Suddenly, the black cloth enveloping the sky started to shrink, transforming into a whip which quickly shot down into the forest below. Like a phantom, it quickly faded in and out of the trees. However, there was no sign of it approaching the fort at all. Rather, it looked as though someone was just running across the forest with a sheet over their bodies as a prank.
With a full body of armor and his spear at the ready, Miao Yi turned back to look at Yan Beihong in confusion, as though asking, 'What are you playing at?'
Yan Beihong laughed. "Careful. It's starting."
Miao Yi quickly turned his head back. To his surprise, there was no longer any sign of the black cloth among the trees below. His eyes then quickly darted from side to side as he raised his spear and slowly turned; he didn't dare to miss out on the slightest signs of movement around him.
Suddenly, there was a rustling in the grass nearby. Miao Yi instantly shot a glance over but noticed it was just a snake slithering across the grass. He paid it no heed and continued to survey his surroundings.
'No, wait! That's a black snake!' The thought suddenly flashed through Miao Yi's mind.
By the time he reacted, the 'black snake' in the grass was already shooting towards him like an arrow.
Clang! Miao Yi quickly knocked it away with his spear.
As soon as it touched the ground, the 'black snake' shot back out. Its speed was incredibly fast. Fortunately, Miao Yi's spear didn't exactly lag behind either.
However, even though this 'black snake' was as tough as a steel arrow when it attacked, the instant the Inversed-Scales Spear struck it, it became as soft as cotton. As such, Miao Yi was unable to push such a flimsy transcendent artifact any considerable distance away, and although it was being knocked away each time, the 'black snake' was gradually pulling closer to Miao Yi. What's more, given its extraordinary speed, Miao Yi soon found himself under attack from all sides.
As he turned round and round, Miao Yi had to defend himself with his spear constantly. Meanwhile, the 'black snake' continued to slither around him with blinding speed as it launched its attacks from near-untraceable angles.
Suddenly, Miao Yi closed his eyes. Immediately, his movements were no longer influenced by the 'black snake's' misdirection, and even though his strikes were no longer as fast as they were before, his attacks became more effective. Every time the 'black snake' launched an attack, it was as though it was being drawn towards Miao Yi's spear.
With a single spear in his hand, Miao Yi attacked. At times, it would be a thrust with the razor-sharp spearhead, and other times, it would be a backward shove with the tail of the spear. Regardless of how deceptive the 'black snake's' attacks were, it was unable to get close to Miao Yi at all.
Yan Beihong watched in amazement as Miao Yi fought with his eyes closed. He never imagined that Miao Yi still had such a trick up his sleeve, and couldn't help praising, "You are quite skilled indeed, Little Brother."
When it came to the spear, Miao Yi was quite confident in his skills after all. He replied, "It seems this Flowing Cloud Killer isn't as powerful as you said it was!"
Yan Beihong was slightly taken aback by Miao Yi's comment. However, he quickly laughed aloud. "Don't underestimate it, Little Brother. If I were to activate the full extent of Flowing Cloud Killer's powers, I fear you won't even be able to put up any resistance!" Evidently, he too had a lot of confidence in the transcendent artifact that he had just obtained.
"Are you telling me this is still not the full extent of its attacks?" Miao Yi couldn't help nodding in approval. "I know Big Brother Yan is just trying to go easy on me."
"It's not just about the extent of its attacks." Yan Beihong laughed, "Little Brother, open your eyes. I will have it attack you head-on. Try to block one strike if you can!"
"One strike?" Miao Yi's eyes shot open, locking on to the 'black snake' that had come to a stop before him as he said curiously, "Let me give it a try then!"
"Careful now!" Yan Beihong cautioned.
The 'black snake' abruptly shot out in very much the same way as it did previously.
At the same time, Miao Yi struck out with his spear, his attack landing precisely on target. However, the 'black snake's' body suddenly became incredibly soft, and instead of being knocked away, it quickly wrapped itself around the Inversed-Scales Spear. Coiling around the spear with unbelievable speed, the 'black snake' quickly approached Miao Yi.
