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“Hey, Liao An?”

“What is it, Bào bi?”

“What is a spiritual beast?” Bào bi asked. “Is that like your spirit animal? A lot of this cultivation stuff is weird, I don’t want to murder my spirit animal.”

Liao An stopped her cultivation to look over at Bào bi with an incredulous look. “I’m not even sure how to answer that.”

“How about you explain to me what a spirit animal is?”

Liao An nodded. “Humans aren’t the only ones that can cultivate. Animals and plants can as well. Since animals don’t have a conscious will, it usually happens by accident. They’ll eat a type of food that was particularly high in spiritual energy or they’ll sleep in a place filled with it. Animals, being closer to nature, can cultivate a lot easier than humans. Eventually, when an animal or plant cultivates to the point they become a spirit beast, they gain the capacity to actively cultivate and seek out spiritual energy.”

Bào bi nodded thoughtfully. “So, spiritual animals are to normal animals like a mortal is to a cultivator.”

“Mm…” Liao An agreed. “But do not get confused. Animals that cultivate into spiritual beasts are not simply stronger versions of their animal selves. They are smarter, faster, and better at cultivating than we humans. A single 1st tier spiritual beast could threaten to wipe out an entire town of mortals. The same could not be said about 1st tier human, who may only be strong enough to overpower individual in a fight. This is why I waited so long to introduce you to spiritual animals. Before now, any attempt to hunt them would be certain death.”

“Okay… and we’re hunting them now because…” Bào bi wore a somewhat uncertain look.

“We’re hunting them because each spiritual beast contains a spiritual core. Spiritual cores are used in the production of pills which can further our cultivation. Even the meat from spiritual beasts is good for you and will help with cultivation.”

This idea was so common in Liao An’s universe that it felt a bit like calling water wet. In the heavenly realms, normal animals didn’t really exist. The spiritual energy was so high that every animal ended up a spiritual beast. Even the poorest pauper got to eat spiritual beast meat from time to time, which aided in increasing their constitution and becoming a stronger cultivator. Of course, at by the time reached the upper realms of the mortal cultivation, they no longer needed to eat to survive, it still was done for entertainment purposes.

 In this world, people of the moral realm didn’t eat spiritual meat at all. It was even rarer than spiritual stones. Even disciples in the Xaoi sect couldn’t enjoy meat unless they were lucky. Even the higher tier cultivators only got to eat it occasionally. A lot of it went to the Xaoi clan as a tribute. Of course, Liao An wasn’t lying about the dangers of spiritual beasts. Hunting in areas with spiritual beasts was a major danger in this world, and only done by those that were particularly brave.

This was because spiritual beasts were very smart and devious when it came to their own survival. There were always stronger beasts mixed in with weaker beasts, and if one could quickly tell, they could easily find themselves targeted by a beast far stronger than them. Simply killing a beast often attracted nearby beasts. This doesn’t even take into consideration the skill needed to track and harvest from a beast.

Simply put, even a first realm at level ten wasn’t truly old enough to start hunting. With Liao An present though, she wasn’t as concerned that Bào bi would do something to get himself hurt. The two would work together and she’d be careful to guide him. It would be greatly benefitial to his cultivation and his survivability if he got some practice battling spiritual beasts now, especially since there was no one at his level to spar with.

The pair took off into the forest. The pair had similar cultivation levels and Bào bi movement technique was ideal for moving through forested terrain. Suffice it to say, their speed and stamina were phenomenal. Liao An allowed Bào bi to set the pace, as was pleased that he chose to put effort into moving fast rather than remaining and a leisurely pace. The location they were heading was one Liao An had scanned for using a device from her bag of holding. Given the level of spiritual energy she had seen in this world up until now, she didn’t anticipate running into any monsters she wouldn’t be able to handle.

However, this area was still very distant from any civilized land. After all, mortal beings couldn’t possibly survive anywhere that spiritual animals may be born. These areas sat far outside of the countries, deep in the countryside. Most of this land was ruled and populated by the cultivators, in this case, specifically the Xaoi sect. When Liao An felt spiritual beasts a few kilometers, she finally slowed down. They had run about 300 kilometers from the place they started in about five hours. Although Bào bi looked a little winded, Liao An appeared pristine as always.

Bào bi was a little shocked at how long he had lasted. He didn’t expect himself to move at this speed nor be able to run for such a lengthy time. This was the first time he truly felt what it was like to be a cultivator. He could only star down at his body in wonder. He could run through a forest at the speed of a car, and keep up that speed for hours on end. They said that only by stepping into the heavenly realm did you transcend humanity, but Bào bi felt like he already had.

“Alright, there are various spiritual beasts in this valley.” Liao An pointed, immediately getting to the point even before Bào bi could recover her breath. “Spiritual beasts come in 9 tiers. At our level, we should be able to take out tier 1s of a low and middle aptitude. If we run into a tier 1 of high aptitude, let me handle it. This valley also seems to contain tier 2s and possibly a tier 3. We must keep our distance, and if you encounter one, run and pray.”

“This valley has a great deal of spiritual energy, almost as much as the rift at our former home. “I’m surprised this area isn’t owned by the sect.” Bào bi pondered out loud bitterly.

This valley would be a decent place to cultivate. It seemed odd to Bào bi that they wouldn’t claim it as selfishly as they had claimed his own home. He had once and a while spied on the home in the last 3 to 4 years, and they had managed to successfully build a small cultivator’s outpost, with the head getting a cage. Any sigh of Bào bi’s childhood home had long been leveled out or removed.

“This is Xaoi sect territory…” Liao An could sense a seal on the valley that would only let Xaoi sect in. “But this area belongs to the beasts… it would be troublesome to clear it out and keep it cleared. The sect would rather keep places like these for beast trainers, disciple training, and occasional sources of supplies.”

