Phoenix's Requiem - Chapter 219: Empress Xue Tong
When Li Mo saw that Yun Ruoyan still wasn’t awake, he sat by her side and covered her exposed elbow with her blanket. Yun Ruoyan slowly stirred, looking somewhat indistinctly at Li Mo.
“You’re awake? Are you hungry?” Li Mo asked. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
Yun Ruoyan rubbed her eyes with her hand. “I had a dream that, after I woke up, I saw you talking with someone you called your mother. Was it all just a dream? Is it daytime now?”
“You must have been dreaming,” Li Mo replied. “Do you know how long you slept?”
“How long did I sleep?”
“Five whole days. The first elder said that your spirit was too tired from our excursion that your body essentially hibernated in order to recuperate. How do you feel now?”
“I slept for five whole days?” Yun Ruoyan felt as though she had merely been dreaming for a short duration. “I have to get back home and let Grandfather know. They must be so worried about me…”
Li Mo stopped her from getting out of bed. “I’ve already sent word to the Lin and Yun families, telling them that I’ve brought you back to Kongming Academy. Stay here and rest a little for the next few days. The official start of the term is in two days, and although you’ve become my student, you still have to report to the college.”
Yun Ruoyan sat back on the bed as Li Mo brought her a bowl of porridge. “A student just brought this over, so have a little.”
Li Mo blew on the steaming hot porridge and fed it to Yun Ruoyan, who obediently took a few sips.
“What dream?” Li Mo held another spoonful of porridge by Yun Ruoyan’s lips, but she shook her head.
“I dreamt of my mother, who brought me to see a very strange man.”
“Right. His facial features were indistinct.” Yun Ruoyan frowned, and her expression turned painful.
“It was just a dream, so don’t worry too much about it.” Li Mo patted Yun Ruoyan’s forehead.
Yun Ruoyan looked at Li Mo. “Li Mo, you told me that, when you were very small, your mother was taken away by your parents’ enemies. Do you still remember what she looks like?”
“Yes. She was very beautiful.” Li Mo’s eyes turned slack. “More beautiful than the rivers and mountains, than even the sun and moon.”
Yun Ruoyan lowered her head, and her voice turned soft. “You must take after your mother. Do you miss her?”
“Of course. No matter what price I have to pay, I’ll save her from her enemies.”
Yun Ruoyan propped her lower jaw on her knee and wrapped her hands around her legs. Li Mo was familiar with this position of hers—when she didn’t feel safe, she would often hunch up like a scared child.
“Yan’er.” Li Mo reached out for her, scooping her into his lap. “That was just a dream. Don’t think about it any further.” Li Mo thought that Yun Ruoyan was feeling discomfited because of the dream, but he wasn’t aware of her actual thoughts.
“I’m tired, and I’d like to sleep for a little while longer.” She lay down.
“I’ll be cultivating outside, so let me know if you need anything.” Li Mo patted Yun Ruoyan on the shoulder before leaving the room.
Yun Ruoyan stayed in the tall tower for another day, during which the first elder came to have a look at her and pronounced her hale. Yun Ruoyan then requested to return to her own cottage—students would begin returning in droves starting tomorrow, and it wouldn’t be convenient for her to be found in the tower.
Li Mo sent her back to her cottage by the cliff.
“Before the term begins, remember to rest well. You don’t have to worry too much about your cultivation in the short term. You’re already a peak seventh-rank blademaster, and your cultivation is higher than that of most of the incoming students. Once you’re fully rested, I’ll teach you a few new techniques.
Yun Ruoyan nodded.
“I have a few matters to attend to, so I won’t be here for much of the next week.”
Yun Ruoyan nodded again.
Li Mo was concerned by Yun Ruoyan’s apathetic responses. “Yan’er, do you want me to stay with you for a few more days?”
“No, there’s no need,” Yun Ruoyan replied immediately, afraid that Li Mo would see through her. “Leave early and return early.”
After Li Mo left, Yun Ruoyan leaned against the windowsill as she looked at the ever-shifting sea of clouds, lost in her thoughts. Li Mo had indeed lied to her, and she was naturally a little upset. However, she too had lied to Li Mo. Did she have the right to blame him?
During her conversation with Li Mo on the roof of the tower, they had agreed that some secrets were best kept secret. However, they had also promised to be honest with each other, and Yun Ruoyan’s heart couldn’t help turn bitter at the thought.
I suppose it’s fine if two lovers keep a few secrets from each other. After all, lying is sometimes a mechanism of protection…
Li Mo soared past the Kongming Summit and headed for the Yueli mountain range. There, he stopped at a hidden valley, within which stood a tall building. If the building were perfectly restored, it would have been majestic and exquisite, but what remained was little more than scrap.
