Chapter 0253: Outside the Forbidden Zone

In the next three days, Jiang Qing'e and Li Luo's squads went on a rampage, reactivating a total of five level one purification towers. Li Luo got his first taste of not only fighting strong, but also fighting fast.

Their times of true rest were few and far between, always having to keep their guard up. Jiang Qing'e was truly leaving them on their own now that they had proven themselves, and they had to keep their wits about them at all times. No more guardian angels; they worked side by side and were delegated a proportional share of the work.

They did come across a few more freak Others, but by applying their growing trove of experience, they were never left as desperate as their first play had been.

Still, they were nothing compared to the Black Swan Squad, which blitzed through the Others near the level one purification towers ruthlessly. They were in no danger at all.

By the time Li Luo's group had cleared out their designated zone, they always found the Black Swan Squad relaxing at the purification tower, job done and awaiting their rendezvous.

Li Luo's squad would show up out of breath and tired out, and the Black Swan Squad would be lounging around, barely giving them time to recover before blithely announcing that it was time to move on.

The breakneck pace ran Li Luo's team rough and hard, but then they looked at the diminutive Bai Mengmeng on their team grimly keeping up with the pace, never once asking them for quarter.

Her tenacity was a real surprise for Tian Tian and Qiu Bai.

The Fairness & Justice Squad had truly earned their first place position. They might be green, but under that greenness was considerable talent just waiting to shine.

In time, they might well become the strongest squad in the Astral Sage College.

The rough three days had not been without reward. Their school points bank continued to rise thanks to their grinding, as did their own resonant power.

In just three days, they had matched their cultivation progress of half a month back in school.

If one could just survive the horrors of the the Umbra Cave, the cultivation payoff was great.

Three days later, they finally reached their next destination.

The outside of the forbidden zone.

They stared at the hills ahead of them with amazement. In the mountain range, the mist was white, devoid of the dark pallor that was omnipresent around them.

There was not a single sign of corruption either.

If they kept their eyes firmly ahead, they could almost pretend they were back in the outside world.

A pretense that was simply that. They knew that within the clear terrain lurked an even greater danger.

The threat they sensed was far greater than any of the purification towers they had cleared before.

The mad spirit beast that had eluded even the Violet Vibrance mentors.

Students like them would be dead without question.

"That beast seldom comes out," Jiang Qing'e reassured them. "Throughout all these years, many students have come to this onyx lake, but none of them were ever targeted by the beast. So there's no need to worry."

The newcomers nodded in relief. They saw that other students were making their way over as well.

"Onyx lakes are some of the best places in the Umbra Cave. Each time the Umbra Cave opens, students will rush over to take as much of the limited energy reserves as they can. The later you arrive, the weaker the effect," Tian Tian said.

"We’ve made good time. We're probably the first wave, when the effect is strongest," Jiang Qing'e said with a satisfied smile. "You guys have done well for the last three days. Take this as a nice reward."

Three eager faces looked up at her, and she led them down from the high slopes towards the valley.

It took them a full hour to make their way down the treacherously steep and winding road, but as a consolation, the black mist was much thinner here.

Soon enough, they stood before the lake, glittering like an onyx mirror.

It was a strange lake. There were many glossy, black lotus leaves on the nearby banks. They were thick and sturdy, and some of them already had people standing on them.

Li Luo looked to the center of the lake, where he saw a beryl-green glow come from deep within. It was pulsing with worldly natural energy, deep and resonant.

There was no water in this lake. Only worldly natural energy, condensed.

Behold, the onyx lake!

The appearance of their squads raised quite a fuss, especially when those present spotted Jiang Qing'e.

Three Star Hall students rarely wasted their time at a level two onyx lake, as they had cultivated here so much that the effects were waning. They had all moved on to seek stronger onyx lakes. Jiang Qing'e could not possibly use it either, and so their reason for coming here could only be for their three babies' sakes.

Even the onyx lakes were a competition for the finite resources on offer.

Jiang Qing'e paid no mind to the sullen glares thrown her way. She flicked a finger, and her heavy sword crashed down from the sky, stopping an inch above a lotus leaf. A golden ring of energy bloomed around the leaf with a muted boom.

"Mine," she said calmly.

Li Luo's squad blinked in amazement. They had no idea how this thing really worked, but clearly the closer to the lake, the better.

Not only had Jiang Qing'e secured them prime seats, but the ring helped deflect some of the pressure as well.

This was an excellent coat, with nice, broad coattails begging for a ride.

The sword had landed on one of the prime spots, one that many of the others had been eying hungrily... before Jiang Qing'e had swaggered in to claim it.

Still, no one said anything. There were other good spots up for grabs, ones they wouldn't have to go up against Jiang Qing'e for.

Not everyone thought that way.

"Senior Jiang, that's against the rules, isn't it?" a voice said sharply. Everyone jumped and looked curiously in its direction. Who would be so bold to cross Jiang Qing'e?

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