A month passed and Luo reached the peak of the 3rd layer in Gather Qi and Xun reached the 6th layer. Luo's hands healed but scar tissue formed over his palms and obscured all the lines on his hand.
"Xun, it has been a month now and my hands have also healed. We have one more month for the summer competition and I should go to the Dai Shan forest like I originally planned to increase my cultivation."
"Okay brother. I will meet you at the competition directly."
"En. Sounds good. You can come there with Master Fu Lin. Don't forget to get the jade slip of the Ancient Zither Abode before the competition." Xun nodded to this and Luo departed towards the Dai Shan forest.
After running for three days, taking breaks when he could, the scenery slowly changed around him. He could tell that he was nearing the Dai Shan forest by the increase in the density of Spiritual Qi in the surroundings.
As he made his way inside he started to sense a lot of Tier 1 monsters.
He came upon an open area where a group of people were preparing their equipment before entering the forest. They saw Luo and a burly man in the 8th layer of Qi Condensation realm, walked towards him with a deadpan expression.
"I am Ma Jiande and this is my hunting party. Who may I ask are you?"
"Hello Sir. I am Luo LianHao. I have come to the forest to increase my cultivation."
Jiande's expression brightened and he patted Luo on the shoulder while guffawing loudly "HAHAHA, kids should be more like you Luo. To be so eager to cultivate, it is a gift. And you can just call me brother Jiande"
"Ok brother Jiande. May I ask you what you are preparing for here?"
"Yes, of course. We have got news of a location in Dai Shan forest of a divine tree bearing the Blood essence fruits . My team currently consists of 5 people mainly in the Qi Condensation realm and 5 members in the half step Qi Condensation realm. I am their leader. Your cultivation level is low, but as I say, to each his own. Wanna join? You must sign this document saying that whatever happens to you is not our responsibility."
"Of Course brother Jiande and thanks for letting me be a part of it. May I ask how the rewards will be split?"
"Yes. The rewards will be split according to merit. Biggest share will go to the biggest contributor. Simple."
"That's even more great. When do we set off?"
"In a while. On our way, there will be some Tier 1 lord beasts and Tier 2 beasts. We have heard that the guardian beast for the tree is a Tier 3 beast, but we have a method to get past it. The Tier 3 beast is equivalent to True foundation realm cultivators, so we must be careful not to alert it or else it will mean death for us all. Well, that's that. We can start in a while."
Luo nodded and sat down beside a tree waiting for the other members to get ready. They came and introduced themselves and were pretty friendly, which made him think of it in contrast to Xiao Wu, who used to constantly bully him.
They set off after a while following the directions of the scout who had a map that they had prepared. The first encounter was a duo of two Tier 1 beasts. They were two ogres which had strong physiques. 5 people in the half step Qi condensation level and Luo stepped up and split up into two groups, each facing one monster.
The first group dealt mainly physical attacks to the ogre's head and then used heavy kicks to make it fall down. After that they stabbed its eyes with a sword and it died. They worked with such harmony that it all looked simple.
Luo and the other two decided to use a similar strategy. The second ogre was enraged at the death of its friend and started swinging its arms wildly. They backed up a few steps and one of them used a wind punching technique to generate bursts of wind that kept hitting the monster.
The second one attacked it on its legs while Luo leapt up in the air, concentrated some Poison Qi in his hand and used a palm attack directly onto the ogre's head.
It would take some time for the poison to affect it , so Luo kept tapping the monster with his Poison Qi and then leaping out of its range before it had a chance to attack. In a matter of minutes, the ogre spit out blood and fell down and breathed its last.
Luo and the others patted each other's backs "Brother Luo, that was not bad at all. You were as fast as us, perhaps even more."
"Thanks brother Cai Bo. Could you tell me what was that technique you used to punch the ogre from afar?"
"That is a family technique that I have inherited. It's called the Furious fists of wind." They exchanged pointers on techniques while the others skinned the beasts and collected their cores.
As they made their way inside, they encountered more and more Tier 1* monsters, some in groups of 2-3 and some alone. They used similar teamwork to kill the beasts and then skinned them to get their cores.
After 2 days they had some 80 Tier 1 monster cores with them. Luo asked Ma Jiande if he could battle the Tier1 beasts alone, so as to help him in his cultivation. He agreed and then Luo also discussed it with Cai Bo and others and they agreed to his request as well.
As they encountered monsters like Big red salamanders, Demon Spider, Human sized blade wasps, blood wolves and Poison flies, it was mostly Luo and the half step Qi Condensation realm members that worked on killing these monsters. Luo was especially relied upon whenever the creatures used poison-related techniques.
Since they were just Tier1 beasts, Luo was resistant to their poisons and killed them in a flash. He also worked on battle tactics for facing different creatures and found that his speed coupled with quick and repeated attacks of Poison Qi worked on almost all the Tier1 monsters.
