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Chapter 137: Re-entering the Great Star Dou Forest!

    Wang Dong thought for a moment, then said, "We should avoid hunting and killing soul beasts like Yuhao said. We'll only hunt what we need. However, it's another story altogether if we encounter hostile attacks."

    Huo Yuhao smiled. He didn't know what kind of soul ring he was going to get for his third one, but he wasn't worried that he wouldn't be able to find a soul beast suitable for himself. What kind of soul beast would be able to escape the Skydream Iceworm's gaze?

    This was his second expedition into the Great Star Dou Forest. However, his mood was entirely different from the first time he'd entered, when he'd been full of negative emotions.

    He'd left the Duke's Mansion over a year ago and ventured into the Great Star Dou Forest by himself. He'd been determined to give his life to succeed, and had been ready to die inside of the Great Star Dou Forest if he didn't find a soul ring for himself; he'd been prepared to fertilize the plants inside. The only two emotions in his heart back then had been extreme resolution and a desire for revenge.

    His mentality was completely different now. Even though it had only been a year and half, he felt like an eternity had passed. Both his personal abilities and his mindset had undergone drastic transformations.

    His miraculous encounters had begun the day that he'd met Skydream, at which point his destiny had been completely changed. During his two months of closed-door cultivation, Huo Yuhao had reminisced on his experiences and the vagaries of his life over the past year-and-a-half, and had used the word "fortunate" to sum up his life.

    He was fortunate to have met Skydream, and was also fortunate to have met Teacher Xiao Ya and his eldest senior brother. He was fortunate to be part of Shrek Academy, and to have met his many exemplary teachers and excellent partners. He'd probably experience more over the past year-and-a-half than the ten plus years before combined. It had only been a year-and-a-half, and he wasn't even thirteen years of age, yet he had a conspicuous feeling that he'd somehow matured.

    "Don't worry, mother. I will forge a life for myself. I'll accomplish your most cherished desire; the one that you never voiced, and the one that I know you'd rather die than forget about."

    Huo Yuhao's eyes were filled with deep longing and nostalgic sentiments when he thought about his mother. If she were alive to witness his accomplishments today, how happy would she be? Huo Yuhao's eyes started to turn red as such thoughts spun around in his head.

    Xiao Xiao didn't notice much, but Wang Dong was sensitive enough to notice the changes in Huo Yuhao's emotions. He knew much more about what Huo Yuhao had experienced than Xiao Xiao did, and could vaguely guess what Huo Yuhao was thinking. He reached out and gently grasped Huo Yuhao's hand.

    Huo Yuhao turned towards Wang Dong, who flashed a faint smile at him. There was no pity in his eyes, only encouragement.

    Huo Yuhao responded with a smile. The tacit understanding and chemistry between them meant that they could understand each other's thoughts without voicing them.

    "Hey you two, that's enough. I'm clearly the only girl here; could you guys not make me feel like I'm third-wheeling?"

    Huo Yuhao didn't even react to her comment, but Wang Dong's face immediately flushed red as he turned to glare at her. "What, do you like him? Why do I remember that I'm the one you like? Have you fallen for someone else already? Eh, the hearts of women..."

    Xiao Xiao's face blushed as she scoffed and replied, "Stop it. The two of you are extraordinary; there are several girls in our grade who like the two of you. Can you still even count the number of girls who've discreetly slipped pieces of paper into your hands? Yet what're you doing? You immediately head back to the dormitory after school if you aren't selling fried fish with Yuhao. Everybody says that you don't even know what the word 'like' means. As for Yuhao, he's simply obsessed with training; I've never seen him interested in anything besides cultivating. The two of you otherworldly beings could've been a match made in heaven, but it's a pity that the two of you are male."

    Huo Yuhao rubbed his nose and forced a laugh. "Obsessed with training? Am I that insane? So that's what people think about me."

