Luo Qianqiu froze. Lowering his head, he said humbly, "Yes, Father. I've learned from my mistake."
"When you took over the position as the patriarch, I told you what you and I should aim for… That person won't even look at the current you. As for what happened with Yang Chen, it's just a minor issue. Besides, you weren't killed by him when I wasn't around last time. Now that I've returned, there's nothing he can do. Ditch the narrow outlook; don't group yourself with the ordinary people of the illusionary dimension. Otherwise, you'll forever be a nonentity…"
A hint of fervour flashed across Luo Qianqiu's eyes as he nodded. "I will remember it forever!"
Luo Changchun waved his hand, interrupting his son's rebuke of his grandson. "All right, Pingchao, that's enough. Qianqiu has been doing a better job than you as the patriarch. I've asked around, and he's been managing the clan rather well. There's nothing wrong with expanding the clan. Besides, at his age, you didn't even have the same level of cultivation as him."
Unfazed, Luo Pingchao looked over his shoulder and said faintly, "I know you have to deal with Qianli and the others, so I don't want to say anything else. Although he is my son, and your brother, the decision is up to you. You are the patriarch, so I'm sure you'll make the wisest choice."
With an odd expression on his face, Luo Qianqiu stayed silent for some time before bowing to them silently and left for the Luo fortress.
Once he was gone, Luo Pingchao put a chess piece on the chessboard and stood up to return to the hut.
Seeing his action, Luo Changchun looked down and realized he had lost the game. "My son and grandson all outcompete me," he remarked while shaking his head helplessly.
"When I was a child, you were the one who told me that if a son is inferior to his father, then he shouldn't be born in the first place…" Luo Pingchao replied without turning around.
Meanwhile, Luo Qianqiu had returned to the fortress and summoned Luo Qianli and Leng Qingqiu to his study.
Luo Qianli's attitude toward his elder brother had changed. The arrogance he once carried was gone due to the disparity between their cultivation level. From the moment he entered the room, he kept his head hung, not daring to look at Luo Qianqiu.
On the other hand, Leng Qingqiu was all smiles, acting as if nothing had happened.
Despite summoning them over, Luo Qianqiu did not say a word, merely sitting in the chair and staring at them intently.
After a long time, Leng Qingqiu broke the silence. "Qianqiu, why did you call us over?"
Glancing at her impassively, Luo Qianqiu said, "Hang'er is hiding at your place, right?"
Leng Qingqiu was stunned for a moment before she smiled. "He said he wanted to stay at my place for a few days. I suppose he was frightened by the thief and needed to rest for a while."
"Hah. A coward like him can never accomplish great things." At her explanation, Luo Qianqiu knew Luo Hang hid because he was afraid of being rebuked.
Back when facing Yang Chen, he had found out the right child that he should groom based on their reactions.
Though he did ask Luo Hang to flee, the weaker Luo Xiaoxiao did not think of running in the face of danger, and, in fact, she even tried to defend him. With that, it was easy to see that the courage she possessed was far greater than most men.
Elites could not be cowards.
Standing up slowly, Luo Qianqiu suddenly reached out and conjured a wickedly dark red ball of electric energy.
It contained ferocious and powerful energy that had Luo Qianli and Leng Qingqiu take a few steps backward.
"Do you feel it?" Luo Qianqiu asked with a sneer.
"T-Taowu!?" Luo Qianli exclaimed.
Luo Qianqiu grinned. "That's right. Thanks to you, Luo Feng, and Xiao Mohui, I've gained some power from Taowu's soul. It might be a minuscule amount, but even that boosted the power of my ‘Crossing Sky Purple Lightning' cultivation technique vastly! My abilities, too, have increased by a fold!"
His utterance wiped the smiles off Luo Qianli's and Leng Qingqiu's faces.
"Brother, y-you knew everything?" Luo Qianli realized he could no longer play dumb.
"I know you and Luo Feng have an affair with this woman and dragged Luo Lei down together. Do you think the Heavenly Cloud Pavilion is secluded?" Luo Qianqiu shot them a look of disdain and continued, "I never thought that you two could get the Devil Beast Blood from Xiao Mohui and use it on me. Indeed, I made a miscalculation and fell for your trick. However, no matter how meticulously you planned this out, your scheme has failed. I have to thank you for using the Devil Beast Blood on me as it aided in my cultivation."
"B-Brother, please spare my life!" Luo Qianli fell to his knees, pleading as his body trembled.
"Relax… I'm not planning to do anything to you," Luo Qianqiu said faintly. "You're still useful because of your Ruo Water cultivation. After all, you merely slept with a woman and had a failed attempt at poisoning me. Father has entrusted me to pass judgment on you, and I've decided to let you live. Of course, this will be your last chance."
