I made a mistake. I thought I could merge with a sky-realm-ranked sword after facing my tribulation, but it turns out I was wrong. I wouldn’t have minded being placed in an earth-realm-ranked sword at that point, but the smith offered Lucia an alternative to increase my grade. So, when Lucia tried to place me into an earth-realm-ranked sword, I refused and told her that I said a sky-realm-ranked one.
That’s right. I’ve been conscious this whole time. Normally, a spirit is dormant if it isn’t housed in a weapon. But for some reason, after defeating that featherless bird, which I now know was an unborn phoenix, I’ve kept my consciousness despite living outside a weapon. I do feel a little bad for ignoring Lucia, but … I need my space. Every time I tried cultivating before my tribulation, Lucia would always interrupt me. I’d never get a good session in because she’d drag me off to bed without caring for my cultivation. Besides, Lucia has Softie now to take care of some of her needs. And my absence drove Lucia to greater heights. Taking a break has been beneficial to both of us. The only thing I have an issue with is…, sometimes, I wish Lucia would keep me in a more … normal … place. I know Lucia knows about my dislike for interspacial dimensions, but really? She stores me down there instead?
Anyway, it seems like I’m about to be upgraded at this altar in the Cave of Wonders. Lucia plans on fusing me with the tablet she just obtained a few moments prior. There was a spirit inside it, but according to Ilya, it should be gone now. …It should be gone. What if it isn’t? That spirit overpowered Lucia in a body that didn’t even have arms or legs. If it’s still there, this’ll be quite the ordeal. But no one ever grew stronger without taking risks. I’ll face this spirit and consume it to fuel my growth.
Lucia placed my spirit seed atop the altar and laid the tablet down beside me. Then she dumped a tremendous amount of spirit stones on top of me, blocking my view. “Is that it?”
“It should be,” Ilya said. “The spirit seed, the item, the spirit stones, yeah. Everything’s in place. Now you have to start the altar by kicking it.”
That doesn’t sound very reassuring. But the altar must’ve been designed by an immortal seeing as it’s in a necropolis for immortals. It should be sturdy enough to withstand one of Lucia’s kicks. There was a thudding sound and a slight tremor. My vision, which was black, turned golden as the spirit stones smothering me lit up. The light grew brighter and brighter until all I could see was white. Then a stone tablet with a small cactus growing out of its face came into view. Was that the Tablet of Madness?
“What’s this? That stupid girl used me as a fusion material?” The cactus spoke! Its body split apart as it talked, forming a crude mouth. “Right after I exerted so much energy too…. This is going to be annoying.”
I seem to be fighting the strangest things to grow stronger. First, it was a featherless bird. Now, it’s a talking cactus. I’ll slice it apart with…. I don’t have a sword. No, I don’t have anything. I’m completely naked right now, and I can’t circulate any qi. Am I being suppressed?
“Are you mute? You have a mouth; use it.”
“Greetings.” I’ve never spoken to a cactus before. What am I supposed to say? “Nice weather we’re having, huh?”
A pair of eyes sprouted out the top of the cactus like ant antennae. Was it looking at me with disdain? “You’re a mere earth-realm bug. Defeating you will lower my worth. Get out of my sight.”
But there’s no place to go? “How strong are you?”
“Can’t you tell? I’m an immortal. Behold my qi!” The cactus stiffened before wiggling. Was something else supposed to happen? “…My qi? Why can’t I use it? Hmph. It doesn’t matter. Bow before me, puny mortal spirit.” The cactus grew in size as a pair of arms and legs sprouted out of it. They were green and bristling with yellow spikes. The cactus stopped growing when it was as tall as me, the tablet that it was attached to left behind as the cactus stood up and walked towards me.
Is everything equal in this altar? If neither of us can use qi, then all I have to do is fight a cactus with my bare hands. While naked. …This might be a bit more difficult than I thought. Let’s retreat a bit and think of a few ways to defeat this monstrosity. There’s nothing around to use as a weapon. The ground is white and endless. There are no walls, and the sky is also white and endless. I’m naked and unable to strengthen myself with qi, and there’s a thorny cactus stomping towards me. The only thing I can do is grit my teeth and bear the pain…. Unless I pick up the tablet and use it as a weapon? Can I do that? I’ll try it first before I wrestle this thing.
As I approached the tablet, the cactus’ eyes narrowed. “Aiming for my tablet body? I won’t let you.”
“Wait a moment. If you have a tablet body, how come my sword body isn’t here with me?” Everything’s equal? Nonsense! Where’s my sword?
The cactus snorted. “You’re a spirit seed, what sword body? Besides, you seem more human than weapon.”
Right. My sword body broke during the tribulation. In that case, I’ll have to grapple with a cactus! I’ll subdue it and break its tablet body to solidify my victory. Why did Lucia have to use this tablet as a strengthening material? Couldn’t she have used the hammer or the rapier at least? Those didn’t have spirits inside of them! When I get out of here, I’m going to make Lucia wrestle a cactus under the guise of training. “Let’s see if you can withstand my armbar, cactus!”
Ah, damn, this hurts a lot.