“Master, please wait. Would you help settle my current dispute?”
Yun Ruoyan took out the serpent-core necklace and extended it to him. “The Zhao siblings lost their fish-core pearl, and they’re certain that this necklace is theirs. Furthermore, Rong Yueshan even claimed to be a witness to my supposed theft. But Master, this is clearly the necklace you’ve given me to commemorate my apprenticeship!”
“Oh? Is that so.” Li Mo turned to the Zhao siblings.
Zhao Qiang had heard a considerable number of rumors about Li Mo during the last two weeks, and he was far more wary of Li Mo than the other new students. That Li Mo had so easily dispelled Rong Tianhai’s attacks just now spoke unequivocally to his strength.
In Kongming Academy, where strength trumped all, even the prideful Zhao Qiang had to bow down to him.
“Master Mo, I must have been mistaken,” he began.
“Mistaken? Are you sure?”
“I-I’m sure, Master Mo. The pearls look quite similar, and I didn’t inspect it carefully enough. Now, I’m certain that this isn’t my sister’s pearl.”
“Your Highness… no, I mean, Master Mo.” Lin Qingxue stepped forward. “This Zhao Qiang was behaving despicably! Not only did he try to snatch away my cousin’s belongings, he even wanted her to announce to the whole academy that she was a shameless thief at the center of the plaza!”
“Right! He even said that he would kowtow and kneel to her if he were mistaken,” Lin Qingchen added. Despite her good temper, even she was furious by the Zhao siblings and Rong Yueshan.
“Is that so!” Li Mo’s voice turned dark.
“Master Mo,” Zhao Xu hurriedly explained, “my brother made those remarks impulsively, so please don’t blame him.”
“One ought to pay the price for his rash impulses,” Li Mo replied icily. “You don’t need me to teach you what to do, do you?”
Zhao Qiang clenched his fists tightly. His face a frozen mask, he knelt down toward Yun Ruoyan and hurriedly kowtowed thrice. Then, he stood back up and rushed out of the crowd, lowering his head and not meeting anyone’s gaze.
“Brother!” Zhao Xu chased him from behind.
The matter settled, Li Mo flew toward the southern tower. Rong Tianhai instructed the gathered students to return to their respective colleges, and Yun Ruoyan walked with the Lin siblings to her first class in Kongming Academy under the crowd’s scrutiny.
On the top of the southern tower, Li Mo and the first elder stood with their backs against the railing.
“If I hadn’t stopped you, would you have attacked Rong Tianhai?” The first elder looked toward the plaza, where the crowd was currently dispersing.
He had been standing at the rooftop of the tower when he saw Li Mo use his wind-attuned spiritual technique from afar. Shocked, he quickly restrained Li Mo with his own mental energy, clearly sensing Li Mo’s rage and fury in the process.
Li Mo didn’t answer the first elder’s question, which was itself an answer. The first elder sighed, then smiled faintly. “I hadn’t expected that your mother would still be on the Chenyuan continent.”
When the first elder had seen the statue of Empress Xue Tong last night, he had been so agitated that he could hardly speak.
“She’s just a vestige of her former self, trapped within an immobile jade statue.” Li Mo’s gaze turned toward the sea of clouds in the distance, where a large flock of birds was flying by. “My mother’s been trapped in a statue for an entire decade—can you imagine the pain and solitude it must have caused? I swear I’ll find my mother’s mortal body and revive her once more!”
The first elder nodded. When he interacted with the statue, he had also noticed that the empress’ past gentle, graceful self was completely different from her present aloofness.
“Your mother understands your feelings, Xun Mo. She tasked me to look after you, to make sure that you’re not being driven by your impulses. And… she had me take particular heed of Yun Ruoyan, whom you seem to like.”
“Mother’s thinking overmuch,” Li Mo replied coolly. He had never understood why his mother had been so insistent that he not act on his passions. After all, why couldn’t he be romantically involved and seek revenge at the same time? The reason Li Mo was well-known to be cold and aloof, even to females, was simply his own personality.
Once he found someone he truly loved, he would be as passionate as any other man.
“After her tribulation, the empress’s personality truly seems to have changed.” The first elder sighed. “However, Li Mo, have you thought about what you would do if Yun Ruoyan’s intimately connected to the demonic dragons?”
Although Yun Ruoyan hadn’t revealed the details of her conversation with the demonic dragon elder, the first elder and Li Mo weren’t easy to fool. They had all but ascertained that there existed some unusual relationship between her and the demonic dragons. As for what that relationship entailed, however, they weren’t quite sure.
“So what if they’re connected?” Li Mo smiled. “After all, my parents flouted the silver dragons’ policy of having a pure, unsullied bloodline. Why shouldn’t I do the same?”
“That’s exactly what the empress is afraid of.” The first elder laid a hand on Li Mo’s shoulder. “To go against convention, convention that has lasted for millennia, carries a steep cost.”
