Chapter 264: Trapped in a Strange Land

Demoness's Art of Vengeance

It’s here again. It’s that watchful gaze again…

Ye Xiuwen furrowed his brows as he glanced around. Yet apart from Qin Shanshan’s entourage and the wilderness on all four sides, nothing else could be seen.

This was the tenth day that Ye Xiuwen had been travelling together with Qin Shanshan, but ever since the fourth day began, Ye Xiuwen had discovered a peculiar, discreet gaze watching them from afar.

Ye Xiuwen’s cultivation had improved by leaps and bounds while he was within the depths of the Death’s Gorge. The density of spiritual energy within the Death’s Gorge was incredibly thick. In fact, the density in those grounds was almost a thousand times thicker than the density of spiritual energy within some of the best lands for cultivation on the surface. Furthermore, Ye Xiuwen’s talent for cultivation had been pretty good to begin with. Thus, Ye Xiuwen had experienced an explosive transformation over the years he was stuck within the Death’s Gorge.

Right now, Ye Xiuwen had already attained the Nascent Soul stage of cultivation, and the sensitivity of his five senses far exceeded Qin Shanshan and the others who were only in the Qi Mastery stage of cultivation. Thus, what Ye Xiuwen had picked up on might not necessarily have been similarly noticed by Qin Shanshan.

And this was the reality as well – Qin Shanshan and the others had failed to notice the gaze that was trained on their entourage. At the same time, Ye Xiuwen did not intend to alert the group to this either.

Rather, he was merely curious who the owner of this gaze was. After all, every time he released his divine sense to probe about at his surroundings with the hope of uncovering the owner of this gaze, the gaze would mysteriously vanish into thin air. No matter what he did, he would never be able to discover the existence of that person watching them.

This meant one of two possibilities. The first possibility was that the owner of the gaze possessed a stronger cultivation level than he did, while the other possibility was that the owner of the gaze had applied on himself a high-level Invisibility Talisman that had the ability to conceal both their aura and appearances.

Ye Xiuwen was once again reminded of how his little martial sister loved to use Invisibility Talismans, and his heart once again swelled up with a stifling sense of frustration. There was still a tiny strand of hope left within his heart, and he clung fervently and furiously to this. He sincerely hoped that Jun Xiaomo was still alive and well. He Sincerely hoped that the bad news from Qin Shanshan’s mouth was merely the result of news that had taken on a different shape and meaning after several iterations of spreading from person to person.

But the present state of affairs told Ye Xiuwen that the odds of Jun Xiaomo’s survival was truly miniscule. If she were not dead, there would have been no reason for Rong Ruihan to have invaded the Greenwich Kingdom and surrounded its capital in a fit of anger. If Jun Xiaomo were not dead, Jun Linxuan would never have been so fraught with grief to the extent that he would neglect the dangers and threats around him and allow the scheming ones to take advantage of the situation.

At the very least, news of Jun Xiaomo’s “death” was a ubiquitous one. This was something that Ye Xiuwen could not deny no matter how much he wanted to do so.

“I can’t go on anymore! Didn’t you all say that we’d see signs of human habitation after one day? Why are we still surrounded by wilderness on all four sides?! Do we really have to spend the night in the wilderness again?!” Qin Shanshan bellowed as she berated the Dawn Sect disciple beside her with raging fury in her eyes.

Previously, she had always travelled on her mount, the Hellfire Lion, while her other martial brothers ran along and followed her. At that time, she hardly felt weary or tired at all, and she even found travelling in the outdoors a rather enjoyable thing.

But now that her Hellfire Lion had been incapacitated by Ye Xiuwen, and she had stored it back into its cage, she was left with no choice but to make the rest of the journey on foot. Thus, it had only just dawned on her how tiring travelling out of the Sect truly was.

She longed to find a town, a county, a village or just any place with human habitation so that she could get a nice bath and have a good night’s sleep. She was at her limits right now. She could no longer bear with the prospects of sleeping under the stars and eating in the wilderness, and her frustrations in this regard had long overtaken and displaced any of her efforts to worm her way into Ye Xiuwen’s good books.

“This…our earlier estimations might have been a mistake…it should have been tomorrow. That’s right, we should see signs of human habitation tomorrow.” The disciple that was singled out and given a dressing down by Qin Shanshan looked sheepishly at Qin Shanshan’s intense, furious gaze as he swore on his new estimation.

The truth of the matter was that everyone had been involved in the earlier estimation of where human habitation might have been. Unfortunately, he was the one who had been arbitrarily singled out by Qin Shanshan, and he could only swallow the bitter pill as he took the flak for everyone around.

