At this time, a tree that resembled a bridge grew in front of a cliff. There was a fruit hanging from it that looked just like a lantern.
Below this tree sat an old man meditating with his legs crossed. His hair was as red as blood and his back had two wings growing from it.
The most awe-inspiring aspect of this old man was the evil energy surging from his body. It had reached the level of materializing in the form of silk-like strings. They had a green color, so at first glance, he seemed to have a lot of green hair growing from him. A slight evil light emanated from his eyes, giving the sense that he was a devil that crawled out from hell.
His body had no blood energy and his fresh had dried up. However, he was still alive and very powerful. His situation was very similar to the sacred monks on the eighteen temples of Spirit Mountain. The only difference was that those monks emitted a Buddhist light while this old man exuded an evil energy.
All the girls entered a battle-ready state after seeing this old devil, ready to fight at any time.
Li Qiye gently shook his head: “They are not interested in us. Neither the imperial soldiers nor the devil kings care for outsiders. If we don’t provoke them, they won’t bother us at all.
Having said that, he freely walked around the old man. The girls followed right behind him. Just like he said, the old man continued to sit there and didn’t bother to care about the passing group.
Chen Baojiao asked after they passed him while looking at the lantern-like fruit growing on the old tree: “Is he protecting that fruit?”
The group moved on and traveled through creeks and hills. As they went further from the border, they felt the evil energy growing more powerful, as if it wanted to haunt their bodies. Luckily, they remained unaffected due to their powerful dao hearts.
“If the evil energy enters our bodies, will we turn into devils?” The cold Li Shuangyan asked after feeling the lingering energy.
Mei Suyao shook her head slightly: “Even though this place is the same as the Buddhist Funeral Plateau, it is different in the sense that even if this energy enters the body, one won’t turn into a devil. If one has a wavering dao heart, the energy will only make the inner devil more powerful.”
“What is the relationship of this place and the plateau? Is there actually a connection? How come those monks back at the plateau changed so much after being converted? No body, no blood energy, and able to live forever.” Chen Baojiao curiously asked.
Even the knowledgeable Mei Suyao had trouble with this question. She glanced over at Li Qiye instead.
He smiled in response: “They are both related yet not related. As for the real reason, you don’t need to know right now because you haven’t reached that level.”
The group marched on and saw many devils along the way. In fact, calling these things devils was not suitable, it was more apt to refer to them as dark cultivators.
These dark cultivators all had withered lifespans and were void of blood energy, yet they continued to live on.
The number of dark cultivators increased along the way. One of them was a huge serpent with steel scales. The evil energy on its body pulsed all around it. When it coiled its body, it looked just like a huge mountain. It was protecting a little rose.
Another one was just a skeleton. Blood coagulated to form the muscles of this cultivator. In its eyes were two burning flames. It was squatting down on top of a sacred tree.
One of them was just a slab of mud. This sludge slab continued to flow. When its evil energy surfaced, it would turn into a giant or a mountain. Occasionally, one could see an old vine growing on top of its body.
The dark cultivators here came in all shapes and forms, but the basic principles remained the same — they were devoid of blood energy and lifespan, yet they were still living well.
The girls all stared at these dark cultivators carefully. When they met a few of them in human form, they were especially attentive.
However, even the most well-read among them, Mei Suyao, couldn’t tell which era or sect they were from based on their appearance and clothing. They all wore archaic clothing that was beyond identification.
“Even if they have been immortal all this time, they must have had a starting era?” Even the muted Bai Jianzhen commented.
Mei Suyao shook her head slightly: “I have no way of knowing. There are no records, or at least my sect has no writings on this matter.”
She looked at Li Qiye at this point. Maybe he was the only one who could give an answer.
Li Qiye smiled and replied: “A very, very old era. I can only tell you guys that it is before the Buddhist Funeral Plateau came to be. However, it is difficult to say which between the Imperial Border and Devil World is older, this requires more research and evidence.”
“Even before the plateau!” Li Shuangyan was caught off guard: “Rumor has it that the plateau existed before the Desolate Era. All twelve burial grounds are extremely old to the point that no one can trace back to them.”
“Some things can be, others can’t.” Li Qiye chuckled and didn’t elaborate on the topic.
“Are all the dark cultivators here watching the spirit medicines and trees?” They met many dark cultivators, but these cultivators simply had no interest towards outsiders.
“The Devil World has spirit vegetation while the Imperial Border has royal metals.” Mei Suyao explained: “Dark cultivators need elixirs and grasses while the imperial soldiers require royal steel. I heard they continue to live on just because of these materials. If no one bothers them, they will stand guard over these things forever.”
“Why do they need elixirs if their lifespans and blood energy are already gone?” Chen Baojiao was quite confused on this matter.
Li Qiye smiled: “It is not that they need elixirs. Don’t believe me? You can try to trade a King Medicine to them and see if they want to trade or not.” Having said that, he handed her a King Medicine root.
This action made Bai Jianzhen and Mei Suyao look at him in bewilderment. They were both from imperial lineages, but their sects considered King Medicines to be very precious all the same. However, Li Qiye was treating this root as if it was just a simple cabbage.
This only made Chen Baojiao even more curious. She grabbed the King Medicine and ran to trade with a dark cultivator. This dark cultivator had a lion head and a human body. He was inside a cave under a cliff to protect a budding blade of a leaf. No matter how one looked at it, this young grass was not comparable to the King Medicine in Chen Baojiao’s hand.
Alas, the dark cultivator ignored her request to trade. In the beginning, she was afraid that the dark cultivator wouldn’t understand her, so she communicated with her divine intent. Regardless of the place and era, using one’s divine intent was the most direct form of communication, anyone could understand it.
Nevertheless, the dark cultivator simply ignored her. He eventually became irritated by her nagging and slammed down his hand. Chen Baojiao retreated in a hurry at this point.
After she left the cave, this cultivator didn’t chase after her. He only gave her a lazy glance before closing his eyes to enter deep sleep again.
“Fine then, don’t trade. Did you need to be so rude?” Chen Baojiao muttered to herself.
She didn’t understand and asked Li Qiye: “Young Noble, what’s the reason for this? They have to know their stuff, right?”
Li Qiye answered with a smile: “I’ll take you guys to go see something and you will understand right away.”
He led them until they eventually climbed a tall peak. In front of them was a ravine with an old vine tree growing at the bottom. Who knows how long this tree had been there for? Its vines were growing all over the ravine.
It emitted a faint brilliance that resembled the moonlight in an incredibly beautiful manner.
“It has matured. Devil Imploration is about to begin.” Li Qiye sat down on the peak and quietly watched over this vine tree ahead.
Mei Suyao and the others sat down with him and patiently waited.
Moments passed by. Eventually, an arachne climbed up from the bottom of the vine. Its upper half was human while the lower half was of a spider.
This arachne was quite ancient. It looked around for a bit before a huge blast resounded. The evil energy in its entire body soared to the sky and instantly turned into a giant cauldron.
“Whoosh! Whoosh!” The vines made a lot of sounds. The entire tree was sucked into the giant cauldron. Next, the evil energy turned into a flame. After bursts of refinement, the tree was turned into a liquid as green as jade.
“Boom!” The cauldron suddenly sprayed this medicinal liquid out into the sky.
“Bang!” In the blink of an eye, a portal opened in the sky with intersecting runes that were arranged in a mysterious and complex manner. No one could discern them.
The portal instantly devoured all the medicinal essence. Next, an evil energy poured down like a surging river.
The dark cultivator didn’t think twice. It opened its mouth to swallow this evil energy. The portal then disappeared and after devouring the evil energy, the evil flame around its body became even stronger than before.