Within the bracelet, Qiuqiu had already shut its eyes, expecting the worst. As far as it could remember, no one could stop Li Mo from killing someone once he’d set his heart on it. Qiuqiu’s efforts to wake Yun Ruoyan would be to no avail.
After all, dying in her sleep would surely be better than waking up and facing her death head-on. The best thing it could do for Yun Ruoyan would be to remain silent.
But just as Li Mo’s sharp fingernails were about to penetrate Yun Ruoyan’s heart, his hand suddenly stopped moving. His gaze was absorbed by the string of wooden beads on her wrist, which he’d given her as compensation during the day.
The wooden beads glowed with a faint, red light.
Li Mo raised his brows, his icy blue eyes sparkling. His father, the Beast King, had given him those beads for his sixth birthday. At the time, he couldn’t identify anything unusual about the beads, and only when his father described the gift did he begin to realize what a precious treasure it was. The beads were made of thousand-year-old redwood, and within each bead was a sliver of the mythical fire qilin’s inner core.
Such a core had tremendous affinity for fire, as well as fire-aspected spiritual energy so strong that even his father had had trouble absorbing it fully. This was why the core had instead been split into pieces and sealed by ancient wood.
The Beast King had told his son that, although no one would be able to absorb and claim this energy as their own, wearing the beads would naturally increase one’s affinity for fire. For a pillmaster aspirant like Yun Ruoyan or even Li Mo himself, this was undoubtedly a priceless gift.
Li Mo had never taken it off after his father had put it on for him at the tender age of six.
During the day, he’d given her the beads temporarily because he didn’t have anything else on him, and had planned to retrieve it come nighttime.
What he didn’t expect was for the beads, which had been fully inert in the decades since he’d worn it, to begin emitting faint pulses of spiritual energy on Yun Ruoyan’s wrist.
What was so special about this ugly girl, to be able to make the beads react like that?
His sudden curiosity tempered his killing intent, and he removed his hood as he leaned down and observed Yun Ruoyan by her bedside.
The only illumination in the dark was from the beads, glowing a dim red. It made Li Mo’s gaunt face take on a demonic tinge and gave Yun Ruoyan a sense of ethereal beauty, her half-beautiful, half-ugly face appearing in front of his cool blue eyes.
Li Mo slowly closed his eyes as he relaxed, breathing in deeply at a spot close to Yun Ruoyan. He seemed to be in great pleasure, as if he were smelling something marvellous.
It’s that smell!
The first time Li Mo saw Yun Ruoyan, he’d been attracted by a peculiar smell emanating from her body. It had made him seek, uncontrollably, to get closer to her.
When they once again encountered each other in the forest up in the mountains, the same thing had happened. This was how they’d ended up sharing two kisses.
Li Mo himself was a little stunned by his actions: when had he become so thirsty for women?
So this was why!
An unusual fragrance, able to make a mythical beast’s core emit spiritual energy… Could it be that this ugly girl from the Yun family was a legendary human furnace, said to appear fewer than once in a millennium?!
No wonder even that poison wasn’t enough to kill you! Li Mo couldn’t help thinking. Even with his experience and cultivation, he would have been hard-pressed to deal with the poison. A regular person’s body would have festered away, whereas Yun Ruoyan only had her beauty tarnished, her cultivation restricted!
Lin Yuemei’s corpse was nothing more than a hunk of rotten flesh, so revolting that the Yun family had to rush her burial before rumors could begin to spread.
Yun Ruoyan’s unique constitution provided a significant resistance against poisons, and this had saved her life. Even so, her face had been ruined and her cultivation blocked.
A ‘human furnace’ was a somewhat derogatory term for a certain type of unique constitution. Not only were human furnaces blessed with incredible talent for cultivation, they could even bypass the bottlenecks that plagued regular cultivators entirely.
For a regular cultivator, cultivating alongside such a human furnace would both speed up the rate of cultivation and dampen the effect of bottlenecks.
Li Mo himself was trapped at a bottleneck on the way to becoming a sword saint, and having such a human furnace close by would essentially double his chances of a breakthrough.
