A few kilometers deep into the Outer Zone of the Everium Forest, a furious howl that shook the ground continuously echoed out.
Explosions, one after another, resounded as a storm of dust enveloped the surroundings.
The ground, which was covered by a small layer of snow, had been ravaged to the point where a few meters deep holes could be found here and there.
At the moment, there was an ongoing battle between men and beast. Four human cultivators were up against an enormous monstrous beast twice as tall as each of them.
The monstrous beast, in terms of its body and its overall appearance, resembled a gargantuan ape. However, compared to an ape whose skin is usually covered in black fur, this monstrous beast’s skin was red, and not even a single thread of hair could be found all over its body
The monstrous beast’s whole body was filled with tightly-packed muscles that were as hard as stone, capable of intimidating anyone who dared to stand on its path. Aside from its overly dramatic body, its eyes were also shining in a crimson splendor, even more vivid than its reddish skin.
For a lot of people, hearing these descriptions alone would instantly make them tremble in fear. Sitting on top of a hill, looking down upon all of creation, this monstrous beast could be considered as one of the bosses of the Everium Forest.
This monstrous beast, which had been the cause of almost half of all the casualties inside the Everium Forest, was the renowned ‘King of the Hill’, the Furless Bloodape!
However, as of this moment, it seemed like those titles were just for show.
In front of four human cultivators, the seemingly invincible ‘King of the Hill’ had totally lost its edge. Its majestic bearing had been tarnished by the hundreds of bleeding wounds all over its body, and its fearful blood-red eyes were even letting out some tears…
– Pshk –
Followed by a flash of light, blood burst out the forehead of the ‘King of the Hill’ as a dagger entered its brain. With a low growl, the kneeling ‘King of the Hill’ looked at its killers with contempt as it gradually fell on the ground.
“Good job Rai! I can’t believe we have really killed the infamous ‘King of the Hill’! I wonder how much rewards we would get after our deed is publicized. Hehe!”
The moment the ‘King of the Hill’ fell on the ground, a husky voice echoed out, followed by the eerie laughter coming from the same person.
It was one of the four human cultivators that had just fought against the ‘King of the Hill’.
Hearing his voice, everyone else shifted their gaze and looked at the innocent-looking young man coming over. This young man was wearing a full set of leather armor while holding a chipped double-edged sword using both of his hands. The fresh blood flowing from the sword made it evident that it had just found itself on a harsh battle.
Walking forward, this young man was full of smiles, however, it immediately turned bleak as he arrived beside the one he called ‘Rai’.
The young man noticed how Rai was still his usual cold self, exhibiting an aloof temperament under a black mask that covered the upper part of his face.
With a frown, this young man dropped his double-edged sword on the ground then lifted both of his hands towards the cheeks of Rai. He pinched it as he spoke, “Sigh, aren’t you excited? We just killed the King of the Hill and we’re definitely going to get famous for it! Can’t you at least smile or something?”
Astonished by what the young man did, Rai immediately slapped the young man’s hands on his face as he retreated a few steps back. Annoyed, he said, “What the hell are you doing?!”
“Psh… this guy is totally lifeless.” the young man said while rubbing his hands that were slapped away by Rai.
“Enough! Alfred, just leave Rai alone. For now, we should first focus on the tasks at hand.”
A busty and freckled woman from the side stepped over and hurriedly mediated. Rai took a glance at the young man whom the woman called Alfred, then immediately shifted his gaze, obviously disinclined to bother anymore.
As for the young man, Alfred, he didn’t care too much about Rai since he had already been used to Rai’s attitude for a long time. With a smile, he pulled out the other young man at the side, who, surprisingly, had an almost identical face to his, except for a small mole under the young man’s left eye.
He placed his arm over the other young man’s shoulder and said, “Al, my brother, don’t you think that Rai is so cold? Maybe we need to open his eyes to how good the world can be! I know, after we get the reward for killing this thing, we should bring him to the Starlight Showroom, hehe!”
