Translator: Atlas Studios Editor: Atlas Studios
If one were to travel about 150 kilometers toward the north from this town, they would arrive at the boundaries of the North Continent’s Miasma Qi. At the extreme end, the region was the training ground for disciples of the Immortal Du Sect—the Chaos Treasure Forest.
Outside the Miasma Qi, there was a bare desert mountain. It was a stark contrast to the unending blackness of the jungle covered in Miasma Qi. This contrast also drew an obvious border between the two regions.
As they got closer to the forest covered in Miasma Qi, Jiu Jiu seemed to be a whole other person. Her eyes were filled with caution and wariness, as her immortal senses inspected the area within tens of kilometers from them. Every gust of wind and movement of the grass was checked.
She led the group to fly at a low altitude. Then, she used a good amount of immortal power to conjure a white cloud. The huge wine gourd shrunk to about three feet, and she hung it on her back. The mouth of the wine gourd continued to glow light-blue. It looked like it was ready to fly out and spit at people at any moment.
At last, when they reached the Miasma-Qi-covered forest border, Jiu Jiu got off the white cloud, turned around, and addressed the five disciples.
“According to the rules, each expedition should last 20 days. The timer starts from the moment you enter the Chaos Treasure Forest. If you come out on your own, anytime before the end of these 20 days, your expedition will be counted as a failure. You will then return to endure the punishment.”
Jiu Jiu blinked, her tone suddenly easing. “Actually, the punishment is as simple as a deduction of your monthly allowance or something. You won’t get seriously hurt. If you run into danger, survival is most important. If you find it too tiring, come out at once. Don’t force yourself to stay in there. I will wait for all of you here. Since this expedition is meant to push you beyond your limit, I cannot follow behind you all the time. I also cannot become your personal bodyguard. The hunk will stay here as well. You will wait for her here.”
Yuwen Ling cupped his hands and made a request. “I came on orders to protect Her Highness, the Sixth Princess. Immortal Elder, please allow me—”
Jiu Jiu calmly interrupted, “Do you want to stay here on your own or be tied here by me?”
Youqin Xuanya spoke up from the side. “General Yuwen, please stay outside. Follow Aunt-Master Jiu’s instructions.” She seemed faintly imposing as well. It was obvious that she had given countless orders growing up.
Yuwen Ling answered in a low voice, “This General receives your orders!” Then, he frowned and turned to Yuan Qing.
Yuan Qing immediately said, “General Yuwen, do not worry. I will protect Junior Sister Xuanya even if it costs me my life.”
Youqin Xuanya gave no response whatsoever. Instead, she maintained her icy-cold expression, which she put on daily.
On the other hand, Li Changshou, who had been standing behind Jiu Jiu the entire time, turned to study Yuan Qing and Yuwen Ling.
‘Indeed, there is something fishy going on with these two.’
Jiu Jiu cleared her throat and continued, “I will give you all two warnings. First, help each other out when you get inside. Remember that you are from the same sect. Take care to avoid moving on your own. Yuan Qing, Xuanya, both of you are of higher cultivation levels. If you have extra energy, look out for the others.”
Yuan Qing smiled and answered, “Rest assured, Aunt-Master.”
Youqin Xuanya also answered, “Your disciple receives your orders.”
Immortal Jiu Jiu added, “Second, do not push your luck. Do not risk your lives to look for herbs. Ferocious beasts would normally guard the most valuable herbs. These ferocious beasts are not stupid, and you are the greatest nourishment they would get.”
At that point, Jiu Jiu suddenly made a move. Her left hand shot out as quickly as an illusion, as she gently pinched Youqin Xuanya’s face. “Especially fine, tender, premium-grade meat like yours!”
“Aunt-Master, please maintain your dignity,” said Youqin Xuanya, frowning.
Jiu Jiu sniggered by the side. “Whoa, so smooth. I really envy you, natural beauties. Your Aunt-Master doesn’t have what it takes. My skin is so dry. I also don’t have anyone behind me shouting, ‘Junior Sister Jiu Jiu, Junior Sister Jiu Jiu’ all day.”
While joking, Jiu Jiu retrieved five crescent-shaped jade stones. She tossed one into each of the five disciples’ hands.
“Here, this is a communication jade in case you need any help. If you run into any trouble, just break it. Your Aunt-Master will be able to sense it, and I will go and help you at once.
