Lightning Manor was one of the most reputable clans in Vermilion Bird, its history dating back to thousands of years ago when its ancestors founded the nation. Each and every generation from the manor had its own talents that became the backbone of the nation, and their influence could be found throughout the nation.
Vermilion Bird had a fearsome troop known as the Tempest Regiment, which was stationed on the nation’s border, protecting the people from harm. For millennia, the Tempest Regiment had doubled as Lightning Manor’s private corps, and the commander would always be the current Lightning Seigneur. Even so, the Lightning Manor had always known its place, which was as a loyal subordinate of the Vermilion Bird Clan. This was also the main reason why the manor managed to thrive for as long as the nation had.
The Lightning Manor itself was positioned in the southern district of Ignispolis, where various clans established their bases. It wasn’t as extravagant as Chen Chateau, but it was far more imposing. If one looked down at it from above, the manor seemed to be covered by purple glazed tiles, giving it an intimidating glow.
And right now, in the deepest part of the manor, Liu Qing and Li Yanfeng were standing side by side, facing a modest cottage. The cottage looked incongruent with the rest of the manor, but every member of the clan knew that this was a hallowed place, the meditation grounds of the Lightning Seigneur. It was out of bounds to most of them, and one could only enter if the Lightning Seigneur had personally summoned them.
Needless to say, Li Yanfeng and Liu Qing had been summoned to meet the seigneur. Even Liu Qing had never been here before, judging from her slightly nervous expression.
“Disciple Liu Qing, together with my spouse Li Yanfeng, greets the Lightning Seigneur.” She pulled Li Yanfeng’s sleeves as a signal, and the two knelt before the cottage. The doors remained shut, and without its owner’s permission, they wouldn’t dare to enter it.
“Hm.” A hoarse voice sounded from inside the cottage. The owner of the voice was old, but it had an undeniable solemness to it, and could only belong to a true overlord. Even if Li Yanfeng had an entire city under his control, that voice alone had easily suppressed him.
“Li Yanfeng,” the Lightning Seigneur called from within his cottage.
Li Yanfeng lowered his head. “I’m here, sir.”
“I've heard stories about you, that you wish to be part of our clan, and you are very sincere about it. I recognise your talent, and will accept you into the manor.” The Lightning Seigneur’s voice was emotionless, but he pronounced every word firmly.
Li Yanfeng was excited to be accepted this easily. “Thank you, sir. I am willing to use my blood and my life to fight for Lightning Manor’s honor.”
“Don’t bother with expressing your loyalty in words, I only look at results,” said the seigneur. “Frankly, you are rather strong even by the manor’s standards. If you were born in a better family, you would be ten times more powerful than your current self right now.”
Li Yanfeng had his head lowered, as he listened to the seigneur’s instructions for him.
“Once you make a breakthrough in your current stage, you will probably be one of the top ten cultivators in the manor. I have important uses for people like you, and therefore I shall grant you our Lightning Manor’s heavenly will technique,” the seigneur continued.
When the couple heard that, they could barely hide their elation. A fortune was bestowed upon them without any warning, and all they could do was to kneel on the floor and thank the seigneur. “Thank you, sir. This technique is very important to me, and I will forever be in your debt.”
Li Yanfeng continued, his words packed with emotions, “Words are not enough to describe my gratitude. The seigneur may watch my contributions to the manor, and punish me should my performance be unsatisfactory. ”
“No need for the theatrics. At your age, you should know what you should do, and what you shouldn’t. The Lightning Manor can give, and it too can take. You’re a clever man; don’t misplace my trust.” The Lightning Seigneur made it sound simple, but the threat from his tone was so obvious, even Liu Qing broke into cold sweat.
But with all that said and done, Li Yanfeng could never imagine that he had already gotten what he wished for, even before he had contributed anything to the manor. He had started everything from scratch, fought for his whole life without any support or backing, and only he himself knew how much pain he suffered because of that.
To add insult to injury, he was blessed with talent, but he had never made it into the top ranks of Vermilion Bird, as he didn’t have a heavenly will technique. But today, the Lightning Manor had given him the chance that he could only dream for.
