The night breeze was as cool as refreshing water. The moon hung bright in the sky, the moonlight falling onto the ground like snow.
The place they were in was called the Lark Garden. All sorts of animals and insects roamed the grounds. White cranes dipped their beaks into the cool waters, apes called the tree their homes, and fishes could be seen swimming in the clear streams. The entire scene was something out of a fairytale.
The pool in the center was filled with lotus flowers. The large green leaves saw frogs sitting on them. One could occasionally see a water spider skip across the surface of the pool at an astonishing speed.
Arcing over the pool was a pure-white bridge made of jade. On one side was the wing room of the Lark Garden, on the other was the exit. A soft light lit up the entire bridge.
A woman dressed in white stood overlooking the pool. Her long hair which hung down to her waist framed her beautiful, melancholic face. Her eyes, which were usually clear and sharp, were troubled. Looking up at the bright moon, Yin Zhenluo sighed. Her usually fierce persona was dispelled. No one usually saw this fragile side of her, save for Xuanyuan.
Xuanyuan looked at her from afar. His mind was filled with racing thoughts, and he had feelings he couldn’t put into words. He couldn’t understand what was going through Yin Zhenluo’s mind.
He thought back to the time when he first saw her, lying quietly in his bed, tears glistening on her long eyelashes.
Yin Zhenluo turned around and was about to leave, when she noticed Xuanyuan gazing at her absentmindedly. Surprised, she softly said, “Xuanyuan?”
“Oh, master…” Xuanyuan came to his senses.
“What’s the matter?” A soft smile graced her lips.
“Nothing, really. I was just thinking back to when I first met you.”
“Ah, yes. Time sure flies. It seems like it was yesterday when I first met you. Now look at you. When I met you, you were shorter than me, now you stand far taller than me. Your accomplishments are no small matter, and I would never have expected you to grow so fast.
“Haha, it’s all luck. If I hadn’t met you, I would have perished in the wild at the hands of the Yue family.” Looking at her troubled expression, Xuanyuan wanted to comfort her, but he didn’t know what to say.
“Have you decided what to do?” Yin Zhenluo frowned as she saw Xuanyuan’s carefree expression.
“I don’t want to owe anyone. As for this so-called destiny, I will shatter it with my own strength. So master, you don’t have to worry. I believe that I can defeat the Heart-Devouring Bug.” Xuanyuan firmly replied.
“I know that no one can change your mind once you’ve made it up, but please don’t call me master any longer. Our relationship was of master and student for just one month.”
Xuanyuan was stunned. Shock was evident in his eyes, and he was rendered speechless.
Seeing his expression, Yin Zhenluo asked, her heart troubled, “Xuanyuan, tell me how you feel about me.”
Thinking about it, he slowly replied. “I wish to protect you, and support you in all your endeavours, as long as it doesn’t go against my beliefs.”
“Oh, what are your beliefs then?” Yin Zhenluo asked coyly, her eyes lighting up. Clearly, Xuanyuan’s words had pleased her.
Seeing that Yin Zhenluo was in a better mood, Xuanyuan felt relieved . For a second there, he thought that she hated him.
“Anything that goes against my moral compass is something I will never do.”
“Well, if I say I don’t want you to go with the Lady of the Nine Heavens and the Saintess of the Bingleng Sect, will you listen to me?” A smile danced on her red lips, as she teased Xuanyuan.
“That doesn’t count.”
Yin Zhenluo laughed happily. Her bell-like laughter spread through the garden. She slowly walked towards Xuanyuan. Stretching out her white hands, she slowly fixed Xuanyuan’s unkempt hair. She gently whispered, “After all that happened, you must be tired. Go on, rest up. I’ll ask my men to look for ways to rid you of the Heart-Devouring Bug. At the same time, the Lady of the Nine Heavens and the Saintess may actually have ways to deal with it. You should visit them, I’m not so petty as to stop you from finding a cure.”
Xuanyuan nodded, not quite understanding the last bit of what she had said. “Yes, master!”
Hearing Xuanyuan call her master, she angrily said, “I told you, don’t call me your master.”
“…” Xuanyuan was stumped. “What should I call you then? I’m not used to calling you Miss Yin, and calling you Zhenluo feels weird…”
“How do you call Shiguan?”
“I usually call her Shiguan, or Miss Shi.”
“Well then, you can call me the same way.” Yin Zhenluo confidently declared.
“Is it okay if I call you Zhenluo?” Since Yin Zhenluo was close to him, he felt it was best to call her that. If he called her Miss Yin, it would feel too distant.
Smiling charmingly, she said, “That’s perfect. Now, you must rest.”
Xuanyuan nodded and walked towards his room. Yin Zhenluo’s heart was beating rapidly. She had finally taken a step to further their relationship a bit, She didn’t want to be regarded as only Xuanyuan’s master.
Xuanyuan returned to his room. There was nothing fancy in there, just a bed, sheets of paper, ink, a table and a chair. Xuanyuan sat on the bed, his knees crossed. Even his heart was racing.
“What happened boy? Are you in an amorous mood? Your beautiful master likes you. It’s a shame that it’s an unhealthy love affair. If others knew of it, rumours would spread far and wide.” Greed chuckled.
“Don’t talk nonsense.” Xuanyuan couldn’t stop his heart from pounding. The expression in Yin Zhenluo’s eyes was different from all the times before. She used to regard him as a child before, now Xuanyuan couldn’t decipher the emotions in her eyes.
“Forget about it. I’ll focus on breaking through the second of the hidden acupoints, adn stimulate the remaining. If I can refine the elixir, I can leave the problem of the Heart-Devouring Bug to the black dragon.” Xuanyuan didn’t want to worry himself with relationships right now. The most important thing was strength! Once he stepped into the xian realm, he could use the full power of the Fire of the Red Lotus. Then he could try and burn the Heart-Devouring Bug with it.
“Yes, that’s good. The pig has been invited to talk by the Emperor. You should take this time to practice. Once the pig breaks through to the xian realm, he can discard his current appearance. It won’t be so easy to recognise him anymore.” Greed laughed, realising that Xuanyuan didn’t want to get involved.
“Huh? If that’s true, that would be amazing.” Xuanyuan was ecstatic. he would no longer have to walk next to such an atrocity.
“I’ll try and make a breakthrough during this time!” Xuanyuan took out the spiritual ice he had won.
“You plan on using the spiritual ice to cultivate?” Greed asked.
“… Cultivating with spiritual ice. If the others knew, they would kill you out of rage. While pure spiritual ice may not be as rare as you think, it’s usually used only by seventh circle xian realm experts. However, you, an emperor realm fighter, is using spiritual ice to cultivate. Imagine how those xians would feel when they see you.” Xuanyuan is growing. He was no longer as stingy with his materials as before.
“Only by cultivating using spiritual ice can I speed up my breakthrough. If I cultivate by just passively absorbing the Qi of the heavens and the earth, I don’t know how long it will take. I used to save up every penny I could in order to raise you and the pig. Now that I don’t have to focus on you both that much, I’ll take the opportunity to focus on myself.” Xuanyuan smiled as he took out the spiritual ice. A terrifying amount of Qi filled his body. Xuanyuan slowly immersed himself into the universe within his body.