“Ming Xi’s right. It is passing strange. Regardless who posted the mission, the day of the wedding will be eventful I’m sure. We should be on the lookout.” Tian Ya said.
In the end Ming Xi’s party had to forsake their plans to gain more experience in the realm battlegrounds and focus on the person trying to wreck their friends’ wedding. How could they justify abandoning their friends and walking away?
After the meal Feng Wu’s party went to find cheap lodgings. The got three rooms: one for the girls, one for Wind and Pei Qing, and a single for Jier. Like hell he was going to share a room with two stinky guys.
Well he was the captain so he could decide. Plus he was also footing the bill for the trio, so they had no right to complain. The more they spent, the less of the prize money they’d be able to keep. Jier would surely confiscate everything if they weren’t careful.
They rested for the night and the next morning gathered in Jier’s room to go over their plan.
Rain was the first to talk. “What should we do? Should we kidnap the bride or should we kidnap the groom on the wedding day?” Her speech was slow and lazy after sleeping so much.
“No. There’ll be guards that day. Plus I’m sure there’ll be other teams with the same plan. It’ll be difficult to kidnap the bride with so many strong parties in the picture.” Rain shook her head, vetoing her own plan.
“Stupid. Do you think I’d have us come here two months in advance just so we’d kidnap one of them on the wedding day?” Jier looked down on her for her low IQ. There was just no hope for some people.
“Captain, do you have an idea?” Pei Qing sidled over to Jier.
“Stop that. You’re making me sick.” Jier rudely swatted Pei Qing away.
Jier posited, “The mission was to sabotage the wedding. It didn’t say we had to kidnap anyone. Messing with the couple enough so the wedding has to be cancelled can also be considered a successful sabotage.”
“Mess with them? Wait, should we assassinate one of them then?” Wind offered a horrible idea.
“Stupid! You don’t have to kill anyone to force a wedding to be cancelled! You can just try to ruin their relationship. If they don’t like each other anymore, then they won’t go through with the wedding and it’ll be cancelled.” Pei Qing, this guy’s knowledge of harming people was more insidious than either of the twins.
“Oh, hey then what about using a honey trap?” Wind suggested as he eyed the two girls.
“That’s a great idea! Little Rain, you and Xiao Wu would work. One is adorable and cute; the other is pretty and vivacious! You’d definitely be able to attract Sir Germaine!” Pei Qing was keen on the idea.
There was a twinkle in Wind’s eyes as he thought about it.
Rain embraced Feng Wu. “What?! How heartless can you be to try to use two weak girls like us to lure Sir Germaine in. What if he’s a beast. What would we do?!”
Rain was opposed to the plan. (Use my body to entice some scumbag knight? I think not!)
Pei Qing, with eyes full of hope as though the two girls were his entire world, said “Rain, come on. Think about it. It’s two hundred thousand gold. Plus there’s the team debt we still owe. Xiao Wu please? Our happiness depends on you.”
“Shut up. Xiao Wu is out of the question. Rain can go.” Jier’s face was dark. The idea of using a pretty girl to entice Sir Germaine to bed was a good idea. All they’d have to do was catch him in the act.
Lady Minerva was a beauty with reputation, wealth , privilege, and pride. She would surely cancel the wedding and refuse to marry a man caught cheating on her before the wedding. Jier didn’t imagine these guys would offer up one of their own instead of just paying a lady at the bar. But then again Rain was pretty so maybe it would work?
“No! I don’t wanna! How can you even bear to have such a pretty, delicate girl like me walk into the tiger’s mouth like that?” Rain looked at the men in her group pitifully, hoping they’d have mercy on her.
“Why do we have to seduce Sir Germaine? Why can’t we seduce Lady Minerva?” Feng Wu was curious why they were focused on seducing the groom. Wasn’t it OK to seduce the bride as well?
“That’s right! That’s right! Xiao Wu I love you!” Rain pointed at the three guys in the room. “You three are also gorgeous. Your beauty meter, when you combine them, would be off the charts! This mission, it should be yours! If you act as the honey trap, it will definitely succeed!”
The more Rain talked the better she felt. In contrast, the more she talked the worse the boys felt! To think the day would come where they would have to rely on their attractiveness to complete a mission.
“You three look so good, Lady Minerva will definitely like you.” Feng Wu added completely without emotion. She had eyed them objectively and came to the same conclusion.
They didn’t want be liked by Lady Minerva, but they were no match for Feng Wu’s serious and simple eyes. Admitting defeat the plan was changed from a beauty trap for men to a honey trap for ladies.
“Well this ended well didn’t it?” Now that she was in the clear, Rain was relaxed and in the mood to joke around.
“How about the captain go? The captain is so beautiful, the ladies won’t be able to help but faint. The plan will be a total success!” Pei Qing looked at Jier with complete belief in the other’s abilities.
Bloody hell, Jier really wanted to beat the crap out of Pei Qing.
“I feel that Wind is better. I hear Lady Minerva is twenty; she’ll like them young. When she sees how tender and sweet looking Wind is, I’m sure she’ll just want to eat him right up.” Jier came up with this argument at the last minute. He didn’t mind losing face in this instance and letting Wind win.
“No that won’t do. That won’t do.” Wind shook his hands vigorously left and right. “If we’re talking about age, you guys are better suited. Lady Minerva is only twenty, she’s not that old. Wouldn’t Brother Pei Qing be a better match?”
The three tried foisting the task off on each other. They were all good and honest men in their teens. How could they let a lady they didn’t know defile their purity?
This went on into the night with no clear loser in sight.
The next day the five of them went around asking about Lady Minerva’s whereabouts. Fortunately she was the kind to keep a low profile. She rarely frequented expensive restaurants or went to exclusive clubs. Instead she tended to visit the library to read books.
The library wasn’t a place just anyone could go though. There was an entrance fee of two gold coins per hour. Other than the rich, who could afford such a leisure activity? Certainly not ordinary people.
“One hour for two gold. That’s too expensive. How much will it cost for all of us stay there all day? How about we just watch for her outside the library instead?” Wind thought about the debt they would accrue with their loan shark. It was best to limit it as much as possible.
“No, spending everyday outside the library would make us too conspicuous.” Jier vetoed the idea.
“I know the kind of person that can enter the library without paying.” Pei Qing said.
“Who?!” Everyone asked in unison.
“The disabled.” Pei said seriously.
“What?! Disabled? You’re disabled!” Wind yelled at Pei Qing.
Rain knocked her brother on the head for being so dense. “Ai-yo. Stupid! That’s not what Pei Qing meant. We just have to pretend to be disabled so we can get in.”
“What a good idea!” Everyone agreed.
Feng Wu tilted her head to the side and asked, “How do we pretend?”
Jier explained. “Xiao Wu, you just have to pretend to be dumb and mute. It shouldn’t be a problem for you.”
Feng Wu nodded.
After a few seconds Jier said, “As for the rest of you guys, maybe pretend to be lame. Like you’re paralyzed on one side.”
To complete their disguise and deceive the librarian they even acquired appropriate accessories. There were bandages, crutches, and even a wheelchair. They were very prepared.
They showed up at the library the next day, deaf, dumb and maimed. The library wasn’t busy so the librarian actually took quite a bit of notice of them.
It was true, laws did provide for the disabled to read for free at the library, but in reality it was only the rich who ever came to read. What kind of rich person would want to read with disabled people around?
The librarian was a middle-aged uncle who had worked at the library for a few months. In all the time he’d been there, he had never seen an actual disabled person visit the magnificent library. Jier’s group was the first encounter he had.
He got the impression the group weren’t there to learn and improve their self-knowledge. Regardless the rules were there and he was not going to kick them out just because they weren’t reading properly. He would just keep an eye on them in case they were up to no good.
Just because the librarian was OK with it didn’t mean some of the other young aristocrats were. They didn’t expect the uncle would take notice of the group but not do anything. The group of gimps was polluting the air. It wasn’t right. These young aristocrats were unaware of the law that allowed disabled people to freely use the library.
How could they respect a law they didn’t know? It was obvious to the young nobles the group were commoners. Why were they allowed to sit and breathe in the same air as nobility?
They went to the librarian and requested the group be kicked out. Of course the librarian wasn’t going to do that. He bluntly refused their request. What was to be done?
Well of course the young lords and ladies decided to take things into their own hands. The young ladies hatched a plan.
“Oh my goodness! Where is that stench coming from?! Those wretched beggars! Their stench is deathly. Quickly leave. You’re making the ambiance go down!” A gorgeously dressed noble youth walked over to Jier’s group.
Another dressed in school uniform piped up. “I know right? Tomorrow’s the college admissions test too. How are we supposed to study properly with such stench in the air?” said he as he walked over.
“We’re not leaving. We’re disabled. If you dare drive us out we’ll send a letter to the imperial palace about how you’re forcing disabled people out of the library so they can’t study. It’s a law that’s been in effect for generations. You dare question the wisdom of our ancestor rulers?” Pei Qing, on behalf of the group, severely rebuked the two youths who came over.
Good job Pei Qing! He had somehow managed to escalate the situation and shift the focus to something even more preposterous, suggesting the youths were questioning the wisdom of the kings and queens of bygone eras.
The two youths slunk away when they saw that the disabled group weren’t so easy to intimidate.
Upon seeing that the group was not easily bullied, the other young nobles gave up on the idea of harassing them.
Jier and Feng Wu found some books and brought them to a table to read.
The nobles all gave group a wide berth. None of them wanted to inadvertently catch anything contagious. Instead of reading in the library, they checked the books out, opting to read in the safety of their own homes.
Jier’s group spent the next ten days like that at the library: sleep then library, sleep then library.
They were bored stiff! If it weren’t for the two hundred thousand gold coins, they would not have been able to persevere.
Feng Wu was an exception; she looked like she was diligently studying every day. She read quietly, unlike the others in her group who either chatted or gossiped about Lady Minerva.
Wind and Rain reached their limits five days later. Any more and they would turn in actual bookworms!
“Xiao Wu, you read so seriously every day. Are you really into it?” Rain was feeling blue so she chatted with Feng Wu.
“Yes. I like it very much.”
“Wow. I really admire you. You can be interested in such boring books.”
“They’re not boring. They’re very good.” Feng Wu genuinely liked reading in the library. It reminded her of the old librarian’s library.
Very good? Really? Wind leaned in to get a better look at what Feng Wu was reading. The title was The Complete Guide to Herbal Medicine. This kind of book was “very good?”
Wind’s lip quirked a little. He and Feng Wu definitely did not live in the same world.
There were so many books. Wind and Rain felt like they were being buried alive. They got up and moved around.
Jier and Pei Qing were of the same mind. Reading occasionally was fine, but reading hour after endless hour… it was too much! They weren’t nerds. They couldn’t take this lifestyle!
They weren’t the only ones gloomy and depressed, the librarian was feeling it too. Since they showed up, foot traffic had dramatically decreased. The number of checkouts had also halved. He was quite eager for them to leave!
What was more, they were ruthless in their dedication in visiting every single day. But the thing of it was they weren’t even reading! It looked like they were just using the library as a hang out. They would sleep and chat, but rarely read. The only one who read was the cute one. She was genuinely diligent in her studies.
“Why don’t we use the time to discuss our plan. Which one of you will be seducing Lady Minerva?” Rain was bored to death; she needed some stimulation. She didn’t care that her topic made the boys glare at her.
Pei Qing had a romance novel in his hand when he heard the question. “Didn’t we decide on Wind?”
“What?! We never decided that! Stop talking rubbish! You’re the one obviously going!”
“Whatever! One of you needs to go because I’m not,” declared Jier.
“What - Why?!” The two turned to Jier, unwilling to be the sacrifice.
“Because I’m the captain.”
Such a good reason. They couldn’t argue.
Just then a commotion erupted at the entrance of the library and a beautifully dressed lady with four guards appeared.
“Motherfucker! Who is that?! Did he draw the wrong lot at birth?!” Wind cried out in alarm and fright as he pointed his bandaged finger at the figure by the entrance.
“I think that might be a man dressed as a… woman?” Jier guessed after examining the person some more.
Pei Qing propped his book in front of his face hiding his mouth. “No, can’t say for sure, but some girls just look like guys.”
Not far away were two other girls. They had also seen the new entrant and were pointing as well.
“It’s Lady Minerva. I heard she and Sir Germaine are getting married. I would have thought she’d be busy planning the wedding. How unexpected to see her here.”
“You forget what house she belongs to. Lady Minerva is the queen’s cousin. Stuff like planning the wedding, there are other people to do that. All she has to do is show up on the wedding day.”
The two girls were whispering softly to each other but Jier was a master, so of course he heard every word.
“No way! That’s not a man or a woman. It’s the famed beauty Lady Minerva?!” Rain was aghast. The other guys nearly peed in their pants; they were so shocked.
“No way! I don’t have the guts to seduce that!” Wind cried out, truly intimidated. He spread his arms out and grabbed the edge of the table, hugging his body tight to the top, unwilling to let go.
“Hey you scoundrels! You dare pretend to be disabled and read for free?! You must not want to live anymore! Come here so I can take care of you!”
“You big idiot! Your hand is supposed to be injured! How are you going to explain hugging the table like that?!” Rain grabbed a book and chucked it at Wind. The big book smacked into him like a brick.
Jier and Pei Qing were also angry; this fool just ruined their plan! Both of them threw a book at him.
While Wind was dodging the attacks, Jier grabbed Feng Wu and ran. Rain and Pei Qing were right behind them. Wind was a little slower.
Naturally the moment they made a move the guards gave chase.
“Hey! Stay still! Stop running!”
“You sons of a bitches! You think you can get away?!”
Even the librarian got in on the chase. He and the four imperial guards from Lady Minerva made a fierce team. They were catching up, getting closer and closer.
Jier and the guys weren’t stupid. After running around the library some, they made for the entrance. Who made a library with only one entrance?! Not even a single back door!
The only way out was the entrance, but Lady Minerva was blocking the door.
This wasn’t a problem for Jier. He unhesitatingly shoved her out of the way and ran straight through. Lady Minerva teetered left and right, clearly about to fall over. Pei Qing had no choice but to reach out and grab her so she wouldn’t fall.
“Be careful miss.” After uttering this sentence he immediately made to continue his escape. Unexpectedly, despite looking like she had no fighting abilities, she managed to grab Pei Qing’s hand and hold on to him.
