I followed Grand Elder Lao Bofan across the habitat of the inner disciples, but seeing that my walking speed was far too slow to his liking.
The old man took to the skies, just like that he hovered in the sky and brought me with him. I flailed for a moment before I gathered my baring. This was far gentler than when that cultivator took me to the Poison God’s cave.
"You seem used to flight."
"I had experience."
"I could understand flight using a flying sword would give one experience, but then you had a sword under you, a measure where you could find solid ’ground’ safety of sorts. But now, we’re flying without the support of anything, only a mad man would think they are safe. I wonder, are you a mad man?" elder Lao asked.
"Mad, perhaps, but I have my reasons not to fear," I replied.
"Care to explain your reasons?" asked Lao as we moved at increasing speeds.
"First of all, if you wanted me dead, you would have killed me ten thousand times over."
"Sounds about right, then what’s the second reason."
"You need me to treat your patient. And also, you wish to know how I would treat your patient. Even a person as old as you are, you’re still fascinated with new things. Curiosity is the mother of all things. And none could escape its clutches. So, I fear not for my life."
"I could also be leading you to a safe place where I could use soul search on you." Said the old man.
"True, but you wouldn’t," I replied.
"Once again, you amaze me with your confidence I wonder where do you get this."
"Your demeanor. You’re not evil. If you were, you would have forced me to give up my secrets the moment I spoke."
"So you do realize your mistake."
"Yes, and already regret it, but not enough to not treat a patient from dying one of the most agonizing deaths in the world."
"HA!" the old man laughed.
"Why are you laughing? I doubt that what I said was something to jest about."
"You, is who I am laughing at, you say the most agonizing deaths when the bone and body grinding poison has infected you as a plague does to a backwater town. You’ve suffered fate hundreds of times worse than the Five Body destructions and say that it’s one of the worst ways to die. Do you know that the Bone and Body grinding poison, though it is common is one of the top poisons of the poison list?"
"No, I had no such knowledge."
"To be honest, most men would rather die than suffer your agony. I find it fascinating how you managed to survive, even if you’re on the verge of death right now."
"Also another reason for my lack of fear to death, it has been my companion. But perhaps I could find a treatment."
"I salute your confidence and optimism, but if this was treatable, it wouldn’t be on the heaven list."
"The world of cultivation is limitless, is it not?"
"So, if there was a problem, there has to be a solution. Saying that a poison has no remedy is the same as being a frog in a well. We just haven’t figured out the treatment, because we haven’t exhausted all possible solutions."
The old man went silent for a moment before he pulled something from his pocket at threw it at me.
I grabbed at it, and it was a small ceramic vial. I shook it and it jingled with the sound of pills.
"Why are you giving me this?" I asked.
"It is because I learned something from you. Just because there is a problem, doesn’t mean that there is not a solution, the scope of our understanding must be expanded to figure out newer methods to solve something that everyone thinks unsolvable. I found myself in a bottleneck, and I believe with your words, I can finally touch the rims of comprehension. I’m not a petty man, I repay my favors."
I cupped my hands at the Grand elder and said, "Many thanks, for your patronage."
The old man smiled as he waved his hand, "Don’t mention it. We’ve arrived, lets go."
We slowly dropped until we were in front of a palace so grand that I had trouble gauging its full size.
I have been to India once and had seen the Taj Mahal, but in front of me, the whole Taj mahal would barely fit in one of this palace’s doors. And there were eight of them, each leading to a different sector.
"And they say that the Purple Cloud sect is a ninth level sect? I could hardly believe it seeing this palace."
"Actually, we’re originally a fourth-level sect, but due to what you’re about to see, we have declined and lost a lot of power. This palace is all that remains of our former prestige."
’this sounds rather ominous. Still, I have to see with my own eyes what caused this sect to decline to this degree.’
As we walked through the palace, I saw many old men coming and going, probably elders and deacons responsible over the sect, they could even be inner and core disciples here. But none of them were too free to give us a second glance as we walked inside.
We headed deeper into the palace and walked up a flight of stairs that led to a golden door.
The door opened up revealing a room full of incense burners and vats of herbal liquids. Yet there was a coolness to the air that made my bones feel like they were going to freeze over. I began rotating my cultivation to fend off the coldness, and it worked like a charm. The added Yin from the Origin Yin Flower helped me subdue the cold.
"I’m amazed that you were able to subdue the side effects of the Ice destruction. You seem to be carrying a lot of secrets." The old man said, but he had not a single hint of greed on him when he spoke.
"Lao Bofan," spoke a sweet womanly voice. It was an otherworldly beautiful woman who looked like she was made of pure crystal. Bare half of her face and one arm, the rest of her body was encased in an ice-like structure that was continuously releasing the cold air.
"Sect Master," Lao Bofan said as he bowed to the woman.
I gave a similar bow then rose back up.
"It seems that the situation is much direr than I expected."
"Who might this be?"
"Sect master, this is an outer sect disciple, I found. He seems to be knowledgeable in regards to your condition."
"If I wasn’t in my current condition I would have slapped you both to the nether world. You think a mere outer disciple who is not even a transformation expert can treat me? What foolery is this? Are you tired of living Lao!" the last words she uttered with such wrath that she began a coughing fit.
Two women, of probably the age of twenty came rushing to her side and began applying a brew made of some sort of herbal liquid. The two women’s hands were also made of ice. And whenever they touched the sect master the contamination would spread.
"You should stop that, the Seven Silk worm’s extract is only numbing the pain it does nothing to the contamination."
"You think I don’t know that?" the woman said.
"Please sect master calm down," one of the girls said.
"But wait, how do you know this is Seven Silk Worm’s extract?" the sect master asked.
"Sect master, I told you he is knowledgeable. And I have brought him here to see if he could treat you."
"Treat me? Such foolish notion." The woman spoke in disgust at me. "A man of such appearance is no use to even himself how could he treat me."
"To be completely honest, I can’t treat her."
"What?! Then why have I brought you here!" Lao’s face turned to anger.
"Wait! I haven’t finished. The current me can’t treat her. But I could in time. I need at least three years. But from the look of your current condition... you probably don’t have more than one month left to live"
"Fool, I have enough medicine to keep me up and running for at least a year." Said the sect master.
"Okay, if you say so, but tell me, have you been feeling dizzy lately, and having sudden loss of temper, also sometimes you feel like you’re seeing nothing but white and when you come back to it, more than a day had passed?"
The two girls around the sect master looked at each other and then back at me, "How do you know that?"
"Because those are the final symptoms of the Ice Destruction. The Seven Worm silk extract you have been using wasn’t treating her, it was only numbing the wound and giving the Sect master semblance of cure. The poison was still acting up and now it had reached her brain. Once her brain freezes, she will die."
The sect master frowned, and I could swear that the ice around her body was about to break.
"You’re right, you proved that you know what you speak off, but that doesn’t change anything. Even if I were to die in a year or in a month, you can’t help. I don’t have the ability to survive three years until you can take care of this illness of mine. So whatever your agenda was in meeting me was, it is now null and void." Replied the sect master.
"I said I can only cure you in three years, but I didn’t say I can’t help you survive until then. Which of course I can. Also, I can help the girls around you get rid of the side effects on them."
"Shen Bao, we don’t currently possess the Spirit Orchid, it will take some time to get it."
"Well, yeah, but there is another way, although it is faster... the outcome might not be to your liking."
"What do you mean? You have another way to get rid of the poison?"
"Yes, but like I said, it’s not preferable."
"What does it entail?" asked the sect master, this time with a tone that had far less hostility and more curiosity.
"Well, I can test it on your...euuuh, retainers?"
"My core disciples." Said the sect master.
’Man she shouldn’t have exposed her disciples to such thing they must be in terrible pain.’
"Right then, can I approach?" I asked.
"You may, but do anything strange and it’s your head that will roll."
"See, this is why I’m hesitant. What I’m about to do is really not something you lot would think normal. And I fear that I’ll have my head rolling before I prove my point."
Lao Bofan looked at the sect master and the two of them sighed.
