AGM 0034 - The Dark Forest
The shadow cast by the sun slanted to the west as the people in the spacious region began to disperse. The preliminary examinations had come to an end, and the nine martial academies had stopped their recruitment. There were many who left with downcast expressions on their faces, while the rest who remained began moving towards the Emperor Star Academy and Royal Academy, which was located in the centre of the region.
At this moment, a white-robed youth who carried a long sword on his back began to approach Qin Wentian and the rest. Qin Wentian had met this youth before in the Sky Harmony City This was the sword-user who had condensed two sword-type Astral Souls.
"Luo Huan, Mountain, Teacher has instructions for you all to go over." Yu Fei passed on the instructions as he walked over to them.
"Very well. Did Teacher have any instructions regarding which of us seniors would be chosen to to enter the Dark Forest?" Luo Huan asked. According to the information she received from Janus, both Mustang and Janus would be able to bring two senior students of the academy with them.
"You and one more person, but Teacher didn't reveal who it was," Yu Fei answered, "Well, anyway, we will know once we get there."
"Right, let's go." Luo Huan inclined her head in agreement as she led the rest of them to the gathering point: The Martial Palace of the Nine Academies. There were a total of 5,000 participants who were eligible for the second examination: the training expedition to the Dark Forest. This was a shocking number. But if one were aware of the total number of applicants who applied to join the nine martial academies, then he or she wouldn't be so surprised. The number of 5,000 eligible participants was actually one percent of the total number of participants who applied.
The Royal Capital and the Martial Palace of the Nine Academies were the gathering points for all the young elites of the Chu Country.
"If you want to be strong, you must be willing to face all kinds of danger. Let this be your first lesson. Go and enjoy it thoroughly. Temper yourself through the baptism of blood." An elder from the Royal Academy was shouting at them. All the applicants had solemn looks on their faces. Of course, they understood the fact that, without being bloodied, without undergoing some real life-or-death battles, they would never be able to become a real Martial Cultivator.
"Buzz!" Nearby, raging gusts of wind billowed as two demonic beasts flew overhead. Standing on the top of one of the flying beasts was a graceful and beautiful figure, who caused the eyes of everyone present to widen.
"How beautiful! It's Mo Qingcheng, she actually came!"
In this area, according to the rules set, cultivators who were not at the Yuanfu Realm had no rights to mount flying beasts. However, Mo Qingcheng could, simply because there existed no one who would question her.
Janus and Orchon felt extremely surprised when they saw that Mo Qingcheng actually came together with Mustang. However, they suppressed their surprise well and stated, "Since everyone has arrived, let us be on our way. Everyone, start running, we must arrive at the Dark Forest before night falls."
"Little Junior Brother, take care of yourself." Luo Huan smiled as she glanced at Qin Wentian. She continued walking past him, all the way to the front as she led the crowd, That perverted puppy still remained contently in her arms, seemingly having no intention of budging an inch.
"Junior Brother Qin, I will await your arrival at the Emperor Star Academy." Mountain patted Qin Wentian's shoulder while the applicants from all the martial academies continued to form orderly rows. The various teachers who were in charge of each group were hovering in the air on flying beasts while all the applicants were running on land in the opposite direction.
The Dark Forest enveloped half of the Royal Capital. Obviously, entering from the front was impossible. Didn't this mean that they would have to enter via the Royal Palace?
A total of 5,000 people were grouped into nine main camps. The Emperor Star Academy camp consisted of the least number of applicants-only 500-, while the Royal Academy had 800.
Tremors shook the ground as the 5,000 applicants sprinted forwards with all their strength, akin to the might of ten thousand galloping horses. Their powerful movements caused a raging wind to spring into existence wherever they passed. Smiles broke out on the faces of the spectators. This group of people would be the future pillars of the Chu Country.
"Hey." A young fatty, who belonged to the Emperor Star Academy Camp, smiled as he greeted Qin Wentian. Although the speed at which they were travelling could be considered extremely fast, they were cultivators. This speed was still insufficient to exhaust them, and thus they would still be able to chat leisurely.
"What's your name?" The youthful looking fatty asked.
"Qin Wentian. How about you?"
"Fan Le. Fan from the word ordinary, Le from happiness." The fatty smiled.
Qin Wentian contemplated him for a moment. Fan Le was dressed extremely shabbily, with a messy head of hair and a grin on his face.
"This name really suits you." Qin Wentian laughed
"Hehe." Fan Le's lips curled up in a good-natured smile, as his gaze shifted to the youthful lady who was flying on top of the demonic beast in the air, before saying in a low tone, "That's the number one beauty of the Chu Country The word 'beautiful' can't even begin to describe her. Just seeing her would cause my heart to thump wildly."
Qin Wentian looked at Fan Le's mesmerised expression and couldn't help but roll his eyes. Still, he had got to agree with Fan Le. Mo Qingcheng's beauty was indeed out of this world, comparable to the fabled faeries.
"But still, Senior Apprentice Sister Luo Huan suits my taste more. That figure, that bosom, huehuehue......" Fan Le had a wretched expression on his face and was almost salivating when he said that.
"You're acquainted with Senior Apprentice Sister Luo Huan?" Qin Wentian asked
"How could I ever be acquainted with such a hot babe? All I know about her is that according to the rumors, she's the hottest and most bewitching demoness in our Emperor Star Academy. Who wouldn't know of her? But still, my thoughts earlier are just my fantasies, hehe." Fan Le smiled as he turned his head, facing towards Qin Wentian. "But from your deadpanned expression, could it be that you already knew her......"
