After having ended her last opponent, Xiao Hong floated down. The moment her feet touched the ground, her strength deserted her, causing her knees to buckle. She crumpled to the earth, utterly drained.
As her furiously circulating Zhenqi slowed down, a searing headache descended upon her like a storm. It was like someone was stabbing hot knives into her head repeatedly, and stirring the insides of her brain with a searing hot ladle. Even the ache from her battered body was suppressed.
“Aghhh!! Dammit.” Her eyes started tearing up once again as she clutched the sides of her head in agony. “Dammit!”
Using a Divine Sense attack like that was extremely foolish, but in that critical moment, she really could not think of an alternative. If she did not use her Divine Sense to attack, she would be the one to lose - and there was only death after that!
She did not think for a second that they’d spare her after she’d cut off that Ning bastard’s arm and blown that 5th Disaster Realm Disciple to bits.
“Urghh…” She winced as she tried to circulate her Zhenqi, trying to heal her battered body. Several minutes and many painful grunts later, Xiao Hong had managed to regain her footing, collect the storage treasures of the Disciples that she’d killed and get away before Demon Beasts inevitably gathered near the Battlefield.
After several hours of flight, she managed to put a considerable distance between herself and the battlefield. Selecting a random area, she directly used the Earth Burrow and dived into the ground.
Then Xiao Hong travelled for a few more minutes before stopping. She popped out of the ground after carefully scanning the area with her Divine Sense - barely managing to bite back the scream of agony that welled up in her throat. And after that, she carefully checked with her cultivator eyes before relaxing her guard slightly.
After using a few spells to move earth, she made herself a makeshift cave abode before closing off the top with another spell. She then threw out a Grade 2 Formation plate and activated it.
She heaved a sigh of relief and lay on the ground - it was only now that she could truly relax.
After a few moments of diagnosis, she realised the damage to her Divine Sense wasn’t that severe, but it also wasn’t exactly minor.
‘Ugh… this will take a while to heal…’ Xiao Hong grimaced as she looked up. ‘A week and a half, that’s not a short time. I need to reunite with the others as soon as possible. It is far too dangerous to roam around by myself.
‘Even staying here for too long is a bad idea…’
Just the example from several hours ago was a great indicator! It hadn’t even been a day and she had almost died! ‘If I could collect and refine the Beast Crystal Cores into Yuan Essence Pills, I would definitely be able to heal faster. But to collect Beast Crystal Cores, I need to kill them. But to kill them, I need to heal first - my current condition does not afford me such battle power.
‘Moreover, even if I do manage to get the Beast Crystal Cores, I will be unable to actually refine anything with the current condition of my Divine Sense.’
‘What a vicious cycle!’
Xiao Hong felt her headache becoming worse.
“Those damned Mystic Sky Sect disciples! Ugh!” she almost slammed the ground in frustration before remembering that she was underground. She didn’t want the ground collapsing on her face.
“System, set Slot 3: Spirit God’s Soul Cultivation Method”
Ding! Set Slot 3: Spirit God’s Soul Cultivation Method. Details: Speed 212x
She waved away the notification box without even bothering to read it.
In a few moments, her Divine Sense had begun to heal.
Suddenly, she remembered that a notification had appeared right after she'd entered the Secret Realm. So she decided to bring it up.
Ding! Detected a new Energy Source: weak Yuan Essence. Switch to new Energy Source?
‘Huh?’ A new Energy Source?’ Xiao Hong was a little confused. ‘Well, let’s see what happens if I switch.’
Done! Switched to new Energy Source: weak Yuan Essence
New Speed: 333x (limit)
Xiao Hong’s eyes lit up as she looked at the screen.
She felt the Spiritual Energy of Heaven and Earth stir slightly, but she could not sense anything else no matter how hard she tried to. It was as if whatever this ‘Yuan Essence’ was, it was completely beyond her, completely non-existent to her senses.
