Chapter 13: Difficulty Within the Sect

As Jun Xiaomo roused from her stupor, she momentarily felt disoriented, unsure of what reality she was presently in.

She had a long and terrible dream. In her dream, she had returned to the days where she had been trapped in that dark dungeon, with both eyes gouged out, her cultivation crippled, and discarded in a dank corner like unwanted trash. Day after day, nothing moved, nothing changed – it was as though time had come to a complete standstill. 

The despair that accompanied the endless torment was like having an awl driven through her bone – it was a piercing, acute pain that spreads across the entire body; the type of pain that lingers till one’s final breath.

Death… That’s right. I have died and been reborn. I have gone back to when I was sixteen years old, and now I have a second shot in life.

Jun Xiaomo’s eyelids twitched, and she gradually opened her eyes. Her momentary confusion was quickly dispelled, and she regained her focus, carefully analyzing her surroundings.

Yes, she was lying on the cold, hard floor. Beside her were a few jade bottles, empty.

Her fingers twitched. Jun Xiaomo wanted to sit up but discovered her arms had gone limp without any strength. Her whole being felt as though it had been drained out, and not an ounce of strength was left within her.

It seems that my cultivation has truly been thoroughly crippled… Jun Xiaomo grimaced.

This feeling of weakness was strangely familiar to Jun Xiaomo. In the three hundred over days Jun Xiaomo had been held captive in the dungeon, apart from the pain and the festering hatred, Jun Xiaomo’s only other feeling had been that of abject frailty, as though her body was barely being held together.

That said, her present condition was still far better than that in her past life. Back then, not only was her cultivation crippled; her spiritual roots had even been destroyed!

If one’s cultivation is crippled, he can always start afresh. However, if one’s spiritual roots are destroyed, unless he is able to refine a heaven-defying, fate-seizing miracle pill, that person would be fated to live the rest of his life as a mere mortal.

This was one of the reasons why the former Jun Xiaomo had finally chosen an end with mutual destruction. Rather than live the rest of her life in humiliated, why not perish together with her nemesis!

The only regret was that in death she only took Qin Shanshan and Qin Lingyu with her; while Yu Wanrou and her lackeys had got off scot-free.

In this life…Jun Xiaomo’s eyes flashed coldly.

After getting accustomed to the heavy and lethargic feeling of her body, Jun Xiaomo finally managed to sit up. She closed her eyes and began driving both spiritual energy and demonic energy around her meridians, closely inspecting her body’s condition. 

Excellent. The damage to both her meridians and her Dantian had been lighter than she thought. I was right to have prepared those recovery medicinal pills beforehand.

However, because her cultivation levels had fallen, Jun Xiaomo’s meridians and Dantian had all shrunk in size. If the capacity of Jun Xiaomo’s meridians at her former eighth level of Qi Mastery was like a boundless river, then the capacity of Jun Xiaomo’s current meridians could only be described as a small creek. Her Dantian had also shrunk to one-twentieth of its original size.

“This must be the state of a non-cultivator.” Jun Xiaomo observed. Even though her cultivation had fallen eight levels at one go, yet her heart did not consider this a pity at all.

After all, if she had been unable to operate or use any of the demonic energy or spiritual energy in her body, then no matter what level her cultivation was at, she may as well be considered a cripple or a dead on the battlefield.

Jun Xiaomo’s meridians and Dantian had not fully recovered. Yet, Jun Xiaomo had decided against the use of any more medicine. The same effects could be achieved by using her “Qi” to nourish her meridians and Dantian. In fact, it could potentially be even more beneficial, because meridians and Dantian nourished by spiritual or demonic energy would become more stable and resilient. This was an effect that could not be had with medicinal pills.

Even though this process would take more time, and be somewhat uncomfortable and painful, but for the sake of laying a good foundation for the future, Jun Xiaomo absolutely did not mind having some patience and enduring a little bit of pain. 

After thoroughly ascertaining that her cultivation had been completely crippled, Jun Xiaomo sat cross-legged on the floor and recalled to mind the contents of her Nineform Spirituo-Demonic Refinement Technique. Yet, just as she was about to meditate on its details, a sound of flapping wings jolted her back to reality.

“A Messenger Paper Crane?” Jun Xiaomo furrowed her eyebrows as she looked at the small paper crane at her windowsill. She stood up and walked over.

As the drew closer, Jun Xiaomo noticed that the paper crane bore the markings of a Sect Elder.

“Seems like the Sect Elders sent this.” Jun Xiaomo muttered under her breath.

Jun Xiaomo never had a good impression of the Sect Elders of Dawn Sect. The Sect Elders with higher cultivation levels were proud and arrogant, obstinate and self-opinionated, and often arbitrarily decided on the matters within the Sect. On the other hand, the Sect Elders with lower cultivation levels were just He Zhang’s lackeys.

The former Jun Xiaomo’s life completely revolved around Qin Lingyu, and she never concerned herself with the matters and politics of the Sect. Thinking back now to the acts and conduct of those ten-over Sect Elders, Jun Xiaomo could only coldly chuckle to herself.

