Two hours later, Tianming emerged from the barrier, looking really haggard.
"Young man, how does it feel to take what it has to offer?" Ouyang Jianwang said, sitting with his legs crossed.
"Quite refreshing," Tianming said.
"Wow, you're even boasting. Come and let me see if you managed to even absorb one strand of tribulation sword ki."
"One? That's impossible."
"Weak," Ouyang Jianwang said derisively. "Young people these days are pathetic. They can't even take one bit of hardship. Back in my day, I—"
Before he managed to finish, he saw the dozen strands of tribulation sword ki in Tianming's hand. No, there were fifteen in total, each one stronger than his Myriad-Demise Sword.
"What the hell?! Why’d you pretend to fail?!" Ouyang Jianwang snapped.
"Sorry, it's a habit."
"Amazing. I knew my judgment wasn't mistaken.... Wait, were you only there for two hours? Doesn't that mean you could’ve absorbed even more if you had the time?" Ouyang Jianwang said, his mouth widening as the realization dawned on him.
"Calm down, I say, calm down."
"What in the world!" Ouyang Jianwang stumbled off his chair and looked at him blankly. If it went on like that, Tianming might stand a chance to top his record of ten thousand strands of tribulation sword ki!
The real reason behind Tianming's sudden increase in endurance was definitely thanks to his empyrean gold body, which allowed him to take on some of his Primordial Chaos Beasts' constitution. It took Ouyang Jianwang quite a while to accept that fact.
"Hear me out. You have to take the spot in the Deepstar Pool no matter what," Ouyang Jianwang said, suddenly sounding serious.
"I want to see how many astralsources your body can take in."
"There isn't much time left. You have to go back to the Deepstar Battlefield. From now on, come here to train the Tribulation Sword Body for two hours every day."
"Understood. Thank you, Brother." Tianming bowed.
"Remember to bring wine and poems."
As Tianming was headed to the Abyssal Battlefield, he ran into Fang Xingying. "Why are you out here? Have you been eliminated?"
Fang Xingying nodded.
"Who did it? I’ll beat them up for you."
"Are you certain?" Fang Xingying seemed a little nervous and pale as he crossed his arms.
"What do you mean by that?" Something felt off to Tianming.
"Li Tianming, I heard you defeated Fang Chenyu. Everyone’s talking about how quickly you improve. I know your talent is definitely superior to even the Sterling House of Fang's Rainbow Phoenix Bloodline.”
"You have a good backing and lots of power. Not to mention, your relationship with Fang Xingque is past the point of no return, right?"
"Shall I find a chance for you to kill him without anyone noticing? I promise I can arrange it without anyone finding out after the Deepstar Battle." His hands shook nervously as he spoke.
Tianming fell silent. "Do you hate him that much?"
"I do! Unbelievably so! Did you know? The Rainbow Phoenix Bloodline belongs to me! I am the true heir, but they took everything that belonged to me and gave it to Fang Xingque, and even forced my parents to die! I live only to avenge them. Please help me, I beg you!" Fang Xingying knelt and pleaded, as if Tianming was his only remaining lifeline.
"Who are they?"
"Fang Taiqing and Fang Qingli, my grandmother! Hahaha! I hate them so very much!"
"Why? Aren't you also a member of the Sterling House of Fang?"
"My father is only average, while Fang Taiqing is the sect master of the Heaven Branch. That’s why his son is thought to be far more suitable for the Rainbow Phoenix Bloodline. I was too dumb back then, and didn't know how to speak for myself. All seventeen years of my life, I've been living in a nightmare. I beg you, I beg you!" Fang Xingying said as he kowtowed nonstop.
Tianming was about to say that was too cruel, but he didn't. It was something in the past, and he wasn't the arbiter of what was cruel or not. Fang Xingying was just a pitiful person and Tianming couldn't empathize with him, not having experienced what he had.
"Li Tianming, are you going to help me? I definitely won’t betray you."
"Just calm down for now."
"What do you mean?"
"Calm down. I don't have much of a relationship with you, so asking me to kill the son of Heaven Branch’s sect master is a little too much. I need to think about it more first," Tianming said as he helped him up. While he did have some conflict with Fang Xingque, it wasn't to the point that he would kill him. He knew that Fang Taiqing had lots of power and influence in the Archaion Sect. Killing Fang Xingque would cause too much commotion. He and Feiling were currently in a rather perilous state, so they had to tread carefully every step of the way.
