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As Brother Lu's companion, Wu Xu knew how powerful his swordsmanship was.
Just slightly short of becoming a Hundred Man Commander, Brother Lu's fighting prowess far surpassed that of his peers.
132 moves from such a powerful expert, and yet, not a single one had managed to nick the other party's clothes or even the weapon at that!
Instead, he had been forced back 77 steps before being eventually cornered…
Just how powerful was the other party to be able to accomplish this feat?
Thinking about, it was laughable how confident they had been in their strength to have challenged the other party to a duel; they had simply humiliated themselves!
"Brother Lu…" Wu Xu hurriedly rushed over, only to see the latter's ashen face, seemingly having suffered a heavy shock.
A moment later, Brother Lu sighed in resignation and waved his hands weakly.
"Hand him 300 high-tier spirit stones!"
A hundred high-tier spirit stones had been at stake for the first duel, and the stakes had been doubled for the second. All in all, he owed the other party 300 high-tier spirit stones.
"Yes!" Wu Xu gritted his teeth before wrapping a pile of high-tier spirit stones with his zhenqi and handing them over.
There were three hundred of them, no more, no less.
"I will be accepting them then!" Upon seeing the spirit stones, Zhang Xuan's eyes lit up, and he quickly stowed them in his storage ring.
Even though the other party had agreed to the bet, he hadn't really expected the other party to pay him. After all, three hundred high-tier spirit stones wasn't a small sum. It would be difficult for even a figure of School Head Mo's standing to take out so much money on the spur of the moment.
Yet, the other party had handed him the sum so easily. Could it be that these two are not only strong but are actually… tycoons as well?
If that is the case, I should really start thinking about how I could knock some more spirit stones out of them…
Stroking his lower jaws, Zhang Xuan fell into deep thought.
Recovering from the shock of his defeat, Brother Lu clasped his fist and bowed. "My name is Lu Cheng, and since I have lost, I shall not disturb you any further. However, I hope to learn of your name in hopes of challenging you once more in the future!"
A loss was a loss; he could only admit it. Not to mention, there was still a Byzantium Helios Beast and a weapon cauldron glaring at him in hostility by the side.
"I am Zhang Xuan."
Zhang Xuan nodded. "You need not think of it that way; it was just a spar between peers. If I am not mistaken, the reason you are so desperate to obtain the Scarlet Firefly Fruit is for Wu shi over here to make a breakthrough to Half-Saint?"
"Indeed!" Lu Cheng nodded.
The main reason cultivators sought the Scarlet Firefly Fruit was for the increased chances of achieving a breakthrough to Half-Saint. Since Lu Cheng was already a Half-Saint, the only reason for him to go through the effort of challenging them was for his close companion.
"Actually, I have taken a look at Wu shi condition when I was battling him earlier. The reason he was unable to achieve a breakthrough is not due to his lack of cultivation but…"
At this point, Zhang Xuan paused for a moment.
"But?" Wu Xu asked anxiously.
He had been trapped at Chrysalis realm for too long. Most of his fellow peers had already overcome this bottleneck, racing ahead of him, so he couldn't help but be plagued with anxiety.
It wasn't easy for him to learn about the existence of the Scarlet Firefly Fruit in this valley, and he viewed it as his only chance. That was also the reason he had lost his composure and attacked Hu Yaoyao and the others when he realized that someone had gotten to the fruits ahead of him.
If the man before him could help him achieve a breakthrough, it wouldn't matter anymore whether he obtained the Scarlet Firefly Fruit or not.
"I believe that the reason you are unable to push for a breakthrough is due to your lack of zhenqi!" Zhang Xuan said.
"Lack of zhenqi?" Lu Cheng and Wu Xu frowned.
Due to the special training they underwent, as well as the cultivation techniques and battle techniques they cultivated, their quantity and quality of zhenqi were far above those of ordinary master teachers.
Yet, the young man before them had said that Wu Xu suffered from a lack of zhenqi?
Had it not been for the astounding prowess that the other party had shown them, they would have surely thought that he was spouting nonsense.