“Hold on moment! Stay with this lady!” With a simple gaze, Lady Minerva directed a strong, powerfully built man to come forward.
He immediately stepped up and grabbed Pei Qing, who was now very frightened, and promptly tied him up. Any opening for escape vanished.
Jier and the others took advantage of Pei Qing’s sacrifice and escaped.
“Well that worked out. Lady Minerva saved us the trouble of deciding who’ll be the guy in the “male honey trap.” Wind spoke out from his hiding place behind the library doors. He patted his chest in relief. Lucky. Now his heart could relax.
“Pei Qing is truly amazing. Only just met and he managed to make her head over heels.” Jier phrased Pei Qing for his efficiency.
“We don’t have to save him?” Feng Wu had heard Pei Qing shout for help. She looked at everyone’s indifferent faces as she seriously pondered a rescue plan.
“There’s no need to save him. The mission still needs to be completed. He’ll understand. Let’s leave; we don’t want to interrupt their bonding.” The captain had made his decision.
Three days later a notice caught the attention of all the adventurers who were in Souya for the mission. It said Lady Minerva and Sir Germaine’s wedding was cancelled. She would be marrying Pei Qing.
The adventures who missed their chance complained to each other.
“Damn! Whoever they are, they’re badasses! We were all going to wait for the wedding day to kidnap the bride!”
“Right?! I was also going to make a scene at the wedding. I even brought my brothers. Can’t believe they cancelled it already! What do you think happened?”
Yifu had taken the notice and rushed to Zi Cheng’s room. “Xiao Cheng. Take a look. This is the task you refused. Look how fast it was completed.”
Zi Cheng and Yifu had of course seen the mission back at Zhongyang. But the premise made Zi Cheng uncomfortable so Yifu didn’t press her and they had left without registering for the mission.
“Someone completed it?” Zi Cheng stopped combing her hair and looked up at Yifu.
“So vicious! Destroying a relationship for money! What scoundrels!” Yifu had a low opinion of the adventurers who completed the mission.
“I heard Feng Wu took the mission. Do you suppose it was her?” Jasmine had entered the room while Yifu and Zi Cheng were talking.
Jasmine had nursed a deep grudge against Feng Wu ever since that day at the girls’ dorm. She hated Jier too, but he was too strong and out of her reach. When she snooped around she had discovered he was nobility from the kingdom of Yanai. As a result Jasmine had to shift all her hatred to Feng Wu. In her heart, Feng Wu was the culprit and the instigator of everything.
Yifu had been around Zi Cheng for so long she had picked up many of Zi Cheng’s personality traits. Yifu voiced her opinion. “No, does she really have the ability? I heard a lot of people took the mission. Those who accepted it really have no sense of decency or moral character.”
Jasmine sat down and sneered. “Feng Wu picked up the mission. Her and anyone else who picked it up are all absolute scum.”
“Let’s not talk about that anymore. We should go see Sir Germaine. He must be so broken-hearted right now. We are comrades who’ve shared fate.”
Zi Cheng had been on the road to Souya when a young master decided it would be a good idea to harass her. Sir Germaine happened to pass by and helped her. Although they were unlikely to cross paths again, in the short time they had forged a bond and parted as friends.
Feng Wu had no idea Jasmine was in Souya. Her team had rushed to the branch guild as soon as they saw the notice. While their registration was at the main branch in Zhongyang, they could check in at any branch location.
The clerk handed them the two hundred thousand reward once he verified their team was the one that completed the mission. The four people were very happy. They divided the gold amongst themselves. As for Pei Qing, well he was with Lady Minerva. He had to be very well loved and coddled by her. With that kind of wealth and attention, how could he begrudge them the measly ten thousand that was formerly his share?
An unexpected visitor arrived just as they were about to make their way back to Zhongyang.
“Were you guys going to leave your companion behind?” The voice was cold and bitter.
“No, no. We were going to go back and wait for you at Zhongyang. Rest assured we have your share right here.” Wind was quietly crying in his heart. (Goodbye extra ten thousand. Seriously Pei Qing, why did you have to come back now? This Lady Minerva. How could she not have the ability to hang onto you properly?!)
“Yeah we have it right here!”
“Yeah welcome back.”
Rain and Jier also welcomed him back without missing a beat. Their sadness at the lost ten thousand gold coins completely hidden.
Pei Qing knew them too well to be deceived though.
“Pei Qing, you’re back.” Feng Wu said with a faint smile on her face, genuinely welcoming him back. She hadn’t seen him in a few days.
“You lot, the only one happy to see me back is Xiao Wu.” It was clear from his face he wasn’t fooled for a minute.
Rain suddenly came up with a clever plan. “Brother Qing, sit down. You’re probably tired and hungry. Escaping must have been hard. I’ll go right now and have the kitchen whip up a few dishes for you.” She would use the excuse of getting food to go out and bring Lady Minerva. Pei Qing would surely be taken away and the ten thousand would be theirs again.
“If you dare rat me out to anyone, I will break your legs. So I’d recommend you sit down.” Pei Qing said with a completely straight face.
(Motherfucker! This guy!)
“Lady Minerva will be looking for me so we need to get out of here fast.” Pei Qing tapped his finger on the table trying to think.
“Alright. Let’s pack up and leave immediately.” Jier had a no-nonsense approach. No use in crying over lost money.
Pei Qing put on a disguise as everyone packed up. Shortly afterwards they left for the transportation array.
Unfortunately the array was heavily guarded. Everyone who tried to get in were closely examined before they were allowed to enter.
Wind stopped a random passerby and asked. “Big brother, how come there are so many guards for the array? Did something happen?”
“Oh you didn’t hear. Lady Minerva’s lover ran away. Don’t know what that guy is thinking. The beautiful Lady Minerva takes a liking to him and instead of rejoicing, he runs away. How can he even call himself a man? Running away, now that’s the kind of move a silly girl would pull. My wife does that once every year. To reject such a good marriage, what’s wrong with him? He even made Lady Minerva angry.
“They’re here to catch him. Lady Minerva will overlook the matter of him running away if he returns home. She is such a good woman! That abominable lover of hers, how dare he not properly treasure her!” said the man with obvious scorn towards Pei Qing.
“Right! I almost forgot. There’s a three hundred thousand gold reward for anyone who returns him. But he must not be harmed in anyway. I really want to catch that guy. I can make three hundred thousand gold!”
Little did he know; Pei Qing was standing right in front of him.
“Do you know what he looks like?” Wind asked.
“Who doesn’t?! There are posters of him all over town!”
The stranger resumed walking around after their chat. He, like everyone else, was intent on catching Pei Qing!
Pei Qing silently thanked his lucky stars that he put on a disguise before leaving the hotel. He even dyed his hair black like Feng Wu. With his already dark eyes and eastern dress it made him look like someone from the ancient eastern countries.
Unless Lady Minerva came in person, no one was likely to recognize him, at least not based on the posters.
They decided to go to a restaurant and regroup after this new information. The waiter left them alone in their private room after taking their orders.
Feng Wu looked around the restaurant while the other three, Wind, Rain and Jier looked incredibly pleased with themselves.
“You want to turn me in for the reward huh?” Pei Qing didn’t beat around the bush. He hadn’t moved since they sat down and was unexpectedly calm about the whole affair.
“You know it. But don’t feel like we’re wronging you; it’s for the good of the team.” The gauntlet was thrown.
“That’s the thing though, I do feel wronged. You guys intend to turn me in for the reward. But you’re forgetting something. Lady Minerva likes me a great deal. What if I say something to her? You guys could easily become other people’s prey.” Pei Qing was a strategist and he knew what made his companions tick.
“You’re ruthless.” Jier and the others let the matter drop. There was no way they would convince Pei Qing to voluntarily turn himself in.
Though the atmosphere wasn’t good, the meal was delicious. They didn’t dare try the transportation array again because of all the guards there.
After talking it over, everyone agreed to go to the realm battlegrounds until things calmed down.
The realm battlegrounds, where ancient conflicts between gods and demons were waged, were formally known as Demonic Battlegrounds. There were many such battlegrounds throughout the world.
Back then the two races often warred with each other and used the human world as a stage for their battles. The human world would be thrown into chaos every time they fought.
Remnants of their battles remained even to this day. There were artifacts, magical beast eggs, and other mysterious items. It wasn’t just easy treasure however. There were also corpses of the fallen and the grievances they left behind. Though time dissipated their intensity, they still lingered enough to harm those who entered. In fact countless masters lost their lives in the realm battlegrounds every year.
This unique place full of opportunity and danger was perfect for building experience.
With her current strength, Feng Wu would only be able to move around the periphery of the realm battlegrounds.
“It’s been so many days already. How much farther is it?” Rain complained as she sat on a rock.
They had been travelling for the past week since they left the restaurant. The realm battlegrounds weren’t too far from the Souya Kingdom, so despite the danger many royals went there to find treasures and to gain experience.
Wind also complained. “How can people say this is nearby?!”
Pei Qing pulled out the map. “Let’s check where we are on the map.” After checking their location he said, “It looks like we’re still two days away. But there is a town up ahead. We can stop there and rest.”
“Alright. We’ll keep going. We’ll eat something good once we reach the town.” Jier took Feng Wu’s hand and gave everyone a meaningful glance. (You guys better keep up.)
Three hours later…
They still hadn’t reached the town but they did reach a hotel.
“Thank goodness! Captain, can we stop here?”
The trio looked to Jier with hope in their eyes. The hotel was a godsend.
“Dear customers, are you here to rest or have a meal?” A waiter greeted them the moment they stepped inside.
Those who stopped at the inn were either going to or returning from the realm battlegrounds, not the kind of people to be trifled with. They put the waiter on edge and he was always careful when serving them.
“Meals and lodgings. Two double rooms, one single room. For food, whatever your house specialties are. And make it fast; we’re starving.” Wind rubbed his belly as he considered what to order.
All they had had on the journey were steamed buns, steamed buns, and more steamed buns. He was sick and tired of them! He didn’t understand how Xiao Wu could eat them with such a happy expression on her face.
The waiter said, “I will prepare them right away,” as he brought them over to a table.
“I can finally eat a decent meal!” Rain said as she slumped into her seat weakly.
“Aren’t these our junior classmates? Didn’t expect to see you all here.”
Feng Wu’s team turned at the voice.
It was Ming Xi and his team! There were some new additions though. Sitting with them were Zi Cheng, Jasmine, and Yifu.
Zi Cheng and Ming Xi’s team were together because they had run into each other while visiting Sir Germaine. The two groups quickly realized everyone was a student at Xingguang Holy Academy. Somehow the conversation turned to the realm battlegrounds; Ming Xi explained they were heading there to gain experience. This interested Zi Cheng and she asked if they minded travelling together for a bit. Zi Cheng was charming and easily gave a good first impression, so of course Ming Xi and his group were fine with it. If she was coming along, so too would her group, thus the present situation.
It was an unhappy coincidence for both Ming Xi and Jier. Who would have guessed they would run into each other so soon after just parting at the restaurant?
On the other hand Feng Wu was quite happy, as evinced by the glow of happiness shining like sparkles from her eyes.
Ming Xi coughed awkwardly as he turned his head away. Although he experienced her gazes before, he was still uncomfortable. The pressure was too intense.
“Hey! What a surprise. It’s the seniors from captain and Xiao Wu’s school. Are you all going to the realm battlegrounds too?” Pei Qing exclaimed.
“Yeah we are. What a coincidence,” replied Luis.
“Come, come. Let’s put the two tables together.” Elena walked over to Feng Wu and enthusiastically pulled her along.
Wind and Pei Qing moved to obey and shifted the tables together.
Once everything was settled everyone sat down. Elena sat next to Feng Wu. She was like a molester, rubbing Feng Wu’s hair and pinching her cheeks.
“Sister Elena you’re being unsightly! Please stop bullying Xiao Wu!” Jier had to say something; he couldn’t take it anymore. She was clingy like this too when they first met. (Isn’t she supposed to be a vixen? Wait hold on… she’s never actually been linked to a guy romantically. Don’t tell me it’s all a lie and she’s actually into girls?!) Jier began to seriously wonder if perhaps Elena preferred girls.
The more he thought about it, the darker his face became.
“I say, for first-years you guys have a lot of guts going to the realm battlegrounds on your own.” Gerasi gulped down a large mouthful of drink. He sounded disapproving.
“No worries. We don’t intend to actually go inside. We’re going to just walk around the perimeter and pick up the things we find there.” Rain said as she laughed cutely while staring starstruck at them. (Wow. Every one of them is looks so amazing. Really worthy of being students at Xingguang Holy Academy.)
Gerasi was not soothed by Rain’s reply. “I don’t think you guys understand. Even if you are just walking the perimeter, it’s still very dangerous. You can lose your life there.” He thought the freshmen this year were too crazy and audacious. They clearly didn’t understand how dangerous the area was. Only first-years and they wanted to waltz around the realm battlegrounds.
Even Zi Cheng and her friends, his group had only allowed them to tag along because they were afraid for the girls’ safety. Otherwise they would never have willingly carried such a burden.
They had a gross overestimation of their own abilities. Gerasi deeply resented them, but at the same time he couldn’t abandon them and let them endanger themselves.
“Ah forget it. You guys are just like Zi Cheng. You can come with us but you have to follow our orders. OK?” Elena fiercely smushed Feng Wu’s cheeks with her palms, moving her head left and right, making Feng Wu’s lips purse like a fish. Her own plump melons jiggled back and forth with the effort. However it was wasted eye candy as present company didn’t know how to appreciate the view.
“We can really tag along with you guys?” Rain was excited. She turned to Feng Wu and Elena and enthusiastically commented. “This’ll be so great! Xiao Wu, now you and Senior Ming Xi can practice and gain experience together!”
“Yes.” Feng Wu nodded happily. There was the faint thread of a smile on her usually expressionless face.
Yifu thought Feng Wu was a pretender who liked to act innocent and naïve. Her dislike for Feng Wu hadn’t changed since the school assessment weeks ago. If anything, Feng Wu had only risen to become her arch nemesis, so of course she immediately spoke out against the idea. “Senior Sister Elena, do you really want them to come with us? We don’t know how strong they are. What if they hold us back?”
Tian Yu, who had been silent the entire time, opened his mouth to cut Yifu’s argument down. “And you think you’re qualified?”
“Pfft!” Gerasi and Luis had to try really hard not to laugh out loud.
