For Wei Jing, she felt like she had a terrible nightmare the previous night. But when she woke up, the first thing she saw was her son sitting by her bedside, telling her, “Why have you gotten so lazy lately? The ranking test is about to begin soon, hurry up and prepare.”
“Ah, Auntie Li, come and help me!” Li Tianming ran off.
Wei Jing crawled out of bed hurriedly to prepare for the big day. Auntie Li had done most of the preparations already, and all Wei Jing needed to do was to wash up and get onto the brand new horse cart.
The tickets for the ranking test of the Flameyellow Scions Institute were rather expensive, but of course Li Tianming had prepared for that. In fact, a ticket had been prepared for Auntie Li too, so that she could take care of his mother’s needs even when they were inside the stadium. The guards that Sage Chen assigned them should be following Wei Jing as well, and it was only with their help that Li Tianming could place his focus on cultivation. It was still early in the morning when Li Tianming drove the horse cart to the institute. By then, the place was already stuffed with people, but Li Tianming could get ahead of the queue as he was one of the disciples of the institute. As such, he could bring his mother into the stadium and pick a nice cozy spot that had a good view of the arenas.
A look into the stadium told them that tens of thousands of spectators had already seated themselves comfortably inside the stadium. The private rooms, allocated to the rich and powerful of Vermilion Bird, were also filled, their inhabitants ready to watch the show that was about to occur. But of course, the interior of their rooms were hidden from the general audience’s view, since normal citizens were not permitted to see what was happening inside.
The ranking test of the Flameyellow Scions Institute was of course hosted by the institute, and the guests in the private rooms would have no influence over the test proceedings. They were just here to watch a good show.
In the arenas, the newly-enlisted disciples who managed to clear their admission test had taken their position. The result of their ranking test would follow them for their time in the institute, and it was a label that would decide the amount of respect and resources they get. It was no doubt a fight that the disciples would put their best effort in.
Li Tianming had settled Wei Jing down, and was about to join the rest from Muwan class when the voice of a woman sounded from behind them. He turned around to find a flamboyantly dressed Madam Xue Lan walking into the institute, surrounded by a bunch of ladies. They were heading for their allocated room when they walked past and noticed Li Tianming and Wei Jing.
By her side was her son, Chen Yao, who was dressed in a dazzling purple robe. Handsome, capable young men like him were always a sight to admire, especially for teenage girls.
“You can go ahead first, I will join you in a jiffy,” Xue Lan told the rest of the ladies, and walked towards Li Tianming, accompanied by Chen Yao.
“Jing’er.” Xue Lan wore a smile as she gently held Wei Jing’s hand and said, “Why did you not go to Chen Yao Inn the other day? I'd already arranged everything for you, but you never showed up.”
“I was delayed by other matters. And since it just so happened that Tianming managed to get hold of some gems, we managed to get our own house and decided not to trouble you.” Wei Jing wore an unruffled look, and she didn’t get angry at Xue Lan either. She wasn’t going to waste her emotions on people that had already disappointed her.
Xue Lan shook her head pretentiously. “You don’t have to be so awkward with me.”
Wei Jing smiled without replying to that. She had no intention to play along with Xue Lan’s fake friendship games.
“Speaking of which, the house you bought was also the property of our Xing & Chen Merchantry.” Xue Lan suddenly said, the hint in her tone blatantly obvious: So what if you didn’t accept my offering? You still ended up staying in the house that we sold you!
Considering the size and power of the Xing & Chen Merchantry, it was normal that she learned of their movements.
“You know where we are living?” Li Tianming frowned at Xue Lan, having thought of something.
“What are you suggesting?” Chen Yao was more straightforward than his mother, and asked Li Tianming, staring at him directly.
“No, just a random question.” Li Tianming replied. Was it possible that this woman here was so wicked that when she realised Sage Chen’s kindness towards them, she hired assassins to murder the two of them? It was definitely possible.
“Mother, it’s time we go. We need to greet the seniors from Xing Mansion and the Occult Athenaeum, and there are important guests from the Vermilion Bird Clan as well,” Chen Yao said coldly. “Let’s not waste any more time on unimportant personnels.”
“Yao’er, how could you say such a thing? Your Aunt Jing was a sister of mine, don’t treat her so rudely.” Xue Lan snorted, tapping her son’s shoulders lightly.
“Sisters? She looks more like that servant’s sister.” Chen Yao shrugged, and turned to leave.
“Jing’er, forgive me, this boy was born with a silver spoon and it was hard to teach him manners. I envy you sometimes, having a son that is so obedient.” Xue Lan smiled, but once again, Wei Jing did not respond.
“Aunt Lan, a quick question please?” Li Tianming suddenly interrupted her.
“Have you heard of the Bloodflower Chamber?” Li Tianming asked.
“What? No.” Xue Lan shook her head. The Bloodflower chamber was a taboo topic, and it was normal for people to not talk about it. Then again, with her position, he wouldn’t be surprised if she was in touch with the chamber.
