The evening sky was bright and calm, the moon peeking through billions of stars.
Inside a hidden away cave, Ling Xian sat cross-legged with his eyes shut. Streams of earthly aura suspended around him, disappearing into his body through his mouth and nostrils.
Ling Xian did not purchase injury medication before coming here. Nor did he prepare a healing furnace, so he was stuck with the slowly and least effective method of healing. However, on this occasion, the effects exceeded his expectations. At least he was no longer bleeding profusely, and other injuries were beginning to improve as well.
He had the partially awakened Majestic Bloodline to thank.
The Bloodline not only gifted him with remarkable talent, but it also gave his body the incredible strength and ability to heal itself.
Thus, he was able to stabilize his injuries with such a limited amount of time, and he was becoming stronger with each passing hour.
The darkness of night laid in utter silence.
Suddenly, a terrifying roar ended the precious moment of peace and quiet. Immediately following the cry, waves of beastly screams and howls reverberated across the land.
The cries exuded anger, hatred, and vengeance.
They were rallying an army to seek out and kill the man who had slaughtered so many of their comrades.
"It seems they have found the corpses of their friends." Ling Xian opened his eyes. This movement broke his concentration, causing him to cough.
"Don't be alarmed, Master, those idiots won't find us in here," the snake said confidently. It was curled up in a corner of the cave enjoying a midnight snack - a Huo Yun Rabbit.
"Let's hope so. If I knew I'd be injured this badly, I would have brought a Dan brewing furnace. This self-healing technique I've had to resort to is too time-consuming," Ling Xian reflected with a hint of regret. However, there was nothing to be done now. He cracked his neck, expelled all earthly thoughts from his mind, and returned to focusing on his wounds.
In his current state, battered and bruised, traveling anywhere was out of the question. He could only rest his fate in the hands of the Divine and pray that the beasts would not find them there.
Eyes tight shut, mind wholly focused, Ling Xian breathed deeply. The spiritual energy he inhaled through his nose traveled throughout his body, fusing with the boiling Bloodline his body generated.
This force gently massaged his wounds, both inside and out.
After a few moments, his breathing began to stabilize. His muscles relaxed, and the broken bones in his body steadily realigned under the powers of the Qi and the Bloodline. His battered arteries gradually expanded and returned to their original, free-flowing state.
Time was ticking.
Unbeknownst to Ling Xian, the Hidden Territory had descended into turmoil.
From waters to forecasts and mountains to valleys, a countless number of beasts emerged from their resting places. Under the darkness of night, chaos reigned over the Hidden Territory.
An order had been issued from the highest governing authority about a human in hiding. The human was to be found and killed.
Unsurprisingly, they were speaking of Ling Xian.
Ling Xian had slaughtered no less than hundreds of beasts over the past few days, inviting a rapidly growing resentment amongst the remaining population. In the beginning, the hunt for Ling Xian was primarily localized. However, with more and more beasts slain by his sword, the supreme ruler of the beasts had taken notice. He summoned his privy council, and the decision was swift and unanimous: the human must be stopped. He must die for what he has done."
In the past, since only cultivators with no more than foundational training had been allowed to compete inside the Hidden Territory, the mass killing of the Territory's beastly occupants had never occurred. However, Ling Xian was amongst the participants this year. In the eyes of the supreme ruler and his privy council, the crimes this human committed in the Territory must be avenged.
They never considered, however, that Ling Xian was acting in self-defense.
Thinking from a different perspective, for Ling Xian, this was a great honor.
Since conception, no human had ever succeeded in inviting a Kill Order from the supreme leader and his privy council.
The beasts inhabiting the Hidden Territory numbered in the tens of the thousands. Every last one had been mobilized for this mission. What an honor!
A hawk does not bother with the likes of ants.
Ling Xian's measly training had invited this type of chaos. How impressive!
Sweeping across the land, nothing was an obstacle to him.
Tragedy quickly befell the other participants who had entered the Hidden Territory. Beasts emerged from their resting places and extended their presence into every corner of the land. They were looking for the kill. Ling Xian had with him the Xuan Ming Snake who, as a creature of the land, was able to quietly lead him from one hiding place to another without being detected.
After two days of fruitless search, the beasts were losing their patients. Sadly, their fast-brewing anger was redirected towards other humans. Any human that crossed their paths was slaughtered without mercy.
As a result of this relentless hunt for Ling Xian, other cultivators that had entered the Hidden Territory were forced to remain in hiding for as long as they could. All the while cursing the culprit that brought on this plague.
Fang Yun was one of them.
