Time passed like flowing water.
Although it seemed just like yesterday that Lao Ai and Lord Long Yang were paying Wu Qi a visit, it was actually over a year ago. Since they left, he had devoted all his time and energy to study Miao Ying Palace's Dao of Formations. Relying on the countless elementary essences of formations found in the Scroll of Stealing, he had cracked seventy percent of all the fiend formations.
But, that was still not enough for him to handle the few formations deployed at the entrance of Dark Abyss. However, as he progressed further, the complexity of the fiend formations left in the scroll had also become greater. With the realm he was at now and his current cultivation base, he found it extremely tough to analyze the most profound and advanced fiend formations of Miao Ying Palace. Even though Patriarch Miao Ying was not an expert in the Dao of Formations, she was still a Primordial Immortal, and that made the formations she invented after some hard work something that Wu Qi could not fully understand easily.
After spending fifteen days straight in studying and analyzing without gaining any result, he had decided to give up studying those advanced formations for now, and left the chamber where he had dwelt in seclusion for one whole year.
Wu Qi breathed out a helpless sigh as he stood on top of a tall stalagmite, watching those cultivators mine out ores. 'It seems like I do need help from some outsider." But, this outsider must be under his control and could not be too strong. Otherwise, he might be devoured by the help that he sought. It was not a situation he wished to see.
Thankfully, Su Qin, the cunning and treacherous counselor, was helping him with schemes and strategies in An He City. He just had to sit idle and enjoy the fruits of the old man's work.
At the thought of those fascinating methods and schemes Su Qin had come up with, his mood became better. He glanced around, noticing that the number of cultivators working in the mine was more than twice compared to the previous year. In fact, those Yakshas did not just capture cultivators who intruded the Northern Ocean, but they would occasionally sneak into nearby towns and cities to capture cultivators who were alone. As a result, more and more coolies were working in the mine now.
Among the fourteen or even fifteen thousand cultivators in the mine, the weakest were at the Gold Core realm, while the strongest were lower-grade Heaven Immortals. All their souls were confined by Wu Qi, having their life and death controlled in his hands. Wu Qi thought highly of this force he had.
He closed his eyes and entered a meditating state. Through the celestial fiend puppet in An He City, he submitted another request to Su Qin– regardless of what venomous schemes Su Qin would use against the cultivators from Green City, as well as the strategy for claiming An He City and disturbing Northern Ocean, he had to ensure the safety of these cultivators who Wu Qi had gained full control of. Over ten thousand cultivators made a very strong force, and he had to take them into his hands.
Vaguely, he heard Su Qin's furious growl ring out in his spiritual ocean. The additional requests that Wu Qi submitted from time to time had greatly frustrated the old man. For every additional request received, Su Qin would have to go through and alter the plan again. For a counselor, to ponder over a complex and ever-changing plan was definitely not something pleasant.
Wu Qi laughed, shutting off the spiritual connection between him and the puppet. After that, he exercised his arms and unleashed the two immortal items he had, the Enchanting Skulls Flag and Myriad Spirit White Bone Armor. The pale bone-armor emanated an immense evil aura as it clung onto Wu Qi's body, while the skull flag fluttered above his head and kept issuing sharp ghost howls. When the two evil immortal items made their appearance, several hundred little whirlwinds rose from the ground and swirled around, filling the air with a chilling breeze. Upon sensing that, the cultivators in the pits quickly increased their speed of mining ores.
A crispy clapping echoed out of the mine entrance. It was from Lu Buwei, who was walking towards Wu Qi with two executing-disciples following closely behind. "Fellow Daoist Wu Wang, these two immortal items match you perfectly. I hope you do not mind that I've come here without an invitation!" he said smilingly.
Wu Qi had heard Lu Buwei's footsteps and sensed his aura, which was why he purposely unleashed the two immortal items to intimidate him. Upon hearing those words, he said in an indifferent manner, "No, I don't. Currently, Supervisor Lu is in charge of many important things in Miao Ying Palace. Although I am the supervisor of the mine, it has only placed me lower than Supervisor Lu. I can't point my finger at Supervisor Lu even if you wish to dig out a few ores with a pick personally, let alone stopping you from inspecting the mine!"
Lu Buwei chuckled as his body floated up, walking step by step in the air as he came standing next to Wu Qi, looking down at the cultivators who were working laboriously.
Both men did not speak and just stood quietly there, like two statues carved out of stones.
During the year, Lu Buwei and Lao Ai had engaged each other in an intense fight. Lao Ai had successfully won over Goddess Miao Xin's favor, and on the other side, Lu Buwei managed to please Patriarch Miao Ying with his excellent service. Both men had taken each other as their sworn enemy, but something had prevented them from attacking each other openly and with all means– they did not have a solid foundation in Miao Ying Palace, and they did not have enough manpower. The power in their hands came from currying favor with others. Thus, they had to be extremely careful in every decision they made.
Wu Qi was well aware of the ongoing fight in the dark. Both men were determined to kill each other, but as there was only a tiny gap between the powers held in their hands, no one was acting wantonly. Compared to Patriarch Miao Ying and Goddess Miao Xin, they were powerless and insignificant like two tiny ants. Before they could have the confidence to escape from the responsibility of murdering someone, no one dared to act rashly. They feared that should they provoke the other's backing, they would be destroyed into ashes by the almighty expert's rage.
And, Wu Qi also knew that Lord Long Yang was another reason why they dared not to lay hands on each other.
