Aspiring to the Immortal Path - Chapter 363
Chapter 363: Undercurrent
In front of Tang Jie was a vast underground limestone cave. Water poured down from the cliff, and for some reason, as this poisoned water flowed down, all the poison disappeared, leaving behind only a clear spring.
Beyond the pool of water was a forest of countless standing stones.
White jade stalactites exuding cold energy hung from the top of the cave: Icestone Bamboo.
Icestone Bamboo was a rare kind of spiritual material. Though it had a tough texture, if it were refined under True Flame, it would become soft and gel-like. In this state, it was consumable and tasted like bamboo, hence the name of Icestone Bamboo. But its true use was in pill refining. When added into a mixture, it could raise the chance of successful refinement and the grade of certain pills.
The value of a spiritual material depended on the value of the pills that could be made from it. Icestone Bamboo could be made into three kinds of high-grade medicine, so it was rather precious.
But Icestone Bamboo wasn’t too rare, and it could even be farmed. Thus, its price wasn’t too unreasonable. However, there were quite a lot of them in this cave, which would fetch quite the sum when added together.
All of these Bamboo had their tips cut off, leaving only the base. There was no doubt that this was Shi Jingzhai’s handiwork. The stone bamboo had all their value in the tips, and the bases were worthless.
On the ceiling were Icestone Bamboo, and on the ground was a giant pit. If one jumped into the pit, one would be able to see tunnels running off in every direction. These tunnels naturally weren’t dug out for fun, and even though they had been mined out, Tang Jie could still see flashes of gold.
These gold flashes were somewhat similar to his golden grains, and they were scattered about the tunnels. Tang Jie picked up one and looked it over, and he soon confirmed it to be Goldite. Goldite was a kind of metal ore that was mostly used for weapons. Weapons made from it were primarily known for being tough and difficult to destroy, but it was somewhat inadequate for use in art relics. Even so, this wasn’t anything that couldn’t be made up for with quantity. Tang Jie looked at the tunnels and estimated that this was a tiny ore vein. If completely mined out, it could have a value on par with the Icestone Bamboo.
Shi Jingzhai had probably spent the past two years doing nothing but mining away at this place.
Besides the stone bamboo on the ceiling and the ore veins below, there was also something to be found on the rock walls to the sides.
Tang Jie finally found the Crystallized Sandworms he had sought.
To be more precise, he had found traces of their existence.
There were little black holes all along the rock walls.
These were the marks left by sandworms. They were like earthworms, burrowing through the rock and leaving little holes. But he could not see any sandworms in these rock walls.
There were once large quantities of spirit stone in this rock wall, probably of the same vein as the spirit ores above, but they had been parted by the cliff, leaving only a small part on this side. It was this small portion that the sandworms had completely eaten out. The venomoths prevented the sandworms from burrowing any farther, and so, unable to reach the top, they had died in this place.
Only one sandworm had relied on its “stubborn will” and desire for spirit stone to open a long path to the rest of the spirit ore vein. After eating its fill of spirit stone there, it had ultimately crystallized and died.
But none of this was the source of Tang Jie’s shock.
What truly shocked him was that black curve in the depths of the limestone cave.
This black curve was suspended over the rock wall, appearing at a glance like a fissure. But upon closer inspection, one would realize that it was softly wriggling like a snake. And when Tang Jie looked at the black fissure, he felt like he was peering deep into it, like this was an endless abyss that was worth exploring and researching.
A spatial fissure!
It was actually a spatial fissure!
Tang Jie almost yelled.
To prove his conjecture, he picked up a rock and threw it into the fissure. As the rock struck the fissure, it was silently sliced into three. The left and right chunks bounced off the wall while the slender middle part was swallowed up by the fissure.
Yes, it really was a spatial fissure.
Tang Jie now understood why this limestone cave had such existences as Icestone Bamboo and Goldite.
Spatial fissures were a kind of outer dimension, vast and profound, difficult to describe. They had all kinds of unimaginable properties, and even now, not even those Immortals who could transcend domains could properly describe outer dimensions. But there was one sure thing about them. Each spatial fissure had an energy different from that of the original world and would alter the terrain to a certain degree.