    Xiao Xiao snickered and said, "You didn't know that, did you? The person that we talk about the most in our grade isn't our handsome Wang Dong-it's you. There's a saying about the underdogs' vengeance. I still remember that your soul power was one of the weakest when you first entered the academy. But afterwards? Over the course of a year and a half, you've managed to become Class 1's class monitor, and defeat Dai Huabin, who also happens to be a top-tier fighter. I don't even have to ask anyone to know that you're the most powerful individual in Year 2, especially considering the fact that we destroyed Class 2 in that contest. You've consolidated your status as the outer courtyard's number-one star. Our classmates are all saying that you're the embodiment of how perseverance and determination leads to success, and our classmates have become especially hardworking in their cultivation. There might not be not be many three-ringed students in our grade right now, but don't worry. My guess is that at least ten people from our class, or that even half of our entire class, will become Soul Elders by the time we graduate from Year 2. And all of this is because of you."

    Huo Yuhao was stupefied when he heard this, and his mouth hung agape. "Seriously?! You were with us in the competition for a long time; how do you know so much?"

    Xiao Xiao smiled teasingly and said, "The two of you are always living in your own worlds, and never really interact with the others. Meanwhile, I have several good friends-I heard about this from Lan Susu and Lan Luoluo. The two of them look like they're head over heels for you."

    Huo Yuhao chuckled and replied, "Seems like I'm quite the popular guy."

    Xiao Xiao giggled. "You're popular indeed, but your affinity for love isn't as good as the guy next to you. Even though the two of them admire your abilities, they actually like Wang Dong. They also asked me to probe Wang Dong on his thoughts before we left."

    Wang Dong put his hands behind his back and cast his gaze toward the far horizon. His gaze was as if he'd transcended life-as if the academy was all about him even though he wasn't there. However, he really looked like he needed a beating to Huo Yuhao, thus he immediately violently broke his bubble.

    "You dare to hit me, Huo Yuhao? Don't you run!"

    "Haha!"

    The three of them proceeded forwards as they continued to laugh and joke around. Gradually, the Great Star Dou Forest's outer regions appeared before them.

    Vestiges of the endlessly dense forest could be seen in the distance, and Huo Yuhao saw the wooden warning sign that he'd seen once before.

    He wasn't as afraid the first time around because he'd been ignorant. However, he'd almost met his end at the hands of a mere ten year soul beast, and immediately felt a stifling feeling when the Great Star Dou Forest drifted into view. He subconsciously stopped in his tracks.

    Huo Yuhao's relaxed expression became a lot more solemn, and Wang Dong couldn't help but ask, "What's wrong?"

    Huo Yuhao lowered his voice and said, "Don't you guys feel that the Great Star Dou Forest is enigmatic and unfathomable?"

    Xiao Xiao frowned and replied, "I don't. Maybe you learned a painful lesson the first time you were here, and now you have a psychological barrier."

    Wang Dong pondered momentarily, then said, "I do, but only a little, and it's not obvious. Your Spirit Eyes are spiritual-type, and your perception is superior to ours. The Great Star Dou Forest is the number-one habitat for the Continent's soul beasts, so it's normal to feel stifled. Who knows how many powerful soul beasts are hidden inside? If soul beasts weren't necessary for a soul master's cultivation, this enormous forest would've been cleared out by the empires, as it's located on a large flat plain, and takes up a lot of space."

    An expression of disbelief appeared on Xiao Xiao's face. "The empires could take down the entire Great Star Dou Forest? There are so many powerful soul beasts inside!"

    Wang Dong answered, "Of course, though it couldn't be done instantly. What if several sovereignties formed an alliance? They could start with the outer regions and whittle down the dense vegetation. This would gradually affect the ecological balance, and in turn would eventually grind down the soul beasts' power inside of the Great Star Dou Forest. Humans wouldn't need that many years to make the Great Star Dou Forest a part of history with our intelligence."

    Huo Yuhao tilted his head a little and said, "The existence of soul masters and the inability for soul beasts' to get older quickly will become a serious conflict in the future."

    Wang Dong nodded and continued, "That's what I'm worried about. How can there be soul masters if soul beasts go extinct?"

