The Mirage Bead was produced from a sea snake called the sunflower watersnake. When this snake entered adulthood its body could reach a thousand feet in length. It slumbered in the ice cold waters of the deep sea throughout the year, and only when it needed to step into the next level would it regain consciousness and begin to hunt. The sunflower watersnake could release a mist from its mouth that confused the mind and senses. Even a cultivator with a formidable soul wouldn’t be able to luckily escape. They would be lost in the illusion without any awareness or they would be tormented until they exhausted themselves. But in the end, they would eventually become food in the belly of the sunflower watersnake.
The sunflower watersnake’s inner core was what allowed it to confuse others and make them fall into illusion. The name Mirage Bead came from the illusory mirages that occasionally appeared over the sea. Every time the sunflower watersnake advanced to the next level, another hole would appear in its inner core and its strength would rise to new heights. The Mirage Bead refined from a nine hole inner core was called a Mirage King Bead; it was called an illusion that no one beneath an almighty being would be able to break.
Chu Taidou sat down cross-legged. He closed his eyes in meditation and his divine sense broke free from his body, rushing directly into the Mirage Bead. Although Grand Authority Chu didn’t care about things like face or honor, that didn’t mean he liked to be oppressed and abused. Only by winning the second round could he rid himself of his disadvantage and have all those people who mocked him finally understand that he would be the last one laughing.
Qin Yu calmly took a seat. He looked at the serious Chu Taidou and revealed a look of pity. This person wasn’t aware that he had no chance of winning at all. He closed his eyes and his divine sense approached the Mirage Bead. Then, it was pulled in by a strange suction force. What Qin Yu felt next was a warm spring breeze. It was like he was standing beneath a willow tree beside a river in hot summer, feeling the pleasantly comfortable and cool water vapor that rose up.
In this incomparably comfortable feeling, all of a person's exhaustion and weariness would be magnified and released. They would want to close their eyes and have a good night’s sleep.
“A divine sense test?” Qin Yu closed his eyes. When he opened them once more, he could see that in front of him was an area covered in the shadow of willow trees. A clear and gentle river quietly flowed below, leaving crisp sounds.
Behind him, hanging between two willow trees was a hammock. There was a clean flower-patterned cloth spread out on the ground nearby. A young woman was squatting on the ground, placing some finely cooked dishes onto it. Her clothes were a little taut against her body, outlining her slender figure.
As if sensing a pair of eyes looking at her from behind, the young woman lifted a hand and cleared the hair away from her eyes. What was revealed was a beautiful face with eyes as gentle as rolling waves. “Husband, are you hungry? The meal is prepared, so come and eat it.” This young woman was Ning Ling. Right now she was smiling at him, the image like a painting come to life.
Qin Yu was startled for a moment before he smiled and nodded. He walked over, raising his robes and then sitting near the flower cloth. His eyes swept over the dishes and he praised out loud, “These are all dishes I love to eat.”
Ning Ling smiled. “Well you’ve been working hard studying these days, so you should make sure to keep yourself nourished. I personally cooked this today and even prepared a good wine which you will like. You need to drink a few more cups than usual today.” As she spoke she lifted her hand, revealing her pale wrists. She filled a cup of wine for him. The wine was slightly yellow, with a sharp aroma.
Qin Yu’s eyes momentarily flashed with a dazed expression. “This is indeed the wine that I like.” He drank down the cup, carefully savoring it as it passed down his throat and into his stomach, eventually turning into a warm flow of heat that spread through his body.
“Great wine!” He laughed out loud and pulled Ning Ling over, hugging her. Her cheeks blushed red with a charming anger.
A beautiful woman in his arms, great wine in hand, and delicious food in front of him, this was a free and comfortable life.
There was a servant standing far away, diligently stopping people from walking near by telling them that his master was enjoying a feast with his wife and no one was to disturb them. Occasionally, he turned around and looked at the man and woman sitting on the green grass, and a look of joy would rise in his eyes. It was a bitter and difficult journey for his family’s master and wife to come together, but they had done it.
After drinking a bit too much, Qin Yu was slightly drunk. He leaned on the soft body beside him, smelling her scent and feeling her heartbeat. His eyes closed as he was about to drift off.
Suddenly, a series of chaotic sounds rang out. Qin Yu opened his eyes to see the servant racing over in a flustered panic. He seemed to roll around a few times, heading directly to where Qin Yu was. “Master! Master! Someone went to the mansion and set a fire there! The steward tried to stop them but he was beaten to death!”
They quickly packed everything up and boarded the carriage as they hurried back home. Ning Ling’s complexion paled and fear filled her face.
