Cloudsoaring Mountain was to the southeast of Black Cloud City. People called it Cloudsoaring Mountain, but what they were actually referring to was the mountain range formed by several mountains of different heights.
The highest peak, Cloudsoaring Peak, was thousands of meters high, reaching into the clouds, with spiritual Qi swirling around it.
The other surrounding peaks were completely dwarfed by it.
The spiritual energy surrounding Cloudsoaring Mountain was quite rich and thick, thus every mountain peak in it had their own unique features.
Some mountain peaks were seeded with a large number of spirit plants and guarded by disciples of the Cloudsoaring sect.
Inside of other mountain peaks, numerous high-level spiritual materials were hidden away. These mountain peaks were also managed and mined by disciples of the Cloudsoaring sect.
The mountain peak in which the Nie clan mined flamecloud gems was actually the least impressive among all the smaller mountain peaks.
It was late in the afternoon when Nie Tian and Nie Qian finally arrived at that very mountain peak.
At the mouth of the mountain mine, Nie Xiang, a keeper of the Nie clan, looked at Nie Qian and the child with her, suspicions bubbling up in his mind. “Eldest sister, it’s not yet time to audit the flamecloud gems again. Why are you here?”
Nie Qian answered with a smile, “I’m not here to audit the flamecloud gems. I’ve brought my nephew here to help him gain experience.”
“Come to the mine to help him gain experience?!” Nie Xiang looked stunned, and even more confused than before.
The mine wasn’t safe, therefore over the years, only the children who had committed serious violations of clan rules would be sent there to the mine.
Hence, Nie Xiang was deeply confused by Nie Qian, who claimed to have brought Nie Tian there to help him gain experience.
Nie Qian didn’t give a more detailed explanation. After greeting Nie Xiang, she went straight into the mine, holding Nie Tian’s hand.
Nie Xiang immediately blurted out some warnings. “Eldest sister, the kid... he’s too young. If something happens to him in the mine, I can’t accept responsibility.”
“That’s fine,” Nie Qian declared. “If something bad happens to him, I’ll take full responsibility.”
Upon hearing her words, Nie Xiang didn’t say another word and allowed Nie Tian and Nie Qian to enter the mine.
Inside the mine, Nie Tian glanced around curiously as they walked along. “Flamecloud gems are mined here?”
“In the depths of the mine they are.” Nie Qian took a deep breath, her eyes filled with worry. “Remember, you have to follow my instructions and walk alongside me at all times. Due to overmining, many areas of the mine has become almost completely hollowed out, although you can’t tell by looking at them. Every now and then, those areas collapse when earthquakes strike. I know which areas are safe and which are dangerous. You must never leave my side.”
Nie Tian looked up at the rhombus-shaped rocks that hung five or six meters above. Then he started to nod vigorously.
Each of those rocks weighed more than five hundred kilograms; if they fell, he would be instantly reduced to a meat patty.
“Follow me.” Nie Qian grabbed him by the arm and walked down the endless, dim stone path.
Nie Tian followed Nie Qian wordlessly, gazing around with great curiosity. He also walked with more care and caution.
As they walked deeper, a lot of extended members of the Nie clan, together with hired laborers, greeted Nie Qian respectfully the moment they saw her.
“Good day, eldest sister. What brought you here?”
“Be careful, eldest sister. It’s not safe in there. Some areas collapsed just a couple of days ago.”
“Greetings, eldest sister.”
Nie Qian nodded and smiled back to every one of them. She also urged them to be extra cautious and prevent accidents by all means.
Nie Tian could see those who worked in the mine paid heartfelt respect to Nie Qian.
“These people, who mine flamecloud gems in the mine, live hard lives. Every and each one of them knew what they were facing when they came in.” Nie Qian sighed briefly when she saw no one was around. “Little Tian, if you fail to be accepted by the Cloudsoaring sect when you are fifteen, you will probably be sent to this place by your second grandfather to mine flamecloud gems.”
“Aren’t only the extended members of the Nie clan supposed to be sent here?” Nie Tian asked.
“That used to be the case, but it might change.” Nie Qian shook her head, her eyes somewhat dim. “In the mine, the mortality rate is rather high. People die here. The main mission of the Nie clan is to mine flamecloud gems for the Cloudsoaring sect. No other matter in the clan is more important.