“Using the communication jade means that you give up on your expedition. When you get back, they will deduct your monthly allowance. It’s no big deal.
“Go, go. Be careful! Don’t die in there!”
The five disciples kept their communication jades, cupping their hands and bowing to Immortal Jiu Jiu one by one. Then, they stuck on their respective Miasma-Repelling Talismans. With Youqin Xuanya and Yuan Qing at the front of the group, they headed into the Miasma-Qi-covered Forest.
Li Changshou remained half a step behind them because he first stuck the Miasma-Repelling Talisman on his Dao robe. Then, he swiftly lifted up the inner-layer of his robe and stuck another talisman on his inner thigh. Finally, he stuck a third talisman at the back of his collar on his inner shirt.
This would cover all bases. There would be no need for him to worry that the talismans would fall off on their own. He would just have to take care to change them every few days.
He heard the sound of the wind, as a pair of footsteps quickly traveled towards him.
Li Changshou looked disheveled as he took two steps forward, easily dodging the figure running towards him.
Jiu Jiu chided him in frustration. “You’re still not going? Remember to follow them closely! You are only in the Ninth Stage of Soul Formation! You’re such a careful person, what are you doing in such a rotten place?!”
“Take care, Aunt-Master.” Li Changshou turned and cupped his hands, the corners of his lips twitching slightly. He sent a voice transmission to Immortal Jiu at the same time.
Then, he walked away briskly, trailing at the back of the group of five.
The Miasma Qi engulfed them. Immediately, the Miasma-Repelling Talismans of the four people in front emitted a soft glow. A thin, transparent protective layer appeared around each of their bodies.
Li Changshou’s situation was more amazing. Three layers were covering his body so that even breathing felt difficult. However, the air that he tried hard to breathe in felt especially fresh.
Wang Ji cleared his throat and said, “Senior Brother Changshou can come with me later on. I’m just here to try my luck. I’m not looking for any herbs in particular. Junior Brother Yuan Qing and the others need not be burdened.”
“Great.” Li Changshou smiled at Wang Ji knowingly, while the latter raised his eyebrows in response. A kind of chemistry had developed between the two—this was probably chemistry among lightbulbs.
While moving around within the North Continent, those who had not yet ascended to immortality had to avoid flying. Three feet above the ground, the Miasma Qi would feel extremely thick. What’s more, with so many poisonous insects and ferocious beasts around, it would be much safer for them to remain on the ground.
At that moment, there was only one path to take. What looked like burnt, black wood lined that pathway. Most of the branches there did not have leaves on them. However, another type of life seemed to flow within them.
As the five of them walked down the path, they tried to expand their spiritual awareness as much as possible. From time to time, they would spot one or two poisonous beasts, hiding in the darkness and watching the invaders coldly.
There seemed to be no daylight in the forest, and danger lurked in every corner.
The Chaos Treasure Forest contained several types of treasures and tens of different types of herbs. However, since they were at the extreme end of the forest, where the risks were the lowest, 70 to 80% of the herbs had already been taken away by human cultivators and demons. It was undoubtedly going to be quite difficult for the five to find the spiritual herbs they wanted.
What’s more, the herb that Li Changshou was looking for was not within the Chaos Treasure Forest. It was located deeper into the region.
As they walked, Li Changshou retrieved a map made of sheepskin, which was as big as his palm. He looked at the different markings he had made on the map and confirmed the direction he had to travel in later on.
First, he had to look for a good reason to leave the group. Most importantly, he had to ensure that Aunt-Master Jiu, who was stealthily following them in the sky, would not step out to stop him.
After about an hour, the forest became even darker—the stench of something rotting filled the air. Groups of insects were crying out, and the predators hidden in the darkness kept their eyes on the five living and breathing beings, waiting for the opportunity to pounce.
In the swamp scattered with bones, there were seductive but poisonous flowers and fruits seated on high trees, and demonic spiders laughing cruelly.
The few disciples from the Immortal Du Sect were considered skillful, daring people. As time went by, they walked quicker and grew accustomed to their surroundings.
Li Changshou followed closely behind the four of them. At that moment, he was still far from the place where he had to change direction. Thus, he felt no urgency to leave the group.
