Yi Ping, Xiao Youxue and Lie Qing had recuperated fully for three months before they decided to leave the Ice Cavern.
The three of them led a carefree life during those three months as they recuperated from their injuries and exertions.
Their injuries and depleted internal strength recovered at a much faster rate than they had expected. Perhaps it was due to the freshness and the unique ice fishes that they had fished from the Ice Cavern.
In just three months, Lie Qing had recovered her rosy outlook and Yi Ping was surprised that her real self would be so stunning.
While Xiao Youxue was enthralling, Lie Qing was mesmerizing.
Lie Qing asked Yi Ping, "Brother Yi Ping, who is the richest bachelor in the fraternity now?"
Yi Ping replied, "That honor belongs to Nangong Le, one of the four young masters of the martial fraternity."
Lie Qing asked, "Who is the best young swordsman of the fraternity now?"
Yi Ping said, "Zuo Tianyi. He is barely thirty and his swordsmanship exceeded many who are twice his age. He is also one of the four young masters of the martial fraternity."
Lie Qing could not resist a smile, "Then who do you think is the better man? Zuo Tianyi or Nangong Le?"
Yi Ping smiled weakly. He really did not know what to answer.
When Lie Qing saw that Yi Ping did not answer her, she asked Xiao Youxue. "Sister Youxue, who do you think is the better guy?"
Xiao Youxue smiled faintly, "It really depends if you like a hero or a rich man."
Lie Qing turned to Yi Ping and asked him, "Is there any hero that is also a rich man?"
Yi Ping managed a weak smile, "I do not know…"
Lie Qing asked again, "What about you? Are you famous in the fraternity?"
Yi Ping said, "I am neither a rich man nor a hero in the fraternity. I am just a poor nameless wanderer…"
Lie Qing laughed softly, "That's what you always say. Who knows if that is the truth?"
She looked at Xiao Youxue and asked, "Good sister, what do you say?"
Xiao Youxue smiled, "He is poor but not entirely nameless. He is one of the most hunted men in the entire fraternity now."
Lie Qing expressed surprise, "My heavens! Good sister, you have never told me!"
She began to look at Yi Ping from top to bottom as she exclaimed with horror, "Is he a lecherous bandit or a malicious villain?"
Xiao Youxue laughed softly, "He is just a notorious fool who dare to offend the majority of the orthodox fraternity."
Lie Qing began to sigh, "Then I better keep away from him or else I would never find a good husband at any time soon."
Xiao Youxue asked, "Why are you so eager to find a husband?"
Lie Qing smiled bitterly, "That is because I am not young anymore."
Xiao Youxue asked, "How old are you now?"
Lie Qing looked at Yi Ping and then looked at Xiao Youxue before replying, "This is my secret. I don't want to share with any one of you!"
Xiao Youxue teased, "Not even to your future husband?"
Lie Qing laughed softly, "Naturally not even to my future husband. It is better he does not know either."
Yi Ping rubbed his nose, "I wonder how old Maiden Xiao is?"
Xiao Youxue smiled enthralling as she said, "I don't want to reveal either."
Yi Ping sighed deeply.
Xiao Youxue asked him, "Why are you sighing? Why are you so eager to know our age?"
Yi Ping sighed even deeper, "I just don't understand how you develop your internal strength at such a young age. This is really so unbelievable."
Lie Qing laughed, "Good sister, I have lost all my internal strength. Can you spare me some of your internal strength?"
Xiao Youxue suddenly was tight-lipped and had a moment of irk with Lie Qing. It was because the art of stealing and borrowing one's internal strength was an evil skill in the martial fraternity. It was an action that even the majority of the unorthodox clans condemned except for the vile heretic sects.
Even though Xiao Youxue had been very careful about revealing her true internal strength to Yi Ping, at times she would forget and accidentally displayed it.
Take for example during the first month they were in the forest when all of a sudden, they were attacked by a large wild boar that suddenly charged at them.
If it were not for her sudden reflex and a sudden kick from her that sent the wild boar flying, Yi Ping and Lie Qing would have broken their legs by the charge of the wild boar!
Yi Ping was astonished that her kick was powerful enough to kick a charging wild boar away that even a highly skilled exponent could scarcely be able to accomplish without breaking their legs first.
Yi Ping asked, "Is that your martial strength or are you using a martial technique?"
