"Sister-in-law, you and Brother Tianming can stay in this room. The light is brighter here and there's a great view of nature outside."
Within Kunpeng Sacred Hall, two top beauties walked shoulder to shoulder and chatted along the way. Qingyu was the more quiet and reserved type. But even though it was their first time meeting, they got along quite well.
"Qingyu, we’re about the same age, so just call me Ling'er."
The sun's illumination scattered under their skin and took on a slight reddish hue.
"Alright, Ling'er," Qingyu said, smiling giddily. All these years, she had grown up alone without a playmate. Yet now, Kunpeng Sacred Hall seemed like it would be rather merry.
"Ling'er truly looks amazing. I don't think I've seen someone as beautiful as you in the whole sect," Qingyu said with some dejectedness. Though, she was only fifteen and looked the part. In two years, though, she was sure to mature into a stunning looker in her own right.
"You're really pretty too, you know," Feiling said. "Wait, it kinda feels wrong to praise each other like that...."
They blinked at each other and burst out laughing. Their smiles were so natural and pure they seemed like a refreshing breeze.
"Why is there only one room?" Feiling asked.
"Don't you live together with Brother Tianming?"
"Of course not. We haven’t even known each other for that long. Since you live there, should I come stay with you?"
Qingyu was at a loss for words. All her life she’d had to spend her nights alone. She had never imagined such a girl would turn up in her life like that.
"Qingyu, I've slept with Qing'er all my life. I’ll no doubt feel lonely if I have to start sleeping alone, so please?" she asked expectantly, tugging her hand.
"Of course." Qingyu hurriedly nodded.
Just like that, Tianming's dream of cuddling with her in their sleep was ruined. Next, Qingyu showed her around Fatepath Peak and Kunpeng Sacred Hall.
Feiling felt a little worn out, so the two sat down on a nearby rock.
"Qingyu, here's a riddle for you. Guess the word: Mr Wang and Mr Bai sit on a rock."
"Wow, you're so smart!" Feiling exclaimed. Qingyu couldn't help but laugh. Was this how it felt to have friends? The riddle wasn’t hard at all, yet the joy she felt when she solved it was pure bliss. Her laughter couldn't sound more innocent and pure.
Qingyu bit her lip and lowered her head.
"Qingyu, I heard your grandfather promised your hand in marriage to someone you don't like, right?" Feiling lifted Qingyu's hand up lightly and placed it against her chest to give her some warmth.
"Yes..." she said weakly, nodding.
"I don't know. Perhaps it's because they brought up my mother. Father got angry and wanted to punish them, hence the bet. But he ended up losing. Back then, he had the council of elders bear witness to the bet. This all happened ten years ago when my mother had just passed. Father had a really short fuse back then." Tears began flowing as she recounted the events.
"Do you hate him because of this?" Feiling pressed.
Nobody had talked to Qingyu about this matter before. "No, Ling'er. I understand what he's going through. Granny said that this is just life sometimes. It doesn't always work out the way we want, and we shouldn't give up on ourselves or resent those around us for it. We must continue to fight to our last breath. Only after we’ve tried our best can we die without regrets," she said with grit teeth.
Her marriage had already been decided. The son of Li Xuanyi, the head of the Metal Bloodline, had been born a fool with no potential. Not to mention, all he did was eat and sleep.
"If they really move forward with the marriage and use the council to pressure us, what should we do?"
"I don't know. I just don't want to involve Granny and Father in this. If I really have to get married to him, I'll disfigure myself by burning off my face. Let's see if they'll still take me then," she said resolutely. There wasn’t even a hint of a joke in her words. She already knew what she would do if the marriage was to proceed.
"No, you can't do that!" Feiling clutched her palm even tighter. It only made it harder for Qingyu to follow through with her resolution.
"Ling'er, it's fine. So what if I'm disfigured? As long as I'm alive, I’ll be able to make those who wronged me pay a heavy price one day!" Though she had her head down, her eyes were actually looking toward the Grand-Orient Sect like a young, wild beast.
"Even if I end up in tatters, I will never forget how she fell right in front of my eyes!" Her tears began flowing harder. She couldn't hold it in any longer and sobbed, hugging Feiling tightly.
In the fifteen years of her life, she’d never had a friend. She didn't even know how to vent the festering displeasure she felt. It had accumulated for all this time, and she felt her internal organs rotting from the filth. It was almost as if she was a living zombie. The bloody sights she witnessed.... At the age of one, she saw her father being dragged back, covered in blood. She was still too young to comprehend what had happened. At three, she saw her mother's final, pained struggle. It was burned deep into her mind. The flower bouquet she held in her hand fell, and from then on, she only held weapons, until today, when Feiling came.
She cried as Feiling patted her shoulder and stroked her back. It suddenly felt much better.