Zi Cheng was such a beautiful and charming, graceful junior who didn’t hesitate to help the poor people they bumped into along the way. Her two companions on the other hand…
Yifu always had something critical to say; she had no charm whatsoever. The other one, Jasmine, liked to act aloof and snooty. Even when she was helping Zi Cheng with the people they met, she managed to do so in a condescending way.
Gerasi and Luis couldn’t understand how Zi Cheng could be friends with Yifu and Jasmine. They could only admire her mental fortitude in being able to put up with the two girls.
“Please forgive Yifu, Senior Tian Ya. She didn’t mean any harm by it.” Zi Cheng pulled Yifu’s hand to stop her from saying any more.
Zi Cheng easily read the atmosphere and apologized on Yifu’s behalf. She had lived a lifetime and was skilled at reading people’s expressions. Things would turn sour if Yifu kept talking.
The seniors were kind enough to travel on the journey thus far with them. Zi Cheng had said at the start her group would part ways with them once they reached the realm battlegrounds, but secretly she knew it wouldn’t happen.
She was banking on the seniors’ kindness to not abandon them to roam on their own, and therefore bring them into the deeper parts of the realm battlegrounds. This was important. She needed to go deep into the realm battlegrounds.
A month ago she had found a strange metal sheet on the streets. She decided to investigate by dripping a drop of her blood on it. A map of the realm battlegrounds appeared when she did so. It marked the tomb of a fallen god from ancient times.
Originally Zi Cheng hadn’t intended to pursue it, but then she bumped into the seniors. If she could accompany them, then finding the treasure became possible. She kept the existence of the map and treasure a secret.
“Whether she meant harm or not doesn’t matter to me. I only wish she’d conduct herself with more awareness of her own abilities.”
Ming Xi always tried to be caring and gentle with girls. While Luis and Gerasi didn’t go out of their way to be as considerate as Ming Xi, they did try to always be patient. Tian Ya, on the other hand, had no such considerations. He spoke his mind, often cuttingly, to whomever regardless of gender.
Just then the server came with their order.
“Well food’s on the table. Everyone quickly eat before it gets cold!” Luis urged. Though he didn’t like Yifu she was still a young miss from a house somewhere. They needed to leave her some pride.
Everyone picked up their cutlery to eat but the mood had soured.
Luis couldn’t stand the silence and was thinking of saying something to break the mood when thunder rumbled in the sky. The hard pitter patter of rain hitting the roof quickly followed. The sky that was bright and sunny just a few seconds ago turned completely dark. It felt like night despite being three in the afternoon.
“How’d it turn to rain so fast? This can’t be good.” The sudden change made Elena edgy. Masters like her didn’t have sudden mood changes. Sudden mood changes usually signified that something was about to happen and whatever it was, would be related to them.
Ming Xi furrowed his brow. He suddenly felt stuffy and oppressed. It wasn’t a good omen.
Elena and Ming Xi weren’t the only ones who felt their mood suddenly shift. The others felt it as well. They had studied at Xingguang Holy Academy for years so their strength was naturally much higher than the freshmen they were with.
“Boss do you have a room?! I’d like to book one please.” A girl dressed in blue and carrying an enormous umbrella spoke out from the doorway. She was bedraggled, but her clothes were dry.
Ai Lin knew Zi Cheng would encounter something that would cement a part of her destiny at the realm battlegrounds. Ai Lin planned on stealing whatever it was, so she had travelled to the realm battlegrounds in order to lie in wait for Zi Cheng. She planned to infiltrate Zi Cheng’s team and have Zi Cheng lead her to the treasure.
Things didn’t go as planned though. She’d only been on the road for a bit when it started pouring. Fortunately she had an umbrella in her dimensional bag. She pulled it out just in time and managed to stay dry. Otherwise she would have been soaked to the bone.
“Yes, yes of course. I’ll book a room for you right now.” The clerk immediately booked Ai Lin a room and got the keys for her.
“Huh? Zi Cheng? Feng Wu? Why are you guys here?” Ai Lin walked over to them, looking surprised. No one would have suspected she knew Zi Cheng would be there, that she had in fact run over to the inn to lie in wait.
Her surprise wasn’t completely fake. Ai Lin knew the general time Zi Cheng would get to the inn based on her memory of the story, but she didn’t know the exact time. Because of this she planned on getting to the inn a few days ahead and wait for Zi Cheng to appear.
Zi Cheng should have still been in Souya for Sir Germaine’s wedding. Why was she here so many days earlier than expected? What happened?
In the novel, Sir Germaine was kidnapped before the wedding. Lady Minerva felt it was unmanly of him to be kidnapped so easily, and because of that had cancelled the wedding.
It all went according to Sir Germaine’s plan to avoid the marriage. He was, in fact, the anonymous person who sent the mission to the Adventurers’ Guild!
Originally Sir Germaine would have been kidnapped and it would have taken Ming Xi and his party two days to find and free him. Zi Cheng would choose to stay and help in the search. Afterwards the wedding would be cancelled and Zi Cheng would follow Ming Xi and his party to the realm battlegrounds.
But things unfolded differently. The wedding wasn't cancelled because of a kidnapping, it was cancelled because of the appearance of a pretty face seducing Lady Minerva.
Was it the butterfly effect? One change and everything else changed too? But even if it was, these changes were too drastic!
Details of the wedding cancellation and the people involved all changed. People that weren’t in the story were now in the story! Why were Feng Wu and her group in Souya? They were never mentioned in this segment of the story.
Ai Lin felt like her world was tilting but she didn’t let it show. Her smile was unshakeable.
“Ai Lin? What a surprise. What brings you here?” Zi Cheng saw that Ai Lin had a bit of a mishap outside.
“I came for a mission. It was supposed to be to sabotage a wedding, but by the time my team got here, the deed was already done! I was going to return to school, but then I thought since I was already here, I might as well visit the crystal veins and see if I could mine some magic ores.”
The Souya royal family owned a large magic crystal vein. It was a famous vein that attracted people from all over the world. The vein opened to the public after most of the precious ores had been mined. For an entrance fee of ten gold, anyone could dig and keep whatever ores they found. It was unlikely anyone would find a precious ore, most of what remained were just ordinary ones. Nevertheless it still attracted a great number of tourists.
As a freshman, it would have looked strange if Ai Lin said she was going to the realm battlegrounds, so she used the nearby vein as an excuse for being in the area.
Zi Cheng replied with, “Oh, so that’s why you’re here. Are your teammates also coming later?” She had noticed there was something odd about Ai Lin’s attitude towards her ever since they met in the virtual world. That, combined with her inability to raise Ai Lin's favorability rating no matter what she did, made her cautious. There had to be something strange about Ai Lin if she couldn't be influenced by the system.
Zi Cheng wanted to avoid Ai Lin if possible. At the same time she didn’t want to offend her either. Therefore she opted for a neutral approach: polite but reserved. As long as Ai Lin didn’t antagonize her, she didn’t mind maintaining a façade of cordiality.
“They were antsy to return to Zhongyang so they’re already gone. We only teamed up to do the mission so it wasn’t like I could make them come to the vein with me,” was Ai Lin’s near instant reply.
Speaking of the mission made Jier and his team feel guilty. Not only had they completed it in record time, there was also a huge prize for the capture of one of their members. Who knew what would happen if anyone found out.
Thankfully Ai Lin changed the topic.
“Are you seniors from school?” Although Ai Lin already knew who they were, she pretended not to know. This was technically their first meeting.
“Oh? Do you know us?” Luis raised his hand to his chin in thought. (Interesting, just met Juniors Jier and Feng Wu, now this new arrival is also a junior.)
“Oh you seniors are very popular. Many of the freshmen girls are secretly in love with you.” Ai Lin responded playfully.
“Are we really that popular?” Luis excitedly sat up, even going so far as to pat his hair down to fix it.
“I can believe those girls having a secret crush on Ming Xi, but you guys…?” Elena bluntly broke in.
“Hey! Ming Xi isn’t the only male in the group that’s hot. I’m sure there are girls who like the rest of us!” Luis didn’t think it was only Ming Xi...
Ai Lin was cheerful and easy to get along with so she befriended the seniors in no time at all.
The trio didn’t just idly sit and listen to Ai Lin chatting with Ming Xi and his group. They took the opportunity to eat everything they could on the table, stuffing their mouths and swallowing as fast as they were able.
Feng Wu was behaving strangely. Jier watched on and off. Instead of stuffing herself silly like she always did, she kept glancing at the door and the window. Ming Xi also noticed. She wasn’t staring at him as intently as normal.
“Xiao Wu, what are you looking at? Is there something at the door?” Elena was sitting next to her, and she too noticed how Feng Wu kept glancing at the door.
Feng Wu bit her lip and spoke. “It’s so red outside.” She frowned.
“Red?” Pei Qing repeated.
“Xiao Wu, you mean to say it’s dark outside right?” Rain thought Feng Wu had misspoken.
“It’s not black, it’s definitely red." Of this, Feng Wu was positive.
The world Feng Wu saw had changed. The rain became blood and the sky turned red.
“Red?” Everyone repeated in confusion. They swiveled their heads to the door, then the window. It was pitch black. What red? Was there something wrong with Feng Wu’s eyes?
Suddenly an entourage of bodyguards entered. They accompanied a princess and several maids. One maid carried an umbrella shielding the princess from the rain. She herself was soaked, but the princess remained dry.
Though the princess was dry, the hem of her dress was filthy with mud and rain. She had a netted hat covering her face, so they couldn’t clearly see what she looked like.
The sudden arrival of the large group filled the inn to capacity.
“Princess Nai Nai has arrived. Those not working for the inn should leave immediately.” The maid dressed in red was soaked and sorry looking but she spoke snobbishly to Feng Wu and the group.
“Leave? Leave and go where? Do you see the rain outside?” Luis smirked at the maid trying to intimidate them just because of her connection to the princess.
“How audacious! The princess must shelter here temporarily because of the rain. She can’t share the space with unknown commoners, so you need to leave. The guards will escort you out if you won’t leave on your own.”
“First come, first serve. We were here first. Why should we leave?” What a bullshit princess, Gerasi thought.
“You -!” The maid wanted to say more but she was interrupted by a large man in armor.
“Enough! It’s storming so much outside and you want to drive these people out? The rulers of the country wouldn’t treat the common people so callously.” The commander reprimanded the maid.
“Stop arguing. This princess is exhausted. Prepare a room immediately.” Princess Nai Nai impatiently spoke from behind her hat.
The commander immediately obeyed and asked the clerk to get things ready.
The owner of the inn didn’t dare be slow. He immediately led the princess and her maid to the best room in the inn.
“That commander is a good man.”
“Yes.” Jasmine agreed with Rain. “But that princess is not so good.”
Jasmine was incredibly arrogant. She only liked those of the same social rank as her. She disdained any below and hated those above.
Ming Xi called a waiter over and in a low voice requested food, drinks and dry towels for the men that just came in.
The commander didn’t look their way again after nodding to Ming Xi. He sat down and commenced eating at his own table a distance away from them.
As for the princess, how could she dine with so many men. Her meal was brought and served to her in her room.
“Jier, there’s a problem with the princess.” Feng Wu abruptly spoke out.
“A problem with the princess? Do you mean to say she’s a fake?” Elena asked.
“She’s surrounded by female blood and spirits. All of them bear such powerful grudges against her. People will die.” Feng Wu said this more to herself than as an answer to Elena’s question.
Feng Wu could see things other people couldn’t. As soon as the princess came in, she had noticed the strange aura around the princess.
There were so many grudges around her. Every single one of them wanted her dead. They wailed incessantly and flew at her, trying to attack her. Their attacks were deflected, and in some cases the grudges themselves were even shattered and destroyed. There was something on the princess’s body protecting her.
No matter how vivid the images were, none of them could see what Feng Wu saw since they were not necromancers.
“Yeah we don’t see anything. Honestly, you think you’re a necromancer or something?” Jasmine and Yifu were quick to criticize Feng Wu.
Ming Xi and the others didn’t doubt their existence. No one in Ming Xi’s squad were ordinary. They knew better then to deny the existence of something just because they themselves couldn’t see it.
What Feng Wu said was really hard to believe though. The girls were right; she wasn’t a necromancer. Heck never mind being a necromancer, Feng Wu wasn’t even a magician. There wasn’t an ounce of magical talent in her body. If she had any she would have gone into the Magic Division, not the Sword Division.
A person with no magical talent was telling them she could see the dead. Ming Xi and his group didn’t think Feng Wu would lie, but they couldn’t help but be suspicious.
It was really hard to believe.
“You better listen to Feng Wu. Her sight is different from yours. She can see things ordinary people can’t see. If you don’t believe her, I have something here that you can use.” From his space ring, Jier took out a clear transparent bottle the old necromancer had given him.
It was a potion that allowed people to see the dead; junior necromancer apprentices often used it as a part of their education. It was a system the necromancers had set up as a teaching device. It was rarely sold. Sometimes a necromancer would gift a small amount to those they were on good term with.
“What?! A sensing potion. You actually carry this kind of stuff with you?” Elena was really surprised.
You could see the spirits of the dead if you sprayed yourself with it. Legend had it that the world’s first necromancer, a god-level necromancer, came up with the formula for it. He created it so that knowledge of necromancy would not fade away once he ascended. The potion helped apprentices become accustomed to interacting with the dead more quickly.
The formula was only ever passed on from one necromancer to another. Even though the relationship between necromancers, the dark and light, wasn’t always good, one thing they all adhered to was maintenance of the formula’s secrecy. They wouldn’t reveal it to outsiders.
In the end even if the formula was secret, the potion itself could still be found and purchased, however the price was high and not many people wanted to. Afterall, who would voluntarily want to afflict themselves with the sight of the dead? So ultimately even though the potion rarely showed up at auction houses, it was not that hard to get.
So though the sight of Jier having a potion surprised Elena, it didn’t shock the others as much.
“So? You dare use it?” Jier shook the bottle at them, a goading expression on his face.
“Like I’d be afraid!” Luis reached over and grabbed the bottle and promptly sprayed his eyes with it. He blinked several times trying to get used to having something in his eyes.
He was the center of attention.
“So? What do you see?” Ai Lin asked with anticipation.
Yifu and Jasmine had expressions of disbelief on their faces. Necromancy was the most noble and lucrative vocation of all the fields. If Feng Wu could see the dead, then didn’t mean she had the potential to be a necromancer? Strong and long-lived, it was rumored necromancers had ways to extend their lifespan.
