Wang Dong thought for a moment, then said, "We should avoid hunting and killing soul beasts like Yuhao said. We'll only hunt what we need. However, it's another story altogether if we encounter hostile attacks."
Huo Yuhao smiled. He didn't know what kind of soul ring he was going to get for his third one, but he wasn't worried that he wouldn't be able to find a soul beast suitable for himself. What kind of soul beast would be able to escape the Skydream Iceworm's gaze?
This was his second expedition into the Great Star Dou Forest. However, his mood was entirely different from the first time he'd entered, when he'd been full of negative emotions.
He'd left the Duke's Mansion over a year ago and ventured into the Great Star Dou Forest by himself. He'd been determined to give his life to succeed, and had been ready to die inside of the Great Star Dou Forest if he didn't find a soul ring for himself; he'd been prepared to fertilize the plants inside. The only two emotions in his heart back then had been extreme resolution and a desire for revenge.
His mentality was completely different now. Even though it had only been a year and half, he felt like an eternity had passed. Both his personal abilities and his mindset had undergone drastic transformations.
His miraculous encounters had begun the day that he'd met Skydream, at which point his destiny had been completely changed. During his two months of closed-door cultivation, Huo Yuhao had reminisced on his experiences and the vagaries of his life over the past year-and-half, and had used the word "fortunate" to sum up his life.
He was fortunate to have met Skydream, and was also fortunate to have met Teacher Xiao Ya and his eldest senior brother. He was fortunate to be part of Shrek Academy, and to have met his many exemplary teachers and excellent partners. He'd probably experience more over the past year-and-half than the ten plus years before combined. It had only been a year-and-half, and he wasn't even thirteen years of age, yet he had a conspicuous feeling that he'd somehow matured.
"Don't worry, mother. I will forge a life for myself. I'll accomplish your most cherished desire; the one that you never voiced, and the one that I know you'd rather die than forget about."
Huo Yuhao's eyes were filled with deep longing and nostalgic sentiments when he thought about his mother. If she were alive to witness his accomplishments today, how happy would she be? Huo Yuhao's eyes started to turn red as such thoughts spun around in his head.
Xiao Xiao didn't notice much, but Wang Dong was sensitive enough to notice the changes in Huo Yuhao's emotions. He knew much more about what Huo Yuhao had experienced than Xiao Xiao did, and could vaguely guess what Huo Yuhao was thinking. He reached out and gently grasped Huo Yuhao's hand.
Huo Yuhao turned towards Wang Dong, who flashed a faint smile at him. There was no pity in his eyes, only encouragement.
Huo Yuhao responded with a smile. The tacit understanding and chemistry between them meant that they could understand each other's thoughts without voicing them.
"Hey you two, that's enough. I'm clearly the only girl here; could you guys not make me feel like I'm third-wheeling?"
Huo Yuhao didn't even react to her comment, but Wang Dong's face immediately flushed red as he turned to glare at her. "What, do you like him? Why do I remember that I'm the one you like? Have you fallen for someone else already? Eh, the hearts of women…"
Xiao Xiao's face blushed as she scoffed and replied, "Stop it. The two of you are extraordinary; there are several girls in our grade who like the two of you. Can you still even count the number of girls who've discreetly slipped pieces of paper into your hands? Yet what're you doing? You immediately head back to the dormitory after school if you aren't selling fried fish with Yuhao. Everybody says that you don't even know what the word 'like' means. As for Yuhao, he's simply obsessed with training; I've never seen him interested in anything besides cultivating. The two of you otherworldly beings could've been a match made in heaven, but it's a pity that the two of you are male."
Huo Yuhao rubbed his nose and forced a laugh. "Obsessed with training? Am I that insane? So that's what people think about me."
Xiao Xiao snickered and said, "You didn't know that, did you? The person that we talk about the most in our grade isn't our handsome Wang Dong—it's you. There's a saying about the underdogs' vengeance. I still remember that your soul power was one of the weakest when you first entered the academy. But afterwards? Over the course of a year and a half, you've managed to become Class 1's class monitor, and defeat Dai Huabin, who also happens to be a top-tier fighter. I don't even have to ask anyone to know that you're the most powerful individual in Year 2, especially considering the fact that we destroyed Class 2 in that contest. You've consolidated your status as the outer courtyard's number-one star. Our classmates are all saying that you're the embodiment of how perseverance and determination leads to success, and our classmates have become especially hardworking in their cultivation. There might not be not be many three-ringed students in our grade right now, but don't worry. My guess is that at least ten people from our class, or that even half of our entire class, will become Soul Elders by the time we graduate from Year 2. And all of this is because of you."
Huo Yuhao was stupefied when he heard this, and his mouth hung agape. "Seriously?! You were with us in the competition for a long time; how do you know so much?"
Xiao Xiao smiled teasingly and said, "The two of you are always living in your own worlds, and never really interact with the others. Meanwhile, I have several good friends—I heard about this from Lan Susu and Lan Luoluo. The two of them look like they're head over heels for you."
Huo Yuhao chuckled and replied, "Seems like I'm quite the popular guy."
Xiao Xiao giggled. "You're popular indeed, but your affinity for love isn't as good as the guy next to you. Even though the two of them admire your abilities, they actually like Wang Dong. They also asked me to probe Wang Dong on his thoughts before we left."
Wang Dong put his hands behind his back and cast his gaze toward the far horizon. His gaze was as if he'd transcended life—as if the academy was all about him even though he wasn't there. However, he really looked like he needed a beating to Huo Yuhao, thus he immediately violently broke his bubble.
"You dare to hit me, Huo Yuhao? Don't you run!"
The three of them proceeded forwards as they continued to laugh and joke around. Gradually, the Great Star Dou Forest's outer regions appeared before them.
Vestiges of the endlessly dense forest could be seen in the distance, and Huo Yuhao saw the wooden warning sign that he'd seen once before.
He wasn't as afraid the first time around because he'd been ignorant. However, he'd almost met his end at the hands of a mere ten year soul beast, and immediately felt a stifling feeling when the Great Star Dou Forest drifted into view. He subconsciously stopped in his tracks.
Huo Yuhao's relaxed expression became a lot more solemn, and Wang Dong couldn't help but ask, "What's wrong?"
Huo Yuhao lowered his voice and said, "Don't you guys feel that the Great Star Dou Forest is enigmatic and unfathomable?"
Xiao Xiao frowned and replied, "I don't. Maybe you learned a painful lesson the first time you were here, and now you have a psychological barrier."
Wang Dong pondered momentarily, then said, "I do, but only a little, and it's not obvious. Your Spirit Eyes are spiritual-type, and your perception is superior to ours. The Great Star Dou Forest is the number-one habitat for the Continent's soul beasts, so it's normal to feel stifled. Who knows how many powerful soul beasts are hidden inside? If soul beasts weren't necessary for a soul master's cultivation, this enormous forest would've been cleared out by the empires, as it's located on a large flat plain, and takes up a lot of space."
An expression of disbelief appeared on Xiao Xiao's face. "The empires could take down the entire Great Star Dou Forest? There are so many powerful soul beasts inside!"
Wang Dong answered, "Of course, though it couldn't be done instantly. What if several sovereignties formed an alliance? They could start with the outer regions and whittle down the dense vegetation. This would gradually affect the ecological balance, and in turn would eventually grind down the soul beasts' power inside of the Great Star Dou Forest. Humans wouldn't need that many years to make the Great Star Dou Forest a part of history with our intelligence."
Huo Yuhao tilted his head a little and said, "The existence of soul masters and the inability for soul beasts' to get older quickly will become a serious conflict in the future."
Wang Dong nodded and continued, "That's what I'm worried about. How can there be soul masters if soul beasts go extinct?"
Huo Yuhao shook his head. "No. Soul beasts might not be unified, but they'll always retaliate when they're faced with death and annihilation. Who knows—it's possible that the soul beasts will fight back one day, and that humans will face a great calamity."
Wang Dong replied, "That possibility is gradually diminishing as we further develop and advance our knowledge of soul tools."
Huo Yuhao said, "Let's hope that the equilibrium isn't destabilized. It's fortunate that the number of soul masters has always been maintained at a reasonable level, and that many soul masters have also begun to pay attention and stop killing soul beasts for no reason. From now on, the two of you need to stay within five feet of me, and need to be prepared for any unforeseen circumstances. My Spiritual Detection Sharing will be activated for a prolonged period of time. We'll have to keep our guard up at all times while we're inside, and we can only roam about ten kilometers into the forest, give or take; we can't venture too deep. We also need to leave the Great Star Dou Forest every night and sleep outside. Please remind me if I'm not following these rules—safety always comes first."
"Yes." Wang Dong and Xiao Xiao acknowledged at the same time. Huo Yuhao's importance as group leader was put on full display in these sorts of situations.
Huo Yuhao allowed Xiao Xiao to position herself in the center, while both he and Wang Dong stood respectively to her left and right behind her. The three of them maintained this small triangular formation as they finally arrived at the dense and thick Great Star Dou Forest.
The air all around was full of vitality, and was full of moisture. As they walked into the forest, and immediately felt as if their bodies were being nourished by some unique force.
Huo Yuhao immediately activated his Spiritual Detection Sharing, which he could perfectly maintain at two hundred meters in diameter with his current cultivation level. Physical images immediately surfaced in their minds. Everything was as detailed as could be, the only exception being that it was colorless
Several weak soul beasts were watching them discreetly from somewhere nearby. They seemed afraid as the three of them approached, and none of them approached them.
Huo Yuhao smiled. He'd devised many plans and schemes targeted at their movement through the Great Star Dou Forest while they'd been travelling over the past two days.