When he walked out of Icestone City and looked into the distance, his expression suddenly turned serious.
There wasn’t a living person to be seen in the usually crowded main street. In fact, when he looked afar, he could see a few skeletal remains.
Some of the bones were somewhat larger and obviously a spirit beast’s. A few of them were distinctively human as well.
The sun was hidden, both sky and earth covered by thick layers of cloud. The land covered in gray and scattered bones depicted a picture of desolation and loneliness.
He could still remember the first time he had arrived at Icestone City. The city gates near the main street were pretty crowded, and there would be numerous martial practitioners and normal men from vassal forces, such as the Ling Family, who would visit Icestone City. Everyday there would be massive traffic at the city gates, and sometimes the sheer number of people entering and exiting the gates could cause a traffic jam.
However, the city gate was completely deserted right now, and not a single soul could be seen on the main street.
That old servant, who was called Liang Zhong, suddenly and loudly whistled after he exited the city.
The whistling sound resounded along with the blowing wind into the great distance; its reverberation still echoing.
“Swoosh Swoosh Swoosh!” The flapping sounds of a bird appeared from the thick clouds above their heads.
Qin Lie lifted his head and saw seven to eight birds of the same green color circling above them. Because they were too far apart, he could not clearly identify their shapes, but he did guess that they had come because of Liang Zhong’s whistling.
Liang Zhong lifted his head a let out a chuckle. Then, he whistled again.
A bird suddenly dove downwards like a bolt of green lightning before landing on top of Liang Zhong’s shoulders. It even let out a strange sound as if it were speaking something into his ear.
Qin Lie turned his head to look, slightly started, and softly exclaimed, “W-what kind of a bird is this?”
When it was closer and he could get a clear look at it, he saw that the bird was about the size of his palm, and it glowed faintly green in color. Not only that, its face… was clearly that of a young child’s!
The ghastly green little bird looked like a sinister soul. It had the small face of a child, yet it had a sharp beak and eyes that rolled around freely, giving him a very bizarre and eerie feeling.
“This is a tamed Ghost Bird. They are small creatures that you can find in Nether Battlefield, and they are my eyes.” Liang Zhong gave him a simple explanation before continuing to listen closely at the Ghost Bird’s chirps. It took a while before he finally nodded, and the Ghost Bird abruptly flew away like a wisp of a green ghost, flashing above the clouds in the sky.
“Whoosh Whoosh Whoosh!”
A series of rapid, sweeping sounds came from not too far away. While Qin Lie was waiting, two spirit beasts covered entirely in green scutes suddenly appeared beside Xie Jingxuan and Liang Zhong like the breeze.
The two spirit beasts shared a very similar aura to the Ghost Bird. It was strange and chilly. Its body covered in green scutes gave it the appearance of a rhino at first glance, but it was even bigger than one, and its eyes were also ghastly green. The mere sight of it sent shivers down people’s hearts.
“Profound Nether Beast, also a spirit beast of the Nether Battlefield. It is very different from those in the Arctic Mountain Range.” Liang Zhong loosely explained, “The Ghost Bird is only a Rank One spirit beast, so its combat capabilities are pretty lacking. But it is incredibly convenient and useful for information gathering and scouting from up in the sky. These two Profound Nether Beasts are only Rank Two, but they run incredibly fast and are the perfect tools for traveling long distances. If you have a Profound Nether Beast to ride on your journey, then it’s but a cinch to travel tens of thousands of miles.”
While he was speaking, Xie Jingxuan’s lithe figure danced upwards like a blade of a willow leaf before landing steadily on top of a Profound Nether Beast.
Liang Zhong himself rode atop the other Profound Nether Beast and nodded towards Qin Lie. “Come on up. You will sit with me.”
Qin Lie obeyed and came over. Grabbing Liang Zhong’s hands, he then sat on top of the Profound Nether Beast.
“Grab my waist,” Liang Zhong exclaimed in a low tone.
Qin Lie cooperated obediently.
The Profound Nether Beast beneath him suddenly rushed forward and galloped like a bolt of cold lightning. All Qin Lie could hear was the sound of the wind whipping past his ears, and for a moment, his heart raced.
