Since he didn’t kill me, there should be no reason for him to lie. Based on past experiences, I have a strong feeling that he's speaking the truth. I'll be walking right into their trap if I leave now.
Time was running out; it was time to make a decision.
After a moment's contemplation, Su Hong gave the exit a glance. A cold smirk played at the corners of his mouth. He turned decisively back and headed deeper into the mountains.Clearly, he’d dismissed the idea of leaving the mountains.
It was an extremely risky move. If the outer formation were to close, he'd never be able to leave until it was activated once more.
The environment in the Blackwraith Mountains was extremely harsh and unforgiving. Survival for half a month was perhaps doable, but death was almost certain if one had to stay for any longer than that.
Unfortunately, he had no other choice. He’d rather risk certain death than face a wrongful murder.
Rewinding time back a few days.
In a distant nation roughly three hundred thousand miles away from the Rejuvenation Isles, a beautiful, prosperous, mysteriously shrouded island was seen in the middle of the ocean.
It belonged to Polylore Divine Nation, but it wasn’t particularly large, roughly the same size as Skylaurel Kingdom.
However, the land was extremely rich with spirit qi and could easily be mistaken for paradise. The skies were a brilliant turquoise while the surrounding ocean shone emerald green. Various radiant beams only served to make it seem even more heavenly.
House Xuan was the ruler of this island.
In one of House Xuan’s secret realms, a middle-aged servant came tumbling out from one of the rooms, panic and fear clearly written over his face.
“This is bad. This is bad! Something awful has happened! Y-young lord Rui’s soul lamp has shattered!” The news exploded throughout the island like a bomb.
Bewildered, House Xuan’s forefathers immediately appeared from all corners of the island.
“What did you say?” One of the forefathers hauled the servant up. “Say that again!”
The servant was as white as a sheet. “Y-y-young lord Rui. S-something bad’s happened to him.”The other elders couldn’t be bothered to listen to a servant’s ramblings. They swarmed to the sacred residence where the soul lamps were kept.
Almost every great faction had a room like this where the soul lamps of all important figures were kept. If any mishap occurred, it’d be indicated on the lamp. Thus, someone was always stationed there to monitor them.
The elders quickly found that Xuan Rui's soul lamp had indeed shattered. They could only stare dumbly, as though struck by lightning.
“How can this be?!”
“Damn it! Something really did happen! What the hell is going on?!”
The elders wanted to pull their hair out. Xuan Rui wasn’t the only genius in the clan, but he was definitely the cream of the crop. To House Xuan, he was a promising talent that was seen only once every millenia.
A lot of hopes and expectations were riding on him, especially from the forefathers. He was their pride and joy, the genius who’d bear the weight of the entire clan on his shoulders one day. Who could’ve imagined that a genius of this caliber would die so abruptly??
Increasing numbers of Xuan experts arrived. Even the patriarch was dumbfounded by the news. Now on the scene, he was purple with rage. The elders were all gnashing their teeth.
“Isn’t Xuan Rui at the Rejuvenation Isles? Those brown-nosers have been licking our boots and sending multiple invitations to visit to the eight aristocratic houses.”
“Can this be their doing? How dare they?!”
“Damn it! It doesn’t matter if it is or isn’t their doing! They must pay for this!”
“The Rejuvenation Isles… Rejuvenation Isles!!” Some were already vowing revenge. Slowly but surely, the patriarch regained his cool. He raised his hands to beckon the crowd to calm down.
“Everyone, the eight aristocratic houses came to an agreement to visit the Rejuvenation Isles. We each sent three geniuses, escorted by our own respective guardians. No one of sound mind would dare ambush our team. Are their lamps still lit?”
“Yes. They‘re fine for now.”
The patriarch nodded. “Mm. This proves that it could very well be just an accident. The Rejuvenation Isles planned to host a tempering trial for us. Perhaps an unforeseen misfortune has occurred during the trial.”
“Impossible! Xuan Fei and Xuan Yong are both weaker than Xuan Rui. Why would they be fine if Xuan Rui isn’t?”
“I concur. Patriarch, tempering trials from that backwater can’t possibly prove too difficult for Xuan Rui. He also took many of our treasures with him. Xuan Rui is a cautious and talented genius. I’d be the first to doubt that he died in an accident.”
