Lino descended down the mountain slowly, using covers of thick trees and bushes while also paying attention to his surroundings, making sure to spot others before he himself was spotted. His train of thought was rather simple: if they want to bulldoze their way through back to the duo’s Clan, best said it was naïve, while truthfully it was complete insanity. While Lino was unaware of many things, including his own strength in regards to other cultivators, from that exchange previously, he did gain some insights.
While he had some battle experience thanks to Ella, it was not to the point of it being overwhelming. What’s more, he has never endured any life and death struggle, wasn’t refined by that fine line which very few dared tread. To him, besides his own strength, that was greatest deterrent. While certain of his own ability to escape at least, he’d rather not drag those two in willy-nilly. After all, he’d very much like to establish some form of connection with the Endo Clan. Despite the fact that Ella was much stronger than them, she had left the world of cultivation long ago, and she didn’t have any concurrent information.
Suddenly coming to a halt atop a branch, Lino squinted his eyes as he gazed through thick leafs into the distance. There, a black silhouette suddenly flashed by, as though by luck landing directly beneath Lino’s position. The black shadow turned out to be black-clad figure, similar to those seven who were chasing Vyeala and the old man. The black-clad figure looked around attentively, clearly searching for something or someone, but as Lino was hidden far too well, the figure was unable to see him. Pondering for a moment, Lino’s expression grew firm and determined as he suddenly bolted from the branch, brandishing the sword in his hand, falling headfirst toward the figure.
Although on high alert, by the time the black-clad figure sensed danger, sharp tip of Lino’s sword was already before the figure’s eyes; they widened in shock for a moment before the entire sword pierced the skull entirely, with Lino himself landing on the man’s chest, pushing him down to the ground. Without waiting to see any further results, Lino immediately disappeared, going back into the world of thick branches. It’s impossible for me to clean their numbers up to the point it would make a difference, Lino thought for a moment as he sped through. But, every victory gained is still a loss avoided at the very least…
The preparations he had in mind had nothing to do with actually killing their pursuers – after all, for all he knew, the opposing side had dozens if not hundreds of people looking for them. Even if he killed ten, or even twenty, it wouldn’t make much of a difference, instead letting the other group trail behind him, eventually catching up. His trip this time around had to do with gathering certain ingredients. While he was unable to craft anything major considering he lacked proper instruments, it’s not as though he was unable to craft at all.
In addition to everything, he still had assurance of the [Celestial Rod] and its firing form, since the darts carried extremely potent poison, one which was able to threaten even Eggor, let alone these random people. Still, it was not enough; after all, he only had ten darts, which meant he could kill ten people. In addition to everything, two other forms of the [Celestial Rod] were extremely sub-par, as the entire weapon was still Level 8 since Lino lacked ingredients to upgrade it.
Putting the matter of [Celestial Rod] aside for the time being, his eyes flashed with brilliant light as he suddenly landed onto a branch; down below, there was a group of blue-tinted flowers in full bloom. However, what caught his eyes weren’t the blue flowers, but rather the emerald one at the very center.
“[Spring Bloom]…” Lino muttered, pondering for a moment. “Although it’s hallucinatory effects aren’t that potent… if I somehow manage to find [Crevice Stone] and a drop of [Heavenspring Water]… aii, I’m too wicked… too wicked…” grinning evilly for a moment, he prepared to leap down and pluck the flower directly, but abruptly stopped at the very last second. Three black shadows suddenly appeared from within the forest, landing directly next to the blooming flowers.
Lino had finally managed to find a single figure whose face wasn’t hidden; he appeared to be in his thirties, and had rather despondent appearance, with hair gelled back to the point where his head shone even with no light. The man was currently grinning as he stared at the emerald flower, clearly having recognized it. Another thing which set him apart from the other black-clad figure was the embroiled rose on the left side of his chest, sticking around rather marvelously in its cyan hue against the black robe. Someone important? Lino furrowed his brows for a moment as he pondered. He’s strong… even slightly stronger than that old man… aii, why did you come to ruin my plans?
“[Spring Bloom], he he, unexpected find,” the unmasked man said in a rather happy tone. “Uncle has been trying to find ingredients to concoct [Blooming Soul Pill], and he just happens to lack the flower.” the old man crouched slowly as his hand extended toward the flower; just as he was about to pluck it directly from the ground, his back shivered in cold as imminent sense of danger and death flooded his thoughts. Shocked, he immediately withdrew his hand as it flashed in red gleam before a short sword appeared in it. Without even glancing backwards, he threw himself sideways while also slashing his sword upward.
