However, Jiang Chen couldn’t easily make a move at this point. He knew full well that he didn’t know much about treasures like these. If he acted rashly, he would bring great disaster down on himself. Even he might be defenseless before an active light field.
The memories from his previous life weren’t omnipotent. They paled before life-threatening danger.
The Astral White Tiger’s eyes glowed with vigor. It seemed very confident and excited.
Jiang Chen’s confidence was bolstered somewhat when he saw the ease of his companion. He knew that many things in the world had natural affinities and oppositions. This place might be extremely perilous for most, but Astral White Tigers favored such harrowing habitats. Understandable, because they embodied murder itself.
In the subterranean world, the Astral White Tiger leaped about with meticulous rhythm. Its increased tempo signified that it had gotten more and more into the swing of things.
Atop the tiger’s back, Jiang Chen coolly observed his surroundings. Strangeness and bizarreness permeated everything he saw. He felt like he had entered into someone’s body and was traveling among various organs, vessels, and veins.
“Cloud Camel Mountain’s underground is quite unique.” Jiang Chen had been under the earth in many places, relying on his Goldbiter Rats and Bewitching Lotus of Ice and Fire in the past. He didn’t dare take this place lightly though.
Prismatic formations that threatened to take his life were everywhere. The air became more dark, damp, and sinister with each additional inch lower into the ground. The killing aura had intensified too, of course.
Jiang Chen felt like he was no longer in the world of the living. The mystifying colors all around him danced about like will-o’-the-wisps, eerie merely to behold.
The Astral White Tiger’s steps began to slow.
“Young master Chen, do you see?” It messaged the young man.
Jiang Chen glanced in the direction the tiger was looking in. There was a long ribbon of light – no, a pillar or serpent – that coiled and pierced the length of east to west. Neither end was visible…
“Is this… a complete earthen vein?” Jiang Chen gasped.
“Yes,” the Astral White Tiger nodded. “It doesn’t look far, but it’s hard to get there. It’s way larger than we expect, so it seems closer than it is. I’m not sure if I can go there myself, young master Chen.”
It tilted its head in an adoring gaze at the endless ribbon of light.
“You can’t go, either?” Jiang Chen gasped a second time.
“Mhm. If I was empyrean realm, I could probably risk it.” The Astral White Tiger was still coming into the fullness of his strength. It was only a step away.
“How long will it take you to break through?” Jiang Chen asked.
“This place is great for my cultivation. Maybe only two weeks? That’s a bit short… three months at most.”
Jiang Chen pondered it for a moment. There were four months before the tournament of geniuses. He had enough time to wait for Little White.
However, if Little White was busy cultivating, his own safety would no longer be guaranteed. If the natural restrictions around here were activated, he would have little immediate recourse.
“How about you cultivate here, Little White, and I’ll wait for your good news?” he ventured.
The tiger engaged in some musing of its own. “Young master Chen,” it replied seriously, “I can’t take care of you while I’m here. I think you would be safer outside, since something might happen around here while I’m busy.”
Jiang Chen nodded. “Alright. I’ll pull back for now, and come back in half a month to check on you. If you’re done by then, we’ll meet outside. If not, I’ll wait for you. How does that sound?”
The earthen vein’s magnificence had shaken him to the core.
If he could, he wanted to dig it up entirely. He knew that endless stores of top-quality ore were hidden within. To grasp the vein was to obtain incalculable riches.
Jiang Chen wasn’t fixated on the wealth itself, but the valuable treasures were likely to be very useful in the future.
Though he hadn’t fought the demons personally, he knew their inherent strength. Demons had undying bodies that were difficult to destroy. Perhaps the minerals here would make keen weapons against them once excavated. But that was just a theroetical idea at the present.
Jiang Chen saw no reason to tell the tiger about his theory. Little White was still very young, and probably lacked the mental faculties to understand the details in his words. However, it was certain to comply with the requests of the person who’d cared for it since its cubhood.
Following the Astral White Tiger outside, Jiang Chen remarked, “we’ll rendezvous here later on. Don’t go anywhere unless we meet up, alright?”
“You should be careful, young master Chen. Don’t wander off anywhere!” Little White pretended to advise with a mature voice.
Jiang Chen burst into laughter. “Be careful yourself. I know you’re at home here, but you need to keep on your toes. You’re supposed to be Brother Long’s contender.”
The tiger puffed out its chest, its eyes glittering. “Hmph, I’ll make that big dragon reel in surprise the next time I see him!”
Little White didn’t care about much, but his competition with Long Xiaoxuan was an exception. It was an idea that had been implanted in him since birth, born out of the pride of all Astral White Tigers.
Because true dragons and Astral White Tigers were both sacred beasts, the quality of their bloodlines was largely the same. Therefore, tiger and dragon saw each other as fitting rivals.
Though Long Xiaoxuan was a bit older than Little White, he saw no reason to take things lightly. As the descendant of dragons, he had his own inherited memories: he knew that once Little White attained the ability to transform, he would be a force to be reckoned with in empyrean realm and beyond.
Though the Astral White Tiger bloodline was technically slightly inferior to the draconic one, the tigers’ savagery in combat rendered the difference moot.
It had always been difficult to differentiate whether dragons or tigers were on top.
Dragons were a bit better when it came to reproduction, compared to the Astral White Tigers.
Though pure-blooded dragons were difficult to produce, dragons could also procreate with humans and other races, causing a plethora of inherited mutations in the descendant’s bloodlines.
Astral White Tigers, on the other hand, were incredibly focused on the purity of their blood. They didn't care for the intermixing of their bloodline. Thus, far fewer instances had been passed down as a result.
When a group of dragons formed a brood in a plane, they typically propagated with reasonable speed. The Astral White Tigers, on the other hand, rarely exceeded a handful.
Compared to dragons, tigers were solitary animals.
Their unwillingness to share territory with rivals was their most prominent characteristic. No self-respecting Astral White Tiger would live in a group. This too, affected the strength of the tigrine race.
Despite this, their pride surpassed even dragons’.
Jiang Chen bid farewell to the vanishing figure of his furry friend for a moment with a soft sigh, then returned via the route he’d come.
Without the guidance of the Astral White Tiger, he could only move about on the ground. Now he understood why Cloud Camel Mountain was so difficult to develop.
Even the best surveyors and scholastic masters would be cut to fine ribbons if they recklessly ventured into the underground world.
Once the powerful fields of light beneath the earth resonated with each other, they could cover a huge area with their attacks. Mighty as empyrean cultivators might be, they had no chance of escaping alive.
Bodies of flesh and blood were unable to resist the kind of sharpness that the subterranean lights embodied. Unless a counteracting treasure was brought in, any cultivator without the immortal body granted in the divine realm would find himself hard-pressed to survive.
Jiang Chen decided to go back rather than stay longer.
His pass allowed him to breeze through the checkpoints unhindered. He arrived back at Yan Wanjun’s residence in the early evening. As soon as he stepped over the threshold, he sniffed at the air.
His instincts as a pill dao master caused him to frown slightly.
“What is that smell?” Jiang Chen inhaled some more air, detecting a scent he hadn’t encountered here before. It was far from conspicuous, but he was more sensitive than most.
Somewhat suspicious of this abnormality, Jiang Chen swept his eyes across the courtyard. The servants were minding their business as usual; nothing he could see seemed awry.