Ai Hui meditated for much longer this time. By the time he finished, it was already dusk. All traces of exhaustion vanished from his body, a testament to the efficacy of entering a meditative state while wielding the sword. Previous Circulatory Cycle Revolutions were driven only by his lungs, but now the sword embryo enhanced its movements as well.
The sun set over the horizon, signaling the end of another day.
The morning’s massacre lay fresh in everyone’s minds. A lingering fear hovered over the edges of their conscious minds like a dissipating column of smoke.
At the very least, they were now much calmer than they had been in the morning.
The good news was that Jiang Wei and Wang Xiaoshan managed to simultaneously achieve a breakthrough.
When comparing base levels, Jiang Wei was much weaker than Sang Zhijun. In terms of fighting prowess, however, they were equals.
Sang Zhijun trained in the [Arrow Fusion Technique]. While formidable, the technique expended large amounts of elemental energy, and though she was close to achieving Eight Palaces Completion, she remained an amateur when it came to the [Arrow Fusion Technique]. Despite her ability to fuse three arrows, she could only use it a couple times.
The Golden Silk Longbow’s advantage was in its firing speed, but conversely, this made the shots weaker. Compared to the arrows fired from Jiang Wei’s Mountain Bow, the ones released from Sang Zhijun’s Golden Silk Longbow were considerably weaker. With increased base levels, they would eventually encounter and use a wider variety of elemental energy skills to cope with depletion. These skills would complement the Golden Silk Longbow, allowing its wielder to overcome the inherent loss of power while gaining an edge with its increased firing speed.
But for now, Jiang Wei was more effective in his role.
Breaking through to the fifth palace was a significant advancement.
Ai Hui thought highly of Jiang Wei.
Jiang Wei was down-to-earth, diligent and dependable. All he needed to ensure a bright future was a powerful legacy.
Compared to Jiang Wei, Wang Xiaoshan did not hold as much of a presence, and so the activation of his third palace came as a surprise to Ai Hui.
Ai Hui never intended for Wang Xiaoshan to play much of a role in battle, having other plans in mind.
He needed Wang Xiaoshan to maintain the walls. The perimeter partitions destroyed earlier were already fixed by Wang Xiaoshan. Back in the Garden of Life, Ai Hui noticed that although he was lacking in base level and courage, he was highly imaginative in his use of mud. Only later did he discover that Wang Xiaoshan came from a line of masons, which counted as a type of inherited knowledge.
The newly repaired wall was completely different. Densely packed stone barbs lined the entire wall, making it seem as though it had grown thorns. Wang Xiaoshan had also taken into account the blood fiends’ destructive powers and rebuilt the walls with greater width and height than before.
Sang Zhijun and Shi Xueman lamented the terrible aesthetics of the new training ground.
The entire place had completely transformed under Wang Xiaoshan’s liberal use of his creativity.
Lou Lan held an interest in Wang Xiaoshan. Although the latter was not as skilled at controlling earth elemental energy, he was exceptionally adept at building. The complex structures of the rebuilt perimeter walls made it less pleasing to the eye, but the walls were much stronger than before with the new additions.
Bangwan attacked the wall with his [Viridescent Flower] at full power but only managed to dislodge a small chunk of the wall about half a meter across.
Everyone had a whole new level of respect for Wang Xiaoshan.
The original perimeter wall would have instantly collapsed under such an attack.
In addition to this, Wang Xiaoshan constructed more robust battlements across the wall specifically for Jiang Wei and Sang Zhijun to allow them greater protection.
Wang Xiaoshan was in a state of frantic energy, ignoring everyone around him. He had transformed into a different person altogether.
Focus was a mystical force. It granted charisma to those who lacked it, increased the stature of a meek individual, and allowed even the most ordinary of individuals to stand out from among the crowd.
Fatty was single-mindedly focused on spitting out flames as well.
“Will Fatty be all right if he continues like this?” Ai Hui asked Lou Lan, a little worried.
A familiar yellow light flashed in Lou Lan’s eyes as he gave Fatty a full-body scan. He said, “Don’t worry, Ai Hui, he’ll be fine. Fatty’s condition is extremely favorable. He has already completed his third palace, and continuously spitting fire has increased the liveliness of his fire elemental energy by a good amount. The fire elemental energy in his body has begun to stabilize and should be finished in about three more hours.”
His third palace… Such amazing speed!
Jiang Wei and Wang Xiaoshan had also achieved breakthroughs. Ai Hui recalled how difficult it had been for him to activate a single palace. Using up ten million yuan worth of ingredients had indeed been worth it considering the breakthroughs it had helped to trigger. Surely you receive what you pay for.
It was no wonder those children from influential families had such high base levels.
Ai Hui, who was experiencing mild heartache, moved over to where Duanmu Huanghun was standing and curiously asked, “Why is your base level so low? Can’t you activate more palaces by eating more elemental food?”
Duanmu Huanghun looked over at Ai Hui with disdain and snorted loftily. “What do you know! Coveting shortcuts will result in weak foundations, making it difficult to become a Grandmaster.”
Sang Zhijun explained further, “Using elemental food to increase one’s base level isn’t difficult, but it’s not all rainbows and sunshine either. Classmate Duanmu has far-reaching ambitions and with his innate talent, he has no need for such shortcuts.”
Sang Zhijun went on to highlight the many nuances of using elemental food. Geniuses from influential families like Shi Xueman and Duanmu Huanghun normally consumed elemental food to aid in nurturing their foundations rather than to increase their base levels.
