Chapter 98: Valley of the Red Rope
Time slowly went on. Soon half a month passed. On one particular night, the full moon was especially bright, outshining most of the stars. It hung up in the sky, filling the land with gentle silvery, light.
It seemed to shine especially brightly upon the group of valleys, especially the valley where Meng Hao was located. As it shined down onto the mist, it began to seethe, slowly spinning into what looked like a vortex.
Outside the valley, the seven Cultivators were waiting, their eyes shining. They stared at the mist within the valley, expressions of anticipation on their faces.
“The hour has arrived….” said the toad geezer, his voice low. Even as his words issued out from his mouth, a gurgling sound could be heard from within the mist.
The sound was indistinct, but when it reached the ears, it stabbed to the heart. Cracking sounds echoed out, and the mist within the valley roiled.
Time passed. The gurgling sound became clearer. Amidst further cracking sounds, the mist turned and turned until it appeared to be a giant whirlpool. The edges of the whirlpool of mist seemed to be able to pierce into the surrounding cliff walls, causing them to melt. Liquified rock poured down the cliff faces.
At the same, a red rope appeared from within the vortex. It was as thick as a person’s arm, and was as red as if it had been dyed with the blood of countless people. A droning sound filled the air as the vortex and the rope both spun. As soon as the rope appeared, the seven men seemed vitalized.
The toad geezer’s eyes gleamed. He bit down on his tongue and spit out some blood, at the same time flickering an incantation and producing a black metal fragment from within his bag of holding.
The other six men did the same thing, spitting out blood and producing fragmented pieces of black metal. They seemed familiar with the process, as if they had done this before.
The blood entered the vortex, and apparently because of this, the vortex suddenly stopped rotating. The rope, however, did not.
The black chips from the seven men spun about in the air and then formed together into a black broadsword.
The sword floated above the valley, pointing down toward the red rope, which then ceased rotating.
With a low shout, the toad geezer flew forward to grab the red rope with both hands. He gripped it without hesitation, despite the fact that it felt wet, as if it was coated with blood. The six other men appeared behind him, pooling their strength together to pull on the rope.
A thunderous roar filled the area as they did. The rope slowly emerged thirty meters from within the vortex. As it did, a black-colored Qi poured out to fill the area. Eventually it reached the point where Meng Hao’s cave was located it, submerging it.
“At three hundred meters we got the Jade Spirit Stone. Six hundred meters in we got the toxic miasma. Last time we pulled out nine hundred meters and got the stone-sealed beast. Today, we will go all out and reach fifteen hundred meters!”
“Right! According to the ancient records of our Clan, if we can pull out fifteen hundred meters, it will open the first seal, and the Clan’s ancestral spirit will awaken. It will form into a Poison Foundation, and our Cultivation bases can ascend another level!” The eyes of the seven men gleamed, and they heaved on the rope.
The bottom of the vortex couldn’t be seen; there was nothing but blackness, making it seem as if the red rope had no end. Every tug on the rope caused the surrounding valley to quake. The ground rippled, as if the end of the rope were plugged into the very core of the earth.
Shocking booms sounded out as they continued to pull. More toxic miasma billowed out as nine hundred meters of rope appeared. Suddenly, a stench like that of rotten fish poured out from the depths of the vortex.
It seemed this stench had never appeared before; the seven men’s faces changed. However, the area immediately around the rope seemed to naturally be protected from the stench and miasma. Their faces pale, the seven men gritted their teeth and heaved once again on the rope.
Thirteen hundred fifty meters. Thirteen hundred eighty meters. Fourteen hundred meters!
The men panted. They had expended seventy to eighty percent of the power of their Cultivation bases. Without hesitation, they popped medicinal pills into their mouths and tugged once again on the rope. Five of the seven men coughed up blood. Soon, only the toad geezer, and the other man who was at the ninth level of Qi Condensation, held out. They gritted their teeth, unable to stop their bodies from trembling.
“I’m at my limit….” said the toad geezer with a roar. He bit the tip of his tongue and spit out some more blood. As he did, a black beam of light shot out from the edge of the valley. It transformed into an enormous toad, which clamped its mouth down onto the red rope. As it bit down, its body began to wither, but it held fast and pulled.
Next, a centipede shot out, along with several human-sized spiders, summoned by the men to pull the rope. Even the huge boulder with the bird skeleton inside flew out. Its glow seemed to aid in pulling the red rope.
Fourteen-hundred thirty meters. Fourteen hundred sixty meters. Fourteen hundred ninety meters!
The rotten stench grew stronger, seemingly carrying the stink of a corpse as it filled the valley. It seemed the rope would soon be pulled out fifteen hundred meters. A shrill shriek came out of the whirlpool, piercing the air with wickedness.
The shriek grew more and more intense, seemingly filled with hope. Except… there were still ten meters to go before the fifteen hundred meter mark was reached. The poison beasts summoned by the seven men exploded one by one, unable to keep going. As they died, the faces of the seven men grew pale. The rope suddenly slipped out of their hands and was sucked back into the whirlpool. Had they not released it, they would have been pulled along with it into the vortex.
The men watched silently as the rope was pulled back inside.
“Forget it. We’ll try again next month.”
“Yes. The day will come when we will pull out fifteen hundred meters of rope. I will be making a breakthrough in my Cultivation base soon. Once I reach the ninth level of Qi Condensation, we will definitely be able to succeed.”
“That outsider is of the ninth level….” said one of the men suddenly.
“We don’t need to make things more complicated. That outsider is probably dead already, killed by the miasma. Even if he was at the Foundation Establishment stage, he couldn’t withstand it unless he was of our bloodline.”
The seven discussed the matter a bit further, then dispersed.
The mist continued to roil in the valley for three days before finally settling down. The spiritual energy in the area gradually grew thick again, and the miasma dissipated.
Within the Immortal’s Cave, Meng Hao watched with cold eyes. Surrounded by the arcing field of electricity, he had seen clearly everything that had happened during the three days. As for the miasma, the Lightning Flag made short work of, and Meng Hao remained safe from any harm.
“They think I’m dead. That’s good.” Meng Hao’s eyes glittered.
“I’m not sure if it’s because of the Sublime Spirit Scripture or perhaps the Demonic Core… Establishing my Foundation is turning out to be very difficult.” He lowered his head and picked up another Foundation Establishment Pill. He frowned. As of now, he was a bit suspicious. Was the Cultivation method in the Sublime Spirit Scripture the real method? Or had Patriarch Reliance changed it in according with his own Demonic Cultivation practices…. There was no way to know. Meng Hao’s eyes shone with determination as he popped the Foundation Establishment Pill into his mouth and closed his eyes to meditate.
His Core sea roared violently, seething and churning as it coagulated. It seemed to be forming a Dao Pillar. But to do so was incredibly difficult. Even with the Foundation Establishment Pill, he wasn’t able to succeed.
It can be said that Foundation Establishment is the first true hurdle that must be crossed on the path to real Cultivation. A Foundation Establishment Pill can only increase the probability of success by about ten percent.
Even though he had reached the great circle of Qi Condensation, and his latent talent had been increased, it still was not an easy matter.
Time slipped by. In the blink of an eye, another three months passed. Each full moon during that time, the seven men again made attempts at pulling out the red rope. More than a few times, they came to Meng Hao’s Immortal’s Cave to try to get his corpse.
But the cave was being protected by Patriarch Reliance’s Lightning Flag. A few insignificant Qi Condensation Cultivators didn’t have the slightest chance of getting inside. They started to wonder whether or not Meng Hao was actually dead.
Another three months passed, half a year of hard work. They hadn’t even seen a trace of Meng Hao. At this point, they were mostly certain that he was dead.
As for Meng Hao, even he wasn’t sure how many Foundation Establishment pills he consumed during the half year. Every time he failed, he would take another pill. Toward the end, he even tried consuming two pills at one time.
The poison flared up twice during the half year. Thankfully, Meng Hao was prepared. He dealt with it, then continued on in his attempts to break through to Foundation Establishment.
In this excruciating fashion, another month passed. One night, Meng Hao sat there, a roaring sound rising in his mind. Only Meng Hao could sense this roaring sound; it sounded like claps of thunder in his mind.
Within his body, his golden Core sea let out an unprecedented roaring sound, and a gold light filled his body. It seemed as if he himself were made of gold.
He sat there meditating, his eyes closed. As his Core sea emitted its thunderous roar, he focused everything on forming the Dao Pillar and breaking through into Foundation Establishment. Within the Core sea, the Demonic Core rotated rapidly. It looked as if it might melt.
During the past year, this had happened frequently. Meng Hao had come to understand clearly that if he didn’t have this Demonic Core inside of him, it would be much easier to reach Foundation Establishment. It was the Demonic Core that was making things so difficult. Coupled with the fact that he had completed the great circle of Qi Condensation, it meant that achieving Foundation Establishment was much harder for him than anyone else in the world.
Every time the Dao Pillar was beginning to form, it would be disturbed by the Demonic Core, and wouldn’t coalesce. At the moment, golden light shined out from Meng Hao’s Core sea. The waters began to congeal, slowly solidifying into a massive Dao Pillar. But then, the Demonic Core began spinning, causing the Core sea, which had just moments before been calm, to seethe. The Dao Pillar once again began to fall apart.
“Again!” Meng Hao’s eyes burned. Without hesitation, he lifted up his hand and swallowed three Foundation Establishment Pills.