Seven kilometers deep within the mines.
This level of depth was a part of the mines were regular people wouldn't even be able to physically access. Many soul cultivators were currently walking here and there through the nests of tunnels. Two soul cultivators, in particular, were walking out from a room they had been initially training in.
"What's going on? Didn't we just get the order to return to the two and a half kilometer point? Why's it all quiet now? Are we going to go or not?"
"I'm not sure…The Qin haven't said anything so far. Our quota for this month was already reached, so…what's the rush this time?"
"Where's the messenger? Is he gone? Should we return to the surface or stay here and train then?"
"I was on the verge of becoming a Mid-stage Soul Exalt! What a pain for me to squander this valuable time!"
"The messenger was pretty adamant though. He said it'd be our own heads if we don't go! I say forget it. We should keep things low while we're in the Qin's territory. The Qin probably discovered a particularly rare mine or something and want first dibs on the pie before they cast us the leftovers…it wouldn't be the first time at least…"
"Sigh…fine then. Let's return to the surface and get some fresh air. The pressure down here probably isn't too good for my training in any case…"
The two soul cultivators talking were both Mid-stage and Late-stage Soul Exalts. Having wanted the primal stones to help with their training, both soul cultivators decided to help the Qin excavate the primal stones in the mine.
The two talked to one another as they walked back to the surface of the mine as they had been instructed to.
"Eh? Did you hear that sound just now?"
The Mid-stage Soul Exalt came to a brief stop to look around themselves.
"What?" The Early-stage Soul Exalt stopped as well, but more out of confusion than suspicion like his companion. He looked around the place with a blast of soulforce and found nothing. "Not a thing, what were you feeling?"
The Mid-stage Soul Exalt spent a moment longer to reconfirm his findings before he scratched his chin. "I could've sworn I felt something approaching, was I just imagining it? Weird…"
"Haha, don't scare me like that. I heard rumors of a malicious beast hiding down here. A few people from the third squad went missing not too long ago actually. Most are betting that it was a beast that did them in. The two of us would be dead for sure if we come across it…" The Early-stage Soul Exalt replied in jest.
"Maybe I really was just imagining things." The Mid-stage Soul Exalt forced a laugh back. "We've been stuck down here for too long. I'm starting to see things where I shouldn't, let's get go—"
He hadn't even finished speaking when the man froze up. A jet-black light had flitted across his eyes from the left to reach his companion before instantly dragging him away and out of sight!
"Ah! What is that!!?"
Elemental water came bursting out from his person a second later as he began to retreat. He was trying to make use of that energy to protect himself as he tried to see what it was that had just taken away his companion.
"A…a beast?! No way…" The Mid-stage Soul Exalt muttered himself as he warily eyed the tunnel the thing had come from.
He had only made it another ten meters before he heard a soft rustling sound—but from his right this time. Blanching, the man whirled around just in time to see a black shadow reach for him!
A terrified shriek echoed through the tunnels before the man wasn't heard from again…
Meanwhile, in another section of the seven-kilometer point.
Three Soul Exalts were currently walking through a tunnel at a brisk rate. Of the three of them, one was a Mid-stage Soul Exalt and the other two were Early-stage Soul Exalts.
"Careful! There's something coming!"
The Mid-stage Soul Exalt called out in warning as he brought out a red longsword into his hand to stare at the tunnel down their right.
"What? What thing? Where?!"
The other two men cried out a half-beat later. Adopting defensive positioning and readying themselves for battle, a white-robed soul cultivator stared warily around themselves. Having not noticed anything, the man coincidentally looked up in time to see…an orange-colored claw!
He was launched up into the air by the claws gripping onto his head. There was a crunching sound as his bones buckled under the grip of the claws and his entire corpse was thrown to a hole on the right where he collapsed with a thud…
"A soulbeast! Be careful!!" The fire-type Mid-stage Soul Exalt cried out, but his eyes widened as his senses made a more detailed examination of the soulbeast in front of him.
"No! It's a late-stage class six soulbeast! We…we have to run awa—argh!!"
"Is this the rumored beast they were ta—ahh!!"
Two more screams were heard before silence crept back into the tunnels once again…
Occurrences like these were happening all over the mines in rapid succession!
Anyone that could reach the five-kilometer point mark were Soul Ancestors at the very least. Seven kilometers were Soul Exalts at the very least. These people that had been caught or killed thus far were Soul Exalts that had been in the middle of training before they were ambushed by the 'beast'. One after another, waves of powerful energy showed up in different parts of this section of the mine were quickly being snuffed out. Everyone was realizing the same thing and also coming to the same endings as the people who had gone missing several weeks prior!
Soon, a panic-filled aura was spreading throughout the mines as the Soul Exalts or Soul Ancestors were doing whatever they could to escape and avoid being ambushed…
In section eleven of the mines at the eight-kilometer point.
The sharp cries of a beast could be heard in the middle of one of the tunnels. The ground and earth all around were quaking intensely as golden light sparked to life from around the corner.
A middle-aged man could be seen in the middle of the golden light. He was a Mid-stage Soul Exalt and was considered one of the stronger people in this section. Right now, he was hobbling away from something like how a stray dog would.
Several muffled explosions run along the tunnel as a black shadow rounded the corner to give chase after this man. It was some type of six-legged soulbeast that looked like an alligator!"
This soulbeast was large in size and was nearly as tall and wide as the tunnels around it. Despite its size, the soulbeast was navigating through the tunnels without at all being hampered in speed. And from the aura…this soulbeast was definitely a late-stage class six soulbeast! With how fast it was traveling, the soul cultivator it was chasing was definitely a goner!
"Ah!" The man howled in terror when he looked behind. All he had seen was a large bloody maw as it extended around his person.
In the last moments to offer up any resistance towards the soulbeast, the man took a glimpse of a small crack in the roof above the pouncing soulbeast. A black light had flitted out from it…
There was a sickening thud as the man watched as the tremendous soulbeast in front of him was slammed into the ground as if a thousand-kilogram weight had been forced onto it!
It took a moment for the man to understand what was going on, but he immediately took off running when he realized he was still alive! He had seen someone come leaping down from the roof when it seemed like all hope was lost to stand in between him and the soulbeast. It was just one person, but why did the man care? He was still alive and kicking!
"...Che! I saved your life on a whim and you don't even say thanks! How rude!"
The figure in black snorted from where he stood on top of the motionless soulbeast. He watched as the man ran further away down the tunnels before extending his hand out.
He leaped down from the soulbeast to store the corpse into his space ring. "Good thing it's a late-stage class six soulbeast, I can feed the soulgem to Xiao Feng and help him become a class seven soulbeast…"
The figure dusted himself off before looking around himself. Choosing a direction at seemingly random chance, the man began to mutter to himself. "Looks like things are going as grandfather planned. The Qin are already starting their plans. Gotta be careful then if they're using soulbeasts to capture people. I bet they're trying to use the rumors for their excuse. Hmph, what a clumsy ruse…I'll just take all the soulgems then if they're being offered!"
As he finished speaking, the man slowly faded into thin air and out from sight…