Surprisingly, I’m not as uncomfortable with dead bodies as I thought I would be. It probably has something to do with my upbringing, seeing my father going in and out of his torture room and all that. Maybe he brought me inside when I was a baby to watch over me while carrying out his duties…. Nah, that shouldn’t be the case. He’s a duke. There’s no need for him to watch over me personally when there are so many servants around. But what if he was just that worried about me? Father, even if you were worried about me, that doesn’t mean you should torture people with your baby in the room! …And here I am, accusing him of things that he may or may not have even done. My thoughts are running a bit fast; maybe it’s because I want to distract myself as I dissect this sky-realm expert’s corpse.
I’ve browsed through a lot of cultivation techniques, at least tens of thousands. And all of them have the same basic foundation when it comes to building up qi: harness the qi around you, attempt to contain it within your body, unblock your meridians by circulating it once you make it yours, and eventually, reinforce every part of yourself with it. That’s it for the so-called mortal-realm. Once someone’s body has been baptized by qi, they enter the saint realm. That’s when things start diverging into all kinds of weird techniques. But there are still similarities! And I’m trying to figure out what made this sky-realm expert a sky-realm expert and not an earth-realm or saint-realm expert. But I’m not having any luck. It’s also possible whatever made him a sky-realm expert disappeared upon his death.
“Ilya, are you there?”
“Yeah, come in, Softie.” Even though her voice was muffled and hard to discern, I knew it was Softie because the only other person who would visit me is Lucia, and she’d never knock. And just like I thought, it was Softie. “What’s up?”
“I-Ilya!?” Softie let out a weird shriek and covered her mouth with her hands. Her eyes were wide like a frightened deer’s, and she took a step back. She trembled as she raised her arm and pointed. “W-what’s that?”
Huh? “What’s what? That’s the sky-realm expert, you know, Sun Fire?”
“I, I see.” Softie swallowed. “Um, can I talk to you about Lucia?”
Of course Softie wants to talk to me about Lucia. Lucia’s the only topic she’ll talk about with me. I wonder if she’s having trouble trying to woo her. No matter how I look at it, Softie doesn’t have a chance because of Durandal. It’s unfortunate because Softie would be a good influence on Lucia, unlike that stupid, sadistic sword spirit. “Alright, come on in.”
“Um, can I talk to you outside of your room? The, the body’s really creepy. It’s unsettling.”
All I did was skin him to peel back his flesh to reveal his bones and organs…. Is it that creepy? It’s exactly like preparing a divine beast for Lucia to cook. Oh, that’s probably why I wasn’t uncomfortable with dead bodies. I almost forgot that experience in the desolate mountains with Lucia. Almost. Damn. I really wanted to forget my past trauma! Oh? What’s this? A black squirrel?
“Don’t touch it!” Softie shouted. But it was too late. The squirrel expanded to a ridiculous size and opened its jaw. Looking into the depths of its mouth, there was only darkness. Wriggling darkness. Why was it wriggling!? And I assume the squirrel ate me because my vision, sense of hearing, and sense of touch disappeared. I could still smell things. And taste things. …I’m going to vomit. This smell is what one would experience after leaving a prisoner to fester in horse manure for a year, but ten times worse. I can tell my eyes are watering even though I can’t feel the tears running down my cheeks. And the smell is so thick that I can taste it. It’s sour and rancid and sticky like a giant glob of fat, if fat was made of wriggling maggots. There’s a rock in my throat and … no, that’s just vomit. I’m pretty sure I vomited; though, it’s hard to tell without my other senses.
“Ilya! Are you alright!?”
“…What just happened?” That was absolutely disgusting! I never want to experience something like that again! And this squirrel is just staring at me while eating the heart devil worms coming out of my chest! Wait. Isn’t this Lucia’s Heart Devil Apparition technique…? “Lucia! Damnit, why are you attacking me!?” There’s literally billions or even trillions of other people on this Immortal Continent, but she has to plant heart devils in me!? Is there going to be a tribute system? Am I going to have to offer up a thousand people to save myself? Is that how this is going to work from now on? Fine! Fine! I’ll offer up a thousand sacrifices in my place, you damned squirrel!
Phew. Calm down, Ilya. Lucia didn’t do this on purpose. She’s just an idiot. Lucia has no malice. She’s just an idiot. Lucia would never intentionally harm me unless I insult her first. She’s just an idiot. So why did Lucia’s apparition attack me? Because Lucia’s an idiot. Why did it attack me and not Softie? Probably because I was the one who touched it, but also because Lucia’s an idiot. Why did Lucia even summon her apparition in the first place? Because she’s an idiot. Alright. I’m calm now.
“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about,” Softie said. “Lucia summoned almost a thousand of her apparitions and set them free to plant heart devils for her. But her apparitions take on the form of the evilest creature known to cultivators, the squirrel! Immortals will hunt her down if they find one of her apparitions and realize it’s a squirrel. You have to create an artifact to hide her appearance because I don’t think she’s smart enough to learn a disguising technique on her own.”
What am I, Fix-it-all Ilya!? Though, it’s true I can create an artifact to disguise her appearance. It’s really not that hard. I just need the appropriate materials. Like, say, a sky-realm expert’s bones and blood. How convenient. But why am I helping Lucia after she just traumatized me again? I wonder if I could trade Lucia in to the immortals and have them open my way home for me…. It sounds like a great idea on paper, but Lucia ruins all common sense. I have a feeling those immortals will get screwed over by her if they do chase her. And once she’s done dealing with them, the person who sold her out would be next. …I guess I’ll get started on that disguising artifact.