Herb Mountain cave.
To Ling Chengye, strange, complicated maze-like tunnels were fraught with mystery and danger. During yesterday’s exploration, he did not get deep enough into the mountain’s core and his efforts rendered him dizzy, almost hurting his psyche.
However, when Qin Lie entered, he was like a fish in water. He moved easily and effortlessly through the lines of stone tunnels, directly towards the deepest parts of the mountain.
While moving, his steps never faltered. It was evident that the cave’s maze did not affect him at all.
Soon, he reached the belly of the mountain’s core and the originally dark stone tunnels brightened.
This was a very large cave – as big as a football field. The stone wall above was over ten meters above the stone floor, and eight pillars each as thick as a man’s waist stood tall in eight corners of the cave.
The eight pillars were conical, and their pointed tips were inserted into the crevices of the stone wall above, lending it the image of eight giant hands holding onto the cave itself. The sight was spectacularly grand in a cave.
The eight pillars had strand after strand of silver-colored metal wire the width of a thumb wound all around them, and these wires connected the pillars.
In the large wide cave, silver lines intersected in the middle of the octagon of pillars, like several giant spider webs interwoven together.
An astonishing electric current accompanied the thunder and popping. The current entered the roof of the crevice and down the eight wide pillars, then went through the wires wound around the pillars and into the huge net of wires in the middle of the pillars. Lightning appeared many times in the cave, lighting up its insides.
At the same time, in the skies outside Herb Mountain, lightning intertwined and thunder deafened the ears. It was as if lightning dragons were raging in the sky.
The dense lightning came crackling down, as though attracted by some mysterious force, pierced the upraised stone on the mountain peak, then passed in a flash.
“Come on! Hit me harder!”
In the middle of the wide cave, Qin Lie’s still somewhat immature face was full of excitement as he barged into the dense web of electricity and wires between the eight pillars.
The current in the interwoven silver wires charged into his seemingly frail body like the cold gleam of a blade!
Countless fine lines of electricity shot into him. Qin Lie, who had disengaged Thoughtless Tranquility, felt like his soul was being pierced in ten thousand places by metal needles. He couldn’t help but emit shrill screams of agony.
Qin Lie’s body twitched in throes of pain. Madness surfaced in his eyes, like those of a desperate beast met with an unending world of pain.
Qin Lie bore pain that was impossible for normal people and gritted his teeth as he used the Heavenly Thunder Eradication Art. The disorderly lightning that had scattered after it entered his body seemed to suddenly be grabbed by an unseen hand, then sent through his tough muscles and veins, flowing quickly into his flesh and bones.
Even if ordinary practitioners were in the Natal Opening Realm, they would in all probability implode rapidly and perish if struck so by such a wild electrical current.
Threads of lightning sped around his muscles and veins at his direction and gradually moved toward his thoracic cavity and abdomen.
The lightning passed through his muscles, veins, bones and flesh, and all these parts felt so bruised that the pain made him teeter on the brink of unconsciousness. However, he was very aware in his pain that the lightning was also becoming his flesh and bone bit by bit, making his body gradually adapt to a greater intensity of Heavenly Thunder Eradication refinement.
Over five years, and after nine days of lightning-strengthening, he gradually refined his muscles, veins, skin, flesh, limbs and bones, slowly turning the focus of his refinement to the more important internal organs.
In these past few years, his muscles, veins, flesh and limbs gradually adapted to lightning entering. If his internal organs were also tempered, he would have truly laid the foundation for Heavenly Thunder Eradication and his entire body would be completely adapted to withstand the heavenly lightning’s bombardment in his refinement.
When that time comes, the cultivation of Heavenly Thunder Eradication would reach new heights and power!
The fine lines of lightning traveled along the muscles and veins of his limbs but did not enter his internal organs. Qin Lie’s body convulsed instantly and coiled like a prawn that had received an electric shock. He let out scream after scream of hissing pain.
Rain poured down and the storm’s rage intensified on Herb Mountain as lance after lance of lightning raced to the ground like lightning dragons, filling the cave with explosive booms.
The eight pillars flared suddenly, silver wires growing increasingly brighter and brighter with electricity. In the midst of the huge web, Qin Lie’s whole body lay charred as he shook with howls of agony.
The mad roaring in the skies above slowly softened and died away as the storm lost its power. His electrocuted body, too, stopped writhing.
When the thunder and lightning passed, the rain fell harder and harder.
The heavens, having been appeased, stopped sending lightning into the cave and the pillars in the cave grew dull as the lines of silver ceased flashing.
After who knew how long, Qin Lie stirred his charred body. He lay motionless on the web of silver wires, quietly assessing the internal condition of his body.
He sunk his psyche into his body, and could almost see traces of electrical current in his chest, bouncing around his organs and flesh, continuing the refinement of his internal organs so that his body could gradually adapt to the ravages of lightning.
“If I do not enter the cultivation state of Thoughtless Tranquility, the torture I will have to endure is really beyond what normal people could imagine. It’s a good thing I’ve cultivated for five years and shaped my body and soul for so long, because even if my body can take the pain, my soul couldn’t and everything will be for naught. I would’ve become a fool for real.”
“I’m just lacking the refinement of my inner organs. If I keep at this rate, I will complete the most difficult foundation of the Heavenly Thunder Eradication Art in two or three months’ time.”
Qin Lie recovered some strength after a short rest and got down from the web of silver wires. His staggering steps brought him to the back of one of the stone pillars.
