Leng Jin Yu held back a smile with some effort and pretended to slowly think it through. Opposite him, Jing Yi was visibly getting anxious. The boy didn’t dare to say anything though and just let him think about it.
Finally, Leng Jin Yu decided that it should have been long enough. “Well, as I said before a person close to him might be able to make him snap out of it and return.”
Jing Yi wasn’t sure what to make of that. This wasn’t anything new. But if senior martial brother Yu brought it up again … “Does senior martial brother Yu mean that it would be possible for me to help Qiu Ling? I mean we are quite close so I feel like … If he would permit somebody to try and help, then that person would probably be me. But … my level is rather low. I’m not even sure if it can be counted as me having reached the first one yet. Would that be a problem?”
Leng Jin Yu kept quiet for another moment before finally giving a sigh. “To be honest, I also don’t know. You might be right with both of that. We can only give it a try. You have to seriously consider this though. If you fail, you might both die.” In fact, he was pretty sure that nothing would happen to the dragon king. It was dangerous to let somebody enter your inner self but with how low Jing Yi’s cultivation level was, there was hardly anything he could do to make matters worse. At most, his presence could make the dragon king want to hide in there for even longer but that wouldn’t be a problem anymore after the Son of Heaven had returned since he could take over and help out for real. So the only actual danger was to Zhong Jing Yi himself. Still, as part of his trial, it would be best to let him make this decision on his own.
Jing Yi looked to the other side of the building where Qiu Ling was lying in his room. If he didn’t try, then Qiu Ling would die. If he dared to do whatever it was that senior martial brother Yu had in mind, then there was a chance of them both surviving. He couldn’t back off just because of fear.
“I’ll do it. Just … let me bid farewell to my mother first. Just in case.”
“Alright. Come and get me when you’re ready. I will explain everything to you and guide you in what you have to do.”
“Thank you, senior martial brother Yu.” Jing Yi stood up and bowed. Then, he turned around and went to the room where his mother was staying, hoping that she had already returned from the teahouse.
When he knocked on the door, her voice did indeed sound from inside. Walking in, he found her sitting in front of the shrine that was holding his father’s memorial tablet. Jing Yi lowered his gaze and went over, kneeling beside her.
If something really happened to him, then she would be left all alone. Having her watch her only child die before her … Wasn’t that too cruel? But he also couldn’t turn his head on Qiu Ling. He just couldn’t.
He bowed in front of his father’s memorial tablet and sighed. “Mother, father, the two of you have always tried to keep me safe back then. But father also believed that a man should fight for his family. For me … Qiu Ling is part of my family already. Now, he’s in grave danger and I might be the only one who can save him. Helping him will be dangerous though. Mother, father, I’m sorry. I know, I should accompany you until the end but I might not be able to do so.”
He turned toward his mother who could only sigh. “I expected as much. Your father … He would be proud of you.”
Jing Yi nodded and looked up at his father’s memorial tablet. “You’ve already lost father and I —”
“Sh.” Madam Zhong took his hand and shook her head. “Whatever it is you have to do, Qiu Ling would do the same for you. You wouldn’t be the son I raised if you didn’t do this.” She took a deep breath and brushed his hair back. “Just be honest with me: Is there any chance that the two of you will live?”
Jing Yi nodded. “There is. From what senior martial brother Yu said, it’s small though. I can only try my best and hope that Qiu Ling will be able to do the rest himself.”
“I’ll come with you and wait for you two to come back.”
Jing Yi wanted to refuse but in the end, he nodded. His mother would feel better if she could be there, even if she was unable to do anything besides waiting.
He stood up and helped his mother to her feet before they went to fetch Leng Jin Yu. Then, the three of them went to the room where Qiu Ling was lying. Jing Yi looked at his mother for the last time, then he sat down next to Qiu Ling.
“Alright, what do I need to do?”
Leng Jin Yu looked at him and then at the dragon king. “He is trapped in what is known as the inner self. You don’t need to know the specifics but that is the place you will have to enter. When you do, you will be confronted with his innermost feelings: His fears, his regrets, his hopes. It will be hard to deal with at times and it could be that you will be treated as an intruder or an illusion. Anyway, you need to make your way through that and find him. When you do, you have to figure out what is holding him back. You can interact with him, so whether you’ll manage to achieve anything will depend on how close your bond is and how much that inner demon torments him. Just try what you can. If you manage to do it, the two of you will return together. Otherwise … you will both be trapped in there forever.”
Jing Yi gulped but still nodded. “Alright. Then how do I enter?”
“It’s best if you lie down. And here, take his hand.”
Jing Yi followed his command and interlaced his fingers with Qiu Ling’s. He turned to the side and looked at his profile, silently praying that this would work out for both of them. Then, he turned back to his senior martial brother for further instructions.
“Now, close your eyes and focus on yourself and your connection with him. I’ll do the rest. If he really accepts you, then you’ll be able to enter his inner self in a moment. I can’t guarantee where inside you’ll appear though. It might be close to him but you could also be somewhere far away.”
“I understand.” Jing Yi closed his eyes, calmed his heart, and concentrated on Qiu Ling next to him. He would be able to do this. He would save Qiu Ling and safely return with him. He promised himself as much.
Leng Jin Yu waited for a moment, then he lightly touched Jing Yi’s hand. A sliver of spiritual energy entered Jing Yi’s body and jolted his inner self. Before Jing Yi knew what had happened, the foreign spiritual energy had already brought him to a dark place.
Jing Yi stared. This … was Qiu Ling’s inner self?