We woke up early and made our way to the main forest area after a heavy breakfast. Thanks to grandpa Shan and Lin's spirit tools, packing wasn't a hassle and we had all the essentials already packed away, like sleeping cots and rations. We were also wearing sturdier robes than yesterday, and grandpa Shan also made me wear some simple leather bracers and shin guards.
I hiked myself up a tree's gnarled roots and leaves crunched beneath my foot when I stepped off. The smell of earth and decomposing underbrush filled the air, and the forest was silent like an undisturbed crypt. Behind me were my two grandpas, they stayed far enough just outside my Domain's range, and close enough to act in case some spirit beast stronger than me showed up.
"Little Jin," said grandpa Shan, "do you have any insights about the nature of your Crown?"
I expanded my Domain and felt for any signs of life, a flash of gold illuminating the gloomy forest. There were none. I closed it a moment later to avoid looking suspicious, as well as to not spook anything lurking about. "I'm not sure grandpa, but I think anything that can add more properties to my domain would be good."
We hypothesized my Crown should be some sort of mental spirit with the possibility of growing either towards support or control. This we figured was because my Domain had detrimental effects on others and beneficial effects for me. Support system spirit masters focused on providing buffs and the like to others, while control system spirit masters made life difficult for other people. And with my twin spirits, I had the possibility to grow into two systems, with power attack—those who focus on overwhelming force—for my Hammer as my sure second.
"You should clearly decide where you wish to go litle Jin," said grandpa Lin. "You cannot replace your spirit rings after all. Your first one determines where you'll go."
That was a lot of pressure to put on a four-year-old. "Then control should be a good foundation," I said. "My Crown's real power stems from its Domain," and the other effects it provides me, "and if I can make it terrifying to others, then this should give me good command over a battle." Unfortunately, coming into conflict was already a given—or at least, I'm already expecting it'd be.
Grandpa Shan stroked his beard. "Yes, I agree with this. Especially if you'll be the one to lead a team, a greater command of the tide of battle will be very beneficial to the forces under your command in the future."
We scoured the forest for spirit beasts, and made sure to only look for spirit beasts that had properties that allowed them to exhibit their control over an area. There were spiders and bats first to name a few, then queens from the insect kingdom—but those spirit beasts were rarely within the realm of a hundred years, and usually only started appearing at a cultivation of ten thousand, clearly too much for a first ring. Terrirtorial beasts like alphas in packs or groups also worked, since they had command as part of their being as well.
We went on for another few minutes before I opened my Domain, and got a response. "I found something," I said. Hunting spirit beasts was a lot like fishing exccept with more danger involved. It involved a lot of patience, and just as much violence and luck, and even meeting a suitable beast was already difficult, much less finding one with a cultivation matching your limit.
I kept my Domain opened and slowly inched my way towards the presence. My senses were still dull from the spirit power sense, and to my Domain, my Spirit Master cousins were no different in terms of sensation compared to my Titled Douluo grandpas, so that was a good direction to get started with.
I willed my Domain to start siphoning energy as fast as it could, and the presence stirred, moving away instead. "It's trying to run away," I said.
"Let it go then," grandpa Shan said. "A monarch cannot be bothered to run."
Fair enough, my Crown did look like a king's. "So, demeanor and not just function also works for a spirit ring's qualities?"
"Yes," grandpa Lin said. "Through the years, even the temperament of one's spirit beasts would also translate to the spirit master's power once absorbed."
We resumed our search, getting theses hits and misses every now and then. We'd seen wind baboons and some datura snakes, then some thunder spiders and swift swallows, and none were particularly good for me. After another few hours of searching, we found ourselves in front of a cave.
"What about here?" I said, expanding my Domain inwards to illuminate the dark landform.
"See if you can rouse something within to come attack you," grandpa Shan said.
"Is this about a cornered rat biting?" Provoking something backed against a—hypothetical—dead end was a sure way of making anyone desperate. "I don't think that would count as bravery."
"Yes, but king's need not always be brave," he said. "They just need to be able to make the best choice."
"And a last stand is also a form of pride," added grandpa Lin.
