"We have no idea who's coming. How did they manage to find this place so quickly?" Zhao Fei asked curiously.
"We've forgotten about one thing—this is the Yao cultivators' home turf!" Miao Yi looked up at the sky and noticed a few birds still hovering about. He thought back to his first time in the Sea of Constellations, when a group of birds came looking for him after he had killed the seventy-two Fort Masters back in Brass Gong Fort.
Everyone followed his gaze and immediately understood.
"If we don't get rid of these eyes, I fear there'll be no place we can hide." Tan Lao turned and said, "Miao Yi. It's time for your mantids to shine."
Judging from his tone, it seemed he still bore a grudge against Miao Yi for killing his Seeker Birds.
With a wave of his hand, Miao Yi released several of his tiny mantids, then said, "We should prepare ourselves. Let us see who it is that's rushing to die."
By the time they rode their mounts up to the peak, the birds had already fallen from the sky. After successfully completing their mission, the tiny mantids flew back into Miao Yi's storage ring.
Pi Junzi placed his ears to the ground and listened. After that, he pointed out four separate directions before them, indicating where their enemies were approaching from. Everyone then hid between the trees and started watching...
"Young Master, if we proceed any further we will be entering the vicinity of Skyfire Mountain. That place is Supreme Yao Lord Lie Huan's personal residence. To avoid damage to the private residences of the Supreme Yao Lords during the Subjugation Crusade, these places have all been marked as forbidden areas and are not to be ventured into. If Lie Huan were to find out that we trespassed inside, he will be infuriated. I fear it will be very problematic then."
Within the mountain forest, a big man stood beside Bai Ziliang and carefully warned him. He had lantern-like eyes, a curly mustache, and a face swelling with muscles.
Bai Ziliang frowned. "Haven't they cleared out everyone from the Western Star Sea already?"
Seeing as he casually dismissed the fact, the curly-mustached man added, "Yes, they have. However, Lie Huan has a cultivation at the Golden Lotus First Grade!"
Beside them, Lan Susu rebuked, "Pang Duo. Even if Lie Huan were to be any more impressive, could he possibly be more powerful than Lord Fu Qing? Or even more powerful than the Realm of Ten Thousand Demons?"
"Auntie is correct. Obviously, he couldn't." Pang Duo gave a dry laugh and apologized. However, he still advised, "I'm just trying to say that Skyfire Mountain is a dangerous place. Even if Supreme Yao Lord Lie Huan isn't around, it will still be extremely risky to venture inside!"
"Those people aren't scared, so why should we be?" Lan Susu scoffed, "You just need to worry about doing your job right. Once the deed is done, the Young Master will naturally reward you handsomely!"
Pang Duo nodded humbly and said, "Yes yes yes! This lowly one will naturally follow the Young Master's every command!"
To Pang Duo, the Realm of Ten Thousand Demons was a legendary existence, and Bai Ziliang being the grandson of Yao Sage Ji Huan meant his background was already plenty extraordinary. As for whether or not Bai Ziliang was respected in the Realm of Ten Thousand Demons, it was not something a lowly Yao cultivator like him could possibly be aware of.
When they noticed the group of Yao cultivators approaching the valley, Miao Yi and the others gasped in surprise when they realized it was Bai Ziliang again. 'Wasn't he scared off by Yue Yao? Why is he still coming after us?'
At first, they were wondering who the other party could possibly be. Having several mighty artifacts on hand, they were getting ready for a big fight. Little did they think it would be Bai Ziliang again.
Bai Ziliang wasn't at all someone they could fight against. Not to mention, he had so many helpers with him right now. Miao Yi and the others quickly signaled to one another and began to quietly make their escape.
"Eh?! What happened to those tracking birds?" Lan Susu suddenly gasped.
"There's no way they could just vanish into thin air!" Pang Duo said curiously. Then, he suddenly exclaimed, "This is bad! We might have been discovered!"
Bai Ziliang immediately ordered, "Stop hiding around and think of a way to fish them out immediately. We can't let them escape!"