He smiled, and then frowned once more. Unfortunately, her cultivation was too low to help him much. It looked as though he couldn’t kill her and had to help her grow instead!
Li Mo sighed as he looked at his raised hand, which had almost taken Yun Ruoyan’s life. He bit one finger hard enough that a drop of blood welled out, then smeared it on the beads on her wrist.
The dim red glow slowly vanished.
Trapped within the bracelet’s pocket dimension, Qiuqiu knew none of what had happened, nor of Li Mo’s thoughts. Neither did it realize that Yun Ruoyan was actually a so-called ‘human furnace’.
It was simply wondering why Li Mo hadn’t yet made his move while hoping fervently that, somehow, he had seen fit to spare her.
And when Li Mo applied his own blood onto the qilin beads, Qiuqiu’s suspicions were confirmed.
“Xun Mo, have you decided not to kill her?” Qiuqiu asked probingly.
“That’s right!” His cold voice had even turned somewhat warm. “I changed my mind. Since you’ve already recognized her as your new mistress, I don’t want to force your hand.”
Li Mo hooded himself once more before suddenly speaking to Qiuqiu again. “There are some things that your mistress shouldn’t know, you understand?”
“As long as you don’t harm her again, I won’t tell her about you,” Qiuqiu confirmed. Li Mo wasn’t someone that it or Yun Ruoyan could afford to anger easily at the moment.
“Good. Help her cultivate, and hopefully you’ll be able to regain your old strength quickly.” He vanished out the window like a gust of wind.
The qilin beads rested on Yun Ruoyan’s left wrist along with her silver bracelet. Compared to the bracelet’s intricate carvings, it seemed especially ordinary, as if it were nothing more than a cheap children’s toy that could easily be found at a market stall.
But at that moment, the seal on the beads had been slightly worn off by Li Mo’s beastkin blood, and an imperceptible amount of fire-attuned energy began to seep into Yun Ruoyan’s body.
In her sleep, Yun Ruoyan suddenly felt warm all over, as if fiery lights were dancing all around her body. They flew around her, glowing like fireflies.
The next day, Yun Ruoyan woke with the sun. She felt as if she’d been sunbathing, comfortably ensconced in a warm aura.
“Ahh…” Yun Ruoyan got up from her bed and stretched deeply, muttering to herself, “I should sleep earlier more often.”
“Qiu, qiu!” Qiuqiu’s voice rang out from her mind. “Mistress, you’re awake!”
“Qiuqiu, you’re up pretty early today,” Yun Ruoyan murmured. Usually, if she didn’t talk to Qiuqiu, it would have remained asleep for quite a while. Only rarely did it wake up so early in the morning to greet her.
“Mistress, have you noticed any changes to your body?” Qiuqiu asked probingly.
“Any changes?” Yun Ruoyan lowered her head subconsciously to inspect her body, before rubbing her face. “I feel like my body’s particularly warm and comfortable.”
Qiuqiu knew about the qilin beads, of course, but it had been sleeping when Li Mo had handed them to her.
Last night, it was only when it felt Li Mo smearing his blood on the beads that it noticed that Yun Ruoyan had a string of beads on her wrist. When it inspected the beads more closely and found that it was the string of beads that the Beast King had given Li Mo, it was greatly taken by surprise.
Qiuqiu didn’t understand why Li Mo had done so, but it hazarded a guess. “Mistress, try sensing the primal element of fire.”
Yun Ruoyan’s eyes lit up. If Qiuqiu was telling her to do this, did it mean that her efforts these last few days had paid off? She immediately sat cross-legged in bed and began to meditate.
When she next opened her eyes, they were filled with amazement.
“Qiuqiu, I can feel it!” She called out excitedly.
Yun Ruoyan stood in the middle of Lin Zainan’s study. Lin Zainan and the two Lin sisters were both looking at her intently. She’d been standing like that for almost two hours, and Lin Qingxue, ever impatient, couldn’t help turning to look at Lin Qingchen and her grandfather by her side.
