside the Flameyellow Rock, many disciples looked at him with freezing gazes. Word had come down from their seniors; in three days' time, the Sanctum would have a new ruler. Therefore, they were to not communicate with anyone from the Wei Clan.
When Li Tianming walked away from the Flameyellow Rock, the disciples automatically cleared a path for him, slipping in some remarks as he passed through them.
“Go to the entrance of the institute and see it for yourself.”
“You are the cause of her death. You shall pay for this, Li Tianming.”
Bits and pieces of conversations travelled to his ears, but most of them were whispers and murmurs. But he did catch one thing.
Li Tianming picked up his pace, arriving at the stadium moments later. The seats were already fully occupied, the place stuffed to the brim even though it was still early morning.
The most crowded place, however, was the stone gate. Layer after layer of onlookers had practically blocked off the gate, with the people milling around it sighing and muttering.
“She must have been tainted, which was why she took her own life.”
“On top of that, Lin Xiaoting just married Yueling Ji, the final nail in the coffin.”
“How pitiful. Li Tianming, it was that Li Tianming who caused her death.”
“He'll pay the price soon. These three days will not be any easier for him.”
When Li Tianming arrived, he was once again greeted by stony faces. Details of the ceremony last night were already circulating around Ignispolis; pretty much everyone knew that the Wei Clan was going to end today. As much as the inspectors claimed to be fair, even a kid could tell that they were behind the Yueling Clan's appearance to Vermilion Bird.
In other words, the Wei Clan had no chance of winning. The only thing everyone was concerned about was cutting their losses. As for Li Tianming, his fate was already sealed,, along with the Wei Clan’s own. The crowd would not remember what the Wei Clan had done for Vermilion Bird. The inspectors were here to deal with them, and that was enough.
“Let him in!”
“Show him the results of his actions!”
Li Tianming wasn’t annoyed. He even found them funny. Why should he waste his time with idiots who thought they knew the whole story from some scattered rumours?
As Li Tianming walked past the crowd, he looked up to see a girl in white, swinging under the stone gate. Her eyes were fixed onto the Flameyellow Stadium, as if she was waiting for a show to happen. In fact, she was in a spot that could capture the entire stadium, a better seat than anyone could ask for. It was a seat where she could observe everything in the next three days.
Li Tianming halted his steps. The image in Lin Xiaoting’s arms three years ago coincided with the one hanging there right now. Li Tianming took a deep breath.
“How smart of you to leave at this time and not wait for another three days!” If she just waited for three days more, she would have seen the end of Lin Xiaoting too. But she did pick the most ideal spot.
“You may be dead, but your spirit's still here. Stay here and see how I dispense karma to them.”
Whatever that was between him and Mu Qingqing was over. Li Tianming didn’t kill her back then, during the Abyssal Trials, because he knew that there were punishments worse than death.
“Few know that mental torment is much more terrifying than physical torture. This month is for everything you have done to me.” If she hadn’t suffered heart-wrenching pain in the past days, why would she seek escape in death? Li Tianming could only say it was karma at work.
He looked down towards the floor, towards the bottom of the stone gate. Three lines of red words were printed on the floor, clearly written in blood:
I’m Not Worthy.
Three simple lines. That was all. She had finally apologised.
And yet, it was too little, too late. Once a mistake was made, there was no turning back.
“Does anyone know what those three lines mean?”
“Yeah, isn’t Li Tianming the one behind her death? Why apologise to him?”
“Have you heard the recent rumors? That three years ago, Lin Xiaoting and Mu Qingqing set up a trap for Li Tianming. It was Lin Xiaoting who took his Saintbeast War-Soul, before ascending to where he is now.”
“Don’t tell me you believe in that.”
“Then how do you explain those three lines?”
Quite a few had seen Mu Qingqing writing the three lines there before she hanged herself, but none of them had reacted fast enough to save her. She was frail and weak, leaving the world before anyone could free her.
“To be honest, I don’t find that impossible. From what I saw in the past few days, Li Tianming doesn’t seem like someone who would…”
“Are you saying that Lin Xiaoting is the despicable one? Shut your mouth, unless you wanna join Mu Qingqing.”
A good number of people thought the same way, but none chose to address it directly. Even if that was the truth, so what? Either way, Li Tianming would be dead by the battle three days later.
“LI TIANMING!!” A young girl suddenly ran up. Her eyes took in the scene before her, before she collapsed to the floor crying, her face a ghastly white.
It was Lin Xiaoxiao. Tears fell uncontrollably from her eyes, her shoulders shaking violently. She walked up to free Mu Qingqing from the rope and took the body in her arms.
“You! You killed big sis Qingqing, you will pay for this!” She growled at Li Tianming.
“Xiaoxiao, you are a good girl, perhaps the only good person across Lightning Manor.” Li Tianming stood at one side, his eyes taking in the sight calmly.