So Xiao Hong decided not to bother with it anymore. While she was definitely curious about what it was, she currently had no means of knowing more about it. What she couldn’t figure out would not matter anyway. Since the system could use it, she was happy.
“With this new rate, I can heal completely in a week at most!” Xiao Hong was slightly relieved.
However, another problem had cropped up.
“... What the heck is this limit?” She frowned. “Is it the limit of the system? Or is it the limit of my body and I can’t cultivate faster than this?
She quietly felt out her condition.
A short while later, a bitter smile appeared on her face, “So, it is my own limit.” Her heart felt constricted. Her talent was once again limiting her.
Cultivation was a Pathway of Ascension. It was the practice of continuously supplementing oneself with the power of Heaven and Earth (Spiritual Energy of Heaven and Earth), refining it into their own Essence, refining it to strengthen their Body and Soul - thus evolving beyond their previous self, closer to perfection. It was a never-ending journey of transcension of the Self - a continuous transformation of the Soul, the Body and the Essence.
But even while cultivating, there was a maximum rate at which one could grow beyond their original Self. And this was exactly Talent. Talent defines the rate at which you can transform yourself beyond your original Self. And this Talent has an Upper Bound.
A normal cultivator would be able to Cultivate at a certain rate relying on just Spiritual Energy of Heaven and Earth. Upon taking pills, he would be able to Cultivate faster. With precious resources, he might be able to cultivate even faster. But, no matter how he cultivated, no matter what pill or what precious treasure he used, this Upper Bound was a limit that he would not be able to cross.
And Xiao Hong had hit the Upper Bound of her Talent. She could not cultivate faster than this. Her chest constricted as the implication of this limit sunk in - she was doomed.
Even with 333 times the speed of cultivation, it would take her six years to reach the peak of Divine Sea, and she would be 24 at that time.
Six Heaven-damned years!
Moreover, she would have to undergo nine Disasters, after that! Even if she passed one a year - which was unlikely, she would not be able to attain Nirvana before 30! Not even with her System.
It would not make a difference even if she changed her Cultivation Method - the only difficult thing about the Cultivation Methods she cultivated were the resources. Cultivation was not about the quantity, quality or potency of one’s Essence - that was simply the result of one’s cultivation.
To put it simply: if a normal Heaven Rank Cultivation Method would take 1 unit of resources for a certain level of Cultivation, then a Supreme Rank would take 100 units. But the latter Cultivation Method would also refine said resources 100 times faster than the former.
The Supreme Rank Cultivation Method might take more resources, but it forged an unparalleled foundation to make it easier to progress in the later stages.
That was why there was no point in her changing her Methods. If she had the resources, the Cultivation Methods she had were the best of the best. And with the system, she would reach the fastest rate!
In conclusion, changing to weaker Cultivation Methods will also be of no use.
So, at this moment, Xiao Hong’s heart felt unusually heavy, like a mountain had settled on it.
Ever since she had transmigrated, she had felt a lot of things, surprise, shock, wrath, happiness, hope, envy, terror and so many other emotions she could not count. But majorly, it had been pride.
She had been full of arrogance and pride since her transmigration. Because she had a system. She had always believed she was special because of that. She was someone destined to be awesome, someone destined to be great, someone destined to be looked up to by the later generations.
When she became an Alchemist, and in record time too, she had felt validated. The praises from the Elders and looks of admiration from her peers had stroked her ego.
Inwardly, she had felt jittery with excitement when she became a Grade 2 Alchemist. Once again, she felt validated - she was indeed the destined protagonist!
‘Hehe, as expected of me!’ were her thoughts.
It was so much better than her previous life where she was merely a despised manager who had to leech off of the others’ talent to rise. A despised human who was looked at with distaste wherever he went. A despised person whom no one wanted to associate with, but had to, because he held their fate, their career, in his hands.
