Chapter 22: A Sword Resting in Demonic Python Skin
Not much time had passed. It seemed as if the entire black mountain were seething. The roars of Demonic beasts shook the air, rising and falling one after another. Even more frequent were the miserable shrieks which sounded out. The ten or more Cultivators who had dared not further their pursuit into the mountain looked pale. Fear filled their hearts, and now they were even less willing to enter the mountain than before.
“What happened? How come it seems like all the Demonic beasts in the whole mountain are in a rage?”
“What’s going on? Elder Brothers Yin Tianlong [1. Yin Tianlong's name in Chinese is 尹天隆 (yǐn tiān lóng) - Yin is a common family name. Tian means "Heaven" or "sky." Long means "prosperous," "swelling," or "the sound of drums"] and Zhou Kai [2. Zhou Kai's name in Chinese is 周凯 (zhōu kǎi) - Zhou is a common family name. Kai means "victorious" or "triumphant"] are both of the fifth level of Qi Condensation, but even they would have a hard time raising the wrath of the entire mountain. Could they have use some unique and special technique?”
The small crowd at the foot of the mountain made their guesses, listening to the deafening roars.
As far as Yin Tianlong and Zhou Kai, they had already been tormented to near madness by Meng Hao’s tricks. They watched helplessly as Meng Hao moved about up ahead in the distance, along with vast amounts of Demonic beasts. Based on the hatred in their eyes, if looks could kill, Meng Hao would have been dead several times over.
Yet, within the hatred was helpless exhaustion that only Yin and Zhou could truly understand. Every time they had begun to chase Meng Hao again, he had constantly used some sort of Demonic magic to provoke all types of Demonic beasts. With the mere flick of a sleeve, he would cause some part of a Demonic creature’s body to explode. The stench of blood filled the air, slowly driving the creatures crazy.
Seeing so many Demonic creatures made their scalps go numb, as the creatures didn’t just pursue Meng Hao. Once the creatures caught sight of the two of them, they would begin chasing after them. Then, some distance away, Meng Hao would slip away like a loach.
“Dammit! I curse you to die in the belly of the beasts!!!” roared Zhou Kai. Next to him, Yin Tianlong sighed, looking even more exhausted.
Time slowly passed, and the beginning of another of the two-hour periods approached. In the darkness of night, the pill beacon was dazzling. As it revealed Meng Hao’s position, Zhou and Yin gnashed their teeth and pursued. As usual, Meng Hao used his Demonic magic to provoke more Demonic beasts, then led them to Zhou and Yin, whereupon he would watch them disappear amidst the pack of furious creatures.
“How can he have not been devoured by a Demonic creature already!?” Zhou and Yin were exhausted to the bones, whereas Meng Hao skipped and jumped about, filled with energy. Seeing this, hatred filled them to the marrow, and their gums itched with hatred. But there was nothing they could do.
In truth, Meng Hao was also exhausted. Every time the pill shone, he was forced to immediately arouse the attention of some Demonic beasts. Of course, the copper mirror allowed him to stop the fastest creatures screaming in their tracks, thus giving him time to escape. Were it not for that, he would have long since dropped to the ground in fatigue.
Suddenly, he realized that he had reached the top of the mountain. The ground was covered with fissures and crevices, some of them so large that a person could easily fit inside. Panting, Meng Hao sat down behind a boulder to rest, looking down at the copper mirror in his hands. It was burning hot, as if everything that had happened today had made it incredibly excited. With a bitter smile, Meng Hao looked around and noticed a massive fissure up ahead, out of which seeped a thick black mist.
Just then, a roar suddenly erupted from the giant fissure, the same roar that earlier had quelled all the fierce beasts on the mountain. The roar seemed capable of shaking the whole world. It resounded like a thunderclap. In an instant, the entire area was clear of all Demonic beasts, as if the entire mountain now contained only this roar.
The roar seemed to vibrate even Meng Hao’s mind, dispersing all the spiritual energy within his body. His facial expression changed. This roar was familiar. In his previous visits to the regions near the black mountain, he had heard it. It was a sound which curdled both blood and Qi, leaving one’s mind filled with unease.
As the roar sounded out, Meng Hao forced his eyes to remain open and watch as the black mist poured out of the fissure. As the mist dispersed, Meng Hao was able to see a huge black python, over six meters thick, with a heinous and fierce countenance. About half its length had suddenly moved out of the fissure.
It looked to be in pain, and its fierce roar shook heaven and earth. Meng Hao spat out a mouthful of blood. He leaped out from the behind the boulder and flew down the mountain, not daring to remain behind. But then he stopped, his curiosity having gotten the better of him. When he went back to take a second look, he noticed something interesting.
The python’s body, half of which was visible sticking out of the fissure, seemed to peeling. It looked as if it had two sets of skin. It coiled up on itself, rubbing the outer skin to shed it away.
“It’s shedding?” Upon recognizing what was happening, Meng Hao sucked in a breath. He knew that pythons were weakest during the time in which they shed their skin. It took a while for it to happen, especially if the python were demonic in nature. With a body as large as this one, it would probably take even longer, perhaps several years.
“No wonder you can hear it roaring all the time. It must have been in the process of shedding for years.” His gaze shifted, and he noticed something else in addition to the python.
