After Fu Qing's name was mentioned, Yun Guang and Hei Yun huffed at each other and turned their heads away, deciding to put the matter to rest. If they really incurred Fu Qing's wrath, neither of them would get off easy.
"You two can continue bickering. I'm going back to rest. Bai Li, watch over things here." Acting like an innocent bystander, Tang Jun gave an order to the old man behind him and left with hands behind his back. The Western Constellations Palace had arranged accommodations for them beforehand.
Fairy Hong Chen suddenly walked up to the astrolabe, and said in a sweet voice, "Bai Li. You should go and rest too. I'll keep watch on things here."
The old man didn't argue and nodded to her as he left.
The other representatives from the Six Sages started retreating back to their quarters as well, until Yun Guang was the only one left. With his hands behind his back, he circled over to Fairy Hong Chen's side. He stared at her enchanting face and chuckled, "Hong Chen. You shouldn't be too picky when it comes to men. I have always treated women kindly. You should consider me."
Fairy Hong Chen remained quiet and aloof. Her beautiful eyes remained fixed on the astrolabe, undisturbed by the voice beside her. Forget turning to look at him, she didn't even cast a sidewards glance at Yun Guang and completely ignored him.
Losing interest, Yun Guang laughed dryly before turning to the two entourage he had brought with him and said, "One of you stay here and keep watch. I'll be heading back to rest."
Zuo Nanchun voted to stay.
When there were only six people left in the ancillary hall, Fairy Hong Chen suddenly waved her sleeve over the astrolabe then zoomed in on one point in particular, projecting it over the astrolabe. Zuo Nanchun cast his gaze over as well...
Over a thousand people rode through the night for hours on end before reaching another seaside. To allow the dragon steeds to reserve their strength in case there was any trouble, and to take advantage of the time before all the cultivators of the six nations spread out too far, Miao Yi had everyone chop down trees and build rafts.
The troops immediately dove into the forest behind them. Under the night sky, trees began getting chopped down. The logs were then fastened together using vines, creating wooden rafts before being tossed onto the ocean. With a large group of cultivators doing this, the task was accomplished at a breakneck pace.
In less than an hour, about three hundred wooden rafts were thrown onto the sea. The cultivators invoked their arts to steer the rafts against the waves, with over a thousand cultivators swiftly sailing across the vast ocean.
Above the ocean, the night sky was illuminated by a brilliant moon; the cool, glimmering light of the stars further adding to its splendor. Sitting atop of Charcoal, Miao Yi gazed at the night sky. He felt a little forlorn deep down. In the past, he never thought the day would come when he would command a force numbering over one thousand, much less with most of them being Blue Lotus cultivators. He didn't know how they would react if they found out he was merely a White Lotus cultivator.
'Would they lose faith and no longer acknowledge me then? Perhaps…'
They all drifted across the ocean for a full five days, circling around islands whenever they came across one, until they finally reached the island they decided would be their hiding place.
This island was neither too big, nor too small. At least among the countless other islands visible on the map of the Western Star Sea, it was rather inconspicuous.
Everyone was in no hurry to go ashore. Miao Yi ordered two Captains to bring their forces and scout the area. After half a day, both teams came back and reported that they didn't discover anyone else on the island. Only then did Miao Yi order everyone to destroy the rafts and go ashore.
Everyone roamed the island. After having a basic understanding of the terrain, they chose a giant gorge within the mountains as their hiding place. After releasing the dragon steeds into the valley, some of them started carving out caves along the rocky mountain side.
There was a waterfall within the canyon, so they wouldn't need to worry about water for their daily needs; the surroundings were quiet and peaceful as well. Forget ten years, it wouldn't be a problem for them to hide here for the next hundred years.
Once the preparations were finished, the leaders all heaved a sigh of relief and smiled at one another.
Standing alongside the others on the edge of a cliff, Miao Yi sighed, "Even the Six Sages have sent participants over. We shouldn't dream of taking a spot in the top one hundred survivors and should just focus on staying alive. Let's hope we will be able to hide until the Sea of Constellation Subjugation Crusade ends!"
