Chapter 117 - Lingering Souls of Heroes
The female major took Li Yao deep into the army camp.
Along the way, they met many soldiers, all of whom looked at Li Yao with an extremely frightened look, as if he was some kind of monster.
Everyone's gaze had made Li Yao feel jittery. He could not help but ask the female major, "Why are they looking at me like that?"
The female major was silent for a moment before replying, "It's because of the crazy stuff you did on the platform. You had beaten a 3rd level Refinement Stage Cultivator so much that one could not bear to look at him, and even a dozen soldiers were unable to pull you away. At that time, we truly thought that your body was possessed by a demon clan member and were about to behead you. However, after a thorough examination, we discovered that you were 100% human and that it was just your spiritual root awakening. To tell you the truth, I have seen spirit root awakening of many cultivators, but one as exaggerated as yours is still a first."
Li Yao was rendered speechless and could only smile in embarrassment.
The female major swept him a glance and continued, "However, after they came to know the reason, a lot of people in the army believed you are pretty gutsy, that you are a man!"
While speaking, the female major stopped in front a heavily guarded tent and said while pointing inside, "Go in, he is inside."
Li Yao looked around.
The black tent was located at the centermost location of the provisional army camp. There were over a hundred guards nearby while next to the tent stood a few men dressed in ordinary clothes, each with an extraordinary bearing.
Although he dared not to release the spirit threads to probe, Li Yao could still feel their remarkability. They all should be cultivators with superb cultivation.
Furthermore, a defensive array was secretly laid out around the tent. It was quite exquisite to the point that Li Yao was simply unable to gauge its depth.
Who was the “he” inside that was guarded so heavily?
Li Yao’s interest was piqued. Parting the curtains, he lowered himself and walked inside the tent.
A translucent white mist permeated inside the tent, amidst which were 7-8 men who were wearing white surgical gowns and surgical masks as they stood around an operating table. They were seriously performing an operation.
There were also four robotic arms in front of the operating table that were moving very quickly.
Just as Li Yao entered, the white mist made a rush towards him, disinfecting and sterilizing him.
Li Yao carefully glanced towards the operating table and saw something that was not human lying on the operating table. It was a rather small spirit mechanical body whose entire body was cast from metal and the most crucial parts were inlaid with hundreds of crystals. Whereas intricate spirit and crystal fibers that were glistening in a strange brilliance were spread between all the limbs and bones of its body.
A small hologram was embedded inside the head of the spirit mechanical body. While the crown of the head, which was refined from tungsten steel, was open, the four robotic arms were quickly installing several dozen crystal chips inside the “brain”. After they were finished, they cautiously closed the crown of the head and tightened the screws.
"Spiritual energy, 100% charged! We are ready to go!"
A doctor pulled down his white surgical mask before an emotionless sound that that did not contain even an iota of human emotion came.
"Beep Beep! Diagnostic system check complete!"
"Beep Beep! Cognizant crystal circuit complete. Soul and crystal chip synchronization 37%... 58%... 81%. Achieved the minimum requirement for revival!"
"Beep beep! Spirit mechanical body loop is normal. Starting the body control authorization process... Authorization process complete!"
Next, the crystals all over the body suddenly started shining. The spirit mechanical body lying on the operating table gradually sat up and shook its metal head in confusion.
Snowflakes started to float in the hologram that was embedded inside the face and soon gathered to create an ordinary human face.
It was none other than Ding Yin!
"Hello, Student Li Yao, we meet again."
Ding Yin slightly smiled. His voice, on the other hand, was completely calm and emotionless like the water in a dry well, containing not even an iota of human emotions.
He frowned slightly and said, "Starting human emotions simulation system. Test, test. Student Li Yao, is my voice normal now?"
Li Yao was completely dumbfounded. He stammered, "I-it's normal, Professor Ding—you are alive?"
"No, I'm already dead!"
Ding Yin smiled and said, "The seven of us low-level cultivators charged straight into hundreds of millions of demon beasts with a Taiyi Lightning Railgun—how could we not be dead? However, I was lucky. A wisp of my residual soul was found. Now, I can do nothing but become a 'spectral cultivator'."
Only now did Li Yao start to remember. They were a unique existence among the cultivators.
Just as its name implied, the so-called “spectral cultivators” were cultivators who had died and had their bodies destroyed, leaving only a wisp of their residual soul behind. And after going through several chances and opportunities, the soul, which did not dissipate, would once again embark on the road of cultivation!
During the world of ancient cultivation forty millenniums ago, spectral cultivators were seldom seen. Furthermore, the cultivation of the soul had various restriction. In order to ensure that the soul did not dissipate, from time to time, they would need to swallow the souls of the living and to suck blood essence. In other words, they would have to take the life of another and would have to owe countless blood debts.
That was why, in the ancient world of cultivation, spectral cultivators were notorious and were were synonymous to evil lifeforms.
However, after forty millenniums of cultivation, civilization had advanced. As long as the soul was powerful enough, it could be digitized, and the soul could be sealed inside crystal chips. And matched with a spirit mechanical body, they did not need to fear the sunlight and could walk in the sun as they embarked on the completely new road of dark cultivation.
Of course, humans and ghosts were completely opposite; one was yin and one was yang. The road of dark cultivation, compared to the normal road of cultivation, was a million times more dangerous. The spirit mechanical body was, after all, not a body of flesh. During a random solar flare, it was quite possible for the soul to be destroyed.
Although a vast majority of spectral cultivators would never grow old, they could not live forever. After a few centuries, in the same old way, their souls would grow old.
However, it was always better than vanishing in a puff of smoke!
"Fellow Daoist Ding, we welcome you in joining the ranks of spectral cultivators. Although humans and ghosts are completely opposite and it is no longer possible to reincarnate, the world of dark cultivation is extremely marvelous. Let us explore it together!"
All the doctors warmly applaud. But the sounds they emitted were like the clashing of weapons; it was as if their palms were cast from metal.
One after another, the doctors pulled down their masks, revealing eight gloomy and frightening metal skulls in front of Li Yao.
Li Yao almost shrieked—from the start, the eight doctors were all spectral cultivators!
He himself and nine ghosts were staying inside one tent.
Ding Ying smiled, waved his hand, and said, "Fellow daoists, this is not right. This little guy is very good, please don't scare him for fun."
A particularly tall spectral cultivator mischievously laughed "Hei hei" as he extended his ghost-like metal claws and lightly pinched Li Yao's shoulder before speaking in an austere gloominess:
"We have heard that this little guy is very courageous. Daoist Ding, just for you, he had beaten the crap out of an opponent who was two levels higher than him, so we wanted to test him a bit! Little guy, you are very good! You didn't pee your pants, you are truly a man!"
The other spectral cultivators enigmatically burst into laughter together. From the very beginning, they could also express emotions like normal humans. They were just putting on an act.
Li Yao suddenly didn't know whether to laugh or cry. The mysterious impression he had of "spectral cultivators" had, in the blink of an eye, collapsed. These people—no, these ghosts were too naughty!
Ding Yin pressed both his hands down as he slowly climbed down from the operating table, thereby stopping the mischievous laughing ghosts. He tried to a few steps but staggered along the way. He thought out loud, "It feels strange. It's like there is a membrane covering my body, this feeling is completely different from before."
"But of course! In the past, you were human, and now, you are ghost. In the past, your cultivation was high, but now, after becoming spectral cultivator, you have to start from scratch. After you have settled things here, Fellow Daoist Ding, please go to the 'Heroes’ Spirit Pagoda' and stay there for a few years to learn about how to be a good ghost. Only then can you truly enter the world of dark cultivation," the tall spectral cultivator said.
Ding Yin heaved a sigh and melancholy said, "When I left the house, I was still someone with flesh and blood body, but now, I have become a cold ghost. I don't know how I am going to explain it to my wife and children when I return home!"
