Gulp! Gulp! Gulp!
The sounds of heavy drinking filled the air. A young man, dark-haired, sunken cheeks, dried skin, and ravenously cold eyes took a large-sized vial of seventh-grade elixir and downed it immediately. This young man was none other than Long Chen, currently sitting on Hong Chunhua ’s ship.
Bei Yunhan and Zu Zun were watching from afar, mostly focused on spotting incoming ships or other abnormal activity out on the Noxious Seas. Li Yungu was establishing a detoxification formation to rid Long Chen of the toxins accumulated in his body during his stint as an Energy Converter.
Lian Yu sat quietly and supportively by Long Chen ’s side, her eyes reflected her relief and happiness. Despite what the others said about Long Chen losing his Grand Prince title due to this incident, she didn ’t believe it. After all, Long Chen was personally selected by the Founding Monarch who was still alive in spiritual form.
While he hadn ’t told others about this, their relationship had become extremely close after the events surrounding Na Xinyi and the others. Long Chen showed an unrestrained level of trust in her, telling her many of his secrets.
Hong Chunhua ’s eyebrows were tightly furrowed, her hand folded at her chest as she eyed Long Chen. She didn ’t rush him in speaking, allowing him to recover to a relatively sufficient point. After downing the elixir she ’d given him, Long Chen entered the Detoxification Formation set up by Li Yungu and started to have the impurities and toxins extracted from his meridians and blood.
This lasted for three full hours.
”…Thank you. ” Long Chen had regained a little of his former handsomeness, his valiant demeanor, and imposing aura innate to the Imperial Heaven Qi Method he cultivated.
Hong Chunhua grunted with a half-hearted nod, not really caring about this thanks. It was already lucky that she afforded him this time to recover, especially since he kept setting himself at odds with Wei Wuyin.
Li Yungu pleasantly smiled, ”You ’re welcome! ” She was rather joyful, especially seeing how effective her formation was. After a quick inspection, she left the three alone on Hong Chunhua ’s orders.
Long Chen felt extremely awkward. He turned to Lian Yu, her eyes comforted him, but he didn ’t know why she was traveling alongside Wei Wuyin ’s stooges. ”You ’ve ascended the World Sea Phase? ” With his body recovered, he noted Lian Yu ’s improvement and felt excited. Cultivation was a difficult struggle, without fortuitous encounters, an excellent environment, proper teachings, and vast resources, reaching a high-level was impossible.
There were many Astral Core Realm Cultivators who ’ve never ascended past the World Sea Phase in their thousand or so years of life. So to see her make a breakthrough in her cultivation was a joyful event no matter what, especially without him supporting her.
Lian Yu warmly smiled as she nodded with pride, ”I did. ” While she sought a stronger strength to be relevant, cultivation was difficult, and so any improvement was an extraordinary feat. Even Wei Wuyin struggled for some time in the Sky Ruler Phase, only ascending to the Soul Idol Phase after glimpsing enlightenment from multiple sources.
”Alright; It ’s time for some answers. ” Hong Chunhua didn ’t want to watch this lovey-dovey display anymore than Zu Zun. ”To start with: How did you acquire a Mark of an Ascendant? ” Her question baffled even her, and she dearly wished to know.
The Mark of an Ascendant was a special spiritual formation inscribed on any and every Ascendent, allowing them to verify their identities and gain access to certain locations. It also enabled them to use a special form of merit point system to obtain resources by completing missions. They obtain more points through joint effort as well. This was Su Mei ’s design, and it provoked a sense of unity as well as competition amongst the faction.
There were even high-tier eighth-grade products that could be earned, terrifying many members when they heard it while simultaneously exciting those to strive for it.
The only way to get a mark was to either obtain it at the induction ceremony or being bestowed it under special circumstances by the Commanders, Su Mei, or Wei Wuyin. And she never gave him a mark.
”… ” Long Chen looked at Hong Chunhua, his expression betrayed none of his thoughts. Lian Yu was concerned after hearing that, feeling the air fill with a hostile tension. She placed her hand on Long Chen ’s back, giving her support. Long Chen turned to her, seeing her concern and worry, but also her supportive gaze.
Long Chen faintly smiled, ”I was given it by an Ascendant. His name was Jian Cui. ”
”Jian Cui? ” Hong Chunhua was taken aback by Long Chen ’s words. Jian Cui was an Ascendant. Furthermore, he was under the charge of the Second Commander, someone personally selected by Su Mei roughly half a year ago. He was a human who possessed a Wind Astral Soul, adept at using a spear.
”After I arrived in the Noxious Seas, I was traveling for some time before we met. We fought, but I won; I spared him in the end. After that, we met again, fighting a common enemy. Soon, we ended up traveling together for roughly a year. Then, Wei Wuyin threw everything into chaos! ” Those last words of his were quite biting.
