Chapter 136: Who’s Taking Care of Who?

Everyone had some idea of the dangers they were going to face in the dungeon, but subconsciously, they were still more focused on the gains rather than the risks. However, having someone of Principal Jiang’s standing emphasizing this issue forced them to take the risks seriously.

“It’s not too late to back down now. Once you enter the dungeon, you’ll have to last till the tenth day, when the dungeon finally closes, in order to be teleported out. There’s no way for you to leave in advance once you pass through the portal,” Jiang Luofu scanned the crowd as she pointed out the risks calmly. “All of you have signed the liability waiver beforehand, so you should know that the academy will not be taking responsibility for anything that happens to you inside the dungeon.”

The students glanced at one another in uncertainty, but none of them was willing to back down. It was hard for them to come this far, so they couldn’t bring themselves to back out now just like that.

“The map of the Ursae Dungeon is randomized each time we enter it. Even with teachers guiding the way, it won’t make too much of a difference,” said Jiang Luofu. “All fourth rank and fifth rank cultivators will be moving on their own inside the dungeon. With your cultivation rank, you should be able to protect yourself. If you really wish to put your abilities to the test and sharpen your edge, it’d be best for you to move independently. As for the rest of you, you’ll be following a teacher and exploring the dungeon in a group.”

At this point, Jiang Luofu paused for a brief moment before continuing on, “In previous years, if an individual wishes to move independently, we would allow him to do as he pleases. However, there seems to be something unusual about this dungeon this time around, so it’ll be better to tread carefully. If you haven’t reached fourth rank yet, I recommend you to stay close to a teacher.”

The crowd was a little disappointed to hear those words. They knew that it would be safer being by a teacher’s side, but that also meant that they would get less out of the dungeon as well. Any fortuitous encounters they stumbled along the way would have to be shared with everyone else.

At that moment, a voice suddenly sounded, “Principal Jiang, are there any rules as to which students are paired to which teacher? After all, there are some teachers whose levels of strength are a little concerning to us. Wouldn’t it be unfair if we are forcefully assigned into their groups?”

It was from Shi Kun.

If they wanted to deal with Zu An, it would be best for there to be fewer people by his side.

As he said those words, he turned his gaze toward Zu An, and laughter broke out amidst the crowd. It was indeed true that Zu An’s cultivation rank was lower than many of the students present, so how could they count on him when danger struck?

Jiang Luofu naturally knew whom Shi Kun was referring to, and she replied calmly, “Since this involves the safety of our students, we won’t be enforcing the student to join any groups. The students are free to choose which teacher they wish to go with.”

As soon as those words were spoken, the students immediately rushed over toward some of the teachers, as if fearing that the academy would back down on its words.

“I choose Teacher Bai!”

“I choose Discipline Master Lu!”

“I choose Uncle Wang!”

… 

It didn’t take long for the students to finish their selection. There were many students who picked Bai Susu and Lu De, which wasn’t surprising since they were the strongest teachers in the academy. Most teachers also had a couple of students around them too.

There was just one glaring exception—Zu An. He didn’t have a single person by his side at all.

Laughter sounded in the clearing. Most students still tried to hold it back a little, but Shi Kun didn’t even bother concealing his ridicule at all.

Chu Chuyan frowned. Zu An was still her husband in-name, so it made her feel uncomfortable to see him being publicly humiliated. She instinctively wanted to group with him, but she suddenly thought about the earlier advice for fifth rank cultivators to move independently. If she were to go to his side now, it would only make others think that she was trying to protect them, thus embarrassing him even further.

Qiao Xueying hesitated a little too. She was thinking of joining Zu An’s group, and she could do so as her fifth rank cultivation hadn’t been revealed yet. Being in the same group would make it much easier for her to make a move on him.

But she decided against it in the end. It was simply too jarring for her to join Zu An’s group right before everyone. Furthermore, if she was the only one to return from the dungeon despite being paired with him, she would surely come under doubt too. It wouldn’t be wise for her to make herself stand out right now.

It was then that a timid voice sounded. “I’ll… join your group.”

Ji Xiaoxi shyly shuffled to Zu An’s side. Just saying these words aloud had sapped her courage dry, leaving her small face completely reddened.

Zu An felt touched. She sure is kind. It was obvious that she was intending to choose Bai Susu earlier, but upon seeing that there’s no one by my side, she chose to come over here instead.

He was intending on rejecting her—just her goodwill would be enough for him—but on second thought, he remembered that his motive in the dungeon was to look for the Evanescent Lotus. Ji Xiaoxi was well-versed in all sorts of medicine, so she might be able to offer him substantial help regarding that. Thus, he decided to accept her in the end.

“Miss Ji, you must think twice! It’s too dangerous being by his side!”

“Indeed! He’s only a third rank cultivator. You should come with us instead.”

… 

Ji Xiaoxi’s popularity was really showing through right now. There were many people who stood forward to advise her to change her mind.

“It’s fine. Teacher Zu is actually quite formidable too,” Ji Xiaoxi shook her head as she replied with a soft tone.

Pei Mianman secretly poked the cold beauty standing next to her and said, “Hey, it looks like your husband is quite popular with women.”

Chu Chuyan was surprised by Ji Xiaoxi’s action too. She had heard that Ji Xiaoxi had stood up for him once in the academy, but still, the fact that she was choosing him under such circumstances showed that they were really quite close with one another.

“Tsk, yet another one has stepped forward.” Pei Mianman nudged Chu Chuyan and gestured forward. 

Chu Chuyan raised her head and saw Zheng Dan walking toward Zu An’s side as well.

“What’s going on?”

The crowd was bewildered. They had never known Zheng Dan to be on good terms with Zu An.

Seeing this, Zu An found himself unable to stifle his smile. “Is Miss Zheng intending to join my group too?”

Zheng Dan shook her head and said, “That’s not it. There’s just one thing I would like to inform you of.”

“Oh? What is it?” Zu An was perplexed.

Zheng Dan leaned closer to him and whispered softly, “You need to be careful. Someone is intending to take your life in the dungeon.”

With those words, she flashed him a ravishing smile before returning back to her group.

The crowd exhaled deeply in relief upon seeing Zheng Dan’s departure. It would be insane if even Zheng Dan chooses Zu An too. There’s just no way a man can be that popular.

Zu An, on the other hand, fell into deep thought. Someone is intending to kill me? Is it Shi Kun and his group? Since even Snow is here today, it’s likely that they’re trying to pull something.

Zheng Dan looked at the grave expression on Zu An’s face, and her lips curled up a little. 

If Zu An was too weak to escape from Shi Kun’s scheme, it wouldn’t change anything at all, so Shi Kun wouldn’t blame her either. However, if Zu An managed to get away, he would remember this debt and bear goodwill toward her.

This was a sure-win situation for her no matter what happened.

It’s just a pity that Shi Kun is planning to have him assassinated in the dungeon. It would have been a good opportunity to get close to him if I could join his group. But now, I should probably keep my distance to avoid getting implicated.

Jiang Luofu frowned a little when she saw Ji Xiaoxi choosing to go with Zu An, but she chose to refrain from commenting on the matter. With the group selection completed, she began wrapping up her speech, “The deeper you proceed into the dungeon, the greater the degree of danger you’ll face. Know your own limits and don’t blindly charge ahead. Ultimately, what you can obtain in the dungeon depends on luck. There’s no need to force it.” 

“Yes, Principal Jiang!” the students answered in unison.

It was then that the portal behind Jiang Luofu suddenly began distorting further, creating circular ripples across its surface. It took a while before the ripples finally calmed down, forming a light-blue translucent gateway. Concentrated ki could be sensed coming from the other side of the gateway.

The crowd was excited. If the concentration of ki was already at such a high level even while they were at the entrance of the portal, wouldn't it be even more amazing once they were inside?

“The portal into the dungeon has fully opened. I wish all of you the best of luck,” said Jiang Luofu.

With Lu De and Bai Susu leading the crowd, the students began making their way through the portal into the dungeon. Shi Kun paused at the entrance for a brief moment to turn around and look at Zu An. There was a hint of glee on his face.

Zu An suddenly thought of something. Since that fellow is planning to make use of the secrecy of the dungeon to assassinate me, can’t I do the same too?

Chu Chuyan walked over to Zu An’s side and reminded softly, “There’s something wrong with how Shi Kun is looking at you. You should follow me once we’re in the dungeon later on just to be safe.”

However, Zu An shook his head. “I’m one of the teachers leading a group after all. How could I let a student protect me?”

Chu Chuyan frowned. “Look at the occasion. You shouldn’t be bothered about such stuff at a time like this.”

“If you really want to help me, help me keep a lookout for the Evanescent Lotus,” said Zu An.

The more hands to help him, the better it would be. At least it was much better than him fumbling around all alone.

“Evanescent Lotus?” Chu Chuyan was surprised. “What do you need it for? It’s a legendary treasure known to be able to raise a person’s cultivation. Even if I manage to find it, I don’t think that I’ll be willing to spare it to anyone else.”

“That’s pretty frank of you. Oh well, treat it as if I hadn’t said that then.” Zu An shrugged, not thinking much about it.

However, Ji Xiaoxi spoke up in agitation, “Big sister Chu, my father prescribed medicine for him that only lacks the Evanescent Lotus now. He needs it in order to cure his… trauma.”

The shy look on Ji Xiaoxi’s face was more than enough to tell Chu Chuyan what she was referring to. Chu Chuyan shot an awkward gaze at Zu An’s crotch as her face reddened as well. “Alright, I’ll help you keep a lookout for it then. However, you shouldn’t bear too much expectation out of it. It’s an elusive treasure that has mostly only been heard of in stories.”

Feeling too embarrassed talking about such a topic, Chu Chuyan quickly turned her head away and walked off.

“Oh? What did you say to your wife for her to walk away in embarrassment?” Pei Mianman walked over and asked in curiosity.

“It’s a secret. Haven’t you heard of the saying ‘A secret makes a man, man’?” Zu An shook his finger.

“Your mouth sure spouts interesting stuff.” Pei Mianman chuckled softly. “Alright, you should take care of yourself. Don’t get killed in there.”

After saying those words, she made her way into the dungeon.

Soon, the only ones left in the clearing were Zu An and Ji Xiaoxi. Just as they were about to head to the portal, Jiang Luofu suddenly stopped the two of them. “Take good care of her. If she loses even a strand of hair, you need not bother coming out of the dungeon anymore.”

Zu An burst into laughter. “Principal Jiang, you’re too kind! I don’t need Miss Ji to take care of me. Besides, you’re asking too much out of her.”

Jiang Luofu harrumphed coldly. “Are you an idiot? I said to take care of her! You better make sure that not the slightest harm comes to her!”

“???” Zu An.

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