What he didn't expect, however, was that Fang Xingying would push his hand away. "Li Tianming, you’re a coward! You also fear them! Everyone in this world is afraid of cruel people like them, including you!"
Tianming felt his head start to hurt. "Actually, if you really want revenge, you should empty your mind first. You’ve fallen into despair, but there’s a lot of chances in life. Don't let yourself be mired in madness. If you can't even control yourself, only your enemy will benefit," Tianming said. This was something he had experienced before, so he knew how it felt.
"Haha.... You and your empty words. Do you know what I’ve suffered?"
"Fang Xingying, think about it, is our relationship so close that I’d kill someone for your sake? You are not a child anymore. Try to be more mature." Tianming felt his rage building up. He didn't know what to say to him.
"Hehe.... Forget I said anything today. I misread your character," Fang Xingying said as he stood up and walked away.
Tianming watched as he left. "There’s many avengers in this world. What they should really do is to try to control themselves first."
Five days later on the Deepstar Battlefield, the last days of the battle were getting closer and closer. Tension was high in the audience and many didn't want to leave their seats.
Even now, Tianming was still keeping to his own pace. But to save time, he got rid of the powder on him so he wouldn't be pestered by Fang Xingque. What he did earned him quite a lot of mockery and laughter among the audience, who thought he was afraid despite his arrogant words days before, not that Tianming could hear any of it. He was really calm and did whatever he had to. He had been thinking about Fang Xingying for the past few days, wondering if he’d hurt him by turning him down so quickly.
"Whatever, I'll stop thinking about it. I'm already in so much trouble, so I can't afford to get involved in other people's troubles." After finally letting it go, he felt much better.
He was cultivating within the battlefield. But before he made a final push, someone approached him from afar. Tianming saw a man accompanied by four women. The man seemed about as young as Fang Xingque and the rest, around sixteen or seventeen. He looked bright and handsome, and his slender figure was clad in a white robe. He seemed like a pretty boy whose beauty was hard to obscure despite his daintiness.
There were four beauties around him, each of whom felt different from the others. One seemed mature and alluring, and the other was petite and cute. There was also a short-haired, handsome woman with a bombastic figure, and a quiet and gentle one whose gaze was really calming. Tianming almost couldn't take his eyes off the eye candy.
Those four pleasing women were protecting the young man in white, making for quite a rare sight. More importantly, all of them were Heaven Branch disciples. The aura of the Samsara stage was obvious and dense.
They felt like sharp swords, so Tianming figured that they were from the Draconis House of Jian. Unlike Jian Xueyi, however, these were disciples who were able to join the Heaven Branch before the age of twenty. They must be core members of the house, otherwise they wouldn't look so impressive compared to normal Earth Branch disciples. As the disciples of the Draconis House of Jian maintained a rather low profile, Tianming didn't know who they were, but they definitely knew him.
"Hey, don't run. Come make some friends," said the young man in a gentle, pleasing voice. As he spoke, they were already before Tianming.
"Who are the other four?" Tianming asked.
"They are all my girlfriends!" he said gleefully.
"I see. It doesn't really matter to me. I think you’re a fine lad, so I wouldn't mind being your friend," Tianming said with a smile.
Right after that, all of the girls pulled on the young man's ear, causing him to wince in pain. "Sorry, it's my fault! I’ll introduce you again!"
When they let go, he cleared his throat and said, "That was a joke, by the way. These are my godsisters. I’m their godbrother."
At that moment, Ying Huo popped out of the lifebound space and said, "I could’ve sworn you guys are sleeping with each other."
"Huh?!" All five of them glared at Ying Huo.
"I'm really sorry!" Tianming hurriedly said and stuffed Ying Huo back in his lifebound space.
"Your birdie is really cute..." the young man awkwardly said, ignorant of the double entendre.
"Umm... so you are?" Tianming hurriedly changed the subject to avoid awkwardness.
"I’m Jian Lingchen. My father is the palace lord of Tribulation Artifact Hall, Jian Wufeng. My uncle tasked me to protect you. I know who you really are."
"Is your uncle Jian Wuyi?"
"Bingo! You got it right!"
Tianming had seen Jian Lingchen's name before. He occupied the third spot on the rankings.