The old man grabbed Wu Qi's tattered burlap sleeve, ripping it as he walked away. He turned around and asked with a bitter smile, "Why are you not letting me go? You don't have to thank me for saving your life. You are very old, and I can't just watch them killing you here on the road without doing anything."
The hunchback old man coughed a few times, throwing Wu Qi's sleeve to the ground. He walked before Wu Qi with trembling steps, lowered his voice, and said with a sigh, "You have a good heart, young man. Few would show kindness to an old man like me today. Tsk, it seems you have been down on luck recently!"
Wu Qi's brows pricked as he gave his broken arm a look. "Of course, I'm down on my luck. Otherwise, how could someone have taken an arm from me?" He said indifferently.
The old man reached out his hand again, grabbing Wu Qi's palm as he dragged him toward an uneven rocky ground in the grassland next to the road. "Come, follow me. Sigh… Be bolder, my young lad... I'm just an old man with one foot in the grave, how could I harm you?"
Wu Qi darted his eyes from side to side, letting the old man drag him towards the rocky ground about one mile away. There stood several dozens of natural rock pillars, about seventy to eighty feet tall each. Several hundred rocks of different sizes were scattered messily here and there, forming a barrier like that of the foundation of a house. A few marmots native to the grassland stood there, staring blankly at them from a large rock.
The old man panted for breath as he dragged Wu Qi to the rocky ground, avoiding the pedestrians who were chatting with loud voices about the scene of Wu Qi saving the old man on the road. They went past a few large rocks and sat down on a patch of grass, about several tens of feet in circumference.
With his hunchback leaning against the grassy ground, the old man was finally able to rest his eyes on Wu Qi's face. He gave a deep laugh, shook his head, and said, "The area between your brows has turned black, and there is a dark mist rising from the back of your head. You have really been down on luck recently. Missing an arm is just a small matter, and I bet you nearly lost your life, didn't you? You nearly got yourself killed in the past few months, didn't you?"
Wu Qi was taken aback. He stared deeply into the old man's grayish eyes and said, "Senior, please just tell me what is on your mind! I can tell that you are not an ordinary person. If there is anything that you wish to tell me, please just tell me straight."
"Aye!" The old man rubbed his palms, then shook his head and said with a bitter smile, "A young man who speaks so directly… Not cute at all!"
He sighed with a wagging head. "Nonetheless, you know how to respect the old, and that makes you a decent young man, unlike those rascals who have forgotten their ancestors and never respect the old. Sigh, what is going on with them?"
Wu Qi stared at the old man and did not say a word. The old man shook his head, grabbed the bamboo basket from his back, and searched through the worthless herbs in it. A moment later, he fished out a flat bone slip, about one-foot long and three inches wide. It was golden in color, and had a surface that was smooth like a mirror, with complicated, pale-purple grooves that seemed to be formed naturally. The grooves were dotted with silver specks. All of a sudden, Wu Qi found that the grooves looked familiar to him.
He gave the old man a glance with astonishment, then raised his head to look at the sky. The sun was shining brightly above, and he saw no stars. However, he could confirm that the grooves on the bone slip were part of the star charts in the night sky. The old man waved his hand, and the grooves began to twist and shift as the sunlight shone on it, making it look like several hundred stars were really moving about on some orbits.
"This..." A name leaped into Wu Qi's mind. To him, the bone slip looked like the bone of an extraordinary beast, the 'Beast of Calamity and Fortune'.
The Scroll of Stealing had only briefly mentioned about such an extraordinary beast, because the person who created it did not think there was anything useful that could be found on the beast. As a result, it only had a very simple description.
The old man grinned from ear to ear, gently touched the bone slip, and said, "You've saved me today, young man. Therefore, I'll use this bone slip from the Beast of Calamity and Fortune which I've kept for half of my life to predict your future. If it gives us a bad omen, you better find a place to hide. And, if it is a good one..."
He paused for a while. "What will happen if it is a good one?" Wu Qi asked.
The old man shook his head and said with a grin, "Just look at how the dark mist is rising from your head. How could it be a good omen?"
Wu Qi nearly passed out from the old man's words. He gave the old man a fierce glare and said in a deep voice, "Well, please do it then, Senior!" Nobody liked to be told that he would have to face an ill fate, even if that person were Wu Qi.
The old man grinned cheekily as he fondled the bone slip and began to recite an incantation with a strange voice. The light around them dimmed down abruptly, and a cold breeze rose from the ground, taking away the power from the scorching sun and sending a biting coldness into Wu Qi's body through his pores. The sticky, almost corporeal cold breeze made him shudder, and he quickly circulated his energy to prevent the invasion of the coldness.
A deep, muffled ghost howl echoed out from deep under the ground, and some small whirlwinds, grayish in color and about one-foot tall, squeezed out from the soil under the old man's feet with an immense ghost aura. Spinning rapidly, they spread out in all directions, withering any fresh, luxuriant grasses that came in contact with them. It was as if all of their life forces and the water in their bodies were sucked out in a flash.
The ghost howl had stirred Wu Qi's innate Nascent Souls, making them restless. But fortunately, the Divine Flame of Order had helped to calm his mind. He glanced around with a faint gleam of purple and green shining from the eyes. With that, no ghost howl or cold breeze dared to get any closer to him.
The old man raised his eyes to look at Wu Qi with surprise. "You do have some good treasures, not bad!" He said with a nod and a smile.
