Chapter 134 : The Last Mission

 Chapter 134 : The Last Mission Volume 3 - The Place Where My Heart Feels At Peace]  

Qiqi stopped speaking abruptly. Qianye opened his mouth but realized he didn’t know how to respond.

One sitting, one standing, the two remained silent for a long time.

Qiqi moved, stretching her body over the low railing of the pavilion, and extended her hand to stir up the pond water. The incomparably massive moon reflection rippled gradually, before slowly forming billows spanning the entire pond. For a moment, thousands of moons swayed beneath their feet. Rays of interwoven blue-white origin energy appeared on Qiqi’s hand, coiling along her arm like a cloud diffusing in the air.

At this moment, Qianye saw the side of her face. Gem-like specks on the corners of her charming eyes glistened as if fragments of stars were falling.

“Seeing that you’re alright, I’m very happy. Rest early!” Qiqi said. “I’ll find you tomorrow.”

“Alright.” Qianye agreed and turned to leave. Right as he reached the shore, he turned his head to look back. Still, only the silhouette of Qiqi’s back could be seen. Rays of origin energy continued to expand, spinning and circling around her body like clouds.

Qianye walked through the wisteria-covered gateway and saw Ji Yuanjia, who was leaning against a pillar with his arms crossed, gazing at a shrub in a trance.

Qianye walked in front of him, and said frankly, “It was after I received a fake intelligence report that I chose to attack a dark race stronghold in the Dongling Mountain Area. The beginning proceeded without a hitch; only, when we were retreating, we came across the mass mobilization of that region’s collective army. We were discovered midway, so in the end, we could only choose to break through the mountain pass near Earth Castle.”

Ji Yuanjia didn’t reveal a very surprised expression, and said, “If that person hadn’t underestimated your strength that much, the 131st Company shouldn’t have been able to escape from within the mountains. At that time, the battle at Dongling was just on the verge of breaking out, and several squadrons of special forces were making their way into the war zone. Comparatively, the 131st Company and the elite corps are a little lacking, so you bunch would certainly be the first to be discovered.”

“The Third Expeditionary Army seizing the majority of the records from the 131st Company encampment; was that also incited by that man?”

Ji Yuanjia laughed silently, and said, “In this round directed against you, that man didn’t need to do a completely thorough job of everything. Only, he didn’t want to leave any direct evidence, so as to avoid shedding all pretense of cordiality with the Miss. His work has been arranged and interwoven throughout all military affairs; even dealing with the aftermath was taken into account. In the official report, the 131st Company was fabricated into a vanguard squadron. You should know that it’s impossible for a reinforced company from the Seventeenth Corps to be casually killed off as cannon fodder. Rather than writing you off as a premature attack, it would be better to just pick up a first-class military achievement and reminisce the soldiers that fell in battle. Plus, to the bigwigs of the military, so long as there is some definitive military accomplishment, where a reinforced company is supposed to be placed in battle is something that can be neglected completely.”

He paused for a moment, and continued with a cold smile, “Perhaps you’re still unaware. The Seventeenth Corps under Miss’ command defending the camp and participating in this battle was originally a portion of the Miss’ grand successor exam. So, as long as the final military point count can reach the target, even the elders of the Yin Family won’t investigate the specifics. Even if there was any suspicious activity, most of it will just pass along like this.”

Qianye remained silent for a moment, then asked, “In other words, without evidence, we can’t hold that man accountable for anything?”

Ji Yuanjia replied gently, yet with an undertone of chilliness, “Yes, we can’t hold him accountable. However, his reach won’t be able to extend this far in the future.”

Qianye detected a hint of blood from Ji Yuanjia’s words. He had also discovered that everything had been laid out by an expert and that things didn’t hinge solely on a fake intelligence report: the time the 131st Company delivered their battle report, none of the orderlies sent by the captain that had stayed behind ever gave a response; it was clear this situation wasn’t the work of just one man. Thinking also of the present increase in defensive measures and replacement of guards in the Yin Family’s side courtyard, it looked like everything around Qiqi had been completely consolidated, and the people that had colluded with that person all must not have had good endings.

“Who is he?” Qianye finally asked the question.

Ji Yuanjia looked at him, and replied, “You must’ve already guessed, right? Only, right now isn’t the time.”

Qianye frowned, but before waiting for him to respond, Ji Yuanjia continued directly, “He’s Miss Qiqi’s fiancé and, while this status is still effective, anyone who kills him will inevitably be chased down by the Yin Family until their heads are claimed. Besides, you can’t kill him. Gu Liyu spends most of his time in the Empire’s ministry; that isn’t someplace one can just enter to assassinate someone, and even if he left the upper continents locking onto his whereabouts his difficult. Even if it were me, I’d only have a seventy percent chance of defeating him in open battle; killing him, however, I’d only have a thirty percent chance.”

