The sun hides as dusk sets.
A swift gust of wind bellowed into the path of Ling Xian's hurrying steps. He narrowed his eyes against the flying dust and continued on to the resident quarters of the Fangs.
Moments ago, he had informed Ling Hu of his plans to join the House of Wan Jian. He had also briefed Ling Tian Jiao, putting him in charge of ensuring that Ling Tian Nan does not mistreat Ling Hu during his absence.
Ling Tian Jiao agreed to the hero's request without hesitation. He promised to look after Ling Hu and his family. Ling Xian gifted him 10,000 spiritual stones in return.
He was confident such a gesture was sufficient to ensure Ling Tian Jiao's continued loyalty.
Regardless, Ling Xian was about to be sworn in as a disciple of the House of Wan Jian. Ling Tian Jiao would not dare disobey either way.
The House of Wan Jian is one of the nineteen most prominent establishments in the Yun Province. Any member under its banner, regardless of their origin, would outrank the entire Ling Clan, not to mention a true disciple.
Such was the end of this affair. Master Fang and Lin Qing Yi were the only individuals left to whom Ling Xian wished to pay visits to prior to his departure.
The next stop was the residence of Master Fang.
Master Fang was the one who altered the course of Ling Xian's life. Had he not taken in the child Ling Xian, an orphan, and introduced him to the art of alchemy, Ling Xian would have long starved to death on the streets.
A year ago, it was again Master Fang who gave Ling Xian 500 spiritual stones to travel to Qi Zhen Pavilion, chance upon the Painting of the Nine Immortals and encounter the Immortal Liao Cang Xiong.
Thus began Ling Xian's journey of cultivation, from a ragged beggar to a useless mortal to the Heaven's Favorite.
Ling Xian had always felt nothing but utmost gratitude towards Master Fang. Lately, he had been busy and as such had not had an opportunity to visit the Master.
Today, before his departure from the City, he would naturally pay a visit to his savior. He had prepared lavish gifts that were certain to please.
He arrived at the Fang residence soon after.
Ling Xian sighed heavily as he stood in front of the complex he once called home for nearly seven years. Memories of a child running around after his Dan-brewing Master rushed across his mind.
"Time flies, a year has gone by in the blink of an eye. Look at the person I am today." Ling Xian shook his head at the wonders of life as he reminisced fondly, then took a step forward and entered the complex.
As soon as he passed through the doorway, a young, fresh-faced girl came up to greet him. Just as she opened her mouth to ask what type of Dan the visitor was seeking, she recognized him and froze. Her cheeks blushed.
It's actually Ling Xian!]
The girl was dumbfounded. She stood like a statue and stared at him without uttering a sound.
In reality, since the battle, Ling Xian had become somewhat of a celebrity icon amongst the female population of the City of Qing. Overnight, he became the subject of admiration and desire to countless adolescent girls across the City.
This girl was obviously one of them.
Ling Xian frowned impatiently at the girl who rushed over then stopped dead and said, "Hey, stop staring, snap out of it!"
The girl snapped out of her daydream and fixed a few strands of hair with her fingers to diffuse the awkwardness.
"I'm not a customer. You don't have to greet me. I'm here to see Master Fang." Ling Xian smiled at her gently then left to find his own way around. The girl was too starstruck to react, only raised a hand to clutch at her thumping heart.
Ling Xian had lived here for many years. He easily found his way into the back garden and the door of Master Fang's suit.
He knocked until a voice from the inside asked the visitor to come in. Ling Xian pushed open the door and walked inside.
"Who is it? Didn't I say don't disturb me while I'm brewing?" Master Fang's eyebrows curled up in displeasure and bellowed without looking up.
"It's me, Ling Xian. I've come at a bad time. I didn't mean to disturb your session," Ling Xian responded apologetically.
Master Fang looked up and saw that his visitor was indeed Ling Xian. His mood changed swiftly. Abandoning his Dans, the Master stood up to greet him.
"Master Fang, please sit back down!" Ling Xian knew the Dans he was brewing were near completion. If the Master lost his concentration now, not only could the Dans go to waste, the entire pot could explode.
Just as Ling Xian anticipated, the moment Master Fang stood up, the giant clay pot stirred as flames shot up around it. The pot was on the verge of exploding.
"This…" Master Fang panicked. The hair on the back of his neck stood up, but this instant he couldn't think of what to do.
