Five years to the day, and we were back in Star Dou Forest to get my second spirit ring, and for Tang San to get his third. Only after Xiaogang and my grandpas deemed my body strong enough did they allow me to get my next ring, and even then, I had to wait for cousin Tang to breakthrough to the thirtieth rank since the only gave the go once the little monster reached the cusp of the twenty-ninth.
Hence, to save on time, we just waited instead. What was a few more days compared to five years, more so to someone who'd set an unprecedented record of reaching rank twenty just before his fifth birthday.
We stood at the edge of the forest with the same people forming our group: grandpas Shan and Lin, then uncles Hu and Zhi, then me and Tang San and uncle Xiaogang. The little scuffle me and uncle Zhi got into caused him to make a breakthrough so now he was a five ring, fifty-third ranked Spirit Ancestor. Uncle Xiaogang also reported he was somehow half-way into the twenty-ninth rank bottleneck, and what changes we did see were instead on Luo San Pao. The previously pudgy purple pig-like dog thing now looked a lot sleeker and more menacing, sort of like a short-haired Saint Bernard that was about a meter and a half tall.
Grandpa Shan even joked that if Xiaogang's spirit grew any larger and leaner, then he might even be able to ride him around.
"Little San, little Jin," said uncle Xiaogang, with San Pao standing next to him and panting. "Little San should be able to exceed the limit of the third ring by around two to three times." He was shaking his head all that time with a pitiful smile against his day-old stubble. "And you little Jin, can aim for much higher with your next. The normal limit for the second ring is at around seven hundred years, so double that would be around a thousand and four hundred, and considering your first ring from a nine-hundred-year beast, then a thousand eight-hundred to two thousand should be within your range."
"Understood," we two kids said. Xiao Wu was again not together with us even though she'd already reached the twenty-eighth rank since there wasn't much point to her going, though I wouldn't be surprised if she suddenly showed up with a new ring saying she made a breakthrough while we were gone. As far as I knew, there weren't any major families with a rabbit spirit, and the family name Xiao was also something common so perhaps Xiao Wu was just one of those one-in-a-million geniuses—unless she wasn't.
"Do any of you have preferences?" asked uncle Xiaogang
Tang San hummed for a few moments before saying, "A spirit that would add more weight to Blue Silver Grass would be good, when coming from an attack development perspective, while something to enhance the delivery of a restraint or to add another effect to Bind would be good for a control development perspective."
Xiaogang nodded and said, "Given your initial choice to go towards the control route, your Machineel needles were a bit of a deviation, but the potent poison you gained from it synergized well with your spirit, so I believe that as long as we get a beast that follows this poison cultivation, then it should be alright."
I shuddered, remembering the many times I was on the receiving end of those needles. Sometimes, my Clear Sky aura coating would lose potency under that piercing effect and I'd get poisoned half-way into a spar. Given my cultivation, it was possible to resist it to some degree, but anytime it happened easily spelled defeat for me within a minute or two—and that was with twentieth rank spirit power. What more for those with lower cultivation? And what now, with Tang San advancing to the next stage?
Uncle Xiaogang turned to me, "And you little Jin?"
"Do you have any suggestions, uncle?" I said. Our relationship was a lot more harmonious now, less hostile and suspicious to say the least, and it was thanks to mutual respect that we eventually settled a few issues with like what did we really want with Tang San or why only tell him now about his Ten Core Spirit Principles helping the sect cultivate and all that. Typical adult worries and such.
Xiaogang nodded. "The controlling properties of your domain lie in its ability to deprive your opponents, so anything increasing your range or potency would be good, though adding effects would also be beneficial." He sighed before continuing, "But, we also have to consider what ability it would give your hammer since your spirits are merged."
After joining the sect as my bodyguards, uncles Hu and Zhi were allowed to learn more about—well, me, so now they were also in on the secret to my power.