Li Mo walked into the building, into its damaged great hall. Despite much of the ornate furnishings having been looted or destroyed, one could easily guess at how glorious it had been in the past.
“Your Highness.” From the other side of the great hall walked a man in black, whose face was hidden by a large hood.
“Su Nan,” Li Mo greeted.
“The empress knew you were coming, and she bade me wait for you here.” Su Nan removed his hood to reveal the resolute face of a middle-aged man. He brought Li Mo into a dark corner.
“How are the arrangements going with those beastkin?”
“Very well, Your Highness. The herbs and pills that Li Luo brought us were a great help. According to the empress’ orders, Su Bei and I, as well as Su Dong, settled all the new refugees in a nearby valley.”
The two of them quickly arrived at the end of the secret passageway, which was blocked by a large stone door. Su Nan rapped thrice on the door and announced, “Empress, His Highness is here!”
The heavy stone doors gradually opened. Su Nan waited respectfully by one side as Li Mo walked into the large, spacious chamber. It was filled to the brim with all sorts of beast cores and spiritual herbs. Were any cultivators to chance upon the chamber, their eyes would have been blinded by greed: any of the beast cores within would be a high-grade treasure, and each of the spiritual herbs and pills was a priceless commodity nowhere to be found on the market.
Li Mo appeared utterly unaffected by the lull of the treasures. He walked forward, in the direction of a woman whose features were as white as snow.
“My greetings, Mother.” Li Mo bowed respectfully.
“Rise, Mo’er.” The woman’s voice sounded like the tinkling of ice: rather pleasant to the ear, but carrying a pervasive image of cold.
Li Mo stood and looked at his mother, the empress of the beastkin kingdom. Her face was so beautiful it took one’s breath away, but it was lifeless. More accurately, the empress’ whole body was lifeless, because the only thing that stood there was a statue of white jade.
“Did you come visit me because you had a new plan in mind?” The empress’ voice came from the statue.
“I had intended on using this opportunity to lure out those old codgers,” Li Mo began. “But although I learned the third elder’s spirit-sealing fists, I wasn’t confident in beating those old geezers, and I didn’t want to inadvertently alert them.”
Li Mo extended a hand in the form of a claw, with white spiritual energy forming in his palm. This was the key to the spirit-sealing fists technique: the vortex of spiritual energy would flow into an opponent’s spiritual vortex and disrupt it. A serious blow would cause that opponent’s cultivation to crumble, whereas a minor blow would cause their spiritual energy to be blocked for a period of time.
“The spirit-sealing fists is truly a strong technique, but you’re not yet a sword saint, and you can’t use it to its full power,” the empress commented. “The elders of the silver dragons are all sword saints, and you’re not a match for them.” The empress’ voice turned severe near the end, clearly displeased by Li Mo’s impetuous actions.
“I apologize for being rash, Mother, but your spirit is weakening so rapidly that your body needs to be acquired as soon as possible…”
The jade statue sighed. The empress thought back to her memories from a decade ago. One moment, they seemed to have happened just yesterday; another, they felt as old as an entire lifetime.
The empress was called Xue Tong, a holy maiden of the silver dragon clan. Many years ago, she ended up on the Chenyuan continent and found herself in a chance encounter with the Beast King, Xun Tianli. The two of them fell in love, but the silver dragon clan placed such emphasis on a pure bloodline that it forbade interspecies marriage. As a result, the couple was forced on the run by assassins that the silver dragon clan sent after them.
Even when the two of them ended up deep in the mountains, they weren’t able to escape the silver dragons’ grasp. Xun Tianli bitterly fought the four elders that had found them, and managed to vanquish the third elder at the cost of his life. Xue Tong was badly injured, and her spirit hid in the statue that Xun Tianli had carved of her. However, her body was taken away by the remaining elders.
“I’ve already been trapped for a decade. With these spiritual pills and herbs around, it won’t be a problem to survive for another decade more,” the empress continued. “You have to work meticulously: do not put yourself in danger because of your haste.”
“I understand, Mother.” Li Mo hesitated for a moment. “I found a demonic dragon grave in Kongming Academy’s trial grounds.”
“A demonic dragon grave?” Empress Xue Tong was shocked by this news. “The demonic dragon clan went extinct a millennium ago under the combined might of humans and the silver dragon clan. To have a grave on this Chenyuan continent…”
“Not only a grave, but also their dragon souls,” Li Mo emphasized.
“Their souls!” Empress Xue Tong’s voice trembled. “Does anyone else know about this?”