"I'm not busy, and you're not bothering me either. I have plenty of time." As she rested her head upon her arm, the Lady Boss gestured with her chin. "Sit down and talk with me for a bit. Don't always coop yourself up in your room. Tell me about the time they beat you up. I'll help you deal with them afterward."
"It's fine. I'm afraid that once you deal with them, they'll just take it out on me again." Miao Yi sighed, then lifted his leg over the stool and walked off.
The Lady Boss smiled. "Alright then. I'll be waiting for you on the rooftop tonight for a drink. My treat. Think of it as compensation for what they did. I won't leave until you show up."
"This…" Miao Yi revealed an apologetic smile. "I'm afraid I won't be able to attend."
The Lady Boss immediately raised an eyebrow. "This Lady Boss is so beautiful. Many people can only dream of getting me to buy them a drink. And you're declining my invitation?"
"I wouldn't dare!" Miao Yi pointed to the door. "I've been staying here for too long. I'm going to go out for a walk."
"Go out?" The Lady Boss frowned. "Little boy, don't say your big sister didn't warn you. With your cultivation, you'd best not run around outside before you possess enough strength. Otherwise, you might not even have enough money leftover to pay for your accommodation fees."
The scholar also circled around the counter and said, "Niu Er, your stay will be terminated after tonight. Why don't you just pay the fees first? That way, you won't have to worry about not having enough money for accommodation once you return."
"I probably won't be coming back so soon! Lady Boss, innkeeper, let us meet again if fate wills it!" said Miao Yi as he cupped his fists.
The other two were taken aback by his words. The Lady Boss stood up and asked, "You mean to say you're leaving?"
"If I ever get another chance, I'll come drink with you again!" Miao Yi cupped his fists again, then turned around and strode off.
The Lady Boss and scholar slowly followed him out the door and watched as he left!
Miao Yi walked towards the stable and pulled his mount out. While he was fixing up the stable, the carpenter suddenly transmitted his voice over. "Niu Er, don't say I didn't warn you. Someone has been watching you ever since you walked out yesterday. I suggest that you don't run around recklessly."
Miao Yi was taken aback. He responded in kind and thanked the carpenter. "I have to leave this place eventually. I can't spend the rest of my life cooped up in here."
Even though he did want to stay and continue cultivating here, that was simply not possible. Not only did he have loved ones waiting for him, there was just no way he could accept that Third Grade Transcendent Artifact for free. If he really went against the higher-ups' order, then not even the Tempest Tavern would be able to keep him safe. After all, who would dare take the Celestial Sage for a ride? Not unless that person was truly capable of hiding themselves out till the end of time, that is.
Miao Yi leaped up onto his dragon steed, then nodded towards the Lady Boss and the scholar. After which, he rode out the earthen gate and took a gander at the crowd outside.
As he swept his gaze across the crowd, Miao Yi was suddenly taken aback. Similarly, there were two in the crowd who shared the same reaction when they saw him as well. This was because these two people were none other than the Subjugation Crusade survivors—Pi Junzi and Tao Yongchun. The two of them were in quite the wretched state.
It was a given that the three of them would be surprised to bump into each other again, and under such circumstances, no less.
Pi Junzi and Tao Yongchun wanted to greet Miao Yi, but the latter quickly turned away and pretended not to recognize them. They exchanged looks with one another, then decided it was best to stay quiet as well.
As the person-in-charge issued the command, the people outside quickly leaped onto their mounts and started galloping towards the gate. Miao Yi quickly blended into the crowd as they passed by, and the whole group quickly departed.
The three people inside the courtyard looked at each other. From the looks of things, anyone who wasn't a complete idiot could tell that the crowd outside had only been waiting for Miao Yi before continuing on their journey.
The carpenter whispered, "I only went with him to the Celestial Nation's Chamber of Commerce yesterday, and there's already a group of people waiting for him today. It looks like his trip here is not as simple as it seems."