Miao Yi was utterly shocked by the sudden change of attack. He quickly realized that he had no way of shaking the 'black snake' off. With his other hand, he hastily grabbed on to the head of the snake in a panic and tried to pull it off. However, regardless of how long one's hand was, there was no way it could outmatch the speed at which the 'black snake' could elongate itself. Before Miao Yi could pull the 'black snake' away, it had already stretched out to wrap around his neck and even nearly cut off his breathing.
Tossing the Inversed-Scales Spear away, Miao Yi hurriedly pulled on the 'black snake' coiled around his neck. However, he soon noticed that he had no way of moving his arms at all. The 'black snake' had wrapped itself around his body with incredible speed, locking his limbs in place and subduing him completely.
Yan Beihong's eyes brightened at the sight of this. The precise reason he wanted this transcendent artifact so badly was because it could capture his targets alive.
As Miao Yi struggled to free himself, he collapsed to the ground, utterly immobilized. The sharp 'snake head' then slowly hovered in front of his face, as though trying to decide if it should pierce through his eyes or burrow through his ears. Eventually, it decided to slip in through Miao Yi's nostril.
How could he possibly survive if this thing went inside him? The instant his nostril started to expand, Miao Yi immediately broke out in cold sweat. He hurriedly exclaimed, "I admit defeat!"
The 'black snake' instantly came to a halt. Miao Yi felt the bindings on his body loosen, as the 'snake' constricting his body quickly shrunk away. It transformed back into a black cloth in mid-air, then gently floated off towards Yan Beihong, who was laughing uncontrollably as the black cloth landed on his palm.
Yan Beihong teased, "So what do you think of my transcendent artifact, Little Brother?"
"It is powerful indeed!" Miao Yi praised as he jumped back up and tucked the Inversed-Scales Spear away. There was still a lingering fear in his mind as he looked at the black cloth. If he had to face something like this, he really would be utterly helpless. This Flowing Cloud Killer was virtually invincible against everything. He couldn't think of any cultivator below the Red Lotus realm capable of overcoming this transcendent artifact. The only way to win would be to first kill the artifact wielder.
Miao Yi couldn't help feeling exasperated as he thought about how Yao Ruoxian actually refined a transcendent artifact like this for someone else. 'It seems the old coot really does live up to his name!'
But after some thought, he grew puzzled, and couldn't help asking, "Big Brother Yan, if this Flowing Cloud Killer is this powerful, why do you all still have to run from Yun Feiyang?"
"When it comes to transcendent artifacts, it is very normal to have both complementing and opposing archetypes. I don't know what kind of transcendent artifact it is exactly, but that bastard possesses a bag that is capable of sucking away other transcendent artifacts. If Song Zeming hadn't been lucky enough to find a tiny crack in the ground at the time and allowed the Flowing Cloud Killer to slither off, I'm afraid it would have already fallen into Yun Feiyang's hands by now." Yan Beihong shook his head and sighed. It seemed like he was rather traumatized.
'Isn't that the same as Bai Ziliang's gourd artifact then?' Miao Yi thought. Then, he asked, "The Sea of Constellations Subjugation Crusade will be ending in another year or so. Big Brother Yan, what are your plans now?"
"Out of all those remaining in the Subjugation Crusade, only a small margin of them have survived out of pure luck. The others are likely a force to be reckoned with in their own right. Even though we now possess several powerful transcendent artifacts, it is still better to take heed as much as possible." Yan Beihong said gravely, "Little Brother, if you ask me, I think it's better for us to continue searching for places to hide and avoid confrontation for as long as we can. We should only fight if there is absolutely no other choice. What say you?"
"I was thinking the same thing!" Miao Yi nodded. He looked around, then asked, "Should we continue hiding on this island then? Will that Yun Feiyang somehow find us?"