"Right, miss, can you come over and hand me your hand."
The woman did as I asked and gave me her hand.
I placed one of my hands above and the other under her hand.
"What the bloody hell are you doing! You’re going to contaminate yourself and you don’t even have the cultivation to suppress that poison!" Lao spoke.
"Don’t worry," I replied then I began assimilating the poison. It was the same as I did whenever I sucked in the green residue from monsters that I killed with my Poison Breath.
Only the Ice Destruction Poison was far more tyrannical and was willing to rip my veins as it coursed through them.
"Oh my god, you’re not being infected..." Lao said in surprise.
The woman in front of me looked disgusted as I held her hand, she probably didn’t think that I’m fit to do so, seeing how disfigured and nasty the tumors I had on both hands.
"Just bear with it, now is when it’ll start to hurt," I spoke.
Suddenly the woman began screaming as if I was skinning her hand.
The second disciple immediately came to her sister’s aid and placed a sword right under my neck, "Stop!" she said.
"Wait! Look!" said the sect master.
Even when the girl was screaming from pain, the second sister was patient enough to take a look at her sister’s hand. The poison was actually being retracted, pulled out from her hand and into mine. Yet the ice from the poison destruction was unable to fend against the poison Qi within me. Even if I was just a Qi condensation cultivator, the Bone and Body poison, as spoke Grand Elder Lao, was powerful enough to fully suppress the Ice from the Body Destruction, then consume it to empower itself.
I kept sucking in the poison, and it kept feeding my own Qi, until I had a breakthrough.
Suddenly, I was able to rotate more Poison Qi within me and absorbed even more from the disciple. And in matters of seconds, the disciple fainted as the last bit of the poison was pulled out of the tip of her fingers.
She fell unconscious, heaving on the ground, but there was now, redness on her cheeks that was not there before.
I turned around and began vomiting, a black sludge, disgusting and cold. It was far thicker and concentrated than when I had my first breakthroughs.
"Such atrocious sight!" said the first disciple.
"Have some respect to someone who risked their own life to save your sisters..." said the sect master. "What he threw up was the concentrated destroyed remains of the Poison. So it appears that you actually do have value in keeping you."
After wiping my mouth I said, "Sorry for ruining your floor, I didn’t expect to have a breakthrough, this is regular stuff."
"Don’t be, you saved one of my disciples from death, I should be thankful. I’ll reward you accordingly, but for now, come the real question, can you treat me?"
"I told you, I can, but you have so much poison in you that it will take at least three years. But I can alleviate the poison, take it in and discard it.
"This is a strange way to cultivate."
"It’s my way."
"I have scanned you, and noticed that you don’t have any meridians. How come you can control spiritual energy?" asked the master.
’Hmm, so they can’t see my poison meridians, that’s good.’
"I have my ways. Now, do you wish for me to treat you?"
"Yes. Do you have any demands?"
"Yeah, I want to punish someone for harming a brother of mine."
"For whoever did such, death is only the penalty!" said the sect master.
"Wait! Wait! Child, let me take care of that for you, if Han had wronged your brother, I’ll handle it, don’t waste a master’s favor for some pitiful grudge."
"Oh, then I’ll be in your debt."
"You have repaid this debt when you told me of the way to get rid of the poison afflicting me."
"Then so be it, I’m in your favor, disciple. What is your name?"
"I’m Shen Bao."
"Good, from now on, you’ll be a core disciple of my sect. and my personal health care. If anyone dares to harm you, stand in your way or cross you, you only need to show him this." She said as she threw me a token with a purple cloud imprinted on it.
"This is direct disciple’s token; it makes you on an even higher pedestal than my own direct disciples. Is it enough?" asked the sect master.
"Wait, I can’t take this, it’s too much for just treating an illness."
"You fail to see the consequences of treating me. Once I’m back to my former self, the whole country of Zhou shall shake at our mercy. Treat me, and I’ll reward you with things you could have never dreamed of."
"Well then, I better get starting."
A shoutout to Black Feind for the patronage, may your darkness prevails and your corruption consume the world!
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