Fatty, Black, and the two other hulks in beast pelts were dressed as swordsmen transporting the captured slaves, while the wagon drivers were bewitched by Yun Ruoyan’s poison. The wagons arrived at their destination only in the evening.
The spirit crystal veins were enclosed in a large wall of stone, one that made the mines look like a steel bucket. Standing atop the stone walls were guards at whom Black waved. The gates to the front door slowly creaked open, and the five wagons carrying sixty or so prisoners trailed in.
“Ah, where are the usual guards?” The dark-skinned man who opened the gates was clearly quite familiar with the usual guards who transported slaves over from the Pi manor. Black frowned and stared at the man, and the fatty quickly interrupted, “They were assigned to a different set of tasks, so we’ll be the ones responsible for transporting prisoners now.”
“Of course, of course!” the man quickly replied. He had no ulterior motives for asking such a question; it was pure curiosity. On the Mingyuan continent, it wasn’t unheard of for swordsmen to kill in a fit of anger, so the man didn’t dare ask too many questions.
“Where’s the supervisor?” Black asked.
“He’s currently at the mine.” The guard directed them toward a series of stone houses, all secured with iron grilles, likely where the slaves would be kept. The slaves’ wagons were brought to a series of empty rooms. The guard unlocked the grilles, and the slaves were herded inside the rooms.
Yun Ruoyan followed the other prisoners out of the wagons and noticed that the entire row of rooms seemed to be empty.
“Where are all the slaves?” Fatty asked. “Why are the rooms all empty?”
“They’re all at the mine,” the guard replied. “Yesterday, while prospecting, we discovered a tremendous outpouring of spiritual energy, and the supervisor suspected the presence of a sage-grade spirit crystal vein. Everyone was sent to that site for manpower.”
“A sage-grade spirit crystal!” Fatty and Black’s eyes both lit up, and they glanced surreptitiously at Yun Ruoyan and Xue Ji, who was standing alongside her. Yun Ruoyan noticed that Xue Ji’s breathing seemed to have become labored.
During the wagon ride, she had learned about the different grades of spirit crystals from Xue Ji. There existed low-, mid-, and high-grade crystals. Low-grade crystals were the weakest in terms of spiritual energy, and could be used as coins or currency. Mid-grade crystals contained a moderate amount of spiritual energy, and were decent for cultivation. High-grade crystals were filled with spiritual energy, and were most ideal for cultivation.
A Fei’s and Xue Ji’s spirit crystals were both high-grade, as was the spirit crystal that Fatty gave Li Mo. In contrast, the spirit crystal that Yun Ruoyan had obtained from the long-faced guard was only mid-grade.
Xue Ji told Yun Ruoyan that there also existed sage-grade spirit crystals, but they were immensely rare. Apparently, a piece of sage-grade spirit crystal the size of an egg would entirely obviate a cultivator’s need for meditating and gathering spiritual energy from the heavens. Instead, it would be able to nourish one’s spiritual vortex and replenish any spiritual energy that was consumed on its own.
After Yun Ruoyan and the others entered the stone rooms, Fatty, Black, and the other two swordsmen left with the guard.
At midnight, Fatty and Black entered the stone room that Yun Ruoyan was in and began discussing how to steal the spirit crystals and flee.
“We’re damn lucky,” Black crowed. “I thought we’d only be able to get some high-grade spirit crystals at the most, but a sage-grade spiritual vein…!”
“Right, right?” Fatty seemed as excited as Black was. “A piece of sage-grade spirit crystal would be enough to make me a sword saint!”
Fatty’s words and excitement were contagious, and everyone’s eyes began to glow with greed. The main problem that they would have to resolve now was how to take over the vein without alerting anyone more powerful.
“The guards are all ninth-rank blademasters and below,” Yun Ruoyan began, “so my bewitching powder will work on them all.”
Everyone had seen how efficacious her poison was when she used it against the wagon drivers, so they all nodded.
“As for dealing with the supervisor and those guards who are beyond ninth-rank, that’ll be your job.” Yun Ruoyan turned to Black and Fatty.
Black and Fatty glanced at each other, seemingly to goad each other into speaking. Eventually, Fatty replied, “It’s not that I’m cowardly, but I don’t think the two of us will be able to handle cultivators too much stronger than we are. According to that guard from back there, the supervisor and his guards are at least mid-ninth-rank blademasters, and we wouldn’t be a match for them.”
“Use this.” Yun Ruoyan took out a black porcelain bottle from her robes. “If we can’t beat them in a straight fight, we’ll just use poison. Put this in their food, and they’ll be easy prey.”
The poison in the black porcelain bottle was something that Qiuqiu had just taught Yun Ruoyan. Because of Yun Ruoyan’s advancement, her poisons were far more toxic than ever.