I shrugged and moved closer to the cave's mouth, making sure to coat myself with as much spirit power as I could. I wasn't stupid enough to kick a hornet's nest without any insurance. I expanded my Domain and had it eat as much as it could—and now that I think about it, gluttunous beasts would also work, given the nature of this devouring aura. I noticed a presence and willed more of the devouring to settle on it, but it neither stirred nor retreated.
"It's not moving," I said.
"Good," grandpa Shan said, "cross your fingers little Jin, we might have found your first spirit after all."
Grandpa Lin stayed back outside the cave, guarding the entrance from anything coming in or out, and grandpa Shan stepped ahead of me and led the way, bringing his overbearing hammer out. Anyone entering my Domain was became just as susceptible, and I could sense the oppressive energy of grandpa Shan's spirit being devoured. Yet I could only barely scratch the surface of it.
I willed my Domain to focus on devouring that presence ahead of me, and though the cultivation bar barely rose, there was a different sort of energy flowing into me. It was… chaotic, to say the least. Like there was no reason behind it.
Golden light illuminated the rough stone walls, exposing jagged surfaces and roots stretching down from the ceiling, and we passed a sort of mound before I saw a flesh-like cocoon sitting at the very back of the cave.
"That explains that strange energy I felt," I said. "This seems to be an insect spirit beast trying to undergo a change." Because I was damn sure no normal insect would grow a cocoon about a meter long and a half meter wide.
"Such a strange creature," grandpa said, stepping closer.
I also approached, and my foot crunched against something. Focusing on it, I noticed it was a large shell like thing with a lot of barbs—it was a leg. Memories of dead cockroach limbs surfaced from my past life and a shudder went up my spine. I stepped closer to the cocoon like structure and shone my light on it—and the outline of something vague with large jaws was revealed. Yeah, fuck the insect kingdom and everything it stood for. The outline pulsed with each hungry wave of my aura, the figure within stirring but otherwise helpless to resist.
"It's disgusting," I said, still absorbing the energy it had—there was no harm in getting a surplus for my cultivation, and grandpa Lin even encouraged me to keep cultivating despite having already reached the bottleneck of the tenth rank.
"Yes," grandpa said. He leaned down to get a closer look and poked the fleshy sack. "The skin doesn't seem to be poisonous, and this carcass here seems to have dried up long ago." He picked up a shard of the chitinous remains. "This used to be a spider."
"Then that must mean this is some sort of parasite against spiders," I said. Since spiders don't spin no fucking cocoons, but then this is a place where the natural laws go to weep so I could be wrong. But the size of those jaws reminded me of an ant's, and given what I'd seen so far, this was most likely some spider-wasp from hell sort of creature.
"This is perfect for your Domain, little Jin." He turned to me. "And these sorts of creatures prey on the cultivation of others, and from the looks of it, this was a Man-faced Demon Spider with cultivation just before the thousand years mark."
"Yes, but that would mean I'd have to crush it." Just imagining the outcome…
"But it's a good spirit that's defenseless right now, is also perfect for you." He wasn't smiling.
"I understand," I said. "But… the goo and all those strange fluids… would leak out."
He brought out a large water skin and a change of clothes. "You'll thank me for this later."
I sighed and brought out my Hammer, the black light mixing with the gold. "This better be worth it," I said, and concentrated spirit power into my Hammer—its weight increasing as more and more was poured in. The Clear Sky Hammer's true worth was in its ability to unleash force, and this weight for spirit power quality was one of its most basic offensive attributes. I brought up my Hammer and smashed it down on the pupa's head—and a burst of bodily fluids washed over me, burning my skin where it touched.
I expanded my Domain and devoured the energy in those fluids, and the burning came from both outside and within. Some parts of my robe started dissolving. "I think the pupa is poisonous!" I said.
"You'll be fine little Jin," grandpa said. "Eat as much of my spirit power as you need later.
As long as it didn't enter my bloodstream, I was confident I could resist the pain with some help. I smashed down my Hammer again, this time at the exposed head, and another splash of fluids hit me—but just then, a ring of ethereal yellow appeared. The burning didn't leave, but with my Domain eating at the spirit power infused into it, the burning was lessening with each passing second.