Qin Shanshan cast a suspicious look at him, before gritting her teeth and barking back, “You’d better not be lying to me this time! How could you even get these things wrong?! You’re completely useless!”

The Dawn Sect disciple was so angry that he didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. If he were truly that “useless”, then why did Qin Shanshan have to ask him these questions to begin with? Why couldn’t she make her own estimations?

She relies on others; and yet she calls others useless. I’ve had it with this woman! If not for the existence of her brother…

As soon as Qin Lingyu came into the equation for his considerations, the infuriated Dawn Sect disciple mustered all of his strength to swallow the words that he was just about to blurt out.

Regrettably, he knew that she had a backer that stood far taller and higher than any of them could ever fathom, and he could do nothing against that.

The other Dawn Sect disciples felt sympathetic towards the disciple who had just been berated. However, they knew better than to express their sympathy in front of Qin Shanshan, because they knew that doing so would do nothing more than to draw the flak directly to themselves.

The path that they were on right now was something that they had taken on the way out of the Sect as well. After some calculations, they concluded that they would be able to leave this part of the wilderness behind by tomorrow, at the very latest.

However, reality proved them wrong. The next day, and the next, and the fourth day after that, and then the fifth day…after a whopping ten days, the entourage found that they were not able to leave the vicinity of this part of the wilderness, and their surroundings had become incredibly familiar to them.

Even though they had done nothing more than to forge ahead on the road straight ahead of them, it was evident that they had not been able to leave the vicinity of this part of the wilderness. They had essentially been making circles around the area.

“This…what the hell is going on?! We’d taken this exact same route on the way to the Mystic Woods, but we’d never encountered anything like this…” One of the bolder Dawn Sect disciples stammered.

Everyone grew taciturn at his remark. No one was able to give a proper response to his exclamation.

The tension in the air weighed down and stifled everyone’s heart. They glanced around at their surroundings once more. They had come across these parts so many times over the last ten days that they could even tell where each tree, each stone, and even pebble would be!

The realization made a wave of horror and dread wash over all the disciples.

The mortals believed in ghosts and spirits, and they constantly told stories of the supernatural, while the cultivation world had always treated these stories with some measure of contempt and disdain. This was because they felt that the “ghosts” that the mortals talked about were far too benign in what they did, and they firmly believed that these “ghosts” could never harm cultivators.

But now, these inexperienced Dawn Sect disciples couldn’t help but think about the mortals that they had always been mocking and laughing about, and they began to find goosebumps creeping up all over their skin.

We’ve not encountered such…unnatural things, have we?

A few of the disciples shuddered in fear. A gentle breeze swept by, and all the disciples began to huddle close together, as though that would give them a better sense of security.

On the other hand, Ye Xiuwen was hardly as terrified as the other disciples. From his experience, there were simply too many things that could give rise to such an illusion. And besides, even if there were “ghosts” around, these “ghosts” would be nothing more than the spirits of human beings, and they could never be as fearsome and terrifying as the spirit beasts and demonic creatures he had encountered in the depths of the Death’s Gorge.

Ye Xiuwen recalled the peculiar gaze that would appear from time to time over the last few days. If this illusion were indeed caused by man, then it would most definitely have been something set up by the owner of that gaze, right?

Ye Xiuwen’s calmness and steadfastness stood out amidst a group of shuddering and shivering Dawn Sect disciples. Everyone began to see him as the stoic and rational person in the group, and they began to look up to him as the decision maker.

“Brother Jun, do you think…what do you think we should do?” The Dawn Sect disciple who had earlier been berated by Qin Shanshan minced over to Ye Xiuwen’s side and grabbed hold of his right hand as he asked.

Everyone’s eyes were trained on Ye Xiuwen, as though he were their only hope in the circumstances.

Ye Xiuwen deliberated for a moment, before suggesting, “Let’s take a break for now, then. We’ll continue on our way once we find a way out of this place.”

Everyone found Ye Xiuwen’s suggestion to be rather reasonable, except Qin Shanshan. She immediately rejected the notion of remaining here any longer as she shrieked, “Why should we stop here?! How long do we have to stop in this ghastly place for?!”

Ye Xiuwen glanced at her before coldly remarking, “If you can find a means of exiting this place right now, I’ve no issues with departing and leaving right this moment. And if you disagree with what I’m saying, you can always leave this place first, and anyone who wants to follow you can follow you as well. It doesn’t concern me at all.”

Ever since getting to know Ye Xiuwen, this was the first time that Qin Shanshan had seen such a cold side to him. Qin Shanshan shuddered when Ye Xiuwen’s cold gaze swept across her body.

