“What do we do?” Lei Tao, Qin Hui, and Qu Ling exchanged awkward glances. Although they wanted to chase after Yang Qi, they weren’t a match for him in terms of true energy.
“He has very powerful true energy, but for some reason, I have the feeling his cultivation level isn’t very high. He must be some sort of freak.” A long moment passed, after which Lei Tao sighed. Eyes flashing, he said, “We lost. But we’ll be able to track this guy down eventually. It seems to me he stole our life force springwater because of the Crown Prince. We need to report the matter as soon as we get back.”
“Qu Ling, did you get a recording of everything that happened?”
“Yes, Elder Brother Lei,” Qu Ling replied. “I got it all. My light refraction mirror captured the entire fight, and everything that was said.” She pulled out a mirror and sent some true energy into it, causing it to project a recording of everything which had just played out.
“Alright. With hard evidence to back us up, the honorable Crown Prince won’t blame us for what happened. It’s not like we lost that springwater on purpose. That guy was a real freak, but I’m sure the Crown Prince can track him down and kill him, for the honor of our Crown Prince Society.”
“Come on, let’s head back. Considering we already used that divine talisman, there’s no way we can go back into the Yama Mountains to get more life force springwater.”
After some more discussion, the disheartened conclave students left.
After they were gone, Yang Qi emerged from his subterranean hiding place. ‘A light refraction mirror?’
He hadn't fled earlier. After all, sometimes the best hiding place was in the most dangerous location. With his aura concealed, the three conclave students hadn’t noticed him at all.
The fact that they had a light refraction mirror was troubling. And it meant that he could never use any of the Strength of the Hell-Crushing Godmammoth in the Demi-Immortal Institute, lest his secrets be revealed.
Unfortunately, not being able to use the Strength of the Hell-Crushing Godmammoth would make him much weaker.
“Well, there’s nothing that can be done about it! Right now, I need to absorb this life force springwater and use it to reach a higher level. At that point, all of my energy arts will be even easier to use, and also more powerful. I’ll be able to dominate just about every fight even with just the Cosmic Sunflare Sword.” With his Devil-God Seal and its infinite variations, it would be easy to keep his aura sealed so tight that not even a Legendary would be able to see the truth behind it.
His godly-class energy art would definitely be safe.
He turned to look at the Yama Mountains and briefly considered going in, before shaking his head. If he could get his hands on even more life force springwater, then it would only be a matter of years before the Yang Clan was one of the top clans in the Rich-Lush Continent. However, he knew that getting too greedy could lead to catastrophe.
If the fabled Ghost Emperor Yama really was trapped in those mountains, an entity on the same level as an ancient Great Sage, then rashly going in would definitely be courting death.
‘I think it's time to leave. With the life force springwater I already have, I can definitely help eldest brother and second brother to reach the Lifeseizing level. And whatever I have left, I can give to my sworn brothers back in the institute.’
With that, he flew up into the air, and yet, even as he did, he realized that black clouds were filling up the sky, making everything around him so dark that he had no way to figure out which direction the exit was.
‘What happened? What’s going on?’
Circulating his true energy, he sent a pillar of platinum sagefire shooting high into the sky in an attempt to dispel the clouds. Unfortunately, they were as tough as iron, and wouldn't burn. Then, he realized that there were fluctuations rolling through the air around him that seemed to contain the natural might of heaven and earth. Apparently, it was some sort of teleportation magic that was currently preparing to take him to another location.
It was a level of power that, unless he was mistaken, surpassed even what Patriarchs Wind and Cloud were capable of.
Yang Qi was now a Quaternary Lifeseizer, and had studied in the Demi-Immortal Institute for long enough to have a much better understanding of the world. He was no longer the ignorant simpleton he had been in the past. Based on what he was sensing, he knew that it was a power he couldn’t fight against, and therefore, it would be a waste to use his true energy to try to resist it.
Soon, the black clouds were gone, and he found himself standing in an ancient, savage palace hall.
In the middle of the hall was a pond filled with gurgling springwater that emanated a boundless aura of life force. In fact, it was so intense that it filled the entire place with swirling mist.
A single breath of that misty air caused his own life force to flourish, and the particles within him to surge as if in anticipation. The life force quintessence building up in him in this short time seemed to be at almost the same level as that of the lightning mammoth of the past.
It was to Yang Qi’s shock that he realized that this pond in the middle of this savage palace must be the source of life force springwater. Furthermore, didn't that mean that he was in the depths of the Yama Mountains? But how had he come here? Did someone use a powerful divine ability or energy art to bring him?
