Once Zhen Shi's wounded figure retreated into the unknown primordial space, the spatial tear disappeared as well. The still stabilizing space and the 100-meter area completely devoid of any sort of existence were the only remaining evidence of the devastating battle that had taken place.
But within a few short moments, a familiar earthen face suddenly formed itself out of the sand on the ground. The Earth face carefully scrutinized the vestiges of the battle. Seeing the unbelievable level of damage and the damaged space, he seemed to be rather confused.
However, observing a splatter of blood and the vague aura of death, the Earth face broke into a smug smile.
Almost instantly, the Earth face scattered into lifeless grains of sand that were blown away by the night wind...
Opening his eyes, Zhen Shi was surprised to realize that he was still conscious. But seeing the overwhelming darkness that surrounded him, he couldn't help but feel fear, having been reminded of the desolate darkness that had trapped him for god knows how long...
But refusing to believe that he had died once more, Zhen Shi shouted mentally, \"System! Are you there?\"
The user has not died yet. As such, how could the System cease to exist?
Zhen Shi would've danced joyfully if could've, and responded mentally, \"Damn. I don't believe I'll say this ever again, but am I glad to hear your annoying voice!\"
The user has received a greater random loot chest for killing their first Soul Transformation Cultivator.
But before Zhen Shi could even comprehend this message, he felt a throbbing headache as a flood of memories assaulted his poor brain.
Back in the Zhen Clan mountain range, Zhen Shi was sitting on his bed, while he stared at the piece of paper within his hands and thought about the recent occurrences since his father fell into a comatose state...
His mother had shown no significant emotions. But upon ensuring that Zhen Shi was fine she had left promising to arrive shortly to instruct him on his training.
However, Xixi had definitely taken it harshly. She didn't blame him or anything, on the contrary, she had halted her playfulness and had acted extremely sensibly. She had even given him three more spirit items to help him cultivate, and left with a 'normal smile' saying that she was going to train. But these actions spoke louder than words could ...
However, their biggest problem was the Zhen clan. While Zhen Wei was only an Elder, as the Eldest Son of the Clan head, he had many important affairs to handle. And as the most talented expert closest to reaching the Sovereign Stage, he was also an important source of power to the clan.
But his sudden sacrifice to save Zhen Shi, while selfless, had caused ripples of unhappiness and protests throughout the entire clan.
Specifically, those who were eyeing the seat of the clan head for themselves, such as Zhen Shi's uncles had stated that Zhen Wei had acted irresponsibly without considering the welfare of the clan. However, the Clan head and their grandfather, Zhen Wudi, had hurriedly put a stop to the matter... But it was apparent that he was troubled as well...
Putting these matters aside, Zhen Shi began to read the piece of paper with letters that seemed to have been burned in and had been left in his pocket alongside an ivory talisman.
\"Shi'er, I cannot say much within the short time available.
First of all, within a year or two, a friend of mine, Grand Master Zhou Tong, will visit to look over your cultivation technique and fix it. In case you're doubting his capability, he is a fellow on par with the Clan Head, if not stronger. He is also the creator of the [Unarmed Water Style]. I was unable to find him before since he seemed to have disappeared... but he will definitely arrive to solve your problem.
Until then, do not practice your cultivation technique. I am quite certain that the Divine Church has tampered with it...
But that does not concern you for the moment. You should focus on growing stronger.
Instead of this technique, you should practice the [Martial Cultivation Technique]. This technique was originally introduced to allow cultivators to build a strong connection between their cultivation, martial prowess, and warrior class, by practicing it in place of their ordinary cultivation technique.
It allows the foundation establishment stage cultivator to continue until they reach the Core Formation Stage. As such, it should be the perfect solution for your current situation and should suffice until that old fellow arrives. The downside to this technique is, if your martial talent and weapon talent is low, the cultivation speed will be slow as well.
Truthfully, even if you possess a high level of martial and warrior talent, I don't expect that your cultivation speed with this technique will match up with your former speed. But you have no other choice besides this... This technique is written down below, and if you have any problems, your mother should be able to answer them.
Shi'er, when you grow stronger you will also be able to sense the two-spirit roots of fire and wind in your dantian. I hope that you can use them wisely and treat them with respect.
As for the white ivory talisman, it should be useful for both you and your sister for your future cultivation from Soul Formation onwards. It contains quite a bit of the Zhen Clan heritage on Laws and Cultivation including some of my personal contributions.
To Xixi'er; Your high-tier warrior talent combined with your current training method and cultivation technique will be more than sufficient to reach the Law Primary Stage within two or three decades.