Did they really not know a thing about the demonic energy within her body? These old monsters who had lived over a thousand years cannot possibly be so ignorant. They had either for some reason decided to turn a blind eye; or they must be acting in collusion with He Zhang!

As she pondered about these matters, Jun Xiaomo slowly opened the Messenger Paper Crane, and the contents of the paper crane suddenly boomed into her ear:

Dawn Sect, three-hundred and fifty-second generation disciple, Jun Xiaomo. You are hereby summoned before the Penal Hall.

The peremptory voice which reverberated in the room was filled with authority.

This must be Second Elder’s voice……

Penal Hall? Tch, Yu Wanrou must be trying to cause me trouble.

With a cold snort, Jun Xiaomo crumpled the paper crane in her hand and tossed it onto the floor.

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In the Penal Hall, the Second Elder, the Third Elder and the Fifth Elder were seated on their mats, silently presiding over the complaints and assertions of Dawn Sect’s disciples.

The few male disciples had given rather accurate and factual testimonies, only informing the Elders of the salient details of how they had chanced upon Yu Wanrou and her condition when they first saw her. While they did not miss out any important detail, they did not embellish the facts either.

However, when Qin Shanshan took the stand, her tone was quickly filed with indignation as she delivered an impassioned recount of her version. 

“When I first encountered Sister Wanrou, I really thought that she had died. She was slumped on the floor, quiet and completely still. And she was even lying in a huge pool of her own blood! When I ran over to check on her, I discovered that her breathing was so weak that I could barely sense it! Then, when Sister Wanrou finally woke up, she even said that she carelessly injured herself. How could anyone “carelessly harm themselves” to such an extent?! I think that Sister Wanrou must definitely have been threatened by Jun Xiaomo to keep mum about it!”

Qin Shanshan clearly embellished the facts, and at the end even accused Jun Xiaomo of “threatening her fellow disciple”.

In order to maintain the appearance of fairness, disciples from every Peak would be in attendance every time the Penal Hall commences an inquest. At the same time, they are often only in attendance, and had no speaking rights. In the end, the final verdict still lay with the few Sect Elders presiding over the Penal Hall. Right now, after hearing Qin Shanshan’s impassioned spiel, the various disciples in attendance could not help but begin to feel angry and upset.

After all, it was a universally accepted fact that those with bad character are often loathed and disapproved by others, regardless of which Sect or Peak they came from.

There was also a person from Heavenly Peak in attendance. He wore a veiled conical hat, silently and casually sitting there. His body exuded a sharp, dignified aura, yet because of the veil over his face no one could see his expressions clearly. He did not interact with anyone else. Even though he seemed a little out of place, no one dared to belittle him either.

He was the First-Seat Disciple of Heavenly Peak, twenty-five years of age. In terms of strength, he was the same as Qin Lingyu, or perhaps even slightly better. If not for the fact that he had been disfigured by a wave of demonic energy which corroded his skin when he was ten years-old, perhaps the number of female disciples fawning over him would be comparable to the number who surrounded Qin Lingyu. Yet, this was merely “if” it were the case. The fact remained that the demonic energy which corroded Ye Xiuwen’s face left a huge, terrifying scar on his face, completely ruining that originally striking appearance of his.

That was right – this was the exact Ye Xiuwen whom Jun Xiaomo had been looking for ever since she had been reborn. Of all the people present in the Penal Hall, no one knew that Ye Xiuwen had personally witnessed Jun Xiaomo strike Yu Wanrou with her palm. And Ye Xiuwen did not intend to let the cat out of the bag.

Jun Xiaomo was his master’s daughter and his martial sister. On account of that, he was not going to stand on Yu Wanrou’s side.

He just sat there, silently observing the proceedings before him.

Yu Wanrou had not said a single thing during the course of the inquest. She merely hung her head low, silently shedding tears. As these immaculate droplets of tears coursed down her beautiful cheeks, they scattered in sorrowful exuberance as they dripped onto her arms, momentarily glistening before fading away into her clothes. Her appearance right now exuded an aura of sadness and humiliation.

Many of the disciples in attendance saw her sorrow-filled appearances and immediately sympathized with her. It can be said that Jun Xiaomo’s reputation preceded her – these disciples had often heard rumours of how Jun Xiaomo had bullied Yu Wanrou. From what they could see today, perhaps these tales were more than just rumours after all.

“Come over here. Let me examine the injuries on your body.” Second Elder gestured to Yu Wanrou. Yu Wanrou nodded her head, softly saying, “Then, I’ll have to trouble Second Elder.” Leaning on Qin Shanshan’s arm for support, Yu Wanrou made her way towards where the Second Elder was seated.

Since this was the Penal Hall, and there were so many people bearing witness to the proceedings, she and Qin Lingyu would naturally have to be even more careful with each other to prevent raising suspicions.

The Second Elder promptly placed his fingers on Yu Wanrou’s wrist, closed his eyes, and sent a thread of spiritual energy throughout her meridians.

