“No, it isn’t a negotiation of terms,” Li Mo explained. “Lord Pi, if you accept my loyalty, my wife will naturally serve you as well. At that time, please be lenient on her.”
Pi Yan mulled over Li Mo’s words. The seven cities’ tournament would soon begin. The Pi family had been defeated by the Feng family three years ago. Their defeat lost them the management rights for Peak Darkness, a special administrative region beyond the seven cities. As its name suggested, it was the location to find all sorts of vices, and it was filled to the brim with gambling dens, brothels, and entertainment facilities of one type or another.
Furthermore, within Peak Darkness was a spirit crystal vein well-known for producing high-grade spirit crystals. In the past three years, the Feng family had grown dizzy with wealth based on their jurisdiction of Peak Darkness. The high-grade spirit crystals they had mined had greatly enhanced the family’s combat strength, and they seemed to be trying to contest the Pi family’s position on the Mingyuan continent.
If the Pi family lost to the Feng family again, it was very likely that the Feng family would replace them. They had to win the seven cities’ tournament at all costs!
The Pi family had intended on sending Pi Yan as its representative, but he had died at Li Mo’s hands. Now, except for Pi Yan himself and Pi Batian, Li Mo was the most advanced in terms of cultivation. Sending him to the competition would be the best option.
As for Yun Ruoyan, she was a person that the silver dragon clan elder himself desired, and Pi Yan couldn’t guarantee her safety. However, in order to assuage Li Mo, Pi Yan decided to agree to his request. After all, once Li Mo won the tournament on his behalf, he could easily renege on the promise then.
As for Li Mo, the only reason he had brought Yun Ruoyan up was to placate Pi Yan’s suspicions. As long as Pi Yan thought him relatively loyal, his plans with Feng Yanyang would be far more easily accomplished.
“I shall grant your request. Over the next few days, train well in the manor. If you need anything, let Housekeeper Hu know. Once it comes time for the seven cities’ tournament, head to Peak Darkness. This year, the tournament will be hosted there.”
When Li Mo left, Pi Batian walked out from a side chamber. “Father, do you believe that he’ll truly fight for the Pi family’s best interests?” Pi Batian asked. He knew full well how stubborn Li Mo was, and even his woman, too.
“Tian’er.” Pi Yan sat down in a gilded chair. “Never trust or distrust anyone fully, even your most loyal servants. There will always be tasks that need to be delegated, but you simply have to supervise them closely.”
Pi Batian nodded. “I understand, Father. One of my assassins has recently reached a breakthrough in her study of the shadow arts, so I’ll send her to watch over Li Mo.”
Pi Yan nodded. “Has that Yun Ruoyan been found?”
“No. It’s as if she evaporated off the face of the world.” Pi Batian frowned. “Father, I doubt she was able to survive your lightning storm. May I ask why you’re so certain that she’s alive?”
“It wasn’t me,” Pi Yan explained, “but a highlander. If we can’t find Yun Ruoyan and the highlander presses us for her…” 
Pi Batian’s expression turned serious. “I’ll send more men to look for her, Father.”
Yun Ruoyan had been staying with the troupe all this time, but she had now disguised herself as an ugly matron working in the kitchen. Given her somewhat revolting disguise, she easily evaded the examination of men from the Pi household.
After about two weeks, as instructed, Li Mo headed to Peak Darkness. Accompanying him were Pi Yan, Pi Batian, and a black-veiled woman, one of Pi Batian’s assassins that he had assigned to Li Mo. Ever since they left the city grounds, the mute woman had been trailing his movements constantly.
Li Mo could see that she was an early ninth-rank blademaster. Her cultivation wasn’t particularly advanced, but her footwork and stealth were extraordinary. She was clearly specialized in subterfuge, and her sudden appearances and disappearances were difficult to catch even with Li Mo’s transcendent senses.
The presence of the mute woman was a considerable disruption to Li Mo. Normally, he would be able to communicate with her using Mo’er, but ever since this mute woman had appeared, he had had to cut off all contact with Yun Ruoyan.
It was from Feng Yicheng that Yun Ruoyan heard about the presence of the mute woman. After contemplating the problem, she thought of a potential solution. “Are you headed to Peak Darkness as well?” Yun Ruoyan asked Feng Yicheng, having learned about the upcoming competition to be held there.
“Yes. I’m here to let all of you know that I’ll be leaving tomorrow,” Feng Yicheng stated.
“Let me go with you.”
Feng Yicheng hesitated. Before he could reject her, Yun Ruoyan continued, “Didn’t you say that the shadow stalking Li Mo’s particularly troublesome? I have a way to get rid of her.”
Feng Yicheng reluctantly agreed. The next day, both of them set off on their journey. Lin Qingchen and Lin Tianming had been sent to the Feng family, whereas the troupe of courtesans began to start its intelligence-gathering activities starting from the small town in which they were based.