Not daring to move, he circulated his energy arts and waited patiently to see how things would develop.
Suddenly, a sound echoed out from within the life force springwater pond, like steel scraping against steel, as if some consummate devil-ghost were chained up within.
Heart pounding, Yang Qi thought, ‘Don’t tell me that the infamous Ghost Emperor Yama really is locked up inside the life force springwater.’
Suddenly, the grating sound stopped. Then, the water in the pond exploded upward, revealing a throne, atop which sat a middle-aged man who was dark gold in color.
He held a scepter in his hand, and had an aura that could only be described as raging to the heavens. He seemed so strong that a single breath of his could send Yang Qi flying through the air. In fact, it seemed to Yang Qi like even his Strength of the Hell-Crushing Godmammoth would be powerless to do anything to this man.
There was no question about it; this person had definitely used some energy art of teleportation to bring Yang Qi into the depths of these mountains.
After a moment of observation, Yang Qi could tell that neither the man nor the throne were real. They were actually projections of true energy.
Forcing himself to calm down, he saluted the man and respectfully said, “Senior, are you Ghost Emperor Yama? Why have you summoned me here to the Yama Mountains? Is there some way that I can be of aid to you?”
Instead of answering the question, the man asked one of his own. "What's your name?"
"Senior, I'm Yang Qi."
“Yang Qi…?” the dark gold man said. A moment passed, and then he nodded. “Yes, I am the same Ghost Emperor Yama who was sealed here tens of thousands of years ago. What you are looking at now is a projection of true energy; my true body is in the depths of the life force spring, shackled with locks forged from Quake-Dawn godsteel.  I saw everything that happened just now between you and those three students from the Demi-Immortal Institute. I'm very curious about who you are, so I expended some effort to teleport you here and see what type of energy arts you cultivate.”
“Senior, how could a person as lofty as you be interested in the energy arts I cultivate?” Yang Qi was starting to feel very nervous. He didn’t dare to loosen his Devil-God Seal in the presence of this projection of Ghost Emperor Yama, after all, this man was no member of the senior generation. He was a monster who wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to kill Yang Qi if he felt like it. Perhaps he would even soulsearch him to get his techniques.
“Your aura is weak, but that is because your cultivation level is low. But I can tell that your substructure is mighty. Your technique surpasses royal-class, imperial-class, and even saintly-class.” Suddenly, Ghost Emperor Yama’s voice turned as cold as ice. “Tell me what energy art you practice! Imperial-class arts don’t interest me, and I wouldn’t waste my time bringing you here because of a saintly-class art. This place is the source of all life force springwater. Why not work on your cultivation here. You can stay for as long as you like, and I’ll even lend you a helping hand. You’re only in Quaternary Lifeseizing, but with my help, you could easily reach the Legendary level. All you have to do is tell me what technique you cultivate.”
Suddenly, everything clicked. ‘So, this monster really is interested in my technique.’
Normally speaking, even Legendaries would assume that he cultivated some amazing imperial-class energy art. But this ten-thousand-year-old Ghost Emperor Yama was very discerning, and could tell that his Strength of the Hell-Crushing Godmammoth was nothing to be taken lightly.
And if Ghost Emperor Yama got his hands on the Strength of the Hell-Crushing Godmammoth, it would spell disaster for the Rich-Lush Continent.
If he led an army of zombies and devil-ghosts into the lands of the living, billions of innocent people would die.
Monsters were monsters, and regardless of anything else, Yang Qi was a student from a righteous sect. His job was to rid the world of devils and demons, not help one of them to invade his home.
Unfortunately, there was no way he could actually fight Ghost Emperor Yama, at least not with strength. He could only use guile.
“If you want my technique, Senior, then I will gladly give it to you. Unfortunately, it's incomplete, and I need to reach a higher level before I can unleash the full version. Senior, it’s my dream to reach the Legendary level and do just that. If you could help me, then I would be eternally grateful.”
He was testing out this Ghost Emperor Yama a bit. If the monster really could help him to reach the Legendary level, then his Strength of the Hell-Crushing Godmammoth really would be more powerful, and he might be able to get out of this situation.
Worst case scenario, perhaps he could buy some time to come up with a better plan.
After all, this was the most dangerous situation he had ever been in. It was even worse than when he had been crippled. It was so bad that his heart nearly hurt from the pressure he was under.
1. The term I'm translating as “Quake-Dawn” is a word used in ancient China to refer to India. It comes up every so often in novels like this because it sounds cool, but rarely is intended to be an actual reference to India. I'm translating the term directly for reasons which will become clear later.