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Many were in a frenzy looking for Ryu. His score kept ticking upward, having long since breached the top fifty, yet none could find his trail. Some speculated he might have been a beast master judging by how easily he subdued the Bloodied Steed and instead began looking for beasts instead, but how difficult was it to find specific beasts in a forest filled with beasts?

Battles between two beasts wasn’t a rare phenomenon at all, firstly. Secondly, the only beast they knew Ryu had was the Bloodied Steed, but the Nemesis of today looked nothing like the Nemesis they had known in the past and it wasn’t as though Bloodied Steeds were a rare breed of beast. These two factors together made Little Rock’s time hunting especially easy, while Nemesis only had to be slightly more cautious.

As for Ryu himself, it would be a joke for even an Immortal Ring Realm expert to attempt to find him when he had the advantage of space and time. His Cloak wasn’t a treasure of the Shrine Realm without reason.

So, while the Zu Clan and the Core Region geniuses searched for him, Ryu was leisurely jumping from resource to resource, only taking the most valuable for himself while leaving their nurturing to Ailsa who hummed away with a pleasant smile on her face within the Incubator.

Though Ailsa was in quite a good mood, Ryu was frowning. It wasn’t because he had run into some sort of large problem, but rather because his body was emitting a smell so horrible that even Ailsa refused to sit on his shoulder any longer. She hadn’t just entered the Incubator to care for their new goods, but also to stay away from Ryu.

‘This is…’ Ryu’s frown deepened. ‘… How long is this going to go on for…?’

Ryu’s body, thanks to another benefit of the Realm Heart, was continuously expelling waste. Unlike the quick process he went through during his Rites, this process was slow and tedious. Though it had the benefit of being gentle, it was also very inconvenient.

At one point, Ryu was bathing himself dozens of times a day. Eventually, he simply gave up. It seemed to take only a few minutes before his body was once more covered in foul black and brown grime.

‘Not many people can gain an Immortal Body so early on… And even less can do it so painlessly. It’s only natural there would be some inconveniences along the way.’

Ryu actually wasn’t gaining an Immortal Body. In the strictest sense, he was gaining the pinnacle of what a Mortal Body could be. However, in effect, this pinnacle was far better than usual Immortal Bodies.

Usually, one would only be able to reach this state by completing the Vessel Tempering Realm of Body Cultivation. This was why the best geniuses still invested some time into this path. However, Ryu would be able to gain this state without such arduous cultivation.

This would benefit him in three main ways. First, his Bone Structure would begin to exhibit more of its strength far earlier. Second, his body’s foundation would become far sturdier and stronger. And finally, opening his Body Vessels will be far easier, almost as easy as breathing.

By Ryu’s estimates, it would probably have taken at least fifty to a hundred years to completely open his Body Vessels. However, now, he felt that ten years would be enough! To put this into perspective, the Peak Vessel Tempering Realm was the equivalent of the Peak Immortal Ring Realm! And, for Ryu, whose Body Realm Cultivation didn’t follow normal logic, he would be even stronger than this!

The more Ryu learned about his Realm Heart, the more he understood why it was such a treasure. His previous complaints disappeared with the wind.

Still… Walking around like a human stink bomb was incredibly uncomfortable for Ryu who was quite fond of cleanliness.

Ryu sighed. ‘I should have been born a sprite.’

Ailsa grinned at this thought. Aside from those with special constitutions, certain races were directly born with Immortal Bodies. Sprites were one such race, the Ancient Beasts and their numerous races are among this number as well.

‘I was born with a Cosmic Body. What is this pitiful Immortal Body you speak of?’

Ryu pretended not to hear Ailsa’s over the top, teasing laughter. Currently, he was deep within the earthen crust of the Mortal Qi Small Realm. At least a kilometer and a half or so. Of course, his target was yet another valuable resource that would be impossible to find without the Realm Heart.

Unfortunately, he didn’t have any comprehension of Earth Inheritances, so he could dig his way through the normal way.

Soon, he was almost blinded by a bright light. Covering his eyes with his forearm, he could only wait for his gaze to slowly become accustomed to the suddenly well-lit environment.

A moment later, Ryu’s gaze landed on an irregularly shaped crystal. However, this crystal floated within an encasement of translucent stone, radiating an array of colors.

“Qi Source.” Ryu’s sharp eyes immediately comprehended.

Qi Sources were the vital life blood of Clans and Sects. Although a power that controlled one shouldn’t exist on the Pedestal Plane, when it came to the Blossom and Shrine Planes, not having one was as good as guaranteeing marginalization.

Qi Sources weren’t exactly rare, per se. The reason the Pedestal Plane didn’t have access to them was simply because they didn’t have experts capable of finding them. But, strictly speaking, the Pedestal Plane should have about the same number of Qi Sources as any of the other two Immortal Planes. The only difference would be in the quality of these Qi Sources.

The Qi Source before Ryu was of the Mortal Grade. But, it was still useful for many things. Namely, there were three important uses: the creation of Qi Stones, the fertilization of land, and finally, increasing qi density in a given area.

This Mortal Qi Small Realm had seven such sources, and this was already Ryu’s seventh time collecting them. So, his harvests were quite great. His rewards in Qi Sources alone could already be counted in the order of millions of Higher Mortal Qi Stones, worth several thousand Lower Immortal Qi Stones.

‘With these Qi Sources, I should be able to accelerate the growth of Mortal Grade Spiritual Herbs even more, so you have even less to worry about selling the Crown Spiritual Herbs.’ Ailsa chortled.

Crown Spiritual Herbs. The pinnacle existence among their kind…

There were seven divisions amongst Spiritual Herbs – the Common, Black, Earth, Heaven, Mystical, Ancestral and Origin Grades. However, similar to the Unique Grade of treasures, the Crown Spiritual Herb was a sort of wild card.

Crown Spiritual Herbs could be of any grade, but they were special in that they were unparalleled in benefits among those of their grade. Essentially, they provided the perfect result every time.

A Crown Spiritual Herb was an Herb on the verge of evolving to the next Grade. Herbs with the ability to evolve in this way were incredibly rare, so much so that they pained Ryu to simply sell like this even though Crown Spiritual Herbs could be sold many times that of Herbs several Grades above them.

The reason for this is simple. Crown Spiritual Herbs could provide the benefits of a Spiritual Herb of higher grade without the restrictions that came with eating one.

For example, a Qi Refinement Realm expert could only consume Black Grade Herbs at best. However, if they found a Crown Black Grade Spiritual Herb, they could consume it and gain as many benefits as if they had consumed an Earth or sometimes even Heaven Grade Herb!

Ryu himself had only had a few of these Spiritual Herbs in his first lifetime. As a man who had had a weak body, his parents had relied on such Spiritual Herbs so that he could extend his life without dying. But even then, the total wouldn’t exceed a hundred.

A hundred may sound like a lot, but it had to be considered that Ryu was the Scion of the most powerful Clan of the most powerful Plane of their Shrine Realm. In addition, his life depended on these Herbs. To only have a hundred in a thousand-year timespan was enough to prove the rarity of such Herbs.

On top of this, it also had to be considered that Ryu could only consume Crown Common Grade Herbs. After all, his body was too weak to consume anything better. Yet, it still only totaled less than a hundred.

The reason for this rarity was obvious. Unless such an Herb was found in time, it would leave its Crown state after evolving to a higher Grade. Sometimes, there was only a gap of a few seconds. One had to freeze this process with a spatial ring or other special means, or else it would all be lost.

Luckily, Ryu had the Realm Heart. He could immediately sense Spiritual Herbs on the verge of evolving and stop the process personally.

‘What are you crying so much about? The Incubator already allows you to absorb Spiritual Herbs above the Grades you can normally handle with absolute ease. The effect is many times better than a Crown Spiritual Herb. When did you become such a money grubber?’

‘When indeed…’ Ryu couldn’t help but mumble to himself. He had never worried for money in his first life. In fact, he gave most of his savings away to his Clan. But it seemed the situation in this life was much different.

Shaking his head, Ryu quickly snatched the final Qi Source for himself. Though they wouldn’t be very useful after the Connecting Heaven Realm, they were otherworldly treasures to the current him. If he passed one off to the Death Worm Immortal Cave, he wouldn’t have to worry about powering it either.

In just a month, Ryu had uprooted this Small Realm’s most valuable resources.

‘It seems that that Zu Clan’s elder’s treasure wasn’t hidden here, or else I would have already found it.’

Ryu didn’t mind. He hadn’t cared much for the treasure to begin with. He just thought it was a shame he couldn’t enrage the Zu Clan more by taking what they had been searching for this whole time.

Though he didn’t say it, something else weighed on Ryu’s shoulders as well. He couldn’t find his grandfather even with the Realm Heart. He had been mentally prepared to find a desecrated corpse, but even that wasn’t here.

‘…’ Ryu’s gaze turned cold. ‘… There’s only two weeks left. I’ll break into the Divine Vessel Realm in a single step!’

Ryu didn’t bother to leave the underground space. His senses immediately trained on a particular herb planted within the Incubator.

Peak Black Grade Spiritual Herb: Hidden Vessel Wings.

It was the flower from a bush-like main body. Its center was a puffed outward with a pure and fluffy almost cotton-like substance. However, the reason for its name were the patterns that could be found on the leaves attached to its stem. These patterns cut the leaves almost like pinecone seeds. However, instead of taking a rounded appearance, they remained flat. This gave the leaves the appearance of green wings.

For breaking into the Divine Vessel Realm, there was no better Spiritual Herb. In addition, its Earth Grade evolution, Awakened Vessel Wings, was excellent for awakening subsequent Spiritual Herbs. Ryu was very lucky to find a Crown of this Spiritual Herb, however he wouldn’t be using it. The Crown Hidden Vessel Wings Herb would sell for at least a few dozen Middle Immortal Qi Stones to some wealthy young master.

Instead, Ryu planned to directly use the Awakening Vessel Wings evolved form to breakthrough. The lesser form might be enough for normal people with relatively solid foundation to breakthrough, but Ryu needed more!

‘Upon opening all six Qi Vessels, the number of Meridian Nodes will increase from my current 333 to 999. Every new Vessel provides an addition 111. This means I need to form 111 abyssal vortexes for [Abyssal Vortex Qi] upon entering the Divine Vessel Realm. Also, I need to form my seventh miniature dantian for [Six Realm Opening]. The first six were formed in my Qi Pulses. Now they will be in my Qi Vessels as well.

‘But before any of that, I must compress my qi to the Divine Vessel Realm standards for [Revolutions Amplifier]…’

Ryu immediately got to work. Cultivating within the support of seven Qi Sources was the sort of treatment only the absolute geniuses of the Shrine Realm would receive, but Ryu had relied on himself to gain the same experience.

It was then his cultivation talent began to shine through once more. Even with almost thirty percent of his qi constantly leaking, it hardly affected him at all. The Incubator surged, changing the volatile energy of an Earth Grade Spiritual Herb to such a gentle form that even a baby could bask in its presence.  

Ryu’s eyes flashed open, a roar escaping his lips as an earth-shattering change erupted in his body.  

He had succeeded in doing the impossible, becoming maybe the first ever to skip an entire cultivation realm. The process had been… remarkably simple. As though this was his path all along…