West of the Poison Sect’s forbidden grounds was a large rift valley. In the center laid a dense, dark forest whose every leaf and wood was filled with poison. Han Yunxi’s group entered the woods and felt a chill. Deep valleys were cold to begin with; furthermore, the winter season made the air even icier. Thus, they were faced with the strange prospects of flourishing plants against a frosty air. Han Yunxi was already wearing a cloak, but Long Feiye took off his and laid it over her shoulders, then wrapped her in his embrace.
Gu Beiyue and Baili Mingxiang saw everything from behind them. Baili Mingxiang’s expression was calm as if she didn’t see a thing, while Gu Beiyue’s lips curved into a warm smile at the scene.
As they ventured deeper into the forest, the light grew dim. Finally, they saw a large, round altar in the distance just as everything was turning dark. The altar was made of stone and very crude, a simple and ancient structure. A stone wall surrounded it in a circle, while a tall, wordless stele stood in the center. From a distance, it looked especially solemn and mysterious. Han Yunxi hadn’t forgotten how it felt like her soul had been inexplicably sucked away during the first time she saw the stele.
Long Feiye hadn’t forgotten how Han Yunxi looked to have lost her soul that time as well. If possible, he didn’t want to come a second time.
Truthfully speaking, Han Yunxi didn’t dare to linger on the stele. She looked back at Gu Beiyue, only to see him staring intently at the structure.
“Gu Beiyue, were you the one who saved me back then?” Han Yunxi grinned.
That year, they had been fighting against Chu Tianyin in the tunnels. Fire had caused the passageway to collapse out of the blue, so Long Feiye hadn’t been in time to catch Han Yunxi when she fell. She remembered that her mind had been a blur. By the time she regained her senses, she’d already landed harmlessly on the ground. When she was feeling threatened, she had then sensed the white shadow following behind her.
Gu Beiyue grinned back. “It was this subordinate that startled the princess back then.”
“You saved her life,” Long Feiye seemed to only get more talkative when Gu Beiyue was around.
“Not just once,” Han Yunxi added seriously.
Gu Beiyue had rescued her multiple times while hiding his identity. As the three laughed and joked, Baili Mingxiang seemed especially quite and lonely. She could only look at Gu Beiyue with a mix of admiration and envy. She was certain that Doctor Gu liked the princess, but the princess still had no idea. Perhaps she’d remain clueless for the rest of her life. To love someone like this was a kind of happiness in itself, but she was already incapable of such an act.
Meanwhile, the wordless stele grew clearer in their sights as they approached the altar. Still old and mysterious, its upper half had already been worn away by wind while the bottom was covered in vines. An aura of death hung about the top as life teemed beneath, like the contrast between light and dark, life and death.
“I dreamed that there were words on this stele, but I didn’t get to finish reading them all,” Han Yunxi said.
They stopped outside the altar boundaries, but could still tell that the stele was blank. Long Feiye and Gu Beiyue both studied it carefully, and the latter even stepped past the ringed stone wall. Long Feiye and Han Yunxi wanted to do the same, but they were a little hesitant. The stele was only a meter taller than Gu Beiyue, but he looked tiny standing before it. At least, that was how it seemed in Long Feiye and Han Yunxi’s eyes. Gu Beiyue circled around it once and examined it carefully. He even touched the vine winding around the stone, but didn’t discover anything.
“Hold on, I’ll take a look,” Long Feiye’s fear all came from Han Yunxi. What else would stop him from charging right in in this world?
Han Yunxi obediently nodded her head. When Long Feiye entered the perimeter of the altar, he refrained from touching the stone stele itself. Instead, he went to inspect the plants growing around it. He had full confidence in anything Gu Beiyue had already checked. He stomped firmly on the ground to flatten the plants, then checked the wall surrounding the altar, but found nothing like a secret switch or lever. Typically speaking, sacrificial altars were very important places for a clan, who would typically hide their teachings within it. But without secret switches or levers and a wordless stele before them, how were they supposed to find anything?
Gu Beiyue looked back and said, “Princess, perhaps...the secret’s hidden within the poison storage space?”
Han Yunxi didn’t reply. Perhaps if she came closer and looked at the stele carefully one more time, what happened last time would repeat itself and show her the words. She looked towards Long Feiye, wanting to get his permission. But Gu Beiyue suddenly cried out.
“What is it?” Long Feiye rose to walk to his side.
“There’s something wrong with this stele!” Gu Beiyue said as he punched the structure, which suddenly gave out a hum.
“It’s not made of stone!” Long Feiye was convinced. He too, punched it with his fist. His strike was much more powerful than Gu Beiyue’s and simply shattered the stele into pieces. Once they fell to the ground, they saw a Xuan gold stele in its place, wordless as before but perfectly preserved! Long Feiye and Gu Beiyue both inspected it from different angles but couldn’t find any writing on the thing. However, this was still an incredible discovery.
Gu Beiyue and Han Yunxi seemed to have realized it simultaneously as they cried out, “Blood!”