She simply ignored him and walked away, leaving Yi Ping mystified and intrigued by her as he sighed, "To think I am almost killed by a pig…"
Even Lie Qing was astonished, "I didn't expect good sister to be so strong despite her gentle outlook."
And now, they had left the Ice Cavern.
Lie Qing asked, "Where are we going?"
Yi Ping said coolly, "I have a few important things that I am going to do first. We should part ways. I so glad that you have almost recovered. The fraternity is dangerous for a maiden. I will escort you to the nearest town or city if you prefer, then we will part ways."
Xiao Youxue secretly stole a glance at Yi Ping. Was it time to part for them? These three months were the happiest day of her life as she got to know Yi Ping better.
Lie Qing asked curiously, "What important things that you have to do?"
Yi Ping was silent for a while as he appeared to be in a daze before he said, "I have to find that Ding Yunzi. Even if she is not the one that killed my wife; surely she knows who the killer identity is."
He paused for a while before saying, "Also, Maiden Ji have stolen my secret manuals. No matter what, I have to find her to get it back." Actually he was more worried if the Honor Manor had already acted against the Holy Hex Sect than retrieving his secret manuals from her but he did not say anything about it.
Lie Qing asked, "Who is Maiden Ji?"
Yi Ping managed a weak smile, "She is an extremely kind hearted maiden that is on the wrong side of the fraternity…"
Xiao Youxue interrupted, "Stealing a secret manual is considered a more heinous crime than killing your wife. In this fraternity, whose hands aren't tainted with blood? You are more eager to avenge a stranger than avenge the theft of your secret manuals?"
Yi Ping said, "Maiden Ji is a friend…"
Xiao Youxue waved her hand and looked away, "So you are willing to forgive your friends for any heinous crimes that they would commit against you?"
Yi Ping smiled weakly, "That really depends. Some heinous crimes cannot be forgiven. Some can be."
Xiao Youxue asked, "How did you know that your wife killer did not have a justified reason to kill her then?"
Yi Ping did not know what to answer as he looked at her enthralling eyes. For some weird reasons, from her eyes, he seemed to know her for a long time ago.
Lie Qing could sense the cold forbidden aura that was radiating from Xiao Youxue now. She was a little afraid of Xiao Youxue now as she thought, "Lucky I am not interested in Yi Ping or else I would be dead."
Even though she had recovered her some of her internal strength and was confident of her own martial techniques, she was also an experienced exponent in the martial fraternity. She knew that Xiao Youxue may have appeared at ease but her guard was never down. And moreover, she also knew that Xiao Youxue martial levels were actually higher than she was willing to display. It was as though she was deliberating suppressing her true martial skills. Even with her experience, she could not tell which sect or clan that Xiao Youxue was from.
Therefore she tried to be friendly towards her and even calling her 'Good Sister' all the time. But no matter what she did in these three months, Xiao Youxue always maintained a cool distance from her.
Yi Ping and Xiao Youxue were the weirdest persons that she had ever met. They did not ask her about her martial background, where she got her 'Perpetual Darkness' precious sword or question her further.
She thought, "Are they trying to put me off my guard so that they can get my martial secrets?"
And the weirdest thing was Yi Ping and Xiao Youxue did not appear to be real friends either even though they were traveling together. There were even certain days that Yi Ping and Xiao Youxue did not even attempt to talk to one another. Instead they spent much of their time mediating and exercising their internal energy.
And this Yi Ping was really a true gentleman, handsome and there was a strong magnetism to him…
Therefore, she was even more confused. "Surely there must be many maidens that have already fallen for him. Why is he in this desolate place? Is he really hunted by the majority of the fraternity?"
She sighed in her heart, "I have never fallen for a man, distrusting them. But now, I really do not know…" She had encountered many pretentious men. Just because they had given her some advantages, they thought that they could get back some advantages too.
Until today, she could not believe that Yi Ping could actually give her the 'Divine Dragon Pill' to save her life. She was now in a dilemma because she had actually lied to him about the 'Divine Calamity'.
"If he knows I lie to him, won't he get a very bad impression of me?" She could not believe that she had actually cared about his opinion of her!
What astonished her most was that Yi Ping actually had more than sixty-years of martial power at his young age!
She had watched him practicing his martial skills and had gauged the depth of his martial power. And his martial power was the type that was very pure and unhindered!