In this world, she was very different from her previous life. Here, she was Xiao Hong - an extremely talented Alchemist who drew gasps of shock and surprise when she showed off a tiny bit of her talent. Here, she was a Jade Beauty who drew looks of admiration, longing, desire, lust and jealousy wherever she went. Here, she was sought after - not because she had any leverage over them, but simply because she was talented, skilled and attractive!
However, now, at this moment, she felt another stronger emotion that overwhelmed her pride - Despair.
Despair when she learnt that not even her prized system could do anything to bring her out of mediocrity. No matter how fast it cultivated for her, it was still limited by her shitty talent. No matter how awesome her cultivation Methods were, no matter how many resources she was given, she was destined to remain a mediocre Outer Sect Disciple.
She did not want to stay an Outer Sect member her whole life - it was a death sentence for her. Without the status of an Inner Disciple, she was worth nothing! The way Bai Heng had casually used her as something to be traded for made her aware of how cruel this world was to those without power or those without status.
Her fate without her ‘talent’ was bleak at best.
Though, most importantly…
She did not want to be that despised, mediocre person ever again!
She did not want the admiring gazes she enjoyed to once again return to looks of scorn. She did not want the words of praise that fed her ego to turn into mockery. She did not…
Xiao Hong tried to gulp down the lump in her throat.
‘I don't want to be him ever again!’
Yet, there was now the revelation that her Talent was so bad, even a System could not do anything about it. It was a blow that thoroughly shattered the confidence Xiao Hong had built up in the past 2 years.
But, a small light of hope existed.
‘No! There’s still the Yuan Essence Pills, they might be of help to me!’ Xiao Hong tightened her fist - she was unwilling to be mediocre. Even if there was the slightest chance, she would not give up!
She was finally someone she could be proud of! Even if it was her system that brought most of her achievements, it could be considered her ability. The longer she used the system and the more she learned about Cultivation, the more she understood that the system was much closer to her than she’d ever imagined.
There were many conjectures in her mind, but the most obvious one was that the System was her own special talent. This was also why she was so proud of her achievements!
“Even if the Yuan Essence Pill is a bust, I can still find a way to increase my talent! I refuse to believe there is no talent-increasing Natural Treasure, Secret Technique or Secret Pill. I just haven’t come across it yet!” Xiao Hong’s gaze became sharper!
“Even if there aren’t, there are many other ways to strengthen my talent.” She would not give up now that she had a new life where everything was going so well! “The World is vast, it is impossible for there to be absolutely no such thing!”
After making up her mind, she decided to make changes to her Technique Slots.
She also threw out the Spirit Transformation Art and the Heaven-Swallowing Roc Breathing Method out of the slots. The latter was useless for now because no matter how much Spiritual Energy she gathered, she would not be able to go past the Limit of her Talent. It was just a waste of resources!
As for the Spirit Transformation Art? It was also useless for now. Even if she reached Small Accomplishment, she would not be able to use 4x amplification - her body was not strong enough!
For now, the only two techniques that were in the slots were the Heaven Concealing Method and the Earth Burrow. If she had cultivated Earth Burrow to Grand Completion, she would not have to face any damage to her meridians at all! Grand Completion was called Perfection for a reason!
It would not be called Perfection if there was such a glaring problem in it.
For example, the Star Shifting Steps before Perfection had a short gap between each activation. Moreover, every time she used it without letting her Zhenqi calm down, the gap would increase. If she tried to execute it forcefully, she would suffer a backlash. But after reaching Perfection, this flaw would disappear.
Now that she knew she did not have much chance of reaching Nirvana Realm before 30, she decided not to waste any time and used the slots for her Cultivation Methods instead. If she ran into someone too formidable, she would use Earth Burrow and escape. She just needed to be careful.
Was she being reckless? Definitely. But… It was also her determination. She was going all in!
After once again affirming her determination she closed her eyes and began circulating the Spirit God’s Soul Cultivation Method. Even if the effect was minimal, she would not give it up.
‘I have no time to waste.’