Chapter 531: The Unexpected Beginning of a Trial

While the two of them were resting and recovering, Pei Mianman sent Zu An a voice transmission. “Ah Zu, you have to be careful later on. We cannot trust this Ya Zhang character.”

“Indeed.” Zu An nodded. “There might be some hidden traps on that owl statue. But we’ll talk about this more after we recover.”

“All right.” Pei Mianman had no objections. She began to focus all her attention on her recovery.

Zu An regulated his breathing while asking Mi Li, “Big sis empress, do you think there’s anything wrong with that owl statue?”

Mi Li’s soul body appeared, but of course, only Zu An, who was bound to her, could see her. “I checked it out earlier and didn’t see any hidden mechanisms. If it really is as Ya Zhang says, that no one has ever passed the trial, then there’s no need to set up any traps. Those who enter will die anyway.”

Zu An saw her expression and grew curious. “Since it’s already so dangerous, why aren’t you stopping me from entering?” 

“Why do I need to stop you?” Mi Li looked at him in confusion. “The greater the risk, the greater the return. Now that we know that there are bountiful rewards waiting at the end of the trial, I’d have to be mad to stop you.”

Zu An was left speechless for a moment. “But Ya Zhang said that many others with cultivation levels far above ours failed to pass the trial,” he finally managed.

Although cultivation was only one aspect of a person, more often than not, cultivation also represented an individual’s ability, aptitude, and luck. Putting aside age and  opportunities, those with higher cultivation usually possessed more intelligence and wisdom. If so many geniuses had failed before, what hope would they have of success?

Mi Li frowned when she heard what he said. “Preposterous! Cultivators should be unyielding, and be willing to challenge all odds! If you’re always so scared that you’re about to shit your pants all the time, what’s the point of cultivating at all?!”

Zu An became gloomy. “It’s not like I’m scared of dying… I just don’t want to bring you down with me too. Our souls are bound together, so if I die, you’ll die too. Fifth rank cultivators like me are a dime a dozen—if I die, then so be it, but you’re a powerful expert. It’ll be too much of a pity if you end up dying because of me.”

Mi Li was stunned by his words, and her expression immediately softened. “So you were worried about me. Don’t worry, I believe in you. Only if you become stronger will I have a greater chance of reforging my body in the future.”

Zu An wanted to cry. Telling him that she believed in him didn’t make him feel better at all. He didn’t even have any confidence in himself to begin with.

As if she could sense his uncertainty, Mi Li continued, “Do you think I only said that as mere consolation? I really do believe in you, because I’ve seen what you are capable of. You have endless miraculous skills at your disposal, and you’re a crafty person yourself. I refuse to believe that the Shang monarch’s trial can defeat someone who managed to conquer Ying Zheng’s three formations. If you managed to survive even that, what’s there to worry about with a trial like this?”

Zu An was stunned. You’re actually right… Ying Zheng was none other than one of history’s most powerful emperors! He was the one who unified all of China, establishing traditions that lasted thousands of years. To a certain degree, he was like the emperor of emperors.

Even though the Shang Dynasty was powerful, it was still inferior to the Qin Dynasty. Their monarchs and the talents they possessed would never be able to match up to those of the First Emperor. Since he’d even faced off against this First Emperor, what else did he have to be afraid of?

Mi Li’s voice softened further. “Besides, even if you really did fail the trial, at worst, I’ll just die with you. I don’t even think it’s that big of a deal, so what are you getting worried for?”

Zu An finally regained his usual confident and easygoing manner. “When you put it like that, it sounds as though we’re meeting death together in the name of love. I didn’t think that you cared so much for me, big sis empress.”

Mi Li rolled her eyes. “Save your smooth talk for your big-boobed sis over there. It’s useless on me.”

Zu An looked exasperated. “Manman has a name, you know? Why do you keep calling her that?”

Mi Li gave Pei Mianman a sidelong glance. Her gaze hovered over her chest, and she mumbled, “Who asked her to have such big boobs.”

