Lao Gan looked at Ming Yue, his eyes were somewhat peculiar He retracted his arm and took another swig of water.
"How did you become so strong?" he asked, "You are so young, much younger than me. Yet, you've managed to contend against countless beasts. You did not lose your ground against that Primal Frost Deer and you even hacked off the wing of a Thunder Roc. It makes me wonder about how far the younger generation has come."
Ming Yue was confused.
Younger generation? What did he mean by that? He didn't seem much older than her, perhaps a few years but that wasn't a large enough gap.
"Young? Aren't we of a similar age?" she asked.
"Are we? I'm going to be thirty two this year", he acted surprised, as if it was an obvious fact.
"What?! You're thirty one right now? You look more like twenty two."
She was just as surprised as him. Lao Gan looked like a young man. He had a lively expression, barely any wrinkles on his face. His face was well-maintained and his black hair was tied into a bun. His lack of facial hair lent to his youthful appearance.
He rubbed his chin and chuckled.
"I know I look quite young but I am in my thirties. I've been travelling for fifteen years, hence my vast collection of wares. Well, I suppose my enthusiasm for such wares also made me seem beneath my age."
Ming Yue believed him, he has no reason to lie to her though she found it a bit dubious.
"If that is true then we are in different generations. I will be seventeen this year."
"Really? Nearly half my age but many times stonger, hah! You must have had quite the upbringing"
"I suppose so. What about you? You are no cultivator but you carry that backpack like nothing. You call yourself a merchant, but it feels as if there is more to it."
Ming Yue was spoke little about herself and Lao Gan understood her, choosing not to ask about her past. Instead he explained himself, perhaps a sign of trust or just enjoying some conversation.
"You're right, I do not cultivate. I have little interest in it. As for my strength, I've been carrying this backpack of mine for about seven years. During my travels, I've realized that some foods cannot be stored in a spatial ring. Some things require time to develop, so I had this created by a friedn of mine. At first, it didn't weight much but as time went on, I've come to fill up every compartment."
He admired his backpack, caressing it and feeling proud about himself. He reminisced about his travels, feeling the wear and tear of his belongings.
"I suppose when you think about it, food has a great influence on me. To try all the cuisines is my passion! Being a merchant helps me get around and it pays for my meals."
Ming Yue saw the look in his eyes. It was emotional, showing his love for food.
"What about you? Do you have a passion? Your final goal?" he asked.
"My goal? I suppose it is the same as most cultivators. To gain strength and become the strongest."
"Really? Nothing in particular."
"...Strong enough to drift freely, without a care in the world", she thought carefully to herself.
To roam the continent witout concerns or worries, that was her new goal. Back in the village, she had wondered about what it would be like to be among the stars. To explore the realm above, wander through the heavens, find all sorts of wonders. Though reminiscing about her childhood brought back some other memories.
"That's enough, we should keep going", Ming Yue stood up and left the cave with her little companions.
Lao Gan stood up, feeling somewhat recovered and followed her. Intrigued by her answers, he found her to be much more interesting.
Leaving the cave, they continued onward. There was a constant rumbling of thunder and the sun had become obscured by thick clouds.
The Merciless Storm Peak grew larger and larger by the hour. The strength of an era-long calamity gathered above this bleak mountain. It was powerful, shocking, and awe-inspiring.
The pressure forced onto the bodies of Ming Yue ad the others had doubled and the rests became increasingly longer. At first, they needed only half an hour before moving on but now it took several hours of rest.
The pressure coming from the peak was different. Like lightning, it was pure strength. It did not leave one breathless but made them feel as if they were carrying weight on their shoulder. Every step was slow and heavy, beads of sweat fell from their heads.
"Ah, that's it! I can't walk anymore. Let's rest for the night! I'm going to trip over my feet at this point."
Lao Gan was in the worst state. Constantly enduring the weight, he was exhausted physically and mentally. Not the mention, his backback felt like a boulder on his back. Although everyone else seemed to be in a better condition, they were all feeling fatigued.
They situated themselves in a small ditch. That night, everyone had some of the Purple Storm Tiger and Thunder Roc meat, grilled over a campfire. It was a filling meal and the essence of both animals contained within the meat had invigorated them.
It had the greatest effect on Ming Yue, who had been diligently practicing the Dao of Lightning. The lightning energy had gathered in her body, spreading into the meridians.
Within her body, her meridians gained some new features. The energy that circulated throughout her body had the features of wind, waving about and resembling wisps. But now, these wisps would spark a bit, a shine of violet light that buzzed about.
For the entire night, she refined the energy and incorporated it into her body. Under the influence of the Merciless Storm Peak, Ming Yue felt a rush of energy flowing through her. Having studied the Martial Thunder Arts manual, she understood the basics of cultivating the element of thunder and lightning. Furthermore, the dense energy surrounding her was beneficial, her cultivation speed was much faster now.
She improved quickly in the Lightning Dao and her cultivation level slowly firmed up. As quickly as she went, Ming Yue took her time, making sure to saturate her body in the lightning element. With her accumulations in the Lightning Dao, she slowly adjusted to the pressure of the Merciless Storm Peak.
The next day, the pressure she felt the night before had slightly decreased. The lightning energy no longer affected her as much.
She began spreading her energy out, protecting the others from the heavy pressure. It might not have eliminated it completely, but it did lower the burden on everyone else. But even with that layer of protection, the pressure grew exponentially as they came closer to the Merciless Storm Peak.
When they reached it, there seemed to be a perpetual storm, Harsh rain, powerful lightning, and ominous clouds was all that they could see. It was the final mountain and one that they could not avoid.
It reminded Ming Yue of the Unstable Peak from her time at Clear Spring Mountain. It was chaotic and passing this hurdle would be difficult. However, this was the only route they could take.
"Damn, I've been dreading this for the entire trip. Going through the Merciless Storm Peak, even walking in the outskirts is a dangerous path. Few would dare to make this journey, those who do, come to die."
Lao Gan spoke in a fearful tone, he was certainly afraid. He could not help be but be in awe of the experience, the sheer terror of this demon-like storm would be something that stayed with him forever.
Even with the fear in his heart, he steeled himself as did the others and they entered what many considered an execution ground.
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