As Liao An approached, Dian Wen didn’t stop pulling on his little sister. She seemed to want to talk to the other people present who were close to her age, especially Bao bi, but he just didn’t allow it. The two ended up back in the carriage, and she could only look out longingly as the carriage began to pull her away. Meanwhile, Liao An reached the front registration. No one had barred her way or rushed in to fill the hole made by Dian Wen. It could be said that no one else had dared to. Laoi An was a notable exception.
“I submit myself for selection.” She responded icily, causing Xaoi Wang to jump slightly.
It wasn’t that Liao An was impolite. Rather, it was just that the way she carried herself lacked in any reverence at all. It almost felt like she was detesting being here. She wasn’t opening disdainful, but someone might get a feeling from seeing her like she felt this was all beneath her. Thankfully, Xaoi Wang had still been too flustered by Dian Wen’s exit and the revelation about Bao bi to pick up on this and immediately went into the registration spiel by rote.
“You will need an adult to permit you.” He coughed.
“Father. Come.” She looked back to see a man trying to make his way through the crowds that had finally started to press back together after Liao An.
Bao bi was familiar with this man. The man was Liao An’s father, whom Bao bi had run into various times in the past. He seemed like a kind enough man, although Liao An never spoke about him. Even now, she was calling him more like a dog than her parent.
“Sorry… sorry, my daughter ran on ahead.” He said apologetically. “As her father, I give permission.”
“Permission…” She muttered under her breath. “I feel like I’ve sunk to a new low.”
Bao bi was the only one who heard her. He didn’t necessarily understand what she meant, but he had come to understand her feelings and her moods. She seemed to dislike the very idea of joining the Xaoi sect and treated it more like a necessary evil. He smiled at her and wrapped an arm around her shoulder and squeezed her in a half hug.
“I’m glad you could make it.”
He had meant this as a friendly gesture. In the pornographic business, a hug was barely anything. He thought he was holding back by not kissing her, as he might have done with other female friends he met. Liao An allowed him to touch her. Her father looked at this exchange with an odd expression on his face. In ten years, even he had never been allowed to touch Liao An. He had never received any affection, even a simple hug or kiss was denied.
Liao An wasn’t his, so for a while, he hadn’t minded. However, as she grew up into a cute little daughter anyone could admire, he had wanted to close the distance between them. Liao An had met any attempts like a cold fish. He had complained about it to his wife, but since his uncle had mysteriously gone missing and left them with everything, she had formed an extremely defensive personality around Liao An and allowed her to do whatever she wanted whenever she wanted.
If she had turned into a wild child, then perhaps he would have had room to argue with his wife. However, other than an aloofness, she had been the model child. Quiet, respectful, and always did her chores. So, watching a little boy so casually put his arm around her gave him a complicated feeling. He wasn’t the only one. Jiang Ying Yue’s pupils had turned to pinpricks as she looked at him casually touching another girl.
The most surprising reaction came from none other than Liao An, whose haughty nature seemed to melt the second Bao bi touched her. She didn’t just let someone touch her, but her mood improved as well. She felt happy that Bao bi did such a thing. It wasn’t like Liao An was a stranger to contact. She had been a whore in her former life and was notorious for sleeping around as Tigra. However, that was always on her terms. If someone tried to touch her when she wasn’t in the mood, she would have broken them. Only Bao bi seemed to have a full pass to put his arm around her so casually.
“Then, we’ll start with the skeletal age.” Xaoi Wang shook himself before handing her the device. “You are thirteen years of age.”
Everyone breathed easier. She was far more normal than the previous two people who had just been measured. If she ended up being another ten-year-old prodigy, it would cause problems. Bao bi wasn’t surprised though. He had already known that Liao An was three years older than him. They appeared to be the same age as anyone looking, but that was only because her aging had been normal while his age had been accelerated. She could have joined the Xaoi sect last year but had chosen to hold off so that they could join together. Although she didn’t express her feelings often, it was times like that he felt like he knew how she truly felt.
“In that case, let’s see what your current cultivation level is.”
He handed out the jewel to her. As he measured her, his eyes widened and his mouth fell open.
“M-mortal Maturation? You’re in the third realm?” Xaoi Wang cried out.
That was the same realm he had just reached. She was only twelve, but she had the same cultivation as him! Although she was thirteen, and wouldn’t be competing in the same group as the young kids, her level as the third realm made her indisputably the strongest in the competition. Although Bao bi didn’t know this, both Dian Wen and the elder they just encountered were only in the high tiers of the Origin Maturation realm.
Xaoi Wang’s age wasn’t much different than Dian Wen’s, but those 8 tiers of difference were enough that their status was worlds apart. Xaoi Wang had to struggle to reach the inner disciple, and even then, he had a low chance of succeeding. There was a good possibility his rise would stop and he’d end up falling behind, ending up roughly at the same level as the elder he had previously seen. That was still a level worthy of praise, but didn’t everyone wish to take things a step farther?
