Neave had made one crucial discovery today.

Monster meat was unbelievably awful.

Taste-wise, at least.

However, if one could put the horrendous flavor aside, eating monster meat could be beneficial. But boy, was the taste awful. Eating monster meat was usually only done by those skilled in qi manipulation. Even this was exclusively after it was processed appropriately. The reason why was simple, the meat was loaded with all sorts of strange qi.

There existed a subcategory of qi that was frequently referred to as transformative qi. Rather than going into one’s qi core, it directly impacted one’s spirit or body. A good example would be the qi restoration or healing pills. They contained this transformative qi, which was immediately expended on some sort of tangible effect, like a sort of qi quasi-technique.

Monster meat had a lot of different types of this transformative qi. However, only some of it was beneficial. Eating monster meat without processing it properly was likely to cause physical illness, strange mutations in one’s body, or even just hurt their cultivation.

Neave didn’t have this problem.

He took another bite of the horrible-tasting orc flesh. Neave stuffed a few corpses into his dimension ring to test a hypothesis of his. Sadly, the assumption was wrong. He hoped he could find some life force within the meat, but no such luck. That was a ludicrous idea, anyway.

The overwhelming majority of everything lost its life force when it, well, died. Treasures that could restore life force didn't do so by directly providing life force; rather, they contained transformative qi that restored one's life force indirectly.

However, there was something else he had found within the meat—a ton of beneficial qi. Ton was a bit of an exaggeration though. Monster meat could enhance one’s physical attributes, but there was a damn good reason scant few but the most dedicated cultivators resorted to this technique.

First, the taste was so bad Neave could even compare it to the rancid blood from the loop. Second, it took a lot of work, even for him to properly isolate only beneficial effects. And third, the benefits fell off rapidly.

There was also a fourth downside. Bowel movements got… Quite painful.

Neave had kept doing it anyway. A bit of suffering was the last thing that could deter him from doing something. Especially when the benefits were seriously noticeable. Neave was aware that eating monster meat was best coupled with intense physical training, but he postponed that until he fixed his missing arm and life force problems.

Still, even without training, everything from his recovery, total stamina, strength, toughness, and even his speed had increased slightly. A slight increase might not seem particularly important, but the impact was tremendous when applied to everything across the board.

Not to mention that, without being able to cultivate, any advantage was welcome.

Neave made his way through the woods and soon enough he was regularly encountering a cornucopia of different types of monsters. Every cultivator with a unique style or specialized spirit powers had good and bad matchups. Neave had the most absurd range of favorable and unfavorable matchups ever seen.

Certain iron-rank monsters, like bugs with extremely hard chitin, were near impossible for him to kill. He couldn’t rely on heavy true strikes because he couldn’t fix the spirit damage, so he simply had no way to damage them. He could use cheesy strategies, like dropping a massive stone on them, but they weren’t worth the time and effort.

On the other hand, he encountered a demon druid. An unusual creature that was a gold-rank monster but wasn’t seen as a significant threat.

It never really moved from a specific patch of forest. It couldn't hurt you if you stayed out of its domain. The reason why it was a gold-rank threat was that its patch of forest was frighteningly dangerous.

The druid itself looked like an androgynous humanoid with wooden skin and leafy clothes. And the area of the forest it commanded was effectively one giant trap. Roots that grabbed one’s legs and swinging branches were the least of one’s concerns here. The more significant problem was the fact that every single inch of every single plant had poisonous thorns. Countless unique poisons coated the thorns, so a single antidote wouldn’t cut it.

Even though Neave couldn’t kill an iron rank beetle, the demon druid wasn’t a challenge. Poisonous moving plants were dangerous only if they could touch you. He pelted the demon druid with countless quick true strikes.

The faster true strikes were, the less damage they did. But they also put less strain on one’s spirit and were, well, faster. The demon druid had a rigid body and speedy regeneration. But Neave had practically unlimited patience. True strike after true strike eventually dug right through the monster's chest, and the core was cut straight from its body.

What a majestic core it was. It was larger than Neave’s fist, which was still quite tiny, but this was a big size for a monster core. It was also strangely round, not even close to circular, but it was no jagged chunk of crystal either. It still had a few jutting edges, but it was predominantly smooth.

Neave remembered reading something about round monster cores in one of the books. Weren’t they supposed to be more valuable? The book didn’t say why, but it did claim that the rounder and smoother a monster core was, the more ‘useful’ it was. It also seemed to have a regeneration-boosting spirit power. This thing was almost definitely costly. Neave shrugged and threw it into the dimension ring.

