Phoenix’s Requiem - Chapter 37
Chapter 37: On What Grounds?
“Half of the beast carcasses missing?” The crowd was shocked upon hearing Zhuo Yifeng’s exclamation.
“How could it be? Where would they have vanished to?” Lin Qingxue opened her eyes wide as she looked at Zhuo Yifeng.
“You’ll be able to see it for yourself if you follow me.” Zhuo Yifeng didn’t try to explain the situation, because he didn’t know how.
As the others traipsed into the valley clearing, they saw that the path, filled with carcasses last night, was now left with no more than one-third that number!
“Quick, look!” Lin Qingchen knelt down and inspected a certain carcass. “There are bite marks over here.”
Yun Ruoyan recognized the beast as a long-horned goat, which she’d seen in a list of records. It was a mid-tier beast whose regular diet was all sorts of spiritual herbs. Lin Qingchen pointed at a wound on its leg and said, “These bite marks clearly weren’t a result of trampling. Some carnivorous beast must have been here!”
Upon closer inspection, Zhuo Yifeng confirmed that this was indeed the case. Because most of the beasts had been trampled over and had wounds all over their body, none of them had noticed this point earlier.
But Lin Qingchen was careful, attentive, and used to bandaging patients’ wounds, so she noticed this point relatively quickly.
The others inspected the nearby carcasses and found that there were quite a few bite marks all over. Could these carcasses have been consumed by some other beast?!
“Qiuqiu,” Yun Ruoyan called for Qiuqiu mentally.
“Yes, Mistress?” Qiuqiu yawned.
“Did you hear anything last night?”
“Hmm?” Qiuqiu was a little embarrassed. “Sorry, I was sleeping last night as well.”
Although Qiuqiu was indeed a mystical beast, it had only been unsealed quite recently, and wasn’t strong enough to leave the bracelet. Furthermore, just like humans, it needed sufficient rest. As a result, whenever Yun Ruoyan didn’t call on it, it was either cultivating or resting.
“Let’s not worry about this for the moment.” Yun Ruoyan decided not to pursue this line of reasoning further and focused on the essentials. “Let’s extract as many beast cores as we can and leave before anything else gets here.”
After quickly preparing and having a meal, everyone got right to work. Although the beasts were mostly low-tier, there were so many of them that, even after more than half had vanished, there was still plenty of work for each of them.
While they were rapidly cleaning up the corpses, a loud voice suddenly spoke up. “Someone got here before us?!”
The exclamation was so loud that it reverberated around the valley, echoing once and again.
Everyone turned towards the voice and saw a group of shadows appearing by the other end of the valley.
Yun Ruoyan’s eyebrows frowned, seeing familiar enemies once again.
There were about ten or so people in the group. When they saw Yun Ruoyan’s group, they began walking even faster, trying to intimidate her group with strength in numbers.
“Why is it them again?! Honestly, isn’t this territory large enough for us to avoid them entirely?” Once they got close enough and Lin Qingxue managed to get a clear look at their faces, her expression warped in disgust.
When Yun Ruoyao, Pei Ziao, and the others saw the group, they were equally shocked.
They couldn’t have imagined that Yun Ruoyan and the others were actually able to escape the snake lair. Even more surprisingly, after their escape, they had somehow arrived at the center of the territory before them!
Yun Ruoyan’s gaze swept over Yun Ruoyao and Pei Ziao before landing on a youth dressed in dark blue.
He was the loudmouth who had spoken just before. His physique didn’t seem any weaker than Zhuo Yifeng’s, and his rough features were lined with viciousness. One glance was sufficient for Yun Ruoyan to mark him as someone to watch out for.
Based on his shout, Yun Ruoyan could discern that he was likely stronger than everyone else present. Without borrowing her bracelet’s power, she was naturally no match for him.
“Pei Ziao, didn’t you say that you were the only one who knew where the thousand-herb valley was?” That youth asked critically as he walked towards Yun Ruoyan’s group.
“I promise I didn’t deceive you. I’m truly the only one who knows the way here, but some other groups might have found their way to this valley by mistake.” As Pei Ziao answered him, his gaze landed on Yun Ruoyan’s body once more, his frown deepening.