It suddenly dawned on her that it might be far harder to win Ye Xiuwen’s heart than she had earlier thought. It’s a pity I don’t have any dirt on him that I could use. Otherwise…

The Dawn Sect disciples were evidently not willing to leave this place with Qin Shanshan, and they all began to gravitate towards Ye Xiuwen’s side until there was approximately only an arm’s length between them.

Everyone knew that Ye Xiuwen hated it when people got too close to him, so they all made a conscious effort to keep a reasonable distance from him so as not to offend the only person who might be able to extricate them from their current predicament.

Thus, the Dawn Sect disciples had undoubtedly made their intentions clear in a tacit manner – no matter what, they would never leave this place with Qin Shanshan. If Qin Shanshan wished to court death itself, she could do it alone. They were not interested in joining her.

Qin Shanshan was completely incensed and vexed. She was vexed that Ye Xiuwen had not left her any room to back off gracefully when he berated her earlier; and she was incensed that her martial brothers were all standing on Ye Xiuwen’s side rather than hers.

Under the confluence of these two factors, Qin Shanshan felt that her pride had been trampled thoroughly on the ground. Thus, her rage immediately burgeoned and surged from the depths of her heart.

“So be it – I’ll leave! Bunch of cowards! You all just wait and see when I manage to leave this place!” As she barked, Qin Shanshan swept a gaze of indignation across all of the other Dawn Sect disciples. She no longer gave Ye Xiuwen any impassioned gaze either. Instead, she simply snorted coldly, turned around, and began to make her way down the path that they had trodden so many times.

The other disciples watched on as Qin Shanshan’s silhouette grew gradually smaller and smaller, and one of the Dawn Sect disciples couldn’t help but look at his martial brothers worriedly, “Are we really going to let her go alone? What if she meets with an accident? How are we going to account to her brother, then?”

“I’ve had enough. If you want to go after her, you can go alone. I don’t wish to serve that lady who’s no better than a cantankerous old ancestor any longer. Who does she think she is? If not for the fact that her brother is martial brother Qin, she’s just a nobody. Her cultivation level is the result of the innumerable pills, medicines and herbs that martial brother Qin had showered upon her; and the Hellfire Lion was something that martial brother Qin had subjugated on her behalf. Do you think there’s a single person in the Dawn Sect who would treat her the way they do if not on account for martial brother Qin? That said, we give her an inch of indulgence, and she tries to take a mile. The team leader on these travels was martial brother Chen to begin with, yet she usurped the leadership and ended up barking orders to everyone. Can you stand what she’s doing anymore? I most certainly can’t.”

Several other Dawn Sect disciples were of the same mind as well. They could no longer be bothered to serve their “little ancestor”, Qin Shanshan. Besides, Qin Shanshan might not necessarily encounter any danger. At best, she would most probably return to the rest of them after encountering some trouble on her own.

“That’s true. Then, I’m not going either.” The Dawn Sect disciple who had earlier suggested to follow Qin Shanshan shook his head, and like the rest, they all sat down, retrieved some of their dry rations and began to munch at them as they spaced out.

All this while, Ye Xiuwen sat with his legs crossed and his eyes closed, and nobody knew exactly what was on his mind. The other disciples wanted very much to know how confident he was in leaving this part of the wilderness, but Ye Xiuwen’s cold and distant disposition made all of them hesitate to approach him.

The most important consideration on their minds right now was the fact that they did not want to offend Ye Xiuwen. After all, “Jun Ziwen” was nothing more than an acquaintance to them, and there was no obligation on his part to take them safely out of this place either.

Just as they began to think that Ye Xiuwen was going to remain seated with his eyes closed for a long time, Ye Xiuwen suddenly opened his eyes and gazed into the distant with a bright gleam in his eyes.

Several disciples who were discreetly casting glances at Ye Xiuwen were taken aback by his sudden movement.

“Something might have happened.” Ye Xiuwen calmly stated, and not a single ripple could be seen in the depths of his eyes.

As though affirming his suspicions, a loud, shrill shriek suddenly rang out from afar. The shriek was laced with surprise, shock and fear.

The tang in the shriek was not unfamiliar to them – who else’s voice could it be apart from Qin Shanshan?

The Dawn Sect disciples knew that they could dally no longer, and everyone immediately clambered to their feet and made haste towards the direction from which the shriek came. The last person to move was Ye Xiuwen.

He stood up and adjusted his clothing first, before he steadily made his way towards the source of the shriek as well.

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