To him, it was completely and utterly useless.

He thought the regeneration power could help with his life force problems, but that was impossible. Regenerating the body and restoring life force were utterly different classes of power.

There was another problem, the monster the core had come from was gold-rank. This did guarantee a much greater power, but it also ensured a much bigger challenge. Given that this core wouldn’t be enough to recover his lost limb and life force, he would have to evolve it first, which would mean facing a platinum-rank spirit trial.

Neave didn’t know much about spirit trials, but he was one hundred percent confident that if he attempted that, he would die. And he still wasn’t guaranteed to evolve the power into one that could help him with both or hell, either one of his problems.

He also threw the demon druid's corpse in the ring. It could be quite valuable.

Neave stretched and started running. This time he was using his movement technique. Judging by his estimates, he should arrive at his destination relatively soon. He was still beyond suspicious, but he was utterly disregarding that fact.

A small town was unlikely to have bandits at the silver path, so he would be safe even if attacked. That wasn’t even accounting for his stealthiness and movement techniques. He was confident he could escape if somebody too dangerous came to hunt him down.

And if somebody too weak came to hunt him down… Well. Perhaps they would have a useful trinket or two on their corpse?

Half an hour of running later, Neave reached Pavarrie.


Hunter was sweating profusely. He was located within a major city quite far from the Zearthorn sect.

How had he made it that far in a day?

Well, it all started when he presented the book cover to an elder from a branch of the Bentheta sect. Then he was teleported countless miles away to their headquarters with the book cover and the elder he had shown it to. He was standing in front of over two hundred highest-ranking elders of the sect and doing his best not to crap himself.

The council chamber of the Bentheta Sect Master was a massive round room. The walls were of dark ashy gray stone, and the elders were seated in a colosseum-style arrangement around the center of the room. On a raised throne in the middle of the room sat the Bentheta Sect Master.

Kaigo Bentheta.

He was an austere man with a jawline that looked like it was chiseled onto his face and eyes so sharp they could cut steel. In front of him, on a large pedestal, sat the book cover, and on the opposite side of the Sect Master stood Hunter. The sect master got up and spoke in a loud, deep voice.

“Look, boy. The story you have shared is concerning in many ways, but witness reports, especially after tragedies like this, are rarely valid evidence.”


The Sect Master raised his hand to silence Hunter, and he promptly shut up.

“It is not that I do not believe that you have seen those things happen, child. The testimonies of your ex-sect members contained many of the same details you have shared. However, I can not help but think that this may have been an elaborate illusion set up either by one of the sect elders or an enemy of your sect.”

“It–It wasn’t an illusion! You can go and check! The entire sect is in ruins!”

The Sect Master raised his hand again, coupled with a glare that warned of consequences.

“Again, child. I believe the sect has been destroyed and elders have been killed. But, without sufficient evidence supporting this story about a monstrous child, we can’t do much. What if it was some form of illusion created by a rival sect? If we got involved in a situation like that, we’d potentially have a sect war on our hands. Worry not, however. You have my word that we will look deeper into this issue.” The Sect Master gently smiled at Hunter, adding, “You have gone through something horrible for a child as young as yourself. I recognize your talents as a cultivator, and if you are willing, you will be accepted into our sect with open arms.”

“R–Really? I… I would be very grateful for the opportunity...”

“Good, good, hahaha, you are truly a wonderful child with a righteous heart. Now, you will be escorted by one of the elders to a room. Make yourself at home, child. I expect to see great things from you in the future.”

One of the minor elders standing to the side walked up to Hunter and escorted him out of the room. The moment the chamber doors closed, the Sect Master’s warm expression vanished.

“Gather all the competent artificers within our sect and have them analyze this book cover. Write a message to every spy within the ten nearest settlements to the Zearthorn sect and tell them to report anybody missing a left arm. No, have them report anybody missing any arms or legs.”

One of the elders spoke up.

“Sect Master, do not tell us that you truly believe the nonsense that child had spouted?”

Rather than answer the question, the sect master pulled a sword from his dimension ring and struck the book cover with all his might. The stone pedestal underneath it shattered, and even the floor cracked, but there wasn’t even a scratch on the book cover.

“I do not believe anything I hear. But my eyes still serve me well. This book cover is constructed from a priceless material, and the child the Zearthorn sect members speak of had likely read its contents before burning the pages. Track the child down and bring him to me. As for our new disciple, provide him with appropriate benefits. Our sect is not one to leave such a great favor unreturned.”


Neave looked down onto the small town from a nearby hill. Thick walls surrounded it. A rather large area surrounding the town had been cleared of trees or large rocks. Several towers lined the town's borders, and Neave could spot scouts keeping a lookout so that nothing dangerous would approach the settlement.

Neave wasn’t a wanted criminal, so he could likely walk in without much issue. The key word was likely. He was still overwhelmingly suspicious, so the guards would probably have him searched or otherwise waste his time. Losing precious time was the last thing Neave needed momentarily.

The night approached as the sun set, and Neave could see the guards prepare to swap shifts. The scout looking out over the side of the town Neave was facing chatted amicably with the man that had come to replace him.

Neave moved. He moved like the wind toward the wall. As he approached, he pivoted, spun in the air, and landed with his left foot on the wall's surface.

He appeared on the other side. The landing was ungraceful as he reappeared far closer to the ground than expected. He got up and brushed the dirt off his cloak.


“Who the hell are you!?”

Neave turned and spotted a pair of teenagers in a rather compromising position.

“Oooh! I’m not going to interrupt! Fret not, children! You may continue.” He sat on the ground. “I’m merely going to watch.”

The teenagers scrambled, desperately trying to put their clothes back on.

“Oh, come on, don’t be like that!” Neave scoffed. “Losers.”

Neave looked around him. He was behind the buildings lining the walls. Some were built directly against the wall, so he could have accidentally ended up in someone’s house.


He jumped up above the buildings and onto a street in the town. It was surprisingly lively, given how late it was. People were everywhere, and stands selling hot food worked full force. Neave nodded in satisfaction and walked up to one of them.

“Hello, good sir! Do you take monster cores as payment?”

The man cocked an eyebrow and scoffed.

“Piss off, kid. I don’t serve beggars.”

Neave pulled a medium-sized orc core from his dimension ring, and the man immediately changed his tone.

“Oh, I apologize, esteemed sir. I overlooked your status. You will get your food promptly.”

A man standing nearby yelled at the stand owner.

“Hey, when is my food gonna be done?”

“Shut the fuck up! You’re going to wait!”

“What! But I ordered fir–”

Then the stand owner threw a shoe at the man, and he, after dodging it, reluctantly stood back.

Soon, Neave was handed an enormous plate of delicious, glazed meat. He more or less sucked it out of the bowl. He cried a bit. Even ignoring the loop, living in the sect was a life of consuming shitty food pills and rarely actual food. Neave hadn’t had a proper meal in a long time.

He sighed contently and then walked around, cheerfully exploring the town. The people walking down the streets either ignored him, eyed him suspiciously, or steered further to the side to keep some distance. Some people even hugged their kids protectively upon seeing him.

“Damn, lady, your daughter doesn’t look that tasty!”

The cold shoulders didn’t deter Neave. He jumped around from person to person, asking them countless questions about the town. Few people even acknowledged his existence, but soon enough, he had the information he sought.

Walking down the street's end, Neave took a turn and walked out onto a much larger avenue. This was supposedly the main street of the town. It looked relatively empty compared to the lesser road, probably due to their size difference. After heading down the main street for a few minutes, he turned and walked into a large building.

The moment he opened the door, he was struck by the stench of alcohol and by intense noise coming from within. It was a tavern, one sponsored by the local branch of a prominent merchant group.

A popular place for independent cultivators, since the merchant organization used it as a trading hub. A few people glanced at Neave, many of them frowning.

However, everyone looking at Neave froze when he took several steps inside.

And disappeared.

He reappeared, sitting next to a few younger cultivators, who didn’t even notice him initially. One was retelling an anecdote, and just as he was about to get to a good part…

“Buhuhuhuhahaha! Hehehehe, hihihihi, HAHAHAHAHA, that is unbelievably funny, man! Anyway, do you guys want to sell me your souls?”

The cultivators looked at him in utter confusion. They peeked under his hood and winced at his creepy face. Several cultivators around them were apprehensive. Some even kept a hand on the hilt of their weapon, just in case. A woman sitting at the table scratched her head.

“Uhm, I’m sorry, I am not sure we know you. Is there something you need?”

“No, I’m just messing with you. I don’t need your souls!” He placed a fist-sized green monster core on the table.

They froze at the size and shape of the core.

“Here you go, lady, you can have it!”

