AGM 182 - Dangers of the Refinement Grounds
One was unable to determine the age of the Palace Mistress merely from looking at her features. It was rumored that she was the successor of Fairy Qingmei, but no one knew whether or not this was true.
After Fairy Qingmei decided to live in seclusion, she created the Celestial Lake Palace and accepted female disciples, imparting her knowledge and techniques over the generations. Despite doing so, outsiders rarely caught a glimpse of her. It was as though she had already truly seen through all secular affairs and worldly attachments.
At this moment, the Palace Mistress of the Celestial Lake Palace smiled and nodded to the crowd. "If you wish to enter the celestial lake, all of you should already comprehend the danger within. I wonder how many of the young elites here are from the transcendent powers of the Nine Continents?"
"This junior over here originated from the Azure Continent, I'm Ouyang Kuangsheng from the Ouyang Clan. My clan lord inquires after the well-being of Fairy Qingmei." Ouyang Kuangsheng exclaimed straightforwardly, taking a step forwards. After which, the girl beside him also spoke, "Wind Continent, Jiang Ting from the Jiang Clan, pays her respect to the Palace Mistress."
Ouyang Kuangsheng was blunt and outspoken, while the female emitted a faint aura of arrogance. This was her natural disposition and not out of rudeness towards the Palace Mistress.
"Descendants of the Ouyang and Jiang Clan, please take a seat." The Palace Mistress smiled with a nod. Chairs had already been prepared by those from the Celestial Lake Palace from earlier. Ouyang Kuangsheng and Jiang Ting did not act with fake courtesy as they seated themselves, with others from their respective clans standing behind them.
"To think that Ouyang Kuangsheng is actually together with Jiang Ting." A strange glow passed through the eyes of many. The Ouyang Clan and the Jiang Clan, were all transcendent powers in the Nine Continents.
"Beast King Hall, Shiki," Shiki stated indifferently as he stepped forwards. The crowd was abuzz. Evidently, those originating from transcendent-level powers in the Nine Continents were a cut above their peers, all of them majestic and an awe-inspiring sight.
"You are bestowed a seat." The Palace Mistress laughed.
"War Continent, Wang Xiao from the Wang Clan." Another white robed youth stepped forward, to the shocked murmurs from the surrounding people. Seeing that the Wang Clan had shown up as well, it seemed like all the transcendent powers wanted to use the expedition to the Celestial Lake Palace as a way to temper their younger generations. Those present had a cultivation base of at least the 9th level of Arterial Circulation, not to mention there were even some Yuanfu cultivators within the gathering as well.
"Yan Continent, Mu Baifei." Another youth stepped forward. This youth was clad in a long, white robe, appearing extremely neat with a hint of delicateness. But for all that, one could sense an incredible sharpness from the middle of his brows.
Swallow Swordsman, this person was definitely a Swallow Swordsman.
"Skydemon Sect, Yao Sheng."
"Greencloud Pavilion, Qian Mengyu."
As several people stepped forth, the Palace Mistress granted each of them a seat. The crowd carefully observed those silhouettes that sat down, silently marking down their appearances. Any one of these individuals could become the next dazzling stars of their generation in the Nine Continents. Just Ouyang Kuangsheng alone was already extremely remarkable.
"Qin Wentian, you come over as well." After Qian Mengyu sat down, she called out towards Qin Wentian, who still mingled in the crowd. Those from the Greencloud Pavilion all stood behind her chair.
Qin Wentian stiffened for a moment before lightly nodding his head, walking over to Qian Mengyu. Since Qian Mengyu had already spoken, it would be rude to reject her.
"Are these two also from the Azure Continent?" The Palace Mistress smiled as she regarded Qin Wentian and Mo Qingcheng. It seemed that regardless of whoever she met, she would still treat them as a respected guest.
"They are friends of mine, from a place named the Chu Country," Qian Mengyu replied with a smile. A bright light flashed through the Palace Mistress's eyes, as she stared intently at Qin Wentian and Mo Qingcheng.
However, the Palace Mistress quickly shifted her gaze away and greeted the crowd with a smile. "There are only seven open positions for cultivators wishing to immerse themselves in the celestial lake. All of you should already be aware of the danger level, and I shall not elaborate on that. I only hope that everyone will show mercy should they fight against each other. The time limit is one month."
