TGL Volume 3, Chapter 24 (3)

“S-Sister Ilya, you were just joking about turning people into alchemy stoves, right? Like how you tricked me into thinking I had entered the yellow springs?”

Sister Ilya stared at me. Then she crushed my hopes. “No, I’m completely serious.” Afterwards, she resumed walking, and I followed her until we reached a trapdoor that was next to a tree. Sister Ilya pressed an orb against the top of the door before lifting it. “Close it on your way down.”

I asked Sister Ilya to take me to where Lucia was cultivating, but I’m not sure if she’s leading me into another cruel prank…. Even if she is, I have to play along. It was strange to climb down a trapdoor in the middle of what seemed to be a forest; it made me a bit unsettled, like I was entering the jaws of a beast, but I listened to Sister Ilya and shut the trapdoor on the way down. The moment the trapdoor closed, I was submerged in complete darkness but only for a second. Faint lights glowed on the walls and lit up a massive passageway.

“These passages were created by squirrels,” Sister Ilya said. “This land used to belong to squirrels before they were wiped out by the holy beasts. Interesting, isn’t it? Lucia’s ancestors used to be the strongest beasts on the continent, but they’ve all been wiped out. However, one of their descendants came back and retook their lost lands.”

I’ve heard this story from Mrs. Feathers before, but I didn’t realize this place was the squirrels’ holy ground. I’m not sure why Sister Ilya is telling me this though. She’s not really one for small talk, at least, not with me. I remember we didn’t really get along with each other a decade ago because I was slightly, only slightly, jealous of her position by Lucia’s side. “What are you getting at?”

Sister Ilya was silent, and all that could be heard was our footsteps echoing through the passage. Afterwards, she sighed. “Do you believe in fate?”

“Fate? That people have a predetermined ending?” Of course not. “All cultivators are trying to avoid the fate of death by reaching immortality. If we believed we would die no matter what, then we’d live peaceful lives as mortals instead.”

Sister Ilya’s footsteps seemed to have gotten lighter, and her shoulders relaxed. I wasn’t aware she was concerned about such things…. Sister Ilya always gave me the feeling of being able to do anything she put her mind to. Why would she ask me whether or not I believed in fate? “Is there something worrying you, Sister Ilya?”

Sister Ilya sighed. “For some reason, I just thought that I was fated to be together with Lucia forever. I mean, I came all the way here to the center of the continent to escape from Lucia and somehow ended up helping her again. It’s like someone’s playing a prank on me.”

…Like the prank you played on me? I want to say that out loud, but I’m not sure what Sister Ilya would do if I did. I’ll just nod in agreement. Speaking of Lucia, are we there yet? Why is this passageway so long? It’s winding with multiple branched paths, and for some reason, I can’t remember which road we took to get here. Is there a formation messing with my memory? A large sect like this one should have defenses leading up to their treasury.

“Oh yeah,” Sister Ilya said. “How are you feeling? I forgot to ask.”

“What do you mean, Sister Ilya?” How am I feeling after she played a mean prank on me? How am I feeling after she told me she turned people into alchemy stoves? How am I feeling after she showed me boxes upon boxes of people who had their limbs removed? “I feel fine. Perfectly fine. Why would I feel any other way?”

“That isn’t what I was asking.” Sister Ilya paused in front of a branching path and looked at the orb that she hadn’t put away. She held it out towards both passages before deciding on which one to go through. “You ate a virility pill, something made from a world tree’s core. Even if most of the energy was used to bring you back to life, some of it should’ve been left circulating inside of you. You don’t feel stronger or anything? I thought you would’ve made it back to the sky-realm at the very least.”

Apparently, the pill used to bring me back to life was very valuable. However, I don’t feel any different. “I need to plant heart devils in people or consume Lucia’s impurities to increase my cultivation. Unless that pill could’ve provided either of those, it makes sense for me to not increase in strength.”

“That’s odd,” Sister Ilya muttered. “Then where did that extra energy go?” She shook her head. “Whatever, we’re here. Don’t touch anything all willy-nilly now.”

“I won’t.” There must be lots of formations protecting the treasures inside. After exiting the passageway, we arrived at the Holy Beasts Sect’s treasury. I didn’t look at the items too much in case I was tempted by them; I only came here to see Lucia. She’s cultivating, but cultivators have to have a clear heart for the best results. She was upset when I died, so I have to show her that I’m still alive. Even if she’s distracted and can’t see me, she’s strong enough to feel me approach, and she should be able to recognize my presence.

The treasury was massive, but it didn’t take long to locate Lucia. That’s because a berserk aura was rampaging within, and I could sense it from the entrance. For some reason, I imagined myself standing on a field surrounded by dozens of incredibly strong beasts, but they didn’t notice me. They were all facing the same direction, and I’m sure that was towards Lucia. A moment later, the field vanished from my mind. “What was that?”

“I remember Lucia saying she dreamed about killing dragons when she absorbed some dragon cores,” Sister Ilya said. “She’s probably killing a bunch of phoenixes, dragons, tigers, and tortoises right now since she absorbed their cores.”

“Is … Lucia going to become an immortal after this cultivation session?”

Sister Ilya shrugged. “Maybe. Why would I know? I’m not a native of the Immortal Continent. Shouldn’t you know more than me?”

…Sometimes I think Sister Ilya knows everything because of Lucia’s unwavering faith in her, but clearly, she’s only human too. Well, she’s not really human, but the concept’s the same. It’s reassuring to know she’s not infallible.

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