Chapter 9: Assimilation
Qin Lie’s haul was a total of forty-seven prismatic looking beast cores, plucked from the foreheads of the forty-seven Umbra Lightning Condors. Tu Ze’s group of seven truly did not place those beast cores in their eyes. They just joked around with smiles as they watched him store the cores into a leather bag.
Dusk was approaching, yet none of them made to leave Solitary Ridge. They sat down in a circle at a dry clearing nearby.
If it was just Tu Ze’s group of seven, they wouldn't have dared to stayed the night here. However, everything was different with the presence of Qin Lie. His ability to massacre flocks of Umbra Lightning Condors reassured them of their safety. They were not the slightest fearful of any potential attacks from more condors.
In fact, they were even hoping for the arrival of other condors so that they would be able to witness Qin Lie’s methods up close, eager to see his mysterious spirit artifact in action.
They made a fire, set up some simple tents and seated themselves around the fire in a small circle. As for their food, they barbecued a dozen wild hares and pheasants that were easily hunted. Cheer and laughter rang about as they indulged in hard liquor and merry making.
Far away from Ling Town and Herb Mountain, Qin Lie no longer restrained himself. He reverted back into the boisterous, passionate youth that he really was, hitting it off with Tu Ze’s group of seven in no time.
Everyone gradually loosened up after a couple mouthfuls of liquor. Qin Lie properly introduced himself, saying that his name was “Ling Lie”, and that he was from Ling Town. He further explained that he came to the Arctic Mountain Range to polish his martial cultivation.
Upon hearing he was from Ling Town, Tu Ze brimmed with warmth and said with a smile, ”Haha, we are all allies!”
At this, the remaining six people finally discarded all sense of wariness against him.
The Arctic Mountain Range spanned five hundred kilometers and was occupied by various distribution of powers. Nebula Pavilion was just one of the low level forces in the area. If Qin Lie was a martial practitioner from a rival force, it would definitely be inappropriate to interact so closely with him.
Different forces fought regularly over stuff like spirit ores, territories and cultivation hotspots. The skirmishes were bloody and they happened unceasingly year-round!
There were even some forces that became irreconcilable enemies because of that. If such enemies met, neither would rest until a side was annihilated. It was simply impossible for them to walk on the same road.
Even though this region had always been under the control of Nebula Pavilion, there was no guarantee that they wouldn’t come across martial practitioners from foreign forces.
Therefore, when they were resting, Tu Ze’s pressing concern was Qin Lie’s identity. After knowing Qin Lie was from the Ling Family, he was completely relieved.
Nebula Pavilion was a martial force at the Limestone rank. Being a ranked force meant that even the weakest of them possessed a considerable level of foundation and strength.
The martial forces of Spirit Realm were graded in order of their strength. Starting from the lowest, the ranks were respectively Limestone, Black Iron, Copper, Silver, and Gold. Strict requirements were in place for each rank, and the difference in strength between ranks were extremely significant.
The majority of martial practitioners belonging to forces at the Limestone rank were either at the Refinement or Natal Opening Realm. There were rarely any practitioners at the Manifestation Realm that would stay at such forces permanently.
Generally speaking, once a practitioner broke through to the Manifestation Realm, they would be recruited by Black Iron ranked forces, directly entering a whole new domain for martial practitioners.
As for Black Iron ranked forces, the majority of their martial practitioners were at the Manifestation and Netherpassage Realms. When practitioners broke through to the Fulfillment Realm, they would similarly choose to enter Copper ranked forces to gain access to more resources in a bid to raise their cultivation levels at an even faster pace.
It was no different for the Copper, Silver and the legendary Gold ranked forces. They each accommodated to different cultivation rankings of martial practitioners.
A large portion of martial practitioners in Copper ranked forces were at the Fulfillment and Fragmentation Realms. Similarly, Silver ranked forces’ practitioners were mostly at the Nirvana and Imperishable Realms. As for the legendary Gold ranked forces, they were viewed as the holy land of cultivation, consisting of top martial practitioner powerhouses at the Void and Genesis Realms.