Even if they were beaten to death, they would never believe it.
“So?” demanded both Elena and Gerasi.
Luis blinked several times. The world he saw and felt had changed dramatically when he was able to focus his eyes again. The originally dark night was dyed bloody red. The inside of the inn was filled with bloody mist. He heard the sounds of yelling and screaming from the second floor.
It was shocking that so many people were obliviously eating and drinking in such an atmosphere. Why weren’t they all trembling?!
The most outrageous thing was the rain. It was no longer water, but drops of blood. The metallic smell was so overpowering it made him want to vomit.
In those few seconds, the people around the table watched as the color drained from Luis’s face. What could he be seeing?
Gerasi called out to Luis a few times but got no reply. He grabbed the bottle and spritzed his own eyes to see what Luis was seeing.
Ming Xi and Tian Ya looked at each other. Even fools could tell there was something going on. They took turns spraying their eyes.
Their originally calm faces stiffened. Ming Xi retained his dignified expression, but it was obvious he was also affected.
“What? Is there something there? I don’t believe it. Here let me try.” Yifu had been waiting for a good show, for Feng Wu to be revealed as a big fat liar. Instead it looked like she was the one to get slapped in the face. She wasn’t going to believe it until she saw it herself.
She got up and walked over to Tian Ya as she spoke. She wanted to try the sensing potion. She didn’t expect Tian Ya to pull the bottle out of her reach.
“Senior Tian Ya!” Yifu was not convinced. She even began to believe the seniors were pretending to be scared so Feng Wu wouldn’t be humiliated and her lies exposed. Thinking this left her even more dissatisfied.
Why? Why did everyone take Feng Wu’s side? That time she got kicked out of the team during the virtual world assessment was also because of Feng Wu.
“Girls shouldn’t see this. I don’t want to hear your screams.” Tian Ya gave Yifu a cold look. He didn’t prevent her from spraying her eyes out of pity or consideration, he just didn’t want to deal the nuisance of the shrill screams of a hysterical girl.
Luis and Gerasi understood. They were both brave men, but even their hearts quaked. These young misses would surely lose their minds. They were just freshmen who hadn’t seen any horrors yet. Odds were their tolerance level would be low.
“Is it so terrible? Wind, you try it and tell me what you see.” Pei Qing had planned to try it himself, but reconsidered after seeing the expressions on their faces. He wasn’t sure he wanted to see anything so horrible.
“Why should I look?! Why don’t you look!” Wind had no interest in it.
“Captain, do you want to see…?” Rain cautiously probed her captain.
Jier glanced at the trio. He reached out to Tian Ya for the bottle and gave it two quick spritzes.
“So? What do you see?” The trio asked hurriedly.
“Red. Lots of red,” was Jier’s odd reply. He was shocked despite being prepared for it. It was just as Feng Wu said, not that he ever doubted her.
Luis looked at Feng Wu with admiration. “Junior Feng Wu, this senior really admires you. You can eat so calmly without vomiting; your ability is really strong!”
Gerasi fiercely nodded his head. Both Ming Xi and Tian Ya also had looks of agreement in their eyes.
“Why wouldn’t I be able to eat?” Feng Wu thought all the food was very tasty, especially the barbeque.
Gerasi moved closer to her. “Don’t you feel nauseous? Doesn’t it make you want to vomit?”
“I don’t think so.” Feng Wu shook her head. The environment had no effect on her.
“How can you not?! It’s so…” Luis regretted speaking so quickly before and being the first to try. He wished he could unsee it.
Feng Wu seriously considered it for a moment, wrinkling her delicate brows in thought before speaking, “If you eat with earnest you won’t feel anything else.”
(If you eat with earnest you won’t feel anything else.) Everyone repeated the line to themselves. (What is that?) Everyone was silent while they digested this statement. Why did it feel like it was too deep for them?
“Is it really so horrifying? Here, let me try.” Elena reached over for the bottle. Her curiosity and competitive spirit had been aroused. She’d always been one to challenge those things her male counterparts found difficult or were afraid of.
“Here! Take it.” Jier was more than happy to hand the bottle over to her.
Elena squirted it in her eyes. After blinking a few times to adjust, she eagerly looked around. The inn was red! The intense coppery smell of blood was enough to make her want to vomit everything she ate in the last two days.
“I see what you all mean.” She said slowly. She frowned before returning to her normal expression.
“Senior Sister Elena, did you see it too?” Yifu still didn’t believe it. She didn’t dare tangle with Tian Ya after his rejection, but junior loving Elena was different.
Elena was like a tomboy to the junior boys, but to the junior girls she was a wonderful older sister. If trouble weighed on their minds, they could always go to Elena and she would work with them to resolve it. She was never stingy with her time. As a result, she was super popular with the girls.
“Yes. I’d advise you junior sisters listen to Tian Ya. If you see what’s around you right now, you will surely scream, probably even faint. I doubt you’ll be able to eat for days.”
Although Elena didn’t have a good impression of Yifu, Yifu was still her junior, so she wanted give her some face.
“Yifu, let’s listen to the words of our seniors. Come, sit down and eat.” Zi Cheng tried to softly comfort Yifu. She didn’t want Yifu to do it. It wasn’t like it was part of a mission, so there was no benefit to it.
What she wanted to do was enter the tomb of the gods. For that she needed the support of the seniors. She couldn’t risk alienating them.
Ai Lin sat down and smiled as she looked at Zi Cheng trying to comfort Yifu. (You want to use the seniors to open the way for you so you can get the treasure from the tomb of the gods? They’re powerful masters so they can do it too. But I’m definitely not letting you get the treasure.)
Princess Nai Nai’s people were unaware of the changes in the inn. The commander positioned guards around the inn to protect the princess and secure the perimeter.
Upstairs the princess had changed into a light green striped skirt and swapped the netted hat for a crown. In the mirror was a beauty. She had limpid eyes framed by sharp eyebrows paired with the perfect set of pouty red lips. Her skin was smooth and unblemished. Her legs were long, her hips curvy, and her bottom perky. She had gorgeous shiny hair that belonged in an Herbal Essence commercial. It was easy to see why she was known as the beauty of Souya.
“Princess, do you want to eat anything?” The maid in red carried a tray of food prepared by the boss of the inn. He had used the ingredients her people brought because the princess couldn’t be expected to eat common ingredients.
“Leave it there. You and Meiren can go change.” Princess Nai Nai sat down and smoothed an errant strand of hair.
The maid in red, Xiao Na, and the other maid, Meiren, looked at the princess with gratitude. They thanked the princess and curtsied before leaving. They went next door and changed as quickly as they could.
It was summer and it was hot. Their clothes were sticky and clung to their bodies. It was an uncomfortable feeling, however without the princess’s permission they couldn’t leave her side to change. Luckily the princess was considerate.
They were maids to the princess so their status was higher than ordinary maids in the palace. Two other maids had already brought a change of clothes for them by the time they entered the room.
They changed out of their wet clothes and into clean, dry ones.
Meiren considered her question before taking a breath and asking. “Xiao Na, do you think the princess is wrong?”
Xiao Na stopped; her hands paused just above the clothes she was sorting. “The princess is the princess. We are her maids. Our priority is to take care of her. Do not worry about anything else.”
“But what if…” Meiren bit her lip still uncertain whether she should give voice to her thoughts or not.
“We’ve followed the princess this far. There’s no turning back. Don’t think too much about it. Just do your job.” Xiao Na fixed her skirt and walked out of the room.
All the words and worry in Meiren’s heart turned into a sigh. She followed Xiao Na out of the room.
Xiao Na was right. What use was there to worry now? They had reached a point of no return. They would surely be put to death if they tried to turn back now.
Downstairs Feng Wu was the only one with the mental fortitude to eat and drink her fill. Everyone else had long lost their appetites.
Those that saw the dead couldn’t bear to eat. They declared they would surely vomit, therefore it was better not to try.
“Xiao Wu, what should we do?” Rain’s heart had been beating irregularly ever since they discovered the inn was soaked in blood and that the air was dense with grudges.
“We need a necromancer for the situation. But we don’t have one.” Luis’s face looked bad. It was clear he was feeling depressed.
Ming Xi calmly agreed. “It’s too late anyway. There aren’t many necromancers around. The one situated in Souya would take days to get here.” He was able to keep his expression neutral but his eyes gave him away.
Ming Xi was an extraordinarily beautiful man, and right now his eyes were filled with worry. The sight made a heart ache. It made a person want to give him the world to ease the worry away.
“Xiao Wu, why don’t you call Lydia over? I remember before we left, the necromancer taught her some techniques. Maybe she can help with the matter.” Jier suddenly remembered the little spirit Feng Wu had contracted with. She had disappeared since they left Rime-Frost.
“OK, I’ll try.” Feng Wu nodded and tried to contact Lydia. Because they were contracted to each other, it didn’t matter where the two were, they could always communicate. However unlike a master/servant contract where the master could forcefully summon a spirit at will, the contract between Feng Wu and Lydia was an equal one, so Lydia didn’t have to appear unless she wanted to.
“Who is Lydia?” Elena asked the question on everyone’s mind.
“She’s Feng Wu’s contracted spirit. Even if she can’t help us, she should be able to explain what’s going on to us.” Jier answered.
She had a contracted spirit? Weren’t necromancers the only ones who could subjugate a spirit and contract with one? Everyone sighed. Really too unbelievable.
Those who sprayed their eyes with the potion saw white smoke coalesce behind Feng Wu. Gradually the shape of a cute girl in a white dress appeared. She was about eleven.
The girl looked curiously around. Ew. The mist of red blood gave her the creeps.
Complaints immediately came rolling off her tongue. “Yuck! Feng Wu, why would you summon me to such a place? It’s filthy with blood and grudges!”
“Whoa. So pretty. I thought all spirits were green with fangs and blood coming out of their orifices. Didn’t expect a spirit to be so cute and adorable!” Gerasi propped his chin on both his hands as he intently stared at her.
“Cute little sister, are you Lydia?” Elena excitedly asked. Elena’s favorite things were cute little girls. Had it not been for the fact that Lydia was a spirit, she would have suffered under Elena’s ministrations already and been smooshed against her generous bosom.
So many people seeing her surprised Lydia. “What? You can see me?” Her excitement disappeared after she looked at them more closely. “Oh. It’s the potion. No wonder you can see me.” To Feng Wu she said, “Alright already, tell me what you want. You didn’t call me over just to make fun of me did you?” Lydia stuck her lips out in a pout.
Except for a few of the girls, everyone in their group could see the blood all around. It was like they were in another world. Legend had it that the asura’s world was filled with blood, similar to the inn now. Everyone was distressed, their hearts uneasy, and they looked to Lydia in the hopes she would be able to explain.
Since Feng Wu was such a lousy storyteller, everyone nominated Jier to explain.
After he explained, Lydia gave a long run-on sentence recap. “OK, so what you’re telling me is that there’s a big sister upstairs and she’s got a bunch of grudges floating all around her and there is a lot of blood raining outside and the inside here is full of bloody mist. Did I get that right?”
Luis said, “Yes, that’s right. Little sister Lydia, do you know what’s going on? Why is it raining blood outside? How come we couldn’t detect it until we used the potion?”
Lydia rolled her eyes at them. She had not been idle. Since they left Rime-Frost she had spent her time studying and she working hard to practice the techniques from the book the old necromancer gave her. She was not the same confused, ignorant girl she was before.
“Of course you can see it. Do you really think the blood you’re seeing now is real?”
(It’s not real?) Everyone skeptically looked at Lydia floating above them.
“Of course not. What you’re seeing now are the grudges taking form. They are very powerful grudges with strong murderous intent. That’s why they’re able to form blood droplets like the rain and blood mist you have here.”
“So what you’re saying is the blood all around us is just an illusion formed by grudges with powerful killing intent?” Tian Ya raised his eyebrows.
“Yes. If it was real everyone would be able to see it. You wouldn’t need to use the potion.” Lydia said as she disdainfully looked down at them.
Being looked down by such a tiny dead spirit brought everyone down.
“Do you know why the grudge here is so powerful?” Ming Xi asked.
“There are lots of reasons grudges form. How would I know why this one is so powerful?” Lydia said before looking at the speaker. Once she did she turned a little shy. If a spirit could blush she would have been blushing. “I can’t see the reason behind the grudges here, but I can see something else.” She spoke with a lilt at the end of her sentence. She squinted at something behind Ming Xi.
Gerasi and the others twitched their lips. Sure enough their leader had a contract. Whatever he contracted with would surely be interesting.
It turned out Feng Wu wasn’t the only one that liked Ming Xi. Lydia liked him too. It was clear to her he wouldn’t create friction between her and Feng Wu. She was very much looking forward to the drama that would play out.
The princess, dressed all in green and wearing a new netted hat,[notes] stepped down the stairs. Her appearance silenced the first floor and made the pitter patter of the rain resound loudly. The only competing sound was the soft footfall of her steps.
Xiao Na, standing behind the princess addressed Liffman, the lead guard, in a neutral tone. “Liffman, tell your men the princess wishes to set out immediately. We will rest at the small town just ahead of here.”
“Princess, it’s raining so heavily, it will be dangerous to travel.” Liffman’s duty was to protect the princess, so of course he would speak up if he thought she wanted to do something dangerous.
“We don’t know when the rain will stop. It could go on for days. Do you want the princess to stay in this tiny lousy inn for that long?” Mieren was the princess’s personal maid so she tried to always maintain an air of superiority over others. Her rank put her above the guards. She smiled as she disdainfully looked down at Liffman.
“But.” Liffman wanted to say more.
“Silence. I have made my decision. We set out immediately.” Princess Nai Nai interrupted Liffman. Her voice was firm but charming at the same time.
Luis stared at Princess Nai Nai. “That princess must be a beautiful woman. It’s a shame she’s wearing a netted hat. I’d love to see what she looks like under it.”
Elena smiled coldly. She didn’t have a good impression of the princess. “You can’t handle that kind of beauty. Just look at the inn. I’m afraid this Princess Nai Nai has something to do with it.”
Because of the princess’s insistence, the only thing Liffman could do was gather his troops and get ready to leave.
The sky cleared up shortly after Princess Nai Nai’s entourage left and the ominous feeling in the air disappeared.
