Spiritsource was the base requirement to be number one in the entrance exam. Four years ago, Lin Xiaoting had accomplished it as third level Spiritsource, and the standard today should be roughly the same.
In contrast, Li Tianming had only joined the institute with great difficulty four years ago with a seventh level Beast Vein cultivation. Joining Heaven's Sanctum was just a pipe dream.
He had made great strides recently and had hopes of rising up through the entrance exam this time. He would make progress on his mother’s illness if and only if he joined the Sanctum.
They soon reached Daybreak Snow Pavilion. A beautiful madam dressed in golden clothes was waiting for them inside. Even though she was likely forty as well, no traces of time could be seen on her. Her flawless skin seemed to belong to a teenage girl instead.
Her tall and slender frame was delicate and strong. She had obviously maintained her body well, and combined with her noble air, gave her a sort of grace. If she were to go to the streets, anyone would identify her wealthy background easily.
“It really is you, Jing’er!” The madam hastened to Wei Jing, her eyes reddening.
“Lan'er.” They had finally reunited after twenty years. Wei Jing held her hand, her fingers trembling slightly. Her eyes were already red.
“Let’s go inside to talk.” Madam Xue Lan led her into the pavilion before taking a seat. She looked sadly at Wei Jing. “So in the end, your Lifesbane did flare up. You already look so old at forty. I never knew you were having it so tough. Jing’er, I’ll have visited you earlier if I had known.”
“I’m used to it.” Wei Jing smiled peacefully. She pulled Li Tianming forward, “Let me introduce you, Lan'er. This is my son, Li Tianming. Tianming, greet your Aunt Lan.”
“Hello Aunt Lan.” Li Tianming paid his respects politely. He was sincerely happy for his mother to find an old friend in Ignispolis.
“Your kid has grown so big. That’s nice, he should be close in age to my Hao’er.”
Li Tianming stood by the side and listened to them chat.
“Jing’er, it’s been twenty years. Your reason for returning this time…”
“I’ve ended it with Li Yanfeng. I won’t be returning to Flamehaven. I’ll be in Ignispolis from now on. I’ve missed this place and the rest of you.”
“If only you hadn’t been so stubborn then,” Xue Lan sighed.
Wei Jing shook her head.“No need to mention old matters.”
Xue Lan pursed her lips. “Fine. Did you return because you hope the Sanctum Potentate will help you resolve the curse? I don’t think it’s likely. He’s the one who kicked you out then. With his personality, I doubt he’ll have forgiven you even after twenty years.”
“No, not for that.” Wei Jing still wasn’t interested in pursuing old topics, which led to a slight disconnect in their conversation. “I returned because I want to reside peacefully in Ignispolis and spend my last days with my son. I thought I'd visit you while I was at it. I’m happy you all are living so well.”
“Is that so.” Xue Lan nodded. “I respect your choice regardless.”
“I have a favour to ask.” Wei Jing leveled a serious look at her.
“Don’t speak like that! You and I, we’re sisters! I’ll definitely help you as much as I can,” Xue Lan said.
“I’ll like a residence near Flameyellow Scions Institute if possible. It doesn’t need to be grand, as long as it's livable. My son and I haven’t had a place to rest ever since we arrived.”
“How could I let you do that! Listen, just stay at Chen Chateau. It’s easy for me to take care of you too.”
“It’s too much trouble for you. I’m someone who’s going to pass away soon, so I just want some peace and quiet.” Wei Jing shook her head.
“Jing’er…” Pain was written all over Xue Lan’s face. “Don’t worry. I’ll make the appropriate arrangements immediately.”
“On that topic, are you looking for a residence near the institute as your kid got a Flameyellow Order and is about to take the entrance exam?”
Xue Lan considered Li Tianming, before asking, “Child, what’s your current cultivation?”
“Seventh level Beast Vein stage.”
“Decent, but the competition this time will be fierce. You’ll need to work pretty hard to secure a place so you don’t let your mother down.” Xue Lan warned.
“I’ll try my best.” Li Tianming nodded. He was definitely thankful to her for helping to resolve some of his mother’s worries.
However, an unpleasant voice cut in. “Seventh level Beast Vein, and you’re from the sticks? Don’t you think you’re somewhat dreaming to want to enter the institute?”
A young man walked in from outside. Several maids were helping him remove his exercise clothing and don a luxurious set of long robes. Finally, they proffered him water with which to wash his face and hands.
“So, we have guests, mother.” It was Chen Yao, who had completed his drills.
“Yes, this was my sister in the past.” Xue Lan looked at her son with warmth and love.
“Sister?” Chen Yao snorted out loud after taking a look. “Amazing. You became sisters with an old lady when you were young? She’s old enough to be your grandma!”
