The Red Reaper was a spiritual plant of the garlic type. Unlike ordinary garlic, it was spicy like a hot pepper. It contained intense flame-attribute spiritual energy and only grew in places with such conditions, like Hell's Grotto. The plant's stalks were red and it produced flaming flowers. It was highly prized in alchemy and was an ingredient in many pills that improved one's cultivation and flame-attribute Dao.
Like other garlic, the cloves in the bulb contained all of the benefits. The lowest grade Red Reaper started at the bottom of the Spirit Initiate Realm and contained one clove. The next grade contained two cloves within the bulb and was in the middle of the Spirit Initiate Realm. A three-clove bulb meant it was at peak of the Spirit Initiate Realm.
The challenge presented by the Golden Feather Hunt was collecting a certain number of Red Reapers based on their grade. To win a golden feather, a competitor had to collect one hundred three-clove bulbs. Five two-clove garlic could be substituted for one three-clove garlic. Ten one-clove garlic could be substituted for one three-clove garlic. If they were lucky enough to find even higher-grade ones, a four-clove garlic could substitute for ten three-clove garlic and a five-clove garlic could substitute for all one hundred three-clove garlic.
As the grade increased, so did its spiciness as well as medicinal efficacy. It was rumored that an eight-clove garlic could directly allow someone to break through from the lesser realm of Spiritual Ascendance into the Spirit Lord Realm!
The stone stele recommended that cultivators in the Spirit Initiate Realm go no further than a kilometer in depth in search for the first three grades of Red Reapers. It made no mention of the higher-grade ones at all, the only warning of an increased chance of encountering life-threatening dangers below the relatively safe depth of one kilometer.
"Where can we find the five-clove Red Reaper?" Xu Lanyi asked.
"Miss Xu… a five-clove Red Reaper is at the lesser realm of Spiritual Formation while a four-clove one is at the lesser realm of Spirit Growth. For both, the chances of them growing in the safe zone are slim and there would be a lot of competition for them if one appeared."
Li Yuechan and Xu Lanyi weren't sure how long it would take to gather a hundred three-clove Red Reapers. If they played it safe and were too conservative, they might not be able to earn that single golden feather for weeks. If they ventured deeper, the reward would be good but the risks were unknown and possibly deadly.
It was a dangerous decision, one that Li Yuechan wasn't prepared to make now.
"Thank you, Young Master Kun. We will be on our way now, thank you for the information." Li Yuechan said and turned to leave.
"Was there anything else?" She asked.
Kun Meng walked in front of them, "The caves can still be dangerous in the safe zone. It is easy to get lost and strong monsters migrate up from the depths from time to time. Perhaps we can tackle the caves together? I can serve as a guide."
"I apologize, Young Master Kun. I don't think it's appropriate." Li Yuechan replied quickly.
This was something she did not need time to consider. When the sisters were disciples of Glacier Palace, they had already gotten used to men trying to get to know them under various pretenses. They never accepted these advances out of an abundance of caution. Kun Meng seemed clean and straightforward but he was a stranger and capable of anything, especially in the strange darkness of Hell's Grotto.
"I have no ulterior motive, I swear it." Kun Meng tried to argue, "In fact, I am here with my junior sister."
He beckoned behind him and a woman wearing a similar style to him walked up.
"Senior Brother Kun, maidens." She greeted them, "My name is Shen Kexin of Rainbow Canyon Temple. We have been tasked our master to hunt stony flame toads that reside in the caves. They like to eat Red Reapers and can often be found where the plants are abundant. They are weak creatures but dangerous in large groups. If we team up, it will be beneficial to everyone. What do you say?"
Li Yuechan looked the new girl over once and sighed inwardly. Shen Kexin had a smile on her face but her eyes were way too cold. She had seen such eyes countless times over the years. Such a little trick wasn't going to fool her. She prided herself to be the leader of her sisterhood and this was not just because of seniority. She had the skills to back it up.
"Young Master Kun, Miss Shen, we cannot. These are our master's orders so please do not make it difficult for us. I wish you the best of luck on your hunt."
"But Miss Li…" Shen Kexin didn't want to give up.
Xu Lanyi finally couldn't stand it anymore and grabbed Li Yuechan's arm, "Get lost, stop wasting our time. Come on sis, let's go!"
Li Yuechan willingly let herself be pulled away. Xu Lanyi's methods had their uses, especially against and persistent pests. She rubbed Xu Lanyi's hand affectionately and they entered the caves without another look back.
Kun Meng stood there dumbly. A flash of anger appeared on his face, ruining the image he had built up for a moment. This was his true nature but Li Yuechan had already guessed it. She didn't need to see it.
Li Yuechan and Xu Lanyi followed the main cave tunnel which rapidly descended. Someone had already paved the way with stone blocks that formed a set of stairs. There were everlasting torches on the walls that lit the way but there was also a strange red glow in the air. When there were no more torches, this light was still present, provided by the very air around them. It was not enough to see far, only about five meters in any direction.
"Well, this is certainly interesting." Xu Lanyi said as she waved her hand through the air.
The reddish air flowed through her fingers, letting a tiny bit of fire-attribute spiritual energy be absorbed.
"Mmm… It's hot, like a really hot day in summer. It feels much better than the city above. You could almost cultivate with this."
"I think so, certain pockets of Hell's Grotto are valuable even without finding any plants or beasts. This truly is a valuable treasure for human cultivators."
"Too bad we can't have something like at home."
After some time, they arrived at a small chamber which contained several tunnels that went off in different directions. This was the first level, where one-clove garlic could be found. They paused to take out the map that Chen Wentian had given them.
He knew a little about the capital and had prepared everything likely to be useful. Hell's Grotto was famous across the land and he had tried it out in the past. He only spent a short time here but it was enough to give his disciples some help. This was also why Li Yuechan rejected Kun Meng so resolutely.
In this current chamber, they had a decision to make. They could either go deeper and tackle the three-clove garlic immediately or explore the first level and get used to the environment. While they were still discussing what to do, some familiar people arrived behind them.
Kun Meng and Shen Kexing had managed to rope some other people into their party. The other two were rankers participating in the Golden Feather Hunt, a male and female pair from the Legendary Fighter League named Xin Zhen and Ying Shenwu.
Kun Meng led the way and walked past. "This way, Brother Xin, Sister Ying."
He didn't even bother to look at Li Yuechan and Xu Lanyi.
Xin Zhen passed by, and then Ying Shenwu. Shen Kexing was last and she turned to Xu Lanyi.
"If you bitches follow us, I'll cut you!" She whispered before disappearing into the narrow tunnel.
"What… you slut! Say that again!" Xu Lanyi yelled, her voice echoing through the tunnels in all directions.
But Shen Kexing did not reappear and Xu Lanyi was left with a stomach full of anger.
"Sis, should we warn those two?" Xu Lanyi asked.
Li Yuechan shook her head, "Their cultivation levels are higher than ours. They can take care of themselves. But I also don't want to fall behind either. We'll head for the lower levels too."
She then pulled at her waist and brought out the Giant Mole Worm who was still sleeping blissfully.
"And with this little guy, it won't be a problem at all!"
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