Irresistible suction force poured out of the monk, wrapping the Blood Fruits which broke down into bloody mist before rushing into Xinzi's body. Strands of Blood Energy latched on Xinzi's blood vessels, nurturing and enlarging them further so they could fit the incoming waves of Blood Energy. At the same time, Xinzi's Blood Energy reserves experienced a significant boost—but still stood miles away from the first order.
The suction force shifted target, locking on the Ice-Glazed Lichen which, as if animated by a will of its own, blew blades of razor-sharp Ice Qi that hacked at the orb keeping it suppressed—a pointless endeavor. Xinzi channeled the Swallowing Skill, extracting the colossal quantities of Ice Qi accumulated by the lichen through 600 years of exploiting the Ice Beasts of the Ice-Fire cave.
Myriad threads of cold air gushed out of the lichen, snaking as they rose—merged into a snow-colored sea—and poured into Xinzi's dantian. There, 90 drops of glistening Spiritual Qi hovered, barely filling a corner of the dantian. Like restless tides breaking through a collapsing dam, the boundless waves of Ice Qi flooded Xinzi's dantian—probing its limits with a nigh-inexhaustible feast of Qi.
Six hundred years of relentless qi refinement was no laughing matter. Although the Ice-Glazed Lichen couldn't compare to a Pulse Condensation expert, the depth of its qi left theirs in the dust. Should any rash youngster attempt to refine the lichen, a brutal death would end their quest. But by extracting the Ice Qi, Xinzi turned the lichen into a treasure any random Qi Refiner could absorb.
Arching his head back, Xinzi cast his Spiritual Sense into his dantian, transforming it into a sharpened knife that sliced and carved the teeming Ice Qi into tiny drops of Spiritual Qi. In a flash, the Spiritual Drops count reached 100 and Xinzi's cultivation broke through to the tenth-level of Qi Refinement. But still, the production went on. One after the other, Spiritual Drops appeared in Xinzi's dantian, taking shape at such a rapid pace that they seemed to spread like a locust infestation.
The monk arched his head back, snow-white qi oozed from his pores, sinking the cave room temperature while the Spiritual Drops still multiplied. 150, 300, 500, 800, 1200...by the time the Ice-Fire cave's beasts had returned to their post, Xinzi's Spiritual Drop count had exceeded 1,500—surpassing Chun Xu. Still, up it went. With no sign of slowing down, Xinzi's dantian and Spiritual Sense collaborated to produce legions of stainless Spiritual Drops. 2,000, 3,000, 5,000, 7,000...only after passing the 9,000 cap did the production speed decline, but it wasn't until it reached 9,999 that it came to a full stop.
Xinzi's face twisted into a frown. According to common knowledge, humans couldn't exceed 3,600 Spiritual Drops, whereas demons capped at 10,000. Xinzi could feel that with one last push, he could force his Spiritual Drop count to 10,000, thereby saturating his dantian. However, that wasn't enough. If limits existed to be broken, in the pursuit of bedevilment, how could he settle for recorded limits? Didn't Xia Hu blow away the 3,600 count as a Five-Element root human? No matter what opportunity he chanced on, if Xia Hu could transcend himself, why could Xinzi not?
Minced by Xinzi's Spiritual Sense, the remaining strands of Ice Qi ground into a nail-sized drop of Spiritual Qi that aligned with the other 9,999 to fill the monk's dantian to the brim. Now, not even a speck of dust could fit in. No matter how badly Xinzi craved an additional breakthrough, he had to admit that, without space, he couldn't build an extra drop. Pulling in a deep breath, the monk relaxed his muscles.
'Since I must create space to cultivate extra drops, why not…' an audacious thought crossed Xinzi's mind, and he spread his arms out. At his command, the full intensity of his Spiritual Sense and Soul Force slammed into the 10,000 drops, forcing the qi to compress and shrink into smaller drops. This process required a profound Spiritual Sense and overwhelming Soul Force that most Dongli residents could never develop.
