“Xue Long? I don’t know such a man.” The early Greater Heaven stage man said with a face filled with confusion, as if he had never heard that name before.
Nie Tian hesitated for a moment and suddenly realized that Xue Long must have been a fake name, but he didn’t know his real name.
However, he was one hundred percent sure that the man in front of him was somehow related to Xue Long, for they practiced the same sword incantation.
Looking at the man, Nie Tian explained, “I know a man. He’s at the late Greater Heaven stage. The sword incantation he practices is exactly like yours. And he told me that his name was Xue Long. I only helped you for his sake. He did me a big favor once.”
“My name is Xu Hu, and we’re from the Xu Clan. Back in the day, our clan served the Cao Clan. However, due to various reasons, our clan declined, and now only it exists in name.” The Greater Heaven stage man fell silent for a while before continuing, “If my speculations are correct, the person you were talking about is not Xue Long, but rather Xu Long. He’s... my eldest brother.”
“That’s probably it,” Nie Tian said, nodding.
“Where did you meet my eldest brother?” Xu Hu asked.
“Umm… not in the Realm of a Hundred Battles,” Nie Tian replied.
Xu Hu smiled bitterly. “That’s about right. He has long since left the Realm of a Hundred Battles after certain things happened.”
Nie Tian didn’t show much interest in what had happened to the Xu Clan. He had only helped them because he thought he owed it to Xue Long. “Well, have you seen a group of people from the Cloudsoaring Sect in the Realm of Flame Heaven?”
“No, we haven’t,” Xu Hu shook his head.
“We were told about a place...” Luo Xin jumped in and described the location Xu Shan had told them about to Xu Hu. Afterwards, she asked, “Have you been to that area?”
Xu Hu’s expression suddenly flickered. He glanced around somewhat cautiously, then said in a low voice, “The place you are talking about is called Black Water Lake. There aren’t many spirit beasts in that area, but recently a bunch of cruel and merciless foreign Qi warriors have appeared and killed many fellow explorers there.”
Luo Xin’s expression flickered. “How do you know that?”
Fear could be seen in Xu Hu’s eyes as he explained, “We just came back from there. We saw quite a few corpses of exploration teams just like ours. As you know, if people are attacked and killed by spirit beasts, their bodies are picked clean with no flesh left behind. The bodies of those who were killed by humans and those who were killed by spirit beasts are completely different, with the biting wounds and all...
“We didn’t actually meet that group of killers, but we knew they were in that area, and that they were very powerful.
“The spirit beasts around Black Water Lake alone were already hard enough to deal with. Adding in a group of bloodthirsty killers, we realized we weren’t strong enough, and thus withdrew from that area.
“However, we didn’t expect that we would encounter this herd of spirit beasts while we were leaving.”
“Oh, so that’s how it is.” Nie Tian nodded gently and said without any hesitation, “Good luck to you. We’ve got to go now.”
“Thank you.” Xu Hu expressed his gratitude.
“You’re welcome.” With these words, Nie Tian and Luo Xin hastened on towards Black Water Lake.
After bidding farewell to Nie Tian and Luo Xin, Xu Hu and his team processed the spirit beast’s body and headed back towards the Dong Clan.
It wasn’t long before they ran into Dong Li, who had disguised herself.
From time to time, she would hold her milky-white arm close to her mouth and whisper into a bracelet, as if she were communicating with others.
Upon seeing Xu Hu and his team, she took the initiative to approach them. Her strange gaze ran up and down him before she asked, “Did you meet a young man and woman?” She described Nie Tian’s appearance.
With a vigilant expression, Xu Hu shook his head and said, “No.”
“I’m their friend. I have urgent business to discuss with them.” Dong Li put on a charming smile as she pulled out a medallion from her waist pocket and showed it to Xu Hu.
Even though Xu Hu didn’t recognize the disguised Dong Li, he felt deep veneration upon seeing that medallion. “Miss Dong!”
When the Xu Clan had struggled in despair, the Dong Clan had reached out to them, which was why, when Xue Long had recognized Dong Li and Han Mu in the Realm of Split Void, he had changed his target and chased after Li Langfeng instead.
“I have things I need to discuss with them,” Dong Li repeated.
After learning that it was Dong Li, Xu Hu brought out every detail about his encounter with Nie Tian and Luo Xin, as well as the group of strangers who were killing other explorers.