This alteration could be good and it could be bad. It could create a land rich in resources, but it could also create a calamity.
From the look of it, this was a pretty good spatial fissure. It was its existence that had turned this limestone cave into a treasure land.
Besides that, the spatial fissure would often bring its own things, though exactly what was hard to say. It could be trash or treasure. It all depended on what dropped out of the fissure. That there was nothing there now didn’t mean that nothing had dropped out of it before. It was more probable that Shi Jingzhai had taken it away.
Tang Jie estimated the value of the resources here. The Crystallized Sandworms had been of the greatest value and the fewest number while the Goldite had been the least valuable and most abundant. When these three resources were put together, and if one added on the spirit stones the Stone Gate Sect had secretly stockpiled, the total value definitely broke one hundred million.
Of course, as this was under the table, the Stone Gate Sect definitely couldn’t sell it all for that much. It would be pretty good if they could fetch a price in the tens of millions for all of it.
But the idea of inflation didn’t exist in the Rosecloud Domain. Tens of millions of spirit coins was enough to utterly transform a small sect, pushing it into the middle tier, or even higher.
The Seven Absolutions Sect also benefited. It had to be understood that some things couldn’t be measured with money. The Icestone Bamboo and Goldite were not bad, but if the Crystallized Sandworms had been put up for auction, their value might have risen by another ten million. The Seven Absolutions Sect might benefit even more than the Stone Gate Sect from this transaction.
This sort of behavior was undoubtedly providing aid to the enemy.
This was a grave crime, but before enormous temptation, they had done it, even if they risked the execution of their entire sect.
A scene played out in Tang Jie’s mind:
After years of mining, the miners gradually reached the end of the vein, a cliff overlooking an abyss.
The miners continued to mine day and night, and they were happy to come across this cliff, for they thought that they could simply throw the debris over the cliff rather than haul it out.
This would save a ton of manpower.
But they had no idea that a swarm of vicious poisonous moths slumbered at the unseen bottom of the cliff.
Stone tumbled from the heavens.
Some of the moths were awakened.
They did not mobilize en masse, perhaps because they didn’t sense any danger. Only a few of the venomoths flew up the cliff into the tunnel.
Here, they found the culprits who had disturbed their sleep, and so they dragged these mortals off the cliff. These moths didn’t even need to use their venom to deal with these mortals.
This was the earliest missing persons case in the mines.
The Stone Gate Sect came to investigate.
Things proceeded very naturally after that. They discovered the venomoths, and since they were difficult to deal with, the three True Persons came to personally deal with them. And then these three True Persons found some clues to the limestone cave.
Thus, they swam down the river, venturing into the cave, and found a fortune.
Things become even more predictable after that.
Tempted by this immense fortune, the three True Persons decided to take it all for themselves. They first eliminated the disciple who had discovered the secret, and then they released an Earth Devil Ape in the mines.
Shi Jingzhai had raised the Earth Devil Ape, and it followed his commands to frighten and kill the miners. In this way, the miners naturally did not dare to venture into the depths of the mines.
The venomoths would not fly up unless they were disturbed, and so the matter was kept a secret.
The three True Persons used the venomoths as natural protectors to further ensure that this matter was kept secret, and over the next two years, they frequently entered the cave to extract all that they could from it. Finally, they began to send out feelers so that they could sell these goods.
Of course, besides money, they would want something that could bring them a glorious future.
Like a mantra for advancing to Violet Palace.
This was also why, after learning that Yu Wanniang had gone to Duskland, Tang Jie became sure that they were working with the Seven Absolutions Sect and not some other sect. This was because only the six major sects could produce this kind of mantra.
The only thing that left Tang Jie confused was that they had somehow not sold any goods until now. After all, it was very hard to hide when someone suddenly became very rich.
This was particularly true for cultivators. Perhaps they could resist buying things like art relics, but resources that could improve their cultivation speed were a necessity. Yet Yu Wanniang and company had not done this. While they were at Celestial Heart, they were only in the middle tier of Celestial Heart, the Heart Demon Period. Yu Wanniang hadn’t even reached that tier, still being at the Spirit Ring Period.