Grandpa Lin spoke up, "I have a suggestion." We all turned to him and he continued, "Something with lightning in its nature would be good since our Clear Sky Hammer can also go towards this direction, not just with tyrannical weight or force. And given lightning's effects, I believe it would also be beneficial to developing little Jin's domain abilities."
Grandpa Shan laughed out loud and said, "Hah! Our little Jin following the path of his own grandpas, isn't that precious?"
"I never did get to see why you two are called Storm Cloud and Thunder Clap douluos," I said, pointing to grandpas Lin and Shan respectively.
Grandpa Shan smiled. "You never asked."
I narrowed my eyes at him and said, "Touché." Grandpa Shan laughed at that, and I continued, "I agree with this line of reasoning, so anything with an electrical or lighting property is good for me. Though something adding to defense would also be good, maybe something like a rhino or elephant, or maybe even a turtle." Legends of the Black Turtle Genbu resurfaced, as well as the many derivative works of fiction the mythical beast of the North inspired.
"A turtle?" asked uncle Zhi. "A creature with such a gentle nature just won't suit you little Jin." For some reason, all heads there nodded. "Something more sinister would be better, like a furious snake or a rabid tiger."
I narrowed my eyes at him as well. "I won't refute that," I said, pointing at him. "But I'll remember this." Proving a point and keeping petty grudges in good humor were one of the few past times I had, thanks to the vast memory capacity Brain Charger provided me.
We went on our merry way, and the first to find their spirit beast was me. It emerged from a cave much like that horrible memory of my first ring.
"Little Jin, there!" said grandpa Shan, pointing at the moth as large as me with the electric blue wings leaving behind crackling powders in its wake.
"That's a Thunder Heart Moth," said uncle Xiaogang. "Its wings shed electrically charged scales that are able to stop the heart with a touch, and since it has one pair of circles on its wings with another just about to form, it should be at just before two thousand years of cultivation! Little Jin, that spirit beast is perfect for you!"
The moth caught wind of our presence and started circling somewhere nearby. I wasn't liking the direction of this conversation.
Uncle Xiaogang started barking instructions, "Zhi, you get the moth's attention with your fire spear, while seniors Lin and Shan should suppress it with their aura. Little Jin, prepare your hammer."
"Won't I get covered in goo and stuff again?" I said.
"It'll be alright cousin," said Tang San.
Uncle Zhi shot out a column of flame with his fourth ring, and the moth then turned to glide in towards our group, so grandpa Lin stood in front of it.
"But electrified bug remains sound like a very messy and painful affair."
"Just think of the benefit it would do to your cultivation," Tang San said.
Grandpa Shan came out of nowhere and a black ring shone from above him, his hammer appearing in turn and casting a net of lightning like black light over that entire moth's body and pressing it down and faster towards us.
"Yeah, but… it's disgusting," I said.
"Little Jin! Prepare your spirit!" said uncle Xiaogang as he, uncle Hu, and Zhi dove out of the way of that electrified monstrosity wriggling and writhing underneath its restraints.
"What is a moment to the rest of your life?"
"Fine," I said, bringing out my Hammer and pouring all I could into it as my first ring shone. He made it sound so easy, coming from the guy who doesn't have eidetic memory.
Grandpa Lin's third ring of purple shone, and a boom emanated from his hammer to stop that moth in its crash course, it also stopped twitching after the collision.
I then jumped towards it, as the black light formed into a bolt and I drove my spirit down onto that moth's head.
The Hammer pierced into its eye and went straight out the mandibles, and the moth then started struggling again as I enveloped it with Devour and grandpa Shan had to retract his spirit ability to avoid accidentally killing it. Then the damn thing flapped its wings and sent out a gust of electrified powder—which all got devoured by my Domain, but sent arcs of electricity through my spirit and into me, making my entire body spasm.
I coated myself with the Clear Sky aura and latched onto the beast as it shakily got up on its legs, and I started wailing my Hammer over its head over and over and over again, guts and poisonous electrified scales scattering everywhere.
