“Perhaps it’s because there’s so much going on with the Pi family at the moment,” Lie Yun replied. “Pi Yang treats me very well.”
Lie Fenglan sighed. “What do you like about that brat? Isn’t his brother far better than he is?”
“Father, please stop.” Lie Yun was getting a little vexed.
“Alright, alright, I’ll stop. I’ll go oversee how the preparations for the banquet are proceeding.”
Than ight, Yun Ruoyan and Li Mo were invited to the banquet hall. After a grand feast and a slew of martial duels, Yun Ruoyan once again broached the topic of forming an alliance between the Fengs and the Lies.
Lie Fenglan listened to the request, but he didn’t speak.
“Lord Lie,” Li Mo added, “no matter what benefits the Pi family has given you, the Fengs can promise you at least the same level of treatment.”
“Honored guests,” Lie Yun began, from Lie Fenglan’s side. “To be quite truthful, I was engaged with the second young master of the Pi family, Pi Yang, as a child. To betray the Pi family and form an alliance with the Feng family instead is something I can’t agree to. However, I do owe my life to both of you, and it would be dishonorable to fight against you in battle. After discussing matters over with my father, we’ve decided that the Lie family will be neutral in the upcoming conflict, helping neither the Fengs nor the Pis.”
Yun Ruoyan and Li Mo looked at Lie Yun in shock, as did Lie Sen and Lie Fenglan. Clearly, Lie Yun hadn’t discussed this proposed neutrality with her father beforehand.
Li Mo and Yun Ruoyan both noticed the changes in Lie Fenglan’s expression. Li Mo pressed, “Lord Lie, may I ask if you agree?”
“I… I feel the same way,” Lie Fenglan replied, after a momentary hesitation.
Yun Ruoyan and Li Mo glanced at each other. Given the arranged marriage, pulling the Lies to their side surely wasn’t practical, and neutrality was already a good compromise given the circumstances. In the end, they both nodded.
“Since both Lord Lie and Miss Lie are in agreement, then it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to force matters further. In that case, the two of us will leave tomorrow, and we bid you farewell now.” Li Mo and Yun Ruoyan toasted the Lie family.
After the banquet, just as they returned to their guest rooms, they saw Mo’er by the window. Its head was nested in its feathers, and it seemed to be sound asleep. Ever since Lin Qingchen had treated Mo’er after its injury, it had remained with her except when it was needed for couriering messages, clearly very much enjoying her care and affection.
Rather than wake Mo’er, Yun Ruoyan walked to its side and removed the message from the little message-holder by its claw. Li Mo unrolled the message and read it with her, his brows furrowing as he did so.
The message was from Feng Yanyang, and it described how the Pis had attacked not only towns by the Feng city, but even Peak Darkness, in flagrant violation of the seven cities’ agreement. They had sent men into the region to wrest control of its spirit crystal veins, and Feng Yicheng and Zhuo Yifeng were now bringing Feng swordsmen into the region to secure the veins once more. The Lie city wasn’t too far from Peak Darkness, so Feng Yanyang instructed them to provide support.
Li Mo scooped Mo’er up and deposited it into his robe, and the two of them left for Peak Darkness immediately.
The next day, when Lie Fenglan and Lie Yun woke up to find Yun Ruoyan and Li Mo gone, they weren’t particularly surprised. They had also received news of what the Pi family had done. Initially, the veins in Peak Darkness were long thought to have been emptied, but two years ago, when the Feng family obtained jurisdiction over the region, they discovered that the vacated mine still possessed a rich vein of spirit crystals, one that predominantly produced high-grade and even sage-grade material.
The Pi family had been eyeing the vein for quite some time, and that had been their first target the moment they broke off relations with the Fengs. The reason they had attacked one of the towns by the Feng city was only to distract the Fengs from their true goal.
“The Pis are very likely to win this fight. Yun’er, did you make your decision in haste?” Lie Fenglan asked his eldest daughter.
Lie Yun shrugged. “The Pis might have a good chance at victory, but it’s certainly not set in stone.”
“If they had our assistance, they would be sure to win,” Lie Fenglan countered.
“Father, do you remember what you told me that day?” Lie Yun suddenly asked.
