Chapter 26: The Desire to Grow Stronger
Translator: Atlas Studios Editor: Atlas Studios
Jiang Yi tactfully declined Yi Lingxue’s offer, not only because of the five-year agreement he had with the Martial Arts Hall, but it was also because he was a descendant of the Jiang Clan. As such, it was impossible for him to join the Yi Family, and he did not intend to marry into the family and take the Yi family name either.
Yi Lingxue did not push any further, only asking Jiang Yi to give it more thought. Following that day, she still went to Jiang Yi for sparring matches, but she didn’t bring up the matter again even once.
Jiang Yi was in seclusion most of the time, sleeping for only four to six hours every day. Whenever he thought of Jiang Xiaonu alone and hapless at home—with no way of knowing if she was alright—his heart was aflame with anxiety and worry. He would fervently wish that he could attain the fourth stage of the Cast Tripod Realm right here, right now so he could go back home.
Just as Jiang Yi expected, Housekeeper Liu of Fengyue Brothel had soon obtained his and Jiang Xiaonu’s information. Also, as predicted, Ma Fei’s father was livid and had ordered Housekeeper Liu to send his men on Jiang Yi’s trail and take him out at the first opportunity.
However, Jiang Yi’s sudden disappearance completely derailed Housekeeper Liu, who tried to bribe the servants of the Jiang Clan in an attempt to figure out his whereabouts, but all the information he obtained was that Jiang Yi would be gone for three months.
Refusing to give up, Housekeeper Liu ordered the guards of Fengyue Brothel to search the entire city. The operation lasted ten whole days, but there was no sight of Jiang Yi. It was almost as if he had vanished into thin air.
Ma Fei was in a thunderous rage. He ordered Housekeeper Liu to find Jiang Yi regardless of the costs, even if it meant turning Skyplume City upside down. The search radius was also expanded to the surrounding towns 50 kilometers away. Jiang Yi had rendered him useless and destroyed his life. Unable to eat or sleep, he was a possessed man, being consumed entirely by the thought of killing Jiang Yi.
Being one of the five great families in Skyplume City, every action by the Ma Family was under the scrutiny of the other families. However, as Ma Fei did not wish to have the incident revealed publicly, the rest of the families only knew that the Ma Family was looking for someone—a youth, aged around 15 or 16 years old, who was at the second stage of the Cast Tripod Realm.
It was fortunate that Mt. Spirit Beast College would be starting its recruitment of students soon; in addition, it coincided with the recruitment by the Western Garrison Army. With these two events around the corner, the unusual behaviors of the Ma Family largely went under the radar of the other families. They were all busy grooming their descendants in hopes of having them either enrolled into Mt. Spirit Beast College as special students or win the favor of the Western Garrison Army commanders and be taken in by the army the very least.
Military glory was most valued in the Divine Martial Kingdom. The City Lord of Skyplume City was given his lordship as well as the command of this city precisely because of the military glory he had achieved. Hence, to be able to join the Western Garrison Army, which was one of Divine Martial Kingdom’s three great armies, was a badge of honor. In the event that a descendant achieved military glory, they would likewise be rewarded with the rank of nobility, and the entire family clan would be able to ride on their coattails of success, sharing the glory for years to come.
At the news that both the Western Garrison Army and Mt. Spirit Beast College would be visiting Skyplume City to recruit newcomers in three months’ time, the entire Jiang Clan became enlivened with enthusiastic preparations. The Jiang Clan Head, Jiang Yunshan, had personally issued an order for all descendants to go into seclusion, in order to make the most of the Grand Audition three months later.
In the meantime, Jiang Yunshan privately instructed his men to buy in as many rare treasures and artifacts as possible, in preparation of bribing the Western Garrison Army officers when they came to Skyplume City. He had hoped that with the bribery, more descendants of the Jiang Clan would be allowed enrollment in the army. Indeed, of all the families, the Jiang Clan was most entitled to pull strings with the Western Garrison Army officers, because the commander of the Western Garrison Army, the Western Garrison Liege Lord, also held the surname of ‘Jiang’.
