Chapter 257: To the Proving Grounds

Demoness's Art of Vengeance

Jun Xiaomo had heard about the Proving Grounds in her previous life.

The Proving Grounds did not refer to a specific place in the cultivation world. Rather, it was something that was established by certain large sects or clans so that their own disciples could hone and develop their own skills through trials. Generally speaking, only the Sect’s core disciples would be granted access to these places. In her previous life, even though Jun Xiaomo had managed to gain entry to the Limitless Sect as Qin Lingyu’s fiancée, she never possessed the requisite qualities to gain access to the Limitless Sect’s Proving Grounds. Thus, to Jun Xiaomo, the Proving Grounds was something that she had only conceptually heard about, but it was not something that she had personally experienced.

Who would have thought that she would be given the opportunity to enter the Proving Grounds in this life, and so early at that?

That said, there was one thing that left Jun Xiaomo rather perplexed. Since their intention was to hide from the prying eyes of her pursuers, why would Tong Ruizhen send her to the Proving Grounds? Wouldn’t the Zephyr Sect’s Sect Leader, Sect Elders and Peakmasters also know about this place? Would she truly be able to hide from all of them?

But she very soon got her answer to all these questions.

“Do you see the valley in that mountain range? That’s the location of the Proving Grounds.” Tong Ruizhen stood at the edge of a mountain’s precipice as he pointed out the verdant and lush grounds in the distance to Jun Xiaomo.

Jun Xiaomo shut her eyes and drew a deep breath. She could immediately feel that the thick spiritual energy emanating from the bottom of the valleys. Furthermore, she could sense that there was a faint repulsion force that was preventing anyone from entering its domain.

This force felt strangely familiar to her. It was extremely similar to the force that was protecting the Zephyr Sect, except that this force was much more powerful.

There was no doubt about this – if not for the fact that Tong Ruizhen were going to personally take her in, she would most certainly have no means of even drawing close to these Proving Grounds.

“Come here. We’re way too high up right now, and we’ll need my Little Crane to bring us there.”

Tong Ruizhen’s “Little Crane” was none other than his pet that also doubled as his mount, the massive Heavenly Crane. Graaagh! The Heavenly Crane stretched out its neck and cried out in joy. It flapped its wings and landed directly in front of Tong Ruizhen and Jun Xiaomo, waiting obsequiously for them to climb onto its back.

Jun Xiaomo patted its head, before following Tong Ruizhen’s lead as she climbed onto its back.

As the Heavenly Crane gradually descended towards the valley, Jun Xiaomo felt a heavy pressure adhering to her body and weighing her down. This type of force seemed to pervade her entire body as it seeped through her pores, suffusing through her limbs, marrows and innards, engulfing her entire being.

Gradually, Jun Xiaomo felt more and more discomfort weighing on her body, and she began to lose her consciousness. At this point in time, she heard her master call out to her, seemingly from afar, “Xiaomo, circulate your energy to withstand the overbearing pressure.”

She did not have the latitude to breakdown the implications of what her master was saying. Instead, Jun Xiaomo simply did as she was told, circulating the true energy within her body, and she began to feel slightly better.

But slightly better was all she felt. Since Tong Ruizhen did not say that he was going to help her withstanding this overbearing force, she knew that she could only grit her teeth, shut her eyes, and do her best to overcome the pressure that was weighing down on her entire body and stifling her.

As time wore on, Jun Xiaomo found herself fueled by her sheer tenacity and willpower as she continued to withstand the pressure around her.

After what must have been ages, Jun Xiaomo finally felt the force on her body suddenly ease up, and the overbearing force finally disappeared completely. It was only at this moment that she began to regain her consciousness and rouse to her senses.

“This place is…” Jun Xiaomo opened her eyes and discovered that her surroundings had changed. The view of the valley from above was beautiful, and she had initially thought that the view from within the valley would hardly be too bad either. To her surprise, the valley was eerie and damp, and her surroundings were illuminated with innumerable Nightgleam Pearls that were floating about. The foliage above was so dense that not a single ray of sunlight penetrated the lands, and these Nightgleam Pearls that floated about aimlessly in absolute darkness looked almost like listless souls that were drifting about.

“This is the entrance to the Proving Grounds. Back then, my grandmaster took great pains to find such a well-concealed spot to act as the entrance of his Proving Grounds.” Tong Ruizhen declared with pride and honour.

