With a wooden expression, Qin Lie walked along the stone road towards the town’s entrance.
He still seemed as ashen and bereaved as half a month ago, his eyes devoid of any expression and his clothes speckled with traces of mud. He was clearly exhausted and distressed.
Behind him, while wearing colorful clothes which accentuated her well-rounded figure and walking at a steady pace, was Ling Ying. Her bright eyes showed a great amount of doubt.
After Qin Lie left Herb Mountain half a month ago, the Ling Family Patriarch desperately wanted to meet him. Believing that Qin Lie was still in the mountain tunnels, he had arranged for people to wait for Qin Lie at the entrance to Herb Mountain’s mine all day and night.
During the night, Ling Feng watched, and during the day, Ling Ying watched. The two took shifts watching, waiting for him to appear so they could immediately report it to the Patriarch.
Because of this, Du Heng, who was extremely curious towards what was inside of Herb Mountain, was constantly unable to find an opportunity to thoroughly explore it.
As for Ling Feng and Ling Ying, when they were ordered by Ling Chengye to wait outside the entrance of Herb Mountain’s mine, they were also strictly prohibited from entering inside. Thus, even now, they didn’t know what secrets were being protected.
This evening, Ling Ying had been watching the mine entrance as usual, almost bored to the point of falling asleep, when suddenly, she saw Qin Lie come out from the direction of the Arctic Mountain Range.
At the time, Ling Ying had almost been shocked to the point of shrieking.
She followed Qin Lie along the road, her suspicious eyes glued the swaying body of Qin Lie, but she still wasn’t able to figure anything out. This caused her to become even more doubtful within the depths of her heart.
“This fool was actually not in the mine, but the Arctic Mountain Range for half a month. What for? Moreover, he went in by himself, just how did he survive?”
The more Ling Ying thought about it, the more she couldn’t understand it. Surprise spread across her charming face. For the first time, she felt some curiosity towards Qin Lie.
Qin Lie was naturally conscious of Ling Ying’s eyes gazing at him from behind, but he felt no anxiousness in his heart. Long before he was about to about to reach Herb Mountain, he had already appropriately hidden the two bags. He was afraid that if he carried too much on him, it would only cause him unnecessary trouble. Now that his body was free of the bags, he was no longer afraid of the Ling Family questioning him about the materials he was carrying.
Towards the people of the Ling Family, it could be said that he didn’t have any affection, but at the same time, he didn’t have any hatred towards them either. From his point of view, the relationship between the Ling Family and him and his grandpa stopped at just being business partners.
His grandpa had repaired spirit artifacts for the Ling Family, and in return, they were given the rights to use the insides of Herb Mountain, which they used to help him cultivate the “Heavenly Thunder Eradication” —— It was nothing more than that.
Acting like he usually did, he entered the town, ignoring the glares and criticism of those around him as he walked directly to his stone house.
One after another, people remarked, “The fool has returned.” However, it was all filtered out by Qin Lie who had long since become accustomed to it, and thus it didn’t affect him.
Before long, he had returned to his three room stone house. The stone house had clearly been cleaned, as everything was extremely clean, but Qin Lie paid it no notice. Closing the door, he began to rest.
His return to town caused many people who were attentive towards him, such as Ling Chengye, his brother, and the Du Family, to feel inexplicably confused…
There were also people who were indifferent, such as Ling Xuanxuan. She was still yelling within the martial arts arena and didn’t even bat an eye towards Qin Lie…
“Patriarch.” Ling Ying stopped following Qin Lie, her clothes fluttering as she quickly arrived beside Ling Chengye. Her enchanting, small face full of uncertainty as she tenderly whispered, “He, he didn’t come out from the mine, but… but from the direction of the Arctic Mountain Range! He wasn’t in the mines at all for a full half a month’s time!”
As soon as she finished speaking, the other three Ling Family members all showed expressions of shock. They were endlessly curious about Qin Lie’s whereabouts this past half a month.
“Understood, don’t say a word of this to others.”
The Ling Family Patriarch pondered for a moment, then ordered Ling Ying to not speak of it and motioned for her to leave. Afterwards, he gave Ling Chengzhi a meaningful glance, and the two brothers, along with Ling Yushi, all rose, walking towards Qin Lie’s stone house.
The three very quickly arrived in front of the door to Qin Lie’s stone house. Ling Chengye knocked on the door. “Qin Lie, it’s Uncle Ling, please open your door for a moment.”
Within the house, Qin Lie opened his eyes, slightly frowning. Afterwards, he quickly adjusted his expression, resuming his usual blank expression before opening the door and letting the three people in.
Over these five years, there had occasionally been times where Ling Chengye had come over, but that had been when Qin Shan was still here, and it had always been to find Qin Shan to repair spirit artifacts.