She had almost fainted because of this. It was because attainting sixty years of martial power was almost an impossible feat for the majority of the exponents. Most top fighters in the fraternity, including the old and experienced exponents barely even had twenty years of martial foundation. And if Yi Ping had taken the Divine Dragon Pill, he would have become a superior super exponent instantly! That was because sixty years were the limits and anything above that was almost an impossible feat with too many hindrances. The few exponents that had sixty years of martial power were all super exponents.
Even though the differences between a superior super exponent and a super exponent was not great, any significant breakthrough was important for them to grasp the various superior intricacy skills that would actually prove decisive in a fight.
Of course, Lie Qing did not know that Yi Ping had actually consumed the Golden Rejuvenation Pill , eaten the Thousand Year Old Ice Fish and had also cleared his death and life meridians channels by a freak fighting incident.
It was hard for her not to resist falling for such a promising young man…
Because of the Divine Dragon Pill, her life was actually saved and her internal strength even had a hope for recovery. And Yi Ping had never asked for anything in return and now he wanted to part ways with her…
Xiao Youxue looked coldly at Yi Ping and interrupted Lie Qing's thoughts with a sharp remark, "I will really like to see you avenge the maiden that killed your wife with your cold-blooded hands."
Yi Ping was startled as he sighed, "Alas. It is my own personal affair. I am so sorry. Maybe I have said the wrong words and offend you. I know you are kind and don't wish to see unnecessary bloodshed…"
Xiao Youxue interrupted coldly, "You don't have to be sorry. I am not kind at all. I want to see how you are going to kill someone so cold-heartedly with your own hands."
Yi Ping said, "This doesn't concern you…"
Xiao Youxue raised her white emerald precious sword as she said, "It does now. You have said that you will return me a favor for saving your life. This is what I request from you now. Bring me along so that I can witness your cold-heartlessness."
Yi Ping said, "Youxue, why are you forcing me…."
Xiao Youxue said coolly, "So you are a liar?"
Yi Ping sighed heavily as he said, "My enemy is a very strong foe. I may not be her match. Even today, I am terrified of her martial skills and power. I will put you to danger…"
Xiao Youxue said, "This, you don't have to worry about me. I know how to take care of myself."
Yi Ping walked away as he said, "Up to you. I have nothing more to say anymore."
Lie Qing called out after Yi Ping, "Yi Ping, what about me?"
Yi Ping was startled as he asked, "What about you?"
Lie Qing smiled mysterious at Xiao Youxue as she said, "I would like to see how you are going to avenge for your wife too!"
Yi Ping was stunned, "You too? Do you think of me as a cold-hearted person too?"
Lie Qing smiled as she said, "I am not! Don't forget that my life is saved by Youxue and you. I should help till the very end too."
Yi Ping heaved a sigh of relief as he said, "Silly girl. I have no idea how long this is going to take. If I take twenty-years, don't tell me you are going to follow me for twenty years?"
Lie Qing laughed softly, "Not to mention twenty-years, forty-years I am willing to wait too!"
Xiao Youxue interrupted coldly, "Even if it takes you sixty-years, I will want to see your cold-heartlessness at that moment."
Yi Ping was stunned as he said, "All of you…."
All of a sudden, a piercing quiet demurely voice interrupted Yi Ping. "Maybe you don't have to wait for sixty years."
Everyone was startled. With their martial levels, who could have walked so quietly without their detection?
They quickly turned in the direction of the intruder and saw a simply dressed demurely dressed maiden who was standing not far away. It was Ding Yunzi!
Ding Yunzi was smiling, "Youxue, have your martial progression actually deteriorated or I have improved? Let me analyze for you, maybe you have spent too much of your time running from us than practicing your martial skills?"
Lie Qing said coolly, "You are here all along by a chance occurrence. You can turn back and try to sneak at us again."
Ding Yunzi looked at Lie Qing carefully. This innocent looking young maiden was actually extremely sharp and quick witted. For her to react and recover her wits so quickly, she must not be an ordinary exponent either. And she got these weird red eyes…
Xiao Youxue was startled when she had appeared as she quickly thought, "How did she find us?"
Yi Ping turned to look at Xiao Youxue as he asked, "Youxue, you know her?"
But Xiao Youxue did not reply to his question and instead threw the white emerald phoenix precious sword to him as she said hurriedly, "Yi Ping and Lie Qing, be very careful. She is an extremely dangerous exponent! Even if the three of us were to fight her at the same time, we may not be able to defeat her!"
