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Chapter 0969: The Real Illusionary Orchard
Thinking of this, Ning Cheng put aside all his thoughts and focussed on the mangled golem he collected from the previous level.
For other pill sages, perhaps their journey would end here. However, Ning Cheng wasn’t like the others. That’s because he cultivated the Mysterious Yellow Origin Cultivation Method, the Mysterious Yellow Formless. With Formless, as long as something tangible could be derived from something without form, it would extract it and present it to him as something distinct.
The only concern was whether he could actually comprehend the puppet art and break the crystal barrier on this garden before time ran out.
Ning Cheng focussed his consciousness on the mangled golem, and his spiritual consciousness broke through the obstructing restrictions within it without the slightest concern. Some of the restrictions that others would have to slowly peel and unravel lasted only a moment under the brute force of Ning Cheng’s spiritual consciousness. This fact also highlighted the might and usefulness of the Dark Nether Devouring Spirit.
When Ning Cheng immersed himself consciously in using the Mysterious Yellow Formless, Mysterious Yellow Origin Aura almost immediately surrounded him. In just a few moments, the means of refining the golem gradually started to form in Ning Cheng’s mind.
At this moment, the entire medicinal garden had grown unusually silent, except for the sound of leaking sand.
Ning Cheng wasn’t only a pill sage; he was also an accomplished artefact-crafting master. Although puppetry art could be considered as a separate path, in the end, it still was a branch of artefact-crafting.
With the help of origin derivation, Ning Cheng finally opened his eyes after just over half an hour. He finally understood how to refine this humanoid golem by himself.
However, Ning Cheng didn’t feel happy about it. Just because he could refine such a golem didn’t mean that he could break this crystal barrier.
That’s because he had only figured out the rough outline of how to craft the golem, not how to provide the golem with spirit aura. He also hadn’t come up with a solution to why the six golems could self-repair so quickly.
Without understanding all of these, even if he could craft these humanoid golems, he simply couldn’t use them at all. What’s more, the grade of humanoid golems he could make with what he comprehended would be pretty low. At the very least, it definitely wouldn’t compare to the six humanoid golems.
He also had a vague feeling that even if he figured out how the humanoid golems received spirit aura or repaired themselves so quickly, he couldn’t break the barrier. At least not with what he learned in the past half an hour.
Whether in theory or in practice, he couldn’t accomplish such a daunting task. At least not unless he had a time disc that he had heard about from Cang Wei. Unfortunately, that kind of object was simply too precious. At the very least, he hadn’t seen or heard about anyone using it.
Ning Cheng sighed and threw out all the other five shattered humanoid golems from his ring, again studying the pile of broken golems for another half an incense stick of time.
However, noticing the sand within the hourglass trickle down one particle at a time, Ning Cheng couldn’t help but grow more and more anxious. A few moments later, he sighed and finally gave up studying the puppet art. Instead, he transmitted a spirit sense message to the Underworld Crow Ghost Rattan King. “When you bound these golems before, did you find anything unusual?”
The Underworld Crow Ghost Rattan King was revelling in the joy of its significant increase in strength. As long as it could successfully cross the tribulation after coming out of this place, it would become a Starry Sky Grade 9 Demon Vine. It was just a matter of waiting for some time before it reached Grade 9. Compared to the long years it spent growing up on its own, it couldn’t help but laugh out loud at its past self’s foolish dreams.
It felt that it had made the right decision in following behind its owner; no, he should be addressed as ‘Master’, maybe ‘Lord’ would be better. Perhaps it should adopt Big Brother Chasing Bull’s way of addressing Ning Cheng. As long as it followed its Lord, it might even gain the chance to shape its dao and become a humanoid.
Therefore, when Ning Cheng asked, how could it dare be slow and hurriedly send back a spirit sense message. It quickly told Ning Cheng everything it found, every single minute detail.
These golems could absorb wood origin-attributed spirit essence. However, they could only do so because they all had a starry sky demon rattan growing inside each of them, serving as their core. It was the Invisible Stone Rattan.
A lightning bolt instantly crossed through Ning Cheng’s mind, and it felt as if he had come close to seizing something important. Ning Cheng immediately stood up. “Tell me about this Invisible Stone Rattan. What does it do?”
