Though Jiang Chen had gone deep into the mountains, he was just as in the dark as everyone else about the true purpose of the trial. He didn’t know that the conspiracy that brewed just outside, and that a killing net had begun to close.
Having been locked away for centuries, the mountains’ foothills were filled with vegetation. There was often nowhere to stand in the dense forest and underbrush. Some of the trees were girthy enough to require many people to span.
The spirit energy within the mountains was dense and plentiful, filled with a sinister, depressive element. It was a veritable breeding ground for all kinds of spirit entities.
Jiang Chen reaped a fair number of prizes along the way. Many of the rather unassuming florae had uses that were largely unknown. Though none were particularly amazing spirit herbs, all were rare enough to have distinct support purposes.
“The variety of spirit herbs in the Blackwraith Mountains is pretty amazing. There are many spirit herbs here missing from the human domain, and all specimens are of high quality. The ground here is extremely fertile. I suppose the lack of human disturbance for centuries helps too.”
Jiang Chen had entered a veritable holy land of spirit herbs.
For others, the mountains teemed with nightmarish dangers. For Jiang Chen, they teemed with opportunity. His advantage in the area of spirit herbs was on show front and center. Many plants had medicinal properties while still remaining toxic in some way. Some were superb ingredients for specific pills.
For three days in a row, he did little else but pick spirit herbs.
“The Blackwraith Mountains are a treasure trove alright! Most wouldn’t recognize many of these spirit herbs.” Admittedly, Jiang Chen himself found it difficult to pick a few of the spirit herbs too.
On the afternoon of the third day, he took a nap in a relatively quiet area. In the Blackwraith Mountains, one couldn’t let down one’s guard even when resting.
He summoned Long Xiaoxuan and Little White to keep watch for him. The Vermilion Bird, on the other hand, remained stowed away. The bird didn’t enjoy such a dark and ominous locale, so Jiang Chen saw no reason to bring it out.
Back to his usual vigor after the rest, he leapt to his feet once again. Some more walking placed him in a quiet valley. He sniffed the air, finding a scent that he was rather familiar with. It was a scent from the memories of his previous life.
His mind whirred into action, attempting to recall what it corresponded to.
“Hmm? Could it be a Goldensable Fleeceflower?” Jiang Chen brightened at a shocking possibility. His blood quickened.
The Goldensable Fleeceflower was a spirit herb surpassing sky rank. Having obtained the heavenly dao’s approval, it was a true heavenly rank spirit herb; a spirit herb that could lengthen anyone’s lifespan.
A high-quality Goldensable Fleeceflower was rumored to be able to extend an ordinary man’s life to that of a great emperor’s. In the hands of a great emperor, it would extend life tenfold or more!
Though this herb wasn’t the best of the best in the heavenly planes, one that was of surpassing quality was nevertheless extremely valuable. On an ordinary plane, this herb certainly was a cut above the competition.
Jiang Chen sniffed at the air once more. The scent’s familiarity clarified his mind more and more.
“Yes, this really does belong to the Goldensable Fleeceflower!” Jiang Chen was shaken. He already anticipated getting his hands on the herb.
The spirit herb had more than a singular benefit of extending one’s life. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be fit to be called a heavenly rank herb. It was even more potent at fortifying cultivation. Used in pills, it guaranteed a level increase for empyrean experts.
“I didn’t expect the Blackwraith Mountains to contain something as valuable as this!” Taking surprise in stride, Jiang Chen followed the trail of the fragrance.
The further he went, the darker things became. The road became harder and more arduous to follow, until there was almost no room to set his feet. He weaved between sheer cliffs in order to get to his destination. Thankfully, that wasn’t too hard a task for a skilled cultivator.
He didn’t allow himself to lower his guard too much. Experience told him that heavenly rank spirit herbs were quite difficult to pick. There was invariably danger behind each and every one.
Risk and opportunity coexisted side by side.
“The Goldensable Fleeceflower itself is rather inoffensive, but Golden Vines always grow near it. The vines bind onto whatever they touches. It’s more resilient than the most supple of snakes and has extremely sharp senses to boot. It will go on the attack if it notices something out of place.”