He felt massive force – akin to a stone stele – weigh in on his entire arm, numbing it down to the very bone. Unable to hold a grip on his sword, he shrieked in a somewhat odd voice as he was blown backward through the incoming force. He crashed painfully against a tree on the other side, his entire body bending oddly as he spat out a mouthful of blood, immediately collapsing onto the ground, unable to even cry out in pain.
Meanwhile, Lino clicked his tongue as he felt his arm shake lightly due to the previous impact. However, having no time to rein it back in, his left hand suddenly flashed as another sword appeared. As he landed onto the ground, he spun in a half-circle, directly cleaving through the waist of one of the two remaining black-clad figures. The latter had no chance to react as he was still shellshocked over what had transpired. It was only then that the other figure was suddenly jolted back to reality, grim expression flooding his face as he took out a sword from his scabbard.
“You dare!!” he exclaimed as he swung it toward Lino’s head. Even before the sword descended, Lino felt wind plummet against the back of his head, causing him to grit his teeth. He was still in the process of spinning, yet to retain balance. Against all odds, he suddenly bit the shoulder of his right arm, causing blood to spur out and some semblance of control to return to the entire arm. Grasping the chance, he immediately swung it upward, clashing against the incoming sword.
The black-clad figure’s eyes flashed in shock as he felt his sword clashed against an impregnable stone rather than this youth that wasn’t even twenty. The sword in his hand was bounced right back, while Lino himself was pushed right back, strangely flying right above the emerald-tinted flower. Grasping the opportunity, he threw the sword in his left hand toward the black-clad figure while simultaneously grasping the Spring Bloom flower. Landing just a few feet away from the tree, without even glancing at where his thrown sword would land, he immediately sprinted away while storing the flower into the necklace hanging around his neck.
Meanwhile, he heard a cry of pain echo out from behind him, but had no time to rejoice as he clearly sensed several auras approaching him at great speeds. Crap, that took way too long… looks like that first guy somehow survived and called in for help. Aii, if I sprint away now… no, I can’t, it’s too thick. Let me think… right, there’s a clearing about five miles east… but can I reach it before they reach me?
As Lino ran full force, Yan Hao gritted his teeth as he forced himself to sit in the meditative position. While the previous impact didn’t damage his spine directly, it had caused several of his ribs to break, and even some of his internal organs to be damaged. Going back through time, this is actually the most serious injury he had even received in his entire life. As he felt his entire body ache from the tip of his hair to his small toe, he felt like cursing yet knew that even speaking would cause the pain to increase. Observing his condition further, he felt downcast; by his estimations, even with the help of pills and Rosy Pond, it would take at least three months for him to heal back to his peak condition. Just about then, the wind around him stirred as a familiar figure landed next to him – his uncle.
Lu Hao’s expression was grim as he observed his nephew’s condition; while not life-threatening, the injuries he sustained were rather severe. Carefully planting his palm on Yan Hao’s back, his expression grew grimmer as firm killing intent surfaced in his eyes.
“Who did this? The old man?” Lu Hao asked; while Yan Hao called for help, he didn’t say anything more than that in the transmition.
“No…” with Lu Hao’s help, Yan Hao’s condition stabilized somewhat, causing him to be able to at least speak with some difficulty. “It was some young brat… I’ve never seen him before… cough…”
“… it should be the same person who helped those two,” Lu Hao furrowed his brows. On one hand, he was extremely furious, but on the other he also exhaled in relief; it was merely by luck that Yan Hao survived. Were the others slightly further away from his group, there’s no doubt that the youth in question would have finished him. “But… how can he be this strong?”
“It’s weird…” Yan Hao said as he thought back to the brief clash he had with the unfamiliar youth. “He was clearly weaker than me, not even Mid Core Realm… however, it’s like his entire person weighed tens of tons…”
“Eh?” Lu Hao exclaimed softly as his brows arched up. “Body refiner? No, impossible… forget the three powers in Umbra Kingdom, even those second-rate powers lack body refining cultivation methods.”
