Wuxiaworld > I Shall Steal the Heavens > 75 Chapter 74: Danger

75 Chapter 74: Danger



"NO!" Zhao Shi screamed as she jumped back, narrowly avoiding getting crushed by the immense bulk of the newcomer. "It's the Ice Soul Python's mate!"

A second Ice Soul Python had emerged from the cave, and upon seeing the body of its dead mate, had gone berserk. Hissing furiously, it writhed about, flinging or sending tons of ice crashing down on our positions.

"At least it's not the second head," I muttered. "Or it'll grow much stronger after the first head is killed."

"What are you talking about?" Da Ge demanded as he tried to dodge an artificial avalanche that the second Ice Soul Python was hurling at us.

"Nothing." I glanced at the rampaging Ice Soul Python and frowned. "This can't be good. Snakes usually have multiple mates. When in the mating season, dozens, if not hundreds of male snakes were all compete and tangle together into a snake ball as they attempt to mate with a single female snake, or something like that."

"They…do?"

Da Ge stared at me blankly.

"At least rattlesnakes or anacondas do," I replied as I scratched my head. "It's called a snake mating ball. Well, it depends…some type of snakes, such as vipers, prefer one-on-one mating, and the male will aggressively chase other males away."

"I'm pretty sure Ice Soul Pythons belong to the latter category," Da Ge mused. "I don't believe they indulge in huge mating balls."

"This isn't time for a zoology discussion!" Zhao Shi shouted from the other side. "Why are you calmly discussing snake breeding patterns!? We've to do something about this Ice Soul Python before it consumes its mate!"

"Wait, what? Consume?"

While I was confused, having not read that particular trivia in the encyclopedias in the library, Da Ge's eyes widened.

"Oh no!"

The both of them surged forward, slashing at the second Ice Soul Python with their swords. However, the Ice Soul Python reared up, hissing, and unleashed a wave of qi that blasted the both of them backward before they could reached its eyes. A thick layer of frost covered the already snowy area, hardening into ice above the snow.

"Whoa!"

Even though I was a distance away, I found myself buffeted and knocked back by the powerful blow.

How strong!

"Ah!"

While I regained my balance, I heard a scream. Raising my head, I saw Zi Xiao Ji knocked off the plateau by the sudden blast of qi. Gritting my teeth, I activated Jin and dashed across to grab hold of her before she fell. Unfortunately, I miscalculated and overestimated my strength, and the both of us simply fell off the edge.

"Whoa!"

"AAAAAAAAAH!"

Oi, stop screaming into my ear, girl!

Gritting my teeth, I plunged my borrowed sword into the side of the cliff, arresting our fall. We both jerked to a stop, and I felt a jolt through my left arm. Despite the pain, I clenched my teeth and tightened my grip desperately, refusing to fall to my death.


"Miss!"

"Miss Zi!"

Both Zhao Shi and Da Ge had seen us fall over, and were panicking. Scrambling to the edge of the plateau, they stuck their heads out helplessly, hoping against hope that they were wrong as they peered downward. I mean, what were they trying to achieve? To watch us plummet to our deaths or something?

Fortunately, I had managed to stop us from plummeting to our deaths with my last-ditch effort. Unfortunately, I wasn't sure how long I could hang onto my sword. Or if my sword could endure it.

"Hang on! We'll get you!"

"As much as I would love for you guys to do so, aren't you forgetting something?" I called out from below.

The hissing of the Ice Soul Python struck fear into the duo's hearts. While it wasn't going to risk slithering toward the edge, where the rock might not be able to withstand its weight and crumble – which would cause even the venerable Ice Soul Python to fall to its death from such a great height – it had other methods of attacking.

Right now, it was sending a shower of icicles at us. Both Da Ge and Zhao Shi scattered, even as the gigantic icicles shattered against the snow-covered rock. Despite hanging on by a single thread, I mean sword, I couldn't resist observing the flow of the qi.