But, if that is insufficient, your mother should also have several books containing my heritage on Sword Cultivation. That should provide some more sword techniques for your use. I am confident that you can surpass me as a Sword Wielder someday...
To Li; I'm not sure when I'll be able to wake up. As such, you can freely use the golden essence and the rest of the stash I had saved up, and strive for the next realm of your cultivation. Any problems that arise in the clan should be lessened once you grow stronger.
Zhen Shi stared silently at the letter and the ivory talisman in his hand.
But with a determined face, he suddenly stood up and dashed out of his room. He was going to pass this letter to his sister and mother as fast as possible, and then... train like a mad man!
A couple of hours later, Zhen Shi was within the familiar training courtyard once more. He was sending a stream of qi into a strange rainbow crystal in his hand. Instantly, it glowed with a vague light and the rainbow crystal shifted to a wispy white green color.
Zhen Shi stared at this turn of events with a disappointed face...
However, Xie Li spoke up with a light-hearted laugh, \"Shi'er don't worry. It would have honestly been unusual if you had more than an average talent as a mage. In fact, your current talent is already too much. Now, instead of the Magus Crystal try this,\" and handed over another crystal.
Zhen Shi grasped this colorless amorous crystal, and as his mother looked on with a calm smile, he passed some of his qi into the crystal.
Instantly, the crystal lit up and a colorless smog appeared within. As he watched, faint shadows of weapons began to flicker within the smog; spears, axes, a pair of fists, chains, pole picks, swords, all sorts of weapons passed by.
But the flickering slowed down and the shadow finally formed a single weapon; A Bow and Arrow! And the moment it appeared, the crystal glowed with divine golden light and radiated an immense heat causing Zhen Shi to drop the crystal with a gasp.
Xie Li exclaimed in stupefaction, \"T-This is Supreme Archery Talent? The talent that signifies that the wielder is born to be a Divine Archer?
The crystal of Myriad weapons is seldom wrong! This... Considering your potential, given time to grow you could very easily become a Sovereign of Archery! Shi'er, from today onwards, your warrior class will be that of an Archer!\"
While Zhen Shi was elated at this surprising turn of events, Xie Li suddenly frowned in worry and continued, \"However, no one can get to know of this matter. Especially them... If they find out that you have such astounding capability, they will do everything in their power to slaughter you before you can grow...\"
Turning to Zhen Shi she spoke seriously, \"From now on you can never touch a Crystal of Myriad weapons. You also cannot tell anyone about your true talent.
If anyone asks, simply say that you have a High Level of Archery Talent. Can you promise me this?\"
Zhen Shi having understood the majority of the meaning behind her words, decisively nodded his head, \"I promise!\"
An hour later, reading through the various books on archery that his mother had handed over to him, Zhen Shi had realized that most of these contents were things that he could understand extremely easily. Perhaps this was because the highest technique was only at Mortal Tier Grade 9?
But why was the quality so unsatisfactory? Could the heritage left in the Zhen Clan with regards to the field of Archery be mediocre?
Ignoring this matter for the moment, Zhen Shi continued to read the various archery techniques and records. However, to his surprise, he immediately realized that almost every technique available had quite a bit of contradictory concepts. And some concepts downright didn't make any sense, in fact, they were sheer idiocy!
As such, he was unable to bring himself to practice any of these techniques. Nevertheless, he seemed to be able to reflexively sense that certain concepts and theories made perfect sense, and so he hurriedly memorized those parts individually.
In this manner, within a few hours, Zhen Shi memorized and assimilated all the concepts that he could agree with.
But he suddenly realized that it didn't make sense for him to be able to see through the faults of archery so easily... Could this be due to the Supreme Archery Talent?
Standing up with newfound excitement, Zhen Shi grabbed a bow and a quiver of arrows from the nearby weapon stand.
There was only one way to find out if his conclusions were correct! He had to try it out for himself!
Eyeing the target that had been placed a few hundred meters away, for his training, Zhen Shi raised the bow with one hand and took an arrow with the other.
Feeling his body reflexively holding the bow, Zhen Shi couldn't help but feel at ease; as if he had returned to his natural habitat, or as if archery was as simple as breathing...
Putting an arrow into the bow, Zhen Shi calmly pulled the string back.
With a calm demeanor, he went over the concepts that he had recently memorized. Consider the flow of the wind, the effect of gravity, the posture of the body and the bow.
Next, infuse qi through into the arrow, and finally, with one's eye firmly placed on the target, let go!
A melodic sound rang out as the bowstring vibrated and the arrow dashed forwards through the air, cleanly striking the center of the target!
Zhen Shi couldn't help but grin as he reached for another arrow...
