The dragon steed was moving his body in a peculiar fashion as he dove down; he was swinging his body from side to side like a snake. He quickly caught up to the giant octopus, biting down on one of its tentacles as he continued to tussle with the creature on the ocean floor. With a firm grip on the tentacle, the dragon steed started to drag the giant octopus' massive body onto dry land.
In contrast, the giant octopus had coiled its tentacles around a reef and was holding on for dear life. However, the dragon steed suddenly released his grip. Kicking his hooves on the ocean floor, he leaped onto another reef and headbutted the giant octopus, and the impact destroyed even the reef it was holding on to.
Soon, at the edge of the turbulent seas, a dragon steed emerged, dragging the corpse of a giant octopus with him ashore.
"Harrumph~" Looking at his spoils, the dragon steed raised his hooves and neighed at the stormy skies in a display of pride.
As his hooves came down, the dragon steed turned around and lowered his head to feast on the meat of the octopus he had just slain in this heavy storm.
Naturally, this dragon steed was Charcoal. Having survived countless hardships on his own for the past several years, his robust body was now covered with both fresh wounds and old scars alike. He gained the newest addition just recently; a deep, bloody gash on his chest received from the giant octopus.
To have a dragon steed swim across the vast Western Star Sea on his own was nothing short of pitting the odds against him in his very own Subjugation Crusade. After all, there was no shortage of predators in the ocean. While Miao Yi was preoccupied with running for his life, he ended up making Charcoal face his own set of troubles.
For example, when Miao Yi left the island where Qi Xiuhong had died, Charcoal had to face a giant shark. And like his owner, he too almost died in battle. In the end, while shouldering heavy wounds all over his body, he managed to escape to the island. After that, he had to hide for an entire year before his wounds recovered.
Following which, Charcoal attempted to cross the vast ocean once again, making a beeline for Skyfire Mountain. It would be no exaggeration to say that his path was filled with blood and carnage. Under the sea, he had to fight the water tribes, while up on dry land, he had to face ferocious beasts. He was either always on the run or in hiding, stopping only for brief periods of time before continuing his journey again. It was truly a road of hardship and suffering.
That said, the changes brought forth from surviving difficult ordeals were also one of the greatest. At the moment, the crimson light in Charcoal's eyes had dissipated, but he still had an overwhelming air of ferocity about him, wearing his body of scars like a symbol of pride.
After eating his fill, the rush from his berserk state had died down and Charcoal started to feel the effects of his wounds. He then slowly strode towards the forest several miles away and went inside a cave he found. Once he drove away the bear inside, he lay on the ground and quietly rested.
The next day, the storm had blown over, and the bright sun took its place in the sky. However, Charcoal was in no rush to leave the cave.
It seemed his recovery speed was also rather astonishing. After a few days of rest inside the cave, the wound on his chest had slowly formed a new scar. Charcoal then charged out of the cave, moving straight past the forest and onto a vast grassland.
It seemed like he could sense that Miao Yi was already nearby, and his feet galloped faster and faster.
However, when he bumped into a herd of dragon steeds on the grassland, Charcoal came to a sudden halt, and quietly sized the other side up.
The leader of the pack was evidently displeased to see an uninvited guest like Charcoal barge in on its territory. It then led the whole herd in a charge towards Charcoal.
Regardless of how strong Charcoal thought of himself, he wouldn't dare face so many dragon steeds head on. He quickly turned around and ran, circling around the herd with all the other dragon steeds hot on his heels.
Clearly, these dragon steeds were nowhere near as fast as Charcoal, the latter was always able to maintain a certain amount of distance between them.
Seeing as they couldn't catch up to him, the dragon steeds all gave up the chase. They turned back haughtily, feeling as though they had successfully driven off the intruder.
Charcoal turned to look back, wondering why they stopped chasing him. Then for some reason, he quickly rushed after them.