"Thank you, Ling'er." Qingyu wiped her tears and forced a smile. After all, she should never give up!
"Should I tell you about him?" Feiling suddenly volunteered.
"Who? Brother Tianming?"
"Yes. He once fell to rock bottom, yet fate left him alive."
"I see." She listened intently as Feiling continued until she reached the part where Tianming killed Lin Xiaoting. Li Qingyu was there, after all, and had seen it for herself.
"Qingyu, never throw everything away in desperation. We haven't lost. Big Brother loves it here and likes you all. The blood of the Li Saint Clan flows in him, and he's willing to become one of you. So, you won't be fighting alone from now on. That’s his path of cultivation. He repays favors and grudges all the same. Not only were you nice to him, you even saved me. I'm sure he’ll help you when you're in trouble. So, let's go through this together, alright?" Feiling stretched out her hand.
"Okay." Qingyu felt a sudden burst of confidence.
"Let's play a game. Do you know XXXX? The winner will get to scribble on the loser's face!" Feiling said.
"Oh, you're so gonna lose." Feiling was brimming with confidence, seeing that Qingyu didn't seem to have any experience playing the game. Just like that, they played for a good part of the day. In the end, Feiling herself got scribbled all over.
"No way, Qingyu, you must be cheating! You must be!"
"Come on, I won fair and square. Don't run! One more time!"
"This can't be happening!"
It was time to enter the Li Mausoleum. Tianming called the little chick and black cat back to him. When he left, he saw Feiling and Qingyu playing together in the distance and couldn't help but chuckle to himself. Li Wudi laughed also.
"What's so funny?"
"My daughter-in-law sure is beautiful. She seems wasted on you, like a rose planted in a pile of dung," he teased.
By the time the chick and cat each took their place on Tianming's shoulders, Li Wudi burst out laughing again.
"These are your lifebound beasts?"
"What's wrong with them?"
"Well, they look like fine cooking ingredients. Maybe some chicken poppers with cat jerky. But then, cat meat tastes pretty sour...."
What a shameless fellow....
At the very least, the chick and cat seemed to love the place based on how excited they seemed. Tens of thousands of beasts were free to roam the wide landscape; it was far less restrictive than Ignispolis. After they finally returned, it was time to enter the mausoleum!
"Sigh... these darned ancestors are really heavy drinkers. Now that you're here, I'm sure my wine stores will be emptied even further...." Li Wudi seemed a little pained as they traveled.
"Are the ancestors still alive?" Tianming asked with wonder.
"Of course not. Just... some people are avid drinkers even in death and won't grant you any boons if you don't make a good offering of fine wine! What a bunch of greedy crooks!" he spat. He protected each jar of wine like he did his own life.
No boons without offerings? Tianming decided it was probably Li Wudi’s madness talking. What kind of person would call their own ancestors crooks? If it weren’t for his curiosity at what the mausoleum held, Tianming would be too embarrassed to be seen with someone like him!
The Li Mausoleum was at the back of Fatepath Peak. That was why the Li Saint Clan chose to retreat there after they lost control over the clan to the council of elders. Fatepath Peak was, in a sense, the entrance to their ancestral mausoleum.
Entering the rear mountain, Tianming felt nothing but endless bloody miasma in front of him. He looked up and saw a blood-colored barrier surrounded by a bloody mist that constantly shifted into gigantic kunpengs that observed the visitors.
A sharp howling assailed them nonstop. Tianming knew that this was the heavenly pattern barrier that protected the mausoleum. Heavenly pattern barriers were formations, of sorts, created from the arcane energies that could only be comprehended at the Heavenly Will stage. They were closely related to the patterns on manna, spirit ores, and spirit herbs.
This was one of the many applications of heavenly pattern barriers. Different barriers also had really different properties. The one that Jin Yixuan had used couldn't even be compared to the one before them that spanned what seemed like half the world. The blood around the barrier almost seemed to dance.
"The Li Saint Clan holds the highest regard for their ancestors. This is the heavenly pattern barrier that’s been deployed since the days of the founding ancestor: the Bloodbane Barrier. Each ancestor of ours will have to use all the power they have left before they die to reinforce the barrier. As of now, Bloodbane Barrier is still number one in the entire Grand-Orient Realm. Only those with the Li Saint Clan's blood in their veins and the Kunpeng Sacred Seal, basically you and me, can enter. Anyone else will be instantly killed. Currently, no one can possibly endure the might of the barrier."
Li Wudi looked up at the barrier with reverence and awe as he explained. Tianming didn't expect to see such a serious side to him.
"Come! Let's go visit the crooks!" he said all of a sudden as he cracked a smile. His seriousness hadn’t even lasted three breaths.
Tianming had his beasts return to the lifebound space before stepping through the barrier with Li Wudi. After they entered, the bloody mist receded and revealed a path leading inward.