Darkness expanded beneath Dale’s feet like an endless realm of shadowy death, a sea of the night covering an entire world. Dale hurtled through the air at a fast speed, wind brushing past him as he flew. He passed over several floating boulders, aiming for one large rock in particular.
Since this was his first leap, Dale decided to take it easy and aim somewhere relatively safe. Thus, his first jump was towards a floating boulder that was roughly 35 meters from the southern tip. While a 35 meter jump wasn’t a small leap, it wasn’t necessarily a massive one either, especially for a cultivator at his level. Using his cultivation energy alone, a 1 Star cultivator should be able to jump at least 70 meters without problem.
Dale relied upon his physical body to power him, however, his incomparably strong muscles throwing himself forward. He kept his Core energy in reserve, in case he needed to use it to spear out or something if his Shatter Steps technique failed.
Dale reached the peak of his jump, his speed slowing as he began to dip downward. His aim was accurate, however, and the large boulder he had aimed at was below. Before he landed, however, he decided to go ahead and try his technique.
Dale took a breath and grasped on to his Will.
The mystical feeling of activating his Will came once again, with the sense of authority and binding power. Dale felt as if he had become a king or god, so overbearing was this special power.
As he grasped onto his Will, Dale also pulled forward some of his Core energy. To activate his Shatter Steps technique, he needed to slam some of his cultivation energy against some type of surface. The rebound from the natural energy in the world was what he counted on to accelerate.
With a thought, Dale directed his Will to the air just below his feet. The sense of authority he held strengthened as he concentrated. With a mental thought, Dale willed the air beneath his feet at that exact moment to solidify. He had practiced this technique before, and was able to visualize it perfectly.
When using one’s Will, Dale had learned from his master and through practice that visualization was the most important thing. Depending on how he visualized his Will activating something or modifying an aspect of something, it could be easier or harder. In this case, Dale visualized the air turning rigid, but instead of a large block of slab of air, he visualized just a small, thin layer. After all, Dale only needed to kick off the air once, it didn’t matter how thick or large the slab was. As long as he could use his Shatter Step technique, it would be fine.
Visibly, nothing changed. However, Dale felt a slight draining feeling as his Will activated. Immediately, just below his feet, the space surrounding the air quivered slightly. Dale felt as if he were fighting against some type of powerful, rigid energy as he brought about his Will, struggling to modify reality for a brief second.
And he succeeded. As he felt the air beneath his feet change, Dale instantly became more confident in his Will. Despite the rigid laws governing this world, he knew that his Will, the special power his master passed on to him, was still strong enough to affect things.
A thin platform of air froze directly beneath Dale’s feet. This platform was only a mere inch thick, and was completely invisible to the naked eye, yet Dale was intimately aware of its existence. With a happy smile, Dale slammed his feet against it and activated his Shatter Steps technique.
All of this took time to describe, yet happened in a bare instant. The platform formation and Dale’s kick off of it all occurred over a very brief time. Thus, the two watching Profound Beast Hunters didn’t notice anything odd up till this moment.
However, in this moment, Dale activated his Shatter Steps technique, slamming his feet against the platform in the air. Innately, the air around Dale shook as his cultivation energy slammed against the forces in the air and was knocked back, rebounding. The platform Dale had formed with his Will fell apart, dissipating back into regular air as the rigid laws of this world reclaimed its space. Dale no longer needed the platform, however, and felt his body blast forward, powered by the rebound of his energy.
Dale instantly exploded into motion, sailing through the air. He jumped a great height at a very fast speed, passing over both Lei Bao and Lin Rakesh in an instant. Dale controlled his fall using his cultivation energy, aiming his body directly at one of the 100 meter large floating islands, the miniature rocks that held a tree or two, and usually a small river.
Dale slammed down hard on the 100 meter wide rocky island, leaving small cracks in the earth beneath him. He felt his heart pounding as he landed, the nervousness he felt over jumping over the void dissipating. With his newfound technique, as long as he had Core energy and his Will, he no longer needed to worry about falling.
Dale turned to look back at the other Profound Beast Hunters, waving cheerfully,
Lei Bao gaped in disbelief, not believing his eyes. Lin Rakesh, on the other hand, sputtered out loud,
“Wha-what?! That’s the first island from the southern tip, that must be at least 200 meters distant?! How is this possible?!” Lin Rakesh clutched at his hair in disbelief. He had just praised Lei Bao as number one in the village for his mighty leap, yet now a much younger cultivator had jumped more then double the length Lei Bao had jumped. He was instantly made a fool.
