"You're right!" Tao Qingli nodded, "When I accompanied the Palace Lord to the Realm Beyond Heaven to visit the Celestial Sage, she secretly told us that someone had spotted the Netherdragon Ship reappearing. Fortunately, the Palace Lord is one of the Celestial Sage's most trusted comrades, which is why she handed this mission down to our Traversing Water Palace to accomplish."
What really happened was, after Granny Tao and Tao Qingli met up with the Celestial Sage, they began talking about the usual things and reminiscing about the past. At the time, the Celestial Sage's disciples were present as well. Then, all of a sudden, someone came in looking for the eldest disciple of the Celestial Sage — Huyan Taibao. Huyan Taibao followed that person out, then hurriedly rushed back. No one knew what he had secretly conveyed to the Celestial Sage through voice transmission, but her expression instantly changed afterward.
All the people standing down below were afraid to say anything, and simply cast their gazes at the Celestial Sage. And after a rather long silence, the Celestial Sage turned to Granny Tao and had her and Huyan Taibao stay while everyone else was dismissed. After which, Mu Fanjun said to Granny Tao, "The Netherdragon Ship has resurfaced!"
Granny Tao was greatly shocked...
Although saying that it was a mission personally handed down by the Celestial Sage had a nice ring to it, and was indeed something that excited the hearts of subordinates like them, all ten Manor Heads present, including Miao Yi, felt incredibly helpless. It would've been better had they not heard about this mission. Now that they did, it meant that there was no room for refusal. The only option given to them was to go along with it.
Miao Yi regretted not feigning some kind of illness so that he could have avoided coming here. That said, who could have known that this would happen?! Before this, he never thought he'd receive such an 'honor', even in his wildest dreams.
The other nine Manor Heads were sure to be thinking the same thing he did.
Someone gritted their teeth and asked, "With our cultivations, what can we possibly achieve in that Flowing Clouds Dune Sea? Surely there are even more suitable candidates in the Realm Beyond Heaven for such a task?"
Tao Qingli replied, "This mission is of grave importance. If word leaks out, it will surely stir up a major uproar in the entire cultivation realm! Even now, the information is on a very strict need-to-know basis, and only a selected few have been briefed about the matter. The Celestial Sage has intentionally kept this information secret from her other disciples as well. After all, the Six Nations know everything there is to know about one another. This makes it harder for the members of the Realm Beyond Heaven to show their faces. If the people from the Realm Beyond Heaven were to suddenly show up around Flowing Clouds Dune Sea for extended periods of time, they will surely arouse suspicion. It's the same case for Red Lotus cultivators, who tend to have vast networks and are familiar with a lot of people's faces. In contrast, those in our Traversing Water Palace don't have too many interactions with the outside world, which is why we picked you all."
The crowd fell silent. Then, someone said hesitantly, "It's not that we don't wish to go, but given the kind of place that Flowing Clouds Dune Sea is as well as the level of our cultivations, I'm afraid we might fail the Palace Lord's important task!"
Tao Qingli said, "Rest assured, you won't be going there to fight or anything dangerous like that. Your primary objective is simply to infiltrate the Flowing Clouds Dune Sea and search for traces of the Netherdragon Ship. Dig up whatever information you can find. As soon as you notice anything out of the ordinary, report it immediately to the Celestial Nation's Chamber of Commerce branch within Flowing Clouds Dune Sea. The Realm Beyond Heaven will have experts hidden within the Chamber of Commerce. Naturally, someone will take care of all the fighting for you. All you have to do is report your findings. You won't have to fight anyone else for profit. I trust that it won't be a risky job."
'It won't be a risky job? It won't?' The crowd was speechless.
Tao Qingli continued, "To make it easier for you all to accomplish your mission, we've specifically arranged for an experienced veteran to be your Captain on this expedition. With him taking command, I am sure that it will be much safer for all of you."
The crowd immediately looked around, but they couldn't find anyone else in the room. Where was the guy?
Miao Yi was also glancing around as well. He wanted to take a gander at the ballsy fellow who would be helping them avoid the dangers of Flowing Clouds Dune Sea. Unexpectedly, Tao Qingli pointed a finger right at him and said, "Miao Yi! Don't you have anything you would like to say?"
