Chapter 258: Tong Ruizhen, The Master Who Trips His Own Disciple

Demoness's Art of Vengeance

Artefacts such as the Epoch Stone were practically existences that were rarer than supreme grade spirit stones. Generally speaking, Epoch Stones would only appear when Grand Arcane Realms appeared. The Epoch Stones could best be put to use when they were inlaid in the heart of any formation arrays. These stones would enable its user to control the element of time. If they were put to good use, it could even reverse time for a person and bring a person back to life.

It was evident what kind of heaven-defying existence the Epoch Stone was.

That said, the Epoch Stone was no more than a myth to most people. After all, it was nigh impossible to lay hands on an Epoch Stone. In the first place, the appearance of Arcane Realms was entirely up to chance and fate in terms of both time and location, and one would have to be fortunate enough to stumble upon such an incredible opportunity. Then, to make matters worse, the Epoch Stone looked extremely ordinary in its appearance – in fact, Jun Xiaomo had serendipitously stumbled upon several drawings and paintings of Epoch Stones, yet…

She was absolutely unable to distinguish an Epoch Stone from any other ordinary stone or pebble on the ground.

With hardly any distinguishing factors, how was a person to go about looking for an Epoch Stone to begin with?

Naturally, there were several people who had managed to chance upon and obtain the Epoch Stone. However, historical texts recorded that each of these owners of Epoch Stones had invariably met with a tragic outcome simply because the number of people who were willing to do anything to get their hands on the Epoch Stones were innumerable, and bloodbaths generally ensued shortly after the appearance of an Epoch Stone.

In her previous life, Jun Xiaomo had never seen the fabled Epoch Stone nor heard of anyone actually putting to use such Epoch Stones. How could she have expected to come in contact with such a fabled existence in her present life?

Tong Ruizhen rapped Jun Xiaomo’s head as he cautioned, “Don’t you dare harbour any thoughts about the Epoch Stone. You won’t be able to remove the Epoch Stone even after you’ve become the master of the Proving Grounds. If you dare to even try, you’ll only be faced with the wrath of my grandmaster’s punishment.”

Jun Xiaomo rubbed the part of her head that Tong Ruizhen had rapped as she murmured, “Master, you really do lack confidence in my character, huh…”

Tong Ruizhen snorted, “Master was just reminding you.”

“Alright, alright.” Jun Xiaomo knew that no matter how much she said, there was no way she could outtalk the stubborn and impish master of hers. Thus, she simply made a surrendering gesture. “That said, great grandmaster sure is extravagant to use the Epoch Stone as the eye of the Proving Ground’s formation array.” Jun Xiaomo exclaimed. She now had a new perspective and a deeper understanding of her great grandmaster’s selfless character.

If it were anyone else who had obtained the Epoch Stone, they would most certainly have kept it for their own use. After all, having such a heaven-defying existence with them was tantamount to gaining an additional life.

Tong Ruizhen nodded his head, and a look of reminiscence flashed across his eyes as he quipped, “That’s right, grandmaster had always been like that…”

But his immersion in his own memories was but for a fleeting moment. In the blink of an eye, Tong Ruizhen pulled himself back to reality and patted Jun Xiaomo’s shoulder, "Alright, master’s already told you most of what you need to know about the Proving Grounds. Time is of the essence. You’d best enter and make full use of the time inside.”

As he finished speaking, Tong Ruizhen began to nudge Jun Xiaomo towards the entrance of the Proving Grounds.

“Eh…hang on…” As Tong Ruizhen pushed her towards the entrance of the Proving Grounds, Jun Xiaomo did her best to turn back and ask, “Master, have you entered these Proving Grounds before?”

“Of course I’ve experienced the Proving Grounds before! Your master is the Proving Grounds’ current owner after all!” Tong Ruizhen glared at Jun Xiaomo, “Do you think you can become the owner of the Proving Grounds without going through the Proving Grounds?”

