“I’ll head over immediately,” Li Mo replied.
“Is Madam Shade there as well?” the servant asked again.
Yun Ruoyan was forced to manifest the shade to deal with the servant, whereupon he stated that Pi Yan had requested her presence as well.
“It’s likely about the upcoming competition,” Li Mo explained to Yun Ruoyan, after the servant had left. “I’m not sure why you’ve also been called to attend. Could they have noticed something amiss? Yan’er, I don’t think you should go.”
“If he’s truly seen through my disguise, he wouldn’t have been requesting my presence so politely.” Yun Ruoyan stood up from Li Mo’s lap, put on her black veil, and twisted the ring to summon her shade.
They walked together to Pi Yan’s guest chambers and found Pi Batian also present. Pi Yan sat in the seat of honor and Pi Batian by his side, both arrogantly glancing at Li Mo, standing in front of them.
Both Pi Yan and his son wanted to tame as useful a wild pawn as Li Mo. They had failed, but needed to make use of him for the upcoming tournament, so they had had to give him a few concessions. Furthermore, given their domineering personalities, Li Mo’s level stare and refusal to submit were particularly irksome to them.
“Why have you summoned me, Lord Pi?”
“The seven cities’ tournament starts in three days. How are your preparations?” Pi Batian asked.
“Cultivation is accumulated over months and years, and a few days of effort won’t amount to much,” Li Mo replied.
Pi Batian raised an eyebrow. “You sound confident of yourself.”
“I will give the competition my all.”
“In that case, I look forward to seeing your performance in three days,” Pi Yan finally began. “I’ve called you here today to inform you of something.”
“What is it?”
“In a small town by the boundary of the Feng and Pi cities, we’ve found traces of your wife, Yun Ruoyan. Someone claims to have seen her on the streets.”
“Oh?” Li Mo pretended to be concerned. “Where is she?”
“By the time we received the news, she vanished. But as long as we know where she’s been, it’s only a matter of time before we apprehend her,” Pi Yan continued.
Li Mo knew that Pi Yan was trying to threaten him with Yun Ruoyan. He inwardly smirked, but outwardly put on a serious expression. “Lord Pi, you’ve promised to go easy on her.”
Pi Batian smiled arrogantly. “That’ll depend on your performance in three days, won’t it? As long as you emerge the victor, your wife’s crimes shall be annulled, but if you lose…”
Li Mo narrowed his eyes. Even if Yun Ruoyan were safely by his side, he hated for others to try to manipulate him with his loved ones’ safety. To him, Pi Batian was an arrogant thorn that needed to be uprooted and quickly eradicated.
“Young Master Pi, you are well aware of my cultivation. None among the seven cities will be my match, as your spies have undoubtedly ascertained. I shall emerge the victor of this tournament.”
“Good, good.” Pi Yan smiled.
Just as Li Mo was about to leave, Pi Yan suddenly motioned for Yun Ruoyan to stay behind. Li Mo hesitated, then walked out of the room.
“Has Li Mo been acting strangely these past few days?” Pi Batian asked.
“Nothing unusual, Young Master Pi,” Yun Ruoyan croaked. “A thief tried to get into his rooms during the trip, one that I easily handled.”
“Continue keeping guard over him, but don’t enrage him,” Pi Batian instructed. “And there’s another task for you…”
After Pi Batian delineated her duties, Yun Ruoyan nodded solemnly and darted out of the room. However, she deliberately summoned the shade at her original location and had it slowly dissipate only after she had left, so as to give the impression that she had made use of her stealth.
After Yun Ruoyan’s departure, Pi Batian turned to Pi Yan. “Why do I feel as though she’s different from before?”
“Her shade’s aura has grown more concentrated, but so has her human aura. It may be an artifact of the advancement in her technique.” Pi Yan’s brows were unfurrowed, and he didn’t seem to notice anything amiss.
The moment Yun Ruoyan walked into the corridor, she saw Li Mo waiting for her against the railing. He looked leisurely, but Yun Ruoyan could see how worried he was for her.
She smiled at him, and the two of them returned to his room. As he closed the door, Li Mo pulled Yun Ruoyan into his embrace.
“There, there, aren’t I alright?”
“Yan’er,” Li Mo gritted out. “I’ve never feared for anything in my life, and I’d once thought that there would never be anything that would leave me fearful or scared. Yan’er, you’ve become that something.”
“Your Highness, I’ve almost forgotten about how cold you used to be, but I like the present you better.” Yun Ruoyan smiled. “I’ve heard so many tales about you growing up, and you always seemed to be a mythical creature with three heads and six arms, someone who could kill in the blink of an eye.”
