Liang Chen looked at the group of children, his expression sinking when he heard what they called his parents. He did not even bother responding to the question, as he was certain that these children definitely knew who he was. The child who spoke up first, a slim boy with black hair that Liang Chen recognized as Qing Youyan, spoke up once more, a solemn expression on his face.
"It's okay, you don't need to confirm it, Brother Ling has already told us. I have not come to find trouble for you, I have actually come to help you. You should have seen how people are looking at you. They are doing that because of the rumors going around, saying that it was the Young Master who committed that great sin, they are also saying that you are the one spreading that rumor around. All you need to do to stop those stares is openly speak out about the treason your parents committed. Once you do that, there is no longer anyone who will accuse you of something so stupid as spreading a rumor about the Young Master."
Qing Youyan spoke with a righteous expression as if spreading rumors about Qing Lan Yong was the vilest of crimes. And to Qing Youyan, spreading rumors about Qing Lan Yong was indeed one of the vilest crimes imaginable. Hearing his words, Liang Chen's expression sank further, his eyes turning cold as he spat out a few words.
"Are you dumb? Why would I slander my own parents?"
Liang Chen had no idea why Qing Youyan would believe that he had been the one to spread the rumors about Qing Lan Yong. But Qing Youyan was just a child, merely 12 years old. To him, it made perfect sense that the son of the executed couple would spread rumors to shift the blame. Qing Youyan's expression twisted slightly, but Qing Huo Ling spoke out before Qing Youyan could say anything.
"Brother Chen, please don't be like this. You just need to speak out about your parent's sin, once you do that, everything will be better."
Qing Huo Ling's voice was filled with an almost pleading tone as he looked at Liang Chen. But upon hearing his words, Liang Chen only felt like sneering and spitting at him. After cheering at his parents getting executed, he still dared refer to him as brother? If someone like that was a brother, Liang Chen preferred not having any brothers.
"I am not your Brother Chen."
After spitting out the words, Liang Chen turned away from Qing Huo Ling, his eyes sweeping over the plaza around them. Quite a few people were glancing at them, but Liang Chen paid them no heed, his mind recalling a few memories as he spoke out.
"Do you remember? A month ago, the both of us would wander around here and play together. In just a month, things have changed quite a bit."
Just like he said, they had played together as friends a mere month ago. Yet now they both stood on opposite sides, Liang Chen having his parents branded as traitors and basically ending up all alone, while Qing Huo Ling found new friends and even wanted Liang Chen to slander his own deceased parents. Qing Huo Ling gave a slight shake of his head, looking at Liang Chen with a pleading expression.
"That can't be helped, people are simply born different, destined for different things. I am begging you, Brother Chen, speak out against your parents, we can still be friends."
Liang Chen turned towards Qing Huo Ling and Qing Youyan, his lips curling into an angry sneer as he glared at them. He spat out a curse, sending one last glare at Qing Huo Ling.
"Fuck off. I will never slander my parents, and I will never be friends with you."
Liang Chen had loved his parents with all his heart, even if someone threatened him with death, he would not say a single bad word about them. The expression of Qing Youyan sank further, turning icy cold when he heard Liang Chen's curse. He took half a step closer, a slight pressure radiating from his body as he spoke.
"Does that mean you are admitting to being the one spreading the rumors?"
Liang Chen felt like his body was being pushed down by a rock under the pressure of Qing Youyan, but he did not falter, once again spitting out a short curse.
"I said, fuck off."
Liang Chen did not see a point in saying anything else. Even if he denied that he had been the one to spread the rumors, he did not think that Qing Youyan would believe him. It was more likely that he would think of him as a liar and get angry at him. Since the end result was the same, he would rather just say what he was thinking. Qing Youyan's eyes narrowed into slits, his voice icy cold as he spoke out.
"The Young Master is the future of the Qing clan, who do you think you are to slander him? Let us teach you a lesson, you better learn it fast."
To Qing Youyan, the Qing clan was everything. Everyone who dared slander the future of the Qing clan deserved to be brutally beaten. Qing Youyan took another step forward, clenching his fists and sending a punch towards Liang Chen. Qing Youyan had already reached the early stage of the Mortal Tower realm, so he was far stronger than Liang Chen.