“Both the Ghost Birds and the Profound Nether Beasts are spirit beasts from the Nether Battlefield. If they had appeared inside Icestone City, it might have caused some panic, so we left them outside.” Liang Zhong’s explanation came over through the howlings of the wind, and although it wasn’t very loud, Qin Lie could clearly hear every word.
The two Profound Nether Beasts traveled forward with considerable speed. The scenery around them kept flying towards the back as it all quickly passed by.
Gradually, Qin Lie had gotten used to the Profound Nether Beast’s speed, and when he concentrated on the periphery he realized that he could see the occasional traces of battle and the remains of a few spirit beasts. But he seldom saw any corpses of martial practitioners at all.
“The masters of Dark Asura Hall and Seven Fiends Valley had brought the backbone of their subordinates and are active around the Arctic Mountain Range. Some of their experts have already entered deep into the Arctic Mountain Range and attacked some high rank spirit beasts. The spirit beasts that operate around Icestone City, Crimson Flame City, and Water Moon City are usually lower ranked ones – mostly rank one or twos – and the people who were responsible to clean them up were also low level juniors.”
While Liang Zhong was hurrying on his way with Qin Lie, he began to introduce randomly, “The three Elders from your Nebula Pavilion, Du Haitian, Chu Yan, and Wei Xing had brought their hall masters to the edge of the Arctic Mountain Range to combine forces with Crimson Flame Association and Water Moon Sect’s Elders in order to cooperate with Dark Asura Hall and Seven Fiends Valley’s mission…”
His demeanor was careless, and he just said whatever was on the top off his head without really explaining in great detail, but on the whole, Qin Lie understood what he was saying.
The really high ranking spirit beasts in the Arctic Mountain Range would still be inside the mountain range and the outer edge of the range. Those who went into the Arctic Mountain Range were true masters from Seven Fiends Valley and Dark Asura Hall. The ranks of spirit beasts on the outer edge of the Arctic Mountain Range would be slightly lower – about rank two or so – and Elders from Shattered Ice Manor, Nebula Pavilion, Crimson Flame Association, and Water Moon Sect would be responsible to hunt them down with their men.
And outside of the Arctic Mountain Range, the spirit beasts that operated around Icestone City, Crimson Flame City, and Water Moon City were just rank one or two.
These low level spirit beasts would fall under the responsibility of Tu Ze, Zhuo Qian, Yan Ziqian, and other juniors to bring some allies of the Refinement Realm to clear them out.
“I don’t see many bodies of martial practitioners?” Qin Lie suddenly asked after the Profound Nether Beast sped along for a little while.
“The reason there aren’t many martial practitioner corpses isn’t because we’re holding an advantage, but rather… those who died were usually torn apart and eaten by spirit beasts which is why you don’t see many corpses around here.” Liang Zhong frowned. “To those spirit beasts, a martial practitioner’s body is a great nourishing medicine. They find the flesh and blood forged out of the concentrated spirit energy of the world extremely tasty, and it can also increase both their strength and ranks. To them, our corpses carry a similar effect to spirit pills.”
“Many people had died?” Qin Lie’s expression changed slightly.
“Nebula Pavilion has lost over a hundred men, and both Shattered Ice Manor and Water Moon Sect have experienced similar losses. Crimson Flames’ are a bit worse…” Liang Zhong looked into the distance and indifferently said, “It was a spirit beast that was close to breaking through to Rank Three. It broke through the defensive line at the outer edge of the Arctic Mountain Range and entered the perimeter around Crimson Flame City. Crimson Flame Association had been careless and did not send out a true expert to hunt it down, and it caused a few squads to be annihilated which resulted in the death of tens of people.”
Qin Lie was moved on the inside.
“Because they didn’t move into the city early on, the vassal forces of Icestone City, Crimson Flame City, and Water Moon Sect also lost a few hundred men.” Liang Zhong then said, “It is perfectly normal for people to die. Every year there are countless Dark Asura Hall martial practitioners who lose their lives, so this is hardly surprising at all. It would be a real surprise if no one died.”
