It’s amazing how much can change in a year. That’s how long I’ve known Lucia. Just one year has passed and my world is completely different…. I’ve left the sect for the very first time. I’ve accomplished my first mission. I’ve had my first kiss ever with Lucia. I’ve led my first expedition. And I progressed by three whole ranks! Huh? What do I mean by my first kiss with Lucia? It’s exactly like it sounds like! I was meditating on the boat as usual in Lucia’s room while Lucia was sleeping. Then she suddenly stood up, walked over, and fell on top of me while muttering, “Durandal.” And that’s when we kissed…. Even though she was the one that was asleep, I feel like I’m the one who was taken advantage of…. It, it’s not like I enjoyed it! I-it was just really weird. Yeah. Weird.
“Softie, what’s up? Your face is redder than Lucia’s when she exercises.” Ilya sat next to me and tilted her head. Right now, I was sitting on a bench facing the side of the boat, staring off the edge at the sky. The boat was flying back to the Shadow Devil Sect. It hasn’t even been two days since Lucia completely eradicated the Red Phoenix Sect. Right, that’s another thing that’s greatly changed in a year: The five fingers of Kong County are now the four fingers of Kong county.
“Oh, nothing! Nothing at all!” It took forever to separate from Lucia. She hugs really tightly when she’s asleep!
“If you say so.” Ilya raised an eyebrow before shrugging. “So, be honest. How bad is it that Lucia destroyed the Red Phoenix Sect? Is anyone going to come after her? Do they have a backer that we should know about?”
I sighed. “Yes, they do. The Red Phoenix Sect is a small branch sect of the Rainbow Phoenix Sect. They’re located within the imperial capital of Kang Country. Most certainly, they’ll send someone to investigate the destruction of the Red Phoenix Sect, and since there were so many witnesses wanting to see who the new earth-realm experts were, they’ll be able to find out it was Lucia. Of course, the Shadow Devil Sect won’t abandon Lucia.” Even if the Shadow Devil Sect faces annihilation in the future, I’ll convince my grandfather to save Lucia. She’s our sect’s greatest hope of advancing in the world. It, it’s not like I have a personal bias that wants to help her—this is purely for the sect!
Ilya’s brow furrowed as she pursed her lips. She seemed a lot older than she actually was when she did that. “Does our Shadow Devil Sect have any backers?”
“Um. Sort of. We’re under the umbrella of the Immortal Devil Sect. Kind of.” It’s hard to explain. “Long, long ago…, no, that’s not right. How do I put it…? There’s basically two factions in the Immortal Continent—well, two major ones—the light faction and the dark faction. A long time ago, there weren’t any factions but separate sects. One sect, the Greedy Devil Sect, provoked the ire of nearly every single sect; as a result, they were besieged from all sides and eventually slaughtered. Then, the sects that slaughtered the Greedy Devil Sect decided to form an alliance to annihilate every sect that shared the same principles as the Greedy Devil Sect. Because—”
Ilya raised a hand. “Let me guess. Then the sects not in the alliance stuck together and formed the dark faction.”
“T-that’s right.” Ilya catches on a lot quicker than Lucia. At the very least, I know she’s always paying attention. Lucia doesn’t.
“And our Shadow Devil Sect belongs to this dark faction. If the Rainbow Phoenix Sect attacked us, then the dark faction would step in, is that it?” The creases in Ilya’s brows smoothed out as she took a notebook and magical writing utensil out of her interspacial ring. I took a peek at her notes, but they were written in an unknown language.
“That’s the theory….”
“Why’s it only a theory?”
“Well, there hasn’t been a large conflict in an extremely long time. A full sect annihilation hasn’t occurred in over a thousand years—even if it was only a tiny branch sect.” No one ever completely eradicates another sect; that’d be wrong! It’s etiquette for the losers to subordinate themselves underneath the victors and pay tribute. These were the rules that the two factions had set up to prevent a perpetual cycle of revenge. Now that our sect has broken that rule, a sky-realm expert from the dark faction might pay us a visit. “Mm. There might be trouble, now that I think about it more.”
“Trouble? What trouble?” A head with furry round ears appeared between me and Ilya from behind.
“L-Lucia!?” Where did she come from? “G-Good morning!”
“Hmm?” Lucia tilted her head, her hair brushing against my neck. I wanted to hide myself in a corner somewhere and cover myself with a blanket. “What’s up with her? Why’s she so jumpy?”
“I’m not sure,” Ilya said. “Did you do something to her this morning?”
“I don’t think so?” Lucia’s hand clapped against my shoulder. Heat flowed from her palm straight through my clothes and into my skin. My neck started to itch. “Softie? Are you okay? And what trouble were you talking about?”
“I, um, it’s, err—”
“You wiped the Red Phoenix Sect off the face of the earth,” Ilya said, interrupting me before I could gather my thoughts. Why am I so flustered!? L-Lucia doesn’t even remember doing anything to me, so it never happened! It never happened. “Usually, killing a million people brings about trouble from their family, lovers, allies, and whatnot. In this case, there might be another sect coming to look for you.”
“Me? Kill a million people? When did I do that?” Lucia blinked and recoiled while pointing at her own face.
“Y-you don’t remember?” How can she not remember? When Ilya and I found her in the Red Phoenix Sect, she was standing in a lake of blood filled with mangled corpses. There were no survivors! Could it be that she blocked off the memory due to trauma? Many cultivators choose to lose memories to rid themselves of heart devils, but if they suddenly encounter a trigger that makes them recall what they chose to forget, then the consequences will be dire. I hope Lucia hasn’t done something similar. I’ll force her to remember now to mitigate the damage. “The Red Phoenix Sect. Doesn’t that ring a bell?”
“Of course,” Lucia said and nodded. “Those selfless volunteers who sacrificed themselves completely for me to pass my tribulation. They were good people. Ah, I should burn some fake money for them. That’s a custom, right, Ilya?”
“You actually remembered something I said?” Ilya asked, her eyes widening. She bit her lower lip and shrank back and away from Lucia while hunching her shoulders. “You already gave me a noogie!”
I don’t understand. “Huh?”
“Lucia only remembers grudges,” Ilya said and hid behind me. “I didn’t think she’d still be upset over a little joke I played on her.”
Lucia snorted and raised her head into the air while puffing her chest out. “I’m not upset. I’m a very magnanimous and merciful person. Why would I hold a grudge against you?” Then Lucia summoned a grill from her interspacial ring and placed it down by the bench. “Anyways, it was my tribulation that destroyed the Red Phoenix Sect. It can’t be blamed on me! They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Mhm.”
Lucia’s words would be a little more convincing if she wasn’t busy trying to cook a struggling phoenix on her grill. But since she was, I couldn’t believe her. I guess if she eats the phoenix now, when the sky-realm expert comes to check on us, she won’t eat it in front of him then. Now I’m curious—what does a phoenix taste like?