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Chapter 284 - I Want Your…
The Setting Sun Sect was a very special sect on the continent. It was not part of the Orthodoxy's north or south, because this sect's method of cultivation did not use purification by starlight as its foundation, but drew its power from earthfire. The sect was located in the remote southwest by a volcano, and the cultivators of this sect rarely showed themselves to the world. Who would have thought that in this year's opening of the Garden of Zhou, one of their cultivators had actually come?
If it were an average cultivator, then it would have been just like that old man said—she would not have even heard the name of the Setting Sun Sect before. But she was no ordinary cultivator. As the next Holy Maiden of the south, even though she had been born in the capital, she had still later gone on to the South Stream Temple. There, besides cultivating and reading the Heavenly Tomes, she also had to learn about the various sects of the continent, so she knew about the Setting Sun Sect.
She even knew about this old man called Bai Hai. He was an elder of the Setting Sun Sect and possessed a violent and powerful strength. His temperament… cruel and bloodthirsty.
"So…Senior is part of the Setting Sun Sect."
She paused in the middle, making her seem like an ordinary disciple that did not know of the Setting Sun Sect, and so repeated it out of respect.
Bai Hai, this elder from the Setting Sun Sect, asked her with considerable interest, "What sect are you a disciple of?"
Xu Yourong clasped her hands in respect and solemnly replied, "This Junior is an elf and is not part of any sect."
Bai Hai seemed a little surprised, as if he did not expect this young lady to be an elf. Then he said, "Let's go."
With these words, he began to walk towards Xu Yourong. It was very natural, as if he was prepared to help Xu Yourong by taking up Chen Changsheng from his place amongst the fallen leaves.
"Very well, Senior."
With those words, Xu Yourong lifted Chen Changsheng up from the leaves and began walking towards the elder. It was also very natural, as if she were a cute girl following the orders of her senior.
Neither she nor Bai Hai noticed that Chen Changsheng’s eyelids were trembling, as if he was about to wake up. But in the end, he did not wake up.
The leaves rustled beneath their shoes. With each rustle, the distance between them shrank.
Bai Hai suddenly stopped and casually said, "You've suffered such heavy injuries. Why don't you give that fellow daoist to me?"
Xu Yourong calmly replied, "Many thanks to Senior for his lofty righteousness. My injuries are not too severe, and still bearable, so your assistance is not needed."
At this moment, the two were still separated by a bit more than a dozen zhang.
But neither of them took another step forward.
The rustling of the leaves ceased, and the forest returned its former serenity. One could even call it a deathly stillness.
After a very long time, a sigh resounded through the forest.
His face filled with regret, Bai Hai sighed, "Even now, you haven't showed any gaps. Truly perfect."
Xu Yourong calmly replied, "The same for you."
It was obvious that she no longer called that man a senior, and that she had dropped any pretense of formality.
Bai Hai slightly raised his brows and said with some confusion, "When we were separated by more than a hundred zhang, my lady could have released her bow and shot at me, so why did my lady choose not to do so? Don't say that my lady had not yet seen through me then."
He very naturally no longer referred to himself as a senior, and his language had become one of respect.
Xu Yourong did not explain, because she did not want to reveal to her opponent that her true essence was exhausted, and so she could not ensure that the Wu Arrows could fly so far a distance to kill a peak level Ethereal Opening expert.
If they were a little bit closer, just like now, except if her opponent took just one more step forward, then she would attempt to shoot her opponent to death. It was a pity that her opponent did not do so.
So her mood at this moment was also full of regret.
Bai Hai asked, "My lady had already seen through my intentions?"
Xu Yourong calmly said nothing, thus tacitly admitting it.
Bai Hai asked, "But how? I thought my acting was rather good."
Xu Yourong's answer was very simple. "Feeling."
Bai Hai ruefully sighed, "I suppose this is what they call talent."
With these words, he slapped his palm at the air in front of Xu Yourong.
A dark flame appeared at the edge of his palm.
As the energy from his palm shot forward, one palm became dozens of palms, surrounding Xu Yourong from all sides.
