Ripples came out of the five elders one after the other and the sky above them turned a bright green. It enveloped the whole valley, just like a barrier.
The beast elders were tense and scared.
It was Elder Hu who decided to act and bellowed as he rushed to the skies to leave this damn place.
Three meters, that was how far he got. Green light flashed on him and held him steady.
Fierce Tiger was aware of his predicament and unleashed every ounce of power in his being.
With a roar, a golden tiger came out of him, soaring away.
“Elder Hu, don’t you want your body?” Elder Lang cried.
All that work pumping iron to get to this stage… It was a shame just letting it go. And now he’d have to do it all over again with his next body.
So despite his love for the chiseled body, desperate times called for desperate measures.
While Elder Hu’s mind was set, using his body as a lure to get his soul to survive, Elder Lang was overcome by mixed emotions.
Fierce Tiger never gave them a hint of his plan and just left them there. The five were sure to address this oversight the second time.
Elder Hu was the sole exception.
Who could blame him? Any attempt to let his pals in on his plan would be foiled. Omnipresent Hearing was just that amazing, picking up the tiniest sounds, even transmission.
Not that Elder Lang knew any of this.
As for Obscene Snake, he was outraged. Since this plan would never have worked for him in the first place.
He had no shell to shed, being a soul and all.
The snake and the wolf stared slack jawed at the sky. With Fierce Tiger moments away from leaving the valley and getting his freedom, the leftover felt forlorn.
Just then green vines shot from beneath and coiled Fierce Tiger tightly like a bow-wrapped gift.
Fierce Tiger roared, an exercise in futility. The green vines got him back down to earth one step at a time.
“Ha-ha-ha, we’d have no name to speak of if even you three nobodies could escape us.” Elder She mocked.
The others nodded, sitting on their rock and doing what felt like light work of catching him.
She and Lang’s faces fell. If even Fierce Tiger’s surprise plan failed, what did that mean for them?
Yet another ripple covered the green valley and thousands of vines came from all sides at the two.
They had no hope at all of fighting back.
Any struggle was just wasted energy, tightened among the glowing vines.
Fierce Tiger roared in his feeble attempts, feeling himself growing weaker. The tiger soul was slowly fading as well.
While the green glow on the vines only got stronger.
The same happened to Obscene Snake. Without a body to shield him, his soul was taking the brunt.
Elder Lang was shaking in his boots, his body drying up like a raisin and the vines pulling his soul out into the open, awaiting the same fate.
They were officially in hell, experiencing a world of pain and endless remorse.
“Elders, have mercy. We’ll never come near your precious disciples again!”
“There’s nothing personal between us, there’ll be no revenge. I beg of you to let us go. We will never forget this kindness.”
“Spare us, elders….”
The three whined across the whole valley in a sappy and tearful voice, but the five elders were like rocks.
Li Jingtian’s side knew the five elders were way better than the three, but not by this degree.
They didn’t even move and the three were already dying. [How are they same stage cultivators? The least you can do is twitch a finger.]
Qiu Yanhai said in shock, “Steward Zhuo, what are those things? Is it a grand skill of theirs from cultivating?”
“That’s their soul!” Zhuo Fan said.
“Soul?!” was the unanimous question!
“In the Ethereal Stage, the soul takes shape and can be molded into any form through cultivation methods. Like those three, they trained in a method that made their soul animals. Elder Li should be a black dragon, because of the Wraith Art he used to achieve advancement.”
Zhuo Fan explained, “While Impermanence Five have the Vicissitudes Art and have combined their strengths, this made their souls not the vines, but that green glow you see covering the valley and sealing this place, the Vicissitudes World. They have the control of every root, every blade of grass at their fingertips, thriving and waning, translating into their enemy’s flourishing or decaying states. Taking away another’s life is what they are best at.”
With this lesson and practical demonstration, they came to the obvious conclusion that in the Ethereal Stage, the soul’s strength ultimately decides victory.
Xue Qingjian said, “Steward Zhuo, what about mine and geezer’s souls, what will they be like?”
Zhuo Fan surmised, “Sister Xue and Elder Qiu train in fire and water arts, so you ought to become fire and water, in constant growth.”
“Better than those three?” Xue Qingjian lit up.
Zhuo Fan shook his head, “It means no set form, like an illusion. Though I can’t say for sure. We’ll just have to see it first. If those three animals were tough, they’d be breaking away by now. The soul can take any shape in the Ethereal Stage, each with its own advantage, all depending on their cultivation.”
They all nodded.
The three soul beasts’ pleadings stopped at last, their voices cut. It was now a matter of time before their souls died.
Elder She took out a gourd and with a flick, the vines threw the tamed pets inside.
Putting the cork on, Elder She stashed the gourd and the green glow faded with another sign from the five elders.
Zhuo Fan and the others went to them and bowed, “Thank you for everything, elders. However, I didn’t understand something. Why did you let them live as prisoners?”
“Ha-ha-ha, this is a sect matter, junior. Killing them is easy, as well as missing out on a huge harvest. We’d rather take them to the Sect Leader first and let him decide their fate.” Elder She spoke.
Zhuo Fan nodded, “Xie Wuyue wants to stir things up I see, and to take it out on Beast Taming Sect. I reckon he’ll reap aplenty. What will that make of the elders’ support, him helping me or me helping him?”
Elder She looked hard at Zhuo Fan and nodded, “You’ve got quite the brain, junior. I see why the Sect Leader likes you and sent us over. Though keep it in mind to show him some courtesy. Sect Leader is no saint either.”
“Thank you for the reminder. I will keep that in mind.” Zhuo Fan bowed.
The elders nodded, “Since that is all, we’ll be returning.”
“I will handle the rest. Thank you for all you have done, elders.”
Zhuo Fan bowed and they flew away.
Li Jingtian muttered, “Nice guys, those seniors, unlike any demonic cultivator I’ve ever seen.”
“There are plenty of freaks of nature around, but that doesn’t mean they’re all savage and twisted. Many just walk their own path and care not for others. Because of this, they’re lumped in with demonic cultivators. These five hardly talk with anyone else beside themselves. Their shrewdness isn’t too sharp. They’re the closest thing to a saint, as far as demonic cultivators go.”
Zhuo Fan explained. He looked towards Windgaze City and shouted, “Now we just have to win this battle and everything will fall in place…”