The Nascent Soul Stage Cultivator’s end made all the Cultivators including Li Yao’s sigh. They could not help but feel sorry for the guy.
The Cloud Qin Gold Statues and the path to the deities’ realm were priceless treasures that could awaken the infinite greed buried at the bottom of anyone’s heart, forcing them to break the restraint of their rationality and do the craziest things.
The small exploration squad that had been established was probably not the first fleet that had arrived in the Land of Eternal Night without informing the court and the six major sects, nor would it be the last one.
At that moment, countless more exploration teams and Cultivators must have lost their way in the Land of Eternal Night, waiting to be torn into shreds by the freezing tempests!
Were they stupid? Maybe.
However, were Li Yao and his companions any better than the guys who broke into the Land of Eternal Night recklessly?
It was true that they were well prepared and had the best gear and experts, which allowed them to resist the scourge of the tempests and possibly to reach the depths of the Land of Eternal Night and dig out the legendary Divine Palace successfully.
But when the day did come, and when the Cloud Qin Gold Statues and the path to the deities’ realm were unfolded in front of them, would they be caught in a storm that was even more horrendous than the tempests, one that rose from everybody’s heart, enough to destroy all their trust and rationality and make them kill each other?
The discovery of the debris added to the grave atmosphere in the exploration fleet that was vaguely divided into three forces.
Qi Zhongdao went to Li Yao, Yan Liren, Ba Xiaoyu, and Master Bitter Cicada to discuss solutions more than once, restating that the five of them must be united as the pillar to keep the situation from going out of control no matter how chaotic it was later.
Emperor Phoenix summoned Li Yao quite a few times, too. Every time, he simply asked Li Yao some questions regarding the production of magical equipment respectfully and never mentioned the discovery of the Divine Palace. However, he expressed his support for Li Yao to establish an independent sect subtly between the lines. The support that he promised was greater after every meeting. Even Li Yao felt more or less intrigued.
For the rest of the journey, the dozens of high-level Cultivators in the Nascent Soul Stage expanded the search range at the cost of tremendous crystals. As they expected, they discovered another three spots of debris.
The smallest of them had only one flying boat, but the largest one actually boasted almost ten airships where the Cultivators from dozens of sects were held!
It was a pity that their flying boats had not been solid enough for them to resist the tempests. Also, they lacked the state-of-the-art Heaven Magnetic Measurement Instrument and a precise map of the Divine Palace. As a result, they could only wander on the snow field like blind people riding blind horses. It was inevitable that they had an accident. All one thousand Cultivators had been turned into frozen statues.
Judging from the traces left on the debris, it seemed that a few experts at the peak of the Core Formation Stage and in the Nascent Soul Stage had managed to escape the blizzard.
However, without the protection of the flying boats and the support of sufficient resources, it was unbearable to imagine how long they could survive on the freezing Land of Eternal Night and what a gory ending would become of them.
The last debris, on the other hand, was different from the debris that they had discovered earlier.
Most of the corpses had become broken limbs and torsos. Countless flowers of blood seemed to be thriving on the snowy earth. All the crystals and resources in the flying boats had been plundered. The Cosmos Rings and the bags on all the Cultivators were gone, too.
The ferocious animals in the snow field might feed on the bodies, but they would certainly never take way the Cosmos Rings.
It was evident that the victims had not been killed by the tempests but assaulted by the enemy.
A lot of dead bodies of foreign Cultivators, who was wearing the robes in a different style from the central plateaus and had tremendous tattoos on their faces with giant gold rings on their ears, were also found on the spot. They should be the Cultivators from Ghost Qin.
It was certainly not good news that the Ghost Qin team was faster than them.
Thankfully, the internal organs of quite a few bodies had not entirely frozen yet, and the vague stench of blood still lingered in the air, suggesting that the battle did not happen a long time ago. It was possible that the attack took place yesterday or the day before.
Before Wang Xi escaped, he had grabbed the map core of the Divine Palace, but Li Yao had kept the Thousand Stars Tray to himself.
It was unlikely that there would be a replica of the Thousand Stars Tray, which was a piece of magical equipment that was specially designed to parse the map core.
Therefore, at that moment, both parties were using the imprecise map drawn based on Li Yao and Wang Xi’s memories to guide the way.
In the meantime, Ghost Qin, the Heaven Battering Army, and Ghost Character were unlikely to possess localization tools as precise as the device from the royal observatory.
Therefore, everybody was still almost at the same location before the start line. It remained to be seen which of them would reach the ‘Divine Palace’ sooner!
The traces of the Ghost Qin were like a whip in the ass for the exploration fleet from the Great Qian Dynasty. They rushed at their top speed without considering the cost at the risk of dismembering the flying boats. Finally, they reached the coordinates of the Divine Palace according to the map five days later.
The point on the map in Li Yao’s memory and the location of the fleet according to the Heaven Magnetic Measurement Instrument overlapped.