"Indeed. Your foundation might be far stronger than an ordinary cultivator, but that also means that the bottleneck you face is far more difficult than the others too. To use an analogy, others might require just a pail of zhenqi to achieve a breakthrough, but what you need is an entire lake!" Zhang Xuan said.
Wu Xu knew that the other party was right. He possessed extraordinary strength among his peers, but the hurdle he had to face with each breakthrough was higher as well.
This wasn't much trouble in his earlier cultivation, but Half-Saint happened to be an exceptionally difficult hurdle to overcome.
"This is indeed a common problem that practitioners of our school suffer from!" Lu Cheng sighed deeply. "Zhang shi, is there any way to resolve this problem?"
To possess strength superior to one's peers, one would have to reinforce one's cultivation over and over again, making it sturdier and stronger than the others. However, the more reinforced one's cultivation was, the harder it was to achieve a breakthrough.
This was similar to building a castle. To build a sturdier castle, one would have to build a stronger supporting structure. However, that would also mean that one would have to devote more resources and time for that.
This was the problem Wu Xu was facing at the moment. Due to their strict training, their zhenqi was condensed to be far purer than others', granting them nigh invincible prowess among their peers. However, the bottlenecks they faced were also more difficult to overcome in comparison.
Zhang Xuan hesitated for a moment before replying. "I do have a solution for that… but it will be quite troublesome!"
Lu Cheng had only asked this question casually, not hoping for a positive answer. However, hearing that Zhang Xuan really had a solution, his eyes immediately lit up, and he quickly shot his companion a meaningful gaze.
Grasping the intention behind Lu Cheng's gaze, Wu Xu hurriedly suppressed his agitation and clasped his fist. "As long as Zhang shi can help me achieve a breakthrough, I am willing to pay any price!"
For the young man before him to possess such formidable strength at such a young age, he must have come from a powerful background, so he might just know of some means that could help him successfully achieve a breakthrough.
"The solution is actually really simple. Since you are unable to gather sufficient zhenqi to achieve a breakthrough, you can easily make up for that by increasing the rate you absorb external spiritual energy at to make up for the deficiency," Zhang Xuan said.
"Increase the rate I absorb external spiritual energy at?" Hearing Zhang Xuan's solution, Wu Xu shook his head bitterly. "I have used quite a number of high-tier spirit stones to push for my breakthrough, but I have still been unable to build up sufficient momentum to overcome the Half-Saint bottleneck…"
For a person who could whip out three hundred high-tier spirit stones at a whim, Wu Xu was definitely not a person who lacked spirit stones.
Since he couldn't achieve a breakthrough even with sufficient spirit stones at hand, what else could he do to increase the rate he absorbed spiritual energy at?
"High-tier spirit stones do indeed help to make up for the deficiency, but their effectiveness is limited due to the long duration required to process the spiritual energy contained within them into zhenqi!" Zhang Xuan shook his head.
In a sense, high-tier spirit stones were like beef. They were effective in staving off hunger, but it wasn't easy to digest them.
"You're right, but what else can I use if not spirit stones?" Wu Xu asked.
"The reason the spiritual energy within spirit stones is harder to process is due to the solid form the spiritual energy is in. If you were to use spirit essence instead, the rate you could absorb spiritual energy at and convert it into zhenqi would be at least three times faster, and that should be sufficient for you to achieve a breakthrough to Half-Saint!" Zhang Xuan said.
If spirit stones were beef, spirit essence was porridge, easily digestible.
Lu Cheng pondered for a moment before frowning. "Spirit essence? Do you mean… Earth Vein Spirit Essence?"
There were many forms of spirit essence, but the one that was most effective for Half-Saints was the Earth Vein Spirit Essence.
The rest would be less effective than high-tier spirit stones.
Zhang Xuan nodded. "That's right. This spirit essence is formed through the accumulation of the spiritual energy contained in the earth veins. Not only is the spiritual energy pure, it is also easily absorbed and converted into zhenqi… If Wu shi absorbs it, he should be able to gather sufficient zhenqi within a short period of time to overcome his bottleneck!"
"But the Earth Vein Spirit Essence is only found in grounds rich in spiritual energy, and those lands are often occupied by dominant powers, so it is even harder to procure it than Scarlet Firefly Fruits. Where are we supposed to find any?" Wu Xu said with a bitter smile.
