'Alright. Alright. Relax. Take it easy.'
'All I need to do is to slowly descend on the general direction and keep looking. I have frickin' elf eyes. So long as I keep it slow and steady I'll eventually be able to spot the spiritual boat. That thing really is huge in the first place, right?!'
Han De started descending after giving himself a pep talk. He had looked at the landscape occasionally when he was on the spiritual boat and knew the general traveling direction was towards the north-west.
As time went by, Han De's heart was getting tighter and tighter. He went towards a valley that he thought was familiar but after getting close to it, he realized he had no memory of this place.
'Let's just land here, calm down, and think this through. I've only been searching for a few hours! As long as I keep looking I'll eventually find them! Eventually. Yes, definitely...'
Han De landed on a slope near the mountain. He took deep breaths while trying to calm down.
'What a peaceful looking valley. The river, the trees, the faint breeze. Such a nice location.'
As Han De was admiring the view, he felt a slight movement near him. He was quite alarmed at first but relaxed quickly as he spotted a gorgeous fox with orange fur.
Han De grew up with cats and dogs, so he loved animals, especially the fluffy ones. Such a gorgeous looking fox came near him without any reservation! Of course, he had to pet this fox!
"You think you can escape me? You are just a normal fox, you dare to run away?!"
After forcing his affection on the poor fox for some time and enjoying the look of resignation and resentment it had, Han De released it. This was a wild animal, after all. It had to live in its natural environment. However, once he released the fox, this orange fur ball ran a few meters then stopped and kept looking back at Han De.
"Hmm? You want me to follow you?"
Han De slowly followed the fox. It was clearly leading him somewhere. Foxes were naturally smart animals on Earth, perhaps the ones here were even smarter even if they weren't cultivating creatures. Still, Han De put up his guard up even though this fox was just a normal animal.
'Perhaps its mate is wounded or something? Could it be smart enough to seek help from humans? It didn't run away from me, it probably had contact with humans before.'
Fox eventually led Han De into a large cave entrance. Han De used his spiritual sense but couldn't sense anything out of the ordinary. It really was just a cave. He entered it and kept following the fox. A few minutes later both of them arrived at a clearing. Sunlight was coming from a hole in the ceiling. In the middle of everything, Han De saw a single bright red flower.
A mutant Fire Chrysanthemum plant that matures after a thousand years. It refines and stores large quantities of flawless Fire Qi during the growth period. Its roots can absorb and convert life essence into flawless Fire Qi and store it in its flowers to accelerate its maturation.
Maturation Progress: 99.99901%
'Flawless Fire Qi?!'
Reading the description, Han De immediately got excited. This thing would be very useful for Ning Bi! Even if it wasn't completely mature it could still last a long time. He wanted to gauge how much Fire Qi this thing was storing, but he was puzzled that he couldn't sense any spiritual energy. Han De immediately entered the high alert mode.
'Wait, a flower with an ominous name just happened to grow in this cave that a fox led me to?'
Han De narrowed his eyes. The fox was standing near the plant, alternating its gaze between Han De and the flower itself.
'Nope, nope, nope. I'm not touching that thing.'
Han De broke into a sprint started running back to the cave entrance. He wasn't getting a good feeling from this situation at all. He went out of the cave in seconds, just as he was getting his sword out from the storage ring he felt a suffocating presence and heard a thundering voice behind him.
"YOU! You dare to touch this Dragon's spiritual herb?!"
Han De's heart dropped when he had heard the word 'Dragon' but after slowly turning towards the voice, he was puzzled. The so-called 'dragon' in front of him looked more like a dark blue snake! It was fairly large, sure, but it looked more like a snake than a dragon.
'Aaah, it is a Chinese dragon. Right. I shouldn't expect to see a Hollywood dragon in this world. A pity.'
Regaining his senses after a momentary lapse, Han De assumed the Amiable Junior A mode he had prepared for occasions like this. The 'dragon' in front of him was at the late stages of the Nascent Soul realm. Being an intelligent creature Han De first thought of reasoning with it. This was just a misunderstanding! He hadn't even touched the flower after all. Han De patted himself on the back for his foresight.
"Greetings senior. Although my curiosity did lead me inside this cave, I did not take the flower inside it. I have not even touched it."
"Hmph! Good! Very Good! You expect m-"
Dragon abruptly stopped and furrowed its long brows. What was going on? The flower was really untouched, the formation around it was also intact.