Pei Ziao’s father was only a fifth-rank forgemaster, not particularly important in the grand scheme of things in the Li kingdom. However, while forging weapons for the nobility, he was able to obtain quite a number of useful secrets.
Once, having been entrusted to forge a weapon for one of the head guards responsible for the territory, he invited the guard to dinner, got him drunk, and managed to extract a juicy secret about the territory: deep within the area was a hidden location, the thousand-herb valley.
Large quantities of precious herbs grew there, buoyed by the high spiritual energy density, and those herbs attracted a large number of herbivorous beasts.
Because of how many beasts there were, during the early summer, there would always be stampedes that culled a large number of the weaker beasts, and those beasts’ carcasses would then attract large groups of carnivorous beasts. This was why the thousand-herb valley was also called the thousand-beast valley.
But the location was secret enough that almost no one would be able to enter the valley without deliberately seeking it out. Among the crowd who had entered the territory, none other knew this secret.
This was a secret kept by the Li kingdom’s royalty. Every three years, they would send someone to the thousand-herb valley to gather the natural treasures, and this was the most important reason why they were stronger than the imperial families of the other three kingdoms.
Of course, once Pei Yingxiong was made aware of this secret, he wholeheartedly regretted that he didn’t know of its existence when he too was given the opportunity to enter the imperial realm. Otherwise, he would have risked his life to bring back some spiritual herbs and beast cores for himself in order to advance his cultivation.
He had been stuck as a fifth-rank forgemaster for more than three years. If he were to stop advancing, the status of the Pei family in the capital would only go down.
This was why he revealed this secret to his son, Pei Ziao, after exhorting once and again that he had to get his father a high-grade beast core or spiritual herb for his cultivation.
“Wang Kuang,” Pei Ziao leaned in closer to Wang Kuang and whispered lightly, “You’ve sworn that, if I bring you here to search for treasure with me, you’ll tell no one about this, right?”
If the imperial family knew that he was the one who had disseminated this secret, they surely wouldn’t let him go.
“Don’t worry! We’re sworn brothers, aren’t we? You shared this secret with me, so I’m hardly going to harm you. Rest assured, I won’t say a single word.”
“Which family are you from? How did you guys get into this area?” Another slender youth, Liu Sheng, spoke up arrogantly as he pointed at Yun Ruoyan and her group.
The remaining youths also looked haughtily at Yun Ruoyan’s group.
The Yun siblings, however, were nowhere to be seen. They’d hidden behind the group of foreigners, both saddled by somewhat of a guilty conscience for having deliberately tried to harm them and happy to see the group of youths from the Yue kingdom take care of Yun Ruoyan’s group.
“We’re from the Yun and Lin families from the Li kingdom. Who are you?” Yun Ruoyan was naturally unafraid of this motley group. Even if they looked to be decently strong, Yun Ruoyan’s calm demeanor had been weathered by age and time.
Furthermore, Yun Ruoyan was clearly aware that the most frightening people were intelligent schemers like Yi Qianying, and this crowd was clearly brainless.
“You’re from the Yun family?!” Liu Sheng opened his slitted eyes wide as he glanced at Yun Ruoyan and then Yun Ruoyao. “You’re from the same family?”
“That’s right, we’re one big family.” Only then did Yun Ruoyao’s group of three walk out from the back, saying to Liu Sheng, “She’s the sister I’ve been telling you about, the second daughter of the Yun family, Yun Ruoyan.”
“Sister Ruoyan, you’re still alive! I’m so glad!” Yi Qianying cheered with joy, the almost tearful expression on her petite face so realistic that Yun Ruoyan almost believed it.
“Oh, so she’s that ugly girl.” Another girl from the group, also dressed in red, tittered.
These past few days, they’d heard quite a bit about Yun Ruoyan while they were in the capital, and then been influenced by Yun Ruoyao’s group during the expedition.
“Ah, Sister Fei’er, look at the birthmark on her cheek! It’s bleeding, how disgusting!” Another girl added.