Apart from this, a large number of absolute arts required a solid foundation, and so rushing to increase base level was not always best. The more effort spent on accumulating elemental energy eventually meant more benefits.
Ai Hui finally understood. He did not, however, care much about these pitfalls. He wasn’t sure if he would even live to see tomorrow, so why would he concern himself over such things? Hidden side effects were a problem for the future Ai Hui. For now, increasing his base level was the best way to increase his chances of survival.
Grandmaster? That wasn’t something he had even considered before.
“Oh, so you wish to become a Grandmaster?” Ai Hui questioned as he circled Duanmu Huanghun, clicking his tongue.
Duanmu Huanghun arrogantly harrumphed, speaking disdainfully, “What would a brambling know of a swan’s aspirations!”
“Then why did you eat so much last night?” Ai Hui asked tauntingly, raising his eyebrows. “Hypocritical! Don’t think I didn’t see you licking the plate!”
Duanmu Huanghun was stunned. A red flush quickly crept over his face and up to his ears. He felt so embarrassed that he wanted to find a hole in the ground to hide in.
To him, licking the plate was too….
Nearby, Shi Xueman had an embarrassed look on her face as well. The soup was so delicious that she too had almost licked the bowl clean.
A leaf on the message tree lit up, drawing Ai Hui’s attention away from his plans to relentlessly humiliate Duanmu Huanghun.
Likely because he was well-rested, Ai Hui was in a much calmer state of mind than he was in the morning. He approached the message tree and glanced over the glowing leaf.
“I apologize that I managed to see your message only now, but I am even more remorseful that I do not know how to help you. Blood refinement allows for the creation of extremely powerful warriors known as apostles. As far as I know, there are six, and the Blood of God flows within their bodies. You must be exceedingly cautious when meeting them and attempt to flee as soon as possible. Could you perhaps describe what blood refinement is like?”
Blood apostles… a red figure surfaced in Ai Hui’s mind.
One Thousand Yuan....
Ai Hui laughed bitterly in his heart. There were only six of them yet he had already met one. Such luck.
He thought for a while before writing.
“I’ve already encountered one of them, a lady, and almost lost my life. The trees outside the city have become exceptionally large, and in numerous roots that hang from the trees resembling blood vessels, a blood-red fluid flows. I was bound by these roots which then pierced into my skin. I felt an extreme burning sensation throughout my body and soon lost consciousness. Thank the heavens that I’m still alive, though I have yet to fully understand what’s going on.”
A reply came swiftly after. Ai Hui could sense the old man’s agitation.
“I’ve got it! They’re using the root channeling technique! Forgive my loss of composure, but we’ve never received concrete reports regarding the blood poison before. The root channeling technique allows plants to link and channel substances. It’s an unorthodox wood elementalist legacy. As for the fluid within those roots, I do not know yet.”
Ai Hui was momentarily distracted. This was his first time hearing a deduction regarding the Blood of God. These were the sort of messages that could possibly be of help to him.
He quickly jotted down all of his observations.
“There were many burrs on the trees that came to life once the roots pierced into an elementalist. These tumors writhed non-stop when active, resembling a face twisting its features. Blood refinement appears to require much from its target. I’ve seen elementalists who could not endure it and exploded.”
“Tree burrs? They might be devouring spirits, parasitic spirits, or confined spirit faces of the ancient blood refinement methods. Blood refinement has high requirements with regards to constitution. The number of blood fiends that operate in groups, such as blood ants, will start to decline as time passes. The blood fiends you face later on will be much stronger, but they act on their own.”
Ai Hui heaved a sigh of relief upon reading that bands of blood fiends would decrease. Facing stronger blood fiends, however, was going to be another headache.
“It seems like blood ants are sensitive to chilies, but we have yet to verify this conjecture. After consuming Dragon Soup, one of our friends began to spit flames and the blood ants appeared to avoid going near him. Blood ants aren’t afraid of fire elemental energy, so does anything else come to mind?” Ai Hui wrote his reply.
“Yes, it does bring some ideas to mind. You can try mixing chili with firethorn stones or black-branded flames, or maybe even red sulphur and see if they have any effect on the blood ants.”
Ai Hui finally received a reply that he had hoped to see. He was itching to give it a go.
Struck by a sudden thought, he penned, “I heard them mention blood spiritual force.”
“Blood spiritual force? Really? Are you sure? This is impossible! Nobody should be able to create blood spiritual force. The ancient blood sects couldn’t do it, and there’s no longer any spiritual force left in this world. How is it possible to turn elemental energy into spiritual force? No, could it be that adding elemental energy to blood creates spiritual force? How does that work? I need to think about it, this is simply too shocking!”
Ai Hui could sense the extent of the old prisoner’s agitation and confusion, but he didn’t mock him. Hearing the three words “blood spiritual force” for the first time had left him in a state of utter shock as well.
Spiritual force, the key to unlocking the vast treasures of the Cultivation Era!
He shook his head, halting his wild thoughts before they got out of hand. He was more interested in the old man’s other suggestion.
After his communication with the old man this time around, Ai Hui confirmed two conjectures. He was now sure that the old man was a sworn enemy of the Blood of God, and that his group had intensely studied it in order to deal with it. Although the old man’s group didn’t have a concrete understanding of the situation with the Blood of God, they knew quite a bit about the organization behind it.
Under the curious gazes of the others, he carefully plucked the leaf off of the tree branch and hung it around his neck.
“Lou Lan, do we have firethorn stones, black-branded flames, and red sulphur at home?”