The sky above the forest grew dark red.
Those dark flames seemed heavier than normal flames, as if they possessed their own substance. It was like the dark but incomparably hot magma that flowed under the earth.
The tender leaves on the branches suddenly curled up and the bark began to crack as the temperature suddenly increased.
In the next moment, those dark red flames would completely engulf Xu Yourong and Chen Changsheng.
As Bai Hai made his move, Xu Yourong’s right foot lightly pressed against the ground. With a light crunch, the fallen leaves around her and Chen Changsheng were suddenly jolted upwards, dancing about in the air.
The fallen leaves were incapable of obstructing those innumerable palms imbued with dark flames. With a boom, they were instantly set aflame, creating a sea of fire.
It was exactly this sea of flames that obstructed Bai Hai's line of sight as well as the killing intent concealed in his innumerable palms.
This was to fight fire with fire.
Under the cover of the berserk flames of the sea of fire, Xu Yourong lifted Chen Changsheng up and turned into an after-image. In a flash, she arrived at the cliff outside the forest.
This was the one place Bai Hai’s flame palms could not block, and it was also a place that she had already taken note of. If the cliff was solid, she naturally could not enter it, but this part of the cliff had a cave.
Before this sinister dialogue had even begun, she had already noticed the cave and made her plans. If she could not seize the decisive moment in the battle, she had already prepared for herself a path of retreat.
This cave was her path of retreat, but it was not an escape.
Bai Hai pierced through that chaotic sea of fire, and with a grave expression, attacked once more.
Those innumerable palm images carrying those dark flames suddenly combined themselves into a perfectly straight lance of fire, which rumbled towards Xu Yourong's back. This Setting Sun Sect elder knew what sort of person this young lady that he wanted to kill was, so he did not dare to spare any effort, nor did he leave himself any path of retreat. When he attacked, he used his most powerful Setting Sun Palm and expressed the sum of his entire life of cultivation.
Xu Yourong turned around and saw that lance of fire which contained a terrifying power, but her expression was as serene as ever. With a flip of her wrist, she thrust the Tong Bow into the ground.
The surface of the cave was very sturdy. With a crack, inch by inch, the ground gave way. The Tong Bow was thrust deep into the earth, and yet it was still taller than her.
In a flash, countless branches rose out of the Tong Bow, and numerous leaves sprouted from those branches. In that space warped by the heat of that lance of fire, it seemed a little ostentatious. It brought a very fresh and clean odor that permeated the entire cave entrance.
The course of events was very hard to describe with words.
A long stretch of time was compressed into these few moments.
For a hundred-year-old tree, how many years would it take to construct it into a palace?
This was the growth of a lonely wutong tree, and it was also the construction of a palace.
The Tong Bow had become a wutong tree, and it also had become a Tong Palace. Yes, this was the Great Zhou Imperial Palace's Tong Palace, the palace that had served as Chen Changsheng's jail for one day and one night.
The Wutong, as the unique and unmatched pair of divine artifacts on the Tier of Legendary Weapons, had also possessed this sort of wondrous use. The previous Holy Maiden of the South Stream Temple had actually attached the Tong Palace to the Tong Bow.
The Tong Palace was an array of sorts. For imprisoning enemies, it was extremely powerful. For protecting others, it was incomparably tenacious.
There was a boom. This was the sound made as fire rapidly expanded, as well as the sound made as the wave of fire dashed itself against a stone wall.
At the cave entrance, the fire blazed to the heavens, and it seemed like the verdant leaves of the wutong tree were about to burn, yet that lance of fire could not take one step past that wutong tree.
This was the wutong in which the Phoenix dwelled. Its blood was fire, its body was fire; the Phoenix was fire incarnate. Over the course of tens of thousands of years, the wutong tree had been imbued with the essence and spirit of fire, so how it could be afraid of flame? The flames of the Setting Sun Palm were no match; even if the longbow was directly thrown into the Setting Sun Sect's ravine of earthfire, it still would not be damaged in the slightest.