“Oh… so it’s Xaoi territory after all.”

“Yes, we’ll be trespassing into Xaoi territory. For loose cultivators and other sects, poaching is a serious offense. If caught, the penalty is death.” Liao An looked over at Bào bi curiously, “Are you okay sneaking into their land and stealing their resources.”

Bào bi looked into the valley beyond. It was a thick forest surrounded by mountains with two paths that entered it on either side. The place looked dark and threatening, and every once and a while there was a howl from an animal that seemed to give up a bit of pressure that caused Bào bi’s heart to shake. On top of that, if there were anyone from the Xaoi sect in there, they would likely attack the pair.

However. Bào bi was a Xaoi child who was ejected from the clan before he was even born. Despite his great grandfather being the leader, he was offered nothing from this clan. Worse than that, this clan had actually stolen from him and his family. As soon as they saw something they wanted, they took his home. His father now fought every day for cultivation resources while his mother sat alone in a too small home in a city of immortals. It was a place where she couldn’t even show her face in public because the Xaoi sect may become interested and take her as well.

“As long as we have the power, then we can take it, right?” Bào bi repeated the sentiment that seemed to infest this world, even as his fist clenched angrily.

Liao An wore a slightly pleased expression. “Good… catch.”

She flicked a coin and Bào bi just managed to catch it. It looked like a normal coin, the currency of the mortal realm. It was gold, which meant it might be a good amount of money, but to any cultivator, even Bào bi’s family, it wasn’t that impressive. Then, he noticed a bit of spiritual resonance coming off of it that he couldn’t figure out.

“What is this?” He asked.

“There is a large array that blocks out anyone who wishes to enter uninvited. All disciples of the Xaoi sect have a special amulet that grants them permission. I did not think to acquire some from someone of the Xaoi sect forcefully. These are forgeries give off the same spiritual energy. They’ll allow us to enter and leave. If someone checks the array, they’ll realize someone has been here, but they won’t know who.”

“So, a keyless car entry into the valley of the beasts.” Bào bi muttered, pocketing the coin.

“Are you ready to go? This valley is very dangerous. Once inside, stay close to me. Attack as I direct.

Bào bi blinked. “Attack with what? Sorry, I didn’t mention it earlier, but how do you plan to go hunting? I don’t see any arrows or spears or anything?”

Liao An frowned. “A spear? Do you not want to hunt using your techniques?”

Bào bi coughed, “Ah… that. I mean… I’m not looking to… um… touch wild beasts here. Killing something with my bare hands… doesn’t that feel a little barbaric?”

Liao An cocked her head, not really understanding what Bào bi was going on about. However, she didn’t mind accommodating him. Since this was the first hunt, a weapon would put some distance between him and the beast. It might even be considered a bit safer. She looked around quickly and then saw a stick of oak wood that had fallen off a tree. It hadn’t decayed off. Rather, there were some burn marks that suggested it might have been struck by lighting and fallen to the ground as a result. She gave a single nod and then pulled out a few items from her bag.

Bào bi watched as Liao An quickly whittled the end to a point. She also made several carvings in the wood and sprinkled some kind of potion on it. When she finished, the wood seemed really bright, almost the point it seemed to give off light. She nodded after one last inspection and then tossed the item to me.

“A sharp stick…” A responded dryly, almost laughing at the cheapness of the weapon she gave me.

Liao An sniffed. “It’s a spear. Can’t you see that much? I did a few enchantments. It’s a low-grade 1st tier spiritual weapon. With it, you could probably take out a first mid-tier without too much difficulty.”

It should be noted that no one else in this world could have so casually created a 1st tier weapon out of something simply lying around. It was created by the goddess Tigra, and thus couldn’t possibly be as simple as it seemed. The formations she haphazardly carved on it were exceptionally profound for this world. To date, there was no known 9th tier weapon in this world, and only one 8th, which is kept as a clan’s last defense. Spiritual weapons were rare and powerful, and there was no shortage of people even as high as the third realm who wouldn’t hesitate to kill in order to receive a weapon of this strength.

Bào bi didn’t know any of this and having seen its casual creation, he was far less impressed. He picked the sharp stick that she called a spear in his hands and swung a few times. He was actually surprised that it felt so light and balanced in his hands. It had to be pure luck. She just picked a good material. He swung five more times, and on the fifth time he suddenly heard a crackling noise, and his hair started to stand up slightly.

“Oh?” Liao An raised an eyebrow. “Since the wood used in this spear was struck by lightning, a bit of lightning element seems to be trapped inside. If you get the right techniques, you may be able to put your spiritual energy into it and shoot a lightning bolt, given enough practice.”

Bào bi stopped called it just a sharp stick. Fine, it was the electric oak spear. That’s what Bào bi decided to name the item. Bào bi played with the stick a few more times. After a few dozen swings, he thought to integrate what he knew about his own palm techniques. How could he apply those to this weapon? He thought of ways he could merge the two together. Suddenly, his next strike was cleaner and more devastating. Liao An made a noise of shock. She never expected him to be able to do that so quickly. His brain really was exemplary.

“Alright, let’s go.” Liao An commanded.

Bào bi nodded, and the pair headed into the valley of the Xaoi sect. Neither of them knew this, but the valley actually had a name. Liao An wouldn’t have cared what the name was, but it might have given Bào bi just a bit of pause. The valley had been named the Disciple’s End, as too many disciples had met their end trying to brave the valley. It had been shut down ever since a 3rd tier moved in and made it his property. Even the higher-ups were struggling to keep the Disciple’s End Valley contained.

The pair stepped through the shield. It was time to hunt.

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