…just like how I learned from the Lunar Rabbit and the Ghost Bear, I might be able to learn something from this Ice Soul Python…

Like channeling my qi and creating an ice-based ranged attack. I needed to learn how to shoot icicles. Not only would it increase my advantage and give me a long-ranged option, it would also make it easier for animators to animate my fight scenes because…well, quite frankly, it was easier to draw someone shooting icicles than someone exchanging blows with his opponent.

Crack…

Even though the cliff's edge shielded us from the barrage of icicles, I could see the rock weakening. My sword cut deeply into the crumbling stone, slowly sinking downward. We dangled even more precariously as gravity sought to ensnare us with its fingers.

"No!"

Zi Xiao Ji's eyes widened when she realized what was happening. She gulped and glanced at me, steeling her eyes with determination.

"Please let go of me, Fei Wu."

"…huh?"

I wasn't sure I heard her right.

"I told you to let go of me," Zi Xiao Ji repeated. "If you're by yourself, you'll be able to climb up by yourself, right? If you continue to hang onto me, both of us will die. Let go of me! It's my fault that we're in this situation in the first place! I don't want you to die because of me!"

"Aren't you underestimating me?" I gritted my teeth and swung myself toward the wall of the cliff, ramming both my feet against the rock. Damn, but the snow was making it too slippery. I couldn't gain any traction at all. "I have no intention of letting you go at all. If I sacrifice you to save my own skin, the sect leader and sect mistress will kill me anyway."

Zi Xiao Ji smiled a little sadly, an expression that sent alarm bells ringing in my head.

"It won't matter. Father and Mother wouldn't be sad if I die. They definitely won't blame you either. They know how everyone has to do their best in order to survive, even if it means stepping on top of others."

"Even so, I won't do it." gnashing my teeth in frustration, I tried my best to swing Zi Xiao Ji upward, but neither my arm nor the rock that my sword was embedded in could withstand the motion. I heard an ominous crack that stopped me.

"Huff…huff…"

"Don't worry, I've gotten you!"

Da Ge reached down and grabbed my wrist. With a single movement, he yanked my sword out of the ice and hauled both me and Zi Xiao Ji up. The guy had incredible strength.

"What about the Ice Soul Python?" I asked, nervously glancing behind Da Ge's broad shoulders. The magical beast was thrashing about in the background, hissing ferociously.

"Zhao Shi went to distract it while I rescue you guys."

"Thanks, and sorry."

Da Ge patted my shoulder and smiled warmly. "No, we should be the ones thanking you for saving the Miss. We've failed our duty, and it's twice that you've saved her in our place. Honestly, you should be her bodyguard instead."

"No thanks," I replied immediately. "Tang Qi Hong will kill me."

"That's right!" Zi Xiao Ji agreed. "Don't get any funny ideas, Da Ge! Fei Wu belongs to Sister Qi Hong!"

Hey, you do realize that I'm not an object that belongs to anyone, right?

"Stop talking nonsense over there and help me if you're already done with the rescue!"

Zhao Shi was hollering as she tried to dodge another attack from the Ice Soul Python. This time, she made use of her agility to strike at the head, her blade flashing toward the Ice Soul Python's eye. As before, the Ice Python's armored scales made it nearly impenetrable to any of our attacks. The only option was to attack its weak spot, its eyes.

Realizing that was how its mate died, the Ice Soul Python withdrew its head in reflex and used its bulk to slap Zhao Shi away. The slender girl frowned and immediately flipped her body in midair to avoid its attack. Slightly tapping her foot on the incoming mass of muscle and armored scales, she used it as a platform to propel herself to a safe distance.

And just in time, too. The Ice Soul Python unleashed a second blast of ice that shattered the frost coating the plateau and threatened to knock us over again. This time, I quickly erected a huge glacial wall to protect Zi Xiao Ji, Da Ge and myself from the wicked shockwaves. The ice barrier cracked and slowly crumbled, but by the time it was completely shattered, the Ice Soul Python's frozen wave blast had ceased.

"Phew…"

"It's not over yet!" Zhao Shi warned.