Along this line of thinking, the Jiang Clan could be considered, in very loose terms, a side branch of the liege lord’s family clan. In addition, in the early years of his life, Grand Elder Jiang Yunhai used to work in the household of the Western Garrison Liege Lord as a servant, which served as another layer of association.
It was rare for the Western Garrison Army to recruit at Skyplume City. Naturally, Jiang Yunshan intended to seize the opportunity for the Jiang Clan. He hoped he could pull enough strings for a few dozens of the Jiang Clan descendants to enroll into the Western Garrison Army; even if just a few of them managed to excel in the army, it would be enough to bring eminence and acclaim to the Jiang Clan.
Jiang Yi was lucky: he got out of the Jiang Clan early, or he would have been confined within its gates for months on end. Not only would he be unable to report back to the Martial Arts Hall, but he would not also advance so quickly in his cultivation and made a breakthrough two days ago to the third stage of the Cast Tripod Realm.
In the same sense, Jiang Yi was also unlucky: he just got ordered by yet another young mistress, and those two young masters accompanying her were showing clear contempt.
Ji Tingyu had once again left seclusion, and the first thing she did was make her way directly to the Technique Practicing Room, deliberately ordering Jiang Yi for a sparring match.
Ma Family Great Young Master Ma Heiqi, Liu Family Young Master Liu He, Leng Family Young Master Leng Qianjun, and Jiang Clan Jiang Henshui—these four young masters from the four great families had been courting Ji Tingyu for years, whereas she remained ever unreceptive to their attempts. Yet she ordered this sparring partner twice in a row? More importantly… he was just some bronze token-grade, underclass martial artist. It was indeed peculiar.
Hidden beneath the bronze mask, Jiang Yi’s expression was gloomy. His lips turned a little dry. The cold and ruthless looks on Ma Heiqi and Liu He made him shudder with unease.
Despite knowing that Ji Tingyu’s order was by no means out of adoration towards him and that both Ma Heiqi and Liu He were well aware that she would never fancy him, Jiang Yi nevertheless foresaw trouble. What a femme fatale! The actions of a beautiful woman, however unintentional, would easily send the men who adored her into doing reckless, foolhardy things.
“Lone Wolf? Why are you not coming inside?”
Ji Tingyu went into the Technique Practicing Room; when she saw that Jiang Yi did not follow suit, she turned and asked in a dispassionate tone. With a glance at Ma Heiqi and Liu He, her eyebrows—as pretty as a painting—furrowed lightly.
“Tingyu, I’ll leave you to your business and look for you later.” Ma Heiqi was a handsome man; his looks were on par with that of Jiang Henshui, albeit with a darker skin tone. In silken robes with black trimmings, he looked suitably like a dark-skinned prince charming. Sensing the displeasure in Ji Tingyu, he wisely turned and left.
Liu He was slightly inferior to Ma Heiqi in terms of looks. However, with broad shoulders and a slim waist, his figure was the epitome of perfection. He was no fool either and bade farewell with a light smile. “Young Mistress Tingyu, I’ll see you tomorrow!”
Jiang Yi headed to the Technique Practicing Room, inwardly vexed by the faint glance Ma Heiqi and Liu He sent his way before they left.
Shutting the doors, Ji Tingyu saw the exasperation in Jiang Yi’s eyes and smiled lightly. “Young Master Yi need not worry. Tingyu will not let Young Master Ma and Young Master Liu make things difficult for you.”
Jiang Yi smiled bitterly, “Young Mistress Ji, I don’t like disturbances. I prefer to have a more peaceful life…”
Jiang Yi’s words were obscure, but to someone as smart as Ji Tingyu, the veiled meaning was crystal clear: he did not like associating with the young masters and mistresses of her kind, and as long as Ji Tingyu interacted with him, trouble would follow.
However, Ji Tingyu did not express any remorse this time. With her gem-like orbs shining with startling beauty, she shook her head and smiled, speaking slowly but pointedly, “Young Master Yi, only the mediocre does not attract the jealousy of others. There are so many wonderful things in this world that are worth pursuing, things that everyone wants. Certainly, it creates competition and incessant trouble, but imagine how imperfect life would be without a cause. A lifetime lasts but a fleeting handful decades; beauty and youth fade away in an instant! Do you prefer a lifetime of mediocrity over a zealous, glorious decade?”