More spirit sense messages poured in from the Underworld Crow Ghost Rattan King. “I don’t know too much about it apart from my inherited memories, but it is an extremely rare starry sky demon rattan. No, it’s more appropriate to call it a demonic seed and an extremely bizarre one at that. Its main body is a stone-like seed, and the stalks that grow out of it are invisible. But although invisible, it has a powerful ability to survive, even greater than us ghost rattans. Moreover, just like its invisible stems, its invisible roots can also freely extend up to hundreds of miles.”
“The easiest and quickest way to exterminate the Invisible Stone Rattan is to suck out all the vitality and spirit essence from the seed. This way, the Invisible Stone Rattan would die a true death and will no longer be able to absorb spirit essence, which is what I did.”
Ning Cheng laughed aloud; what was the meaning of getting it all together at the last minute? This was it. He had thought of all the means, but he simply never imagined that these golems would have Invisible Stone Rattan seeds powering them. That expert had implanted those Invisible Stone Rattan seeds into the golems during the refinement process. That way, once the Invisible Stone Rattans sprouted, it would form invisible rhizomes inside the golems. These rhizomes would act as the veins and meridians in a human body. They would also provide the golems human-like movements.
Even if he burnt and shattered the golems, as long as he couldn’t suck out the vitality within the seeds, it would continue absorbing spirit essence. Eventually, it would bring the golem back to life again. He did notice the dead Invisible Stone Rattan inside the puppet. But he thought it was just another material used to make the golem. He never expected it to actually be a demon seed.
Whoever refined these golems was definitely a talented genius. Not only was this person a genius, but he also had a deep understanding of the Invisible Stone Rattan. He could even control the way it grew. Unfortunately, these golems met their counter in the hands of the Underworld Crow Ghost Rattan King. The only reason it took some time for the ghost rattan to take it down was that it was still not strong enough. If it was a Grade 9, even just an early stage, then the Underworld Crow Ghost Rattan King could quickly suck them dry no matter how many of these golems appeared.
Ning Cheng looked at the hourglass and found that he still had about an incense stick worth of time left. If he timed it tightly, he should still be able to open the fourth level of the Illusionary Fruit Orchard before the sand ran out.
If he didn’t know anything about this crystal barrier, Ning Cheng couldn’t have done anything and would have given up. But now that he knew that this crystal barrier was shaped out of Invisible Stone Rattan’s stems, he now had a way to deal with it even without the Ghost Rattan King. Not to mention now, when he had the Ghost Rattan King with him.
“Dark Crow, this crystal barrier is also formed by Invisible Stone Rattans. I will use a formation to cut off its connection to the spirit source underground for a few breaths. You have to suck out the vitality in those Invisible Stone Rattans and kill them in the shortest possible time.” Ning Cheng directly called out for the Underworld Crow Ghost Rattan King’s help.
If the Underworld Crow Ghost Rattan King couldn’t do it, he could still break those Invisible Stone Rattans, but it would take much more than one incense stick of time.
The Ghost Rattan King also wanted the spirit essence and vitality stored inside the Invisible Stone Rattan’s seed. Even if it couldn’t use it right now, it could use it when advancing to the Starry Sky Grade 9 Demon Plant by storing it inside itself.
While others couldn’t find the existence of the Invisible Stone Rattan, the Underworld Crow Ghost Rattan King had no issues with it at all. Therefore, as soon as Ning Cheng called for its help, it immediately stretched out its entire root system, covering the whole crystal barrier in just an instant.
The Underworld Crow Ghost Rattan King then quickly locked onto all the Invisible Stone Rattan seeds in the crystal barrier in another breath. The crystal barrier immediately issued a buzz followed by a tremor. Apparently, these Invisible Stone Rattan seeds had some form of instinctive intelligence and could sense danger.
Ning Cheng also didn’t waste any time and took out an array flag and threw it down. In slightly less than ten breaths of time, the spirit aura around the crystal barrier weakened considerably.