Elena gave Luis an I told you so look. “See? There’s definitely something wrong with Princess Nai Nai.”
Luis could only remain silent.
Ming Xi ignored the two of them and instead gestured for a waiter. “Waiter, ask your boss to come here.”
The waiter did as requested and the boss came over as soon as he heard.
The inn was not far from the realm battlegrounds and the boss had learned to discern the type of people who patronized his inn. When he saw Ming Xi’s group, he knew they weren’t ordinary. Their bearing and aura was unusual.
“Adventurers, you asked me to come over. Was there something you wanted to ask?” The boss was a sharp man. The group asked for him just after Princess Nai Nai left. Odds were whatever they wanted was related to her.
“Yes, we do have some questions regarding Princess Nai Nai. What can you tell us about her?” With his charming, peaceful appearance and manners, it was hard to find anyone who disliked Ming Xi.
“Yes, Princess Nai Nai is the youngest daughter of Souya’s current ruling king. The king has three children, one son and two girls. The girls are twins, Princess Qi Qi and Princess Nai Nai.
Princess Qi Qi has had a strong aptitude for magic since she was young. In fact she’s a second year at Xingguang Holy Academy. Princess Nai Nai, on the other hand, has never shown any talent in magic. It’s a publicly accepted fact that she is the least gifted of the royal children. Although His Royal Majesty and Her Royal Highness both dote on Princess Qi Qi, they haven’t ignored Princess Nai Nai,” finished the boss.
“To be a member of the royal family and not have any magical talent, I’m afraid her days ahead will be difficult.” There was a trace of pity in Zi Cheng’s eyes as she spoke.
“It must be the case. Otherwise why would she come to the realm battlegrounds to train every year?” The boss nodded his head, approving of Zi Cheng’s insight.
“Princess Nai Nai comes here every year?” Ai Lin asked.
“Yes, once every year, but this year she’s returned twice. Today was her second time.
“Her second time? When was her first time back this year?” Ming Xi’s brow furrowed. There was something about the air around Princess Nai Nai he found disagreeable. He was still trying to figure out what it was.
After thinking for a moment the boss replied with, “About four months ago.”
“Only four months and she’s already back. There must be something going on.” Pei Qing tapped his finger on the table.
Something flashed in the boss’s eyes when he heard this. The group didn’t miss it.
Ming Xi asked in a soft coaxing voice, “Boss, is something troubling you?”
The boss looked at the group and sighed before saying, “Yes! You people seem to be talented. This is only a guess on my part but I believe the town may need your help.”
“What do you mean? Speak clearly.” Jier had no patience for cryptic messages. He hated people who only spoke in halves. Why not just say everything in one go already? Stalling only worried people more!
“There is a small town not too far north of here. I and the people who work here are all from there. Lately, these past few months many young girls have become swollen with child. None of the girls will admit to having a relationship with a man, so it’s very strange! The whole thing is a big deal in town.”
“Originally the mayor thought the girls were having illicit relationships with men and that was why they were pregnant. Opinion on the matter changed, and everyone realized something wasn’t right when one of the girls tried to commit suicide. No matter how much she bled, she wouldn’t die.
The mayor and some of the older town heads thought the pregnancies were unnatural, that perhaps the pregnancies were demon spawns. It wasn’t a farfetched idea considering the town’s proximity to the realm battlegrounds. An escaped demon could have caused it.”
“No, that’s impossible,” interrupted Gerasi. “There are two incredibly powerful seals over the entire perimeter. Besides any demons inside are long dead. There’s none that could come out to cause trouble.”
The boss shot Gerasi a reprimanding look. “I know, don’t worry. Please let me finish speaking.”
“Anyways at this point everyone believed the pregnancies was supernatural, so we wanted to find out what was going on. The mayor went to a magician guild to request assistance, but the magician we hired was no help. All he did was circle the town a few times before declaring the pregnancies weren't related to the demons in the realm battlegrounds, that the girls were simply indiscrete and became pregnant in the normal way. He suggested the suicide failed because the girl either ate some kind of special fruit or she just had a strong constitution.
Basically he took our money and left. Now a lot of the people in town believe the girls were indiscrete and that the pregnancies were a result of their affairs.
The girls cried and shouted their innocence, but no one believed them. In the end, because of all the gossip, the affected families kept their daughters inside. Some even forcefully fed abortion drugs to the girls, but it was useless. The babies refused to be aborted.
Princess Nai Nai visited at this most difficult of times. The mayor was afraid the pregnant girls would make the town look bad so he deliberately hid the matter from the her.
After the princess left, there weren’t any new pregnancies. It was really strange so I visited my brother in town. His daughter, my niece, had had something similar happen to her.”
The boss sighed. The whole affair was just pitiful.
“So what was the problem?” Rain asked. The story had roused her curiosity.
Feng Wu was listening quietly as well. No one knew what Lydia was thinking, but she appeared mesmerized by the tale.
“It turned out all the girls had the same dream. Every one of them dreamt of being engaged to a beautiful prince who lived in a magnificent palace. On top of that they were all pregnant. My niece didn’t give it much thought, believing it was just a dream. It was only when her body began showing that she became afraid, and she wondered if wasn't just a dream after all.
My niece and a few other pregnant girls were able to meet up and they realized they had had very similiar dreams of the man. Sometimes the man would claim to be a prince, other times a nobleman. In one dream he even claimed to be the embodiment of a sword god from the ancient past. Whatever his identity, it was always a noble and attractive one.”
Luis tapped his chin in thought. “Interesting.” He asked, “Is it the same person that appears in everyone’s dreams then?”
“Yes, it’s the same person.” The boss sighed.
“How strange. Getting pregnant from a dream! Isn’t that crazy?” Elena had no problems stating her opinions. She had always been a tomboy so she wasn’t shy about sharing her views.
“Boss, what you’re saying is everything settled down after Princess Nai Nai left. That there were no new pregnancies correct?” Ming Xi knew there were many secrets in the world, in fact he even knew what a couple of them were. He thought about the ancient records in his family library but couldn’t remember anything that referenced conception from dreams.
“I realized something.” The boss hesitated but ultimately decided to share his opinion. “After Princess Nai Nai left there weren’t any new pregnancies in town. It really was strange. I wanted to know if the pregnancies were related to her so I hired a few mercenaries to investigate. I had them look into the capital to see if they could find any news regarding pregnancies out of wedlock. I didn’t expect them to find anything but they did! The city looked fine on the surface but there were problems underneath. The mercenaries discovered several pregnancies. The ladies were from noble houses so their families tried to keep it a secret. They even tried to abort the pregnancies, but everything they tried failed.
This only accounts for the nobility, I'm afraid if we consider the common people the casualty would be much higher...”
The boss was a clever man. He had noticed something was off about the princess’s body when she came the first time. After several months of investigation the mercenaries confirmed there was indeed something wrong with the princess. The boss didn’t know what sinister thing was happening, if the man in the dreams was a malevolent spirit. He didn’t know if the princess herself was aware of it. If she was aware of it then was she a part of it? If not then was she another victim?
“Boss, are you telling us this because you want us to help?” Zi Cheng admired him for not trying to sweep the problem under the rug. Instead he was actively trying to do something about it.
“Yes. If I’m not mistaken there’s a demon attached to the princess. You’ll be able to catch it if you follow her.”
He talked with them for a moment longer before taking his leave. After the boss left Jier turned to Lydia and asked, “What do you think?”
Everyone else followed suit and turned to her as well. It was clear the matter involved dead spirits, but unfortunately there wasn't a necromancer in their group.
They were ignorant about these matters, so they could only turn to Lydia for clarification.
Lydia’s eyes were dark. “This is very strange. If we don’t hurry to town, I’m afraid everyone there will die.”
“Is the situation that grave?!” Tian Ya raised his eyebrows in shock.
“Yeah it’s that grave. And yeah it’s that strange. If you want to deal with it then you should leave for town right now. If you don’t want to deal with it, then you should try to get as far away from here as you can.”
From Lydia’s serious face it was obvious she wasn’t joking. Their hearts sank at the enormity of the situation.
“There are so many lives at stake. As students of Xingguang Holy Academy, how can we ignore something like this? We have to take care of it.” Gerasi thumped the table so passionately it made the cups jump.
Ming Xi nodded, his mind made up. “Gerasi’s right. We can’t ignore this. It goes without saying that Xingguang Holy Academy would accept the request for help. We should do what we can to resolve the situation.”
Ordinary people went to the academy to request help if they were targeted or were suffering as a result of something demonic, magical or strange. They didn’t have the ability to resolve the problems themselves so they relied on the swordmasters and magicians in the school. The gatekeepers at Xingguang Holy Academy, aside from securing the entrance, were responsible for receiving these requests. They were an opportunity for the students to hone their skills so there was no charge if the request was accepted. The only times they rejected a request were when it was clear it was a private family matter.
What was happening in town was clearly not a private family matter. It was a request the school wouldn’t refuse, therefore as students of the academy it was their duty to accept.
“This’ll be dangerous. You girls should wait here.” Elena was the kind of good older sister who cared a great deal about her junior sisters. Naturally she didn’t think it was a good idea for the girls, who had just entered the academy, to come along with them.
“Sister Elena, allow me to go. I can protect myself and I won’t add to the confusion.” Ai Lin spoke with determination in her voice, her expression firm.
Zi Cheng promptly chimed in with just as much determination. “Senior Sister Elena, I’d like to go as well. I’m confident in my abilities and I won’t get in your way either.”
“If Xiao Cheng is going, then I’m going too.” The idea of being pregnant just from dreams sounded horrible and Yifu really didn’t want to go, but the thought of being separated from Zi Cheng was worse. Had Zi Cheng not been there she would have chosen to stay behind.
Jasmine spoke up. “I will stay here. My strength is far inferior to seniors. I do not wish to distract you.”
Elena thought Jasmine would react the same way as the other girls and persist in wanting to follow them, so her comment was a pleasant surprise. Jasmine was behaving much more reasonably than Yifu.
Yifu overestimated her own abilities and didn’t understand how lacking she was. If she was lucky, really lucky, maybe she could rank in the top 50 percentile of her class. Her insistence was a nuisance and it troubled Elena and the rest of the group. She was too single-mindedly focused on Zi Cheng. At best she would be cannon fodder, at worse she would hinder the group.
Zi Cheng and Ai Lin, though not as powerful as Jier by any stretch of the imagination, were nonetheless outstanding in their own rights, easily ranking in the top ten of their class.
Zi Cheng and Ai Lin claimed they could protect themselves and wouldn’t be a hinderance, but did they really have the ability? Elena wasn’t sure her and the boys would be able to handle it and protect themselves, nevermind take care of the girls.
Ai Lin secretly frowned at Yifu’s behavior and a thought suddenly occurred to her. The relationship between Yifu and Zi Cheng was an abnormal one, in fact it wasn’t just Yifu, many who liked and favored Zi Cheng behaved strangely. Once their favorability rating reached 100% they overlooked every bad thing about Zi Cheng and essentially worshipped her.
The favorability rating system was interesting too. Once it reached 100% it locked in place and wouldn’t drop no matter what happened afterwards.
Ai Lin hadn’t thought seriously about it before, but witnessing it in action now gave her pause and she realized what a problem it was. The favorability rating never dropped, so anyone Zi Cheng reached 100% with would always find a way to excuse Zi Cheng’s behavior. They would always take the blame, be the one at fault. Who knows, if she gave them a knife and told them to kill themselves, they may even feel it was their fortune and happily die for her.
It was a lot take in, especially considering how many people were willing to die for Zi Cheng in the novel. It would have been more believable if they were men. In that case it was conceivable they were willing to die for her love. But there were also many women who willingly died for Zi Cheng as well. Let's not forget those who willingly acted for her benefit, even against their own best interests.
Ai Lin remembered one roommate who snuck onto her family’s estate and stole a precious celestial ore that was a prized family treasure. She did it because she knew Zi Cheng could use it.
The celestial ore had a mysterious power and for generations had been the symbol of the family’s prestige. The girl was well aware of this. But for her good friend, she betrayed her family and stole the ore for Zi Cheng.
It was inconceivable when considering the girl’s background. Her family cherished her and doted on her since she was born. No normal, sane, noble girl with any kind of education would have done what she did to her family.
Perhaps if Zi Cheng’s life was in danger, and the ore was needed to save her, it would have been more understandable, however Zi Cheng only needed the ore to repair an artifact!
The girl’s family disowned her over the matter but she didn’t regret it one bit, instead she had declared she would do it all over again if she had to. She would do anything for her good friend Zi Cheng.
What happened afterwards was even stranger. Zi Cheng declared everything was done for her sake so she vowed in front of the girl that she, Zi Cheng, would make the girl’s family regret driving her out.
After Zi Cheng became powerful enough she took the artifact and went to the girl’s home. She showed up and accused them of being cold-hearted and ruthless, claiming they had lost their humanity when they kicked their own flesh and blood out and left her with no support. Zi Cheng was there to take revenge for her friend. She fought with them and seriously injured many of the family’s elders in the process.
Looking at it from Zi Cheng’s perspective it would appear that the family got what they deserved. However, things become different when the whole story is shared.
The girl had been driven out of her family because she betrayed them and committed a crime for which she refused to apologize or feel any sense of remorse. They didn’t even destroy her magical core before casting her out and disowning her. If it were anyone else, that person would have been executed immediately. Considering all this, they were in fact incredibly kind in how they dealt with her.
They would never have imagined she would lead such dangers back to their doorstep.
Zi Cheng gravely injured the family elders and left them vulnerable to external pressures. The men that loved Zi Cheng joined in and mercilessly attacked them. Killing off the family members one by one until everyone was dead. It was a miserable fate.
Originally the patriarch and elders of the family were rare, powerful masters, but the battle with Zi Cheng had injured their foundation cores so they couldn’t be relied on to defend the family. Otherwise the family would not have been annihilated so quickly by Zi Cheng’s admirers.
Zi Cheng didn’t hide what happened to the family from the girl.
The girl’s reaction had been tepid. She didn’t care about them so what did it matter to her if they died? She didn’t shed a single tear over her family’s demise. The fact that Zi Cheng spent so much effort and did all this for her only cemented Zi Cheng’s place in her heart. From that day forward the girl vowed to do everything in her power for her friend.
Was this reaction normal?
