Xinxin quickly surrounded the area in her qi, stopping the anguished cry from spreading and alerting anyone as well as silencing the room. That done, she turned towards the source of the cry.
Titania knelt before Aria’s corpse. She shook her head, her hands clawing at her skull as if trying to tear out her very mind.
With a single glance, Xinxin saw why that was.
Killing Aria had severed the last healthy karma bond Titania had left. Although it had been twisted, the light green thread connecting her to Aria had still been one of deep familial love. Like a small raft at sea, it was keeping her afloat amidst the horrid memories and emotions dealt to her at the hands of the Imperial Soldiers.
With it severed, there was nothing left to hold her up. The thin thread pulling her away from hell had shattered, leaving her to fall in.
At that rate, Titania would drown in her memories and break, turning into a doll or a blade.
Xinxin sighed and then walked over.
Titania didn’t notice her. The elf knelt down over Aria, mumbling two words over and over again.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…”
A pained and anguished plea, bordering on- no, completely reaching insanity.
The black lines of karma choking her… the connections to those that had wronged her and disgraced her. They were growing by the second. At the same time, a faint golden light was starting to shine from within those threads… the Goddess’s involvement.
Xinxin’s eye twitched and she moved on instinct. In a single move, she drew the blade Wang Tian gave her, his Heartfelt Sentiments, and cleaved through the karmic noose.
In an instant, Titania lost all strength in her body and became quiet. She stopped talking, but her body shook, silently sobbing.
Xinxin sheathed her sword. She took a look at Titania’s pitiful form and then said, “I did ask you if this is what you truly wanted.”
Titania shook her head, simply clinging to Aria’s cold body. It looked like Titania didn’t have any intention of moving any time soon.
Considering how distraught Titania was, Xinxin considered leaving her there for a brief moment. And then she remembered the reason why they came and decided against it.
Darkness bubbled up from the floor, slowly enveloping Aria.
In that brief moment of shock, Xinxin quickly pulled Aria’s body away into her darkness, that chaotic cosmos that her dantian had become. However, she didn’t absorb it.
Despite everything that happened, Xinxin didn’t have any bad feelings towards Aria. If anything, she felt slight sympathy towards her.
Like Xinxin, Aria was played by that Goddess and forced to a miserable end. The only reason why their fates changed was because Nowun… her Sifu intervened.
Granted, he wasn’t very responsible after intervening… but he did care. He was just… terrible at showing it. Mostly because his perspective on time and life was a bit distorted due to his powers.
Because of that, Xinxin preserved Aria’s corpse. When she managed to get her Sifu back… and her Sifu, not Nowun. That was, not the Nowun in the past, at least.
In any case, when her Sifu returned, he should be able to resurrect Aria.
Unfortunately, Titania didn’t seem to realize Xinxin’s intent.
The eldest elf princess immediately stood up, picking up the sword that had fallen to the ground after Aria’s body vanished. Icy wind, glowing blue with Titania’s mana, filled the room and wreathed her blade. She rounded on Xinxin and then stepped forward, swinging her sword. “Give Ari back!”
Xinxin simply stared.
The moment before Titania’s sword reached Xinxin, the elf froze. The moment afterwards, the icy wind died down and she dropped her sword. Her mouth opened in a silent scream as her body convulsed in pain.
Xinxin sighed and picked up the sword, carefully sheathing it back at the elf’s side. “It seems that you forgot your place… though I do not blame you.”
With those words, the convulsions stopped. Titania let out a gasp and started falling, too weak to stand.
Xinxin shook her head and reached out, holding the elf up.
Titania tensed and then lowered her head. “…I’m sorry.”
“So you decided to show your true self at last, Titania?”
The elf shook her head, remaining quiet.
Xinxin let go of her, giving the eldest- no, only elf princess left some time to think.
After a few moments, Titania seemed more composed and looked to Xinxin. “What did you do with Ari’s body?”
“It would be a mess if it was found, so I am holding onto it for now.”
Titania frowned and subtly glanced at Xinxin’s left arm.
“What?” Xinxin raised an eyebrow. “Do you doubt me?”
Titania lowered her gaze. “No, Master.”
“…Don’t worry.” Xinxin patted Titania’s shoulder. “There’s a bit of shared karma between us in the form of my Sifu, so I wouldn’t do something as disrespectful as desecrating her body. Trust me when I say that it is in the best condition you could hope for.”
It was the least that Xinxin could do for the naïve elf princess. While she didn’t like how the Goddess had foisted the elf onto her Sifu, she was a victim in all of this as well. Plus, the elf princess cared about Nowun too. Well… far from as much as Xinxin did, but Aria’s gratitude was sincere.
Titania gave Xinxin a weak smile. The first genuine emotion since they’d met.
Xinxin smiled back and then said, “Come, Nia. We still have work to do.”
Titania closed her eyes for a bit, taking a deep breath, and then nodded, opening them again.
Xinxin noticed that the elf’s cheeks were stained with tears. She sighed and then brushed them off with her sleeves. “If it gives you any solace,” Xinxin said. “I am sure that my Sifu has a way to bring your sister back to life. When I find him, I’ll make sure that he does his best… after all, we have all been victims in this Goddess’s cruel play.”
Titania bowed her head. “Thank you, Master… no. Thanks, Xinxin.”
Xinxin bopped Titania on the head and said, “Enough of that. We are in the middle of a business affair. If you want to act all soppy, that can come when we are safe back at my home. Understand?”
“Yes, Master.” Titania gave a more spirited response, a hint of light shining again in her dark jade eyes. Hope, relief, and appreciation.
