Soaring The Heavens Chapter 504
The vast skies and boundless earth stretched out in what seemed like an eternal expanse.
Five days later, the intermediary brought Miao Yi to descend within a dense forest. As though the two had never met before, he then handed the latter a jade archive, and said expressionlessly, "You'll find the details of your location on this jade archive. You just have to wait here!" The intermediary then flew off without giving so much as an explanation.
"Hey! Who am I supposed to wait for?" Miao Yi shouted, but the other party paid him no heed.
As he watched the intermediary disappear out of sight, Miao Yi opened up the jade archive and read it through. He noticed that his current location was within the Buddha Nation's borders, and that there was still a three-day journey to reach the Flowing Clouds Dune Sea that was marked on the map.
Initially, Miao Yi didn't know why the intermediary had him wait here, but after one whole day, he finally understood. One after the other, the nine Manor Heads had galloped on their dragon steeds and assembled at this location to meet up with him. It was then that Miao Yi realized that his current position was the rendezvous point with the other Manor Heads, and that Traversing Water Palace hadn't assigned them to the same location like they'd all thought. Moreover, there were intermediaries assigned to deliver them to different locations within the Buddha Nation prior to their meet-up. That way, there would be no chance of the intermediaries bumping into one another, and thus, they wouldn't know what Miao Yi and the others were sent here to do. The entire setup was quite secretive indeed.
That said, it was necessary for the intermediaries to send them here. If they were to make the trip on horseback, there was no telling when they'd arrive.
Now that everyone was here, Miao Yi scanned through the crowd and sighed, "From this moment on, we can only rely on ourselves."
As though they'd practiced it beforehand, the nine Manor Heads cupped their fists and said, "We shall follow the Captain's decree."
"You don't have to call me Captain. You just need to hold onto that sense of respect in your hearts. Otherwise, we will all die in Flowing Clouds Dune Sea. As a safety precaution, I suggest we all change our names. From now on, you can call me Niu" Miao Yi almost wanted to say Niu Youde out of habit, but he quickly realized that this name might be a little too conspicuous. There was no guarantee that someone might not have heard it before. Either way, if he used the name Niu Youde, then he was sure to attract some trouble. Miao Yi quickly corrected himself, "Just call me Niu Er!"
He really hadn't put much thought into this name. Still, it was easy to remember. The crowd quickly noted it down and started changing their own names as well.
"Deng Hu, Hu Yibai." Miao Yi called out two simple and easy-to-remember names and said, "There's a city fifty miles east. I want the two of you to go there and steal a few sets of clothes for the team. We're all too well-dressed and well-equipped to be loose cultivators. From this moment on, we have to act like poor folk" He then turned his gaze towards everyone's storage rings, took off his own and said, "Take off your storage rings and hide them well." He pointed back to the two men he just called out and said, "Of course, I'm not asking you to steal clothes that have been torn and ripped. Just get ones that look a little worn from being washed. Now go. We will wait for you here."
The two men that were called out were speechless. For esteemed Manor Heads like them to steal the clothes of mortals That said, they didn't dare disobey, as Traversing Water Palace had simply given Miao Yi too great of an authority. The two quickly acknowledged the order and departed.
Given their cultivations, stealing a few clothes from a mortal's house was obviously child's play. After two hours, they returned with a pile of old clothes, and the group then took their pick.
The team changed into the old clothes, and slightly ruffled up the hair that their handmaidens had neatly combed for them. They then got on their mounts and charged off under Miao Yi's lead.
The team rode on horseback for the next three days without pause and made their way out of Buddha Nation's territory. As they journeyed further and further, their surroundings grew more desolate. Eventually, they made their way into a vast arid desert.
Here, the scorching sun blazed vigorously, and the air was as dry as the winds were hot. The skies were oft patrolled by scavenging vultures, while the occasional little scorpion could be seen scuttling on the barren sands.
There was no one else in sight. The ten riders came to a halt atop a sand dune and scanned their surroundings. It seemed to them as though nothing but a desolate yellow was all that remained of the world.