The supervisor and his guards only returned to the slaves’ residences the next day. If Yun Ruoyan were present, she would have recognized the supervisor as the head of the Zhang family, whom she had seen during the performance about a week ago.
The Zhang family was actually a family of slaves subordinate to the Pi family who had made a name for themselves managing the Pi spirit crystal veins. The Pi family had at least a dozen families like the Zhangs under their control. Black and Fatty took the initiative to get close to the head of the Zhang family, who was happy to make connections with some high-ranking swordsmen from the Pi family. That afternoon, the head of the Zhang family hosted a banquet to welcome the swordsmen and thank them for bringing the slaves over.
Black, Fatty, and the two other pretend-swordsmen asked that the current guards of the mine also be invited over. Because the head of the Zhang family was so pleased at the recent discovery of the sage-grade spirit crystal vein, he acceded to the request and made the banquet a rather lavish affair for about twenty or so people.
“Allow me to offer you a toast.” Fatty drained a full bowl of wine, not even leaving a single drop behind.
“Excellent!” The head of the Zhang family patted Fatty’s shoulder. While the crowd was distracted by his antics, Black took the opportunity to drop a few pills into the flasks of wine nearby.
Although Fatty looked rather dopey, he was surprisingly adept at social interaction. As he drank, he heaped praise upon praise on the head of the Zhang family, distracting him from noticing what Black and his two other teammates were doing.
“Have you reported the vein to Lord Pi yet?” Fatty asked.
“No, not yet.” The head of the Zhang family drank a bowl of wine that Fatty handed him. “We have to verify and confirm its existence before doing so—a sage-grade spiritual vein is so important that we wouldn’t be able to bear the consequences of any sort of mistake.”
“Of course, of course!” Fatty gave the man a thumbs-up.
“Heh, given what our master’s like, you’d better be astute if you don’t want to die an early death—” Before the head of the Zhang family could finish talking, he suddenly felt his throat constrict, as though something had blocked off the airflow through his nose and mouth at the same time. His face turned red, then white.
“Is something wrong?” Fatty asked.
The head of the Zhang family only had time to give Fatty a single glance before he slumped down against his seat, blood trickling down his nose. The other guards behaved similarly; some died instantly, and those that didn’t were greatly weakened.
“Goodness, Yun Ruoyan’s poison really did all this?” Fatty stood up and glanced all around him. He, Black, and the two other pretend-swordsmen had all consumed an antidote ahead of time. All around them, cultivators more advanced than they were lay unconscious, blood trickling out of their orifices.
At the same time, Yun Ruoyan had finished bewitching a group of weaker guards in the vicinity. She directed them toward the stone houses, where she met up with Fatty, Black, and the others, then released Zhuo Yifeng, Lin Qingxue, and Xue Ji. Following the guards, they headed toward the mine and the sage-grade spirit crystal vein…
Having won five consecutive bouts against the slaves of the other great families, Li Mo requested that he, along with Qin Feng and Lin Tianming, be freed from the prison they were currently in. Pi Yan agreed, and they were moved to the coal cellar where Li Mo had originally been kept.
When Lin Qingchen saw Lin Tianming, she gaped, then stepped forward robotically as if she couldn’t believe what she were seeing. After a heartfelt reunion, Lin Tianming fell back into a state of suspended animation, his body far too weak to sustain much physical exertion.
Lin Qingchen wanted to treat him at once, but she didn’t have her medical supplies with her. Her storage pouch and storage ring had been confiscated by the supervisor of the slaves in the Pi household, and Whitey along with it. These last few days, Lin Qingchen had been working under him in a bid to find and reclaim what she had lost.
That night, as Li Mo lay in his bed, he thought about how to bring Lin Qingchen, Qin Feng, and Lin Tianming all out of the Pi manor. Escaping with only Lin Qingchen wouldn’t be a big issue, and adding Qin Feng to the mix wasn’t too problematic. The cause of his struggle was Lin Tianming.
While deep in thought, Li Mo suddenly sensed an aura approaching the coal cellar, causing him to sit up straight and dart to the door.
“Brother Li, it’s me,” the guest whispered the moment Li Mo’s hand approached his neck.
“You?” Li Mo didn’t retract his hand. “What are you doing here?” The guest was none other than the handsome, well-dressed slave from the Feng family whom he had fought.
“My master bade me come,” he replied. “He and my uncle are both particularly appreciative of you, Brother Li, and they had me bring a few things over for you.” He handed Li Mo a ring that contained some precious, high-grade spiritual pills, as well as a piece of high-grade spirit crystal. “My master could sense an injury to your heart, and these pills are meant to help you recover.”
Only then did Li Mo remove his hand from the man’s neck. “If not for your uncle, I wouldn’t be trapped here. What do they want from me?”
“My master hopes that you’ll join the Feng family, Brother Li, then help us take down the Pis.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter