Known since the beginning of time for its beautiful landscape, the Southward River Province was the most scenic place in the entire Tianhun Continent. Two thousand years ago, the area was known as the 'Southern Nation', but with the founding of the empire, it was later called the 'Southward River Province'.
The weather in this province was beautiful all year round, and the scenery was almost supernatural in beauty. It was a veritable paradise of beautiful landscapes and wonderful mysteries.
At the borders of the Southward River Province was a giant mountain that towered over the land around it. There was a single road on this precipitous mountain, and right now, only a single group could be seen walking on it. There was a faint layer of fog around the mountain that made walking on the mountain road slightly dangerous. If one wasn't careful, then they'd find it very easy to make a misstep and go tumbling to the ground thousands of meters below where they'd die a violent death. But right at this moment, the group of people traveling on it seemed to be walking rather care freely, stepping across the road as if it was just an ordinary road without any dangers. They were even looking around the place and talking to themselves.
The group consisted of six people: three males and three females.
It was Bai Yunfei and his friends.
Leading the group from the front was the gray-robed Bai Yunfei. And right by his side was the just as young person, Zheng Kai. Behind them was Tang Xinyun, Kou Tingting, and Huangfu Rui. Walking behind those three were the stoically tall blue-eyes wyrm who was in his newly-discovered human form, Long Lan.
Previously, the group made plans to go traveling as a vacation and left first from the Capital on an airship. They decided to walk the rest of the way after traveling across several provinces and take their time in reaching the Southward River Province.
As brazen as always, Zheng Kai managed to tag along on the trip. All the finer details of the trip, such as where they'd eat, sleep, rest, and visit was handled by him, as was all the pampering of Kou Tingting. Through his unrelenting effort, Zheng Kai was at least able to have Kou Tingting have a slightly better opinion of him. As of now, she was at least willing to treat him as an ordinary acquaintance.
Long Lan on the other hand, was fed up with the past few days as of late. Ever since it became a class seven soulbeast, the entire Capital seemed to be in a buzz about it. With people coming left and right to the Training Forest to pay their respects to him, Long Lan had enough. When he heard Bai Yunfei was preparing to leave, Long Lan of course asked to go with him, as they used to travel before.
The 'circle' that was the Soul King community wasn't very large. The Soul Kings would come out to congratulate any newcomer and hopefully get to know them enough to establish a decent relationship. The case was Long Lan was slightly different, as when everyone came to him for their visits, most of them had the goal of trying to form a soul contract with him.
Many of the Soul Kings hadn't yet a soulbeast to contract with. Most of the Soul Kings Bai Yunfei met for example, didn't have a soulbeast partner.
There was one big difference on how a soulbeast and soul cultivator got stronger; one of the biggest difference was in the aspect of 'time'. Soul cultivators had lives longer than a commoner, but they were still lacking in age span compared to a soulbeast. To make up for that, a soul cultivator had the inherent ability to learn even faster than a soulbeast.
A soul cultivator with decent talent for example, could get to the Soul Exalt realm within forty to fifty years and be considered normal. A soulbeast on the other hand, would need almost a hundred years to become a class six.
And herein lied a problem.
If a soulbeast and soul cultivator of the same strengths were to enter a soul contract with one another, the soulbeast's increase in strength wouldn't compare to the soul cultivator's.
To better visualize the problem:
If there was a Soul Ancestor that contracted with a class five soulbeast, there'd be a chance for the Soul Ancestor to become a Soul Exalt, but the soulbeast would only become a late-stage class five.
Soul cultivators lived in a world of turmoil and danger. Any corner they traveled to would have their fair share of dangers, and battles to determine who'd live or die was unavoidable. Those soulbeasts who were weaker than their partner would always be in danger, and death was sometimes inevitable for them.
This rang extremely true for Soul Kings. Aside from the extraordinary few, just how many times did one have to struggle, fight, and kill for their lives to reach the height they were at now?? If the Soul King had a soulbeast partner, they were most likely not yet at the level of a Soul King yet. Class six soulbeasts were essentially useless in a battle where Soul Kings were involved, and at the same time, they were also very prone to dying.