"Now what?" I said.
"Will your spirit to touch the ring," grandpa said, "but make sure not to touch it with your hammer."
I took off my Crown and concentrated spirit power into it and brought it close to the spirit ring—which approached of its own accord. When it made contact—something hot burst into my fingertips and spread through my arm and into my torso. This felt a lot like when grandpa Lin awakened me. I retracted my Domain and used it to devour the foreign energy in me, and opened my Core as well, filtering all that heat.
That same chaotic energy I'd been devouring earlier had no seeming direction, so I spun my power around it, containing it and funnelling it into my core. I had no idea what I was doing, but my my spirit power bar refused to go any lower than eighty percent no matter how much I expended so I must've been doing something right.
I stayed like that for who knows how long, and the burning on my skin had long subsided, already devoured of any energy left behind. Through my core, the hot energy joined my circulation and from my right and left hands the presences became more substantial—like they were surer of being there.
When I opened my eyes, I saw grandpa Shan and Lin watching over me. Grandpa Lin heaved a sigh of relief, while grandpa Shan broke out with a great wide grin. Then grandpa Lin cuffed him again, but grandpa Shan was unperturbed.
"I don't think I've ever seen anyone cultivate lying prone on the ground," grandpa Lin said with exasperation.
I pushed myself up from the ground—then suddenly remembered what it all was covered in before all this. I stood up with a start and felt the same vertigo hit me, and found grandpa Shan and Lin to look different from before this little episode. "Why didn't you move me away from all that insect goo?!" I asked, hysterical and shuddering all over, I was half naked and covered in partially dissolved clothes, and I could still feel some wet parts here and there.
Grandpa Shan tossed me the water skin he promised earlier and I stripped down faster than I could complain a second time, washing myself of the filth I was covered in. I pushed back the vertigo through sheer force of will and finished cleaning myself, and grandpa Shan tossed me another set of robes.
"That was absolutely disgusting," I said, remembering the taste of insect pupa saturated dirt. "I want to vomit." I scratched at my tongue, trying to wipe away the terrible memories. All this while, the two old people were just chuckling to themselves, though grandpa Lin was glaring at grandpa Shan every now and then. "What are you looking at?" I pat myself down and summoned my Crown to check if there was anything strange and found none, exactly like before.
"Congratulations on getting your first ring," grandpa Shan said. "My gamble was worth the risk!" He laughed out loud, the chuckles shaking some dirt off of the cave ceiling.
Grandpa Lin cuffed him again. "Are you sure you're alright little Jin?" He fussed over me and checked me all over, and I felt his probes of spirit power enter me and cycle through my body before returning to him.
"I'm alright grandpa Lin." I shot grandpa Shan a frown. "And what's this about a gamble?" From the corner of my eye, one of the nine boxes, the one at the very left now had an image imposed on it—split into two. It seems I did get my first spirit ability.
Grandpa Shan walked over to me, lips stretched from ear to ear, he then pointed at my spirit ring. "Did you notice the hint of purple on it?"
"Now that you mention it." I willed the ring closer to me eyes and saw the very slight hint of the other hue. "Okay, so why is that important?"
Grandpa Lin grunted. "The known limit for absorbing spirit rings is not only known from distinct cultivation levels, like from a ten, hundred, or thousand year cultivation. Values in between are also important, and Spirit Hall had long published that four hundred years was the average limit for the first ring."
I nodded. "And clearly, this ring of mine is closer to a thousand." I turned to grandpa Shan. "And what then if I weren't able to absorb it?"
"You could have died if I didn't do anything," he said, matter-of-factly. "But I wouldn't let something like that happen to my cute little grandson, of course I had some way of forcibly stopping you from absorbing it."
It hurt a little, to have been subjected to a risk I wasn't aware of, but the gain was generous enough. "Next time, please tell me if you're planning something like that, alright?"
"The thought only occurred to me after we saw this pupa," grandpa Shan said, poking the shell it left behind with his foot. "And since you didn't complain about it stealing the cultivation of a thousand year Man-faced Demon Spider, then I figured you'd do well."