Upon closer inspection, he gaped in amazement. It was a flying sword. It appeared to be exceedingly primitive, with no special characteristics at all. But, it had been stabbed deeply into the python’s body. It appeared to have been there for quite a long time, many years perhaps.
The area around where the sword had stabbed into the body was dry and withered, which attested to the power of the sword.
“This demonic python has a Cultivation base of at least the seventh level of Qi Condensation, perhaps the eighth. Maybe even the ninth…” His mouth grew dry. He could only imagine how tough the python’s skin was, which only further attested to how amazing the primitive-looking flying sword was.
“A flying sword which can stab a demonic creature like this must be a true treasure.” Meng Hao palpitated with eagerness, then let out a dejected sigh. With a Cultivation base at the fourth level of Qi Condensation, acquiring the sword was little more than a dream for him. Even if he were at the fifth level, it would be equally impossible.
Shaking his head, he headed down the mountain, eyes glittering. There was still something important to accomplish. The copper mirror in his sleeve continued to boil, and soon, he had a handful of Demonic beasts following him, howling.
A few hours passed and dawn broke. The last of the twelve two-hour periods would soon end. Zhou and Yin had already given up all hope. They stared up at Meng Hao, who sat cross-legged further up the mountain.
If the two of them made the slightest move, he would rile up a group of beasts, and not only would they not succeed in their goal, they would most likely be injured. Couple that with their exhaustion, and the only thing they could do was gasp for breath and stare venomously at Meng Hao.
“Dammit. Meng Hao, how could you escape me!?” Zhou Kai panted for breath then let out a helpless howl. Meng Hao really was a loach that could come and go like a shadow within the jungle.
“Don’t you have your own skills?” said Yin Tianlong, who wasn’t very far away. Able to neither kill nor pursue, he was half mad, and his words seemed to contain no logic. “Can you just, not flee? There’s no need to use such wicked demonic magic to send beasts after us. Why don’t we have a fair fight?”
“My Cultivation base isn’t as high as yours, how could I fight you?” said Meng Hao, also panting. “If you want to keep chasing me, I don’t really have any other choice.” He swallowed another medicinal pill.
Never before in their lives had Zhou and Yin ever met anyone as seemingly unreasonable as Meng Hao. They both felt regret at heart. If they had known it would turn out like this, they would never have chased after him to steal the pill.
Time slipped by, and the hour approached for the sealing spell on the pill to dissipate. Yin Tianlong let out a long sigh. With a bitter laugh, he shook his head. There was nothing left he could do. He couldn’t pursue or attack, lest he be forced to face Demonic beasts. His medicinal pills were exhausted, and he had lost two flying swords. How could he even attempt to steal the pill…? Of course, that was not to mention his opponent’s tactics. His dazzling, wicked ideas seemed to have no end. Even the slightest bit of inattentiveness would lead to injury.
With a humiliated sigh, he gave one last look at Meng Hao, then turned and headed down the mountain, finally tormented into surrender.
As he left, Zhou Kai felt wracked with indecision. Dawn approached, as did the ending of the twelfth two-hour period, and with it, the unsealing of the medicinal pill in Meng Hao’s bag of holding. Zhou Kai stamped his foot hatefully, then, without a word, turned and left. He was convinced that Meng Hao was just too hard to deal with. In fact, there was fear in his heart; if he didn’t leave this place now, perhaps he never would.
Meng Hao watched the two of them leave and head down the mountain. He let out a very long sigh, and felt exhaustion fill his body like floodwaters. He bit his tongue and woke up a bit, then hurried off into the distance. He didn’t leave the black mountain, but rather made his way to the mountaintop. There was the Demonic python there, but generally speaking it was relatively safe. After all, the python needed time to complete its transformation, and its roars kept away other Demonic beasts.
Meng Hao found a fissure in the rocks and sat down cross-legged. He glanced down at his bag of holding, suddenly feeling apprehensive.
“I wasted so many medicinal pills, each one worth Spirit Stones. Let me calculate… including thirty-seven flying swords and more than forty Demonic Cores, that comes to… one hundred ninety-eight Spirit Stones. One hundred ninety-eight.” His body trembled, and he felt quite upset.
“Thankfully, the twenty-four hours is now up,” he said, trying to comfort himself, “and the Dry Spirit Pill is mine.” Pushing aside his disappointment, he forced his mind to be clear, then, looking around to make sure it was safe, he pulled out the copper mirror and began to make copies of the Dry Spirit Pill.
Mid-day arrived, and Meng Hao looked down at the pills in his hands. Ten Dry Spirit Pills. He forced out a smile, but disappointment was still visible in his face. It took a lot of Spirit Stones to copy a Dry Spirit Pill, many more than were required for a Demonic Core. Now he understood the exchange rates required by the copper mirror.
He clenched his jaw, then popped one of the pills into his mouth.
“Fifth level of Qi Condensation! I have to reach the fifth level!” His eyes grew bloodshot, filled with resilient determination. He sat in meditation and began to rotate his Cultivation base. Booming sounds resounded through his body as boundless spiritual energy erupted out of the Dry Spirit Pill, causing the spiritual forces in Meng Hao’s body to turn into a spinning vortex which suddenly spread outward in all directions.
Time went by slowly, and days passed. When Meng Hao, his eyes closed, broke through the fifth level of Qi Condensation, the black mountain was filled with the roars of the python. Its transformation, like Meng Hao’s, seemed also to have reached a critical juncture.
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