The green branches stretched out, turning the cave and the outside into two worlds, barring the fierce earthfire and Bai Hai from entering.
Separated by the flames, Xu Yourong gazed at Bai Hai, silent and calm.
Bai Hai had a very solemn expression, but he had none of the sense of defeat that should have resulted from the inability of his flames to break through the Tong Bow's defense. He said to her, "My Setting Sun Sect was founded in a remote volcano valley. Besides the terrifyingly hot earthfire, the most abundant thing there is miasma. The miasma and earthfire feed off each other, so I would very much like to know if this longbow can withstand their combination."
With these words, he withdrew his Setting Sun Palm and stepped in front of the wutong tree, then he unhesitatingly gave it another slap.
This time there were no intense flames, only a faint and bizarre Qi accompanied by countless tiny particles shot out of his palm. They blanketed the wutong tree's trunk and leaves.
In an instant, that fresh and green wutong tree looked like it had spent several years in the blustering sands of the north. It was now covered with a thick layer of dust, no longer expressing its former exuberance.
The dust was formed of the tiny particles, and each of those particles was the essence of the fiery miasma that Bai Hai had breathed in and out and collected over his several hundred years in the remote volcano valley.
For the outer surface to darken was not important, but what was even more frightening was that the particles were corroding the body of the Tong Bow at this very moment. The green leaves of the wutong tree were already beginning to show many thin specks of grey, and those grey specks were growing larger by the second. The bark was similarly beginning to show many horrifying cracks which were continuing to deepen.
If this was in a normal situation, relying on her boundless true essence, Xu Yourong could have prevented the Tong Bow from being contaminated with this dust, to say nothing of the absurdity of her true Phoenix blood being contaminated by such a trifling poison.
But now, she could only rely on the Tong Bow to protect her body from this fiery and poisonous miasma that originated from deep in the earth. How long could the Tong Bow hold on?
Separated by the wutong tree's leaves, she looked at that elder from the Setting Sun Sect and calmly asked, "Why are you doing this?"
Bai Hai replied, "All those who enter the Garden of Zhou do so for their own benefit, and I am no exception."
Xu Yourong said, "You believe… that the benefits you will obtain from my body exceed the risks that you will face?"
Bai Hai smiled. "I believe it with all my heart."
Xu Yourong indifferently replied, "I could give you endless benefits, benefits that you could not imagine."
There were currently numerous sects on the continent, each of them with their own precious secrets, and for a strange sect like the Setting Sun Sect, this was even more the case. But she definitely had the status to say those words, and in addition, her opponent had no choice but to believe her.
Bai Hai replied, "To earn the gratitude of both the Holy Maiden Peak and the Zhou Dynasty is naturally difficult. Sadly, if I had not forced my lady into such desperate straits, how could I have possibly obtained such benefits?"
Xu Yourong asked, "Did you know who I was this entire time?"
"Yes, venerable Heavenly Maiden… did I say it wrong? I heard that all the sects under Holy Maiden Peak, whether it is the Gentle Stream Monastery or the South Stream Temple, all refer to you in this manner."
Bai Hai smiled at her. "Last night I was at the bottom of the Sunset Valley, and I saw my lady unfurl her wings of fire."
Xu Yourong said, "You know who I am, but you dare to show such disrespect? You've cultivated for more than two hundred years, but could it be that you can't even control your own greed, so much so that you've gone mad!?"
As she said these words, her expression was still calm, as if she was not angry at all, but possessed a sort of disdain from on high.
Bai Hai calmly replied, "Greed does make one go mad, but I have not gone mad. If this were outside the Garden of Zhou, I would definitely be kneeling at my lady's feet, kissing the ground beneath your shoes, but… this is the Garden of Zhou, and my lady has already been heavily injured by the Demon Princess. If I were to miss this opportunity, I would definitely incur the wrath of heaven."
Xu Yourong gazed at the leaves before her eyes and calmly asked, "What do you plan to gain from me? This divine artifact? Or something else?"
A creepy smile appeared on Bai Hai's elderly face. "I… I want… I want my lady's blood."