To our immense surprise, the Ice Soul Serpent didn't press on its advantage. Twisting around, it sank its fangs into its deceased mate and seemed to tear open a huge hole in its corpse. My jaw dropped when I realized what it was doing, especially when I saw the gigantic spherical orb that it ripped out of its mate's body.

Earlier, Zhao Shi said something about the Ice Soul Python consuming its mate. I finally understood what she meant.

"We're too late!" Zhao Shi cursed as she tried to jump at the Ice Soul Python, her sword streaking toward its eyes like an arrow. However, the Ice Soul Python merely swallowed the monster core of its mate and then unleashed a third qi blast that knocked Zhao Shi over and sent her flying head over heels across the snow.

"…this isn't good," Da Ge muttered.

"You don't say," I retorted as I conjured another ice barrier to protect the three of us. Dropping to my knees and gritting my teeth, I glanced at Zi Xiao Ji. "Stay here," I instructed. "And don't come out until it's safe."

"And how are we going to make it safe?" Zhao Shi snapped. "You have a way of slaying the second Ice Soul Python?"

"Now that it has consumed its mate's monster core, it would have grown several times stronger." Da Ge gulped. "And because they're both the same species of monsters, and possess the same elemental affinity and qi, it'll be able to instantly assimilate and absorb all the qi from its dead mate. We're in trouble."

Instantly assimilate, huh? Sounded like me, especially after my battle against Ba Yun from the now defunct Chinese Parasol Tree Sect.

"Well, we've to work together if we want to defeat a monster like that," I pointed out unnecessarily and glanced at Da Ge. "Da Ge, do you mind working with me to distract the Ice Soul Python's attention? While we do so, Zhao Shi can attack its weak spot."

"Sure! I have no problems with that." Da Ge glanced up at Zhao Shi, who was recovering after being flung so far away. She straightened up and gripped her sword tightly, preparing another offensive stance. "What about you, Zhao Shi?"

"Doesn't seem like we have a choice, do we?" Zhao Shi glanced at us, her expression as cold as ever. "I'm counting on both of you!"

At least Zhao Shi trusted me enough to rely on me. Which was a lot more than I can say for when we first met.

Both of us ran toward the Ice Soul Python. Even as we charged forward, I noticed that its qi was swelling, thickening and growing much denser, the blue glow that indicated its aura intensifying into a horrifying light.

Yeah, the Ice Soul Python had definitely merged and assimilated its mate's monster core with its and grown expontentially stronger.

"Be careful!" I warned Da Ge. He nodded.

"SSSSS!"

Hissing ferociously, the Ice Soul Python lashed out at us at a greater speed than before, almost catching us off guard. Both of us jumped and rolled in different directions, barely evading its bulk.

"Huff…huff…"

"Whoa!"

As I panted, I could hear Da Ge crying in panic from the other side. Not wanting him to be in trouble, I immediately stabbed the armored scales with my sword even though I knew they were impervious to any form of blade.

"Ss…!"

That got the Ice Soul Python's attention. Hissing furiously, it turned its attention back to me. Apparently, it had been chasing after Da Ge first because he was bigger and therefore appeared to be the juicier and better meal.

Poor guy.

Fortunately, it seemed that my hit had some sort of impact, for I had aggravated the Ice Soul Serpent's wrath. Its coils lashed around, as if trying to crush me, but I was using my footwork to flee for my dear life.

"Sssss…!"

The Ice Soul Python seemed determined to swallow me whole. I could feel a cold gust of air blast toward me, a blizzard of hellish cold that seemed to sap my strength away. It hurt even just to breathe, the freezing air stabbing into my lungs like knives.

Twisting in midair, I kicked the ice crystals that were saturating the air and used them to propel myself away by way of a footwork technique. Dropping onto the ground, I immediately spun around, only to see the Ice Soul Python lunging straight at me.

This time, I raised my sword and stood my ground instead of running away.

The Ice Soul Python crashed down onto my position, but seconds before it could swallow me whole, Zhao Shi materialized right beside its head and plunged her sword into its left eye, stabbing the one chink in the gargantuan serpent's armor.

