When he felt the rushing wind on Charcoal's back, Miao Yi couldn't help feeling nostalgic. Back then, if he and Charcoal hadn't been separated, then perhaps Bai Ziliang wouldn't have been able to force him to jump into the volcano. Then again, if he hadn't jumped down, he might have never discovered the truth behind the Fiery Star Technique.
A lone man and his mount charged across the barren desert and over the lofty mountains before coming to a stop by the ocean shore.
While Charcoal stomped over the shallow waters of the beach, Miao Yi took out a map to figure out his next location; he needed to be as far away from Skyfire Mountain as possible.
Once he decided on a location, he started preparing for a long voyage at sea. He gathered wood from the forests and made a robust yet intricate raft. Then, after pushing the raft out to sea, Miao Yi and Charcoal hopped on. Hoisting the sails, Miao Yi began to steer the raft using his arts while the wind carried it forward.
He wasn't in a rush anyway, so on days when the wind was favorable, he simply allowed the raft to be carried along the waves while he cultivated. Other days, he would lower the sails and use his arts to steer the raft instead.
The journey was relatively uneventful. While there were plenty of times when they were attacked by sea monsters, Miao Yi couldn't be bothered to deal with them, so he simply defeated them with a single blast of the Mystic Yin Mirror.
After two months, they finally reached their destination. After staying in one place for a while, Charcoal galloped across the beach excitedly while Miao Yi pulled the raft ashore and hid it away for future use.
Both man and steed made their made way up to the summit of a mountain and gazed into the distance. Before them was a vast mountain range; the terrain was dangerous, the air was still, and the whole place was surrounded by fog.
Miao Yi nodded in approval. The reason he chose this place was because this island was highly inconspicuous and the difficult terrain meant that it would be easy to escape in a rush if he needed to.
He was prepared to hide here and cultivate for as long as he could. He wanted to drag the current situation as close to the end of the Subjugation Crusade as possible.
However, it seemed as though Miao Yi wasn't the only one in this place. Sitting on Charcoal's back, Miao Yi charged down the mountain and was making his way deep into the mountain range when Charcoal suddenly halted. He could smell the scent of his kin nearby. The bastard truly had above average senses for a dragon steed.
The terrain here was not suitable for spiritual beasts like dragon steeds, who enjoyed wide expanses where they could stretch their legs. Sensing the change in Charcoal, Miao Yi immediately tensed up. He spread his arms out and let the black mist surround his body. The Inversed-Scales Spear instantly appeared in his hand, and both man and steed carefully surveyed their surroundings.
Suddenly, hoofbeats could be heard coming from the surrounding forest. It seemed as though the other party realized that he was already prepared to fight. Charcoal immediately circled around, and on his back, Miao Yi raised his spear and vigilantly scanned the area.
The hoofbeats came to a stop, and nine people showed up from the surrounding forest. They each guarded one side of a circle, trapping Miao Yi and Charcoal in the center.
Atop a hill, a young man with a sinister-looking face pointed his spear at Miao Yi and shouted, "Who goes there?! Alight from your steed and surrender, and we shall spare your life!"
These nine cultivators' faces were tense with vigilance; it seemed they didn't dare to act too recklessly. After all, who would dare belittle a person like Miao Yi, who was able to survive this long in the Subjugation Crusade on his own?
Miao Yi noticed they were all wearing the same brownish-yellow fabric under their armor. It looked like they all belonged to the same sect. He thought that the color seemed a little familiar and wondered where he saw it before. After some thought, he remembered. It was the Glorious Cloud Sect! Miao Yi asked loudly, "Could all of you possibly be disciples of the Glorious Cloud Sect?"
The nine cultivators exchanged glances. The young man with the sinister face asked, "May I ask, who are you? Could you possibly be a cultivator of the Celestial Nation's First Earthly Branch as well?"
Seeing how he was speaking on behalf of the others, Miao Yi assumed this person was the leader. He replied, "I am a cultivator of the Fifth Earthly Branch, and a good friend of your sect's record-keeper Deacon, Deacon Liu."
Well, they weren't exactly good friends. Back then, Miao Yi had visited the Glorious Cloud Sect to figure out the whereabouts of his little sister and managed to have a conversation with Deacon Liu. At the very least, they could be considered minor acquaintances. That said, Miao Yi only knew the other person was surnamed Liu; he didn't even know his full name. However, he didn't know how strong these people were. For a group of this size to be able to survive this long in the Subjugation Crusade, they were clearly not as simple as they seemed either. Miao Yi didn't dare to act too recklessly, so all he could do was first try to curry some favor with them.
