32 Boundary Trees
The Southern Forest was densely packed with trees, making it a bit difficult for the three of us to travel through it. Following Jie Pa's lead, we moved through each layer of the forest. The further in we went, the harder the passage became. We were quite literally squeezing in between two trees at every move.
After walking for nearly three hours, we finally arrived at the last row of crowded trees. The trees were lined up horizontally, side by side, and we couldn't see what lied on the other side of the them. The trees grew so closely together that their branches had intertwined. They looked like they'd grown together into a single tree.
Since there was no path through the tree barricade, we had to cut one out. I was about to push up my sleeves and get to work, when I realized that the red dress I wore had no sleeves... So instead, I grabbed Piercer and motioned for Nie Zun and Jie Pa to step back.
I lifted my arm, flicked my whip back, readied my mental force, and then flicked forward with great force. Pow! Pow! Pow! As I attacked the trees with my whip, I was satisfied to see three slashes of violet light in the air. After the light faded, I inspected the trees carefully.
My god! I'd hit about five trees with my whip, but not a single one had moved a single inch. Hadn't... Moved... An inch... My face twitched. There were only light whip marks on the trees. But I'd added mental force in my attack!
From the side, I heard Nie Zun and Jie Pa trying to suppress their laughter. An embarrassed expression on my face, I stepped back resentfully.
Jie Pa put down his backpack and pulled out a half blade sword. The blade was wide and thick, reflecting a cold light. The engraving on the handle was fine and meticulous; it was obviously a very good weapon. The only pity was that the tip of the blade was missing, leaving only behind half a blade.
"Half swords...are usually only used by immortals. Even at a glance, this sword doesn't look ordinary. Did it previously belong to a hero of the Split Zone? And then it was broken in a fierce battle, later to be discovered by you? Am I right?" I eagerly asked Jie Pa, my imagination running wild.
Jie Pa pushed up his glasses, a humorous look in his eyes. "That's not it, Ms Ah Shen. The blade for this was originally not very long, and the tip broke off when we fell in Mr Ku Fei's room, when my head was chopped off. I figured there was no use for the tip, so I threw it away."
Broke off when we fell in Mr Ku Fei's room...
Suddenly, I felt thoroughly and completely embarrassed. "Why didn't my bow break then?"
Jie Pa smiled warmly. "Ms Ah Shen, your bow is special. The inlaid locking mechanism on the holster as well. They won't easily break because of a fall, even if it's a high fall. Your bow is also protected by mental force, to reinforce it even more."
Protected by mental force...
I suddenly recalled something that caused my chest to ache, and I fell silent.
Jie Pa also didn't say any more. He simply stepped forward and made a cut on the trees in front of us. Then he pulled out a bottle from his backpack and poured its liquid contents over the cuts.
The liquid ate away at the trees, and then the trees fell back with cracking sounds. With five trees fallen, we could finally see the world behind them. We all fell into a daze.
From the newly made gap, I saw that behind the trees was a large pit, several hundred meters in diameter. The trees had been planted nearly on the edge of this abyss; they'd been planted in a circle around it, creating a protective barrier.
Because of the pit, we couldn't walk any further. We looked down from behind a half-fallen tree. The pit probably wasn't as deep as the one in Ku Fei's room had been, maybe just a few hundred meters deep this time, but the bottom still couldn't be seen. We only saw flashing lights coming through from the darkness below.
Nie Zun frowned. "Do you hear something?"
I leaned forward over the pit a bit more, and then a sound slowly entered my ears. The sound came intermittently, like waves crashing. There were pained cries mixed with sharp shrieks, difficult to distinguish from each other.
"What's going on? I've never heard of such a place in the Split Zone before. Moreover," I said, looking around, "if the trees encircle this pit, then where is the border line?"
Jie Pa's expression grew grave. "I've never heard of this kind of place either. The faint light at the bottom looks like a beast's eyes, but also like the light of a fire. And the cries mix together."
"Could it be that the border line is behind the row of trees at the opposite end?" After I arrived in the Split Zone, I'd only ever heard that the South-North border line was colored red. Whenever we traveled to the Northern District, we were always summoned by the blond man. And since the Southern District didn't like visitors, and I rarely left the Western District anyway, I've naturally never come to this place nor seen the border line.
