Chapter 384: Temporary Stability

While Yun Ruoyan and Li Mo were in Peak Darkness for the seven cities’ tournament, Zhuo Yifeng had, with the help of the Feng family, rescued Lin Qingchen and Qin Feng from the Pi manor. Afterwards, they had all been stationed at the Feng city, along with Lin Qingxue and Lin Tianming.

While he waited for Yun Ruoyan and Li Mo to return, Zhuo Yifeng continued to cultivate and became fast friends with the guards of the Feng city. They were all at least ninth-rank blademasters, and some were even sword saints. In order to raise his cultivation, Zhuo Yifeng had begun challenging these swordsmen to duels.

His cultivation swiftly rose from somewhere near the bottom of the pack to somewhat above average, affording him some modicum of respect from the guards. Although he hadn’t officially become a member of the city guards, he was permitted to go on patrols with them.

Qin Feng had been a ninth-rank blademaster for quite a few years, even while he was an instructor at Kongming Academy. However, his cultivation had stagnated, and he too decided to join the city guards like Zhuo Yifeng, hoping that it would finally push him toward the realm of a sword saint. By the time Yun Ruoyan and Li Mo arrived at the Feng city, they had already served as guards there for over a month. Unless something dramatic were to happen, they would soon be officially inducted into the ranks of the city guards.

“My uncle thinks very highly of Zhuo Yifeng,” Feng Yicheng began. “He’s both talented and hard-working, and my uncle wants to take him as a disciple. However, Zhuo Yifeng refused on the grounds that he already had a master.”

Feng Yicheng shook his head in pity. “My uncle’s one of the top cultivators on the entire Mingyuan continent. I once wanted him to take me as a disciple, but he scoffed at the idea. It’s too bad for Zhuo Yifeng.”

Li Mo looked at Zhuo Yifeng’s back and thought of Su Bei. Before entering the Mingyuan continent, Su Bei had found Li Mo and requested that Li Mo take good care of his son, and that, if Zhuo Yifeng were to return to the Chenyuan continent safely, then he would likely reveal that he had been his father all along. Although Li Mo didn’t much mind Zhuo Yifeng’s enmity toward him, it would certainly be better if the misunderstanding could be resolved.

Zhuo Yifeng and Qin Feng continued patrolling the grounds with Feng Bo. After Feng Bo warned them of certain activities and behavior to be on the guard for, they returned to the barracks. Qin Feng headed straight to the training grounds, whereas Zhuo Yifeng and Feng Bo headed to Feng Bo’s cottage.

“How are the whip exercises that I taught you yesterday going?”

“I’m quite familiar with the basic techniques now.” Zhuo Yifeng walked to the center of the small courtyard, flicking his wrist and conjuring a thick, black whip, the weapon he had taken from the first elder’s secret vaults in Kongming Academy. The first elder had also handed him a set of whip-based techniques, but because he had never found the time and opportunity to study them, they had remained in his storage ring.

Not too long ago, while duelling with one of the city guards who employed a whip as his main weapon, Zhuo Yifeng was reminded of his whip and took it out of his storage ring. Despite never having trained with the whip, he mimicked the techniques that were being demonstrated to him on the spot and actually managed to fight the guard to a draw. Feng Bo, who was passing by, coincidentally saw this scene and volunteered to teach Zhuo Yifeng the intricacies of the whip.

Zhuo Yifeng demonstrated his technique, exhibiting the various forms of the whip in a manner so graceful it was hard to believe that he had only learned them a day ago.

Feng Bo nodded in satisfaction. “You understand the essence of the technique. While going through the motions, try infusing spiritual energy into your body and whip. You’ll find that doing so will dramatically increase the potency of your attacks.”

Feng Bo then took out a whip, which he used to demonstrate the principles of which he spoke. As he infused wood-attuned spiritual energy into the whip, sharp spikes grew out of its tip. The wind whistled as the whip swung through the air, seemingly raising the attack of the whip to  a whole new level.

Zhuo Yifeng was rather amazed by the demonstration: infusing spiritual energy into your weapon to strengthen the attack wasn’t a novel idea by any means, but it was the first time he had seen such a dramatic change in the weapon from doing so.

“You try,” Feng Bo motioned.

Zhuo Yifeng nodded, then mimicked Feng Bo’s actions. As soon as he struck the whip, a curious sensation overwhelmed him. It almost felt as though he were pouring spiritual energy into a bottomless pit: despite demonstrating the forms in their entirety, none of his attacks seemed to be particularly enhanced, but his spiritual energy had ended up quite drained.

“Don’t worry too much,” Feng Bo encouraged. “Infusing your spiritual energy into your whip properly is a subtle technique that will take some time to master. You already have a very good foundation.”