Li Tianming always thought that his father got together with Liu Qing for the Flameyellow Order and the manna, but it turned out he had always underestimated Li Yanfeng. What Li Yanfeng wanted was a backing that could support him in climbing the ranks as the elites of the nation. On Liu Qing’s side, her family’s influence in the manor had been weakened due to her father's passing, and she desperately needed a man who could represent her family.
“You are new to the manor, and are probably unfamiliar with the Lightning Manor. Let me give you a simple task,” the Lightning Seigneur said.
“Anything I can do for you, sir.”
“My granddaughter, Xiaoxiao, will be taking part in the Flameyellow Scions Institute’s ranking test. That kid likes to act independently, and I need someone who can protect her from the shadows. I have made plenty of enemies in my life, and there are quite some dangerous men,” said the Lightning Seigneur.
“Be at ease, sir. I’ll treasure her life more than my own.” Li Yanfeng replied, knowing it was an easy job.
“Remember, do not show yourself unless she is in life-threatening danger. She needs to learn to face dangers on her own too. And besides, if she knew about your presence, with her temperament she will probably demand to be left alone.”
“I understand!” Li Yanfeng nodded his head, with Liu Qing’s hand in his. Their future seemed to be brighter than ever.
At the age of fifteen, Lin Xiaoxiao left the Lightning Manor to begin her own life. But little did she know that her family had already found a bodyguard for her.
With the admission test cleared, she was now an official member of the institute, granting her unrestricted access in the institute. However, everyone knew that her position in the Hall of Manibeasts was but temporary. It wouldn’t take long before she became a member of the prestigious Heaven’s Sanctum.
It wasn’t the first time she walked through the institute, and in fact, she had even lived in the sanctum for a period of time before. As she walked towards the entrance of Heaven’s Sanctum, even the chief mentor guarding the gates let her in with a smile.
“Xiaoxiao, you should have no problem clearing the ranking test and entering the sanctum right?” the mentor asked.
“I will try my best.” Lin Xiaoxiao was a very likable girl. Unlike most of her peers from the Lightning Manor, her manners were affable.
The sanctum was an unknown ground to most disciples, but Lin Xiaoxiao easily found her way around till she reached a courtyard. The doors were unlocked, and when she pushed open the gate, she was greeted by a sea of flowers, its fragrance filling her nostrils. A couple of birds were chirping on a tree nearby, and beneath the tree was a pleasant rock garden beside a pond. It was an utopia, there were no two ways around it.
All the plants and trees there were planted personally by the garden’s owner, and it clearly took a lot of effort to create such a scenery. Lin Xiaoxiao strolled along a pebbled path, indulging herself with the floral scents.
Suddenly, music began to play. The sound of a zither flowed through the garden, its rhythm bringing the whole garden to life. The notes were mellow and the rhythms elegant, hinting at the musician’s skills and grace.
In front of Lin Xiaoxiao was a pristine pond, where goldfishes frolicked in the water as if they were dancing to the music. Further ahead, a gloriette rested in the middle of a pond, where a girl in white was playing her zither. Her fingers seemed to have spirits of their own, as they waltzed across the instrument to create the melodic tune.
The girl was dressed in a white tulle skirt with pink borders, the hemline swaying to the wind. Her face was covered in a thin veil, the contour of her face showing her pert nose and her smiling, rosy lips. She had skin as fine as jade, and her brown hair dripped over her shoulders like honey. Her eyes were black with an almost unnoticeable tinge of blue, and they glinted with intelligence while she played her instrument. It was almost like a scene straight out of a painting, with a fairy gently stroking her zither, her figure embraced by mother nature.
Within the windswept garden, the girl looked like a pure and innocent white lotus in the middle of the pond.
“Xiaoxiao, you are here. How was the admission test?” The music stopped abruptly. The girl lifted her veil as she stood up to face Lin Xiaoxiao, her slender figure a feast for the eyes.
“I cleared it.” With a broad grin, Lin Xiaoxiao hurried into the gloriette, “Big sis Qingqing’s performance is as amazing as ever, how I envy my brother for having someone like you.”
