It was sunset. Ling Yushi, garbed in a long, emerald skirt, was facing the cave mouth, her silhouette slender and exquisite. But her eyes appeared unfocused, and there was no radiance to be seen from her face either.
Qin Lie stopped in his tracks and stared indifferently at her beautiful silhouette. After a moment, he purposefully added weight to his footsteps.
Abruptly, Ling Yushi awoke from her dream-like trance and turned her head around, startled. The dimness in her eyes was instantly replaced by a bright glow.
“What took you so long? It has almost been four days; how did you hold out this long without food or water?” she cried out in a low voice as she rushed towards Qin Lie with a terribly worried look. “Quick, drink some water first. I’ve also brought some cooked meat; it should be enough to sate the hunger a bit.”
Ling Yushi hurriedly handed over the waterskin she brought along with her.
At this point, Qin Lie was so hungry and thirsty that he could die, so he immediately accepted the water skin and guzzled down its contents for a short burst of time. Once he caught his breath, he then grabbed the cooked beef and began wolfing it down like a beast.
After a long while, Qin Lie finally satiated himself completely, and as he relaxed, he turned around and saw Ling Yushi still knitting her eyebrows in a worried frown.
“Really, if you’re going to wall yourself in a cave for four days straight, you could’ve at least given me a warning so I could prepare enough food and water. You really scared me, you know? I thought you were going to starve to death…” Ling Yushi muttered under her breath as she gently wiped the crumbs of meat off his shirt. “Let’s go home soon and get you a bath, okay? You’re stinking quite a bit; god knows what you were doing inside.”
Qin Lie’s expression remained completely vacant. He allowed her to tidy up his clothing and wipe the dust off his face, and he felt a warm feeling flowing through his heart. After they left the cave, Qin Lie realized that it was already late evening and that there weren’t any Ling family members to be seen around the cave entrance. It was a sign that that they were slowly giving up on the search.
“First Miss! We’re over here!”
At the bottom of the hill, Ling Ying was waving her hands widely at Ling Yushi from beside a rock. Ling Feng stood beside her – the duo had been recently paired together to prevent any assassination attempts by the Du Family on Qing Lie’s life.
The evening sky, aglow with crimson hues and burning fire-like lights, was so brilliant that even the mountains became painted in red.
The quartet trekked down the mountain path underneath the red glow.
Qin Lie looked as vacant as ever. Ling Ying was both cheerful and energetic, and she would sneak peeks at Qin Lie from time to time while chatting to Ling Yushi with a bright smile. Ling Feng simply smiled with a calm look on his face, listening but never interrupting the conversation with an opinion.
“First Miss, have you taken the Hundred Vein Pill and Sea Opening Pill? Are the effects as miraculous as they say?” Ling Ying suddenly inquired with great interest. She sneaked a glance at the youth beside her, as if wondering how Qin Lie even came across such valuable cultivation spirit pills.
Even Ling Feng’s curiosity was piqued as he turned to look seriously at Ling Yushi, paying great attention to her every word.
As if it were the most natural thing in the world, Ling Yushi looked towards Qin Lie while betraying a hint of gratitude from her eyes. She then answered casually, “I’ve been making some preparations to take the Hundred Vein Pill as of late. As for the Sea Opening Pill… it’s still a little too early to take it at the moment, so I plan to leave it until the ninth level of Refinement. My cultivation talent isn’t as good as you guys’, so without the pills, it might be a little difficult for me to break into the Natal Opening Realm.” She smiled lightly in self-derision.
“First Miss, you are too modest.” Ling Feng straightened himself and said seriously, “In my opinion First Miss’ cultivation talent is actually not weaker than Second Miss’. It’s just that First Miss was burdened with the family’s matters at an earlier time, thus you couldn’t focus all your energy into cultivating itself. Moreover, it may be possible that the Patriarch favored Second Miss more in terms of cultivation resources, which is why First Miss and Second Miss are of the same realm.”
“You don’t need to console me; I know that my talent isn’t as good as hers.” Ling Yushi smiled and continued, “I can see that both your talents are pretty exceptional within the Ling Family. If the two of you can keep up the hard work, it may not be an impossible task to enter Nebula Pavilion in the future.”
