Ascending The Heavens Chapter 9: Forbidden Zone

Proofers/Editors: nick0 

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In the outer ring of the Misty Mountain Sect were a series of fenced off mountains that most disciples were forbidden from entering. Unless one was given permission by the elder council or had enough contribution points to trade them for a pass, no one was permitted to enter this forbidden zone, for it is sealed off by an invisible membrane all year round.

A place where demonic beasts roamed and an ancient war had occurred. Along with countless remains of the dead and of course with countless amounts of treasures that were left behind. Most outer sect disciples lacked the contribution points to enter and those in the inner sect did not feel that the reward was fitting of the danger that entering the forbidden zone posed to them, because over the years most of the treasures that were left behind by the war have been scavenged and collected already.

But for the few fortune seekers who did not fear danger, there was still a chance of unearthing some lost treasures that haven’t been found yet.

With that being said, on a day like any other day, early in the morning, two young men could be seen making their way through the mountains of the Misty Mountain Sect and toward the forbidden zone.

“The barrier into the “Graveyard” can only be opened once every three days, so to make sure we don’t run into any trouble, we should only explore the outer edge of it.” Cai Cao said to Zhang.

“What treasures do you think we’ll find in there?” Zhang asked excitedly, ignoring Cai Cao’s words. Perhaps one could say that this was Zhang’s way of forcing himself to forget, forget his past, his life before entering the sect. If he immersed himself in this new world enough, then perhaps the old world would fade away from his memories.

But of course the more one tries to forget the more one remembers. Underneath Zhang’s smile was a sea of pain and grief that he tried to mask away. It could be said that the reason he decided to go to the Graveyard was to immerse himself in danger and force himself to not have to remember the pain that was ever present in the back of his head. This would be his way of escaping and moving on because if there are enough chains from the past pulling you back, you will never be able to take a step forward.

“If anything we will find some demonic beasts.” Cai Cao said with a sight, still not sure as to why he’s going with Zhang to a place that many people avoid.

“I guess this is what friends are for…” He thought as his vision gazed out afar, peering into the distance were a solid stone wall stood. A wall that stood as a reminder to those who walk past it

that they are entering into another world, one where beasts lurk at every twist and turn.

“At least I now get to decide my own fate. No longer am I a caged bird.” Cai Cao thought as his mind began to drift back to a time where he could only watch as things around him unfold, without being able to take part or impend. A time not too distant from now, a time that he is still trying to escape from.

While Cai Cao and Zhang were running away from their past, the two of them slowly made their way to the stone wall that surrounded the Graveyard. Unknown to them deep within the sect, atop a tall mountain, a group of inner sect elders were intently watching the two of them.

“If those two can last a day and a night in the Graveyard then put them both on the list to enter the Forest of Beasts.” A familiar old man who was usually referred to as Elder Liu said.

Once Zhang and Cai Cao arrived at the front of a massive stone gate that would open up a path into the Graveyard, they both pulled out their door sealing talismans and raised their hands into the air.

Moments later the talismans and the gate resonated as a bright ray of light shot out of the talismans and onto the gates. Soon enough hundreds of intricate carvings on the stone walls lit up as it receded into the ground, opening up a path in front of Zhang and Cai Cao.

“Danger will only serve to make me stronger. If there is no danger and only comfort, then one will never truly progress.” Zhang thought as he peered out into the path in front of him.

“Our first priority is setting up a camp and after that is taken care of we can have a look around.” Zhang said to Cai Cao, although his knowledge regarding cultivation was lacking, his knowledge about surviving in the wilderness was rich and abundant.

During his stay in the Shu Army, there were many times where he had to live off the forest while being pursued by enemy soldiers.

“This here should be a good spot to set a camp up.” Zhang said as he held up the map of the Graveyard that he and Cai Cao had acquired at the exchange counter and spreading it on to the ground in front of himself.

“Good choice, we would have the stone wall to cover our backs and there will be plenty of open space to keep an eye out for anything that approaches the camp. There’s also a small stream for drinking water.” Cai Cao said once he looked at the spot that Zhang was pointing at after crouching over. With their campsite picked out the two young men soon began moving alongside the stone wall.

Zhang looked with awe as he saw the countless runes that were etched into the side of the wall that faced the interior of the Graveyard. These countless runes were the very runes that kept the barrier around the Graveyard active.

As his gaze admired the ancient runes that helped holding up the walls, Zhang noticed that some of these runes were riddled with claw marks, most likely from the beasts that are kept within the barrier. Thinking about the strength required to leave a scratch on the wall, while the barrier is active, shows how strong some of the creatures lurking within the graveyard are. But this would also attest to the strength of the barrier and the wall.

“Let’s quicken our pace, we need to make it to the campsite and set up camp as soon as possible.” Cai Cao said to Zhang.

“Right.” Zhang said as Cai Cao, reminding Zhang of the urgent need to establish camp. For they are now in one of the sects forbidden zones, where they will have to fend for themselves.

Their previous pace now quickened and the two sped along the wall, keeping an eye out for danger. The defective flying sword that Zhang had received prior, could now be seen tied to his back, with its black colored hilt reflecting the sun’s light and glistening.