“Indeed. It wouldn’t be a surprise if this had happened to some other geniuses. But Xuan Rui has consistently placed fourth to fifth in peer rankings, right?
“Can it be some sort of violence between the geniuses?” someone suggested.
“Absolutely not. It was agreed upon that there would be no bloodshed in this trial, only winners and losers. Or did someone break the rule?”
“Hard to say. The eight houses aren’t all on harmonious terms. Foul play could be difficult to rule out. If we assume that there really was foul play, whoever killed Xuan Rui must be from the top four. However, not even the highest ranked House Ye can manage such a feat easily. Xuan Rui might not be stronger, but he should still be able to put up a good fight.”
Such were the opinions from the upper echelons of House Xuan. Even the patriarch had to pay them heed.
“What should we do about this?” the patriarch asked with an air of despondency.
“First, we must find out the truth.”
“Agreed, the truth should be our first priority.”
“If it’s cold slaughter, we will make the murderer pay.”
“Even if it was an accident, the Rejuvenation Isles will not escape our wrath!”
As one of the greatest clans in the nation, House Xuan was known for being extremely unreasonable. One of their top geniuses had died for no reason. Rage was a given reaction.
“Are the accompanying guardians idiots?! How can they not know that something’s happened to Xuan Rui??”
“Aii... they’re not to be blamed. How would they know if the incident occurred within trial territory?”
“Agreed. These things can’t be prevented. Right now, our main priority is to get to the bottom of this.”
“And how are we going to do that? Our transmittal talismans aren’t going to work when we’re hundreds of thousands of miles away. We’ll have to rely on a large scale transmission formation to speak to the royal family at the Rejuvenation Isles.”
Only a divine being could communicate freely without being impeded by distance. This was a rule that not even a peak empyrean master could ignore. Hundreds of thousands of miles was simply too great of a distance.
Of course, this didn’t mean that communication was impossible. Most great factions had some sort of platform through which they could share important news and information.
These powerful formations were available in practically every great faction in Myriad Abyss Island. A top ranking one like Polylore Divine Nation even had multiple.
House Xuan wasn't in possession of a formation of this magnitude. It could only be found in certain important areas within the nation.
“Patriarch, we can’t delay this any longer. This subordinate is willing to lead a group of men to the Rejuvenation Isles for immediate investigation. We'll get to the bottom of this and make the Isles answer for their sins.”
“Patriarch, we are willing to go as well. The people at the Isles must be tired of living. How dare they fail to guarantee the safety of their guests!”
House Xuan was extremely riled up. They were blaming the Rejuvenation Isles before any investigation had even taken place.
The patriarch pondered for a moment and nodded. “Elder Zun, please travel to the capital to borrow a transmission formation. Question the Rejuvenation Isles and ask why one of our geniuses has died on their island. Make sure to get a clear and precise answer.”
“Understood. I shall depart at once!”
Two days later, Elder Zun finally arrived at the formation.
Naturally, the operators of the formation didn’t dare be negligent to an elder from one of the eight great aristocratic houses. Contact with the royalty of Rejuvenation Isles was established within just a few moments.
Color immediately drained from imperial faces when they heard the news. The geniuses from Polylore Divine Nation should’ve been at a trial on Winterdraw. How could this have happened?! It felt like the sky was about to collapse in on them.
“Spare me your excuses. I’ll give you three days to prepare a precise and formal answer or face our wrath.” The elder was still seething. Even though there was a gap of seven generations between him and Xuan Rui, the young genius was still one of his descendants.
Most importantly, he’d spent a lot of time and effort to train the young genius and had very high hopes for him. It came as no surprise that he was the one most angered by the young genius’ death.
Still fuming with anger, he exited the formation and bumped into a group of people likewise rushing into the premises. They were from House Xue!
House Xue seemed rather surprised to have encountered the elder as well.
“What are you doing here?” Elder Zun asked, surprised.
An elder from House Xue answered curtly, “To borrow the transmission formation.” He realized something and returned the question. “Elder Zun, why are you here?”
He thought for a moment. “Don't tell me a genius from House Xue has died as well?”
The House Xue elder was taken aback. “What? Did the same happen to you guys?”
Almost like they'd found a common language, the two houses shared information and hurled abuse at the Rejuvenation Isles. While they were in the middle of a thorough venting session, another group of people came charging in through the doors.