”Where is she?! ”
In Oakfall Village, a chaotic commotion occurred at midnight, followed by a hectic search effort. Numerous men dressed in uniformed outfits scoured the streets, their eyes blazing with spiritual light and lethal vigilance.
”Black outfit! Find her! ” A commander of these men shouted, adding: ”Apprehend any female member of slim build and tall height! Go! ” They burst into numerous homes, grabbed the young women that fit that description with prejudice.
The screams and shouts of those panicked few constantly resounded. There was no house left unraided and no suspect given any quarter. Even these men showed little gentleness as they pulled the young women from their homes and sealed their cultivation bases, including their movements. Restrained, in fear, these women could only tremble and weep.
They were unaware of what was happening, but they recognized the men that were present. They belonged to the Oakfall Village ’s army, and some even were familiar with these men, yet their eyes that gleamed with spiritual light seemed to not take into consideration any past relationship. From their dark and solemn gazes, the situation was definitely beyond serious.
A few instinctively resisted as having invaders breach their homes, snatch their daughters, sisters, or mothers like bandits startled them, and pushed them off the edge. A few soldiers were injured by higher-leveled cultivators, but those who took action would soon be harshly suppressed, their female members treated even more poorly as they were prime suspects.
”Huff! Huff! Ha! ” The pantings of a youngster resounded in the thick shrubbery, but those pants halted instantly as if cut off unnaturally.
A series of men rushed past the shrubbery with weapons gleaming with a deadly glint. Their eyes shone with spiritual light. As they consecutively passed with hurried steps, the last to pass the shrubbery halted. He was tall, thin, and had sunken eyes. There was a villainous gleam within his eyes as he swept them to the surroundings.
”Anything there?! ” A voice called out from ahead. It belonged to one of the others that had passed. The tall man frowned as he inspected the surroundings again, but replied: ”No! Nothing! ”
After that, he rushed ahead and caught up with the others.
Ba-dum! Ba-dum! Ba-dum!
The heavy beating of the youngster ’s heart was like war drums, pounding and violent. The youth was garbed in black outfit, with shapely curves, a pair of ample breasts, and long, black hair. With a careful survey of their surroundings, they left in a hurry.
The search continued as women were inspected and interrogated. From the words of the commander and other men, they were looking for an herb. Those smart soon realized what this herb was and who it belonged to, and their hearts quivered. Who would be so daring?
The commander stared at his two reporting lieutenants who replied with unfruitful news. ”The Meadowlife Herb isn ’t so easy to hide! It can ’t be stored in a spatial ring, so find it! ” The lieutenants assented with nods and grunts before hurrying off with solemn gazes.
The commander sighed, ”This is such a mess. ”
Several hours later, a short black haired young man with platinum highlights was refilling a hole in the ground with a shovel. It was almost filled entirely, but prior to that, it was dug out and filled with a wig, silk cloth, padded clothes, and platform shoes. While the melons had been crushed entirely.
The disguise had changed his body to become tall, female with a buxom figure, but he couldn ’t keep this evidence, and he couldn ’t burn it in the middle of the night either. As for throwing it in a river, the possibility of it being found might expand their search to men instead, and he couldn ’t risk it.
After filling the last bit, he heavily sighed and wiped off the sweat on his brow. But then a silly smile formed on his face, filled with abundant happiness: ”I got it! ” The Meadowlife Herb was a low-level astral-grade material that contained a pure lifeforce, and it was extremely rare.
It only grew in areas that experienced the Meadow Life Wood Phenomenon. While these environments could be artificially stimulated, a powerful cultivator needed to do so. In the Oakfall Village where the strongest cultivator was merely at the Seventh Stage of the Qi Condensation Realm, this was highly unlikely.
Yet it happened.
The herb had been harvested recently after the phenomenon occurred roughly three years ago. He couldn ’t let this opportunity slip, and created an airtight plan to sneak into the Village Lord ’s private vault and snatch it. He wasn ’t greedy, and took only it.
Still, this was risky.
After using it to heal his mother, they would have to leave immediately lest the loss of the herb was connected with her healed state. Thinking of his mother, he touched a dangling piece of jewelry that hung around his neck. It was a violet-colored lotus that gleamed with a brilliant luster.
His sixteenth birthday was yesterday and his mother had given him this lotus necklace as a gift. She said it belonged to his human father, and that she kept it as a safe-keeping until he returned. While she didn ’t say it, he could see that she believed she wasn ’t able to wait any longer. Her illness had taken its toll on her and she knew she didn ’t have much time.
