It took Gray all of his remaining jade to make a startling discovery. It wasn't some secret treasure or a huge pile of gold. It was about his eyes and their link to his spiritual sea.
He was never one to think too hard about things he didn't understand. The endless black void above his golden mountains was one such instance. He wondered about it a few times but then forgot about it. It was only when he felt a strange reaction between that darkness and the jade energy he was absorbing that he considered it again.
At first, he could not explain why there was a huge discrepancy in the amount of jade energy he absorbed into his spiritual sea compared to what was left there when he examined his spiritual sea at a later time. By all means, his spiritual sea should have been filled with wind and air but there was barely anything, only a thin wisp here or a weak breeze there.
He had to watch the whole process from beginning to end to comprehend the astonishing truth. When a cloud of jade energy entered his spiritual sea, it was steadily and irrevocably turned into ordinary, attributeless spiritual energy. Every time a strand of jade energy floated up to touch the black void, all of its colors disappeared. It reverted to its most basic and simple form and was then absorbed into his spiritual sea without a trace.
A person's spiritual sea was a window into one's spirit; their desires, hopes, and innermost secrets. Gray's secret was his eyes that could see into darkness and space. So, it was natural that his spiritual sea would have something to do with that. He was embarrassed that it took him so long to realize something so simple and fundamental.
The endless black void within his spiritual sea was because of his eyes. It was the embodiment of darkness and space, the element of no element. It was nothing and yet it was able to absorb everything. A person aligned with this attribute, like Gray with his eyes, was naturally able to conquer and absorb sky attribute energy. In fact, he wouldn’t have a problem with any of the elements.
Eager to explore this discovery, Gray abandoned his depleted mine and claimed another plot of land. He gave the mining office a random excuse which they accepted without question. By now, the fact that he was a guest of the Patel family had spread to everyone in the lord's faction and the town guards gave him no trouble at all.
Over the next two weeks, he depleted two more mines and unearthed a small fortune. In the process, he learned how to use the special attributes of darkness and space within his spiritual sea to drastically improve the efficiency cultivating with jade. He no longer wasted time and effort suppressing jade energy using his golden energy. He instead corralled it all directly into his spiritual sea.
This was normally a stupid and dangerous thing to do. Even the tome warned against such idiocy. But Gray was the exception to the rule. It didn't matter how savage the jade energy was. As soon as it arrived into his spiritual sea and touched upon the endless black void that was omnipresent, jade energy would lose all strength and be rapidly converted into plain and simple spiritual energy.
This process was fast. It was easy. And it couldn't be stopped. As a result, his cultivation speed using jade far surpassed that of ordinary spiritual stones. He was able to use up a gram of jade in less time than it took to have a good meal. It was astonishing, it was heaven-defying. He was simply an abnormal cultivator!
With this newfound fortune, he smoothly reached the 3rd Level of the Spiritual Strengthening Realm. A third golden hill appeared in his spiritual sea while the black sky expanded in size. His strength improved once again and he felt almost invincible.
It even took him much less jade than expected. For him, one gram of jade was roughly equivalent to one kilogram of spiritual stone. Ignoring spiritual stones, it took him a total of twenty-four grams of jade to reach the third level.
The breakthrough couldn't have come sooner. There had been something bothering Gray all these days which had been driving him crazy with curiosity. Now, he could finally go and investigate it.
"Alright, let's go!" He whispered eagerly.
It was the middle of the night and he carried with him nothing but his seeing bag. He slinked through the prairie, avoiding various mining companies, and headed towards the center of the northern mining fields.
When mining in all three of his sites, he consistently observed an enormous anomaly of cyan-colored light that came from this direction. The starlight of jade he saw was so numerous and so dense that it meant only one thing. There was a giant jade mine of massive proportions somewhere in the very center of land claimed by the Southern Seas Mining Company.
It was dangerous but he had to take a look, not just to satisfy his curiosity but his greedy heart. Even if he couldn't mine it right now, he wanted to find out where it exactly was. He hoped for the possibility of a higher grade of jade, a gem of flawless quality that was a hundred times more expensive than ordinary jade. And most importantly, he needed to find out if the detestable merchant company knew anything about this or not.
He delved deep into the territory of the Southern Seas, avoiding sleepy sentries along the way, and finally arrived at a true specimen of mining enterprise.
Illuminated by moonlight, it was the most impressive thing he had ever seen. It was a massive open-pit mine, a gaping hole in the ground created through the toils of countless people. Roughly circular in shape, it was at least five or six stories deep and over a thousand strides wide. The nearby land was scarred by tall mounds of earth that were a result of earth excavated from the huge mine.
The southern half of the mine had almost sheer cliffs while the northern half was covered in terraces. Each level of the terrace was waist high and wider than a body length. It looked from afar like a giant staircase that stretched from the grass-covered plains to the barren bottom. And finally, there was a long ramp of dirt that followed the edge of the terraces and allowed access to all levels of the mine.
Several hundred miners slept on the terraces. It was they toiled during the day, expanding the mine northward. Hundreds more slept in tents all around the outside. He could only imagine how much jade and spiritual stones they had already dug up, how much they could still produce. He had to find out if he still had a chance, whether or not the Southern Seas already excavating the jade that he had seen.
He began on the north side with the terraces. Using his seeing bag, he peered directly downward from the top, looking at the ground that the miners would soon reach. He saw lots of light, from jade and spiritual stones. Some were bright, some were dim. There were too many and he couldn't tell them apart.
He decided to try something different and snuck down the ramp to the bottom of the mine. There, he once again laid down on the ground and covered his head with the seeing bag. Welcome darkness surrounded him. His eyes adjusted quickly and he found what he was looking for. It was impossible to miss.
A brilliant starfield erupted into sight. It was everywhere, directly below, to the sides, in all directions. It was the motherlode, a treasure trove, an easy road to fabulous wealth. There was so much jade here, it sparkled like an endless sea. There was simply no end to it no matter which way he looked. There was jade everywhere, highly concentrated and even clustered together.
The reality of the discovery dawned on him and filled him with joy. The Southern Seas Mining Company was making no effort to mine deeper. Therefore, they had no idea about the jade below. If they didn't know, then nobody else knew. Even that greedy and insufferable Jade Hill Lord didn't know. They were all idiots, the merchants, the townsfolk. Lord Reddy was the biggest idiot of them all!
Since he was the only one that knew, it was natural that all of this wealth belonged to him!
Gray couldn't help himself and let out a laugh. He continued crawling around the bottom of the open-pit mine, forward and backward, just to make sure he wasn't dreaming. In his excitement, however, he failed to realize his own careless idiocy…
“Who are you? What are you doing?” Said a gruff voice, clearly unfriendly.