It wasn't until much later and only as the three siblings got tired that the family flew back to its nest. They had seen a lot of things during their first trip outside of home. For one thing, they had lived inside one of the many holes in the trunk of a tree. The other holes also had inhabitants who might be considered their neighbors. They were owl families too. With a few babies here and there. He didn't think this kind of bird was the type to socialize and live in flocks. But then again, those were spiritual beasts and he wasn't an expert on the topic.
Aside from their house in the tree, they were surrounded by more trees. He deduced quite easily that they were in a forest. As expected, one might say. He hadn't flown too far from home but considering the flora of his surroundings…He had no idea where this forest was.
As he was back in the nest, he slumped down exhausted but happy. It had been one of the most wonderful and exciting experience of both lifetimes. To think flying with wings felt so refreshing… It was without a doubt something he would grow addicted to.
And he did.
From here on out, he spent his time alternating between flying lessons with his Mother and cultivation.
Three weeks after he began, he managed to overflow his core once more and reach the third stage of body strengthening. He had also grown up to the size of his Mother. And it was going to be the time for goodbye any time now. After all, every bird had to leave the nest, right? Or so he thought.
It did not seem to be the case here. The only difference was that his Mother was no longer bringing them food. If they wanted to eat, they had to go fetch insects for themselves. That was one of the changes but he welcomed it. With his strength of the third stage, he was far stronger than any other owl his age. Heck, he was stronger than his Mother in fact as he could feel her to be at the first stage. Hunting small game was definitely a small and easy task for him. With strength and wisdom, no rats could escape him.
Due to being a predatory bird, his sight was naturally good. Adding on to that the strengthening from cultivation, there weren't any prey who could escape him. Little by little, he explored the surroundings further and further while returning to the nest after every hunt. He always shared some of the meat he brought back with his Mother and the siblings.
He did that until the siblings simply stopped hunting by themselves. That's when he kept the meat to himself. He didn't want to spoil to such a point…
It took him three weeks this time to overflow his core. He did spend a lot of time getting his own meals after all. But he successfully reached the fourth stage of body refinement.
Around that time, a new owl entered the nest. It was slightly bigger than his Mother and him. It had the same color of feathers though, light brown. What truly made this one stand out was the few scars it had on its body. Judging from this, one could see that it was a veteran fighter. He moved into the nest as if it owned the place.
He didn't know if this particular race of spiritual beast was territorial but considering that his Mother was unfazed, maybe not. Or maybe this was his father? It wasn't impossible. He hadn't seen him at all until now so, maybe? Regardless, this was quite a strong representative of the race. It was at the fourth stage of body strengthening too.
Until now, he had seen many other owls. His neighbors. And none were at a higher stage than the second one. Yet here came this one from nowhere and he was at the fourth stage. It was unexpected and he could only stay on guard.
The newcomer gazed at him and his two siblings for a time before he turned to the Mother. Then, they began to hoot as if conversing. From time to time, the big owl turned to him and the siblings, hooting something. The siblings seemed to hoot back in reply.
Where they actually talking with each other?
It did seem like it. Yet, even as an owl, he didn't understand any of it. To him, it was incomprehensible gibberish bird screams. But the four of them seem to be able to converse. Were they actually more aware than he gave them credit for? Probably. Since he never had any knowledge about them as he focused on cultivation and techniques, he couldn't be certain.
What he knew was that he didn't understand. So, either they weren't really talking or he had missed the lesson on owl language.
After a few back and forth, the owl hooted as he came to the Mother and hugged her within his feathers. They seemed to snuggle together. One of the siblings tried to join him and was wing-slapped away by the big owl.
Not long later, the big owl moved to the edge and flew off. He flew up. And the Mother owl went o the edge as well. As she did, the siblings ran up to her. As fast as their claw-legs could take them. She turned towards them and shooed them away with her wings before flying away too. She flew upwards as well.
Then, the two siblings began to cuddle with each other as they hooted. He guessed that they might be expressing their sadness at their mother's departure. It was a possibility. Then again, their mother left to elope with a male. He was a little emotional as well. He had gotten used to that Mother owl and quite liked her.
She had been a good mother.
And now, she left her kids who had grown up to be splendid adult birds. Or so the story should go. Anyways, he was now going to live with only his two siblings. That's what he believed at first. But a day later, they shooed him away by hooting and moving their wings exaggeratedly.
As he flew out and looked back, he could see them cuddling. Did his siblings become lovers? Well, incest wasn't really a thing for spiritual beasts. Even though they forced him to move out, they were his siblings so he wished them well.
His future awaited him elsewhere. At least, he did hope so. He didn't want to remain as an owl. But first, he needed a new home. And unfortunately, there weren't any holes left in this tree. That being said, this wasn't the only tree in the forest. He didn't have to fly far to find another tree. In fact, he simply landed on a branch of the tree to the right.
There weren't any holes in it but it was as big as the other one and, as a fourth stage cultivator in body refinement, he had quite the strength. He began to claw away at the trunk near the branch he was perched on.
No holes? He would just dig one.
It took some time but he finished it before the sun got up. It was quite small but it was enough to sleep in. Once he woke up, he worked tirelessly all night long on enlarging the hole. He made as big as the home he previously had. He felt like a young man who left for his own first house once again…
But he didn't keep on reminiscing for long. He was hungry. So, he went hunting and once his stomach filled, took a nap.
From the next morning on, he continued his training and diligently cultivated.
Two weeks later, he overflew his core and entered the fifth stage of body refining. He was very close to crossing over to the next realm.
Everything had gone smoothly until now but things changed the next day. Or rather, the next night. He heard howling from under the tree. As he peaked outside his hole, he saw a bunch of wolves barking at the tree to his left where most of the owls nested.
He counted them and saw that there were five of them. Then, he used his senses and perceived that they were all at the third stage of body strengthening. Only the big owl might be able to handle one of those. And then again, it would depend on how the battle went.
An owl was strong while in flight but if he was held on the ground… He wasn't quite optimistic about his own chances were he to fight these wolves. He could probably take on one but the five…Unlikely. There was strength in numbers and the first realm of body strengthening only strengthened the body as its name implied. There was a gap in strength but it wasn't that big.
What happened next stunned him though. Rocks the size of their head began to rain down from the tree top. And the wolves were pelted down into mincemeat from the collisions. Moments later, a few big owls led by the big owl with scars came down and began to feast upon the dead bodies of the wolves.
From time to time, he could see them take out a shiny crystal the size of a rice grain and eat it with pleasure. Those were the wolf's beast cores. And they contained the spiritual energy they had accumulated.
That's when he was enlightened on a different way to intake spiritual energy. No wonder the big owls were so much stronger compared to the others. It was because they ate the cores of other beasts.