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Chapter 285 - Cultivating the Dao Has Always Been Unpleasant
Both the inside and outside of the cave were silent. There was only the soft crackling of the miasma corroding the wutong tree, sounding just like tens of thousands of silkworms gnawing away at mulberry leaves. It made one's hair stand on end.
Xu Yourong was silent. The demons that had infiltrated the Garden of Zhou were her true enemies, and anyway, she did not believe that she could obtain victory over this peak level Ethereal Opening elder of the Setting Sun Sect. This was why she had offered to pay an equivalent price so that he would take his leave. If the elder had been worried about a reprisal from the Holy Maiden Peak, she had even been prepared to swear an oath upon her true Phoenix blood.
And yet she had not imagined that what her opponent wanted was her blood.
Whether it was the dossiers in the Li Palace or the information gathered by the Holy Maiden Peak, both the Orthodoxy's north and south had the same evaluation of this Setting Sun Sect elder: cruel and bloodthirsty. But the word 'bloodthirsty' here was a description of his temperament, rather than a perversion similar to those demons who enjoyed dining on the blood and flesh of humans. If this were the case, then the Li Palace and the Holy Maiden Peak would have no need to make an appearance. The Mount Li Sword Sect would have killed this man a long time ago.
She was somewhat confused, but when she remembered that the Setting Sun Sect's method of cultivation was related to earthfire, she grasped the general idea.
If this man wanted her true Phoenix blood, he naturally could not allow her to continue to live.
"Before I began to cultivate, I was a scholar of the south. My first aspiration in life was to pass the imperial exam, become an official, make money, and marry a beautiful wife. And yet… my lady has lived in Holy Maiden Peak for several years, so you should be familiar with those imperial courts of the south. In reality, they are nothing but puppets for the sects and aristocratic families. Even if I worked my way up to Prime Minister, I would still be a dog at the beck and call of the cultivators."
Bai Hai thought of those events of many years ago and said ruefully, "Only after bobbing about in the bureaucracy for many years did I finally understand this. Thus, I decided to cultivate, but I was old, and it would be difficult for me to cultivate the mysterious, orthodox method to its peak. So I decided to take a gamble and placed myself under the Setting Sun Sect. I could be considered to be rather fortunate. With my lofty scholarly erudition, I excelled at comprehension of the Dao. In the span of just twenty years, I cultivated my way to Ethereal Opening."
As the poisonous miasma slowly corroded the wutong tree, he stood outside the cave while Xu Yourong stood inside. They were close enough to see each other's faces, but they could not touch each other. Since he had time, he decided to reminisce about the past, which could also be considered a sort of explanation to his opponent.
"But it was only up to here," he said rather sadly. "It was impossible for me to take another step forward. The following hundred years of cultivation was just a waste of my life. I was unwilling to accept this. Clearly, I had enough wisdom and experience, and my diligence was not lacking in comparison to others, so why was I never able to break past Ethereal Opening? It couldn't be because of some ordinary reason like a lack of talent, right?"
Saying this, he looked at Xu Yourong behind the tree, barely concealing the anger and envy in his eyes. "But talent is not something that can be decided by oneself, it's something carelessly distributed by the heavens. For what reason are people like you blessed with such fine talent while people like me, no matter how hard we work, can never catch up to you? And exactly why were you allowed to reach the upper level of Ethereal Opening at just fifteen years old while I took more than a hundred years?"
"Later on, I finally found a unique method in the sect that would help me break through Ethereal Opening and cross the threshold into the next realm. It was just that the method's requirements were simply too onerous. It required fire crystals of the highest purity so that I could purify myself once more by exchanging my blood. But the sect's earthfire crystals had long ago been taken away by the martial ancestor and forged into a sword, and then the sword disappeared together with him. So where could I find these fire crystals? Could it be that I still had the ability to cross the sea and search those islands in the Southern Sea for Red Dragons? I bitterly searched the world for more than a decade, but I made no progress. Finally, I thought of a possibility."
Bai Hai inclined his body towards that distant plain and said, "The martial ancestor had died, and the earthfire crystals had disappeared along with his sword. Back then, he was on the verge of entering the Saint Realm, so who could kill him? Of course, the greatest possibility was Zhou Dufu. Then perhaps his sword had been left behind in the Garden of Zhou? Perhaps it lay in the legendary Sword Pool?"
"So this year when the Garden of Zhou opened, I entered without hesitation. Speaking truthfully, I saw the fireworks of warning fired by the Thirteen Divisions of Radiant Green, I even saw one of the human cultivators that had been poisoned to death, but so what? Nothing was more important than finding the martial ancestor's sword, only… I didn't manage to find even the trace of a sword. I couldn't even feel a hint of Qi from an earthfire crystal. I was in despair."
He turned back to Xu Yourong, and his eyes, muddy with age, seemed to gradually burn. "Yet in my moment of despair, I saw my lady open her wings of fire and fly off the peak of Sunset Valley. I knew that my lady was heavily injured, and so I knew that this was my best opportunity to break through, perhaps even my last opportunity!"
