Written by Tinalynge & Blue Jay
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Finally, the Tournament was over. At least for the Sky Ranked cultivators – there were many other fights soon to begin over which the royal family had to oversee.
Luo Xiao of course didn’t know of that detail, and even if he did, the most he could do was feel sorry for Jiang Yao for having to sit there and watch fights over fights over fights. It clearly got boring quickly.
As he was fully exhausted of his spiritual energy, Luo Xiao did feel tired but regardless stood tall as the award ceremony was about to start. He had after all finished first in the Sky Ranked cultivators category and couldn’t help but feel good about himself as the audience finally cheered him on.
He smiled lightly at Jiang Yao before stepping over to the Vice Principal, who had stepped down from his position next to the Demon Emperor to award the top cultivators their awards.
“Congratulations to Luo Xiao for becoming the top cultivator in the Sky Ranked category, as well as to everyone else who came close to the top places,” the Vice Principal smiled at everyone, and as he spoke, the audience went quiet. The respect was immeasurable.
“Everyone who got in the top one forty will get rewards corresponding to how far they got. As I do not wish to trouble those injured to make their injuries worse, you can always come pick your reward over at the Principal’s room later,” he continued, smiling softly at the thirty or so cultivators who had gotten to the final fights. He knew that some of them, like Fang Mu, had left, but he was sure that the news would reach them quickly via their white and black cards for the Academy.
“Luo Xiao, as the top of your category, this is your reward,” finally, the Vice Principal looked at Luo Xiao and beckoned him forward, handing him a crystal pill bottle.
Luo Xiao felt thankful that the Vice Principal was quick with handing him the bottle because just after he took it and he theoretically free to go, he felt something seemingly stir in his body.
“Thank you, senior,” he smiled gently before tucking the pill bottle away and bowing to the man.
Truly, Luo Xiao hadn’t seen the vice principal before, only the principal himself. But that didn’t make him any less respectful and wary, knowing that offending such a figure, even with Jiang Yao having his back, would be tantamount to inviting a disaster in his home.
As the Vice Principal continued to give the awards to the rest of the challengers, Luo Xiao began feeling more and more odd. It felt as if his slowly returning spiritual energy was stirring in his Soul Sea.
It took him a few moments to realize what that meant while he tried to gently keep it down, as it seemed to absorb energy at an alarmingly increasing rate.
He was about to advance a rank!
Luo Xiao suddenly did his absolute best to suppress the stirring energy as he didn’t want to cause a big scene, remembering what usually happened whenever he advanced a rank. With a quick look, he glanced at the Vice Principal, unsure whether he could leave without permission before a moment later he just took a long breath before softly speaking to the Vice Principal who was still giving out awards.
“Senior, is it alright if I head out now?”
“Oh? Yeah, uh, go ahead, Luo Xiao, you don’t need to ask for permission to leave now that it’s over” the man glanced at him with some minor confusion before returning to the youth before him, the quick answer being enough for Luo Xiao to not and hurry out of the arena.
Jiang Yao’s gaze followed his disappearing figure but he didn’t move as much as a finger. He knew Luo Xiao so well that at this point very little from his little lover could escape his gaze. If Luo Xiao had somewhere to go, it wasn’t without reason and so the Seventh Demon Prince trusted his choice.
Jiang Luo just shuffled in his seat uncomfortably, looking at the youth he had rescruited with barely contained dissatisfaction. If looks could kill, the youth, who had as if shrunken a million times, would be long a pile of ash. Not that it mattered, he would be dead anyway for failing his task even with the huge advantages given for practically free by the Fourth Prince.
Jiang Bai was now just sitting there with his eyes gazing into nothingness, his fingers impatiently tapping on the armrest. He really just wanted to go home, but now that the Emperor was sitting there, he didn’t want to upset his father. So instead, Jiang Bai just sat there, waiting for the farce to be over. The sooner, the better.
Of course, during all of this, he just pretended Luo Xiao hadn’t smiled at Jiang Yao and just wondered what the hell he was going to do now that every little move the human made forced the prince to go “Hngh”.
Thankfully, the year was over and he would have the few months over at his own palace to smash his head against the wall as to what in the world his heart was doing with itself.
Meanwhile, as soon as Luo Xiao left the arena, he immediately sped up, running towards his little living space at the basically other end of the Academy.
As he was running, hair and robes fluttering in the wind, he felt his Soul Sea start to stir persistently, even with him fighting it down and slowing it as much as he could. It was beyond obvious to him that any moment now, he would have to sit down in his room and quickly start feeding it the essence of earth and heaven in order to nourish his advancement in the new stage.