It would have been more understandable if the girl had been abused or treated unjustly by her family. But it wasn’t the case. She was loved by her family and cherished by her elders. They couldn’t bear to hurt her even after she stole the family’s treasure.
Instead of hating the person who encouraged the destruction of the family that loved her, she expressed gratitude and undying devotion.
A normal person wouldn’t do that.
Therefore it was safe to assume Zi Cheng could directly influence the emotional state of anyone she had a 100% favorability rating with. No matter what Zi Cheng did, they would see it as right and just.
The ability to play people in the palm of your hand was indeed fearsome and terrifying!
Geeze. Ai Lin’s heart turned cold at the realization. It was a good thing she read the book and knew about Zi Cheng’s cheat, otherwise she may have developed good feelings for her and fallen victim to her favorability system! Then she and Yifu would have spent their lives like fools stupidly circling around this godly MC.
By the time Ai Lin came out of her thoughts the group was discussing who would go into town.
Jasmine sat quietly at the table and didn’t say anything else after expressing her desire to stay behind. Unlike Yifu, she didn’t disregard her own safety just to be with Zi Cheng. She thought Zi Cheng was a kind, considerate, and gentle girl, but she didn’t think highly of Yifu at all.
Rain wrinkled her nose cutely. “My strength isn’t high so I won’t go either. I’ll stay and wait for news here.” Though she wanted to go and see the action first hand, she didn’t want to get in their way.
“Yifu, you should stay here too. It’ll be dangerous to go with the strength you have.” Elena chose her words nicely because Yifu was a girl. Had she been a guy Elena would have just used her fists to knock sense into her.
“No! I have to go. I won’t be at ease if Xiao Cheng goes alone.” Yifu’s face was stubborn as she tugged at Zi Cheng.
Damn this girl… she was treating them like they didn’t exist. Elena suddenly had the urge to beat her up…
“Sister Elena, please let Yifu come with us. I’m sure I can keep her safe.” Zi Cheng couldn’t bear to reject Yifu, not after seeing how concerned Yifu was for her.
Wind and Pei Qing exchanged glances. What kind of stupidity was this? Do you have a hole in your brain or something? You think you can protect this idiot? When the time comes, are you sure you can even protect yourself?
“Senior Sister Elena, if she wants to go, just let her go. When the time comes and it gets dangerous she has no one to blame but herself.” Pei Qing laughed slyly.
Yifu glared hatefully at Pei Qing. She was at a point where she hated anything positively associated with Feng Wu, ergo she hated Pei Qing. “Please do not worry Sister Elena. I can take care of myself.”
As for Feng Wu, there was no doubt she would go since she was Lydia’s master. Everyone knew they would likely need Lydia’s help. In the end the only ones to stay behind were Rain and Jasmine.
The boss decided to throw his luck in with them, and leave with the group. He brought them to the carriage he used whenever he was in a hurry. From what Feng Wu said, it sounded like there was going to be a river of blood and much danger. Although his inn was on the road, all his family members lived in town. He wanted to get them out of there as fast as he could.
They drove hard and fast. Throughout the ride there wasn’t a single animal or insect sound. It was eerily silent.
They hoped they would make it in time, but their hopes were grim.
The scene they encountered an hour later once they reached town was not what they expected. The streets were bustling with merchants doing business and mothers shopping while children played and ate snacks. It wasn’t the scene of a disaster at all.
How could this be? Princess Nai Nai’s carriage was certain to be faster than theirs, so how could they have arrived before her?
“Boss, quickly go home and get your family and friends out of town,” Ming Xi said.
The boss nodded and hurried out of the carriage.
This was the course of action everyone had agreed to while in the carriage. The boss would take care of those he knew.
“Wait. It’s OK for you to take whoever you want, but the girls who are pregnant can’t leave with you. If you take them with you, everyone will die.” Feng Wu let out an unusually long stream of words right as they got out of the carriage.
Feng Wu was only so verbose because she was repeating Lydia’s words. On her own she wouldn’t have been so wordy.
The boss agreed before quickly turning around and steering the carriage home. He soon disappeared out of sight.[notes]
After the boss left Lydia said, somewhat rudely, “Spray them with the potion. They won’t be of help to anybody if they can’t see.” The event was clearly a supernatural spiritual event. It was right up her alley so if the guys wanted to help, they had no choice but to listen to her. The whole thing was just music to her ears.
It was a pity; it was unlikely she would get away with being this bossy again in the future.
Lydia thought it was silly that the freshmen girls were trying to keep up with the seniors. Zi Cheng and Ai Lin, maybe. They had a good foundation, but Yifu? Tch. That girl was just a brainless idiot.
As the only senior girl, it fell on Elena to tell the girls the bad news, that they would need to use the potion. Ai Lin and Zi Cheng were good sports and agreed to do so without preamble. Yifu on the other hand had an ugly expression, and it was clear to everyone she was unwilling. Their opinion of her dropped even more. It really was hard to like her! It took a full minute of Zi Cheng’s persuasion to get her to do it, but ultimately she did.
The potion barely dried in their eyes before their world changed. The sun was shining in a wonderful blue sky just a second ago, but now it was a depressing red. Aside from the red, there was also a sinister dark miasma flowing from the road into town.
Though all three girls turned pale, Ai Lin and Zi Cheng seemed to handle it better than Yifu. Both Ai Lin and Zi Cheng were determined, Zi Cheng because she was fated to be the MC, and Ai Lin because she wanted to reverse her villainess fate. It would have been a joke if they fainted at something like this.
Yifu didn’t have their determination. The longer she looked around the more frightened she became. She couldn’t take it anymore! Her legs crumbled under her and she fell to the ground screaming. This quickly attracted a large crowd.
“What’s going on? Is that girl sick?”
“You shouldn’t delay if your illness is bad.”
“What in the world is going on over there in front of the shops?”
“I don’t know. I came over to ask the same thing.”
A girl screaming in the middle of the road, of course it would attract attention. The passersby stopped to stare, wondering what was going on. They gathered in a circle around Feng Wu and the group.
Yifu kept screaming, mindless of the growing crowd around her.
Zi Cheng looked around in embarrassment. She was a clever girl and she could see the seniors were upset and getting annoyed at the situation. They would surely become angry if it continued. Feng Wu’s group were smirking like it was a huge joke. Ai Lin was as unreadable as ever, but it was clear she didn’t intend to interfere.
Zi Cheng knew it was up to her to calm Yifu. She hurriedly knelt down beside Yifu to soothe her, but instead of being comforted, Yifu shrieked like a madwoman and gave Zi Cheng a vicious, hard shove.
Zi Cheng was completely unguarded; she didn’t think Yifu would ever shove her like that. The shove was so fierce she lost her footing and tumbled to the ground, making a complete role before stopping. Dirty smudges smeared all over her once clean, pretty clothes.
The fair-skinned beauty became a bedraggled mess.
“Yifu!” Zi Cheng was unhappy and felt at a loss. She’d never suffered any kind of humiliation since coming to the world. How vexing that Yifu, her good friend, would be the first one to make her lose face!
But Zi Cheng was an MC, a godly MC at that, how could she let others read her thoughts so easily? Please. She was angry at Yifu, but all she let show in her eyes was appropriate confusion and worry for her friend.
The display was a success.
(So kind-hearted! What a good girl! Only that purple-haired lass was willing to help her friend. Unlike those others just watching. How inhumane! Just heartless!) were the thoughts of the passersby who didn’t know the truth of the situation.
Everyone in the Ming Xi’s group had something to say with their body language.
Ming Xi’s eyes said: Now what?
Elena’s facial reply was: How should I know?
Tian Ya had his arms crossed in front of his chest. He didn’t know these people.
Luis and Gerasi had checked out and were whistling as they looked everywhere but at Yifu.
Wind, Pei Qing, and Jier’s faces all said the same thing: You’re the seniors; you take care of it.
Feng Wu: So noisy.
After a round of everyone eyeing each other, it was clear no one knew how to handle the situation. Finally it got too noisy. Feng Wu stepped up to the screaming Yifu and tapped her. The screaming immediately stopped. That is to say the horrible heaven rending screeching stopped, but it was clear from Yifu’s open mouth she was still trying to scream, only no sound came out. She opened her eyes and glared with mindless hatred at Feng Wu.
“You should take your medicine!” Feng Wu remembered her masters words: If you’re sick, you should take your medicine. This girl was clearly sick and in a lot of pain. Why else would she scream so much? Feng Wu nodded earnestly as she spoke.
Everyone shared the same thought: Ah… finally peace and quiet.
The crowd was quick to disperse once the drama died out. In just two short minutes everyone had gone back to minding their own business, but every few minutes someone would turn to stare at the group.
But compared to earlier this was quite good! This was tolerable, much better than the stink eyes they were getting earlier.
They quickly pulled Yifu into an alleyway, relieved they were no longer the center of attention. They really regretted bringing her along!
“Feng Wu, what did you do to Yifu? How come she can’t talk now?”
After losing her voice, Yifu lost her steam and regained her senses. She had turned into a mute! Her eyes were full of poison as she glared at Feng Wu. A desire to kill her hated adversary flitted through her heart and showed in her eyes.
Yifu wanted to know what Feng Wu did to her but she couldn’t utter a single word. The only thing she could do was stare imploringly at Zi Cheng.
Zi Cheng still resented Yifu for shoving her but that didn’t mean she was going to let someone bully her friend. After getting the silent message from Yifu, she asked Feng Wu what she did. Her tone was filled with concern and not aggressive at all.
The others in the group were also curious. What kind of magic was this? Press a point on someone’s body and they became mute?
“I pushed her pressure point. It will release in two hours.” Yifu’s bitter face had no effect on Feng Wu.
Zi Cheng and Ai Lin were shocked at Feng Wu’s answer; both had the same thoughts buzz through their minds.
It was a pressure point! But disabling someone through their pressure point was something you only found in wuxia novels. It wasn’t something you actually did in real life! Was it possible she wasn’t from this world either?
Though they suspected Feng Wu also transmigrated, they weren’t 100% certain. Both would look for a way to test their theory later.
“Can you release it now?” Zi Cheng asked. She kept a firm lid on her emotions, not betraying her feelings about Feng Wu to the group. In their eyes all they saw was her dedication and concern for Yifu.
“Yes.” Feng Wu nodded, quickly added, “But I’m afraid she will start screaming again.” (So noisy.)
“Wait, don’t release it yet. What if she damages her throat from screaming too much? With her courage, you know she’s going to scream. I suggest we keep her mute until we reach our destination inside the city,” Wind said. He didn’t like Yifu, especially the expression on her face. She looked like she wanted to kill Feng Wu so if they let her speak she would definitely say something. A chance to keep her quiet didn’t come often, so they may as well take advantage of it.
“Yeah… regarding that, I have thin nerves. It will negatively impact my fighting abilities if I hear her high-pitched shrieking in the middle of battle. That would affect my own personal safety. I second Wind’s suggestion.” Pei Qing raised his hand as he spoke and in good order those behind him also raised their hands in agreement.
Elena didn’t mind agreeing if it meant keeping Yifu quiet. “Cough, cough… Junior Sister Yifu, you may feel wronged, but since everyone agrees, we will not unmute you. You’ll be able to talk again in two hours, so it’s not a big deal really.” Yifu’s personality was so bad that even the junior-sister-loving Elena didn’t like her. Indeed, though Elena was patient and kind to the girls, Yifu had so many shortcomings, it tested even Elena’s goodwill.
“Senior Sister Elena!” Zi Cheng wanted to change their minds but she didn’t get a chance before the group moved to another topic. As a result Yifu was left muted and smoldering with her impotent thoughts about her nemesis. She hated Feng Wu to death!
Why? Why?! Twice now the group shunned her because of Feng Wu. What was so good about that girl, why go so far to protect Feng Wu? The girl was just a commoner!
But no matter how hard Yifu hated Feng Wu, nothing changed. Zi Cheng was the only one who even looked her way. Everyone was intent on discussing what to do next.
Ai Lin noticed Lydia was actually only about twelve and an absolute cutie: ten out of ten! It really was pitiful she died so young. Ai Lin eventually joined in the group’s discussion about what to do next.
“Let’s go and find the girls who are pregnant. There are a few things I need to confirm.” Ultimately it was Lydia who decided their next steps.
Ming Xi wanted to notify the mayor and start moving the people out of town, but Lydia vetoed it.
“It won’t work. The lives of people in this world are fated, fixed in place. Most here are fated to die today, so even if you helped them escape from town they will still encounter the princess and her party later somewhere along the way and they’ll ultimately meet their end even faster.” All her studying had given Lydia some understanding of life and death.
Fate was unchangeable. The boss and his family were blessed and would not die easily, but this small town was already encircled by blood. The odds of any of the citizens leaving the town were slim. Even if any of them could leave, they would inevitably find themselves in another situation just as hopeless.
With so many lives at stake Ming Xi and his group refused to give up hope. Who would stand by and not try to save anyone? They couldn’t watch and let so many people perish. Because of this Ming Xi and his group split into two groups.
Ming Xi and Elena would find the mayor and prepare an evacuation of the town while the everyone else would search for the pregnant girls and investigate the situation.
Zi Cheng agreed with what Lydia said because she herself had transmigrated. This made her believe there was such a thing as fate in this world.
Ai Lin didn’t fully believe in the idea of fate or Zi Cheng’s role as the destined female lead.
Ai Lin was optimistic. She wanted to see if the town could escape its fate with the help of Ming Xi’s group. If so, then wasn’t it further proof her counterattack of Zi Cheng would work?
It was a small town so it didn’t take more than ten minutes to reach the first house. It was obvious from the dilapidated condition of the place that the family wasn’t doing well.
The mother, upon learning Feng Wu and her classmates were adventurers, immediately set about welcoming them with open arms. Perhaps they would be able to save her daughter.
Her daughter was about eighteen with an incredibly swollen belly. She was only five months into her pregnancy but had the look of someone long overdue. The size was distressing to look at.
Her eyes were dull and hopeless. It was obvious she was just waiting for death to come and claim her.
“Hello. We were sent from the Adventurers’ guild to help you. Can you tell us about what happened? We may be able to help your daughter,” Zi Cheng said to the mother after they were welcomed inside.
Zi Cheng, with her favorability rating system, was easily nominated to be the group speaker. She exuded warmth and was approachable. Add to that her smooth social skills and she was a natural choice to conduct the questioning. She had played the role in the original story as well, and normally Ai Lin would try to compete with her, but in this instance she had no interest. It was an awkward role and wouldn’t gain her anything.