Qin Yu patted her hand. He smiled and said, “Don’t worry, you have me.”
The mansion had really become a sea of flames. The courtyard, the gardens, the buildings, everything was on fire. Bodies were strewn across the ground, about to be burnt to ashes in the inferno. The red flames seemed stained with blood and a burning heat rolled out, carrying with it a revolting stench that made one want to vomit.
“Husband!” Ning Ling trembled. “It’s them, they want to force me back.”
The people who started the fire hadn’t yet left. Their leader was covered in blood. His thin and sallow face had a respectful smile plastered on it. He bowed and said, “Miss, it’s time for you to go home. Please don’t make things hard for this servant.”
Qin Yu blazed with anger. “How insolent! Everyone below the heavens must follow the law of the land; how can anyone tolerate you setting fires and murdering innocents? I have already sent people to notify the government officials. None of you will be able to escape!”
“Notify the government officials? Oh, I’m so scared.” The person wiped the bloodstains from his face, a look of disdain in his eyes. “Miss, why did you choose this trash? Let us leave first today. If you really care about him, you will leave as soon as possible, otherwise you should be well aware of what your family is capable of.”
The group swaggered away. In a distant corner, a number of county guards were huddled up in hiding. They looked up at the skies, a completely lost expression on their faces that indicated they had no idea what to do. Only when the first group of people left did they come out shouting. They impatiently called some people over and questioned them, then after stating that they would go and seize the criminals, they turned and left.
The surrounding crowd began to whisper amongst themselves. They all spoke something similar: the Qin Family had offended a noble one, and now they were done for.
That night, Qin Yu lost his extravagant lifestyle. He lived in his carriage for the moment. Ning Ling cried the entire night and he stayed up late comforting her.
The next day when they woke, the servants began to turn in their resignations. They were all people with families to take care of. If they continued to stay in the Qin Family, not only would they die but they would also implicate their relatives.
Soon, the only ones left outside the ruined mansion were Qin Yu and Ning Ling. As they glanced over the still smoldering embers and ashes, sadness rose up from the depths of their hearts.
“Ning Ling, don’t leave me. You are all I have left.”
Ning Ling cried and nodded.
The group that set the fire and murdered servants came back several times. But Ning Ling kept a firm resolve, even threatening to kill herself. They could only helplessly retreat.
The leaves started to turn yellow and fall down. The early autumn wind was like sharp and cold knives, cutting at the cheeks and leaving a stinging pain.
On this day, when Qin Yu rose up from bed, he could hear the restrained coughing of Ning Ling in the courtyard. As he hurried out he could see her forcefully squeezing out a smile. “Husband, don’t worry, I’m alright.”
But Ning Ling wasn’t alright. After coughing for several days, she suddenly had a high fever in the middle of night. She went in and out of consciousness and would vomit out anything she ate. She couldn’t drink a single sip of water.
Qin Yu was panicked. He picked her up and rushed out of the run down and leaking house. He found a well-known doctor. This person was skilled in medicine and in the past they were very familiar with each other, even calling each other brothers.
But today, this doctor he called brother was angered. He kicked Qin Yu out and coldly told him that without money, he wouldn’t help treat anyone.
Pleading with the heavens, Qin Yu could only carry Ning Ling back home. He placed her on worn out but clean bedding. As he watched her face twist with pain in her unconsciousness it was like daggers piercing his heart.
Those people came again.
“Qin Yu, you are just a piece of trash that cannot cultivate. How can you match up to my family’s young miss? Now the miss is severely ill. Let us bring her back to treat her!” The thin and sallow-faced man sneered. He waved his hands and several maids walked forward to carry Ning Ling away.
Qin Yu was stunned. He took several steps forwards but in the end didn’t have the courage to stop them.
Ning Ling suddenly woke up. She pulled out a hairpin from her head and placed it against her own throat. “Husband, they are bringing me away to betroth me to another. If you don’t want me, then I would rather die!”
Qin Yu rushed over and grabbed her, sobbing.
The thin and sallow-faced man stamped his feet with anger but didn’t dare to force the issue. He led everyone else away.
The autumn frost deepened. The room gradually turned colder and colder until it was no different from the outside. When one breathed out, their breath condensed into white frost. In this harsh environment and without any materials or money for medicinal treatment, Ning Ling’s condition gradually worsened. She rapidly thinned and was unconscious for most of the time. After she used her copper hairpin to create a scar on her face, people from the Ning Family no longer came. It was as if they had acquiesced for her to live out the rest of her days as she pleased.
The first snow came. Qin Yu held onto the thin Ning Ling. He felt it as the last traces of her body heat drifted away and she fell silent.
