As Li Mo stared into Yun Ruoyan’s eyes, which were turning red because of her anxiety, his smile expanded. “Yan’er, I love seeing your concern for me.”
The deep smile on his face caused an unknown anger to well up from deep within Yun Ruoyan’s heart, and she knocked Li Mo’s hand away from his cheek. “You…”
She glared at Li Mo, but she didn’t know how to express this anger that threatened to consume her. How stupid she was! Li Mo was the Slaughtering King, a veritable god! How could he have been endangered by a mere vine spirit?
Yun Ruoyan, who could maintain her cool even in the face of imminent danger, had panicked as soon as she had seen Li Mo in peril. Fear, anxiety, and nervousness, more concentrated than she had ever experienced before, had threatened to swamp her.
Now, as she looked at Li Mo standing unharmed in front of her, all that anxiety and fear transformed into anger, clogging up her chest and leaving her at a loss for words.
Seeing her vexed expression, Li Mo lightly pulled her into his embrace. “Yan’er, I’m alright. On the Chenyuan continent, there’s not much that can harm my life.” 
Yun Ruoyan’s large, expressive eyes began to well with tears. “Li Mo, promise me you’ll always be fine, alright?”
“Of course, Yan’er,” Li Mo replied seriously.
Zhuo Yifeng, standing not too far away, turned elsewhere as soon as he saw the two of them starting to hug. His gaze landed on two protrusions in the ground that had appeared after the vine half-spirit’s death. Seeing that they looked like human figures, Zhuo Yifeng walked over curiously.
After Li Mo had killed the vine spirit, all the vines in the region had wilted, leaving only yellowed remnants on the ground. Those two human-like protrusions were hidden beneath these yellowed remnants.
Zhuo Yifeng walked up to them, parted the wilted vines with the bow in his hands, and found the two youths lying underneath.
“They’re over here!” Zhuo Yifeng called out, and Li Mo and Yun Ruoyan began walking over instantly.
Zhuo Yifeng didn’t recognize the two youths, but Yun Ruoyan did: they were Guan Ruliu’s two missing teammates. Zhuo Yifeng leaned down to check their breathing, then felt at their necks.
“Their spiritual energy has been completely sucked away by the vine spirit,” Li Mo began. “And their spiritual vortices seem to have been damaged irrecoverably. I’m afraid they won’t be able to keep their cultivation.”
Li Mo’s voice was grim, and Yun Ruoyan and Zhuo Yifeng’s faces were severe. The miasmic air that surrounded this swamp was artificial, manmade—before they investigated the matter further, they couldn’t be sure exactly who it was that had laid such a devious trap for them.
Zhuo Yifeng and Li Mo each carried one of the two unconscious youths out of the wild vine nest. Compared to them, Guan Ruliu was doing far better. Although she had also lost almost all her spiritual energy, her spiritual vortex had been unaffected. After some rest and recuperation, she would be able to recover without any permanent damage.
Li Mo handed a bone quintessence pill to Yun Ruoyan, who helped Guan Ruliu consume it. After she did so, she was barely able to stand with Yun Ruoyan’s assistance.
By then, the sky had fully darkened. Saddled as they were with three injured cultivators, they wouldn’t be able to climb up to treetops to rest as they had done the night before. Instead, they found a relatively secluded location and made camp there.
After dealing with the three injured cultivators, Zhuo Yifeng began to set up a fire. Guan Ruliu had recovered slightly after some meditation, and Yun Ruoyan handed her a slice of roast meat, which she forced herself to consume.
“Senior Sister Guan, how did you end up in that wild vine spirit’s nest?”
“I don’t have any evidence, but I’m certain that the one who harmed us is Rong Yueshan’s group,” Guan Ruliu replied angrily. “Rong Yueshan, Yi Qianying, Pei Ziao, Guan Tianyu, and two other students from the northern college have all banded together.”
“They’re all as bad as each other!” Yun Ruoyan cried out. The moment she discovered the miasma, she began to suspect that it had been a ploy by Rong Yueshan and her crew, but she had no idea what their motive could be.
“How can you be certain that the culprits were Rong Yueshan and the rest?” Li Mo asked. As the instructor responsible for this training, he needed verifiable evidence.
“Yesterday, we encountered them while exploring the forest. Because I didn’t want to end up in an altercation with them, I took a side path with my two juniors,” Guan Ruliu continued. “In the middle of the night, however, I suddenly heard a male and female talking to each other. By the time I awoke, I found that miasma had surrounded me.”
Although Guan Ruliu didn’t see anyone with her own eyes, she thought that those voices sounded like Rong Yueshan and Guan Tianyu.
