Chapter 20 (I): A Thousand Miles in a Step, Lost Within a Sandstorm
However, Xie Lian said, “Although what you’ve looked at are unofficial history and rumours, the Ban Yue Kingdom does in fact exist.”
”Oh?” San Lang said.
At this moment, Nan Feng had finally finished drawing layer upon layer of the array on the ground. He stood up and said, “It’s done. When should we set off?”
Xie Lian quickly packed a bundle before making his way to the front of the door. “Let’s go now.”
Placing his hand on the door, he said, “May the Heaven’s Officials bless us, all taboos are off!
1, and then lightly pushed.
The moment the door pushed open, the small hillside and village vanished. What stood in its place was an empty main street.
Despite the main road being wide, there were in fact very few people around. Half a day could go by and one would only see a pedestrian or two. This wasn’t because the sky had gone dark, but because it was less populated in the Northwest to begin with. In addition, since it was near the Gobi Desert, even if it was during the day, there still wouldn’t be many pedestrians on the road.
Xie Lian walked out of the building and reached behind him to close the door. He looked back again and wondered, how in the world could he have just walked out of Pu Qi Monastery? What sat behind him right now was clearly a small inn.
With a single step, he had travelled a thousand miles. This was precisely the mystical aspect of a Distance Reducing Technique.
A few passers-by walked by, mumbling among themselves while staring at them with guarded looks. At this moment, he heard San Lang speak from behind him, “According to the ancient texts, when the moon sinks from the sky, follow the Northern Star and you would end up seeing Ban Yue Kingdom. Gege, look,” he pointed towards the sky and said, “The Big Dipper.”
Xie Lian raised his head to take a look and then said with a smile, “The Big Dipper, it’s so bright.”
San Lang came to his side and stood shoulder to shoulder next to him. He gave Xie Lian a glance before he also raised his head and smiled. “That’s right. For some unknown reason, the night sky in the Northwest appears to be a bit brighter and clearer than the sky from the Central Plains.”
Xie Lian expressed his agreement with those words. On their side, San Lang and himself were deep in conversation about the night sky and stars, while the two young martial gods behind them found the both of them to be absolutely outrageous. Nan Feng asked, “Why is he also here?!”
San Lang said innocently, “Oh, I found the traditions of ancient divination to be very mystical, so I conveniently followed for a visit.”
Nan Feng angrily said, “Visit? Did you think we’re here to sight see?!”
Xie Lian massaged the space between his eyebrows and said, “Forget about it. If he followed us, then he followed us. It’s not like he will be eating your packed food; I should have brought enough. San Lang, follow behind me closely. Don’t wander off.”
In a rather obedient way, San Lang replied, “Okay.”
“Is the problem even about who’s eating whose packed food?!”
Xie Lian sighed. “Nan Feng, it’s the middle of the night and everyone’s asleep. Let’s just focus on our own business, our own business. Don’t mind so much about the other things. Let’s go, let’s go.”
Guided by the Big dipper, the four of them followed the path set straight towards the north. Having travelled through the night, the towns and greenery slowly grew scarce, while the sand and rocks on the road gradually increased. Once the earth beneath their feet ceased to be soil, that was when they officially entered the Gobi Desert.
Although using the Distance Reducing Technique could save them many miles, the farther the distance, the more spiritual energy it drained. With Nan Feng having used the technique once, it would take many hours before he could use it again.
And since Nan Feng had used up so much spiritual energy already, in consideration of the need to store some for potential battles, Xie Lian wouldn’t ask Fu Yao to use this technique again in order to guard against the unexpected. There should at least be someone with their spiritual energy at full capacity.
In the desert, the difference in temperature between night and day was drastic. During the night, the freezing temperature was cold enough to seep into one’s bones, yet it was still tolerable. But come daytime, it was a whole other experience. The sky here was incredibly clear and expansive with dashes of white clouds, but likewise, the blazing sun was just as fierce.
The group continued to walk, but the more they walked, the more it felt as though they were going into an enormous steamer basket. The hot air emitted from deep within the earth felt as though a day’s worth of walking could steam a person alive.
Xie Lian relied on the direction of the wind and the vegetation clustered at the base of the rocks to determine the direction they needed to head toward. Worried that some people would not be able to keep up with him, he would look back every so often. Nan Feng and Fu Yao were not ordinary people, thus there was no need to mention how they were doing. The sight of San Lang however, made him laugh.
With the blazing sun overhead, the young man had stripped off his outer robe and lazily draped it over himself to block the sunlight. His languid expression brought about a hint of weariness. With his fair skin, pitch black hair, and the way the red robe draped over his face, his countenance appeared even more stunning.
Xie Lian took off his straw hat and lifted his hand to fasten it onto San Lang’s head. He said, “I’ll lend you this.”
San Lang was stunned for a moment, before he smiled and said, “There’s no need.”
He handed the straw hat back to him. Xie Lian didn’t want to push back and forth on this matter, so if San Lang didn’t need it, he wouldn’t insist. “If you need it, just ask me.” He then supported his hat and continued walking.
After having walked some distance, the group saw a small, grey building amidst the yellow sand up ahead. They approached it for a closer look and saw that the inn seemed to have been abandoned for many years. Xie Lian raised his head to examine the sky before calculating that it was already past noon. He was afraid that they would approach the hottest and most trying hours of the day once it was the afternoon. Moreover, they had walked all night. It was about time for a break, and thus, he led the three of them into the inn.
Inside, they saw a square table so they seated themselves down around it. Xie Lian took out a water bottle from the simple travelling bag on his back. He handed it over to San Lang and asked. “Want some?”
San Lang nodded. Receiving the bottle, he drank a mouthful of water. Only then did Xie Lian take it back to drink himself.
Xie Lian tilted his head back and swallowed a few times with his Adam’s apple rolling up and down. The cool liquid slid down his throat and felt extremely refreshing. To the side, San Lang had propped his chin up in his hand and appeared to be staring at the scene, yet not at the same time. After some time, he suddenly asked, “Is there still some left?”
Xie Lian wiped the edge of his mouth, where there was still some water, left. His lips were slightly moist. Nodding, he passed the bottle back to San Lang again. San Lang was just about to take it when a hand blocked Xie Lian’s hand, the one that was holding the bottle.
Fu Yao interjected, “Hold on a second.”
While the others watched, Fu Yao slowly took out a water bottle from within his sleeve, before placing it onto the table. He then pushed it towards San Lang. “I also have some here. Please help yourself,” he said.
At first glance, Xie Lian immediately knew what he was up to.
With Fu Yao’s personality, how could he ever be willing to share a bottle with someone else? Xie Lian also remembered how last night, these two had wanted to investigate San Lang further. Thus, what was in that bottle definitely wasn’t ordinary water, but Form Revealing Water.
With this secret, medicinal liquid, if a normal person drank it, there would be no effect. But, if they weren’t human and had consumed it, then, under the effects of the medicine, they would be forced to reveal their true form. Since the other two had wanted to find out whether this young man was truly a Devastation or not, this bottle of Form Revealing Water held formidable power.
However, San Lang only laughed before saying, “Gege and I can share this one bottle of water.”
Nan Feng and Fu Yao both looked at Xie Lian who was sitting to the side. Xie Lian thought, what are you guys looking at me for? Tone cool, Fu Yao said, “His water is almost gone, please don’t stand on ceremony.”
San Lang said, “Really? Then, you two first.”
The both of them stopped talking. After a while, Fu Yao spoke again, “You’re the guest, you first.”
Although he still spoke with that refined and cultured manner, Xie Lian felt as though those words were forced through his teeth. San Lang also made a ‘you first’ hand gesture, saying, “You guys are the assistants. You first, or I’ll feel bad.”
Xie Lian watched them put on airs. But when such airs were discarded, they finally got physical. Separated by the space of the table, the three of them fought with the poor water bottle, pushing it back and forth.
Xie Lian felt the table tremble faintly from underneath his hands. Thinking the poor table was going to meet its end, he shook his head in regret. His companions fought a few more silent battles.
Finally, unable to hold back anymore, Fu Yao sneered, “Since you’re so unwilling to drink this water, then it must mean you have got a guilty conscience.”
