It didn’t take long before the group reached a bigger cave where they eventually needed to split up. Mei Chao Bing and the other two bid farewell to Zhi Guan and his group and then went in another direction.
The surroundings seemed to have gone up in size while they were walking. Originally, the tunnels had only been big enough to let one person through at a time, making it so that they needed to trail behind each other. Now though, the path had already widened and two people could walk next to each other comfortably without even touching.
“Most likely, the cave we arrived in before was somewhere at the edge of whatever this is. That might also be why the demonic practitioners didn’t finish the arrays over there.” Mei Chao Bing squinted while he looked up at the ceiling, trying to find Song Mu clues from around them.
Next to him, Xi Ju Hai gave a hum. “It is likely. If we consider how the first tunnel we followed took a sharp turn, that makes even more sense. The unfinished array could be a way to keep us in the dark though. Depending on which disciples found the original array, they might not understand what it was for if it didn’t light up immediately after they imbued spiritual energy. That would be a smart move.”
Song Mu glanced over his shoulder. “Transportation arrays aren’t that rare though. There’s bound to be a disciple with them that knows about it. And even none of the disciples know it, our Elders would still send another group later on.”
Xi Ju Hai nodded but she was still convinced of her idea. “That might be true but we can’t forget that the situation is more favorable for them right now. They’ve already put all of this together. Even if our sect started to mirror it now, we will still be far behind them. They’ve clearly been preparing for this for a long time. Who knows when the first array was originally created?”
Mei Chao Bing nodded. “I’m afraid that it wasn’t recent. This kind of place … if it didn’t happen to already exist like this and they only added the arrays, then it would’ve taken a lot of time to just create the caves and tunnels. Not to speak of adding the arrays afterward.”
“Well, no matter what it is, there’s still a lot to find.” Xi Ju Hai looked at the map in her hand and furrowed her brows. “So far, there are five arrays on this path alone. I don’t want to imagine how many more the other groups have found. This could potentially cover the whole border region.”
Mei Chao Bing narrowed his eyes. “In fact, it could even be more than that. The group I was in before the Elders sorted into different groups found a spiritual energy gathering array. I was wondering what exactly they might need it for. Now though, I could imagine a use for it.”
Something flashed in Xi Ju Hai’s eyes when he said so. “You mean to say that they are using the spiritual energy of the border region the power an array that would transport them further away?”
Mei Chao Bing inclined his head. “Of course, I can’t say for sure but it would make sense. Transportation arrays aren’t that expensive to set up. The real problem with them is that the further you need to go, the more energy you need to expand.
“It’s alright if you transfer from one peaceful place to another but at this place? Not only was there a lot of infighting among the demonic practitioners before they allied together but they also needed to be wary of running into disciples from the righteous side. And if they were trying to leave the border region with this, it would be even worse for them. So they probably can’t use the arrays normally. The risk would be too big.”
“So instead, they would borrow the energy from somewhere else to retain their own. Yes, that is indeed an idea.”
Song Mu glanced over his shoulder, fixing his gaze on Xi Ju Hai. “Senior martial sister Xi, you know the most about arrays. If what Mei Chao Bing says is true, then how exactly could they do this? Would we be able to find any clues in the arrays that we see here?”
Xi Ju Hai hesitated for a bit. “The problem is that I can’t say that for sure. Of course, you could incorporate a spiritual energy gathering array right into a transportation array. But if they are trying to use it as junior martial brother Mei suggested, then that wouldn’t do.
“They would need a way to do this that will make sure that no energy is wasted. After all, while the energy outside can be recovered, that doesn’t change the fact that there is a limited amount held in one region. From what we’ve seen, the border region has almost run dry. After that, all their preparation would become useless. I don’t think that after they went through all this trouble that is something they would allow to happen. So there has to be something else. And I’m afraid that we won’t be able to discover that something easily.”
Mei Chao Bing also thought that it couldn’t be easy but he wasn’t willing to give up that easily either. “What would be the requirements for making sure that the least amount of energy will be lost? Is there something that they could do specifically?”
Xi Ju Hai pondered but she seemed a little hesitant as if she couldn’t make up her mind. “I guess it would depend on how exactly they go about it. One of the most important things would probably be that they need to keep in mind that the different arrays here will require a different amount of energy.
“The smaller ones could probably be powered by the demonic practitioners themselves but the ones that cover a greater distance would need more energy from outside. So maybe if they were able to separate these two kinds somehow, it could help. But I honestly don’t know. If we find something, I might be able to tell more but without that, I also have a hard time.”
Mei Chao Bing nodded. “Well, this is already a direction we can think in. Maybe we will be able to find out more when we discover all the arrays that have been created here. We can try to look for some kind of pattern.”
Xi Ju Hai nodded and glanced at the map again, only to suddenly stop walking. “Actually, maybe that is it.”