“You sure know how to make me happy.” The girl smiled. “It's been half a year since we last met. Our Xiaoxiao is so pretty now, and you're just fifteen. You will definitely grow up to be a lovely lady.”
“But being pretty does not benefit my cultivation in any ways, and I'd rather be known for my strength instead.” Lin Xiaoxiao pouted.
“Yes, yes, Xiaoxiao will definitely be a master in the future, even stronger than your brother.”
“Of course, my goal is to surpass Lin Xiaoting, and make him pay for bullying me when I was young, hehe.” Lin Xiaoxiao giggled heartily, showing a side of her that was usually hidden from people.
“Definitely, I will support you when you get the chance to do that.” The girl’s face flushed red when she thought of him.
After a bit of casual chat, they talked about the entrance exam. The girl asked, “How well do you know your opponents? Confident?”
Lin Xiaoxiao had a determined look on her face, and it was clear that she desired to be the prime disciple of the ranking test, so that she could catch up to her brother.
“I believe in you. Soon we'll cultivate in Heaven’s Sanctum together,” the girl continued proudly, “The sanctum is much more peaceful than outside, and you can learn a lot of new things here too. Look at your brother — he recently entered seclusion, and he will probably make another breakthrough when you get to see him again.”
“Brother is going to get even stronger!” Lin Xiaoxiao rolled her eyes. Speaking of her brother, she remembered about her main purpose here today.
“Big sis Qingqing, do you know that an evil man appeared during today’s admission test?” Lin Xiaoxiao said seriously.
“Evil? Which evil man?” The girl smiled as if Lin Xiaoxiao was still a child.
“Remember the evil person who tried to violate you three years ago? That Li Tianming, who had his lifebound beast executed by brother,” Lin Xiaoxiao asked.
Upon hearing the name, the girl seemed to freeze for a moment. A flurry of emotions went through her head, but in the end, she just bit her lips gently, as if she had let go of the past.
“I’m sure he returned home, so how did he return to the institute?” she asked with an unreadable smile.
“He managed to get the Flameyellow Order from his hometown again. Apparently, he had gotten himself a new lifebound beast with a blood pact, and cleared the admission test with it.” Lin Xiaoxiao’s expression was twisted with disgust when she spoke of that man. After all, she had heard about his doings from her sister Qingqing.
“Is that so? Then I must congratulate him.” The girl nodded, her smile still lingering on her face.
“Big sis Qinging, are you not appalled by his return? After all, he nearly destroyed your future three years ago. Do you want me to teach him a lesson?” asked Lin Xiaoxiao.
“That’s not needed,” the girl said.
“Xiaoxiao, everyone makes mistakes, and he may have resorted to extreme measures because of his love for me,” the girl said gently.
“He has paid his price, and your brother executed his lifebound beast. He may have sinned in the past, but we shall leave that behind us,” the girl said sincerely.
“You don’t want me to teach him a lesson?”
“Of course not, we used to be good friends too. I’m genuinely happy that he can step out of his past and make it back to the institute. If anything, I wish him all the best in the institute, and hope that his efforts will pay off.”
“Big sis Qingqing, you're just too kind, even to those that had hurt you. My brother is really lucky to have found someone like you.” Lin Xiaoxiao looked at her with utmost respect.
The girl smiled. “Let’s not talk about all those past stories now. I learnt a new score recently, do you want to hear it?”
A while later, the sound of a zither echoed in the courtyard again. It was only when night fell did Lin Xiaoxiao leave the place.
Having sent Lin Xiaoxiao off, the girl returned to her room, the expression on her face a lot colder. She whipped out a piece of ink-black parchment stamped with a blood-red flower, and one could only wonder where she got such a peculiar item from.
Holding a quill pen in her hands, the girl dipped it in white ink and wrote on the parchment——
Wanted: Assassination by Bloodflower Chamber.
Target: Li Tianming, disciple of Flameyellow Scions Institute, first level of Spiritsource stage.
Bounty: One thousand yellow-patterned spirit gems.
Bring me his head.