Everyone knew that the Earth Vein Spirit Essence was good stuff, but obtaining it was easier said than done.
Even if he knew it could help him achieve a breakthrough, he had to find a way to obtain it first!
"This… Out of a stroke of luck, I managed to obtain a bit of it. However, I was planning to use it to overcome my Half-Saint bottleneck…" Zhang Xuan said hesitantly.
"You have Earth Vein Spirit Essence with you?" Wu Xu's eyes immediately lit up in excitement. "Can you sell it to me? I am willing to buy it using high-tier spirit stones!"
"This…" A conflicted expression surfaced on Zhang Xuan's face. "You also know how difficult it is to obtain Earth Vein Spirit Essence, and I don't have too much of it either. I'm afraid that I can't sell it to you…"
After a moment of thought, Wu Xu gritted his teeth and said, "Brother Zhang, I am willing to buy it at two times the market price!"
He had to reach Half-Saint as soon as possible or else he would risk being eliminated. This was a rare opportunity, and he couldn't miss it, no matter the price he had to pay.
"Two times?" Zhang Xuan pondered for a long moment before reluctantly nodding in agreement. "Alright, seeing that you need it so much, as a fellow master teacher, I will make an exception and sell it to you!"
After which, he flicked his wrist and took out a massive gourd containing around seven liters of spirit essence.
"This is all of the Earth Vein Spirit Essence that I have collected thus far; I will give it to you then!" Zhang Xuan waved his hands.
Wu Xu hurriedly took the gourd and uncapped the cork, and he immediately saw that it was filled to the brim with Earth Vein Spirit Essence. The spiritual energy that gushed out of the opening left his cells feeling energized and refreshed.
"This… Thank you, Zhang shi!"
Seeing that the other party was willing to give all of the Earth Vein Spirit Essence he had gathered to him, Wu Xu immediately clasped his fist in agitation and thanked him. After which, he went to Lu Cheng and pooled some stuff together before stowing them away in a storage ring.
"As we left our place in a hurry, we didn't bring too many spirit stones with us. We know the high-tier spirit stones we have won't be enough to make up for the value of the Earth Vein Spirit Essence, so we placed some of the valuables we have accumulated over the years in as well. I hope that Zhang shi can accept it," Wu Xu said as he presented the storage ring over.
Even though they knew that the young man before them probably didn't lack money, considering that he had a Saint realm tamed beast and artifact, it would still be improper for them to take something from the other party for free, not to mention that they had agreed on paying double the price earlier.
Taking the ring, Zhang Xuan swept through the contents and saw over 200 high-tier spirit stones, a handful of grade-6 pills, and a bunch of valuable medicinal herbs.
If it was in Hongyuan City, this gourd of Earth Vein Spirit Essence would probably only have been worth fifty high-tier spirit stones at most. Yet, the other party had given him so much money in return. It could be said that he had made a huge killing this time around!
It was not that the other party was foolish, but that the value of an item was determined by the person's perceived necessity of it.
Ordinary cultivators could achieve breakthroughs with high-tier spirit stones just fine, so they didn't require the Earth Vein Spirit Essence. As a result, its perceived value would be lower to them.
"Rest well and condition your body to its peak state. With the Earth Vein Spirit Essence, you should be able to push for a breakthrough in a single try!" Zhang Xuan said after putting away the storage ring.
"Yes!" Wu Xu nodded.
He had suffered a punch form Zhang Xuan earlier, and even up to this point, he hadn't fully recovered from it yet. To maximize his chances of reaching Half-Saint, he should only attempt a breakthrough once he was in his peak state.
"Thank you, Zhang shi. The both of us will take our leave now!" Having obtained what they wanted, the duo clasped their fists, turned around, and left. In just a few moments, they had already disappeared from sight.
With the departure of the duo, Hu Yaoyao and the others finally heaved a sigh of relief. "Zhang shi, thank you for saving our lives!"
Before, they had thought that Zhang Xuan was only terrifying in his supporting occupations. However, with this experience, they learned that his talent for his supporting occupations was nothing compared to his fighting prowess!
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