The space beyond a thousand meters deep within the demon qi-plagued abyss became nebulous despite Ye Qingyu's present strength.
All they could hear were the growls and shrieks which rang out from time to time as if threatening all beings which tried to enter the Black Demon Pool.
"Let's go ahead and enter the Black Demon Pool. The third zone is the reception zone where we can station." Yan Wushuang pointed at the steps which seemed like the road to hell.
Ye Qingyu and Yu Xiaoxing followed closely behind him, while the other experts, too, formed a line and walked toward the depths of the abyss.
The flame-like black demon qi which surrounded them was deeply unsettling.
"Woof, I hate this sort of environment." Seeming upset, the silly dog laid on Ye Qingyu's shoulder and waggled its pink nose.
After the time it took for an incense stick to burn off.
On the plaza in the third zone of the Black Demon Pool.
The demon qi on the vast black plaza was even richer than that in the labyrinthine realm. The black-red slabs which paved the plaza even contained streams of surging, red-glowing magma.
As soon as they reached the third zone, several experts among the contingent found it difficult to withstand the power of the terrifying black demon qi. Their inner breaths were affected and their faces revealed a painful look. They had no choice but to operate their yuan qi and sit still to correct their breathing.
"It's so hot..." Yan Wushuang, still smiling, looked at the space within the third zone while continually wiping sweat off his face using one hand.
The so-called third zone was just another underground space within the abyss. Similar to any underground city, beings of all races came and went hurriedly, their faces displaying a vigilance. Most beings chose to conceal their faces, and thus wore masks or covered themselves in mist.
The buildings in all directions appeared ghostly and gloomy.
There were black towers and underground tunnels that led to unknown places.
Aside from several large plazas on which all kinds of hawkers sold their wares loudly, the other parts were very quiet. A pale black demon qi pervaded throughout, making the whole environment seem oppressive, gloomy and unlike any opther place they had been to.
Compared to the bright and beautiful Sunrise City, this place was simply a living ghost town.
Just like the last time, the envoy mission chose to set up camp on a plaza.
Their arrival attracted attention from the experts of a hundred races.
Yan Wushuang seemed very cautious.
He engraved several extremely prominent symbols of the Alliance of Domains on the camp's exterior, so as to remind the experts of various races, who were looking from all sides covetously, that this place was protected by the Alliance of Domains.
Two beacons, of which one was red and the other silver, and which were engraved with the symbol of the Alliance's special envoys, fluttered in the air above the camp. They dispersed the surrounding black demon qi, and could be seen dazzlingly throughout the third zone.
Everything was swiftly put in proper place.
"Elder Yan, do we have to go anywhere now to receive information on the test content and methods?" Ye Qingyu asked.
Until this point, nobody knew the content for the Black Demon Pool test. And because the environment was vastly different from the Sunrise City, neither did they know where to go to receive such information.
Yu Xiaoxing nodded her head, saying, "Exactly. Time is pressing, and so may we request that Elder Yan bring us to meet the reception official of Black Demon Pool."
"No rush, no rush..." Yan Wushuang shrugged and smiled, saying, "There's no need to go receive anything. You'll understand in a while."
After the time it took to drink a cup of tea.
The other elder Shuang Wuyan, who had gone missing after entering the Black Demon Pool, returned to the third zone.
With his body emanating an intense chill, he entered the main tent and, without saying a word, threw a golden pentagonal token which gave off a faint halo at Ye Qingyu.
The moment that Yan Wushuang, who had been waiting in the tent while fanning himself with his sleeves, saw that the token was golden-colored, his brows unconsciously frowned and a distinct hint of heaviness flashed across his pupils.
As soon as the token fell into his hands, Ye Qingyu could feel that it contained a terrifying and strange power.
He injected a tinge of ice power into the token.
The five edges of the token instantly sparkled in a golden brilliance, while five streams of black demon qi suddenly surged into space before them, where they converged into a lump before unfolding slowly, and subsequently, what seemed like a black phantom scroll appeared in front of everyone.
The scroll contained an introduction of the Black Demon Pool and an account of its development process. These were written in the script of the Black Demon Race, while translations into human script were provided at the margins. Their main points were similar to what the reception elders had already mentioned.
"This time, you all may choose from two different test methods." After sweeping a glance through the scroll, Yan Wushuang explained things to Ye Qingyu and the rest and casually waved a hand toward the scroll.
As it slowly moved, new phantom images and text gradually appeared on it.
"Look, this is a ranking list of valuable and rare vegetation which grows only in the Black Demon Pool - the Black Demon Pool Demon Plant List. Your task this time is hidden on this list," Yan Wushuang said smilingly.
Everyone carefully scanned the phantom scroll.
Listed were dozens of different kinds of vegetation which they had never seen before in the Heaven Wasteland Domain.
At the top of the list was a plant named [Black Ice Haworthia Cooperi].
Judging from its shape, it looked like a cluster of black ice crystals which were rounded and extremely translucent.
The accompanying text said that this plant only grew on the cliffs of the Black Demon Pool's eighteen zones and had a strong vitality. However, if yuan qi power came into contact with it during the picking process, it would instantly turn into black stone and lose its effect.