“Then how long did master spend inside before he cleared the Proving Grounds?” Jun Xiaomo asked with some measure of exasperation on her face.

“About…five hundred years? I can’t really remember anymore…” Tong Ruizhen stroked his beard as he thought for a moment before he responded.

“Five…five hundred years?!!!” Jun Xiaomo eyes widened so much that her eyeballs nearly fell out of their sockets. If her master needed five hundred years to clear the Proving Grounds, then wouldn’t such a young sprout like her at only the seventh level of Qi Mastery need at least a thousand years inside before she would be able to clear the Proving Grounds?!

Even if she had the patience to wait out an entire thousand years, the Heavenly Peak did not have such luxury of time! Who knows what those ambitious and covetous wolves would do to the Heavenly Peak in the meantime while she was inside the Proving Grounds?!

“Wait…wait a minute, master. Could disciple not go into the Proving Grounds?” Jun Xiaomo scrunched up her face as she responded.

“Of course not! Do you think I’d let just any other person enter these grounds? Your master has taught tens of disciples to date, and you’re the first one who’s actually been given the privilege of entering these Proving Grounds. What are you complaining about?!” Tong Ruizhen glared at Jun Xiaomo with some measure of resentment, as though Jun Xiaomo didn’t know what was best for her.

The truth of the matter was that only the disciple which Tong Ruizhen recognized as a potential successor to his legacy could ever be allowed to enter the Proving Grounds for training. Apart from the innumerable formation arrays hidden within, there were also spirit beasts and demonic beasts of all shapes and sizes in the Proving Grounds. These existences were all able to stimulate the hidden potential of any disciple within the Proving Grounds, and it was precisely also for this reason that Jun Xiaomo’s great grandmaster had painstakingly established such a Proving Ground.

Even though most array masters strived to excel in their craft, their devotion to their mastery in formation arrays invariably entailed a commensurate trade off in their personal cultivation levels. This meant that their eventual survival was dependent on a reliance on others or allegiance to a faction. Jun Xiaomo’s great grandmaster had already noticed such an issue with mastering the discipline of formation arrays, and he thus resolved to devise a way to develop his disciples’ skills holistically without sacrificing one aspect of their abilities for the other. The Proving Grounds which he established was naturally his solution to the problem, and it represented the eternal legacy which he had left behind.

When Jun Xiaomo’s great grandmaster perished, the ownership of the Proving Grounds was handed over to Tong Ruizhen’s master. In turn, when Tong Ruizhen’s master decided that he was going to dust his hands and leave the cultivation world behind him, he handed over possession of the Proving Grounds to Tong Ruizhen.

The truth of the matter was that Tong Ruizhen had already decided to hand over the ownership of the Proving Grounds to Jun Xiaomo in due time. He had presently only brought forward this matter as a result of Princess Linglong’s overbearing attitude in forcing their hands.

“Disciple isn’t complaining…” Jun Xiaomo rubbed her nose sheepishly as she explained, “It’s just that…disciple still has a number of affairs to attend with, and she has no means of devoting her entire heart and soul towards her cultivation and mastery of formation arrays at this point. Besides, the period of time involved is rather long…”

“Affairs, schmaffairs. You’re such a young little girl – what kind of affairs do you have to deal with so urgently?!” Tong Ruizhen snorted, “As for the period of time involved, cultivation is an arduous, lifelong process to begin with. Are you afraid that you’ll have become a wrinkled old lady by the time you manage to leave the Proving Grounds? Besides, the ratio of time in there is 30:1 – spending thirty years within he Proving Grounds means you’ll only have spent one year outside! What have you got to be worried about?!”

Things were indeed as Tong Ruizhen had explained. Even if Jun Xiaomo spent a whopping five hundred years within the Proving Grounds, the powers of the Epoch Stone necessarily meant that only seventeen years of time would have lapsed by the time Jun Xiaomo stepped out of the Proving Grounds.

