At night, the lightless stone house was shrouded in darkness. Qin Lie curled up into a ball and held his knees at a corner, staring blankly towards the front.
The tables and chairs were wiped clean with not a speck of dust on them. It was as if he could hear mumblings coming from the washroom; see a lively and beautiful shadow bustling about in the room…
Those days where they spent their time together replayed again and again in his head, becoming clearer with each repetition.
And yet, she had to go…
Qin Lie clutched his chest. He felt that there were so many things he did not say in time, and didn’t even know where to start. His heart ached.
Abruptly the door slammed open, and one figure after another charged inside his house. Everyone of them was holding a jug of liquor in their hands.
—It was Ling Feng, Ling Xing, Ling Xiao and Ling Ying.
“Let’s drink, Qin Lie!” Ling Xing threw down the two liquor jugs, tore open their sealing oilcloths, poured an entire bowl of liquor and passed it over to Qin Lie, yelling, “Come on, drink!”
“Cheers!” Ling Feng and Ling Xiao shouted together.
Even Ling Ying had joined into the fray and urged Qin Lie to drink. Everyone of them had heavy expressions, but they did not say a word of consolation. Instead, they expressed themselves through their own actions.
Qin Lie felt his heart warm a little, and accepted the bowl, cocked his head and glugged it all down.
The fiery liquor entered his stomach, and he felt as if his chest had burned up in flames. The pain in his heart actually seemed to subside quite a bit, and he immediately forgot himself and snatched the bowls from Ling Feng, Ling Xiao and Ling Ying. Ignoring their amazement, he began pouring alcohol down his throat as if he would drown himself with it.
Ling Feng and the others felt their eyes redden. They did not say anything and simply served him even more wine.
“Let’s drink. You guys should drink as well. Let’s get drunk together!” Qin Lie growled.
“Alright! Let’s drink everyone, and don’t stop until you’re all completely drunk!” Ling Xing roared.
Hence the group threw themselves into a drinking frenzy while screaming inside the stone house, making tons of racket.
It was already midnight, and yet every Ling clansmen could still hear screams and cries coming from the house, but they all understood. They simply shook their heads after they heard the roars and thought to themselves: Let’s leave them be.
It was a drunken night.
The next day, when Qin Lie opened his eyes once more, he found the sun high up in the sky. It was already noon.
Inside the stone house, Ling Feng, Ling Xing and the others were all lying upside down and scattered on top of the table, below the table, under the bed, or at a corner of a wall. Even Ling Ying was disheveled and lying soundly on top of his stone bed with saliva at the corners of her mouth, soundly asleep.
These were the friends that he had gone through fire and water together back at Celestial Wolf Mountain, and when he was at the lowest point of his life, they had joined him on a sleepless, wild night in hopes that it would reduce the pain in his heart.
Qin Lie felt grateful on the inside. He did not wake them, and instead took out the remaining spirit pills on his body and carefully slipped them into Ling Feng, Ling Xing, and Ling Xiao’s clothes.
Back when he had entered the Arctic Mountain Range for the first time with Tu Ze and his group, he received those pills after looting them from the dead bodies of Shattered Ice Manor’s practitioners. He had gifted part of it to Ling Yushi as her betrothal gift, and now gave the rest out…
Qin Lie stared at them deeply, silently said “take care” in his heart, and walked out of the stone house and into the town.
Soon, he heard from a Ling Family clansman that Ling Chengye had already announced the dissolution of his engagement to Ling Yushi last night, and that before the sun had even risen Ling Yushi and Ling Xuanxuan had left Ling Town together with the carriage from Seven Fiends Valley.
“Seven Fiends Valley… I will be there one day.”
Qin Lie whispered once, and went straight towards Herb Mountain beneath the scorching sun.
Inside Herb Mountain’s cavern.
He tidied up the loosely scattered items; putting the wooden sculpture, Nebula Token, fire crystals and other scattered materials carefully into his cloth bag.