Seeing as Miao Yi knew the name of their Glorious Cloud Sect's record-keeper Deacon, the nine cultivators became slightly less hostile. However, they were still relatively vigilant. After all, the Glorious Cloud Sect was a huge school and had many connections. It would not be surprising for an outsider to know the identities of its members.
"So you are Deacon Liu's friend!" The young man in charge adopted a slightly more courteous tone. Cupping his fists, he greeted, "My name is Song Zeming. May I know—"
However, before he could finish, a sharp voice suddenly came from the bottom of the ridge yelling out, "Die!"
Miao Yi quickly turned around and saw a burly man jumping straight at him. He had a shaggy and unkempt face and wore a set of armor with a dark red cape on his back. Longsword in hand, the man charged straight at Miao Yi.
Miao Yi had never seen a longsword like that before. Or at least he had never seen this particular type of longsword before. The blade was at least two meters long and half a meter wide, while the hilt itself was half a meter long. The entire sword towered over its wielder and looked absolutely badass.
After getting a close look at the man's face, Miao Yi asked in surprise, "Big Brother Yan?"
Correct. It was none other than Yan Beihong.
However, Yan Beihong acted like he didn't recognize Miao Yi at all. With a dark expression on his face, he charged ahead on his mount and began wildly slashing down at Miao Yi with his sword.
Miao Yi was startled. Charcoal quickly turned around as Miao Yi hastily struck back with the Inversed-Scales Spear. Clang! A loud ringing erupted as the spearhead slid across the blade right towards Yan Beihong's wrist.
Yan Beihong flicked the spear away, then flipped the sword around and violently slashed down on Miao Yi's shoulder.
Miao Yi was utterly annoyed by Yan Beihong's persistent attacks and decided to stop pulling his punches. Charcoal quickly circled around the trees as Miao Yi launched his spear out in a violent clash against Yan Beihong.
The nine cultivators spectating the battle were a little stunned. Just based on the fact that Miao Yi called Yan Beihong 'Big Brother Yan', they could tell that the two knew each other. And it seemed they were very well-acquainted at that. Otherwise, Miao Yi wouldn't have addressed Yan Beihong as 'Big Brother'. Yet now they were at each other's throats. What in the world was going on?
At times, their two dragon steeds would charge at one another, while other times, gallop alongside one another as both riders attacked with their weapons.
Miao Yi's spear art was overwhelmingly sharp. And with a mount as speedy as his spear, he commanded a terrifying aura that seemed capable of erasing everything from existence.
Yan Beihong's giant sword was just as imposing. Even though it was absurdly huge, somehow he still managed to swing it about with the momentum of a forceful storm as though the weight of heaven's wrath was behind it. It was truly awesome.
The two seemed quite evenly matched, and the sheer intensity of their battle had the nine cultivators utterly stupefied.
They had never seen someone this skilled in a head-on battle before. They were all aware of how powerful Yan Beihong's sword was, but they never thought that there was still someone out there who could give him a run for his money and even force him to up his attacks by a few notches.
Yan Beihong was equally astonished by Miao Yi's prowess. He never thought Miao Yi would be this capable, and that even the sword art he was so proud of couldn't suppress him.
Miao Yi was also in awe. Ever since he started being a cultivator, when it came to head-on battles, there were hardly any contenders who could last longer than three moves against him. He never thought that Yan Beihong could actually exchange over a hundred moves with him and still not fall.
Miao Yi felt a surge of excitement. Finally, there was someone he could go all-out against. He wanted to see exactly how many of his moves Yan Beihong would be able to receive.
The Inversed-Scales Spear struck faster and faster, each time carrying the roar of a dragon behind it. Like threading through a needle, Miao Yi's attacks were precise and deadly, and almost every move was aimed at a vital spot.
The nine cultivators spectating the battle were completely dazzled by the sight.
On the other hand, Yan Beihong was in utter shock. He swung his sword wildly, doing all he could to receive the attacks, but after several dozen strikes, Yan Beihong immediately found himself at a disadvantage. There was little he could do but simply try his best to guard against Miao Yi's spear. However, he was still struck multiple times in the blink of an eye. Were it not for the armor artifact protecting him, he would have already died from Miao Yi's attacks.
Thrusting at the horse, piercing the throat, and stabbing the wrist. Realizing that it was difficult to overcome the armor artifact Yan Beihong was wearing, Miao Yi immediately launched his spear at his opponent's weak points with pinpoint accuracy.
Yan Beihong quickly became anxious. He never imagined that the young man that required his protection back then would have grown so much. If his sword wasn't so freakishly large that it was capable of providing a wide area of defense, his mount might have already perished.
Yan Beihong had always thought that his cultivation speed was already quite fast compared to his peers. However, this Miao Yi was actually able to fight head-on against him. Then wouldn't it mean that he too was at the Blue Lotus realm already?
That said, Yan Beihong was clearly a battle veteran in his own right. Very soon, he discovered Miao Yi's weakness—his spear. The speed at which Miao Yi was capable of launching a strike was unbelievably fast and at the same time accurate. Yan Beihong had no idea how he'd managed to train to such an extent. Nonetheless, he figured that in order to have a chance at defeating Miao Yi, he needed first to quell his momentum. And the easiest way to do that was by targeting the three sharp, inverted blades on his spearhead.
Once again, Miao Yi struck at his throat. As Yan Beihong deflected the attack, he abruptly turned his body to the side and swept his giant sword across the shaft of the spear. In the next instant, he managed to jam his sword between the three inverted blades on the spearhead.
'I've got you!' Yan Beihong let out a snicker. As he tried to grab onto the spear shaft, he suddenly heard a click coming from the spearhead. Suddenly, the three inverted blades joined together as one. Having caught Yan Beihong by surprise, the giant sword quickly slid past the spearhead and off the spear. His plan to jam the spear had instantly fallen apart, and he was now vulnerable against Miao Yi.
Miao Yi was already pulling back the Inversed-Scales Spear, drawing a straight line towards his opponent's throat. Yan Beihong panicked. Clang! He hurriedly raised his arm and used his vambrace to block the strike.
As they passed by each other, Miao Yi quickly turned back and launched his spear again, twirling it in circles and twisting Yan Beihong's dark red cape around it. Rip! Miao Yi tore part of the cape into pieces, and the shredded cloth fluttered about like tiny red butterflies. At the same time, like a water mantis skidding across the water surface, he lightly pricked the rump of Yan Beihong's dragon steed. However, he didn't inflict a mortal wound.
Once the two passed by each other, they came to a stop several dozen meters apart from one another. However, Yan Beihong no longer charged at Miao Yi. He knew that Miao Yi had gone easy on him just now; he had already lost this battle.
"Yan Beihong, what in the world do you think you're doing?!" Miao Yi pointed his spear towards Yan Beihong and barked.
Things would have been better if he hadn't asked, as Yan Beihong was instantly enraged by the question. Pointing his sword furiously back at Miao Yi, he said, "And here I've always thought you were my brother. I even sent Hong Xiu and Hong Fu over to you. So why are you here in the Sea of Constellations?"
Miao Yi was stunned. 'So that's why he's so angry. I was wondering why he suddenly started attacking me out of nowhere.' He asked sarcastically, "Do you honestly think I WANT to come to this damned place?"
The question caught Yan Beihong by surprise. However, after some thought, he couldn't help agreeing. Why would someone come here of their own accord if they had the choice? He had truly been too lost in fury when he caught sight of Miao Yi.
Although he realized he was in the wrong, Yan Beihong still acted tough and said, "If anything happens to Hong Xiu and Hong Fu, you'll be answering to me!"
Miao Yi replied, "Don't worry. I've already made the necessary arrangements. If neither of us makes it back alive, someone will take them to a safe place."
"That's more like it. Otherwise, I'll chop you in half!" Yan Beihong huffed as he sheathed his sword. He then cupped his fists to Song Zeming and said, "Senior Uncle Song, Miao Yi is my little brother. You've all seen what he can do. We need the extra help right now. Please take him in!"
Appearance-wise, even though Yan Beihong looked much older than Song Zeming, he still had to call the latter Senior Uncle. Then again, in the world of cultivation, one should never judge another's age based on their appearances. What's more when there was seniority involved.
Song Zeming pondered for a while, but quickly smiled and said, "Since he is a friend, then he is free to join us. That way, we can look out for one another too." He then turned to wave at the others. "He's one of us. You can all go back now."
The other cultivators then disappeared into the forest along with their mounts. On the other hand, despite having successfully recruited a member, Yan Beihong cast a knowing gaze at Miao Yi and announced loudly, "Brother Miao, it has been a while since we last met! It so happens that I'm on watch duty today. Come, take a walk with me."