The second day went much like the first for the disciples. This time, they slept in a big cave. When the 3rd day began Captain Lacroix presented the mission in greater detail.
"We are here to collect Red Spine Grass. This medicinal plant only grows in special conditions like at this mountain in a symbiotic relationship with Black headed serpents. We can only come once every decade to harvest it.
This is what the Red Spine Grass and the Black headed serpents look like. Be wary of the serpents. Their strength is nothing to be afraid of but they are very fast and the venom from a bite could knock you out. So, you must remain at all times in groups of 3 at the minimum. No one will come to save you if you mess up.
The whole group will be severely punished if they leave someone unconscious. That's when fatalities can occur.
Remember, every Red Spine Grass is guarded by a snake, even if you don't see it. You should try to kill the Black headed serpents to avoid any complications, they won't survive without there stalk of grass anyway. Just take the head, the venom is quite useful as well.
One Red Spine Grass will be rewarded with 3Ps, and 5Ps if the Red Spine Grass you brought back is accompanied with a snake's head. Now off you go, you have until this evening. If by tonight we have collected enough, I will double the rewarded Ps."
The disciples salivated at the potential rewards. They quickly formed their groups and headed to the mountain. Wang Yimo hesitated but still joined the trio in the end.
With 400 disciples, the first difficulty was to find a corner with less disciples around to be able to not be impeded by others. The hundreds of disciples quickly raked the bottom of the mountain. The Red grass wasn't very hard to find with its bright colors and killing the snake wasn't too difficult as long as you remained concentrated.
Han Lingyun, Shen Lin, Yang Haoyu and Wang Yimo rapidly made their way up the mountain, harvesting plant after plant. The plants were still relatively rare and one had to search for them. The climb started to get repetitive but constantly staying on edge proved quite tiring. The snakes also gradually became stronger and stronger as the group went up, slowing down their advance. But in terms of Ps, it was an important harvest.
Han Lingyun didn't need those too much but it was better than nothing. But for other disciples, this actually represented a huge amount. Soon they had to make a trip back to the bottom as their bags were bulging. In 5 hours, Han Lingyun had amassed 31 pairs of grass and snake heads.
By the end of the day, the trio collapsed in the cave at the bottom of the mountain, with Wang Yimo making fun of their low stamina. They could joke around because they hadn't suffered from any unwelcomed surprises.
Final result for Han Lingyun: 61 pairs. No injuries in his group.
Han Lingyun wouldn't be surprised if he had collected the most as his luck was very decent today.
Not all groups were that fortunate though. Some disciples had to be healed after being beaten.
Today, there was also the first casualty among first years.
Apparently, a girl had ventured further alone and the rest of her group had momentarily lost sight of her. When they found her again, she was already a corpse, with a snake eating her brain.
Needless to say, the group of disciples had been in a state of shock. They passed the remainder of the day back at the cave, with Captain Lacroix consoling them in her own way.
When Captain Lacroix announced that they could leave tomorrow because the harvest was enough, doubling every disciple's reward, there was many sighs of relief but not much celebrating.
Even though many didn't know closely the girl that passed away, the news still dampened the mood of the expedition.
After another short night in the large cave, the group of 400 disciples headed back to the sect. Their speed was much slower though. Each disciple had to carry either huge bulging bags of grass, or small barrels of liquid venom. Some had nothing to move so the disciple changed roles every hour or so.
Captain Lacroix suddenly warned the disciples to stay close to each other and not wander off on their own.
The disciples soon understood the reason for this caution when howls began resonating in the forest. A pack of a hundred giant wolves were rapidly approaching, attracted by the smell of the cut plants. Captain Lacroix took off in the air.
A moment later, the disciples heard a loud explosion and wind brushed past. A faint smell of blood tainted the wind.
They heard Captain Lacroix yell instructions from above the trees. Start running at full speed to the south, the smell of blood will attract other beasts.
The disciples quickly ran of at their top speed while staying in one big group. About 10 minutes later Captain Lacroix landed in front of the running disciples. "That's enough. You can take it slower."
The disciples carrying the heavy stuff had it rough, sweating and panting all over. That created quite the adrenaline rush. However, the disciples at the back of the group were surprised when they heard some startled cries from the front.
Captain Lacroix was controlling 5 living giant wolves with her qi in the air.
They had grey fur with stains of blood, piercing blue eyes, a huge mouth with threatening teeth, and were nearly as tall as Han Lingyun when they remained on their 4 legs.
Those 5 wolves were furiously growling and gesticulating in the air.
Lacroix was using this as an occasion to teach the disciples. "These wolves are classified as magic beast. A magic beast, like a cultivator, uses qi to gain unimaginable strength for regular animals.
Those wolves are only rank 1 magic beasts, they are taller, stronger and faster than regular wolves but cannot use qi outside their body. In a way, rank 1 magic beast are comparable to body strengthening cultivators in that they would never have the ability to control qi.
However, the similarity mostly ends here as magic beast regroups a very large class of beings. Still there are some common points between all the beasts. When breaking through to a higher rank, magic beasts will make important improvements. They don't follow the human cultivation system though.
Some will continue to have a stronger and stronger body; others will learn qi attacks or gain special abilities.
For example, the leader of that pack was a rank 3 magic beast. Most of its improvements went to its body, being a 3m high giant. He could imbue howls with qi that controlled the pack perfectly. That wolf should also have the ability to launch claw attacks with qi at a distance.
All this would make it hard for a Foundation establishment cultivator to take him down. The cultivator could always fly up in the air to escape though. As a general rule, if you say that body strengthening is rank 1, qi condensation is rank 2 et cetera, a human would struggle heavily against a beast at the same rank.
Those rank 1 wolves could create a small massacre if unleashed in the middle of your group.
Now is there someone volunteering for a one-on-one combat against a magical beast?"
The disciples remained silent. Many were terrified by the imposing beasts. When size is coupled with speed, dangerous claws and a terrifying mouth, the result could be quite deadly!
Captain Lacroix began to lose her patience. "How about you, disciple Wang Yimo, care for a demonstration?"
The female disciple silently walked forward, hair gently swaying. Wang Yimo unsheathed her sword. She didn't seem that concerned with the prospect of facing this imposing opponent.
"I am ready, Captain Lacroix."
The disciples all increased their distance and Captain Lacroix lowered a wolf down. It eyed Wang Yimo with ravenous appetite and sprinted in her direction. The beast was letting harsh growls and its heavy steps was rocking the disciples' hearts.
Wang Yimo remained steady, carefully reading the wolves eyes and movements. She began to approach the wolf as well.
As the shock was about to happen, the wolf abruptly jumped and clawed at the disciple. Her muscles tensed and she gracefully avoided the attack. Still facing the wolf passing by, Wang Yimo used her sword to cleave the wolf in two.
Blood and organs were spilled as the wolf yelped and momentarily twitched before staying immobile forever.
The other wolves let out cries of grief and pain seeing their brother being brutally murdered.
Shortly after the disciples had registered what had just happened, Captain Lacroix used her qi to make a hole and buried the wolf within.
"Again, try to avoid the smell of blood from spreading out too much. Let's advance another kilometer or so before the next fight. In the wild especially, it's best to be very cautious."
Wang Yimo cleaned her sword and regained her place among the group of disciples. She received many looks of admiration and fear.
A while later, the group stopped again and Captain Lacroix asked for another volunteer. This time, Han Lingyun took a step forward.