“I can’t stay here anymore, at least not for the time being,” Lin Yun muttered after calmly analyzing his situation. “If I do stay, Zhou Yun will keep coming after me. With my fourth stage cultivation, I have no chances of beating someone at the seventh stage. If Chen Xiao had not suppressed his cultivation, my odds of winning would have been fifty-fifty at best.”
Sighing softly, Lin Yun recalled the events of the previous day, Zhou Yun’s oppressive strength, Su Ziyao’s indifference, and Yu Ning’s disdain. Bitterness slowly seeped into his heart. It’d been a long time since he suffered a loss. He was once more made aware of how truly powerless he was.
Lin Yun cast his gaze at the painting given to him by Senior Hong, “Embody the tiger, smell the rose...”
His heart throbbed as something dawned on him. In both the sect and this world, the strong were respected and the weak were trampled. He clenched his fist as the feelings of helplessness and confusion in his heart were replaced by unwavering determination.
“Two months from now, I’ll be back!” Lin Yun promised himself.
The Administration Hall was as bustling as always. Aside from the Martial Technique Chamber and Weapons Chamber, the Administration hall was where disciples could claim funds and accept missions from the sect. The missions were quite varied with some for hunting demonic beasts, others for gathering herbs, and still others for subjugating bandits.
The only thing that had changed since Lin Yun was here last was how he was received. Upon entering the hall, the normal bustle turned to a hushed murmur as more disciples became aware of his presence.
Word of him defeating Chen Xiao with a single stroke of his sword and withstanding a blow from Zhou Yun had spread through the sect overnight. The news that he successfully cultivated the Flowing Wind Sword was especially surprising. Only a week or so ago Lin Yun was still a lowly sword slave. The difference was stark! Unfortunately, though, his relationship with Su Ziyao had also become a hot topic again.
Lin Yun walked over to Administrator Yang, “Administrator Yang, I would like to receive two months’ worth of funds in advance and some missions.”
Administrator Yang looked at Lin Yun in a daze. It was as if he were facing an entirely different person. The lowly sword slave had grown so much in such a short time. Snapping back to reality, he hurriedly replied, “Sure. Here’s two months’ worth of funds, two Body Refining Pellets along with 100 taels of gold.”
Gold might entice commoners, but it held little sway over powerful martial practitioners. It was rumoured that inner disciples only used spiritual stones to trade. To them, gold and silver were only good for buying food.
With these two Body Refining Pellets, Lin Yun would have five in total. They represented a huge boon for his cultivation and would allow him to reach great heights.
“You’re really going to challenge Zhou Yun two months from now?” Administrator Yang asked sincerely. He could tell Lin Yun planned to increase his strength over these two months by accepting missions. It was also a good excuse to be out of the sect and avoid trouble.
Lin Yun grew wary. He couldn’t help but wonder if this old man was planning to make things difficult for him again.
As if he were reading Lin Yun’s mind, Administrator Yang continued, “Don’t worry. The Hall Master has spoken. I won’t make things difficult for you again. I hope we can move past my poor showing from last time. So, what mission would you like to accept? Ordinary missions or spiritual stone missions?”
“You have spiritual stone missions here?”
“Oh, but of course! As the name implies, the rewards from spiritual stone missions are spiritual stones. They’re normally only given to inner disciples, but not all of them are accepted. Typically, a few end up left over.”
“Let me take a look at them,” Lin Yun’s interest was piqued. He never expected that there would be spiritual stone missions here.
“Spiritual stone mission: kill 3 demonic beasts, the Flaming Inked Tigers. The reward for the mission is 200 low-grade spiritual stones. Hah, killing demonic beasts for spiritual stone missions. I can see why this one was left unassigned.”
“Spiritual stone mission: harvest ten Blood Lilies. Location: the Hundred Flower Valley, deep in the range surrounding Cloud Horizon Mountain.”
“Spiritual stone mission: hunt down the bandit Kuang Yan. The reward is 500 low-grade spiritual stones. Kuang Yan’s cultivation is close to the seventh stage. He’s a brutal bandit with no regard for human life.”
Lin Yun looked over the ordinary missions on the board. The three spiritual stone missions would be incredibly challenging, but their rewards were hard to pass up. After spending a few minutes to mull things over, he decided to take the three spiritual stone missions.
“The Azure Sky Sect’s mid-year test is in two months. If you’re unable to make it back in time, you will automatically fail,” Administrator Yang kindly reminded him as he handed the missions to Lin Yun.
Lin Yun nodded, “Thank you.”
When Lin Yun was about to leave, Administrator Yang asked in a soft voice, “Did you really manage to cultivate the Flowing Wind Sword?”
“I’ve only managed to obtain lesser mastery. I still don’t have a full grasp of it yet,” Lin Yun replied as he left, leaving a dumbfounded Administrator Yang behind.
During their prior encounter, Administrator Yang was confident that Lin Yun wouldn’t be able to cultivate it. He never imagined that not only would Lin Yun be successful, but he would also achieve lesser mastery in such little time. Judging from Lin Yun’s attitude, the boy had no idea how impressive his feat was.
“I was lucky that the Hall Master interfered back then. I do not want to be on that boy’s bad side,” Administrator Yang sighed as he shook his head.
Not long after Lin Yun left the sect, his wooden shack had several unwelcome visitors. They tore through his stuff, seemingly looking for something.
“Senior Brother Chen, we can’t find the Body Refining Pellets. That brat must have been expecting us.”
“There’s nothing valuable here either. It’s all trash.”
It was Chen Xiao and his lackeys, who had come to take revenge now that Chen Xiao had recovered. They were surprised and annoyed that Lin Yun had predicted their movements.
“Damn it! First my Cloudline Sword and now those Body Refining Pellets!”
The back to back losses left Chen Xiao bitter, “Burn this damn shack to the ground! We’ll see how long you can hide from me, trash! I bet you’re too proud to miss the mid-year test!”
Lin Yun spent the next two days travelling on horseback before arriving deep within the range surrounding Cloud Horizon Mountain. Now that he was out of the sect, he would be facing new dangers. One of said dangers was also his current objective: demonic beasts!
Unlike in the outer areas Lin Yun had traveled before, the deep mountains were rampant with demonic beasts. It was rumored the weakest demonic beast you could find out here was equivalent to a practitioner in the fifth stage of the Martial Path. On top of that, their unparalleled bloodlust was so intense that even seasoned practitioners had trouble controlling their fear.
Lin Yun had accepted the mission to harvest Blood Lilies so, despite his growing trepidation, he had to take the risk. If he wanted to cleanse himself of his humiliating defeat by Zhou Yun and repay Su Ziyao, he would have to kick things up a notch. The ‘kindness’ Su Ziyao showed him weighed on him even more than Zhou Yun’s spiritual pressure had. He hated being indebted to others and was anxious to repay her.
Looking at the map, Lin Yun was close to the Hundred Flower Valley, but the terrain this far in was rough and unpredictable. Without a guide, finding the Hundred Flower Valley had proven to be a slow and arduous affair.