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Chapter 256 - In the Pool, Sword Intent
The reason that the forest suddenly went quiet was not because the Heavenly Bestowal Sect expert's words had broken through the hearts of the crowd.
No one thought that Chen Changsheng used his treatment to secretly poison Sect Master Fei, because there was no logic behind this argument and no reason for such actions. Everyone knew that Chen Changsheng was doted upon by the Pope and supported by the Bureau of Ecclesiastic Education. At such a young age, he shocked the world by becoming the Principal of the Orthodox Academy. No matter how they looked at it, his future prospects were limitless. In comparison to these prospects, there was no benefit that could be obtained from the Garden of Zhou that would make him commit such an act.
The silence was because everyone there was very curious to know, in the face of such an ill-mannered accusation, how Chen Changsheng was going to react.
Chen Changsheng did not give a single response. The redness around that Heavenly Bestowal Sect expert's eyes, because of him rubbing the grief-stricken tears from his face, were all seen by Chen Changsheng.
Chen Changsheng and Zhexiu turned around and walked out of the forest. Senior Tong and Ye Xiaolian came over with their faces filled with concern.
Chen Changsheng gave them a short explanation of what had happened in the forest, then he and Zhexiu took their leave from the riverbank, once again entering the vast world that was the Garden of Zhou.
Not long after he left, Senior Tong and two other well-known cultivators took the rest of the cultivators, each of them supporting each other, to that garden where the gate was. In the procession, another stretcher had appeared. The dead body of Sect Master Fei lay upon it. From time to time, the sound of crying would arise from the riverbank.
Standing on a large rock atop a cliff and seeing the procession move down the river, Chen Changsheng felt somewhat more relaxed.
"Your method of dealing with things is wrong."
Zhexiu expressionlessly continued, "When a disagreement occurs in your group, regardless of what method you use, you must always suppress it. Following orders is a necessity if you want to continue to live."
Chen Changsheng did not reply. He turned and headed back into the dense forest.
As the search and treatment of cultivators progressed, more and more human cultivators were beginning to gather together, dividing into three gardens, all of which were communicating with each other. The problem was that the Garden of Zhou would not open in one day. Could it be that all these people would be content to stay put in these beautiful but treasureless gardens for the entire duration?
In the following two days, an even more frightening situation took place. One after another, several cultivators died in bizarre fashion. Regardless of who they were with, further investigation could find no motive. As time passed, the pressure on all the cultivators grew larger. Some would probably fall apart under the pressure, while others would become numb to it. However, an even greater number of cultivators would most likely leave the three gardens and enter the Garden of Zhou once more, in search of the magical artifacts and legacies that were incomparable treasures to cultivators. They were willing to brave these dangers because, in their eyes, to stay with their fellow humans was even more dangerous.
Indeed, many cultivators had begun to suspect that this was all the plot of the demons, but even now, they still could not believe that the demons were able to infiltrate the Garden of Zhou. It must be known that the gate to the garden was guarded by the Solitary Drunk under the Moon, Zhu Luo. It was also guarded by His Eminence Archbishop Mei Lisha as well all the priests of the Orthodoxy that specialized in identification. Even if it was the most enigmatic Demon Advisor Black Robe, he would still be incapable of mixing in the crowd and enter the Garden of Zhou.
Since the demons could not enter the Garden of Zhou, then the danger obviously came from humans... from amongst themselves.
Chen Changsheng dipped his legs into the chilly water of the river and let out a sigh of relief.
Over these past two days, he had pushed himself across a distance of approximately a thousand li. For someone like him, this was an incredibly bitter experience. His clothes were caked with dust and his appearance was one of complete exhaustion.
In comparison, Zhexiu cut a much more valiant figure. It was like this wolf youth had no idea what the word 'tired' meant.
As Chen Changsheng gazed at the small white fish swimming in the river, he said, "I still don't think that there's a traitor."
Zhexiu replied, "Four people have already died by poison. Since we've determined that there are no demons in the Garden of Zhou, the poisoner can only be traitor within our own ranks."
This was a very simple and clear conclusion.
Yet, Chen Changsheng found it very hard to accept.
This war of humans allied with the demi-humans against the demons was a war of extinction. It was very rare for either side to produce a traitor.
"Although the war still continues at the border of the snowy plain, for the majority of the people on the continent, the war ended many years ago. Many people have already forgotten the terror of the demons, and they have forgotten the genocidal war." Zhexiu coldly continued, "In the snowy plains, I met many deer people that acted as guides for the demons. For a traitor bribed by the demons to be amongst the cultivators that the entered the Garden of Zhou would not be unusual."
Chen Changsheng silently pondered this, then said, "The reason why I've never believed in the existence of a traitor is because right now, everyone is already beginning to suspect each other. I think that this sort of distrust is even more dangerous."
Zhexiu conceded that toying with the minds of humans had always been the most terrifying trait of demons.
The demons had no need to enter the Garden of Zhou. They only needed to cut off communication between the outside world and the Garden of Zhou. The traitor would fan the flames and commit some sinister acts, and then the human cultivators would be thrown into chaos.
This sequence of events had occurred many times throughout history.
Chen Changsheng continued, "The several hundred Ethereal Opening cultivators here are the future of humanity. Amongst them are many exceptional and powerful individuals. The demons can't have enticed that many traitors, so if these several hundred cultivators can not suspect each other, be wary of each other, or even confront each other; as long as their wills can remain united, the demons will never be able to succeed."
Zhexiu impassively said, "If this were so easy to accomplish, then you humans would have united this continent a long time ago."
Chen Changsheng remained silent.
In these past two days, especially today as he observed the Mountainside Whispering Wood, he had already confirmed that the wills of these several hundred cultivators had already dispersed.