The Beast King and Empress Xue Tong had paid for this cost with their own lives. With the Beast King’s death, the beastkin kingdom had perished. Of the millions of beastkin, only tens of thousands still remained. Many were homeless and miserable, forced to move from slump to slump. Empress Xue Tong had lost her mortal body, and her spirit had been trapped for ten whole years without seeing the light of day.
“Master,” Li Mo asked, looking toward the first elder. “You saw my father and mother get to know each other and fall in love. Do you think they’ve ever regretted paying such a hefty toll?”
“I don’t know. They’re the only ones who could answer that question.”
In the evening, Li Mo appeared outside Yun Ruoyan’s cottage as she was stripping and preparing to take a bath. Luckily, Yun Ruoyan had locked the bathroom window tight before doing so.
“Yan’er, open the window!” Li Mo rapped against it from the outside.
“Enter from the front door,” Yun Ruoyan called out. “Is it a tradition of the Li family to enter through windows rather than doors?”
In the end, Li Mo could only enter through the front door. Locking the windows but not the front door… who are you guarding against, my dear Yan’er?!
Li Mo walked to the bathroom and was stupefied to find it locked shut as well.
“Have a seat and wait a little, I’ll be done shortly,” Yun Ruoyan shouted.
Li Mo’s large body felt particularly clumsy and oversized in Yun Ruoyan’s small cottage: everything seemed small, the desk, the stool, the bed…
He frowned. Shui Yun had always done a good job carrying out his commands, but not this time.
“Alright, I’m done.” Yun Ruoyan finally opened the bathroom door and walked out, refreshed. She was dressed in white undergarments, and her hair was wet and draped behind her shoulders. Stripped of her fake birthmark, she looked as though she were glowing in every direction, capturing any gaze directed toward her.
When Li Mo saw Yun Ruoyan standing by the door, as petite as her furniture, he stepped forward and scooped her up in two big steps.
“Ah!” Yun Ruoyan hurriedly grabbed Li Mo’s sleeve. She was about to protest when Li Mo’s lips enveloped hers, forcing her words back down her throat.
Yun Ruoyan had grown far more comfortable with Li Mo. She had been reticent before, but now she was two-fifths shy, two-fifths bashful, and one-fifth repressed desire.
Her emotions were so intoxicating to Li Mo that he had to use all his self-control to stop himself from taking matters further with her. By the time Li Mo finally let go of Yun Ruoyan, her face was flaming red, and Li Mo had begun to pant softly.
“Yan’er…” Li Mo’s lower jaw was propped against the crook of Yun Ruoyan’s neck. He called out to her in a low and hoarse voice.
“When will you finally be an adult?” Li Mo sighed, exasperated.
Yun Ruoyan laughed. “My mind’s quite old, even older than yours.”
Li Mo only thought that she was joking. He inspected her face from up close, noting to his dissatisfaction a faint red scar on her right cheek: the result of Rong Yueshan’s low-rank ice-attuned technique.
When Yun Ruoyan saw Li Mo’s gaze turn dark, she hurriedly said, “It’s nothing, nothing! Just a minor wound—ouch!”
Li Mo had rapped her on the head.
“I’ve never seen a woman who cares so little about her appearance as you do. Have you been using the salve that I gave you?”
“Yes, yes, my dear Slaughtering King!” Yun Ruoyan acted coyly after seeing Li Mo’s ugly expression.
“Oh, right.” She suddenly recalled something important and sat up from Li Mo’s lap. “Did you see Master Cang Song today?”
Yun Ruoyan told him about her encounter with the black-clad man last night.
“Someone’s actually trying to steal the all-seeing mirror? He must be tired of living,” Li Mo snorted.
“I know how important this is. Because neither you nor the first elder were around, I reported the matter to Master Cang Song,” Yun Ruoyan stated. “But you don’t seem to be particularly concerned…”
The all-seeing mirror was one of the most potent and well-known treasures of the academy. Shouldn’t Li Mo have immediately told the first elder about the matter after learning about it from her?
And Master Cang Song hadn’t even reported it to Li Mo or the first elder, even though Li Mo had returned in the afternoon!
“Yan’er, you might not be aware of this, but,” Li Mo began slowly, combing his fingers through Yun Ruoyan’s damp hair. “The all-seeing mirror is an ancient, godly treasure, granted to Kongming Academy by the highest heavens. No thief would be able to steal it so easily.”
The reason that Li Mo wasn’t particularly concerned because the all-seeing mirror was enveloped by a heaven and earth array. Even activating the array would lead to divine punishment, let alone stealing the mirror. As a result, there was really no need to implement any safety or preventive measures around the mirror; anyone who tried to steal the mirror would be beset by heavenly tribulation.Previous Chapter Next Chapter