“Before he left two years ago, Grandpa told me to look at what he left me the next time I awoke…”
A square wooden box sat behind the stone pillar. It was not locked and Qin Lie opened it easily.
The wooden box contained a letter, beautifully drawn maps and a lifelike wooden figurine which looked surprisingly similar to his grandfather.
“Lie’er, Grandpa will try his best to come back for you before you turn seventeen. If I’m still not back by then, something must have happened to me. In that case, do not look for me. Cultivate well and live a good life.”
“When the day comes that you reach a sufficiently high level and break the memory seal on the Soul Suppressing Orb, you will know what happened ten years ago.”
“These maps are what Grandpa drew of things to note in the Arctic Mountain Range. There’s details on spirit plant and spirit stone locations, as well as boundaries of spirit beast activity. I have labelled the locations of spirit beasts and spirit plant that will be useful to your cultivation. Once you awaken, go pick and hunt whenever you want.”
“Over the years, Grandpa has made friends with some spirit beasts on my frequent walks in the Arctic Mountain Range. If you want to explore or cross the Arctic Mountain Range one day, remember to bring the figurine. Some of the spirit beasts recognize the figurine and will not bother you if you show it to them.”
“I have specially marked out the territory of the spirit beasts which will recognize the figurine. Take note.”
“The spirit plants and spirit herbs on Ling Family’s Herb Mountain are not able to bear the destruction of the spillover lightning. When I was around, I directed the excess lightning elsewhere so that it would not affect the spirit herbs on Herb Mountain. I made some arrangements before leaving but I was in too much of a hurry and could not finish everything. When time passes, the lightning from your cultivation will harm the growth of the spirit grasses and I am afraid that this will catch the Ling Family’s attention. You will have to keep a lookout for this.”
“The Soul Suppressing Orb is a precious treasure. It is the only spirit artifact your parents left you. It is not just a simple item that seals your memories – it has many functions that even I am unable to completely reveal. That orb must be guarded well. Never let a second pair of eyes see it or great trouble shall descend upon you! Remember this!”
The letter was not terribly long and Qin Lie read it quickly. He pondered over its contents, then took out the maps and looked at them with rapt attention.
The topmost map was only thirty kilometers away from Herb Mountain. Locations of note on the map were circled and one of those was labelled Umbra Lightning Condor.
Spirit beasts were divided according to size and power. The weakest were Rank One spirit beasts, which were equivalent to martial practitioners of the Refinement Realm. Rank Ten spirit beasts were strongest and most terrifying. They were on the same level as the top practitioners of the Genesis Realm.
The Umbra Lightning Condor was just a Rank One beast, but tended to flock together. They had low defense, fighting smarts and travelled in groups. They were also fast. They shoot lightning, then wait for the enemy or prey to become paralyzed by the lightning before tearing into it with sharp claws and teeth.
Qin Shan marked the Umbra Lightning Condor precisely because this type of spirit beast’s beast core contained lightning spirit energy. Of course, the lightning beast cores of these beasts were a far cry from pure lightning from the skies; it was not of help in Qin Lie’s refinement of his body.
However, the Umbra Lightning Condor’s beast core had other uses – after Qin Lie absorbed the lightning energy, he could easily transform it to spirit energy!
Spirit energy was the very core source of a martial practitioner’s power and it was also a measure of a martial practitioner’s strength and the rank of his realms.
Normally, the more refined a martial practitioner’s spirit energy, the greater and more impressive his realm.
This was the reason why Qin Shan marked them – the Umbra Lightning Condors’ beast cores could help Qin Lie quickly accumulate a load of spirit power.
“Umbra Lightning Condor…”
Qin Lie put the letter, maps and wooden figurine safely away and deliberated for a bit as he had pretty much awakened. Lightning-rich days would not continue day after day, so why not go to Arctic Mountain Range to try his luck and see if he could kill some Umbra Lightning Condors in order to accumulate some spirit energy, and to ascertain the realm of his true strength?
Heavy rain fell, unending, as Qin Lie left the caves of Herb Mountain and headed towards the Arctic Mountain Range by himself.
The brothers Ling Chengye and Ling Chengzhi stood in the rain and looked at the dying spirit plants, grasping at their umbrellas in sadness. They wanted to cry tears but none came.
When they discovered the changing skies and rumble of thunder and lightning, the brothers had hurried towards Herb Mountain. The two had arrived on Herb Mountain not long after Qin Lie entered deep within the mountain to cultivate.
Ling Chengye could honestly say that the concentration of thunderstorms and the flow of lightning was definitely closely connected to something in the mountain’s core. This finally confirmed his younger brother’s speculation.
After the lightning dispersed, the two brothers also noted that the spirit plants withered significantly faster, and came to a conclusion that there was a connection between the rate of withering and Qin Lie.
“Big brother, now is the season of thunderstorms as spring changes to summer. If this situation continues, the current crop of spirit plants and herbs are doomed to fail. The Nebula Pavilion, ah…” Ling Chengzhi shook his head and gave a bitter sigh.
“It doesn’t matter if Qin Lie is a retard or was pretending to be retarded. I must have a proper talk with him this time!”
Ling Chengye came to one of the entrances to Herb Mountain’s caves with a dour face, suppressing his indignation as he sat in silence, waiting for Qin Lie to exit.
Unfortunately, he had no idea that Qin Lie, who had kept to the same routine for five years, had broken his routine on this very day!
Qin Lie did not leave the caves before sunset. Not long before Ling Chengye arrived, Qin Lie had braved the torrential rains and left for the Arctic Mountain Range, alone.