Chapter 7: Solitary Ridge
Ling Town’s Herb Mountain was just a small ridge located at the outermost edge of the Arctic Mountain Range.
By contrast, the entirety of the vast Arctic Mountain Range spanned more than a thousand kilometers. Most of the outer regions were not particularly cold; some of the special valleys within even enjoyed spring year-round, very ideal for growing spirit plants and herbs.
However, the deeper one delved into the mountain range, the colder it became.
That cold owed itself to the enormous snow peaks and glaciers that were situated deeper into the range. They reached far above the clouds and stayed frozen year-round, continuously releasing extensive amounts of freezing air. This in turn caused the surrounding ridges to be exceedingly cold.
The cluster of glacial peaks towards the deepest region was deemed a Forbidden Zone. According to rumors, it contained an abundance of rare spirit plants and ice crystals, all of them priceless cultivation treasures of which most martial practitioners could only dream.
Since the days of old, a multitude of territorial guardians protected the habitats of rare spirit plants; even the cold glaciers and snow peaks were no different. Occupied by numerous fierce and high-ranking spirit beasts, this region was avoided by even the most valiant of martial practitioners. Those that did travel in the Arctic Mountain Range would purposefully avoid this particular region, as they truly feared provoking the mighty spirit beasts living at the peaks.
But that didn’t mean the edges and outer regions of the Arctic Mountain Range lacked spirit plants or spirit beasts; just that by comparison, the quality of plants was severely lacking, and they were scattered everywhere. Not only did martial practitioners put in a tremendous amount of effort in hopes of locating the spirit plants and spirit beasts, it also depended significantly on their luck.
Unsurprisingly, the very same region was the center of many of the martial practitioners’ activities. Martial practitioners from Nebula Pavilion and its subordinate clans, like the Ling Family, practically held their activities at this region yearly, far from the Arctic Mountain Range.
After a large rainfall, the mountain passages were wet and slippery, while the air was unusually fresh.
Qin Lie, who had left Herb Mountain, followed the path towards the deeper ridges, his face revealing a hint of excitement even when his feet were heavily stained with mud.
Throughout these years, he had spent virtually all this time cultivating Heavenly Thunder Eradication. Not once had he broken his own rules, utterly sealing himself in closed-door cultivation.
He was only fifteen years old after all. Having gone through the dull training year in and year out, he was unable to contain the immense joy that spread throughout his whole body and swept all his fatigue away because at this moment, he had a chance to leap through the forests.
“I should arrive at Solitary Ridge soon, hopefully the Rank One Umbra Lightning Condors will not let me down…”
Eyeing the paths along the way, he made a mental comparison with the map he memorized before. Realizing that he would soon be nearing the Solitary Ridge that housed the Umbra Lightning Condors, he willed himself to restrain his excitement and started to focus on taking extra caution.
The Umbra Lightning Condors were only Rank One spirit beasts, possessing strength similar to that of a martial practitioner at the Refinement Realm. Condors of varying sizes would definitely have different levels of strength, but even the largest Umbra Lightning Condor would never reach the power of the Natal Opening Realm.
In Qin Lie’s eyes, even the biggest of their kind would never be a threat to him, because the Umbra Lightning Condors used the power of lightning as their trump card.
After painstakingly cultivating the Heavenly Thunder Eradication for many years, even daring to go so far as to expose his body to the power of the lighting from the Ninth Heaven, how could he possibly be scared of Rank One spirit beasts that used the power of lightning?
His wariness was only due to the fear of meeting other types of spirit beasts.
An hour later, a ridge that was full of ancient trees gradually came into view. The trees were all taller than ten meters and supported dense foliage that completely sealed off all sunlight, making the ridge appear ominous.
He had indeed arrived at Solitary Ridge.
“Flap flap flap!”
The sound of wings flapping furiously echoed from deep within the ridge, accompanied by the screams and curses of a few youths.