The moth would buckle and flap, throwing more of its guts everywhere and I'd weigh down my Hammer over the opening in its thorax just to keep my grip, when it tired, I'd restart my wailing. Praying to whatever cruel gods there were to just make this all go away. We kept up the struggle for god knows how long until I puked about three times and the creature's head and torso were finally cracked open and no more juices would come out—with a final swing, the twitching stopped, and a purple ring started condensing above my head. Elation and relief rose from within, pushing away the numbness of my entire body and the pounding pain in my head.
Black light then surrounded my gold and I started feeding off my grandfathers' energies, replenishing my own.
I sat on top of the carcass amidst the crackling shards. The forest was silent, and none dared to speak—or even look at my direction.
"Not a word," I said, silently filling my spirit power bar back up. I also extended my domain over its now dead husk to again feed off whatever residual energies there were, but the electricity kept flowing into me, and my right arm only now decided to go berserk together with my left big toe.
Thanks to grandpa Shan's electrified stimulation, my heart never stopped beating—else, spending so much time bathing in the scales of that moth known for stopping hearts would've done what it was known for and killed me in the stupidest way I could think of.
I then sat down to cultivate and willed that new ring be taken into my merged spirits, as a line of pain flashed a bright white through all the nerve clusters in my body. Uncontrollable jerks and spasms riddled my everything as the death throes of that moth replayed over and over in my mind, flashes of blue and black mingling together in a sea of gold. I lashed back with Devour and filtered everything I could, passing it through the chakras and into my Crown. But every now and then a sliver of blue with escape and wreak havoc within.
With a flash of brilliance, I coated myself with the Clear Sky aura, and slowly saturated my own body with its power, Devour's amber light deepening into the darkened gold of dawn. The spasms slowed, and the chakras expanded together as the bright blues turned darker and darker into a midnight black.
Then, with another surge of effort, I willed all my spirit power to completely smother whatever was left of that energy, and drive a torrent through my chakras as they ground to a slower pace with the massive influx. Each completed turn would color the energy my own, and each trickle into my Crown made this welling sensation from everywhere in my body become greater, almost making me want to laugh like a maniac. It reminded me of that night with those dozens upon dozens of white rings, and the mad dance with which I'd killed—the cruelty and joy of throwing around my weight resounding like a clear gong at the back of my mind.
When it all finished, I couldn't help a great bellowing laugh from the pit of my belly escape, as I opened my eyes to the rest of the group all huddled together with blankets under the cool night sky.
"Shhh," said grandpa Shan with a start. His voice was low and cautious, "You'll wake the beasts you little rascal!"
We couldn't make fires whenever we spent the night in a spirit beast sanctuary, since fire element spirits were attracted to them, and there was nothing brighter under the night sky than a fire element spirit kicking up a fuss.
"All you farts made me go through such pain again," I said, throwing off the half-burnt half-dissolved blanket covering my almost naked body. "That moth burned me inside out," I said. My breath smelled like burnt flesh. "I'm just lucky I stayed alive despite all that." I shook my head and noticed the whopping twenty-seven in Interface.
"It was the perfect spirit for you," said grandpa Shan, hiding his mouth with his sleeves. "Wouldn't you rather thank the heavens for their favor of you finding that spirit?"
I put my hands to my eyes and felt the hard grit of insect chitin against my tender skin, as tears welled up from my eyes. "I really want to take a bath now," I said, sniveling.
After cleaning up, it was back to storytelling around the camp… site. "Why the hell do I keep getting insects anyway?!"
"Please cousin Jin," said Tang San, also hiding his mouth, "lower your voice."
"What," I said, noticing everyone looking at me, "do I smell bad?"
Silence was all I got.
Finally, grandpa Lin sighed and cuffed grandpa Shan and uncle Zhi, while uncle Hu just watched on shaking his head.
Grandpa Lin said, "You were twitching about while absorbing the spirit ring for three days. Much like the first time you did that wasp pupa."
