By the time Nie Tian and Luo Xin reached Black Water Lake, it had started to drizzle.
As raindrops fell into Black Water Lake and created tiny splashes, a dark-gray mist gradually rose above the lake surface, emitting a foul smell.
“Is this Black Water Lake?” With a thought, Nie Tian commanded his seven Heaven Eyes to fly high above Black Water Lake and its vicinity, where they learned the terrain and kept a close watch on everything.
A large amount of surprisingly tall plants could be seen around Black Water Lake, while many logs covered in moss floated in the dark water.
There were three small islands at the center of the lake, where plants were flourishing more exuberantly than any other place nearby.
By nightfall, Nie Tian’s Heaven Eyes had finished scanning the area around Black Water Lake, and discovered several dozen human corpses.
Just as Xu Hu had said, those humans clearly hadn’t been killed by spirit beasts. Some of the corpses were highly rotten, as if they had died from deadly toxins.
Even if spirit beasts discovered those toxic bodies, they wouldn’t show any interest in them.
Nie Tian also discovered a few severed limbs, which had obviously been chopped off with sharp blades.
There was a limit to the coverage of Nie Tian’s Heaven Eyes. After roaming about for a while, they still failed to detect any signs of life.
Thus, Nie Tian was prepared to move to another location.
That was when he discovered via one of his Heaven Eyes that a perfectly-proportioned young woman was rapidly approaching his current location.
Even though the woman’s face didn’t look familiar at all, Nie Tian had a strange sense of familiarity towards her.
After searching in his mind briefly, his expression flickered. He exclaimed, looking shocked, “I can’t believe it’s her...”
“What?” Luo Xin was puzzled.
“The daughter of the Dong Clan’s clanmaster,” Nie Tian said, his eyebrows furrowed.
“Dong Li?” Luo Xin was taken aback. “Where? How are you seeing her? Also, even if you can somehow see her, how can you tell it’s her? I thought you didn’t know her.”
“I’ve met her before,” Nie Tian gave a dissembling answer.
Luo Xin’s expression grew strange as she said, “I’ve been here in the Realm of a Hundred Battles for quite some time now. It’s said that Dong Li is a woman of singular beauty. I’ve heard that she went on tempering trips to other realms, and she didn’t return to the Realm of a Hundred Battles until recently. Where did you meet her?”
“A woman of singular beauty?” Nie Tian went blank as he searched through his encounters with Dong Li in his head. However, he couldn’t connect Luo Xin’s description of her with the image of Dong Li in his head.
In his memories, Dong Li was a very curvaceous woman, but her appearance was far from outstanding.
However, as he gave it more thought, he realized that considering Dong Baijie, Dong Li’s older brother, had given him a mask as a gift, Dong Li probably possessed similar masks as well.
She might have changed her appearance with a mask so that she wouldn’t be identified when she ran amuck in the Void Illusion Mountain Range.
Nie Tian drew this conclusion rapidly.
“Is Dong Li coming at us? How many people does she have with her? Also, is she friendly or hostile?” Luo Xin suddenly grew anxious. “If you’ve offended her before, we’d better avoid contact with her! I’ve heard that woman is an absolutely vicious beauty! She has the fame of a thorny rose in the Realm of a Hundred Battles. God knows how many young men who admired her have died at her hands!”
Luo Xin and Li Fan were the ones in charge of the Cloudsoaring Sect’s affairs in the Realm of a Hundred Battles, and it was Luo Xin’s duty to gather information.
Dong Li, as the daughter of the Dong Clan’s clanmaster, had been a key target. What she had heard about his young woman had made her raise her guard against her.
According to what she had learned, the competition among members of the Dong Clan had always been intense and cruel, even for the younger generations.
Only by making outstanding achievements would members of the Dong Clan attract more resources to themselves, so that they would be able to build up their strength, progress in their cultivation bases, and acquire spiritual tools and incantations of higher grades.
Dong Li had been a very strong performer.
When it came to schemes and maneuvering people, she had been much more skilled than her older brother.
This was why many senior members of the Dong Clan had believed that she would have a promising future in the clan. For the same reason, many people volunteered to become her subordinates.
“Hostile, I’m afraid,” Nie Tian said honestly.
“Then we need to get away from her now!” Anxiety could be seen in Luo Xin’s eyes.
“She’s coming by herself. There’s no reason for us to be afraid of her.” Nie Tian grinned as he continued, “I fought her once when I was at the early Heaven stage and she was at the late Heaven stage. I couldn’t say that I was impressed by her strength. Even though she’s entered the Greater Heaven stage now, I’ve also advanced to the late Heaven stage. It’s hard to say who’s going to cower.”