Subsequently, those soul cultivators that had a soulbeast partner would often times find themselves losing their soulbeast partner by the time they became a Soul King.
A determined soul cultivator might then try to forge their own path on becoming a Soul King. Reaching the Soul King realm by themselves was comparatively harder than without one, and if they by chance failed to do so, then what was the point of going without a soulbeast partner?
Therefore, the choice of having a soulbeast partner or not was a hard one everyone had to make.
On the other side of things, those who managed to become a Soul King without the help of a soulbeast partner would obviously try to find a class seven one to contract with. Class six and class seven soulbeasts were worlds apart in strength, and they were also a lot harder to contract with. None of them would contract with any soul cultivator without a good reason.
There was also a second consideration to take into account.
For those soulbeasts who didn't end up dying in a battle with their contractor, there was a chance that they'd simply outlive them. Since a soulbeast had a longer lifespan than a soul cultivator, they'd only grow stronger and stronger after time. But if their contractor was dead, then they wouldn't be able to contract with anyone else for as long as they lived.
So the fact that Long Lan was both uncontracted and a class seven soulbeast made him a veritable delicacy for everyone. Many Soul Kings came forward in hopes they'd be able to contract with him, or with someone from the younger generation of their families.
But Long Lan didn't care at all for these things. He didn't want to contract with any of them.
Long Zhen hadn't intervened on Long Lan's behalf, so Long Lan had to find Bai Yunfei out to leave. Long Zhen didn't intervene on that subject either and merely warned Long Lan to keep up with his training.
"Wow!! Sis Yun, sis Kou, look!! Look! That boulder looks a lot like a pear! Eh?! And look at how beautiful that bird is! Look look! There's a strange cave!! Bro Strawhat, there's definitely treasure in there. We should go check it out! Or….I can go myself! Then the treasure will be mine!"
Amidst all the chatting was the very loud but happy voice of Huangfu Rui as she hopped, skipped, and leapt forward on the road in excitement.
"Come back, Doraemon. That's just a cave where snakes live in, there's no treasure in there." Bai Yunfei warned her right as the little girl was about to leap into the air after the cave.
Tang Xinyun took Huangfu Rui's hand into her own to stop her from going anywhere. She looked up at the skies next, "It's getting late, Yunfei. Should we start finding a place to rest for the night? We can just fly the rest of the way down the mountain instead of walking so we can find a place suitable to camp."
It only made sense for them to travel like commoners if they were traveling, so everyone decided not to fly.
Zheng Kai took out an azure scroll from his space ring and unfurled it. Looking at its contents for a moment, he said, "According to this map, the closest city to us is Formagua City. It's a little far still though. There's a few villages on the way, so if we fly from here on out, we should be able to find one or two soon enough."
Bai Yunfei nodded. As he was about to say something, he frowned and looked off into a distance just in time to see two streaks of light green light come flying at them.
He wasn't the only one to notice the lights, "Xiao Qi and Xiao Bai are back." Tang Xinyun mentioned.
They waited for both Xiao Qi and Xiao Bai to return before anything else. Pointing his right wing off into a distance, Xiao Qi spoke, "Yunfei, we saw an inn that way!"
Everyone, Bai Yunfei most especially, was surprised, "What? There's an inn up ahead?"
"There is!" Xiao Qi nodded, "It's just up ahead on the mountain top, it doesn't seem like there's many people! But they're all soul cultivators."
Bai Yunfei was astonished, there was an inn on the mountain top?!
Thinking about it, Bai Yunfei turned to the others, "It's a little strange but….since there's an inn here, we don't need to keep on looking. Let's go up first and see if we can rest there for the night."
Unlike the perilous path before, the way up the mountain was exceedingly smooth. They arrived at the top of the mountain in no time to see a large area of flat ground and grass the same size of a plaza almost. In the middle of the land was a building that normally shouldn't even exist in a place like this, a two-story tall wooden structure.
It was about a kilometer square meters in area, and pillars of ten meters in height were right next to the gates. A long strip of white cloth was hung between the two pillars, with just two words written on it: