Those six monks didn't look very old. The leader was garbed in red monk's robes and rode atop a white deer. The deer had four horns on its head and a set of golden hooves, and on its body were golden tattoos depicting plum blossoms.
His aide was beside him, garbed in white monk's robes, and behind them were four monks in gray robes.
The six of them continued to follow behind Bai Ziliang's forces at a safe distance. However, Bai Ziliang couldn't do anything about them, simply because the monk riding atop the golden-tattooed white deer was somebody he knew. It was none other than Buddha Sage Cang Lei's grand-disciple, the representative of the Realm of High Paradise—Kong Zhi.
Anyone would feel pressured when continuously followed by someone else in the Sea of Constellations. Bai Ziliang turned to Lan Susu and told her, "Susu, go ask Kong Zhi why he's following us."
Lan Susu acknowledged the order and left the group of Yao cultivators. She waited in place for the six monks to approach.
The six monks soon came to a stop as well. Riding atop the white deer, Kong Zhi clapped his hands together in prayer as he greeted Lan Susu. His aura was solemn and dignified.
Lan Susu returned the greeting, then asked, "Kong Zhi, my Young Master would like to ask why you're following us. What are you plotting?"
Before Kong Zhi could speak up, beside him, the handsome-looking monk dressed in white robes clapped his hands together and said, "Amitabha. May I have the pleasure of knowing your name, Miss?"
As soon as he said this, Kong Zhi and the other four monks behind him couldn't stop their lips from twitching.
Lan Susu noticed this monk had a handsome appearance and that his presence gave off a sense of gentle serenity. His white monk's robes further gave him an aura of elegance and made him seem very approachable. She replied, "Lan Susu."
"My lady, you possess a dazzling beauty that is capable of shutting out the moon and putting even the flowers to shame. Even the fishes and cranes would shy away from your radiance. Why are you here in such a dangerous place?" the white-robed monk asked with a straight face.
"..." Lan Susu was speechless. 'Isn't this a pointless question? I'm obviously here for the same reason you are.'
She was about to retort, when the white-robed monk sighed and said, "This place is dangerous. I can see that my lady is a pure and beautiful lotus, untainted by the filth of the world. This must be fate then. Why not take this opportunity to cast away your blade, and enter into the teachings of Buddha? I am willing to be your humble guide on your path to enlightenment."
Lan Susu's expression grew darker. "I'm a Yao cultivator, and you want me to follow the teachings of Buddha. Are you joking?"
The white-robed monk shook his head. "All life is equal. Whether they are Yao, Ghosts, or even Devils. So long as one casts away one's blade, all can reach nirvana!"
"I don't understand what you're saying!" Lan Susu didn't want to deal with this guy. She looked towards Kong Zhi and said, "Kong Zhi, my Young Master is asking why you continue to follow us!"
The white-robed monk cut in again, "My lady, perhaps you are still unaware of who I am. My Master is Mount Duolai's Grandmaster Qi Jie, one of the sixteen Reverends under the Buddha Sage. If you let me—"
This bastard was using his own master to trick someone again! The four gray-robed monks had weird expressions on their faces, while Kong Zhi seemed to have reached the limits of his patience. Furrowing his brows, he interrupted, "Ba Jie. You're messing around again!"
The white-robed monk known as Ba Jie turned around and replied, "Kong Zhi. I'm trying to guide someone onto the path to enlightenment. How am I messing around? Looking back to all those years ago, it was when a certain someone peeked on another in the bath that—"
Kong Zhi's voice abruptly grew louder as he cut him short once again, saying, "Can you slow down for a minute?"
Seeing as the two of them were about to break out into an argument, Lan Susu interjected, "Who is the one in charge here?"
Ba Jie clapped his hands together and replied, "Amitabha. All life is equal!"
This clearly meant that anyone could be in charge. Kong Zhi was a little infuriated. No longer caring about appearances, he announced loudly, "Miss, go and tell Bai Ziliang that we are free to go wherever we please. We have no need to explain ourselves to him!"
Ba Jie smiled at Lan Susu and added, "Regardless of where either of us goes, all will eventually return to the same place. Why not take this opportunity to seek paradise? My lady, I suggest…"
Now that she had her answer, Lan Susu obviously wouldn't stay and listen to his drivel. She quickly turned around and departed.
"This is bad! This young miss could have been trying to stall us for time. Everyone, quickly now. We mustn't lose them!" Ba Jie said to the group.
The six monks continued to chase after the group of Yao cultivators. His face darkening, Kong Zhi asked, "Ba Jie, how much longer do we have to keep following them?"
Ba Jie replied, "Kong Zhi. Admit your loss with honor and stop complaining. We both grew up together. I won't trick you."
Kong Zhi's expression twisted as he quickly looked to the other four behind him. Seeing as they didn't seem to understand the meaning behind Ba Jie's words, he turned his head back and said angrily, "I should at least know what you're planning, right?"
Ba Jie said excitedly, "The Sea of Constellations Subjugation Crusade has progressed thus far, and given the size of the place and the gradual decrease of participants, it will only become more and more difficult to bump into someone else. We can't simply run around randomly either. Didn't you say that Bai-something fellow was a member of the Realm of Ten Thousand Demons? Since the Realm of Ten Thousand Demons has gathered so many troops and seem to be in a rush somewhere, they're surely getting ready for a big fight. That's why we're following them. Once they have almost exhausted themselves, we'll go and collect alms from them. If they don't submit, we'll take by force… I mean, we'll have them cast away their blades!"
Kong Zhi clapped his hands together and prayed, "Amitabha!"
The other monks were evidently excited as well, and the group rushed along quickly...
The light of dawn peeked out from the horizon as Miao Yi and the others finally reached the rocky shores of their targeted island. They immediately scanned their surroundings carefully.
The stormy waves crashed violently on the rocky shores as Gu Sanzheng, Tan Lao, and Ye Xin released their Crystal-Armored Hurricane Beasts and checked around the vicinity. They then noticed Miao Yi and the others approaching them on foot.
Gu Sanzheng asked, "What happened to your mounts?"
Sikong Wuwei scoffed, "Ask yourselves that question."
Miao Yi didn't want any conflict to rise in the group anymore, so he said, "We'll need to first look for mounts. Otherwise, it'll be hard for us to escape if something were to happen. This island is quite large. I believe it should have dragon steeds."
Gu Sanzheng nodded. "Then for now, you can ride along on our mounts instead."
Zhao Fei and Sikong Wuwei leaped up to Gu Sanzheng's mount and stood behind him, while Pi Junzi and Tao Ruchun were behind Tan Lao, with Miao Yi behind Ye Xin.
The three beasts quickly passed the rocky reefs and rushed into the nearby forest. Once they were out of the forest, a wide, grassy expanse lay before them.
They soon came into that which they desperately needed. The sound of hoofbeats could be heard coming from the front as a herd of dragon steeds galloped towards them from across the grassy plains. A dark mass upon the verdant plains, the dragon steeds galloped without a care in the world.
When they noticed the group of foreigners, the herd of dragon steeds immediately turned back and ran. There were at least ten thousand of them in this one herd.
Gu Sanzheng's Crystal-Armored Hurricane Beast immediately gave chase, and all three beasts rushed after the fleeing herd of dragon steeds.
The Crystal-Armored Hurricane Beasts' speed was evidently higher than the dragon steeds', and they soon caught up. However, they didn't dare venture too deeply into the herd as it was no laughing matter to have all these dragon steeds charge straight at them.
The three beasts stuck closely to the edge of the herd and galloped alongside the dragon steeds.
As soon as they maintained a constant pace, Miao Yi and the others leaped up from the Crystal-Armored Hurricane Beasts and landed on the backs of the dragon steeds. They quickly reached towards the manes of the dragon steeds and grabbed the feelers they used to communicate with riders, which also happened to be the weakest point on a dragon steed's body. Miao Yi and the others then pulled on the feelers and attempted to subjugate the dragon steeds.
The five dragon steeds immediately fell out of the fleeing herd and galloped wildly about on the grassy plains, neighing as they struggled to knock off the people above them. However, it was to no avail. Finally, Miao Yi and the others succeeded in subjugating the dragon steeds, who obediently formed a connection with their riders and allowed themselves to be controlled.