    Huo Yuhao shook his head. "No. Soul beasts might not be unified, but they'll always retaliate when they're faced with death and annihilation. Who knows-it's possible that the soul beasts will fight back one day, and that humans will face a great calamity."

    Wang Dong replied, "That possibility is gradually diminishing as we further develop and advance our knowledge of soul tools."

    Huo Yuhao said, "Let's hope that the equilibrium isn't destabilized. It's fortunate that the number of soul masters has always been maintained at a reasonable level, and that many soul masters have also begun to pay attention and stop killing soul beasts for no reason. From now on, the two of you need to stay within five feet of me, and need to be prepared for any unforeseen circumstances. My Spiritual Detection Sharing will be activated for a prolonged period of time. We'll have to keep our guard up at all times while we're inside, and we can only roam about ten kilometers into the forest, give or take; we can't venture too deep. We also need to leave the Great Star Dou Forest every night and sleep outside. Please remind me if I'm not following these rules-safety always comes first."

    "Yes." Wang Dong and Xiao Xiao acknowledged at the same time. Huo Yuhao's importance as group leader was put on full display in these sorts of situations.

    Huo Yuhao allowed Xiao Xiao to position herself in the center, while both he and Wang Dong stood respectively to her left and right behind her. The three of them maintained this small triangular formation as they finally arrived at the dense and thick Great Star Dou Forest.

    The air all around was full of vitality, and was full of moisture. As they walked into the forest, and immediately felt as if their bodies were being nourished by some unique force.

    Huo Yuhao immediately activated his Spiritual Detection Sharing, which he could perfectly maintain at two hundred meters in diameter with his current cultivation level. Physical images immediately surfaced in their minds. Everything was as detailed as could be, the only exception being that it was colorless

    Several weak soul beasts were watching them discreetly from somewhere nearby. They seemed afraid as the three of them approached, and none of them approached them.

    Huo Yuhao smiled. He'd devised many plans and schemes targeted at their movement through the Great Star Dou Forest while they'd been travelling over the past two days.

    Huo Yuhao released a low roar, and a concentrated fire-red radiance emanated from his body immediately afterwards. A powerful aura then expanded outwards, and the low-level soul beasts that were secretly observing them instantly scattered in all directions, frightened and terrified.

    Huo Yuhao had copied the aura of a thousand year Flame Lion using the power of Imitation. Seeing as most of the soul beasts in the outskirts of the forest were ten year soul beasts, the fearsome aura of a thousand year soul beast left them terrified. This saved the group a lot of time as they ventured deeper into the outer regions of the forest.

    Huo Yuhao's Spiritual Detection Sharing and Imitation were two soul skills that could be considered miraculous tools for expeditions. The three were able to move onwards for about an hour unimpeded with the combined effects of these soul skills.

    Huo Yuhao activated his Imitation from time to time, releasing a thousand year Flame Lion's aura. There was a deeper meaning to his actions: The soul rings they were looking for needed to be at least a thousand years old. Of course, only those with at least three thousand years of cultivation were considered suitable. The Flame Lion was considered a powerful thousand year soul beast with incredible offensive capabilities, thus the soul beasts that were afraid of it weren't suitable targets. Soul beasts that weren't afraid, on the other hand, were likely to be close in cultivation to what they needed.

    Wang Dong said, "Take a break, Huo Yuhao."

    Wang Dong and Xiao Xiao had been fairly relaxed throughout the entire journey, seeing as all they'd had to do was follow Huo Yuhao. Contrarily, Huo Yuhao had had to activate two of his soul skills repeatedly, which had consumed a considerable amount of his energy.

    Huo Yuhao knew that he had to maintain his peak condition at all times, thus he immediately nodded.

    They found a vantage point on a hill and stopped to rest.

    "We'll rest here." Huo Yuhao said, and signaled for Wang Dong and Xiao Xiao to take a break.