– Puff! –
Alfred suddenly let out a mouthful of air as he felt an elbow hitting his stomach. He groaned as he attempted to retaliate with a punch, however, it was easily dodged by the other young man whom he called as Al.
Al looked at Alfred with a look that says ‘get your act together’, then shifted his gaze to Rai and the freckled woman at the side as he spoke, “Enough chitchat. Rai, the usual. Check the surrounding area and see if we have attracted the attention of any other monstrous beast. Lorna and you… let’s begin processing this corpse. The fight just now had been chaotic, surely, many other people as well as monstrous beasts had noticed it. We must be swift.”
Rai just nodded his head as he swiftly turned his back to survey the surroundings, and as for the woman Al called Lorna, she immediately took out a set of daggers and ran over the corpse. Alfred, who was annoyed by how serious his comrades were, snorted and did as Al commanded.
The corpse of the Furless Bloodape was something extremely valuable. It was said that in the capital of the Sirc Kingdom, the meat of the Furless Bloodape was a delicacy, as well as its liver and lungs.
However, the most valuable part of its corpse would be something found on its brain. Since it was a Rank 2 monstrous beast, it had already formed its own Monstrous Core, and this Monstrous Core was sought after by countless human cultivators.
All monstrous beast are divided into ranks, wherein each rank corresponds to a single human cultivation realm.
Common knowledge states that Rank 1 monstrous beasts are equal to human cultivators at the Provenance Realm, and Rank 2 monstrous beasts are equal to human cultivators at the Nascent Realm.
Rank 1 monstrous beasts are basically beasts that had transcended its mortal body, enabling them to absorb Qi from the surroundings to enhance their physical bodies
With the passage of time, these Rank 1 monstrous beasts would be able to become Rank 2 monstrous beasts through the consolidation of the accumulated Qi they had absorbed, forming it into a Monstrous Core inside their brain.
The Monstrous Core is something akin to a tiny gem; it appears in different colors, shapes and sizes, depending on the type of monstrous beast.
The Monstrous Core contains the Life Essence of a monstrous beast, as well as sliver of the purest Qi it had absorbed in its life.
If human cultivators got their hands on this Monstrous Core, they would be able to use it as a supplement to purify and increase their Qi, strengthening them in the process.
Because of that, the Monstrous Core was a commodity that usually aroused the interest of many people.
For human cultivators at the verge of breaking through, the Monstrous Core was something priceless.
For rich families and clans, the Monstrous Core was something useful in nourishing their youths. Developing youths into cultivation geniuses would enable them to increase their prestige and standing in the country through making them join various government faction, or perhaps join powerful sects hidden all over the world.
However, a Monstrous Core wasn’t something easy to acquire. Since only Rank 2 Monstrous Beasts and above have a Monstrous Core inside their body, it meant that only human cultivators at the Nascent Realm and above would be able to fight against them.
But then again, finding human cultivators at the Nascent Realm and above is as hard as looking for a grain of rice in the desert. Nascent Realm human cultivators are the pinnacle of what most ordinary people would be able to see in their lives, and they are usually part of a large and powerful sect, hidden from the world and not caring about mortals.
Through hard work and effort, most people would be able to enter the path of cultivation. However, hard work and effort alone would take decades of their lives, that by the time they have truly entered the Provenance Realm, it would be impossible to increase their cultivation level any further.
Because of that, about ninety percent of human cultivators are only in the Provenance Realm, just a level above ordinary people. Without the ability to break through, they would either become a mercenary or a soldier, aiming to acquire a fortune that could help them spend the rest of their life in bliss and luxury.
And for the three people currently cutting up the corpse of the Furless Bloodape, this was specifically their situation.
Over thirty minutes had passed since the death of the Furless Bloodape, and at the moment, Alfred was carefully slicing the dagger wound on the ape’s forehead, making it bigger so he would be able to take out the Monstrous Core inside its brain.
It was quite unexpected that among the three people bathing in the blood of the gargantuan corpse, Alfred, the goofiest of the trio, was the most dexterous, so he was tasked to retrieve the most valuable part of the corpse.