"I also have no idea how Yun Feiyang always manages to locate us. However, I'm sure it had something to do with the ten of us. Now that Song Zeming and the others are dead, let's hope we'll be able to throw off Yun Feiyang's pursuit. Even though I've already burned their bodies, they did stay on this island for a while after all. Just to be safe, I think it's better for us to find a new hiding spot."
Miao Yi had no objections. It was always better to be safe than sorry after all.
The duo then took out their maps and set their sights on a new island to hide in. Once they did, they immediately departed. Cultivators like them would always have their belongings in their storage rings after all; there was no need to pack anything up.
Once they reached the shore, Miao Yi proceeded to take out the raft he had hidden away, since he still had to account for Charcoal. He would not separate from Charcoal so easily ever again.
Waving his hand, Yan Beihong laughed, "Now that we have the highly convenient transcendent artifact that is the Flowing Cloud Killer, why do we still need to use wooden rafts? Let me show you what it can do."
Yan Beihong tossed out the Flowing Cloud Killer. Drifting in the wind, the black cloth gradually expanded as it gently landed on the ground. Yan Beihong then rode his mount onto the Flowing Cloud Killer. As he dismounted, he beckoned to Miao Yi, who immediately followed suit out of curiosity.
The two of them were standing in the middle of the open, black cloth. Then, as Yan Beihong waved his hand, the black cloth quickly closed itself up. As he looked around, Miao Yi noticed how they and their dragon steeds had all been wrapped inside a dark cylindrical space. However, before he could even react, he suddenly felt his body shake. The black cloth they were in had already dove into the ocean, and the light around them was wavy from being refracted by the water around them.
Miao Yi quickly realized that the Flowing Cloud Killer was truly impermeable to water. The seawater around it had no way of penetrating the fibers of the black cloth. Like a sea snake, the Flowing Cloud Killer slithered upon the ocean depths. Its speed was extraordinary. Miao Yi could see the scenery on the ocean floor quickly moving past him through the fibers of the black cloth.
Miao Yi couldn't help giving praise, "This is a really versatile transcendent artifact!" However, deep down, he was cursing Yao Ruoxian's entire lineage, 'What kind of junk did that old coot refine for me?'
Even though he understood it was mainly because he couldn't provide the materials, he still couldn't help cursing from the sense of injustice he felt.
Evidently pleased by the compliment, Yan Beihong laughed heartily. "If it wasn't, how could we have possibly managed to escape Yun Feiyang time after time?"
Half a day later, the duo emerged from the ocean depths and reached shore. What was originally a place that needed weeks of travel to reach had only taken them half a day to reach. Casting a vigilant eye on their surroundings, Miao Yi and Yan Beihong proceeded to scout the island.
After making sure the island was safe, the duo then decided on a place to hide and dug out two caves to stay in.
In the coming days, even though the both of them lived close to each other, they barely met one another.
One was busy assimilating the cultivation he had absorbed; the other was unwilling to waste the chance of rapidly growing stronger every day now that he was able to refine three Orbs of Will a day and had sufficient resources.
However, they would still meet up once a day. After all, unless they had a death wish, they couldn't simply cast everything aside and just focus on their cultivation. They still had to take turns standing guard.
But alas, in such perilous lands, a long-lasting peace was always nothing more than a pipe dream.
Two months later. Miao Yi was in the middle of cultivating inside his cave, when suddenly, Yan Beihong, who was on watch duty, rushed in and shouted, "Run! Yun Feiyang's men have found their way to this island."
Miao Yi was startled. He quickly jumped up, and the two of them rushed out the cave and ran straight to their mounts. As soon as they got on their dragon steeds, they immediately made for the opposite direction of the encroaching enemy forces.
But before they could even start running to shore, two riders suddenly emerged from the mountain ridge before them and blocked their path.
One of them was riding on a dragon steed, while the other person—with both hands on his waist as he laughed maniacally—rode on a rather terrifying creature—a muscular, black-skinned bull. With six sharp horns on its head, the bull didn't have eyes as most animals normally would; instead, it had one eye the size of a fist on its forehead. It also had a mouth full of sharp teeth and was constantly shrouded in a thin, black fog.