“… what’s worse, he seemed barely affected by my strike,” Yan Hao said, gritting his teeth, his eyes completely bloodshot red; forget his own generation, even some Elders within the sect must bow in inferiority before him. Yet, just now, he was defeated by a junior almost half his age. It was a huge blow to his pride – to say nothing of the fact that the youth was probably a solitary cultivator. “Not only his attacking strength, even his body’s defenses seem abnormal… can we catch him?”
“I don’t think so,” Lu Hao sighed, shaking his head lightly. “If I had known the circumstances earlier, I would have gone to chase him myself. Then, maybe, we’d stand a chance of catching him. However, if he’s truly a body cultivator, there’s no way others can catch up to him – not in speed, let alone stamina. How did those two bastards get so lucky?”
“Does this complicate things?” Yan Hao asked worriedly; if their plans truly fell apart, once that girl returned back to the Clan, while war maybe wouldn’t happen, conflict would be on much grander scale than it is now.
“Did you say that you came across [Spring Bloom] when the youth attacked you?”
“… considering how quickly he fled,” Lu Hao squinted his eyes, causing his already menacing look to grow devilish. “He probably didn’t want to clash against us directly, but was after the flower itself. While the flower has some drug-inducing effects, it’s nothing major… yet, he even risked his life somewhat to grab it, unaware of whether it was a trap or not. What is he planning?” despite how much he thought about it, nothing came to his mind so he put the thought away for the time being. “Regardless, him being a body cultivator indeed complicates things somewhat…”
“How so?” Yan Hao asked; while he was aware of the existence of body refiners, they were so rare – and what’s more, inexistent within Umbra Kingdom – that he never paid much attention to their methods.
“It means that, even if we by some chance can catch the old man and the young girl, we will never be able catch him if he chooses to flee.”
“Don’t think that body refiners are rare because that path of cultivation is weaker than the orthodox one,” Lu Hao explained slowly. “It’s actually quite the opposite: unless a body refiner is truly in a much lower realm, they will always hold the upper hand. Our advantage lies in the fact that we can externalize our Qi, while body refiners cannot. So long as we can keep them at bay, we can achieve victory. However, when it comes to prolonged battles, chases and such, body refines are truly unbeatable under the heavens.”
“Then why are body refiners so rare?” Yan Hao asked, somewhat stunned.
“One part of it has to do with the fact that body refining cultivation methods are truly rare,” Lu Hao said, sighing lightly. “Rare to the point that even those of Sacred Alliance only have a meager few, and they are of ordinary level. Another part is that they’re also extremely difficult to cultivate. And, lastly, very few are actually willing to turn their own body into an actual weapon. Due to the fact that body refines can’t externalize their Qi, they have to head into any and all chaotic situations headfirst. Tell me, even if you had that youth’s strength, would you be willing to do so?” Yan Hao weakly shook his head; clearly, that was pure madness. Considering how chaotic battles between cultivators can be – let alone the fact that, usually, there would be more than two – no matter how strong a body he had, Yan Hao would never dare enter headfirst into the fray, using his own body as a weapon.
“No way,” he said slowly. “Still… it really is tempting…”
“Ha ha, of course it is,” Lu Hao said, laughing lightly. “Look no further than the Titans themselves. Each and every one of them was a body refiner, and they managed to rule the entirety of the world for a whole era. However, their methods have long since been lost to the tempest of time… whatever cultivation method that youth is using… I doubt he will go very far with it. Still, for the time being, it really disrupts our plans.”
“The crux of the matter is that even if we kill the girl and the old man, that guy can run away to Endo Clan and report it, while we can only watch his fading back, right?” Yan Hao asked.
“Pretty much,” Lu Hao sighed. No matter how much he calculated or planned, it was as if one of his hands was tied behind his back right at this very moment, unable to properly fight. “Besides, with him accompanying those two, it will be even harder to catch them. Ordinary groups stand no chance against the three of them, and we only have three elite groups currently, including those that the Sect sent recently. Even I’m not confident in being able to kill that youth in one strike, let alone anyone weaker than me. And, if we miss that one chance, he can probably easily escape from our crutches.”
“However, something’s still off,” Yan Hao said, as he thought of something. “It’s been quite a few hours, yet we caught him here. It means that the other two either left ahead of time, or that all three of them are still in the vicinity.”
“That’s why I said this won’t be easy,” Lu Hao said, squinting his eyes. “That girl and that old guy had probably informed him of who we are, even if he was unaware beforehand, yet he still dared not only stay near here, but even come out in the open and clash against us, whilst seeking ingredients. This tells me one thing: either he’s utterly idiotic, or he has a feasible plan to deal with both our strength and numbers.”
