Stretching across thousands of miles with eighteen towering peaks, the highest of which stood at more than three hundred miles, the Blood Mountain Range was indeed a marvelous edifice. Was it not for the drastic changes it underwent, Konrad didn't doubt it would have attracted much activity. But now, with that suffocating amalgam of eldritch forces and the far too realistic blood stench filling the atmosphere, who dared cross its passes?
Besides Konrad's group, only desperados such as Qehreman's mother would take the risk. Of course, after stepping on the first pass, it didn't take more than a minute for Qehreman's mother to collapse. Therefore, although he effortlessly managed to pull her out, even Qehreman didn't have a full grasp of how much he could shoulder.
But soon, it became apparent that his ability knew no limits. As soon as the group stepped onto the first mountain pass, a formless force erupted from Qehreman's body and stretched throughout a fifteen meters radius. Within that range, no eldritch energy passed, and the atmosphere was cleansed of all their presence.
The sight was absolutely miraculous, and even Konrad was forced to admit that his best estimations failed to give an accurate assessment of that cheaply gained sworn brother of his. Calling him "evil-warder" indeed was accurate. Less than sixty meters in, Konrad's group came across the first dark-purple lily, which fluttered without a breeze as if animated with a life of its own.
However, as Qehreman approached it, it folded its petals back onto itself as if dreading his presence or touch. Seeing this, Konrad arched his eyebrow.
"Although you're a solid good-luck charm, I'm afraid if I let you run amok, you may ruin my business. Stop right here. You girls stand within fifteen meters of him."
Konrad ordered and stepped out of Qehreman's range to pluck the dark-purple lily. With one deft move, he pulled it out of the soil, and briefly assessed it.
"At least one-hundred units of death essence."
Konrad appraised before tossing the lily into a space ring. Death essence was quantified in units. In theory, the quantity of death essence generated by an individual's demise had nothing to do with cultivation.
When someone perished, they generated death units equal to the number of years they'd lived for. An eighty years old man's death would generate eighty units of death essence while a ten-thousand years old's would generate ten-thousand units.
However, just like normal souls, in typical conditions, death essence usually didn't linger for long, vanishing in a few hours. But for those able to control it, it also served as an additional lifespan.
For that reason, Konrad's claim of being able to live for millions of years was nothing less than the truth.
"What are you planning to do with them?"
Qehreman couldn't help but ask. Clearly, those flowers breathed malevolence and heralded disasters. If not out of greed, who would attempt to pluck them. However, on the one hand, Konrad didn't appear driven by base greed, and on the other hand, he didn't seem affected by the negative energies in this place, either.
And recalling how effortlessly he took his mother's "death" into him, Qehreman hypothesized he could put those flowers to use. As for whether it was good or bad, that was hard to say. But naturally, he had no intention in helping evil.
"I'm going to consume them. Just saving them for later."
Konrad honestly replied, causing Qehreman's eyes to widen in disbelief.
"Are you…some kind of undead?"
He asked while taking three steps back. And who could blame him? This cheaply gained sworn brother of his simply was impossible to comprehend. And although his body clearly showed no trace of cultivation, he seemed able to accomplish feats that put Saints to shame.
Worse, his entourage appeared full of mighty experts whose cultivation level Qehreman couldn't even begin to fathom. It went without saying that his background was extraordinary. Were it not for his mother's life-saving grace, Qehreman would have certainly not followed them in.
And seeing his budding anxiety, Konrad chortled.
"My heart still beats, and my touch is full of warmth. How could I be undead? If anything, you can call me a necromancer of fortune."
Konrad replied while stepping back toward the group.
Hearing this, Qehreman sighed and returned onto the road. Every now and then, they would come across one of those death lilies. At first, it took tens or so meters. But soon, to Konrad's delight, the frequency of their appearances increased, until they could be seen every two or three meters.
After traversing more than five hundred meters, Konrad laid hands on about one-hundred-twenty death lilies. Better, the farther they went, the more death essence the lilies contained. The top fifteen he'd harvested each contained more than five-hundred units.
The uneventful trip carried on for another five-hundred meters, after which Konrad's death lily count rose to more than six hundred. Now, dark-purple lilies lied as far as the eye could see, making it difficult for the mortal Konrad to pluck them all.
As he struggled with the increased supply, sweat soon filled his forehead.
"Master, please allow me to pluck them for you."
Astarte offered, unable to endure the sight of her master's sufferings.
"No, you can't. Death essence is a lethal poison to the living. Although you can suppress the weakest flowers with your cultivation, at best, you'll be gambling with your lifespan. It's not worth it. But if you really want to help, use your telekinetic powers to pull and push all the lilies toward me."
Konrad replied while carrying on with his harvesting program.
With a nod, Astarte stretched out her hand, causing hundreds of purple lies to soar into the sky and fly toward Konrad. One after the other, he tossed them into his space ring; the same ring where his prototype body laid.
But as the transfer carried on, Else's eyes remained glued on the sky, looking beyond the distant peaks to lock on a gathering of twisting dark fog that seemed to approach increasingly closer toward them all.
"The problems begin."
She muttered and extended her index toward the dark fog that now dropped onto them .
The dark fog morphed into a ghastly abomination with sclera-free, blood-red eyes, a bare skull, and a phantomatic skeleton body draped in a pitch-black, ragged cloak.
"A Ravenous Ghost."
Konrad stated as the ghost descended upon them with its arms outstretched.
Ravenous Ghosts were formed by resentful souls which failed to depart for the afterlife due to the profound hatred and grievances that bound them to the realm of the living. If left unchecked, such souls could wander for eternity without ever being able to affect the living.
However, once they gathered enough chthonian forces, they could morph into Ravenous Ghosts to wantonly devour the living until they regained spiritual consciousness. Afterward, they would keep devouring, and use their victims to build themselves a new body; thereby "returning to life."
Because they feared no physical attacks, destroying Ravenous Ghosts could prove challenging for those not well-versed in spiritual attacks.
However, as Else prepared to obliterate the Ravenous Ghost, Konrad motioned for her to make no move.
His eyes then shifted toward Qehreman, whose tiny globes had naturally locked on the abomination looming over him.
But when the ghost reached a fifteen meters radius of him…
…it collapsed and vanished into nothingness.