Ba-dum… Ba-dum… Xu Yangyi could even hear the beating of his heart at his ear. His mood was extremely complicated, like a stone deeply sinking down. Strength… was something no one was willing to lose when gained.
He was even more unwilling because of his own great unavenged hatred. Any student of Heavens Law would receive the organization’s help in finding their assailant, but not him! He needed more strength than any other student!
Without an answer, his entire train of thought had already sunk to rock-bottom. He promptly entered his qi sea.
Head… Chest… His spiritual sense swept over his organs along the way, heading straight towards his qi sea. He was all too aware that once his qi sea began to expand by itself, he wouldn’t be able to use his spiritual force. In case he did begin to use it, his meridians would be confronted with the danger of exploding at any time and any place!
There was a title for someone whose meridians were completely crippled: invalid.
Would the champion of Heavens Law’s Yuyang City branch become an invalid?! Would he go from the graduate with the most boundless of prospects to a cripple? Would he go from being a cultivator that could soar among clouds and sail mists to an ordinary person?
He was absolutely unreconciled to such a fate!
He saw… a boundless whiteness like soaring mists and rising red clouds… This was the location of his qi sea and also the gate of life that a cultivator would defend to their death no matter what!
Swish! At this moment, a golden streak of prismatic light flickered before his eyes, penetrating into the expanse of mist. It should’ve delved even deeper into the distant white ocean, but now, his spiritual sense completely froze in place.
“This is…” He clenched his fist tightly and forced down his urge to coldly gasp.
Qi Condensation, or perhaps called the stage of condensing qi, was to draw qi into the body and construct an “ocean” of qi within the body. This was to represent Earth’s standard of the organisms that had risen from the ocean. Following Foundation Establishment, other changes would occur, but a small and exquisite case was presently whirling within his qi sea.
The chest was forged from pure gold, about the size of a palm, and crafted superbly and meticulously. It used openwork engraving, and the outline of a fine, slender lotus was carved into its cover. There was a ring of carved designs along the edges, or perhaps it was a script that he simply didn’t recognize.
The lotus had five petals, yet only a single petal was engraved with a design. It was the image of a leopard-headed man wearing ancient robes. His clothes were made from plain hemp, and he held a jade bamboo slip. He sat cross-legged on an unusual mount that had the head of a wild boar and the body of a steed.
This image occupied one of the five petals. As for the other four, there were only four harsh holes left behind. The entire chest could even be said to be an immaculate work of art, however, that was only the top portion. The bottom had already vanished without a trace.
Buzzzzz… The instant Xu Yangyi saw the image clearly, the world of his qi sea faintly began to shake. Simultaneously, in that fleeting moment, he was forced with the urge to almost kneel and prostrate on the ground. This sensation rose from the depths of his heart without the slightest omen!
It was the purest… most primal… worship to an even higher dimension and even more powerful vitality. The mere totem had already caused his spiritual sense to feel as if it was dead leaves in a squall. In an instant, his spiritual sense was dispersed by this totem! Before he could even react, the small, exquisite chest slightly trembled and charged right before him in the next second!
In the real world, Xu Yangyi bit his tongue. Fresh blood immediately dribbled from the crook of his mouth, and his reddened eyes snapped wide open. In this fraction of time, he understood it all.
This thing’s objective… wasn’t anything like his qi sea at all! From the very beginning, its goal was his spiritual sense! If it could be said that the qi sea was the foundation of cultivation, then spiritual sense… was the foundation of life!
In place with past interpretations, it was the soul. It encompassed a person’s memories, mind, and so on. Scientific methods could be used to illustrate it as a kind of wavelength. If this wavelength was lost…
Death would be the only path!
At this moment, realization dawned on Xu Yangyi. Perhaps the serpent-demon had discovered this early on. As a demon that could live in human society to an old age, it wasn’t any pushover. As its qi sea quickly expanded and exploded, it didn’t even dare to let its spiritual sense enter its body to play “doctor”. The strange box had done its best to expand within the demon’s qi sea in order to lure it into using its spiritual sense to “take a look”, since the box’s goal from the onset was spiritual sense!