Jie Pa frowned slightly. "Ms Ah Shen, there's one thing, but I cannot be certain. The smells here are all mixed together, but from what I can tell, I'm afraid that Ms Laurel is down there..."
"What?" I immediately moved to step past these trees, but Nie Zun pulled me back. I tried to push him away. If Laurel was down there, then I had to go down and save her. Who knew what kind of strange things were in this deep and frightening pit?
As I struggled against Nie Zun, I felt something press against my abdomen. I was moving past the half-fallen trees, when something blocked my path. I subconscously stepped back, surprised by the unexpected incident.
The tree that we'd just knocked over had suddenly started to grow back, as if it were flesh! Before any of us had time to react, the trees all grew back to their original height. Their branches grew out, reaching for each other like arms holding their brothers beside them, tangling together.
"Th-the trees that we cut off fell into the pit, didn't they?" I asked, dumbfounded.
Jie Pa looked up at the tree, a new frown on his face. "I've never heard of a tree that grows back this quickly."
"What do we do now?" I asked, with no ideas.
A strange wind blew through the forest, my red hair waving beautifully.
Before Nie Zun or Jie Pa could answer, I suddenly heard another voice sound behind us. "What are you all doing here?" The bewitching voice made me immediately turn around.
I was met with Gaoqin Jiuye's cold gaze, a frown on his face as he looked at us.
Without expending any effort, we'd somehow easily found him. As I thought of the frightening aura exuding from the deep pit, as I thought of Laurel, I was suddenly filled with a strong indignation.
I returned his cold gaze. "You need to ask? We're obviously here to find our missing friend. You clearly told us that you didn't kidnap our kids, and then you told us not to search for Si Luo or to implicate him. Let me ask you this now. What's behind here?" I pointed at the row of trees behind us.
Gaoqin Jiuye followed the direction of my finger, towards the strange, tightly knit row of trees. He squinted and said, "These aren't any ordinary trees. They're boundary trees, acting as a seal here. Lately, I've sensed an unclean presence in the Southern Forest, which is why I came to investigate. I've never seen this row of trees in front of you before. They do not belong to our Southern District."
I sneered, "Do you think I'd believe you? When we cut down some trees, guess what we saw? A deep pit! And our missing child should be within it. You're telling me that you know nothing of it? If that's true, you've become even more laughable. Someone's dug a giant pit in your border forest, doing who knows what kind of strange things, but you didn't realize it?"
Gaoqin Jiuye slightly raised his head. He glanced over me, and then frowned as he looked at the row of trees behind me.
Suddenly, a wicked smile slipped onto his face. "You cut down the trees? These boundary trees cannot be invaded unless the person who put them down undoes the enchantment. Many people will put these trees up when they are training, to prevent outside attacks. And the row of trees in front of you spans for a several hundred meter diameter. For such a large barricade, the person who placed these trees must be extraordinary. So how did you cut through them so easily?"
Unconvinved, I said, "You look down too much on Jie Pa's abilities!"
But suddenly, standing beside me, Jie Pa spoke up. "Ms Ah Shen, listening to him, it seems his words are right. I've heard of these boundary trees before, but I've never seen them. They didn't even cross my mind earlier. If what he's saying is true, then I also would have no way to cut them down."
Startled, I replied, "Then what happened earlier?"
Hands stuffed in his pockets, Nie Zun said lightly, "That means that whoever placed the trees undid their spell, to let us see what lied behind them."
As he spoke, Gaoqin Jiuye looked over at Nie Zun. A strange kind of light appeared in Gaoqin Jiuye's eyes. "I'd heard of a capable person who arrived in the Split Zone one year ago. He had a mental force of 67 when he first arrived, and yet refused many invitations to join any organizations. He's also never attacked anyone with his power. When I saw you last time, we were uable to speak because of that annoying woman. You must be Nie Zun?"
Nie Zun smiled lightly. "Yes, I am."
Another gust of wind blew through the dense Southern Forest.
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