He was a talented student of the Fang Clan. However, when he entered the Hidden Territory, he had unfortunately been transported far away from the rest of his clan. He had since been unable to track them down and reunite with them.
Worse yet, a day ago, he was confronted by a Lion of purple fur who, without warning, pounced on him for the kill. Fang Yun summons all the powers he had to fight off the beast, barely escaping with his life. By now, beasts like this were everywhere.
Hiding was his only option.
At this moment, Fang Yun was sprinting across the forest, broken and exhausted.
"Damn this bastard! How did you manage to start this massacre? Don't let me find you or I'll quarter you myself!" Fang Yun cursed under his breath.
Suddenly, a wooden red-crowned crane appeared in the distance, and in a flash of time, landed next to Fang Yun.
Thousand Mile Crane!
A mechanical avian messenger that was meticulously crafted as a method of communication. It was favored by those in the Cultivation Community because it can safely deliver messages to anyone whose scent it was familiar with.
[The Clan Leader sent the Thousand Mile Crane! Something big must have happened.] Fang Yun closed his eyes and muttered the spell that unlocked the message.
A bright aura appeared around the crane. It opened its beak, and a deep voice spoke.
"We found the hiding place of the Lings. Everyone is there except for that bastard Ling Xian. We can't waste this opportunity. Come now, following the crane, and we'll destroy them."
This was the voice of the Fang Clan's most gifted protégé.
This voice exuded arrogance, deception, and unparalleled hatred for Ling Xian.
"Haha! Finally, we can rid of them. I hear that the pretty little miss from that Clan also made it here. We'll have some fun." Fang Yun chuckled, licking his grotesque lips.
The two Clans had been arch enemies for ages. The thought of living in peace had never been entertained. There was nothing better than exterminating the entire clan at once.
Fang Yun was a lusty man who found great joy in abusing and killing women. He had heard rumors of the Ling girl's beauty. This opportunity was heaven-sent.
Even the simple thought of killing the gorgeous and untouchable Ling Tian Xiang made him unable to contain his excitement.
Summoning the crane, he quickened his pace.
Motivated by his thirst for blood, Fang Yun was no longer exhausted. As if floating on clouds, man and crane raced towards the soon-to-be graveyard of the Ling family.
Suddenly, Fang Yun came to a full stop. He frowned, spotting a blood trail.
"Is this blood of a beast, or a human?" He pondered. His eyes followed the trail of blood. Far into the distance, a man was sitting inside a cave.
[What incredibly luck I have, a wounded alchemist. Kill him and take his treasure.]
Quietly, he inched closer. When he arrived at the entrance of the cave, his eyes sparkled.
As one of the most accomplished of all the students from the Fang Clan, Fang Yun had certainly heard of Ling Xian. The genius protégé who had been a hot topic of conversation amongst all of City of Qing's residents. He had seen Ling Xian's portrait. This was undoubtedly him. The prize for killing the protégé of the rival clan - 3,000 spiritual stones, two beautiful servant girls and one residential complex!
However, these rewards paled in comparison to the ultimate prize - any student of the Fang Clan who managed to kill Ling Xian would immediately become a Core Member of the Clan, and forever a head above the rest.
This reward was enough to tempt the heart of any student of the Fang Clan.
Fang Yun had long placed Ling Xian on his Black List. A list that contained the names of everyone he must kill. Now, he had a visual on his target!
"Haha! What a coincidence! Looks like he's been injured, not too lightly I must add. This opportunity must be heaven-sent!"
He only needed to kill him!
Wealth, women, fame, status… were all within his grasp!
Focusing his glare upon the unsuspecting Ling Xian, Fang Yun swallowed quietly, lifted his right hand, summoned a fist-sized fireball and suspended it above the surface of his palm.
"Hhoooo……" Fang Yun took a deep breath in an attempt to calm his excitement. Images flashed across his mind.
First, Ling Xian burns to death under the crushing forces of the fireball. Then, he chops the head off his corpse and presents it to the leader of the Fang Clan. Finally, he is welcomed to the Core and forever leads a life of lust and luxury.
"Don't blame me, there are just too many rewards riding on that head of yours." Fang Yun revealed a dark smile. The man sitting silently in front him suddenly morphed into a bright, sparkling mountain of spiritual stones. Then he morphed again into the shape of a long winded road paved with gold.
However, at the exact moment when Fang Yun was about to toss his fireball, the man in the cave opened his eyes.
Immediately, Fang Yun felt a cold sensation on the back of his neck.
Pushing against it was a bloodstained sword.
A freezing blade. A cold-blooded killer.