Ever since the spiritual Qi of Heaven and Earth in the Realm of Split Void had been tainted, most of the spirit beasts that had dwelt in different parts of the realm had begun to die by the hundreds.
The fittest survive. That rule applied to spirit beasts too. The ones that were old and young couldn't resist the erosion of the poisonous spiritual Qi and died.
However, a minority of the strongest ones survived and developed the ability to cultivate using the tainted spiritual Qi. Therefore, instead of perishing, they grew faster and stronger.
Most of them wandered in the Void Illusion Mountain Range and preyed on the human Qi warriors who dared to go on treasure hunts in the mountain range.
There were three major dangers one must face if one dared to go to the Void Illusion Mountain Range: spatial rifts that slithered about in every corner of the mountain range, raids led by enemies from the Dark Moon, Wild Fire, and Blood Skull, and the mutant spirit beasts that had survived the poisonous environment.
The footsteps were so heavy that they obviously didn't come from a human. As the footsteps drew nearer, Nie Tian felt as if someone was pounding his chest with a drumstick.
Before he could have a chance to unleash his psychic awareness to scan the area, a gigantic spirit beast entered his sight. It was a extremely robust rhino that was about eight meters long and golden from head to tail.
"Golden Stone Rhino!" Li Ye exclaimed. The moment he caught sight of the mountain-like spirit beast, his fleshy face filled with fear.
"What's its grade?" asked Nie Tian.
"Normally speaking, a Golden Stone Rhino is a fourth grade spirit beast, with the fighting power of a Greater Heaven stage human Qi warrior." With a bitter smile, he continued, "However, since it has survived the harsh environment in the Void Illusion Mountain Range, it must be stronger than the Golden Stone Rhinos you can find in the other nine realms."
Nie Tian closely examined the monster through the green light shield around him.
The Golden Stone Rhino was golden throughout its body. At first glance, it looked like it was made of solid gold, but upon closer examination, it was actually covered in skin that resembled pieces of golden rocks.
A huge horn that shone with suffocating, golden light grew out of its snout.
Nie Tian had a feeling that if he ever failed to avoid that incomparably sharp horn, he would be instantly pierced through and killed. Even his exceptionally strong body wouldn't be able to stop that.
"There's nothing sharper than a Golden Stone Rhino's horn. You'd better watch out. Don't let it get anywhere near you." Li Ye reminded him with a soft voice as the ring of holding on his finger began to emanate a dark-red light.
In the next moment, a set of spiritual armor that had detailed patterns engraved on it flew out of Li Ye's ring of holding and rapidly wrapped itself around Li Ye's fat body.
Only until then did he let out a sigh of relief and seem to not be as anxious as before.
Then, under Nie Tian's gaze, he took out and held a talisman in one hand and a dark-red shield in the other.
He seemed to assume that now that the Golden Stone Rhino had appeared, a fierce battle had become inevitable.
However, from the way he posed, he apparently wasn't planning to rush into battle with the Golden Stone Rhino. Rather, he merely readied himself for scenarios where the Golden Stone Rhino made him its target.
At that moment, Pei Qiqi walked past the two of them and stepped towards the Golden Stone Rhino, a dangerous aura flowing out of her curvaceous body. "Get out of the way, you two!"
Strange sounds rang out around her as she stepped forward, as if the spatial rifts that were swimming about in the vicinity were being influenced by the aura she emanated.
"Hua Tian, we just need to keep ourselves safe and stay out of my senior martial sister's way." With these words, Li Ye pulled Nie Tian back as the two of them hid behind a huge rock. "My senior martial sister can fully display the terrifying might of her spatial magics in the Void Illusion Mountain Range. Since the energy fluctuations here are very special and violent, many spatial light blades will be formed when she casts her spells.
"Those spatial light blades might cause friendly casualties if we're too close to them.
"Therefore, you've got to remember: get away from her once you see her start attacking with full force. Sometimes, she can be even more deadly than your enemies in the Void Illusion Mountain Range."
Knowing the way his senior martial sister fought, Li Ye warned Nie Tian about both the Golden Stone Rhino and Pei Qiqi.
Nie Tian felt slightly unfulfilled. "So we just hide here and watch while she fights the Golden Stone Rhino?"
Li Ye patted Nie Tian on his shoulder and said, "Take it from me, this is the best thing to do, for her and for us. I know that you're hot-blooded and enthusiastic. I saw that in you when we were in the mine. However, this is different. We're not in that mine any more. We're in the Void Illusion Mountain Range. You can't possibly help senior martial sister with your physical strength.
"If you join her and attack the Golden Stone Rhino together, she might have to be careful and make sure that she doesn't hurt you, so she won't be able to go all-out.
"In light of this, we might as well observe the situation from here and act when a good opportunity presents itself or she truly needs our help."
"Alright then," Nie Tian said, frowning.
The Golden Stone Rhino walked slowly toward Pei Qiqi, ferocious lights shooting out of its dark-golden pupils as its gaze became fixed on Pei Qiqi, who approached instead of running.
In its eyes, Pei Qiqi was nothing more than a piece of tasty, fresh meat, the kind it had consumed over and over again in the Void Illusion Mountain Range.
Without any warning, four Ethereal Swords flew out of Pei Qiqi's ring of holding and pierced towards the Golden Stone Rhino.
PUFF! PUFF! PUFF! PUFF!
In the time it takes a spark to fly off of a piece of flint, they penetrated the Golden Stone Rhino's rock-like skin and created four small bloody holes. Blood instantly flowed out of them.
Under the excruciating pain, the Golden Stone Rhino roared as it charged madly towards Pei Qiqi.
