Ling Family’s Herb Mountain was an expanded branch of the Arctic Mountain Range, and was classified as the outermost region of the Arctic Mountain Range.
Compared to those huge, extremely tall ice mountains, Herb Mountain was extremely unremarkable; its spirit energy was also not considered rich.
Ling Town was exactly at the edge of the Arctic Mountain Range, beneath Herb Mountain.
Even though Herb Mountain’s spirit energy didn’t stand out, the mountain wasn’t quite as cold since it was far enough from the center of the Arctic Mountain Range, thus making it suitable for growing spirit plants.
The spirit plants on Herb Mountain were precisely the main source of income for the Ling Family. The annual offerings Ling Family made to Nebula Pavilion were also mostly spirit plants from Herb Mountain. In these couple of years, Ling Chengzhi was in charge of the planting and picking of spirit plants. Du Jiaolan tried to get a share of the Herb Mountain pie several times, but every one of her plans were destroyed by the Ling Family brothers.
Like chunks of tofu, there were blocks and blocks of medicinal gardens on Herb Mountain. Planted within the medicinal gardens were mostly spirit plants and herbs below Common Grade Three. Even though they weren’t worth much, there were still lots of them.
The Common Grade Three spirit plants among them included the Jade Hand Flower, Cold Containing Grass, and the Serpent Crown Flower, and they were the most important spirit plants grown in the medicinal gardens. These three spirit plants were basic ingredients in refining Spirit Recovering Pills, which Nebula Pavilion greatly demanded every year.
At this moment, Ling Chengye and Ling Chengzhi stood in front of a Jade Hand Flower medicinal garden.
When in full bloom, it looked like a young girl spreading open her palm. Its five slender leaves were like five slim fingers, which was why it was called the Jade Hand Flower. The period between planting and picking the Jade Hand Flower was only around half a year, and it wasn’t really affected by changes in the weather. This made it one of the easiest spirit plants to cultivate.
However, in this current Jade Hand Flower medicinal garden, each and every Jade Hand Flower had yet to bloom; instead, each and every one of them were wilted, causing Ling Chengye’s expression to turn extremely ugly.
“Is it only the Jade Hand Flowers that are like this?” Ling Chengye asked with some hope.
Ling Chengzhi smiled wryly, “The Jade Hand Flowers can be considered good. The Cold Containing Grass and the Serpent Crown Flower medicinal gardens are even more unsightly, they’re even more intensely dried up. I’m afraid that it will be hard for us to gather this year’s payment of medicinal herbs to Nebula Pavilion…”
Ling Chengye’s expression changed, he shouted in an overcast tone of voice: “How exactly did this happen? Why didn’t you tell me this sooner?!”
“I don’t know how this happened.” Pain spread across Ling Chengzhi’s face as his heart also filled with confusion, “Since Qin Shan died two years ago, the garden’s medicinal herbs yielded less and less crops every season. Though each return was bringing in less and less, it was still enough to supply Nebula Pavilion. This is also my fault, I was too busy trying to break through that I didn’t seriously pay attention to it.”
“Once I was aware of this dire situation, I believed that I could still control this. I spent most of my time cultivating and conditioning the spirit herbs, hoping that I could reverse this situation. However, what I didn’t expect was that since three months ago, the medicinal herbs gradually looked more and more wilted by the day. Before I had time to react, large expanses of medicinal herbs inside the medicinal garden had already withered…”
Ling Chengzhi hung his head in dismay, appearing as though he wanted to hit something and cry, but he didn’t dare to avoid his responsibilities.
Ling Chengye’s face collapsed. He was silent for a good while, then suddenly said: “What does the drying up of the herbs in the medicinal garden have to do with Qin Lie? He’s usually deep inside Herb Mountain’s mines, and ought to never have come to the gardens before. He’s able to affect these herbs? Old Three, why do you suspect Qin Lie?”
To him, Qin Lie was only a fool. For a person without a soul, it was absolutely impossible that he could influence Herb Mountain’s yield.
“Since their grandfather-grandson pair entered Herb Mountain’s mines five years ago, I’ve been secretly observing them. Over the past five years, there were very few changes in Herb Mountain, but there was an extremely strange phenomenon…” Ling Chengzhi creased his brows as he pondered while speaking.
“What kind of strange phenomenon?” Ling Chengye was stunned.
“Every time it thunderstormed, the lightning above Herb Mountain’s skies would be extremely condensed. Each lightning strike would hit Herb Mountain’s summit, and that lightning would sometimes come here, even causing me to watch in fear. However, before their grandfather-grandson pair came, no matter how vile the weather, there wouldn’t be that much lightning assembled above Herb Mountain’s skies, nor the phenomenon of lightning directly striking down here!” Ling Chengzhi said with certainty.
“This lightning… has something to do with their grandfather-grandson pair?” Ling Chengye shook his head, feeling as though his younger brother’s speculation didn’t have much of a foundation.