After his grandfather had left, Ling Chengye hadn’t come once these last two years. This visit caused Qin Lie’s suspicion to quickly rise. He didn’t know what these three’s intentions were.
After the three Ling Family members entered, they saw Qin Lie sitting on a stone chair, staring blankly ahead at a cup atop the stone table. It was as if the cup was more interesting than the three of them…
Ling Chengye attentively glared at Qin Lie. After observing for a while, he suddenly said, “Qin Lie, I don’t know if you can hear me or not, nor do I know if you are truly always like that, but I just want to say… towards my Ling Family, the spirit plants and spirit herbs atop Herb Mountain are extremely important, and these last two years, the spirit plants have started withering off in large amounts. This has already begun affecting the foundations of the Ling Family.”
Crouching down, Ling Chengye deeply gazed into Qin Lie’s eyes, but was unable to find any abnormalities. Feeling helpless, he could only continue on, saying, “If, if you can hear this, if you have any methods, I hope the withering of the spirit plants atop Herb Mountain can stop. The Ling Family… we cannot afford such a heavy loss and we plead you to be careful about this matter.”
Qin Lie remained silent, continuing to look at the cup.
“There is one more thing.” Ling Chengye hesitated for a moment before he, increasingly helplessly, said, “I promised your grandfather that I would look after you until you were seventeen, and one of the methods is to engage you to one of my daughters. Based on what your grandfather and I agreed on, the engagement ceremony should be held soon. I am only notifying you beforehand, it… is between you and Yushi. I will arrange it as soon as possible, the ceremony will be held during this period of time.”
Qin Lie remained like a block of wood with no change in his expression. Ling Yushi’s face actually flushed, her expression embarrassed.
“However, I am telling you now, this engagement is only to protect you, and will only last two years time. After two years, no matter how, I will dissolve the engagement. I hope you will mentally prepare yourself.” Ling Chengye thought for a moment, then continued to add on, saying, “Your grandfather treated my Ling Family with grace. These few years, we have worked together happily, and we hope it will continue to be that way in the future. Yes, no matter what your true situation is, I will not delve into your affairs. For everyone to get along happily is enough.”
Finishing his speech, Ling Chengye stood up, motioning for his younger brother and his daughter to leave with him.
“Daddy, I would like to speak some words with him by myself. Please leave first,” gently said Ling Yushi, bowing her head.
Feeling guilty towards her, Ling Chengye sighed within the depths of his heart before simply nodding and walking away with his brother out of the stone house.
Within the room, everything settled down. Gradually, the atmosphere within the room became a little awkward as Qin Lie still remained expressionless and unresponsive. It was as if he didn’t know there was a beautiful young girl within the room beside him.
Ling Yushi bit her lower lip as her cheeks flushed red, then suddenly rose and said, “You must have not washed in a long time, I’ll help you fetch water.”
Finished speaking, she elegantly rose, rolling up the sleeves along her slender arms and exposing her snow white wrists. Looking somewhat embarrassed, she went into the washroom to fetch water.
Only once the wooden barrel was filled with water and the towels and other items were put away did she come back out again.
Through these consecutive actions, she managed to adjust herself and slowly calmed down.
A trace of self-pity and helplessness appeared upon her delicate and beautiful face. Resigned, she said, “My Ling Family owes Grandpa Qin Shan a favor. Through these two years, I will repay what is owed. Once we are truly engaged, I will often come and take care of you. Ah, I can only do some cleaning and stuff like helping you fetch water, I hope you can understand.”
While she spoke, Ling Yushi grabbed a rag that had been dipped in water, and, not caring about Qin Lie’s reaction, began to skillfully clean the room.
Although Qin Lie’s eyes were blank, his mind was cognizant. Through observing Ling Yushi’s familiarity with the house, he very quickly realized that the person who had been cleaning his house for the last half a month was none other than this delicate and beautiful lady.
“Ah, you are also very pitiful. After Grandpa Qin Shan died, you were left by yourself, and your mind isn’t very good…
“Originally, my father was prepared to let you be engaged with my younger sister who is about the same age as you, but she is the only hope of the Ling Family and father was afraid that engaging her to you would affect her cultivation. Moreover, her future marriage is a big thing. Thus… it could only be that I replaced her.
“Ha, although I am the elder sister, I truly do not have as high of a talent for cultivating. I am already seventeen, and I’m afraid that there is no way for me to break through to the Natal Opening Realm before I am twenty. Nebula Pavilion is extremely picky when selecting core disciples, if you cannot break through to the Natal Opening Realm before twenty, you will never earn their approval during your life.
“My father and third uncle have wanted to enter the Nebula Pavilion for forever, but it just isn’t their fate. Their lifelong dreams which cannot be fulfilled have been placed upon my younger sister.
