Chapter 80: Blood Pagoda
Even Xu Min was stunned. Because there was such a high reward for capturing him, everyone would now be after him. He could not help but smile at this. Though it meant he would be in constant danger, he also knew that risk and reward were two sides of a coin. He slowly slipped out from within the crowd and left the Lakeside district. Retreating into the forest, he reflected on how he was going to deal with all those people coming for him.
“How do they know that it was you who killed their Shen Yu?” Ye Ling asked.
Xu Min grinned in reply, “Easy, who else within the entire Immortal Valley would kill him if not me? Even if it was someone else, I would still be given the blame due to the enmity between myself and their sect. Saying that I wantonly kill people is a little over the top too. However, I know why they said that. They need to paint me as villainous. However, I don’t kill anyone other than the ones who attack me. It is only right I return their hostility. If they want to kill me, it is obvious I would kill them. They can blame their deaths on their greed!”
Xu Min did not feel guilty at all for killing as many as he did. Had he not killed them then, they would have killed him, so he felt that his actions were justified.
Now the hunt was going to be immensely intensified; more people, especially stronger people, would be coming for him. Even the top experts within the Immortal Valley would be moved by the bounty of two five-ranked cores. These five-ranked cores were so potent that they could propel someone directly into the top ten. Maybe they could even change the ranking of the top three.
Had it not been Xu Min himself being the target, then he too would have joined the hunt to attain such a reward.
“Robbing the Snow Mountain is not bad,” Ye Ling said by Xu Min’s side as he looked back towards the Lakeside district. Xu Min chuckled. Robbing them was indeed not bad, but did they have the ability to do so?
“If we want to do this, we have to do it before more experts reach the Lakeside district. If those extremely strong experts appear, then we really have no option other than to give up,” Ye Ling said. Xu Min nodded in agreement. Looking in the direction of the Lakeside district, Xu Min’s heart was suddenly filled with mixed emotions.
“We cannot go to the middle of the Lakeside district and start battling it out just like that,” he sighed. “There are many experts there. Even if we are strong, we cannot fight a whole army. Not just this, but we also just heard how all of them are on high alert from hearing about the bounty placed on my head. They will fight even more fervently than usual. I think we should wait for them to leave the city. As soon as they leave, we will deal with those groups one at a time. Taking on everyone all at once might be too much even for me,” Xu Min laughed at himself. He was after all only a three-star warrior.
“Okay,” Ye Ling said, a little disappointed. He understood that managing to defeat Shen Yu and his men did not mean that they could take on a city full of experts. There were bound to be so many people that they would lose eventually. Xu Min and Ye Ling would be ground down and would run out of energy in a battle of attrition.
Suddenly, Ye Ling’s eyes lit up. He looked at Xu Min with a curious look, something which also made the latter very curious. Just what could this lion have thought of? And was it something of use to them?
“There is this one place within the Immortal Valley. It is known as a sacred location, and I have only been there once,” Ye Ling began hesitantly. Nonetheless, the more he spoke, the more confident he became. “The only time I was there was because of pure curiosity. I had to experience it at least one time. Although I was not allowed to enter, I could feel the dense energy from inside. If we were to cultivate there, or go through one or two of the trials, we should be able to gain some new strength.” Ye Ling explained very eagerly.
“This place is usually not allowed to be entered by just anyone. I don’t even know if humans can enter, but it is worth a try. If you manage to pass the first trial, your body will be rebuilt, created from the energy within heaven and earth alone. This should be enough to push you to the four star ranking. If you reach the fourth star, then we should be able to take on the entire Lakeside district!”
Upon hearing this, Xu Min was stunned. A place like this really exists? He was amazed and also slightly intimidated, but he knew that great dangers brought great advantages. He was indeed in need of a way to gain strength fairly soon, thus he decided to follow Ye Ling. Nodding his head, the face of the lion flushed with excitement; the two of them ran into the forest, deeper and deeper.
Had it not been for Ye Ling’s protection and keen sight, they would never have reached the location safely. They traveled for a full two days before they reached a small cave.The closer and closer Xu Min came to it, the denser the energy within the air became. It was clear that this place was special and mystical.
“Enter the cave.” Ye Ling urged Xu Min. With a nod of his head, Xu Min did just that. Entering the cave, he found it as though he had walked through a curtain. On the opposite side, he entered a large cave. Within this cave, in the middle, was a large pagoda.
