Chapter 226: Black Thorn Coral
As Zhang came closer and closer to the Demonic Reef, what appeared to be oddly shaped mountains from afar all turned out to be gigantic pieces of coral that were stacked atop one another. There was also a large assortment of petrified remains belonging both humans and demonic beasts scattered about. With tattered articles of clothing still draped around them and weapons in hand, these statues appeared as if they could spring back to life at any moment and attack any who dare set foot onto the Demonic Reef, causing an eerie chill to tingle down Zhang’s spine, prompting him to move closer to where the beauties were seated atop the fluffy cloud the group was riding.
“Once we make our way onto land, be sure to stick close and not wonder.” Zhang said in a stern voice to his wives as he surveyed the sandy beaches of the Demonic Reef, trying to see if anything was out of the ordinary.
“Just to be sure that nothing unexpected happens…” Zhang mumbled as he used his divine sense to sweep the surrounding air while employing the power of the Underworld Heart and crystallizing the essence in the air into a hundred nearly transparent swords.
With a flick of his wrist, Zhang sent the one hundred blades of crystalized essence plunging into the sandy beach and into a few of the petrified statues that were nearby, in a flash a small sandstorm was created while a dozen or so of the petrified statues crumbled into bits and pieces.
“Alright, looks like it’s safe for now.” Zhang said as he disembarked from the fluffy cloud.
“Ohh, what’s that?” Ai’s voice could be heard as she could be seen making her way toward a pile of rubble that used to be a petrified statue and picking up a glossy looking ring.
“Brother! Look at what I found!” Ai yelled in a cheerful tone while an angelic smile appeared on her face as she held up the glossy looking ring for Zhang to see.
“Interspatial rings…” Zhang mumbled as a thought of realization suddenly popped into his mind. Undoubtedly, most if not all of the statues present on the Demonic Reef had once been cultivators or powerful demonic beasts who had meet their untimely end at the hands of the Black Thorn Coral, meaning whatever items that were still present on these statues were all magical items.
“Looks like there is some treasure for us to collect.” Zhang said with a laugh as his eyes gleamed with excitement.
“Darling don’t forget that we are here to collect some Black Thorn Coral venom.” Lingqi laughed as she walked alongside Zhang toward the petrified remains of an intimidating looking man who had a partially rusty blood red colored spear in hand.
“I’m sure if we follow the statues we’ll eventually run into what we had come here looking for.” Zhang said with a laugh as he reached out his hand and caused the petrified statue of the intimidating man to crumble into bits before collecting the blood colored spear and a golden colored ring.
Although it was slightly rusted, Zhang stored away the blood colored spear into his own interspatial ring anyway, before quickly inspected the contents within the golden ring that he had just obtained.
“Gold.” Zhang mumbled in a happy tone as he found a vast fortune of ancient looking gold coins stored within the golden interspatial ring. There were also a few intriguing looking weapons along with a vast collection of what would have once been medical herbs, but sadly it seemed as if too much time had passed and all of the herbs had gone bad.
“Seems like you found something good.” Yuying teased as she saw how wide the grin on her husband’s face had become.
“Should have seen the look on my face after we first met.” Zhang responded with a chuckle as he waved his hand and utilized the power of the Underworld Heart to create hundreds of levitating swords that soon took flight and stabbed themselves into all of the petrified statues in the surrounding area before disappointing into essence and returning to the great flow once again.
Afterward, Zhang channeled the power of the Underworld Heart again and with a wave of his hand made an assortment of items gather in front of him in a large pile before storing them all away into his interspatial ring.
Moving from one area to the next Zhang and the beauties soon acquired an untold amount of riches and magical treasures. One could only imagine the innumerable number of people who had lost their lives to the Black Thorn Coral and the fortune that had been accumulated here over the years.
As dangerous as the Demonic Reef was, it was also a treasure trove for those who were brave enough to step onto its shores.
“Over there.” Lingqi said while pointing into the distance toward a large cavern where many petrified statues could be seen.