“But, I’m worried about by parents and my martial brothers from the Heavenly Peak…” Jun Xiaomo sounded her concerns out to Tong Ruizhen.

“So that’s what you’re worried about…” Tong Ruizhen stroked his beard meaningfully.

“Master knows about this matter?” Jun Xiaomo clarified with some measure of astonishment. She had never expected her master to bother with such matters of hers.

“Since I’d decided to accept you as my disciple, I naturally would have to do my research and learn of your environment and circumstances. A person is nurtured by his environment after all. Doing so would give me a glimpse into your character and personality.” Tong Ruizhen glanced at Jun Xiaomo before slightly snorting, “Alright, master understands. Master guarantees that for as long as you remain within the Proving Grounds, your family will not come to any harm. Will this do?”

“Master…” Jun Xiaomo’s heart was suddenly awash with a warm and fuzzy sensation. The truth of the matter was that entering the Proving Grounds was something that brought only immense benefits, and it was hardly detrimental to her at all. If anyone else were in her shoes, they would already have leapt at the opportunity and jumped straight into the Proving Grounds at the earliest possible time. Nobody would have rejected the opportunity or even hesitated like Jun Xiaomo did. In fact, what was most incredulous in the circumstances was how Tong Ruizhen kept his cool throughout Jun Xiaomo’s complaints, and he even agreed to deal with the causes for her concerns for her.

Since her master was willing to go this far for her own good, she would have to be an ignorant buffoon if she still decided not to accept Tong Ruizhen’s plans for her.

Thus, after batting her eyelids and wiping off the tears that were in her eyes, she nodded her head vigorously as she declared her resolve, “Disciple understands. Disciple will not let master down.”

“That’s the spirit. Besides, the stronger you become, the more likely you’ll be able to obtain the abilities to protect those who are close to you, isn’t it?” Tong Ruizhen patted Jun Xiaomo’s shoulder encouragingly. He was pleased with his disciple’s spiritedness and the resolute look on her face.

Jun Xiaomo understood this principle as well, and she returned a grateful smile to Tong Ruizhen.

“That’s right, master, I’d like to inform my family and friends about this matter so that they wouldn’t be worried about me.” Jun Xiaomo made one last request.

“Cough…this…grandmaster has always been meticulous about keeping the location of these Proving Grounds well-concealed to the rest of the world, and the result of this is that Messenger Paper Cranes aren’t able to leave this district. Transmittance Talismans don’t work either.” Tong Ruizhen coughed dryly as he explained.

In his hurry to bring his disciple over to these Proving Grounds, it had completely slipped his mind that his disciple still had a bunch of family and friends that she was extremely close to. She was unlike him who had hardly any relational attachments to the rest of the world.

Seems like I’ll have to make a few trips and act in place of a Messenger Paper Crane this time. Tong Ruizhen rubbed his nose as he thought to himself.

“That…Disciple, if you’ve got anything you wish to relay to your family and friends, you can pen your letters here and hand them to me. Once I head back out, I’ll contact them on your behalf. Will this do?” Tong Ruizhen felt a little bit guilty in his heart for skimming over such an important detail, so he put a cajoling smile on his face as he asked Jun Xiaomo.

Naturally, with the sheer number of wrinkles on his face, it was rather difficult to see that his smile was a cajoling one.

“I guess this is the only way.” Jun Xiaomo sighed. She could tell that it was going to be difficult for her to leave this place, especially when she was only at the seventh level of Qi Mastery.

Time was of the essence, and the earlier she could complete her training within the Proving Grounds, the earlier she could leave this place. Jun Xiaomo was resolved not to dally any longer.

Thus, she suppressed her longing feeling for her family and friends and began to pen down a few letters. The contents of her letter were similar. They all reassured her family and friends not to worry, since she was living well in the Zephyr Sect, and they also informed everyone that she was about to enter the Proving Grounds, and it may be a few years before they would hear from her again. As for the other little conflicts that had occurred within the Zephyr Sect, she chose to omit them.