…but nothing happened.

"?!"

Zhao Shi gasped in shock and recoiled when her blade literally bounced off the Ice Soul Python's eye. A shimmering barrier of blue qi seemed to have coalesced over what was formerly its one weak spot, rendering it impervious to an attack.

"Impossible!"

"It must be because it consumed the monster core of its mate and grown much stronger!" Da Ge shouted in disbelief. "It no longer has any vulnerabilities!"

"You've got to be kidding me…" I groaned. "How are we supposed to defeat a monster like that?!"

"Kuh!"

Zhao Shi was tumbling through the air, struggling to regain her balance. However, the Ice Soul Python wasn't kind enough to wait for her to recover. Snarling, it lunged at her before she could dodge, its jaws wide open.

"Zhao Shi!" Zi Xiao Ji screamed.

"Get away!" Da Ge yelled.

Too late. Zhao Shi was unable to escape in time. She could only close her eyes as the Ice Soul Python surged toward her, greedily seeking to swallow her whole.

"…?"

She never ended up in the Ice Soul Python's mouth. Instead, she found herself shoved out of the way by someone most unexpected.

"Be careful…"

Those were the last words out of my mouth before the Ice Soul Python swallowed me whole.

Bam!

"Gu!"

Zhao Shi hit the ground and rolled to a stop, her body covered in snow. She looked up in disbelief, unable to comprehend what had just happened.

"No way…"

Da Ge's mouth dropped and he shook his head in denial. From a distance, Zi Xiao Ji clutched her cheeks, tears running down her eyes.

"NOOOOO!!!!! Fei Wu!"

Quit screaming. I ain't dead yet.

"Ugh! Yuck!"

To be more accurate, I was in quite a disgusting place. Slimy liquid clung to me, most likely the Ice Soul Python's drool and mucus. Huge muscles were contracting, trying to squeeze me down as the Ice Soul Python swallowed me. If I allowed the muscles of its enormous esophagus to push me down toward its stomach, a horrific death would await me. There was no way in hell that I would want to get bathed in acid and corrosive digestive juices.

"AAAAH!"

With a determined yell, I stabbed the mucous membrane that was doing its best to push me further down its throat. My blade sank in deeply, a spray of blood splashing against me in a disgusting manner and causing me to recoil. A tremor rippled throughout the dark cavity that I found myself in, almost throwing me off.

Wait, did my blade just sink deeply into the membrane?

Oh…that's it!

A smile spread across my face despite me being completely grossed out by the slimy saliva and all sorts of secretions. I might just have a way out of this.

Outside, my teammates were weeping or sobbing, probably assuming that I had died or something.

"This is my fault…my fault for being unable to kill the Ice Soul Serpent!"

Zhao Shi was cursing her helplessness, her inability to slay the Ice Soul Python. She was so depressed that she even got the name of the magical beast wrong. It was Ice Soul Python, not Ice Soul Serpent. Not that I was there to correct her.

"Both of you! Get out of there! Fall back! We can't afford any more casualties!"

Despite being in tears, Zi Xiao Ji remained calm and gave orders to her two bodyguards. Da Ge stared at her, aghast.

"But…but Fei Wu is…"

"We can't do anything for him now," Zi Xiao Ji replied helplessly, her eyes brimming with tears. "We have to survive…for his sake as well!"

"Oi, don't go killing me off like that."

The trio froze when they heard my voice ring across the plateau. The Ice Soul Python screeched and shuddered a something attacked it from the inside. Blood spurted from between the armor blades and the Ice Soul Python crashed downward, wailing and writhing. A pool of blood began to spread beneath its gargantuan body.

"W…what…?"

Zhao Shi stared at the screeching and thrashing Ice Soul Python blankly, only for Da Ge to grab her and drag her out of there before its tail whipped out and obliterated the chunk of rock where she was sprawled on earlier.

