Nie Donghai was true to his word.
In the following days, he continued to give flamecloud gems to Nie Tian so that his animal bone could absorb their flame power.
Nie Qian did exactly the same.
However, the animal bone was like a bottomless pit; after absorbing the power of flame from numerous flamecloud gems, it still hadn’t completely formed that drop of blood.
Later on, Nie Tian discovered that the number of flamecloud gems his grandfather and aunt brought was growing fewer and fewer.
Sometimes, Nie Qian would come to his room, leave two or three flamecloud gems, and immediately rush out, seemingly disturbed, apparently afraid that Nie Tian would find out something was wrong.
Nie Tian was no fool. He had noticed much earlier that the jewelry Nie Qian wore had begun to disappear one after another.
As time went by, Nie Donghai stopped showing up. Only Nie Qian would occasionally come over and drop off one or two flamecloud gems, then look at the animal bone with her eyes full of expectation, before leaving with a grim look on her face.
Two young girls of the Nie clan were talking to each other as they passed by Nie Tian’s room. Given the volumes of their voices, it was hard to say whether or not they intended for Nie Tian to hear them.
“I heard that eldest aunt had a big fight with uncle Nie Ping, who’s in charge of the storehouse. Eldest aunt claimed that Nie Ping intentionally ripped her off, and the jewelry she traded in were well worth three flamecloud gems, while uncle Nie Ping only gave her one in exchange.”
“Second grandfather is our current clanmaster. Uncle Nie Ping became supervisor of the storehouse after second grandfather assumed his position. Uncle Nie Ping only reports to second grandfather, so he surely won’t bother to consider eldest aunt’s feelings.”
“I don’t know what’s going on. It seems eldest grandfather and eldest aunt have taken all their valuables to the storehouse and traded them for flamecloud gems.”
“Exactly, eldest grandfather even traded in the medicinal pills for his injuries. God knows what is wrong with him.”
“It’s the same with eldest aunt. She doesn’t have a single presentable piece of jewelery on her now.”
Inside the room, Nie Tian clearly overheard their conversations. He had originally been concentrated on his cultivation, but the girls’ words distracted and upset him, and his little face filled with a sullenness somewhat inappropriate for a child his age.
Disturbed by this thought, he subconsciously reached for the animal bone and took it out of the pocket on his waist. He stared at it and suddenly found it incomparably troublesome. “Are grandfather and aunt trading in all their assets to get me more flamecloud gems?”
In that exact same moment, Nie Qian’s voice sounded from outside the room. “Little Tian!”
She shoved the door open, her eyes filled with exhaustion. It appeared as if she was completely drained mentally because of the events of the past days.
“Here you go.” Arriving by Nie Tian’s side, she casually tossed a flamecloud gem over, which landed at Nie Tian’s side. Staring in anticipation at the animal bone, she said, “Quickly, let the animal bone absorb its flame power.”
“There’s no need.” Nie Tian shook his head. “In my opinion, this animal bone is a bottomless pit. No amount of flamecloud gems will be enough to fill it.”
Nie Qian put on a straight face and said angrily, “Are you telling me that you plan on giving up like this? Do you have any idea what your grandfather has gone through to get you these flamecloud gems?”
“I know.” Nie Tian’s eyes were filled with agony. “I also know that you have sold your valuable jewelery at low prices to get me more flamecloud gems.”
Nie Qian was startled. She immediately realized that her nephew had grown up, and he had already perceived what was going on from the trivial clues he had found.
She pondered the matter for a moment and then reassuringly said, “Money and valuables are merely possessions. As long as you can reach the ninth level of Qi Refining by the age of fifteen, and become a disciple of the Cloudsoaring sect, all of our investment will be well paid off.”
With these words, her expression grew grim again and said, “I’m afraid your grandfather’s injuries won’t get better. His road of cultivation is reaching its end.”
“As for me, my cultivation talent has been poor since I was child. I’ve merely reached the early-stage of Lesser Heaven, which is nothing compared to your mother’s achievement. Back then, if I had managed to reach the ninth level of Qi Refining by the age of fifteen and became a disciple of the Cloudsoaring sect, the Yun clan definitely wouldn’t have dared to treat me like they did, despite the fact that our clan was weak!
“I don’t want you to end up like me! You are already eleven years old, which means you only have four years left. You have to enter the ninth level of Qi Refining in four years!
“Your current cultivation level is too low. That animal bone might be your only chance at a breakthrough!
“So no matter what, you must persist and see if the animal bone can bring you a miracle! You are the last hope for your grandfather and I. Don’t act like a child and waste your grandfather’s and my efforts!” Nie Qian’s lecture was delivered with great authority.