Yi Ping nodded as he had personally witnessed her sword skills. He quickly said to Lie Qing, "Qing'Er, you should step back. She is a very frightening opponent!"
When Lie Qing looked at Xiao Youxue and Yi Ping dreadful expressions, she immediately knew that they were not joking with her. And she raised her sword with a defensive stance.
Lie Qing looked at Ding Yunzi carefully. From all appearances, she did not seem to be a threat and there were three of them…
Ding Yunzi raised her thin eyebrows slightly elegantly as she said quietly, "I am so flattered to hear that."
Xiao Youxue said coldly, "How did you find me?"
Ding Yunzi said coolly, "We have seen you entering the Honor Manor but you are not there. It is obvious that you have lured us there for an unknown purpose. Therefore I have concluded that you must still be in the vicinity. I have almost given up on waiting, you know."
Yi Ping interrupted, "Good. I am about to look for you. This saves me sixty years of futile searching."
Ding Yunzi smiled demurely and sighed, "I didn't know you have fallen in love with me and is looking for me."
Yi Ping was caught off-guarded by what she had just said and he stammered, "I…we….I…"
Xiao Youxue warned Yi Ping, "Yi Ping, don't fall into her tricks and her stratagems."
Ding Yunzi could not resist a smile as she asked, "Why are you so eager in looking for me? Actually I should be the one that is looking for you."
Yi Ping asked, "What do you mean?"
While Ding Yunzi was talking to them, she was in fact observing their standing positions and analyzing every slight movement of theirs. How they were going to attack, what were the distances between them and how they could possible react, she had secretly calculated; her winning odds of taking them at the same time was fifty percent. Of the three, Xiao Youxue was the most dangerous.
But of course, the victory was already theirs. It was because her second eldest Protégé Brother Xiao Yuanjia was also here!
Yi Ping asked, "Why are you looking for me?"
Ding Yunzi was looking intently at the white emerald precious sword that Yi Ping was holding as she asked, "Is this precious sword from the Eternal Ice Palace?"
Yi Ping hummed coldly, "That's right!"
Ding Yunzi said, "That is the reason why you must die."
Yi Ping was stunned, "I must die just because of this one sword?"
Ding Yunzi replied quietly, "That is right."
Yi Ping said, "So this is the so call martial justice of the Virtuous Palace!"
At the mention of the Virtuous Palace, Lie Qing shuddered slightly.
Ding Yunzi said, "That is because I have orders from my protégé master Xiao Shuai to exterminate all male protégés of the Eternal Ice Palace and every male that are associated with the Eternal Ice Palace. It is nothing personal."
Xiao Youxue was secretly fuming too. It was because her mother had pleaded with Xiao Shuai to abolish the Eternal Ice Palace and he had refused in the past. And now, he was attacking the Eternal Ice Palace on his own accord.
Yi Ping was enraged as he shouted angrily, "The Virtuous Palace is so reckless with lives." He immediately drew out the white emerald precious sword as he charged towards Ding Yunzi.
Ding Yunzi was surprised that Yi Ping was so easily baited and she took noted of his quick impulsive temper. But she quickly sighed, "After today, he would be dead. What is the point of noting his character?"
All of a sudden, Yi Ping was besides her as he attacked her with the Horizon Swordplay!
Ding Yunzi was stunned at how swift his swordplay was, as mirror images of his sword blades came flashing to and fro in quick successive waves!
But she was not slow to react; she had drawn out her beautiful adored long sword and had swirled around, parrying and blocking Yi Ping's attacks with both her scabbard and long sword at the same time!
As she turned around and wielded ambidextrously, all of a sudden she gave a silent kick and it exploded with a tremendous impact on Yi Ping as he flew backward!
Xiao Youxue and Lie Qing were stunned as they flew towards Yi Ping in an instant!
Less than five seconds after Yi Ping had attacked Ding Yunzi, the fight had ended so quickly when he was caught by surprise by her 'Penetrating Kick' skill!
Yi Ping was stunned that she could distribute her martial power so evenly in both her hands and legs as he fell onto the ground!
When Ding Yunzi saw Xiao Youxue and Lie Qing speeding towards her, she threw her charged scabbard towards Lie Qing! It was because she knew that her projectile attacks would never work against Xiao Youxue, so she decided to eliminate the weaker first!