“What the hell is this thing?!” The demon slayer took no more than a second of reflection to promptly command his spiritual sense to begin frantically retreating. The speed of thought was perhaps the fastest thing, excluding the speed of light. In theory, the speed of thought… was limitless!
To his surprise, the box’s goal was one’s spirit… Was this even an object? In comparison to an object, it was more like a living organism that possessed a high-level intelligence!
But now, his chest trembled abruptly, and he harshly gritted his teeth. He had been “rejected”…
From his brain, he’d issued the “order” to give his spiritual sense the “thought” to “retreat”. As the command infinitely approached max speed, it had been “rejected” from within his qi sea. His spiritual sense… went motionless.
No matter how his brain commanded it, his spiritual sense seemed to have taken root in his qi sea, not moving the slightest hair.
“P-Pretty boy, what’s up? D-Don’t scare me! What the heck happened?” Mao Ba’er jumped in fright and came straight to protect him. In the past several seconds, Xu Yangyi had been fine and his expression hadn’t changed. But moments ago, Mao Ba’er’s heart plunged with a thump, absent of rhyme or reason, like a dangerous premonition was suddenly approaching. Soon afterwards, the husky watched Xu Yangyi sweat profusely and hack up blood.
Xu Yangyi didn’t respond to Mao Ba’er and only pursed his lips tightly. This was because his spiritual sense and the box had fully collided together at the same time!
Swoosh! An expanse of striking golden light illuminated his entire qi sea! Even his misty qi appeared to calm down at this instant!
“Pretty boy! Pretty boy, what’s happening to you?!” Mao Ba’er immediately jumped over. In front of Mao Ba’er, Xu Yangyi didn’t say a word as he clutched his head and collapsed in bed.
A stabbing pain, an abrupt stabbing pain. Like someone had used their hand to shove a pile of things in his mind, a pain bursting at the seams caused him to believe that his head would split open!
Myriad awls stabbed into his mind. He felt a place he couldn’t even speak of inside the center of his brain become a nexus of pain. As for this wave of pain, it was like a network, covering his entire cerebral cortex, like an electric current was coursing through!
But at the same time, countless vestiges of golden script, followed by a sharp pain, madly rushed into his mind. It was unknown how much time had passed… A minute, ten minutes, or perhaps an hour until the wave of piercing pain subsided.
“Pant… Pant…” His stomach heaved up and down like a bellows. The sharp pain had long since covered his hand in cold sweat.
Mao Ba’er leaned against his bedside and looked at him nervously. “P-Pretty boy, you’re scaring this pupper to death… There was a sign the first time around, but there wasn’t any warning the second… I thought you were going to croak just like that… You haven’t even left a will… Are you alright?”
Xu Yangyi firmly gritted his teeth and shook his head. He shut his eyes, since the tearing pain within his brain caused him to suddenly break out in a cold sweat from head to toe. Nevertheless, he simply couldn’t shout in pain right now!
He “scanned” every nook and cranny of himself, inch by inch. Hand… Chest… Stomach… His four limbs… Brain… however, he didn’t find any changes!
As he scanned his qi sea once more, he couldn’t restrain himself from grinding his teeth. The upper half of the box… had vanished! As if it had never appeared!
His eyes flashed open. Once, twice, thrice, he scanned his body, yet the truth was verified. Indeed, there weren’t any changes whatsoever. Moments ago, he’d clearly felt countless things rush into his mind, but now he wasn’t even able to recall a thing!
One hour, two hours… after no less than three hours did he speak again.
“It’s nothing.” The devastating storm-like pain had finally subsided to a degree. He made a long sigh and looked deeply at Mao Ba’er. “Remember, you absolutely cannot reveal what’s happened in these past several days to anyone.”
“Why?” Mao Ba’er said anxiously, “With your body like this, don’t you want to return to Heavens Law and get a comprehensive examination? Don’t you want to look for the instructor to discuss a countermeasure?”