"The goo burned my skin."
Grandpa Lin cuffed him again.
"But you just set an unprecedented record in the continent," he said.
Grandpa Lin grumbled. "He did do some good."
"Tell us then, little Jin, what is your new spirit ability?" grandpa Shan urged.
I concentrated on that first box, and the ring floating around me shone with yellow light. The gold mist like glow shone out of me, but it became focused like a beam instead of a general spread and brought all its glory to settle on grandpa Shan, and the cultivation bar started filling up towards thirteen little by little.
What's peculiar however, was that only half of the square lit up.
"From what I could tell, this Devour ability allows me to increase the absorption rate of my Domain and allows me to direct the entirety of its influence to only one target."
"I see," grandpa Shan said, "so this is what it feels like to have my spirit power eaten by you, little Jin."
I stopped Devouring grandpa Shan's spirit power. "I'm also at the twelfth rank right now, and should only need a bit to tackle thirteen."
I met their eyes and lowered my voice before saying, "I also seem to have another ability."
I summoned my Hammer, and the two tilted their heads at the all black spirit. The ring of yellow shone again, and this time, the bottom portion of the square lit up. Black light issued from the Hammer as a sinister power concentrated at the face I held away from me. I swung the Hammer towards the wall, and a sharp bolt of black light surged outward and pierced into the stone.
"This is called the Iron Wasp Bullet," I said.
We rushed our way back to the Clear Sky sect after we'd gotten what we came for and the two geezers pulled no stops on the return trip back. Our trip to here took all of six hours, but this time we only took four. I knew they still weren't going all out, but to not even look like they were pushing themselves.
We didn't bother with the front gate and instead jumped directly into the courtyard, kicking up a fuss with some of the practicing students and uncle Zhang, and headed straight for the inner hall.
"Are you alright?" asked grandpa Bai, rushing us when we've just entered, and his spirit power enveloping us and rousing our own.
"Were you attacked," asked grandpa Huang. His spirit power was already roiling, but the excited smiles on grandpas Shan and Lin disarmed the two other elders' panic. "Why do you both have stupid looks," he said with a glare.
They presented me like a ham on a silver platter, grandpa Shan holding me up by the armpits while grandpa Lin nudged me to do the thing. I humored them and willed both Hammer and Crown into being, together with my single ring.
"He was able to absorb a nine-hundred-year Iron Spider-Wasp ring," said grandpa Shan.
And grandpas Bai and Huang had mixed expressions, that could clearly be interpreted as a 'huh.'
"And, watch this," grandpa Lin added, and nudged me again.
I willed my Crown to execute the first ability, and directed Devour at grandpa Bai.
"It's gotten much stronger," he said, as if it were expected.
"Man, you elders are all monsters," I said with a pout.
"We're all Titled Douluo here, little Jin, of course we'd be monsters," said grandpa Huang with a grimace.
"Old Huang, think fast," said grandpa Shan, and directed me at him.
My ring shone again, this time connecting with my Hammer and I shot a bolt of black light at the only bald grandpa in the room.
The bolt surged after him and dispelled into his just now raised hand, dissipating into thin air. I whimpered at grandpa Shan, pointing my little black Hammer at grandpa Huang.
"What?!" grandpa Huang said.
"We don't understand either," grandpa Shan said. "But little Jin's spirit ring seems to be connected to both his spirits."
Just then, father walked into the inner hall together with mother. "Little Jin, are you alright?" he said, then his eyes settled on each of the gathered elders and the single spirit ring still floating around us.
"I'm alright father," I said. I was still being held by my armpits.
Grandpa Lin explained the situation and the good fortune we'd encountered with getting this gentle yet formidable spirit ring.
"However, we are completely lost on where to develop little Jin towards," grandpa Shan said, "the best course of action would of course be to seek help with understanding the peculiarities of his condition. But we know of no one with that knowledge whom we can trust personally."
"But perhaps, we may have a lead," grandpa Lin said. He brought out a small booklet and showed it to the rest of the elders. "We elders have been using the work of this Yu Xiaogang to direct the cultivation of our disciples."
