Meanwhile, the senior martial brother Yue that Qiu Ling had nearly absolved of the imagined crime of coveting his beloved was seriously examining Nian Hai. In the end, he sighed. “This isn’t good. I haven’t seen that guy but I’m not convinced. We can’t leave anything to chance.”
Nian Hai raised his brows. “I understand why I want to win but why is this so important to you?”
Yue Lin stroked his hair back, smudging a few traces of ink that had been left on his forehead in the process, and smiled. “Naturally, it’s because this junior martial brother Jing is such an excellent person. He’s obedient, thoughtful, and seems reliable unlike those other martial brothers at our division who’d rather prank someone with their latest creation. If there is someone that can be trusted to help me with all my tasks, then it’s him. I definitely won’t let any guy take him away!”
“But if I win, I’ll also take him away.”
“Tch. We’ll see about that. I know you so I’ll definitely find something to use against you.”
Nian Hai frowned. He had thought his biggest problem would be defeating that shameless guy but now he might get help for that but ultimately come to grief because of the person who had helped him out. Damn. This wasn’t even funny!
“Don’t think too much about it. First of all, you’ll need to win against him. What do you know about him?”
Nian Hai pursed his lips, unwilling to answer. His friends didn’t have any qualms talking about it though and immediately butted in.
“He seems to be really strong.”
“Most likely, he’s at least one realm above Brother Hai.”
“Yeah, I guess it might even be more than that. So as long as there isn’t any new kind of alchemy that can make him become a higher-leveled practitioner in a day there is no way he’ll win.”
Yue Lin frowned too. Nian Hai wasn’t weak. He had thought they would at least be evenly matched. Especially since they had agreed on a duel in front of the whole sect. Who would do that if his opponent was that much stronger? Wasn’t that just asking to be humiliated? But no matter what the situation was, he couldn’t just give up. His future sleep schedule and love life depended on it! “Well, I don’t have something like that but I can help you a bit at least. I’ll visit you again before the duel. You should try to raise your level though.”
“As if it’s that easy. I’m not a cultivator who just needs to take some pills.”
“It’s not my problem you’re dumb enough to accept a duel with someone who’s clearly stronger than you.”
Nian Hai’s friends snickered. “He didn’t just accept. He was actually the one who issued the challenge.”
Yue Lin frowned but finally just shook his head. “Well, it’s your problem. I’ll just help you out because I need Jing He to help me. You better not disappoint me.”
“Yes, yes.” Nian Hai picked up his sword again. He didn’t need to be told. He also knew that his prospects were looking dim. He really could just hope that enough training would make him reach the next level before the duel. Maybe he’d have a better chance at winning then.
Nian Hai trained until deep into the night. Not only Yue Lin, but even his friends had long called it a day and gone back to their places. He wasn’t alone though. Not far from him stood Xiao Li, the disciple that Elder Shan had sent to find out more about Qiu Ling and Jing Yi or, more accurately, the demon that Jin Ling had sent to find all information on Jing Yi.
Xiao Li made sure that nobody was around anymore before he slowly went over to Nian Hai. “You’re still training at this hour?”
Nian Hai looked up and sighed. “Brother Xiao … You haven’t heard yet? I agreed to a duel with a new disciple.”
“Mn, I did hear of that. I just wouldn’t have thought you’d take it this seriously.”
Nian Hai smiled wryly. He also wouldn’t have thought so but what could he do? That guy was strong. If he didn’t give everything he got, he would end up completely humiliated or maybe even dead.
“What was the reason for that duel? Did he provoke you?” Naturally, Xiao Li had come to find out more about Jing Yi. Following him around and secretly taking a look at his registration for the Alchemy division hadn’t gotten him much. He only knew that Jing Yi was now a fringe disciple of the Alchemy division but his king wouldn’t be interested in that. Unfortunately, he had no clue where to look for more and he couldn’t eavesdrop on the conversations Jing Yi had as long as Qiu Ling was around. Thus, Nian Hai looked like the next best alternative.
“It’s because of his fiance.” Nian Hai really wanted to say that they just wanted to exchange some pointers. That wouldn’t have been as embarrassing. But unfortunately, his friends already knew and a lot of people had heard later on. The bit of face he could save in front of Xiao Li if he claimed something like that would be thoroughly thrashed when the truth came out. Thus, he just admitted it himself.
“Oh. He must be someone special then.”
Nian Hai smiled wryly. “Well, he’s cute and has a nice personality.”
Nian Hai shook his head. “No. What more could there be?”
“Well, he could have a special identity.”
“I don’t think so. He seemed pretty normal to me. If he actually came from an important background, it would probably show in the way he acts.”
“Mn. I see.” Xiao Li barely held back from sighing. He had hoped Nian Hai would know something but it seemed that wasn’t the case. Well, maybe he’d hear something tomorrow. After all, people would certainly talk about the reason for the duel and that dragon king would be preoccupied with the fight. He wouldn’t have time to care about him. “Well, then I guess I should wish you good luck. I’ll definitely come by to cheer you on.”
“Mn, thanks.” Nian Hai nodded. “I guess I’ll get back to training then.”
Xiao Li wanted to go when he suddenly had an idea. “Ah, junior martial brother Nian, I heard that guy is several realms above you. Will it really be alright to fight him?”
“Even if not, it’s not like I could just drop out. Where would I put my face then?”
“Then … have you thought about … well, making sure he can’t use his full strength? There would certainly be ways to do that.”
Nian Hai paused. He really wanted to try but … “No, I won’t. Winning like that wouldn’t mean anything. It should be fair.”
“What is fair about him fighting with someone weaker than him?”
Nian Hai pressed his lips together. Damn, this Xiao Li! Did he have to say it like this? “Thanks for your concern, senior martial brother Xiao, but there’s no need. I should get back to training now.”
“Alright. It’s a pity though. You might have even won like that.” He shook his head and went his own way.
The rest of the night went by silently and finally, the day of the duel arrived.