Lei Bao recovered and then let out a loud, jovial laugh,
“Ho ho, incredible Master Dale. Your Cave Horror Island must be a powerful one indeed to have cultivators at such a young age with such power. The technique you used, it looked like you jumped off the air itself?” Lei Bao jumped from the boulder he had been standing on, using his floating rope to help him maneuver. He jumped twice more, off two separate floating boulders, before landing on the same 100 meter boulder Dale was on. Lin Rakesh quickly followed, jumping off four boulders to catch up.
“It was just a simple technique I know, to help me maneuver in this Great Inner Sea. It isn’t something I can teach.” Dale said, nodding at the hunter. His impression of the strongest Profound Beast Hunter in the Rayman village went up again upon seeing how easy going Lei Bao was. He wasn’t even the slightest bit arrogant.
“Indeed, indeed. Well, let us focus on the hunt. The Golden Bamboo Cattle are somewhere in this area.” Lei Bao nodded and turned to look out at the floating islands in the nearby area.
Near the southern tip of the Great Lake Island, there were roughly thirty islands that were around 1000 meters wide and long. There were nearly a hundred islands that were around 100 meters long, and countless numbers of boulders that ranged from 30 to a single meter wide. Once you passed this outer area, there was a large number of small boulders for several miles as one exited the area that surrounded the Great Lake City. Outside this area where only small boulders existed, one could once again find 1000 meter and 100 meter islands, interspersed far distances from each other.
The reason there was so many 1000 meter and 100 meter islands surrounding the edge of the Great Lake Island was somewhat of a mystery. Dale had learned from Scholar Shen that this was a common thing, and that all islands that were relatively large, like the Great Lake Island which was dozens of miles wide, had many other smaller islands in a sort of almost stationary orbit around them. The smaller islands seemed to be drawn to larger islands, and would cluster closely around them. 1000 meter large islands seemed to be the upper limit for islands that could be attracted, however, and any islands larger than that were repelled. The space in between was filled with countless numbers of free floating boulders and slabs of rock, ranging from small, half meter large ones to 30 meter large boulders. 100 meter and 1000 meter islands could also be found spread throughout, but uncommonly. This was the makeup of the Great Inner Sea.
“Alright. Let’s stay together, in general, as we search for the Golden Bamboo Cattle. We will search the 1000 meter islands one at a time first. Call out immediately if you spot one of the cattle!” Lei Bao moved forward as he finished speaking. He jumped forward off the 100 meter floating island, jumping off several smaller boulders till he entered into a small clump of close islands. There were three 1000 meter islands all within jumping distance of each other, as well as two 100 meter islands floating to the sides.
Dale and Lin Rakesh quickly followed. Lin Rakesh made use of his hovering rope while Dale used his Shatter Steps technique only twice, helping him reposition and aim. As he jumped through the air, Dale tried to not look at the gaping, endless darkness below him.
Dale landed on the 1000 meter wide island, looking around. This specific island had a large clump of trees and a small river running diagonally across from it. The rest of it was filled with random fauna and rocks, mostly cleared out.
Lei Bao immediately ran to the north side of the forest, motioning for Dale and Lin Rakesh to search the south. Dale followed Lin Rakesh, quickly moving through the foliage. The small jungle wasn’t too large, and they quickly scaled through it in a matter of minutes. They found several regular animals, mostly birds and small lizards, but nothing large. Dale put his Perfect Balance to use, letting him move swiftly through the forest while dodging leaves and random sticks.
They met back up with Lei Bao in the center of the island, where a small pond opened up. Lei Bao was covered in random leaves and twigs. Lin Rakesh shared the look, while Dale remained the only one not covered.
“Alright, this island is clean, let’s move on to the next.”
Like that, Dale and his group ran through the entirety of the three 1000 meter islands. They encountered several small game and creatures, as well as a 1 Star Profound Beast on the third island.
This particular Profound Beast was known as a Rayleigh Bear, a powerful black bear that cultivated some strange form that allowed it to lengthen and expand its claws. Instead of confronting the Profound Beast, Lei Bao had them back off, wanting to save their energy for later. Dale mentally memorized the location of the Profound Beast, wanting to come back for its Core later.
The outer islands didn’t contain nearly as many beasts or creatures as the inner area of the Great Lake Island. Most of the powerful Profound Beasts lived in the depths of the mountains or forests, instead of on the sparse outer edge floating islands, where falling to one’s death in the void was a real possibility.
Just as Dale and his group were about to give up, however, sudden shouts drew their eyes to the west.
“Help! We’ve found the cattle! ALL of them! To the west, the west!”
The panicked yells of one of the Profound Beast Hunters instantly turned Lei Bao and Lin Rakesh around. Like moths to a flame, the Raymen Profound Beast Hunters and Dale drew in on the source of the voice, dashing towards the western islands that floated just off of the southern tip of the Great Lake Island.
