The richly dressed male was seeking out Li Mo as a representative of the Feng family.
“I’d be happy to work with you to defeat the Pi family, but not to join the Feng family to do so.”
“Brother Li,” the man continued. “If you want to establish a foothold here on the Mingyuan continent, you’ll need to belong to one of the seven families. The Pi and Feng families are the strongest among the seven; the Pi are ferocious and ruthless, the Feng benevolent and charitable. You’ve caught the eye of the head of the Feng family, so if you join us, you’ll be sure to rise up the ranks—”
“I thank the Feng family for its generosity, but my mind is set. I have no intention of being a slave or servant,” Li Mo interrupted.
“Alright,” the man finally replied, regretfully. “I’ll let my master know of your intention.” He cupped his hands, then turned to leave.
“Hold it! Tell your young master to be careful of the girl by his side,” Li Mo called out. “She’s been possessed by a shade, and her body’s filled with corpse poison. The man who bit you had been poisoned by the shade.”
Last night, during the slave bouts, Li Mo noticed that one of the girls standing behind Feng Mian was Yi Qianying. That shade was clearly adept at manipulating human emotions: in only a short period of time, it had made use of Yi Qianying’s delicate, charming features to elevate herself from a lowly slave girl to one of Feng Mian’s personal servants.
Although she had lowered her head and hidden herself behind the crowd all last night, Li Mo had still caught sight of her.
The man frowned and cupped his hands again. “Thank you for the reminder, Brother Li.”
Proceeding from the slaves’ stone rooms to the mine was a four-hour-long trek. The vein was a mountain of pale white stone, on which not even a sprig of grass grew. Under the brilliant sunlight, the whiteness of the stone was blinding to the eye.
By the foot of the mountain were hundreds of slaves, all working ceaselessly to excavate the vein further. Behind them was a man shouting at them to work harder and whipping them when they tried to take a break.
“Work, all of you! Don’t you dare slack off now! If you can’t reach the heart of the vein today, none of you will sleep or eat!” He crossed his arms and punctuated his words with the crack of his whip.
“Sister Ruoyan,” Lin Qingxue murmured. “This is cruelty!”
Yun Ruoyan patted her back.
“Who’s the supervisor here?” Fatty called out, sitting down on a large boulder. Dressed in the attire of a Pi swordsman, Fatty perfectly mimicked their brutish appearance. The man immediately bowed and jogged over. “Master Swordsman, I’m one of the supervisors here. And you are—”
Before the supervisor could finish, Yun Ruoyan threw a pinch of bewitching powder in his face. “Gather all the supervisors here,” she commanded.
After about fifteen minutes, the dozen or so supervisors had all gathered. They were all ninth-rank blademasters. While Yun Ruoyan could beat most of them in a straight fight, it would be difficult to deal with them together.
“Brothers!” Fatty called out. “I’m here on behalf of Lord Pi, who heard that a sage-grade spirit crystal vein had been found. I’m here with a cask of good wine to reward everyone for your efforts; once the spirit crystals are mined, you’ll surely be rewarded further.”
Black poured out the wine into a dozen large bowls and motioned for the supervisors to have their fill. The guards looked at each other, but no one stepped forward.
“My gratitude to Lord Pi!” The supervisor controlled by Yun Ruoyan stepped forward, took a bowl of wine, then downed it without hesitation. Only then did the other supervisors walk up and do the same.
Yun Ruoyan counted to ten, at which point the guards slumped dead to the ground.
They decided not to immediately free the slaves, firstly because the Pi family was particularly brutal against slaves who tried to escape, and secondly because they were frankly in no shape to run. Instead, Yun Ruoyan had all the slaves sent back to the stone houses, where they could rest and have their wounds treated.
In just two hours, the only ones left by the vein were Yun Ruoyan, Lin Qingxue, Zhuo Yifeng, and the cultivators wearing beast pelts. They walked toward where the slaves had been mining, the dense spiritual energy in the air a clear indicator that they were moments away from breaching the sage-grade spirit crystal vein.
Mo’er was just about to reach the Pi city when it suddenly noticed a sparkling lake below it. It swooped down, intending to have a sip of the sparkling water, when a black, dog-like creature suddenly leapt out of nowhere and pounced on Mo’er.
Caught by surprise, the cloud-swallowing glutton had Mo’er’s claws in its mouth by the time it finally reacted and took on its usual, larger form. Only then did it manage to save its claws, but it still received a rather serious bite in the process.
Mo’er’s cultivation was the equivalent of a ninth-rank blademaster’s, whereas the cloud-swallowing glutton was at the level of a peak ninth-rank blademaster. Judging that it wouldn’t be able to defeat the beast, Mo’er tried to run off.