Jiang Yi was floored. He did not expect that this beautiful young mistress, who was as young as he was, would have such profound thoughts about life. With his eyes in a daze, he fell silent.
Which young man was not defiant at his core? Was there really someone who would genuinely turn away from power, wealth, and beautiful women; who would shun the respect and awe of thousands; who would dislike a life of grandeur and glory? Despite his mature and sensible temperament, Jiang Yi could also throw any and all caution to the wind once impulsiveness hit. In the end, there was still a fire of passion burning unbridled deep within him. Once erupted, this fire could set whole plains ablaze, as seen by that time when he had beaten Jiang Ruhu into a pulp at the Western Hills, and more recently, when he had rendered Ma Fei useless at Fengyue Brothel.
However, once he thought of Jiang Xiaonu and her scrawny figure, he shook his head quickly. “Young Mistress Ji, you will never understand the lives of people like us, for you are a young mistress high above us commoners. Mm… let’s not dwell on this topic anymore. You must be looking for me for some reason?”
Disappointment flashed in Ji Tingyu’s eyes. She was quiet for a moment before speaking softly, “I came out of seclusion and heard that you are still a sparring partner here so I decided to drop by to pay you a visit. To be frank with you, Young Master Yi, the elixirs you delivered the last time were amazing. The alchemist who refined them would become very powerful in time to come.
“It is my wish for you to commit yourself to the alchemist, rather than wasting your time here. The cultivation speed is indeed faster in the Martial Arts Hall, but you are already past the ideal age for cultivation, which means you may never amount to anything great in this lifetime. Of course, I would also like to acquaint myself to the alchemist through you and establish some relations with him. If you could help me with that, any request you have could be easily arranged. Ah… perhaps my words are too candid, I hope Young Master Yi would not mind.”
So this is how it is!
Jiang Yi bent his head wordlessly, although he was chuckling bitterly on the inside. The world was indeed cruel. If not for the special black essence force and the elixirs he made, or the fact that he could strangely help others’ martial art techniques achieve phenomenal success, would Ji Tingyu and Yi Lingxue have spared him a second glance? They probably only stooped down to befriend him because he was of use to them. And to think he had so naively presumed they genuinely treated him like a friend.
Are Mother, Grandfather, and Xiaonu the only ones in this world who would show real kindness to me?
Jiang Yi heaved a long sigh internally and looked up at Ji Tingyu. “Young Mistress Ji, I’m afraid I’ll have to let you down. You will never be able to see those elixirs again, or I would not have come here to work as a sparring partner. You see, that alchemist… has died.”
Ji Tingyu’s beautiful face instantly lost its color. She fixed keen eyes upon Jiang Yi and asked somberly, “Young Master Yi, do you speak of the truth?”
“It’s the absolute truth!”
Jiang Yi nodded seriously. Technically, he was not lying: the elixirs were made by melting down the useless elixirs from Elder Liu, whereas Jiang Yi himself knew nothing of elixir refinement.
“What a pity, what a huge pity! He could have been…” Ji Tingyu was filled with disappointment. Shaking her head, she gave Jiang Yi one last look before heading outside wordlessly. She opened the doors and left straight away, without another backward glance.
Seeing off this heavenly young mistress whose beauty made the entire Skyplume City fall at her feet, Jiang Yi turned away in silence and went back to his room to cultivate.
The way Ma Heiqi and Liu He looked at him today had set off alarm bells in his mind. He had had enough of such a precarious life, in which he could be beaten to death at any moment. It became clear to him that in order to live a peaceful life that no one dared to disturb, the only way was to become strong, stronger than anyone could ever be.
Of course, maybe it was also because of Ji Tingyu’s belittlement today, which awakened the proud rebel in him. He wanted to prove himself to this woman whose beauty could cause cities to fall.
He… was not a good-for-nothing.