“Condensing a spiritual flame isn’t something that can be done in a matter of hours,” Lin Zainan spoke up. His voice was soft; he was talking to Lin Qingchen and Lin Qingxue, not Yun Ruoyan.
“I’d thought that it would be at least three years before Ruoyan could sense the fire in her spiritual energy and begin trying to condense a flame.” He stroked his white beard as he tried to hide the excitement in his heart. “But in a matter of days, she’s already come this far!”
Yun Ruoyan had quickly rushed to the Lins to inform her grandfather of her amazing discovery. Shocked and disbelieving, but greatly pleased, he’d immediately imparted upon her a technique for condensing spirit fire.
Without another word, Yun Ruoyan began to cultivate on the spot.
“Both of you, remember this well.” Lin Zainan turned to his two granddaughters once more. “Cultivation requires not only talent, but also hard work!”
The Lin sisters both nodded.
Meanwhile, Yun Ruoyan had cleared her mind and was focusing all her attention on her spiritual vortex. It was filled mostly with a white mist, but a small, red patch had begun to emerge near the center of the vortex. This was a direct result of her using the technique that Lin Zainan had just imparted upon her.
“Sister Ruoyan moved!” Lin Qingxue called out softly, and the three of them stared at her body even more closely.
As Yun Ruoyan raised her arms and clasped her palms together, strands of red mist began emanating from her fingers.
“Look, look! That’s fire-attuned spiritual energy! Ruoyan’s successfully expelling it from her body!”
Being able to observe others condensing spiritual fire was a rare opportunity, especially if it was their first time doing so.
Lin Qingchen and Lin Qingxue both opened their eyes wide, not wanting to miss Yun Ruoyan’s slightest gesture.
That red mist began to revolve about Yun Ruoyan’s palms, becoming smaller and smaller as it spun more and more quickly.
Lin Zainan knew that Yun Ruoyan had reached a critical juncture in the technique, and he couldn’t help but become anxious for her. He clutched his beard tightly as he looked on, fervently praying for her success.
Although Lin Qingchen and Lin Qingxue couldn’t identify how crucial this stage was, they too began anxious upon seeing the rapidly revolving ball of red spiritual energy in her cupped palms.
“Spiritual fire, spiritual fire!” Lin Qingxue pointed at a spark that had appeared above Yun Ruoyan’s fingers, jumping up in excitement.
Puff! Amidst Lin Qingxue’s excited cries, the spark suddenly vanished.
Yun Ruoyan took a deep breath and opened her eyes, finding herself face to face with three flushed faces. She smiled tiredly. “Grandfather, I still can’t do it!”
But Lin Zainan only laughed as he strode forward, patting Yun Ruoyan’s shoulder. “Ruoyan, you’ve already shocked me enough. Do you know how long it took me to get the same mastery over fire? Four long years!”
Lin Zainan raised four fingers. “And after that, it took me another full year before I was able to condense a true spirit flame, five years in all! As for you, it was only…”
Lin Zainan raised all five fingers before bending two back down. Unbelievably, he muttered, “...only three days?! If those old geezers in the pillmaking world find out about this, their eyeballs would fall out of their sockets!”
“Grandfather, you can’t say a word of this!” Yun Ruoyan hurriedly exclaimed.
“I know, I know.”
Yun Ruoyan didn’t want to reveal her incredible talent and let the Yuns reap the benefits.
“Sister Ruoyan, don’t you worry. None of us will say a word,” Lin Qingxue and Lin Qingchen walked up to her side and promised, looking at her with idolatry.
“Old master, Miss Yun,” Lin Bo’s voice came from the door. “Servants from the Yun family are here to bring Miss Yun back home.”
“What’s the matter?” Lin Zainan frowned. “Ruoyan only got here a few hours ago. What’s so urgent?”
Lin Bo replied from outside, “According to the servants, the crown prince himself is heading to the Yun household, and everyone has to be there to welcome him!”
The crown prince, going to the Yun household…!
Yun Ruoyan couldn’t help but think of the gold-robed youth sitting leisurely on his palanquin the day that she’d ventured into the imperial hunting grounds.Previous Chapter Next Chapter