The dragon steeds were infuriated by this and started chasing after him again. However, Charcoal quickly turned around and ran off once more, avoiding a direct confrontation with the herd. Once again, an entire herd of dragon steeds galloped across the grassland with Charcoal in the lead.
This time, the herd chased him all the way to the edge of the grassland before stopping.
Unexpectedly, Charcoal stopped as well. He raised his hooves and neighed, showing his rump to the herd in a taunting manner.
Angered by this, the leader of the herd neighed furiously and immediately led the other dragon steeds after Charcoal, who hastily turned tail and ran.
Both parties went back and forth like this as they ascended the mountains, came back down and then continued out onto the desert. Charcoal wouldn't let the dragon steeds leave at all. Whenever he sensed they were about to retreat, he would immediately provoke them again.
Thus, a herd of over ten thousand dragon steeds galloped wildly across the desert, eventually making their way into the hot, barren region of the island.
As they delved deeper into the area, the temperature gradually increased. Eventually, the herd of dragon steeds stopped, a little fearful of the journey ahead. And no matter how much Charcoal tried to provoke them again, they wouldn't go any further.
Charcoal seemed to be a little disappointed. His difficult journey had taught him that it was dangerous to be by himself. It had been pure luck that he managed to meet so many of his kinsmen, so he wanted to rope them in for the ride as best he could. He did this so that he could use their collective strength to his advantage if he was ever in trouble.
Sadly, after coming all this way, they refused to move any further. Charcoal had no choice. He couldn't win against all of them in a fight, and since they wouldn't fall for his taunts anymore, he decided to give up on trying to pull them along. After making a long, sorrowful neigh towards the sky, Charcoal turned around and ran off, continuing the journey on his own.
The other dragon steeds snorted and tapped their heads against one another, looking as though they were gossiping. Their gazes were locked onto Charcoal's departing figure, wondering at his boldness in venturing into such a dangerous place, and at the same time, a little astonished by his bravery.
Moving forward, the temperature gradually became even more terrifying for Charcoal. After running a great distance, he too had to come to a stop, his body now drenched in sweat. Kicking his hooves about, Charcoal paced around the area, but he didn't dare move another inch forward.
"Harrumph!" Eventually, Charcoal roared towards the sky and decided to charge ahead anyway. Stomping his hooves madly on the ground, he threw caution to the wind and galloped off into the distance. Under the extreme sense of danger, his eyes began to glow a demonic crimson once more.
Like a hurricane, the lone dragon steed charged ahead, leaving naught but a blurry figure in his tracks. As though he was a lone wolf, Charcoal's feet moved faster and faster, and his stomps were loud and clear.
However, right when the lofty Skyfire Mountain was within eyeshot, Charcoal stopped. In the end, he had no choice but to admit defeat towards the harsh environment. The place in front of him was not somewhere he could venture into with his current level of strength. He really did try his best. There was just simply no way for him to go any further.
"Harrumph~ Harrumph~" Stomping his hooves restlessly, Charcoal raised his head and cried out nonstop. He could feel that Miao Yi was just in front of him, but he was not strong enough to go any further than this. All he could do was hope that Miao Yi would be able to hear his voice. But alas, there was no response even after a long while.
Having difficulty enduring the intense heat around him, Charcoal had no choice but to turn back. There simply was no way for him to stay here for too long; being able to run this far had already reached his tolerance limit.
He made like the wind, charging past the rocky plains, to the desert, the mountains, and finally to the grasslands, where he caught up with the herd of dragon steeds.
As the herd stared at him, Charcoal jumped back and forth and neighed continuously towards their leader. He was issuing a challenge to it.
To protect its own dignity, the leader decisively struck out and charged straight towards Charcoal.
However, right before it was about to crash into Charcoal, the latter suddenly dodged to the side. Then, Charcoal launched an attack on the leader's flank, instantly knocking it over.
Who knew when this bastard of a horse had learned all these new moves? To think he actually knew how to perform feints and flanking attacks.
