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Chapter 292 - If Life Could Be Like the Moment When We First Met (Part Five)
The entire continent knew that as the last disciple of the Mount Li Sword Sect's Sect Master, Qi Jian’s cultivation was incredibly high despite his youth, and his thin and weak body similarly possessed a powerful strength. But during this entire journey, he had clearly realized that in terms of strength of will and true battle prowess, he was far below this wolf youth.
Within this generation of young cultivators, wolf youth Zhexiu's name was very famous, not any weaker than that of the Divine State's Seven Laws, and even sometimes overshadowing it in radiance. The reason why as proud a person as Tang Thirty-Six had placed Zhexiu on par with Xu Yourong as someone that might truly surpass her was because… he had lived in the snowy plains for so many years and directly confronted the demons.
In those years when Zhexiu was very young, he still had not broken into Ethereal Opening, nor did he have the protection of any sect or teacher. And yet under the cover of the wind and snow, he ceaselessly hunted down and killed demons. That he had survived up to now was because of this fact, and this was sufficient to illustrate just how extraordinary he was. In the Mount Li Sword Sect, Qi Jian would often discuss this matter with his seniors, but none of them could understand how he had lived for so long.
Before Zhexiu appeared in the capital to participate in the Grand Examination, the common people thought of this wolf youth only as cold and good at killing. They believed that these were the most important reasons for why he had been able to live up until now. Only after entering the Garden of Zhou and escaping alongside him did Qi Jian finally understand how Zhexiu had been able to survive in those snowy plains for so long. Because Zhexiu truly lived his life like a wolf.
Within this world, there were countless powerful monsters, as well as mystical and lofty beings like dragons. In describing the wolves that lived upon the plains, whether it was in terms of strength or blood, there was nothing special about them. However, wolves were the most patient of this world's creatures, the most persistent, the most cautious, and the most sensitive to danger. The wolf demi-human tribe possessed the blood of the wolf, so they naturally possessed these characteristics as well.
Zhexiu was a mix of human and wolf demi-human blood. He had been expelled from his clan as a child, and so had sadly lost the feared collective fighting power of the wolf pack. Because of this, he had been forced to push his ability to fight alone to an unimaginable level. His instinct for danger had even surpassed the calculations the priests of the Orthodoxy made with their Fated Star Plates.
As he looked at Zhexiu's face, Qi Jian's emotions became increasingly serious and uncomfortable. He thought to himself that if he did not need to save him, no matter how strong the Demon General couple were, he still probably would have been able to find an opportunity to escape. There was no way he would be in his present predicament, blinded by the Peacock Plume and forced to enter the plains of death.
"I'm sorry..." He withdrew his gaze and looked at the front lapel on his shirt that had been personally sewn by his master's wife, then whispered, "It's all because I've been such a burden on you."
Zhexiu's eyes were closed in meditation. It was like he was sleeping, as if he had not heard those words.
This made Qi Jian feel even more uncomfortable, and yet it also consoled him somewhat, because he knew that Zhexiu had definitely heard it.
Yet just as he thought Zhexiu would continue his silence, he suddenly heard a voice. "Since you understand this, remember to pay extra when we get out."
It really did seem like Zhexiu was sleeping, like he did not say the words himself. It was just that the corners of his lips were slightly perked up like he was smiling.
For a battle in those dangerous snowy plains, an expressionless face served as the best mask, so he rarely ever smiled, and there were few people that had ever seen his smiling face.
There was no battle right now and he could not see anything, so not even he knew that he had begun to smile.
Seeing his smile, Qi Jian was at a loss for words. He vigorously nodded his head, made a small noise to signal his assent, then happily smiled as well.
Only it was impossible for this smile to persist, because they were still in the plains. As the sun rose higher and higher over the plains, their mood quickly grew downcast.
The Garden of Zhou already had a history of several hundred years. At least a dozen groups and countless human Ethereal Opening cultivators had come to this place. Enticed by the legacy of the continent's supreme cultivator, urged on by the legends of the Sword Pool, who knows how many cultivators had ventured into these plains? And yet none of them had come out alive.
Those previous cultivators were not necessarily weaker than Zhexiu in terms of cultivation, strength, or will.
After they had entered the plains, they had only encountered a few groups of monsters. It was very obvious that the true dangers of this plain had not yet revealed themselves. However, they had already begun to notice many oddities. In these so-called Plains of the Unsetting Sun, the sun truly did not sink below the horizon. When, according to the flowing water bottle, it was night, the sun would turn into a halo of light and slowly make its way around the perimeter of the plain.
Moreover, the plains' space was warped and there seemed to be some special rules for moving within it, and yet even with careful examination, it had been impossible to grasp them. Adding on that green grass that stretched as far as the eye could see, there was simply no such thing as direction in this place. Since there was no direction, it also naturally meant that there was no exit. Those people that entered this plain would seem to have walked amongst it forever, encountering increasingly numerous and increasingly stronger monsters, until the day finally came where their strength ran out and they died.
The problem was compounded by the fact that it was difficult for him to move because of his severe injuries, and Zhexiu could not see anything. Just how long would they be able to hold out?
Qi Jian lowered his head to look at that round bloodstain on his abdomen and his mood grew even more downcast. Depressed, he said, "I still don't understand why."
Zhexiu knew that what he did not understand was not the plains, but the human heart.
The disciples of the Inner Sect of the Mount Li Sword Sect were all extremely close to each other. Under the guidance of Qiushan Jun and Gou Hanshi, they were like a family. Qi Jian, as the youngest of the Divine State's Seven Laws, was even more cherished. Deep within his heart, he had also regarded his seniors as if they were his elder brothers. And yet who could possibly imagine that the Third Brother Liang Xiaoxiao, who looked after him the most back in Mount Li Sword Sect, would actually pierce him so fiercely with his sword at the lakeshore?
Liang Xiaoxiao's attack had thrust through his abdomen and snapped several of his meridians, but it had even more broken his heart. From yesterday until now, even when his mind was still in a daze from his injuries, he had always been thinking about a question. He wanted to ask his Third Brother, just why did you do all this?
In that grass hut in the Mausoleum of Books, Zhexiu had personally seen how close the disciples of the Mount Li Sword Sect were, and even how much those people cherished and cared for Qi Jian. So he could understand Qi Jian's current emotions, and clearly empathize with his frustration, confusion, and discomfort. But he did not know how to console Qi Jian. After a moment of silence, he said, "I don't know why he wanted to kill you, nor do I understand the relationship between you and your fellow disciples, because from the earliest moment I could remember, I was alone. I don't think everything in the world requires a reason; I care more about the result. So you must remember, he wanted to kill you, which means that he is your enemy. He is no longer your senior."
Zhexiu was famous and his story had been discussed all across the continent. Many people knew that he was a mix of human and wolf demi-human and that he was expelled from his tribe as a child. They knew that he had lived a hard and lonely life in the snowy plains. Qi Jian lifted his head up to him and suddenly felt that his figure seemed rather lonely and very pitiful. For a moment, he forgot his own troubles and was filled with sympathy and pity for this wolf youth. He subconsciously reached out his hand and grabbed Zhexiu's sleeve.
Qi Jian didn't know why he had done this. He said, "It's different now."
Zhexiu tilted his head slightly, with his eyes closed as he asked, "And what's different?"
Qi Jian thought to himself, right now I'm sitting next to you, so you're not alone anymore. But because of shame and nerves he couldn't say it, so instead he said, "Because...you've entered the Orthodox Academy?"
Zhexiu thought to himself, that black bear truly had invited me to enter the Orthodox Academy, but I didn't respond.
The reason he had journeyed from the distant snowy plains, come to the capital, and attended the Grand Examination was because he had heard that Chen Changsheng had solved Luoluo's problem of a demi-human attempting to cultivate with human methods. The problem had some overlap with his problem. As he grew older and his cultivation got higher, his blood would grow stronger and the Tide Rush of Blood would continue to increase in frequency. At any time he could die, so he needed Chen Changsheng to help cure his illness so that he could continue to live.
If Chen Changsheng really could treat his illness, he would naturally leave the capital and return to the plains. But those were all matters for the future. Right now in front of Qi Jian, he didn't say that now that they were trapped in these Plains of the Unsetting Sun, it was highly possible that there would be no future. Why make this heavily wounded fellow even more uncomfortable? So he said, "The Orthodox Academy… right, it's just that little princeling called Tang is a little annoying, so I haven't decided yet."
"Yeah, I also think Tang Tang is very annoying, but Chen Changsheng isn't bad. Now that I mention it, in the guest courtyard of the Li Palace, we would sometimes discuss how—if not for that engagement—maybe our Mount Li Sword Sect could get along with your Orthodox Academy. We could be friends with Chen Changsheng, and you… you could be friends with me."
Qi Jian softly said this as he looked at Zhexiu's face, his voice getting lower and lower. Yet the sun above the plain continued to rise higher and higher, and the air gradually began to grow warm. The pools of water began to emanate more steam, making the atmosphere stuffy. Qi Jian's hands began to sweat, because of anxiety or something else, and then the medicine began to take effect. He began to feel dizzy and drowsy.
His mind was dazed and his vision blurred, but he suddenly saw that Zhexiu had suddenly gotten closer and grabbed his hands. He did not know what Zhexiu planned to do, but he subconsciously felt nervous and even a little fearful. Yet for some reason, he did not have the slightest thought of resisting.
Zhexiu was prepared to take advantage of the medicine's effect to spread medicine over Qi Jian's wound. Because his two eyes could not see, he could only use his hands to feel. His two steady hands made their way up Qi Jian's arms, arriving at his shoulders. Then he made his way down to the abdomen, his hands separated by an inch from Qi Jian's body, not touching it at all. Then they went below the abdomen and rested upon Qi Jian's belt.
The apparel of the Mount Li Sword Sect was very concise, even simple. The belt had no complicated design upon it, but the buckle was very sturdy.
Under Zhexiu's steady hands, an even sturdier buckle would not have lasted any longer. In a flash, the belt had been unbuckled and the clothes were raised.
Qi Jian was extremely nervous, but his mind was still in a daze. With the drowsiness brought on by the medicine, he lacked even the strength to shout. His body began to slightly tremble.
Zhexiu opened his lapel, revealing the pure white skin to the azure sky of the Garden of Zhou.
He could not see it, but he could feel it.
Qi Jian's body trembled out of shame, anxiety, and anger.
His hands also began to tremble, as he had surprisingly felt that the truth had come to light.
Qi Jian was shamed beyond belief. He tightly closed his eyes, his eyelashes incessantly winking as he wished with all his might that he would not fall unconsciousness like this.
Then, he fell unconscious.