Qin Lie frowned, immediately becoming aware that there were martial practitioners fighting the Umbra Lightning Condors from deeper within the Solitary Ridge. Without a second thought, he accelerated rapidly and charged up the slope towards them.
Underneath several tall ancient trees, a group of seven young martial practitioners were standing back to back, holding several weapons like swords, sabres, bows, and hammers. in their grasps. Their clothes were tattered and torn, with several bloodstains around their arms and chests. They were facing skywards, engaging the Umbra Lightning Condors that were spiraling in the sky in a life and death battle.
There were both males and females among the seven martial practitioners, all of them at the Refinement Realm. Their ages were relatively young, and they were clad in expensive clothing. Their weapons all surged with spirit energies; evidently, spirit artifacts that were actually of quality. One look was all that was needed to tell that their backgrounds were truly not simple.
The leader was a muscular youth whose weapon was a crimson longblade. His black, lengthy hair was flying all over the place as he wielded his longblade in a dance, sending out dazzling arcs of crimson light, cutting a very imposing figure.
They were surrounded by more than thirty Umbra Lightning Condors. The condors were all longer than two meters with greyish-brown feathers and beaks as sharp as hooks. Their short tail feathers were shaped like wedges, and their claws as sharp as anchors. In each of their foreheads sat a blue prismatic crystal that glistened brightly, emitting blue lightning continuously.
The Umbra Lightning Condors circled around the sky in a rapid fashion, initially assaulting the martial practitioners below with lightning from the Beast Cores on their forehead. When the martial practitioners became numb from the electric shock, the condors would immediately pounce on them, attacking with their hook-like beaks and anchor-like claws that were capable of ripping prey apart, causing whosoever that was caught to scream miserably as their skin and flesh were torn from them.
Surrounding the seven martial practitioners already laid five of the condors. They looked like they were pierced by sharp weapons, while their feathers and blood were strewn all over. The bodies of the seven martial practitioners were covered with scars and scrapes too. It seemed that the battle had already been going for quite a while.
The teamwork from the seven were flawless; as long as one of them was stunned by the electric shocks, the other six would immediately protect him or her, frantically defending their partner despite facing the risk of severe injury.
As such, the Umbra Lightning Condors were unable to pick anyone off in a short duration despite their combined efforts, resulting in a long, drawn-out battle.
“Pooh!” Tu Ze spat a feather from his mouth, wielding his longblade with flickering rays of crimson and cursed, “Damn our rotten luck to come across this bunch of feathered beasts! Everyone better stick closer and take extra care to not get separated. If anyone hesitates to save their partners, I’ll personally skin you alive later!”
“Don’t worry, Big Brother Tu!”
“We will definitely save our partners first!”
The group of youths gritted their teeth and shouted in reply. Their breaths were stable and they were evidently battle-hardened; definitely not some fledglings that were out of their nests for the first time.
Behind one of the ancient trees, Qin Lie narrowed his eyes as he observed the fierce combat between the group of the seven youths and the condors. After a while, he understood that it wasn’t looking optimistic for the youths.
Spirit beasts that lived together in herds like the Umbra Lightning Condors would take revenge for even the slightest of grievances. The moment one of their kind was killed, it became inevitable that they would pursue vengeance until their deaths!
With the existence of the five condor corpses, the battle reached the peak of hostility. The only possible outcomes were either the utter destruction of the seven youths or the complete erasure of the thirty-plus condors from existence!
The condors and youths appeared to be matched evenly in strength; if they continued fighting it could very well result in their mutual destruction, with at most, one or two surviving from either side.
The majestic, piercing cries of condors echoed out from even deeper within the ridge. Before long, more than a dozen Umbra Lightning Condors arrived with furious screeches, joining the others to attack the youths.
“Damn it!” Tu Ze’s expression finally changed. “Looks like this rotten place is the nest of those feathered beasts! We can’t afford to stay here any longer! We must hurry and find an opening to escape or else once more of the beasts start to gather, we’ll be in serious trouble!”