"Oh," I said.
Uncle Zhi then composed himself and said, "You were also letting out strange sounds like 'aieeee' and 'ououou' while wrapped in that electricity and making all sorts of poses."
I looked at grandmaster who wouldn't meet my eyes. "It was certainly a very unique way to absorb a ring," he said.
I then turned to Tang San. "It makes me wonder how unruly you are asleep, cousin Jin." I'd never slept over at Tang San's room since there was never a need, this question though was just out of left field.
"I'm a heavy sleeper, cousin San, I don't move much."
Grandpa Shan cleared his throat, "Well? Care to tell us now?"
I raised an eyebrow at him and rolled my eyes. "I've just reached the twenty-seventh rank just now," I said.
Uncle Zhi tsked at the side.
"And the two abilities I got were: Static Scales for the Crown, and Thunder Heart Strike for the Hammer," I said, releasing my spirits as a half-purple and half-yellow ring and a fully purple one appeared. "Static Scales increases the normal range of my Domain by another five meters, bringing my normal range up to fifteen meters, and single direction range by ten, allowing me up to thirty-five meters. It adds a paralyzing electric property to my Domain." I turned to grandpa Shan. "Grandpa?"
"Let this old man atone for laughing," he said. "Ready whenever."
My purple ring shone, and my gold light shot towards grandpa, enveloping him as sparkling particles rained down from within that light.
"I see," he said. "This much electricity should be enough to restrain other spirit masters of your level, and impede those above yours." He turned to uncle Zhi. "Care to try?"
Uncle Zhi shook his head. "Little Jin is a freak of nature, I'd sooner save face by forfeit now than regret it later."
"And the other?" said grandpa Lin. "I volunteer."
I shook my head, and said, "The thunder heart strike would most likely make a lot of noise, so I think we should reserve the display for tomorrow morning.
We all agreed and slept, and the following morning, I woke everyone up by smashing a tree and felling it. Of course, I also Devoured the life force of that tree to avoid a pointless death. I smiled at grandpa Shan and uncle Zhi, and we then set out for Tang San's next spirit.
A few hours later, and uncle Zhi would block a swiping sword slash from a yellow mantis as tall as he.
"That's a Daffodil Jeweled Mantis," said uncle Xiaogang. "Its forelegs are able to slash through both stone and iron equally, and its flight speed is among the fastest of the mantis spirit beasts."
A flash of understanding passed Tang San's eyes, "I want it then!" His purple ring shone, then he threw a flurry of poisoned needles, all flying in different arcs towards different joints on that mantis.
Xiaogang smiled and said, "We'll have to rely on seniors' help again later to absorb this near four-thousand-year spirit beast."
Unlike the mess I'd made, Tang San actually killed his beast nearly all on his own, harassing it with his needles and continuously feeding it his poison. Grandpas Shan and Lin kept it from escaping while I impeded its movements with my Static while draining its strength through Devour. The battle would've gone faster had Tang San asked for help, but only when the creature threatened detonation did he finally strike the killing blow—driving the thing to near desperation.
He then absorbed the vivid purple ring, and after four days, emerged with crystal clear wings adorning his hips as the sun rose.
"An external spirit bone?!" said grandpa Shan. "Little San actually acquired an external spirit bone?!"
Tang San settled back on the ground with shaking legs. "It would take some getting used to," he said, "but yes, this ring was absolutely superb." A light danced in his eyes and his third ring shone, as the grass around him stabbed upwards with a flash of silver light. "These are called the Jeweled Mantis Swords," he said. He then broke one of the thinner pieces off and threw it at the tree, completely going through the wood like butter before embedding itself in the next one behind it. "The blades carry a tyrannical piercing ability after transforming Blue Silver Grass, and I can also coat them with the Machineel's poison."
He broke off another piece, then his second ring glowed, dyeing that pristine white with a dripping bluish-purple. Tang San threw it out, again going through a tree, then embedding itself completely into the next one and already sizzling.
