As the fishing boat and the boat steered by the burly man crossed each other, the man cried out aloud, grabbed an anchor line placed on the prow, and hurled it over, securing it accurately on a wooden post at the rear of the old man's boat. The anchor line became taut abruptly, turning the boat around as it dragged it along towards the Ling Ao Island.
The man sprung up in the air dexterously and landed on the old man's fishing boat. He greeted the old man with a bow, then studied Wu Qi for some while before saying, "Daoist, are you here to purchase some aquatic products? Do you want pearls, or aquatic spirit herbs? I have two tendons of anaconda. Do you want them?"
No aura of energy could be sensed leaking from this man's body. But then, Wu Qi had learned how to determine the cultivation base of human warriors. A strange gleam was flickering weakly in his eyes. Through the density of the muscles and bones, he briefly estimated that this burly man possessed an overall strength not weaker than an ordinary Nascent Soul body cultivator.
'Pearls, aquatic spirit herbs, tendons of Anaconda?' All of them were very useful to Immortal cultivators. "A moment ago, this Old Sir told me that Ling Ao Island is a place where Great Yu purchases rare and precious treasures," Wu Qi asked with a smile on his face, "Could you sell the treasures found to anyone at will?"
The man rolled his eyes and said with a strange voice, "Hey? What are you doing here in the Northern Ocean if you know nothing at all? I can tell you are not a good guy just by your furtive behavior!" He snorted coldly and took a step back with alertness while his hand reached for a sharp dagger placed in his waistband. "An annual quota is set by the Treasure Gathering Hall for Ling Ao Island. So long as we fulfill the quota, we can always sell the remaining treasures to anyone who visits here. Why are you visiting Northern Ocean if you do not know about this?"
Wu Qi spread his hands and said sincerely, "I do not come with evil intention. It is true that I'm here just to enrich my experience!"
The man shook his head and said with a cold grin, "To enrich your experience? Here, in the Northern Ocean? Bullsh*t! Hmph, the existence of Northern Ocean is not known by many people, even among Immortal cultivators. But, not only do you know about this place, you've braved the journey filled with all sorts of risks and dangers, coming from so far just to enrich your experience?"
Wu Qi was too lazy to talk now. He smiled, squatting on the prow and overlooking the scenery off at a distance. Ling Ao Island was still several hundreds of miles away, but as the Blood Dragon Eels carrying the fishing boat were moving at an incredible speed, they would arrive the island in approximately fifteen minutes. Also, when they were swimming, the Blood Dragon Eels actually unleashed a gentle energy barrier to protect the boat. Therefore, although he was squatting on the prow, he did not feel any wind.
As Wu Qi enjoyed the scenery comfortably, the burly man was sizing him up with vigilance. At last, he said seriously, "Daoist, make no trouble on the island! Although Ling Ao Island is a small place with only slightly over three thousand families, it is stationed by an army of ten thousand soldiers. Four Generals holding Lion General Seals are made the person in charge of the army. You better don't get yourself kill!"
Wu Qi nodded without saying a word. So, there were Generals with the Lion General Seals on the island? That was surely something he had to pay extra attention to.
Through the information previously sent to him from his celestial fiend puppets, Wu Qi was able to gain some insight into Great Yu's military system. Their highest-ranking Generals would receive the General Seals of Four Divine Beasts: the Azure Dragon, White Tiger, Vermilion Bird, and Black Tortoise. They were the Generals with the strongest overall strength and power, and basically, those high-ranking positions such as the military commander of Zhong Province were assumed by them.
Under them were the Generals who had received the General Seals of Qilin, Phoenix, and some other divine beasts and birds. Their status was just one rank lower than the Generals of Four Divine Beasts.
And further under them were the Generals of various other divine beasts and immortal beasts, about one hundred different General Seals. From top to bottom, they were classified into nine tiers and thirty-six grades, similar to how Great Yu classified their provinces. Among these divine beasts and immortal beasts, the Lion General Seal was placed in the middle, and those who held it were very strong Generals who possessed an overall strength of that an upper-grade or even supreme-grade Heaven Immortal.
Ling Ao Island was only a small colony with three thousand households, and yet it was stationed by four upper-grade Heaven Immortals. Its defensive strength was considered very strong.
Amidst the grumbling of the man, the fishing boat trembled a little as it docked next to one of the wharves on the island. Impatiently, the old man grabbed a fish basket from the boat's hold and jumped onto the wharf with tottering steps, then sped away along the main road. The burly man quickly grabbed the anchor line and tied it around an iron post on the wharf, before sprinting behind the old man.
Wu Qi had long been following behind the old man, running deeper into the island.
As they ran, the old man turned around and told Wu Qi, "Daoist, do not follow me. That Niu Han is not a good man. You might get yourself into troubles if you follow me and be an onlooker. He won't do anything to me, but surely he will find an excuse to punish those around me."
Shaking his head, Wu Qi gave him a thin smile and said, "Don't worry about me. I do not mean to do anything."
The old man twitched his lips, and the four deep scars on his face twisted. He shook his head and breathed a long sigh as he continued to stride along the main road. Surprisingly, his speed was not slower than a flying sword beam. Wu Qi briefly scanned him with Mystic Eyes of Universe and found out that his overall strength was actually stronger than that burly man. Presumably, his incredible strength could even be compared to a Nascent Divinity body cultivator!
In just a few breaths of time, the old man had run into a small village. While they were still at the entrance, they had heard a loud commotion coming from inside of the village, and the cracking and smashing noises of clay pots being thrown on the ground. The old man cried a loud cry while panting, and ran even faster.
Amidst the whooshing noise of winds, Wu Qi followed the old man and came before a courtyard in the village.