All these towns belonged to the Pi family. Madam Hong knew that some of the smaller families had only ceded to Pi control because of threats and tyrannical behavior on their part, so the troupe’s role was to get these families to join the Feng family instead.
Yun Ruoyan first returned to the Feng manor with Feng Yicheng, where they met up with Feng Yanyang and Feng Bo. The day-to-day logistics were left for Feng Mian to handle on his own.
Yun Ruoyan initially thought of the seven cities’ tournament as a simple bout between the families, but given the Feng and Pi families’ preparations, she was starting to be more and more concerned about the event, as well as for Li Mo’s safety. As a result, she requested to join an advance delegation so that they could catch up to Li Mo’s group.
Feng Yanyang agreed to her request, then sent Feng Bo to accompany her. Because they were travelling unencumbered, they managed to catch up to the Pi delegation the next evening.
“Feng Bo, I think it’s best if I find Li Mo myself,” Yun Ruoyan said. “That woman’s cultivation isn’t very advanced, is it? I believe I’ll be able to deal with her.”
“That woman’s strength isn’t in her cultivation, but rather her stealth. Even I can’t detect her very easily, let alone a ninth-rank blademaster like you.” Feng Bo rarely spoke, but his words were devastating when he did. “How about I send you a helper? He’ll be a perfect counter to the woman.”
Feng Bo waved a hand in mid-air, and a black shade appeared in the air. Yun Ruoyan opened her eyes wide—the black shade who had appeared was exactly the one that had almost killed her a few months ago!
“Feng Bo, what’s it doing here?!” Yun Ruoyan got into a defensive posture.
“Don’t worry, don’t worry.” Feng Bo laughed. “I have Li Mo to thank for this acquisition. This shade possessed a rather attractive young girl’s body and tried to seduce my young master. Thanks to Li Mo’s warning, I dealt with this thing in time and subverted it for my own purposes. I planned on giving it back to Li Mo, but giving it to you will serve the same effect.”
Feng Bo removed a ring from his finger and handed it to Yun Ruoyan. “I’ve restricted the shade’s movement to within half a kilometer of this ring. It can’t go past the boundary, or its soul will dissipate instantly.
As Yun Ruoyan took over the ring, the shade floated to her side. Yun Ruoyan noticed that it seemed to have lost its original arrogant disposition, and she asked Feng Bo as to how and why.
Feng Bo told Yun Ruoyan that the act of refinement was anathema to shades and evil spirits, and the intellect that the shade had demonstrated had been removed along with its personality. Now, it was nothing more than a puppet, able to be controlled by whoever wielded its ring.
In the past, the shade had been unable to carry out any physical attacks and had to subdue its victims through poison. However, Feng Bo had augmented it with a spiritual technique allowing it to shoot out blades of air from its claws, augmenting its capabilities as an assassin.
“It’s not all that strong,” Feng Bo added, “so it’s only suitable for sneak attacks.”
Yun Ruoyan put on the ring, and the shade darted back into it. She cupped her hands at Feng Bo, then leapt off the rooftop. Red sword aura flared by her feet as she soared toward Li Mo’s inn. In order to avoid drawing unnecessary attention, she landed a few blocks away from the inn and began heading over on foot, where she hid behind a secluded corner of the inn.
She then had Qiuqiu initiate contact with Li Mo. Li Mo was currently deep in cultivation, and when he found out that Yun Ruoyan was waiting for him outside the inn, he immediately became wide awake.
“Yan’er, what are you doing here? Didn’t I tell you to remain at the Feng family with Qingxue and Lin Tianming? Return immediately!” Li Mo was upset and agitated—his Yan’er was disobeying him at every juncture!
“Li Mo, do you think Mistress will listen to you?” Qiuqiu was as exasperated as he was: Yun Ruoyan’s actions had been dangerous in the extreme, and Qiuqiu also hoped that she would stop putting herself in harm’s way.
“No, she won’t.” Li Mo thumped himself on the forehead. Yun Ruoyan never seemed to listen to him.
“Qiuqiu, can you ask if that woman’s around at the moment?” Yun Ruoyan continued.
According to Li Mo, he was never able to sense her at night, but as soon as someone made a sudden gesture, she would appear out of thin air.
Yun Ruoyan snorted.
“Mistress, why don’t you let the shade do its work?” Qiuqiu suggested.
“Feng Bo said that the shade’s cultivation isn’t particularly advanced, and it’s only suitable fore sneak attacks. I want to meet this shadow cultivator for myself.” Yun Ruoyan retracted her aura, then vaulted up to the third story of the inn, where Li Mo was staying.
Although she wasn’t confident that she would be able to subdue the woman, she didn’t think it would be too hard to escape. The moment she stepped on the third floor balcony, a gust of wind seemed to strike her neck.
“Who are you?” a hoarse woman’s voice called out.