Holding the bag, he gave a complicated look at that one jutted rock behind the stone pillar, and after a while he finally said, “It’s about time to leave…”
He then pressed the jutted rock down and left the cavern without looking back. Shortly after, he arrived at the foot of Herb Mountain.
A long time ago, his grandfather said that the jutted rock was the central button of the strange formations inside Herb Mountain. It could wipe out every trace on the inside and destroy everything.
The foundation of his Heavenly Thunder Eradication had been solidified a long time ago, so even without borrowing its interior environment he would be able to continue cultivating from here on.
In truth he could have left Herb Mountain and cultivated at Nebula Pavilion half a year ago. But he had chosen to stay at Herb Mountain, to stay in Ling Town.
Now, the one person who kept him here had left first, so he no longer had a reason to stay here.
“Boom boom boom!”
Suddenly, a shocking explosive sound came from inside Herb Mountain, and it was as if the entire mountain itself was shaking violently.
For a moment Qin Lie quietly watched from the foot of the mountain and listened to the explosions, and after one final look towards Ling Town, he strode towards Icestone City.
An hour later.
The Ling brothers, Elder Ling Kangan and the rest made their way frantically to the foot of the mountain. A few people tried entering the cave from different directions, but they found that every cave or path had been completely blocked by rubble.
Even Herb Mountain itself seemed to have dwarfed a whole level, as if it had sunk deeply inside.
“Until this day I still do not know what is hidden inside Herb Mountain, and it looks like we’ll never find out in the future.” Ling Chengye sighed softly.
“He should be on his way to Nebula Pavilion.” Ling Chengzhi said.
Ling Chengye’s brows were locked together, “We are the ones who have let Qin Lie down, and I am the one who did not keep my promise and broke their engagement a year ahead. Sigh, I wonder why I keep feeling that I’ve made a mistake…”
Elder Ling Kangan looked towards the distance and said, “Chengye, you have done nothing wrong, do not blame yourself too much. As long as Xuanxuan and Yushi stays at Seven Fiends Valley, then the Ling Family will surely become powerful one day! Moreover, they are Granny Jiu’s direct disciple, and in the future they will be in a wider, better world. Yushi… will surely find a better man for herself too. We should be happy for them.”
“I hope so.” Ling Chengye sighed.
In the evening.
Just as Ling Feng, Ling Xing, Ling Xiao and Ling Ying slowly woke up from their sleep, they then received news that Herb Mountain’s caverns had been completely destroyed and covered in rubble, and Qin Lie himself had disappeared without a trace.
The second they moved, they discovered the spirit pills inside their clothes and became conflicted.
Naturally they understood that Qin Lie was gone, and that he had left Ling Town and went to Icestone City.
“First Miss and Second Miss are gone, and even Qin Lie has left. We are the only ones who are left in Ling Town.” Ling Xiao’s expression was dejected as he looked towards the night sky, “Sigh, everything is moving too quickly. Two days ago everything was still fine, and just because Seven Fiends Valley showed up, our lives had turned around completely.”
“Water will flow downwards, and man will walk towards higher grounds. This has never changed. If we want to catch up to them, then we must work harder and cultivate harder, or we will only be left further and further behind!” Ling Feng exclaimed heavily.
“Mn!” Everyone’s expression was firm as they answered together.
Six days later, a thin figure stood at the entrance of Icestone City.
With a cloth bag in his hand and a face of dust, he looked up to the tall and wide stone ramparts and then at the guards on each side of the gates. He whispered, “Icestone City. I am finally at Icestone City.”
Icestone City was divided into North and South City. Shattered Ice Manor could be found in North City, and everything in it fell under Shattered Ice Manor’s jurisdiction. Most of the people entering and living inside the city were people who belonged to Shattered Ice Manor.
Likewise, South City was where Nebula Pavilion’s headquarters was situated, and they were responsible for everything inside the city.
Most of the people who lived in South City were the families of Nebula Pavilion’s martial practitioners. There were also normal people who were inclined towards Nebula Pavilion.