He felt both somewhat afraid and excited.
Finally, he was getting stronger and stronger, closer to the goal of standing next to Jiang Yao and fully supporting him. But as much excitement as that brought him, he couldn’t help but feel some light fear and the like as he thought about how much more drama he was likely to get involved in.
By no means did Luo Xiao think Jiang Yao had it easy – except in the strength department, he really was just stronger than almost anyone else in the continent, – but he knew that the royal dramas and other struggles were all but simple. Especially the one with Jiang Luo. That one was a literal pain.
Regardless, the most important thing now was for him to advance in rank safely, he thought to himself as he finally got at his place. Tossing the crystal pill bottle in his spatial bag from its original place in his robes, Luo Xiao quickly seated himself up on the bed cross legged and closed his eyes.
Just in time, too.
As soon as he stopped suppressing his stirring Soul Sea, the need for energy instantly erupted, pulling in as much essence as it could from the rich in heaven and earth essence surroundings.
Compared to that time he advanced a rank in the hotel outside of the Demon Empire, this time there was such an abundance of essence around that one barely even felt the advancement take place. It was like a drop of water taken from an enormous sea, it couldn’t even compare to that.
But Luo Xiao wouldn’t think of that as of this moment. He was too focused on refining and absorbing the energy as quickly as possible, purifying and condensing it into his Soul Sea. Even as soon as the Soul Sea filled up, Luo Xiao continued absorbing the essence of his surroundings, having this feeling that if he stopped there, he would probably just ruin his chances of advancing.
So he kept absorbing, on and on and on, to the point where it felt that any more drop his Soul Sea would literally burst by the seams. Luo Xiao clenched his teeth tightly, having the urging feeling that it was still not enough, and inhaled deeply, forcing himself to absorb just a little bit more essence.
It almost felt painful, beads of sweat forming on his skin as he forced himself to stuff just a wee bit more essence in his Soul Sea, body taut and tense.
Then it suddenly happened, as Luo Xiao felt as if some barrier had been broken through, the entire Soul Sea worth of spiritual energy suddenly beginning to swirl around a center, coalescing together like a hurricane. Spinning faster and faster, more and more energy was pulled in to the center, suddenly resuming the gulping down of heaven and earth essence once again, as if it had never stopped in the first place.
As the energy gathered in the center, Luo Xiao witnessed as his entire Soul Sea coalesced into a small, shining object, just as golden in colour as his previously there Soul Sea. But there was no longer a Soul Sea as it had basically dried up and condensed in that single small shining thing in the center of his mind.
It kept absorbing more and more energy as it slowly began spinning, the shining light quickly filling up the empty space as Luo Xiao suddenly felt extremely rejuvenated and almost lightheaded.
Even if his body was currently sweaty and covered in whatever filth there had been expunged during this advancement, Luo Xiao felt as if he could almost fly at this very moment.
But he still didn’t move, observing as the object’s spin sped up while the residual absorption of essence slowed down gradually before returning to its usual passive speed. Still comparably faster than before of course.
The more Luo Xiao observed the new changes in his Soul Sea, the more he felt he was looking at a small but brilliant star, illuminating his being from within… That’s what it was! His Soul Sea had transformed into a Soul Star, indicating he had truly advanced from the High Sky Rank in the Low Star Rank!
The boy didn’t know that but achieving Star Rank was something incredibly difficult for many cultivators. Many young soul experts would give up at the mere perspective of trying to force the Soul Sea to condense, and truly a lot were stopped at this stage. Of course, it practically didn’t matter if one had a treasure or was a Heavenly or Astral Soul.
Luo Xiao almost exclaimed happily as he opened his eyes, feeling truly relaxed and energetic, only to see himself covered in greyish black filth and grime.
“Yuck,” he stuck his tongue out at himself as he got up off the bed, somewhat sad that the clothes gifted to him by Jiang Yao had once more gone to waste. Luo Xiao ended up just sighing softly before heading over to the bathroom to take a long bath, both to clean himself and to just finally let the feeling of the Tournament being over settle in.
As he laid in the hot water, his body no longer feeling as if it was a sticky mess, Luo Xiao closed his eyes, relaxing, and thinking about Jiang Yao. Even though the two hadn’t spoken yet as all the royalty still had matches to watch over, Luo Xiao couldn’t wait to tell Jiang Yao both about his advancement and to ask him whether he liked his performance.
Oh, how much he wished Jiang Yao was right there at this moment, telling him that he did good and didn’t disappoint him… Luo Xiao softly felt his heart flutter at the thought, a few bubbles escaping from under the water as he sunk deeper in the bath.