“Big Brother, let me finish.” Ling Chengzhi’s expression gradually turned solemn, “After Qin Shan passed away, this phenomenon became even more apparent! In these past two years, every time there was a thunderstorm, there was even more lightning gathered above Herb Mountain, and it struck Herb Mountain more frequently! Sometimes, I could faintly feel those powerful lightning strikes skirt into the mountain’s cavity…”
Upon hearing this, Ling Chengye finally faced up, and solemnly said: “Continue!”
“I have been guarding Herb Mountain all these years, and every time lightning struck, I was always mindful of the mine caves. I’ve seen Qin Lie walk out from those caves several times with his hair and skin a bit burnt black. I can say with total certainty that it was definitely caused by a lightning strike!” Ling Chengzhi shouted softly, “Due to all the abnormalities in Herb Mountain these past years, I am within reason to suspect that this has something to do with Qin Lie! Big Brother, the medicinal herbs would not wither without cause. I believe that something must have changed within Herb Mountain’s interior to have lead to the withering of the medicinal herbs!”
Ling Chengye deeply frowned. After a long period of silence, he suddenly said: “I promised Qin Shan that I would not enter the mines without reason.”
“Big Brother, if this matter really has something to do with Qin Lie, if you don’t figure this out, I’m afraid that it would be difficult to save those medicinal herbs in the garden. Herb Mountain concerns our Ling Family’s growth. If we keep going on like this, our Ling Family would not be able to gather enough spirit plants as payment, then Nebula Pavilion…” Ling Chengzhi said with immense worry.
Ling Chengye went silent again. After a long while, he took a deep breath. He took out a ghastly demon mask, silently put it on, changed into a long white robe, and then said shouted lowly: “I will secretly go investigate the mines. You are forbidden to tell anyone about this matter!”
“Rest assured Big Brother, I know what to do.”
Like a white specter, Ling Chengye cautiously went to a cave in a remote corner of Herb Mountain. With his hands grabbing onto a hanging vine, he stepped off the boulder, and his silhouette silently floated down like willow leaves, quickly arriving in one of the tunnel entrances of a mountain cave.
Since he had already decided to do this, Ling Chengye no longer hesitated. He directly charged into the mouth of the cave, heading into its depths at high speed.
There were many caves of different sizes at the back of Herb Mountain, and they were all formed by Ling Family members who excavated from different angles. Each and every mountain cave pathway were even all linked together, so as long as one entered one of the caves, it was extremely easy to find a path that lead into the mountain’s belly.
However, not long after Ling Chengye entered the cavern, he suddenly received a huge shock which left him stiff in place.
In his memories, there were at most twenty tunnels inside Herb Mountain. Even though he hadn’t come in here for quite a long while, his memories about the mines were still very clear.
Because when he was young, he was also one of the excavators, so he was extremely familiar with this place.
But right now, he felt as though he had come to the wrong place, because the tunnels in this mountain cavity was ten times more than that!
The complexity of those tunnels in front of him intersected and connected like spiderwebs. Ling Chengye was startled at this abnormality, not feeling any familiarity with this place.
“Heavens! How did they do this?” Ling Chengye sucked in a cold breath.
He still remembered back then when several scores of Ling Family members came together. They used three years of time, and merely excavated a dozen or so stone tunnels.
Yet this grandfather-grandson pair had actually excavated several hundred stone tunnels in five years of time. This caused Ling Chengye to not dare believe his own eyes.
Several hundred stone tunnels interweaved and connected with the original stone tunnels in a maze-like complexity, similar to the varying strangeness of muscles in the human body.
Ling Chengye forced himself to calm down. He began traveling back and forth through several hundred intersecting stone tunnels, attempting to enter the deepest part of the mountain, seeking Qin Lie’s figure.
An hour later, Ling Family’s Patriarch’s consciousness unexpectedly became muddled, and in muddled state, he directly appeared in the cavern entrance.
When he regained his senses, his expression became incomparably odd. Not believing what had happened, he once again delved into the mines, resuming his search once more...
In seven consecutive tries, he kept returning to the first tunnel entrance. Ling Chengye gradually began to tire, and his complexion paled somewhat. After checking the color of the sky, he went back up Herb Mountain along the original road in a somewhat distressed manner.
“Big Brother, your complexion does not look well, what happened? Did something happen in there?” Ling Chengzhi nervously asked him when he took down the mask.
With a wave of his hand, Ling Family’s Patriarch signaled for him to not ask questions for the time being. He sat upright without saying a word, then took a Spirit Recovering Pill for his muscle pain and regulated his breathing.
Ling Chengzhi wanted to say something, but stopped and just dazedly stared at him with a belly full of stunned confusion.
The sky gradually darkened. After a period of recovery, Ling Family’s Patriarch’s vigor recovered somewhat. He opened his eyes, and lightly shouted, answering Ling Chengzhi’s previous question: “Don’t ask yet! Now should be around the time Qin Lie exits the caves to return back to Ling Town. I want make my move against him on the road back and see what exactly is going with him!”
After he finished speaking, Ling Family’s Patriarch wore the ghastly demon mask without waiting for Ling Chengzhi’s input. With a grave expression, he headed toward the mountain path between Herb Mountain and Ling Town to hide.