"Did you do it?" Pearl asked Alex after he had returned from talking to the Dragon Emperor.
"I was supposed to give it to him for the trade anyway," Alex said. "It's only right that I do it before I don't get the chance to. He was this close to figuring out about the mushrooms."
Pearl fell into a thought, and Alex did the same. It was true that they both didn't want the Dragon Emperor to get stronger, but there was no choice on Alex's part this time around.
"What do we do now?" Pearl asked. "If he can make pill clouds frequently, won't he ascend?"
"No, don't worry about that," Alex said. "Those three by themselves won't be enough for him to make pills frequently, and the World Defying Mushrooms aren't that common either."
"He might be able to form pill clouds every 100 pills now, instead of every few hundred," Alex said.
"Didn't my 6th grandma say that pill clouds by themselves are quite rare?" Pearl asked. "He won't need more than what he has to have a good life in the Immortal realms."
Alex nodded. That was what Luo Beihan had told them, but he shook his head immediately afterward. "If I were to give you a recipe for a pill that has a 1 in 10 chance to instantly send you to the next cultivation base, would you take it?" he asked.
Pearl was surprised at the tangent, but he decided to answer Alex anyway. "1 in 10? That sounds like a good pill, doesn't it?" he asked. He didn't know much about pills, but he definitely knew a thing or two about cultivation and how difficult it was to break through to the next realm.
"What if you find out I have a recipe that can guarantee a pill that helps me break through each time," Alex said. "Would you want it?"
"Of course," Pearl said.
"Which one would you want of the two?" Alex asked.
"The one that guarantees," Pearl said.
Alex was about to continue when Pearl cut him off once again.
"I get it now," he said. "Yes, that makes sense. Even though he has every reason to leave right now and now live like a lowly cultivator in the Immortal realms, he won't leave just yet because he knows there is something more lucrative here that he can acquire."
Alex nodded. "Until he gets everything from me that he knows he can use to make pill clouds every time, he won't leave," he said.
"I see," Pearl said. "But he will get that by the end of our 20-year period here, right?"
"7 more years," Alex said with a sigh.
13 years had passed since he had come here. The past 4 years especially had all been a blend in his mind as he had spent all of it cultivating with only ever leaving his closed cultivation once.
And that one time had been to go meet with Jai Heiyun, who he had discreetly sent to find information on his sister's old sect to see what she could find. There was nothing he got out of that except the knowledge that his sister hadn't had much time to spend in this place before she was forced to leave... for some reason.
"We'll have to get stronger," Pearl said.
"Yes," Alex said. "We definitely have to get stronger."
"And we can't have it just be through cultivation," Pearl said. "I need to get stronger, and I want to fight to get stronger."
Alex nodded. He knew he had to get stronger and he needed proper training to achieve that. He was thinking of ways to achieve that.
"We should soon be able to train properly," he said. "Just a few more months."
Pearl couldn't help but look forward to whatever was coming.
Alex went to meet with his elders, having thought of a new plan. He was going to go to Blueheart City for a few months and then head over to the Silver Kingdom after that.
His next few days were going to be spent helping his alchemists and Tian Honglui with his paintings. After that, it was all free for him.
He went to Blueheart City a week later and met with the King there once again. He was welcomed just as respectfully as he had the last time he had come here as well.
It felt like yesterday for Alex, but it had been over 5 years since then. Time moved so quickly when one spent most of it in closed cultivation.
"Your cultivation base surprises me each time, Your Majesty," the King said.
Long Weiyuan was still quite young and had a cultivation base in the mid-Saint Soul realm, which Alex could tell had remained stagnant for a long time. His words were somewhat filled with envy.
"I have some of the best techniques, and best pills, and I get to cultivate in the Dragon Palace," Alex said. "I would not dare show my face if I can't even do this much."
The king only chuckled a bit and said nothing. He knew Alex liked being alone, so he left him after a bit.
Alex took the time to go to the garden where he sat and worked on a painting that he was planning on selling in the Golden Auction that would start in 6 months or so. He ruminated on the actual content of the painting and knew that one with some sort of Dao would sell the best, so he went with that approach.
No one needed to know his thoughts and emotions.
He thought about what he could make for a while before deciding that he didn't need to make anything fancy to give off an aura, he took some golden paint and made a single slash from the top of the canvas to the bottom, splitting the painting into two halves.
It was a simple thing but that didn't mean it was bad. In fact, he was quite proud of it.
"Sword aura... and is that Dao of Cutting?" someone spoke from behind Alex.
Alex quickly turned around to find the Crown Prince standing not far away from him.
"Crown Prince? What are you doing here?" he asked.
"I had some free time before my workload increases in the next few months, so I decided to come here and try to learn some Dao if I could," the crown prince said. He pointed at the painting and spoke again, "That's the Dao of Cutting, right? I'm trying to learn it right now."
"Yes, it is," Alex said. "Do you want to peer in here?"
"Sure," the Crown Prince said and looked at the painting, getting lost in it for a while. His face went through an array of expressions as he tried to figure out a bunch of things.
"There's... something else here," the man said. "I can't tell what it is though."
Alex nodded. He had added Dao of Gold and Dao of Sharpness into the only paint that was the golden line. Sword Intent and Cutting Dao was just the half of it.
He didn't bother explaining it.
The prince stayed there, learning as much as he could before withdrawing his attention from it. "It's so minimal and yet so incredible," he said.
"I'm planning on selling it," Alex said.
"What?" the Crown Prince looked at him. "Without having it be checked if it's viable for the Hall of Fame?"
"I don't particularly care about being put in the hall of fame, so no," Alex said.
"But the hall—" the Crown Prince paused and shook his head. "Whatever. It is your painting after all. I can't tell you what to do or what not to do."
Alex smiled and stored the painting.
"What are you planning on doing next?" the Crown Prince asked.
"I was thinking of retreating to my quarters for now. I might go to the Domain of Enlightenment tomorrow," Alex said.n-.o--V.-e-.l-/b/-1(/n
"If you have the time, do you want to go to the Azure Lake with me?" the Crown Prince asked. "I am planning on going there right now."
Alex thought for a bit and shrugged. "Sure. That works for me."
He left with the Crown Prince and visited the Azure Lake once again. He had been here a couple of times, and it never got any less magnificent. Even now, with the sunset reflecting in its light and the moon peeking through the side, it held the ephemeral beauty of twilight.
The Crown Prince sat on the sand and Alex sat next to him.
"I usually come here with Luoyang, but she's been busy lately, so I couldn't make time for myself to come here," the Crown Prince said. "Well, I can't really put the blame on her alone, I have been quite busy myself."
Alex just listened.
"I used to come here as a child with my mother to watch the sunset. Father was always busy, so she was the only one that could take me here. Then I grew up and started getting busy myself."
"Being the crown prince, my responsibilities were too big you know," he said. "It was only later in my life that I realized what I was missing. I wanted to come here with my mother once more. Me, her, maybe my brother too."
"Alas, she died before I could ever get to do that," he said with a sigh. "I was just too damn busy. I still am. I completely forgot about her death anniversary until 2 days ago."
"I'm a bad son, aren't I?" the Crown Prince asked with a small chuckle as he stared into the fading light of the sun.
The Sun went down beyond the horizon and momentarily gave a bright glow of a million colors beyond dying immediately as if it never existed.