Clenching the lotus, he thought about his absent father who left when he was just five years old, while his mother was pregnant with Yi Meimei! The despicable man left without a word to them, left them high and dry, poor and suffering.
From the age of five, he had to learn how to earn for his family, especially with the newborn on the way. He had to do whatever he could to earn whatever was possible to provide, and even his mother who was suffering from the pains and difficulties of pregnancy had to put in some effort. While she smiled through it all, he knew she was hurt inside.
To bear such a heavy responsibility and alleviate her worries, he worked even harder. He became a herbal caretaker, gleaned towards recently harvested fields for additional food, and performed all sorts of odd jobs. This was further made difficult by the attitudes of the people, so he even had to grovel and beg.
It soon became his advantage as many wanted to take it out on his human side, giving him difficult jobs for little pay, but he accepted it all with a bright smile.
All for her, for them.
With time, he developed many skills and performed jobs even better than those professionals. He was highly sought after, and as a herbal caretaker, he was widely considered one of the finest young minds to do so. Even the Village Lord had him take care of certain herbs, for example…the Meadowlife Herb.
But two years ago, his mother suddenly caught a dastardly sickness. The medicinal sages couldn ’t diagnose what was wrong with her, just that her vitality was slowly draining out of her body, and this caused her to experience bouts of severe weakness and horrific pain. Furthermore, according to Old Hu, the medicinal sage that took the most care of his mother over the two-year period, her organs were declining with each passing day.
Soon, they ’ll fail.
Unless she received the best treatment or received a miracle cure, she was going to die—soon. And he couldn ’t stop it. Helpless, he searched for any means to alleviate her symptoms, slow down her loss of life, and find a cure. In the end, all the things that could work, hiring top-tier medicinal sages, high-grade alchemical products, or inviting an expert was far beyond his means.
The Meadowlife Herb, however, was a possible cure. If anything, it could give him more time as it was filled with vitality to replenish what his mother was losing. It was rumored that consuming it could heighten a Qi Condensation Realm ’s lifespan by thirty years. That was more than enough.
Clenching the necklace, he wanted to toss it aside and crush it, cursing his father for being a pathetic excuse for a man! How could he just leave his children? His wife? What was so…what was more important than them?!
His emotions riled as he angrily stabbed the shovel into the ground in his vexation. Regardless of all this, including his pathetic father, he had succeeded in stealing the herb, and his mother will be either cured or have more time. Just like before, he must be the man of this family and take care of them—no matter what!
His mood noticeably improved. As a sixteen year old, he could be happy one more, sad the next, and excited soon after. He slowly poured a green liquid over the recently filled ground and grass started to rapidly grow until it matched the surroundings. There was no sign the ground was disturbed.
Yi Yun soon started to return to his residence, that small wooden house he loved to call his home, because the two most important people in his life were there. With a bright smile, he rushed back.
”…What ’s that? ” Yi Yun ’s eyes noticed in the distance a faint fiery glow from afar. The sky had a plume of smoke trailing across the skies, feeling it was a dark cloud of smoke. A sinking feeling grasped his heart and it started to violently race alongside his thoughts.
It was consistent with his…
”No! ” He no longer held back and used his complete cultivation to urge his body forward, circulating his qi with an explosive force as he propelled forward. While he was just at the Second Stage of the Qi Condensation Realm, External Flow, he was moving faster than some Yin Form Phase experts.
In a short time, he arrived at his residential district. The first thing he saw was numerous figures gathered around, standing and mumbling while looking in the direction of the fire. The blazing flames were still bright. With a roar, he charged through the gathered crowd and pushed his way to the forefront.
When he finally pushed the last annoying bystander to the side, his eyes were filled with a fiery light, reflecting the image of his small wooden house burning fiercely. ”No! No! Mother! Yi Meimei! ” He violently shouted and rushed forward towards the fire, but as he got closer, the scorching heat intensified its effect on his skin and caused him to pause for a moment. But it was minor as the images of his two most important people flashed in his mind. His body moved fearlessly forward!
Yi Yun didn ’t even realize what happened next when he woke up, his eyes welcomed by the smokey sky and rays of morning light. There was a breeze flowing across his body, and pain filled his lungs. With a hacking cough, he finally regained a sense of himself.
The first words he heard were: ”We found two burnt bodies in the rubble! ”
”…. ” Yi Yun ’s heart went cold.
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