The courtyard was large, clean, and tidy. The building style in this village was similar to those traditional buildings found in the rest of the places ruled by Great Yu. Heavy and solid buildings were stacked up with large, dark-green rocks, and before the entrance was a tall rock pillar with roaring flame dancing on top. All of them had a front and a backyard, and two rows of wing-rooms on either side. The front yard was paved with bluestone slabs, measuring about one acre in size.
One could tell that this Grandpa Chan was pretty well-off. Otherwise, he would not be able to build himself a courtyard like this. But, it was not only him, as all the rest of the courtyards in this village were fashioned in a similar manner. It appeared that the standard of living on Ling Ao Island was rather decent.
Right now, the courtyard was packed with villagers, and there were more gathering outside it. The crowd could easily be counted to one thousand.
A few villagers at the outside suddenly turned around and saw the old man running towards them, breathless, and immediately shouted, "Grandpa Chan is back! Grandpa Chan is back! Make way for him! Quick!"
The crowd split, making an about three feet wide path for the old fisherman as he walked through it with a dark face. Wu Qi followed behind him and wormed through the crowd, then blended himself among the villagers. He was able to see what was going on in the courtyard by standing on his toes.
A fat man with a dark skin complexion, clad in a green long robe, a tall crown on his head, two jade ornaments and a medallion hanging on his waist, was standing and glancing around in the courtyard, swollen with arrogance. His attire was that of an official of Great Yu. Fragments of two broken clay pots were scattered around his feet, between which, about three to five hundred thumb-sized, silvery-white pearls were rolling about. They must have fallen out of the broken clay pots.
A teenage girl clad in a burlap cloth, hair worn in two buns, was seen standing behind a few young men, who seemed to be protecting her. Each of these youths stood ten feet tall, and looked brave and vigorous, faces red with anger. Two of them even had sharp daggers drawn, panting heavily as they were confronting the few soldiers brought here by the fat guy.
Wearing an unctuous smile on their faces, the few soldiers were joking and laughing among each other, commenting about the sharpness of the daggers held in the youths' hands. From the way they smiled and talked, it was obvious that they were the black sheep in the army, not some decent people.
The old fisherman rushed into the crowd with the fish basket in hand and greeted the teenage girl, "Lu Chan'er, are you alright?"
"Grandpa, I'm alright. You be careful!" The girl answered from behind the few young men.
Wu Qi gave the teenage girl a glance through the opening between the villagers, and was stunned by what he saw.
She was a beautiful girl, like an orchid manifested from the spirit in the wilderness, petite and delicate, sending forth an air of purity. When looking at her, it was like staring at a forest in spring that had never been visited by anyone, filled with an endless amount of life force. Her skin was fair and tender, her eyes were pure and kind like the spring waters, and when coupled with her pointy little nose, her red and cute little lips shaped like a water chestnut, the first impression she gave to anyone was of purity, then freshness, and only then one would notice her beauty that could make anyone drunk!
'A beauty who could bring all the disasters.' Wu Qi gave the scene his own comment. Supposedly, that fat guy with dark skin was Niu Han, and the teenage girl was obviously his target.
But, with Niu Han's ten feet waistline, his dark face full of hair, and the savage look portrayed from his eyes and brows, if this Lu Chan'er really did follow him, it would be like placing a fresh flower on a heap of cow-dung.
With hands clasped behind his back, Wu Qi shook his head.
The old fisherman, Grandpa Chan, cleared his throat as he walked next to Niu Han and said in a low voice, "Sir Niu Han, what brings you here today?"
Niu Han tilted his head up with disdain and said coldly, "Old Chan, you have not fulfilled your quota for three years straight! Are you not taking Great Yu's Imperial Decree seriously? Tsk, over the past three years, not even once have you submitted a qualified aquatic product! You had six chances to submit that in three years. While every else on the island did that, you did not! You are making things difficult for me!"
He raised his foot and crushed a dozen of pearls next to his feet with a stomp. "And, Lu Chan'er is trying to fool me with these shabby pearls!" He laughed hideously, "Hehe, they are just rubbish that nobody wants even if thrown on the street. How could I offer them to His Majesty as a tribute?"
Wu Qi gave those pearls a glance. Each of the thumb-sized, silvery-white pearls contained a thread of acquired water element energy essence, which could be told from the soft gleam that shone on their surfaces. They were pearls of supreme-grade, able to nourish one's body and prolong one's life if worn by ordinary people for all year long. And, if they were sold to Immortal cultivators, they would be excellent materials for crafting of various magical treasures or even spirit items. In some immortal markets, a pearl like this could exchange for a mid-grade energy stone. How could a pearl like this be considered rubbish?
Grandpa Chan remained silent for a while. Then, from the fish basket, he pulled out a clump of tightly wrapped seaweeds, unwrapped it, and revealed a fist-sized, blue pearl. When it appeared, it emitted a three-feet thick layer of blue light, smearing the entire courtyard with a blue hue.
The surrounding villagers cheered together. "An upper-grade Blue Ocean Pearl! Just one is worth more than the value of three years offerings!"
Wu Qi nodded with a smile. It was a surprise that Grandpa Chan had actually prepared an excellent pearl such as this. The pearl had almost given birth to its sentience, and with just a brief carving and inserting a few restrictive formations into it, it could be turned into an upper-grade spirit item immediately. For Immortal cultivators, it was the most ideal material for crafting! In any of the immortal markets out there, this pearl could be easily auctioned for several hundred upper-grade energy stones.
Niu Han's expression flickered. He gave the cheering villagers a glance before suddenly snatching the pearl. He clenched it with his fat palm and crushed it to powder.
"And you are trying to fool me with this rubbish?"
The pearl powder fell through his fingers and sprinkled to the ground. A deathly silence reigned the scene.
Grandpa Chan's jaw quivered as he narrowed his eyes.