If they did not work, he would use the momentum of his speed and attack them with his Physique to kill them. Since his body was equivalent to a middle grade Soul tier weapon, the Tier 1 and Tier 2 monsters could be easily killed by him.
After 3 more days of this journey, the forest started to become very dense and trails were even covered with spiritual mist that could cast illusions on them. Ma Jiande and a couple of others used talismans to block the effects of the mist.
Suddenly a group of 20 Tier 2 Naga monsters, creatures with snake-like features from the waist down, but with hands like humans. They were covered in scales and patterns like snakes and had slits in their reptilian eyes.
They surrounded everyone and started hissing loudly and shaking their tails in excitement.
Luo and the others all stood in a circular defensive formation with Ma Jiande and the Qi condensation experts in the outer circle and Luo, Cai Bo and others in the inner circle. They were instructed to provide support by Jiande.
By some unheard trigger the monsters started attacking in tandem. The Qi condensation cultivators held their own, as they jumped out, and all of them managed to distract at least 2 monsters each. Ma Jiande was attacking furiously , cutting away with his machete at the Naga monsters.
Some of the monsters that couldn't be occupied by them started towards Luo and the others taking them for easy targets. Luo knew his poison Qi attacks might not work, so he relied on his speed and the strength of his physique and asked Cai Bo and the others to lend him support.
"THAT IS MADNESS. YOU CAN'T FIGHT AGAINST TIER 2 MONSTERS. YOU'LL DIEEE' Luo just smiled and just as a Naga neared him, his right hand flew with great speed and the Naga was sent flying and hit a nearby tree trunk.
Cai Bo and the others were flabbergasted, but knew that in order to survive they had to support Luo from afar like he asked. Cai Bo took the lead and they started attacking the Nagas that were incapacitated by Luo's attacks. Luo relied on a natural stance , instead of a solid stance, which allowed him to stay agile and draw decently powerful attacks as well.
He used drop kicks, straight punches and uppercuts on the Nagas. The attacks broke the Nagas' defenses and in just a few moments all the Naga's not occupied by Ma Jiande and the others, lay incapacitated. Cai Bo and the others used the opportunity to slit the throats of the Nagas to kill them.
Now they used the same tactic to start helping Ma Jiande and the others. Luo started with the ones that were struggling with 2 opponents at a time. As he started lessening their load, the Qi condensation cultivators were freed up to use killing strikes instead of being on the defensive.
The counterattack turned the tide and soon all of the Naga's lay in a pile of bodies. Ma Jiande and the others had suffered a few injuries but Cai Bo and the others did not even have a single scratch. They all thanked Luo and agreed amongst themselves to give him the highest share of these Tier 2 monster cores.
Just as they were congratulating themselves, a Tier 2 lord Naga monster, which was double their size and had blood red scales appeared in front of them from the mist. It looked at its dead brethren and let out a shrilling scream filled with hate.
#GlossaryGood to Know:* Tier1 monsters are equivalent to upper layers of Gathering Qi cultivatorsTier1 peak and Tier 2 monsters are equivalent to QI Condensation cultivatorsTier3 monster is equivalent to a True foundation cultivators
Just as they were congratulating themselves, a Tier 2 lord Naga monster, which was double their size and had blood red scales appeared in front of them from the mist. It looked at its dead brethren and let out a shrilling scream filled with hate. It was also a mental attack and all the half step cultivators except Luo passed out.Luo was guarded from the attack by Master Yin 'I'll guard against its mental attacks. You can take care of it without any worries.''Thanks master. I won't let you down.'Luo went alongside Ma Jiande as he prepared to attack it. The Qi condensation cultivators had not passed out but it was a strong mental attack and only Ma Jiande was unaffected. "Luo, it seems it's just you and me. Don't piss your pants now.""In your dreams brother."Luo asked him if he had a finisher attack with his machete and Jiande said "I do but that thing's defense is very hard. It won't pierce through.""You let me worry about that and prep
He came out from cultivation and saw that the Tier 3 monster outside had been killed by someone and he could see the signs of a bloody battle. He packed the remaining Blood essence fruits to give Xun and came out of the hollow in the branch.'My body is as strong as peak True foundation disciples now, so I should be good in battles. But I should probably focus on a movement technique for use in battle. My current moves are strong but predictable.''Good thinking Brat. Good movement techniques are a must. I will not help you explicitly by giving you a technique, but I can let you view how I use them and come to your own deductions.''That would help as well master. Your movement techniques must be very profound.'' HAHAHA, of course, they are. They are the profoundest of them all. HAHAHAHA!'Luo rolled his eyes at master Yin's smugness but was excited to learn the techniques. 'This one should do. This is one of the most exciting battles of my life.