The mother wiped tears from her eyes before systematically telling them everything that had happened to her daughter.
“My daughter became pregnant five months ago. Her disposition completely changed for the worse. She insisted she’d met the devil in her dreams. At first neither I nor her father believed it.
But this was to be expected. What normal person would? It was just a dream after all; how could anyone get pregnant from such a thing? But then… several incidents occurred. A few of the girls tried to harm themselves.
Many of the family heads got together and we soon realized the girls were telling the truth. If only one or two of them had the same story, then you could say it was a lie, but when all of them had the same story with the same details…? They couldn’t have done it, not without contradicting each other.
There were more than a dozen households affected. We all tried different things to help the girls, but nothing worked. Even the very expensive magician we hired was no help. “
The mother cried piteously after finishing. She looked at them with frightened eyes. She was pinning her hopes on them. She would likely die from heartache if they failed.
“What are you doing?” The daughter had become a skittish colt, frightened of every breeze, and alarmed at every sound, ever since she became pregnant. At the moment Feng Wu was tugging at her hand. The action scared her and she tried to pull away.
Zi Cheng and the others had been preoccupied with comforting the mother, so they hadn’t noticed when Feng Wu and Lydia approached the daughter.
She was an emaciated thing, with barely any flesh, just skin and bones, and a protruding belly. It was clear her mental state was unstable. Even her struggle with Feng Wu was weak and half-hearted.
“Xiao Wu, what are you doing?” Luis stared in surprise at Feng Wu. This normally well-behaved girl was actually putting her hands on a pregnant girl…
Jier and Pei Qing didn’t feel the same way. In fact they went over to help Feng Wu.
“Ad- adventurers, why are you holding down my daughter? She…” The mother spoke up despite her fear.
Feng Wu said, “We can still save her.”
“What?!” The mother looked at Feng Wu, eyes wide with hope. Her next words came out in a mad rush. “Oh honorable adventurer please save my daughter! Please save my daughter!”
A dim light sparked in the girl’s eyes. “Can you really save me?”
“Stay still.” Inside her dantian, beyond everyone’s sight, Feng Wu was helping Xiao Chun guide a small part of his essence into the girl’s belly.
Not a single question was uttered when a faint white light passed from Feng Wu’s hand into the girl. What was most important right now was saving her, questions could come later.
The girl felt comfortable. Ever since she became pregnant, she had been unable to keep warm, but now for the first time in a long time, her whole body was warm. It was so wonderful she nearly cried. She marveled at how something so minor could make her feel so happy.
A twinge in her lower abdomen made her look down. Her stomach was deflating while farther down blood soaked into her skirt.
“Dear god! What, what is going on?” cried the mother.
It was a terrifying image to behold. A girl, of just skin and bones, was bleeding so much the blood soaked through her skirt. It was like a horror show.
“Mom! I’m OK! I’m OK! Whatever was in my stomach, it’s finally gone!” Her body returned to normal after shedding the black blood. The girl rushed to embrace her mother as soon as Feng Wu released her hand. The two cried in each other’s arms for a full ten minutes, as though finally releasing all the fear and anxiety they felt in the last few months. Both mother and daughter invited the group to stay and share a meal, but the group had to decline their goodwill; there were many other homes they had to visit.
“Something big will happen today. Make sure you stay indoors and close and lock all your windows and doors. Do not touch the rain if it rains, otherwise you may put your lives at risk.” Feng Wu repeated Lydia’s words, word for word like an automated voice machine.
It didn’t matter though. She had just saved the girl, so in their eyes, she was as good as a god.
After asking about the location of all the pregnant girls, the group left for the nearest one.
Upon reaching the house they saw that the next family was in a similar situation as the previous family they visited. They went through the same routine and gave them the same warning before moving on to the next family.
Unfortunately they arrived at the third family too late. The girl was screaming as she went through labor with her family by her side, but they were unable to give her any strength. Her cries were desperate and pitiful but no one could save her.
Her belly split open like a cracked watermelon and a black smog shaped baby erupted through the slit. Everyone watched as it flew up. Those who had not used the potion should not have been able to see it, but perhaps it became visible because its grievance or grudge was so strong.
“What is that?!” Wind cried out.
“Aye Yo! Don’t frighten me like that! I scare easily!” Pei Qing hid behind Jier. For such a tiny thing it, had a truly intimidating and terrifying aura. Its eyes were blood-shot and full of resentment. It looked like it wanted to kill everything in sight!
Yifu collapsed to the ground clutching Zi Cheng’s skirt in tight fists. If it weren’t for the fact her vocal pressure points were still locked she would have been shrieking in fright.
Luis’s face blanched and he yelled at Gerasi, “Get them out of here!”
Gerasi tore his gaze away from the baby and grabbed the parents, intending to flee the room with them, but the baby was not having it. It flew to the entrance and blocked their path. From the murderous look in its eyes, it was clear it wasn’t going to let anyone escape.
The mother screamed out, “Monster! It really is a monster!” before passing out.
“Damn!” Gerasi cursed. It looked like it would be impossible to escape with two ordinary people. He handed the unconscious woman to her husband and had him step aside. This gave Gerasi enough space to pull out his wand. He quickly assumed a battle posture.
The father had kept his wits. He held his wife against him and hid behind the group, not daring to expose even an inch of their bodies.
Feng Wu realized the couple misunderstood. They saw the newly born grudge as some kind of monster. Now wasn’t the time to explain though. They had to take care of the grudge first.
Everyone but Feng Wu and the couple took out weapons in preparation for a battle.
“Come at me!” Tian Ya yelled as he pulled out a sword. Once unsheathed the sword shone a brilliant white.
Sword intent? Of those present only Feng Wu recognized the light for what it was. The blade cut a white arc through the air creating a cold chill in the room. It really was an icy sword intent.
Manifesting sword intent was a natural part of a swordmaster's growth. Once one reached a certain level in swordsmanship, the sword intent would manifest on its own. However to get there the wielder needed to have a certain level of focus and cognition in order to make that breakthrough.
That Tian Ya overcame that hurdle and manifested his sword intent at such a young age, he truly was a genius among geniuses!
The others,[notes] present could not have comprehended the magnitude of this achievement. The only ones who could recognize it were Feng Wu and Tian Ya, and to a certain extent possibly Wind. Everyone else were either ordinary people or magicians. They didn’t understand the way of the sword.
In Wind’s case, with his level of mastery, it was impossible for him to call forth his sword intent, so even if he had heard of the concept, which he hadn’t, there was no way for him to recognize it even if the real thing was standing in front of him.
Feng Wu easily recognized it because she was a swordmaster in her previous life and had already achieved her own sword intent, thus had a strong understanding of it already.
Although the others in the group didn’t know what sword intent was, they could feel the chill from the blade and the sense of oppressive aura emanating from it. They knew his sword was not ordinary in that moment.
Under everyone’s gaze Tian Ya swung out with his sword. The blade made a white arc and snow and ice filled the room. It was extremely beautiful, but deadly as each crystalline snowflake was infused with killing intent.[notes]
To everyone’s surprise, when Tian Ya attacked with the sword the little baby did not dodge. Instead it screamed twice and took the assault head on.
Just as everyone thought it was over for the little baby spirit something unexpected happened. Instead of making impact, Tian Ya’s sword passed through the little baby’s body! It stuck it out its tiny palm and slapped Tian Ya.
Coming from something like that, there was no way the slap wouldn’t be dangerous. Even if it wasn’t lethal it would surely result in serious injury.
“What’s going on?! Why isn’t the attack working?!” Ai Lin yelled out. She didn’t expect such a powerful sword would do no damage to such a tiny monster.
Ai Lin had no idea what was going on. What was happening now wasn’t in the story. The town itself was mentioned but the author had left out the details.
Now here was this ghost thing in front of them. Her first thoughts were to get a Daoist priest and use their talisman papers. But this wasn’t that kind of world so that wasn’t going to happen.
In this world only necromancers could handle the dead. It wasn’t the same as on Earth but it worked just as well. She would have studied more about necromancers if she had known they would play such a big roll!
She wasn’t the only one who regretted not learning more about the dead. Zi Cheng was also super regretful! Had she known, she would have exchanged some of her points for a spell book on the dead.
“Of course it’d be useless. It’s a ghost. Ordinary attacks won’t work on it. You need weapons or spells that hurt the soul directly. The spells and weapons we have now deal with living entities. They’re fine for people and other races, but they won’t work on spirits. Obviously.” Lydia said as she flew to Feng Wu’s side. Her tone was dripping with disappointment. She couldn’t believe they were so stupid. Why would there be a need for necromancers if ordinary weapons and spells worked on the dead? Seriously, it was like they thought necromancers were just there for decoration.
After that talk down from Lydia, everyone was quiet.
The idea had honestly not crossed their minds. If Lydia hadn’t said anything, they would have kept attacking futilely.
“So, we have to stand here and take its attacks?” Zi Cheng asked wrinkling her delicate brows.
The baby didn’t just stand there and wait quietly while they talked. It rushed at them.
Since their attacks were ineffective the only thing they could do was hide, but hiding was useless. It attacked the weakest of the group: Zi Cheng, Ai Lin, Yifu and Wind.
The slap it gave them was tremendous. All four were knocked unconscious and black marks appeared on their skin. The couple hiding behind them was also hit with the reverberations. It looked like they were poisoned.
“Lydia, think of something!” Luis shouted while trying to dodge the baby’s kick. It was proving to be difficult.
Perhaps it had something to do with the relationship between people and spirits, but it didn’t attack Lydia at all. She stood to the side relaxed and smirking at the scene.
Feng Wu was also just as relaxed. It had attacked her, but not as much as everyone else. It was strange. It only attacked her once in the entire time, while everyone else had been attacked four or times each.
“Xiao Wu, be careful. See if there’s a way to destroy the spirit.” Though Jier’s flames couldn’t hurt the spirit, it did act as a deterrent. The second least attacked person was Jier.
“I know.” Feng Wu nodded before asking Lydia a few questions. The girls had a good relationship so after answering Feng Wu’s questions, she obediently flew to the air and stayed out of the way. She would watch but not help.
After a moment more of thought Feng Wu yelled out to those trying to evade the baby, “Everyone, get out of the way!”
They had no idea what she wanted to do, but they obediently scrambled out of the way, leaving a large open space between Feng Wu and the baby.
Feng Wu did not disappoint. Everyone watched as a sword with an incredibly ancient aura emerged from her hand. Yes it was Xiao Chun. He chirped cheerfully, not trying to disguise his body in the least. It had been a long time since he came out to play so he was really happy.
Jier’s expression changed for a moment when he saw the sword, but he quickly covered it up. The others knew the sword was of extraordinary origins, but they didn’t know what it was. Tian Ya had a guess but he kept it to himself. He didn’t care about other people’s secrets.
Xiao Chun’s appearance made the little baby spirit tremble. It had been arrogantly flying around and messing with everyone but now it looked like it was actually afraid.
With Xiao Chun in hand, Feng Wu stepped closer to the little baby spirit. Surprisingly, though it was scared to the point of trembling uncontrollably, it did not try to run. It was really strange! The group was puzzled but they refrained from asking questions.
Feng Wu stabbed the little spirit with Xiao Chun. It instantly let out a high-pitched miserable sound. The sound was sharp enough to break a person’s eardrums.
It befuddled their minds, but fortunately it didn’t last long. They thought the little baby spirit was finally defeated. Unexpectedly it was replaced by a normal baby spirit.
This one was white. He seemed confused. Then he turned to Feng Wu and a look of gratitude filled his eyes. He looked like a contrite child who knew he had misbehaved and was now waiting to be scolded.
“It’s OK. Be careful next time and don’t make the same mistake again.” Feng Wu spoke seriously to the little spirit.
The little spirit nodded and winked away in a flash of light.
With the baby spirit gone, Xiao Chun returned to Feng Wu’s dantian.
The six people, Ai Lin, Zi Cheng, Yifu, Wind, and the couple woke up. They were cursed by the little spirit’s touch and fell into a coma, so they naturally woke up once the baby spirit was purified.
“Thank you adventurers! Thank you so much!” The poor couple had just watched their daughter die in front of their eyes, then they themselves were nearly eaten by an evil spirit. They had aged greatly in those few minutes. They were worn out.
“You’re welcome. There might be a big commotion outside later. No matter what you hear, remain indoors. Do not go outside. And if it rains, make sure you don’t touch any of the rain. Something bad will happen to you if you do.” Luis warned the couple. They didn’t have a lot of time so they needed to hurry to the next family as fast as they could.
“What happened just now? Did you guys kill the spirit?” Wind asked Pei Qing. He couldn’t remember anything after being hit by the spirit. By the time he woke up the battle was won and everything was settled. He didn’t get to see anything, so of course he grabbed Pei Qing and immediately asked.
“No not destroyed. It was put back into the wheel of reincarnation. You’ll have to ask Lydia if you want to know the specifics. I’m not too clear on the whole thing myself.” Pei Qing glanced coldly at Wind before briskly walking away.
It wasn’t just Wind who was curious. Even those who were conscious throughout the battle were confused. How was the evil baby spirit purified? How did it even end up in the girl’s belly to begin with?
They were all interested in hearing Lydia’s explanation.
“Actually the baby spirit was an ordinary spirit. We, all of us, take spiritual form after we die so we can reincarnate afterwards. The when and where will take care of itself. We won’t be able to resist the pull even if we want to. Contracted spirits like me are an exception.
There is a requirement though. The spiritual form can’t have any grudges or resentment attached to it. Those with resentment can’t reincarnate.
Some babies die shortly after birth, others die in the womb. The spirit we saw was the spirit of a baby in that situation.”
The group listened to Lydia’s explanation as they walked. Apparently people reincarnated after death. It was the first time they heard such a thing. After all, what wandering necromancer would ever divulge trade secrets like that?
“Their spirits are full of grievances, but as long as the grievances aren’t deep, they’ll eventually dissolve on their own. Once gone the spirits will be able to reincarnate. These baby spirits had bad luck though. They met these girls before their grievances dissolved.
The girls weren’t pregnant but they had a magic aura around them that made it seem like they were. This attracted the baby spirits. They entered the girls’ bodies and patiently waited to be reborn. But after waiting and waiting they realized they’d been cheated. These girls weren’t pregnant; they weren’t going to be reborn at all.
