Editor: Dhael Ligerkeys
A Cultivator’s physical body could never avoid the build-up of impurities as well as poison caused by the over-ingestion of Spirit Pills and the cultivation process of immortal powers. The process of such enrichment would expel these impurities and poison out of a Cultivator’s body.
That was the real reason that Green Feather Mountain’s allied militant orders and sects wanted their acolytes to have the chance to step into the Dragon Spring. It was not so much to enrich their physical bodies as to expel the impurities and poison.
Hence, many of these acolytes usually devoured as many Spirit Pills as they could before coming here without worrying about getting poisoned.
A visit to the Dragon Spring would see the poison all expelled, making this a quick way to increase their powers.
For this reason, Cultivators would emerge from their visit to the Dragon Spring malodorous and sticky with sweat-like excretions from their bodies. Put ninety-four such young men and women together inside a stuffy and suffocating underground cave and that could really be the worst possible nightmare for any female Cultivators finicky about hygiene and cleanliness.
Everyone was so enthused with anticipation and leisure on the way in, but now, the entire crowd made their way quickly out of the passage like an unruly mob spoiling for a riot.
A Green Feather Mountain acolyte was already standing by, waiting for them. He led the crowd to a nearby mountain spring. A bath after a round of enrichment in the Dragon Spring appeared to be the usual custom here and with many such water sources around, there were amenities well-prepared for both male and female segregated baths.
Lu Ye finished his bath in an hour and changed into some crisp new clothing, coming out of the facilities refreshed and invigorated.
“So, how was it inside?” It was Xie Jin, looking rather cheerful.
“Fine, I guess.”
“All right. But the potency of the Dragon Spring seems to be waning, I wonder if you noticed. Last I checked, the red mist was noticeably thinner by the second day. When we were leaving, the mist was almost gone.”
“And that’s not normal?” Lu Ye asked, feeling rather guilty.
“Well, it’s not irregular, but it doesn’t really fit what I’ve been told,” said Xie Jin, “There’s a reason why the Dragon Spring Conference is only held once every four years, that is to allow that bloody-red mist to accumulate. If the first round had exhausted much of the mist, then people who go in for the second and third rounds would not have much to reap.” He paused to smirk, obviously thinking about the Tai Luo Clan and the Qins. “I bet the Clan goons are still none the wiser about what they’ll find inside and they’ll be stuck inside there for three days with nothing to do and nothing to gain. I daresay they’ll come out of that underground cave after three days empty-handed.”
“That’s too bad.”
“What matters is that we’ve collected what we wanted,” Xie Jin chuckled, “Anything beyond that is no concern to Green Feather Mountain.”
Lu Ye nodded quietly then he said, “As a matter of fact, Senior Brother Xie, now that everything here has reached a conclusion, I think I’ll be taking my leave soon.” His time here has been a fruitful endeavor. The physical enrichment he received at the end of the Conference alone was too handsome a prize for him, to say nothing about the Contribution Points and Spirit Stones that he managed to earn.
His journey might have been delayed for at least ten days, but he could never deny that the stay here had been an immensely rewarding one.
It was time he continued his way to the Crimson Blood Sect outpost and he wasn’t in the mood for any more hold-ups.
Xie Jin looked around as if to make sure no one was eavesdropping. Then he said, “If you would take my advice, brother, it’s not safe for you to leave now.”
“Because of the Clan and the Qins?” Lu Ye enunciated aloud his thoughts.
“You have nothing to worry about the Qins,” Xie Jin nodded. “It’s that Han woman from the Tai Luo Clan. You’ve been nothing but a glimmering star at this Conference. And for that, she will never forgive you. Senior Brother Tang Wu has instructed me to tell you that he will personally see you off once he’s finished with his affairs here. He will make sure that you leave this place safe and sound.”
That came as a relief. That Han woman was exactly the reason he was so anxious to leave. He was sure that the venomous stare she gave him just three days ago would continue to torment him for days.
His original plan was to leave while the Tai Luo Clan acolytes were taking their turn undergoing the enrichment process in the Dragon Spring. Han Zhe Yue must be busy and Lu Ye thought that this would be the best time to leave.
But clearly, Green Feather Mountain had guessed this too, prompting Tang Wu’s assurance to Lu Ye via Xie Jin.