If that was the case, then where did a 12-year-old who had recently broken into the 3rd realm stand? She hadn’t solidly broken into the 1st tier yet, but it was still remarkably. There would be no one in the competition that would be able to defeat her. Of course, no one knew that even if she was in the 1st realm, it was likely no one would beat her, but that was something else entirely.
Xaoi Wang’s announcement had stunned everyone. They were all staring at her like they had seen a monster. Even her step-father stared at her with shock. Only Bao bi didn’t look too alarmed. He leaned toward her instead and whispered.
“You already made it to third? I thought I was holding back at second so we didn’t cause any waves?”
That was the excuse that she had used toward him. He had remained on the cusp for ages, and although part of it was that she wanted his body to reach a certain level, of strength, the truth was that she felt he’d be too alarming if he reached the second realm so early. Meanwhile, she was charging ahead on her own recklessly. After meeting so many higher-level people today, even the usually easy-going Bao bi felt a little bitter. He could have been the same level as that Dian Ai girl.
Of course, she was an extreme specialty. If he had been at her level, he would have caused a lot of problems. However, wasn’t Liao An making just as big of a scene on her own?
“I’m sorry… I did it for us.” She blushed.
“That is… I mean… I’m thirteen now. That’s almost an adult. The higher the level, the better it benefits you, so…”
Bao bi cocked his head, not quite understanding what she meant. Of course, she meant that. She had thought about this carefully, and she had decided she wanted to do it with Bao bi. She had allowed her cultivation to increase, preparing her body as an incubator for Bao bi. As she had thought about things, she had realized that her master would be returning. As much as she loved the Midnight Queen, the chaste woman could be a bit of a prude. Once she returned, her chances with Bao bi would be nipped in the bud. She wanted to educate him in the sexual arts before her master returned.
Ten years had passed, and that was how long her master said she’d take. Her return could happen at any time now. Feeling the pressure of that time coming, she had spent a while preparing herself. Although he was only ten, he had a body that looked like a teen. Her body had also developed to the level of an adult. If it was two teenagers, there was nothing off about them having sex. She was in the clear! It wasn’t wrong at all! Part of the reason she hadn’t met with them right away is that she was preparing for this day.
Bao bi didn’t know what she was thinking, but the way he had his arm around her as the two whispered between each other made it look like the two were an extremely close couple. They all had thoughts on this, and those thoughts were probably pretty close to the truth considering her intention. Xiao Wang, who hadn’t had a single woman in the last six years as he desperately strived for success felt extremely bitter seeing his rival canoodling with a beauty.
It wasn’t just that, but the fact she was so strong. Once her ability got out, who would dare lay a hand on Bao bi? Xiong Mengyao had similar thoughts. This Bao bi had wormed his way into a beauty’s heart, and now she was a better shield than anything. As for Jiang Ying Yue, she felt sinking despair. How could her competition be so strong? Although she was only that Ying Yue, the difference in their strength was simply too alarming.
“Wh-who are you?” Xaoi Wang asked incredulously.
“I am Liao An, a simple commoner.” She responded. “Am I permitted to the selection?’
“Y-yes! Ah… here is your token.”
She grabbed the token and then turned to Bao Bi. “Shall we go?”
“Yes… why not?” The pair of them turned and began walking away.
Bao bi had dropped his arm from her. He knew that she didn’t like to be touched too much. In reality, she didn’t, but she still felt regretful when Bao bi let go of her. Well, tonight, that was going to change. Bao Bi’s mother walked to keep up with them. When her father tried to join, she glanced back at him.
“You’ve served your purpose. Thank you.”
From years of dealing with her, he knew that was as nice a dismissal as he was ever going to get. It seemed like she’d be hanging out with Bao bi from thereon. He made himself scarce. It took the others a few moments to realize Bao bi and Liao An were just walking away without them. Bao bi had been invited to this procession. It was supposed to be Xiong Menyao’s time to shine, and Jiang Bo and Jiang Ying Yue were supposed to get a little attention, but mostly in their connection to Xiong Menyao. Instead, they had all been overshadowed time and time again.
First, Dian Ai showed up as the literal VIP of this year’s selection. Then, Bao bi turned out to be much younger than they ever predicted. Finally, the mysterious Liao An had shown up. No one knew anything about this girl, but by tomorrow, her name would be on everyone’s lips. As long as she competed in the election, she would be in the first place. There was no question about it. No one else in the 3rd realm existed under 16 in this country, except maybe a few personal disciples of the grand elders.
“Wait… where are we going?” Jiang Bo asked as he followed Bao bi.