"I…" Miao Yi was dazed. Almost all of the ten Manor Heads present had posed their own questions, whereas he'd simply stood quietly to the side the entire time. He immediately shook his head and answered, "No, Ma'am!"
The thing was, it didn't matter what he said. The other party had even used the name of the Celestial Sage. And now that he knew about this grave secret, did he have any right to refuse? Why speak any nonsense then?!
"It seems Manor Head Miao is quite confident about this expedition!" It was hard to tell if Tao Qingli was mocking him or honestly complimenting him.
Miao Yi smiled wryly and waved his hand, "Surely you jest, Advisor! This subordinate doesn't even have an ounce of confidence."
"Why so modest? Of all the cultivators in Traversing Water Palace that are under the Red Lotus realm, there probably isn't anyone else who can be more confident than you!" Tao Qingli pointed at Miao Yi, then announced to the other nine Manor Heads, "Everyone! I trust that you're all already familiar with this person. He is the one who cut his way through the other 180,000 cultivators of the Subjugation Crusade, and the tenth place holder—Manor Head Miao Yi! To be able to come and go as he pleases in a place as perilous as the Sea of Constellations, there's no question to his skill. Naturally, I believe he already has a course of action planned out for this expedition. With him coordinating everyone's actions in the Flowing Clouds Dune Sea, I am confident that the risks will be reduced to a minimum."
"You're praising me too much, Advisor. I'm really… really…" Miao Yi repeatedly waved his hand around. However, he couldn't continue with his words of 'modesty' any further. His eyes gradually widened and his expression became more and more exaggerated. It seemed he finally realized the situation. He pointed at his own face and asked in shock, "The Captain that Advisor was talking about is me?"
The other nine Manor Heads cast a sidewards glance at him, as though trying to say, 'Even a fool can understand that much.'
Tao Qingli nodded and said, "There really isn't anyone that's a more suitable candidate for Captain than you! The others have stayed in Traversing Water Palace for far too long, and have very little interaction with the outside world. As such, you can say that they don't have a lot of experience. The only good thing that they have for this mission is the fact that not many people know who they are. Once you're in Flowing Clouds Dune Sea, they will have to obey your every command. While you're there, you will be undertaking a mission on the Palace Lord's behalf, and as such, your decrees are equivalent to the Palace Lord's decree. If anyone disobeys you, you are free to kill first and ask questions later! Even if you kill them by mistake, no one will blame you! The point is, all you have to do is to lead them and make sure to accomplish the mission handed to you no matter the cost! For the sake of the mission, all will be tolerated!"
The nine Manor Heads were completely dumbfounded. Wasn't this authority a little too great? His decrees were equivalent to the Palace Lord's decree? And he could even kill first and ask questions later?
It was evident from this how determined Granny Tao and Tao Qingli were to accomplish this mission.
Truth be told, the two of them had no choice either. They still needed to rely on Mu Fanjun for certain things in the future. And for the latter to trust them so deeply by personally assigning them this important mission, letting them in on such top-secret information that she'd even withheld from a majority of her disciples—they naturally had to complete it successfully no matter the cost. What did it matter if a few people died?
On their way back, the two of them thought about who they should send for this mission. Both grandmother and granddaughter didn't even need to think to know that Miao Yi would be the most suitable candidate for such a task. Given the state of things in Traversing Water Palace, who else would be better suited for this mission?
Tao Qingli wasn't just giving shallow praise to Miao Yi earlier on. Given all the things the guy had done in Suppressing Tenth Hall, she knew that he was a man of both courage and wit. He really did live up to the name of a Subjugation Crusade survivor who killed his way out of 180,000 cultivators. There was no exaggeration at all!
Originally, both Granny Tao and Tao Qingli had other plans for Miao Yi. However, when this mission was suddenly dropped onto their shoulders, all their plans had to be put aside for the time being. It was more important than anything for them to accomplish the Celestial Sage's task. This was why the situation had turned out in such a way.
"..." With widened eyes, Miao Yi was a little speechless. He immediately waved his hand and said, "I really can't, Advisor. I don't know anything about Flowing Clouds Dune Sea. Besides, it is apparent that the others are much more informed than I am. I suggest you pick another candidate!"