On top of failing to reincarnate, they were contaminated by some kind of magic because of the girls. The baby spirits grew resentful. It would have been a wonder if their aura didn’t turn black. They would take revenge on the fake mothers who cheated them out of their chance to reincarnate. The babies would infect the mothers and destroy their chances of reincarnation too.”
“Wait. What about the one who planted the magic in the girls? ” Luis interrupted Lydia. “Was there some kind of benefit for this person?”
“Of course there’s benefit. Do you know where demons come from? They form from human emotion and desires. I was suspicious before, but now I’m certain. There’s definitely a powerful demon nearby, one that’s probably very hurt. He’s creating the grudges in order to harvest them as a tonic for his wounds. The stronger the resentment the better the tonic. His strength will replenish as he devours them. There will be a wave of monsters as he does.” Lydia explained.
“Wait, hold on! I thought demons were created from the gods. An impure god turns into a demon. How can a demon be formed from human emotions? That’s not right!” Gerasi shook his head, clearly disagreeing with Lydia’s statements.
“You swine! You son of a hog! Those are the ancient demon gods! These are mortal demons, inferior demons. How can they be from the gods? You might as well say gods come from cabbages!” Lydia vented out her aggravation.
“I’m sorry Lydia! This guy’s IQ is too low. He barely scraped by in classes. Don’t mind what he says. Please continue.” Luis hurriedly grab Gerasi and pulled him back.
What? It wasn’t even something you learned in class OK? It was commonsense. Gerasi knew Luis was just making fun of him to ease the situation so he obediently backed down.
“Lydia, so what you’re saying is that the babies in the girls’ bellies were just food for the demon, and that he would eventually come for them?” Zi Cheng summarized the main points for everyone.
Yifu was scared silent. She hunched her shoulders up to her neck and tried to hide behind Zi Cheng.
“After all that time for the grievances to incubate? Of course it will come for them.” Lydia said casually.
The group was even more anxious after learning the truth about the pregnancies. Demons! Based on what Lydia said, the demon was also a powerful one. This really complicated matters.
They continued around the town doing what they could with heavy hearts. From time to time residents would rush out to greet them or give them a gift before hurrying back inside to lock their doors and windows.
Elena and Ming Xi reunited with the team after successfully convincing the mayor. Both sides filled the other in on what happened. Luis did most of the talking, sharing what had happened with the vengeful little baby spirit.
In this manner, they continued visiting the people one house at a time, saving those they could. One of the houses they visited was the house of the boss’s close friend. The daughter there was fortunate to have parents who loved her dearly.
Her parents knew something big was going to happen and their lives could be forfeit, but they chose to stay when they found out their daughter couldn’t come with them, neither wanted to leave their daughter to die alone.
Fortunately Feng Wu’s group arrived in time and saved her by purifying the baby spirit. The family cried in joy.
The kids left after leaving the family the same admonishment they left everyone else: stay indoors and don’t let the rain hit you.
Feng Wu abruptly stopped and said, “Wait. It’s going to rain soon.”
“Is Princess Nai Nai almost here?” Jier asked. He understood Feng Wu well. With just that short sentence he knew what she meant.
“So slow. What took her so long to get here?” Wind wrinkled his nose.
“Don’t talk, just look for a place to shelter from the rain,” Ming Xi ordered.
Because it was so close to the realm battlegrounds, the town had a lot of adventurer visiting it every year. There were many small inns all over town catering to this clientele. So Ming Xi and his group quickly found an inn to shelter in.
It was a good thing. The rain came crashing down shortly after they went inside.
It was clearly day, but the sky was so dark it felt more like the middle of the night. The kids had sprayed their eyes so for them the rain wasn’t clear liquid, but red bloody droplets. Everything was tainted red. The only respite came from the black fog that rolled through.
Screams, filled with mourning, drifted into town.
“Princess Nai Nai is coming.” Elena clenched her hand tightly around her sword.
Those residents who planned to leave quickly ran back home. They were soaked but they didn’t mind since they were so close to home still. It was easy enough to change into dry clothes. They would try to leave again once the rain let up. Once inside they shuttered their windows and locked their doors.
Unfortunately most of them wouldn’t get that chance. For most this would be the last rain they’d live to see.
When the princess finally arrived the mayor went out to greet her and lend her the use of his personal manor. He left with a big umbrella afterwards.
The sky cleared up and the rain stopped half an hour later. People returned to packing so they could leave.
The mayor had sent out several runners to tell everyone several adventurers had warned him something big was going to happen in town, that it would not be safe to remain. He advised everyone to leave for a few days until things settled down.
Most of the town’s residents were normal people. They didn’t know any magic or how to cultivate so they were very respectful to powerful adventurers. Most of the residents decided to leave after listening to what the mayor’s message. Only a minority opted not to seek refuge in the city. Instead they chose to stay behind and mind their homes.
None of them would have thought it was too late to leave, that the blood bath would start soon.
“What do we do now?” Yifu asked as she clutched at Zi Cheng’s clothes. She was uneasy and deeply regretted coming. If she knew it was so dangerous, she would have stayed behind at the inn with Jasmine.
A voice roared in her heart when she thought this. The voice said Zi Cheng was her best friend; how could she leave her alone? She had to protect Zi Cheng no matter what, even if it meant dying; her life’s purpose was to protect Zi Cheng.
The firm voice erased the uneasiness in her heart.
“The demon has to be with Princess Nai Nai, so we’ll go to where she is,” Jier stated.
Ming Xi made his decision quickly. “We’ll divide into two groups. My group will guard Princess Nai Nai, and Feng Wu, you and your group continue helping the girls.”
Everyone agreed to the plan so Feng Wu and her team[notes] left to help more girls, while Ming Xi and his group went to guard the princess.
Lydia told them time was running out, so they rushed, trying to help as many people as they could.
The next house on their list wasn’t far so they reached it quickly. They could hear loud argument as they stood at the front gates.
“Let me go mom! The princess is in danger! I have to go find her!” The speaker sounded like a young woman, around twenty or so. Her voice was nasally and hoarse, like she’d been crying for some time.
“Where are you going to go looking like that?! Everyone in town look at us like we’re monsters. The spit from all their gossip will drown you! And you still want to take care of some princess?!” A middle-aged woman screamed from near the doorway.
“How can I not care about the princess?! She treated me so well! I have to talk to her and explain things properly!” The young woman’s voice was firm.
“No! I won’t allow it! Out of the question! You think the princess is going to let us off? You think she’s going to let our family off?!” The older woman sounded even more alarmed than before.
Feng Wu and the group looked at each other before knocking. No one came to open the gates, probably because the shouting was so loud. Jier had to bang on it a few more times before someone came out.
“Who are you?” the middle-aged woman asked when she saw them. She was older but her clothes looked nicer than those of the previous families they visited. She looked at Feng Wu and the group with eyes full of suspicion and unease.
No one in the group thought anything of her gaze. Everyone they visited had given them the same distrustful and nervous looks at first.
The affected families were living under a great deal of pressure from the townspeople ever since the pregnancies appeared. Some more venomous people even smeared animal blood and feces on their doors. Naturally this made the families on guard against any visitors.
“Hello, we were sent by the Adventurers’ guild to help you.” Pei Qing smiled politely taking on the task of speaking for the group.
The woman replied in disbelief. “Adventurers? You’re from the Adventurers’ guild? The mayor didn’t say anything about asking the Adventurers’ guild for help.”
The mayor was a good person, but he wasn’t so selfless he would pay out of his own pocket. Maybe if his own family was affected, yes, but otherwise… never. The magician from last time was only invited because everyone in town pitched in, with a majority of the funds coming from families with daughters. After all no one knew who the next victim could be. The families with already pregnant daughters paid the most.
The woman hadn’t seen the mayor come around asking for donations, and she certainly hadn’t heard anything about it.
“It was not a request from the mayor. The boss from the inn near town asked us to help. We’ve already visited several of the families affected and resolved the problem of the babies for them. Allow us to see your daughter. The longer we wait the more dangerous it will be. The sooner we resolve the issue the better.”
“Oh, him!” the woman exclaimed in relief. If it was the inn owner, then she could believe it. He was a good man. He looked after the more destitute children by giving them jobs at his inn. “Everyone please, come in. I will bring my daughter out shortly.”
Feng Wu and the group followed the woman. The yard looked well maintained and the house decent. They were definitely well-off, probably middle to upper-middle class, and much wealthier than any of the previous families the group visited. If not for their daughter’s situation they would have been a respectable house.
The mother came back with her daughter, Xiao Lan, a beautiful girl with dispirited eyes and considerably pregnant belly. Had they arrived a day or two later it would have been impossible to save her. She would have died the same way the other girl had.
Xiao Chun forced the baby out and quickly purified it.
With the baby gone, Xiao Lan’s body returned to normal. She looked down at her flat belly and cried. Then she flung herself onto Feng Wu as she pleaded, “Oh honorable adventurer, please, please save the princess! Princess Nai Nai is in danger. Please save her!” She dropped onto her knees and kowtowed to Feng Wu desperately begging for help.
Jier and Pei Qing exchanged glances. It looked like Xiao Lan knew something.
“Ms. Xiao Lan, please get up first before saying more. We saw the princess today. She seemed fine. How is it she’s in danger?” Pei Qing asked as he gently helped Xiao Lan to her feet. He intentionally pitched his voice so it would be soothing; when paired with his good looks, it was a powerful combination.
Xiao Lan blushed. Even if she didn’t want to get up she would still be pulled up.
“Xiao Lan take your time and talk to these honorable adventurers. Mother will get everyone something to drink.” Her mother was relieved to see her daughter better. It put her in an excellent mood. She realized she still had not offered her guests anything to drink, so she quickly walked away to get some refreshments.
Everyone was focused on Xiao Lan so no one minded the older woman leaving.
“Miss Xiao Lan, what do you know?” Wind knew she had a story to tell and he couldn’t wait to hear it.
Xiao Lan blushed. “Please don’t call me Miss Xiao Lan. I’m not a young miss anymore. Honorable adventurers can call me Xiao Lan.”
Jier was also eager to learn more, so when he spoke he also considerably softened his voice. “OK, Xiao Lan, can you tell us what you know? We overheard the conversation between you and your mother. Is there something wrong with Princess Nai Nai? Is something big going to happen?” He was the epitome of a warm, patient person.
“Honorable adventurers, please have a seat,” Xiao Lan said.
Xiao Lan’s mother returned with a tray of cups and a pot of flower tea. She poured everyone a cup before sitting down to join the conversation.
Xiao Lan began. “I was born and raised in this tiny town. Back then we could barely survive because my family was so poor. Things became even more strained when my brother was born. There was no way we could feed an additional mouth. I decided to sell myself into indentured servitude to lighten our burden.
I was six and very tiny for my age. Not many rich people wanted such a scrawny girl for a servant. But I had really good luck because the palace was recruiting new maids at the time. I and a bunch of other girls my age were picked to go and serve in the imperial palace.
Living in the palace was heavenly. We had to learn a lot of rules, but we got to eat our fill every day, so we were all really happy.
I and another girl named Xiao Na became Princess Nai Nai’s maids a year later.
The princess cared about our well-being and was good to us. She would give us small rewards from time to time. The rewards improved my family’s condition greatly. Over time my family and I saved enough to buy a nice house and open a shop. My younger brother was able to go school and learn whatever he wanted.
If my brother hadn’t been bitten by a poisonous viper six months ago, maybe none of this would have happened. You see, it was when I returned home to give him the antidote that all the bad things started.”
Xiao Lan began crying as she talked. And like a domino effect, her mother began crying as well. The atmosphere suddenly turned gloomy.
“Six months ago a poisonous snake bit my brother. The doctor here could barely control the venom, never mind heal him. At her wits end, my mother sent me a letter. After reading it I asked the princess for an antidote. The princess was very good to me. Not only did she give me the antidote, she also gave me a leave of absence so I could deliver it to my brother.
My brother healed quickly after getting the antidote. I don’t see my brother much but we have a good relationship nonetheless. He wanted me to stay a little longer so I did.
On the third day of my visit a mercenary group returned from the realm battlegrounds. They had a lot of merchandise to sell. One of the things they had was a dagger. I wanted to buy it for my brother so he could protect himself. The dagger was depleted of energy but it was welded from fine material. I spent thirty gold coins and bought it for him.
It was after I bought the dagger that my dreams of that man started. He was a beautiful man; I’ve never met anyone more beautiful. He was the prince of an ancient kingdom. He said he fell in love with me when he saw me and he wanted to make me his queen.
I’d grown up in the palace and met all three princes. So I knew how princes behaved. This one was far too casual to be a prince, so I took it as a joke.
A few days later I dreamt about him again. In the dream, he accompanied me in conversation then we played chess. Later he showed me how to use a sword. He was knowledgeable in so many things. My attraction to him grew over time. One night he said he wanted to us to… to...” Xiao Lan bit her lip unable to continue.
“I didn’t agree at first. I’m not a loose girl. How could I do that with a man I’m not married to? But he became more forceful each night. One night after another of my refusals, he completely disappeared. I didn’t see him for a full month.
I was afraid he would never come back. When he did show up again, I gave in and we... Afterwards he never showed up again. I thought it was just a fantasy dream - until I became pregnant!
It came out of the blue! It was only a fanciful dream, so how did I end up pregnant?! It was unbelievable.” Xiao Lan cried even harder. It was clear remembering it was hard for her.
“The rules in the palace are very strict. I was pregnant, so I knew I wouldn’t be allowed to wait on the princess. My unwed pregnancy would stain the princess’s reputation.
I returned to the palace and told the princess my mother found a good match for me. I asked her to release me from her service so I could get married.
She was always good to me so of course she said yes. On top of that she even presented me with a box of jewels as a wedding present. She really believed I was leaving to get married!
I didn’t want the princess to be involved in the scandal so I left as soon as I could.
I went to so many doctors hoping to find out what was wrong with my body. Every one of them said I was pregnant. But how was that possible?! I didn’t do anything! The only thing I did was in a dream.
I returned home in a daze. Soon news of several other girls in town being pregnant broke out. My own situation became public knowledge as well. People assumed we were promiscuous and having babies out of wedlock.
There were so many scandals! We were shut in our rooms. The mayor demanded we tell him the name of the father, but how could we tell him when there wasn’t one?!”