    Wang Dong came to his side and pressed on Huo Yuhao's shoulder with his left hand. Their Haodong power instantly fused, and radiant light energy flowed from Wang Dong's body. The dense vegetation around them almost seemed to exude an aura of euphoria when it felt the aura coming from them.

    Circle after circle of golden light poured forth from Wang Dong's body, pulsed from his shoulder, then traveled down his arm and into Huo Yuhao.

    Huo Yuhao glanced at him in shock when he felt his exhaustion being immediately dispelled as the thick light aura enveloped his body, and his soul power being filled with a vigorous liveliness. With the support of their Haodong power, the ten percent of his soul power that he had consumed earlier recuperated in about ten breaths of time.

    Wang Dong sounded a little proud. "This is the true essence of my Golden Light spirit bone. I've decided to call this true essence 'Omnipresence'; it's extremely useful for offence, defense, soul power recovery, or even treating others. My Golden Light Left Arm Bone can rival even a hundred thousand year soul bone's effects. The more I learn about its Golden Light skill, the more profound it seems. It's able to accomplish many things with the power of light."

    Huo Yuhao chuckled and said, "Are you trying to make me want to cultivate with you more? It seems like our cultivation speed can be even further increased."

    "Don't jump to conclusions," Wang Dong replied, "earlier you said that once you break through to Rank 30, your cultivation speed would plummet because of your Ultimate martial soul, right?"

    Huo Yuhao grinned and said, "Who knows? We can't be certain." He wasn't an ordinary soul master with an Ultimate martial soul; the Ice Empress' former power was still present in his body, constantly refining it. This was in addition to the Life Gold's effects, which made Huo Yuhao confident that his cultivation speed wouldn't be affected too much by his Ultimate martial soul if it even was.

    "Eh?" Huo Yuhao froze and he immediately shifted his attention without using Imitation.

    "Be careful," Huo Yuhao remarked, then stepped forward, his hands turning white.

    A tangible ripple of soul power had appeared within Huo Yuhao's Spiritual Detection Sharing's area of effect, which was also reflected in Wang Dong and Xiao Xiao's minds. This obscure silhouette seemed to have already discovered them, and was bounding towards them at a breakneck speed.

    Light flickered in the distance as a green shadow soundlessly appeared atop a tree branch roughly thirty meters away. A wild cat with a small frame came into view; its fur was greenish-black, while its eyes were purplish-red and gleamed with hostility. Its fur had a pattern similar to that of a tiger's, while the hues of the fur were unbalanced.

    It was only two feet long, but a considerable amount killing intent weighed down on the three of them.

    Only soul beasts could survive inside of the Great Star Dou Forest. One could tell from its speed and aura that it was at least a thousand year soul beast.

    Huo Yuhao lowered his voice and said, "That's a Deviltiger Cat. Seeing as its fur is greenish-black, its must have around two thousand years worth of cultivation at the very least. A Deviltiger Cat's fur will turn completely black and show lustrous green glimmering patterns once it reaches ten thousand years worth of cultivation."

    The knowledge he'd obtained in the academy was put to good use. Huo Yuhao's quick explanation also helped Xiao Xiao and Wang Dong recall the soul beast.

    Shrek Academy taught them about soul beasts in four of their classes per week. The Deviltiger Cat wasn't considered exotic, thus they'd heard of it from their classes before.

    If the Deviltiger Cat were to be described from a soul master's perspective, it would be seen as an agility-type soul beast with high lethality.

    "I'm afraid we can't avoid this battle. Remember not to kill it," Huo Yuhao reminded everyone with a whisper. As they hadn't encountered a thousand year soul beast so far, he didn't expect to be able to scare this Deviltiger Cat away very easily. Because there were hundred thousand year soul beasts with strong territorial instincts lurking in the depths of Star Dou Great Forest, Huo Yuhao couldn't use his hundred thousand year soul beast's aura, lest he run the risk of attracting a real one to him. Elder Xuan had previously reminded him that he should only do so as a last resort.

    The Deviltiger Cat pounced forward like a green lightning bolt the moment that Huo Yuhao had finished speaking. Its target wasn't Huo Yuhao, who was in front, but rather Wang Dong at his side.