“That’s might be where the Black Thorn coral resides during the day.” Yuying said as she scanned the opening of the cavern.
“Shall we?” Zhang said with a laugh as he gestured for his wives to proceed in a gentlemanly manner.
“It seems we shall.” Lingqi said while chuckling and walking toward the cavern with brisk steps.
As Zhang and the beauties made their way through what seemed like a forest of statues, they couldn’t help but notice and become intrigued by the expressions on the faces of the petrified statues. Trapped in time with the final moments of their lives perfectly captured, these statues conveyed countless different emotions.
There were a few who stood resolute in the face of death with their chest out and heads held high, there were some who cowered in fear and despair and others who seemed to become the epitome of hatred and anger. What caught Zhang’s attention the most, was a petrified statue of a man standing in front a group of cowering people, acting as their protector moments before their death.
“Upon facing one’s final moments it seems things like beauty, power and status don’t play a role at all.” Ling said as she gazed at one statue after the other.
“In the end, it all comes down to a person’s character. Sometimes the noblest of kings can fail to compare to the most unfortunate of beggars.” Zhang agreed as he saw a few statues that were clad in expensive silk robes with expressions of utter despair. These statues had undoubted once been people of high social status, perhaps nobility.
“This place kind of reminds me of the Underworld… The eerie silence, the deathly gloom and the endless anguish and despair... It’s becoming somewhat depressing…” Yuying said with a frown as the group arrived at the entrance to the cave.
Snapping his fingers once, Zhang conjured four flicker orbs of fire and with a thought sent three of them soaring into the cavern to light his path. Keeping one orb of fire floating over his head while withdrawing the Rising Moon Sword from his interspatial ring, Zhang took the lead and walked into the cavern.
Just like the forest of stone outside, the inside of the large cavern was also littered many statues, making it rather hard to navigate. Normally Zhang would have turned all of the statues into rubble to create a clear path, however, he currently felt that he should refrain from doing so.
If what they were looking for was truly lurking within this cavern, Zhang believed it would be best not to cause too great of a commotion unless needed.
Hoping to quietly navigate the cavern and not attract any unwanted attention, Zhang gestured to the beauties to follow closely behind him while remaining silent.
Continuing deeper and deeper into the cavern, the group noticed thousands of strange looking coin sized tunnels. These tiny tunnels had been cut into the solid cavern walls and were all the exact same size as each other.
“Be careful everyone.” Zhang said through his divine sense to the beauties as the cavern began to become narrower and a faint light came into view off in the distance, a light at the end of a tunnel one might call it.
Gripping the Rising Moon Sword tightly, Zhang soon found himself in a large underground chamber that was partially lit by a few glowing crystals. At the center of this chamber was a large lake of pitch black liquid, surrounded by a dozen or so petrified statues, whose bodies were slightly submerged into the lake.
“Darling if you could please get me a sample of that water.” Lingqi said in a soft tone while looking at Zhang with big round eyes, prompting him to create a crystal jar using the Underworld Heart and using it to retrieve some of the black liquid.
“If it’s what we are here to obtain, don’t get any of it on yourself.” Zhang warned, hoping his wife doesn't become a part of the forest of stone statues that covered the Demonic Reef.
“If I’m gone then there you’ll be able to spend more time with the others.” Lingqi said while sticking out her tongue as she retrieved a pair of gloves from her interspatial ring and slipped them onto her delicate looking hands.
Careful not to spill anyone herself, Lingqi withdrew an ordinary looking flower from her interspatial ring and proceeded to dip it into the jar of black liquid. To her amazement, upon coming in contact with the flower, the black colored liquid appeared to have come alive and began to crawl up the flowers stem and toward Lingqi’s hand.
Caught by surprise and startled, the crystal jar filled with black liquid slipped out of Lingqi’s hand and began to fall toward the ground.
Luckily, mere moments before the crystal jar was going to impact the ground and splatter the black liquid everywhere, a purple colored pulse of essence enveloped it and caused it to levitate back into the air.