He was the leader upon which the Li Palace had conferred a heavy responsibility, so he had a duty to take care of the Orthodoxy's northern sects. Gou Hanshi had entrusted his beloved juniors to him, which made that sense of duty weigh even heavier upon his heart.
Yet, if the will of the people had dispersed, how could he lead?
"As long as they're in the gardens, they shouldn't encounter any problems. All the people that have been poisoned died in the mountains and fields, so we don't need to worry about the people in the gardens. The first priority should be to quickly find the other people that are still outside."
Chen Changsheng took his feet out of the water and stood, soaking wet, on a rock. Staring off into the horizon, he could faintly see the other two sets of foothills.
He had already counted up the cultivators that had been found and gathered in the gardens. From the original number of cultivators that had entered the Garden of Zhou, he was still missing one hundred.
"There are some people that don't want to be found by you. What then?"
Zhexiu expressionlessly continued, "Like Liang Xiaoxiao and Qi Jian, Zhuang Huanyu, as well as the other upper level Ethereal Opening cultivators from the various sects; we haven't seen any of them."
Chen Changsheng shook his legs, then put his shoes back on and tied them tight. "Even if the demons really did buy over a few traitors, none of them would dare fight against those people."
Zhexiu said, "They're definitely keeping an eye on things from the shadows."
Thinking about the responsibility that Gou Hanshi had entrusted to him back in the Mausoleum of Books, Chen Changsheng said, "Let's go to the Sword Pool and see."
Even if they could not meet up with Qi Jian and Liang Xiaoxiao, it would be great if they were able to find the Sword Pool.
After rushing about for these past two days and nights, he felt that he was entitled to be somewhat selfish.
Chen Changsheng and Zhexiu departed from the riverbank and they walked into the forest.
They would let the other cultivators worry about the dangers hidden in the mountains, yet apparently, they were not worried about their own safety at all.
It was because they were youths. Although they did not display much passion on the surface, neither of them was lacking in self-confidence. As they set forth together on their journey, of course they would have no fear.
Just as the pair were setting off across the mountain, on the other side of the mountain range, the white-robed young lady was walking.
Although she was alone, she remained as fearless as ever, and her expression was calm. At some point in time, a bow had appeared on her shoulder.
She arrived at the river that she had come to at the beginning. Following the same route upstream, she came to the place where the master from the Clear Void Monastery had battled with Holy Maiden Peak's Senior Tong. On the riverbank, which Chen Changsheng and Zhexiu had barely paid a glance at, was a blackened bloodstain. She continued to walk in silence, not saying anything for a very long time.
Those two had never been good at conversation, nor did they like it very much. The various conversations that they had in the past two days in the Garden of Zhou could already be considered to be quite a lot.
Occasionally, the cry of a bird would disrupt the tranquility of the forest. These were caused by their footsteps disturbing the wildlife.
In the records of the Daoist Canons, Chen Changsheng had learnt that someone had once found the scabbard of ancient sword in this piece of forest.
Liang Xiaoxiao and Qi Jian, as well as Zhuang Huanyu, had disappeared in the upper reaches of this river, further confirming his conclusion.
If there truly was a Sword Pool in the Garden of Zhou, it was probably in this direction.
For the Mount Li Sword Sect to want to find the legendary Sword Pool was the most natural thing in the world.
What Chen Changsheng and Zhexiu did not know was that the saying that no one had ever found a sword in the Garden of Zhou was, in fact, wrong.
Many years ago, the Junior Martial Uncle from Mount Li with the name of Su had found a sword and brought it out of the Garden of Zhou.
Only, for some reason, this matter had never been made known.
The volume of water in this river was not great. Especially as someone moved upstream and went past several tributary rivers, the strength of the flow grew much weaker, and the river became as clear and as shallow as a mirror.
However, this river was very long. The two had set out at dawn, and only when the sun hung high up in the sky did they finally reach its end.
As with many other rivers, this river ended at a cliff. From this cliff flowed the silver thread of a waterfall.
At the bottom of the waterfall, there was a deep pool. There was a constant deep boom as the water fell into the pool.
Zhexiu lifted his head and squinted his eyes up at the top of the waterfall, but he only saw the fierce light of the sun and the shallow layer of water on the cliffside, as transparent as colored glass. From this, he could confirm that this was the peak of the mountain.
"I'll go and take a look."
Without waiting for Chen Changsheng's response, he quickly rushed over to the cliff. As he approached it, he suddenly lowered his body, then with a whoosh, he turned into a dark shadow. Leaping up over a dozen yards up the cliff, he began to speedily zip his way up the cliff. It only took him a few moments before he arrived at the top of the cliff.
Chen Changsheng viewed all of this from the bottom. He could faintly make out how as Zhexiu quickly ascended, his hands seems to emit a cold light.
Zhexiu's figure disappeared from the top of the waterfall. Most likely, he had gone to check the true source of the river.
Chen Changsheng withdrew his gaze and he turned his attention to the deep pool of water under the waterfall, at which point he had a thought.
This place was the summit of the mountain and the source of the stream, so the volume of water should not have been too great. The scene that he and Zhexiu saw was in line with their expectations.
The waterfall was very thin and its volume was very small, so then why was the pool into which it fell so deep?
He walked over to the edge of the pond and looked into water. He could only see the gloom, the bottom not visible in the slightest.
He calmed his mind, then he released his spiritual sense and began to explore the depths.
After his spiritual sense had traveled who knows how far, he felt his eye begin to ache, like a thin leaf had blown into them.
He closed his eyes and began to shed tears.
There was a strand of sword intent.
Although it was faint and elusive, he was absolutely sure that it was a strand of sword intent.