    The "Devil" in the Deviltiger Cat's name was because it was both wind-type and darkness-type, which in turn was the reason for its ferocious nature and formidable strength.

    Its front claws sprung out, while its greenish-black fur exuded a glow that wasn't all that brilliant, but lightly shimmered. It lunged through the air, somehow managing to switch directions, avoiding Huo Yuhao as it flew straight towards Wang Dong. Wang Dong was a light-type soul master, and it really hated the light attribute.

    Small wings protruded from its ribs. However, they were extremely narrow, which meant that it couldn't fly. Maneuvering itself in mid-air however, was still very possible.

    Wang Dong had already unleashed his Radiant Butterfly Goddess by this point. He didn't evade the Deviltiger Cat's lunging strike. Instead, he swiftly moved his hands in front of his chest while his wings sparkled with an intense golden light as he activated his second soul skill, the Light of the Butterfly Goddess.

    A black cauldron suddenly appeared about three meters away from Wang Dong and blocked the Deviltiger Cat's assault. The Deviltiger Cat was exceedingly agile however, and tapped the surface of the Threelives Soulcrush Cauldron with one claw, intending to leap over it and continue towards Wang Dong. However, the cauldron trembled violently the moment it did so.

    The Deviltiger Cat's body was momentarily hindered by the vigorous shaking beneath it which, while it wouldn't hurt the Deviltiger Cat, would certainly slow it down. The moment it was slowed, a streak of purplish-golden light flashed through the sky and struck it, causing the Deviltiger Cat to scream in agony and lose control of its body as it continued to glide through the sky.

    Huo Yuhao had employed his Spiritual Shock with the utmost efficiency. Because his ever-growing spiritual power-when channeled through his Spiritual Shock-had a highly synergistic effect with his Purple Demon Eyes, the end result was much more powerful than Huo Yuhao had expected.

    The Deviltiger Cat plummeted towards the ground. Some of Wang Dong's Light of the Butterfly Goddess struck the cat's body and detonated, while the rest flew over Xiao Xiao's Threelives Soulcrush Cauldron and exploded when it hit the ground.

    "Mmph." The Deviltiger Cat crashed into the ground, black burns present where Wang Dong's Light of the Butterfly Goddess had struck it. When Huo Yuhao used his Spiritual Detection on the Deviltiger Cat, he was surprised to find that the Deviltiger Cat's blood essence and soul power were in a chaotic mess; the cat was effectively incapacitated.

    "What happened?" Xiao Xiao glanced at Huo Yuhao doubtfully.

    Huo Yuhao was also astonished. "The Deviltiger Cat seems to have fainted from my Spiritual Shock. Take a look-its body is still seizing."

    He walked forward once he'd finished speaking and flipped the unconscious Deviltiger Cat over.

    The Deviltiger Cat's appearance was a little peculiar; its body was still seizing, and there specks of dark green blood were trickling from its nose. Its eyed had rolled back into its head, and it was completely unconscious.

    Wang Dong was taken aback. "Since when did your Spiritual Shock become so powerful?"

    Huo Yuhao shrugged and replied, "I have no idea. If I'd known it was, I would've used it right from the get-go and saved us some trouble."

    He immediately connected the large boost in his Spiritual Shock's power to the growth of his spiritual power. His abilities were always improving, while his cultivation level had constantly grown as well. However, the growth of his spiritual power was much more prominent than the growth of his soul power.

    His spiritual sea had been transformed several times, and a second consciousness had been established between his eyebrows once he'd fused with the Life Gold. The fact that the three powerful entities residing within his spiritual sea could no longer directly control his body showed the great progress his spiritual power had made, and was also further indicative of his growth.

    The Skydream Iceworm was more than happy that Huo Yuhao had become stronger. He'd been discreetly opening his seal throughout the expansion of Huo Yuhao's spiritual sea and during the consolidation process, and had also been constantly fusing his sealed origin power with Huo Yuhao's spiritual power.
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