The Ethereal Swords immediately pulled themselves out from the Golden Stone Rhino's body before soaring through the air in a circle and piercing into it once again.
Nie Tian noticed that during Pei Qiqi's fight against the Golden Stone Rhino, her Ethereal Swords didn't vanish and pop up the way they had before.
It seemed that she didn't attach much importance to the Golden Stone Rhino, since it was only a fourth grade spirit beast, whose intelligence was far inferior to humans. She didn't think it was necessary to use her sophisticated spells to conceal the traces of her Ethereal Swords.
She also seemed to know that most spirit beasts that wandered in the Void Illusion Mountain Range didn't think human Qi warriors were strong enough to inflict much damage to them, according to their past experiences, so they wouldn't even dodge.
That was what the Golden Stone Rhino had done.
Since the Golden Stone Rhino's skin was very tough, the Ethereal Swords only left a handful of shallow holes. None of them had pierced through its flesh and into its vital organs.
This meant that the Golden Stone Rhino's body was so much tougher than human Qi warriors at its level that the Ethereal Swords didn't even cause any serious damage.
An energy wall that was visible to the naked eye suddenly appeared right in front of the bolting Golden Stone Rhino.
In the next moment, the Golden Stone Rhino crashed into it, and its mountain-like body's tremendous momentum was stopped.
"Spatial Bulwark!" Nie Tian's expression flickered as he was amazed by the scene. Only then was he convinced that Pei Qiqi could indeed display her terrifying fighting prowess in the Void Illusion Mountain Range.
Then, he noticed that Pei Qiqi had shifted into an area where numerous spatial rifts were slithering about in the air.
The spatial rifts moved irregularly in the air. Nie Tian couldn't see a pattern to their movements.
He was certain that if he or Li Ye were that close to those spatial rifts, they would very likely fail to avoid them and get cut in half upon contact with them.
However, Pei Qiqi, who was an expert in spatial spells, could easily figure out the pattern they moved in. From the way her curvaceous figure flashed about in between the spatial rifts, it seemed that she was completely unaffected by them.
The muddleheaded Golden Stone Rhino recovered from the collision and once again charged towards Pei Qiqi.
However, even though it had been roaming in the Void Illusion Mountain Range its whole life, hesitation could be seen in its eyes when it was about to enter the area filled with slithering spatial rifts.
It seemed to know that any contact with those spatial rifts would be enough to cut it in two, so it suddenly stopped its dashing momentum.
It bellowed at Pei Qiqi, who was shifting among the spatial rifts, to express its anger and discontentment, but it just didn't dare to take another step forward.
Without saying a word, Pei Qiqi stared coldly at it, waiting for it to barge into the area she was in.
After groaning for a short while, the Golden Stone Rhino realized that Pei Qiqi wasn't going to come out of the area. Then, it suddenly turned around and charged towards Nie Tian and Li Ye.
After all, Pei Qiqi, Nie Tian, and Li Ye were all meat in its eyes.
Now that this piece of meat was so hard to get, why not go and get the other two, especially when one of them seemed very soft and juicy.
"Oh crap! This damn beast!" Li Ye called out.
Happy Dongzhi Festival, everyone!
To my family, the significance of this festival is only second to the Chinese New Year, and I believe it’s the same case with many Chinese families. So here’s something you might want to learn about the Festival.
The Dongzhi Festival or Winter Solstice Festival (Chinese: 冬至; pinyin: Dōngzhì; literally: “the extreme of winter”) is one of the most important festivals celebrated by the Chinese and other East Asians during the Dongzhi solar term (winter solstice) on or around December 22 (according to East Asia time).
The origins of this festival can be traced back to the yin and yang philosophy of balance and harmony in the cosmos. After this celebration, there will be days with longer daylight hours and therefore an increase in positive energy flowing in.
Traditionally, the Dongzhi Festival is also a time for the family to get together. One activity that occurs during these get-togethers (especially in the southern parts of China and in Chinese communities overseas) is the making and eating of tangyuan (湯圓) or balls of glutinous rice, which symbolize reunion. Tangyuan are made of glutinous rice flour and sometimes brightly coloured. Each family member receives at least one large tangyuan in addition to several small ones. The flour balls are occasionally pink or green. They are cooked in a sweet soup or savory broth with both the ball and the soup/broth served in one bowl. It is also often served with a mildly alcoholic unfiltered rice wine containing whole grains of glutinous rice (and often also Sweet Osmanthus flowers), called jiuniang.
In northern China, people typically eat dumplings on Dongzhi. It is said to have originated from Zhang Zhongjing in the Han Dynasty. On one cold winter day, he saw the poor suffering from chilblains on their ears. Feeling sympathetic, he ordered his apprentices to make dumplings with lamb and other ingredients, and distribute them among the poor to keep them warm, to keep their ears from getting chilblains. Since the dumplings were shaped like ears, Zhang named the dish “qùhán jiāoěr tāng” (祛寒嬌耳湯) or dumpling soup that expels the cold. From that time on, it has been a tradition to eat dumplings on the day of Dongzhi. (My grandma always told me and my cousin that those who didn’t eat dumplings on Dongzhi would lose their ears to chilblains, and I believed her until I entered middle school…)
Old traditions also require people with the same surname or from the same clan to gather at their ancestral temples to worship on this day. There is always a grand reunion dinner following the sacrificial ceremony.
The festive food is also a reminder that celebrators are now a year older and should behave better in the coming year. Even today, many Chinese around the world, especially the elderly, still insist that one is “a year older” right after the Dongzhi celebration instead of waiting for the lunar new year.
Here’s a video about the festival: