Right after Feiling’s explanation to the sect masters, Tianming told her about what happened within the Kilostar Domain and the grey star, though she wouldn't know the intricacies of those mysteries either. Some others believed that the five divine realms would soon launch a real attack, and that they should ready their troops to defend against their inevitable invasion.
"Sect Masters," Tianming removed most of his spatial rings and handed them to Fang Taiqing, "these are the tribulation manna and artifacts I got from the Kilostar Domain. I hope they'll be of help."
They quickly began inspecting the contents of the rings.
"The quality is amazing."
"These will definitely greatly increase the power of our peak elites."
"Had these treasures fallen into enemy hands, the consequences would've been terrifying. Yet the imperial son not only killed two ghoul kings and a sect master, he even got so many treasures. This is an unparalleled achievement."
Every single thing Tianming had done in the Kilostar Domain was destabilizing, to say the least. Apart from the huge blow to the five divine realms, what he did had also greatly boosted the morale of the sect's fighters and the faith of their allies. They had all cheered for his return.
"The other three sects also contributed greatly during our rescue attempt. We promised to reward them for their efforts. They’re still waiting outside, so we’d better go now," Fang Taiqing said.
"Good." Feiling nodded.
Jian Wuyi, who hadn’t had any sense of presence during the meeting at all, left with Fang Taiqing.
When they were gone, Xuanyuan Dao said, "Your Eminence, I didn't think Fang Qingli would do something like that. Given our current situation, we have to be vigilant against the Sterling House of Fang all the same."
"I know," she said.
"Sect Master, did you hear about the retrieval of the founding ancestor's Kilostar Photondragon?" Tianming asked.
"Of course I have! You're amazing, Tianming."
"Here you go." Tianming tossed the trident to Xuanyuan Dao.
He marveled at the weapon with awe. Everyone wore expressions filled with worship and respect.
"Give it a try," Tianming said.
"What do you mean?" Xuanyuan Dao asked.
"You’re a descendant of the founding ancestor. While other people might not be able to use it, maybe you can."
"That won't do. The founding ancestor left this for the imperial son. I couldn't—"
"Don't need to hold back. To be honest, it displayed terrifying power in the Kilostar Domain when it could draw from the power of the stars. But now, it's probably weaker than the sword in my hands, so it's a burden to me. But if you can use it to its full potential, it might make us much stronger as a whole."
"Xuanyuan Dao, take it," Feiling said.
Since the two of them had made themselves heard, Xuanyuan Dao stopped holding back. In actuality, he was already on the edge of going crazy. Never would he have dreamed of holding the weapon of the founding ancestor. It was the strongest divine artifact to exist in legend! When he grabbed it, the trident shook and sent a wave through Xuanyuan Lake.
"How is it?" Tianming asked.
"It worked... the founding ancestor has acknowledged me..." Xuanyuan Dao said with disbelief.
"How much power are you able to use?"
"If I familiarize myself with it, I might end up stronger than Fang Taiqing and become the strongest fighter in the entire sect."
"That's even better!" That was the main reason Tianming had wanted to hand the trident over. So far, Fang Taiqing was the strongest elite in the entire sect, but he was a lone person. Having a peak elite from the Xuanyuan house would definitely be incredibly helpful during a time of crisis.
"Then familiarize yourself with the trident," Feiling instructed.
"Understood, Your Eminence. I will not disappoint." Xuanyuan Dao knew that learning to master Photondragon was far too important, especially after today's incident.
Finally, all of them were gone, leaving Tianming and Feiling alone. Just as he was about to give her a hug, she hurriedly left, then returned after some time.
"What's going on?" Tianming said.
"Fang Qingli was spying on me. I was afraid of it happening again, so I went to check. Nobody's hiding around as far as I can tell."
"What are you talking about?"
"I... I folded a thousand paper cranes to pray for your safety, but she saw them. I even mumbled about fighting Xuanyuan Xi at the Tomb of the Ancients...."
"You airhead...." Tianming gave her head a light smack.
"I know it's my fault... I'm horrible—"
"Don't say that. She had her eyes on you, so this day was bound to come." Tianming pulled her to the bed and had her sit on his legs, his arms still around her waist. Her familiar fragrance and sensation felt almost dreamlike.
"You must've had a tough time in Kilostar Domain, huh...." She leaned against his chest with a pained look.