“You said that Lie Yang had the time to spectate the seven cities’ tournament, but not to visit me,” Lie Yun began. “If he doesn’t think highly of us Lies, then why do we have to be so eager to help the Pis out? Furthermore, even though the Pi family might have better odds at victory, everyone on the continent has witnessed their cruel and tyrannical behavior. They might be tyrants for a time, but there will surely come a time when their rule is overthrown. There’s no need for us Lies to step in such muddied water.”
Lie Fenglan stroked his beard. “Shrewd analysis, Yun’er. Regardless of whether the Pis or Fengs win the conflict, we Lies will be the ultimate victors if we maintain our neutrality.”
In the days to come, Lie Fenglan would refuse whatever the Pis requested with the excuse that Lie Yun was still terribly ill, and that she needed his undivided attention.
Yun Ruoyan and Li Mo knew the route to Peak Darkness, but not where the spirit crystal veins were. After flying for two nights and a day, just as they were about to reach Peak Darkness, they found a procession of carriages and landed, hoping to ask for directions.
Only when they reached the ground did they notice that the carriages were guarded by swordsmen of the Wu, Chen, and Pi families—clearly, it was a troop consisting of the three families’ swordsmen, and it was heading from Peak Darkness to the Pi city.
“Who are you? Make way, make way!” a Wu swordsman shouted at Li Mo and Yun Ruoyan, who were blocking their path.
“What’s in these carriages? If you want us to make way, show us what you have,” Yun Ruoyan called out, sweeping her gaze over the carriages in interest. Each carriage was covered with a thick layer of cloth, one that even seemed to prevent spiritual energy leakage from whatever was within.
“What’s it to you? Mind your own business!” The Wu swordsman glared at Yun Ruoyan with a pair of bull-like eyes. “Are the two of you highwaymen? Don’t you know what families we represent? Leave now, or else!”
Yun Ruoyan shrugged. She had no intention of moving; after all, the opponents seemed to only be mid-ninth-rank blademasters, and they were no match for her.
When Li Mo noticed Yun Ruoyan’s intention to fight, he stood aside for her. “Yan’er, fight quickly.”
“Of course,” Yun Ruoyan replied.
“You’re really not afraid of death, are you?” the swordsman laughed in anger. “Go on, brothers! Let’s capture that girl and have fun with her tonight!”
“Daring to rob carriages at such a young age, eh? Looks like we’d better give her some punishment!” the other swordsmen called out, hooting. However, one thin swordsman said nothing. He glanced at Yun Ruoyan, and then at Li Mo.
Li Mo noticed his gaze and met it with a cold stare of his own. As their eyes met, they noticed that the other seemed to possess an advanced cultivation.
The Wu swordsman walked out of the procession with an arrogant smile on his face, and he pointed at Yun Ruoyan with one fat finger. “Little lass, don’t blame me for not being merciful. You’re asking for it!”
Yun Ruoyan smiled and dashed toward her unwary opponent, moving so quickly that it left him in shock. By the time he saw a red glow flash by his eyes, her sword was at his throat.
“You—Who exactly are you?” The swordsman’s voice was beginning to tremble. Yun Ruoyan had taken him down in a single breath, and the hairs on his neck were being singed by the heat radiating off her blade.
“That’s none of your business,” she replied. “Just tell me: what’s in these carriages?” As she spoke, she brought her Scarlet Eye closer and closer to the swordsman’s neck, scorching a big patch of skin.
“Argh!” the swordsman moaned. “No, no, stop! I’ll speak! These carriages contain—”
Before he could finish speaking, a black shadow emerged from the carriage and shot dozens of icicles toward Yun Ruoyan, who immediately defended with her Scarlet Eye. By her side, the Wu swordsman groaned in pain. Yun Ruoyan turned to him to find three icicles piercing his chest, killing him near-instantaneously.
“Yan’er, be careful!” Li Mo hurried to her side and blocked the remaining icicles that the thin Pi swordsman shot at them. After his attack, he leaped into the air, drew out a large sledge, and then struck it down at the icy shield in Li Mo’s hand. Li Mo felt a pulse of spiritual energy spread from the shield to his hands—not enough to wound him, but enough to make him surprised.
That such a small procession of carriages would need a first-rank sword saint’s protection was beyond his expectations.
“Yan’er, retreat!” Li Mo instructed, then infused spiritual energy into his shield, which was swiftly restored to pristine condition. Then, Li Mo began his counterattack. The tall, thin swordsman was clearly no match for Li Mo. His face gradually turned white, then ashen, then devoid of life altogether.Previous Chapter Next Chapter