The strange chirps of the Ghost Birds suddenly rang out from above the sky, and one of them suddenly dropped down and landed on Liang Zhong’s shoulders.
The two Profound Nether Beasts simultaneously slowed down .
After listening for a while, Liang Zhong looked to the left, and with a slight frown, said, “Miss, there is a Rank Two Golden Crag Beast operating in a village in that direction.”
“Is there anyone else left in the village?” Xie Jingxuan asked.
“There is.” Liang Zhong nodded.
“Haven’t we sent out a notice for Icestone City, Crimson Flame City, and Water Moon Sect to move their vassal forces into the city? Why are there still people outside?” Xie Jingxuan seemed to be suppressing her anger as she said that.
“Some people decided to leave it to chance and believed that their own village would not be invaded by spirit beasts. Some people are old, and it could be that they didn’t feel like moving anymore, or they couldn’t move in time…” Liang Zhong explained.
“Let’s give it a look.” Xie Jingxuan let out a soft sigh.
The two Profound Nether Beasts abruptly changed directions, and soon, they were moving fast once more. An hour later, they had arrived at a very secluded village on top of their Profound Nether Beasts.
The village had only about twenty households, and at first glance, the place was completely dead with no sound of life whatsoever. The fields had been abandoned long ago, and they were overgrown with weeds.
A Ghost Bird landed on top of a southeastern household from the sky.
The Profound Nether Beasts rushed towards that direction.
A thick scent of blood hung in the air, and there were pools of blood all over the ground. But there were no bodies.
It took only one look for Qin Lie to come to the realization that there were people who stayed behind in these households, and they were all eaten by the Golden Crag Beast which was why there were no corpses to be found.
“We were late.” Liang Zhong shook his head, called his Ghost Bird over again, and asked for a moment before saying, “The Golden Crag Beast had left and entered a natural stone forest towards the front. The stone forest is situated almost at the center of the area between Icestone City, Crimson Flame City, and Water Moon city. It is dozens of miles wide, and there was a lot of spirit beast activity in the area. Many juniors would hunt for beasts there, so it is quite the lively place.”
“Let’s go.” Xie Jingxuan’s expression was indifferent, and after a slight nod, she led the way with her Profound Nether Beast and left this desolate village.
“Hmm, if there are no surprises, then this Tu Ze and his group that you’re looking for should be inside that stone forest,” said Liang Zhong after releasing his Ghost Bird.
Qin Lie’s brows lifted slightly, and he unconsciously felt for the oilcloth that contained the longblade and the Dragon Bone Whip, asking, “Why did you specifically seek me out? Exactly how am I going to be able help you?”
“I’m not certain if you’re able to help us.” Liang Zhong looked deeply towards him and gave it some thought before speaking, “If you are able to summon the thunder from Ninth Heaven just like that day on the stone bridge, then you will be of help. Otherwise, it will have been a mistake to bring you along, and you will become a completely useless burden.”
The moment the words came out, Qin Lie’s eyebrows became locked in a deep frown as he spoke bluntly, “Then I will tell you right now that you are going to be disappointed. I am unable to summon the power of thunder again. It was just an accident last time, and… you have thought too highly of me.”
When he fought against Feng Kai on the stone bridge, during a dangerous moment he had miraculously attracted lightning to fall from the sky and dealt Feng Kai and Yan Qingsong severe injuries.
Since then, he had immersed himself for a few days to see if he could cause lightning to fall once more.
He had not succeeded once ever since.
Therefore, he had categorized that particular success as a miracle.
And since it’s a miracle, then naturally it could not possibly happen every time, and it wasn’t something that would come just because he wanted it to.
“Oh, really?” With narrowed eyes, Liang Zhong curled his lips into a smile, but the smile seemed a little off. “Then maybe, you’ll be able to surpass your limits under the threat of death.”
He slapped Qin Lie’s shoulders, and ignoring the fact that his face had lost all color, Liang Zhong continued to speak with a smile, “Ready yourself to face death firsthand, kid.”