His eyes were firmly opened as he inserted his hand on the wound. He had an unpleasant expression as he initiated a conversation with the other people beside him.
“Rai has joined our team for about three months now, but I still haven’t seen his face. It’s kind of creepy that I have never even seen him smile too. Perhaps that shocked expression a while ago was the first time I had seen a change on his face.”
“Don’t be like that.” Lorna, who was slicing up the corpse’s belly, looked at Alfred and continued, “Ever since Rai joined us, I have always noticed how he tried to maintain a distance. He probably have some issues he need to keep to himself, and we shouldn’t press him on things he doesn’t want to say or do.”
Alfred just shook his head with a bitter smile. The three of them had been mercenaries for over five years, and they already knew each other well.
Alfred and Al were twins. When they were young, they witnessed a human cultivator at the Nascent Realm killing a Rank 1 monstrous beast with a slash of his blade. From then on, they vowed to become cultivators, putting in a lot of effort in order to break through the Provenance Realm.
However, not to mention the fact that they were severely lacking in resources, they were also not talented; it was only when they were twenty-four years old when they officially entered the Provenance Realm and became full-fledged cultivators.
For human cultivators, this age had long passed the most essential time to cultivate, and because of that, the twin brothers had no hope in increasing their cultivation anymore. Since they didn’t wish to fight in a war, they just decided to become mercenaries.
That was when they met Lorna, an incomparably alluring woman who had a fiery temperament. While she seemed to be calm and gentle most of the time, anyone who would dare to harass her would immediately lose their ability to procreate.
Lorna was an orphan raised by her grandfather. She too aspired to be a cultivator, however, just like the twin brothers, she was lacking in both resources and talent, and it was already too late when she entered the Provenance Realm.
With almost the same circumstances, not to mention Al being lovestruck the moment he laid his eyes on Lorna, the three of them decided to form a team, and from then on, they had been together through thick and thin as mercenaries.
“I got it!”
Suddenly, Alfred exclaimed as he touched something hard inside the head of the Furless Bloodape. Taking his hand out, he was all smiles as he immediately showed an oddly-shaped gem towards the other two. It was a crimson gem about an inch and a half in diameter, and it was faintly glowing from time to time.
This was exactly the Furless Bloodape’s Monstrous Core.
“Woah… My brother, in our twenty-nine years of life, we have finally seen a Monstrous Core!” Al, who was at the other side of the Furless Bloodape’s body, excitedly walked over and carefully examined the Monstrous Core in Alfred’s hand.
“We really struck gold this time, I can’t believe we were so lucky to find the King of the Hill at the end of its life!” Alfred exclaimed as he took out a white cloth and gently cleaned the Monstrous Core.
Thinking of the rewards they would get for killing the Furless Bloodape, as well as the price of this Monstrous Core, both Al and Alfred couldn’t help but drool. If they played their cards right, they would have more than enough money to spend the rest their life without starving.
Seeing this, Lorna couldn’t help but smile as she said, “You two brothers… Let’s finish processing the corpse first before we start celebrating. We can…”
“Two bands of mercenaries are coming.”
Lorna was interrupted as Rai’s voice suddenly came over their ears. All of them shifted their gaze at the newly arrived Rai as a tense expression appeared on their faces.
“Trouble finally came. What should we do?” Alfred had a frown on his face as he asked. While there were rules and sanctions against stealing from other mercenaries, there was still no point if those vagabonds left no witness.
“Rai, since you’re the fastest among us, you should take this Monstrous Core and run away. We’ll just tell them that somebody had already taken it before we found the corpse. Let’s just meet in town afterwards.” After a sigh escaped his lips, Al spoke as he snatched away the Monstrous Core in Alfred’s hands and placed it in Rai’s hands.
As for Rai, he was about to speak, however, Al pushed him away, “Go!”
Gnashing his teeth, Rai ran away to another direction as he held the Monstrous Core firmly in his hand.
Moments after Rai left, the two bands of mercenaries arrived, and as soon as they did, a muscular man wearing plate armor stepped up and spoke, “If you want to keep your useless lives, then bring out the Monstrous Core and scram!”