“Ah, because of the withering of the medicinal herbs, we have once again caught the attention of the Du Family. Because of what they have recently stirred up, we have been annoyed to death. That woman, she’s just bent on taking Herb Mountain for herself. This time, she’s bearing down menacingly, and I don’t know if we can stop her.”
Perhaps it was because she was very soon going to be engaged with Qin Lie, or perhaps it was because she thought Qin Lie wouldn’t understand what she was saying, but she didn’t have too many walls around her heart. Thus, while she worked, she constantly spoke her mind and muttered incessantly to herself. This let Qin Lie gain a deeper understanding of the Ling Family’s situation.
It also caused him to further understand Ling Yushi and his perception of her to undergo a certain degree of change…
After she finished, Ling Yushi didn’t prolong her stay. As soon as she told Qin Lie that the water was ready and for him to remember to bathe early on, she quietly left the stone house.
Qin Lie listened for a while, and only after he was certain she had left did he walk into the washroom.
Seeing the large amount of water soaking into the ground by the water barrel and the pile of not so neatly folded towels, he shook his head, unable to stifle his laughter.
It was obvious to him that Ling Yushi must not have done these tasks very often, and coupled with the effects of her being flustered, it must have become this way.
Rubbing his nose, Qin Lie indifferently took off his clothes and entered the water barrel. Afterwards, his body was suddenly jolted, causing him to almost shriek.
It was actually cold water!
The second morning, Qin Lie, eyes blank with a runny nose, entered the Ling Dining Hall.
Ling Yushi, with a guilty conscience, upon seeing Qin Lie walk in with his runny nose, quickly held in her desire to laugh and lowered her head, not daring to look him in the eye.
Because of the matter with the spirit plants, the Ling brothers and Du Jiaolan were beginning to go tit for tat. A dense, depressing tension filled the air, causing Qin Lie to feel as if a war might start between the two atop the table at any time.
After eating, he walked towards Herb Mountain’s mines to continue his cultivation. Because he wasn’t in the state of Thoughtless Tranquility, he had to carefully control the heavenly thunder’s power. Otherwise, the spillover of electric current would kill more of the spirit plants and spirit herbs.
Ling Chengye’s remark had ended up playing its role. Qin Lie didn’t wish to destroy the Ling Family’s roots, lest he attract endless trouble.
Now that Qin Lie had fully recovered, Ling Feng and Ling Ying no longer guarded the mine entrance. Thus, one night, Du Heng finally found his opportunity to enter the mine.
After a bit of dizzying exploration, Du Heng’s psyche suddenly became startled. Like Ling Chengzhi, he was completely astonished by the mine’s changes.
Just as Du Heng was within the mine, preparing his report on its situation to his mother, Ling Chengye was also making arrangements. He ordered Ling Xuanxuan and Ling Chengzhi to go on a temporary leave, making them take a trip to Icestone City.
This was because it was clear to him that once Ling Xuanxuan learned of her sister replacing her as Qin Lie’s fiancée, she would definitely explode in anger, cause problems, and try to obstruct Qin Lie’s engagement to Ling Yushi.
However, sending away Ling Xuanxuan was only one of the reasons why Ling Chengye wanted them to go to Icestone City. More importantly, he wanted them to say hello to Nebula Pavilion.
Ling Xuanxuan was an extraordinary talent, and Nebula Pavilion had already noticed her. Ling Chengye hoped that Nebula Pavilion would give her a little face and extend the grace period for the Ling Family to send herbs and plants.
The last few days, Ling Yushi did as she promised, often visiting Qin Lie’s stone house.
During the day, taking advantage of the time when Qin Lie wasn’t there, she would take the clothes he took off and wash them. In the evening, when Qin Lie returned home, she would bring the dry clothes over, fetch water for his bath, and help him clean the house.
The kind of embarrassing errors like fetching cold water for the bath never occurred again. Of course, she never changed her habits, speaking what was on her mind every day to herself.
Qin Lie, after the initial awkwardness, also gradually adapted, slowly becoming accustomed to having someone care for him.
As soon as Ling Yushi fetched the water, he no longer waited till she left, directly heading to the washroom to bathe.
Every time he sat naked in the barrel bathing, he would eavesdrop on Ling Yushi complaining softly outside of the door that separated them. Sometimes, he would slightly raise his eyebrows, while other times, the corners of his mouth would reveal a strange smile.
“I’m leaving first, wash slowly.” Ling Yushi’s gentle voice emanated over. Just when Qin Lie thought she was about to leave, Ling Yushi, who was in front of the door, suddenly began to breathe disorderly. In a voice as low as a mosquito’s buzz, she whispered, “Tomorrow, tomorrow will be the day that my father arranged…”
Only after she left for a very long time did Qin Lie finally react. He sat in the barrel blankly looking at the house’s beams. He remained like that for a long while before he finally regained his senses.