"Are you serious, Senior Brother Xing?" A quivering voice came from behind him.
No wonder the Yun's ruler would be fascinated by cultivators. Daoist masters lurk in every corner of the city, showing their unsuppressed auras.
The population composes of 10% cultivators and 15% of martial artists while the rest are ordinary folks. Small sects and factions are evident from their unique style of clothing and uniforms and their apparent avoidance of one another, but this was of no importance to Xing Zishen. To him, they exist only for his camouflage until he is strong enough to ascend.
Wandering around in the city filled with festive energy for hours drained Feng Li, who soon asked, "Where exactly are we going?"
He received no response whatsoever, and they resumed to walk.
"Daoist sister, I see that..."
"Your younger brother has characteristics..."
Their sentences never finished as Xing Zishen brushed past them like air as he endlessly searched for something. All the bustling aura and the beauty of women and men alike were ignored. They hadn't even eaten for three days now!
It was then that Zishen stopped, causing Feng Li to bump against his soft back. "What's the matter?"
"We're here," Zishen whispered in a low voice. A familiar scene of blood and fighting reflected on their irises while a tiny smile crept up to Zishen's lips. He hid it quickly and kicked his junior brother. "Be ready; you'll be participating here from tomorrow. Every. Single. Day."
"Unless I say so, of course."
The arena was all within his plans. Zishen has no intention of delaying Feng Li's cultivation because, in the future, Feng Li will be essential in his immortal approach.
Meanwhile, as they settled in Yun's capital city, a person clad in a sky blue and white coloured appeared. His robe was embroidered with a fierce dragon using gold threads to signify his high status. He is above all and second to only two. The first born son of Yun's ruler. Yun Renshu.
His swift and quick movements garnered the servant's attention until the butler of the place came greeting him. "First Prince, the emperor is waiting inside the dragon pavilion."
"I understand." The tall man replied but did not move. His voice was emotionless, and so were his eyes as he watched the mortals around him cower in fear. They are innocent, Yun renshu reminded himself and toned down his aura. "I will meet him at the dinner table."
Fortunately for him, the butler understood his reluctance and showed him to his room to rest. It has been years since he came to visit, and once again, he recalled all their history. The Emperor's idiocy and the disappointment he feels whenever seeing his father.
The discomfort he feels only grew as he lingered inside the room. Paintings of immortals, four godly creatures, and poems of great cultivators hung around, joined by an extensive collection of books-- Daoist books. The Emperor truly is crazy about cultivation. It was unfortunate that he wasn't gifted with a spirit root, 'else he would have ascended to immortality from all this obsession.
In the end, Yun Renshu fell asleep and skipped his dinner with the whole royal family.
The next day, Renshu left the palace and wandered around. The path of Dao requires one to severe all their worldly attachment to the mortal world, for they will only be held back. The Devil's heart might also appear, attracted by their emotional chaos and soon be trapped in a never-ending cycle of illusion.
Cultivators belonging in their respective sects came around asking and acknowledging him as soon as they saw the badge he hung on his side—a sect larger than any within the capital, and one with a vast history. A few cultivators in the past ascended to immortality, while rumours say that their elders are thousands of years old. One must never provoke them, or they will bury you underground.
"Have you heard about-?"
"Of course, I did! His Majesty has announced the expansion of the Jiang Arena next month. Not a single chair will be left unseated."
"His Majesty is usually very focused on the economy, what has happened for him to expense such a huge amount of money? The Jiang Arena is large enough, why are they expanding it even more?"
"My sister's a servant inside the palace and…" the man looked around before whispering, causing Yun Renshu to miss what he said. Although when they sat back, it was quiet, and they sipped their tea in peace.
Yun Renshu's investigation cannot be wrong. On his way, he asked the people if they had seen two males flying on a large badge, and indeed they have. All their testimonies led to the conclusion that Feng Li and Xing Zishen went to the capital. That was the end of the clue.
As time passed, he began doubting his guess. What if it was only to distract them? To mislead, and the two actually left for another place? It isn't impossible, but something's telling him that they are close by. With the two person's life badge, a badge with a pinch of their soul caged within it, Renshu felt relieved. It wasn't shining.
He hoped that it wouldn't shine until they met again.
"Your Highness, it is getting late, and his majesty has arranged a family banquet for you." The head servant arrived to follow him with convincing words. His mouth never stopped reciting all the flowery praises and fake flattery regarding him and the royal family. No wonder he became the head servant. He's good with words. Yun Renshu contemplated and decided not to make servant Wang's life difficult.
Surprisingly, the dinner is not in the throne room like in the past, and instead, only nine people were facing a single rectangular table—a comparably less flashy one in the garden.
Yun Renshu got ready to greet the elders, but a problem arose. 'Which ones are the emperor's concubines?' It's been six years since his last visit and the harem increased in number. Concubine and child, who can tell when a concubine can be as young as 15?
"Father Emperor, Mother Empress." He greeted them with a bow and ignored everyone else as if they are mere O2. Unsurprisingly, the Emperor nodded and smiled without mentioning Renshu's disrespect. The mother queen had a slight frown on her face, though.
"You're finally home, Shu'er." The Emperor said and gestured for Yun Renshu to sit down, which he did. "Since you're back, relax here for a while and spend some time with the family."
"Naturally, father emperor."
That was not the end of it. It was only the beginning of the harem battle using their children as swords, and their mouths as catalysts.
"So I've heard that Shu'er is one of the best disciples in Hu Tian. I hope there is a time when you'll show us your improvements." Concubine Heng said, covering her mouth while giggling.
"Oh no, what if they're only teaching you how to kill? What about your education? Recently, My little Dian was praised by her teacher in literature…"
"Brother, I've also set off on my path of Dao. I hope that in the future, you can help your younger brother improve."
"What are you saying, Yun Wei! I heard that you're in the Foundation stage higher level. It should be you who is helping your elder brother. Look, he's still in the Foundation middle level."
It was clear that they were targeting Yun Renshu, but his father remained mute. Only listening and watching.
"Daoist masters are still Daoist masters, it is not of us, mere mortals to guess which is best." The empress spoke, and Yun Renshu looked at him in the eye. A message of caution was sent, and he closed his eyes in understanding. The people around the dinner table were plotting something, and the Emperor knew it too. Really, what a biased ruler.
"Who is better? Then, to really be sure of it, why don't they have a match? What do you think, your Majesty?" Yun Wei's mother spoke up smiling.
"We are family, why need to know who is stronger?" The queen butted in, but the Emperor held her hand and caressed it.
Yun Renshu watched as his mother's eyes grew into a fiery glance until she closed it in defeat. 'Mother, don't worry. My training is not for naught.'
In the end, it was settled. As a present for Yun Wei in his upcoming birthday two months later, they will battle in the Jiang Arena. Every person is free to come and watch. The Emperor decreed that the winner will become the crown prince and soon take over the throne.
He wasn't even mad with this. Yun Renshu simply could not believe it, since they had already begun fixing up the battlegrounds early that morning. What was the point of staging the dinner? His only say was that his father really is a crazy man.
The sound of the ink stick grinding against the stone was loud inside the soundless room. He wrote, 'From Jin Lixing.'
Yun Renshu ended his letter with his Daoist name and sent it to his uncle Jin Jiyang. It was a letter of explanation for his long disappearance and an invitation to watch his victory.