The punch hit Liang Chen square in the face before he even had time to react, sending him crashing down to the ground with blood pouring from his nose. Liang Chen felt a strong pain coming from his face, the taste of blood filling his mouth. Before he had the chance to even think about retaliating, another punch landed on his head, hitting his ear and causing a ringing noise to sound out in his head.
Several more punches and kicks started raining down on the grounded Liang Chen, the other children joining in on the beating, even Qing Hou Ling reluctantly joined the beating. Under the barrage of blows, Liang Chen felt like there was something within him that slowly started to move, a slight snapping sound ringing out within his head as a thought struck him. Since he could be ruthless to himself in training, what stopped him from doing the same now?
With the thought in his mind, there was no longer any stopping. Liang Chen turned his body slightly, facing the barrage of kicks and punches head on, his eyes bloodshot and his face bloody. Every single one of the children that were hitting him was stronger than him, but that fact did not even register in his mind as he started to move. A punch moved towards his face, and Liang Chen took action.
The punch hit his cheek and forcefully turned his head to the side, but just as the person who punched him was about to pull their arm back, Liang Chen grabbed onto it. He opened his mouth, revealing his bloody teeth, and bit down on the arm with all his might, his teeth sinking into the wrist, only stopping when they hit the bone.
Liang Chen heard a yelp of pain, but he did not stop, his mind almost blank. Punches and kicks continued to hit him, trying to get him to open his mouth, but pain was something Liang Chen had already gotten accustomed to lately. He raised his head, his eyes meeting the eyes of the boy he was biting, Qing Youyan. Liang Chen's face was bloody, his eyes bloodshot as he stared at Qing Youyan with a mad glint in his eyes. Seeing those eyes, Qing Youyan felt a shiver run down his spine. When he saw Liang Chen use one hand to reach towards the knife sheathed at his waist, Qing Youyan could not help but let out a frightened shout.
"Fuck! Are you completely mad?!"
Seeing the expression in Liang Chen's eyes, Qing Youyan was completely convinced that if Liang Chen managed to get a hold of his knife, he would immediately stab him with it. Qing Youyan used his free arm to rain punches onto Liang Chen's face, hoping to stop him from reaching his knife. As he continued to hit him, a furious shout rang out from the distance.
"Hey! What the hell do you think you are doing!?"
One of the boys that was part of the group turned towards the direction of the shout, his expression distorting slightly when he saw who had shouted, Qing Chun. He quickly warned the others, running in the opposite direction of Qing Chun. Qing Chun was stronger than all of them, so staying there was the same as asking to get beaten.
"Shit, it's Qing Chun. We have to leave."
Only upon hearing the voice of Qing Chun did Liang Chen's bloodshot eyes calm down slightly, his mouth opening and allowing Qing Youyan to pull his arm back. Qing Youyan's wrist was bleeding heavily, his face wet with sweat. But despite his terrible state, he still tried to leave behind some strong words as he fled from the approaching Qing Chun.
"You better stop spreading those rumors. If you don't, I would like to see how long you can keep hiding behind that girl."
Qing Chun quickly reached Liang Chen, whose entire face was covered in blood, most of it his own, but some of it from Qing Youyan. She quickly kneeled down in front of him, her entire face dyed with worry as she tore off some cloth from her robe, using it to wipe away some of the blood.
"Little Chen, are you okay?! Did they hurt you bad?!"
Liang Chen did not immediately respond, his mind still halfway stuck in the trance he had just been in. When the thought of being as ruthless in battle as he had been in his training struck him, he felt as if he had opened a whole new world for himself. So what if his enemies were stronger than him, he just had to be more ruthless than them. Get stabbed in the abdomen to stab your enemy in the chest. Qing Chun took his silence as a sign that he was either sad or in pain, so she quickly spoke out again.
"If anything is wrong or anyone is bullying you, you can just tell me. I will beat up anyone that dares to hurt you! Did they beat you up because of your parents, should I go and beat them up?"
Liang Chen finally snapped out of his trance, shaking his head and raising his eyes to look at Qing Chun. Seeing her expression that was a mix of worry, anger, and sadness, he felt like making her worry even further was wrong. So he decided to tell a lie. With a warm smile on his face, he told his first lie.
"It's fine, Big Sister Chun. It doesn't even hurt in the slightest. And it's nothing like that, they simply didn't like my face. As long as I avoid them in the future, they won't do anything."
Qing Chun looked at Liang Chen with a skeptic expression, staring deeply into his eyes. She grabbed onto his hands, squeezing them tightly as she spoke out.
