Reborn as a Demonic Tree

Chapter 16: (Interlude) House Ravenborne

An hour later, on the neighboring peak shrouded in a perpetual fog, a woman ignored the hawking ravens that observed her while perched upon charred trees and made her way through the low-visibility courtyard with expert movements as if she knew the placement of every shrub and rock. Her black clothes and mask had been left with the maids at the entrance, so the tomboyish girl walked through the hallways of her family's pavilion in skinny trousers that showed off her modest curves and a partially opened shirt.

"Diana, welcome home. Did the mission go well?" A woman with a thin smile appeared from behind a doorway, causing Diana to pause and glance at the person with cold grey eyes.

Diana sighed and ran a hand through her short black hair, "No, Mother. Unfortunately, there were some complications..."

"Of course, there were." Diana's mother snapped, her smile turning into a vile smirk. "If your brother was still alive, we would have sent him! At least he knew how to get shit done—" Diana shoved past her mother, causing her to shriek even louder. "If not for that Stella Crestfallen bitch killing my son, I wouldn't have to deal with the likes of you..."

Diana clenched her fist as she stormed down the corridor. It wasn't her fault her brother died to Stella at the tournament three years ago. Yet ever since, as the new heir to house Ravenborne, she had been forced into a position she never wanted. Diana had found comfort living in her brother's shadow, with him outperforming her in every aspect possible.

How did Stella kill her brother all those years ago? What had he seen that had instigated such fear he couldn't even move as he was struck down? It was a question that plagued everyone's minds. Was it an artifact? A rare martial technique? Nobody knew, and that's what she had been sent to investigate, among other things.

It took Diana over ten minutes to reach her room—she mostly ignored everyone as she passed through the corridors. Some returned the favor, while others stopped her to chat or pay respects. Being the scion of a powerful house was a tiresome affair that only put a large target on her back. She practically flopped onto her bed and relished its softness for a while in the safety of her room.

She knew her father would want a report on the mission soon, so in the meantime, she fished into her pocket and retrieved the golden ring. Unfortunately, it still had the lingering scent of her cousin on it, which made her frown as the events of an hour ago played in her mind.

Now that she thought about it, her cousin had acted very oddly. She despised him, like everyone else in the family, but killing her would make no sense. He wasn't in direct line for succession, nor was anyone on his side of the family... "Wait. What type of pills did he drop?" Diana opened her spatial ring within her mind and retrieved the pills. It was hard to tell without getting a feel of the ambient Qi. "Mhm... These are lightning Qi pills—cousin practiced water cultivation techniques... These would kill him. What possible reason could he have to consume one?"

A flash of horror appeared on Diana's face. Had she made a mistake killing him? Of course, killing her cousin would earn her some enforced self-reflection or a beating, but it wouldn't be a massive deal so long as she could give a good explanation. "Why was he acting so strange, though?" Diana's eyes narrowed, and she sat up on her bed.

The golden ring of her cousin was still warm and had some blood stains on it, which made Diana's stomach churn. Murder may be an accepted part of demonic sect culture, but it didn't make murder any easier. Closing her eyes, she got to work. One couldn't simply enter another person's spatial ring as they were sealed with their power.

A Monarch realm's spatial ring could only be opened by another Monarch realm. So it was the same situation here. Luckily her cousin was weaker than her by a few stages in the Soul Fire realm, so she easily cracked its defenses within half an hour. Her shirt was damp with sweat as she wiped her brow with her sleeve and sighed. "Finally done."

Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes again and felt inside the ring. Within was a pocket space around the size of her wardrobe, and it was stuffed full of... fruit? Diana's brows furrowed in confusion. She didn't even recognize half the fruit in there, had her cousin stumbled upon a remote area in the mountains? Or perhaps a secret realm?

While her mind raced with possibilities, she summoned a random fruit, and it appeared in her hands. Instantly she caught a whiff of dense Qi within the fruit... which was rare. Just to compare, Diana summoned a Moon Orange from her personal spatial ring. They were a great snack that many cultivators enjoyed due to their great taste and a minuscule amount of Qi that helped them recover after a laborious cultivation session.

Weighing the two different fruits in her hand, it was obvious the one from her cousin's ring contained many times more Qi than the Moon Orange. Diana frowned and tried to remember the strict gardeners' teachings from when she was young.

'Trees often produce fruit with tiny hints of Qi to encourage the monsters that roamed the wilderness to consume their fruit and deposit their seeds elsewhere. Of course, the same result can be achieved by making the fruit taste good...' Diana then remembered the man's face turning dark as if remembering a horrifying memory. 'But monsters are infamous for their lackluster tastebuds and almost insanity-inducing obsession with getting stronger. They devour us humans' bones and all without batting an eye...'

Diana smiled at the memory. She had been so young, but that man never sugar-coated his words. Always answering her most burning questions with the vocabulary of a vulgar drunkard.

Diana shook her head to remove these useless thoughts. In her hand was something of great value. Sure, the Qi contained was too weak to affect her, but it showed there was a plant out there that could produce fruit with this much Qi. "I would guess it's around the 8th stage of the Qi realm?" Diana paused as she came to a realization.