It was Miao Yi's first time seeing a desert. He looked down at the map in his hand, then raised his head to look ahead as he mumbled, "Flowing Clouds Dune Sea, Flowing Clouds Dune Sea"
He had never come to Flowing Clouds Dune Sea before, and his knowledge of the place was also very limited. Moreover, he had to come on very short notice, so he didn't have enough time to fully understand the situation here. Before this, he'd never thought that he would come to this place. Who'd have guessed that he would be forced to come here so suddenly?
Many years ago when he just met Yao Ruoxian, the old man had told him about the geographical position of Flowing Clouds Dune Sea.
The Celestial Nation, Buddha Nation, and Boundless Nation had occupied one major continent, whereas the Yao Nation, Ghost Nation, and Devil Nation had occupied another major continent. The two largest and most suitable places for human life in the Lower Realm were thus divided amongst the Six Sages. Meanwhile, those that would not resign themselves to the Six Sages' rule were cast aside to live in other places.
These two major continents were shaped like crescent moons, and were adjoined by the tip. And the small piece of land that joined the Lower Realm's largest continents was none other than Flowing Clouds Dune Sea. This place was not suitable for human life at all, and even cultivators were unwilling to come here; its barren and desolate lands were like a dead zone. This all changed when the Netherdragon Ship appeared and attracted a large group of cultivators to stay here, thereby turning the whole place into the infamous Flowing Clouds Dune Sea of the cultivation realm.
As he stared at the barren wasteland before him, a memory from a forgotten time resurfaced in Miao Yi's mind. If someone were to ask if he had any acquaintances here in Flowing Clouds Dune Sea, it seemed he did have a few. Thinking back to the encounter he had in the Mystic Arts Temple all those years ago, Miao Yi remembered what the wild, sexy woman and her ragtag group said after she tricked him. She told him to look for her if he ever had the chance to visit Flowing Clouds Dune Sea, and said that she would buy him a drink and entertain him as a host.
How time flies! In the blink of an eye, a hundred years had passed since then. If Miao Yi didn't have to come to Flowing Clouds Dune Sea, he probably would've forgotten that he actually had such an encounter. He couldn't even remember how long it had been since he last thought back to that night. It seemed he'd never once thought about it after leaving the Mystic Arts Temple. The only reason why that particular memory had left such an impression on him was because of that exotic woman.
Even if he did look for that woman in Flowing Clouds Dune Sea now, she'd probably forgotten about the whole affair already, as he himself had barely remembered it. The other party's cultivation was extremely high, and he was probably nothing but a brief passerby in her eyes. She didn't even want to tell him her name. Why would she bother remembering the name of a weakling like him?
To think he had wanted to save the damsel in distress, when the damsel herself was someone with an insanely high cultivation. Miao Yi couldn't help shaking his head and laughing as he thought about what happened that night.
"Niu Niu Er, what's wrong?" The Manor Head that had changed his name to Deng Hu asked.
"It's nothing!" Miao Yi looked around and continued, "We still have to trek through the desert for three more days to reach our destination. The terrain here looks almost the same all throughout. Since it's our first time here, we need to remember the direction properly so that we don't get lost."
"Understood!" the crowd replied.
Miao Yi barked, "You'd all better keep those butt-kissing habits of yours in check. Get a clue already. The folks in this place utterly despise those of us from the administration. You should change those wretched habits of yours if you don't want to die!"
The crowd timidly acknowledged the order.
Just as they were about to continue onward, the sound of muffled hoofbeats suddenly came from behind. It was the sound of mounts galloping across the desert.
As the team turned back to look, they noticed three riders approaching them. There were two men and one woman, and they were all dressed in a very exotic manner. What caused the whole group to be alarmed was that the other party was actually charging straight for them!
The three riders approached, then brazenly circled around and slowly examined the ten of them.
Their leader was the girl with numerous tiny braids on her hair, decorated with a circlet made up of an assortment of multi-colored flowers. She had a dainty appearance, but at the same time, her facial features were sharp and well-defined, causing her to give off the aura of a young man. The girl tilted her head, her big, bright eyes narrowing at Miao Yi as she examined the latter. She then smiled cheerfully and asked, "Are you all heading to Flowing Clouds Dune Sea as well?"
