Chapter 1: An Unstable Situation
chapter 1: an unstable situation
black cloud city. the nie clan.
as night fell, the plainly dressed nie qian leaned against the windowsill and stared at an artificial hill outside her window as her mind wandered.
inside the room, nie tian, who just turned one, impatiently pushed away his wet nurse. mouth stained with milk, but eyes fixed on nie qian, he mumbled, “meat, must eat meat...”
his wet nurse, zhou ma, became embarrassed and chuckled, “miss, look...”
nie qian snapped back to reality and gave the adorable yet strong nie tian an intense glare before she jokingly taunted, “this little bastard has already had two bowls of ground meat today but shows no interest in his milk. now he wants more meat. i don’t even know if he can properly digest it.”
“meat, need meat...” nie tian was still jabbering with a smile on his face.
nie tian’s charming smile reminded nie qian of her late younger sister. feeling a bit soft-hearted, she nodded to zhou ma.
zhou ma then brought out a bowl of finely ground meat and laid it on the table. nie tian’s ink-black pupils immediately flashed. then he grabbed a spoon and started deftly digging in, his chubby little face filled with satisfaction.
hearing nie tian eating caused nie qian to feel bothered for no apparent reason. “little yue, how many kids are going to attend the drawing of lots tomorrow?”
nie qian popped the question abruptly.
the servant girl, han yue, who was standing by the door, hesitated and softly replied, “miss, all the one-year-old babies in the nie clan surnamed nie will attend. once every five years, immortals from cloudsoaring mountain will bring spiritual tools to reward the nie clan for their hard work over the years. no parent of a one-year-old child would want to pass up that opportunity.”
the nie clan was notable in black cloud city. however, this world respected the powerful qi warriors above all else. almost every mortal clan offered service to them. the nie clan was no exception.
the qi warrior sect that the nie clan clung to was the cloudsoaring sect, which was located on cloudsoaring mountain not far from black cloud city. at the heart of cloudsoaring mountain, there was an abundance of fire stones, which were a low-ranked type of spiritual material that qi practitioners used to improve their cultivation. the qi warriors of the cloudsoaring sect were busy with cultivation all year long, and thus, unwilling to waste time on extracting the low-ranked fire stones themselves, they had members of the nie clan do it for them.
generation after generation, the nie clan had offered the extracted fire stones as tribute to the cloudsoaring sect in exchange for their protection.
additionally, other than protecting the nie clan from oppression from other families in black cloud city, qi warriors of the cloudsoaring sect would also bring low-ranked spiritual tools to the nie clan every five years in order to test the cultivation potential of the nie children through the drawing of lots.
upon birth, every child would possess a somewhat special attribute, like metal, wood, water, fire, or earth. some children would carry rare attributes, like lightning, electricity, wind, cloud, or frost. qi warriors of the cloudsoaring sect would bring a number of low-ranked spiritual tools that possessed the different attributes.
the children and spiritual tools that shared the same attributes would be drawn to each other. in this way, a child’s attribute could be determined, and then his parents could provide well-directed assistance and help the youngster achieve twice the result with half the effort.
qi warriors of the cloudsoaring sect would trade those low-ranked spiritual tools for the nie clan’s loyalty, so all the spiritual tools brought to lot drawing would be gifted to the children with matching attributes.
though useless to the qi warriors of the cloudsoaring sect, those low-ranked spiritual tools would be of great help to the nie children’s cultivation and become a suitable spiritual tool for a long time.
that was why the whole nie clan would seethe with excitement at the lot drawings that would only happen once every five years. every parent with a one-year-old child would consider it to be the most significant moment of that child’s life, and would be drawn to the event like a vulture to flesh.
this time was no different.
nie qian frowned. “answer me, how many kids are going to attend this time?”
“seven,” han yue replied softly, bowing her head deeply.
“little tian is exactly one year old and is surnamed nie,” nie qian said coldly. “why didn’t anyone inform me to bring nie tian to this lot-drawing convention?”
“miss...” han yue forced a smile as she looked up at nie qian and said in a low voice, “nie tian is the child of your younger sister, but she is... just like you, a girl, and she didn’t mention who nie tian’s father was before she passed away.”