The vine wasn’t the biggest concern either. Golden Pythons often made its home near the spirit herb too. This serpent was a corrosively toxic beast. The slightest contact from its fangs was lethal to most. The strength and intensity of the poison was shocking, to say the least.
The python and vine were symbiotic in their partnership. It was difficult to distinguish between flora and fauna in an entangled mass, further complicating defense against them.
Moreover, the python was a master of disguise. It was almost impossible to distinguish it from the vine if it disguised itself, even probing via consciousness. The moment of non-detection was the deadliest. Mistaking a python for a vine was frequently fatal. Thus, it was uncommonly difficult to actually get one’s hands on the Fleeceflower.
Jiang Chen traversed through some more peaks and valleys towards the source of the fragrance. Suddenly, a breeze whipped into his face with a particularly refreshing burst of smell. He was mildly intoxicated by it.
He paused, God’s Eye locking onto a spot upon the cliffs. There really was a mass of Golden Vines growing there. Like a cluster of ancient roots, they jutted out of the cliffs in a messy knot. Order was somehow present in the craziness.
A glimpse of the Goldensable Fleeceflower was visible inside, shimmering with ochre radiance. Its overwhelming aroma couldn’t be obscured, regardless of how hard the vines may have tried.
From faraway, the mass shimmered like an unpolished piece of jade. Though it didn’t have a particularly stunning iridescence, its value was apparent upon a closer look. Jiang Chen was overcome with desire for the treasured herb.
The Goldensable Fleeceflower was very tempting, pending the removal of the vines around it. He wasn’t particularly concerned with the Golden Python, thanks to his immunity to poisons. More than half the threat the snake posed was through its toxins, not its speed.
Ordinarily, a python defended its own territory with excessive aggression. A Goldensable Fleeceflower was typically seen as a private possession.
Jiang Chen examined the sight before him closely. There were four layers of defense around the Golden Vines. None of the defensive layers appeared particularly remarkable, but intrepid entry would only result in death.
There were four varieties of plants around the vines. Three of them were fatal thanks to poison, while one was very powerful physically.
Jiang Chen sank into silence for a moment before unleashing his Pentecolor Divine Swords. His sword aura harvested the space around vines mercilessly, cutting away at the growth.
Multicolored light whirled in quick slicing motions. It didn’t take long to get rid of the plants all around the vine. However, when the light attempted to attack the vines themselves, Jiang Chen noticed that the vines were astonishingly tough.
Cutting the vines were like slicing metal or rock. It was difficult to leave a significant scar, much less slice tendrils away.
“How solid are these vines, eh?” Jiang Chen blinked in confusion. It was almost impossible to destroy the vines like this.
Not to mention, the fearsome Golden Python was still laying low somewhere. Jiang Chen took a deep breath, expanding his consciousness in an attempt to find the snake. No matter how good it was at hiding, his consciousness should be sufficiently powerful to sniff out its vitality and actual location.
Under the stimulation of the chain seal, Jiang Chen’s consciousness had advanced a great deal over the past few years. The advantages now showed themselves. His consciousness was able to scan the entire area and found a python in the midst of a complicated knot of vines, just like any other vine to the naked eye.
“What a monster!” Jiang Chen exclaimed. He decided to try another attack on the python.
With it came the need to defend himself. Once a Golden Python was angered, it would work itself into a frenzy of rapid and potent attacks.
Refraining from using the Pentecolor Divine Swords once more, Jiang Chen resorted to the Heavenly Chalice Sword Formation instead. The latter was more powerful than the former.
This time, he activated sixteen flying swords at once.
The blades of light gathered once more, causing a burst of radiance to fill the air in a kaleidoscopic array of steel. Suddenly, its center flared with brilliance.
In the next moment, countless coils of serpentine light scythed toward where the Golden Python lay.
Jiang Chen’s sudden attack was quite effective. The python’s body was tough, but not tougher than the vines.