It had to be said that Tong Ruizhen would invariably look just as pleased and honored when talking about his grandmaster. Jun Xiaomo had grown used to his antics by now.

“Oh yes, I haven’t congratulated little disciple for successfully clearing my grandmaster’s preliminary test!” Tong Ruizhen patted Jun Xiaomo’s shoulders in delight as he quipped.

“Great grandmaster’s preliminary test? How come I didn’t even know I was tested?” Jun Xiaomo’s eyes widened in shock.

“It was that overbearing force that I’d asked you to circulate your energy to withstand.”

“Overbearing force? Great grandmaster’s test is to use an overbearing force to put pressure on us?” Jun Xiaomo found it rather hard to believe.

“Then, what did little disciple think it was?”

“That…” Jun Xiaomo found herself at a loss for words. After pouting for a little while, she added, “I had thought that it would be a little bit more difficult than that.”

Tong Ruizhen snorted, “Don’t underestimate the overbearing pressure! The number of people who can successfully clear it is less than one in a hundred! Besides, do you really dare say that it was easy? Disciple has been unconscious for a whole three days and nights!”

As Tong Ruizhen spoke, his voice was increasingly filled with some measure of exasperation and resentment towards Jun Xiaomo, as though Jun Xiaomo had failed to meet his expectations by remaining unconscious for too long a time.

Naturally, Tong Ruizhen was not going to reveal to Jun Xiaomo the fact that he had fainted for five whole days and nights when he first entered these Proving Grounds years ago.


Alright – even Jun Xiaomo was unaware that she had been unconscious for such a long time.

“What would’ve happened if I fail to clear the preliminary test?” Jun Xiaomo thought about it for a moment, before asking out of curiosity.

“If you’re lucky, you might regain your senses after a period of unconsciousness. If not, there’s a chance that your soul might sustain some trauma.” Tong Ruizhen stroked his beard as he quipped nonchalantly.

Jun Xiaomo: …… Is this really just a “test”?! It sounds rather savage!

Jun Xiaomo’s expressions were written all over her face, and Tong Ruizhen could immediately tell what she was thinking. He coughed twice dryly as he added, “Master had faith in your talent and knew that there was no way you wouldn’t be able to withstand the overbearing pressure that my grandmaster had set up on the formation array. This was why master had decided to bring you here to begin with.”

Jun Xiaomo grew even more speechless – she didn’t know whether she should thank her master for having faith and confidence in her, or whether she should thank her lucky stars that she had not become disabled as a result of the overbearing pressure instated in these lands by a great grandmaster whom she had never met.

After thinking about it for some time, she decided to dismiss these thoughts of hers. After all, she had already cleared the first hurdle without a hitch, and there was no reason for her to pursue this matter any further.

She looked at the dark and soulless entrance to the Proving Grounds as she changed the topic, “Master, you must have brought me here to hide out from those who are after our lives because of the overbearing pressure from great grandmaster’s formation array, right?”

Truth be told, the dark and soulless entrance to the Proving Grounds did not give her a good feeling about this place.

As expected, Tong Ruizhen glared at her as he barked back, “Whoever said that we’re here for the purposes of hiding out?!”

“Hah--?!” Jun Xiaomo was taken aback – Aren’t we here because there are people from the Zephyr Sect and the Greenwich Kingdom after us?

Tong Ruizhen snorted once more as he retorted, “If we’re truly simply hiding out, master could’ve simply set you up in a separate location and set up a few formation arrays around you, and the problem would already have been solved. Why would I have to go through all this hassle?”

“Then, master’s intention for bringing me here is…”

“Don’t you remember the name of this place? This is the Proving Grounds! The Proving Grounds!” Tong Ruizhen stared at Jun Xiaomo with some measure of disbelief, “The Proving Grounds are used for cultivation and refinement. Do you think it’s suitable to be used as a mere hideout?! Gosh! Such treasures are wasted on you!”

Tong Ruizhen gave Jun Xiaomo another glare, as though she were completely hopeless, and Jun Xiaomo rubbed her nose helplessly.

Alright – she had sincerely thought that her master had brought her here to simply hide out for a period of time until the chaos back at the Zephyr Sect died down.

“But should I really be entering the Proving Grounds under such circumstances? Would it be appropriate?” Jun Xiaomo raised her concerns to her master. She was afraid that if these people were unable to locate her, they would bring the trouble directly to her parents and her martial brothers.