Half a day later...
Zhen Shi collapsed onto the floor with a completely fatigued body. He had been training all day, without a moment's rest.
Considering this, it was obvious as to why he was so tired. Nevertheless, he took out Xixi's spirit violet and inhaled it's spiritual essence to gain some energy.
Laying down on the ground, he stared up at the darkening sky. It was evening and the sun had already set. Even the first star of the night had come out...
While Zhen Shi watched the night sky and energized himself through the Spirit Violet, a familiar figure slowly walked towards him and sat down close by.
Even without turning to look, Zhen Shi could tell that this was his mother. She spoke out almost immediately, in a berating tone, \"Shi'er have you been doing nothing but training all day? I understand your feelings, but training too much is counter-productive!\"
Zhen Shi nodded in understanding, but mentally ignored her words and asked, \"Mother, how's Father doing?\"
Xie Li caressed her son's wet hair and spoke out with a sigh, \"His condition is fairly stable, but the physicians and the healers aren't confident as to when he would wake up...\"
Zhen Shi continued, \"Then where's Elder Sister?\"
Xie Li smiled grimly and replied, \"Due to the loss of his Spiritual Roots, your father's body has fallen into a state of qi malnourishment. Thus he needs quite a bit of spiritual energy to survive and ultimately recover.
Since the entire guild of Zhen Clan elders only built a qi gathering formation and refused to provide any spiritual treasures, your sister has been working hard all day and using her divine blessing to produce Soul Tier treasures. She was too tired and went to rest.\"
Zhen Shi stiffened and formed fists with both hands. He was guilty, at himself, and angry, at the clan, but ultimately powerless to change things...
Xie Li stared at her son's actions for a moment, but with a powerless sigh, she continued to caress his hair.
Just like that, two months passed.
At the moment, Zhen Shi was practicing the [Martial Cultivation Technique]. This technique was based on utilizing a balanced state of qi throughout the entire body to cause a natural increase in one's cultivation technique.
Since it was a natural process of cultivation, practitioners of the [Martial Cultivation Technique] generally possess stronger foundations and find it much easier to use their Warrior Abilities. However, since it was rather complex, most warriors would only use it along with their basic cultivation technique to ensure that their cultivation speed won't slow down. Even Zhen Shi with his Superior Archery Talent had found it to be rather difficult, being unable to execute more than two attacks the first time around.
However, Zhen Shi had pushed himself to his limit in the last two months and had made great progress.
Even at this moment, he was dashing about the training courtyard leaving a blurry figure everywhere he passed. But he would occasionally pause...
And immediately strike out with all sorts of martial attacks sometimes even using the [Unarmed Water Style], while maintaining a careful balance of qi.
Suddenly, Zhen Shi felt a strange and sudden rise in the energy within his dantian. As such, with an excited glint in his eyes, he hurriedly stopped his training and sat down in a meditative position. And following the training technique, he calmly directed this energy towards the qi lake in his dantian.
With the energy rushing into his qi lake, Zhen Shi's qi lake began to expand at a fast rate. Immediately his cultivation soared and his power increased by many folds!
He had finally reached the Foundation Establishment second stage!
Zhen Shi who had gotten used to his former fast cultivation speed had been having doubts due to being unable to improve his cultivation despite practicing for two months. However, these worries receded the moment he gained the fruits of his hard work.
Nevertheless, Zhen Shi calmly stayed in a meditative state for a while longer and consolidated his cultivation based on the Martial Cultivation Technique.
Releasing a breath of turbid air, Zhen Shi stood up wit satisfaction and turned to the other side of the training courtyard. He could see that his sister was training with her sword, and there was a formless intent around her sword... that shattered apart the air with every strike!
Zhen Xixi suddenly turned around as if he had sensed his gaze, and spoke out excitedly, \"Bro, did you reach the next stage? At this rate won't you catch up to me soon? Damn, I should work harder!\"
Despite her words, Zhen Xixi had made great progress in the last two months as well. She had reached the Foundation Establishment Stage 5, and had made even greater progress in mastering Sword Intent. All of this, while she spent the majority of her time producing Spiritual Treasures for Zhen Wei!
Of course, she had the Sword Grandmaster Wu Dang to train her, and unlike Zhen Shi, she also had a proper cultivation technique. As such, it made sense for her speed of progress to be above his.
Zhen Shi shook his head with a grin and replied, \"If you work any harder, you'll definitely overwork yourself. Don't forget that Mother will be pretty angry...\"
Zhen Xixi's face immediately turned awful. But, after a short worried pause, she continued with a smile, \"Oh yeah, do you need me to make you any more spirit treasures?\"
Zhen Shi glanced at the flower in his shirt, and the Spirit Rock and Statue by the side. As such, he replied with a grin, \"Are you crazy? I've barely scratched the surface of what you gave me last month!\"
Zhen Xixi laughed, \"Okay then. Tell me if you have any problems,\" and began to continue her training.
Zhen Shi watched her training for a moment, but with a shake of his head he turned to the nearby weapon stand and grabbed a bow, 'I should continue practicing my Archery now...'
And just like that, two whole years passed by, filling Zhen Shi's poor brain with an overload of memories. It was only the year before that Zhen Shi had received [Draconic Wind Steps] through memory transference... and thankfully, Xie Li seemed to be fine despite the injured state that he saw her last in.
As the wind blew past, the tree leaves that had taken on a vibrant orange hue rustled peacefully. It was autumn now, a time of rebirth...
Zhen Shi who was seated in a meditative position beneath a familiar tree in the training courtyard brought his mind out of the past and heaved a breath of turbid air. Peering into his dantian, he could see that the previously small qi lake had widened by many times, transforming into a vast qi sea!
Since the cultivation within the Foundation Establishment Stage simply consisted of converting qi into liquid energy and widening the qi lake or qi sea, it wasn't complex or hard to comprehend. As long as he kept training, he could definitely progress.
And after nearly two years of hard work, his Qi Sea had reached the maximum state! This meant that his cultivation was currently at Foundation Establishment Stage pinnacle!
At the age of nine years, he wielded the power that most teenagers did! But while his cultivation speed was well above the general populace and even the majority of the Zhen Clan making him a genius that could walk about with his head raised high, Zhen Shi had never been proud.
On the contrary, he was always unsatisfied and motivated to work even harder...
Putting this matter aside, Zhen Shi opened his eyes turning towards the other side of the training courtyard. But surprisingly, it was empty...
Immediately, Zhen Shi stood up and moved into a defensive position warily eyeing the surroundings. It was almost as if he had faced this situation quite a number of times...
As another gust of wind blew through the courtyard, Zhen Shi's senses perked up as his affinity with the element of wind immediately allowed him to sense the danger.
Above him, and only one meter behind!
Instantly, Zhen Shi took a step forward and his figure vanished in a light wind. This was the first Draconic Wind Step: A Gentle Breeze!
Having meditated on this skill for nearly two years and with the support of the Wind Spiritual Root, Zhen Shi had made substantial progress in the Element of Wind.
A fiery light flashed as a flaming figure dropped down from the tree. Under the blow of the blazing flame falling upon it, the earth shattered apart at the spot where Zhen Shi had been, just a moment before.
Even without turning around, Zhen Shi already knew the culprit who had attacked him. And he knew very well, that he would stand no chance without a weapon. As such, he instantly dashed towards the closest weapon stand and grabbed his bow and a quiver of arrows.
In a single practice motion, he loaded in three arrows and launched them towards the familiar figure cloaked in blazing flames. As the arrows shot forwards, he observed the attacker...
The attacker was Zhen Xixi who had actually reached Core Formation Stage 5, leaving Zhen Shi's cultivation speed in the dust!
As the air shivered under the onslaught of three powerful arrows, Xixi calmly raised a sword cloaked in blazing flames.
Clang! Clang! Clang!
In three graceful movements, she easily blocked all three arrows with her Blazing Inferno Sword.
But Zhen Shi wasn't done just yet. With a devilish grin, he disappeared in a gust of wind.
But almost instantly, he re-appeared in the form of four blurry figures that surrounded Xixi. And without giving her a moment to react, the four Zhen Shi's raised their bows and launched an arrow each!
Zhen Xixi grinned at the sight of this attack. She knew that her brother had been trying to master this attack for quite a while, but he had failed due to his low comprehension of the wind... As such, she called out challengingly, \"Ha! It's finally ready! Let me see what you can do with it!\"
This attack was an application of Zhen Shi's understanding of the element of Wind, used in combination with the immense speed of [Draconic Wind Steps]... Wind Clones!
As powerful as it was, if the cultivator was above the Mortal Primary Stage, they would be able to easily sense Zhen Shi's true location and figure out all sorts of methods to counter-attack...
The four arrows dashed through the air shooting towards Zhen Xixi from all four cardinal directions. It was a perfect attack, with no room to dodge!
Nevertheless, she calmly raised her sword and waited... And the moment that the time was right, she slashed her flaming sword in a perfect circle around her.
Clang! Clang! Clang! Clang!
