“Master Shade, this man’s personality is far more stubborn than his body.” The swordsman pointed at Zhuo Yifeng’s bloodied, battered body.
“Wake him up.” Master Shade narrowed his eyes at Zhuo Yifeng.
The mustached swordsman picked up a bucket of icy water on the ground and poured it over Zhuo Yifeng’s head. It was deep autumn, almost winter. When the near-frozen water landed on Zhuo Yifeng’s body, it felt as though a thousand needles were piercing his body at once, and was far more shocking a pain than what he had experienced with the whip.
Zhuo Yifeng frowned and woke up from unconsciousness, then furrowed his brows all the harder when he saw Master Shade in front of him.
“Don’t think I’ll sign a contract with you,” he murmured, his tone surprisingly triumphant.
“I’ve seen people who weren’t afraid of death, but never anyone who wasn’t afraid of pain.” Master Shade reached out with his gnarled claw and pulled Zhuo Yifeng’s head up by his hair, forcing him to look into his eyes. “As long as you sign a contract with me, you won’t have to suffer all this pain.”
Zhuo Yifeng spat at Master Shade. “Even if I die, I’ll be no one’s slave. Dream on!”
Master Shade wanted to make Zhuo Yifeng his puppet, but that required Zhuo Yifeng’s consent to become his slave. Zhuo Yifeng was naturally unwilling to give up his freedom, and he was so tenacious and stubborn that he hadn’t succumbed despite all manner of torture that Master Shade had inflicted on him.
“In that case, don’t blame me for this.” Master Shade removed a bright-red bottle from his robes. He uncorked it to reveal a squirming maggot the color of blood.
“What are you doing?” Zhuo Yifeng sensed danger.
“If you want to change your mind, there’s still time,” Master Shade whispered. “Otherwise, once this soul-gnawing maggot enters your body, you’ll feel pain that transcends anything you’ve ever experienced.”
Zhuo Yifeng refused to give in. Master Shade clicked his tongue and drew a long trail of blood on Zhuo Yifeng’s arm with his long fingernails. Then, he held the soul-gnawing maggot right by the wound on Zhuo Yifeng’s arm.
The maggot slid into his body through the wound. Zhuo Yifeng could clearly see a frighteningly large lump burrowing its way up Zhuo Yifeng’s arm, until it reached his brain.
“Argh!” he moaned, as though the maggot was feeding on his soul itself. It was a pain that seeped into his bones, one so sharp and acute he couldn’t escape it even in unconsciousness.
“Physical injuries might make you faint,” Master Shade’s cold voice whispered into his ear, “but this soul-gnawing maggot will inflict spiritual injuries on your very soul, making you feel the pain more and more clearly with every injury. Enjoy it while it lasts, haha!”
Master Shade’s cackles seemed to drift farther and farther away, but the pain that Zhuo Yifeng felt in his mind was only getting clearer and clearer.
Yun Ruoyan sat and cultivated within the secret chamber in Pi Yan’s bedroom. The nameless book once again appeared in her mind. It automatically flipped to the second page, then began to fill with text: that part of the draconic arts that she had recently come to understand.
Those words seemed to possess a mysterious power. As long as Yun Ruoyan glanced at them, her body would automatically assume a cultivating position. She stayed in a dream-like trance for an interminable amount of time. When she next opened her eyes, a red streak flashed past her eyes.
“Mistress, how do you feel?” Qiuqiu chirped urgently.
Before answering Qiuqiu’s question, Yun Ruoyan glanced at her spiritual vortex, where she could see part of her spiritual energy blacken. The sage-grade spirit crystal in her silver bracelet again played an important role in releasing spiritual energy and nourishing her spiritual vortex.
Although most of the injuries on Yun Ruoyan’s body had healed, and her distended spiritual vortex had begun functioning again, her cultivation hadn’t returned to that of a ninth-rank blademaster, and her sage-grade spirit crystal wasn’t able to show off its full effects.
With the sage-grade spirit crystal fully operational again, Yun Ruoyan’s spiritual vortex filled up after a night of cultivation.
“Qiuqiu, I feel like I’m about to break through!”
“Again, Mistress?” Qiuqiu was quite shocked. “Mistress, that means you’re almost at the realm of a sword saint!” If Yun Ruoyan were to break through, then it could try to make use of her power to break out of the silver bracelet’s seal.
“Qiuqiu, have you noticed that I seem to be growing stronger with every major injury I receive?” Yun Ruoyan asked. “Do you think this could be part of the demonic dragon’s bloodline?”
“Mistress, now that you bring it up, that seems quite likely.”
While they were deep in conversation, the door to the secret chamber was pushed open. The person who stepped inside was one of Pi Yan’s personal guards; just like he had done previously, he placed a sandalwood box on the floor and slid it through the pillar of light.
Because Yun Ruoyan was already at the point where she could go without food, no one brought her any meals. Instead, inside the boxes were high-grade spiritual pills, particularly rare and potent ones that played an important role in Yun Ruoyan’s rapid recovery.
“What exactly do you want from me?” Yun Ruoyan asked, as the swordsman pushed the box into the pillar.
“You’ll find out in two days,” he replied.
“What will happen in two days?” Yun Ruoyan pressed, but the swordsman turned and left. No matter what would happen, her goal now was to rest and cultivate. The more she was able to advance within the next two days, the greater her chance of eventual escape.
While the Pi family set up an alliance against the Fengs, the Fengs also reached out to the Hua and Zheng families. Feng Bo returned to the Feng city and informed Feng Yanyang that Pi Yan had found out about his identity, and Feng Yanyang had then planned a series of countermeasures.
Although the Hua and Zheng families were on good terms with the Fengs, they were still hesitant about supporting them against the Pis. Only after significant consideration did the head of the Zheng family agree, but the Hua family decided to support neither the Fengs nor the Pis.
Meanwhile, Feng Yicheng had found out that the Wu, Lie, and Chen families had all allied themselves with the Pis, whereas the Fengs stood alone with the Zhengs. The disparity between their forces was notable and disheartening. Feng Yanyang was deep in thought when Feng Yicheng brought back a piece of good news: the courtesan troupe, which had begun carrying out operations in the Pi and other neighboring cities, had successfully managed to garner the support of over a hundred of the smaller families that had been displaced, ostracized, or otherwise poorly treated.
Although the families might have been weak on their own, with over a hundred of them, they formed a force sufficient to go against even one of the seven great families.
“Lord Feng, there might be another of the seven families that we can convince to join us,” Feng Yicheng reported.
“Which of the seven?”
“The Lies. Lie Fenglan was the previous head of the family, but ever since Miss Lie fell prey to corpse poison, Lie Fenglan has been in secluded cultivation trying to maintain her life. Right now, the Lie family is being controlled by his son, Lie Sen. I’m on rather good terms with him, and he’s someone who can be bargained with.”
“In that case, I’ll leave dealing with the Lies to you,” Feng Yanyang replied. Turning to Feng Bo, he said, “If Li Mo does manage to rescue Yun Ruoyan, he’ll need someone to help him escape the Pi city. Stay in the vicinity and offer your help where you can.”
“Yes, Lord Feng.” Feng Bo nodded, but his tone was concerned. “Lord Feng, if we really get into a feud with the Pi family, will we draw the ire of the highlander backing the Pi family?”
There weren’t many who knew of the backer behind the Pi family, but Feng Bo and Feng Yanyang were among the privileged few who did.
“There’s no need to worry about this.” Feng Yanyang shook his head briefly. “As long as we don’t make too large of a commotion, highlanders generally won’t deign to deal with us cultivators from lower realms. There must be a reason that the Pi family’s mysterious backer has hidden himself for so long, and the only help he can provide to the Pis is in terms of cultivation techniques. The Pis can hardly command him to deal with us on their behalf.”
Feng Bo sighed in relief. “In that case, I can rest easily tonight.”
The next morning, Pi Yang headed to Pi Batian’s rooms again. The moment he arrived at the door, he could hear a basin of water landing on the ground.
“Can’t you handle such a simple task? Sell her to Peak Darkness!” Pi Batian shouted furiously.
Pi Yang only hesitated for a mere moment before he entered the room. The maid responsible for Pi Batian was cowering at his feet, a basin of water upended by her feet.
“Brother, what’s wrong?” Pi Yang walked over.
“This maid can’t even wash my body properly! The water she brings is either too hot or too cold,” Pi Batian complained. His moods were mercurial, and even the slightest discomfort upset him given his recent loss of an arm.
“Young Master, I won’t do it again! Please don’t sell me to Peak Darkness,” the maid begged.
Pi Yang glanced at her. “Brother, this maid has been with you for a while, hasn’t she? If even she can’t meet your stringent requirements, any other maid would be even worse off.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter