Fifteen days had passed, but Li Tianming hadn’t seen hide nor hair of Jiang Qingluan.
It was the same for the next day, and the next...
“Where the heck did everyone go?” Li Tianming felt a headache brewing. Truth be told, it was an expected result. A mere twenty people had been sent into this huge Azure Domain, and even though the Heavenly Pattern Barrier was shrinking, the chances of running into anyone was still abysmally low.
Most importantly, neither Li Tianming or Jiang Feiling could relax until Jiang Qingluan was found. Other than that blue feather, no new leads had popped up either.
“I feel like it’s up to luck. Even if we do go searching, we’ll be moving like headless flies,” Li Tianming said.
“We can only pray for Qing’er’s safety,” Jiang Feiling said softly.
“It’ll be fine. She has the looks of a lucky person. Heck, we might even run into her in the next two days.” As long as she was fine, they were bound to meet as long as the formation kept shrinking.
Li Tianming continued his journey.
“Why does the terrain here look so familiar?” That afternoon, Li Tianming crested a black peak, and a mountain range that extending on and on greeted him.
“I don’t find it familiar.”
“Of course you won’t. This… is the place where I found the Saintbeast War-Soul.” At that time, Li Tianming didn’t have Ying Huo yet, nor had he met Jiang Feiling.
“It doesn’t look very special here.” The little chick perched on his shoulder and examined the place. It was right. Still, this was the very place that had birthed the War-Soul and changed Li Tianming’s fate.
“Well, let’s take a trip down memory lane.” Li Tianming quickly navigated through the jungle in the mountain range. Within moments, he had crossed yet another mountain, the one right before where he had gotten the War-Soul.
Li Tianming remembered there was a lake there that wasn’t too large, nothing comparable to any of the lakes in the Land of Thousand Lakes. He had obtained the Saintbeast War-Soul from the bottom of that lake. At first, Li Tianming had just thought it was an ordinary feather, unaware of the miracle he had picked up. Of course, there was no such second feather here — Li Tianming had left no stone unturned in this lake.
Li Tianming returned to the lake once more and dipped his foot inside. “The water’s temperature seems higher than before.”
His third eye saw something a moment later.
“What’s that?” Although the water was murky, it didn’t stop his third eye from seeing clearly. A spirit herb sat in the lake’s center, heating up the water around it. Only half a metre, it had but three leaves, each of them as red as fire. And yet, even with so few leaves, the herb had managed to bear a small, thumb-sized fruit.
The fruit was a deep red.
At first, Li Tianming wasn’t that interested in it, given its tiny size. However, his eyes widened a moment later as he saw the indigo heavenly pattern on it. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. An indigo pattern was grade six; this spirit herb was a treasure of treasures!
Li Tianming quickly ventured forth, having made a second revelation — this spirit herb was growing right smack on the spot he had found the Saintbeast War-Soul.
This spirit herb should have grown in the last three years. No one must have passed this area in that time, which wasn’t all that surprising since the lake did look ordinary.
“It fits the description of a helios fruit. A helios fruit tree has three leaves, and even the leaves have blue patterns. The helios fruit tree is very small as well.” Jiang Feiling recalled what she had read before. She was much more well-read than Li Tianming, given that she didn’t need to cultivate. She would read books when she was bored, giving her a large breadth of knowledge.
“Are you sure?”
“Won’t you know once you look at the leaves?”
Li Tianming looked at the leaves, which did have blue patterns on it!
Such spirit herbs were beneficial to even Unity stage powerhouses. His so-called father, Li Yanfeng, was in the Unity stage, but perhaps he had reached the Heavenly Will stage by now. And yet, if he was here personally, he would still try to seize it.
“Mhmmmm, brother, let’s split it!” Saliva was already dripping out of the little chick’s beak. Although it wasn’t obvious looking at it, there was a terrifying amount of spiritual energy within the fruit.
“Have you lost your mind? You’ll blow up from eating this,” Li Tianming replied. Even his father would need to refine this slowly.
“Pfft. What a coward. We’re real men — since when do we fear tiny fruits?! These fruits should fear us!” the little chick scoffed.
“Are you for real?” On second thought, the little chick did have the infernalsource and Infernal Blaze. Its stomach had shocking refinement abilities — directly refining royal manna was a non-issue.