The Sword flames formed a mystical ring of blazing fire around her body and perfectly struck down each arrow just a moment before they touched her. It was like an impeccable ring of defense that seemed to shout out in pride, None Shall Pass!
Zhen Shi who was still dashing around was slightly disappointed. The power of that attack would've injured her if her weapon was not at Soul Tier.
But before he could launch another attack, Xixi smiled mischievously and flicked her fingers at the ring of fire and whispered a single word, \"Shine!\"
Instantly, the ring of fire glowed mystically and was infused with a familiar spiritual energy. And As if it had gained sentience, the flames in the ring of fire crackled threateningly and began to mystically expand! It was no longer a ring of fire, but a circular wall of flames!
With a speed that was almost on par with Zhen Shi, the circular wall of flames expanded out causing the air to sizzle under the immense heat. To make things worse, the flames even grew taller.
And just like that, with a single word, Xixi had shifted the tides of the battle.
In all the battles before, even if Zhen Shi was weaker in power, he had been able to easily survive owing to his superior speed...
But now, since the wall of flames with the power of a core formation expert was continuously expanding he could not continue to use his speed. If he retreated he would be allowing himself to be cornered. In other words, the only possible option was to jump above the flames. And it was obvious that this was what Zhen Xixi wanted... to make him jump and make him an easier target to attack while he was air-borne. After all, a person couldn't move much once they were in the air...
But Zhen Shi who had already realized her plan, smirked confidently and... did exactly that! He jumped over the fiery wall of flames!
Zhen Xixi grinned in satisfaction and immediately launched a full-powered fire slash, even infusing some spirit into it for good measure. With the infusion of spirituality, the fire slash re-formed into a fiery demonic face that dashed towards Zhen Shi with a roar.
But Zhen Shi was completely calm in the face of this attack, even though it could heavily damage him if it hit. And when the fire demon was only a step away from striking his body, Zhen Shi calmly summoned some wind aether.
Using the wind he easily propelled himself to the side completely dodging the fire demon!
Having survived the consecutive attacks, he floated down onto the ground, gracefully and unhurt. With Zhen Shi's recent breakthrough in the comprehension of wind, while he was still incapable of flight, he was more than capable of altering his course in the air!
Although she was caught by surprise, Zhen Xixi reacted instantly and dashed forwards. With a skillful sword plunge that stopped at Zhen Shi's throat, she replied with a prideful smirk, \"I win!\"
Zhen Shi shook his head derisively and raised his right hand to point at her own neck. Xixi lowered her gaze curiously and gasped.
Just a breath away from her own throat was a sharp arrow held by Zhen Shi's other hand! In the short moment that she had attacked, he had as well!
Unable to be satisfied with a draw, she was just about to complain... But when she raised her head to do so, what lay a few centimeters from her face was a familiar curved finger.
And Zhen Shi flicked her forehead once more while saying, \"Older than me, but too naive...\"
Xixi pouted in annoyance and replied, \"Again! How do you keep doing this? I'm at the Core Formation Stage you hear me? The Core Formation Stage!\"
Zhen Shi grinned and replied proudly, \"Hah! You'll never understand! This is the mystical power of fellow brothers everywhere!\"
Zhen Xixi scowled and replied, \"Just so you know, I didn't use my sword intent... In other words, I held back or you would have definitely lost!\"
Zhen Shi grinned, raised his index finger and swayed it from left to right. And with a prideful tone, he continued, \"Well... so did I!\"
Xixi's face turned awful, \"What? When did--\"
Clap! Clap! Clap!
A resounding sound of a person clapping rang out within the training courtyard causing Zhen Shi and Zhen Xixi to turn around in surprise.
The person who was clapping was an old but middle-aged man with a generous belly and a long beard. His hair and beard were unkempt with grey hairs strewn randomly... However, there was a powerful and respectful aura, almost divine, that seemed rather out of place with his appearance.
Just a few steps behind this old man was their mother, Xie Li. Seeing her, both Zhen Shi and Zhen Xixi broke out in smiles.
In the last two years, they had seen less and less of her. Having successfully increased her cultivation, she had to work in place of both Zhen Wei and her own self, while doing her best to keep the guild of elders, who were unnaturally interested in Zhen Xixi's treasure creation Divine blessing, off of their backs.
As such, she had very little free time... and even on the occasions that they did get to see her, she looked extremely weak and was too tired to do anything besides rest.
To make things worse, their Grandfather Zhen Wudi had retreated for a cultivation seclusion, as he was on the verge of a breakthrough, and had left all the power to the elders...
But now her stress and worries seemed to have been replaced with a hopeful smile as she spoke out, \"Children, this is Grandmaster Zhou Tong!\"