Everyone nodded in agreement. This was their desire as well.
To ensure security, Miao Yi had everyone spread out over the island and take turns keeping watch on a rotation system everyday.
After their forces were finally settled down, Qi Xiuhong decided to stay with Miao Yi, and opened up a small cave right along the path to Miao Yi's cave. She also slowly began to accustom herself to having the others call her 'Auntie'. She took it upon herself to manage Miao Yi's daily chores and began taking care of menial tasks for him.
Given her cultivation wasn't on par with the others of the Red Scarves Alliance, she couldn't participate in battle, so she couldn't be independent. She could only do whatever was possible for her in order to continue staying in the alliance…
In the blink of an eye, a year had passed. Regardless of how much happened outside, the forces that had been hiding within the canyon were living a secluded life of cultivation, completely cut off from the outside world. They weren't bothered by any outsiders either. It seemed as though the situation had turned out as everyone had expected from the beginning. Over the year, their previously tensed nerves slowly eased and there was no trouble among them either. They all got along, only intent on surviving for these ten years.
As for the matter of taking a spot in the rankings and becoming a Manor Head, everyone merely joked about it. Before, they hadn't known that the Six Sages had sent representatives over to participate as well. They only found out when Miao Yi told them. Everyone instantly felt a chill run down their spines when they heard it, and no longer dreamt of the impossible.
One stormy night as he was cultivating, Miao Yi was startled by the violent tempest. He got down from his stone seat and walked over to the entrance of the cave. The winds outside howled furiously as he cast his gaze downwards at a violent stream of water. Seeing as there was still some distance before the flood could reach the cave where the dragon steeds were hidden at, he sighed in relief.
The sound of the thunder was deafening. Miao Yie raised his head and looked into the distance; he couldn't help thinking about Qian'Er and Xue'Er back in Mount Calming Sea. He reminisced of what it was like to be in their warm embrace, and wondered about the current situation in Mount Calming Sea. Now that he was gone, those subordinates of his surely wouldn't just stay put. He was worried if the two girls were doing alright.
As for his Little Brother and Little Sister, he was no longer too worried about them. He missed Qian'Er and Xue'Er more than he missed his two younger siblings.
Ever since he found out that the person who took his Little Brother away was probably another strong cultivator, and realized that both his younger siblings were faring well now, Miao Yi began to live for his own sake. He knew that if his cultivation was not high enough, it would be pointless to reunite with his Little Brother and Little Sister. A useless Big Brother like him wouldn't be able to help them at all, and might even drag them down. That was why he had to live on, so that one day he could stand tall in front of his Little Brother and Little Sister, and not just be a burden to them.
"Alliance Master. What are you thinking about?"
Having heard his footsteps, Qi Xiuhong had come out as well. She had been standing behind him for a while when she heard him sigh, and couldn't help herself from asking that question.
The two had already lived together in the cave for over a year. They were no longer as unfamiliar with one another as they initially were.
A thunderous blast resounded as Miao Yi turned his head to look. With the sudden brightness from the lightning, his gaze fell upon Qi Xiuhong's beautiful face.
Miao Yi was just thinking about being wrapped in Qian'Er and Xue'Er's warm embrace, so the sight of her beauty before him tugged at his heartstrings. He very naturally extended his hand and touched her face, then slowly slid it down towards her elegant neck.
"Alliance Master. What… do you think you're doing?" Startled, Qi Xiuhong reached out and grabbed Miao Yi's wrist, gazing at him fearfully. Yet at the same time, she felt a little conflicted.
They had lived together in the cave for so long. It would be difficult not to develop some feelings of attraction. Even if they didn't, they were sure to feel some kind of affection for each other. At the very least, they wouldn't act distant to one another.
Miao Yi smiled, "You should know what I'm planning to do. Rest assured. I won't force you. If you don't want to, that's fine."