The second-placed plant was called the [Saha Flower].
It had black leaves and a black stalk, which was as thin as thread, and on the top of which hung five black fruits that had many holes and bumps.
These fruits could be consumed only by beings of the Black Demon Race, whose demon qi would be magically enhanced. However, if beings of other races consumed these fruits, their yuan spirit would be inhibited and they risked falling into the path of the demon.
After careful examination and comparison, Ye Qingyu discovered that the phantom images and text of the third-placed plant carried a golden-edged sheen, evidently being highlighted by a strange energy.
The herb which was especially highlighted had a very peculiar shape.
Nine broad dark-red leafs were covered with a layer of silver fluff. At first glance, it looked like the tails of a nine-tailed fox.
Yan Wushuang laughed as he gave an introduction to everyone, "The [Black Demon Herb] is ranked third on the Demon Plant List. It's not only valuable and rare, but after purification, it would incredibly enhance the cultivation of any being, however... it grows only in the 16th zone and thereafter."
"Bring back ten Black Demon Herbs and hand them to the Black Demon Race. This is one of the test choices." Shuang Wuyan suddenly opened his mouth and spoke in a chilly voice.
Everyone gulped a mouthful of cold air.
According to the introduction by the two elders and on the token, the eighteen zones of the Black Demon Pool were each more terrifying and dangerous than the previous one.
Though they had only reached the third zone, a small number of envoys already could not withstand the demon qi and were no longer in fighting shape. It was thus hard to imagine how mysterious and frightening the 16th zone and beyond would be.
Furthermore, the extreme danger and difficulty of this test meant that human wave tactics were no longer suitable. This was undoubtedly a huge blow to the Heaven Wasteland diplomatic corps.
"One of the test choices? Do we have other choices? Elder Yan, what's the second test?" Yu Xiaoxing seemed somewhat glum.
"Hoho, the second test choice will require a long explanation. I first have to show you the wanted list of the Alliance of Domains." Yan Wushuang flipped a palm, causing the phantom to undulate once more.
Several ranked names and accompanying phantoms abruptly appeared on the scroll.
"Over tens of millions of years, there've been many notorious and dangerous experts who possessed heaven-defying strength but committed countless felonies and misdeeds. They're being pursued by the Alliance of Domains, and had gone on exile as soon as they were put on the top wanted list. According to various reliable sources, a large number of them are hiding within the Black Demon Pool." Yan Wushuang narrated in an unhurried and smiling manner which reminded one of the Maitreya.
Ye Qingyu looked at the dozens of experts from different races on the wanted list. Every one of them was at the Immortal Step Realm and above, especially the top three felonies, who were beings at the pinnacle of said realm.
"Why would they hide here? Isn't this place administered by the Alliance of Domains?" Wen Wan looked at the list with some suspicion.
"Heh heh... this place is indeed administered by the Alliance, but... but it's special..." There was something unusual in Yan Wushuang's smile.
"Oh? How is it special?" Ye Qingyu's eyes remained fixed on the scroll as he carefully studied every person on the wanted list.
"The Black Demon Pool is the only one among the nineteen cities of chaos to not have any laws and centralized governance," Shuang Wuyan spoke at a length which was rare for him.
No laws and governance?!
Everyone looked shocked.
"To put it simply, whoever's fist is harder... is the one gets to talk... this is a pit of vice, a paradise of chaos. Anyone would be able to live here as long as one doesn't provoke the Black Demon Race. The condition is that one has to be strong enough." Yan Wushuang hastily followed up.
The leaders in the main tent stared speechless at one another.
It was no wonder that the two elders behaved so cautiously and seriously upon entering the Black Demon Pool, and Shuang Wuyan even had to collect the token that contained the test tasks on their behalf.
This place was not controlled by any official or city lord, just like an ancient uncivilized domain.
In Sunrise City, the Violet Gold Divine Office was in charge of things, for better or worse. If there were any unforeseen circumstances, at least there were city laws and Alliance rules to speak of, and so the contingent could feel relatively secure.
Conversely, in the Black Demon Pool, it was entirely a matter of winning fights and getting one's way, or losing them and getting buried.
"No wonder those criminals would hide here, it's a place completely suited to their ilk." Luo Yi frowned.
"To outsiders, it's a dangerous and unpredictable place, but to insiders, it's a good place for committing vices and running wild." Ye Qingyu shook his head as if deep in thought and continued, "Does the second test have to do with them?"
"Yes. To pass the second test, you just have to enter the Black Demon Pool and hunt down and kill three felonies on the top wanted list of the Alliance of Domains," Yan Wushuang answered, smiling.
Hunt down three highly-wanted criminals from within the eighteen zones, and also kill them?!
Everyone looked at Yan Wushuang with an ‘are-you-kidding-me’ expression on their faces.
Yan Wushuang shrugged and looked at Shuang Wuyan.
Unusually calm, the latter nodded gently with his seemingly-frozen head, saying, "This is indeed the second possible task to pass the test."
"Heh heh... don't worry, at least you all have a choice... that has to be better than when Sunrise City directly gave you a most difficult task..." Yan Wushuang comforted everyone, still smiling.
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