"Yes, the author of the Ten Core Spirit Concepts," father added.
"And we believe he may have some ideas at least with how best to direct little Jin," grandpa Lin said.
"And what do you think, little Jin?" father asked me.
"I think I'll be fine on my own," I said. Given what grandpas Lin and Shan had already told me, and the fact that these ten core spirit concepts have been guiding the sect's development for quite some time now, then I'd say there was no need to directly involve someone outside the clan. "We are not sure if this person is to be trusted, and neither are we sure if this person has ties to Spirit Hall either."
"Little Jin, we all agree you are a genius, but even hubris should have its limits," said grandpa Huang.
"But he's also right," said grandpa Shan. "Spirit Hall's influence runs deep."
"And yet we know from those auxilliary halls in Heaven Dou's capital that Spirit Hall has not published this thesis either," said grandpa Lin.
"But then if it were correct, wouldn't they wish to keep such knowledge for themselves?" said father.
"However, even a little clue is still better than none," said grandpa Bai. "And I do not approve of making little Jin take unnecessary risks like this, we cannot rely on good fortune all the time."
"I can agree with grandpa Bai on that," I said. "Do we know of where this Yu Xiaogang is?" After that question, I heard grandpas Lin and Shan sniggering. "Eh?"
"Please don't mind us," said grandpa Shan, "just some old grandpas finding amusement in our little king here."
Grandpa Bai started sniggering too, "It fits well, with his domineering attitude as well."
"They're not wrong little Jin," said father, he was also smiling a tad bit, "our little king doesn't cower even when faced with these old powers and grandpas."
"You should have seen him when he was to kill the pupa," granda Shan blurt out, "he was completely against doing it in because all the fluids from it would splash him."
Mother paled at what had happened.
"And yes mother," I said, "it was exactly as disgusting as I figured it would be. The fluids even dissolved part of my clothes." I shuddered. "I even tasted some of it when it splashed."
We all agreed to first send some people out to try and track Yu Xiaogang, while I worked on cultivating and learning a bit more of our clan and life in general. The latter I could more or less fill in the gaps with using my past life, but the finer points like what money was like or how people interacted in general was one of the things I was lacking in. And with a world like this where honor and grudges could overturn the lives of an entire clan, well, it'd pay to understand the intricacies.
I sat at the top of a boulder warmed by sunlight with my Domain expanded in full. Getting my first ring expanded my range from ten meters in diameter to fifteen, and when using Devour, even allows it to reach as far as twenty, and with the parasitic property of the Iron Spider-Wasp, I now need to keep my absorption in check unless I want to end up killing the plants around me. Which is pretty cool in retrospect but not very nice in the long run.
Breathing in the energy of the universe, the rate at which power filtered in was a lot more noticeable now, and Pranus Core seems to have expanded a small bit as well from the rise in ranks. It had already been a week since we got back from Star Dou Forest, and I was already tackling the fourteenth rank. However, due to my still developing body, learning martial arts and doing strength training was out of the picture.
The scene playing out, with the grasses swaying to the gentle wind and the clouds moving, it was a view I'd come to love after coming to this world.
I passed the time like that until noon, just relaxing under the sun and headed back home for lunch. I had a simple meal and then went with grandpa Lin to learn a bit of writing and reading. Thanks to easily memorizing, lessons don't last too long and I get the rest of the day off to play or cultivate or whatever. But, I usually watch my cousins train.
They would continuously swing their hammers in a way that would weave in and out, tracing paths of hard and soft forces. Hard when they'd exert power to move, and soft when they'd redirect. It reminded me of the way I'd play in the water as a kid, making invisible currents under the pool and continuously moving my hands in ways that didn't feel… wrong.
Day after day, there would still be no news of Yu Xiaogang, and day after day I'd come to watch my cousins train. To not get in the way of my cultivation, I'd sit on the rooftops and open my Domain just enough to extend upwards by a bit but not let it reach downwards. My Domain was good for me, but it was bad for everyone else.
Time was the only thing I had to spend, so I figured I'd spend it well with learning as much as I could. There were limits to how much I could achieve on my own even with the memories of my past life.
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.