Xiao He urged Lin Shouxi to speak of the events that had transpired in the room. As Lin Shouxi spoke, Xiao He listened attentively and nodded along in agreement.
However, Wang Erguan and Ji Luoyang remained skeptical, unconvinced by the story they were hearing.
“You’re telling us that you were only sparring?” Wang Erguan asked, seeking clarification.
“Yes, I was teaching my junior sister some martial arts techniques,” Lin Shouxi replied.
“On the ground, not on the bed?” Wang Erguan pressed, seeking to confirm the details.
“On the ground,” Lin Shouxi confirmed.
“But was it really necessary to use such force to teach her?” Wang Erguan lamented, “She’s just a little girl.”
Lin Shouxi shook his head, “My junior sister’s martial arts skills far surpass yours.”
“What did you say?” Wang Erguan exclaimed, his pride evidently wounded. “Lin Shouxi! Have you become arrogant and complacent after winning her favor? If you want to fight in this courtyard, I’ll destroy your self-proclaimed Joyous Union Sect tonight!”
Wang Erguan’s words were full of passion and indignation, but Xiao He weakly interjected, “You can’t bully Senior Brother.”
In an instant, Wang Erguan’s righteous fury dissipated and he slumped down in silence. He no longer had any appetite for food.
In the middle of the night, Wang Erguan surprised everyone by bringing out a basin of water and starting to wash his clothes.
The luxurious garments he was washing were the same ones he had worn when he was brought to the altar, and they were the only remaining symbols of his noble status.
Despite his reluctance to wear them in the past few days, he was now carefully cleaning them and getting them ready to wear again for tomorrow.
Amidst the cries of birds and insects, and the dancing shadows of the iron trees in the courtyard, the cool breeze whispered through the veranda, rustling the leaves gently. Ji Luoyang stood there, holding his self-made wooden sword, gazing at the moon, lost in thought.
Lin Shouxi did the same. In his world, the moon held many beautiful aspirations, and at that moment, he simply felt the tranquil glow that it emanated, bringing him a sense of peace and serenity.
Unbeknownst to anyone else, the sound of Xiao He practicing martial arts echoed through the darkness of her room. Only Lin Shouxi could hear the occasional sound of fists hitting the air, as she channeled her true energy into her movements, persevering through the pain of her earlier loss.
As if on cue, a large number of night clouds drifted over from the Wu family’s direction, obscuring the moonlight. It seemed as if another storm was on the horizon, and in this momentary, oppressive darkness, Lin Shouxi detected the scent of an impending upheaval.
He returned to his room, closed the door, and laid down on the bed with his hand resting on the wooden sword that Ji Luoyang had given him.
The night passed without incident.
When Lin Shouxi awoke in the morning, he found Xiao He sitting upright at the foot of his bed. Her hands were folded in her lap, and the sunlight coming in through the window illuminated her white hair, casting a faint golden glow.
“Why did you come into my room without permission?” Lin Shouxi asked, admonishing her.
“Senior Brother didn’t close the door, so Xiao He came in,” she replied sweetly.
Lin Shouxi’s expression grew serious. “Although our sect only has two members, we still should follow proper etiquette.”
For the past few days, he had sensed an indistinct air of hostility in the courtyard, so he had left the door slightly ajar last night as a test.
He had spent the whole night half asleep, remaining vigilant.
He had not heard any extraneous noises, yet Xiao He had still appeared by his bedside.
How had she managed it?
Was this her way of getting back at him for a prank, or was it a warning?
He was still uncertain about why Xiao He had disguised herself as an ordinary girl and infiltrated the Wu family, but fortunately, she did not seem to have any intention of killing him before he had taught her the complete sword scripture.
But if she waited until then, she would not have an opportunity to kill him.
He had divided the Demon Gate’s mind control technique, the Heartless Incantation, into nine parts and mixed them into the sword scripture, silently infusing each aspect into her body as he taught her each move.
If Xiao He harbored any murderous intent towards him, he could use this to defend himself, and if not, he could quietly undo the incantation.
As for the sword scripture itself… it was indeed a supreme technique of their sect, but it was not a closely guarded secret.
In the past, all members of the Demon Gate had practiced the White Pupil Black Phoenix Sword Scripture with uniform precision, even incorporating it into their morning exercises. However, the other disciples had only learned a set of good sword techniques, while only he could resonate with the sword scripture and unleash its incredible power.
“How is your injury, Senior Brother?” Xiao He asked with concern.
“It’s better,” Lin Shouxi replied.
“If it’s better, then please continue teaching me the sword scripture,” Xiao He eagerly urged.
“It seems that I’ve taken on an ungrateful apprentice,” Lin Shouxi chuckled helplessly.
“That’s just a joke. Senior Brother’s safety is my top priority,” Xiao He pouted.
Lin Shouxi sat up on the bed and quickly put on his Taoist robe. However, he suddenly coughed and covered his mouth.
Xiao He noticed his pale complexion and asked with concern, “Are you okay, Senior Brother? What’s wrong?”
Lin Shouxi reassured Xiao He, “There’s nothing to worry about, it’s just my injury acting up. Let’s continue practicing the White Snow Drifting Cloud Sword Scripture.”