San Lang laughed. “The two of you are being so unfriendly, and neither of you agreed to drink it first. Isn’t it more like you’re the ones with the guilty conscience? Could it be that you’ve poisoned the water?”
Fu Yao said, “You can ask the one sitting beside you whether or not the water contains poison.”
Thus, San Lang asked Xie Lian, “Gege, is the water poisoned?”
Fu Yao’s question was really too crafty. Naturally, Form Revealing Water was not poisonous. When an ordinary person drank it, it was no different than drinking normal water. Xie Lian could only say, “There’s no poison, but…”
He had yet to finish his sentence when Nan Feng and Fu Yao both glared at him. San Lang, however, immediately loosened his hand and said, “Alright.”
He lifted the water bottle and shook it a few times. “Since you said there’s no poison, then I’ll drink it.”
Having said that, the boy smiled before downing the entire bottle.
Xie Lian hadn’t expected him to be so clear cut and was slightly shocked by his actions. Nan Feng and Fu Yao were also stunned, both of them on guard. But who knew, after San Lang finished drinking that Form Revealing Water, he only shook the bottle a couple of times before saying, “There’s nothing too great about the taste.”
Then, he swiftly threw the bottle aside, where it made a ‘clang’ sound upon hitting the ground and shattering.
Seeing how he had drunk the Form Revealing Water, yet still seemed completely fine with no abnormalities, a look of bewilderment flashed across Fu Yao’s face. But immediately, he responded coolly, “It’s only water. Don’t they all taste the same? What sort of difference could it have?”
San Lang took the water bottle by Xie Lian’s elbow before saying, “Of course it’s different. The water here tastes so much better.”
Upon seeing this, Xie Lian couldn’t help but let out a smile. He truly had not cared about the outcomes of this test. Regardless of the results, he wouldn’t have cared about San Lang’s identity or his motives. Therefore, for the chaos that had happened in front of him, aside from it being amusing, there wasn’t much else to it.
Xie Lian thought things would have ended here, yet who knew, with a loud ‘clang’, Nan Feng had laid a sword onto the table.
With that kind of imposing manner, at first glance, it would have seemed as though he was about to kill everyone at the scene. Xie Lian felt speechless for a moment before he asked, “What is it that you’re doing?”
Nan Feng darkly muttered. “Our destination is dangerous. Thus, I am gifting this little brother a sword so he can defend himself.”
Xie Lian lowered his head to take a look. The sword’s scabbard was plain and simple, though the sword itself seemed to have been carefully sharpened over the years.
This was no ordinary goods. His heart trembled. Raising his eyebrows, Xie Lian turned to the side.
“It’s actually ‘Hong Jing
2’,” he thought.
Chapter 20 (II): A Thousand Miles in a Step, Lost Within a Sandstorm
The name of this sword was in fact ‘Hong Jing’, it was known to be a treasured sword. Although it could not exorcise ghosts or slay demons, no demons and ghosts could escape its enchanted mirror. As long as they were not human, once the sword was drawn, the blade would gradually turn red, as though infused by blood. Moreover, the blood-red blade would reflect the true appearance of the one who had drawn the sword. Whether they were a Fierce or a Devastation, no one could escape!
Young people always had eyes for precious swords and horses, and would look upon it with particular interest. San Lang let out an, “Oh?”. Seemingly very fascinated, he said, “Let me see.”
He held the sword in one hand, and grabbed the hilt in the other, then slowly made to pull the sword out. Both Nan Feng and Fu Yao’s eyes were glued intensely to his movements. The sword that had been unsheathed three inches was dazzling and as bright as snow. A moment later, San Lang let out a chuckle and said, “Gege, these two servants of yours, are they joking with me?”
Xie Lian lightly coughed and turned towards him. “San Lang ah, I’ve said it before. They’re not my servants.” Having said that, he turned back again. Nan Feng then spoke in his usual cold tone. “Who do you think is joking with you?”
San Lang laughed and said, “With a broken sword, how am I supposed to defend myself?”