“But what about Qiao Qiao Er and Song Xie?” Lu Ye did not forget the other two independent Cultivators who were also his squadmates with whom he had shed blood and sweat together.
“Don’t worry about them,” Xie Jin grinned broadly. “Senior Brother Tang Wu has received permission from the leadership of our order to offer them the chance to be fully-fledged acolytes of Green Feather Mountain.”
[Well played, Green Feather Mountain] Lu Ye mused quietly. By making Song Xie and Qiao Qiao Er its legitimate members, Green Feather Mountain had practically turned the three initial Dragon Spring candidacies for independent Cultivators into just one—him. Qiao Qiao Er and Song Xie, despite being independent Cultivators at first, have proven themselves to be on par, if not better than many Green Feather Mountain acolytes. The leadership of the order must have noticed this too and for better or for worse, at least they would no longer have to scrape a living like they once did before.
Then again, that Green Feather Mountain did nothing to offer Lu Ye anything must mean that they believed that Lu Ye could be the student of another great and powerful order out on a trip of pilgrimage. If that were true, there was no reason for Lu Ye to accept their offer, so they might as well just save themselves the embarrassment.
Xie Jin and Lu Ye talked while more and more Green Feather Mountain members finished their baths and were gathering together. With this year’s Dragon Spring Conference now at its end, it was time for them to return back to their stronghold.
Back inside the great hall not far away from the mountain spring baths, Han Zhe Yue scowled at Tang Wu bitterly, “Eight hundred Spirit Stones and three hundred Contribution Points! This is personal!”
Qin Wan Li peered at his own foot as if he had found a smudge on his shoes, pretending he didn’t hear a word.
“Is this an attempt to insult me or are you asking for a fight?” Tang Wu turned furious, before he shot Han Zhe Yue a piercing glare, “Do that again and you’ll have a taste of what I’m capable of!”
He wheeled around and stormed out of the hall without giving Han Zhe Yue the chance to retort. Once outside, he tossed something out of his sleeves. It expanded and grew in size, allowing Tang Wu to step and ride on it. Next, it shot up into the air.
Han Zhe Yue watched him leave, growling through gnashing teeth, “Blasted hell!”
There was only one reason for such a fat offer. Eight hundred Spirit Stones and three hundred Contribution Points. That was her price for Lu Ye’s head.
But Tang Wu blatantly denied it outright. With more Dragon Spring Conferences to come in the future, the last thing Green Feather Mountain needed was the ill reputation of being the faction that betrayed its participants, whether they were their own acolytes or not, once they had discharged their purpose. Green Feather Mountain would never be able to recruit any more independent Cultivators ever again in the future.
The trek from the centermost peak of the One Hundred Peaks range to the Green Feather Mountain stronghold needed two days. It wasn’t far by usual standards, but not near either. The whole procession walked almost halfway when Xie Jin said to Lu Ye suddenly, “Please wait here, Yi Ye. Senior Brother Tang Wu will be here to rendezvous with you shortly.”
Lu Ye nodded.
It was time for them to say their farewells. Squad Xie Jin huddled around. Qiao Qiao Er urged her giant boar closer toward Lu Ye and smiled, “Remember me, Yi Ye. And if you ever miss me, you know where to find me.”
Amber immediately emitted a low growl even before Lu Ye could say anything. Qiao Qiao Er gave him a nasty look and scampered away.
Song Xie rode over on his oversized scorpion, forming up just beside Lu Ye. “Farewell, my friend.”
Lu Ye returned the salute and responded, “Farewell!”
Xie Jin and Tao Tian Gang too exchange their goodbyes with him.
The Green Feather Mountain pressed on, passing over another hillock before it was out of sight.
Lu Ye remained there with Amber for moments before he spied a spark of light streaking across the sky, approaching his position with the growing presence of a powerful aura.
When it got near, Lu Ye saw what it was: a flat Chinese gondola-styled boat.
Tang Wu was riding at the bow of the gondola, looking so suave and smart that Lu Ye could not help feeling envious. He called at Lu Ye, his brows angling with mild interest, “Come on up!”
Lu Ye yelped a quick “thanks” and he got up the boat with Amber.