"F-Father has returned? Then why didn't he…" Luo Qianli immediately stood up and asked in disbelief.
"Why didn't he meet you?" Luo Qianqiu snickered. "Why would he?"
At his words, Luo Qianli staggered to his feet, which was rare, considering his cultivation of the Ruo Water stage.
Indeed, compared to Luo Qianqiu, he was a nobody. After all, Luo Pingchao had always been one who believed in strength above everything. The same went for his family and wife.
Apparently, his father had forsaken him. What saved him today was not his blood relation with Luo Qianqiu, but his cultivation.
"Thank you, Brother…" Luo Qianli said glumly and trudged out of the room.
Leng Qingqiu, who had heard everything on the side, turned ghastly pale. Trembling, she questioned with reddened eyes, "Why… If you knew the relationship I had with them, why did you keep holding it in!?"
As if he had heard a joke, Luo Qianqiu cocked a brow and replied, "‘Hold it in? Leng Qingqiu, don't overthink. Why would I do that? Your relationship with other men has nothing to do with me."
"Am I not your wife?! I'm Hang'er's mother!" Leng Qingqiu shrieked indignantly.
"Haha, so what? You're just my wife and my son's mother. Anything else related to you, I don't care. Don't you understand? I only need you to be the lady of the household, so I don't need you to guard your chastity for me. After all, you've been keeping your relationship with them a secret, haven't you?"
Though it seemed like his words had hit the mark, she refused to believe it and shook her head. "You're lying to me… How could you do this to me…?" she choked out.
"Leng Qingqiu, I called you over to have you stop pulling tricks behind my back. There isn't an absolute need for the Luo clan to have a matriarch nor does Hang'er need a mother. Moreover, you two are no longer of use to me."
"Hah." Leng Qingqiu snorted and looked at him disdainfully. "Are you trying to say that all you care about is power and cultivation, and nothing else matters other than yourself?"
Luo Qianqiu remained silent as if admitting her words.
Despite the icy look shot at her, she stuck her nose in the air and added, "Luo Qianqiu, you're the actual coward. Do you know why I wanted to cheat on you? That's because you've never treated me sincerely ever since I married you and birthed you a son! Since young, my clan members told me that my name has the word ‘Qiu' because I'll be married off to the eldest son of the Luo clan, the future patriarch, Luo Qianqiu… With a grateful heart, I married you and tried my best to be a good wife… Yet, you always shook me off, treating me impassively and pretentiously. You don’t even dare to look me in the eye. You're just a coward who dare not reject anyone else's feelings or express yours!"
A cold glint flashed across Luo Qianqiu's eyes. "Are you done? If you are, leave."
"No!" Leng Qingqiu smirked. "Kill me for all I care. Ever since I colluded with Luo Feng and them, I never planned to live! Luo Qianqiu, I know who you are. You're just a pitiful person who doesn't know what he wants. Even though you strive to gain powerful cultivation, you struggle to give up on your ties in the mundane world. When you brought Luo Xiaoxiao that bastard back, I knew you had someone in your heart. That woman in the mundane world, you've fallen for her! Or else, with your character, you would never let her bear your child!
"Yet, you want to get rid of all your feelings and emotions to become stronger, so you restrained yourself and acted as if you didn't care about your children. But you could never resist the urge to protect her. You purposely slowed her cultivation down so that she wouldn't seem like a threat. Don't you feel tired? Even from watching you, I feel exhausted. You can't say anything, and you always have to put up a show so that no one can read your mind. But you've completely disregarded me! I've always been able to see right through you. I despise you! I despise you not because you abandoned me and cultivated me continuously, but because you would rather love a lowly lady you'll never meet than me, who's right beside you—"
"Shut up!" Luo Qianqiu thundered and finally moved up to grab her throat.
Deprived of air, she coughed vigorously and tried to get out of his grasp, hitting him and wriggling like a shrew but to no avail.
When he realized she could not die just yet, Luo Qianqiu let her go and pushed her towards the door. "Scram! Don't challenge my patience anymore!"
Covering her neck, Leng Qingqiu coughed and sneered. "You're angry… Good… You're finally showing your emotions…"
With an unfathomable gaze, she stared at Luo Qianqiu's back for a moment before turning to leave the study.
"Even if you've never liked me, you can't deny that I'm the one who knows you best. That's because when you think about that b*tch, I only have eyes on you and only love you…"
Silence returned to the study.
Luo Qianqiu let out a deep breath. With shaky hands, he took out a green jade from his space ring and caressed it.
Carved on the jade was a beautiful pear blossom, so lifelike that it seemed to sway along with the wind.