“Oh, then that’s all we have. Aunt Lan, please take your leave,” Li Tianming said, his tone clearly suggesting that they were not going to entertain her any further.
“Don’t bother us kid, I still have things to say to your mother.” Xue Lan was slightly annoyed.
“Aunt Lan, does Chen Yao want to get the first place for this ranking test and enter Heaven’s Sanctum?” Li Tianming stared at her.
“Of course, what about it?” Xue Lan could sense his aggressiveness.
“Ha, Aunt Lan, you can stop acting so pretentious, it will only make us look down on you even further. Everyone has their own fortunes and mishaps, and you don’t have to rub your fortune into our face. That will only show that you are still bothered by your defeats in the past, am I right?” Li Tianming continued to stare at her directly, his words firm and powerful.
“What’s with you, kid? Do you have any manners?!” Xue Lan’s face turned pale, her fingers trembling slightly from Li Tianming’s accusations.
“Even if I have no manners, I’m still better than that son of yours. You may think that you are superior to my mother in all aspects, and can’t wait to gloat about it. In that case, I must say you will be disappointed very soon.” Li Tianming was not going to give her any face. Wei Jing pulled his sleeves to signal him to stop, but Li Tianming had enough of this pompous madam.
“You are but a brute who tried to drug others. Who gave you the courage to talk to me like this!” Realising that the pair was not going to play along with her game anymore, Xue Lan was also not about to give any chance. In terms of squabbling, she was just as confident.
“You will find out about that soon, when your son is trampled underfoot by others,” Li Tianming said.
Xue Lan smirked, and turned to Wei Jing, “Jing’er, speak. Do you want to compare your son with mine?”
“Please leave, don’t insult the Xue Lan in my memories.” Wei Jing grimaced.
“Insult? Look at your pathetic self! You are insulting no one but yourself, Wei Jing!” With that, Xue Lan sneered at Li Tianming, before turning around to walk away.
She was still gloating over the conversation while walking off, even laughing when she thought of Li Tianming’s words. Onlookers could only guess what had happened to make that Madam Xue Lan this happy.
In the end, after twenty years, who had won? Xue Lan looked at her fair skin, the dress she was wearing and the jewelries that she donned. She thought of the Xing & Chen Merchantry behind her back, and the envious looks that everyone threw at her whenever she walked past them. And finally, she thought of those two sons that she had. The victor was clear.
As for Wei Jing, she was just breathing her last breath in a little corner, having lost in terms of everything. Even if Wei Jing never wished to compare with her, she wanted to! For the first twenty years of her life, she always lived in Wei Jing’s shadow, surpassed by her in every aspect. No one knew how defeated she felt back then.
Even if she had completely fallen out with Wei Jing today, she couldn’t feel any better. She had said many things that she had been thinking of for a long time, and venting those out had given her a spring in her steps. And to think that Li Tianming, that disgusting brute scorned by everyone, dared to challenge her precious boy? She couldn’t wait to share the joke with her sisters.
“What are sisters? I don’t need sisters who can’t bootlick me and appreciate my greatness.” Xue Lan looked at her perfect figure and her fair skin, and then thought of that sickly Wei Jing. She couldn’t help but burst into laughter again.
“Oh, Lifesbane. What a beautiful, beautiful thing!” She smirked yet again as she entered her private room, where she shared with her sisters the stories of Li Tianming, causing the group of ladies to giggle like little girls.
As for the center of their topic, Li Tianming, he had yet to leave Wei Jing’s side.
“How are you feeling?” he asked.
“Nothing much, she just revealed her true nature.” Wei Jing was calm as ever. While Li Tianming may have been suffering for the past three years, she had to deal with this for half of her life! What happened today wasn’t going to affect her.
“Can you defeat Chen Yao?”
“Easy as pie,” Li Tianming said.
“Then you better give him a good beating,” Wei Jing said.
Li Tianming grinned. This was more like his mother. She was never a cowardly person, but fate had been cruel to her. If she had the chance to make those who had disappointed her pay for what they had done, she would not let that chance go.
“Can you do that, Tianming?” Wei Jing asked again.
“Sit back and enjoy the show, mother,” Li Tianming replied.
Wei Jing grinned. “Too bad they don’t have snacks and drinks here.”
“Don’t be too picky.”
At that moment, an announcement that the ranking test was about to commence, and that the important figures of the institute were making their appearances echoed throughout the stadium.
“I gotta go. If not, Chief Mentor Mu Wan will scold me," Li Tianming said.
“Mu Wan?” Wei Jing was stunned for a moment.
“You know her?” Li Tianming asked.
“No, just go now.” Wei Jing smiled again, her hands resting on her knees.
In fact, when she smiled, she didn’t look that old anymore. Li Tianming could still see the shadow of that beauty from twenty years ago.