The only way Liang Chen had to tell how much time passed was by checking how much light shone in through the windows, but even that was something he did not bother with. All he focused on was the act of hitting and kicking the wooden pole, trying to sense the surrounding Qi whenever his body gave out on him. The outside world meant nothing to him, the only thought in mind to speed up his training by as much as he could.
Liang Chen continued to hit the wooden pole, slowly getting accustomed to the dull sound of his fists and legs hitting it, even the pain was slowly starting to bother him less and less, his mind almost growing blank under the rhythm. He also continued to try and sense the Qi in the surroundings, only the pounding of his heart accompanying him in the silence.
Yet, no matter how many hours he tried to sense the surrounding Qi, he found himself unable to sense anything out of the ordinary, causing him to bite his lips in resentment, resenting his own average talent. But now was not the time to be discouraged, he could only stand up and try again. He would try again and again, as many times as it took for him to succeed.
Liang Chen focused solely on his training, the only sleep he got was when he fell unconscious. He was so focused on his training that he completely forgot to eat and drink, the constant pain drowning out the hunger and thirst and preventing him from noticing it.
Liang Chen did not know how much time passed, but the rhythm he had gotten into was suddenly disrupted, a loud banging sounding from the door to the house as he was trying to sense the surrounding Qi. Before Liang Chen got the chance to even figure out where the sound was coming from, a loud feminine voice rang out.
"Little Chen?! Are you in here Little Chen?! Little Chen, answer me!"
The owner of the voice did not even wait for Liang Chen to respond, the sound of the door being kicked open quickly ringing out. Sunlight poured in through the now open door, somewhat blinding Liang Chen as he sat on the ground. Once his eyes got adjusted to the blinding light, he could properly see the girl who was standing in the doorway.
She was a bit taller than him, clad in a light green robe. Her hair was chestnut brown and tied into a braided ponytail that hung down her back. She had clean skin and delicate features, clear blue eyes that contained a playful light, and cherry red lips that were always curved into a faint arc. Liang Chen could recognize her even without seeing her. She was Qing Chun, a girl who was two years older than him and someone he could consider a good friend. They had played together ever since they were old enough to walk. Qing Chun was carrying a tray in her hand, what seemed to be a bowl of soup and a jug of water placed on the bowl. After kicking down the door, Qing Chun started talking with a low and somewhat apologetic voice.
"So you really are here. I heard that you haven't responded to anyone these last four..."
Qing Chun was unable to finish her words, her smile rapidly vanishing when she saw Liang Chen. His hands were torn and bloody, and his legs were in an equally bad state. He had dark bags under his eyes from lack of sleep, and he was a little paler and thinner. Qing Chun quickly put the tray on the ground and dashed forward, worriedly grabbing onto Liang Chen.
"Little Chen, you are hurt! Was it those stupid bastards who were picking a fight with you?! Does Big Sister need to go and beat them up for you?! And these bags, are you not eating and sleeping properly?!"
Qing Chun touched Liang Chen all over, feeling his wounds, even pulling slightly on his cheeks to emphasize the dark bags under his eyes. Liang Chen looked at her with somewhat distant eyes, a slightly weak voice emitting from his voice as he tried to stand up.
"Big Sister Chun... I want to train."
Qing Chun quickly stopped him from standing up, forcing him to stay in a seated position. After she made sure that he could not stand up, she looked at him with an incredulous expression, as if she was looking at a madman.
"Train?! How could you possibly train like this?! You need to eat and then get some proper sleep!"
Qing Chun quickly picked up the tray she had placed down on the ground, sitting down in front of Liang Chen and pushing the tray towards him. But Liang Chen shook his head, his mind was still fully focused on doing everything he could to speed up his training.
"No. Big Sister Chun, I need to train. I must."
Liang Chen's eyes were determined and hard, an expression Qing Chun had rarely ever seen in the carefree Liang Chen she knew. But his words almost caused her to blow a fuse, stretching out her arm and pointing at him as she shouted.
"Don't you 'I must' me! Just look at you, you cannot train like this!"
Qing Chun looked at Liang Chen as if she was dying to take a bite out of him for acting so ridiculous. She pushed him onto his back, straddling him and preventing him from even sitting up. She grabbed the jug of water and poured a cup, holding it in her hand as she glared at Liang Chen beneath her.
"I don't care what you are going to say. If you won't eat, then I will force you to eat."
Qing Chun was two years older than Liang Chen and was decently talented, so she had already reached the middle stage of the Mortal Tower realm. If she wanted to push down Liang Chen, there was nothing he could do to resist her. Liang Chen glanced at the bloody wooden pole standing not far from him and started protesting.
"Big Sister Chun..."
Before Liang Chen could even finish his first sentence, he felt something wet hit his cheeks, bringing him back to his senses. He turned to look at Qing Chun, whose eyes had turned red and teary, drops slowly running down her cheeks and onto Liang Chen.
"Don't say anything! You dumbo, just look at you... You need to take care of yourself. If anything were to happen to you, there would be no point in the sacrifice Aunty and Uncle made."
Seeing her cry like that, Liang Chen did not know what to say, so he simply stayed quiet. Qing Chun did not get down from him, but simply took the cup of water and forced Liang Chen to drink it, slightly tilting his head forward. Once she made sure that he had drunk all the water she had brought, she fed him spoonful after spoonful of vegetable soup, making sure that he left nothing behind.
Only after he had eaten and drank everything she brought with her did she get off him. She sat down with her back facing him, the occasional sound of sniffles coming from her. Liang Chen also sat up, placing his back against Qing Chun's and leaning against her. After a short moment, he muttered out in a low voice.
Liang Chen did not know what else to say in this situation. He had been so focused on the fact that he wanted to get stronger that he had completely forgotten about Qing Chun, forgotten about the fact that he was not completely alone. A few more sniffles were heard from Qing Chun before she spoke out in a voice that was barely more than a whisper.
"Don't be. It is I who should apologize. I was wondering why Mother and Father forbid me from leaving the house recently, but now I know. They did not even tell me that Aunty and Uncle were going to be executed, and for such a bullshit reason too! Can you believe it? The two helped raise me, but I wasn't even able to be there in their final moments. It was only this morning that I was allowed to leave the house again. The moment I heard what happened, I rushed to find you as fast as possible. I heard from the maid that Uncle Xiang prepared that you hadn't been responding to her calls for these last four days, so I was worried that something happened to you."
Liang Chen was angry at himself for forgetting about her, but Qing Chun was equally angry at herself and her parents. Liang Chen had just lost his parents, and Qing Chun had been unable to be there and help him. She had not even known about it, forbidden from knowing anything before it was already too late. After another short moment of silence, Liang Chen leaned his head against Qing Chun's neck, a very faint smile appearing on his lips.
"I'm sorry for worrying you, I will take more care in the future."
He was not alone. There were still people who would worry for him, people he could lean on when he felt hurt and alone. The empty house that had been so cold that it chilled him to the bone grew a little bit warmer. Qing Chun let out a slight humph sound, swinging her fists around as she spoke.
"Dumbo. I already said that you don't need to be sorry, it is I who should be sorry. After all, I couldn't be there for you in the time you probably needed me the most. But at least I am here now! I will not let anyone bully you as long as I am around."
Liang Chen could not see her swing her fists, but he could feel how she moved her arms thanks to their backs being connected. The faint smile on his face grew a little wider, a soft voice escaping his lips.
"Big Sister Chun, thank you."
After he spoke his thanks, a tranquil silence descended upon the two. They both just took quiet breaths, neither willing to break the silence. It was during this silence that Liang Chen started to feel as if there was something floating around him, enveloping him and Qing Chun. But before he could properly pinpoint the feeling, Qing Chun spoke up again.
"What are you planning to do from now on? If you want, I can plead Father and Mother to get you a job as one of the herb gatherers."
Liang Chen did not respond immediately. Now that his parents were dead, there was no one to earn money anymore. Since his Uncle Xiang was a minor elder, he would still get a little bit of money each month, but that was just barely enough to cover all the food he would need. After giving it some thought, he ended up shaking his head.
"I want to train. I have realized that I need strength, far more strength than I have now, far more strength than I ever thought I could possibly need."
Liang Chen needed to focus on his training, a job would only get in his way. As long as he spent his money frugally, he did not need to worry about starving. Qing Chun seemed like she realized what Liang Chen was thinking, so she only gave a short nod of her head. After she nodded her head, she quickly turned around and stuck her right hand towards Liang Chen, sticking out her pinky as she spoke.
"As long as you have a goal, that is good. But don't you dare neglect yourself this time, nor are you allowed to neglect me! You have to follow me for a walk at least once a week, no, twice a week!"
Qing Chun's eyes gleamed with the same playful light they had when she first kicked down the door, her pinky finger slowly moving closer to Liang Chen. Liang Chen turned to face her, raising his own right hand and wrapping his pinky around her's. They both shook their hand, connected only by their pinkies, a smile on both of their faces.
"Okay, it's a promise."