“But we’re in the Dong Clan’s territory!” Luo Xin reminded Nie Tian solemnly.
“You’re right. That makes it a bit tricky.” Nie Tian said, nodding.
He had come to Black Water Lake to find his grandfather and aunt, and that was his primary goal.
Once they encountered Dong Li, they would inevitably get into trouble, which would definitely have a toll on the efficiency of his search.
“Alright. We’ll steer clear of her.” In order to find the Cloudsoaring Sect’s exploration group as soon as possible, he compromised. Pinning one of his Heaven Eyes on Dong Li, he and Luo Xin managed to avoid contact with her.
Afterwards, the two of them followed the edge of Black Water Lake to the other side.
About a quarter hour later...
He suddenly caught sight of five black-robed Qi warriors jumping out of a thick bush and landing on logs covered in moss that were floating in the dark water.
Each and every one of them was at the early Greater Heaven stage, and they seemed to be fairly acquainted with each other.
Standing on the logs, they propelled them forwards with their spiritual power. Like canoes, the pieces of ancient wood gradually sailed towards the three small islands at the center of Black Water Lake.
They all had sullen expressions on their faces and ice-cold looks in their eyes. Each of them seemed to unleash an aura that agreed with the foul-smelling mist above Black Water Lake.
With furrowed brows, Nie Tian gradually determined with the help of his Heaven Eyes that they were Qi warriors from the Realm of Black Marsh!
The only Qi warrior from the Realm of Black Marsh he had ever met was Miao Chen, who he had met during the Heaven Gate trial.
Aside from him, Li Langfeng, who he had met in the Realm of Split Void, had once told him that although he was from the Realm of Dark Underworld, he had switched to his current toxic incantations due to some reason, which had originated from the Realm of Black Marsh.
According to Li Langfeng, the Realm of Black Marsh had once been home to the Fiends, whose bloodline power would allow them to strengthen themselves with toxins.
Ever since the Fiends had disappeared from the Realm of Black Marsh, its unique climate and environment hadn’t gone through much change. Therefore, most of the Qi warriors from the Realm of Black Marsh were experts in toxic incantations, making them a group of Qi warriors that were very difficult to deal with throughout the Domain of the Falling Stars.
Now, a handful of them had somehow appeared in the Realm of a Hundred Battles.
From the look of it, they were none other than the team that had slaughtered many other Qi warriors by Black Water Lake.
Standing on floating logs, the five of them gradually split apart and drifted towards the three islands at the center of the lake.
At that moment, Dong Li arrived by Black Water Lake. Standing on the bank, she shouted at the five Qi warriors from the Realm of Black Marsh, “Hey! Get the hell away from there!”
Dong Li figured out what they were after as soon as she saw the five of them approaching the islands at the center of the lake.
On those three small islands grew about a dozen extremely precious spirit plants, which the Dong Clan had long since claimed ownership to.
Several of the plants were extremely toxic. The Dong Clan had planned to sell them to Qi warriors from the Realm of Black Marsh when they reached maturity.
However, considering that the water in Black Water Lake contained deadly toxins, that those plants hadn’t reached maturity, and that they had long since announced a ban on any Qi warrior setting foot on the three small islands at the center of Black Water Lake, Dong Li had never expected that Qi warriors from the Realm of Black Marsh would actually violate the rules by secretly approaching the plants.
Since they had made plans to secretly harvest those spirit plants, it made sense that they had deliberately cleaned up every Qi warrior that had come close to this area. They had probably done it to silence those explorers and hide their traces and identities, so that the Dong Clan wouldn’t come for them.
A few other Qi warriors from the Realm of Black Marsh secretly stuck their heads out from behind the bush where the first five had jumped out. “A member of the Dong Clan!”
“That seems to be a girl from the Dong Clan, senior martial brother. What should we do?”
“What are you afraid of? She’s only at the early Greater Heaven stage. Since I had the courage to come here, I took into account that we might run into people from the Dong Clan. As long as we can get the stuff and return to the Realm of Black Marsh in time, what can they do? Ignore her. We stick to our plan. If she dares to interfere, we’ll go teach her a lesson!”
“Do we strike to kill?”
“That won’t be necessary. We just need to stop her and make sure she doesn’t jeopardize our operation.”
Translator: Alcohol Sword Immortal a.k.a. Beerblade. (Follow me on Twitter)
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鹤 立 鸡 群 (hè lì jī qún)
Meaning: A crane standing among chickens; stands out in a group, way above the common, manifestly superior.