“RISE!” Tang Wu lifted a hand, his fingers held up in a peculiar hand seal. Rich Spiritual Powers surged from him like a storm, kicking up dust and winds that Amber howled with fright and crouched itself low as the vessel shot up into the air, afraid that it might fall off.
Lu Ye ran a hand down the back of his head and neck to comfort him.
“So, where to, my friend?” Tang Wu asked.
[How far can you send me?] Lu Ye nearly asked. If Tang Wu could ferry him all the way to somewhere just nearby the Crimson Blood Sect outpost, that would save him a great deal of time and trouble.
But that was just a fanciful pipe dream, as he well knew. The journey from here to the Crimson Blood Sect stronghold was a very, very long one and Tang Wu was only ferrying him out of courtesy to prevent him from being attacked by Han Zhe Yue. Lu Ye understood that he needed to be reasonable.
“A moment please, sir,” Lu Ye retrieved his 10-point map and pored over it.
Tang Wu beamed at him. “I can send you anywhere within a two day of journey. I have an appointment after that and I expect to be punctual,” he explained so that Lu Ye knew how to make up his mind, sparing him the awkwardness in case he picked a destination that was too far.
Lu Ye handed Tang Wu the map. “I’m heading west. Anywhere as far as you can is fine with me.”
Tang Wu chuckled at his straightforwardness. He checked the map and finally said, “Yi’An then? What do you think?”
Lu Ye took the map from Tang Wu and searched for the city of Yi’An. He bobbed his head, “That sounds fine, sir. Thank you very much.”
“No problem,” Tang Wu waved his hand gently. Deep inside, he mused with surprise and awe at how Lu Ye must really be a student of distinguished pedigree to be able to own a 10-point map of the Spirit Creek Battlefield. Such a meticulously-detailed map could fetch up to several hundred Spirit Stones. Even he had barely enough money to purchase a 3-point map back in the day when he first embarked on his pilgrimage. But he was by no means jealous; he had enough wealth and power to buy himself all the 10–point maps he would ever need.
If anything, this gondola itself was many times the price of Lu Ye’s map already.
Cultivators could still not fly without external assistance in the Spirit Creek Realm. Only those in the Cloud River Realm could.
But Cultivators who have reached a certain level of mastery in the Spirit Creek Realm could use magical conveyances to fly. This would often involve substantial exhaustion of Spiritual Powers, but it would save time.
Lu Ye had no idea what was the lowest minimum rank for a Cultivator to use his or her own magical conveyance, but he knew that it must be at least Eighth-Order or above, for Dong Shu Ye was not able to fly, as shown in his earlier pursuit of Lu Ye.
The entire journey turned out to be a quiet one, for both of them had not been close before and nor were they loquacious talkers.
Lu Ye knew for a fact that Tang Wu would not be expending every bit of his Spiritual Power to ferry him to Yi’An, at least not on his account. They were both Cultivators fighting for their survival in this dimension called the Spirit Creek Battlefield—a world where grueling challenges and brutal perils prowled unseen. No one could tell what could happen and hence reserving some of one’s Spiritual Power could never be too prudent a thing to do.
Lu Ye did not spend his time consuming Spiritual Pills. It seemed a rude and vulgar thing to do. But at the same time, consuming Spirit Stones would not do him any good either. Therefore, he spent his time meditating with the Spiritual Pattern “Gathering Spirits” activated.
A spot of light landed just outside a city two days later. They had finally arrived at Yi’An city.
Lu Ye led Amber off the gondola, then he spun around and saluted politely, “Thank you so much, sir. I appreciate your kind gesture.”
Tang Wu returned a courteous smile. “Piece of cake, my friend. Farewell, and I hope we meet again!”
Lu Ye watched as the white speck of light tore into the distance and vanished. If only he could be so smooth and debonair, he mused. But the cultivation of one’s immortal powers had always been a lifelong quest, not a hundred-meter sprint. Besides, his progress was already incredible enough by usual standards.
It had been five months since he first made landfall here and the fifty-four Spiritual Points he unlocked would have been an impossible feat for any other novice Cultivator.
He swiveled around. Right in front of him loomed the gates of a city where its locale and its people were foreign to him. The day was growing dark and he should be looking for a place to stay the night. Additionally, it was time he replenished some of his supplies.