"What earthfire essence? My lady's true phoenix blood contains an even more berserk, even more blazing, even purer strength! If I could take my lady's blood, then I could definitely use that secret method and easily break past Ethereal Opening! If I'm successful in condensing fire, then I might even have an opportunity to enter the realm of Saints! For people like us, does my lady know how alluring it is?"
Bai Hai was growing increasingly excited and his voice was growing hoarse.
Xu Yourong looked at him and said, "I don't know."
Bai Hai stared blankly at her, then asked, "What did you say?"
"Cultivating into the next realm has always been very simple for me, like eating or drinking. From the moment I was born, it was already determined that I enter the realm of Saints, so…"
Xu Yourong calmly said, "It is impossible for me to understand your mind."
She said these words very indifferently.
So Bai Hai was filled with an incomparable fury, as well as intense disappointment.
If Chen Changsheng were awake at this moment, he would probably have understood the feelings of the Setting Sun Sect elder. It was not because he had experienced such feelings before, but because he was often like Xu Yourong, causing other people to experience these feelings—sincerely stating an objective fact, causing others to be absolutely baffled and even dumbfounded.
Tang Thirty-Six, who had once gone through such an experience, had once given the following assessment: You and Xu Yourong are both people that make others speechless.
Bai Hai truly was speechless. After a moment, he furiously bellowed, "Talent? Heaven is unjust! In a little while when I suck you clean of your blood, your talent will be mine! Then I will correct this injustice!"
Xu Yourong understood his reason, so she paid him no more attention. She had no interest in the enraged but cultured bellows of a cold-blooded cultivator.
She walked over to Chen Changsheng's side and sat down. Crossing her legs, she began to steady her breathing. At some point, several extremely pure essence crystals had ended up in her hands.
In the Garden of Zhou, it was impossible to communicate with stars in the sky, so she could not sense her own Fated Star. Last night, she had used crystals to very laboriously gather up some true essence, but once again she was beginning to feel a lack of true essence.
This fact made her feel rather unpleasant. It was like how she did not care for Bai Hai's treachery and murderous intent; how she, as the next Holy Maiden, had rushed across the Garden of Zhou for two days and nights for the sake of humanity's future; how she had engaged in successive bloody battles with the Demon Princess; and now when she had finally entered into these desperate straits, she would die at the hands of a human cultivator. These facts together made her feel very unpleasant.
Separated by the leaves of the wutong tree, Bai Hai saw her brows slightly rise and guessed at what she was thinking. Teasing her, he said, "Do you think it's unfair?"
Xu Yourong was sitting down, her expression serene. Although she did not answer, it felt like she was saying, could it be that there is actually someone that would dare to say that this is fair?
"I know that you think that a human like me is cruel and selfish, treacherous and deceitful… but did you ever think that maybe there isn't much difference between the two of us? Do you really think you're a phoenix? Do you really think you are as pure and stainless as you imagine? Do you really think that you're a symbol of virtue?"
Bai Hai's elderly face carried a sense of contempt and disdain as he pointed at Chen Changsheng behind her. "Last night I saw you fly down from Sunset Valley, then I quietly chased after you. Although I didn't see how you managed to save that person, I'd imagine it was definitely in front of those demon experts. So then why is it that previously you were prepared to leave him behind in that patch of reeds? I didn't see what you were doing in the forest, but I'd imagine it was that oh-so-cliché mental struggle. But why did you struggle? Does the fact that no-one is looking have some sort of influence on you? Perhaps what you really care about isn't virtue and righteousness, but the opinions of others!"
These words were without a doubt extremely condemning.
This Setting Sun Sect elder did not know that not too long ago, the little Black Dragon girl had also given a similar evaluation of Xu Yourong.
Without a doubt, these words were extremely condemning, and very difficult to oppose.
Xu Yourong's expression was very calm, as if she had not even heard those words, as if she disdained to justify herself.
This sort of disdain was not a result of pretense from speechlessness, but rather that she really was not affected by those words.
She had never really cared about the opinions of others. She did not care what those demon experts thought, so she naturally did not care for what this shameless human cultivator thought either.
Contrarily, when she heard Bai Hai's words, she secretly sighed in relief.
Because those words had divulged a new piece of information: this person had not seen what she had done in the forest.
But in the end, being mocked and shamed by another person was still rather unpleasant.
She gazed behind her at Chen Changsheng, slightly creasing her brow as she thought to herself, if I didn't need to bring this person, I would have easily been able to escape last night. Even back at the cliff with Bai Hai, there were at least three ways I could have escaped, not at all like right now being trapped in this cave. In a little while, this man might even drink my blood…
From the moment her blood had awakened, she had occupied a very special position in the human world. Whether it was the Divine Empress or her teacher the Holy Maiden, they all doted on her. As for her fellow students of the Thirteen Divisions of Radiant Green or her fellow disciples of Holy Maiden Peak, or even all the cultivators of the world, when would they dare to show her the slightest lack of respect? And to actually think of drinking her blood?
This was also naturally a rather unpleasant affair.
She could not accept it.
She took out her Fated Star Plate and her fingers flew across it. Those complex lines incessantly fluctuated, forming even more complex designs.
"What's this? A Fate Plate?" Outside the cave, Bai Hai felt slightly uneasy at this scene.
Xu Yourong ignored him and continued her calculations.