"Little Chen, are you sure? You can't lie to Big Sister, okay?"
Had it not been for the fact that she had known Liang Chen for all her life, and known that he had never lied before, she would likely have immediately called him a liar. Liang Chen squeezed back, the warm smile on his face turning into a somewhat teasing smile as he told his second lie.
"Of course I'm not lying. After all, you would give me a good kick if I were to lie, right?"
Seeing his somewhat teasing expression, Qing Chun let out a slight humph. She helped Liang Chen stand up and then sent a few kicks out into the empty air next to them.
"Damn straight I would! I would give you several good kicks on the rear, so many that you couldn't sit properly anymore. Are you sure that everything is fine?"
After she kicked the empty air, she continued to wipe the blood off his face, her expression dyed with worry. Liang Chen felt warm when he saw how genuinely worried Qing Chun was for him, so he once again decided that making her worry further was the wrong thing to do. So with a gentle smile on his face, he told his third lie.
"Yup, everything is just fine. I just need to wash my face, and then we can start walking around."
Liang Chen took the now bloody cloth that Qing Chun was holding, using the fountain to clean it. Once the cloth was clean again, he used it to clean his face and wash away any blood that was stuck to his clothes. Once he was clean again, he dragged Qing Chun around the market, checking out the various vendors and tasting the food, just like they had done when they were children. Qing Chun was still a bit skeptical, but seeing how Liang Chen enjoyed himself as they walked around, she slowly calmed down.
As the sun reached the horizon and was starting to set, Qing Chun suddenly dug her hands into her robe, pulling out a small piece of round jade. There was a slight light shining from the jade, and upon pulling it up, the smile on Qing Chun's face slowly faded as she spoke out.
"My parents are calling for me, I have to return home for dinner. You should join me!"
The jade in her hands was something that one could use to communicate with others. As long as one had a bit of the other person's Qi stored in the jade, and the other person had a similar piece of jade and wasn't too far away, they could communicate by putting some Qi into the jade. Qing Chun held onto Liang Chen's wrist as she spoke, but he simply shook his head, pulling back his hand with a slight smile on his face.
"No need, I have training that I need to do. And your parents would be furious if you brought me back with you."
Qing Chun seemed reluctant to leave Liang Chen alone, so she reached out and grabbed onto his wrist again, opening her mouth to speak.
Before she had the chance to finish her sentence, Liang Chen grabbed onto her hand and stopped her from speaking. He let out a slight chuckle, softly squeezing her hand as he spoke.
"No buts. You need to hurry on home, don't worry them too much, the two of us can just meet again some other day."
After giving her hand a slight squeeze to assure her that he was fine, he let go and pulled back his hand. Qing Chun continued to look at Liang Chen with a somewhat worried expression, but she eventually nodded her head.
"...Okay. But you have to make sure you eat and drink properly today. I will come tomorrow and make sure that you have eaten and slept properly!"
Qing Chun pointed straight at Liang Chen's face as if she was threatening him to make sure that he ate and slept properly. Liang Chen let out another laughter, nodding his head several times to assure her.
"Okay. See you tomorrow, Big Sister Chun."
Qing Chun sent one last look at Liang Chen, then turned around and started walking away. Liang Chen watched her for a short moment then turned around and returned to his own home. Once he closed and locked the door, the smile on his face faded, his entire expression turning cold as the memories of what happened earlier flashed past his eyes.
He stepped towards the wooden pole, taking up his stance and starting to rhythmically hit it. Every punch was delivered at full force, shaking the wooden pole and sending jolts of pain through his arms. His expression was cold as he continued to hit the pole, a slight mutter escaping his lips.
"You are right, Qing Huo Ling, people are born different. But that does not mean that they cannot change."
As Liang Chen continued to hit the pole, his expression started to slowly change. He had learned something today, and that was that he could not show even the slightest hostility towards Qing Lan Yong. The moment someone noticed his hostility towards Qing Lan Yong, they might just simply kill him for daring to think things like that against the Young Master. So he had to hide his anger, his resentment, hide it deep.
With every punch he delivered, every kick that hit, every drop of blood he spilled, his hatred was buried deeper. With every jolt of pain coursing through his body, his cold expression slowly vanished, a warm and pleasant smile slowly spreading on his face as his hatred was buried deeper and deeper, waiting for the day it could burst forth and devour Qing Lan Yong.