“Devour!” Ning Cheng immediately shouted. But even before Ning Cheng’s command, the Underworld Crow Ghost Rattan King had already started to frantically absorb the wood origin-attributed spirit essence and vitality within the Invisible Stone Rattan seeds.
The Invisible Stone Rattans essentially had no combat ability, and their most significant role was to assist. In fact, it was only suitable for playing the assist role, whether to help the golems or assist with the crystal barrier.
With Ning Cheng’s formation isolating it from the underground spirit vine, the Ghost Rattan King immediately started sucking out everything inside the seeds.
In just half an incense stick worth of time, the crystal barrier cracked open.
A breath later, the crystal barrier completely disappeared with a click. The rich smell of spirit herbs and the fragrance of dao fruits rushed out, making people feel fresh and refreshed.
From the beginning, until Ning Cheng opened the crystal barrier, the puppet art that one was supposed to comprehend and use here wasn’t even used at all. In fact, if Ning Cheng guessed it correctly, the expert wanted to purposely trick people into wasting their time researching the puppet art. With only an hour to study and comprehend the puppet art, it would be nothing more than a worthless effort to even attempt it. The glimmer of possibility left by that great power who set up this Illusionary Fruit Orchard was nothing but a lie.
Ning Cheng sighed; working with other people, at least one would end up teaching you something unknown. He only had an Underworld Crow Ghost Rattan King with him right now. Yet, it not only taught him a lesson at this time, but it also helped him a great deal.
After breaking this crystal barrier, Ning Cheng didn’t even bother to think about things and directly threw out more array flags. He wanted to take away this medicinal garden in its entirety, no longer feeling even half embarrassed about it now.
It only took a few moments for Ning Cheng to set up the formation. With a burst of clicking sounds, he directly moved the garden into his True Spirit World.
Since the garden had gone, it also meant that all the spirit grasses and dao fruits had also gone. Ning Cheng, however, didn’t feel too happy, as the entrance to the fourth level of the Illusionary Fruit Orchard didn’t appear as expected.
Looking at the trickling sand with less than half an incense stick worth of time left, Ning Cheng once again started to grow anxious. Even if he found the entrance to the fourth level, he most likely didn’t have the time to refine the pills required to open the door.
Ning Cheng’s spiritual consciousness no longer held back and blasted out, scanning every corner of this level. His powerful spiritual consciousness’s assaulting ability immediately became apparent at this time.
In about ten breaths, an extremely well-hidden formation appeared within Ning Cheng’s spiritual consciousness. Since he couldn’t find an obvious gate standing here, he wouldn’t let go of any place that could potentially lead to the fourth level. Ning Cheng didn’t even think about it and threw out an array flag.
Fortunately, the hidden formation wasn’t powerful, so it didn’t take too much time to open under Ning Cheng’s array flags. It was another garden, a dao fruit orchard to be exact, and filled with only dao fruit trees.
Ning Cheng immediately rushed over and looked at the rows of dao fruit trees in front of him in shock. Just a rough sweep indicated about 50-60 trees.
What was going on here? He found no fourth level, no fifth level, let alone a sixth level, unlike what he had heard. After breaking the crystal barrier on the third level, it should have theoretically led him to the door to the fourth level. But it didn’t; instead, he found another garden on the same level with many dao fruit trees, with grades ranging from Dao Sculpting to Dao Transformation. But even so, there weren’t more than ten of each. There were even a few dao fruit trees that Ning Cheng couldn’t recognise among them.
From the looks of it, that previous garden was just a distraction. This orchard in the front was most likely the real orchard.
Ning Cheng looked back at the trickling sand and found that he had just about a quarter of an incense stick worth of time.
Not good, Ning Cheng quickly realised a few things. These two gardens were linked together. Once the sand finished trickling down, he would still be teleported out if he couldn’t open it and move to the next level.
 ‘Dark Crow’ and ‘Underworld Crow’ use the same characters. It’s just that in this context, Ning Cheng is using the characters ‘Dark Crow’ as a nickname one uses to call a friend/acquaintance when working together. So, I decided to change ‘Underworld Crow’ to ‘Dark Crow’ to make it flow smoothly without changing the characters’ meaning and the sentence’s intent.