So violent was the Ice Soul Python's spasms that the entire plateau was becoming reshaped and demolished by its vicious attacks. Yet, the attacks from within didn't stop. A blade pierced the cracks between the armored scales from inside the Ice Soul Python, sending another geyser of blood out. Screeching, the Ice Soul Python banged its head and body against the ground, as if hammering itself would somehow drive the thing torturing it from within out of its body.

Don't worry, I'll be out of your body soon enough.

Stabbing and cleaving the membrane of the esophagus, I cut my way out of the Ice Soul Python's insides with my sword. Kicking a huge chunk of flesh out of my way, I emerged from a massive, gaping hole, covered from head to toe in blood and other bodily secretions. As a final goodbye gift, I slammed my foot against the exposed esophagus and executed Seismic Step.

As always, I had triggered off a reaction between my volatile, pure innate qi and the surrounding qi of the ice-rich Arctic Mountain. The insides, completely unprotected by the Ice Soul Python's revered and highly sought after armored scales, erupted and disintegrated all across the Ice Soul Python's body as it entered its death throes.

"Not as fanciful as lightning, but it'll have to do."

Unfortunately, I was not Qin Lie, so I couldn't use Heavenly Thunder Eradication or whatever that lightning technique was called.

Quivering, the Ice Soul Python thrashed about for a final few minutes before it finally died.

"Whoa!"

Coughing and spluttering, I slid down the corpse and tried to wipe the blood and saliva from my body and face.

Gross!

"Fei Wu! You're alive!"

"You made it!"

Zi Xiao Ji and Da Ge ran over to me. Meanwhile, Zhao Shi fell onto her rump, her legs weakening as she stared at me from a distance, unable to believe what she had seen.

"You…you're still alive."

"Well, I can assure you that I'm certainly no ghost." I slapped away the droplets of drool, which sort of grossed out both Zi Xiao Ji and Da Ge, causing them to stop a short distance away from me. That was fine. If our positions were reversed, I would most likely do the same, so I didn't blame them at all. "I've survived worse."

Like Ba Yun's torture, for example.

"Anyway, let's proceed to pack these up. We have an abundance of the Ice Soul Python's armored scales, and we can make use of their fangs and other stuff to sell to the spirit material shops. Not to mention that enhanced monster core…"

A monster core that was made from fusing two monster cores together would definitely fetch a high price from the market. I could just imagine the thousands of gold coins we would earn just from the monster core alone…

I'll need to give some of that money to my family!

"Sure. Let's proceed right away."

Da Ge cheerfully nodded and unsheathed his broadsword, preparing to use it as a butcher knife. I wondered if he was going to cut the Ice Soul Python apart. Now that I had torn a hole through the second one, it would be easier to butcher them into pieces, I guess.

"Oh, wait!"

Zhao Shi had finally recovered from her shock and was joining us, her composure totally regained by now. She tilted her head toward me, a faint smile on her usually strict face.

"Now that you're…a little dirty, do you mind digging out the monster core for us, Fei Wu?"

I shrugged. I didn't mind at all, and I proceeded to use the sword to cut the Ice Soul Python from the inside out, slicing until I reached the monster core.

*

With all that done, I proceeded to change out of my soiled clothing and into clean ones. With all the snow around me, I could use that to temporarily clean me off. There was still a bit of stench, but I would need a proper shower to wash that off.

Once we had cut apart both Ice Soul Serpents into manageable chunks, Zi Xiao Ji placed them inside a spatial device or something. I was expecting it to be a spatial ring or something cliché, but it looked more like a box.

"Done!"

Zi Xiao Ji beamed brightly after she placed the last of the Ice Soul Python pieces into her device. The rest of us nodded and prepared to escort her down the mountain. Even after the deaths of the Ice Soul Pythons, none of the usual wildlife came out.

But this time, I could sense them out there. They were keeping their distance, watching them from afar. My glasses detected the fleeting shapes of a few Arctic Wolves as they bounded into cover, hiding just beneath the horizon.

"…"

Since we did not use their pup as bait to draw out the Ice Soul Python, there was no reason for the pack of Arctic Wolves and the Arctic Wolf King to attack us. Hell, that was an anime or dongman-only thing and never happened in the original novel. At least I didn't remember it ever happening in the original novel anyway.