If it could quickly refine the energy in this fruit, progress was inevitable.
“Nonsense. If you’re too scared, just eat the leaves!” the little chick said complacently, seizing a chance to finally mouth off in front of Li Tianming.
To be honest, it didn’t actually matter who ate what. Their exchange of beast ki during symbiotic cultivation would share benefits made by either party...
Logically speaking, the little chick’s refinement abilities were higher than Li Tianming. The current Li Tianming could easily handle grade four — green patterned — spirit herbs. Grade five, or blue patterned herbs, would need some tests, however, since he never tried refining them before.
“Spirit herbs like this have the best medicinal effect right after being picked. For a scaredy-cat like you, you can have the three leaves. Real badasses like me eat them fruits.”
“Sure, keep bragging. Don’t say I didn’t warn you when you’re missing a stomach later.”
In the end, Li Tianming decided to refine it after all.
Still, as a precaution, the little chick and him each refined a leaf first, which served to give the little chick a reference too. It was an Aeternal Infernal Phoenix, with undeniable talent in this area, but safety was most paramount. Once their initial tests were done, the duo plucked out a helios leaf each and began to refine it on the spot.
As the leaf entered his body, Li Tianming’s throat began to burn, making him moan. It didn’t feel like he’d eaten a leaf, no. The sensation was closer to having swallowed a dollop of magma, which had then decided to stick around in his throat for some inane reason to explore it, sliding down only when satisfied.
Li Tianming’s skin reddened as his blood vessels began to burn up. The outline of his internal organs were now visible from outside.
However, what was truly miraculous was that Jiang Feiling, who was attached to him, hadn’t been affected. Instead, she was even able to help Li Tianming regulate his energy. Truly, she was a perfect assistant in both cultivation and battle. She knew Li Tianming’s body even better than he knew it himself.
Even that part.
Li Tianming wanted to snigger whenever he thought about it.
“Big brother, can you get your mind out of the gutter? We’re refining something!” The embarrassment and anger in her tone was clear.
“What? I’m a gentleman.” Li Tianming gave a light cough as he hurriedly replied.
“Focus. There’s almost a hole in your stomach.”
“Ling’er, how do you know my thoughts?” Li Tianming asked jokingly, the Aeternal Infernal Codex in full blast.
“Hmph, I’m not answering that.”
“Have you ever had indecent thoughts about me? Men like me are simply too irresistible to women. If you’ve had them, don’t worry — it’s normal!”
“Don’t be like this. You have to follow your heart!”
“Hey, if you keep getting distracted, you’re going to explode soon.”
Wait, I'm really about to explode! Fortunately, Li Tianming managed to hang on, doubling down on his refinement efforts once the danger passed. Still, if blue heavenly pattern spirit herbs were this terrifying, could that little chick really take on the helios fruit?
That question lingered on as the duo finished refining their leaves.
The little chick placed its wings on its hips. “The helios fruit is mine. You take the last leaf, and feast your eyes on how a real man should act.”
“Why have you been so excitable recently? Is the possibility of being neglected once number two is born making you attract as much attention as possible?” Li Tianming asked.
“Don’t flatter yourself!”
Li Tianming had already plucked that last leaf while they were bantering back and forth. However, instead of eating it, he placed the leaf into a jade box. Doing so was the best way to preserve as much of the leaf’s medicinal power as possible.
“Why are you keeping it?” The little chick was confused.
“To sell. Sage Chen is chasing me for my debt.” Li Tianming smiled. He hadn’t forgotten that matter.
“Did refining that leaf earlier somehow scare you?”
“Wrong.” Li Tianming reached out for the helios fruit. Tearing it into two, he tossed one half to the little chick.
As for the other half, he casually tossed it into his mouth.
The little chick was stunned. “Are you crazy?”
Li Tianming gave one last grin before the volcano erupted. “I never let my brothers go into danger alone.”
“I’m almost tearing up. Li Tianming, you blockhead, let’s see if you survive this.” It had the Infernal Blaze, but Li Tianming didn’t. Li Tianming might have a Primordial Chaos Beast’s body, but it wasn’t a mature one. Was his stomach going to be burnt through?
When the fruit entered his body, Li Tianming learnt what it meant to be burnt alive in full detail. Fortunately, it was only half the helios fruit, which liquefied a moment later, spreading through his body with a searing heat.