Luo now decided to start for the summer competition. Xian town was to his east now and headed Northeast towards Kumji town, north of Xian town, where the Summer competition would be held.He just started running out of the forest, all the while practicing the 'Wave' portion of the Iron and Wave steps as he zipped past the Dai Shan forest at high speeds.After running like that for 2 days, he reached Kumji town with the competition being hosted in 3 more days. The city was already bustling with people coming in from different sects to attend the competition. Lamps were hung in the streets and the shops were decorated gaily.There was a kind of festive mood everywhere. Most of the inns were already occupied, so Luo had to search for a while until he found some boarding for a few nights and paid the rent. He slept through the night and woke up late, getting all the travel tiredness out of him.He washed up, had some breakfast and with the blood essence
Ignoring Cai MingZhu, two disciples who were twins, suddenly went near Luo and as they surrounded him, constantly looking at him from various angels they introduced each other. "We are the nightingale twins of the Ancient Zither Abode. This is Zhong Bai, my brother.""And this is Zhong Gui, my brother. Now, you should introduce yourself."Luo was amused at this and introduced himself "I am Luo LianHao, nice to meet you."The other apprentice, a scrawny girl with a flat chest and short,wild brown hair looked at Luo with disinterest. As their eyes met, Luo smiled "Hello sister, I am Luo LianHao, what would your name be?""Hmm. My name is Hao Qi". She looked at him up and down and carried on with her business.Luo also introduced himself to Cai Mingzhu but she did not grace him with a reply, so he shrugged and moved to the registration counter with Xun.After entering their names for the competition, master Fu Lin bi
As everyone, about 500 who passed out of the 5000 applicants, shuffled into the next building for the test, they were allotted different rooms based on their token numbers. Luo and Xun found their room and started walking into it. Cao Mingzhu , Zhong Bai and Gui and Hao Qi were also in the same room as them.The test began after the instructors explained the rules and gave out written tests with questions that checked their approaches to different problems. Cao and Luo at once began to tear into it and started answering their questions.Xun looked at all the questions and she didn't recognize half of them. The other half were as master Fu Lin had made her practise. The Zhong brothers started meditating and listening to the tempo of the brush strokes of Luo and Cao who were answering the questions vigorously.They found the rhythm in it and started using their own brushes to replicate that rhythm and answers started flowing from their hands as well.Hao Qi
Master Gu Ryu bade all of the applicants to move to the open ground for the next round of testing and everyone followed his orders."All right. Now for testing how much of the 36 walls of Soul you all have comprehended." He then expanded his Qi and his Martial will with the intent to kill, gushed out from him. This was to put pressure on the soul or to test out the mental defense of those around them.Hua Geming comprehended the soul defense technique until the peak of the 4th wall of Soul and he immediately put his soul defense up. While it was still hard for him and he was feeling a little suffocated under the pressure he withstood it.Cai MingZhu had comprehended till the 3rd layer and had broken through to the 9th layer of Gathering Qi. The Zhing Gui and Zhong Bai Twins also comprehended till the 3rd layer but their cultivation had not progressed enough for a breakthrough. These three were finding it very suffocating under the pressure but were able to withs
Hao Qi, Cai MingZhu, Xun, Zhong twins chose to go to the Ancient Zither abode as well.Gu Ryu went over to Han Ryu and said "Han did you know that, that boy Luo had come to our sect first for a jade slip of acknowledgement. We rejected him because he was not a noble apparently. And if you have eyes you will see that Hua Geming and the other's decision to join the Ancient Zither abode were affected by Luo's decision even if by a little. You see Han-boy, Fate is a fickle thing. If you don't catch the opportunities that come your way , more often than not you'll be left with heartburns and stomachaches."Han Ryu scoffed at what the old master was saying but did not argue. Xiao Wu was seething at all the attention that Luo was getting. "This disciple bows to Master Han Ryu. I would like to join the Heavenly Dragon sect and show the trash Luo Lian-whatever here what he just passed up on." Ha
Everyone was ready before the break of dawn and Fu Lin wished them good luck and they all started.Even though the Zither disciples started together having packed the necessary supplies for the journey, after a while Cai MingZhu stopped in front of Luo and said "Me , Zhong Gui and Zhong Bai will be one team once we reach the starting point.It's not good to have big teams as the share of the loot will be lesser and there will be more opportunities this way. I wanted to give you this chance to form your own strategy. Master expects a lot from you , but that doesn't mean that I or the others will automatically concede to you. I hope you get that."The Zhong twins looked at the others and just shrugged and smiled as if they were just going along with what Cai had said just for fun.Before Luo could thank her she jumped the gun and started using a movement technique to run at high speeds. The Zhong twins were keeping up as well. "Huhh...there she goes" Luo sa