Dale jumped and dashed along side them, moving with grace as he kicked off the air several times. Dale found that if he used his Will just to harden the air, he didn’t necessarily have to activate his Shatter Steps technique. If he just wanted to move a small amount or correct his aim, he could just regularly kick or jump. His movements were much smoother than the other Profound Beast Hunters who had to rely upon jumping and using their ropes to reel themselves in to specific boulders.
Dale and the two Profound Beast Hunters entered the southwestern area of the southern edge of the Great Lake Island. In this area, there were two 1000 meter long islands, and seven or eight 100 meter long islands.
The first of the 1000 meter long islands held a small forest that was split in two by a large hill. The second of the 1000 meter long islands, and where the yells were coming from, held only a few large trees and a long, drawn out river that was constantly flowing. The few large trees were all bunched together, and formed a rather small forested area perhaps fifty meters wide.
Dale, Lei Bao, and Lin Rakesh all touched down on the island, moving towards the source of the yells. Dale readied Aarsasho while both Lin Rakesh and Lei Bao readied the giant battleaxes both carried. The other two Profound Beast Hunters had landed just a few seconds earlier and were already rushing to the source of the yells, the small forested area with the large trees.
“Hahaha! Great wealth awaits us, gentlemen! Once we sell these Golden Bamboo Horns in the Donden Auction House in Great Lake City, we will be rich!” Lin Rakesh’s voice became high pitched with excitement as he raced forward ahead of Dale and Lei Bao.
As soon as he finished speaking, however, a loud shattering sound shook the air. Immediately, a small explosion sent several large trees flying. Dirt and earth scattered everywhere as the large 1000 meter island shook for a moment.
From the explosion of trees and dirt emerged the figures of the two Raymen Profound Beast Hunters that had been searching this area. The two figures were bedraggled and covered in blood, and fled towards Lei Bao with a furor.
The two other Profound Beast Hunters stopped rushing forward, pausing at the unexpected site. Lei Bao, Lin Rakesh, and Dale all caught up to the other two hunters and paused as well, staring at their injured teammates.
“Flee! It’s right behind us!” The two bloodsoaked Profound Beast Hunters staggered as they fled, their eyes filled with terror.
The rest of the Profound Beast Hunter’s eyes filled with confusion. After all, while most of them couldn’t be considered a 1 Star Profound Expert, they were still all very strong. Even if these beasts were a 1 Star Profound Beast, Golden Bamboo Cattle were famed for having weak attack power. What could sense their comrades away in such a state?
A second later, however, that question was answered.
The dust that had obscured the area where the explosion occurred rapidly settled, revealing the perpetrators of the attack.
In a small, newly formed clearing at the western edge of this small forest, four large cattle stood. Three of the cattle were almost identical in make up, large four legged creatures that were covered in a golden fur. They had brilliant and long golden horns that glowed lightly, matching the bull like heads. These three cattle stood roughly 3 and a half meters tall, large beasts that emanated a solid feeling, as if nothing could move them. Dale sensed an earth cultivation energy coming off of them, only slightly weaker then his own cultivation level. These cattle were indeed at the 1 Star Profound level.
The fourth cattle, however, was very unlike the previous three. This cattle was clearly a massive bull, and the leader of this small group. It had even larger and more glamorous horns, but ones that weren’t gold at all. Instead, the giant horns were a gorgeous crystal clear color, sparkling in the noontime light. Bulging muscles stretched the golden wool that covered it, and it stood a massive, nearly 5 meters tall. The cultivation this cattle possessed was at a level much higher than Dale’s present Gold Core cultivation.
A mix of greed and terror filled the remaining Profound Beast Hunter’s eyes as Lin Rakesh suddenly shouted out,
“Three Golden Bamboo Cattle and… a Crystal Bamboo Bull?! The creatures said to have horns that can be made into a legendary Crystal Bamboo Pill?!”
The Profound Beast Hunters all stared at the powerful, pulsing Crystal Bamboo Bull and slowly began to back up. Despite the greed that appeared in all of their eyes, the fear completely overwhelmed them. The Bull spotted them and growled, slamming its legs up and down in the air.
“What… what level star is it?” Dale queried, feeling an eagerness overtake him. The only strong creature he had fought on this world was that draconic horse, and even then, the horse had been injured before he took it out.
“A fully matured one is a 3 Star Profound Beast! This isn’t something we can handle! We need to leave, now!” Lei Bao quietly whispered, motioning for everyone to retreat.
Before any of them could move another step, however, the Crystal Bamboo let out a loud snort and suddenly began to charge, ripples of energy emanating off of it as it attacked.