“If I do, they’ll definitely try to get a clear understanding what this thing is later!” Xu Yangyi said without hesitation, his voice sharp enough to chop through nails. He pursed his fairly chapped lips and said lowly, “Human nature is never lacking of the light that makes people sing praises in admiration, but nor is it lacking the darkness that makes one’s hair stand on edge.”
“China is one of the world’s four great ancient civilizations with a long river of history spanning several millennia. How many unsolved mysteries have been left behind? Mao Ba’er…” He stared into his familiar’s eyes. “You think if someone said, ‘oh, this is an ancient Core Formation cultivator’s amazing magik artifact that recognizes its master automatically’... even if the constraint of the law exists and even if it’s just a mere ‘suspicion’, what do you think those decrepit cultivators with a one-way express ticket to death will believe? The ones that are only a kick short from opening the next realm?”
Mao Ba’er was stunned.
“There’s no need to guess…” He sneered and licked his lips. “In less than a week, even if I hid at the very ends of the Earth, they would shred everything to pieces to find me.”
“Cultivation… is the struggle of all living things.” He leaned back, looked at the ceiling, and said somewhat ruefully, “But if that time comes, even if I have to brave the danger of a life sentence, I’ll start a massacre.”
Mao Ba’er swept his eyes over Xu Yangyi. “Sometimes, I really don’t know if you’re a good guy or a villain, in the end… You seem pretty noble, but I’ve always thought that what’s hidden in your own heart is far more scary than what a demon has in their own.”
“I’m only a pragmatist,” Xu Yangyi laughed.
“Pretty boy.” Mao Ba’er hopped up on Xu Yangyi’s body with his paw and said in a low voice, “But… I think it’s still better to get back early to the branch for graduation. Haven’t you ever thought of what the branch represents?”
Xu Yangyi glanced at him. “Truth.”
“The truth of the world. The truth buried among history and books. A representation of the truth orally handed down word by word. Only through cultivation can the world truly be seen clearly.”
“Then, haven’t you ever thought about what the branch is like?” Mao Ba’er plopped down on his pudgy butt. “There lies the actual key… leading to the real entrance of truth… I believe only there you’ll truly be able to analyze the origins behind your qi sea’s changes. I don’t want to destroy your future because of a guess.”
“My future…” Xu Yangyi narrowed his eyes. “Compared with losing my life, which do you think is even worse?” Skipping over the topic, he waved his hand. “Help me get the painkillers.”
“Wouldn’t it be better to get a loan of a hundred grand from the Bountiful Treasures Pavilion and buy some Blackjade Wound Replenishing Ointment?” Mao Ba’er squinted his canine eyes, suggesting enticingly, “Colorless, odorless, and greaseless, it’ll eliminate any pains right away…”
“If I didn’t hear incorrectly, the Bountiful Treasures Pavilion manager was just at the door.” Xu Yangyi laughed coldly, “Don’t think I didn’t hear it… The Bountiful Treasures Pavilion gave you 5,000 to get me to use their medicines… It’s convenient that the Sanshui City branch has improved their workmanship… Am I only worth five fucking thousand?”
Mao Ba’er looked at Xu Yangyi as if he’d seen a living ghost. Once he heard Xu Yangyi say that he was fine, he opened up like a flower at first sight. His paw covered his mouth in shock. “There was also a bag of Bountiful Treasures Pavilion’s dog chow… but that’s not important! What’s important is how did you know?!” 
“He was at the entrance stirring up a ruckus… Didn’t you go?” Xu Yangyi rubbed his temples as they ached more and more.
“That’s impossible!” Unexpectedly, Mao Ba’er suddenly jumped up, staring at Xu Yangyi unwaveringly. “There wasn’t a single person speaking at the door! I swear! Also, I’m a canine! My sense of hearing and smell are much sharper than a human’s! Anyways, I also just entered initial Qi Condensation! How can you be this pupper’s opponent when it comes to hearing and smell? How can you hear what I can’t even hear?”