That was the first time that I had ever been struck by lightning. It hurt, a lot, but the temporary paralysis was the most dangerous factor.
The difference between Qi Strengthening and Condensing was the ability to utilize magical spells and techniques. In the Refining Stage, it becomes possible to pressure a much ‘weaker’ person with your aura alone, but it wouldn’t work if there wasn’t a considerable difference in physical power. After they form their first Core, a person can truly be considered as a cultivator, daoist, mage, or whatever they want to call themselves.
Those two Red Realm assassins were already in the early stages of their second Qi Strengthening. Well, the first one was already insta-killed, but the second guy was still trying to murder me.
After being hit by that jolt of electricity, I was momentarily stunned, but swiftly regained my composure and turned around. I saw the fairly short man, who was wearing a fancy yellow robe; there was a white hood on his head and a thin fabric covering the bottom half of his face, so I could only see those generic brown eyes.
He shouted “Come at me bro~! I’ll fry you up like a delicious piece of steak and eat your roasted flesh!” Ah, maybe he didn’t actually say that… but it sounds better than “Die you monster~! I shall vanquish you in the name of the Lightning Cloud Dragon Sky Clan’s third branch!”
Those guys, they always had ridiculous and convoluted familial relations that I honestly still can’t truly understand. However, regardless of what he yelled, I just roared furiously and charged at him like a mindlessly raging bull.
A thunderbolt struck the crown of my skull and burst my eardrums, causing my whole enormous body to tighten up. Yet, I still managed to resist the magical attack and slammed my forehead down onto his face.
His flesh was stripped off and blood sprayed all over me, as I reached up with both hands, grabbed his shoulders and ripped his arms off. After that, I kicked his groin, sending his crippled and mutilated body soaring through the air, until it was impaled onto a sharp ‘ironwood’ tree branch in the distance.
I was a bit dizzy, but I shrugged it off and continued sprinting through the woods at a few hundred miles per hour. Occasionally, I would trip over a rock or root, or have difficulty staying ‘attached’ to the ground, because of my unnecessary wind resistance. It was incredibly hard for me to travel as quickly as those aerodynamic little humans who were chasing me, but none of them were strong enough to deal any significant damage.
Each encounter was short and concise; they would hit me with a knife, arrow, javelin, fireball or lightning bolt and I would punch, kick, knee, elbow or headbutt them to death. There were a few who I simply tackled or grabbed and squeezed into a crimson paste, but for the most part, I just spent the time running away.
Within three hours, I had finally escaped my annoying pursuers and also exited the jungle for the first time in my life. Standing there on the edge of that enormous cliff, I gazed out at the horizon and saw the bright-blue sky, with a seemingly endless ocean spread out before me.
I panted constantly from overexertion, but I was also incredibly excited; I could smell the salty air and feel the warm breeze on my bloody skin, as I unintentionally began grinning. It was like I finally left home and could ‘explore’ the outrageously large world.
Later on, I found out that ‘my’ mountain was eventually named “Fire God’s Refuge”. After Lang Wong came into prominence, he went back and ‘claimed’ the whole place as his own. Before that though, no one even knew that it existed.
Anyway, even though I had never tried that kind of swimming before, it was actually really easy. Maybe ordinary people without access to Qi would have trouble making it through the choppy and gigantic waves, but for me, it was just like taking a bath in the river. The salt in the water made it much less difficult to float and my body was relatively large compared to most humans, so I didn’t have much trouble.
For three whole weeks, I lived on and in the ocean. My cultivation wasn’t so high that I could forego breathing, eating or drinking, but sleeping was unnecessary. Every day I would catch some random fish that swam by and eat them. As for satisfying my thirst, I just drank the salty water; at first it was awful and I thought that I might die, but my body ‘adapted’ after a few tries.
As the waves crashed over me, I was often pushed down under the surface. Fortunately, I was surprisingly buoyant and never stayed submerged for very long. While I did enjoy my little swim in the beginning, it got old really quickly. Compared to my running speed, traveling across the ocean was a lot slower; however, forty-miles per hour wasn’t too hard to achieve.
On the twenty-third day, I finally found a beautiful tropical island. The best part, was that it was totally uninhabited… By that, I mean that there were no humans. Obviously, with all the fruit trees and miscellaneous plant-life, there were also plenty of animals. There was something else that came as a pleasant surprise: The ‘Qi’ saturation in the area was far greater than I had ever experienced before.
I’ve often wondered, if I had never left the mountain range, would I have ever been able to survive? What I mean by that, is the fact that without any cultivation method, I probably would have died of old age without being able to even reach the ninth level of Qi Strengthening.
‘My’ island was a hundred miles in diameter and if you looked at it from the sky, it was shaped like a giant hand. Actually, it was probably more like an enormous tiger’s paw, where each of the pads was a mountain. I arrived near where the middle-right toenail would have been.
It was a tropical paradise, similar to my original home, but the beach was a nice improvement. I mean, it’s not like I didn’t want to go trudging through a jungle filled with magical beasts… I was just a bit exhausted from swimming through the ocean, nonstop for three weeks.
There was no need to create any sort of shelter on that scalding hot white sand, I simply sat down cross-legged and began meditating. I soaked up the hot and violent Yang Qi from the Sun in the day, then quelled it with the icy and frigid Yin Qi from the Moon at night.
Occasionally, I would wade out into the waves and float on my back, while contemplating the ‘mysteries’ of Water. On the beach I would delve into the… Okay, I just played around. I had the mentality of a child who went to the ocean for the first time in their life!
Every day I would build a few sand-mountains, splash around in the salty water, try to catch fish with my bare hands and when I eventually got tired, I’d just go to sleep. There were loads of mana-rich coconuts, bananas, mangoes, papaya, pineapples, guava, avocado, kiwis and at least twenty other types of tropical fruit.
I didn’t really even ‘need’ to train, because I would often get attacked by magical beasts. On the second night on the island, a two meter long flying fox tried to bite my face off. The gigantic bat didn’t cast any spells and just chomped down on my head when I was meditating.
Fortunately, it was only about level one in the Red Realm, so it could barely even hurt me. I thought the black-furred critter was pretty cute… but I was also really hungry. After snapping its neck and tearing its brown fur off, I discovered that there wasn’t much meat on the relatively large body. However, it was still pretty delicious and extremely beneficial to my cultivation. From that single meal, my strength went up by at least one-tenth of a Bear.
A week later, it was midday and I was taking my daily swim, when a huge sea turtle bit down onto my left calf. The vicious creature pulled me underwater and tried to drown me, but it was only barely strong enough to draw blood from my flesh. I immediately reached down and shoved my fingers into its bright-yellow eyes on both sides of its head at the same time. It instantly let go of me and tried to escape, but my arm was wrapped around the enormous green monster’s neck.
With a twist of my waist, I snapped its spine and then struggled to drag its ten-meter long carcass over to the shore. My height was about four and a half meters at the time, so the beast’s shell was more than twice as big as me.
Even with my voracious appetite, it took me three days to finish eating the giant turtle’s meat and organs. As for the bones, scales and shell, I used them to make a really awesome sand-mountain… I know, it sounds super-depressing, but it’s not like I was an Artifact Craftsman or Alchemist. Ironically though, I did somewhat begin to comprehend Formation Arrays through arranging the mana-infused remains of magical-beasts, into random shapes and designs.