Chapter 180: Cheated?
There was no time to overthink; the wooden token had already flown far away. If Xiao Chen did not catch up to it, he would likely be late. He leaped high into the air and soared away like a flood dragon.
The wooden token flew very fast, but it was also quite stable. As Xiao Chen chased it, he inadvertently realized the wooden token was not headed for the Hall of Contributions. Finally, after some time, it landed in an unknown courtyard.
Xiao Chen walked in filled with doubts. He discovered there were already close to ten people. The girl he saw at the towering tree earlier was also present.
When she saw Xiao Chen had arrived as well, she revealed a somewhat astonished expression. Xiao Chen made a quick headcount; including him, there were a total of ten people.
Each one of them had a cultivation of at least Medial Grade Martial Grand Master. The girl he saw had the highest cultivation, peak Superior Grade Martial Grand Master. Advancing from Martial Grand Master to Martial Saint was a threshold. The earlier one advanced, the more likely one's achievement would be higher in the future.
As such, the Heaven Saber Pavilion had a rule: If one could not advance to Martial Saint before the age of 25, their status as an inner disciple would be eliminated.
Aside from Xiao Chen, the remaining people all knew each other. They gathered together and chatted in soft voices, "I wonder if we will survive this time; I nearly died the last time."
"Indeed, if it were not for the fact that I lack contribution points, I would not risk my life. Recently, I feel my cultivation has reached a bottleneck. I have to get more pills to assist with my cultivation."
When Xiao Chen heard this, his complexion changed. Looking at the collars of these people, he discovered there were only two gold lines embroidered on them; this was the mark of ordinary inner disciples. These people were not core disciples.
However, how did they receive a high-level sect mission? Could I have been cheated? Xiao Chen thought back to his experience on the second floor. The more he thought about it, the more something felt off.
Truthfully, he had indeed been cheated. The list of high-level missions the person gave to him on the second floor of the Hall of Contributions was filled with dangerous missions, high-level missions that few wanted to take and were left behind.
Everyone had the right to accept the normal high-level missions, but that person did not show them to Xiao Chen. He was not aware of the shenanigans behind the event.
"Hey! Which peak are you from? What's your name? You seem new. I am Mu Xinya from the Gangyu Peak; we met earlier," the girl took the initiative and greeted Xiao Chen just as he was deep in thought.
The reason was unknown, but Liu Ruyue and Liu Suifeng did not wear the uniform of Qingyun Peak, not even when Xiao Chen came along. So, he was still wearing his own clothes. Thus, the others were not able to tell which peak Xiao Chen came from.
Xiao Chen recollected his thought and carefully observed the girl in front of him. This girl was about 16 or 17-years-old. She appeared to be above average in appearance. There was a smile filling her face and a pair of yuanyang sabers hanging at her waist.
[TL note: Yuanyang sabers are a pair of identical sabers. Yuanyang is another word for yin-yang.]
She gave off the feeling of the girl next door; she seemed very lively. Xiao Chen smiled and said, "Qingyun Peak, Ye Chen!"
Mu Xinya and the eight other men looked at Xiao Chen in shock. They examined him carefully, and after a while, Mu Xinya said, "Didn't you barge your way to the second floor yesterday? Why did you take this mission? They did not show you the other high-level mission?"
Seeing as Xiao Chen did not understand what was going on, Mu Xinya explained everything carefully. After Xiao Chen heard this, he suddenly understood. No wonder that person left for a long time before bringing him the mission list.
Furthermore, the danger level of the missions were all very high; there was not much of a choice either. Given what Mu Xinya and the rest of them explained, when everything was pieced together, it only showed that Xiao Chen had been fooled.
Noticing something wrong with Xiao Chen's expression, Mu Xinya advised, "Don't think too much. Since you have already accepted the mission, you have to complete it. The penalties for failing a mission are quite harsh. "
The others were not core disciples either; they could completely understand Xiao Chen's feelings, and they all gave him some advice. After a while, Xiao Chen became familiar with them.
Amongst these people, there was a Beichen Peak disciple called Ma Chen. He had the most experience with this mission; he had done this mission twice already. He did not hold anything back and told the rest of his experiences.
"The location of the mission is a few hundred meters underground. Our main mission is to protect the ordinary people mining in there. We will meet some strange things frequently underground, so be sure not to be careless. If it is something you cannot handle, immediately retreat and call an elder for help. Preserving your life is more important."
"Pu Pu Pu!"
While Ma Chen was speaking, there was the sound of footsteps coming from the distance. Three old men wearing black appeared in front of everyone. There were two golden crisscrossing sabers embroidered on their collars.
The was the mark of the Heavenly Saber Pavilion Supreme Elders. The Supreme Elder was a position revered in the Heavenly Saber Pavilion; they had the rights to issue sect missions directly.
The auras of the three of them were deep and unmeasurable. Their auras were boundless and majestic like a large ocean. Xiao Chen estimated the three of them were at least Martial Kings.
Especially the old man in the middle, the impression he gave was even deeper. His face as filled with wrinkles, like dense dark clouds covering the sky. A cold light twinkled in his eyes occasionally; it looked very startling.
The old man looked at the group and frowned. He looked clearly displeased as he said, "The numbers become fewer and fewer... there is even an Inferior Grade Martial Grand Master. The Hall of Contributions suppressed our mission too heavily."
The Inferior Grade Martial Grand Master mentioned was obviously Xiao Chen. Although Xiao Chen was not happy about it, he did not dare lose his temper. He kept silent, not saying anything.
"Never mind; we will just make do with what we have. There has been nothing major recently anyway; it's been pretty calm. Ten people should be enough," one of them from the side commented.
The old man in the middle nodded, "I shall tell you about this mission in detail. I will keep it simple, so don't complain.
"The mission is simple; all you have to do is patrol the underground. Protection refers to surveillance. The people mining in the Spirit Stone mine are ordinary people. The mission will be completed after a month."
That was simple; it was as good as not saying anything at all, Xiao Chen complained in his heart.
After the old man spoke, he took out a jade bottle. He said to the group, "Just relax; don't circulate your Essence to resist!"
There was a huge suction force coming from the jade bottle. Xiao Chen heard the old man's words and did not circulate his Essence to resist. With a 'sou' sound, they were absorbed into the jade bottle.
This jade bottle was actually a Secret Treasure; there was a small realm inside the bottle. It seemed to be inside nothingness; it was completely pitch dark. When one stretched their hand out, one was unable to see their fingers. Xiao Chen could not see the other nine people; he did not know where they were.
Time seemed to come to a stop in the pitch dark space. Xiao Chen knew this space had a similar effect to his Universe Ring, but it worked by a different way; so Xiao Chen did not panic.
He sat cross-legged and entered a state of cultivation. He slowly started to circulate the Purple Thunder Divine Incantation to pass this boring time.
It was unknown how much time had passed by the time Xiao Chen felt something solid under him. When he opened his eyes, he discovered he was in a damp stone room.
As Xiao Chen stood up, he immediately felt that the surrounding Spiritual Energy was shockingly dense. It was quite unbelievable; it was as though he could touch the ethereal Spiritual Energy by stretching his hands out.
"Is this the Spirit Mine?" Mu Xinya, who was to the side, opened her eyes wide as she looked around curiously.
The remaining eight people and the old men who transported them were nowhere to be seen; only the two of them were present. There was a stone table in the room. There were also two simple beds and all sorts of things needed for daily living.
Could it be that the two of them had to live here together for the next month? Xiao Chen felt a headache just thinking about it. On the contrary, Mu Xinya still had a smile on her face. She looked around her surroundings, occasionally fiddling with the things in the stone room.
"Shua!" A stone door in the room opened. A middle-aged man dressed in black walked in and said, "The two of you have been placed in a group together. You will live here for one month. If there are any problems, you may look for me. Let's go; I will take you to familiarize yourself with the environment."
We have to live together? Xiao Chen felt awkward thinking about it. He asked that person, "Senior, is this really fine?"
The middle-aged man felt it was strange and said, "What is the problem? You are already gaining the advantage, and you are complaining about it? In this place, everyone is grouped into pairs. If you wish to swap, I can do that immediately."
"There's no need! There's no need!" Xiao Chen quickly gestured with his hands as he spoke. If he had to stay with another man, it would be even more unbearable.
The middle-aged man nodded and said, "Don't call me senior; I am not that old. Addressing me as Martial Uncle Ye or Ye Wen will do. Come, let's go quickly."
"That's right; wait for a while. I nearly forgot. Hold this first."
The middle-aged man handed the both of them a map made out of beast skin. Xiao Chen received it and took a look. He discovered it was a map of tunnels that looked like a maze. The winding passages were dazzling.
The map seemed to have mentioned there were eight layers, then he also found the scale of the map. Just this layer of tunnels spanned more than a few thousand square meters; it was astonishing.
Xiao Chen found his location on the map. He discovered it was a dot that glowed faintly; he did not know the purpose of it.
Ye Wen explained, "The glowing dot corresponds with the tokens hanging on your waists. As long as you don't lose your tokens, you don't have to worry about getting lost. Aside from your rest time, if your tokens do not move, we will take it to mean you encountered danger. Someone will immediately come to support you."
This probably means that they will be supervised here. With this map, someone will be completely monitoring their movements. Xiao Chen thought to himself quietly.
Ye Wen continued to point out some locations on the map. He pointed out the location of headquarters in the mines; then he also told them the black lines were dead ends, and they could not cross them.
After a long explanation, the two of them had a rough understanding of this mine. They were no longer as ignorant as they were before, but they did not know everything either.
After Ye Wen told the two of them how to use the door, he brought the both of them out to familiarize themselves with the mines. Not long after, they saw a group of ordinary people that were completely black in the dark tunnels; it was unknown how long they had not showered.
These people were using pickaxes and digging vigorously in the wide tunnels. Their expressions seemed numb; there was no anger on their faces.
A mission to mine the Spirit Stones was arduous and would be a massive undertaking. If they used the Heavenly Saber Pavilion disciples for mining, it would not be very realistic. These people were sent here after they signed a life-and-death contract with the Heavenly Saber Pavilion.
[TL note: Life-and-death contract likely is an indemnity form saying the Heavenly Saber Pavilion is not responsible for their deaths.]
They told them in advance this would be very arduous and dangerous. However, because the rewards were high, these people had the mindset of striking it rich after working here for five years.