TGL Volume 4, Chapter 8 (3)

Sophia stayed up pretty late last night since she invited her friend over. Lucia went overboard with her food prep. I heard she even made the poor child faint by slaughtering an aurochs in front of her. Most kids—not Sophia—aren’t exposed to blood and gore at such a young age, but Lucia didn’t even take that into consideration. Then again, she doesn’t take many things into consideration, and the feelings of someone who isn’t related to her is definitely not on that list.

It’s not the first time Sophia’s stayed up late into the night. She’s been doing it more often ever since she began cultivating. Yesterday, however, she went to sleep. The physical training must’ve worn her out. I’ve read the syllabus for Sophia’s class, and it’s not something children can do—even prodigious ones. Most likely, the teacher pushed the children to their limits to tailor individual programs for all of them. Soon, they’ll be saints, and before I know it, they’ll be earth-realm and sky-realm experts. It feels like just yesterday that Sophia was still a little baby I had to chase around to feed. Now, she’s already stepped on the path to immortality.

The sun is about to rise, and Sophia still hasn’t woken up yet. Usually, at this time, she’ll be here, rubbing the boogers away from her eyes, still holding a blanket in her hand. Is this a sign that she’s growing up? At what age do children usually seek independence? I’m not sure. If only there were parenting guides that could guarantee a child’s successful ascension to immortality. I suppose if there were, everyone would be immortals.

The sun’s rising. Sophia’s not here. I think I’ll go check on her; perhaps something bad happened throughout the night. I’ll walk to her room instead of teleporting. What if I miss her when she’s on her way here? It isn’t very far, and the hallway is lit up with a few glowing crystals. Despite her ability to handle bloody sights, Sophia is still scared of the dark. I wonder when she’ll grow out of it. Anyway, it looks like Sophia is still sleeping. Her friend, Ri, is still in her bed on the other side of Sophia’s room. She seems to be a light sleeper though; I think I woke her up by opening the door. I can tell through her breathing. As for Sophia, I’ve never seen her this deep in slumber before. Her breathing is so deep and slow, it’s almost as if she’s dead. Is she ill?

“Vice-Sect Leader Moonlight,” Ri said and cupped her hands at me. Her hair was still messy, and she spoke in a low voice. “Good morning.”

“Good morning, did you sleep well?”

“Yes, thank you very much.” Ri nodded. She’s a sensible child, and I’m glad she’s Sophia’s friend. It’s unfortunate she’s an orphan from the Hong family, but it’s not like I can tell Sophia to leave her because of that. Her heart would be broken. What if I take Ri under my wing?

“Ri, what do you think of our family?”

Ri lowered her head. “I think it’s very nice.”

“Would you like to leave the orphanage and come live over here?” Her clan’s demise does have to do with me albeit indirectly. If I hadn’t attacked Old Hong when I did, forcing her to retaliate in turn, I wouldn’t have died, and Lucia wouldn’t have taken such drastic actions against her clan. When removing the weeds, it’s important to rip out the roots, but I can’t do that, not when Ri is Sophia’s best friend. “I’ll take you in as my disciple, but before you make your choice, there is one important thing you have to know.”

Ri’s mouth dropped open. “You want to take me in as your disciple?”

“Only if you’ll have me as your master.”

“Ri greets—”

“Stop!” Before she officially accepts me, I have to explain to her what happened to her family. “Before you make a decision, you have to hear this. Before the Shadow Devil Sect established its roots in the center of the Immortal Continent, the Holy Beasts Sect ruled these lands. In the Holy Beasts Sect, there was a faction that belonged to those of the vermillion bird bloodline. Your family, the Hong family, was a part of it.”

Ri swallowed, and her fists clenched.

“The Shadow Devil Sect invaded, and naturally, the Holy Beasts Sect defended. As you can tell, the Holy Beasts Sect lost, and the Shadow Devil Sect became the new rulers.” She seems to be taking it well so far. “As for your family, they offended Lucia by killing me, and she ordered their limbs to be cut off. Later on, Principal Pentorn brought me back to life. As for the Hong family, without their limbs, they couldn’t defend themselves, and they fell out of grace, devoured by other families seeking to fill in a void.”

“You’re saying my clan … was killed by your family?”

“We didn’t exactly kill them, but we did weaken them which ultimately led to their deaths.” It’s true. Chopping off limbs doesn’t kill people as long as their bleeding is staunched. “Knowing this, do you still wish to become my disciple?”

Ri took in a deep breath. “If I don’t become your disciple, are you going to kill me too?”

“No. I’ll treat you as an orphan who’s Sophia’s best friend and unrelated to the Hong family.” Forcing her to become my disciple won’t mean anything. I have to let her make the choice, let her settle the grievances in her heart if she can. “I won’t pressure you to make a choice now. Take your time and think about it. This offer will always be open to you.”

“I understand. Allow me some time to think about it, Vice-Sect Leader.”

“Um?” Sophia sat up and rubbed her eyes. “Mommy? What are you doing here?”

I glanced at Ri, but it didn’t seem like the girl was going to say anything. “I was just checking up on you; you missed the sunrise.”

Sophia’s eyes widened to the size of saucers. “Ah? Why didn’t you wake me up!?”

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