Yesterday, when Tang Jie had gone out, he had turned up everything there was to know about this trio. The only person in the last ten years to have increased his cultivation level was Shi Jingzhai, going from Spirit Ring to Heart Demon. But even that had only happened last year.
This was ample proof that this wealth had yet to be converted into the resources that they all needed to get stronger. The only one who could have possibly benefited was Shi Jingzhai.
This didn’t make sense. The resources had taken two years for the three of them to slowly dig out, so there was no need to wait until the very end to sell it all.
Tang Jie once more recalled his previous theory.
“They’re not united,” Tang Jie muttered.
On the night of that drunken banquet, Tang Jie had come to know that the three of them were not on the same page as Qiu Shuyu. It now appeared that the three of them didn’t completely trust each other either. This was precisely why all of these illogical things had happened.
“If that’s the case, that’s an opening I can exploit,” Tang Jie muttered.
Upon discovering this place, Tang Jie now had evidence, and his mission was done. But at that moment, he realized that he could do more, could do better.
His natural risk-taking inclinations pushed him to keep going, and he was to start with Shi Jingzhai.
He needed to find evidence that Shi Jingzhai was keeping some of the goods for himself.
However, this wasn’t for the Basking Moon Sect, but for the other two.
Tang Jie activated Heart Consonance.
Yiyi called out, “Big Brother, so you still know to talk to me sometimes?”
Tang Jie chuckled. “I miss you, of course. Your big brother has never forgotten about you. How are things lately?”
“Very good! Very happy!” Yiyi piped in her childish voice.
Yiyi had probably been the most free in her time at the Wei Estate. Her appearance was very charming, and Tang Jie had trained her into speaking very well and being very tactful. The adults in the estate liked her and weren’t afraid that she was a sprite. The venerable master and venerable lady were even treating Yiyi like their granddaughter, giving her good food and toys every day.
And when Zheng Shufeng noticed the affection between Yiyi and Tang Jie, she gave Yiyi a personal courtyard, treating her like an official child of the clan.
Thus, Yiyi was definitely in the running for the happiest in this period of time.
Upon hearing this, Tang Jie replied, “It’s fine so long as you’re happy. But right now, your big brother needs your help with something.”
“Tell me, Big Brother!”
“Tell Young Master Wei to help me get a transaction record of materials sold on the cultivator markets in the last two years.”
“‘A record of materials sold on the cultivator markets’?” Yiyi repeated these words in her childish tone.
“Yes, primarily for Crystallized Sandworms, Icestone Bamboo, and Goldite. See how much was sold in the last two years. This is a rather tedious task, and the young master alone won’t be able to do it. You might need to ask for the help of the Wei Clan and the lady. It has to be done quickly!”
“Oh, I understand.” Yiyi quickly ran off to find Wei Tianchong.
At times like this, it became evident how useful it was to have the backing of a clan. The Wei Clan had numerous people and a sophisticated information network. It would definitely have a much easier time examining the transaction records for the last two years than if Tang Jie had tried to do it by himself.
Checking the transaction records for the materials market of the entire kingdom was no small matter. Moreover, from Tang Jie’s tone, it sounded like he wanted it done in a few days. But after learning of this matter, Zheng Shufeng only hesitated slightly before deciding to help Tang Jie.
This was not merely because she trusted Tang Jie, but because Zheng Shufeng had realized that this was a time to show the meaning of mortals. Only this way could the two parties grow closer together and mortals improve their status.
Zheng Shufeng personally managed the project, and the enormous commercial machine that was the Wei Clan got to work. The first thing Zheng Shufeng did was to get in touch with the other three great merchant clans of Canglong Prefecture: the Jin Clan, Zhou Clan, and Zhang Clan. With all four clans united, the Wei Clan would reduce its own workload. Next, Wei Tianchong, borrowing Tang Jie’s name, sent a flying sword message back to the academy to seek the help of Qi Shaoming, Liu Hongyan, Ping Jingyue, and the other students.