“according to the rules of the nie clan, only the children of legitimate sons have the right to attend the lot-drawing conventions every five years. children of the daughters of the clan have no such right.”
“i don’t care about those rules,” spat nie qian. “my father is still the head of this clan. i’m gonna go reason with him right now!” then she stormed out of the room.
as nie qian left, han yue murmured to herself, “your father is currently the head of the clan, but his position...isn’t stable!”
a moment later.
nie qian barged into nie donghai’s pavilion and yelled indignantly, “father, nie tian is ...”
she suddenly stopped.
inside the dimly lit room, nie donghai, the current head of the clan, had nothing but exhaustion written across his pale, yellow face. his originally mighty body had turned into a bag of bones. he was currently stooped against the wall, his eyes focused on a red medicinal pill in his left hand. he seemed to be wavering back and forth regarding something important.
nie qian’s outraged heart was suddenly filled with sadness.
“father, don’t,” she said gently.
she recognized the medicinal pill in nie donghai’s hand with a single glance. it was a soul restoration pill. with its help, a qi warrior would appear to be full of spiritual energy and vigor for a short period of time, but it was merely temporary.
soul restoration pills would drain a qi practitioner's potential and longevity, and the user would be greatly damaged physically and mentally afterwards.
generally, a qi warrior would only resort to taking it when it was a matter of life and death. no one dared to use it under normal circumstances.
nie donghai, who had been staring at the soul restoration pill in his hand, saw nie qian come in. he forced a smile and said bitterly, “ever since i was seriously wounded by the yun clan and the yuan clan, my sea of qi was damaged and my spiritual energy has started leaking faster than i can replace it. there is no chance of my cultivation base reaching anterior heaven level. even my current cultivation level… well, i’m not sure how much longer i can maintain it.
“second brother and third brother have been after my position as head of the clan for a long time. i’ve thought this through. the cloudsoaring sect is going to send people over tomorrow. if they saw such a drop in my cultivation, then with second brother and third brother stirring up the situation, i’m afraid i would have no choice but to hand over my position.”
“father, i’d rather you retire than drain your longevity to keep your position as head of the clan.” nie qian’s eyes welled up with tears.
“what do you know?!” nie donghai gave her a hard look, with seriousness and anger written all over his face. “we’ll only have a chance to seek justice for the ill treatment you’ve received from the yun clan if i’m the head of the nie clan! also, regarding the person who tricked your sister, it is only possible to find out his identity when i have the nie clan’s power under my command!
“if i step down, there is absolutely no way that second brother and third brother will avenge you and your sister! i have to keep this position till the day i die, for you and jin’er!
“what does it matter if i live a few years less? once i step down, i will no longer be able to fight for you. how is that different from dying?”
“father!” nie qian choked on her own tears.
“alright. don’t behave like an immature child. tell me. why were you in a hurry to find me?” nie donghai took a deep breath and restored his firm look.
“father,” nie qian pleaded. “tomorrow’s lot-drawing convention is of great importance. since you gave little tian the family name ‘nie’, i hope that little tian can participate. if he could find a suitable spiritual tool on the lot-drawing convention, it would greatly benefit his future cultivation. with its help, he might be able to reach the ninth level of the qi refining stage by the age of fifteen and be admitted to the cloudsoaring sect.”
“about this matter...” nie donghai seemed to be in a dilemma. “how could i not be aware of the situation? i talked to second brother and third brother about this long ago, but they were fixed on the fact that little tian wasn’t a legitimate son of the nie clan and insisted on refusing to allow him to participate, which is in accordance with clan rules.”
“father, you are reaching the end of your cultivation path. little sister is no longer with us. and as for me... my life has no hope of changing for the better.” our branch of the clan is not well populated, and with little tian being the only male, i hope you can fight for him.” nie qian’s eyes were filled with tears.
nie donghai remained silent for a while before he nodded. “i understand. go. take nie tian to attend the lot drawing tomorrow.”
although nie qian’s eyes glistened with tears, they also showed a hint of happiness before she bowed and left.
as she stepped out of the room, nie qian heard nie donghai swallowing the soul restoration pill and letting out a long sigh.
nie qian felt a heart-wrenching pain, knowing her arrival helped nie donghai make up his mind. she couldn’t bear to look back and rushed away as quickly as possible.