Once the doors flew open, Han Yunxi felt a rush of cold air that chilled her to the bones. Heaven knows how many years had passed since these doors had ever been opened, this room had ever seen light. She walked inside with Long Feiye before purposely shutting the doors behind them and locking it from the inside.
The wide and expansive space that greeted them was empty and dark except for the flickering light of a lamp. The sword sect master and Duanmu Yao must be there. The further in they walked, the chillier it grew. It was had to imagine how the old man spent his periods of insanity in here alone. Even the most detestable people had their pitiful sides. But the same was true in reverse!
Han Yunxi had never seen the sword sect master go insane. She never thought that such a handsome, aloof, and divine-looking elder would be reduced to such a state. Despite her hatred of him, her heart still clenched at the sight. The tall and prideful sword sect elder, leader of the martial arts world and a learned master of an entire generation, had been reduced to huddling in a ball like a dog on its last legs. He crouched in a corner, his hands hugging his knees. Although he was already past sixty, he looked like a lost little child. His eyes were blank as he muttered to himself, the words unintelligible. Duanmu Yao laid on the floor nearby, still unconscious.
Han Yunxi was startled by the sight, while Long Feiye simply stood unmoving, his face expressionless. A long time passed before she finally spoke. “He...was he like this every time in the past?”
Han Yunxi recalled how Long Feiye had told her that the sect leader’s head of gray hair had turned white overnight when his martial mother had died. Only “sentiment” had the power to torment someone like this. If Heaven had feelings, it too would age!
Long Feiye didn’t reply. In fact, it seemed like he didn’t even hear her question.
“Is he like this every time his insanity acts up?” Han Yunxi asked again. When Long Feiye still didn’t speak, she glanced over and saw him staring at the ground instead of at the sword sect master.
Is it too much for him? Does he not want to see?
After all, that man was his master. The feelings between them ran deep, especially when Long Feiye treated him as a father. Over the past few years, the sword sect master was the only person in the world who understood his heavy responsibilities as the East Qin imperial heir.
“He wasn’t like this before. I think this time...must have hurt him the most,” Long Feiye finally replied.
Abruptly, the sword sect master raised his head. His eyes were red, his expression blank and deranged. He peered at Han Yunxi and Long Feiye, then back at Duanmu Yao, before murmuring to himself.
“I couldn’t save her...I couldn’t save her…. I deserve to die, it’s all my fault...I couldn’t save her…” As he spoke, tears streamed down his face.
“Let’s go.” Long Feiye turned around without looking at him. Han Yunxi was still in shock. She knew that the “her” from Li Jianxin’s lips wasn’t Duanmu Yao, but Long Feiye’s late martial mother.
“Let’s go!” Long Feiye tugged at Han Yunxi when she didn’t move. He didn’t want to see any more, nor did he want Han Yunxi to keep watching. Perhaps this was his way of protecting the sword sect master’s last shred of dignity?
Han Yunxi knew that Long Feiye still pitied his master despite his rage. Why shouldn’t she feel for him as well? No matter how much she loathed him or his actions, she had to admit that Li Jianxin was going to kill her for Long Feiye’s sake. Once news of her Poison Sect descendant status spread, it’d bring nothing but trouble to Long Feiye. She was about to leave when the sword sect master suddenly struck out with his palm, emitting a powerful, formless energy towards Duanmu Yao’s dantian.
“This is…” It was impossible for Han Yunxi to ignore such strength.
“Inner energy!” Long Feiye rushed over to grab the old man’s hands. “You really are insane!”
This was the sect master’s internal energy! Granny You had transferred true qi into Han Yunxi’s body, which could slowly recover on its own, but transferring internal energy was different. Once it was spent, it was gone forever! True qi was used to protect the body, while inner energy formed the foundation for all martial arts. The sword sect master possessed such high tier martial arts precisely because of his vast internal energy. Wasting it wantonly on Duanmu Yao’s body was pure madness.
“Release me!” Like a lunatic, the sword sect master batted Long Feiye’s hands away. “I have to bring her back to life, I must! Anyone who stops me will die!”
“She’s Duanmu Yao, not Luo Qingling!”[1. Luo Qingling (洛青灵) - Luo is a surname, Qingling can mean “youthful spirit.”] Long Feiye snapped back. Sadly, the sword sect master wouldn’t stop. He struck his palm at Long Feiye, who was forced to back away and draw his sword. Time was pressing tight. Tomorrow would be the ranking matches, so he had come to talk terms with Li Jianxin, not watch him give up to despair!
Han Yunxi grew anxious as she watched. She didn’t want Long Feiye to fight the sword sect master anymore, much less have him waste his precious stamina on something so pointless. Before master and disciple could devolve into another bout, she tugged Long Feiye away by the arm, narrowly missing the sword sect master’s blade as she stabbed by her side. Long Feiye was stunned by the sight, while Han Yunxi broke out into cold sweat.
“Li Jianxin, Luo Qingling is already gone! She’s dead!” Han Yunxi shouted at the top of her lungs. “You were the one who caused Luo Qingling’s death. Why are you still so afraid to face reality?”
Hearing this, the sword sect master stiffened. He looked at Han Yunxi as his gaze grew malicious.
“Be careful,” Long Feiye urged and tried to pull her away, but Han Yunxi didn’t let him. She met the sword sect master’s gaze squarely and declared, “All these years, you’ve been going insane. Do you think that Luo Qingling will excuse you if you keep punishing yourself? Let me tell you, she’ll never forgive you!”