To be honest, he didn't feel a strong resentment towards Gu Sanzheng. Miao Yi, on the other hand, made him suffer terribly and caused him to lose face in front of Yue Yao. He even destroyed the Demon Refining Gourd his mother humbled herself to obtain for him. With one less mighty artifact to contend against the other five representatives, his prospects for the final battle had drastically plummeted.
If he couldn't even dispose of such a no-name peon, once the news spread, he would become the joke of the Realm of Ten Thousand Demons. He must kill this person!
"Understood!" Pang Duo nodded. He immediately looked to the sky and made a buzzing sound, invoking his arts as he did so. Alarmed, the birds in the surrounding forest immediately started hovering about the sky, while beasts started popping out from the bushes. Then, with a sharp whistle, all the creatures immediately spread out across the forest.
The large flock of birds hovering about the sky suddenly started flying towards a certain direction. Pang Duo indicated with his finger, "Young Master. They're over there!"
With a wave of his hand, Bai Ziliang commanded, "Charge! Full speed ahead!" His Tempest Beast quickly bolted off, and his mighty army immediately charged past the trees and hills as fast as they could.
As soon as the six monks behind them caught wind of the commotion, Ba Jie immediately felt a surge of excitement. He waved his hand and said, "The show is about to start. Quickly, let's catch up to them."
Kong Zhi said gravely, "Ba Jie, we can't go any further. Skyfire Mountain is marked as a forbidden area. If memory serves, that place is Supreme Yao Lord Lie Huan's private residence. Lie Huan is a Golden Lotus First Grade expert. Even my Master has to give him some face. We mustn't offend him so easily!"
"Kong Zhi. Did you hit yourself in the head? You are a member of the Realm of High Paradise. Why do you need to fear this Lie Huan or whatever he's called? If Lie Huan dares to seek us, you can immediately use your Supreme Master Cang Lei to knock him down a peg! Not to mention, I'm doing this for you. Don't tell me you're willing to place behind that Bai Ziliang brat? If you were to rank at last place among all the representatives of the Six Sages, how would you be able to answer to everyone back home?! I was trying to help you out of the kindness of my heart, but you don't even appreciate it. Fine! You don't want to go, right?"
Ba Jie asked, pointing a finger at Kong Zhi's face. When he saw that he was still hesitating, Ba Jie immediately turned around and waved his hand, saying, "Everyone, let's go. We can go back now. He can get last place for all we care. We've already gotten enough bangles to place within the top hundred anyway. There's no point in continuing to risk our lives anymore. From now on, he can forget about us exorcising evil together with him. It's not worth the effort!"
Kong Zhi had an ugly expression on his face, and quickly called out to stop him, "Hold it!"
Seated atop a dragon steed, Ba Jie turned around and asked, "Are you willing to go now?"
Kong Zhi nodded awkwardly.
"Ha! You're the one that agreed to this. We didn't force you. If that Supreme Yao Lord Lie Huan or whatever he's called really does come looking for trouble, you have to be the one to hold him back. Your Supreme Master is the Buddha Sage Cang Lei. You can totally take him. We're just helping you. You can't push the blame on us!" Ba Jie turned to the other four monks and said, "Don't you guys agree with me?"
The monks all remained silent. To not disagree in front of Kong Zhi was already a good enough sign of their thoughts.
"Let's go! Let's go!" Ba Jie waved his hand, and the six monks quickly darted off. It was truly a mystery who exactly was the person-in-charge among them.
Ba Jie seemed to be a little worried when he saw how Kong Zhi was still frowning. He sighed, "Oh Kong Zhi! You have to understand my pain. Your Master was the one who said that I was the most suitable person to accompany you to this Sea of Constellations Subjugation Crusade, so he made the request to my Master. Then that old baldy Qi Jie promised me that if I can help you place within the top three, he will allow me to travel the realm. Otherwise, I really wouldn't take part in such a foul matter. You have to understand my pain! I'm not trying to make things difficult for you. Ever since we were young, whenever I had anything nice to eat or drink, when have I ever forgotten about you? I treat you…"
When he heard the words 'anything nice to eat or drink', Kong Zhi's face twitched, as though he just remembered something. He quickly raised his arms and stopped Ba Jie from saying anything further. "Shut up! I get it!"