"Thanks for lending me your sword. It really saved me."

I passed the sword that I borrowed from Zhao Shi back to her. I wasn't flattering her. The sword literally saved me not once but twice. If I didn't have it when Zi Xiao Ji and I fell off the cliff…if I didn't have it when I was swallowed whole by the Ice Soul Python…I shuddered to think what had happened. My temporary ice swords weren't strong enough to endure the weight of either of those instances. They were too fragile.

Clinging onto it in the cliff would have caused it to snap and we would fall to our deaths.

And the ice swords I created from thin air would most probably not be able to pierce through the thick membrane of the Ice Soul Python's esophagus. They were too weak for that. The only reason why I was able to cut through it as because the sword I had borrowed was of such a high quality.

"I'm glad it helped." Zhao Shi fell silent for a moment. I glanced at the reflection in the rear view mirror – as before, she had taken the back seat beside Zi Xiao Ji while I climbed into the front passenger seat next to the driver, Da Ge. "And thank you."

"I didn't do much."

"Yes, you did!" Da Ge was guffawing cheerfully. "We'll be rich thanks to you!"

"We'll make sure to split the profits from this mission with you. You'll get at least half of the money we earn from the monster core."

"Nah, I'll just take twenty-five percent. There's four of us, after all."

"You're the one who slew the second Ice Soul python, you know!" Da Ge reminded me good-naturedly. "Don't be reserved!"

"It's a group effort," I insisted. "And I wouldn't have been able to do it without you guys. Twenty-five percent, and no more than that."

Da Ge and Zhao Shi exchanged glances, but didn't say anything else. They probably realized how stubborn I was.

As we drove into Tushan City and passed by the platform, Zi Xiao Ji suddenly spoke up.

"Hey, Fei Wu, aren't you going to try?"

"Try what?" I turned back to stare at her. Zi Xiao Ji pointed toward the nine Spirit Engraved Pillars standing in the Lake of Fire.

"Try communing with those pillars and seeing if you can trigger a reaction."

"Nah, I won't be able to do so. I don't have any background in forging stuff or Spirit Engraving. I'll probably end up in Blood Blades rather than in the inner sect."

"Blood Blades is the inner sect," Zhao Shi pointed out. "The core, anyway."

"Yeah, I mean, rather than being a blacksmith."

"Oh, so you and Sister Qi Hong are going to follow Father and Mother's example?"

"What?!" I spluttered, completely caught off guard by that. Coughing, I shook my head. "That's still too far off in the future. I need to focus on surviving the next three years in Wu Ling Academy and in the Nine-Tailed Fox Sect first."

"Good point," Zhao Shi agreed. Da Ge merely laughed.

"I'm sure you'll be fine. If it's you, Fei Wu, you shouldn't have any problems."

"That remains to be seen."

Glancing at the Nine Spirit Engraved Pillars, I couldn't help but shudder. It didn't seem like anyone had noticed, but there was a terrible, deep darkness dwelling beneath the nine Spirit Engraved Pillars, buried in the abyss below the Lake of Fire. A literal monster.

Can't anyone feel its presence?

That was one of the reasons why I was reluctant to commune with the Spirit Engraved Pillars. Instinctively, I felt that whatever the darkness was, it would consume my soul the moment I attempted to commune with the Spirit Engraved Pillars. It was precisely because I was the only one who could sense it that I would be the one most vulnerable to its predations.

If I was careless, the darkness dwelling beneath the nine Spirit Engraved Pillars would flow up and plunder my mind, using my body as its host and imprisoning my consciousness in the darkest corners of my mind while doing whatever it wanted in reality.

I couldn't afford to let it happen.

Closing my eyes, I briefly considered my options. If there came one day where I really had no choice but to commune with the Spirit Engraved Pillars, then I had to find a way to mentally fortify my spirit and my soul before then.

Otherwise I could very well lose my soul to those nefarious structures that everyone was so excitedly fawning over without realizing the true danger that lurked beneath their feet.