Zhuo Yifeng nodded. “I’ll definitely practice hard. Thank you for your instruction, Feng Bo.” Zhuo Yifeng had stated very clearly that he couldn’t take Feng Bo as his master, but Feng Bo still taught him more closely than he could have hoped. He was very grateful; if not for the fact that he already recognized Su Bei as his master, Feng Bo would have been an excellent option indeed.

After almost six months of fighting and subterfuge, Yun Ruoyan and the others had finally managed to come together and begin a new chapter of their lives on the Mingyuan continent in the Feng city. At the same time, however, a plan was underway to capture Yun Ruoyan alive…

“This time, Master Shade will be our scout, responsible for determining the defenses of the Feng city,” Pi Batian began. “I’ll personally lead fifty guards, masquerading as a merchant caravan, into the Feng city. Our informants in the Pi city have already arranged a place for us to stay. After three days, during the celebration of the head of the Feng family’s fortieth birthday, the entire city will be in a festive mood. Lords of the neighboring cities will also attend, which will surely require a considerable number of guards. The Feng family has overextended itself over the last few years, and they’ll definitely find themselves short-staffed. As long as we can lure away Li Mo, we’ll be able to catch Yun Ruoyan and the others while they’re unguarded.”

Pi Yan turned to Master Shade. “Are you certain that Yun Ruoyan isn’t fully healed?” He had personally fought with Yun Ruoyan and could attest to her strength. Not only did she have a rather advanced cultivation, her refusal to submit and mysterious sources of spiritual energy

Were factors that made her tricky to deal with.

“I’ve inspected her for a few days and can confirm that, although her body might be more or less recovered, her cultivation is still below what it once was.” The reason Master Shade could be so confident was because he had coincidentally observed Yun Ruoyan training. She was practicing a few external spiritual techniques, but she had failed several times in a row.

Pi Yan found Master Shade’s words easy to believe. After all, Yun Ruoyan had suffered a grave injury. Injuries to one’s cultivation or spiritual vortex were far more serious than those to the body, and it would be ridiculous if her enhanced recovery extended that far.

“In that case, we’ll proceed with Tian’er’s plan,” Pi Yan finally concluded.

Master Shade immediately headed off to the Feng city, while Pi Batian began choosing a number of trusted guards for the mission. They had six more days until the silver dragon clan elder’s ten-day deadline. They would leave in three days, the journey would take two further days, and their final day would be spent in the Feng city.

Housekeeper Hu was chatting with Pi Yang when a swordsman suddenly knocked on the door, claiming that the housekeeper had been summoned by Pi Batian. Pi Batian personally described to the housekeeper exactly what type of carriage, what sorts of horses, and what nature of goods he would need for the journey, then had the housekeeper prepare everything. Pi Batian was a particularly meticulous man, and he had been very careful in his preparations to ensure that they wouldn’t arouse needless suspicion.

The housekeeper dealt with this sort of thing on a regular basis, and he had finished assembling all the men and provisions that Pi Batian requested by nightfall. Afterwards, he brought a tray of food to Pi Yang’s rooms. The night that Yun Ruoyan had staged her escapade, Pi Yang had been present when Yun Ruoyan and Pi Yan had had a clash of spiritual energy. When Yun Ruoyan was thrown up into the air due to the massive outpouring of spiritual energy from Pi Yan, Pi Yang, as a bystander, had been seriously injured in the aftermath. He had spent the subsequent few days recuperating in his rooms, almost never stepping out of them.

“Second Young Master, what are you doing out here?” Housekeeper Hu saw Pi Yang wearing only a thin nightgown as he sat on the stone bench in his small courtyard, his gaze far into the distance, and hurriedly walked up to him.

“Hm?” Pi Yang glanced up at the housekeeper, still slightly dazed. Only then did he realize that the skies had turned dark without him realizing.

“Second Young Master, why don’t you head inside with me? I’ve had the kitchen staff prepare your favorite crystal dumplings.”

Housekeeper Hu was an old, loyal servant of the Pi household, and he had watched Pi Yang grow into the youth that he was. Pi Yan and Pi Batian were frequently away from the manor, so the servants of the Pi family were all much more comfortable around their beloved second young master. Pi Yang had elevated Housekeeper Hu into his current position, so the housekeeper was particularly grateful to him.

“Second Young Master, what happened to you during your trip to Peak Darkness? Not only did you come back injured, you seem like a different person entirely…”

The old Pi Yang had been a stereotypical young master, naturally arrogant as a result of his upbringing. Now, however, he had begun expressing symptoms of depression, and would even spend long hours staring into the distance, just like how the housekeeper had found him.

Neither Pi Yan nor Pi Batian had noticed Pi Yang’s behavior, because all their attention was focused on capturing Yun Ruoyan alive. However, what no one realized was that the key to Yun Ruoyan’s capture lay with Pi Yang...

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