Seeing the pervertedness in Fan Le's gaze, Qin Wentian rolled his eyes as he scolded in a low voice, "Screw off!"
This fellow was most assuredly a genius.
"Stop acting, hehe." Fan Le revealed a 'You know that I know' expression in his eyes, causing Qin Wentian to be speechless.
"But still, in the Royal Capital of the Chu Country, geniuses and beauties are everywhere. Look over there: Autumn Snow from the Royal Academy, a beauty with looks and talent, I heard that she condensed an Astral Soul from the 3rd Heavenly Layer on her first try." Fan Le pointed his finger over to the crowd of applicants at the Royal Academy, as he explained to Qin Wentian.
"And there's still our Emperor Star Academy. The geniuses here are as plentiful as the clouds. In front of us, that pretty boy named Orfon is extremely powerful. He is a 2nd level Arterial Circulation Realm cultivator, and possesses two Astral Souls." Fan Le pointed in the direction of a youth who was in front of the line next to Orchon It seemed that the two of them were brothers.
"And look over there at that beautiful lady garbed in black. She's on the 1st level of the Arterial Circulation Realm, possessing two Astral Souls. Not only that, her figure is not bad either. It's just that when compared to Luo Huan, she's a bit off." Fan Le spoke with the tone of an experienced connoisseur.
"But, in our batch, do you know who's the number one genius in our Emperor Star Academy?"
"Who?" Qin Wentian curiously asked
"Well, that person is right in front of you." The flesh on Fan Le's face mashed together, as his smile got more and more wretched.
"Fan Le, are you boasting again?" Another person ran over, smiling as he look at Fan Le. Apparently, this was not the first time Fan Le had shamelessly boasted in front of people.
Qin Wentian laughed. This Fan Le was an extremely interesting person. Although he loved to boast, his sense of humour was pretty good.
As the sun setted, nine huge teams consisting of 5,000 people stepped out of the Eastern Heavenly Gate of the Royal Capital.
The Royal Capital was surrounded by the Dark Forest. Ever since the Chu Country was formed 3,000 years ago, it had experienced countless violent clashes against the demonic beasts living in the Dark Forest. Hence, the gate and walls that separated the Dark Forest from the Royal Capital were all built to be immensely sturdy and tall. They were an exceedingly majestic sight, akin to a heavenly moat surrounding a city.
After stepping out of the Eastern Heavenly Gate, there was another smaller city which acted like a buffer zone and connected the Royal Capital to the Dark Forest. In this city, there were plenty of cultivators who had come here for training, as well as many risk-takers who came here for a thrill. As they saw the 5,000 people from the nine martial academy camps approaching, all of them were stunned.
"Wow, could those be the applicants for the nine martial academies?"
"There're so many handsome boys and beautiful girls, haha." Nearby thrill-seekers discussed with a smile on their faces.
"Continue forward, set up your own camp within the Dark Forest." A clear voice instructed while hovering in the air, causing the applicants to be slightly apprehensive. They had to spend many nights in this perilous Dark Forest and had to take care of their own survival needs, hunting the dangerous existences in the Dark Forest for food.
As night descended, the coalition of the nine academies finally arrived at the boundaries of the Dark Forest. Gazing ahead over the horizons revealed only an endless sea of ancient trees, as if there was no end in sight. A thick and heavy pressure of demonic Qi permeated the air.
As everyone halted their steps, the air was suddenly filled with an unusual silence. All of the applicants knew that in the following days, they would all face great danger.
The elders of the nine martial academies who were standing atop the flying demonic beasts hovering in the air, instructed the applicants, "Now, all of you are to enter the Dark Forest. By dawn tomorrow, you must all be at least be at least 10 li away from the boundary of the forest. Treat the distance of 10 li as the boundaries of the designated "safe zone". In the following month, if any one of you is discovered in the safe zone before the training exercise ends, you will automatically be deemed to have failed. Now, you guys can enter."
The safe zone, consisting of a distance of 10 li, could be considered the outer perimeter of the dark forest, and hence, it was filled with human activities. High level demonic beasts would rarely appear, so it was much less dangerous.
"Qin Wentian, let's stick together." Fan Le requested.
"Right." Qin Wentian nodded, as the nine rows of people belonging to the various academy camps all entered the Dark Forest. The 5,000 applicants dispersed in all four directions upon entering. Breaking up into smaller groups of two to three, they proceeded forward.
Borrowing the aid of the faint starlight, Qin Wentian and Fan Le wandered within the Dark Forest. There were some cultivators whose condensed flame-type Astral Souls that manifested ember sparks and lit up the area. There were also some people who used valuable items such as night illumination pearls to illuminate the path.
"Let's just venture a little further before finding a spacious area to rest for the night. We will depart the safe zone before dawn, so it will not count as violating the rules." Fan Le intoned in a low voice. Everyone was still stumbling in the dark as they tried to figure out their paths. Fan Le and Qin Wentian both had no choice but light wooden branches with flames created from flintstone in order to illuminate their way as they proceeded forwards.
"Wait, there seems to be someone staring at us." Fan Le suddenly exclaimed in a whisper as they travelled. With his strong sensory abilities, Qin Wentian had also sensed it earlier.
In the Sky Harmony City, he had killed Ye Mo, Ye Lang and displayed his extraordinary talent. How could the Ye Clan spare him so easily?
It was highly probable that Qin Wentian was part of the reason why the training expedition was proposed in the first place. But at the same time, such training exercise, could enable the surviving students to gain real life-and-death experiences, so all the nine martial academies would have absolutely no reason to refuse.
- Fan Le ( - ordinary, - happiness)