Still gripping his wrist, Qi Xiuhong's hand trembled slightly. She didn't think it would be appropriate to do it, but in the end, for some reason, her grip slowly loosened. Maybe it was the effects of the storm outside that caused a woman like her to want a shoulder to lean on. Under the raging tempest, one would either hide restlessly, or simply find it difficult to stay still.
Miao Yi grabbed onto her falling wrist with his other hand, and immediately pulled her into his embrace. Her body was soft and carried a gentle fragrance.
Then, Miao Yi lifted her up and carried her back to his cave with large strides. He placed her down on the couch, and slowly undressed her. Soon afterwards, a slender, fair-skinned figure was revealed before him, while a set of jade-like limbs were shyly covering the sensual parts.
To a man, they would not feel anything if they have not experienced intercourse with a woman. But once they did, they would have a low tolerance towards such temptations. As such, Miao Yi's hands moved deftly and with incredible familiarity.
The wind continued to howl outside. Between the sound of booming thunder, the aching cries of a woman could be heard, followed by soft moans of pleasure...
In the blink of an eye, three years had passed. The most chaotic period of the Sea of Constellations Subjugation Crusade was over.
These past three years had the highest death rates of participants. It was always like this during the early stages of the Subjugation Crusade. Out of the 180,000 participants, almost 120,000 cultivators had perished; only thirty percent was left.
As for the ones remaining, they were either searching for prey to fulfill their obligations, or hiding themselves away like Miao Yi and the rest. There were plenty of people who had the same idea as Miao Yi and his group. In fact, they were the majority of the participants.
Western Constellations Palace—the people clustered around the astrolabe had obviously had an idea of what was going on. On the projection of the Western Star Sea, the ones moving about the most were the six red dots, accompanied by a few white ones. Meanwhile, most of the other white dots remained fixed in their current positions.
Since the Western Star Sea was so wide, if one were to go into hiding, it would be incredibly difficult to track them down even if there were plenty of people vying for the top one hundred places. The number of deaths in the Subjugation Crusade was getting less and less. Not a single white dot had disappeared in the past ten days.
The crowd around the astrolabe were losing their patience. Ji Meimei pointed at a red dot and scoffed, "How dare they make my son run around so much? Do these bastards think they can escape just by hiding like cowards?"
Hei Yun waved his hand over the astrolabe and zoomed in on a certain spot. He pointed at it and said, "Have a look at this. This place is the worst. There are over a thousand people cooped up together. It seems like they have been hiding here for at least two years with no one disturbing them at all. What do they think they're doing? Are they here in the Sea of Constellations to participate in the Subjugation Crusade, or to cultivate? Whose forces are these?"
The participants were constantly running around the Western Star Sea, and since everyone couldn't keep watch on the astrolabe all the time, it became hard to identify whose forces belonged to whom at first glance. They were afraid that they would end up scolding their own side.
Among the crowd, only Fairy Hong Chen and Zuo Nanchun had kept a watchful eye on the movements of this group of people the entire time. Even though they hadn't moved for three years, the two of them couldn't be clearer that these people were the troops of the Celestial Nation's Fifth Earthly Branch who began killing one another the moment they alighted.
When both of them saw how these people had behaved right upon reaching the Sea of Constellations, they thought these people were going to be a troublesome bunch. Surprisingly, they didn't cause another incident at all since then. Over a thousand people went into hiding and actually managed to live in peace for a few years.
However, Fairy Hong Chen and Zuo Nanchun kept quiet and didn't make any mention of them.
Yun Guang said, "If this keeps up, forget ten years, the Subjugation Crusade won't even finish in one hundred. It's time to give them a little something extra to motivate them."
The majority nodded in agreement.
Yun Guang waved his hand, "Someone! List down the positions of all the participants and send it to all of them."
Soon afterwards, dozens of red lights shot out from the Western Constellations Palace and headed towards various locations within the Western Star Sea…