Veins beat on Xinzi's temples, blood trickled down his lips, but as even Tusha was starting to wonder if her cheap master wasn't trying to kiss death's thigh, the 10,000 drops shrank from nail to grain size, freeing up enough space for Xinzi to fit in 999 extra drops. Of course, at the moment, he didn't have enough qi to carry out more drops refinement.
Satisfied, Xinzi wiped off the bloodstains and shifted back to the Blood Origin pellet. The process was much smoother. As soon as the pill dived into his throat, it broke into tendrils of blood mist that snuck into Xinzi's vessels. Stretched to their limit, Xinzi's blood vessels sucked the tendrils in.
Alarming waves of Blood Energy surged from the monk's body, forcing the room temperature to increase at a steep pace. The Immemorial Blood Gu lodged in Xinzi's heart writhed in excitement. Sanguine silk threads poured out, wrapping Xinzi in a blood-colored cocoon. Loud heartbeats echoed from the cocoon's inside, puzzling the Armored Lion King, who'd just returned from setting the troops straight.
'Is this...the first Eclosion?' Root of Xinzi's demon body, the Immemorial Blood Gu thrived on Blood Energy and, with each Blood Energy breakthrough, enabled Xinzi to undergo a rebirth—enhancing his physical attributes. One hand tore through the cocoon's silk threads, grasping at the ceiling as if gasping for breath. Xinzi's head forced its way through the crack, and the monk reappeared in the cave room.
Though still dark-colored, his skin shone with a gripping luster that left no doubt to the depth of his Blood Energy.
"Congratulations, master, for breaking through to the first-order of Blood Energy!" Tusha and the Armored Lion King said in tandem. But despite the drastic strength boost, Xinzi rolled his eyes.
"A Silk Shifter." Xinzi grumbled the words, unimpressed by his demon body's bloodline. Though the lowest of demons could still wipe the floor with most humans at the same cultivation level, Silk Shifters ranked so low that, in the Infernal Paradise, most served as maids or paramours for more prominent demons. Endowed with the unique ability to modify their appearance and clothes as they pleased, Silk Shifters could also shelter themselves and trap their opponents in threads of adamantine silk. Although useful in clever hands, this was not a particularly impressive resume for a budding devil.
"Your starting point is not important. Not only can this bloodline improve, but once you master the Reincarnation of Mahasura, it won't be relevant," Tusha said and shifted her eyes towards Dong Ling and Chun Xu, who still lay on the ground.
"What about them?" Tusha asked. Granted, they could keep the two out for as long as they needed to, Tusha knew that they'd ultimately have to let them rise. That, or erase them entirely. As far as the nun was concerned, Dong Ling and Chun Xu had seen too much for their own good. At the very least, they could not let them walk without draining or rewriting their memories. Alas, few could manipulate memories without damaging the soul. The current Tusha couldn't achieve that.
As if that wasn't enough, the nun could see that, while he avoided showing them much attention, Xinzi wasn't indifferent to the two bombshells. Then again, what man could be? Rising from his stone seat, Xinzi ambled at the two. His eyes darted between Chun Xu and Dong Ling, lingering on the latter for an imperceptible extra half-second. A doting smile curved his lips.
"I need a qi cultivation method suitable for a Holy Beast King descendant, and a soul cultivation method for a sword practitioner. Can you provide either?" Xinzi asked, making Tusha's brows rise in surprise.
"My methods wouldn't work, but Xue Lin's are perfect for them. I have the scrolls stored in my treasury." While she didn't expect her scheming and unscrupulous boss to outright seek benefits for the girls' sake, Tusha wouldn't waste an opportunity to rise in Xinzi's esteem.
"The grave's owner—Snow Empress Xue Lin? You've safe kept her inheritance?"
"That being the case, empty the treasury and turn it into a grave.. Let's set up a play."