“Good enough.” Xinxin turned around and retracted her qi that had been blocking sound from escaping the room. After that, she started walking back towards the throne room.
Titania followed, still silent, but somehow carrying a softer air about her.
Halfway to the throne room, Xinxin suddenly remembered that she should find out where that demon princess was and then spread out her spiritual sense.
When she did, there were a few things she immediately noticed.
First of all, the faint golden threads over the city had vanished. Possibly because her Sifu was no longer in that time and place.
Second of all, those three demons apparently took her words of ‘not holding back their hostility’ to mean ‘attack the Emperor’. They were clashing, exchanging blows back and forth in the throne room… and losing at that while the Emperor was holding back.
Xinxin sighed and ignored them, focusing instead on what was below the Imperial Palace.
Prisons, storage rooms, disgusting hidden chambers that were better left undescribed… and then a single room at the lowest point of the palace within a labyrinth of winding hallways.
There, Xinxin could see a young girl.
Pure black hair and crimson eyes. The features were similar to those that Xinxin was familiar with, like a young girl from the Xia Dynasty. Yet, her facial features were clearly foreign, a bit too sharp on her cheeks, less rounded eyes… she was still beautiful, a fact that Xinxin could say with certainty. In fact, Xinxin would go as far as to say that her beauty was on par with her own… and considering that the Goddess went out of her way to take Xinxin’s soul, that was telling.
Still, while the young girl was beautiful enough to garner the envy of that Goddess enough to send out Apostles to capture her… surprisingly, she wasn’t in a terrible condition.
The young girl… or rather, the young demon princess looked healthy and well-dressed, wearing a soft pink blouse and skirt. She was neither in distress nor mentally unsound and in fact looked fairly happy, if not a bit bored, reading a book.
Also, while she had been captured, the room she was in wasn’t a jail cell. Instead, while deep underground, it was well-lit with crystal lanterns and had colorful walls. A fluffy bed, a basket of fruits, and even a full wardrobe were there for the princess’s perusal.
Xinxin retracted her spiritual sense after memorizing the most efficient path towards the princess and then muttered, “Odd.”
Titania looked towards Xinxin. “What is it, Master?”
Xinxin shook her head. “Nothing important.”
It was none of her business. She would let the demons decide on their own after imparting them with the map.
The master and servant pair reached the golden doors leading to the throne room yet again. Strangely though, while Xinxin saw the demons fighting against the Emperor, it was quiet.
When Xinxin opened the door, she found out why.
Nero, Eris, and Moros had been knocked to the ground as well as knocked unconscious.
Titania noticed and reached for her sword.
Xinxin stopped her.
Titania glanced at her master and then lowered her hand.
Xinxin walked forward and said, “You seem like you had quite a bit of fun.” At the same time, she sent a bit of darkness to each of the demons to heal them and wake them up, though making sure to disguise it.
The Emperor, Elio, smiled. “I could not just leave your servants idle, could I? Besides, a bit of entertainment is always welcome.”
Moros recovered first. He groaned and then pushed himself up. After that, he noticed Xinxin and walked over. When he was close enough, he whispered, “Be careful. That guy’s power is weird.”
Eris got up next. Seeing Xinxin, she also walked over. And like Moros, she offered a bit of advice. “Heaven Seizer. Despite our efforts, we couldn’t connect a single attack. As powerful as you are, be wary.”
Nero got up too… but seeing his teachers already awake and by Xinxin’s side, he simply walked over and joined their ranks.
Seeing how the demon’s were acting, Xinxin raised an eyebrow. “It seems like it was more than just a bit of entertainment.”
Elio shrugged. “I must admit, I was a bit frustrated at having to clean up the mess on the stairs. I am quite fond of that carpet, you see.”
Xinxin scoffed. “Then do not allow immature children to be in your forces. Or at the least, discipline them first.”
Elio nodded. “I’ll keep that in mind. Now… If I recall correctly, there was something that you wished to discuss?”
“Yes. But first…” She made a blade from her qi. A simply and quickly formed sword. After that, she picked it up, holding it in her left hand.
Elio’s eyes widened and then he also made a blade, forming one of pure white light.
“Hm.” As Xinxin watched Elio, she said, “So Wang Tian did teach you some things.”
The way Elio made the sword was similar to qi… no, it could be said to be imitating qi using mana.
The cultivation in the Sun Kingdom converted mana into qi through various techniques, or drew in the scant natural energy in the air that wasn’t tainted by the Goddess’s divinity.
Yet, Elio was using mana directly. Cultivation but not cultivation… no. A new ‘path’.
“If Wang Tian is the Heavenly King,” Elio said. “Then yes. He imparted a few pointers to me when we last met.”
“Mi-Master.” Nero looked at Xinxin. “He’s…”
Xinxin shook her head. “You three go ahead and deal with the other matter. I will finish things here and come get you.”
Silently, she sent them a message with her spiritual sense and burned the map into their minds.
Eris and Moros winced, managing to hide the most of it. Nero, however, visibly flinched.
Elio raised an eyebrow. “Quite a harsh master you are, Great Heaven Seizer.”
Titania stepped up, keeping an eye on the Emperor, and said, “Do you wish for me to help, Master?”
Xinxin shook her head. “Go with the others. They need your help more than I do.”
And then it was just Xinxin and the Emperor.
Elio stared at Xinxin and carefully said, “I hope you do not plan on assassinating me. Even if you do control the Sun Kingdom, my death will not come without cost.”
“We shall see if you are qualified to make those threats.”
Xinxin stepped forward and swung her sword.