Qianye said indifferently, “In this world, there’s nothing that is completely impossible.”

Ji Yuanjia replied, “Indeed, weapons aren’t the only means to kill someone.”

Qianye was slightly stunned. Seeing Ji Yuanjia’s expression, he suddenly understood his implication, “You…”

In an exceedingly calm manner, Ji Yuanji continued, “Before, I had the wrong idea. Once, I hoped she wouldn’t change, that she would continue to follow her heart and recklessly flaunt, and be capable of retaining her conscience forever. However, if one can’t seize the greatest power, no matter what kind of desire it is, it’ll still be nothing more than an extravagant hope. Thus, I will follow Miss Qiqi’s wishes, and become the sharpest sword in her hands.”

Even after returning to his residence, Qianye continued to ponder Ji Yuanjia’s last words.

In the end, the conflict and dispute between Qiqi and Gu Liyu was really just an internal power struggle. Only, it had implicated the entire family’s great successor exam. Between the different members of Qiqi’s family branch, there were both mutual and unshared interests, leading to this situation of checks and balances.

Though Qianye hadn’t had much contact with Ji Yuanjia, he could faintly sense that Ji Yuanjia wasn’t the kind of person to be drawn into power struggles; otherwise, he wouldn’t have taken one step back after another facing Ye Mulan that time. However, today, he had clearly established his position on the matter.

Ji Yuanjia had locked onto his own path, but what about Qianye? After this mission ended, where would his next destination be?

The afternoon of the second day, Qiqi sent someone to call Qianye over to the study.

When Qianye arrived, Qiqi was in front of the long desk writing what seemed to match the writing, “kill decisively”, which hung on the wall.

Hearing Qianye enter, she tossed her brush into the brush washer and let out a bright smile. An infinite number of charming expressions could be picked out from those phoenix-like eyes; the grief and frailty he had seen yesterday seemed only like the moon’s reflection in water, gone without a trace once the sun rose.

Qiqi walked in front of Qianye, gave his shoulder a forthright pat, and said, “This time, you helped me obtain quite a few military points. You really surprised me.”

“Military points?” Those days, Qianye had only engrossed himself in killing the enemy, to the point where his consciousness had become almost totally numb. Where would he have the effort to tally up how many enemies he had actually killed?

Qiqi counted her fingers off to herself, and said, “Killed 5 rank six soldiers, 23 rank five soldiers, over a hundred soldiers rank four and under, and over three thousand cannon fodder. Do you think this level of military success is something that can be achieved with only the 131st Company and an expeditionary army battalion?”

Qianye was silent for a moment. Naturally, he couldn’t be any clearer about the military strength of the expeditionary army and a reinforced company. Under normal circumstances, being able to reach half their military success would already be considered pretty good.

“This number couldn’t be accurate, right?” Qianye was a little doubtful.

“This casualty number was totaled up by the opposing dark allied armies. You tell me if it's accurate?”

Qianye blanked a bit, immediately understanding the implication behind these words. Only now did he realize he had underestimated the abilities of the aristocratic families and the empire. The dark races had infiltrated the Empire, so how could the Empire not have conducted their own infiltrations? Perhaps due to the nature of the dark races, infiltrations might even be deeper.

“Those high-level soldiers, the majority were killed by you, right?”

Facing this question, Qianye was unsure how to respond. Thinking carefully now, it did seem like a large half of the dark soldiers rank four and above had been killed by him. Only, this kind of military success was too astonishing for a rank four Fighter. Even though Qianye could be considered an extreme long-range sniper that had the assistance of a squadron, it was still way too high.

However, Qiqi must have utterly understood the strength of the 131st Company under her command to have asked such a question. Qianye braced himself, and said, “With an Eagleshot and a sufficient amount of physical origin bullets, that should be about right. Moreover, right now, I’m already rank five.”

Qiqi stared at Qianye, until his heart became itchy with fright.

She suddenly blossomed into laughter and leaned next to Qianye. Practically touching his ear, she whispered, “Even using Eagleshot can’t reach this level of military success; you’re still hiding something from me!”

Her soft and delicate breath unceasingly blew into Qianye’s ear, causing his hairs to stand on end. Besides bringing about a tough body, a vampire physique also made one’s sensory perception much keener. Right now, Qianye’s ear was feeling an unspeakable level of discomfort, and the numb, itchy feeling seemingly permeated every drop of blood in his body.

