Chapter 246: The Mystic Woods, A Fortuitous Gain

Demoness's Art of Vengeance

Even though Jun Xiaomo has already had several hundred years of life experience under her belt, she hardly had any experience of flying through the sky like she was right now. After all, where would a person on the run have the time and the heart to enjoy a leisurely flight through the air like that? In order to successfully throw off her enemies who were on her trail, Jun Xiaomo had always used a Teleportation Scroll whenever she moved about.

Besides, there were only three ways in which a cultivator could fly through the air for long periods of time at one go – the first was if they possessed a wind-based spiritual root; the second was if they were able to ride on their treasure swords; while the third was to possess a flying mount or spirit tool that enabled flight. Jun Xiaomo possessed none of the three in her previous life, and she naturally was unable to fly freely in the sky in her previous life.

Right now, she was riding on the mount of her newly-minted master. As the winds rushed past her hair and the meandering rivers flowed slowly below her, the frustrations and burdens weighing heavily on Jun Xiaomo’s heart also dwindled substantially. A refreshing sensation washed through her heart.

No matter what the future beheld, Jun Xiaomo had thoroughly let herself loose from the shackles of her burdens at this very moment.

Naturally, all of this was only possible if she ignored the person yapping beside her, her loquacious, newly-minted master.

Jun Xiaomo had never expected her master to be such a chatterbox. It had already been over one hour since the Heavenly Crane had departed from the Dawn Sect, yet his jabbering had not ceased for a single moment. In fact, her master hardly cared for whether his “audience” took any interest in his chatter or even listened to him to begin with.

“Sigh, disciple, do you know that master had come across these parts many years ago on his travels. The creatures here are all tough as nails like little devilish fiends. They glared at me as though I owed them a huge debt. In the end, all it took was two simple talismans, and your master bound and thoroughly incapacitated all of them. That country’s king even invited master to its country and treated me as one of their honoured guests…”

“Later, they even offered master a role as the grand vizier of their country. But when they told me about the remuneration…tch, it was far too low. Wouldn’t accepting such an offer be tantamount to depreciating my own value? Thus, I chose to pass up that offer…”

That’s right. The matters that Tong Ruizhen had incessantly jabbered on about was none other than his “glorious experiences”. The truth of the matter was that anyone who had become Tong Ruizhen’s personal disciple would invariably have to undergo this arduous rite of passage until they know like the back of their hands each and every one of Tong Ruizhen’s glorious escapades. By that time, they would possess the ability to maintain a straight expression on their face, pretending to listen to Tong Ruizhen while their minds wandered.

Jun Xiaomo was in fact somewhat distracted and not really listening to Tong Ruizhen. That said, she would still smile faintly as she responded to Tong Ruizhen, and she would nod her head from time to time. However, Tong Ruizhen mistook her responses for the fact that his newly-minted disciple was deeply interested to know more about his personal experiences.

Thus, he began to speak with far more vigor and flourish – it was rare that he could find such a good listener.

It was a beautiful misunderstanding.

This went on until Jun Xiaomo discovered that they were passing by a mysterious patch of woods. At this point in time, she interjected Tong Ruizhen’s incessant jabbering.

“Is this…the Mystic Woods?” Jun Xiaomo’s pupils constricted and sat up straight as she craned her neck over the side of the Heavenly Crane to look down below.

When she saw the Mystic Woods, her originally carefree and lighthearted spirits began to stiffen and tense up once more.

The feeling of looking down at the Mystic Woods from on high was vastly different from experiencing it on the ground. After all, there was a thin layer of fog that blanketed and drifted over the top of the Mystic Woods, and nobody could see exactly how the Mystic Woods looked beneath the fog.

The only reason why Jun Xiaomo suspected that these parts were the Mystic Woods was none other than the telltale sign of the characteristically towering trees that stood erect and stretched up high into the skies.

Tong Ruizhen noticed the peculiar expression in Jun Xiaomo’s eyes. He nodded his head, “This is indeed the Mystic Woods.” Then, he added curiously, “Has disciple been here before?”

An intense sorrow once again surged from the depths of her heart. Jun Xiaomo closed her eyes, and she mustered all of her strength to repress the pain.