Her birthmark had been leaking a considerable amount of pus lately, and she didn’t worry too much about her appearance in front of her party. In the morning, to avoid the hassle of having to clean her hair after it came in contact with the leaking pus, Yun Ruoyan had tied her hair back and exposed her birthmark and scar.
“Those who have a vicious heart really are ugly!” The red-clad girl, Jin Fei’er, scrunched up her nose as she spoke.
“What did you say?!” Lin Qingxue jumped up in anger. Ever since she was a child, she’d always held her cousin, who was deemed a genius at cultivation, in high esteem. Even when this cousin fell from grace and became all but useless, drifting further apart from her, it hadn’t dimmed her favorable impression of her.
And now that this cousin had reappeared and slowly gotten closer to them, displaying her outstanding intellect and strength, she was once again Lin Qingxue’s idol.
How dare someone curse her idol to her face?!
“Tell me what you mean by that, or I won’t leave you be.” Lin Qingxue brandished her daggers, still stained with beast gore and entrails.
“And who are you? I’m just talking about Yun Ruoyan. What does that have anything to do with you?” Jin Fei’er didn’t back down, clearly used to such shenanigans.
“Listen closely.” Lin Qingxue placed her hands behind her back as she introduced herself. “I’m Lin Qingxue, the second miss of the Lin family. My grandfather’s Lin Zainan, and this is my elder sister, Lin Qingchen.”
Lin Qingchen nodded coolly.
Lin Zainan was a name known throughout the entirety of the Chenyuan continent, and Jin Fei’er clearly seemed familiar with it. Her tone was somewhat more subdued and respectful as she said, “Oh, the granddaughter of Master Lin.”
“That’s right! Yun Ruoyan’s my cousin and Master Lin’s granddaughter. How dare you disrespect her out of nowhere?”
“I was simply quoting someone else’s words.” Jin Fei’er pretended to inspect her fingernails as her eyes drifted toward Yun Ruoyao. “It was her sister, Yun Ruoyao, who said those words, that she wasn’t working in her family’s interests but instead turned to outsiders and that her group had perished because of her overconfidence. By the way, how are all of you still alive?”
Lin Qingxue’s head began to steam as she heard those words. Not only did Yun Ruoyao try to scheme against them, she even planned on ruining their reputation!
Yun Ruoyan began to laugh out of anger, her eyes staring straight at Yun Ruoyao. “Sister, you haven’t become an amnesiac all of a sudden, have you? Don’t you know full well who tried to harm whom?”
Yun Ruoyao defended herself calmly. “Sister, I don’t want to argue with you. Since you’re hale and well, once we’re all out of this place, I’m sure Father will handle our dispute.”
“Is that so?” Yun Ruoyan’s eyes were mocking. Ever since she’d lost her talent—no, perhaps even earlier, her father had never been fair to her!
“Ah, here’s something good!” As the tension in the air rose, Liu Sheng suddenly shouted from a distance.
The crowd all turned to him: he was stooping in front of a firesteed’s carcass, a fiery red core in his hand, smiling so widely all his teeth were showing.
A flamesteed was a mid-rank beast, and although its core was less valuable than that of the saber-toothed tiger, it was still worth a pretty penny.
Wang Kuang immediately walked over and smacked Liu Sheng on the head.
“I told you not to make any moves on your own, didn’t I! Put it back! Without their cores, these carcasses won’t be fragrant, and then how will we lure high-tier beasts over?”
“Ah? Ah, I forgot as soon as I saw the treasure.” Liu Sheng glanced innocently at Wang Kuang before putting the core back into the steed’s body with a grimace on his face.
“You’re right, brother, but how did you know about such a good place to begin with? Not only can we get all these cores for nothing, we can even capture high-rank beasts!”
“Oh, I have my ways!” As Wang Kuang laughed, he glanced at Pei Ziao before smacking Liu Sheng once more. “But what do you care? You just have to listen to my orders!”
Then, he turned toward Yun Ruoyan. “You guys can keep the cores you’ve already dug out, but from now on, this area’s off-limits. You can all leave now.”
Yun Ruoyan raised an eyebrow. “Oh? Leave, on what grounds?”