The two forces might live in the same city, but they were absolutely antagonistic towards each other. They had fought each other both in the open and the shadows for many years without an outcome, and hence the grudge between the two forces had only deepened with each passing day.
Outside South City, towards the southern area would be the direction to the Arctic Mountain Range. Its perimeter were scattered with many small forces like the Ling Family, Gao Family, Du Family and so on. They all belonged under Nebula Pavilion’s domain.
The northern area above North City would be Shattered Ice Manor’s domain, and there were also many small forces scattered in the area.
After the Feng Family had betrayed Nebula Pavilion, the area they had moved their whole clan into was exactly that northern side of North City.
And Icestone City was situated right at the center of Shattered Ice Manor and Nebula Pavilion’s vassal forces.
Regardless of their respective powers, both Shattered Ice Manor and Nebula Pavilion’s martial practitioners had their own families and relatives; their wives, children, parents and so on. These people were either normal people or martial practitioners with low realms, and thus did not qualify to enter either Shattered Ice Manor or Nebula Pavilion to cultivate.
Such people lived in either Icestone City’s North City or South City. Whenever the two powers’ martial practitioners were free of duties and were not cultivating, they would go out of Shattered Ice Manor and Nebula Pavilion and spend time with their relatives and children, and live with their family at North and South City.
Between North City and South City was a Commerce Street, and again this Commerce Street was like a watershed that split up the two cities.
Because Shattered Ice Manor and Nebula Pavilion were enemies, there were often huge fights erupting between them. Therefore, normally speaking, neither the normal people nor the martial practitioners from Shattered Ice Manor would enter South City easily, and vice versa.
On the other hand, this Commerce Street between the two cities was unusually crowded. Both Shattered Ice Manor and Nebula Pavilion martial practitioners would often appear in Commerce Street.
There were countless spirit materials, spirit herbs, spirit plants, spirit artifacts and other shops on that street, and some of these shops had incredible backgrounds and were branches that belonged to incredible forces. Not even Shattered Ice Manor or Nebula Pavilion dared to disturb them.
Although the two sides fought consistently, they had a tacit agreement to not fight in that street.
Qin Lie entered the South City through the southern gate. He did not use the Nebula Token in his hands to enter Nebula Pavilion’s headquarters immediately, but instead walked in the direction of Commerce Street.
Once he entered Nebula Pavilion he would become a core member. He could borrow their resources to cultivate, could use contribution points to enter special cultivation rooms and improve his cultivation or study martial books. He could even listen to martial practitioners’ lecture on their understanding of the realms…
This was what Ling Feng and the others dreamed of, the reason he had come to Nebula Pavilion, and something he really looked forward to in his heart.
However, if he entered Nebula Pavilion and became a core member, then it was very possible that he might be sent to perform duties and thus lose his freedom.
At the moment, he hadn’t recovered from Ling Yushi’s departure, and his heart… was still in turmoil.
Besides, he still wanted to spend more time to familiarize himself with inscribing Spirit Gathering spirit diagrams, and thus would not be able to utilize Nebula Pavilion’s cultivation resources for a short while anyway.
Therefore, he decided to slow down a little, and would enter Nebula Pavilion after he had finally calmed down and truly mastered the few spirit diagrams inside his head.
And so he arrived at a tavern very close to Commerce Street at the south and stayed inside. He locked himself in his room and continued to practice inscribing Spirit Gathering spirit diagrams.
There were twenty four spirit tablets remaining, and after his first successful experience, he was gradually gaining confidence.
He took out a tablet, calmed himself and focused his mind and consciousness on the tablet in his palm; he began to practice inscribing.
He quickly realized that, by inscribing spirit diagrams, he was able to separate himself from the pain of Ling Yushi’s departure. The incredible focus needed could help him ignore everything, if only for a moment.
Therefore he threw himself entirely into the work.
He began to enjoy this dry, boring, and incredibly harsh training.