"Oh, mighty Patriarch, help this poor disciple of yours-" I began, but was interrupted as the door swung open, revealing Sun Liang, the familiar older man with a long beard.
"Enter and cease your shouting in front of my office," Sun Liang admonished.
I had come to ask him for contribution points. My plan to obtain a free alchemy furnace by claiming it was ordered by Sun Liang had succeeded. However, to delve into the practice of pill-making in the future, I required Spiritual Herbs. Planting them as soon as possible would allow them to grow and multiply. Additionally, I wanted to test the abilities of my system and explore its potential.
Thus, I entered the Patriarch's office and took a seat before him. Despite the commotion I had caused earlier, Sun Liang regarded me without anger, but he had some unfavorable news to deliver.
"I want to grant you contribution points, truly. In my eyes, you are the finest disciple in this sect and a promising candidate to reach the Golden Core realm one day."
"But?" I prompted.
"However, you entered the sect without undergoing the customary test, and I have already granted you the best immortal cave. If I continue treating you preferentially, my authority will be called into question," Sun Liang explained.
I desired those contribution points greatly, but Sun Liang made a valid point. As the overseer of all disciples, he had to ensure fairness and avoid showing undue favoritism.
As I prepared to leave, Sun Liang halted me. "Nevertheless, I can offer you a mission. What do you think? I control all the missions assigned to the disciples, so I can provide you with a favorable one that offers substantial rewards with minimal effort."
That was an intriguing proposition. Sun Liang had devised a way to assist me discreetly, without drawing attention to the fact that he was treating me differently from the other disciples.
"What mission do you have in mind?" I inquired, curious to understand his intentions.
"It's a rescue mission, actually. You will lead a group of three cultivators in the Qi Condensation realm to search for missing disciples or any clues regarding their whereabouts," Sun Liang revealed.
I found such missions appealing, as they allowed me to assume the role of a detective. However, I questioned the safety of the Qi Condensation cultivators I would be accompanying.
"Isn't it dangerous for the cultivators you want me to work with?" I voiced my concern.
"They are capable enough, and the location you will be visiting doesn't pose a significant threat. The missing disciples were in the fourth and fifth layers, indicating that their kidnapper may not be exceedingly powerful," Sun Liang reassured me.
He proceeded to explain the intricacies of the mission, including the location where the disciples had last been seen and the rewards involved. It appeared that my objective was to find the missing disciples either alive or dead, or at the very least, gather clues if locating them proved challenging. Honestly, even Sun Liang seemed to believe that the missing disciples were likely deceased. n-/o))v-.e.(l-.b(/1))n
The mission held a moral dimension as well. Sun Liang wanted me to undertake this task to instill a sense of reassurance among the other disciples, to make them feel that the Elders would come to their aid in times of need.
Sun Liang handed me a map with a clearly marked location, providing detailed instructions for the mission. "Go to the Qi Condensation mountain peak and seek out three disciples near a waterfall. They often train together in that area," he instructed.
I respectfully bowed before leaving his office. As I entered the peak where all the Qi Condensation cultivators resided, I could feel the gaze of each disciple upon me. It was a rare sight to see an Elder in their midst, and their heads instinctively lowered in a mixture of respect and trepidation.
Spotting a cute girl with bangs, I approached her and called out, "You."
"Me? Elder Li," she responded, bowing her head and placing her hand over her right chest.
"I've heard there's a waterfall here. I am in search of three specific disciples," I informed her. The girl seemed to instantly understand which disciples I was referring to, and a hint of worry crossed her face.
"If I may ask... Are they in trouble?" she inquired anxiously.
"No, they are not," I reassured her.
With a sigh of relief, she proceeded to guide me to the location of the waterfall. We followed a cobblestone path, passing by scattered immortal caves dotting the mountain peak. I couldn't help but notice that the Qi in this particular mountain seemed somewhat diminished, prompting me to wonder if the Patriarch had implemented a specific formation. The drastic difference in Qi levels between the two mountains seemed peculiar, considering their proximity.
Soon, we veered off the cobblestone path and entered a modest-sized forest. After a brief walk, the sound of rushing water reached our ears, signaling the presence of the waterfall. However, upon "Junior greets Elder," they uttered simultaneously.
arrival, we found no trace of the disciples.
"Where could they be?" I pondered aloud.
The girl who had accompanied me quickly responded, "There are numerous secluded cultivation rooms behind the waterfall. The three disciples you are searching for are most likely inside."
Curiosity piqued, I inquired, "But why are these three the only ones granted access to the rooms?"
The reasoning behind this arrangement remained elusive to me. Perhaps they had accomplished commendable feats within the sect, leading the Patriarch to reward them with such privilege. Alternatively, Sun Liang might have recognized their exceptional talents.
"I have no knowledge of the specifics. If you'll excuse me, Elder Li, I shall leave you to your task," the girl said, taking her leave.
With determination, I flew through the cascading water, revealing a series of stone doors behind the waterfall, reminiscent of the secluded meditation room within my immortal cave. The Qi in this area was noticeably denser, although it still fell short when compared to my personal cave.
There were a total of eight doors, yet I could sense the Qi emanating from only three of them. Knocking on each door, I patiently waited for a response.
The disciples within the rooms were likely engrossed in critical moments of their cultivation, so I exercised patience.
Unexpectedly, all three doors swung open simultaneously.
"Ahh, I have finally reached the 11th layer," one of the youths exclaimed.
"We achieved it as well! But who interrupted our secluded meditation?" another questioned in bewilderment.
"Someone knocked on your door too? I thought it was only mine. Who dares to disturb our meditative practice?" the third disciple chimed in.
The trio likely assumed that a mischievous Qi Condensation cultivator was playing a prank on them.
With my back still turned to the rooms, the disciples caught sight of my distinctive robes and promptly bowed in respect.
"Junior greets Elder," they uttered simultaneously.
As I turned to face them, I immediately recognized their voices. The familiarity in their voices struck me, and I couldn't contain my surprise any longer.
"Tian Li?" they yelled.
The three cultivators before me were none other than Ye Hu, Hou Suyin, and Hou Biya—the same group that had fought alongside me against the flooded dragon. Well, I had essentially fought alone, but they had been there in spirit.
A mixture of shock and delight painted their faces as they processed the unexpected encounter. It