King Zhang Qiu had been staying in Miao Ying Palace during the year, working secretly with Patriarch Miao Ying on something that they did not know about. He was accompanied by Lord Long Yang at all times, which made the latter a prestigious guest in Miao Ying Palace as well. With King Zhang Qiu as his backing, both men feared that Lord Long Yang might take advantage of them should their conflict break into an open battle.
At the thought of this, Wu Qi could not help but sneer in his mind. It was obvious that Lu Buwei and Lao Ai hated each other to the bone, and were eagerly looked forward to killing their sworn enemy. However, they were forced to pretend to be friendly because of various reasons. Thankfully, as both men were cunning and treacherous by nature, they were able to play their respective roles perfectly. It had been over a year, but despite Goddess Miao Xin or Patriarch Miao Ying, no one managed to discover that Lao Ai and Lu Buwei actually knew each other for a very long time.
Both men had been standing quietly for an hour, and Wu Qi did not speak for the entire time. Lu Buwei grew a little impatient, and he finally spoke, "It seems fellow Daoist Wu Wang has done a good job in managing these cultivators. Mm, I have to admit that I was wrong back then. I should have just kept their souls in captivity just like what you did, and made them my own subordinates."
Wu Qi gave him a surprised look and asked with a smile, "Then, why did Supervisor Lu not do that?"
"My thoughts had gone onto the wrong path." Lu Buwei said after a moment of silence and a deep sigh, "I was once a Prime Minister in the mortal world. Initially, I thought of using the method which I used against those ordinary mortals in the past, subduing and making these cultivators my most loyal subordinates with the method of stick and carrot. Looking back now, it is obvious that I was wrong."
"Oh, Supervisor Lu was a Prime Minister? That surprises me," Wu Qi said bluntly, "But, too bad that Immortal cultivators and ordinary mortals are different. You might be able to bring a mortal under control with kindness, but you just need violence when it comes to an Immortal cultivator. The world of cultivators does not need kindness or friendship, and violence is always the most efficient way."
Lu Buwei sighed and said with a voice full of regret, "I only awakened with a start after witnessing how fellow Daoist subdued these cultivators with violence. All my past experiences can no longer be applied to this world of cultivators."
Wu Qi nodded and said, "I've enjoyed the fruit of Supervisor Lu's hard labor." He pointed a finger down at the cultivators and said with a cold grin, "Among more than ten thousand cultivators here, many of them possess the cultivation base of Heaven Immortal, and they are all mine now. It is a generous gift from Supervisor Lu, and it would be disrespectful to decline it."
Lu Buwei felt an oppressive air filling up his chest, and the anger made him nearly cough up blood. Initially, he had thought of employing the same method he used when he was Great Qin's Prime Minister, bringing all these cultivators under his control with carrot and stick. However, just when the method was showing some promising results, Wu Qi arrived, and even used the most savage method to control their souls, turning all of them into his own war trophies. It was a group of over ten thousand cultivators from Pangu Continent, among which, many were Heaven Immortals, Nascent Soul, and Nascent Divinity cultivators. Their combined overall strength was more than enough to compare with all the high-grade cultivators from any of the six dynasties.
It was almost equal to giving the power of a dynasty over to Wu Qi. And yet, Wu Qi had purposely scratched on the wound in his heart. How could Lu Buwei not be resentful?
Of course, he could not show the resentment on his face. "You are destined to have them, fellow Daoist," said Lu Buwei with a nod and a sigh.
Then, he lightly clapped his hands. Soon, a few of his executing-disciples came walking into the mine with a group of young girls following gingerly behind them. They were eight beautiful-looking girls who appeared to be only thirteen or fourteen years old, and judging from their shy and timid manner, they should be the daughters of some decent families. Only heaven knew how they ended up here.
"They are the beauties who I've collected from among the ordinary mortals during my recent trips outside," Lu Buwei said smilingly. "I know fellow Daoist spent most of the time dwelling in the mine, and I suppose you must be feeling lonely sometime. Not only do they look pretty, they are skillful in lute-playing, chess, calligraphy, and painting. I'll now give them to fellow Daoist so they can bring you some entertainment!'
His smile was warm, giving off an impression that he was friendly but not awkward.
Wu Qi was laughing in his mind. 'So, after he couldn't lay his hand on Lao Ai, Lu Buwei is trying to rope me in so that I can help him fight against Lao Ai?'. Nothing could rope someone in better than wine, women, avarice, and pride. Since all the cultivators from the Fiend League were well-known for their fondness of women, Lu Buwei had made a pretty accurate move by giving him eight beautiful girls.
After pondering for a brief while and giving those girls a glance, Wu Qi nodded and said with a happy smile, "Excellent! It just happens that a technique I am practicing recently requires a few cultivation vessels. It looks like these girls can make the perfect candidates. Well, thank you for the kindness!"
Wu Qi cupped his fist and bowed to Lu Buwei, "The path of immortality is long and winding, and it is almost impossible to finish it all alone. We, the cultivators, ought to have one or two best friends. You are a kind man, Supervisor Lu. Should you have anything that needs my help in the future, I'll provide my aid as long as it is something within my capabilities. Haha!"
Wu Qi and Lu Buwei exchanged a glance, and both let out a frivolous laugh at the same time. However, they were also cursing each other in their mind.
After sending the few girls into Wu Qi's chamber and inviting Wu Qi to pay him a visit in Miao Ying Palace when he was free, using the excuse that he would not disturb Wu Qi from enjoying the girls, Lu Buwei left the mine smilingly with the few of his executing-disciples.
With the goodwill Lu Buwei had expressed, Wu Qi left the mine early morning the next day and went straight to Miao Ying Palace.