Nie Tian remained silent as he listened closely. He waited for Nie Qian to finish, then said, “I understand. I won’t fail you.”
With these words, he placed the flamecloud gem onto the animal bone.
After a few breaths worth of time, the flamecloud gem was drained of flame power and turned into gravel.
Perhaps the flame power in the flamecloud gems was too sparse, and thus the flames in the animal bone showed no sign of gathering.
Nie Tian and Nie Qian stared at the animal bone from beginning till end. Seeing the animal bone become dark and lifeless again, they were full of disappointment.
“Don’t be depressed, I’ll think of something else.” Nie Qian suppressed her disappointment with great effort, and said. “I’ll go to the mines tomorrow. There are plenty of flamecloud gems waiting to be mined. If I work harder and longer, I can surely bring you more flamecloud gems!”
Nie Tian bounced up and said. “I’ll go with you!”
“No!” Nie Qian replied forcefully. “Due to our excessive mining of flamecloud gems, collapses happen in the mines from time to time. It’s too dangerous. You absolutely can’t go!”
Nie Tian’s voice was full of certainty as he said, “I believe that even with several dozen more flamecloud gems, the animal bone won’t necessarily be filled. Only if I bring the animal bone with me and let it absorb from those unmined flamecloud gems, would we have the chance to fill it up, and therefore completely form the blood drop.”
“Let the animal bone absorb directly from the raw ore?” Nie Qian was surprised by his idea.
She also thought Nie Tian’s suggestion made sense. It wasn’t easy to mine the numerous flamecloud gems.
Even if she worked there, she wouldn’t be able to mine a large amount of flamecloud gems in a short period of time. Moreover, she would have to keep record of the mined flamecloud gems when she left the mines. A portion of them would go to the Cloudsoaring sect; a portion of them would go to the Nie clan’s storehouse; the portion she could actually leave with would be only about twenty percent.
She had already calculated that to get several dozen flamecloud gems, she probably would have to spend more than half a year in the mines.
On the other hand, Nie Tian was already eleven, so time was what he lacked the most.
“Let me go,” Nie Tian pleaded. “I can’t just sit around and wait. I need to fight for myself. Going to the mines would also be a type of training for me.”
Nie Qian considered carefully, before she finally nodded her head. “Remember. When we are out of Black Cloud City, you must follow my orders, and never act without my permission!
“Of course! Of course!” Nie Tian immediately promised.
Having been strictly confined to the Nie clan for months, he had been bored to death long ago. Now that the strangers who had lingered around the Nie clan had long since disappeared, he wanted to find an opportunity himself and go out.
Nie Qian said, “Tomorrow morning, I’ll take you out of town!”
“Thank you, aunt!” Nie Tian rejoiced.
The next morning before dawn, Nie Tian was already standing at the gate when Nie Qian came.
At dawn, the two of them quietly left Black Cloud City, and marched towards Cloudsoaring Mountain.
Inside the Yun clan.
Yuan Qiuying and Yun Song finished their breakfast. They were rinsing their mouths when a man entered the room and softly said, “Mistress, Nie Qian and the little punk Nie Tian left Black Cloud City this morning and headed towards Cloudsoaring Mountain.”
“The turtle has finally come out of its shell!” Yuan Qiuying’s expression flickered as she gritted her teeth and said viciously. “That bitch and that fatherless and motherless little bastard, I’ll see if they can break free from my grasp this time!”
She had never let go of her grudge against Nie Qian and Nie Tian.
Although she had recently called off the guest elders she sent to the Nie clan, she had still been secretly watching the gates of Black Cloud City.
She knew that Nie Qian and Nie Tian would eventually run out of patience and have to get out of the city.
Yuan Qiuying said ferociously, “They dared to leave Black Cloud City? The heavens must be helping me. I would have had to think twice before making a move inside the city. Now that they are out of the city, they shall never go back alive!
“That bitch must have gone to the Nie clan’s mines in Cloudsoaring Mountain! Don’t beat the grass and scare the snake (see note1), so don’t make a move on their way to the mines. She will undoubtedly pay extra attention on their way to the mines. You just wait for them to come out of the mines and kill them on their way back to the city!”
“Understood, Mistress. I promise they won’t make it back to Black Cloud City alive!”
“Alright. Make it clean and leave no traces. After it’s done, order those guys to leave Black Cloud City and never return, so as to avoid the Cloudsoaring sect from getting any information that can be used against us.”
beat the grass and scare the snake -- it’s a Chinese idiom which means to act rashly and alert the enemy