Valresta. A planet where a mysterious phenomena occurs where it's inhabitants can manipulate a form of energy called 'Aether'. Several months ago a strange ripple of energy pulsed across the planet, but none of the inhabitants could find the source. Except for one that is.
Stampeding Bison Continent - The Jade Forest
Valresta is home to seven continents: Roaring Tide, Soaring Gryphon, Dozing Salamander, Golden Lotus, Radiant Feather, Umbral Spider and Stampeding Bison ,where our story takes place.
Located in the center of a vast desert known as the Wasting Sands, the Jade Forest made for a rather unusual sight. From a distance, the Jade Forest looked rather typical for a forest.
Composed of big gnarly trees with bountiful branches and scattered foliage on the forest floor. Combining that with the sizable watering hole found in the center of this mess of trees, one couldn't help but exclaim that it was a lost paradise, an oasis for the dying and thirsty.
On closer inspection, however, one would realize that these trees were actually massive pillars of jade and that the foliage growing on the "branches" were actually different types of moss, fungi and other small plantlife. Despite the lack of hardier plants, many creatures still managed to thrive in this environment.
Among these strange trees made of jade, a young man dressed in bloodied, tattered clothes was currently sitting on a flat rock looking through a book wrapped in a bronze book binding. Next to him was a small pile of books and scrolls, each bound in different styles and made of different materials.
"Okay, let's try this technique...", a young man muttered as he finished reading the manual for the "Roaring Mountain Deity's March", an Earth attribute cultivation formula.
The young man placed the book into the pile next to him and took on a meditative seated position, his hands forming a seal. It was a strange one in the form of two fingers walking on his palm, odd but not the strangest one he had tried.
With his eyes shut and a deep breath, he began to recite the meditative mantra associated with the formula. As he chanted, visible wisps of aether began to coalesce around him.
The young man began to feel the aether starting to flow into him through his pores and establishing the foundations of the formula within his soul...for all of two minutes before the calm atmosphere around him turned violent.
"Not again...", he bemoaned.
A turbulent reaction took place within him, leading to the aether to violently eject from his body and cause a small explosion of dust and sand around him.
As the dust settled, the man was now buried in the ground from the waist down.
A familiar dejected look settled on his face as he felt the ground encase his lower body.
"Well...at least I wasn't electrocuted this time. ", he grumbled moments before starting to dig himself out, "Better do this quickly before the aether beasts catch wind of me".
This young man was Zhen Liu, the fourth young master of the Zhen Clan, one of the four top forces in Stone Claw city...well, he was the fourth young master of the Zhen Clan. Technically, he was dead.
The previous Zhen Liu died about two weeks ago, when he and his escort were attacked by bandits. At least that's what the current occupant of Zhen Liu's body managed to piece together after adjusting to the influx of information and memories from this body. While he wasn't sure about the gory details, he did notice that his new body came with a lot of freshly healed stab wounds in it with a hint of poison. There was probably something more to it, but he didn't want to look into why Zhen Liu was killed so brutally until much, much later. At least he had a lead in the form of an arrowhead that he popped out of his skull.
The current Zhen Liu was actually someone named Thomas Lee, a mild mannered college student from Earth who died in a horrible accident. He wasn't sure the reason why, but instead of confirming whether there was an afterlife after death, he found himself waking up in someone else's body in another world.
Initially, Thomas was rather excited at the whole prospect. Adventure, danger, romance, Thomas had read a lot of novels and watched a lot of anime that approached the idea in a rose-tinted light. Unfortunately, the universe had other plans in mind.
When Thomas adjusted to the memories of Zhen Liu, he learned why he was traveling through such a dangerous area, the original Zhen Liu was trying to find a cure for himself.
In the world of Valresta, practically everyone around him could cultivate aether to some degree and do extraordinary things, everyone except Zhen Liu. Even the poorest farmer he met were able to use Earth arts in order to work their fields.
It wasn't that he lacked the aptitude for it, in fact his ability to store and gather aether was above average.
It wasn't that he lacked resources to cultivate with, as the fourth young master of the Zheng Clan he had ample access to resources that would make others jealous.
The problem was that Zheng Liu physically couldn't use any arts or cultivate any formulas, at all.
Whenever he used an art, it would only be for show.
Anytime he tried to establish the foundations for a formula, regardless of tier or attribute, his body would just violently eject the aether and cause collateral damage to whatever area he tried practicing in.
No one knew the reason why either. He had aether, all the aether tools he could need and the clan masters who could confirm that he had an abundance of the stuff. Yet as far as anyone could tell, Zheng Liu was cursed by heaven and hell.
He had attempted to practice practically every single formula manual within his family's pavilion, including some of the secret ones hidden away in obscure shelves or a hidden compartment. They all had the same end result: violent rejection. He couldn't even perform basic aether arts, as it would either explode in his face or fizzle out.
Zhen Liu was close to giving up on becoming a proper warrior and considered just spending his days as a wandering poet, a playboy, a drunkard, a monk or something. He didn't know what, but he knew his prospects as a cultivator looked grim.
Yet he still couldn't let go of hope. That was why he was in this hellish forest, chasing after the rumor of a wandering ruin appearing in the Jade Forest.
Wandering ruins were these strange dilapidated temples, tombs and castles that just appeared at random and vanished just as quickly. Some places were more consistent than others, but the timing was always weird.
One thing was consistent about these ruins though, and that they were always full of miracles.
Rare treasures, ancient techniques, elixirs that could cure anything, if one was able to go through one of these ruins and get out the other side, their life would change forever.
And it was on this final gamble, this miniscule chance that something in there could help him resolve his problem and take back a future that was rightfully his, that Zheng Liu lost his life.
But at least Thomas was now here to pick up the tab and hopefully finish what he started.
"Okay...time to go deep diving again".