Xiao Youxue immediately shouted, "Lie Qing, be careful!"
But it was too late as the scabbard flew like lightning past her and there was a tremendous impact!
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Ding Yunzi attacking speed was too fast and so silence that few opponents in the fraternity could match her martial skills! But to her surprise, the innocent looking young maiden had suddenly tripped onto the ground as her scabbard missed her narrowly!
Ding Yunzi could not believe the innocent looking maiden extraordinary luck. But before she could analyze further, Xiao Youxue had raised her hand in a downward strike against her.
She immediately retaliated with her sword as Xiao Youxue cancelled her attacks and evaded it.
Ding Yunzi smiled demurely, "Surely you are not thinking of fighting me with your bare hands? That would be to my advantage."
Xiao Youxue hummed coldly as she swirled and evaded Ding Yunzi sword strokes as she brandished the hidden foldable sword around her waist!
Ding Yunzi did the same too with her long sword in her right hand and unfolded the hidden foldable sword from around her waist to her left hand!
Xiao Youxue and Ding Yunzi began to exchange flurries of sword strokes!
Ding Yunzi exclaimed, "You seem to have improved but don't forget that in the past when we have fought, I have won more times than you. And my ambidextrous skills have improved considerably since we have last met."
Xiao Youxue hummed coldly, "As though I care." All of a sudden, her foldable sword was imbued with her martial power as it exploded against Ding Yunzi harder and harder with every single impact!
Ding Yunzi was startled as she exclaimed, "You can actually transfer your Penetrating Hands into your sword techniques!?"
She could not believe at the sudden increase of Xiao Youxue martial power as she took a few steps backward!
Just as Xiao Youxue was about to follow up with more successive attacks, the whirling sound of a flying sword exploded into mid-air and knocked her ten steps backward as she parried in time!
The flying sword rebounded and returned to the hands of a new intruder who was in his forties, Xiao Yuanjia!
Xiao Youxue said coldly, "So it is you…"
Xiao Yuanjia said coolly, "How are you, sister."
Xiao Youxue said, "I am not good of course. It is because you have come to take my life."
Xiao Yuanjia replied coldly, "We have our orders. You are a traitor of the Virtuous Palace. Surrender yourself and the Golden Rejuvenation Pills. Then you may have a chance to live. For the sake of our kinship, I will plead for you at least."
"Youxue, you are from the Virtuous Palace?" It was Yi Ping. He had recovered from the sudden kick and he was besides Xiao Youxue.
But Xiao Youxue was not listening as she was looking intently at Xiao Yuanjia and Ding Yunzi. Any slight distraction and she would be dead!
Ding Yunzi looked at Yi Ping in relief and could not believe that he could actually withstand her Penetrating Kick as she thought, "He is not dead yet?" She estimated that he may have broken several rib bones and was suppressing his pain.
She thought, "You should have pretended to succumb to your injuries and not get up. You are such an idiot."
But why was she relief that Yi Ping was not fatally injured?
Yi Ping was rubbing his chest and exclaiming to himself, "I have been careless." The kick had momentarily stunned him; however it did no lasting damage to him.
"I'm so sorry. I have tripped. Did I miss anything?" It was Lie Qing!
She sighed, "Now I truly believe that you are being hunted, Brother Yi Ping. We should have parted even earlier. But now it is too late."
Yi Ping smiled bitterly. He did not know what to answer.
Xiao Youxue was startled and glad that Lie Qing had somehow survived that flying scabbard. She had not turned her head around and so she did not know what had happened during that intensive moment.
Ding Yunzi re-appraised their strengths and estimated that with Xiao Yuanjia in the fight, their winning odds were still at a hundred percent.
Xiao Youxue shivered at the appearance of Xiao Yuanjia! It was because she knew how powerful he really was. While the other protégés of the Virtuous Palace excelled in surprise attacks and tactics, only Xiao Yuanjia fought with all his true martial strength. Naturally his martial progression was speedy.
If there were anyone that she did not want to see, that was him!
The flying sword that Xiao Yuanjia had thrown was actually a foldable sword. And the large scabbard that he was holding now actually contained five other such foldable swords! In the Virtuous Palace, he was also known as the Swordsman of the Thirteen Swords. But where were his other seven hidden swords?
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