“But Senior Brother…” Xiao He saw him clutching his chest and hesitated. “Could this be because of our sparring session yesterday? Did I accidentally hurt you?”
“Yes,” Lin Shouxi acknowledged. “But you don’t need to blame yourself.”
“I knew it…” Xiao He sighed. “I was overly competitive yesterday and ended up exhausting Senior Brother.”
“I depleted my strength by using too much energy,” Lin Shouxi explained. “You need not worry about utilizing your true energy to heal me.”
“Huh?” Xiao He was taken aback. “I wasn’t planning on using… “
“Don’t pretend, your concern is written all over your face,” Lin Shouxi weakly chuckled.
‘I wasn’t concerned… this is all fake…’ Xiao He felt like she had been caught in a trap. She squeezed her skirt and managed to force a smile. “Senior Brother saw through me.”
After hesitating for a moment, she said, “Then… let me use my true energy to heal your injury.”
“No,” Lin Shouxi said firmly. “My injury won’t heal quickly, and we still don’t know what Perfected Yun plans to do. Junior Sister, I know your cultivation level is high, but you should conserve your strength and not waste your true energy recklessly.”
Xiao He really wanted to say “Senior Brother is right,” but due to her desire for the sword scripture, she held back her thoughts and gave him a clear look. “Senior Brother, you underrate yourself. If something were to happen to you, our sect would be left without a leader. Please turn around, and let me assist you in healing your injury.”
Lin Shouxi was hesitant to speak and remained silent. Xiao He noticed his hesitation and scolded him, “If you continue to act like this, I will have no choice but to addressing you as Senior Sister.”
That made Lin Shouxi turn around.
Xiao He breathed a soft sigh, silently reassuring herself that all of this was worth it.
With grace, she bent down, delicately lifting her embroidered shoes with a flick of her fingers and setting them aside.
The young girl stepped onto the bed, her immaculate white socks barely touching the surface as she carefully sat behind Lin Shouxi, crossing her legs and placing both hands on his back. A stream of vital energy flowed from her palms, seeping little by little into his body.
Lin Shouxi greedily absorbed Xiao He’s spirit energy without reserve, his mouth expressing genuine concern. “Junior Sister, don’t push yourself too hard. I… I’m fine.”
“Don’t speak. Concentrate,” Xiao He’s words were gentle, but her heart was heavy.
The pure energy Xiao He transmitted into Lin Shouxi’s body was far more refined than that of Wang Erguan or Ji Luoyang. With each passing moment, he felt the weight on his body grow lighter. If this continued every day, he would surely recover in no more than three days.
Xiao He released her grip as she felt her face turn pale, but Lin Shouxi’s complexion had already started to improve.
“Are you alright, Junior Sister?” Lin Shouxi asked, kindly concerned.
“I’m fine,” Xiao He replied, unsteadily.
“Thank you, Junior Sister,” Lin Shouxi expressed his gratitude sincerely. “If you could help me heal every day, I should be able to recover in ten days.”
“Every day?” Xiao He’s voice trembled.
“What’s wrong, Junior Sister? Is there something difficult you need to speak about?” Lin Shouxi coughed several times while clutching his chest.
Xiao He had many mixed feelings as she heard the sound of his coughing. If it were anyone else, she would have thought they were faking it, but after spending so many days with Lin Shouxi, she could sense his detachment, calmness, and sincerity.
For the sake of the complete sword scripture…
“It’s nothing, Senior Brother. You taught me such a powerful sword scripture, and helping you heal is only natural.” Xiao He smiled.
“Then… thank you, Junior Sister.” Lin Shouxi didn’t refuse.
She maintained her smile as she weakly stood up, her small white socks lightly touching the thin blanket. She leapt down to the ground with grace, and her green dress spun as it fell, concealing her delicate, jade-like legs that were still tinged with green veins.
Lin Shouxi continued to teach Xiao He the sword scripture, and after a morning of instruction, she finally learned the third stance.
During their midday meal, Wang Erguan glared at him with ill humor. If Perfected Yun had not forbidden them from harming each other, the portly lad would have likely thrown a punch.
However, both Wang Erguan and Ji Luoyang were clueless to Xiao He’s true identity, seeing her only as a delicate and unremarkable young girl.
Wang Erguan did not harbor any profound feelings for her; he simply possessed an insatiable desire to possess everything, a trait cultivated by his pampered upbringing.
Ji Luoyang, on the other hand, had no interest in Xiao He whatsoever. Instead, he found amusement in observing their interactions.
He pulled Lin Shouxi aside into a small corner and whispered, “You two have been sharing the same room for quite some time. Has anything happened between you?”
“What could possibly happen?” Lin Shouxi replied indifferently.
“Are you concerned about losing your life if you lose your virginity?” Ji Luoyang laughed. “However, there are many ways to experience pleasure from the human body without having sex. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many nobles with peculiar fetishes.”
“I am not interested,” Lin Shouxi replied flatly.
“No interest? Is it because you do not find Xiao He attractive enough, or do you already have someone else in your heart?” Ji Luoyang probed. “Or perhaps, you simply do not understand these things?”