Before the leader could stand back up, Charcoal charged at it again, crashing straight into its side and knocking it over again.
Charcoal repeatedly knocked down the muscular leader a total of five times, seizing victory with an overwhelming advantage.
Finally, the leader no longer stood back up. It lowered its head and made a light snort in defeat.
Charcoal walked towards it, looking down at the now former leader of the pack with a sense of superiority.
"Harrumph~ " Charcoal raised his hooves and roared towards the sky, announcing to the rest of the herd that from this moment onwards, he would be their new leader.
It seemed as though the herd had already accepted this result. They all came over and surrounded Charcoal, snorting as they lowered their heads in acknowledgment of their new leader.
The heavily-scarred Charcoal was the only dragon steed standing tall.
The wind of the grasslands sending his mane aflutter, Charcoal turned his head and stared at the direction of Skyfire Mountain, where he could feel Miao Yi's presence. His eyes shone brightly as he resolved to take advantage of the power of the herd while lying here in wait...
Two years later. Sitting cross-legged on the throne of the Supreme Fire Palace, Miao Yi's forehead shone as the symbol of a single-petaled blue lotus slowly bloomed.
However, Miao Yi didn't stop just yet. Only after he had completely refined the Orb of Will in his mouth did he slowly open his eyes. As he raised his arms, a powerful surge of transcendence energy rolled out, stirring up a mighty wind inside the Supreme Fire Palace, which knocked down and even destroyed some of the furnishings.
Miao Yi abruptly stood up, spreading his arms as plumes of dark mist flowed out of his storage bangle and hovered around his body. With his armor artifacts fully equipped and the Inversed-Scales Spear in his hands, Miao Yi leaped up to the sky, jumping over several dozen meters before landing outside the main hall.
Then, draconic roars could be heard as Miao Yi swung and stabbed his Inversed-Scales Spear around, the speed of his strikes blindingly fast. It seemed as though with the increase in his cultivation, his strikes had grown significantly faster as well.
His entire body was shrouded in a blue light as he activated multiple Second Grade Transcendent Artifacts simultaneously. His strikes were as powerful as a dragon's, with no wasted movements whatsoever, a result of total unity between the user, the technique and the spear.
An invisible force shot out from the spear and landed across the palace halls. However, the mysterious, crystalline material that made up the walls was unbelievably hard, and only a small piece was chipped off from such a vicious attack.
After familiarizing himself with his spear, Miao Yi tucked it behind his back with one hand and took out the Mystic Yin Mirror with the other. Activating it with his arts, the cold Yin energy rushed out of the artifact and shot straight at the Inferno Qilin statue next to the stairs.
This time, Miao Yi was able to sustain the usage of the Mystic Yin Mirror for half an hour before he could feel his transcendence energy reserves depleting. This was already many times stronger than before, when he could only activate it for brief moments at a time!
"So this is the strength of a Blue Lotus cultivator!" The excitement was evident on Miao Yi's face.
Even as he was simultaneously activating his full set of Second Grade Armor Artifacts, Miao Yi didn't feel any discomfort at all. There wasn't the usual tension he'd always felt before. They were just as easy to handle as his Crystalline Silver armor artifacts. However, the dense, destructive force behind his current attacks was not something his previous, White Lotus realm self could compare with; it was an entire world's difference in strength.
Tucking away all his armor artifacts, Miao Yi jumped up to the circular plate, then lifted his head to look at the surging flames up above. Raising the Mystic Yin Mirror in his hand, he blasted a wave of cold Yin energy straight to the sky.
Unfortunately, the moment it came into contact with the intense blazes up in the sky, the cold Yin energy drastically weakened. Miao Yi was aghast. He quickly recalled the cold Yin energy into the Mystic Yin Mirror. After a quick examination, he discovered that a significant amount of the cold Yin energy was gone. Not only were the intense flames able to suppress the cold Yin energy, but they were able to eradicate them completely too.