The Lady Boss huffed. "There's no way a Manor Head would come all the way out here on a simple errand. Although I have no idea what they're planning, sending someone with that level of cultivation to Flowing Clouds Dune Sea."
The carpenter said, "Let's not worry about what he's here to do. I just think it'll be dangerous for him now that he's out there. Yesterday, I found someone keeping an eye on him and tailing him from the shadows. If I wasn't around, I think that someone would have already made their move on him."
The Lady Boss gave a simple reply, her eyes gleaming...
Fifty riders galloped across the desert-scape filled with palm trees and houses, while a faint mist rolled about ten feet above their heads.
This was indeed a strange land. Every morning, at the break of dawn, a thin blanket of mist would envelop the skies, unabated by the blazing sun and the billowing winds. Then in the evenings, just before sunset, the clouds would fade away quietly. It was a very peculiar phenomenon indeed, giving the otherwise desolate landscape of Flowing Clouds Dune Sea an added touch of mystery that was enough to inspire awe in one's heart the first time they saw it.
Naturally, this strange phenomenon played no small part in how Flowing Clouds Dune Sea got its name. However, the 'Sea' in Flowing Clouds Dune Sea not only referred to the sea of sand that was all around, but also to the actual body of water that existed underneath the layer of sand and dirt. Below the ground, hidden away by the vast, boundless desert, was a great, dark ocean. Mysterious and profound, this ocean was tucked beneath the earth, never seeing the light of day.
Oddly enough, no one knew if it was because of the sand or the ocean underneath, but there would constantly be battles going around Flowing Clouds Dune Sea. Every time the earth cracked and the sands cascaded down into the sea, it would immediately solidify into a hard crust, and almost instantaneously cover the water underneath back up. This was also the reason why this vast desert was not swallowed up by water this entire time.
The reason why the locals had set up their houses on high ground was also quite simple; the higher areas were actually the islands on top of the ocean. It's just hard to tell because the whole place was almost always covered by sand. Every time there was a strong wind, one would be able to see the island that was hidden underneath. However, once the wind stopped, the sand would cover it all up again.
On the other hand, it was much more dangerous to build a house on low terrain. If anything were to happen and the earthen crust beneath the desert were to crack, there was a high chance that the house and its owners would sink into the ocean depths altogether.
Simply put, this place was filled with a baffling sense of mystery. Miao Yi had also heard some rumors about it from before, but only after coming here did he finally get to know the whole story from the cook and the others.
As Miao Yi and his company passed by the numerous houses along the streets, the people inside would occasionally peer out to take a gander at them. Meanwhile, the thirty administration officials that Guo Shaohai had arranged to go on this Moondawn harvesting excursion had already reported themselves to Miao Yi through voice transmission, indicating their adherence to his command.
"My lord, the entire Flowing Clouds Dune Sea has been divided into four search areas—north, south, east, and west. We will be responsible for searching in the western sector. The higher-ups insist that we are not to let go of a single clue, whether it be above ground, or below it! We will also need to submit a progress report to them once every ten days. Later on, they will be sending us extra help in batches, allocating up to a total of five hundred men to us, as it would be too conspicuous to send too many people here in one go. However, those joining us in the future would be ignorant as to the true purpose of this mission, and will simply abide by our commands."
The leader of this group of people reported everything to Miao Yi. He was the one originally tasked with taking charge of the group, but because Miao Yi had suddenly appeared, he was demoted to becoming his second-in-command.
Miao Yi cursed deep down, 'The whole Flowing Clouds Dune Sea is so damn huge. God knows when we'll find that accursed ghost ship that comes and goes as it pleases by searching blindly like this? Wouldn't it be better if they just sent those that could fly to search for it?'
Even though he was complaining, he knew that the idea itself was not practical. If the higher-ups had really sent a large batch of people flying around in search of the Netherdragon Ship, then it wouldn't just be the Celestial Nation troops searching for it; the other five nations would join the fray as well. Then there would be no point in keeping this whole thing a secret. Otherwise, this mission wouldn't have been so hush-hush in the first place.