“Let’s go get something to eat.” Bao bi declared. “We should celebrate. Ah… you don’t suppose we can get some alcohol?”
Jiang Wenyan stepped forward. “Of course! You’re disciples now! I know a place worth going to. It’s the only location in this mortal city that sells spiritual wine and food. It’s worth visiting. You’re disciples now, you should eat like them. It’s on me!”
His priorities seemed to have changed like a switch. He had originally planned to only invite Xiong Menyao, but now it seemed prudent to invite them all. Even though he was an outer sect disciple, he had still chosen to do this to honor family, but also to suck up to the rising star Xiong Menyao. Now, seeing these two closeted geniuses, he could only hope he hadn’t offended them too much. He gave them both a smile while rubbing his hands together while lamenting over the expense of feeding too many people. He didn’t dare refuse any of them though. They were all friends or family of these two geniuses, so he dared not turn them down.
Xiong Menyao’s mood only turned increasingly sour as the man who had fawned over him previously was now focusing on others.
At that moment, Liao An stopped and turned to her side. Bao bi stopped with her, and the entire group stopped behind them. That was the level they were at now. Everyone was following the pair of them.
“What is it?” Bao bi asked.
“Nothing… don’t worry about it.” Liao An said.
She had felt killing intent. It wasn’t aimed at her. It was aimed at Bao bi, which she was just as sensitive about. She also could feel it was aimed at Bao bi’s mother. Liao An thought she could sense what was going on. It seemed like someone from the Xaoi sect recognized Xaoi Lan.
“Your mother is growing a bit tired.” Xaoi Lan spoke up as if she had felt something too. “You should go out with your friends. I’ll go home and prepare a big celebratory meal for you when you get back, so don’t eat too much, okay?”
“Ah… okay, we’re not far from the mansion.” Bao bi agreed. “Stay safe, mother.”
She gave Bao bi another affectionate hug, which is enough to make most of the men blush. As she turned to leave, Liao An reached out and grabbed her dress, stopping her.
“I would like to go as well. I will help you cook.”
Xaoi Lan turned back in surprise and then smiled. “You will?”
“Mm.” She merely nodded.
Xaoi Lan had been aware of Liao An for years. She had met the girl many times. However, she had always been cold and silent to Xaoi Lan. She had never attempted to get close to the other woman. Perhaps, she was finally reaching that age? Of course, Xaoi Lan had noticed how close her son was with Liao An. It made her a little jealous, but the girl had been around her son for so many years she had grown used to the little girl. To hear that she wanted to take the opportunity to spend time with her, elated Xaoi Lan’s heart.
She had generally thought that if it was any girl who had tried, it’d Jiang Ying Yue. Although she hadn’t been around as long, she had been far more expressive. It was clear to Xaoi Lan that Jiang Ying Yue had feelings for her son and that she wanted to bridge the gap between them. However, it seemed like Jiang Ying Yue was still too young to realize that the way to a boy’s heart was through her mother.
Xaoi Lan smiled brightly, stunning the men and dazzling the ladies. She did look forward to vetting Bao bi’s love interests. He already had two, maybe more, and she anticipated many men chasing after her boy. Of course, none of them would have him unless she approved. She had ways of assuring compliance. She wouldn’t give Bao bi up until she was ready. Had Liao An honestly been thinking the way Xaoi Lan had thought, then she’d be in for a great deal of struggle.
Jiang Ying Yue had been a bit young to realize the implications. She had only realized as the two walked away what opportunity she had given up. She had wanted to spend time with Bao bi and had been excited that her rival ducked out, thinking she’d have him all to herself. However, while she won the battle, it seemed like her rival would win the war.
That conniving Liao An wasn’t just pretty with a high cultivation, she was also skillful too. She had chosen to get in nice with Bao bi’s mother while the rest of them were away. She’d eventually become the mother’s favorite, and Bao bi would have no choice but to marry her upon her mother’s request. How had Jiang Ying Yue been so foolish! She let her guard down for a moment, and now her best chance had been passed on to another woman.
The real reason Liao An had chosen to go with Xaoi Lan was hardly so exciting. She was pretty sure Bao bi was safe by himself, but the killing intent she had felt left her worried about his mother. She was fine with people going after Bao bi. It was through adversity that he would grow stronger. However, his mother was another matter. While Bao bi was dealing with whatever threat was coming, Liao An opted to watch and protect his mom. It was as simple as that.
That didn’t clear up any misunderstandings though. Jiang Wenyan regretfully watched one of them walk away. However, if he got into Bao bi’s good graces, then he’d be in her good graces. So, he smiled and chatted Bao bi up. Bao bi also included Jiang Bo in his conversations. As Xiong Mengyao and Jiang Ying Yue pouted, the five headed out to eat. They were clueless to the forces moving behind their back.