“Still… [Spring Bloom] alone is no threat… outside of some really specific formulas in pill concoction, it basically has no other uses. There isn’t even a powder recipe for it that would threaten us.”
“… aii, headaches abound…” Lu Hao sighed, shaking his head yet again. “Once you stabilize your injuries, return to the Sect at once. If you’re unlucky to clash against that youth yet again, you’ll probably face death.”
“… yes, uncle.” despite his unwillingness, Yan Hao could only grit his teeth and do as he was told. After all, he knew the best – outside those who have died – just how strong that youth was. Perhaps, even in a direct clash, the youth would be able to push him to a draw.
Meanwhile, some miles away, Lino stood atop of a rock, a somewhat odd expression in his eyes as he watched two black-clad figures in front of him. He was currently feeling very, very confused. The two black-clad figures in front of him were currently bending over, their hands on their knees, panting as though they just ran ten mountain ranges’ worth of miles. Yet, they’ve barely been chasing him for five minutes. In addition, out of nearly twenty auras that Lino felt when the chase first began, only these two managed to somewhat keep up with him. In fact, if he hadn’t purposefully stopped, these two would have never caught up to him. Oi, don’t tell me… don’t tell me that every single cultivator is like that old man and that girl…
“Y-you, you…” one of the black-clad man tried to speak, but was clearly short of breath.
“Aii, catch your breath first guys,” Lino said casually, smiling. “It’s no good like this, I can’t understand you.” the two black-clad figures wanted to cry yet no tears came out. How come he was fine?! Their minds simply couldn’t understand it. They ran full-speed after him and expected that he was also, similarly, exhausted beyond belief, yet this guy just stood there like he just woke up from a nice nap. “Ah, at least you’re better than those other guys. They’re probably somewhere back in the forest, still vomiting their lungs out. Seriously, it’s no good that your bodies are so weak. If I wanted to, I can just piss on you both and kill you on the spot. Aai, that’s too wicked… no, no, I’m a nice guy, I would never do something so deplorable. Even if you die, you’d at least want to die by some normal method, right? Aah… truly, truly wicked, this mind of mine is… forgive me…”
“S-s-s-shut up!!” one of the two managed to grit words out through his teeth, yet suddenly vomited all his innards out and collapsed, fainting on the spot.
“… eh? Wow, I don’t even have to make a move, you guys fall over all on your own! Ha ha, I truly am remarkable!” Lino struck a pose of a lonely hero, stroking his lower chin as though in deep thought. “Ah, how lonely the peak is… ah, how sad…” seeing him like this, the remaining black-clad figure was unable to withstand it and collapsed much like his brother, fainting on the spot.
Lino walked over slowly toward the two and pierced their hearts, killing them on the spot before sighing lightly. Then, as though heavenly inspired, he exclaimed softly as he picked up two corpses and moved back to the great boulder he was just standing atop of. Taking two swords out of the spatial necklace, he stuck the two corpses at two sides of the boulder, firmly holding them in the air, before moving to the center with the third sword, beginning to carve something out.
After finishing, seemingly happy with the results, he flickered his sleeve for a moment before glancing backwards. On the way here, he was lucky enough to obtain another item he needed: [Crevice Stone]. The only thing that’s left is the [Homespring Water], but he decided to first go back to the cave those two were at, to see whether they had any. After all, both lakes were rather far away, and that was the only place he knew that had the [Homespring Water]. With a flash, he disappeared.
An hour or so later, Lu Hao arrived with several other figures next to a boulder. His eyes immediately nearly popped out of their sockets as he witnessed the scene before him; two of his subordinates were hanging listlessly at the sides of the boulder, while in-between them a message was carved: With the lack of stamina, you probably lack women also. Te he.
“AAAARRRRGHHHH!!!” Lu Hao roared into the sky despondently, while everyone around him also felt anger burning inside their hearts. This was no longer simple hostility over having killed some of their friends; this was a personal vendetta, a demon they simply had to exorcise lest they never sleep properly for the rest of their lives. “TE HE YOUR MOTHER!!! YOU’RE DEAD!!!”
Some ways away, Lino heard the angered roars and chuckled like an innocent child. Licking his lips gently, he stuck his tongue out toward the direction of the roar before sprinting off towards the cave. Heh, chaos really suits me… who knew?