With that, he resheathed the sword and tossed it back onto the table. Hearing this, Nan Feng’s brow raised in surprise. He abruptly snatched the sword and tore it from its sheath, only to hear a metallic clang. Within his hands, with an extra sharp edge was.…..a broken sword.
Hong Jing’s blade was broken three inches down from the hilt!
Nan Feng’s expression slightly shifted, before he took the sheath and poured out the remains, triggering a series of clanging noise. What was left within the sheath were the remains of the sword, all shattered into uncountable small shards.
Hong Jing could distinguish all kinds of demons and ghosts, this much was true. It was never heard of that something could escape its eye, but it was also unheard of that something could cause it to break into numerous pieces within the scabbard!
Nan Feng and Fuyao both pointed at San Lang. “You…..”
San Lang laughed out loud before leaning backwards with his black boots resting on the table. Taking a shard of Hong Jing, he tossed it about in his hands for fun before saying, “I assume you guys didn’t purposely give me a broken sword to protect myself. It must have broken on the way here. But worry not, I can defend myself without a sword. As for sword or whatever other things, you should keep it to use for yourselves.”
Xie Lian was completely unable to look directly at the sword. To speak of it, this treasured sword, ‘Hong Jing’, was originally part of Jun Wu’s collection. After his first ascension, Xie Lian had once gone to the Martial God’s Hall to play and had seen the sword there. He felt that although the sword wasn’t very practical to use, it still had its charms. Jun Wu had then gifted the sword to him.
Afterwards, he had fallen, and there had been a time where it was truly too difficult. He couldn’t keep muddling through then, so he had Feng Xin pawn it off.
That’s right, pawned!
The money received from pawning it off had been sufficient enough for the two of them to have a couple of good meals, and then……well there was nothing further to add. During that time, Xie Lian had pawned off far too many things, so he had decided it was simply better to forget it all, lest he started remembering from time to time and make his heart bleed.
Thinking back, Feng Xin, after his ascension, had probably remembered this sword and couldn’t bear the idea of this rarity from his era being left wandering the mortal realm. Which led him to go back down in search for it, before he brought it back. He sharpened it, polished it, and placed it in Nan Yang Palace, where it was then brought back down again by Nan Feng.
All in all, upon seeing the sword, Xie Lian could only feel a dull ache and had to avert his line of vision. He sensed how the other three were starting to fight again, and thus shook his head before he focused on observing the weather outside. He thought to himself, “Looking at the momentum, I’m afraid there is going to be a sandstorm later. If we were to get back on the road today, it’s unknown if we’ll be able to find shelter from the wind.”
At this very moment, outside the building and upon the brilliant golden sand, the shadows of two people suddenly flashed by.
Xie Lian immediately sat up.
The two silhouettes, one dressed in white and one in black, appeared unhurried, and one could even say they looked rather laidback. Yet, clouds billowed beneath their feet, indicating their speed. The one in black was tall and lean, while the one in white was a female official with a longsword on her back and a hossu resting in the crook of her arm. The man in black did not turn around, but the female official in white turned back to give them a smile as they flashed past the small building. The smile was as fleeting as their silhouettes. For no reason, it overflowed with a treacherous and strange feeling.
Xie Lian kept his gaze fixed outside, which was how he witnessed said particular scene. Within the small building, the other three were only able to catch an approximate glimpse of the silhouettes. As for everything else, they couldn’t afford to take note of the details for the time being. Nan Feng suddenly got up and said, “Who are those people?”
Xie Lian also stood up and said, “I don’t know, but they can’t be ordinary people.” He muttered to himself for a few moments before saying, “You guys should stop playing around, the wind looks like it’s getting stronger to me. Let’s hurry and get back on the road. However much distance we cover is still distance covered.”
Fortunately, although these people were at times like bewildered flying chickens or scared jumping dogs, when it came down to actual business, they were all able to collect themselves and get things done. Presently, they stopped clashing with one another, cleaned up the shards of Hong Jing and then left the small building.
For some time, the four of them walked head on against the wind. And during this time, they walked for approximately four hours. But the distance they covered this time could not be compared to the four hours they had covered from before. The sandstorm was much stronger than before. The gales, bundled with sand, pelted down on them, causing the exposed skin on their faces and arms to ache dully. The more they walked, the more arduous it felt. With the sound of the wind rushing by their ears and the ever-omnipresent yellow sand making their sight unclear, Xie Lian held down his bamboo hat and said, “This sandstorm came about very strangely.”