Everyone nodded their heads; they naturally understood the rules.
"Enter then, I shall not take up more of your time. However, demonic beasts are forbidden to be brought inside." The Palace Mistress of the Celestial Lake Palace laughed, as the crowd erupted in excitement, all parties dashing towards the entrance of the celestial lake.
"Let's go." Qian Mengyu stood up, following the crowd to the flight of stairs descending downwards. Qin Wentian discovered that the water in the entrance of the celestial lake, didn't share the normal properties of water, and their clothing remained dry.
"What a mystical place." An expression of awe painted Qin Wentian's face, as he stepped through the entrance of the celestial lake together with Mo Qingcheng. In that very instant, Qin Wentian felt a surge of mysterious energy acting on his body.
"My Yuanfu." Mo Qingcheng's beautiful eyes widened in surprise. After passing the entrance, she realised that the Yuanfu within her body had been completely severed from her arterial pathways.
The moment they stepped completely into the water, Qin Wentian and the rest discovered that the flight of stairs was still visible, as though they had been transported to another space filled with resplendent Astral Light. Also ahead of them, was an ancient pathway.
Qian Mengyu stared at Mo Qingcheng with astonishment in her eyes, "Don't you all know the effects of the celestial lake's Refinement Grounds?"
"Hmm, we're not very clear about that." Qin Wentian shook his head.
"Both of you are too ridiculous." Qian Mengyu couldn't help but berate them, "Why are you guys even here if you have no knowledge about this place? The Refinement Grounds of the Celestial Lake Palace is similar to the Spirit Beasts Testing Grounds and is also one of the eighteen testing grounds of the Grand Xia Empire. There's a mysterious surge of energy that will seal the Yuanfus of Yuanfu cultivators. Upon stepping inside, cultivators at the Yuanfu Realm would be at the peak of Arterial Circulation; they are unable to enjoy the immense amount of Astral Energy from Yuan droplets stored within their Yuanfu. If not for this, there would be no point for cultivators at the Arterial Circulation Realm to come here."
"Naturally, even if their Yuanfu was sealed, the innate techniques cultivated by Yuanfu cultivators would obviously be stronger than those at the Arterial Circulation Realm. This was to their advantage, but could also end as unfavourable to them. Stronger innate techniques naturally meant a higher energy consumption rate. And over here, they would only be courting their own death as they have no way to replenish it from their Yuanfus."
Qin Wentian's gaze froze. By sealing the Yuanfus and severing the connection between them and the arterial pathways, even the task of flying would be difficult.
Over here in the Refinement Grounds of the Celestial Lake Palace, the advantages Yuanfu cultivators enjoyed were reduced to the bare minimum.
"It is said that the celestial lake was formed naturally, but with the addition of modifications by the Celestial Lake Palace, the level of danger here has risen as well. It wasn't so easy to snatch one of the seven open spots, you guys are really too ridiculous," Qian Mengyu coldly remarked.
Although her tone was unpleasant to hear, Qin Wentian knew that it was because of her concern for them. Naturally, he didn't take offence and quickly replied with a smile, "Can we just follow you, then? Where is the location of the actual celestial lake?"
"The celestial lake lies at the end of the Refinement Grounds." Qian Mengyu eyed the ancient pathway as she spoke. Qin Wentian discovered that the other cultivators had already set off, dashing ahead as though they were rushed for time.
"Mengyu, why are you telling them so much? We should hurry up and move on as well." A girl with exquisite looking features standing at the side frowned as she glared at Qin Wentian and Mo Qingcheng, appearing somewhat unhappy. She didn't know what Qian Mengyu was thinking.
"Move out then," Qian Mengyu coldly instructed, as her group of cultivators dashed ahead with extreme speed.
Qin Wentian turned his gaze forwards; he discovered that the other cultivators on the ancient pathway purposely kept their distance from each other, all appearing to be extremely cautious. This was even more glaringly obvious when it came to the chosen ones originating from the various transcendent powers. Not only did they keep their distance, some of the other cultivators had also formed temporary alliances.
Upon witnessing this, Qin Wentian came to a sudden realisation. Since there were only seven spots available at each opening, the most dangerous thing within the Refinement Grounds would be none other than the treacherous hearts of humanity.