Qianye leaned back, pulling apart some distance.

“Don’t move!” Qiqi shouted, then asked again, “What exactly are you hiding from me?”

“No… thing!”

“Nothing? Truly nothing? Absolutely nothing?” Qiqi asked three times in succession.

Qianye finally couldn’t bear it anymore. He flashed back several meters, and said, “What can there be?”

Qiqi curled her somewhat disheveled hair, and said with a shrug, “I know those who choose to get by in the Evernight Continent all have their own secrets, but that’s not of any concern. You leaving for battle this time, your body must have received a lot of wear and tear. I’ll have Old Du come give you a checkup; sometimes, if some small injuries aren’t treated promptly, they’ll affect your cultivation progress later.”

Qiqi clapped lightly. A side door opened, and a short, wizened old man, his face filled with anxiety, walked into the room and in front of Qianye.

Qianye blanked for a moment. Looking at Qiqi’s deeply concerned expression, he wasn’t sure what to say. Old Du was a Champion rank expert, and perhaps not just any ordinary Champion. With him personally inspecting, could Qianye still hide his secrets?

However, at this time it was impossible to stop halfway and decline; otherwise, it would be clear evidence of a guilty conscience. Thus, Qianye could only concentrate on evening his breaths and act as if nothing was happening, while at the same time activating the Concealed Bloodline ability to hide the blood in his heart even deeper. Now, Qianye could only hope this ability was as powerful as he expected it to be.

Old Du coughed, and a bead of light lit on the fingertips of his left land. With a flick of his fingers, the five spheres of light flew out and began revolving around Qianye’s body. The beads of light vibrated continuously, emitting a sound akin to the buzzing of a bee, and the origin energy within Qianye’s body began to resonate.

In the blink of an eye, the five origin nodes in Qianye’s body illuminated, one after another, blossoming into light under the influence of the light beads’ strength. Qianye’s body seemed as though it had become transparent, and his origin nodes and origin energy flow all appeared clearly.

Origin energy seemed like dense mist, and origin nodes looked like brilliant stars. Even Qianye himself was struck in awe by this sight.

Qianye immediately noticed both Old Du and Qiqi were staring fixedly at his chest. He glanced down, and discovered the node in front of his chest was blazing extremely brilliantly, almost as if it were the sun in the sky! Countless faint halos of light surrounded this sun, turning in accordance with some profound and mysterious orbit.

Only after looking for a long time, Old Du let out a long breath of air and said, “Miss, please be at ease. His body doesn’t have any hidden injuries.”

Qiqi, still starting at Qianye’s chest, asked, “Isn’t this the semblance of a Fighter King?”

Old Du shook his head, and said, “It appears like it but it actually isn’t, yet there also isn’t much difference. If he wants to ignite this origin node of his, the difficulty is at least tenfold what others might face! Heh! It’s truly hard to believe he was actually able to crash through this crisis. Now that this barrier has been passed, it’s smooth sailing from here on out. Until at least rank nine, he won’t encounter any insurmountable barriers.”

Qiqi’s eyes lit with an extraordinary splendor as she asked, “Then what about the barrier from forming a vortex with energy?”

Old Du gave a wry smile, then said, “Miss, now you’re making it too difficult for this old man. If you want to appraise innate ability at the Champion rank and above, only the Art of Heaven’s Mystery and a few other ancient techniques would be able to accomplish it.”

Qiqi was greatly disappointed, and replied, “Where do I even begin looking for someone that knows the Art of Heaven’s Mystery?”

She glanced at Qianye for a moment. Seeming to have made a firm decision, she pat his shoulder forcefully and said, “How about this. Once I return, I’ll coax Esteemed Father till he’s happy, then I’ll ask him to introduce me Great Marshal Lin Xitang. I can seize that opportunity and bring you with me, and ask him to apprise your innate ability.”

Qianye was shocked, immediately thinking of Marshal Lin’s bustling military affairs; how could he do this kind of thing for the child of an aristocratic family? If Qiqi really did this, she’d most likely end up with a nose full of dust.

Qiqi looked to Old Du again and asked, “Doesn’t his origin energy seem much deeper than that of others?”

Old Du sighed and said, “Why stop at much deeper? It’s more than double! Moreover, his origin energy is as stable as a mountain and his foundation is incomparably sturdy; it really is a rare sight to behold. Only, he cultivates the Combatant Formula, and there aren’t any indications that he’s cultivated any secret battle techniques. This is actually something you should plan for early.”

Qiqi was suddenly interested, “Combatant Formula? Hey, how many origin tide cycles can you withstand?”

