Tianming's true strength rivaled that of a third-origin tribulation elder's now, so he was by no means slow. The moment he entered the courtyard, he saw Feiling collapsed on the snowy ground. Almost immediately, blood rushed straight to his head and he anxiously charged toward her before Xuanyuan Dao and the others could even react, ignoring everything the others had to say. Only when he noticed that she was still breathing did he breathe a sigh of relief. But for some reason, her presence felt really weak.
Wasn't Ling'er in the Samsara stage already? Why has she regressed to being an empyrean saint? he wondered. What in the world had happened?
"Her Eminence is fine," he said as he carried her back indoors. He had wanted to give her a surprise by returning alive, only to be met with such a sight.
"Thank goodness." Xuanyuan Dao and the others eased up when they saw that she was fine.
"Xuanyuan Hong, what happened here?" Xuanyuan Dao asked. Fang Taiqing and Jian Wuyi were nervously looking at their surroundings.
"House King, you would've seen it if you’d returned just moments earlier...." He turned to Fang Taiqing with a pained look.
"What did you see?"
"Her Eminence displayed terrifying power just now. It was too frightening."
"Is that it?"
"No...." He turned to Fang Taiqing once more and bit his lip.
"State what happened." Xuanyuan Dao looked around and asked, "Where is Fang Qingli?"
"House King.... Well, we were standing guard outside like usual. Palace Lord Fang of Godservant Hall had been inside for quite a while. All of a sudden, we heard Her Eminence's summons and immediately came in, only to see the palace lord attempting to kill Her Eminence like she had lost her mind. She claimed Her Eminence was a fraud! We pleaded for her to stop and even Her Eminence said she would forgive her transgressions, yet she didn't listen at all. So Her Eminence let out a burst of power and completely vaporized the palace lord and her lifebound beast...."
Another third-origin tribulation elder added, "Sect Masters, let me add that I've felt something off about Fang Qingli in recent days. She had come here today in a distraught state of mind. Either Nonahall managed to buy her over, or she probably held resentment for the imperial son because of Fang Xingque's matter. She was the palace lord of Godservant Hall and has been contributing to the sect her whole life. We never thought she would ever do something like that."
When they finished, the entire courtyard fell silent. Tianming knew that Fang Qingli had definitely discovered Feiling's identity. However, their standing in the sect was now far more secure than before, and Fang Qingli alone wouldn't be able to shake it that easily. Though, he really hadn't expected Feiling would have such a close brush with death. The two of them had been on a rather lucky streak so far, but it was bound to end sooner or later. While he didn't know what power she possibly could've used to kill Fang Qingli, it didn't matter. Someone as important as her was now gone, and during a time when the sect required the Sterling House of Fang more than ever. It would no doubt be troublesome. Tianming turned to look at Fang Taiqing.
Fang Taiqing calmly took it all in and asked, "Is there no trace of her body?"
"No.... Sect Master Fang, please remain calm. After regaining consciousness, we're sure Her Eminence will explain everything. The five of us here witnessed it ourselves. As for the palace lord, we have no inkling as to why she would do something like this. Those were just our guesses, and not accusations by any means," Xuanyuan Hong said.
"There must be a good explanation for it," Xuanyuan Dao said.
"That might be so., but she's dead now. We can no longer hear her side of the story..." Fang Taiqing said.
"Let's just wait for Her Eminence's explanation for now. I'm sure you've seen her current state. She’d cultivated to the fourth-level life phase initially, but has now reverted to the Empyrean Saint stage. That must be a side effect of being forced to use some kind of technique to defend herself."
That was one of the points in Feiling's favor. There was no way she would pay the price of losing cultivation for such an elaborate setup to get rid of Fang Qingli. There was also no doubt that Fang Qingli was the one at fault, but the fact that all eyewitnesses were members of the Xuanyuan house might make them less reliable in Fang Taiqing's eyes.
"Let's just wait it out for now," Xuanyuan Dao said.
As someone who knew the truth of the situation, Tianming felt even worse. "Now that she's dead, the matter's resolved. Still, did Fang Qingli really go mad? Even if she realized something was off, couldn't she have waited for us to come back first? Why did she try to kill Ling'er just like that?"
"Maybe she felt nobody would believe her no matter what. By the time we return, she might’ve lost all chances to even touch her," Ying Huo reasoned.
"The main thing now is that whether Ling'er is Xuanyuan Xi or not no longer matters. We're part of the sect through and through."
"It might not be important to you, but it’s a different story to Fang Qingli. Just think about Xuanyuan Yuheng. He didn’t care about the bigger picture at all, only his goddess and his faith."
Tianming stood at Feiling’s bedside and watched the rest think things through. "I've never left her for such a long time before. Even though I'm always treading the thin line between life and death, she's been waiting here all along. Ling'er probably dropped the act and got caught by Fang Qingli due to how worried she was."
However, it wasn't something he blamed her for. Nobody could perfectly control their emotions at all times; there would always be times when one had to rest and relax.
"Either way, it's great that she survived."
After waiting for more than two hours, Feiling gradually awoke. "Big Brother...."
Tianming immediately shushed her and indicated that there were others outside. She nodded, her mouth shaking from trying to assert control. Tianming could also barely hold back. He dreamed of hugging her and telling her what he had experienced, but the situation now didn't allow for it. It truly didn't feel good to have to hold back.
"Your Eminence, I have returned safely."
"All is well, then." She took a deep breath and put on a plain smile.
When the others outside heard what happened, they came to wait at the entrance. Feiling stood up a little shakily, still somewhat weak. Tianming helped her walk to the entrance.
"Your Eminence," the rest greeted.
"At ease." Her gaze fell on Fang Taiqing. "Heaven Branch Sect Master, I am truly sorry for what happened to your mother. She offered me no choice at all. I had to expend ten cultivation levels using a forbidden art to save myself. It will require a great amount of time for me to recover from that."
Fang Taiqing kept his head lowered without showing any expression. "Understood, Your Eminence. Might Your Eminence know what could have prompted her to do such a thing?"
Feiling shook her head. "I am completely unaware. When she came today, she had been mumbling some jumbled nonsense and attacked me without rhyme or reason. Please investigate if she has come into contact with some foreign object that could have affected her psyche, or if she was cultivating using techniques that could have ill effects."
"I am truly apologetic for what transpired, but I had no luxury of choice. The Sterling House of Fang is an important part of the sect. I can promise that if your house does well in the upcoming war, you will be heavily rewarded all the same. I see the Sterling House of Fang, Draconis House of Jian, my Xuanyuan house, and the rest of the sect as equals."
Feiling had made really generous concessions, and Tianming knew her reasons for doing so. Something like that could only distance the Fangs from the sect even more, so she was hoping to assure them that they were still considered loyal members of the sect.
"We are eternally grateful for Your Eminence's trust. The Sterling House of Fang will go through hell and high water for Your Eminence's sake without question," Fang Taiqing said.
"Don't just do it for me. If we manage to unite the Flameyellow Continent one day and rule it well, all will benefit from your deeds."
"Yes!" Fang Taiqing nodded.
Killing Fang Qingli seemed to have only added more credibility to Feiling's impersonation of the goddess, and inspired the confidence of many more in her status. Tianming knew that if Feiling didn't promise the Fang house that much, the situation could get even worse. As for whether it helped at all, only time would tell.Previous Chapter Next Chapter