"Assuming a tree produced this fruit, it would need to be a spirit tree... one that can cultivate. The normal wild trees can barely reach the threshold for the 1st stage of the Qi Realm." Diana rubbed her chin as the scene of her cousin's death played in her mind. She had found him standing in front of a demonic tree, one of the more common types of spirit tree throughout the wilderness. Even she had seen a few during her excursions out of the sect.

They weren't known for producing fruit other than some poisonous berries. Weaker monsters ate these tiny berries—died a gruesome death—and then were digested by the tree's roots due to the slightly acidic mud. "My cousin wouldn't have been stupid enough to eat the berries of a demonic tree... right?" Diana couldn't find another plausible explanation for his behavior.

But there were still unsolved mysteries. Why did her cousin have lightning cultivation pills? Why is one missing, and where the hell did all this fruit come from?

A knock at her bedroom door made her jump in her skin. "Err, yea?" Diana half replied as she put the fruit back in her cousin's ring and scrambled for a place to hide it.

"Diana Ravenborne, your father wishes to meet with you in the hall." A tired man's voice came through the door.

"O-okay, I am just changing into appropriate clothes... I will be out in a second." Diana lifted a floorboard—beneath, tucked between cobwebs and dust, was a small lockbox that blocked spiritual sense so others wouldn't detect its contents.

"The Grand Elder does not accept tardiness, young lady. You should have gone to greet him first..." The man grumbled, and Diana heard the door handle click open.

Diana gritted her teeth. 'Bastard doesn't respect me one bit.' Then, before the man could get around the door and see what she was doing, she stuffed the ring into the box, shut it close, and pushed the floorboard back into place with a thud. She covered the sound with a loud yawn, making the man who had entered frown.

"Ahem." Diana pushed past the man, "Let's go. Best not keep father waiting."


"I killed him." Diana sat lazily in a wooden chair with her head propped up by her arm. Across from her was her father, the Grand Elder of house Ravenborne. Despite her bold statement, her father barely flinched or showed any emotion. As expected of a Star Core cultivator. Even without him exerting his presence, everything in the room felt heavy. In fact, even sitting in his presence strained Diana's muscles, hence her slouched posture.

The Grand Elder's grey eyes bore into his daughter's soul. "Diana Ravenborne, you better have an exemplary reason. Your cousin may have been a blubbering fool, but our family's position hasn't been great since your brother's early death at the hands of the crestfallen heir." The man spat out the name of the girl that had consumed his mind over the past three years. "The younger generation has been lacking behind the other houses. Only your brother was a true genius."

Diana resisted rolling her eyes. Her family would take any opportunity possible to compare her to her brother, despite him being long dead by now. "No, father, my cousin was already dead... although I didn't know that at the time." Diana continued before her father could open his mouth again. "He ate the berries from a demonic spirit tree in the courtyard. Why he ate the berries... I have no clue."

There was a long pause until the Grand Elder rose to his feet and walked across the room. Everything trembled as he walked as if a tremendous force was pressing down from the heavens above. "Diana, the demonic sect's way of life where the strongest rule, mirrors the wilderness that surrounds the Blood Lotus sect for thousands of miles."

As the man walked, the floor creaked, and his black robes swayed with his movements, "This is why the celestial sects under the control of the celestial empire treat us rural demonic sects like savages. So why must you play into the stereotype of our people by slaughtering your cousin in cold blood?"


The man shot her a glare, so fierce her words got caught in her throat. "I mean... Grand Elder." Diana quickly corrected herself, "I already told you he killed himself by consuming a demonic tree's poisonous berries."

The Grand Elder pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration. "Daughter, I will not believe for one second that a man carrying some of my genes would be foolish enough to consume such obviously poisonous berries while on a strategic mission!" Then letting out a profound sigh, he turned around and went to stand before a window that gazed out upon the vast Blood Lotus sect. "I am surrounded by idiots."

There was a pause. "What of the mission?" The man's voice was as cold as ice.

Diana gulped. "The pavilion was empty. Most of the rooms were covered in dust and decay. But I believe I may know where your brother's corpse went."

The Grand Elder didn't turn to meet her gaze as he already knew the answer. "That Crestfallen brat fed your uncle's cold corpse to the tree, didn't she."

"Maybe..." Diana shifted nervously on her wooden seat. Her eyes darted to the door. She desperately wanted to leave before her father gave her a fitting punishment for her actions. "But that is just my theory. There were no bones or any leftover possessions like those normally found around the roots of demonic trees."

"Useless!" The Grand Elders' voice thundered through the room. "The Patriarch has ordered me not to lay a single finger on that Crestfallen brat because she is an up-and-coming prodigy of the sect..."

Diana felt a shiver go down her spine as her father smiled. He never smiled.

"Your punishment for this failure?" The man's smile was sickening as he tapped his chin. "Kill Stella Crestfallen."

Diana blinked at the words. Utterly gobsmacked. If even her father couldn't get away with killing the girl... 'He is using me as a sacrificial pawn.'

"I don't care how you do it, but you must do it cleanly." The Grand Elder walked over and loomed over Diana, "You hear me, brat? If you do not perform this task within the next five years... then it's time you face a beast tide. Alone."

In other words... a death sentence. Either she killed Stella Crestfallen and died at the hands of the Patriarch, or she went against her father's wishes, and he'd send her on a suicide mission himself.

Diana thought of the fruit in her cousin's spatial ring and how much she despised her family. Should she run away? Maybe Stella would know a way out of this predicament? It might be worth asking...

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