“In recent years, flamecloud gems closer to the surface began to run out, so we had no other choice but to dig deeper, which made it more and more dangerous.
“All the elders of the extended families of the clan have used every possible method to avoid having their descendants sent to the mine.
“However, this place is the foundation of the Nie clan. People fear death. Without the supervision of our clan members, those laborers we have hired won’t be willing to mine at such a depth. Meanwhile, we have to pay sufficient amounts of flamecloud gems as annual tributes to the Cloudsoaring sect. Once we fall short, the Cloudsoaring sect will probably stop caring about our clan.
“The truth is, without the Cloudsoaring sect’s protection, it will be extremely difficult for our clan to maintain our foothold in Black Cloud City.
“Therefore, this mine is of the utmost importance to our clan. Around the clock, clan members have been appointed here for supervision purposes. Now that your second grandfather has come to power, he has promised to make changes, so it is very possible that members of direct families also be assigned here.”
With these words, Nie Qian paused for a second, and then said profoundly, “Because your grandfather has been losing power and influence in the clan for a long time, I was appointed to manage the mine before he retired. Now we are even weaker. If you can’t make yourself a disciple of the Cloudsoaring sect, we definitely won’t be able to escape the destiny of being assigned here.”
Nie Tian bowed his head and reflected on what she said. Soon after, he nodded and said, “I understand.”
“Let’s go.” Nie Qian kept marching deeper.
After a while, Nie Tian discovered that the stone path leading into the belly of the mountain became increasingly narrow; the distance between his head and the ceiling of the tunnel was getting shorter and shorter.
He also noticed the number of laborers grew fewer as he went further down, and those laborers appeared to be skinnier and more spiritless.
A dark-skinned, skinny, middle-aged man suddenly showed up at an intersection of stone tunnels and warned, “Eldest sister, it’s dangerous up ahead. You’d better not go any further. Merely eight days ago, Mine #73 witnessed a collapse, and two people were killed. We’ve only just cleared the rubble.”
Nie Qian immediately stopped. She hesitated for a moment and said with an serious face, “Thank you for the warning. We’ll take a brief look and come back soon.”
“If so, you must be absolutely careful. I... I’ll leave you be.” The man’s voice was full of fear.
Nie Qian nodded. “Sure, please go ahead with your work.” The dark-skinned, skinny man vanished.
Nie Qian fell into silence for a while, and continued, “The further inside, the higher the mortality rate. Hence, every laborer who works here seems lifeless, because they never know which day will be their last. They are all unfortunate people from Black Cloud City. In order to earn a living for their wives and children inside the city, they are willing to take the risk to come here.”
“Qi warriors of the Cloudsoaring sect all have extraordinary abilities,” Nie Tian said. “Let’s say they were in here. Even if it collapsed, they wouldn’t be hurt, right?”
Nie Qian gently nodded, and patiently said, “Cultivating to the Heaven stage would allow a person to do as he wishes inside the mine, absolutely fearless of sudden cave-ins. However, why would Qi warriors of the Heaven stage waste time to come here for flamecloud gems that are only an elementary grade four material?
“Those powerful Qi warriors are the most heartless!
“The Nie clan is nothing in their eyes. They would never care about a few random lives, let alone the lives of the unfortunate laborers the Nie clan has hired!
“Real Qi warriors are high above the masses. Clans like ours can only serve them.
“In the same way, mortals of the Black Cloud City also serve our clan. This world is cruel by nature. Neither you nor I can change it. There is only one way to be above others, one way to be free from being enslaved.
“And that is to become one of them!” Nie Qian said.
Nie Tian nodded forcefully with a tight face. “I promise I’ll become a powerful Qi warrior!”
Nie Qian also grew determined. “Good! Let’s go to the bottom of Mine #73!”
Before long, Nie Tian, under her lead, arrived in a vast area at the bottom of the mine.
The moment he went in, he noticed there were red spots on the walls glittering faintly with red light.
“Flamecloud gems!” Nie Tian suddenly felt enlivened.
Nie Qian urged in a loud voice. “This place is dangerous. Don’t waste time. Hurry and absorb the flame power from these unmined flamecloud gems using that animal bone of yours! We’d better not stay for long. We’ll leave as soon as the blood drop in the animal bone is fully condensed. Any delay means trouble.”
“Okay!” Nie Tian immediately got to work.Previous Chapter Next Chapter