They had survived autumn but had in the end failed to welcome the spring light. When the first snowfall of winter came, Ning Ling closed her eyes and smiled. Qin Yu could see the unwillingness and longing on her face, as well as release.
There was no greater sorrow than a heart that could never rejoice. Perhaps this phrase could describe Qin Yu at the moment. He hated himself for being a scholar without any strength at all. He hated that he couldn’t protect the woman he loved. If time could turn back, he would not let any of this occur. However, it was too late! It was already too late!
His vision flashed dark. Sorrow, rage, unwillingness, all sorts of emotions violently flooded him, causing his consciousness to fall into darkness. After an unknown period of time, he heard a gentle shout from far away. Qin Yu struggled to open his eyes and finally managed to do so.
After a short period of confusion, what entered his face was an extremely beautiful and familiar face. Ning Ling sobbed with joy as she grabbed onto his hand. “Husband, you’re awake again!”
Moments later, he heard about what happened from Ning Ling herself. During that spring day when they were outside, he drank too much and fell asleep. As a result he had been infected with a spring cold. His fever had been high and wouldn’t recede, and he had fallen unconscious for half a month.
Qin Yu closed his eyes, a little glad that everything he experienced had been a dream. Fortunately, it had all been a dream. Ning Ling was still alive, right in front of him.
But at this time, his body froze. His hand had stroked his arm and he could feel a scar left behind from a scalding burn. This was a mark left behind when Ning Ling had been severely ill. One time, he had been brewing medicine. Because of his tiredness he had accidentally bumped into the stove and this scar was left behind.
Feeling the scar, Qin Yu’s heart chilled. Was that not a nightmare? It was real…it was all real…
Then, was what he saw in front of him a chance that came from the heavens? Had they heard his pleas and given him another opportunity?
Yes, this must be it!
Laying back against the warm quilt, Qin Yu revealed a decisive look. He promised that he would protect everything he had so that no one could harm those he loved. He could not allow anything to happen to this woman who would rather stay by his side even if it meant dying from illness.
At this time, a maid came in to report that Doctor Li had arrived.
Ning Ling’s eyes brightened. “It’s Mister Li. He has come every day to examine your condition. For you to wake up so soon, that’s in great part thanks to Mister Li.”
Qin Yu was silent for a moment. Then he smiled. “Is that so? Then please ask Mister Li to come in.”
Soon, Doctor Li walked into the room, a happy smile on his face as he carried in a medicine kit. He expressed his congratulations and then humbly refused Ning Ling’s thanks. Then, he proposed to help Qin Yu diagnose his condition. After a moment he lifted his hand and said, “Big brother Qin is doing well. He has crossed the dangerous stage right now. As long as he takes care of his body he will be able to recover.”
Qin Yu smiled. “Then I will have to exhaust brother Li. Once I recover, I must invite you to a drink to express my thanks.”
Half a month later, the Qin Family held a banquet and Doctor Li arrived with a black fleeceflower root as a gift. He was warmly and personally welcomed by Qin Yu and invited to take a seat. In the Qin Family Mansion, the food and drink were all of a high quality. Moreover, today was a thank you banquet and there were a variety of delicacies and never-ending supplies of wine. Doctor Li soon drank too much.
Qin Yu instructed a maid to bring Doctor Li away to rest. He wouldn’t return to his home tonight, but would stay at their mansion instead.
In the deep dark of night, a shrill scream rang out. The maid who was responsible for taking care of Doctor Li ran out into the courtyard, sobbing her eyes out.
The authorities questioned all parties. They finally came to the conclusion that Doctor Li had drunk too much wine and lost his rationality, and then tried to rape the Qin Family’s maid. He was sentenced to have his face tattooed and be exiled 3000 miles away.
As the prison cart crossed through the city, Qin Yu sat in a roadside restaurant and watched from a window.
The spiritless and emaciated Doctor Li suddenly seemed to sense something. He looked up to the side. When the gazes of the two met, one person had eyes full of pain and disbelief and the other had eyes filled with cold indifference.
Doctor Li roared out in rage, but he could only cry out strange halting syllables. He couldn’t vocalize a complete word at all. This was because while he was in prison, his tongue had been cut out because he had refused to admit guilt.
Ning Ling couldn’t bear to watch any longer and her eyes revealed hesitation. Qin Yu turned and hugged her against his chest. He said in a soft voice, “I have my reasons for doing this. This person is not worthy of sympathy.”
Holding her warm body, Qin Yu suddenly thought back to that ruined house and her ill and thin appearance. The trace of doubt in his eyes finally disappeared.
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