“A mythical creature?” Li Mo frowned.
“Clearly, these tales are all lies used to trick children into behaving,” Yun Ruoyan added. “My husband’s no mythical creature, but a handsome, true-to-life, loving hero.”
It was Li Mo’s turn to smile.
“Right, Li Mo.” Yun Ruoyan’s expression turned serious. “Pi Yan had me take on another task.”
“What is it?”
“He wants me to investigate Feng Yicheng.”
Pi Yan had detailed records of all the competitors who could show up at the seven cities’ tournament, all but Feng Yicheng’s. Feng Yicheng was also a cultivator from a lower realm, just like Li Mo and the others. However, unlike the other cultivators, he had joined the Feng family almost immediately, and his information was so well-guarded that Pi Yan had expended a great deal of effort to find out more about him, but to no avail.
Pi Yan’s only impression of Feng Yicheng was of what little he had demonstrated of his skills during the slave bouts at a banquet. He was a wood-attuned cultivator, one who looked to be beyond ninth rank. Pi Yan could clearly tell that, when he fought Li Mo, he didn’t demonstrate his true strength.
The other five cities’ swordsmen were no match for Li Mo, and the only uncertain element was this Feng Yicheng. As such, he had assigned the mute woman to report back on him.
“Have Mo’er send a message to Feng Yicheng asking for him to divulge some unimportant facts about himself, so I can turn in my mission without giving my disguise away,” Yun Ruoyan requested.
Li Mo penned a message and sent Mo’er away, then raised his head. “Yan’er, have you ever wanted to see what this Peak Darkness is really like?”
In Peak Darkness, there was no night curfew, so cultivators who wished to do so could party all night long. They walked through the illuminated streets, filled with people and life. Everyone had smiles plastered on their faces, and the mood was infectious. Her time in the Mingyuan continent had been one of trials and tribulations, but the sight in front of her made her feel as though she had returned to the Chenyuan continent once more.
“Li Mo.” Yun Ruoyan, dressed in black, continued to stay a certain distance away from Li Mo. However, there were such large crowds present that, as long as the two of them didn’t look directly at each other, they wouldn’t have to worry about surveillance from afar. “Why is this place called Peak Darkness? Wouldn’t something like Peak Enjoyment be more appropriate?”
“The darkness hides within the shadows,” Li Mo replied, not turning back.
“What sort of darkness is there?”
“It’s not something that’s visible to the naked eye at first glance, but it is present.” Li Mo slowed down slightly, as did Yun Ruoyan. “This was something my father told me, and the reason why they decided to leave the mortal world behind to settle deep in the mountains. He had wanted to let his kin remain there in prosperous isolation, but even he couldn’t avoid being engulfed by strife and darkness.”
“So no matter how strong your enemies might be, no matter how deep the darkness that lies ahead, trying to escape it is never the answer,” Yun Ruoyan finished Li Mo’s train of thought.
“From a young age, I learned that the only ones who can truly escape this all-encompassing darkness are the truly strong, those at the apex of power.” Li Mo’s tone slowly turned resolute. On the Chenyuan continent, he had stood at that apex, but only after entering the Mingyuan continent did he realize how much farther he had to go. Although his cultivation was still one of the more advanced among cultivators of this continent, he was yet far from the top. His bout with Feng Bo had made his weakness clear.
This sort of feeling wasn’t something he ever wanted to experience or to let his loved ones experience.
Yun Ruoyan understood Li Mo’s intent. She took a few hurried steps forward, then grabbed his hand almost imperceptibly before darting away again. “Li Mo, you know that I don’t want to become a bird in a gilded cage. I want to face your trials and burdens together, to grow strong with you, to stand side by side at the peak of power.”
Li Mo stopped and glanced at Yun Ruoyan, who stared back at him. Their resolute gazes met, and smiles blossomed on both their faces.
“I’ll show you an interesting place and help finish your task.” The two of them continued walking through the crowded streets. After about another ten minutes, they entered a so-called pleasure den, a curious establishment that combined both a brothel and a gambling den.
Yun Ruoyan frowned.
“I arranged to meet Feng Yicheng here,” Li Mo explained. “If Pi Yan were to find out that Feng Yicheng was a stereotypical young master well-versed in earthly pleasures, he’ll certainly relax.”
Only then did Yun Ruoyan’s expression lighten. She followed Li Mo into the establishment...Previous Chapter Next Chapter