The entire room collapsed under the weight of the massive aural explosion. Five gigatons of xi burst out of Yue Ji’s spirit and rippled through all matter surrounding him.
The Worm Queen was struck by a falling pillar, its twenty-meter body crushed in half. Yue Ji knelt and cultivated while his aura created a barrier to protect him from the falling debris.
A fight like this was the climactic event in the Worm Queen’s life—but for Yue Ji, this was merely Tuesday. So kneel he did, expression neutral, fingers clasped together, with as little concentration as he could muster.
Soon, the dark temple grew even darker as its remaining sources of light were extinguished by dust and rubble. And soon, even that dust began to fall back to the ground and leave the air. It was only then that Yue Ji stood up and looked at his fallen foe.
“Worm Queen,” he said to the beast, its monstrous face slumped over and certainly not fully conscious, “this is the end. You fought valiantly, but only valiantly enough to require three percent of my full power. Much less intimidating than the Sky Raptor.”
The Worm Queen hacked up dust and muttered, “You have forgotten one thing, Yue Ji.”
He crossed his arms. “Oh, yes?”
“Don’t cut worms in half!”
Just then, out from the rubble came the monstrous back half of the Worm Queen, writhing around and slashing out at anything in its vicinity. Yue Ji jumped into the air and just barely dodged would could have been a fatal blow. Then, the moment he landed, the Worm Queen’s front half began its final assault as well.
From both directions, ten-meter beasts attacked with all their might. There was so little space left in the ruins of this former temple that had fallen apart, that Yue Ji hardly had any ability to maneuver whatsoever.
But... So too did that hold true for the Worm Queen(s). They bashed against each other, smashing each other’s outer skin with enough force that their internal organs were likely damaged as well. Then they got all tangled up.
Yue Ji waited for the chaos to subside and shouted, “[Shining Flash!]”
A bright force of light xi exuded from his palms and engulfed the monster(s) with overwhelming pain.
The Worm Queen(s)’s physical form(s) vanished, dispeled away from the Mortal Realm.
All left now was the floating golden ring that showed exactly where Yue Ji wanted to go: the Worm Queen’s Soul Palace.
He jumped into the air, did a few backflips, and then twisted into a spinning screwdriver kick—he dove into the Soul Palace portal and entered this new realm.
The world of Wuweizi was divided into three layers—
First was the Mortal Realm, a flat plane surrounded by thick ice wall on all sides, and divided into three island continents. The Mortal Realm was ruled over by the Babylon Sisters, two deity-warlords who taught the principles of “Glamour Profession” and “Deacon Blues.” They would have no relevance in this story but needed to be mentioned just in case anyone was wondering. Most beings, from humans to elves to goblins to robots, lived in the Mortal Realm, existing and dying and eventually being reborn based on their karmic destiny.
Then there was the Soul Realm, mysterious energy fields that linked all living beings together. Each being on Wuweizi had a soul that exuded some amount of energy force, some much greater than others. Those with enough soul energy would gain immense power.
Finally, there was the Crystal Realm, inhabited by those spirits who had cultivated enough Dao in their souls that they ascended past the Mortal and Soul realms. What existence was in such a place was a mystery to the chroniclers, as no mortal to ascend into the Crystal Form had ever returned to explain. But all of the theorists and Daoist Scientists knew that it was a place of glory.
Yue Ji, in this moment of entering the Soul Palace of the fallen Worm Queen, was focused entirely on the second of these realms.
You see, one could collect the Soul Crystals of fallen foes or bested beasts and enhance themselves, but it came with a price—each being had a Soul Quest that must be fulfilled in order to absorb it into themself. However, fulfilling these Soul Quests came with immense, utterly amazing rewards, too. Rewards could include such astounding things like the power to destroy any foe, the power to cook any meal, or the power to become the main character.
With a foe as mighty as the Worm Queen, Yue Ji, landing in the midst of this Soul Palace and brushing the dust off his pants, could certainly have expected a Soul Quest for the ages. But that was not particularly of his concern. For he was not in the game of absorbing souls—he was in the game of collecting them.
Users of this system could be divided into three types, each reflecting the three layers of reality:
Summoners, who created spirit beasts to serve them in life and in combat;
Avatars, who reinforced themselves and gained skills to enhance their very beings;
And Monarchs, who warped the world around them to reflect their palaces.
Yue Ji was very much in the Summoner category, and made no shame to embrace that fact. He was not interested in leveling up, as he had already reached Level 85 through Soul Cultivation alone. His attack was higher, all on its lonesome, than the stats of most other humans’ stats combined.
So when he entered the tentacle-filled Soul Palace of his defeated enemy, he walked past all of the artifacts and displays showing the feats of the Worm Queen’s extinguished life and went right up to the holy center where a floating, glowing orb of the Worm Queen’s soul resided. In minutes this Soul Palace would collapse and turn into a Soul Crystal, so this was his only chance to get what he truly sought.
“Greetings, warrior Yue Ji,” said the spirit form of the Worm Queen. “What is it that you seek?”
“Answers,” he replied with such immediacy that it ruined the dramatic pause needed to integrate readers into the scene any further.
“Wait, what? You don’t want to hear about my Soul Quest?”
“But it’s really cool.”
“I don’t care.”
“I am going to make you hunt for materials to rebuild the palace you destroyed. Then once you do, my Soul Crystal will automatically rearrange them into the palace’s original design and you will be given immense rewards all the way until some Worm Princess inhabits the palace and takes over my old status, which of course happens every single time that some hearty soul hunter like you goes around killing mythical beasts like me.”
“I’m a Summoner,” he said. “I have no need for Soul Quests, and no desire to level myself up.”
“But you can’t even summon me without a Dao Heart of at least level 60. I’m the Worm Queen, after all.”
“I’m already level 85. I grinded up through meditation and killing low level monsters.”
“That must have taken...”
“Two hundred years, yes. It was worth it, though.”
“...Why would that be worth it?”
“Because I discovered a secret,” said Yue Ji. “A realization, if you will.”
“Yes, do go on,” said the Worm Queen.
“The world of Wuwezi runs on the cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth, fueled by the system and our daos. But it all relies on the balance of Soul Crystals being absorbed into Soul Palaces and then cycling through the spirits of all beings.”
“All I have to do is kill all of the mythical beasts, steal their souls, and not allow anyone else access to them so that no other beings can grow their souls in any meaningful way. Then the entire ecosystem of soul energy will collapse and I will go from being in the top ten percent of power to the top one percent. The higher-level ancient warriors will be hunted down by the desperate Young Masters, and I will stay safe, knowing that I can always absorb a Soul Crystal if I truly need more.”
“...This is such a convoluted plan, but it’s also terrible and horrible. Why would you do such a thing?”
“I realized one important fact while spending two centuries grinding on cultivation and cheap monsters,” Yue Ji explained. “The system is broken. It rewards the top masters, giving the top one percent of masters fifty percent of the Soul Wealth. I will change that system by taking control and eradicating it completely. Redistribution of souls.”
“You’re a madman, Yue Ji.”
“No. I’m a revolution. And the other reason I have killed, you, Worm Queen, is because I seek from your Soul Palace an item of honesty. Information.”
“What do you seek?”
“Tell me all you know... about Vines.”
She told him all she knew. It was not much, but it was enough for this Tuesday to be worth it. Yue Ji was well on his way to conquering Wuweizi.
Too bad the rest of the story wouldn’t be in his point of view because he is the villain (sorta).