A fox slowly came out of the cave. Its face had a look of bafflement all over it. The dragon and the fox looked at each other, then turned their heads to the human beside them.
*cough* "Ah, yes. It seems you haven't touched the flower. Good!"
An awkward silence ensued. Han De watched the fox's familiar behavior with the dragon with worry. He remembered information about the flower's roots, how it could absorb the life essence. At this point, a stupid MC would think 'They are so powerful, they wouldn't bother with small tricks like this.'
However, Han De knew better. He was now certain these two were going to feed him to the flower. He wasn't stupid, neither was he an MC. He couldn't just let things sort themselves out. As he was forming a plan, the dragon talked.
"Blame your luck for seeing something you shouldn't have. Now. Obediently go inside the cave. Don't you dare refuse. Otherwise..."
Seeing the dangerous glint in the dragon's eyes, Han De started executing his plan.
The dragon and the fox saw the young cultivator's demeanor change. In an instant his eyes became profound, and his posture became aloof. He looked at them both and a faint smile appeared on his mouth. It was as if his previous modesty and cautiousness was just a mirage, discarded after their usefulness was over. The dragon and the fox narrowed their eyes. The human spoke.
"It seems you are going to force my hand, after all. On the account of the difference in our cultivations, I hope you'll allow me the first strike..."
The dragon looked at the human in astonishment. A wide smile broke in its face. Dragons were proud and arrogant because they considered themselves to be existences above others. They were arrogant, and the best way to talk to them was to be arrogant.
The difference in their cultivation was too high. Whatever this human would do, it wouldn't matter. However, the dragon decided to allow it. This human had character, he even managed to deceive them both. While the dragon waited in anticipation, the fox rolled its eyes but didn't say anything.
'Hmmm. His aura contains traces of essence. He grasped his own concept too. Astonishing! How pitiful, if only he was one realm higher, this might've been a fun fight.'
In front of them, the human gathered spiritual energy. Sun dimmed and stars shined brightly. For a moment it seemed as if time itself had stopped. Then a massive release of energy struck the entire area around the dragon.
'Hmm, weaker than I expected, but he is only at mid-stage of the Core Form-'
Noticing the rapidly leaving mass of spiritual energy, the dragon's thoughts were disrupted. It took a moment but then the realization hit them both.
"Did he just ran away?!"
Both the fox and the dragon had slack jaws. The dragon couldn't help but continue.
"Why is he so fast?! Is he really at the Core Formation realm?!"
The dragon was about to pursue the wretched human but the fox stopped him.
"The spiritual herb is about to mature. He is too fast. You will be able to catch up to him but it would still take a few hours."
The dragon felt indignant but didn't dare voice a complaint. Crimson Terror was extremely important for the fox. The dragon couldn't leave the cave unattended for long, someone had to keep maintaining the formation. It could only respectfully bow to the fox.
They had waited for decades, they only had to wait a little while longer until they could restore the fox's cultivation. It was only a matter of days. Letting this kid go away meant nothing in the grand scheme of things.
Both of them looked at the direction that Han De disappeared. The fox didn't care that much, but the dragon, being an arrogant creature by nature was still incensed.
* * *
Han De didn't dare look back while flying at a speed that surpassed his limit. After his initial speed burst, he had prepared all of his life-saving treasures and was ready to duke it out with the dragon in a contest of speed.
Although he knew he was no match to it in terms of speed, he thought this was his best shot. He couldn't even tank one hit from a dragon and had no delusions about penetrating its defenses. Perhaps flying at maximum speed would reduce the power of its attacks and give Han De and his life-saving treasures a chance.
However, Han De couldn't feel anything following him. This made him panic even more. Things weren't going according to the script.
'Don't tell me this guy is going to appear in front of me and stop me with just one hand!'
He poured even more spiritual energy into his sword. Due to his excess speed, the sword was already in the process of breaking down and Han De estimated it would disintegrate in half a day. But now it started visibly chipping away.
Han De didn't stop. He kept going. Only after an hour, he reduced his speed. He had expended a massive amount of energy and was already sweating. His sword was already visibly worn out. Star iron was a highly durable material. The fact that this sword hadn't exploded was a testament to that. A normal spiritual iron sword wouldn't have lasted 10 minutes.
Han De still kept flying. He didn't change his sword either. The cultivation idiot had only ordered one sword made out of star iron. Not because of its price but because of his arrogance. The idea of losing his sword or something being able to damage it was unfathomable to him. All the backup swords Han De had was prepared by Peng under his orders.
'Wait, this area feels familiar. This cliff face and the grove below it, didn't the boat pass around this area yesterday?'
Han De finally stopped to look around. He was now certain, he had seen this place before. He quickly started moving towards the direction that the spiritual boat was traveling. He didn't dare to stand still just in case.
It took Han De nearly 6 hours to catch up to the spiritual boat. The damage on his sword was extensive and by the time boat became visible he could only fly at a quarter of his top speed. However he didn't bother changing swords, he was already rather tired thanks to the ordeal he just went through.
As he was about to arrive at the spiritual boat, Han De had thought about bringing his lackey's back to the cave. The flower itself was beneficial for Ning Bi. He had already destroyed his sword, getting the flower could be considered reasonable compensation. Ultimately he decided against it.
Although he could bring dozens of Nascent Soul fighting maniacs and even an Immortal realm freak with him, he didn't know enough about the strength of the enemy. The dragon was a Nascent Soul, and the fox didn't seem to have a cultivation base at all, but that was just what he saw. A pureblood dragon might not be alone, and that fox obviously wasn't simple.
Han De decided not to seek death. A sword was just a sword, no matter how expensive it was.
Besides, he had run away with all his might. He couldn't afford to let this matter leak to anyone. His image would completely shatter even if it was justified. If cultivation moron was in Han De's shoes, he definitely would've touted his young master status to the dragon and probably would've died as he shouted 'YOU DARE?!' in disbelief.
'Better to act as if nothing ever happened...'
* * *
The last 3 days were quite stressful for the disciples. Elder De kept appearing and disappearing at unexpected locations around the ship. He seemed to be waiting for something. As time went on, the situation got worse. He would look at the distance with narrow eyes for a while then shake his head in displeasure. The disciples could feel an invisible pressure was building up.
Elder De had flown away on his own nearly half a day ago. Most of the disciples were relieved. They were feeling pity for whoever he would encounter. Of course, no one would dare to say this out loud.
The spiritual boat was getting closer to the auction, the disciples were excited. Right now nearly all of them were looking towards the horizon and waiting for the city to finally make its appearance. As they were talking amongst themselves, everyone felt a sudden suffocating presence from behind. When they turned around, they saw their Elder De, standing on the ship casually inspecting his sword. He put it back in his storage ring and went away, presumably to his quarters.
"Was that Elder De's sword? What happened?!"
"Wasn't that a super expensive sword?"
"I overheard Elder Xiang talk about it. It is made out of star iron and has a Crystal Lotus core."
Everyone sucked a cold breath. Just the materials alone were more expensive than a few sects combined!
"Uuh, is it just me, or did Elder De looked kinda refreshed?"
"Did Elder De hacked someone until his sword was destroyed?!"
"Isn't star iron nearly indestructible? How could it break so easily?!"
"Maybe he hacked a dragon to death? What else could do that to such a sword?"
Disciples felt like they should light some candles to the poor victim.
Disciples weren't by themselves on the deck. Some of Han De's lackeys were on the lookout for their young master. They also saw the extensive damage on the sword and came to a similar conclusion. Lookouts contacted other lackeys with shining eyes.
* * *
Han De was preparing to spend an entire day just to recuperate. He was planning to laze around all day and occasionally pop up pills to replenish his spiritual energy. Unexpectedly, they had arrived at the Brass Stallion city, the location of the similarly named Brass Stallion auction.
Han De felt gloomy. If he had only waited for a while instead of flying away like an idiot he would've had a safe journey free of life-threatening dangers. So what if it was boring?! Boring was better than running for your life!
They were about to go down to the city, although there were specially made docks for the spiritual boat, Han De didn't want to waste any time. He was already tired, a few seconds of the flight was still better than an hour-long walk.
Out of habit he first brought out his nearly destroyed sword. It was still possible to fly with it, but the appearance was unsightly. He swiftly replaced it with an 'ordinary' spiritual iron sword. Ning Bi didn't miss his mistake and saw the damaged sword. She frowned but didn't ask about it.
Both of them jumped on the 'ordinary' spiritual iron sword. Han De felt the sword could only take 1/5th of the spiritual energy he usually used. This meant that its maximum speed was nearly 10 times slower. As he realized this, Han De's face started twitching.