'Good God! That Celestial Sage is planning to take the treasure of the Netherdragon Ship for herself! Is she plotting to unify the Six Nations?'
However, there was one thing he could be sure about—they weren't the only group that was sent on this mission. There were at least four groups searching the four sectors of Flowing Clouds Dune Sea, which meant that the Celestial Nation had readied two thousand men to scour the whole place.
'That damned ship has been missing for so many years. It might as well just never show up. Why'd it have to reappear and make my life so difficult? It would be fine if I can actually find it, but if not, god knows how much longer I would have to search for it in this god-forsaken desert before that woman the Celestial Sage is satisfied. Just think about the years of cultivation I'm wasting here.'
As he grumbled deep down, Miao Yi transmitted his voice over to the other party. "Alright! I keep feeling as though someone is following us. Have the men be more vigilant of their surroundings." He didn't forget the carpenter's warning before he left, and was prepared to break through the earth's crust and dive into the ocean the second he sensed something amiss.
The Vice-Captain quickly scanned his surroundings, thinking, 'Why am I not sensing anything?' However, he soon realized there must be something this 'Niu Er' had that he didn't for the higher-ups to appoint him as Captain all of a sudden. There was no harm in staying alert in this accursed place anyway, so he quickly conveyed the order down to the other subordinates.
As the group marched on, their formation gradually changed. The administration officials quickly went on high alert and watched their surroundings vigilantly. Miao Yi secretly nodded his head at this. This group of people was definitely much more capable than those sent over by Traversing Water Palace.
Miao Yi quietly approached Pi Junzi and Tao Yongchun, transmitting his voice to them as he asked, "Why are the two of you here?"
"Didn't we tell you that we would be hiding our days out here in Flowing Clouds Dune Sea after the Sea of Constellations Subjugation Crusade?" Pi Junzi replied.
Tao Yongchun also asked curiously, "Why are you here?"
Realization soon dawned on Miao Yi as he remembered that these two Yao cultivators had offended that bastard Bai Ziliang, and no longer had a place of their own in the Sea of Constellations, and thus they came to hide in Flowing Clouds Dune Sea.
"Let's not talk about why I'm here. You will find out soon enough. I say, you two should have enough money in your pockets to live worry-free for a thousand years at least. How did you fall so far behind that you need to harvest Moondawn to survive? Were you guys robbed or something?" Miao Yi asked.
Tao Yongchun smiled wryly. "You can put it that way! We handed over most of our belongings to Tempest Tavern to pay for our stay."
"Tempest Tavern?" Miao Yi was taken aback, thinking, 'Could that tavern be a shady establishment after all?' He couldn't help but voice out in disbelief, "Are you kidding me? You guys had so much on you back then. How is it possible that the accommodation is that costly?"
"What do you mean how? You just came out from the Tempest Tavern yourself…" Pi Junzi suddenly paused, then asked, "Did you just come here not too long ago? I can guarantee that you haven't been around for more than a month."
"I've been here for about ten days now. What's wrong with that?" Miao Yi asked curiously.
"Of course something's wrong. Something's very wrong indeed." Tao Yongchun smiled wryly. "Back then, we made a great effort to come here. And since it was our first time around the area, we didn't dare venture out, and simply cooped ourselves up in Tempest Tavern immediately. Our first month was quite enjoyable. There was food and drink, and we didn't have to worry about our own safety. At the time, we figured it wouldn't be a bad idea to stay in the tavern until our cultivations had risen high enough for us to step outside. After all, we had more than enough resources, and ten thousand Gold Crystals a day wasn't too exorbitant a price tag for the room; only about ten low-grade Orbs of Will. That was a price we can live with too. Little did we expect that the amount would actually double upon the start of the second month. When we asked why, we were told that not only did the price double by the second month, it would continue to multiply itself twice over the price of the previous month every subsequent month. Our first month we spent about three hundred Orbs of Will, then our second month cost over six hundred orbs. You can go ahead and count yourself how much the room would cost after that."