Chapter 605: To War Once More [V6C135 - Sorrow of a Silent Parting]
The Li family had drawn out several areas on the frontline for defensive missions. Rewards would be dispatched for keeping the number of dark race forces passing through the designated area below a certain threshold. Moreover, these missions would adopt a weekly cycle, which only made the offers more attractive.
Upon seeing these mission parameters, Qianye recalled the organized combat squad Eden was escorting. Such arrangements meant that the Li family had also discovered the dark races' transport route and methods. But judging from the mission patterns, it would seem that the Li family planned to rely on independent experts to open the battle instead of investing large numbers from their private army.
The independent experts at the scene hadn't received first-hand intelligence like Qianye, but they weren't fools, either. Everyone knew that a mission with such bountiful rewards involved great risks. It had never been easy to earn money from the aristocracy. For a moment, there were no replies at all in the hall.
Li Tianquan didn't seem to mind this development. He said with a smile, "The first-place on the contribution rankings three months from now will be allowed to choose either Stillwater Rebirth or Storm Pearl as his reward."
"Storm Pearl? What's that?" Many people, just like Qianye, had never even heard of the name. But judging from how the Li family had placed it on equal value with Stillwater Rebirth, it should be an item of great value.
Seeing everyone's puzzled looks, Li Tianquan said calmly, "Its main purpose is to raise the talents of any expert below the divine champion level by one grade and remove any bottlenecks."
Clamor erupted within the room as numerous unfamiliar origin power auras surged into the air, quickly turning into killing intent.
Most of the other people here were seasoned experts who had more or less reached their cultivation bottlenecks. They were destined to remain there unless they encountered special opportunities.
With their ranks, it wasn't difficult for them to gain an important position in a minor family in the interior continents. Who would be willing to give up their peaceful days and risk their lives here if they didn't need to chase after that faint hope for a breakthrough?
Lu Sha was the same. He had been stuck at rank fourteen for many years now. Although there was still some hope for his advancement, there had been no signs at all of his sixth origin vortex taking shape. That so-called glimmer of hope was incomparably minuscule.
Li Tianquan appeared satisfied at everyone's reaction. "Although breaking through bottlenecks is great, it is but one of the uses of the Storm Pearl. Our Li family has some talent with divination. After observing the recent situation, we feel that this item might have other important uses. Even if you can't use it yourself, there's a good chance you can trade it for exorbitant prices."
With that, a smiling Li Tianquan glanced over at a number of people here, including Qianye. These were people who hadn't reacted strongly after hearing the effects of the Storm Pearl.
Most experts were still affected by the surprise brought about by the Storm Pearl—some of them might or might not have noticed Li Tianquan's small movements. However, the latter had already turned around and left, without giving everyone the opportunity to raise questions. Only a Li family champion stayed behind to register the missions.
The room became silent as everyone glanced at one another under the tense atmosphere. People had already heard rumors of the Li family offering Stillwater Rebirth as the first prize, but it was little more than a valuable commodity for those without a special need for it. They would have to think twice whether or not it was worth risking their lives for.
But things were no longer the same with the appearance of the Storm Pearl. People didn't pay much attention to that mysterious use Li Tianquan was talking about, but no one here could say that they wouldn't ever hit a bottleneck before reaching the divine champion level.
One of them suddenly stood up and pointed at the map the Li clan champion had just hung on the wall. "I want this defensive region!"
Everyone came to at this point. They quickly realized that picking a good defensive region quickly was the best way to collect contribution points. With how vast the battlefield was, they might not even encounter any dark race soldiers at all if they were fortunate enough. Besides, they could just hide if the enemy was too powerful. At most, they would fail the mission. There wasn't anything to lose.
As clever people, everyone swarmed over to pick a defensive region. The Li family had arranged ten regions of different sizes and locations with their corresponding contribution points listed beside them. Everyone picked regions outside of or at the borders of Misty Wood, despite their slightly lower contribution points.
Qianye gave it some thought, and then picked up a brush and drew a circle on one of the designated regions—one that was deep within Misty Wood. Qianye wasn't familiar with those independent experts, and neither did he have the intention of making their acquaintance. He simply accepted the mission and left.
The remaining experts began discussing in hushed tones after his departure.
"Yet another one who's not afraid of death. He actually picked the Misty Wood!" One of them seemed to know the details.
Someone else asked, "Brother, what do you think is going on?"
Everyone had already picked a defensive region, so the man didn't keep the listeners in suspense. "Reportedly, those black-blooded bastards have already unraveled a part of the Misty Wood's secrets. That's why casualties in this place have been very high recently. Do you understand now? Very soon, this damned forest will become the dark races' home ground!"
Everyone's expression turned apprehensive. As veterans of a hundred wars, each and every one of them understood what this signified.
"The Li family's money is becoming harder and harder to earn." Someone sighed.
Days later, an airship landed at the airship port. This vessel was about the size of a medium escort vessel and fairly ordinary looking. There were several rusted and broken areas that hadn't been repaired. It was a mystery how the airship had even arrived in one piece. The people inside, however, seemed perfectly fine and made a beeline for the main base camp as soon as they had alighted.
One of them was entirely concealed under a cloak, just like any random hunter. He walked all the way into the central camp where outsiders weren't allowed and then into Li Tianquan's office. Only there did he remove the hood and proceeded to observe the elegant furnishings therein.
It was as though this place were his own house. He picked up a jade artifact and examined it briefly before going over to fiddle with another vase.
The door opened at this point and in came Li Tianquan. The latter was immediately startled upon seeing this person.
The man was in his thirties and fairly ordinary looking, so much so that he could blend into the bustling city crowds almost immediately.
He possessed short brows and small eyes. His greyish pupils had neither killing intent nor any radiance in them. His build was on the shorter side with contours no different from an ordinary person. All in all, this man was beyond ordinary—one would find such people everywhere among the lower-class society of the empire.
The person was nonchalant upon seeing Li Tianquan. He duly put down the vase and picked up a teapot from the desk. Tossing the object up and down in his hands, he said with a spurious smile, "Second Elder, you tidied up this place quite well! If I wasn't so sober right now, I would've thought I'd entered the palace."
This teapot was Li Tianquan's most beloved item. As a work of Master Tongzhi, the pot had seen hundreds of years of history and had long since gone out of production. One could count this artisan's surviving works on one hand.
Li Tianquan's heart spasmed continuously as he watched the teapot bounce up and down. However, he resisted the urge to flip out and said, "Young Master Qingyun, how come you're here?"
"I came to take a look at the mission status, and also check in passing if everyone in the base is doing their job."
Li Tianquan was somewhat astonished. Li Qingyun's temperament was indeed odd, but he wasn't one to create unnecessary troubles. The nature of this trip seemed to be somewhat of an inspection, so why hadn't he heard anything about this? "I wonder whose idea this is?"
"Eldest Brother, not the elder assembly. Does Second Elder have a different opinion?"
"I don't dare." Li Tianquan clenched his teeth.
"Fine then." Li Qingyun placed the teapot back on the table, allowing the second elder a measure of relief.
Li Tianquan produced a map from the cabinet and unfurled it on the table. This map was much more detailed than the version provided to external experts. There were dozens of areas on it arranged in a circular pattern, effectively protecting the Li family base from afar.
There were names and dates marked down on most of the areas, signifying that someone had accepted the mission. Some areas had an eye-catching black star upon them to show that an important dark race character had appeared before.
Li Qingyun's expression relaxed after seeing these. He flipped through the recent military contribution records but found no dazzling characters. "Eldest brother has already put forward two batches of rewards, why are there no decent people in the list?"
"There are a few. That Qianye, known together with Zhao Jundu as the twin stars of the empire during the bloody battle, is also on the guest warrior list."
"Qianye? That one from the Zhao clan?" Li Qingyun raised his brows but didn't comment further. He flipped through the records and arrived on Qianye's page. "That's all?"
Li Tianquan smiled. "The bloody battle was a special situation after all. How can it be the same here? No matter how talented he is, he's only rank ten at the moment. It's already quite good that he's alive after entering Misty Wood a couple of times."
Li Tianquan's evaluation was fairly pertinent. Since the beginning of the war, the Li clan had lost no less independent experts than the other major clans. This was especially true in the recent ten or so days where the dark races had started transporting troops through the Misty Wood—even the Li clan base had suffered the impact.
Some disappointment flashed across Li Qingyun's face. "Just rank ten? And I thought I'd found an interesting opponent."
Li Tianquan's gaze flickered as he said calmly, "It won't be hard for Young Master Qingyun to find opponents. News of the Storm Pearl has been released, so every major clan will send their people over before long. Such a giant bait will surely hook them in."
Qianye noticed some changes after returning to the Misty wood. The forest's hostility seemed to be increasing continuously, but in Qianye's eyes, these terrifying giant trees were endless sources of medicinal distillate.
Qianye cut open the bark of a giant tree and filled a bottle with sap. He then found a quiet place to drink it all up and proceeded to extract origin power via the Glory Chapter.
Moments later, the sap turned into pure daybreak origin power under the effects of the Song Clan Ancient Scroll and entered the origin vortex. At this time, Qianye felt a swelling sensation in his chest as though a huge lump had appeared therein. However, everything was normal when he looked down.
This was a sign that his origin vortex was reaching its limits and could no longer accommodate any more origin power. The next step was to open up a second origin vortex in order to keep up with his growing origin power. Qianye would reach rank-eleven pretty soon.
It was only a single level advancement, but Qianye's origin power was so dense that it was already forming crystalline granules. The addition of a new origin vortex would increase his energy capacity to several times than that of an ordinary champion.
Qianye was in no rush since his advancement was sure to occur naturally at this point. He pressed on into the depths of Misty Wood where his defensive region was.
Qianye's trip this time lasted a full twenty hours. He paused quite often and cultivated whenever there was a safe area. After drinking countless bottles of tree sap, a new fledgling vortex was beginning to take shape and was on the verge of completion.
The Misty Wood was the same as before—those seemingly quiet giant trees, the odd-colored ground substance, and the constant, disruptive mist. Even with ten or so days of combat experience here, Qianye still needed to use special origin equipment to adjust his route from time to time. Otherwise, he would gradually lose his bearing.
He came to a sudden stop. This time, he didn't need any aid to feel the increasing sense of danger.
"That can't be…" Qianye, who had been traveling and cultivating at the same time, felt rather unhappy at being disturbed. He drew the Twin Flowers and fired continuously into the mist.