Even though Tong Ruizhen was now her master, it did not change the fact that they had barely known each other for more than a few days. Their relationship was no better than mere strangers. Therefore, Jun Xiaomo had not intended to reveal any of these details to her master.

However, she had underestimated her master’s obstinacy in pressing the issue. Tong Ruizhen noticed that his disciple had not responded his earlier query, and he immediately minced his way over to Jun Xiaomo’s side, patted her shoulder as he added, “Don’t worry, you can let master know what you’d encountered in these Mystic Woods.”

Jun Xiaomo opened her eyes once more and looked straight into Tong Ruizhen’s wrinkled face. On this face, she could see a pair of wise yet youthful and spirited eyes. Most importantly, she could tell that these eyes were even filled with a deep concern for her.

Through these eyes, Jun Xiaomo was once again reminded of the little packrat’s great grandfather, old man Chi. The impression that those eyes gave off was incredibly similar to each other.

Jun Xiaomo was suddenly filled with the urge to pour out her heart. In her previous life, she had gained entry to a Greater Sect through her identity as Qin Lingyu’s wife. That said, none of the powerful figureheads in the Greater Sect had been willing to take her in as a disciple. In the end, she became the “disciple” of a person in charge of managing the miscellaneous affairs of the Limitless Sect, and she was even made to deal with several difficult people by her master.

This was one of the reasons why Jun Xiaomo had never trusted the “masters” within the Greater Sects. That said, when she noticed the deep gaze in Tong Ruizhen’s eyes that were filled with concern for her, Jun Xiaomo suddenly realized that everything was vastly different now.

Tong Ruizhen was not like the “master” in her previous life. Back then, her “master” had only taken her in as a disciple because he lacked manpower to aid him in his work. But now, Tong Ruizhen truly appreciated her as a disciple and wanted the best for her. Otherwise, there was no reason for him to make an exception and accept her as a disciple even though she was only at the sixth level of Qi Mastery.

After thinking these things through, she smiled radiantly at Tong Ruizhen as she began to explain, “Disciple has indeed been here before. It was approximately one year ago when disciple followed one of her martial brothers out on his travels, and our destination was none other than the Mystic Woods. Thus, I’ve got many…memories of this place.”

It was not just “memories” that she had – there were also “regrets”. She regretted her willfulness in following her martial brother out; and she regretted her headstrong attitude in crossing people that she could not afford to cross. These were contributing factors that led to Ye Xiuwen falling down into the depths of the Death’s Gorge and disappearing from her life.

Jun Xiaomo’s gaze fell back onto the Mystic Woods below her. From up on high, she was unable to see the bottomless crevice that had swallowed up Ye Xiuwen.

Tong Ruizhen stroked his beard meaningfully. Moments later, he quipped, “Disciple, if there’s anything pressing on your heart, feel free to talk to master about it. Sometimes, having too many things on your heart might also unduly affect your cultivation.”

Jun Xiaomo grimaced, “Disciple understands as well. However…disciple doesn’t know how to begin talking about it. Furthermore, disciple will do her best not to let this incident affect her own cultivation.”

Tong Ruizhen appreciated the fact that Jun Xiaomo’s stubbornness was comparable to his own, so he decided not to press the issue any longer.

Just then, Tong Ruizhen cried out curiously, “Eh?”

“Isn’t this place the Death’s Gorge? It seems to be slightly different from how it had been before…” Tong Ruizhen exclaimed to himself.

Jun Xiaomo was slightly taken aback. Within moments, she collected her thoughts and quipped back in a spirited fashion, “Master also knows about the Death’s Gorge?!”

Tong Ruizhen snorted, “Don’t look down on your master. With your master’s outstanding abilities and experience, how could he not have heard of the Death’s Gorge before?”

Jun Xiaomo bit down on her lower lips and hesitated for a moment, before she queried with a trembling voice, “Then…are the legends true? Is it true that if a person falls into the Death’s Gorge, he will never be able to return to the surface?”

Tong Ruizhen looked back at Jun Xiaomo with an expression of realization, “Could it be that disciple knows someone who’s fallen into the Death’s Gorge?”

Jun Xiaomo could no longer hide the sorrow in her eyes. The rims of her eyes reddened as she responded, “That’s right. The person who fell in there is…none other than my martial brother.”