“While defending, we can still somewhat manage to keep our formations. However, once we move to break out of here, how will it be possible to stave off the combined attacks of the condors?” asked a young girl valiantly in her delicate voice, as her almond eyes glistened. She looked to be at most eighteen, with a smoking-hot figure complemented by her tight, black, full-leather attire, carrying a quill of arrows on her back whilst wielding her long bow.
“Zhuo Qian! We have no other choices left! We will eventually lose this battle of attrition if we do not extricate ourselves from here now! God knows if there might be more of those beasts rushing towards here? The longer we delay, the more danger we’re in!” Tu Ze hardened his face in a spur of determination and hollered, ”Everyone prepare to break out together with me!”
“Understood!” The group, including Zhuo Qian, replied resoundingly, and prepared to break out Solitary Ridge with their lives on the line.
At this moment, upon seeing the bleak situation of the group of youths, Qin Lie abruptly came out from his cover behind the tree and made his way towards them without a word.
“Young brother, do not proceed any further! This place is exceedingly dangerous, make haste and leave this place as far as you can! The Umbra Lightning Condors only bear hatred to the seven of us, so leave while you still have a chance!” yelled Tu Ze, who was stunned when he suddenly discovered a stranger approaching just as he was about make his move.
Qin Lie paid his words no mind and simply revealed his teeth in a grin, maintaining his pace towards them.
“Are you a fool?”
“You trying to die?”
“Dimwit! What on earth are you doing?!”
As the crowd yelled out in shock, Zhuo Qian withdrew her beautiful slender legs, rolling her almond eyes in anger. “Where did this bastard come from? Must you insist on rushing to your death?!”
As the seven people cursed angrily from their incomprehension, Qin Lie had arrived at the side of one of the Umbra Lightning Condors that had died wretchedly. He extended his fingers to dig out its Beast Core, repeating the same actions to the rest of the corpses while ignoring the stupefied stares of Tu Ze, Zhuo Qian and company, swiftly retrieving the remaining four Beast Cores.
The seven people were struck dumb like wooden dolls. They thought that he was insane and they started looking at him like he was a madman.
Did his greed have no boundaries, such that he would throw his life away just to pick some Beast Cores?
Moreover, they were merely Rank One Beast Cores!
Plucking the cores of the fallen Umbra Lightning Condors in the faces of more than forty of their brethren only served to utterly ruffle their feathers and drive them hysterical…
Where did this idiot come from?
He’s dead for sure!
The group of seven martial practitioners revealed uneasy expressions as they were certain that Qin Lie was about to be diced into multiple parts and swallowed cleanly by the condors.
“Whoosh whoosh whoosh!”
Undoubtedly, every last one of the condors were absolutely enraged by his actions to the point of completely ignoring Tu Ze and company, hurling themselves at Qin Lie with frenzied screeches, hell-bent on dismembering him.
“Is he trying to buy time for us with his life? Such a cute fellow. He has my thanks. What are we waiting for? Why aren’t we escaping yet?!” Zhuo Qian asked sharply in her delicate voice.
Truly, only a woman’s vicious heart could stay calm in such a critical moment. Without moments to spare, Tu Ze and company stirred rapidly, snapping out of their daze as they promptly fled the Solitary Ridge, not even giving a second look to Qin Lie that was surrounded by gray condors as though he was engulfed by the clouds in the sky.
The seven of them were certain that his death was a definite matter, and that the condors would undoubtedly chase them when they finished dismembering Qin Lie. Therefore, they did not even so much as glance backwards, wholeheartedly focused on putting as much distance as they could between them and the condors, to gain even the slightest bit of hope at survival.
Amidst the figures of condors, concentrated blue lightning flashed down like a net, and the sizzling sound of the electric current struck terror into anyone who could hear it.
Qin Lie faced it alone.