Due to the distribution of power, most of the forces would usually choose to be backed by a higher ranked power, with dependents of a lower rank beneath them. This pyramid-like arrangement persisted throughout the rankings, keeping a balance between powers.
For example, while Nebula Pavilion relied on a higher ranked force, receiving both protection and restraints, it also had its own dependents… Ling Family and a few other minor forces were ruled by Nebula Pavilion, and they had to offer tributes yearly.
After they ate and drank their fill, the group of youths laid down lazily, stargazing through the dense forest canopy.
“It’s been three months already. If we still aren’t able to find the Stellar Iron, the only option left is to return.” Tu Ze exhaled audibly, ”Without the Stellar Iron, I can’t produce the kind of spirit artifact I want, sigh..”
“We can only leave such matters to luck. Just because others had managed to come across some Stellar Iron in this region does not guarantee that we will be able find some too. Ultimately, Stellar Iron is a Common Grade Seven artifact material, which is considered to be rare. For all you know, all of them had been harvested by the very same person who had come across it first. Why would any of it be left for us?” Zhuo Qian gallantly took a long draught from her wineskin, and commented somewhat irritably.
The harsh liquor made her luscious face flushed in an attractive bright shade of red. Her pair of sparkling eyes were half-closed as she reveled in the intoxication, looking extremely seductive. Kang Zhi and a few youths flickered about unceasingly, trying to sneak as many glances of her as they could.
Possibly due to the alcohol, Zhuo Qian paid no attention to her bearings. Her exquisite piece of body armor that featured two large, round indents was slightly cracked from the front, revealing a small portion of her soft, milk-like breasts, driving the heartbeats of Kang Zhi and the rest spiraling out of control.
“Stellar Iron…” whispered Qin Lie as he too, took a draught of the liquor. Retrieving the information from his memories, he said, ”After this Solitary Ridge, there’s a valley forty kilometers ahead. In the middle of that valley is a lake, and at the bottom of the lake there might be some Stellar Iron.”
“Who told you this?!” Tu Ze hurriedly stood up upon hearing this, appearing extremely excited. “Are you sure?”
“My grandpa was the one who told me this, so it shouldn’t be wrong. However, I have yet to go there myself, so there are no guarantees from me.” Qin Lie stated.
“This is definitely better than wandering about aimlessly!” Zhuo Qian’s face lit up in joy as she tossed her wineskin to Qin Lie and spoke in a carefree manner: “I’ll treat you to some liquor first. If we really manage to find some Stellar Iron, Big Brother Tu here will definitely not be stingy.”
“Of course!” Tu Ze patted Qin Lie’s shoulder heavily and said with a giant grin: “Lie boy here is our lucky star!”
“Drink, drink!” Kang Zhi and the rest cheered.
Qin Lie was startled as he held the wineskin in his hands. Catching the mischievous Zhuo Qian’s mocking glances, he gallantly chugged at the liquor. For a moment, he could even smell a trace of a fragrant aroma that did not belong to the alcohol. He felt a gentle ripple stirred in his heart, as distracting thoughts surfaced involuntarily.
Noticing Qin Lie’s expression, Zhuo Qian chuckled charmingly as she gestured unrestrainedly, "You’re quite interesting! Hah, when we find the Stellar Iron, big sister here will treat you to another drink!”
“Sure.” Qin Lie replied between mouthfuls of liquor.
Tu Ze, Kang Zhi and the others fell soundly asleep, accompanied by their steady snoring through the otherwise silent night.
However, Qin Lie stayed beside the firepit. After some hesitation, he took out a piece of beast core and and began to play with it.
A rank one Umbra Lightning Condor’s beast core was shaped like a prism and as thick as a thumb. Observing it closely, he could spot strands of electric currents flowing about actively within the blue, translucent core.
Closing his eyes, Qin Lie silently channeled Heavenly Thunder Eradication, and a force of attraction started to emit from his palm!
“Bzzt, bzzt, bzzt!”
Thin strands of electric currents spurred rapidly into motion, flowing into the meridians within his palm.