Yun Ruoyan frowned. “Did you hear what they were saying?”
“It seemed like they were trying to make use of me to lure others into the trap, but as for whom, I’m not quite sure.”
Yun Ruoyan and Zhuo Yifeng exchanged a glance—someone whom Rong Yueshan, Guan Tianyu, Yi Qianying, and Pei Ziao wanted to hurt? Surely it could be none other than Yun Ruoyan.
“As I awoke, I discovered that the miasma was poisonous. I had already breathed some in during my sleep, but luckily my cultivation was high enough to shield me against part of its ill effects. I was able to move if I struggled, but both my juniors were unconscious…”
Guan Ruliu glanced at her two juniors. After being saved, they had each woken up once, and Yun Ruoyan had fed them both a bone quintessence pill. Although neither of them were in mortal danger, it was unlikely that they would retain their cultivation.
Both of them had fallen into a deep sleep because of their weakness.
“I tried to bring my juniors out of the miasma, in the direction in which it was least concentrated. Somehow, we ended up in the wild vine spirit’s nest. Once those vines came in contact with our bodies, they started to suck away our spiritual energy. Given my weakness, I was unable to defend myself, and my juniors were engulfed almost immediately. I was hung upside-down for a day and night. Just when I thought I would die here, I sensed your presence nearby.”
Guan Ruliu clutched her chest weakly as she spoke. Yun Ruoyan reached out and took her hand, lightly consoling her, “Senior Sister Guan, it’s alright. You’re safe.”
In the night, six shadows darted through the forest and arrived at the miasmic swamp.
“Sister Yi, can you remove the miasma now?” Rong Yueshan asked Yi Qianying.
These six shadows were none other than Yi Qianying, Rong Yueshan, Pei Ziao, Guan Tianyu, and another male and female from the northern college. The skinny male was Song Yi, and the beady-eyed female was Sun Yan.
Yi Qianying replied in the affirmative. She took out some powder from a pouch by her waist, then turned to Song Yi and Sun Yan. “Senior Song, Senior Sun, please help me.”
Song Yi snapped his fingers and tossed a spark of flame at the powder in Yi Qianying’s hands. Instead of catching on fire, the powder began to release a white, odorless smoke in the air. Sun Yan then extended a hand and waved her fingers at the smoke, generating a gust of wind that blew the smoke into the miasma. As it did so, both the smoke and miasma seemed to vanish.
The six students then rushed toward the nest of wild vines, where none of them seemed shocked to find a whole patch of wilted vines.
“Third Uncle’s right—this half-spirit was no match for the Slaughtering King!” Rong Yueshan exclaimed.
“According to Master Rong, Master Mo’s already a peak ninth-rank blademaster, and he’s infinitesimally close to becoming a sword saint,” Guan Tianyu continued. “The vine half-spirit’s only a peak eighth-rank blademaster at most, and its body is particularly weak. Once it’s caught, there’s no way Master Mo would let it get away.”
“Considering Master Mo’s personality, he’d definitely kill it immediately! And because of the miasma, they’d surely vacate the area right after saving the students,” Yi Qianying added. “Master Rong predicted everything perfectly!”
Guan Tianyu smiled. “Given how important these students were to Master Mo, I’m sure he didn’t search the area for the treasure that the vine half-spirit left behind. Everyone, let’s spread out and search for it.”
After about fifteen minutes, Pei Ziao finally found the swampy ground under which the vine spirit had been hiding. As he scraped away the wilted vines, a pale green glow emerged from underneath.
“It’s over here!” Pei Ziao called out, and the remaining five members rushed to him.
“This is it!” Rong Yueshan exclaimed. The pale green glow illuminated their smiling faces.
“Be careful. Don’t frighten it, and don’t let it run off…” Guan Tianyu leaned down and whispered.
The six students surrounded the glowing, swampy ground, all leaning down. Guan Tianyu made a hand signal to the remaining five students, all of whom held their breath as they watched Guan Tianyu take out a dagger and a golden cord.
Guan Tianyu gently began digging at the ground with his dagger and quickly revealed a jade-green rhizome. The gathered students’ eyes gleamed as Guan Tianyu carefully dug around it. “Everyone, be alert! It’s about to come out!”
Suddenly, a bright green light scampered out from underground. The six students reached out for it together, startling it and causing it to try to dive back into the ground. However, Guan Tianyu’s golden cord had already bound it tightly.
“It’s caught, it’s caught!” Guan Tianyu stood up in excitement, holding up the bright green bundle in his hands. The other five students all stared at it in wonder...
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