'Who gives a damn about this kind of authority? I'd much prefer if you had given me the ability to hand out a decree on the Palace Lord's behalf within Traversing Water Palace itself. Once we're in Flowing Clouds Dune Sea, there's nothing more important than thinking of ways to survive. What's the point in ordering these nine guys around? If any of them wishes to take charge over these incompetent fools, they're free to take the job. I, for one, don't want to be dragged down with them. That damned Netherdragon Ship can kiss my ass. There's nothing more important to me than surviving the entire ordeal.'
Miao Yi was already thinking about how to keep himself alive in Flowing Clouds Dune Sea. He wouldn't waste his energy on this bunch at all. He'd much rather be the person receiving the orders instead. The other guys could have that authority for all he cared. It wasn't as if these bastards would dare to do anything to him anyway. There was no telling who would be the one actually doing the killing if that were to happen. After all, who could possibly find out who killed who in that wretched place?!
"Haa! This old one doesn't like to force others." Resting on her high seat, Granny Tao suddenly opened her eyes. She waved her hand and said, "If Manor Head Miao doesn't wish to go, then never mind. I won't force you. You can go back to Raincloud Manor."
The other nine Manor Heads immediately shot their gazes over to Miao Yi, wanting to see if he could read between the lines of Granny Tao's words.
"..." Miao Yi's expression twisted. 'As if you're really asking me to go back, you old granny! You're clearly trying to kill me! If I still don't take part in the mission after being told such a grave secret, will you let me return alive?'
Miao Yi immediately put on a humble expression as he cupped his fists and said, "I really do think that I'm not good enough for the job! However, since the Palace Lord has such high expectations of me, how could I dare disobey?! As long as the Palace Lord doesn't mind the possibility of disappointment, I'm even willing to go through a sea of flames!"
Granny Tao nodded, "Mmm. Good show! You have a bright future ahead of you! Then it's decided! There's no one better suited for the task than you, so I shall entrust this mission to you. Don't let me down!"
Miao Yi had a solemn expression as he said in seriousness, "Your subordinate shall spare no effort to accomplish his task! The nine Manor Heads and I will work together as one!" He then cast a sideways glance at the other Manor Heads and found that they all seemed to be looking at him a bit strangely?
'What the hell are you looking at? Compared to butt-kissers like you, this is me adapting to the situation!' Miao Yi returned with a cold glare.
The nine Manor Heads were taken aback by Miao Yi's sharp gaze. It finally dawned on them that their fates were in the hands of this little lord. They immediately turned to Granny Tao with cupped fists and said, "We shall do our best!"
Now that the issue was settled after having forced the whole thing through, Granny Tao shut her eyes once again.
Tao Qingli then said, "All of you must hide your identities for this mission. Just think of yourselves as loose cultivators. That way, it'll be easier for you to slip in Flowing Clouds Dune Sea. And to avoid alarming the other nations, your escort will only send you halfway there. You will have to travel the rest of the way on your own. Then, once you return, you are not to mention this mission to anyone. If news of this is somehow leaked, you will not be shown any mercy! Everyone, you are to assemble at the designated locations assigned to each person at the exact time. Tardiness will not be tolerated! Do you have any questions?"
Everyone looked at one another. They had plenty of questions, and they all didn't want to go. But would it help to ask such a thing?
Since no one had any questions, the matter was immediately settled. Tao Qingli personally gave each and every one of them a storage ring and a beast sack. Besides which, they were also given ten million Gold Crystals as well as a spirit eagle each. As 'Captain', Miao Yi was given slightly more funds; fifty million Gold Crystals, to be exact.
After briefing them on some of the finer details of the mission, Tao Qingli finally released the ten Manor Heads.
When they reached the foot of the mountain, Miao Yi proceeded to look for his mount, while the nine Manor Heads quickly came over to make some small talk. They had no choice but to be respectful to this little lord who had the call over their life or death in the palm of his hands.
"Everyone!" Since he already wielded the authority, Miao Yi decided not to hold back. He extended his hand out to the other nine men, "To avoid some people not doing their jobs properly after accepting the reward, I'd like all of you to hand over the money that the Advisor just gave out. When the time comes, I will tally everything and return it to you accordingly!"