A faint feeling of numbness started to spread from his palm. He could tell clearly that those thin strands of electric currents were following the muscles and veins of his body, flowing downwards from his arms. They gathered like streams at his dantian’s spirit sea.
Qin Lie was excited and overjoyed and the corner of his mouth moved upwards to reveal a large grin.
The dantian’s spirit sea was located at the abdomen of the human body and is the core in which martial practitioners store their spirit energy. Similarly, a beast core was the source of energy for spirit beasts.
Martial practitioners cultivate by absorbing nature spirit energy and slowly infusing it into their dantian’s spirit sea. By unceasingly pushing the boundaries of the dantian’s spirit sea, they would be able to improve their spirit energy capacity, allowing the practitioners to wield stronger spirit powers.
Throughout these years, Qin Lie had amassed quite a bit of spirit energy himself. Previously, when he had borrowed the power of lightning from the Ninth Heavens to temper himself, he had also widened his spirit sea considerably.
However, the spirit energy that he painstakingly accumulated was always exhausted in just a single training. His spirit sea was regularly dried up and he frequently had no spirit energy to use.
The thickness and purity of the spirit energy within the dantian’s spirit sea was a good indicator of the cultivation level of a martial practitioner. The simplest way for Qin Lie to find out his level of cultivation would be to fill up his spirit sea to the brim with spirit energy first, and then measure it with a Realm Assessing Stone, which would provide him with a rough estimate for an answer.
The accumulation of one’s own spirit energy was done by slowly gathering and refining the world’s spirit energy. It wasn’t meant to be accomplished overnight. However, there was always an exception to everything. Among the mysterious lands, there were some rare items that were able to greatly shorten the process needed to replenish the spirit energy within one’s spirit sea.
Spirit stone, spirit crystals, spirit pills, spirit plants and suitable beast cores were able to speed up the accumulation of spirit energy, allowing martial practitioners to improve their cultivation rapidly.
Qin Lie focused his attention on the beast core in his hand, guiding the electric currents to flow through his muscles and veins into his body, allowing the energy to enter his dantian’s spirit sea bit by bit. His dried up spirit sea gradually started to fill up…
Having exhausted its energy, the beast core in his palm split open. Qin Lie jolted awake from the sound.
Contemplating inwardly, he realized that the power from one beast core would never allow his spirit sea to be filled in abundance.
A large portion of the power from the beast core was wasted during the refinement process. Only an approximate of ten to twenty percent of its original spirit energy would be induced into his spirit sea.
Tilting his head upwards to look at the sky, he realized that unknowingly, dawn was already ushering in.
“Absorbing the energy from beast core actually took such a long time, and it was merely just a rank one beast core. From the looks of it, I probably don’t have any time left to continue cultivating…”
With a deep sigh, Qin Lie closed his eyes in a bid to rest.
The next day, after a night of rest, everybody appeared to be lively and refreshed.
“Ling Lie, you’re looking good! I didn't expect you to recover so fast after killing so many Umbra Lightning Condors yesterday, not bad at all!” Kang Zhi exclaimed.
The rest of them immediately focused their attention on Qin Lie and discovered that his eyes were lively and his body radiated a bright glow of vigor.
Even the multiple shallow wounds he received from the condors had already started to scab. Others would find it difficult to believe he had fought a bloody battle just the day before.
“Really?” Qin Lie laughed. “It was probably due to the liquor and the comfortable sleep I had last night. All of you look energetic too.” He understood that it definitely was due to the partial replenishment of his spirit sea.
“Let's go to the valley that Ling Lie mentioned and hope that we can really find some Stellar Iron. We’re almost out of time. Any further delays and our family back home will be seriously worried about us.” Tu Ze anxiously commented.
“Mn, if we can't find it this time, we have to start going back.” Zhuo Qian nodded her head as she combed her naturally curly long hair. Smiling brightly at Qin Lie, she said, ”It all depends on whether your information is accurate.”
“I hope that it’s accurate too.” Frowning slightly, he added, "But that region isn’t very peaceful. If our luck is bad, we might encounter something we shouldn’t encounter and land ourselves in very big trouble.”