All of a sudden, they heard the stifling roar of a beast. The poisonous insects’ crying was suddenly amplified, as a ferocious and fiendish energy aura surged towards them!
A poisonous beast could no longer resist—it was going to attack them!
Youqin Xuanya, who was right in front of the group, immediately raised her hand to stop everyone from moving forward. The huge sword on her back began to tremble slightly.
Yuan Qing gently shook his right hand, and a green immortal sword flew into his palm. He looked especially threatening, ready to attack at any moment.
Just as the four people in front of him turned their attention to the black figure rushing out of the forest on their front-left, Li Changshou turned to the right. He took one step forward, stood behind Wang Ji, and said, “Be careful, on the right.”
The moment Li Changshou finished speaking, a ten-feet-tall, black figure jumped out from their front-left!
This was a black-skinned leopard, which had two wings growing out of its back. Its front claws flashed black and green. The moment it appeared, it jumped towards the four of them at once!
Yuan Qing shouted in a low voice, “Evil Beast, you’re courting death!” A gentle breeze blew past Youqin Xuanya as he rushed past her. An eight-inch beam of green light shot out of the edge of the three-foot sword. His footwork released many remnant images underneath his feet!
Out of the sword-light emerged an elongated ‘Z’. Just as the black leopard raised its claws, its black blood shot towards the sky!
At once, its body was cut into multiple different pieces!
At that moment, two black figures jumped out from the front-right side of the forest and headed straight for Liu Yan’er and Youqin Xuanya.
“Let me!” shouted Wang Ji, rushing to Liu Yan’er’s side. Flames now surrounded both of his hands, and he waved them at the two black leopards, attempting to force them back.
However, before his flames exploded, a fiery-red figure brushed past him. The sword that she hadn’t unsheathed before cut through the air. As the sword brushed past them, the two black leopards immediately flew backward, like two huge sandbags.
It was just a single wave of the sword. There was no follow-up move. Yet, the two black leopards were already high up in the sky. Two fiery-red lotus flowers appeared in the leopards’ bodies. They exploded, blowing the bodies into pieces. The flames completely swallowed the remains and black blood!
In the blink of an eye, nothing remained of the two black leopards.
Wang Ji smiled awkwardly, retracting the balls of flames in his hands and stepping backward.
Li Changshou’s eyes brightened. ‘This Youqin Xuanya has mastered the Nine Lotus Li Fire Skill?’
The three black leopards had been killed in the blink of an eye. The number of eyes that were fixed on these five disciples from within the darkness halved.
The five of them took their places once again and got on their way. Youqin Xuanya and Yuan Qing began to display simple footwork, but the three people behind them could keep up easily.
That was until a fork appeared in the path. Then, the group came to a stop at the same time.
Youqin Xuanya turned around and said, “Senior Brother, Senior Sister, I am going in this direction to look for the Fire-Loathing Enlightenment Herb. It was recorded in our sect that people have spotted this herb in this direction. Please take care of yourselves. Don’t go too far in.”
Liu Yan’er also said that she was searching for a herb, and was headed in the other direction.
The group began to split up. Naturally, Yuan Qing was going to stick with Youqin Xuanya. He had come specially to help and protect her.
Wang Ji was there to experience the outside world. At the same time, he agreed to help Liu Yan’er look for the herb she wanted.
Thus, the four of them all turned to Li Changshou.
“I’m going this way. I have to separate from all of you now,” said Li Changshou while pointing in a completely different direction.
Youqin Xuanya asked, “Senior Brother Changshou, what herb are you looking for?”
Li Changshou answered seriously, “It’s not convenient for me to say. However, don’t worry about me. Take care.”
Yuan Qing tried to persuade him. “Senior Brother Changshou, why not go with Senior Sister Yan’er—”
Before Yuan Qing could finish speaking, Li Changshou took one step towards the path he chose. He employed simple footwork and floated away, his hair not even dancing in the wind. Still, very quickly, he disappeared around the corner into the forest ahead.
“Really, he’s taking our good intentions for granted,” Liu Yan’er muttered irritably.
Yuan Qing and Wang Ji shook their heads as well. They guessed that Li Changshou was just being proud, and he wanted to prove himself too badly.
Youqin Xuanya, on the other hand, seemed to have something on her mind. She turned around and began walking on the path she selected. Her back view, coupled with the sword on her back, looked more delicate than before.