When these students heard that Tang Jie needed help, they immediately took missions and left the academy. This was particularly the case for students who had benefited from Tang Jie’s instruction at the Immortal Fortune Conference. There were some people who asked to help even without being notified by Wei Tianchong.
Interestingly, even the already-graduated Peng Yaolong and Ye Tianshang came over to help, tipped off by Qi Shaoming. His reason for this was that things would be much easier if they had official Basking Moon Sect disciples helping them out.
Peng Yaolong and Ye Tianshang naturally agreed immediately. Not only that, they called out some disciples in the sect that they were on good terms with.
With Wei Tianchong as the core information relay and Zheng Shufeng planning everything out, a vast operation proceeded in an orderly fashion.
The Basking Moon Sect disciples, led by Peng Yaolong, were responsible for checking the Basking Moon Sect’s transaction records. As the powerholding sect, it had large amounts of this kind of information at hand. Besides that, they were also able to check the more high-class cultivator markets, where high-grade items were more liable to appear. Ordinary people didn’t have the right to enter these places. Only official Basking Moon Sect disciples like Peng Yaolong could freely enter and exit such places.
As for the students, led by Qi Shaoming and Liu Hongyan, they checked the lower-class markets and auction houses. These were places where Immortals and mortals mixed, and things like Crystallized Sandworm occasionally appeared here.
As for the Wei Clan and the other clans, they were responsible for checking the mortal stores. But valuable items like Crystallized Sandworm couldn’t possibly show up here. Their more important duty was analyzing all the information. The Basking Moon disciples and students were only tasked with gathering the account books, but seeing which of these account books were real or forged, important or irrelevant, required the examination of professional shopkeepers.
Just because of Tang Jie’s sudden idea and Zheng Shufeng’s ad-hoc planning, an accounting storm inexplicably swept over the Sageheart Kingdom. Tang Jie had never expected Zheng Shufeng to put on such a show, and Zheng Shufeng had never imagined that Tang Jie would have so many connections. Extraordinary assistance led to extraordinary execution, and this auditing operation began to have hints of an anti-corruption storm…
While a storm swept over Sageheart, beneath Mount Eternal, an undercurrent surged.
Tang Jie, who still knew nothing about what was transpiring, after contacting Yiyi, had gone back through the underground river. When he arrived at the base of Stone Gate Peak, the duplicate Tang Jie was waiting there, having used the excuse of a stroll to leave. The moment Tang Jie appeared, the duplicate disappeared, and Tang Jie sauntered back to his room and went to sleep.
This adventure had been peaceful and without suspense. Tang Jie had lost nothing except a pair of underpants.
He slept soundly through the night.
What Tang Jie needed to do next was very simple.
Having found out what Shi Jingzhai and company were up to, all that Tang Jie needed to do was stay here and do his utmost to draw the main force of the Stone Gate Sect, giving it no chance to chase after Xi Canhen.
Thus, Tang Jie went around walking every day, doing his utmost to get to know every Stone Gate disciple, particularly those at Mortal Shedding or above. What they didn’t know was that Tang Jie was furtively planting objects on them whenever he interacted with them.
They might be a leaf, a pebble, or even some dust.
Their commonality was that they were all actually duplicates.
Through these duplicates, Tang Jie could understand what every disciple was doing and determine which one was being sent out by the sect to hunt down Xi Canhen.
At these times, Tang Jie would promptly appear as if by coincidence, saying in surprise, “Huh? Why are you here?” “What a coincidence!” “Let’s take a stroll together!” “If you’re busy, I can help you. We’re all friends. There’s no need to be polite.”
Occasionally, he would meet someone who lacked tact.
At those times, these tactless friends would lose their lives before they even found Xi Canhen.
Of course, before doing this, Tang Jie could find one hundred people who could testify that he wasn’t at the scene.
On the night after Tang Jie’s adventure, Yu Wanniang returned.
The three elders of Stone Gate Peak gathered once more.
Looking at Shi Jingzhai and Liang Xingbang, Yu Wanniang gravely said, “They’ve confessed that this matter was their doing.”