Ba Jie chuckled lightly before restoring his appearance of a tranquil, righteous man. His monk's robes were as white as snow, further making him seem pure from filth...
As they slowly crossed the forest and entered the desert, Miao Yi and the others suddenly heard a strange sound coming from the sky behind them. When they turned to look, they saw a large dark cloud made up of various birds flying straight at them. Their faces instantly twisted in shock.
Gu Sanzheng yelled, "We've been found! Quickly, to Skyfire Mountain!"
The eight riders quickly charged at full speed ahead, no longer trying to move silently. Their mounts bolted across the desert as fast as they could.
Charging up to the top of the mountain between the desert and the forest, Bai Ziliang gazed out towards the direction the birds were flying in and could vaguely make out several fleeing riders. He quickly galloped down the mountain, and the Tempest Beast traversed through the desert as though it were solid ground.
How could a mere desert possibly affect the speed of a spiritual beast that was capable of even treading on water?
His mighty army soon came down the mountain as well, but Bai Ziliang was riding further and further away, pulling apart the distance between them. Lan Susu had to shout, "Young Master! Please don't be anxious. Those people are crafty. Be careful not to fall into their trap!"
She was trying to put things nicely, making sure that Bai Ziliang didn't lose face in front of all these Yao cultivators. However, she was actually trying to remind him, 'Those people are not to be underestimated. If you leave everyone behind to fight them alone, you will lose.'
Bai Ziliang gritted his teeth in silence. However, he knew that Lan Susu had a point. Even though his mount surpassed all of them in terms of speed, he didn't have the strength to face all those people on his own. It would be a different matter if he still had the Demon Refining Gourd, but it had already been destroyed.
As such, he had no choice but to slow down and continue to follow after Miao Yi's group, making sure that they didn't disappear from his sight.
The Gu Sanzheng trio in front was also in a similar situation. Since they had their Crystal-Armored Hurricane Beasts, they could also run much faster, but they were wary of Bai Ziliang's Tempest Beast, which was why they didn't dare to separate from Miao Yi and the others. They understood that if the eight of them were to separate, they would definitely be routed one by one.
In the eyes of the Gu Sanzheng trio, Bai Ziliang's main priority was to apprehend Gu Sanzheng, or as he was called, 'Niu Youde'. The one to suffer the most after separating would definitely be them.
Both parties continued to maintain a set distance from one another as they rushed headlong into the vicinity of Skyfire Mountain.
"We can't go in any further. Supreme Yao Lord Lie Huan's personal residence is up ahead. If we trespass inside, we'll be in big trouble. From what I've heard, that place is highly dangerous."
Miao Yi turned around and yelled, "Even if we get into trouble, that's a matter for the future. Our present situation is far more dangerous right now. We'll worry about the future after we manage to stay alive! If you don't wish to enter, you're free to look for an alternate route. We won't stop you!"
Now that he had offended people from the Realm of Ten Thousand Demons, how could Tao Ruchun possibly dare to go off on his own? At least he had some security with these people. He immediately shut himself up and continued to charge ahead.
However, the further in they went, the hotter it was. The desert before them gradually disappeared and gave way to a desolate, ashen land. The uneven terrain was black and hard, with peculiar rock formations littering the area. There was not a single sign of soil or sand.
As they went further down, even the dragon steeds were starting to lose themselves to the heat. The sweat fell off their bodies and made a sizzling sound as it touched the ground, turning into white steam. It was evident how hot the ground was.
They were surrounded by a desolate plain, and there wasn't a single thing in sight that even remotely resembled a volcano, causing them to wonder how this place could possibly be so hot. Explanations were no longer necessary as Miao Yi and the others finally understood why this place was called Skyfire Mountain.*
Miao Yi couldn't help asking, "What kind of monster is this Supreme Yao Lord Lie Huan? How is he able to stay in such a place?"
Tao Ruchun replied, "A Drought Demon!"