“Her meridians and Dantian have been damaged.” The Second Elder opened his eyes and reported his findings to the other Sect Elders. Then, he turned to Yu Wanrou, asking, “Have you taken any Dantian repairing medicine?”

Yu Wanrou nodded her head in response; her face still bore traces of her tears. Qin Shanshan added, “My brother gave that to Sister Wanrou. Sister Wanrou is really pitiful – she has been hurt by Jun Xiaomo so badly that her cultivation level nearly fell!”

Qin Shanshan seemed to interject whenever she could emphasize the message that “Jun Xiaomo injured Yu Wanrou”, as though she had witnessed the assault with her own eyes.

As the Second Elder signaled for them to return to their seats, he conferred with his fellow Sect Elders before announcing, “Let’s wait for Jun Xiaomo’s arrival before we form our verdict.”

Just as the Second Elder finished speaking, a clear voice rang out from outside the Penal Hall, “There’s no need to wait. I’m here.”

Most people in the Penal Hall could feel that the voice which they just heard was exceptionally calm and composed.

Moments later, a figure dressed in fiery-red clothing entered everybody’s field of vision. Jun Xiaomo had coolly made her appearance.

As Jun Xiaomo arrived, everyone in the Penal Hall made different expressions on their face. Some wore a look of disdain, some were fuming, some raised an eyebrow with suspicion, and yet others had their noses in the air, arrogant and indifferent. Jun Xiaomo swept her gaze across the hall, taking in all the various expressions worn by the different people. As her eyes shifted to where Ye Xiuwen was seated, her eyes quivered and paused for a moment before promptly moving on.

On the other side, Qin Lingyu had thought that Jun Xiaomo was looking for him, and would react with joy and affection when she saw him. To his surprise, Jun Xiaomo merely swept her gaze past him indifferently without pausing. 

It was as though he were just like any other person around.

Qin Lingyu furrowed his brows. He felt that something was amiss – Jun Xiaomo’s present lack of reaction to his presence was quite different from what he was used to. 

At this moment, Qin Lingyu feared that the secret relationship between him and Yu Wanrou had been discovered by Jun Xiaomo. The notion of something as outrageous as Jun Xiaomo being reborn certainly did not cross Qin Lingyu’s mind.

Thinking of how Yu Wanrou had been hurt this time, Qin Lingyu’s eyes gleamed with an ineffable complexity.

Perhaps he would find an opportunity to sound out Jun Xiaomo to see what she knew and where she stood on the matter. At the very least, he could not let Jun Xiaomo remain at odds with him.

Jun Xiaomo could hardly be bothered with Qin Lingyu’s schemes. She walked before the three presiding Sect Elders, before respectfully bowing before them, “Three-hundred fifty-second generation disciple, Jun Xiaomo humbly greets the Second Elder, the Third Elder and the Fifth Elder. May I humbly ask the reason for these respectable Sect Elders’ urgent summons today?”

Even though she was suspicious of the Sect Elders before her, she nevertheless had to remain respectful of their stature and display etiquette in compliance with sect regulations.

The Second Elder lifted his eyes, stating plainly, “The disciples below have accused you of harming fellow disciples, and threatening them not to expose you. Do you deny these accusations?”

“Oh? Harming fellow disciples? Who have I harmed, may I ask?” Jun Xiaomo turned around, asking perplexedly. 

“Are you still acting innocent? You’ve beaten Sister Wanrou so badly that her cultivation has almost been affected!” Qin Shanshan exploded in fury. Seeing Jun Xiaomo act this way, Qin Shanshan was immediately reminded of the incident regarding the hairpin and her rage swelled up to boiling point.

“Her cultivation was almost affected? So serious?!” Jun Xiaomo responded with a shocked look on her face.

“Yeah-uh. That’s how it is. So you admit that you did it now?” Qin Shanshan felt that Jun Xiaomo’s response was an implied admission of her guilt, and she gleefully anticipated the look on Jun Xiaomo’s face when she receives punishment.

“Mmm…I do admit that I dislike Yu Wanrou.” Jun Xiaomo solemnly nodded her head, shocking the audience with her honest response.

What a headstrong and arrogant lady! She doesn’t even bother to maintain any appearance of civility with people! The people in the audience all exclaimed to themselves. 

Hearing this, Yu Wanrou mocked Jun Xiaomo silently in her heart – If this foolish Jun Xiaomo only knew to appear vulnerable and pitifully deny the accusations, perhaps she might gain some redeeming ground for herself. Who would’ve thought that she would immediately confess to these crimes?

Did she think her previous punishment wasn’t enough?

Jun Xiaomo could vaguely guess what everyone was thinking. Raising her eyebrows and smiling, she suddenly added a twist, “But…” Jun Xiaomo turned towards Yu Wanrou, and sonorously retorted with a flourishing vigour, “I’d like to ask martial sister Wanrou – how could I, a person at the first level of Qi Mastery, possibly have caused you, a person at the fifth level of Qi Mastery, to suffer such great injuries?!”

As the words left Jun Xiaomo’s mouth, the whole hall was silenced.

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