“I have understood them since I was young,” Lin Shouxi replied, disinterested. He had read all the books in his sect when he was a child, and while he had been curious about such matters, he did not think there was much pleasure to be found in them.
The great Tao was boundless, and time was fleeting. One should not waste their time on such trivial matters.
In the afternoon, Lin Shouxi continued to teach Xiao He the sword scripture. She was still sore from yesterday’s defeat, and after learning the next stance, she had another excuse to spar with him, hoping to glean some insights.
Thus, the sound of the young girl’s painful cries echoed intermittently throughout the room once more.
Although Xiao He felt that she was growing stronger, she was still defeated time and time again.
“Are you hurt?” Lin Shouxi reached out and helped her up.
Of course, she was hurt. Xiao He bit her lip, increasingly suspicious of his facade. Though she often pretended to be gentle and delicate, she was quite strong-willed inside. She smiled and said, “I’m fine, Senior Brother. Don’t worry.”
Xiao He felt a sudden surge of anger within her, and she silently made a vow to train harder to defeat Lin Shouxi. She wished to make him kneel before her and beg for mercy.
For the next few days, Xiao He worked extra hard, coming to Lin Shouxi’s bedside early every morning.
Their daily routine became more consistent as they included swordplay lessons and sparring sessions.
Xiao He’s refusal to accept defeat sparked fierce battles between her and Lin Shouxi, leaving her battered and bruised on multiple occasions. Fueled by resentment, she summoned all her strength one day and finally broke through Lin Shouxi’s defenses, landing a powerful punch and sending him several steps back.
Although she looked worried, she quickly asked, “Are you okay, Senior Brother?”
Lin Shouxi rubbed his chest.
He knew that the accumulated resentment in the young girl’s heart would soon transform into something else.
“Junior Sister, you’re getting better,” Lin Shouxi smiled. “If you were able to use true energy, that punch just now would have either killed or severely injured me.”
“How could I bear to hurt my senior brother?” Xiao He’s smile was warm and gentle.
She was in a good mood, so she took the initiative to lead Lin Shouxi to the bedside, resting her head on his shoulder, just like they had done on the cliff before.
Lin Shouxi did not push her away.
She was too tired today and had fallen asleep just like that.
Lin Shouxi knew she was truly asleep.
He looked at her peaceful sleeping face and once again thought of the frozen lakes of winter, where the snow fell heavily upon the lake and the white cliffs in the distance were his homeland.
A flicker of tenderness crossed his youthful face, but it was gone in an instant.
The girl slipped gradually from his shoulder down to his chest, then finally onto his thigh, where she slept, her head resting against him.
If only she were an ordinary girl, Lin Shouxi thought.
Though they were two people, their backs still seemed lonely, with only the all-encompassing night to keep them company.
When Xiao He woke up, she was startled.
She had slept surprisingly well.
It had been a long time since she had slept so peacefully. Was it because of him, his smell, or…
As she got up, Xiao He noticed that she was wearing an extra piece of clothing.
She rubbed the edge of her clothes and asked softly, “Did I say anything in my sleep?”
“No, Junior Sister, you slept well,” Lin Shouxi replied.
“You’re the one who slept well…” she retorted out of habit.
Lin Shouxi didn’t answer, but Xiao He could feel him smiling. She stared at him through the darkness for a while before suddenly asking, as if possessed:
“What if one day, Junior Sister is not good?”
If Lin Shouxi couldn’t see her true face, he would have thought this was just a playful joke from a young girl.
“Then I’ll hit you.”
“Will Senior Brother be willing to do that?”
“It depends on whether you like it or not,” Lin Shouxi said.
“Who would like that!” Xiao He pouted. “Senior Brother is really mean…”
Xiao He drawled out her words, taking advantage of the cover of night to bend her beautiful eyes and giggle, her laughter particularly charming.
Lin Shouxi reached out and combed through her slightly disheveled white hair like flowing water.
Xiao He lowered her head and after a while, she took out a red string from her bosom and dangled it in front of Lin Shouxi.
“I’m giving this to Senior Brother,” Xiao He grabbed his hand and casually tied the string around his wrist.
“What is this?” Lin Shouxi asked.
“Just an ordinary red string, but it can bless you with safety,” Xiao He said.
“Don’t lose it, or Junior Sister will eat you up,” Xiao He warned, curving her palms into claws and making a fierce expression before leaving.
In the early morning, the sky was heavy with black clouds. Perfected Yun arrived before the old woman with her cane came to deliver breakfast.
Lightning flashed through the clouds, and where it disappeared, Perfected Yun stood in his brown ancient Taoist robe, as if he was the manifestation of the lightning.
As usual, only his left eye was open and he carried a wooden sword while his face was covered in pale white powder.
However, Lin Shouxi knew that the powder was simply another disguise. He had once heard Wang Erguan praising Perfected Yun’s handsome appearance, comparing him to a celestial being.
As Perfected Yun entered the courtyard, the young men and women were startled awake from their dreams.
They dressed and came to the courtyard, bowing to Perfected Yun.
Perfected Yun calmly scanned them with a glance and announced, “Next is your final test.”