I would've whistled if I could, but all that came out was, "Damn, San."
The trip back took another two or so weeks, and lo and behold there was Xiao Wu now at the twenty-ninth rank. In a way I was disappointed, but rolled with it regardless. She had her secrets, so did Tang San and I, it was normal.
After getting us three together though, uncle Xiaogang apparently had something to say.
We were in his office and I stood on attention by Tang San's left while Xiao Wu stood at his right.
"Little San, little Jin, little Wu," he said. "I believe we shouldn't coddle you three any longer."
Grandpas Shan and Lin nodded. Then grandpa Lin said, "I'd already informed your father, little Jin, and he believes your staying with the sect would also hamper your growth."
"Taking risks is a must," said grandpa Shan, "and only by rousing your potential could you three truly achieve your true limits—and exceed them."
Xiaogang closed his eyes, "The world is much larger than just your sect." He looked at me, then to Xiao Wu, "Or this lowly Nuoding city." He then leveled his gaze with Tang San's. "Us old men can only teach you so much, and only through adversity and the real unfiltered world can you truly rise."
Tang San bowed low. "Tang San understands," he said.
"Where brother goes, I go," said Xiao Wu, also bowing.
"Don't you think that kinda came out of nowhere?" I said.
Everyone turned to me. Just suddenly telling me they wanted me to strike out in the world like that was… irresponsible. I never had a say in this decision, and if it's for my own good, then shouldn't I have had time to prepare myself at least? "Well?"
"We understand," said grandpa Shan, "we understand all too well dearest Jin, but you must also realize your responsibility to the sect."
"We've already made mistakes with your cultivation," said grandpa Lin, "and though we've seen that quality of yours that endears you to people, you are still much too blind to the world at large."
"And that's what these trips to uncle were for, weren't they?" I was shaking my head. "We all agreed to go to him for help, and we got it. Because that's how a family solves their problems." I stared hard into their eyes in turns. "How we've solved our problems before."
Uncle Xiaogang then raised his voice. "Enough, little Jin, your willfulness is blinding you to what we wish."
I frowned at him and said, "And what is it that you want?"
Uncle Xiaogang said, "We wish to send you to school."
I opened my mouth to speak, but closed it again, scratched my head, then said, "School?"
Grandpa Shan looked bewildered and grandpa Lin was just as perturbed, then grandpa Lin said, "Yes, we were hoping to send you to a school we trust, to find people who can keep up with you."
Grandpa Shan seemed lost but continued, "None of our students your age is comparable to you, little Jin, and to only have Tang San and Xiao Wu to learn with every day will make you instead make you three's cultivation stagnant, and even if you all are strong—then you will only know of the strength of each other, and not of others."
Uncle Xiaogang cleared his throat, "And this is exactly your flaw as well, little Jin. You are much too sure of yourself and your own power, but you are also not aware of your own potential. You can only see as far as you can fathom, and what leaps of faith you've taken were always within reach of your grandfathers' hands."
Tang San put his hand on my shoulder, "I understand the pain of parting with family, cousin, but I also understand the message my father sent me." Tang San looked straight into uncle Xiaogang's eyes. "In order to take back what Spirit Hall had stolen from me, I vow to do all in my power to shake the very foundations of their lofty castles. I, son of Tang Hao, shall make Spirit Hall pay all they owe back a thousand-fold."
I sighed and said, "Does this mean I can't visit home anymore?"
"What?!" said grandpa Shan. "What sort of strange wind gave you that idea you, stupid grandson of mine?!"
More Privileged Chapters
Download the app and become a privileged reader today! Come take a sneak peek at our author's stockpiled chapters!Download
Please switch to the pop-up to complete the payment.
Complete daily missions to get rewards.Learn more about the rules
This's an experimental test for reading assistance in case.
We highly recommend you to enjoy the beauty of the original words.