A strong burst of wind raced across the open plains as an old man slammed his face into the dirt road. Cursing the heavens for the exit they provided, he stood up and brushed the yellow dirt from his light blue robe and his short white beard.
In every direction, tall gold colored grass extended from one horizon to the other. Not much changed in areas such as these. Over the countless millennia, these fields remained the same. Sparse with life and free from any major settlements.
Thousands of years passed since he stood in fields like this. He was not a very nostalgic man but the surroundings brought back memories he thought he had forgotten, many of them painful. Old friends and foes whose names disappeared through the passage of time and civilizations that rose and collapsed just as quick. Memories flooded his mind as he walked down the dirt road.
After traveling for more than an hour, the old man saw a small village on a knoll up ahead. It looked like any other frontier village but something was off. The air lingering above felt sinister and he was unable to sense any humans.
The golden grass slowly transitioned to a carpet of brittle gray blades that turned to dust upon contact. Standing before the entrance gate the uncomfortable feeling worsened and he was certain a shocking scene awaited him beyond the village walls.
Within the first heaven, only one thing was capable of this, essence draining powder. Normally used by assassins, the ingredients were uncommon and difficult to process. It was rarely effective over a large region but was lethal when contained in small areas such as rooms or caves.
After passing through the entrance the view was exactly what he expected. The village was poor with simple wooden houses and small shops spread throughout. These simple people lived outside of the martial world so their condition was not surprising.
Partially desiccated bodies littered the ground with faces twisted in horror and pain. Their expressions showed they ran in fear but had no idea how to escape. He estimated the time of attack was no more than an hour ago and their bodies would only get worse.
Using such a powerful poison on non-cultivators made little sense. Anyone capable of activating an essence-draining capsule would be able to kill these people with the swat of their hands. It was like swinging a hammer to kill an ant, so pointless.
All living things contained essence but non-cultivators such as the villagers held a very low amount. They would have no way of surviving such an attack, instead, their bodies would whittle away and within a few breaths, they would die.
Governments and sects normally punished crimes against non-cultivators harshly, and it was possible that this was a repeating crime. However, a frontier region like this held little value to sects and the soil was not able to support spirit herbs. Most likely, there would be nobody to investigate the incident.
Either way he decided not to linger and implicate himself in the tragedy. Instead, he planned to leave after searching for any valuables. Even if there were no authorities to punish the perpetrator, merchants traveled to small villages like this and news would spread eventually.
Pilfering through the village, the old man collected coins and a few other items that might be of some worth. Only cultivators used spirit stones and to get by in regions like this he would need to rely on anything he could find here.
However, there was little worth taking. In the end, he only placed a few swords, knives, and tools from a blacksmith into his ring. The weapons were not much more than scrap metal and wood in his opinion but they might be worth a few coins in a pinch. After leaving the small shop, he caught sight of movement to his left roughly 100 paces away.
The old man walked quickly wondering what in the village was able to survive the powders effects, but as he drew closer, he saw it was a young boy only 15 or 16 years old. He was dragging his body with his elbows and appeared to be in a trancelike state. The old man figured the only thought going through his mind right now was escape.
He placed his hand on the boys back to examine him and to his surprise, found that he was a cultivator. However, he was only level three of the qi condensation stage, and his meridians were thin and shallow, showing he had low potential.
Even with little to no resources, a boy with immortal roots and average potential would be able to break through to level six or seven by this age. Nonetheless, he was indeed a cultivator, making him extremely rare in this region.
The pitiful back of the young boy left the old man conflicted. He could easily purge the boy’s body of the powder, but he was unsure of the reasons behind the powders use. Although unlikely in this case, if the village held some form of illness, it was possible local authorities decided to kill everyone inside to avoid its spread.
If it was a simple illness he would be able to cure it but he was not a miracle doctor and he knew anyone walking around with silver needles claiming to be one were frauds. He also did not want to entangle himself in messy issues. After all, his time here was limited and he was hoping to visit many places from his youth.
However, he was not a heartless person that would watch someone die if he could easily save them. Pinching the bridge of his nose, he came to a decision. He would save the young man and bring him to the nearest town, waiting for him to wake up before moving on.
Their meeting was fate, and perhaps he could gain a little information about the region. It had been thousands of years since he was last here and many things must have changed by now. Who were the local powers and where did they govern? It would help if he could get answers to those questions.
The old man bent over and placed his palm on the boys back before releasing a small amount of his essence qi into his body. It charged into his damaged dantian and expelled any remnants of the powder through his pores and orifices.
Feeling the changes in his body the boy stopped struggling and fell into a deep sleep. Removing the powder would have dispelled the pain and he most likely believed the person who cured him had good intentions; after all, killing him in this state would be easy.
The old man picked the boy up and threw him over his shoulder like a sack of rice. He left the small village walking on the beaten dirt road towards what he hoped would be a larger town. Though travel through air was an option, it was rare within this world.
Instead, he decided to walk just as any normal person would. Throughout the course of his long life, he often flew over areas like this and never bothered to take in their beauty. The old man often thought about how he would do things again if he could and for now, he would enjoy these simple days for as long as possible.
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