The flame burns brights as the sparks illuminated the darkness. The group had retreated a short distance away from the outer peripheries of the basin as they returned back into the frosted wastelands.
The cultivators were huddled together near the fire. Serious looks were on their faces as uncertainty clouded the minds of most of the individuals present. After the incident in the afternoon, most of the group were already reluctant to proceed on with this mission. The risk was too great.
Liu Xun looked at the rest of the group. Most of the seniors had a serious look on their faces. The juniors were all silent as they awaited further instructions, yet fears and doubt were reflected on their faces. Core formation? They were only Qi gathering fletchlings, they had no way to contribute towards this equation. Millie, herself, was deep in thought about the situation. She was not her carefree and joyous self like usual but displayed a rare somber attitude and expression.
“Now that we have seen a small part of the basin, I think that our current group is insufficient to venture further. Should we retreat?”
Senior Qin mentioned in a worried tone. Initially, she had been hardheaded on the idea of exploring the Yin Frost Basin as the risk was still manageable. The current situation had blown out of proportions. She is unable to ensure the safety of her own life, much less the others in the group.
“To proceed forth would be unwise. I agree to retreat.”
The monk in black robes nodded in agreement. He had always been advocating against the journey since he noticed signs of the journey being beyond their controls. As a person who cares for the weak, he could not bear to see a situation where anyone has to be sacrificed. As the cultivators who fought against the metamorphosing beast in the afternoon, his words also hold the most weight since he himself knows how difficult these enemies are.
“Umu, I agree with the sentiment.”
Liu Five nodded as he casted a short glance towards the Liu Family juniors. His primary goals and concern mainly revolves around these future protégés and anything that could harm them would be taken to serious condition. The journey had already long breached the comfortable limits of himself, yet he could not just cause conflicts in the group as travelling together is much safer than apart since that means more essence foundation cultivators to guard the group. The Qi gathering juniors may be of some help, but they would be powerless against a large group of essence foundation beasts.
“I see that most of us are in agreement. How about you, Xinjian?”
Senior Qin’s voice echoed out in confidence with a slight undertone of regret. It seems that she is still not over the fact that her trip this time is fruitless, yet safety is always more important than treasures. She turned to the yellow-robed old man for confirmation even though her thoughts are already revolving around the path of retreat.
Senior Gan himself remained silent as he looked towards the flames. He continued to look at the flickering sparks as he fell into deep thought.
The rest of the group slowly waited for his response. Yet, the old man kept mum.
Senior Xuan called out once again.
“…I…I will keep going to the center of the basin.”
The hoarse voice continued as Senior Gan continued his words with conviction held deep in them.
“Why…are you crazy? You have already seen that core formation beast that just popped out of nowhere! Are you really that eager to die? Just for a measly blood jade? Really? I thought you valued your life much more than that!”
Senior Qin lashed out at once. Her voice got louder as she got more emotional. She herself was feeling the regrets of not being able to reap the reward of her journey, which may set her cultivation backwards by a few years. Perhaps, she felt indignant and that Xinjian was being too stubborn in that sense. The old man himself was still looking at the flames as he heard upon her words before heaving a large sigh. The rest of the group remained silent as they observed the conversation between the two yet again.
These two seniors usually take the same side in the argument due to their motives aligning. But their attitudes and temperament are largely incompatible. Upon realizing that she had spoken too harshly, the green-robed lady used her sleeve to cover her mouth as she continued her words in a soft and gentler tone.
“Sorry…I have lashed out too harshly. But seriously, it is already at this stage, Xinjian. I am sorry for shouting last time when you were making pills for our sake, but I am worried for you. We would not be advancing further. If you go alone, the chances are that you will never be able to return…”
“No…it is not your fault. Even I know how foolish I sound right now. But I feel this is something I have to do…it is more than just about the blood jade. Way more than that.”
Senior Gan said out as he looked towards the flames.
“You know when I saw that metamorphosing beast in the afternoon, my mind was jolted immediately. It seemed very familiar. That was what cause my inaction earlier as I could have help Xuan Tie much quicker but I was stuck in deep thought. Sorry about that Brother Xuan.”
His words continued as he gave a rarely sincere apology to the black-robed monk.
“No worries, Xinjian.”
Senior Xuan responded back astutely.
“Anyways, I said it looked familiar, right? Remember how I told you how I lost my entire family and village to a monster outbreak fifty years ago? These metamorphosing beasts were the main cause of it.”
The entire crowd went silent as they were shocked by the sudden revelation that Senior Gan dropped into the group.
“You…you got to be kidding, right? There are more than one type of metamorphosing beast species out there. It could just be a complete coincidence that this beast appearing here is similar to the ones that attacked your village, right?”
Senior Qin said in disbelief. In fact, Liu Xun and the other cultivators could not believe the coincidence where the same monsters that wiped an entire human settlement could conveniently pop up in their journey.
“No…it is very likely. I used to lived in Xiangchun village which is in a neighbouring country, JiaLian country which is neighbouring Xin kingdom. That village was a rural village that was at the edge of the country bordering towards the Vermillion Ranges, alas it was the northern side of the ranges unlike the western side as per the route we travelled. Anyways, those metamorphosing beasts swarmed out from the forests back then. Deep blue in colour and mostly in the essence foundation stage, we were powerless against them. Funny huh, a few demonic beasts wiped out an entire human settlement of over a thousand villagers in just a couple of hours.”
He continued his story as he recalled it melancholically.
“I am sorry to hear that…”
Senior Qin replied as she heard and digested his words. The old man must have been through a lot as he thought such things through.