”Powerful cultivators flooded the Noxious Seas, pirate crews swarmed the region, and no one could be trusted. We were met with waves of enemies after enemies after our lives, left exhausted and weak. In the end…he suffered a fatal injury. In his last moments, he gave me some spiritual mark and told me it carried a message to his clan. I ’m going to deliver it to his clan. ” Long Chen finished with his eyes radiating a light of anger and frustration, alongside a wisp of sadness and gloom.
”… ” Hong Chunhua frowned. She half-believed Long Chen ’s story. The only verifiable aspect was that he met Jian Cui and Jian Cui transferred the spiritual mark to him. As for the rest, they were subjectively based on Long Chen ’s own beliefs of events.
”And how did you become a captive? ” She pondered for a long while before asking.
Long Chen scoffed, ”None of your business. ”
”… ” Hong Chunhua stared at Long Chen for a long moment. After that period of time, she decided that it wasn ’t worth it. Long Chen ’s circumstances weren ’t that important. ”Show me the spiritual mark. ”
Long Chen started, staring at Hong Chunhua with a vigilant expression, ”Why? ”
Hong Chunhua ’s eyes flashed, ”I ’ll give it to Jian Cui ’s clan. This is an Ascendant matter, so I ’ll handle it. You don ’t have to burden yourself with such a tedious task. ” She reached out, about to prod for the spiritual mark, but Long Chen slapped her hand away.
”I was given his last will! Not you! So I ’ll deliver his message, and I won ’t entrust it to anyone else. ” Long Chen barked, his eyes reflecting a determined look immersed in a steel hardness.
Hong Chunhua looked at her hand for a moment, and then smiled. ’So you do have some suspicious points. ’ She thought. She calmly responded with, ”Not entrust that message to anyone else? Alright then, fine. I won ’t take the spiritual mark. But allow me to inspect the message in case you die, then I can pass it on. ”
But Long Chen was vehemently against this. ”Inspect? I can ’t trust that you won ’t do something with the message. He told me he had enemies within your faction. ” His words sounded logical, even the enemies and not trusting others felt sound.
At this point, Li Yungu had returned after Long Chen ’s outburst. When she arrived, she noticed Lian Yu ’s tense expression and Long Chen ’s defensive posture. When Hong Chunhua looked her way, she asked: ”Commander Hong, is there an issue? ”
Hong Chunhua frowned for a moment, bringing her gaze back Long Chen. ”I can swear an oath, no matter how vicious, that I won ’t take away or purposefully alter the message in any way. ” When she offered this alternative, Long Chen ’s expression became slightly unsightly.
Li Yungu realized some things, and her pleasant smile disappeared with an indifferent stare. She started to twirl her fingers around with Spiritual Light at their tips, concealing her actions by putting her hand behind her back.
Long Chen shook his head, ”I don ’t know what tricks you ’ll pull. I can ’t risk it. ”
Lian Yu felt something was wrong, her heart racing a little from this. She tightly held onto Long Chen ’s hand for comfort.
Hong Chunhua didn ’t seem bothered by Long Chen ’s refusal. She added, ”You can come up with the oath yourself. What tricks can I pull? Unless there ’s more to the story than you ’re telling. Or maybe, the entire story is a lie. Do you know there ’s another way someone can obtain a Mark of the Ascendant? ”
”… ” Long Chen was silent, his eyes betrayed nothing, but his body language was defensively positioned.
Hong Chunhua gripped her sword hilt, ”the Mark of the Ascendant can be left on one ’s murderer or as a clue to one ’s own death. ”
The tension in the air became so thick that a knife might fail to cut it. Clearly, Long Chen was keeping some things concealed, but she never thought Long Chen, their Grand Prince, would kill a member of his own sect. It was against the rules to commit such an act. Most grievances would be handled by the sect, and they had no issue with you settling those grievances with death.
Even Wei Wuyin used the Imperial Combat to bash someone to death out of a minor conflict. There was no backlash. In fact, the sect sanctioned such practices and actions, but only when it was overseeing these events. An act of killing your sect member outside of these sanctioned events were looked down upon, even prompting one to be crippled or executed.
For example, Zuhei had gone absolutely crazy and attacked individuals out of rage, killing multiple individuals outside of an Imperial Battle. He was imprisoned for a century or so and crippled, left to live out the rest of his life in absolute agony. Or Qing Qiumu, who used a talisman to kill members of the Ji Clan. She was brought to an execution platform despite her backing and those implicated were imprisoned.
The sect did not tolerate such actions of unregulated conflict amongst members, as it bred chaos and distrust. Most things, especially competition, was aboveboard. It was this system that allowed the Myriad Monarch Sect to build the best competitive and nurturing environment, always giving birth to the greatest talents from unknowns.
