Chapter 101: Guardian Tree
Walking through a transportation portal, Xu Min and Ye Lin arrived within the deepest and darkest part of a forest. Xu Min was starting to feel worried about what he had just stepped into.
"We are back in the Immortal Valley," Ye Ling mumbled in a very low voice, so low in fact Xu Min could only hear it because he was on high alert. Although it made no sense for these Guardians to take him to a remote area and just kill him, he could not help but feel this would be what happened to him.
"Have you been here before?" Xu Min mumbled in return. Ye Ling just shook his head without explaining anything further. Whether or not he had something to say, he did not say it since the elder turned to look at them.
Because he was wearing a cloak, it was hard to see whether or not he was looking at them with a stern expression or not. Thus the three, two men and the beast, said no more.
The group was walking on a small trail. At first sight, the trail seemed to belong to a group of beasts, but upon further inspection, it was a rather busy road. The ground was covered by leaves. It seemed as though it was barely stepped upon, but the path was wide, and there were no signs of any animals close by.
When Xu Min, Ye Ling, and the elder were moving on the path none of them stepped hard and not a leaf was turned. Since Xu Min and Ye Ling had stopped talking no sound could be heard, not even the normal sounds of animals that would inhabit such a grand forest.
They walked for what seemed like an eternity, In reality, though, it only took them around one hour before the elder stopped in his tracks and looked to the side. There was a massive tree at least five hundred meters tall with a tree trunk so thick even ten people together could not reach all the way around it.
The elder, looking at this tree and nodded his head. He bowed deeply in front of him. These actions caused Xu Min to be stunned at first, but upon remembering the scene he had seen in Cao Cao's home, he realized trees were conscious beings too. He followed suit and bowed towards the tree. Even Ye Ling copied his action.
"This is our Guardian Tree; it is the entrance to our Academy," the elder explained for the first time since they had exited the buildings in the Immortal Ruins. "The Guardian Tree is as old as the Immortal Valley itself and has seen countless conflicts and times of peace. It has grown in harsh weathers and experienced torrential rains and forest fires. Now it is the sovereign of all plants."
"This Guardian tree is the root and foundation of our sect. Treat it with the respect it deserves."
As the elder finished speaking, the tree lowered its branches. Soon it was possible for it to touch the elder and Xu Min. It paid absolutely no attention to Ye Ling.
At this point, Xu Min was extremely nervous. To be scrutinized by a tree was not something he had expected. He had no idea what this tree was looking for, so his heart was beating rapidly while he stood still like a twig, not daring to utter any sound nor make any movements.
It was not only Xu Min who was worried. The elder felt his heart beat rapidly as well. Just like Xu Min, he feared the verdict of the tree. This particular elder had been very supportive of Xu Min during the Immortal Valley Rankings. He had been one of the speakers that suggested they take him in. Nevertheless, it was not him who ultimately decided if Xu Min was good enough for their sect. Only someone approved by the Guardian Tree could enter into the academy.
The leaves were now completely covering Xu Min, making him seem as if he had been a part of the tree from the very start. He had trouble breathing, but he did not complain.
An ancient power rushed through his body. The power entered him into the deepest core of his dantian and examined every single cell of his being.
This ancient power clearly did not belong to him, nor did it merge with his Qi to become his power. Instead, it was as if it was roaming through his body to investigate his level of his power and the abilities he possessed.
Slowly the ancient power started to seep out of his body. This time it entered the leaves that covered him until there was nothing left. By then the leaves let go of him. The tree once more stood tall and straight; the branches no longer bending down.
Xu Min was unaware of what had happened. He did not know the type of energy that had been used nor did he understand what kind of power this ancient tree had. He was unable to fully understand the purpose either. Thus he waited patiently for the tree to make its verdict. He had no power to go against this tree, so all he could do was to wait.
The Elder was even more impatient. He understood what was going on much better than Xu Min, and he also knew how important this was for them. Although Xu Min had not been given any specific information about the school just yet, if he did not gain approval now, he needed to be killed. They could not afford to let anyone who knew even the slightest information about their sect go free.
Since this elder was greatly interested in Xu Min and his potential, he was not willing to see such a talented individual die a meaningless death. As a result, he astutely and impatiently observed the tree with great expectations.