Wu Qi did not say anything. He just sat down cross-legged, both hands performing a unique Ice Lotus Hand Incantation Gesture found in the Dark Yin Water Scripture, then placed before his dantian. Immediately, a vast stream of cold breeze rushed out from within his body, stabilizing his mind and spirit while freezing the air around him. Large flakes of ice crystal were falling from above his head, and before long, the grassland around them was covered in a layer of whiteness. It was as if the winter had suddenly arrived.
As the reciting of the strange incantation became louder, the old man pointed his finger at the ground before him. Amidst a foul and nasty squeaking, seven little ghosts, pitch-dark in color and about one-foot tall each, squeezed out of the ground with a long tail behind them. They screamed and squeaked noisily, throwing a few pale bones that they had brought with them on the ground. These bones came in very strange shapes, and were densely covered with sharp thorns. Obviously, they did not belong to any human.
Reaching out his hands, the old man gathered the bones into a heap. A few white whirlwinds came whistling over, spinning around the heap of bones and kindling each with a wisp of grayish-white flame. The flames gathered and turned into a ball of flame that was one-foot in circumference. From it, a white smoke rose several hundred feet up into the sky, and was quickly dispersed by a passing wind.
The bone slip from the Beast of Calamity and Fortune was thrown into the grayish-white flame. The old man recited a few incantations under his breath, then raised his head abruptly and cried at Wu Qi, "Give the flame a drop of your blood!"
Wu Qi did not move nor answer, but instead, he was staring straight into the old man's eyes.
The old man went blank, then he suddenly saw the light and burst into a loud laughter, shaking his head and saying with a sigh, "If I really wanted to harm you, there was no way you could have escaped despite how strong your cultivation base is!"
He flipped his palm and pointed at the ground next to him. Suddenly, those withered grasses began to sprout again, becoming alive once more. The old man chuckled, and with just a snap of his finger, the ordinary-looking grasses suddenly transformed into Chinese cabbages! Fresh, juicy, strong, and healthy Chinese cabbages, that weighed at least tens of kilogram a basket!
Wu Qi felt all his muscles were twitching convulsively, and a numb was creeping over his scalp.
A Heaven Immortal could only use the most basic principles of the Heaven and Earth to destroy an object. Therefore, the battles between Heaven Immortals were usually filled with thunderbolts and bright gleams of powerful treasures, like a splendid show of light and shadow.
But, a Gold Immortal could already distort principles within a small area. What they studied were no longer the principles themselves, but the transformations derived from some principles. They could turn a stone into gold, water into oil, or even make an iron tree blossom. All these were the unique abilities of Gold Immortals.
However, transforming tiny grasses into Chinese cabbages, or even turning one creature to another was something that only a Primordial Immortal could have achieved, who according to the legend, had the ability to destroy and modify principles. It seemed easy to transform tiny grasses into Chinese cabbages, but it was in fact, ten thousand times tougher than transforming ten thousand stones into gold.
Not uttering a single word, Wu Qi hacked his broken arm with another hand, ripping the skin and splattering his blood onto the bone slip, which had turned scorching hot after being burned by the grayish-white flame. A loud sizzling noise rang out as the blood touched the bone slip. Countless silver specks on it began to flash and blink rapidly, and all of a sudden, it was cracked with tens of crisscrossing lines.
"Tsk, do you take human blood as water from a river, free to use?" The old man gave Wu Qi a fierce glare and murmured, "I've told you that I just need one drop. Why are you making such a mess? Do you think it is nice to watch?"
Upon seeing that the bone slip had cracked, the seven little black ghosts, who brought white bones here as the kindling, leaped excitedly towards the old man, opening their mouths and wanting to bite his fingers. The old man grabbed his sickle and hacked them, causing dark mists to spray from their bodies and nearly cutting them into few parts. The seven little ghosts howled with fear, quickly transformed into a column of dense smoke, and disappeared.
"A bunch of greedy little fellows!" The old man cursed under his breath. "It is just a small help and yet you want a reward from me? I'm just one step away from death. If I let you suck my blood, doesn't that mean I'll have to die earlier?"
Shaking his head, he picked up the bone slip and carefully studied the cracks.
After spending a full fifteen minutes to study it, the old man's expression changed slightly. He stared at Wu Qi, breathed out a long sigh, and said, "An ill omen. You are really down on your luck. If you proceed further, you will meet with a fatal disaster. But, let me speak frankly… there is a great fortune hiding behind the ill omen, and if you can step over it, you will transform into a Heavenly Dragon from a grass snake. It is a fortune that can make you reach the sky with just one leap. However, I don't believe you can make it!"
Wu Qi narrowed his eyes and did not speak for a long while. Then, he gave the Chinese cabbages around him a glance and rose to his feet.
He offered the old man a deep bow. "Since there is a chance, I'll have to continue my journey! Thank you, Senior!" He said with a deep voice.
While humming a little tune, he spun, turning into a gust of wind and drifting towards the north.
The old man was taken aback. At last, he shook his head and scolded under his breath, "Courting death. Well, I've wasted a bone slip from the Beast of Calamity and Fortune for nothing!"
Suddenly, a faint giggle was heard coming from one of the Chinese cabbages, "But, he is a kid with a good heart, isn't he?"
The old man sat there without answering. After a long while, he transformed into a passing wind and disappeared.
"People will always change! Especially those... Hmph!"