As he slept, Liang Chen once again bore witness to the final moments of his parents. Their last words, their bright smiles, even their scent, everything was perfectly transmitted to him. He wanted to wake up, but no matter what he did, his mind would not wake up. When his parents kneeled down on the scaffolding, he was already screaming at himself to wake up. But it was to no avail, he still had to bear witness to his parents losing their heads. Only once their heads stopped rolling around on the scaffolding did he jolt awake.
The first thing Liang Chen noticed upon waking up was that Qing Chun was no longer sitting at the side of the bed and that there was no light shining in through the windows. His entire body was covered in sweat, his breathing ragged. He clenched his hands, tightly grasping the blanket as he curled up and forced his tears back.
"Train. I need to train."
Liang Chen's voice sounded out through his grit teeth. He uncurled his body and flung the blanket away, jumping out of the bed. He did not even bother changing his clothing, he simply walked over to the wooden pole and started hitting it. Once again he continued to punch and kick the pole until his arms and legs gave out on him, forcing him down to the ground.
Once he was on the ground, he let out several ragged breaths, doing his best to forcefully calm down his mind. He forced his aching body into a sitting position, closing his eyes and once again attempting to sense the surrounding Qi. His breathing slowly calmed down, turning into deep and quiet breaths that caused his chest to bulge.
But after two hours, despite his seemingly calm mind, he still found himself unable to sense the surrounding Qi. Just as he was about to grit his teeth and continue hitting the pole, he was reminded of the sensation he briefly felt yesterday, when he was leaning against Qing Chun.
As he remembered that sensation, he was also reminded of that moment in silence they shared, where they both simply leaned against each other. The memory pushed aside the dream he had seen while sleeping, calming down his mind and causing his lips to curl into a faint smile. It was while he was calm like this, that he once again felt the sensation.
It felt like he was floating in water, surrounded on all sides by an unseen force. Liang Chen latched onto the sensation, immersing in it as he experienced that all-encompassing force. After a short moment of silence, he tried to connect his mind with the force, the surrounding Qi, and drag it into his body. At first, there was no response, but as Liang Chen continued to try, a tiny amount of Qi started to move towards him, sinking into his flesh. As the Qi sank into his flesh, Liang Chen felt a prickling sensation, as if countless tiny needles were pricking him. It was slightly painful, but it was nothing compared to the pain he felt when he hit the wooden pole.
Liang Chen continued to drag in the surrounding Qi, slowly but surely having it sink into his flesh and strengthening it. But he found the process to be far too slow. If he continued at this speed, how long would it take him to overtake Qing Lan Yong? Was it even possible at such a slow speed? Qing Lan Yong was blessed with great talent and was given endless amounts of resources, by the time Liang Chen managed to reach the level of the current Qing Lan Yong, he would surely have already greatly surpassed that level.
But despite how anxious he was to speed up his training, Liang Chen still forced himself to stop training after a few hours. He had made a promise to Qing Chun, a promise to accompany her and wander around the market. Liang Chen had been taught to never break a promise, so he would certainly not allow himself to break one now that his parents were no longer around.
He stood up from the floor, returning to the empty bedroom. He walked over to his closet, picking out a clean green robe that was made from coarse cloth. He grabbed the robe and then left the house, heading to the cabin that stood behind the house. His parents were normally the ones in charge of filling the tub by using an array, but to do so required Qi, so Liang Chen could only use the water from the nearby well to fill up the tub. The water was cold, but it did the trick, allowing him to wash himself.
Once he had finished washing and put on the clean robe, the sun had almost reached its highest point, meaning that noon was close. Liang Chen made sure that his knife was strapped tightly to his waist, and then started heading towards the eastern fountain, the place where he had promised to meet up with Qing Chun.
As he walked through the city, he quickly noticed that most of the people he walked past would glance at him, whispering to each other in low voices. Some had pity in their eyes, others had hostility, while some had cold indifference in their eyes, merely glancing at him for a short moment before no longer bothering with him. Liang Chen did not let their gazes or their whispers bother him, these people meant nothing to him, some of them had even celebrated when his parents got executed.
The eastern fountain was not located too far from his house, so Liang Chen managed to quickly reach it. The eastern fountain was located in a large open plaza, the ground paved with light yellow stones. There were small portable stands located around the plaza, selling various types of warm food or flowers. There were several smaller groups of people, often couples, walking around the plaza, checking out the shops or resting by the fountain.
The fountain itself was round in shape and made out of a type of blue crystal, a large statue in the shape of a burly man holding a long spear decorating the center of the fountain. The statue was in the shape of the founder of the Qing clan, Qing Long. Thanks to an array, there was a constant stream of green water coiling around the statue of the man, falling back into the fountain and then rising back up to coil around him.
There were more gazes landing on Liang Chen as he walked towards the fountain, but he continued to ignore them as he sat down on a bench located next to the fountain. Liang Chen sat on the bench, his gaze sweeping over the people who were walking around the plaza.
He had come a bit too early, so even after waiting several minutes, Qing Chun had still not arrived. But as his eyes continued to sweep the surroundings, he spotted someone else familiar. A group of children from the Qing clan had just entered the plaza, chatting and laughing amongst each other. Liang Chen had spoken with several of the children before, there was even one among them who he had considered a friend, Qing Huo Ling. But after he saw Qing Huo Ling at the execution, cheering on as his parents were killed, every kind thought he had towards him had died.
Liang Chen moved his eye away from the children, no longer bothering with them. But it seemed like the children had spotted him, as they glanced at him and started whispering amongst each other. They all turned towards Qing Huo Ling, who looked like he was a little younger than Liang Chen, had short brown hair and clear green eyes. Qing Huo Ling looked uncomfortable as everyone looked at him, but after sneaking a slight glance at Liang Chen, he gave a strong nod of his head.
That nod of his head seemed to please the rest of the group, as they started smiling, walking towards Liang Chen. Liang Chen turned towards the approaching group, a sense of unease filling his chest. Despite most of these kids being as old as him, or even a bit younger, they were all stronger than him, with the strongest among them already having entered the early stage of the Mortal Tower realm. The group of seven children stopped in front of Liang Chen, the oldest among them speaking out.
"You are Liang Chen, the son of the traitors, correct?"