Qianye pondered for a moment, then said, “Thirty cycles.”

Qiqi was greatly disappointed again, “Only thirty cycles? Then you’re just an ordinary Fighter King, nothing more and nothing less. I’d thought you would’ve been able to pull at least some thirty seven or eight cycles!”

Qianye heard this and decided to keep his silence.

Even Old Du couldn’t bear listening to this kind of talk from Qiqi anymore. He coughed a few times, and said, “Miss, the Combatant Formula is the first-class art for advancing origin energy for those under the Champion rank. Twenty cycles is sufficient to rise into the elite forces; thirty cycles and above means the potential to contend for a position of vice corps commander in the army. As for forty cycles and above, so long as one doesn’t die, sooner or later one will become a mighty, earth-shaking general. If you cast your eye about the entire empire, those that could cultivate to above fifty cycles in past years are really only Great Marshal Zhang Boqian, Martial Monarch, and very few others.”

Qiqi hurriedly followed, “Alright alright! I understand. Next time I won’t look down on the Combatant Formula, okay? Please don’t say anymore. I’ve heard this tens of times already.”

Old Du shook his head helplessly, and said, “Naturally, it’s best that Miss can think this way. However, you must know, though the Combatant Formula is simple and easy to cultivate, there’s much reason behind it being popularized within the army…”

Qiqi grabbed Qianye with one hand and pulled him out of the room, unwilling to hear Old Du dawdle any longer.

Qianye was dragged by Qiqi all the way to the garden before they stopped. He exhaled surreptitiously. The Concealed Bloodline ability was indeed tough; Old Du’s technique just now was evidently a probing technique specializing in blood vessels and physique, yet he still didn’t discover the dark race blood within his body. It looked like if he tread carefully in the future, any expert below the rank of general or duke would find it hard to discover and expose his secret.

Qiqi said, “Old Du is always like this. The moment he sees someone successfully cultivate the Combatant Formula, he becomes abnormally excited and always starts dawdling endlessly. It’s not that I look down on the Combatant Formula; it is said the Combatant Formula was created by the Great Ancestor and is something a Martial Ancestor once cultivated. However, no matter how good it is, once one cultivates to the ninth rank, the energy of the tides will become so great it’s incapable of increasing any further, and one’s body will collapse. This isn’t some joke. No matter who it is, sooner or later everyone must switch arts; even Great Marshal Boqian isn’t an exception.”

Speaking to this point, Qiqi moved sideways and latched onto Qianye’s shoulder like they were good brothers. “However, you’re actually able to cultivate to thirty cycles. Not bad, brat! You’re actually a Fighter King! Why would a guy like you hide in that rural Darkblood City as a hunter? Is it because you have some story? Come, let me hear it! Which family’s young lady did you get pregnant, that you had to hide in some rural and desolate place to avoid disaster?”

Qianye didn’t know whether he should laugh or cry. Sometimes, Qiqi’s reasoning was truly far-fetched, making it hard for anyone to withstand.

Qiqi’s eyes and brow suddenly curved even more, her phoenix eyes turning as charming as a fox as she said, “Alright, let’s talk about your next mission! I’m just about to return to the Qin Continent to participate in the Profound Heaven Spring Hunt. This time, the ranking I get from the event will be counted into my points for the successor exam, so your mission is to accompany me in the spring hunt, and protect me well!”

Profound Heaven Spring Hunt? That sounded like hunting. As for “protecting”, Qianye directly neglected the Miss’ tendency to use all sorts of improper wording. But when he discovered what Qiqi meant by protecting later, he couldn’t help but have the feeling that he’d been swindled.

He hesitated for a moment, then remembered he’d never asked whether she had received his letter.

Qiqi appeared to have noticed Qianye’s hesitation, and said with a smile, “As an additional reward for this mission, why don’t I pick out a suitable Yin Family secret battle technique for you? It’s about time you replaced that Combatant Formula of yours.” Her eyes and brow filled with cajolery.

Qianye raised his head to see Qiqi’s smile; it was especially bright and beautiful under the afternoon sunlight, completely unlike the bleakness underneath the moonlight in the water pavilion. His mind couldn’t help but tremble a bit and his heart skipped a beat before he replied, “This is the last mission in your exam, right? Alright, I’ll definitely give it my best.”

That night, Qiqi sent someone to deliver Qianye’s newly fitted equipment, so everything was sent to his little courtyard; a thick pile of materials for the spring hunt was also delivered to him along with everything else. On the very top, there was a copy of a long attendance list.

Qianye carelessly flipped to a page, and an incomparably familiar name cropped out: Song Zining.

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