Chapter 42: Invitation
Their eyes met amidst the bustling crowd.
Su Chen stared at Gu Qingluo in a daze, as if he were in a beautiful dream.
Gu Qingluo’s expression seemed to melt for an instant, but she snapped out of it a moment later and gave Su Chen a gentle smile.
She then turned around, avoiding his gaze.
A sense of loss welled up in Su Chen’s heart.
However, Su Chen didn’t let it lower his spirits.
This was not the first time, and it would not be the last.
In the past four years, Su Chen and Gu Qingluo had crossed paths numerous times.
Most of the time, they would only smile and brush past each other
“Hey, Ling’er!” A voice pulled Su Chen’s mind back to the present.
A few youths were walking towards their group while waving towards Jin Ling’er.
Su Chen recognized one of them.
Blood Demon Zhong Ding.
He was dressed in a fiery scarlet robe with white clouds embroidered onto it. Wrapped around his waist was a black chain extending to his left arm. A pair of black leopard cloud boots was on his feet, and his hair was messily brushed into a ponytail. He wore a redstone crest on his head, and his eyebrows were thick and sharp. His eyes were quite attractive, his gaze as sharp as an eagle’s. However, the most eye-catching part of him was his pale white skin. It was so pale that it looked like he had a long-term nutrition deficiency.
The person standing next to him was extremely tall, and wore a dark green cape over his shoulders. Underneath the cape was a white embroidered satin gown, which was complemented by a pair of white embroidered satin pants. His boots were made from deerskin, and he wore a dark green felt hat on his head. His appearance was that of an aloof and proud young man. He carried a simple yet strange bow on his back that was particularly eye-catching. The body of the bow was made up of tangled vines from an ancient tree. At the tip of the bow was a small demonness with long hair. The long hair stretched backwards for a long distance, forming the string of the bow.
This bow was where his name originated from.
Treebow Zhang Sheng’an.
Su Chen had heard of him for quite some time, but in his four years at the Institute, he had never interacted with him very much and had only seen him from afar.
The person calling out to Jin Ling’er was Zhang Zheng’an.
Upon arriving near Jin Ling’er, Zhang Sheng’an laughed, “How come you just arrived? Everyone’s been waiting for you for quite some time.”
“I went to get Su Chen, so we got here a little late,” Jin Ling’er replied.
Zhang Sheng’an gazed at Su Chen.
How could he not know about Su Chen?
He had charged into the top ten of the Three Mountains Region exam without a bloodline, obtaining 5th place. His display of talent had surpassed everyone at that time.
However, cheap tricks were in the end cheap tricks. After entering the Hidden Dragon Institute, Su Chen’s glory had begun to fade.
He didn’t have any more outstanding achievements, and he didn’t even attend the end-of-year competitions. He lost his status as a Hidden Dragon Institute seedling after his first year.
The only thing he had done in the past four years that could be considered a significant achievement was convincing the Stormwind Scorpion to be his personal instructor. To convince someone like Shi Kaihuang was pretty impressive, but in the end it didn’t mean very much.
It was just a personal instructor; a personal instructor’s achievements were not one’s own achievements.
Only his own achievements could be considered to have meaning.
Becoming a disciple of a personal instructor that didn’t accept disciples easily hadn’t had any additional effect on raising Su Chen’s strength. This could be clearly seen from the silence he had maintained in the following three years.
He had deteriorated.
Shooting stars in the end were only shooting stars.
Zhang Sheng’an felt his interest fading as he turned his gaze to Wang Doushan and Cloud Leopard. One of them he had defeated before and the other was a commoner without a bloodline.
He turned around to look at Jin Ling’er. “Ling’er, have you given some thought to my proposal?”
Jin Ling’er was swaying her body to the music. Upon hearing Zhang Sheng’an’s question, her large eyes gleamed.
Zhang Sheng’an nodded his head.
“I don’t have anything against it, but I want to bring two friends with me.”
“Them?” Zhang Sheng’an knitted his eyebrows as he gazed at Su Chen and Wang Doushan.
Su Chen didn’t know what they were talking about. Slightly confused, he turned to ask Wang Doushan, “What’s going on at the Thousand Ashes Gorge?”
“Oh, they’re planning on going sometime to the Thousand Ashes Gorge to temper themselves,” Wang Doushan replied.
The Thousand Ashes Gorge was a canyon located in the northern area of the Falling Eagle Mountain. Origin Energy was plentiful there, as were spirit herbs and flowers, but the number of Vicious Beasts there was also the highest. It was the most dangerous location in the entire Falling Eagle Mountain, making it a great place for the students of the Institute to temper themselves.
Every year, large numbers of students would go there to harvest spirit herbs or to hunt Vicious Beasts.
The former were focused on money, while the latter were focused on tempering themselves.
Many students believed that it was a significant achievement to be able to safely enter and return from the Thousand Ashes Gorge.
However, the Hidden Dragon Institute had a strict rule. A Hidden Dragon Institute student must have spent at least four years in the Institute before being allowed to go to the Thousand Ashes Gorge. Second, those who had already gone could not explain too much about the gorge to those who had yet to enter. The students would need to experience and understand it on their own. Third, teams needed to be less than seven people, and there could be no more than three servants brought along. Finally, their strength could not surpass the Blood Boiling Realm.