“Alright, thank you. You can go now.” Dong Li waved her hand, giving them permission to leave. After they left, the look in her eyes turned grim as she muttered, “I can’t believe those bastards actually dare to dishonor our rules in our clan’s territory!”
She had never been known as a kind person. However, as the Dong Clan’s representative who was in charge of the adjacent areas of the Dong Clan, even though she was full of evil tricks, she had never acted against the rules in her own dominion.
This was why she had taken her lackeys to the Realm of Split Void, where they had fed the evil and bloodthirsty side of their nature under the mask of the Fang.
Upon hearing that a group of strangers dared to kill whoever they wanted to and disrespected the rules set by the Dong Clan, she instantly grew furious.
She held her bracelet close to her mouth and whispered orders into it. “Those who are currently on the east side, march towards Black Water Lake as soon as you receive this message. A group of foreign rats are acting recklessly on our turf. Ferret them out!”
According to the rules, the Dong Clan would allow foreigners to gather spirit plants and hunt spirit beasts in open areas.
Thanks to their rules, the safe zone around the Dong Clan grew larger and larger, and people discovered more and more spirit plants and medicinal ingredients.
Since there were simply too many spirit beasts in the Realm of a Hundred Battles, even the Dong Clan wouldn’t be able to kill them all.
Having people from the other realms kill spirit beasts in areas near the Dong Clan would not only reduce the number of spirit beasts, but it would also clear out more usable space for the Dong Clan.
Other than Spirit Plant Mountain, which was the largest spirit plant growing region, the Dong Clan had opened up many other growing regions within a 50 kilometer radius from their headquarters.
Most of the growing regions were guarded by powerful Dong Clan members, in case spirit beasts would come to ravish them.
The primary reason why the Realm of a Hundred Battles allowed foreign Qi warriors to explore their land was that they could wear down the number of the spirit beasts.
If the Qi warriors only entered their realm to fight each other, instead of slaughtering spirit beasts, the unattended spirit beasts would accumulate enough energy and numbers to attack their growing regions, which would negate their original purpose.
Therefore, Qi warriors from the Dong Clan would patrol the nearby areas on a regular basis to prevent Qi warriors from fighting each other.
It was because the Dong Clan had been secretly maintaining order in their territory that Nie Tian and Luo Xin hadn’t encountered any fierce battles between human Qi warriors along their way. All they had witnessed were bloody fights between spirit beasts and human Qi warriors.
The foreign Qi warriors were in violation of the Dong Clan’s rules by killing other Qi warriors in the Dong Clan’s territory.
In a location close to Black Water Lake.
Eight people from the Cloudsoaring Sect, including Zhan Yuan, Jiang Lingzhu, Ye Gumo, Nie Donghai, and Nie Qian, were scattered in the shadow of a mountain peak, shock and fear filling their faces.
Under the fierce midday sun, none of them complained about the scorching heat. All they could feel was the frigid coldness in their hearts.
At the beginning, there had been a total of 17 people on their team, but now they only had 8 left.
They had been surprised by spirit beasts, and 9 of their members had lost their lives by spirit beasts’ mouths.
However, right now, they weren’t afraid of those spirit beasts around Black Water Lake, but rather a group of human Qi warriors.
Not long ago, when they had been exploring around Black Water Lake, they had seen a group of Qi warriors that was larger and more powerful than them being rounded up and attacked by another group of Qi warriors.
The attackers only shot brief, meaningful gazes at them before going back to attacking and killing their opponents.
Even though Nie Donghai and his team had left in time, their minds had been clouded by a thick haze.
As those men saw them hurry away, the look in their eyes had been more terrifying than the spirit beasts’.
They knew perfectly clearly that when those men were finished with those explorers, they would view them as their new target and start chasing them down.
“Should we go back now?” Jiang Lingzhu asked.
Zhan Yuan sighed and said, “Yeah, it’s about time we went back, but I’m just afraid that we might run into them again on our way back.”
Translator: Alcohol Sword Immortal a.k.a. Beerblade. (Follow me on Twitter)
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招 兵 买 马 (zhāo bīng mǎi mǎ)
Meaning: recruiting soldiers and buying up horses; enlarge an army/organization/company by recruiting people.