The cloud-swallowing glutton leapt again in mid-air and caught Mo’er’s neck in its jaws. Mo’er squirmed and tried to break free, at the cost of a chunk of meat being ripped away from its neck.
Mo’er turned back to the beast and cawed, causing the cloud-swallowing glutton to turn dizzy as it tumbled to the ground. Seizing the opportunity, Mo’er fled.
The cloud-swallowing glutton took a few steps and shook its head to dispel the remnant effects of Mo’er’s caw. It wanted to continue giving chase, but Pi Batian stopped him. It could only howl at Mo’er, barely a speck in the sky, before depositing a roll of paper by Pi Batian’s side. One of Pi Batian’s swordsmen picked it up and handed it to him.
Pi Batian unrolled the parchment, then began to frown. “Looks like these groundhogs don’t want to live.”
“Brother, what’s wrong?” Pi Yang asked.
“If I’m not wrong, this is a note from that groundhog you keep bringing up, Yun Ruoyan.” Pi Batian tossed the piece of parchment to Pi Yang.
Pi Yang glanced at the note and confirmed his brother’s hypothesis: who else would write to Li Mo and address herself as Yan’er? “This—she’s out of her mind!” he shouted, once he had skimmed the contents of the message.
“She won’t get away.” Pi Batian had his guards direct him to the spirit crystal vein that Yun Ruoyan referred to in her message, then galloped off with Pi Yang.
Li Mo gave Lin Tianming the spiritual pills he had received from the Feng man, and the high-grade spirit crystal to Qin Feng. They slowly recovered: Lin Tianming no longer ended up in a state of suspended animation so frequently, and Qin Feng finally broke through to peak ninth-rank, able to stand a fighting chance against the Pi swordsmen on his own.
Li Mo very much wanted to tell Yun Ruoyan about his sudden discovery of Lin Tianming. He’d tried multiple times over the last few days to summon Mo’er by whistling, but he never received a response. He then tried to contact Qiuqiu mentally, but again to no avail.
Li Mo frowned, and he couldn’t help turning anxious. That night, Li Mo again began to whistle. He was just about to give up when a small bird suddenly chirped back from high above. Its body was completely soaked with blood, and it dropped into his hands weakly.
“Mo’er,” Li Mo whispered. He saw that a large chunk of meat was missing from its neck, its arteries ruptured. Given how much blood it had lost, Li Mo doubted that it would survive the day. He then turned to Mo’er’s claws, which were likewise chewed to the bone. He guessed that Yun Ruoyan had sent him a message via Mo’er, one that had been intercepted midway—and the only creature he knew that could leave such severe wounds on Mo’er’s body was Pi Batian’s cloud-swallowing glutton.
Li Mo narrowed his eyes, more and more worried for Yun Ruoyan.
That night, when the man in a brocade robe came searching for Li Mo once more, he decided to accept the offer to join the Feng family. However, he brought up a request of his own: that the Feng family would be responsible for finding and protecting Yun Ruoyan as well.
Yun Ruoyan and the others had no clue that Pi Batian was honing in on their location. According to plan, they entered the mine shaft leading toward the sage-grade spiritual vein, one far deeper than they had originally expected, leading more than a thousand feet underground.
The cultivators wearing beast pelts were allegedly well-versed in hunting and mining, and the ancestor who had brought a few spirit crystals back to them was himself a miner in the Pi crystal veins. Fatty, Black, and the others led the way, Yun Ruoyan, Lin Qingxue, and Xue Ji walked in the middle, and Zhuo Yifeng guarded their back. Even before they reached the end of the shaft, they could see the milky-white glow of condensed spiritual energy.
At the same time, the spiritual energy density in the air reached such extremes that they almost felt as though they were swimming in it.
“The vein’s probably right ahead, everyone!” Black shouted. After turning a corner, a wall glowing with spiritual energy appeared in front of their eyes. “It’s right behind this wall!”
Although they could already sense the spiritual energy emanating from the vein, it was still blocked off by a thick layer of low- and mid-grade spirit crystals—the wall ahead of them. It was pitted and pockmarked, clearly the efforts of the slaves that had been working night and day for the excavation.
The cultivators wearing beast pelts immediately grabbed pickaxes and began to work. In the darkness illuminated only by the glow of the spiritual energy, it was near-impossible to tell the time. Faced with the glowing allure of spiritual energy, the miners worked without rest, dumping out cart after cart of low-grade spirit crystals, then mid-grade, as the glow of spiritual energy got brighter and brighter.
In the end, after the last cart of mid-grade spirit crystals had been emptied, a jade-white stone wall stood before the gathered cultivators...Previous Chapter Next Chapter