The tall spectral cultivator said, "Fellow Daoist Ding, you don't need to worry. After the inspection is finished and we have made sure that no demon clan member had sneaked into the train, we will ensure that we have safely sent all the passengers to their destination. Afterwards, this matter will be made public. You will become a hero of federation. Your family will definitely be proud of you!"
Ding Yin blankly nodded his head. Quickly, he stabilized his mood before turning his head. "Student Li Yao, whatever you may want to talk about, we can talk about it slowly, but we have an important matter at hand for which we need your help!"
"Professor Ding, please speak. I will do my best!"
Ding Yin's impression in Li Yao's heart was particularly tall. Whatever it may be, he was certainly going to help however he could.
Ding Yin with Li Yao made his way out of the tent. His every step was very stiff.
Outside the tent was docked a thick black military shuttle which had gone through special modification. Its rear end was mounted with a tuba-like thing, and a bearded veteran was sitting at the driver seat. Next to him sat a few soldiers, all of whom had a special skull insignia on their chests, underneath which were a row of small characters:
"May the spirits of the deceased come back to us!"
"This is the most exceptional 'Soul Search Squad' of the federation. This squad is especially responsible for searching for residual souls. Just a while ago, they had already conducted a search and brought me back after they found me. Now, they are planning to conduct a search for the second time, seeing if they could find another residual soul."
On one side, Ding Yin explained, while on the other, he pulled Li Yao aboard the military shuttle.
"What can I do?"
Li Yao checked the military shuttle a bit and discovered that although the battle shuttle looked ragged, its components were well maintained; for a while, there would not be any problems. There was no place to show his prowess.
Ding Yin said, "Right after a human dies, when the soul is going to dissipate, the person who last saw them would be able to sense them especially. As you were the last person who was seen by us, your appearance will stimulate the residual souls of us. When stimulated, the souls would produce a special kind of fluctuation, making it easier for the soul search squad to detect them."
"So that was the case! Then, let us go quickly!" Li Yao jumped onto the flying shuttle.
The search for the residual souls was a race against time. The blazing sun was hanging in the sky, and under its intense sunlight, the spirit would dissipate. If it came to that, then even the gods and immortals would be unable to save them.
The military shuttle carrying the soul search squad, along with Li Yao, Ding Yin, and the tall spectral cultivator, "Tang Long", started searching along the crystal rail. Soon, they arrived at the battlefield from last night.
Having arrived here, only then did Li Yao come to know how dangerous it was last night.
Along the crystal rail, in the radius of a few dozen kilometers, it was nothing but charred corpses, seemingly as if the land was covered by a black sheet.
The military shuttle flew close to the ground. The powerful jet streams fired by its propulsion array glyphs blew away the charred corpses lying on the ground as it continuously set off a cloud of black smoke.
"Bo! Bo! Bo!"
The tuba-like thing on the back of the military shuttle made a monotonous sound that spread across every direction.
A member of the soul search squad stared at the hologram under the tuba-like thing, surveying very seriously.
Li Yao was a little curious. Looking around, he closed his eyes and extended the spirit threads from the spiritual root as he tried to feel the world outside.
"Wow, so many specks of light!"
Li Yao was shocked. He discovered that the entire world was full of blood-red specks of light. It was simply like an inexhaustible sea of light. He didn't even need to use the spirit threads to suck these blood-red specks of light, as they made a bee-line for and into his spiritual roots on their own.
However, after swallowing these specks of light, he faintly felt uncomfortable. He felt muddled-headed, and a cold killing intent gushed out from the bottom of his heart.
 - Here, souls refers to the dead spirit/souls. This marking of souls will be one time thing as it is pretty easy to differentiate. I didn’t differentiate because it made a little awkward and also the souls (dead souls) here are treated something similarly to living things.
 - Dark cultivation here is none other that cultivation way of spectral cultivators. I didn’t use spectral or ghost cultivation, as it sounded a little awkward as compared to dark cultivation.