The moment Nebula Pavilion was mentioned, both Ling Ying and Ling Feng betrayed an obvious look of yearning from their eyes.
In their hearts, Nebula Pavilion was the holy cultivation site of their dreams, and it would not be an exaggeration to say that being able to practice cultivation in Nebula Pavilion was their ultimate dream.
Ling Yushi and the rest continued to chat on the way.
The quartet arrived back at Ling Town just when the day was about to turn dark. The moment they passed through the town entrance, they received word that Ling Chengzhi and Ling Xuanxuan had returned from their travels.
“The moment the Third Master returned, he immediately went off with the Patriarch to the east end of the town, where Ling Lie’s house is. Ling Lie is already over seventy years old, and he has been bedridden for years. I do not know what business the Patriarch has at his house.”
Ling Yushi, Ling Feng, and Ling Ying were all confused by the situation, but only Qin Lie felt a small bit of surprise as he recalled the reason why Ling Chengzhi and Ling Xuanxuan went to the Nebula Pavilion and connected the dots. He couldn’t help but remember Tu Ze’s little party and thought: They couldn’t have run into Du Zhe and the others, could they?
“I’ll go over and have a look. Ling Feng, Ling Ying, please send Qin Lie back to his house first.” With doubts at the back of her mind, she left a parting instruction and hurriedly left for the town’s east entrance.
When she arrived at Ling Lie’s home, she saw Ling Chengye, Ling Chengzhi, and Ling Xuanxuan just walking out of the house. Ling Chengye and his brother appeared to be very disappointed as they shook their heads repeatedly.
The moment Ling Xuanxuan saw her coming towards them, her expression suddenly became wrought with agitation. In fact, she looked like she was about to cry.
“Daddy, what are you…?” Ling Yushi questioned in a sweet tone.
“We’ll talk when we get back home.” Ling Chengye waved his hands slightly.
A long while later, when the whole family was gathered in the living room, Ling Xuanxuan cried out with a pair of eyes that had long since been brimming with tears, “Big sis! Who told you to take my place and become engaged with that fool?”
“It was my own wish.” Ling Yushi smiled lightly.
“And who in their right mind would willingly be engaged with him?!” Ling Xuanxuan had been holding herself back all this time, but she finally couldn’t take it any longer and exploded in tears. “He’s only a fool! Why would you wrong yourself so? Did daddy force you to do this?”
“Be quiet!” Ling Chengye yelled angrily. “You’ve been to Nebula Pavilion and seen with your own eyes how they treat us! Do you think we, the Ling Family mean anything in their eyes? At least your sister knows how to make sacrifices for the family, but what do you know about responsibility? It’ll be enough if you would stop making more trouble for the family!”
Ling Xuanxuan had seldom seen him this mad before, so she was cowered immediately. As she recalled their encounters at Nebula Pavilion, she too bowed her head and wept silently.
“Either Nebula Pavilion was wrong, or this… ‘Ling Lie’ is someone else entirely!” Ling Chengzhi suddenly said.
“What’s going on?” Ling Yushi asked him.
“Oh, your third uncle ran into something strange when they were at Nebula Pavilion…” The Ling Family Patriarch explained the whole thing from beginning to end before continuing, “Han Qingrui, or Elder Han of Nebula Pavilion, informed us that not only has our family been absolved of any tribute of spirit plants for the next two years, he even said that Ling Lie had done them a great service and was thus registered straight into Nebula Pavilion’s core member list, in addition to being rewarded one thousand and two hundred contribution points! If it wasn’t for this ‘Ling Lie’ person, your third uncle and your sister probably wouldn’t even be able to get through the front door! Perhaps they may have been humiliated even further…”
Ling Yushi’s pretty face turned into an expression full of shock as she cried out, “Ah! Not only was he ranked among the core members instantly, he even obtained this many Nebula Pavilion contribution points? Since when did our family produce such an amazing person?”
“Ling Town only has one Ling Lie, and we just visited him. He’s been bedridden for almost two years, and frankly, it’s a miracle he’s still alive. He told us that he hadn’t left the town for ten years, so there’s no way it could be him. But then again, there’s no one else in the Ling Family who is called ‘Ling Lie,’ not even one with the character ‘Lie’ in their name…” muttered the Ling Family Patriarch as he frowned deeply and shook his head.
“Big brother, do you think it’s possible that… Qin Lie is that person? His name does have a ‘Lie’ character in it, doesn’t it?” Ling Chengzhi said suddenly.
“That fool is an odd one alright, but that ‘oddness’ has nothing to do with anything amazing at all! How can it possibly be him?” Ling Xuanxuan broke away from her crying and sneered with a face full of tears and disdain. “If someone like him can become a core member in Nebula Pavilion and obtain this many contribution points, then anyone in the Ling Family can join Nebula Pavilion whenever they feel like it! If he really were this capable, I would’ve agreed to the engagement long ago!”
Ever since she heard that Ling Yushi had gotten engaged with Qin Lie, she could no longer even listen to his name without feeling intense loathing and revulsion.
“Ling Lie, Qin Lie…”
The patriarch looked thoughtful for a moment before he waved lightly for Ling Xuanxuan to leave and argue somewhere else. After she left, only then did he lower his voice and say, “It might actually be possible. If you remember the engagement ceremony, his betrothal gifts smacked the Du household real good in the face. The more I think about it, the more I feel that Qin Lie isn’t as simple as he seems. If we really have to make a guess, then he probably is the most suspicious.”
“I also do not think that Qin Lie is an average person.” Ling Chengzhi agreed and nodded. “There are only so many things a fool can do and so many coincidences. It’s possible that he maybe hiding something; maybe his head really does go awry sometimes. If you tell me that he was foolish this entire time, however… I’m not sure I believe that anymore.”
Ever since Qin Lie had awakened, there had been more and more abnormalities as of late, and Qin Lie’s cover was also slipping little by little. The Ling brothers weren’t stupid after all, and they were slowly but surely noticing a pattern and how there must be a mystery surrounding Qin Lie.
As Ling Yushi listened to the two of them converse, her beautiful eyes gleamed, the hint of a tiny smile escaping her lips. Suddenly she was feeling much better.
“Little Shi, keep an eye on him. If you find anything, tell us immediately!” Ling Chengzhi ordered.
“Ah!” The yell jolted Ling Yushi right out of her pretty dreams, and she quickly nodded her head and responded softly, “Yes, yes…”
“This girl. What were you thinking?” Ling Chengzhi frowned.
“Nothing, nothing. If there’s nothing else, then I’ll be on my way.” Ling Yushi stuck her tongue out cutely before leaving the room with excited eyes. After she grabbed some food from the dining hall, she hurriedly made her way to Qin Lie’s stone house.
Inside the stone house, Qin Lie had his eyes closed on the bed and was attempting to enter the state of Thoughtless Tranquility.
Perhaps because he had ascended to a higher level or because his mind consciousness was much greater than before, it was now significantly faster for him to enter the state of Thoughtless Tranquility. Even breaking free of it wasn’t that hard of a task anymore.
The ability to enter or exit the wondrous cultivation state of Thoughtless Tranquility could dramatically increase the efficiency at which he practiced cultivation, and it gave near insurmountable benefits as he continued to break through the path of martial arts. That was why he valued this ability greatly.
Moreover, he also had a faint feeling that repeatedly entering and exiting the state of Thoughtless Tranquility could refine his soul and consciousness.
This discovery inspired him greatly!
After all, his mind consciousness was the key strength to unlocking the Soul Suppressing Orb’s seal. Whether or not he could recover his memories from ten years ago lied entirely on the strength of his mind consciousness, and thus he wasn’t bored. He was even gladdened as he attempted to get in and out of Thoughtless Tranquility again and again.
He successfully broke out of Thoughtless Tranquility again, just before Ling Yushi arrived. Listening to her springy footsteps, Qin Lie felt surprised and wondered what made Ling Yushi so happy.
The moment Ling Yushi entered, she immediately became fixated on his figure, an odd sparkle in those beautiful eyes of hers.
Qin Lie’s heart immediately tightened at her reaction.
“Since we’re already engaged, we no longer need to avoid certain things now, do we? Hmm, let me help you wash your back today.”
Ling Yushi stared deeply at him with bright eyes and a little cunning smile, like a little fox devising something in the dark.
Qin Lie instantly froze.