But even so, many people treated this as a tempering experience. He guessed that for those who made it here, they should already possess a certain level of self confidence in their own prowess.
"The Forest of Hallucination, be careful here. This place will stall us for a period of time." Qian Mengyu surveyed the forest ahead, seeing the other cultivators dashing towards the entrance and how their presences instantly disappeared as they passed through.
"Stay behind me and follow closely." Qian Mengyu's countenance turned sluggish as they entered the Forest of Hallucination. Once inside, a maze materialised in the form of numerous ancient-looking trees.
Qian Mengyu waved a group of her cultivators forward. The group slowed their pace, trying to find a way out of the forested maze. However, they soon realised that there was no way for them to leave, and moreover, they had lost sight of the others.
"Indeed, the effects of this place matches what was mentioned in the rumors." Qian Mengyu added, "The Refinement Grounds is a place to battle for survival of the fittest; luck is never counted as a factor."
"What should we do now?" someone asked Qian Mengyu.
"We will rest here in our original spot," Qian Mengyu spoke, as she sat down on the grass.
In the quietness of the Forest of Hallucination, a stifling pressure could be felt emanating forth from within, giving an extremely sinister feeling.
Rustling sounds rang out, and Qian Mengyu stiffened as she gazed vigilantly at her surroundings.
Swiftly after, a line of silhouettes appeared in her field of vision. They were none other than the people from the Beast King Hall, with Shiki in the lead.
Upon seeing Qian Mengyu, Shiki's licentious smile widened as his steps slowed. The uncontrolled, voracious desires of beasts heated his eyes.
Qian Mengyu frowned, as she icily stated, "Shiki, could it be that your Beast King Hall wishes to clash with my Greencloud Pavilion? I can assure you that it won't be a good decision."
"Oh, is that so?" The sinister looking smile on Shiki's face widened even further. Qian Mengyu turned her gaze aside, only to see another group of figures appear.
"Yao Sheng from the Skydemon Sect." Qian Mengyu froze, her countenance turning extremely unsightly. The Beast King Hall and the Skydemon Sect were both transcendent powers in the Demon Continent; to think that they had actually allied together.
"You can only blame it on your own bad luck," Yao Sheng stated sinisterly, before sweeping a glance at Qin Wentian. Of course, he still remembered this person, and their previous encounter at the Spirit Beasts Testing Grounds back then.
"Run," Qian Mengyu whispered, causing her fellow cultivators to tremble in reaction. Despite this unfortunate timing, Qian Mengyu acted with extreme decisiveness; the Demon Continent allied forces wouldn't be able to wipe them all out in a single swoop if they all chose to escape instead of clashing directly.
"You guys, I want her alive." Shiki pointed to Mo Qingcheng, who was standing beside Qin Wentian, while he himself, moved towards Qian Mengyu, lust apparent in his eyes.
"NOW!" Qian Mengyu screamed as the cultivators of the Greencloud Pavilion instantly split in all directions. Qin Wentian and Mo Qingcheng also dashed elsewhere to a random location.
"HAHAHA!" Shiki's footsteps caused great tremors to shake the earth, and he leapt up into the air. With a howl of malevolence, a terrifying soundwave blasted out, as an illusory form of a savage lion appeared in the air.
Right before landing on the ground, his fist ruthlessly smashed out, containing tremendous strength behind it. Due to the earlier lion's howl, a cultivator from Qian Mengyu's group couldn't react in time, and when she finally came to her senses, the fist of Shiki had already come into contact, bursting her head into pieces.
Simultaneously, those from the Beast King Hall and the Skydemon Sect all acted in tandem, wishing to cleanly slaughter the cultivators from the Greencloud Pavilion.
Qin Wentian and Mo Qingcheng frantically dashed towards a random direction, only to see a group of cultivators from the Beast King Hall tracking their movements, following behind them with incredible speed.
Halting his steps, Qin Wentian's ancient halberd was already in his hands as a terrifying coldness flickered in his eyes.
"Wentian, take note of your Astral Energy consumption, the road to the celestial lake is still long," Mo Qingcheng counselled, bringing Qin Wentian back to his senses. Mo Qingcheng's was right to warn him; he couldn't go all out so quickly, the road ahead was still long.
This was only just the beginning.