“Seems like he was someone fairly close to you as well, huh?” Tong Ruizhen nodded his head sorrowfully.

“That’s right. Martial brother Ye was like…my own brother.” Jun Xiaomo clenched her fists tightly.

“Mm…” Tong Ruizhen stroked his beard. After some moments of silence, he began to speak once more, “Actually, even though nobody has successfully returned to the surface after falling into the Death’s Gorge, it’s not impossible for someone to survive, logically speaking.”

Jun Xiaomo lifted her head as she anxiously clarified, “Really? Master, why do you say that?!”

“The truth of the matter is that master had also travelled to the Mystic Woods when he was young. In fact, there was one occasion when master was running alongside the precipice of the Death’s Gorge, and I nearly even fell in…”

“Then?” Jun Xiaomo looked at Tong Ruizhen with eager anticipation, as though she were afraid to miss out on every single word he said right now.

“Then…master didn’t fall into the Death’s Gorge.” Tong Ruizhen finished his sentence. Jun Xiaomo was slightly stunned by the anticlimactic ending, and then she lowered her head in dismay once more.

Her hopeful heart had once again sunk heavily –

Since master hadn’t fallen into the Death’s Gorge, then how would he be able to state with any certainty that someone would be able to survive within the Death’s Gorge to begin with?

Tong Ruizhen continued to stroke his beard as he added a twist, “But, even though master didn’t end up falling into the Death’s Gorge, master had undoubtedly detected a snapshot of the auras emanating from within the Death’s Gorge. In other words, there are living creatures within the Death’s Gorge. In fact, master knows that there are many creatures that are living within the Death’s Gorge, because master had sensed the various, differing types of auras and pressures emanating from the depths of the Death’s Gorge.”

Jun Xiaomo lifted her head once more, and her eyes were now filled with hope.

She looked straight at Tong Ruizhen as though he were her final strand of hope right now. Tong Ruizhen could even sense the pressure and expectations mounting on his back.

“Cough.” He coughed dryly, before continuing, “Of course, this is purely based on logical reasoning. Even if there are living creatures within the Death’s Gorge, these creatures would undoubtedly be incredibly strong and powerful spirit or demonic beasts. If one were to survive, he would have to be able to avoid these creatures or even defeat them. Thus, all of this is based simply on master’s logical deductions. Master has nothing to prove for it.”

Jun Xiaomo drew a deep breath as she glanced back down into the fog blanketing the Mystic Woods, “It’s fine, as long as there’s hope. As long as there’s even a strand of hope, no matter how small and minute it might be, I’m not going to give up on it.”

Tong Ruizhen laughed heartily, before he patted Jun Xiaomo’s shoulder and quipped, “Not bad, not bad. You’re true to your heart and loyal to others – you certainly live up to your name as my handpicked disciple. Since disciple is so intent on saving her martial brother, then master shall reveal another secret to you – the truth of the matter is that master has in recent years been rather curious about what goes on within the Death’s Gorge, so master has always been investigating and researching how one could possibly enter the Death’s Gorge safely.”

Jun Xiaomo’s eyes brightened, “Then, has master’s research come up with any results?”

“Cough cough…” Tong Ruizhen rubbed his nose, “Not for now.”

Jun Xiaomo felt that her heart had been vacillating between pangs of intense joy and sorrow. It was as though her heart had been tossed straight up into the clouds, before landing harshly back down on the ground.

Jun Xiaomo smiled bitterly.

Tong Ruizhen patted Jun Xiaomo’s shoulder as he added, “You’re incredibly talented. Master firmly believes that you will soon become better than master at formation arrays and talismans. Even though master is unable to discover a way to enter the Death’s Gorge safely, this doesn’t mean that disciple won’t be able to do so. Disciple, you’ve got to be confident in your own abilities. Bring out that same unwavering determination that you had before.”

Jun Xiaomo was taken aback. The disappointment and sorrow in her eyes lingered for a little while longer, before they gradually began to dissipate. Within moments, her eyes were filled solely with a steadfast determination.

She nodded her head resolutely, “Thank you, master. Disciple will work hard at it!”

It was exactly like what she had just said – as long as there was a single strand of hope, no matter how tiny it might be, she would never let it go.

In some ways, this could be considered a fortuitous incident to mark the commencement of my relationship with my new master… 

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