The main point of these letters was so that her family and friends could have a peace of mind after all.

After penning down her letters, she folded them up and handed them to Tong Ruizhen and told her that one letter was for her parents, one was for her martial brothers in the Heavenly Peak, and one letter was for Rong Ruihan.

As for the little packrat and his family, Jun Xiaomo sincerely believed that Rong Ruihan would relay the message on her behalf.

Tong Ruizhen chuckled lightheartedly as he casually remarked, “Disciple’s letters are genuinely model letters that only reports the good and omits the bad.”

Jun Xiaomo chuckled as well, “Since I’m about to ‘vanish’ for such a long period of time, there’s no reason to make my family and friends worry for me either.”

“That’s true.” Tong Ruizhen nodded his head, “Alright, then disciple should get going as well. Oh, oh! That’s right, the heart of the formation array is in the middle of the entire Proving Grounds. You’ll have to make your way there and get the Epoch Stone to recognize you as its new master. That would do.”

“It’s that simple?” Jun Xiaomo raised her eyebrows.

“You’ll know that this is no mean feat once you enter. Don’t come crying to master for help at that time!” Tong Ruizhen glared at Jun Xiaomo.

Jun Xiaomo thought about it and felt that it was reasonable that the path was going to be rough and tough as well. After all, Tong Ruizhen had spent a whopping five hundred years within the Proving Grounds before he managed to succeed and leave its premises. The trials and tasks within must not be easy at all.

“Then, master, I’m going in.”

“Go on, then.” Tong Ruizhen waved his hands as though he were shooing a fly.

Jun Xiaomo didn’t say anymore. She walked towards the pitch-black hole that was the entrance and peered into it, and she noticed that it was impossible to see the end of it.

Jun Xiaomo drew a deep breath and thought to muster her courage boost her own morale.

In her previous life, Jun Xiaomo had lived most of her life on the run, travelling from place to place all alone. That said, she had experienced the warmth of living within a community with loved ones around her in this life once more. Now that she was entering the Proving Grounds, she knew that it was going to be yet another long period of time when she would be all alone again.

How upsetting! Are the heavens not willing to have people by my side? It’s like I’m fated and bound to live a life of solitude.

Just then, Tong Ruizhen suddenly hollered with gusto, “Disciple, you’ve got to come back alive!”

Jun Xiaomo was so startled by Tong Ruizhen’s sudden yell that her foot slipped, and she fell straight into the entrance hole without any warning. As she slipped through the narrow entrance, Tong Ruizhen’s voice echoed through the mouth of the hole –

“You’ve got to come back alive…”

“Got to come back alive…”

“Come back alive…”


Jun Xiaomo felt as though a swathe of blood were suddenly lodged in her throat.

Was there any master out there who would trip up their disciple like that?! At least give her a chance to prepare her heart!

But now, no matter what, Jun Xiaomo had no path for retreat any longer, and she continued to fall through the deep, dark hole.

As she thought about how her master’s parting words were for her to come back alive, Jun Xiaomo suddenly had a bad premonition in her heart.

And this premonition very quickly materialized.

As soon as Jun Xiaomo landed on the ground and her surroundings brightened up, she was immediately faced with a pair of bright yellow eyes. That pair of eyes were transfixed on Jun Xiaomo, while the owner of the pair of eyes had its mouth wide open, baring its long, gnarly fangs. Disgusting, gooey saliva dribbled from its mouth.

It was evident that the owner of that pair of eyes was hungry, and it believed Jun Xiaomo to be food that had descended from the heavens.

ROAR! It roared in fury as it lunged straight at Jun Xiaomo. Its eyes were filled with two words – I’m hungry!

Jun Xiaomo’s heart instantly constricted with dread –

I’m doomed…master, you’ve really tripped up your disciple and caused her to fall to her death.

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