The Gateway Door ’s Expedition was entirely different from the Grand Spirit Trials, and killing a fellow sect member was not sanctioned. They were meant to work together, not kill each other.
Li Yungu had finished her preparations, ready to act. But Hong Chunhua gave her a glance, and she waited.
Hong Chunhua stared into Long Chen ’s eyes, ”I have no intention of killing you; that would be against the rules that I respect with everything I have. I also don ’t have the authority or proof to forcefully capture you, no matter how much I want to.
”So I ’ll let you leave, ” her words caught Li Yungu and Long Chen off-guard. Let him leave? Right now, Long Chen was at his weakest state, surrounded by the ship ’s formations, and they could capture him easily.
”But I recommend that Lian Yu stays with us. She ’s too weak in this disaster-filled world, and I don ’t trust her with you. ” Hong Chunhua stated her thoughts. As Lian Yu was someone she saved, someone his Majesty saved, Hing Chunhua felt responsible for her safety.
”Absolutely not! ” Long Chen didn ’t know what Hong Chunhua was up to. He fully expected a sneak attack to occur, so he was fully on-guard. If things truly went awry, he ’d have to use the one trump card that he didn ’t wish to.
Lian Yu bit her lower lip.
Hing Chunhua turned to Lian Yu, ”He was captured as an Energy Converter. He has no ship, and he ’s suspected of killing a member of our faction, or at least involved in his death. We can ’t allow him to stay if we spare him, but you ’re different.
”To add, he has no future. The Spiritual Mark isn ’t something a cultivator could simply get rid of without spending years erasing it. As a captured individual, he lost the rights to retain his title as a Grand Prince after this expedition. Let ’s not say what happens after he leaves, or whether he could weather that storm, but there ’s still years left before the entrance to leave opens. The entire continent is embroiled in bloody and desperate conflict.
”You ’ll be a burden if you remain with him. Are you certain you want to do that? ” Hong Chunhua spent a lot of effort explaining her reasoning, slowly and clearly. From her actions, one could see she ’d grown fond of Lian Yu.
But Long Chen felt this was a hidden scheme, he stood up, grabbed Lian Yu ’s hands and said with a wisp of anger: ”She ’ll never be a burden and I won ’t allow any harm come to her. As for whether I can keep my Grand Prince title or not, that ’s not any of your concern. ”
Lian Yu felt immense warmth in her heart from his actions and words. Comforted, she nodded to herself and made a firm decision. She looked at Hong Chunhua and said with conviction, ”I trust him. ”
Hong Chunhua looked at Lian Yu for a long time. ”Then leave, both of you. ” She waved her hand dismissively, and Li Yungu ’s formation started to surge with energy.
Long Chen noticed this and frowned, grabbing Lian Yu and flying with the little astral force he restored. They left, floating while looking at the ship. He thought about using his trump card to take the ship, but if they fought back, its possible the ship would inevitably be destroyed in the conflict.
Unwilling to use it in such a risky way, he looked at the direction the other ship sailed off to and tightened his grip around Lian Yu ’s hand. He flew away with her in tow. In truth, he always had a way to escape his captured predicament, but he was waiting for a perfect opportunity when the Light Reflection Phase expert wasn ’t present, and if the sect heard this, they ’ll understand. At least, that ’s what he believed.
Zu Zun walked forward after they left, frowning as he questioned: ”Commander Hong, why let him leave? He clearly killed Jian Cui or at least helped in his death. ” One could tell that their entire conversation was heard by him.
Hong Chunhua ’s expression was calm, but her eyes reflected her anger and vexation. ”His Majesty once said to Su Mei, who later informed me, that if there was ever a time where I wanted to act against Long Chen, I must ensure he doesn ’t have the ability to do anything or was aware of my presence before I went for the kill. Otherwise, the chance of being counter-killed by some inexplicable development was extremely likely.
”I was also ordered to not act against Long Chen, to allow only his Majesty to handle any conflict personally, unless absolutely necessary. Even if we acted, our hands would be tied because we can ’t kill him without proof in hand. If we did, we might be marked by some strange Grand Prince safeguard, and implicate his Majesty or cause our own deaths. ” Hong Chunhua sighed at the end. Her frustration at these events were at an all-time high.
Bei Yunhan frowned, walking beside Zu Zun, ”We shouldn ’t have helped him. ”
”Hindsight is twenty-twenty, but it helps no one. ” Li Yungu was a little moody. She didn ’t like that Long Chen was let go, but she also believed in Hong Chunhua ’s judgment. Long Chen never revealed any sort of fear, even after Hong Chunhua called him out on the suspected murder of a fellow sect member.
It seemed he was absolutely confident in coming out unharmed somehow. This feeling made her very uncomfortable.
”We ’ll find the others, ” Hong Chunhua breathed out a heavy breath of heavy air and readjusted their focus. ”Let ’s go. ”
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