“Did any of the Black Thorn Coral venom get on you?” Zhang asked in a worried tone as he watched the black liquid ooze out from the top of the crystal jar and the flower that Lingqi had dipped into it turn into solid stone.
“Th-they were wrong… We need to leave…” Lingqi said in a slightly frightened tone, contrary to her usual demeanor, ignoring Zhang’s question.
“Who was wrong?” Zhang asked with a perplexed expression.
“That isn’t the Black Thorn Coral’s venom… That is what they call the Black Thorn Coral… There isn’t a poison that can petrify high saints, but there is a colony of tiny demonic beasts that can consume high saints… The stone statues are just the waste left behind once these creatures finish eating all of the organic material on a person’s body… We need to leave right now…” Lingqi said in a grave tone.
“Let’s go then!” Zhang yelled after seeing how shaken Lingqi was, however, it was too late.
Through the countless coin sized tunnels burrowed into the cavern walls, a flood of tiny demonic beasts had already blocked the only way out.
To make things worse, the lake composed of tiny Black Thorn Coral rose up and formed into a giant snakelike blob that seemed to gaze down at Zhang and the beauties, as if it was waiting for the perfect expressions to appear on their faces, perfect expressions that would forever be preserved in stone.
“Singularity!” Zhang roared as a tiny black speck appeared in the air, exerting an unbelievable gravitational pull upon the colony of Black Thorn Coral. Much to Zhang’s joy, a portion of the Black Thorn Coral that was covering the exit was sucked up into the air by the singularity he had created, opening up a path for him and the beauties, showering them with a ray of hope. A ray of hope was taken away a fraction of a second later when more Black Thorn Coral flooded in from the openings in the cavern wall and blocked the exit once again.
There were simply too many Black Thorn Corals for Zhang’s singularity to work.
“Yuying, can you use any of your magic on them? I think I might be able to burn them, but I would need to use a very large amount of fire to do so.” Zhang said as he saw his ability fail to provide an accurate solution for their predicament.
“No! They are too small!” Yuying replied as she tried to come up with a proper plan of action.
“Maybe this will work…” Ling said in a calm tone as she waved her hand and made large wooden barrels of water appear beside her. Bending the essence around her, Ling made the wooden barrels burst and unleashed a powerful tidal wave at the colony of Black Thorn Coral.
As if it contained the power of a raging water dragon, the tidal wave swept away the wall of Black Thorn Coral that covered the exit and smashing apart all of the stone statues that Zhang he yet to destroy.
“Freeze!” Ling said while covering the walls of the cavern with water and blocking the countless coin sized tunnels with ice, preventing more Black Thorn Coral from oozing into to the chamber.
Channeling her essence once more, Ling carried everyone away by creating four miniature tidal ways underneath their feet,
Of course, they were not out of the woods yet, because moments after the group exited the cavern, the colony of Black Thorn Coral that occupied the large lake within the cave could be seen also making it’s way out.
“As long as we can get to the ocean I’ll have enough water to freeze all of them!” Ling said in a reassuring tone as the water underneath her feet surfaced across the ground.
“Sis, this is pretty fun!” Ai said, despite the dangerous situation the group was in.
“We can do this again when there aren’t any flesh-eating demonic beasts chasing after us!” Zhang said as ten crimson fireballs ignited in the air around him and sped toward a large black spike made up entirely of Black Thorn Coral shot up from the ground nearby, smashing it apart and lighting it on fire.
Before long, a dozen more, black colored spikes shot out from the ground and began to twist and turn in the air as they homed in on Zhang and the beauties.
“Brother! Sis!” Ai yelled in a panicked stricken voice as a blackthorn charged toward her. Within the entire group, Ai was the only person who relied solely on melee attacks, making the Black Thorn Coral the worst possible enemy she could possibly encounter.
“It's okay, as long as I’m here, I won’t let anyone or anything harm a single strand of hair on any of you.” Zhang said as a fireball shot passed Ai and engulfed the black spike, turning it into char.