“You, however, are a killer, a criminal!” Lin Xiaoxiao's bloodshot eyes stared back at him.
“You are wrong. You are still young, so it’s natural that there are things in this world you don’t understand. No matter. Let me ask you one thing instead. Is your brother dead yet?” Li Tianming asked.
That question took everyone by surprise. That was an unfounded question; why would he ask if Lin Xiaoting died at all? No one knew, except for Li Tianming. When Mu Qingqing raised her toast to Lin Xiaoting, only he saw that sneer on her face. She must have done something about that drink.
“How did you know? Were you the one?!” Lin Xiaoxiao was shocked.
She too had heard Lin Xiaoting’s screams, and the order to search for Mu Qingqing. When she found her brother, he was already kneeling on the floors, crying. Apparently, it was the Gelding Blight, and it had something to do with that drink that Mu Qingqing had offered him.
Lin Xiaoxiao had an instinctive feeling that Mu Qingqing would head to the institute, but she was a step too late.
“You mean he’s dead?” Li Tianming frowned. That would be too easy an end for him.
“Of course not!” Lin Xiaoxiao raged.
“So which part about him is crippled now?” Li Tianming asked.
If Mu Qingqing hadn’t succeeded, she wouldn’t choose to end her life here in such a manner. If these events were all well-planned acts, then the director behind it all was Li Tianming, who chose to not end her life in the Abyssal Battlefield.
“Shut up!” Lin Xiaoxiao clammed up immediately, since she knew that the news of the Gelding Blight was a taboo topic that affect the Lightning Manor's reputation. “You are a devil, you all are! You'll pay the price for this one day!”
“A few years down the road, you will find out who the true devil is.” Li Tianming stared into those young yet vengeful eyes.
“Big sis Qingqing...”
Lin Xiaoxiao’s tears rained down as she looked at the cold corpse resting in her arms. But when she looked back up again, the young man was already gone, a figure departing into the distance.
“One day, I will take revenge for big sis Qingqing! Li Tianming!”
She still thought it all started when Li Tianming crippled Mu Qingqing at the Abyssal Battlefield. But when she was about to leave with Mu Qingqing’s corpse, she saw the bloody words printed on the floor.
Tianming. I’m Sorry. I’m Not Worthy.
Lin Xiaoxiao froze on the spot, as if she was struck by lightning. It was her handwriting — how would Lin Xiaoxiao not recognise it? Mu Qingqing was a talented girl, her skills in the fine arts as great as her cultivation. Her words were one of a kind, not imitable by anyone else.
Lin Xiaoxiao wasn’t stupid. The three lines were enough evidence to tell what had happened three years ago. Chills ran down her spine, down to the tip of her toes, as she finally understood those cryptic words. You're still young. Li Tianming’s words echoed in her ears, but she no longer treated them as an insult.
“Is this karmic retribution? A debt paid by blood…” She trembled, having understood why Mu Qingqing was allowed to leave the Abyssal Battlefield alive.
Did Li Tianming forgive her? Of course not. But he had turned the tables, and there was one more dish to be served, a big fish.
In the Vermilion Bird imperial palace, Qingluan Residence. The doors were locked shut, with imperial guards blocking off the entrance of the bedroom. King Xuan, who was standing in front of the door, frowned at the din.
“Qing’er, Ling’er, quit messing around.”
“Uncle, let me out! I have to return to the institute!” Jiang Qingluan’s agitated voice came from within the room.
“Don’t even think about it. The Vermilion Bird King himself has forbidden the two of you from leaving your room. Only when the results are out three days later will I let you free.” King Xuan rejected her immediately.
“But Ling’er can help Li Tianming!” Jiang Qingluan raged. The other girl remained silent, but she knew that no one else could be more worried for him than her at this juncture.
“Help? She’s not helping anyone.”
“Why would you stop her? They are clearly provoking us too! We've been on good terms with the Wei Clan for so many years! What would the world think of us if we chicken out and let the Wei Clan struggle on their own?” Jiang Qingluan rebutted.
“You make that sound easy, but have you thought about the number of innocents who would die in the royal clan if we try to help? The two inspectors are clearly on the Yueling Clan’s side, and they are determined to take down the Wei Manor. If we help, we are simply offering them an excuse to overthrow us and let Lightning Manor take the throne instead.” King Xuan shook his head.
“As if sitting back will save us. They are bound to target us sooner or later, so why not put up a fight, at the very least?”
“How? Your father is stuck with the inspectors and can’t even return to the palace, how are we supposed to stop them?”
“So we are just going to sit here and wait for our doom?”
“Better that than being reckless. The two of you just settle down and sit tight for these three days.” King Xuan left immediately after saying those words, reminding the guards one last time to not let the princesses out.
Inside the bedroom, Jiang Feiling stared outside the window with her hands on the edge, an ominous spark in her eyes.Previous Chapter Next Chapter