Miao Yi nodded. "Yes, indeed!"
The girl smiled. "You must be first-timers here. I've never seen any of you in Flowing Clouds Dune Sea before."
Miao Yi smiled. "I've never met any of you before either."
The girl replied cheerfully, "I'm Cheng Yingwu. The Cheng for journey, Ying for eagle, and Wu for dance."
"A good name!" Miao Yi also introduced himself, "My name is Niu Er. Niu for stubborn as a bull, and Er for two."
The two men behind the girl exchanged glances when they saw Miao Yi's reaction. In these parts of Flowing Clouds Dune Sea, for someone to act calmly even after hearing the name Cheng Yingwu, it must definitely be his first time visiting. Not to mention, the name that Miao Yi gave sounded outright fake.
Cheng Yingwu shrugged and smiled. "Well, I suppose we're formally acquainted now." She then turned to the other Manor Heads and asked, "May I know what your names are?"
Miao Yi replied on their behalf, "I don't think we're on such good terms that we need to know so much about one another."
"Brother Niu is quite the cautious one." Cheng Yingwu pointed to the surroundings and said, "This desert is full of bandits. Why don't we go together? That way, we can look out for each other!"
Without any hesitation, Miao Yi answered, "Sure!"
Cheng Yingwu smiled, revealing the dimples on her face, as she waved her hand and led away the other two in her group.
Miao Yi also charged out on his mount and followed behind.
The other Manor Heads exchanged looks of worry with one another. Hu Yibai chased after Miao Yi and transmitted his voice over, "Niu Er, we need to be careful around these parts. People who take the initiative to come up to you like this could very well be hiding ulterior motives!"
Miao Yi replied in kind, "We are not familiar with this area. If the other party really does have a hidden agenda and intends to make a move on us, we won't be able to avoid it either way. Rather than having to constantly stay vigilant and deal with our enemies from the shadows, it's much safer to keep them close by our side. That way, we'll be able to deal with them if any abnormal situation arises. Tell the others to loosen up a bit. Stop looking so nervous. Are you that worried that the other party won't be able to sense your fear? The more frightened you appear, the higher the chances of them taking advantage of you!"
He suddenly raised his hand, pinching a little flower petal that flew over with his fingers, then brought it to his nose and took a whiff of its fragrance. He then looked forward. The petal had drifted over from the flower circlet on Cheng Yingwu's head. Several of them flew by in the wind from time to time.
Hu Yibai was a little speechless at Miao Yi's explanation. This logic was a little different from what his common sense dictated. That said, he didn't dare disobey Miao Yi's command, and quickly transmitted his voice over to the others, conveying Miao Yi's message.
At this time, one of the men behind Cheng Yingwu transmitted his voice over to her, asking, "Sixth Young Lady, this Niu Er looks like the person in the portrait. When should we make our move?"
Cheng Yingwu replied in kind, "I already know that. Don't act recklessly! Despite meeting us for the first time and having just a brief conversation, this guy still dares to follow us. Even though his eyes look laid-back and he doesn't seem to be anything but an ordinary guy, I'm sure there must be something else to him. Otherwise, his life wouldn't be worth a whopping ten million Gold Crystals. We can make our move once the preparations are all set. We must succeed in one go!"
"This Niu Er is obviously a made-up name. Why's the client not even willing to reveal this guy's true background?"
"That's not our concern. We just need to worry about bringing his head over to redeem our reward."
The sun was so furiously bright that it was a little too dazzling to the eyes, while the colors of the surrounding environment remained constant all throughout. It was like the inside of an oven.
Just like Yao Ruoxian had said, dragon steeds were unable to run freely in the desert. What's more, they had to expend a lot of energy just to gallop and even then, they weren't much faster than Miao Yi if he was running at full speed. That said, their stamina was much stronger. That much was unquestionable. Miao Yi roughly calculated in his mind. It seemed the three-day trip would be much longer than originally anticipated...