"Nonsense. I'm more invigorated than I could’ve ever imagined. I got to kill a bunch of old freaks every day and they all went running when they saw me. That aside, Ling'er, tell me how you were able to deal with Fang Qingli."
"Look." She stretched her right hand out and raised both her middle and index fingers.
"What's the big deal? Does it represent us being together?"
"What’re you talking about? It's the seventh seal."
Tianming held her fingers up and looked closely. The seal on her right middle finger had long been undone and the ability was called Heavenly Unity. The seal on the index finger was also undone.
"What kind of ability is it?"
"It's called Vaporize."
"A double-edged sword, eh? So you lost ten levels to get rid of Fang Qingli?" Before this, Feiling didn't have a specific offensive ability. However, Vaporize seemed to have even heavier side effects than Soulburn.
"That's right. My samsara rings just collapsed and my separated life- and deathsprings fused back into saint springs. My tribulation force is all gone, and I'm back to using empyrean saint ki," she bemoaned.
"That's a huge loss."
"But that's not the key."
"Big Brother, don't freak out when I say it, okay?"
"When I was being choked, I felt a little dizzy and my mind was muddled. It seemed like Perpetia City appeared for a moment to stop Fang Qingli from striking me. Then my consciousness waned even more as the seal on my nail began unraveling. I couldn't really control myself back then. I didn't intend to harm Fang Qingli at all and only wanted her to let me go, but my hand just didn't do what I wanted it to. I felt like the one who killed Fang Qingli wasn't me at all," she said, looking deeply into his eyes.
"Then who is it?"
"It's her... Xuanyuan Xi."
After the treasures were distributed, Fang Taiqing returned to Sterling Hall. There was a demure woman standing outside waiting for him.
"Yuqing, I feel a little confused," he said.
"What's going on?"
He told her about what had happened. So far, only a few people knew about Fang Qingli's death, and the members of the Xuanyuan house naturally wouldn't spread it. If Fang Taiqing and Jian Wuyi kept quiet about it, nobody would know.
"Did Her Eminence really say that?" Fang Yuqing asked.
"Now, there aren't any remains of your mother left.... We can't even put her to rest properly. Sigh, how did it end up like this? We can't even do a proper investigation now that not a single bit of her is left. Who could've possibly affected her psyche like this?"
"Given my understanding of her, only the goddess could make her do something like that."
"What do you mean?"
"The only way she would've done that is if Her Eminence was no longer the goddess she worshipped. That's the only reason she would attempt to wipe her out at any cost. Only Xuanyuan Xi could possibly make her do something of this caliber. That might be a sign that Her Eminence isn't the Xuanyuan Xi she worshipped."
"Who is she if she isn't Xuanyuan Xi?"
"Who knows? Hmph!"
"Then should we expose it?"
"What's there to expose? Don't you understand? As long as the Xuanyuans claim she is the goddess, that’ll be the truth. No matter what she is, she will be considered Xuanyuan Xi as long as she can ascend to godhood. I understand that much. What I don't understand is the pathetic worshipful attitude all those people have!" He tightly clenched his fists with a look of hostility on his face. "I was worried Mother would be too stubborn, so I planted a seed of doubt in her. I didn't think that just when I was about to mellow down after seeing the imperial son's amazing performance, she’d be the one to lose it. I was the one that doomed her."
"Don't say that," she said, hugging him in consolation. After a while, his expression returned to normal. "Did you make up your mind?"
"How's it going to go?"
"It's simple. We'll wait and see what they can achieve. If they can pull through, I'll serve them. But if they can't win, they can't blame me for stabbing them in the back! No matter whether they win or lose, the Sterling House of Fang must not fall!"
"Isn't that a little extreme? Surely there's a middle ground between fervently serving them and completely betraying them."
"It isn't extreme at all. We have to commit to our choices all the way to survive and prosper. While our house is large and powerful, it’s also insignificant in the grand scheme of things, and has only survived in the shadow of others. There's no way we can change our fate without sailing with the wind. Do you want us to be considered one of the three slave houses of the goddess our whole lives?"
"Very well. If they can't hold on and the realm ends up falling, I can use my mother's death as justification for revenge. The Sterling House of Fang shall not submit! As for news of her death, we’ll keep it quiet as long as the Xuanyuan house doesn't announce it either."
"Let's go home," he said, taking her hand."My dear... I have one last question."
"What is it?"
"Did you make up your mind about this just today or long before?"
"That's no longer important."Previous Chapter Next Chapter