"Only thirty-five?!" lamented Miao Yi, a bit disappointed.
"It's better than sending them all to die with you!" said Yao Ruoxian, growling furiously. "If you keep talking, I'll make you leave that fat thief behind too!"
"Alright, alright, fine. Then it's settled!" It was better to have some than none. Miao Yi beckoned to the little mantids and thirty-five of them entered his storage bangle in a bunch. Turning to Yao Ruoxian, he cupped his fists at him and said, "Senior Yao. I will entrust them both to you."
Yao Ruoxian scornfully waved his hand and said, "I don't need you to tell me about my own daughters. Remember the fees you owe me. Find a few more Yao Cores and whatnot, before coming back to repay your debt."
Miao Yi smiled, then gave a subtle wink to Yao Ruoxian and quietly told him something before turning to the ladies with a smile. "I'm going!"
Once he was ready, there was a glint of reluctance in his eyes as he quickly turned to leave. As expected, the ladies instantly burst into tears and tried to chase after him, crying out, "Master…"
Yao Ruoxian, having received instructions beforehand, flashed before them and stopped the weeping ladies from pursuing any further. He sighed and said, "My girls. This journey will be his chance to show off his strength. If you follow him with tears running down your cheeks, it will make him sentimental and he won't be able to put on a brave face. The subordinates will see you two as his weaknesses, and that might make him overcautious and indecisive. Just let him go."
Yao Ruoxian felt awful as well after seeing them cry. He actually didn't want Miao Yi to go to the Sea of Constellations either. Everyone had gotten along with each other for so many years. Besides the two ladies, it would be a lie if he said there was no emotional ties in their relationship. After all, there were some parts of Miao Yi that he liked too.
However, he could not stop Miao Yi from going. The Hall Master of Suppressing Second Hall had personally added his name to the candidate list. If Miao Yi knew of this earlier, he would have thought of looking for Yang Qing to remove his immortal record and slipped away with Yao Ruoxian. He would rather become a Loose Cultivator than send himself to his death. But when the Hall Master selected him, even Yang Qing wouldn't be able to help him pass the barrier that was the Hall Master himself. Everything had been too late.
Yao Ruoxian did not have the guts to escape with Miao Yi while he was carrying the immortal record. He still needed to exact his revenge, and he didn't want to stir up such a large hornet's nest for himself.
"Master…" The ladies were still wailing.
Miao Yi steeled his heart and didn't look back. He quickly flashed away and left.
"Don't worry. This guy is very lucky. He will definitely come back alive!" said Yao Ruoxian with a sigh.
These words weren't purely to console the ladies. The scene where he tried snatching the two immortal fruits from Miao Yi replayed in his mind. That mysterious and horrifying coercion had left a deep mark on his mind. When he saw Miao Yi giving the two ladies the immortal fruits, he suddenly came to a realization—could that terrifying pressure have something to do with Miao Yi?
The more he thought about it, the more it seemed possible. The Glorious Star immortal herb that bore those immortal fruits, the dragon steed Charcoal, the little mantids—none of these were simple; yet they had all appeared in the hands of a White Lotus cultivator. When he linked these things together, he could vaguely sense that some arcane power behind Miao Yi seemed to be watching over him somehow...
Outside of the grand hall at Mount Calming Sea. Tens of riders on dragon steeds were awaiting for their instructions.
Inside the grand hall, Miao Yi was accompanied by Yan Xiu and Tian Qingfeng as he walked out from the back of the hall. After everyone had settled in to their places, the people below all greeted in unison, "We respectfully greet Mountain Chieftain!"
Miao Yi swept a cold gaze at his subordinates down below and called out their names as he sat on the throne of the Mountain Chieftain, "In the coming days while I am not in Mount Calming Sea, Yan Xiu will assist Elder Auntie and Little Auntie, and will temporarily have the authority and responsibilities of a Mountain Chieftain. Everyone must be carry out their orders without fail. Those who choose to defy their superiors and incite rebellion; kill them! Those who deign to plot conspiracies; kill them! For those who would defy orders and act in contempt; kill them!"
"We will obey Mountain Chieftain's orders!" Everyone accepted the order in unison.
Many people refused to obey him in their hearts, yet on the surface, they still had to show an attitude of respect. They all knew that this lunatic was being forced into desperation, so it was best for them not to provoke him for now. They decided to plan their next move after this guy was gone, so they all appeared compliant on the outside for now.
"Those who have been chosen will accompany me to receive the Manor Head. The others will stay here and guard this place!" Miao Yi stood up, waved his hand, and left. There was no nonsense at all. If he said anything more, it would all be falsehood. It was fine for him to express his desire. After that was done, Miao Yi turned around and proceeded to the back of the hall.
"Understood!" Everyone responded and dispersed one-by-one out of the grand hall.
Some of them took their dragon steeds and went back, while others simply hopped onto their dragon steeds and awaited for further instructions.
Miao Yi returned to the rear the residence and cupped his fists when he saw Hong Xiu and Hong Fu, saying, "Both of you should be able stay without any worries. Remember what I told you. With that, I will now take my leave!"
The two ladies bent down and gave their salutations, "We handmaidens wish Lord Miao a smooth journey ahead!"
Miao Yi nodded his head and did not speak any further. He had already briefed them quite clearly in the beginning. He turned and left; the ladies tailing behind him to send him off.
The last thing they saw was Miao Yi entering through the doors of the main hall and kicking Charcoal awake from the ground where he was sleeping. Then he hopped onto Charcoal and shouted, "GO!".
Charcoal could sense that Miao Yi intended to go on a long journey. It galloped happily and jumped out from under the loft. After running around the courtyard to increase its speed, Charcoal suddenly leapt and soared into the sky. He flew to the grand hall at Mount Calming Sea and landed in the main square outside the hall.
There, Miao Yi took the lead and flew off towards the mountain gates of Mount Calming Sea. The ten mounted troops in the main square immediately turned to face where Miao Yi was heading and quickly followed from behind. The ground rumbled as they rushed toward the mountain gates.
Tian Qingfeng and Yan Xiu stood beside each other and cupped their fists together to see them off from afar. After watching the troops fly off and disappear into the horizon, they eased their hands and exchanged glances with one another. They weren't sure if Miao Yi would ever return once he left this mountain gate.
Miao Yi did not bring them both to the East Arrival Cave and allowed them to stay at the base to watch his residence. He had chosen two Advisors and three Deacons to accompany for his journey and brought away half of the troops from Mount Calming Sea with him.
The squad of about ten mounted men rode out from the mountain range where Mount Calming Sea was stationed, and rushed to the highway. Then, they stopped at a grove to await Yang Qing's arrival.
After less than half-a-day's wait, they could hear thunderous galloping approaching from a distance. In just a few moments, they could make out Yang Qing personally leading a large number of troops toward them as they whipped the dust behind their trails.
Miao Yi waved his hand and led his own troops toward the highway.
Yang Qing looked at Miao Yi and beckoned at him, prompting Miao Yi to immediately lead his group and join Yang Qing's troops. He made his way between the rows of individual Mountain Chieftains and shared a glance with Qin Weiwei.
From the rear, Gongsun Yu was following along from behind. He was overjoyed by Miao Yi's misfortune when he saw the outline of his back. Clearly, he also knew that Miao Yi was going to the Sea of Constellations soon.
About a thousand troops continued the exodus under Yang Qing's lead and quickly made it to the docks in East Arrival Cave's territory. When they arrived, the Cave Master of East Arrival Cave quickly went up and paid his respects.
With so many cultivators appearing all at once, the prefectural officers guarding the docks were all in a nervous state.
Yang Qing breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that everything was settled and prepared at the docks; thinking to himself that Miao Yi hadn't take the opportunity to cause trouble and create a disturbance.
He then turned around and beckoned at Miao Yi to come forward so that he could give some instructions. After, Miao Yi called out for the Cave Master of East Arrival Cave and affirmed the instructions by ordering the city guards to fall back to about five kilometres away; prohibiting any other personnel to come closer. The guard duties would be taken over by Yang Qing's troops instead.
The logic behind this was obvious. Once the troops from the respective regions arrived, the prefectural officers would not be able to maintain order then.
The Cave Master of East Arrival Cave turned away and quickly called forth the City Lord to give a briefing. A moment later, the prefectural officers were seen scurrying away. Yang Qing then ordered each Mountain Chieftain to assign their troops for guard duties.
The warehouses and temporary foothold for the officers at the docks were now occupied by the troops of each respective mountain. The residence of the officer originally assigned to manage the docks had the best living standard; so naturally, it was occupied by Yang Qing himself.
Miao Yi did not treat himself shabbily either. This was originally his territory, after all. The room next to the dock's officer was of course occupied by him as well.