While the words were spoken in jest, they were quite unpleasant to hear. Li Tianming frowned.
“Don’t say that, Yao’er! It’s rude.” While she scolded him, her tone wasn’t particularly critical.
“I can’t be bothered with this.” He was already done washing his face and continued, “Just send them away already. It really is just so annoying to see penniless friends trying to come and beg. It’s ruining my mood for the exam.”
“Alright, I’ll speed this up. I won’t hold up your herbal soup.” Xue Lan spoke lovingly to her son.
She smiled at Wei Jing, “Sorry about that. My kid just hasn’t grown up. He still wants my herbal soup even now. It’s just so expensive and hard to make! Just look at how calloused my hands are these days!” She extended flawless hands to Wei Jing that had obviously never seen a day of housework in their life. They were obviously in much better condition than Wei Jing’s.
Li Tianming immediately understood many things. How could he not realise by now that this woman’s show of affection was just a pretense?
Now, she had made such an overt mockery, and she had even done it without batting an eye. It really was very incisive.
“How could that be? Lan’er, your hands are just as beautiful as twenty years ago.” Wei Jing smiled.
Li Tianming had expected his mother to feel uncomfortable, but it turned out she was made of sterner stuff than that.
Wei Jing got to her feet. “Well, we just arrived at Ignispolis. We still have many miscellaneous matters to handle, so we won’t impose on you anymore, Lan’er.”
“Why not stay a little longer? I’ll get the servants to prepare a feast!” Xue Lan said, reluctant to part.
“No need.” Wei Jing shook her head.
“Fine. We’ll have lots of opportunities to meet now that you’re back. I’ll get the servants to prepare Chen Yao Inn for you all to stay tonight. Someone will bring you over in a while.” Her arrangements seemed rather considerate.
“Someone, come help send off these VIPs.”
Xue Lan was still smiling brightly after Li Tianming and Wei Jing left.
“Why do you look so happy?” Chen Yao asked curiously.
“Am I? You can’t say that! My sister has been suffering for twenty years, and will even have to pass on alone soon. I pity her so much!” Xue Lan’s mouth twitched.
“Is that so? I feel like you’re close to dancing, though.” Chen Yao’s mouth twitched back.
“Nonsense. Life really is full of twists and turns. It really is incredible sometimes.” Xue Lan could no longer resist chuckling.
“How boring.” Chen Yao recalled Li Tianming’s features and suddenly said, “I find that guy rather familiar. What’s his name?”
“It was… Li Tianming or something? He’s Li Yanfeng’s spawn. That year, it really was a case of a toad eating swan meat.” Xue Lan shook her head.
“Li Tianming…? I remember now! He had entered the institute four years ago! Now, he’s the butt of their jokes there.” Chen Yao was laughing too.
Chen Yao described what had happened three years ago. Even today, people were still discussing it.
“One woman born with a hard lot in life and a depraved son. What a wonderful match.”
“He’s still seventh level even though his lifebound beast died? He should have used a blood pact. He really is underestimating the entrance exam, if he’s expecting to get in.” Chen Yao couldn’t stop himself from shaking his head. He couldn’t understand why someone with his reputation in tatters wanted to come back for round two.
Xue Lan had had her fun. She was just about to start making the herbal soup when a servant reported that Sage Chen was back. She immediately dressed herself up before going to welcome him.
Chen Chateau plunged into silence the moment he entered. This influential figure of Vermilion Bird looked young enough to be Chen Yao’s elder brother. However, it was impossible to hide the experience and power shown in his eyes.
All the guards along the way bow and scraped as if this was the emperor himself. If what was within Chen Yao’s eyes was described as a star, then what lay in Sage Chen’s eyes could only be as a galaxy, the brightness within illuminating the entire chateau.
After his return, Xue Lan helped him to change his clothes, before entering his embrace like a happy young girl.
“Who were those two who left? They looked familiar.” Sage Chen stroked her long hair.
“You saw her?” Xue Lan curled her lips.
“Who was it?”
“That person you couldn’t obtain that time.” Xue Lan smiled.
Sage Chen shot to his feet and leveled Xue Lan with a deep look. His expression was grave and shocked as he asked, “Her?!”
“Yes, did you see her clearly? She’s ugly and old now. Don’t you just want to puke by simply looking at her? I’ve done it myself already today. Need me to help you to the bathroom so you can do it too?” Xue Lan looked up at him, amused as she teased him.
He didn’t respond.
“So, do you still love her? Now that she’s forty and so very ugly?” Lan Xue smiled charmingly.
Sage Chen took a deep breath and left the room wordlessly.
“Take a close, close look! Burn into your mind how ugly she is now! If you haven’t puked enough outside, don’t even think of coming back!” Even after he left, her shrill voice continued to echo out, growing louder and louder.