Nobody moved.

The monster core was undoubtedly exceptionally valuable, but this creepy stranger didn’t seem like someone you’d happily deal with.

Neave got up and walked over to the apprehensive merchant. One of the young men sitting on the table reached a hand out and touched the core.

“Holy shit!”

The others shushed him and touched the core, too, gasping at the contents. They whispered among one another as the other patrons tried to sneak a peek at it..

Neave walked over to the merchant, an old-looking man with a frown that looked seared into his face. Then he pulled a monster core out of the ring and threw it at him.

“Here, catch!”

The old man caught the large bag with one hand, sighed, and responded in a practiced, formal, flat tone, showing no change in his facial expression.

“Please, sir, refrain from throwing things at either myself or any of the patrons within the tavern. If you continue such behavior, I will be forced to kick you out.”

“Wow, man, life hit you hard, huh? Is the wife unhappy? Worry not. I have a solution!”

He threw another core at the man.

“Sir–This… This is highly inappropriate.” He sighed and placed the penis enlarging core on the counter, “What do you wish to do with the cores you’ve… Presented to me?”

“I wanna sell 'em.”

“Alright, we will have to appraise the cores you have presented, and you will get the full payment in two to three business days.”


“Is there a problem?”


“Sir, please.”

“Can’t you, like, give me the money now?”

The man took a peek into the bag and lifted an eyebrow.

“I apologize, but if you want the payment to be appropriate, we must first appraise them.”

“Just scam me.”

“I… What?”

“Low-ball me, rip me off, know what I mean.”

“I–Sir, I would lose my job if I did that.”

“But, like, why don’t you keep it a secret?”

The man slowly raised his head and glanced around the room. Nearly every single person was observing the show. He sighed.

“If you wish to receive money now, you may pawn the cores, and I will give you a hundred and fifty gold coins. Then when they are appraised, you can sell them to receive the rest of your payment.”

The room stirred. Exactly how many cores were there in the bag? A hundred and fifty gold coins just to pawn the cores he’d presented?

“Can that buy me a house?”

“Indeed, it can, but you will have to discuss that with our real estate branch.”

“Come on, old man, I know you’re in the know with this stuff. You look the part. What’s the most expensive house in this town?”

The man sighed and responded.

“There is a mansion to the southwest of the town. It has been for sale for a while already. However, dear customer, this is a border area to a wild zone. There are more cultivators in this town than there are mortals, so the price of real estate is high. The mansion is priced at seventeen platinum coins.”

Neave, however, just shrugged.

“Okay, I’m gonna save a bit and buy it.”

The man raised an eyebrow again.

This wasn’t a particularly unusual sight around here. Occasionally an eccentric cultivator came from a long trip and dumped all the cores they had collected along the way. But even among all the unusual cultivators that passed through here, the clerk couldn’t help but feel like this was an exception. He glanced at the table seating the cultivators who received the exceptionally generous gift from the stranger.

“If you had sold that monster core to me, you could have already had over half the money needed.”

“Well, there are other things I could sell, but I doubt you have the money for it.”

The clerk did not respond visibly, but even he was slightly shaken. This individual seemed a little unhinged, but if they could provide a core like that for free, they must be quite the capable warrior. Judging by the body shape, it was reasonable to assume this person was a spirit beast that had taken a humanoid form.

And judging by the lack of animalistic features, that must have meant they were at least high silver, if not even on the gold path.

For now, Neave walked up and grabbed the money off the counter, and then he walked out. He found a nearby inn and booked it for over seventy days. He just threw a gold coin at the innkeeper and said he’d take whatever it could get him. Then he inspected the room he was given. He pulled another bag of miscellaneous valuables from Kamella’s ring and haphazardly threw it in a corner. Then he snuck out and teleported into the secret underground vault beneath the inn.

He wasn’t here to steal anything. He just needed somewhere to hide to sleep in peace.

After all, he didn't want to get killed in his sleep.


The clerk watched the barmaids clean up the tables as he sighed again. He swiftly pocketed the ‘special’ monster core the strange cultivator handed him.

Technically speaking, the cultivator did, in fact, gift it to him. So just… Why not…? Yeah.

He sighed yet again, and this time a few of the barmaids gave him strange looks.

He had to make a report.

Another suspicious cultivator had arrived in Pavarrie.


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About the author

Robert Blaise

Bio: Man do I love recursion. Man do I love recursion. Man do I love recursion. Man do I love...

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