The three Crystal-Armored Hurricane Beasts and five dragon steeds continued onwards across the grassy plains and soon met up with the herd of dragon steeds from before. The five dragon steeds that submitted to Miao Yi and the others neighed towards the passing herd, their voices filled with a longing attachment.
"Harrumph…" The entire herd neighed back in response, their voices enough to cause one's heart to tremble, as they stood in place and watched their previous companions departing...
After passing by the grassy expanse, the eight riders traveled past an ancient mountain range and after about a half day, came to the top of a hill. They gazed towards the boundless desert before them, a hodgepodge of cinnamon-colored peaks both near and far, devoid of any greenery. Some of the peaks stood tall and wide, others were short and small. There were peculiar rock formations scattered about, and the whole place gave off an ancient, desolate vibe.
Up in the sky, wild birds hovered around, hunting for prey. A wave of hot air rushed in from the desert before them. Where they stood, the vegetation under their feet that extended towards the desert was a stark contrast against those on the opposite side of the mountain.
"Skyfire Mountain is located in the center of the desert before us. Why don't we just set up base here along this mountain? If anything were to happen, we can immediately rush towards Skyfire Mountain and hide out there temporarily." Gu Sanzheng pointed towards the desert before them, then turned around and asked, "What do you all think?"
Miao Yi nodded. "I suppose that's the best option we have for now. We should first avoid the first wave of enemies coming after you. If it's possible, we'll decide on our next course after one or two years."
Everyone then made their way back to set up base at the mountain valley they saw on the way here.
The air within the mountain valley was chilly and refreshing, with gentle crystalline streams and numerous nameless wildflowers blooming in full splendor. Insects and small birds flew about, whilst tiny animals hid between the bushes. It was an entirely different world from the desert on the other side of the mountain.
Everyone dug out their own caves along the mountainside and made preparations to stay for the long term.
Tao Ruchun chose to take up sentry duty on the mountaintop of his own volition. He was originally a Peach Blossom Treant to begin with. Instead of hiding out his days inside a cave, revealing his true form and experiencing the baptism of nature was much more beneficial for his cultivation.
Pi Junzi had also shifted into his true form while he cultivated inside his own cave. Whilst everyone was busy cultivating, the dragon steeds and Crystal-Armored Hurricane Beasts were kept within the valley.
Although their plans were ideal, reality would always be harsh and cruel. It would never act according to the way you wanted it to.
The day was nearing sunset. A two-meter tall gray rat with vicious fangs was sitting cross-legged in the cave, focusing on its cultivation when it suddenly opened its eyes in shock.
It flashed with a blue radiance and soon took the form of Pi Junzi. He quickly laid his head on the ground and listened. Suddenly, his expression contorted, and he rushed out of the cave shouting, "Someone is here!"
As soon as they heard him, everyone hastily left their caves and landed in the beautiful valley.
Miao Yi asked, "What's going on?"
Pi Junzi pointed towards a certain direction and said anxiously, "There are about a hundred riders, separated into four groups. Using the topology of the mountain as their cover, they are slowly creeping towards this place. There's a high chance they are targeting us."
The Gu Sanzheng trio exchanged glances, then looked up towards the peach blossom tree on the mountaintop. Ye Xin asked, "Tao Ruchun, do you see anyone approaching?"
Up on the mountaintop, Tao Ruchun transformed into his human form and shouted, "I don't see anyone."
Ye Xin didn't believe him, so she quickly leaped up the mountain. When she reached the peak, she gazed towards the distance, then shook her head at the people down below, "I don't see anyone either."
Frowning, Gu Sanzheng asked Pi Junzi, "We can't see anything from the peak of the mountain. Our cultivation is higher than yours, but we didn't hear anything either. How did you know that there are people approaching and that they even have over a hundred riders?"
"These bastards are really persistent!" Miao Yi said gravely, "You can trust him. If he felt like it, he can even hear the sound of a rabbit hopping from ten miles away. Almost nothing can escape his ears. This is his inborn gift. We need to hurry and make preparations!"
When they heard what Miao Yi said, Gu Sanzheng and the others cast curious gazes at Pi Junzi. They never thought this demon could have such a talent.