Xu Min unaware of his possibly grim fate was not so nervous. If he did not manage to become a student of this academy, then he would just choose to go elsewhere to increase his strength. He was incapable of knowing he would die if he failed.
The tree, seemingly not reacting to the tension that was building beneath it, spent a lot of time considering. Xu Min was not a true member of the Guardians of the Immortal Valley, but after his visit to the Blood Pagoda, he could be considered almost one.
A rustling noise sounded through the leaves and branches, and a gentle breeze swept past the elder and Xu Min. Suddenly a portal appeared out of nowhere; right in front of the tree trunk and the elder heaved a heavy sigh of relief.
"We heed your decision," he said with veneration in his voice and bowed deeply once more after which he led Xu Min to the portal.
"Enter," he ordered. Xu Min, who dared not dally around, instantly entered the portal followed closely by Ye Ling.
The two left the quietness of the forest. The moment they stepped through the portal, they were assaulted by noise. It sounded as if they were standing in the middle of a busy square filled with people who were discussing one thing after another.
Once Xu Min stepped through this portal and heard the noise, though, it only took a short while before it turned silent, hushing sounds could be heard.
It took Xu Min's eyes a moment to get used to the new location. As he opened them, he found that he was within a small chamber. Behind him was a portal which led straight to the Guardian Tree. Then the Elder appeared.
"We are in the middle of the central palace of the Immortal Valley Academy. Outside is thousands of students our academy teaches. Since they heard that we were going to take in a new student , all of them have been waiting to see you."
"This is the first time in our history that a new student has been introduced to our academy. It is a great event. I am sure they had been taking bets as to whether or not you successfully managed to get past the Guardian Tree."
"Some people will be supporting you while others will not be. Many will be hostile towards you and try to make life hard for you. However, if you can prove your strength, you will be able to continue where not many will be able to put up a fight against you."
"I have to warn you, though," the elder continued, "the geniuses of the rest of these Immortal Ruins are nothing compared to the geniuses of our academy. You, although fairly strong, can only be considered average when it comes to true battles."
"Do your best and make the elders, who supported you to join, us proud. If you need anything, don't hesitate to come looking for me. I, Mu Zi, will do anything in my power to assist you. I will always be on your side."
Xu Min, hearing these words, felt grateful. He was not sure why people would be hostile towards him unless it were because he was different from them. However, did being different mean that one should be treated with enmity?
Xu Min did not understand this, but truthfully he did not care. Even if the world turned against him, he would just go against the world. If an Immortal blocked his way, he would find a way to kill an Immortal, let alone these students. They might be geniuses but how many geniuses had Xu Min already killed? He did not fear the geniuses of this academy even though he understood they were the real deal.
Mu Zi would not lie to him about the fact that his strength was only considered mediocre. He also knew that all he needed was to gain further control of his abilities. All the things he had gained from the Blood Pagoda were just waiting for him to gain a better understanding of. Once he had time to control his abilities and understand his items, his power would soar to the sky. His combat ability would become frightening, and his rank would jump once more.
All this, Xu Min understood. This was why he was not frightened by these geniuses. He doubted that they would commit fratricide, kill members of their school.
Although Xu Min was done with his old life, the childhood he had gone through had taught him how to endure. He knew how to hold a grudge, but most importantly he knew how to bide time. He knew how to hold back when he was insulted. This was another reason why he felt confident in his ability to survive. Some might call him cowardly, but Xu Min would remember every single insult that had been placed upon him and paid it back tenfold. Though, this was until he was certain that he could return this insult tenfold. He had to have confidence he could win.
Because of these certainties of his ability, Xu Min was not too worried about the possibility of creating numerous enemies. So far in his life, he already had so many that he could hardly count. Everywhere he went he would end up killing large groups of experts, causing more and more factions to view him unfavorably. To have some enemies within this academy was not the worst thing he had to think about.
"Are you ready?" Elder Mu Zi asked. His voice revealed the excitement he had for Xu Min. Xu Min steeled himself up before he nodded his head. He was ready.
Together the four of them, the elder, Xu Min and the two beasts, stepped forward and got ready to meet the masses which were waiting for him outside. Even though Xu Min was not too worried about his future here, he could not help but have a rapid beating heart and feel the excitement to see his new home.