Zu An could only shake his head.

After this brief period of rest, the two of them were more or less prepared. Even though they hadn’t completely recovered, they were about ninety percent there. Further rest would be meaningless, as they could feel their ki beginning to disappear at a faster rate. If they waited around any longer, they might truly begin to assimilate into the surrounding dungeon.

Zu An had a question for Ya Zhang. “Does the soul alone enter the trial, or does the body enter as well?”

“To be honest, I do not know too much about what the trial is all about,” Ya Zhang replied in a low voice. “However, this is a question I can answer. It is your soul that enters, because the previous men and women who undertook this trial remained next to the owl statue even after their trial had begun.”

Zu An’s expression changed. “Doesn’t that mean that you can kill us once we begin the trial?”

He was fully aware that Ya Zhang was only treating them well right now because of the threat of his primordial ki. After all, this dried-up corpse had wanted to kill him before.

“You do not need to worry about that,” replied Ya Zhang. Once the trial begins, a formation will protect you. The owl statue that the empress left behind will grant you protection from any external force, and this protection will only disappear after the trial ends.

“Furthermore, I will have completed my task once you start the trial, and I will return to my coffin and sleep. After all, this trial might go on for a long time. I do not have the patience to wait for it to reach its conclusion.”

Zu An figured as much. There was no way the Shang monarch would set up something like this just to kill someone. 

Despite this, he didn’t dare to trust Ya Zhang completely. As he wrestled with this conflict, Mi Li’s voice came from beside him. “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of things on this end. Even if that protective formation doesn’t exist, that dried-up corpse general won’t be able to hurt you.”

Zu An was overjoyed. Mi Li would never say something that she wasn’t able to accomplish. “There’s nothing I need to worry about, then. Oh, you have to protect Manman too.”

He remembered her poor attitude towards Pei Mianman the entire time, and was belatedly worried that she might not do anything to protect her. It would be too late for regrets then.

Mi Li did not take his implications well.

You have successfully trolled Mi Li for 22… 22… 22…

“Do I really seem like such a malicious person to you?” Mi Li asked with a frosty stare.

“It’s not maliciousness, but killing decisively,” replied Zu An. “That’s something people of your status would probably do.”

Mi Li sniffed disdainfully. “Killing decisively doesn’t mean acting stupidly. This trial clearly requires the both of you in order to succeed. If I let your big-boobed sis die without doing anything, wouldn’t I be harming you as well? That’s the same as harming myself.”

Zu An let himself relax. What Mi Li said made a lot of sense. “Sorry, big sis empress. I was too small-minded, and judged you unfairly.”

Mi Li turned her away, not bothering with him any further.

“I’ll leave it to you, then,” said Zu An as he smiled awkwardly. With that, he and Pei Mianman went to the owl statue.

Pei Mianman wasn’t stupid, and let him know of her own worries through ki transmission. She too was afraid that Ya Zhang might try something.

“Don’t worry, I’ve already taken care of that,” Zu An reassured her.

Pei Mianman set aside her worries. Ever since she’d met Zu An, she had known him to be reliable when dealing with important matters. Since he said so, she was sure that they would face no problems.

She didn’t know why she trusted this man so much. Her past self would have thought that she’d gone crazy.

Zu An held her hand to prevent something unexpected from happening later on. Then, they put their hands on the owl’s wings as Ya Zhang instructed. They sent their ki and their minds inside.

The owl statue suddenly erupted in a burst of golden light. All of the patterns adorning its body lit up, making it incredibly dazzling to look at.

Before the two of them could tell what exactly had happened, they felt as if they were being pulled into a giant whirlpool. Then, they lost consciousness.

A while later, Zu An woke up in a groggy state. He found himself lying on a luxurious ivory bed. There was even a mist-like muslin veil around it.

He sat up, and all of the covers fell off of his body. He discovered with shock that he was stark naked.

Before he could process what was happening, a charming feminine moan came from beside him.

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