The tiny point on the map was actually a vast land with a coverage of almost a hundred square kilometers in reality.
Considering the error of the Heaven Magnetic Measurement Instrument, the specific range of the Divine Palace could be anywhere in the hundreds of kilometers around them.
The weird world in front of them, on the other hand, made all the Cultivators look particularly awful.
Starting from the previous night, a vague mist had risen up on the Land of Eternal Night.
At first, nobody had thought much of it. It had never occurred to them that mist was highly unlikely to appear in a terrible environment with a temperature of below minus sixty degrees!
Perhaps, it was not mist but a certain uncanny natural phenomenon similar to mist.
As they approached the Divine Palace, the ‘mist’ had grown more and more intense. In the end, it looked like an ocean of clouds that was flowing on the earth. It was barely possible to see one’s own fingers after the Cultivators walked into it!
The mist boasted a strong suppressive effect on spiritual energy. Both the Cultivators and their magical equipment were having problems with spiritual energy disorder when they were placed in the middle of the mist.
“The Divine Palace could be anywhere in the hundreds of kilometers nearby. It is hidden right inside the mist!
“Let’s set up camp at the edge of the mist. Connect all the flying boats with chains. Dig holes in the snow field and fix the anchors on the solid rocks deep below the snow!
“Send out exploration teams in different batches and search in all directions. Also, according to the map, divide the five hundred square kilometers nearby into grids of one square kilometer. Then, mark every grid after it has been explored!
“The experts from Ghost Qin, the Heaven Battering Army, the White Lotus Cult, and Ghost Character are likely to be hiding on the opposite of the mist. Stay alert, everybody!”
Qi Zhongdao issued orders unhurriedly.
A camp made of twenty-six flying boats was established quickly. Bronze pillars were erected, constructing a defense rune array that was enough to resist the blizzard.
Li Yao and the other Nascent Soul Stage Cultivators, each leading an exploration team, went into the mist in search for the Divine Palace.
However, the moment that he entered the hazy mist, Li Yao realized how tricky the operation would be.
The mist was like an invisible, yet unbreakable maze and cage. After only several hundred meters, the temporary camp made of the twenty-six flying boats had already disappeared. Even the dazzling brilliance on the masts, which was supported to provide guidance for them, was as lackluster as a dying firefly.
When he roared to the outside world, the soundwaves seemed to be absorbed by puffy cotton, and it was barely audible fifty meters away.
The exploration team that he led had fifty members, but he could only see the shadows of the ten or so people closest to him. As for those further away, he could neither see nor hear them.
They found themselves accidentally trespassing on a weird, white world that replaced the previous world that had been living in. There was nothing except for themselves between the sky and the earth. Even their own breath and heartbeat were swallowed by the mist when they did not pay attention to listen to them.
Li Yao had thought about whether or not he could soar into the atmosphere and search for the Divine Palace from above.
When he had a try, however, he discovered that he was faced with an ocean of ivory clouds, and all the mountains appeared and disappeared like lone mountains. It was impossible to observe the details on the ground at all.
Therefore, they had to resort to the clumsiest way by groping inch after inch and setting up enormous marks in the zones that they had explored.
Thankfully, they had thousands of members. Other than those stationed in the camp, it was enough to build almost thirty search teams. When they pushed forward together, the speed of exploration was quite impressive.
After only three days, the zones closest to the camp had been explored. Everybody was moving toward the center of the mist.
As a result, the connection with the rear became even more difficult. Also, the temperature at the center of the mist was even lower, and the air was more corrosive to human bodies and magical equipment. The Cultivators in the Refinement Stage and the Building Foundation Stage could not last for belong before they had to go back to the camp to rest and recover.
Even the Core Formation Stage Cultivators and the Nascent Soul Stage Cultivators such as Li Yao were exhausted and miserable when they exploited their brain cells to release their telepathic thoughts in search of the Divine Palace while they were exposed to the mist for a long time.
Li Yao took a deep breath. The air immediately darted out of his face like an arrow and soon melted into the overwhelming mist around.
It was the seventeenth zone that he had explored. Still, he had found nothing. Except for the solid, frozen soil and the ice and rocks too thick to the measured, absolutely nothing.
Judging from the scale of the Divine Palace on the map, the ‘palace’ was so large that it was almost a minor city. If it was there, there was no way that they would not have found it after such a long time.
Unless, of course, the Divine Palace was below their feet, and it was a vast underground city.
If that was the case, things would be more troublesome. They had to enhance the magnitudes of their telepathic thoughts so that they could search below the ice. The cost of time and crystals would more than double.
While Li Yao was pondering, he suddenly felt a strong sense of danger.
His nose flapping, he inhaled the air that was as sharp as a saber, only to feel that it was stinging from his nostrils to his lungs.
The temperature had dropped more than ten degrees in that moment, and it was still dropping!