The blood of the Poison Sect’s direct descendants could open the Xuan gold door in the Skypit. This was what Gu Beiyue had used to ascertain Han Yunxi’s identity. So why was this stone stele actually made of Xuan gold? Why was it disguised beneath fake stone to begin with? There was clearly something fishy going on! Han Yunxi took a step forward, but Long Feiye had already grabbed her hand before she tried anything.
Gu Beiyue had no idea that Han Yunxi was a transmigrator, so he only assumed that Long Feiye was worried about another unexpected development that could put her in danger. Thinking up to here, he glanced at Baili Mingxiang and said, “Miss Mingxiang, if anything happens later, you go back to Medical City first.”
Gu Beiyue was such a gentle and thorough man. Baili Mingxiang hastily nodded. “Yes, thanks to Doctor Gu.”
Meanwhile, Xu Donglin emerged from hiding to guard Gu Beiyue’s flank. Han Yunxi bit her finger and carefully smeared some blood on the wordless stele. None of them witnessed what happened last time with her blood and the Xuan gold door, but this time was obvious: the stele absorbed all of Han Yunxi’s blood until it vanished.
Next, they had to wait.
But waiting took a long time. Even Long Feiye had never felt so nervous, to say nothing of Han Yunxi’s flustered heart. She couldn’t help but lean against him. Gu Beiyue’s forehead was creased as well in a rare show of severity. But as they waited and waited, nothing happened, either within or without the stele.
Was it the wrong method?
Or perhaps it was all a coincidence that the stele was made of Xuan gold, and there was no particular meaning to its blank surface at all?
“Inside the stele, could there be another…” Long Feiye was about to try breaking the stele when a light rustling sounded from around them. The circular stone wall on the ground began to rupture and crack. Just like the stone stele before, fragments of rock fell from their surfaces to the ground. Very soon, Han Yunxi and the rest witnessed a beautiful sight. A colored glaze wall surrounded the altar, almost semi-transparent. Inside rested many nameless, yet rare, plants. Han Yunxi instantly started up her detox system, but it couldn’t recognize the plants, either.
The Poison Sect’s forbidden grounds were covered in poisons, to say nothing of ones hidden away like this? The plants within the glaze had to be poisonous too! In fact, they must have been especially rare poisons, or else the poison detox would have given her some sort of warning about them. Han Yunxi circled around the wall and discovered that each plant bore a single fruit. They had clearly been picked during the fruit-bearing season and looked extremely fresh. Had they only been harvested recently?
But why were they being raised here? Who was looking after them, and for how long?
What was the purpose of picking all the fruits? To make some sort of poison?
Han Yunxi was full of questions. She didn’t understand, so Long Feiye and Gu Beiyue were even more clueless.
“Bai Yanqing must have plucked them,” Gu Beiyue determined. Besides Han Yunxi, Bai Yanqing was the only one capable of undoing the mechanism.
“What does he want to do?” Instead of finding a way to break through the Poison Gu formula, they’d discovered another of Bai Yanqing’s secrets instead. This only increased Han Yunxi’s worries.
“Let’s keep looking,” Long Feiye intoned. But then he suddenly looked towards the left and barked, “Who’s there?!”
Xu Donglin reacted the fastest and sped away, while Long Feiye had a shadow guard protect Gu Beiyue in his absence. He brought Han Yunxi along to give chase and quickly overtook Xu Donglin. In the distance, they could see a figure hurrying deeper into the forest. There weren’t many people that could enter here in the first place!
Long Feiye wasn’t planning on giving up. He tightened his grip on Han Yunxi and kept chasing, but she stopped him once they reached complete darkness.
“It’s too dark in here, we can’t see a thing. That’s very dangerous, let’s just go back.”
Long Feiye had experienced multiple battles in his lifetime and knew that it was unreasonable to keep chasing under these conditions. But the fact that the figure had remained hidden all this time despite Xu Donglin and the shadow guards keeping watch meant that he or she had to have exceptional martial arts. Despite his regrets, Long Feiye relented to Han Yunxi’s coaxing and turned back.
Everything was calm at the altar. Upon their return, Gu Beiyue asked, “Who was it?”
“I didn’t catch them,” Long Feiye replied, “But both their lightness techniques and martial arts were superb. It seemed to be a man.”
“Bai Yanqing?” Gu Beiyue guessed. But he quickly rejected the idea. If it was Bai Yanqing, why would he hide and flee?
“Looks like he was very familiar with these surroundings,” Long Feiye added.
Han Yunxi and Gu Beiyue both grew alarmed. This was the sacrificial altar. Those familiar with its location could very well be direct descendants of the Poison Sect!
“Let’s go back first, we’ll discuss things there,” Long Feiye said.
Since they had already caught someone else’s attention, it wasn’t wise to stay in the light while the other hid in the shadows. Han Yunxi smiled helplessly. Although she was the new sect leader of the Poison Sect, she still had to be so cautious on her own grounds.
“Send a few poison guards to stand watch here,” she said, “Don’t let anyone get close.”
She had an instinct that those plants within the color glaze wall hid a huge secret!Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Wow, looks like I finished this earlier than I thought, so here you guys go! And the mystery thickens...