“Li Jianxin, you’re nothing but a hypocrite and a coward! For the sake of protecting that laughable dignity, reputation, and virtue, you turned your back on Luo Qingling? She must have been waiting for you to give her a status all this time, but now she’ll never have one. She’s already dead! I bet she couldn’t do anything except call you ‘master’ even on her deathbed.”
“Li Jianxin, I finally know why you wanted to kill me! Heheh, if even Luo Qingling had to abide by your so-called codes of conduct regardless of right or wrong, who else could ever be an exception?”
“Li Jianxin, if you couldn’t afford to love her, then why love her at all? Why did you have to hurt her after that?”
“Li Jianxin, you can’t save her life, but you can’t save her heart, either! You couldn’t give her anything!”
“Li Jianxin, all you can do is go crazy, because that’s the only time you can acknowledge who she was and miss her!”
“Insanity...hehe, that’s only an excuse, a pretext to let you forget about Celestial Mountain’s ‘righteousness’ and your status as master and disciple.”
“Li Jianxin, after all these years, why won’t you agree to treatment?” By the end of her tirade, Han Yunxi was choked with emotion. “Luo Qingling’s already gone far, far away. Even if you have to courage to cast everything aside and give her the status she deserves, she’ll never know.”
Why was it that people never realized how precious things were, until they lost them?
By now, the sword sect master had long lowered his weapon. His eyes were murky no more, but filled with tears. He sank back onto the ground as sheer grief overtook him. Every single one of Han Yunxi’s words stabbed him in the heart. In its deepest, softest parts, it hurt him.
Han Yunxi knew that she was being cruel, but she had to persist until the end. After all, reality was harsher than anything the human heart could take. She lifted up Duanmu Yao and took off her face mask, revealing old, wizened visage beneath.
“Li Jianxin, take a good look. This person isn’t Luo Qingling. No matter how similar their innate talents are, she’s completely different. Letting a woman like Duanmu Yao learn the Xuan Nǚ Swordplay is simply an insult to Luo Qingling!”
Li Jianxin didn’t look at Duanmu Yao, because he himself knew the truth in his heart of hearts. Over the years, he’d doted and indulged the girl for the sole hope that someone could finish mastering the Xuan Nǚ Swordplay. That’s why when Duanmu Yao had been injured, he was only concerned with the state of her dantian. He didn’t care a thing about her ruined face.
In the empty hall, Li Jianxin sat with his head bowed, as still as a statue.
“Let’s go,” Han Yunxi intoned.
“Tomorrow, I’ll be fighting a decisive battle with Cang Qiuzi in the ranking matches,” Long Feiye tossed back before he left with her. But at the door, he paused and said, “Han Yunxi, I…”
“Hm?” Han Yunxi waited for him to speak.
But Long Feiye simply stroked her hair and said nothing more beyond a faint smile.
“I what?” Han Yunxi pressed.
“I’ll help you look at your internal injuries. Let’s go,” Long Feiye finished. But one of her statements was weighing on his heart.
‘If you couldn’t afford to love her, then why love her at all? Why did you have to hurt her after that?’
The seventh floor was Long Feiye’s quarters atop the mountain, its arrangement identical to his rooms at the Duke of Qin’s estate. Once they entered, Han Yunxi almost thought they’d gone back home. She suddenly recalled something and exclaimed, “Long Feiye, the estate sent news beforehand that Su Xiaoyu’s gone missing. She might have been kidnapped!”
“Don’t worry, Chu Xifeng will take care of it,” Long Feiye’s eyes flickered with a complicated expression before he took Han Yunxi’s wrist to check her pulse.
Han Yunxi wanted to pursue the issue, but stopped at the look in his eyes. She could only still her emotions and let him examine her. Once Long Feiye was sure that there were no serious repercussions, he stopped worrying. Instad, he reached down to lightly cradle her stomach. Han Yunxi tensed up at the sensation--that was a sensitive spot.
Long Feiye’s hand was very warm as it rested over her abdomen. A comforting sensation came from his touch. She could even feel a warm current flow out from her stomach to fill her entire body. Despite being exhausted and weak, she suddenly felt invigorated as if born anew. Gradually, she forgot all about Long Feiye’s hand and felt her entire body grow light…
“Thank goodness Granny You’s true qi protected you,” Long Feiye exhaled. Internally, he was still struck with fear in hindsight. “I really shouldn’t have brought you along.”
Han Yunxi was stirred up by his words. “Don’t you think about chasing me away!”
Long Feiye smiled. “Probably all of Cloud Realm Continent knows your identity by now.”
Han Yunxi hadn’t thought of that until now. Despite Celestial Mountain’s location, it was all too easy to spread news of her connections with the Poison Sect down below. Long Feiye grew serious and said, “Tomorrow’s ranking matches can only end in victory, not defeat.”
With the world aware of Han Yunxi’s identity, they would have heard of the mishaps at Celestial Mountain as well. Only by controlling its power and all of Cloud Realm Continent’s martial arts circles could he be strong enough to contend against Medical City. Otherwise, he’d be a public target as soon as he brought Han Yunxi down the mountain.
As they chatted, someone suddenly knocked on the door. Who could it be?Previous Chapter Next Chapter