In other words, the Institute had placed both lower and upper limits on its access.
Thus, Su Chen’s year had never been allowed to enter the Thousand Ashes Gorge up to this point.
After the end-of-year competition, they had finally obtained the right to go to the Thousand Ashes Gorge. Those who had wanted to establish a reputation for themselves were already beginning to form their own teams. At the same time, they could try their hand at improving their own Hidden Dragon Institute ranking – the Hidden Dragon Institute’s rankings were partially determined by one’s performance in the Thousand Ashes Gorge.
The amount of reputation that one could obtain from on-stage battles is limited. People were more likely to convinced by one’s performance under genuine life-or-death circumstances.
Zhang Sheng’an and the others were one of the teams headed for the Thousand Ashes Gorge.
Although Jin Ling’er’s performance on the battle stage had not been impressive, her skills were not limited in effectiveness to humans. They were similarly effective against Vicious Beasts. If they brought along Jin Ling’er and helped her control a mid-tier or even high-tier Vicious Beast, their strength would definitely increase. This was why Zhang Sheng’an had invited Jin Ling’er along.
Jin Ling’er was also quite interested in the proposal, but because of her friendship with Wang Doushan and Su Chen, she wanted to bring them along as well. Wang Doushan knew about this matter already, but he hadn’t mentioned it to Su Chen before Su Chen had arrived.
“So that’s how it is. What time?” Su Chen asked.
“Sometime in the next couple of days. It depends on their leader’s intentions.” Wang Doushan jutted his chin out at Zhang Sheng’an and Zhong Ding, implying that the team had been assembled by those two. They were the ones that made the decisions.
However, Blood Demon Zhong Ding was usually quite taciturn and didn’t like to speak, so Zhang Sheng’an was still the one making most of the decisions.
Zhang Sheng’an hesitated upon hearing Jin Ling’er’s request. “This……”
“What? Are you unwilling?” Jin Ling’er asked.
Zhang Sheng’an replied, “That’s a difficult request to fulfill. You know that the Thousand Ashes Gorge is extremely dangerous. It is filled with mid-tier and even high-tier Vicious Beasts. Our goal in entering this time is to try to improve our rankings. Wang Doushan and I have exchanged blows before, so I have faith in his strength, but as for Su Chen……”
He shook his head. “Why bring this burden along?”
Su Chen frowned upon hearing these words.
He didn’t care much about whether people looked down on him. After all, he hadn’t done much of anything during the past 4 years, and it was pretty normal for people to look down on him.
However, looking down on him was one thing. Openly offending him was another matter entirely.
Wang Doushan was displeased with Zhang Sheng’an’s words. “Su Chen was someone who reached the top 10 in the Three Mountains Region Exam. How can he be considered a burden?”
Zhang Sheng’an gently shook his head. “That was four years ago.”
He wasn’t wrong. Perhaps Su Chen had been considered powerful one point in time, but that was all in the past.
These few years, Su Chen had not done anything of note, so it was no surprise that he was being underestimated.
Zhang Sheng’an, Zhong Ding, and many others all felt that Su Chen had already fallen, never to repeat his heroism of the past.
Perhaps even Wang Doushan and Jin Ling’er thought this secretly.
The only reason they were still willing to be around him was because they were unwilling to let go of the friendship they had from the past, but that didn’t imply that they had any faith in Su Chen’s strength.
Thus, when Zhang Sheng’an said this, even Wang Doushan was rendered speechless for a while.
He finally said, “If Su Chen doesn’t go, I won’t go.”
What he said made Jin Ling’er want to also say the same..
Zhang Sheng’an, upon seeing this, said, “We have gathered the most talented students for our trip to the Thousand Ashes Gorge. Ling’er, if you are willing to come with us, we will do our best to help you capture a high-tier Vicious Beast and give it to you. You know yourself how important that can be to increasing your strength.”
High-tier Vicious Beasts had strength around the level of low-layer Blood Boiling Realm cultivators. With the current strength of the students, there was probably no one that could deal with one. However, if they ganged up on it, capturing it wouldn’t be a big problem.
If Jin Ling’er could control a high-tier Vicious Beast, her strength truly would increase greatly, increasing her Dragon Transformation List ranking.
Humans all possessed a certain amount of vanity. In the Three Mountains Region exam she was a top 10 candidate, but after entering the Hidden Dragon Institute, she had trouble even staying in the top 200. Although part of it was because her combat style wasn’t very compatible with arena matches, Jin Ling’er was still bothered by it.
Upon hearing Zhang Sheng’an’s promise, Jin Ling’er began to hesitate.
Su Chen gently laughed when he saw her dilemma. “Since they’ve already invited you, go. Don’t worry about us.”
Upon hearing these words, Jin Ling’er made her decision. “Sorry about this. I’ll go with them first. If there are any opportunities in the future, I’ll let you know.”
“No problem,” Su Chen replied with a gentle smile.
Wang Doushan frowned as he watched them leave. “What’s so precious about a high-tier Vicious Beast anyways? Is it really worth caring so much about?”
“Forget about it. Every person has his or her own path. There’s no need for us to force others to stop for our sake,” Su Chen replied.
“You are quite big-hearted. If I had known it would be like this, I probably would’ve gone with them too,” Wang Doushan huffed.
“There are many different teams. Why force ourselves to join theirs?” Su Chen calmly replied.