Ling Xian instinctively stretched his fingers and unleashed the Flame of Purity. The magical Flame capped off the earthly flames temporarily as he refocused and summoned a Dan-controlling method from the "Encyclopedia of Dans".
This Dan-controlling method was not intended for combat. Instead, it was targeted at controlling brewing pots that were on the verge of a catastrophic explosion. This was the creation of Liao Cang Xiong.
The magical auras and flames now fully encircled the giant clay pot. The danger was contained, for now.
"Good, it's temporarily contained." Ling Xian let out a sigh of relief. What he just completed seemed easy but, was in reality, a dangerous maneuver. Without complete control over the execution, the clay pot could have easily exploded.
Had it exploded, Ling Xian would be considered lucky if he survived at all. Even if he did escape with his life, he would be missing quite a few body parts. As for the much weaker Master Fang, he would have been killed on the spot.
"Ling Xian, you just saved my life…" Master Fang's expression was consumed by terror, his body trembling uncontrollably. He knew clearly the consequences of such an explosion. Perhaps Ling Xian could have survived with a few breaths to spare. He wouldn't be so lucky.
"Master Fang, please don't say that. If I hadn't distracted you, this would not have happened." Ling Xian smiled regrettably and continued with an apology, "It is my mistake."
"No, no, regardless, you just saved me." Master Fang calmed down slightly. Then, suddenly remembering the sequence of events that led to the release of the flame, the Master asked inquisitively, "Ling Xian, if I'm not mistaken, that flame you used is a rare, magical flame."
"Master has keen eyes." Ling Xian summoned his powers and unleashed strands of silvery smoke. The temperature in the room skyrocketed in an instant.
"Such magical flame! Eh? The temperature is boiling, but one only feels the warmth. The body of the flame is silvery white, could it be…" Master Fang opened his eyes wide in astonishment. After a long pause, he resumed, "Could it be the Flame of Purity?"
"Master Fang is indeed a genius amongst geniuses." Ling Xian smiled as he nodded.
Master Fang inhaled sharply as a hint of greed flashed across his eyes. But the greedy glow disappeared as swiftly as it came. He continued in a heavy voice, "It's indeed the Flame of Purity. Even amongst the most powerful class of flames, this is one of the rarest and most exquisite. It is an incredible accomplishment to tame it. If this gets out, perhaps you will be targeted by countless alchemists who will stop at nothing to kill you and claim the Flame for themselves."
"But I can tell that Master Fang's will has not stirred. Clearly Master is not one of them," Ling Xian praised him.
"Don't flattery me, I am not as noble as you say, only not as a materialist as most," Master Fang responded. "To tell the truth, the moment I realized what it was, I was momentarily consumed by greed. However, as I thought about it again, at my age, what will I use it for? And you, the Heaven's Favorite, I am no match for you."
Ling Xian's admiration for Master Fang grew a touch more. He said, "That confirms the purity of Master's heart and intentions. Others who have lived much longer may not see things as clear."
Master Fang replied in a tone of surprise, "Ling Xian, I find you much more mature than you were a year ago. These words don't seem to come from a 15-year-old."
"Too much has happened since. Maturity comes with experience." Ling Xian exhaled.
"Seems like you have experienced much more than most people do in a lifetime." Master Fang brushed his fingers against his beard. He could tell, even though he hadn't seen all of life, that Ling Xian must have encountered traumatic experiences that made him this way.
Images and films of his life flashed across his mind. Ling Xian lowered his eyes and shook his head without uttering a word.
Master Fang did not pursue. "Let's change the subject. Come, drink with me."
Then, taking Ling Xian's arm and leading him to sit down opposite himself, Master Fang waved his hand and summoned two wine cups and a milky white porcelain decanter.
Then, lifting the decanter, Master Fang filled the two cups with deep, burgundy colored wine.
"Good wine! I am a little tipsy from a couple of sniffs." Ling Xian closed his eyes in ecstasy. He had consumed much wine during the low points of his life inside the Fantasy, always until he passed out and could no longer feel any pain.
"You understand wine?" Master Fang frowned curiously. "I recall you never touched wine."
"Time, the greatest power in the universe, can easily change a person," Ling Xian raised his cup and said poetically.
"Such is true…" Master Fang said as he reminisced but immediately snapped out of it, unwilling to submit to the painful memories. He smiled again and continued, "Since you appear so informed about wine, then I shall put you to the test. Tell me, what is the name of this wine? Where is it originated? And how is it fermented?"