The closer they got to the campsite they picked out and the further they got from the entrance gate, the thicker the woods to their right became and so did the activity of the creatures lurking within it. Although nothing lunged out at Zhang or Cai Cao they were clearly being watched by dozens of creatures who were peering out from within the dense woods.

Of course since they were still in the outer ring of the Graveyard, the chance of running into something dangerous was very low, since the majority of the stronger demonic beasts would live deeper within the woods and closer to the burial site where the war that had happened countless years ago was. Only occasionally would some of the stronger monsters, leave the inner ring and attack the gate, trying to break out of the barrier.

So for the most part the creatures watching Zhang and Cai Cao were not very strong and could be taken care of with some effort and teamwork between the two.

“The campsite should be a bit past that boulder over there.” Zhang said as he pointed at a large oddly shaped boulder in front of them. Perhaps there is no significance behind it but this boulder was shaped very much like a whale and was made a distinct landmark on the map that they were given.

“Do you see that?” Cai Cao said as he pointed over the tree line and toward the sky.

Looking toward the direction where Cai Cao pointed, Zhang could see a pummel of smoke rising into the air, meaning that there are perhaps other people within the Graveyard, other than them.

“It’s unwise to give off smoke like that, it’ll attract the attention of the creatures that live within the forest.” Zhang said, remembering back to the war, when he and his unit had to construct a sort of clay oven to help disperse the smoke that their cooking fire was giving off, so their location would not be revealed to the enemy. There were often times when creature such as tigers approaching camps because of the scent given off by the food that was cooking.

“In places like this where there are monsters stronger than us lurking about and places where people rarely go and the beasts do not have any fear, it is safer to mask our presence.” Zhang added.

Soon the two arrived at their chosen campsite and began setting up. Zhang got to making a clay oven with dozens of small holes in the side and a clay wall around it that connected to the over, the outer wall itself had dozens of smaller holes at it’s bottom portion. This would drastically reduce the smoke that is released and also make it so that a lot more heat is retained within the oven. Normally such a task would take a lot of time but for a cultivator such a thing could be easily done within half an hour or an hour. The fact that a there was a river beside their camp also helped because there was mud ready for Zhang to take and use. While Zhang was making his oven, Cai Cao was pitching the tents.

“Now to light the oven!” Zhang said excitedly, as he found an opportunity to use the new skill that he had acquired.

Gathering all of the essence that he could muster within his body, he focused the essence into the tip of his index finger and soon a flickering flame that looked like it could extinguish at any moment appeared.

With a thought the flickering flame shot with lightning speeds into a stash of kindle that was within the oven and ignited a dazzling flame.

“Now to set up a perimeter.” Zhang muttered before setting out to begin the construction of a small fence around the camp. With a defined territory, animals would be less likely to come within the confines of the camp.

Zhang couldn’t help but smile as he saw that Cai Cao was still struggling with the construction of the tents.

“I guess no one is perfect. Maybe here I can be of some use.” Zhang thought as a smile crept onto his face. Up until now, a part of Zhang had always felt that Cai Cao was too perfect, in terms of cultivation it could be said that Cai Cao is leaps and bounds ahead of Zhang, in terms of looks Cai Cao could probably pass as a girl if he wanted to, hence Zhang had been slowly developing a sense of dependence on Cai Cao.

“Now which tree is a good one.” Zhang thought as he walked to the woods while eyeing the many trees the stood before him.

A few steps later, Zhang arrived in front of a large sturdy looking tree and placed his hand on it.

“Overrun with termites.” He said before heading off to another tree. While later after going through a dozen trees, he finally selected one and withdrew his sword from its scabbard. The defective flying sword gleamed as it slides out of the scabbard.

“Although I should use an axe, there isn’t one available so let’s see what's the difference between this sword and a regular sword.” He thought as he looked at the blade in his hand. Any swordsman who happened upon this scene would surely scold Zhang for using a sword in a manner in which it was not made for, and possibly ruining it.

But in the end if he ruins this sword he could always go back to the weapons exchange counter and trade it for another one.

So without another thought he gripped the two with both hands and began hacking at the tree. But to his amazement the sword slid straight through the tree upon his first swing as if the tree was made of paper. Dumbfounded by the sharpness of the sword Zhang stood there staring at the stump and the felled tree in front of him.

Perhaps if another member of the Misty Mountain Sect saw Zhang slice through the tree with a single swing he or she too would be dumbfounded, because such a thing is regularly impossible for someone at the fragment realm of cultivation and with a regular weapon, especially impossible for Zhang who has yet to even reach the fragment realm. That goes to show how strong the sword in his hands truly is, although many would say that obtaining a sword such as this so early in his path of cultivation would hinder his growth, Zhang would more than likely disagree because with a weapon such as this he could make up for his lack in cultivation and in turn quicken his growth.

Thus after a while of being dumbfounded he began cutting the tree apart into planks, to make his fence. But of course a single tree would not be enough to make the entire fence so he would soon have to cut down a few more trees and be stunned and amazed at his sword once more.

 

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