“Anyways, there is more to it than just that. Back then those metamorphosing beasts had a leader. It was a peak stage Organ Refinement Metamorphosing Beast on the cusp of breaking through to Core Inversion stage (6th). This was the main culprit of the invasion and also the leader and overlord of the northern part of the Vermillion Ranges. It is known as Shaggoroth by many. It is written a bone-devouring meat. A humongous 100 feet metamorphosing beast with flesh for its body. Shaggoroth attacked my village in the past, making it close to impossible to escape. The deep blue slime that you saw is characteristic of one of the followers of Shaggoroth. I have encountered a few of them in my life before. Most of them usually travel around scavenging for food. Chances are that Shaggoroth is at the basin at the moment. If so, looking at these old bones, this is possibly my only possible chance of revenge against that monstrosity. Even if I have to die, I will do my best to tear that damnable thing apart!”
Senior Gan mentioned out with fury in his words as his fists clenched tightly. Blood could be seen dripping out as his nails digged deeply into his palms.
“But you mentioned it was peak Organ Refinement fifty years ago. It must be Core Inversion by now. It is complete suicide, you won’t be able to do a thing!”
Senior Qin said out worriedly. She was evidently right, if the cultivation realm was just one realm apart, there could be some miracle or plot that could leverage the playing field. But this is four entire realms worth of cultivation. It was akin to a puppy fighting against a tiger! Completely one sided!
“No, previously Senior Tiankun from Thousand Blossoms saved me from it. Now, I may just be alone. But I have made ample preparation for my revenge. 50 years, I have invested 50 years into plotting the destruction of that abomination! I cannot just let this go!”
Senior Gan said with venomous hatred as he stared towards the flames. The image that reflected in his eyes were the images of the burning houses, screams of people and the river of blood that flowed over five decades ago.
“But…we cannot help you out. This is completely fruitless!”
She mentioned with choked up words.
“I know and I don’t expect anyone to follow along. This is my revenge. Mine and mine alone!”
He said as the old man stood up. He took his cloth sack as he turned his back against the fire. Walking into the darkness.
The rest of the group said nothing as they observed the lonely back fade into the darkness.
Liu Xun looked at Senior Gan’s distant back. The night was getting deeper. He recounted the numerous time the old man laugh and shared woes with him this journey. Standing by his side at the cauldron as he taught skills and recounted numerous of his experiences.
He mentioned in soft words as his fists clenched before releasing powerlessly. There was no real thing he could do to help the old man. As much as he wanted to help, he was just a trivial Qi gathering cultivator and his trump card was just a fireball talisman that would destroy everything.
A soft mumble came from his side as he turned his head in surprise. He looked over as he saw the silver-haired lady wore upon a serious expression. She seemed to be in deep thought as she stared into the distance. After a short while, she noticed the black-robed youth staring at her before she returned to her carefree self and displayed an apologetic expression.
“Sorry Liu Xun, it looks like you have to walk back without me. It looks like I have to go forward as well.”
She mentioned those words as they travelled to the rest of the group, surprising them. Many of them had dumbfounded expressions, including Liu Xun.
Senior Xuan’s voice came out as she spoke in concern. In fact, Senior Xuan himself stretched his hands out as he also wanted to stop her from making such a rash decision. His large hands ended up grasping nothing but air as the silver figure faded into the distance.
“It is nice that you all worry about me, but it is okay. Just carry on back. No worries, I will take care of little Gan as well~”
The voice travelled as a large pressure weighed down upon everyone.
Most of the group felt choked as they experienced a density of Qi that they have never felt before. It was suffocating. They could feel their insides churning around as the pressure weighed heavily upon their chest.
“It was nice travelling with everyone. Well farewell everybody, especially you little Xun…”
A loud and clear voice reverberated into Liu Xun’s ears as he slowly looked up into the sky. Tonight was a bright full moon, it illuminated upon the lonely and desolate wasteland. In the clear and starless sky lay a enormous silver white fox. It spanned about 8 metres in length as glowing pinkish-silver white fur ruffled under the night breeze. Behind its back was six glowing white tails with azure blue fires trailing behind them. Under its feet were four azure blue flames that burned with similar intensity as those behind the tails. A small golden bell could be seen hanging on the left ear of the fox as it floated above the group of cultivators.
The silver fox gave one last final glance at the black-robed youth before turning and flying into the distance, towards the ice-frosted basin.
Langsheng’s voice leaked out as he looked at the silver fox disappear into the distance.
“I would be damned, the silver-haired cutie is actually a demonic fox!”
He continued his words as he stared at the air in wonderment.
“Damned, you sure are damned! Haven’t you read that only most Core Inversion stage beasts are able to undergo metamorphosis to develop a complete human form?”
Warner replied toxically. Yet, her eyes were also glue to the mesmerising retreating figure of the gallant fox.
“Core Inversion Apotheosis, Silver Celestial Heavenly Fox…the Western Overlord of Silver and Mystery - 秘力银生(MiLi-YinSheng/Millie Silverborn)! I should have guessed it!”
Senior Qin’s shocked voice echoed out. At this point both Senior Xuan and Liu Five were also speechless as they observed the fox appear in the sky and fly away into the distance. The group was both pleasant surprised and excited by the scene. It is not everyday that you could travel by a Core Inversion demonic beast without them trying to bite off your head.
Yet, in one corner lay a black-robed youth who continued to stare into the sky dumbfoundedly.
So, she was a demonic fox. So, why had she chose to talk to him in particular. Was it just a coincidence? Or…
[Host, it is best you do not think too much of the situation. She may have a reason to talk to you, but don’t think every girl out there likes you, alright. Be realistic!]
System, I know. It is just that she seemed to be sad and broken hearted sometimes and also thinking about some things during other times. I wonder what story she had…
The youth thought as he looked at the retreating figure with a sense of loss and bewilderment. That night ended with plenty of shocks as the group lost two members.