“Thank you so much for attending my son all this time,” Xaoi Lan said, smiling at Liao An. Tigra felt a strange warmth in her heart over that smile. In any normal situation, she wouldn’t even look at this low-leveled cultivator twice. However, she was the woman who had Bao bi. She didn’t know when it happened, but her fondness of Bao bi didn’t just incorporate him, but the people Bao bi cared about too. She suddenly felt extremely silly worrying over this woman.
Bao bi was the one who couldn’t be hurt at all cost. Bao bi was the one her Master needed. This mother could die a thousand times and it wouldn’t make a difference to their plans. So, why did she instinctively try to protect this woman? Why did a simple smile and words of appreciation make her feel good? Liao An had fallen into a confused silence, so much so that she realized she hadn’t even answer Xaoi Lan.
“I-I-I… mean… you’re…welcome!”
“Here, some spirit tea. It’s all that I have.”
This spirit tea was of extremely low quality. Compared to the kind of drinks Tigra could have in the heavenly realm, this would be the dregs that were thrown out and burned. Not even the lowest rungs of society would waste their time drinking such a tea. However, when that woman gave it to her with an expression of kindness, Liao An didn’t hesitate to sip it. Somehow, it felt like a perfectly fine-tasting tea to her.
Liao An knew that this was really the only spirit tea they had. Even outer disciples of the Xaoi sect struggled to get a few cups worth of spirit tear leaf. Liao An must have been saving this for some time. She had decided to share it with Liao An both in celebration of Bao bi, but perhaps also in celebration of Liao An, whom she saw almost as a daughter.
“It’s good.” Liao An responded simply, not someone who was necessarily good at expressing her emotions, even in the best of times.
Feeling a strange warmth and happiness, and feeling eager for Bao bi to come home, she rose her cup to take another sip of the tea. She felt really warm, and also somewhat drowsy. Xaoi Lan across from her seemed to be closing her eyes too. She tried to lift her cup one more time, but it slipped from her fingers and fell to the table, spilling.
“Oh my, I’ll clean… clean…” She let out a long yawn. “Maybe… just… sleep.”
Liao An’s eyes snapped open. The tea was drugged! That warmth wasn’t a good feeling, it was a sedative affecting her. Liao An had seen Bao bi’s mom brew the tea. They must have slipped it into the leaves. It was also very powerful, aimed at a cultivator. Just as she threw the tea away, shattering it on the ground, the door burst open and several disguised men burst into the house. How had she been so foolish!
There were screams as the servant staff was set upon, but they were all mortals and were helpless to fight. The guards pulled out swords and died almost as quickly. As for the female servants, they scattered, but a few of the men grabbed the prettier ones for their entertainment. Liao An forced herself to her feet, feeling extremely frustrated. If this was her old body, not only would she have been able to detect any foreign substance, but she would have been able to easily repel it.
Unfortunately, the majority of the men set straight on her and Bao Bi’s mother. She could see that they came from the Xaoi sect. She could also guess what happened.
“See… that’s her. Isn’t she hot? She’s definitely wasted on those no-good Xaoi rejects!” One of the men pointed at Xaoi Lan.
“Wh-what’s happening?” Liao An could barely lift her head at this point, lifting her hands helplessly as one of the men tried to grab her.
“You dare!” Liao An shouted, feeling furious.
She grabbed one of the men, easily breaking his arm. Just as she went to tear out his throat, she was struck and hit the wall. She was already drugged and had become sluggish. It was everything she could to keep this little child’s body from passing out from enough drugs to knock out an adult. She cycled her profound energy through her veins and stood back up. She was being driven by pure anger and ferocity. They were treading on the property of the Midnight Queen. The only sentence was death.
She took two steps and slid, sweeping out and knocking one of the men down. She leaped up and struck him with the back of her heels, breaking his nose.
“What is with this bitch?”
“She broke my arm!’ Another shouted, cradling his wound.
Three men descended on her. The world went wobbly for a second, but she still carried out her attack. She did a sweeping kick and slammed her elbow into one man’s stomach. Another got his arms around her, but she flipped over grabbed his chin as she leaped over his head, slamming it into the ground.
“Th-this is a 3rd realm? At this age?”
“I heard about this freak! Just knock her out!”
“Should we take her?”
“No, boss says just take the woman. She may become a disciple, and there will be hell to pay if she gets hurt before the competition.”
“You’re lucky! One of these days I’m going to take you for a hundred strokes.”
“You can die trying!” Liao An hissed, running and attacking him.
These men were all surprisingly high level. They weren’t low rung peons. They must be inner disciples if not masters and elders. They were all in the 3rd realm, most of the higher level than Liao An. In normal circumstances, she’d be able to wreck them, but this sedative was extremely difficult to get over. She’d need at least 15 minutes to work it out of her system.
That wasn’t to say she was going to let them capture Bao bi’s mom. These men would all die here. However, it was a bit more difficult that Liao An cared to admit. She’d need to pull out some of her trump cards. She pulled out a knife and then lunged. The man barely managed to save his neck from being pierced. Another attack from the side, but she sliced again. She had been hoping to kill one of them with the knife, but now that she escalated the battle, they were also pulling out their weapons. This fight was going to get even deadlier.
She took a step, and then froze, her face turning white. An extreme pulling sensation came against her. Her battle against the drugs weakened, and she collapsed to one knee, dropping the knife. The men who were just pulling out their weapons looked at each other, and then all descended on her. She let out a cry as one man’s boot struck her in the face. Another man kicked her, and she could feel her leg breaking. She let out a cry.
“No… no!” She screamed, but she wasn’t screaming at the men. “Not now… not now!”
Without being able to defend, she was quickly bloodied as the men stomped her.
“Stop! I said we don’t kill her. However, since she’s so much trouble, we’ll arrange for her death at the disciple selection.” One man ordered. “Now grab the woman! We have to get out of here!”
Two of the men grabbed the now unconscious Xaoi Lan. Battered and bruised, Liao An’s consciousness was being ripped away. With her last ounce of strength, she tossed out a profound rune. It was so high level that it was invisible to these men, but it floated out and then landed on Xaoi Lan. With that, Liao An passed out…
…and Tigra’s eyes opened.
“Why did you take so long to return? I’m not particularly patient!”
Tigra sat up. “M-master! Y-You’ve returned.”
Tigra was in her resting spot, an area deep within the earth and hidden with countless runes and protection spells of such a high level, that even god kings wouldn’t be able to detect her if she pointed them out. Yet, the Midnight Queen had appeared right in her sanctity without the least bit of effort.
“I’ve finished cleaning up your messes. Eighteen realms had to vanish before the god realm recognized my sovereignty once again.” She responded, throwing her silky black hair back. “Now, is the boy ready to begin his cultivation?”
“B-begin?” Tigra’s eyes went wide, “S-sort of?”
The Midnight Queen frowned. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“Well, it seems that he… um… started early.”
“I apologize, Master! He just started touching it on his own, and it became necessary to start his education early!”
The Midnight King took an irritated breath. “Okay, how early?”
“Three!” A frightening dark aura exploded around her, and Tigra reeled back.
“He’s perfectly healthy! He’s advanced safely to the top of the 1st realm! He’s ready for the 2nd realm at any time!”
“What sort of cultivation training has he accomplished? I have created the perfect cultivation techniques for him!”
“It’s… um… I made it?”
“You’re hurting my feelings, Master!”
“Hmph! Show me the techniques you’ve given him. Every one!”
Tigra hastily waved her hands and brought out a copy of every scroll she had given him. She had made these extras on purpose exactly for this reason. Midnight grabbed the scrolls and immediately began looking through them. As she did so, her lips moved as if she was speaking to herself, but her eyes gave nothing away to how she felt about them. Tigra felt like a schoolgirl who had just handed in her biggest assignment.
After what felt like an eternity, Midnight put the scrolls down. Tigra looked at her with a face filled with hope.
“The top of the first realm? At least you haven’t wrecked his cultivation permanently. This is still salvageable.” She snorted.
“Since he has already begun cultivation, give me a report on his actions.”
Tigra let out a breath, feeling like she had passed the most dangerous point of her debriefing. She began to explain the events. She explained how Bao bi’s family were outcasts who were then exiled from their homes. She explained how he had become friends with a prince and princess, although this wasn’t fluffed up, but was presented by her casually, and the Midnight Queen didn’t find this even worth a reaction. She gave a brief explanation of his progress in his techniques. She finally ended it with the disciple selection that would be coming up. When she was done, she took a deep breath and waiting for the Midnight Queen’s response.
“You’ve managed to watch him satisfactorily over these years. I’m very curious, how were you able to keep such a close watch and introduce him to these techniques?”
“Oh, that’s right! Liao An!”
Tigra had been so shocked and worried to see the Midnight Queen, that she had almost forgotten about the kidnapping and the state her little body had been left in. She quickly explained things while opening a visual window into the receiving room of the mansion. The body of Liao An was lying there, looking as still as death. One would be deceived into thinking she was dead.
“Mom?” A voice cried out from the front door.
Bao bi ran into the room. “Mom? Liao An?”
His expression began to grow panicked as he began to notice more and more of the carnage. He was back sooner than Tigra would have expected. His event must have ended earlier. Maybe they had been attacked and he quickly resolved it and came back to her. Tigra didn’t know, because Midnight Queen had yanked her out of her body and restored her into this one! Liao An was not anything but a dumb invalid with no mind.
Thankfully, Bao bi didn’t seem to notice Liao An where she was lying, and instead ran upstairs, trying to find anyone who was around to explain what happened.
“That is the boy?” The Midnight Queen asked as he ran out of the sight of the view screen.
“Yes, Bao bi. His mother was just taken. I wasn’t there to do anything…” Tigra’s hand tightened.
Now that her body was restored, she would immediately rescue Xaoi Lan, and then slaughter every single man who dared touch Liao An! She would burn their sect to the ground, and flay their bodies and souls for all eternity!
Her growing anger stumbled over the Midnight Queen’s words. “Wh-what?”
“The boy will only grow through adversity. Saving his mother will give him a reason to grow stronger. Let this play out.”
“P-play out? He’ll be devastated! I need to be by his side!” Tigra did something she had never dared to do ever before.
She grabbed the Midnight Queen’s arm. The Midnight Queen’s eyes widened. Tigra immediately pulled away and lowered her head.
“Forgiveness, Master!” She cried out shrilly.
Frowning, the Midnight Queen wiped her arm like she was wiping away filth. “You have grown too close to the situation. It’s clear to me that your judgment is growing cloudy.”
“Y-yes… Master.” There was no point in arguing with her.
“For example, there was no point in possessing that girl as you did. It would have made far more sense to simply control her as a puppet.”
“I-I was… trying to preserve her life,” Tigra said weakly.
Of course, she had ended up obliterating her mind, so the little girl Liao An was not much more than a puppet anyway. However, her intentions had been noble at the start. The Midnight Queen gave her a judgmental look and then turned back to the viewfinder. With a wave of her hand, all of the injuries on the girl were healed as if they were never there. She then closed the viewfinder.
“I have made the modifications to turn her into a puppet. She can now be controlled remotely, and it won’t be necessary to become vulnerable. The control is absolute. It’s just as good as what you did, but it’s hardly so drastic and permanent.” The Midnight Queen declared.
Tigra flushed, and then nodded. “Yes, Master. I will return to Liao An now and train Bao bi to fight for his mother back.”
“You will not.”
Tigra’s mouth fell open. “Wh-what? Why not?”
“I’ve already explained myself. You have shown too much of a connection to this boy. It is best if you take some distance. Perhaps, I will send you out and have you do some exploration or herb collection until you cool off.”
“I-I’m not too close!”
“You’ve probably been thinking about such things as training Bao bi’s libido to please me, or some such stuff.”
Tigra stiffened. “I-I did not!”
She absolutely had been planning that! If the Midnight Queen hadn’t come back, she would have started that training tonight. The Midnight Queen knew Tigra far too well. After all, they had been Master and disciple for thousands of years. Although Tigra dear fear the Midnight Queen’s anger, she knew that the Midnight Queen would never kill her. At least… she thought so. The Midnight Queen and her had been together so long, but even now, it was difficult to guess what was on her mind.
She waved her hands, and the pair of them were no longer on the planet. Instead, they were in an ornate palace floating above the planet. This wasn’t the Midnight Palace, but a smaller one. It was technically not a palace at all, but a spirit vessel. It could travel across the universe at top speeds, but the energy consumption was astronomical. Tigra’s brows furrowed, and then she recognized the place.
“Isn’t this the Heavenly Mountain Empire’s flagship?” she cried out in alarm as she recognized it. “This was their greatest artifact. It allowed them to remain a Heavenly King realm for the last million years! Why would they give it to you?”
“They didn’t need it anymore.” The Midnight Queen shrugged. “Since they no longer exist.”
Tigra went cold. She knew one of the places that the Midnight Queen had demolished. How many did she say she destroyed? Eighteen! Were these Eighteen Heavenly realms? Depending on their rank, that was the same as basically wiping out a tenth of the universe! This would create a massive power vacuum for years to come!
“We will be safe here,” she continued. “The defenses on this castle are top-notch. I will control Liao An from here on. He will receive proper training, just as you did.”
“B-but, he’s not really like that… you need to…”
“Enough! I will allow you to watch for a time to ease your worry. Be thankful I allow this much.” She spoke as she entered a room and moved to a control panel. “Alright… I will begin now.”
She reached out and then connected with Liao An.
Down on the planet, Bao bi had seen nothing but the bodies of several servants and guards that he knew. He finally found Liao An’s body, and she had been unresponsive. At this point, he had started to grow desperate.
“No… No… Liao An! Please… Liao An! I love you! Don’t do this.” He cried out, holding her in his hands desperately.
He couldn’t even see anything wrong with her. She was lying in blood, and there was blood all over her clothing, but she seemed to be as perfect as the first day he met her. At that moment, her eyes snapped open. She looked down, frowning, noticing the boy’s arms wrapped around her. She had never allowed any man to touch her. Even Tigra touching her was something she had only allowed because of her many years of loyalty, and if Tigra hadn’t apologized, she still would have punished the woman horrifically.
Bao bi noticed her eyes open. He let out a cry of joy and then kissed her directly on the lips. For the first time in a million years of life, the Midnight Queen was kissed.