Furthermore, it was not as though the Zephyr Sect’s Sect Leader, Sect Elders and Peakmasters were unaware of the location of the entrance of the Proving Ground, and one could not discount the fact that they might take their search for her into the Proving Ground.

Jun Xiaomo truly wore her heart on her sleeves, and Tong Ruizhen immediately knew the considerations of her heart with one glance at her expressions.

“Don’t worry. With master around, nobody would be able to harm your parents and your dear martial brothers from your Peak, unless they want to risk master dispersing and deactivating all of the Sect’s protective formation arrays in this area. Hmph!” Tong Ruizhen declared with some gusto to his voice. “You, on the other hand, can rest assured and work at refining and cultivating within the Proving Grounds. Don’t come out until the time is ripe.”

“That…what would be considered the ‘ripe time’?” Jun Xiaomo latched onto the crux of the matter in Tong Ruizhen’s last statement.

“About that…the time is ripe when you’ve unlocked the secrets of the Proving Grounds and become its new master. That would be considered the ‘ripe time’.”

It was a good thing that Jun Xiaomo was not drinking water right now. She would most certainly have spat it out in shock.

“Become the Proving Grounds’ new master?!” Jun Xiaomo’s eyes widened so much that her eyeballs were nearly falling out of their sockets. She had guessed the earlier requirement of unlocking the secrets of the Proving Grounds, but she would never have guessed Tong Ruizhen’s other requirement for her.

Did this not mean that she was going to inherit the ownership of the Zephyr Sect’s Proving Grounds? But could she really do this? Would the bunch of Sect Elders and Peakmasters from the Zephyr Sect not do anything to interrupt her efforts?!

Tong Ruizhen rolled his eyes at Jun Xiaomo, “These Proving Grounds have always belonged to us to begin with…Hang on. Did you actually think that these Proving Grounds belonged to the Zephyr Sect?”

“What else could it be? It can’t be a personal Proving Ground, can it?” Jun Xiaomo looked at Tong Ruizhen suspiciously.

“It’s not technically considered a personal Proving Ground, but it’s pretty close.” Tong Ruizhen nodded his head. Without waiting for Jun Xiaomo to express her incredulity at this breaking news, he continued to snort and add, “Zephyr Sect has its own Proving Grounds as well. But their Proving Grounds can hardly be compared with these Proving Grounds. This is something that was personally constructed by my grandmaster, and its most suitable for developing budding array masters. I wouldn’t want this place tarnished and tainted by those prideful and arrogant spellmasters.”

“Oh…” Jun Xiaomo didn’t know what else she could say. If a single person could create an entire Proving Grounds, it truly spoke volumes about her great grandmaster’s abilities.

Tong Ruizhen sighed once more, before he added with some regret, “If not for his establishment of this Proving Grounds, grandmaster would not have depleted so much energy, and he would not have failed to breach the bottleneck to Transcendence and perished.”

“So it turns out that great grandmaster is no longer around…” Jun Xiaomo suddenly found herself rather remorseful at the thought of his sacrifice, and her heart turned sullen.

Master’s grandmaster must have been very concerned about the development of competent array masters. After all, he must have devoted an incredible amount of time and effort to establish such a massive Proving Grounds that’s even sequestered and protected by so many formidable formation arrays.

It was a pity that she did not have the fortune of meeting this highly respectable great grandmaster of hers.

“Alright, there’s no reason to make such a sorry expression on your face. Grandmaster had already anticipated that he would fail in his attempt to breach the bottleneck of Transcendence. He’d lived for over ten-thousand years, and he’s had a good run. Success in attaining Transcendence might have been great, but there’s no reason to be sorry or remorseful even if he’s failed.”

“Great grandmaster has had really good intentions.” Jun Xiaomo exclaimed.

“But of course. That’s apparent if you look at whose grandmaster it is.” Tong Ruizhen puffed up his chest as he proudly stroked his own beard.

Jun Xiaomo: …… She just knew that her master would give her such a reaction.

“Oh yes, once disciple enters the Proving Grounds, your master will stand outside the grounds and activate its formation array. The Proving Grounds uses an Epoch Stone at the heart of its formation array, and the ratio of time on the inside to the time on the outside is 30:1. Therefore, you don’t have to be too worried if you spend an exceedingly long time on the inside. With the Epoch Stone around, it would be fine even if you spend several hundred years on the inside.”

“An Epoch Stone?!” Jun Xiaomo was once again flabbergasted.

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