That night, three steaks of lights swept through the horizon and landed directly on the docks. The three Great Advisors of Suppressing Second Hall; Feng Zhihuan, Han Liuping, and He Yunye had personally come. Three Red Lotus cultivators were specifically sent here by Suppressing Second Hall to oversee the command.
Yang Qing immediately led his men and went up to pay his respects.
The next day, about two hundred troops from Traversing Moon Palace escorted by a Red Lotus cultivator, were the first to reach the docks at East Arrival Cave. This region was the territory of Traversing Moon Palace. The distance from their base was quite short, so it made sense that they were able to reach here the quickest among others.
After Feng Zhihuan and the other two Advisors greeted the Red Lotus cultivator from Traversing Moon Palace, Yang Qing's side was then responsible for verifying the participants according to the candidate list. There were two hundred people on the list, yet there was only 199 people in front of them. That one missing person was parading about the docks atop his dragon steed with his subordinates to watch these participants. It was as if he wasn't one of the participants boarding the ship.
This scenario caused even those who came to watch the excitement, such as Gongsun Yu, to feel gloomy. They were a little suspicious of whether or not Miao Yi was really going to the Sea of Constellations.
The participants were checked and properly verified. He Yunye soared into the sky and landed on the top of the large ship. An illusory Red Lotus appeared on his forehead as he overlooked the docks, frightening those who were about to board the ship. If anyone dared to be disobedient, the consequence of that would be predictable.
A long and tall gangplank was placed on the docks to make a pathway into the ship. 199 people on their dragon steeds ran up the inclined gangplank and boarded the towering ship.
Mounted on his dragon steed, Miao Yi watched the passing of the participants of both genders before him; all of them kept a straight face as they walked. He sighed in his heart. These people were the same as him—they were all unfortunate souls!
Su Jinggong from the Sword Deviate Sect, Wan Yanhua from the Jade Lady Sect, and Li Yaoqi from the School of Imperial Beasts were three of the unfortunate ones among the four participants from the two manors. They all knew who Miao Yi was. When they passed by him, they turned to look at him with strange expressions, as if asking why this guy wasn't boarding the ship together with them.
Miao Yi smiled and waved at them, making no effort to be pulled in together with them. If he could steer away from offending them, he would do exactly that. Miao Yi turned around and called the Cave Master of East Arrival Cave to his side and whispered, "Leave the best room for me."
"Don't worry, my lord." Jiang Yunlu nodded, signalling that he had already arranged everything. This was under his jurisdiction, and he would never put his superior in an unfavorable situation. Miao Yi still hadn't left yet. If he did not make the proper arrangements, he would be the one having a hard time instead.
The cultivators boarded the ship and led their dragon steeds under with the help of a guide into the hold of the ship below. Inside the hold, were three long rows of steel cages. Each row had about seventy stalls specifically prepared to accommodate dragon steeds. There would be no problems accommodating two hundred dragon steeds inside the hold.
Each person stabled their dragon steeds into one of the stalls and locked the steel gates. After that, they would retrieve the number plaque associated with the gates and leave with it. This was done to prevent confusion from not being able to distinguish the owners of these many dragon steeds later on.
After coming out from the cabin below, 199 people were separated into different single rooms. The facilities inside the rooms weren't that shabby. The people in-charge wouldn't make the living conditions too harsh for these people who were going on the last journey of their lives.
After the handover of all the participants was concluded, the Red Lotus expert from Traversing Moon Palace and the people in the docks proceeded with the hand-over procedures, then he soared off to report the completion of his task.
The timing for the other troops to come had already been calculated. It was estimated that they would not take more than three days to come should there be no shortcomings during their journey. Within three days, the troops from the other ten respective palaces in the Fifth Earthly Branch had arrived one-by-one.
Traversing Celestial Palace, Traversing Heavens Palace, Traversing Land Palace, Traversing Sun Palace, Traversing Moon Palace, Traversing Metal Palace, Traversing Wood Palace, Traversing Water Palace, Traversing Fire Palace, and Traversing Earth Palace; two hundred troops from each palace had arrived. In total, two thousand troops would board the ships in order. Each ship would be occupied by the troops from one palace.
The schedule to depart had been calculated as well. After another two days, two streaks of light swept out from the horizon and landed on the docks. One of them was a graceful woman wearing a long, violet dress; looking quite demure and beautiful. The other one was an old man with bright eyes, who stood just behind the graceful woman.
He Yunye and the other two then went forward and paid their respects to these two.
Miao Yi stood aghast as he watched from the side in front of his troops. His jaws almost dropped from the shock as he stared at that woman, and also… at that bright-eyed old man.