This pagoda was built fully from black stones. The dense energy within this area was so heavy that Xu Min’s body greedily absorbed it, depositing the energy inside every part of his body. Some of it was deposited within the muscles and bones, some went to the dantian and some rushed through the meridians. Soon, his entire body was filled with energy and Xu Min felt a high from the sudden spike in energy. Behind him, his sword was also greedily absorbing energy. It consumed so much energy that the sword itself had turned white.
Taking one step at a time, Xu Min slowly moved closer and closer to the pagoda, eventually standing right in front of it. Looking at this pagoda, he found a doorway that seemed to be made from some sort of black wood. This wood was a type of wood that Xu Min had never seen before. When he placed his hand upon the door, he felt how it started sucking up his energy, in which the door slowly opened up for him. The more energy that was poured into the door, the quicker it opened, but Xu Min dared not use too much of his energy. Although it quickly returned to him, he had the feeling that this pagoda was nowhere near as simple as it looked. There had to be something within, something meant to test him.
The moment Xu Min entered, he found himself standing on a large platform; around him was bubbling magma. Although he had just entered through the door, there was no way for him to retreat any longer. The door was completely sealed behind him.
“Welcome, mortal, to the Ring of Blood. This is a trial created since many years past. The Ring of Blood is a way to temper yourself. The more stages you manage to defeat, the stronger the rewards you will be gifted.” A voice boomed out from the beyond. Xu Min looked around, but nothing was evident within.
“Here in the Ring of Blood, you shall die if you fail. You can only leave after having cleared one step of the trial. After accepting a trial, there is only death or victory.”
“Should you die within the Ring of Blood, then you will forever be kept here in the Blood Pagoda. Your spirit will join the many other spirits in the Ring of Blood.”
“You are only a three-star warrior, so your first opponent will be equal to your level of strength. Prove your talent and rise. However, if you succumb to the trial, death will be your only fate!”
Having finished speaking, the voice faded away, and a red shadow flickered onto the platform. A red, Golden-Furred Blood Lion appeared in front of him. This lion was far smaller than Ye Ling; its mane was less golden, and it was clearly only a juvenile. Xu Min felt no guilt in attacking it, since he knew that it was a previous contestant who had failed the trial. Furthermore, he was not in the mood to risk his life; with a swipe of his sword, the lion was simply sliced into half. Killing it took far less time than what Xu Min had expected. As soon as the spirit died, the red shadow did not vanish and instead entered Xu Min’s body.
He could feel the foreign energy entering his body. It felt as though the beast that he had slain had become increasingly strong as it attacked his soul instead. Fortunately, Xu Min was no ordinary person. His soul defense was outstanding. With sheer willpower, he overpowered the lion in a turn of the tables; the energy that was fuming within his veins slowly relaxed as it merged with his body.
Cracking sounds could be heard as every single bone and cell in his body began merging with the shadow. His bones started breaking only to be mended again. His hair shot into the air and even grew in length.
His body became many times stronger than it had been before and his skin was now as tough as black iron. His bones were likewise as impenetrable as jade. Feeling this new strength, Xu Min was surprised to find that his body had indeed broken through to the fourth star of the Warrior rank, something that had happened so swiftly that even Xu Min was astonished.
Although Ye Ling had told him that it was likely for him to become a four-star Warrior after passing through the first trial, Xu Min had not believed it, especially not since the fight had been as easy as it was. Now, as Xu Min felt the benefits he had gained, his heart screamed out in joy.
“You have reached a higher rank. Your next opponent will be a fourth-star ranked beast,” the voice commented casually. Without Xu Min saying whether or not he wished to continue on to the second round, another shadow appeared in front of him. It was yet another Golden-Furred Blood Lion. This time, it was closer in appearance to Ye Ling. Xu Min was more focused this time.
Although there was only one rank in difference between the two ranks, Xu Min did not wish to take any chances. With vigilant eyes, he focused on the beast in front of him.
“What happened to Xu Min?” Someone asked curiously, as they all looked at the many water screens displaying all that was happening within the Immortal Valley. So far, at least one of these screens had always followed Xu Min. Just like other screens had always followed the other participants in the top five. However, now, the one that was supposed to follow Xu Min had turned black. Nothing could be seen on the screen, and the Guardians were doing nothing to fix this problem. Seeing how casually the Guardians acted, everyone was at a loss as to what had happened.
Inside the Guardian’s residence, a water screen displayed Xu Min’s battles in the Blood Pagoda. However, none of the Guardians would allow for this to be shown on the central stage.
“Do you think he will be able to make it to the King tier? Perhaps higher?” One of the guardians asked curiously while stroking a small, green snake on his neck. The snake, however, just harrumphed before it snorted, “He is my human, so of course he will become a King, if not higher. He will be the very highest rank you can get!”