When there was no reply from anyone after some time, Xie Lian wondered if they had fallen behind. He turned his head back to look but saw that all three of them were still following him closely. It seemed like they had just not heard him speak. As it turned out, the sandstorm was too strong. The moment one opened their mouth to speak, the sound would be scraped away. Naturally, Nan Feng and Fu Yao would not need his concern. They walked steadily against the turbulence, looking murderous. But San Lang was always around five steps behind him, walking neither too closely nor too slowly.
Amidst the yellow, sand-filled sky, the young man’s expression remained undisturbed, without a single ripple of emotion as he walked with his hands crossed behind his back. Clad in red from head to toe, with his hair in an oblique disorderly dance, he appeared as though he felt no effect from the onslaught of the sandstorm. He remained completely unmoved, moreover, not even his eyes blinked once. Xie Lian had already been hit by the sand so much that his face hurt. Seen San Lang this way, with such disregard for himself, truly made him worried. He said, “Watch out for sand getting into your eyes and clothing.” He thought about it again, and realized even he himself could not make out what he had just said. Xie Lian then went straight to San Lang and helped him secure his clothes and collar. He wrapped him up tightly, preventing the wind and sand from getting in. San Lang was surprised. During this time, the other two caught up to them. With the four of them in closer proximity, they could finally hear each other. Xie Lian said, “Everyone, be careful. This sandstorm came too suddenly, something doesn’t seem right. I’m afraid it might be of some evil doing.”
Fu Yao said, “The wind and sand is just stronger than usual. Other than that, what else could it be?
Xie Lian shook his head and said, “The wind and sand are fine. What I’m afraid of is if something else was added in the sand.”
Right at this moment, a sudden gale blew off Xie Lian’s bamboo hat. Once it was in the air, the bamboo hat was about to disappear altogether within the infinite yellow sand. Nevertheless, San Lang was deft and quick to react. Shooting out his hand, he reached out and caught the bamboo hat that was about to fly into the sky. Then, he once again handed the hat back to Xie Lian. Xie Lian thanked him and fastened the bamboo hat back on while saying, “It would be best if we could find a place to avoid the storm.”
Yet Fu Yao did not agree. “If there really was something wrong with this sandstorm, then its motive could only be to stop us from advancing. If that’s the case, then we have even more reason to keep going.”
Having heard this, Xie Lian hadn’t even uttered a word when San Lang began to laugh out loud. Fu Yao raised his head and coldly said, “What are you laughing at?
San Lang crossed his arms and snickered, “Deliberately going against people, does it satisfy you to be so utterly unconventional?”
Even before, Xie Lian had always thought that although this teenager was always smiling, his smile often made it hard for people to distinguish whether it was actually genuine, or whether it was mockery in the guise of compliments. However, this time, anyone would be able to tell that there wasn’t even half an ounce of goodwill in his smile. Fu Yao’s expression abruptly turned cold as Xie Lian raised a hand and said, “You guys should stop for now. If you have something to say, save it for later. When the wind gets strong, it can also become quite frightening.”
Fu Yao said, “As if it could really blow people into the sky?”
Xie Lian replied, “Nn, what you said is very possible……”
Before he had finished speaking, the few people in front of him suddenly disappeared.
In reality, the one who had disappeared wasn’t them. It was him——This sandstorm had really bundled him up and swept him up into the sky.
It was a tornado!
Xie Lian spun violently around in mid-air. With a wave of his hand, he said, “Ruoye! Grab onto something firm and reliable!”
With a swish, Ruoye flew out. A moment later, Xie Lian felt the other end of the white silk drop, as if it had wrapped around something. Grabbing it, Xie Lian finally stabilized himself in mid-air with great difficulty. When he lowered his head to take a look, he realized that he had actually been brought to a place that was at least ten zhang
1 away from the ground.
Currently, he was like a kite, one only pulled along by a string with its centre tethered to the ground. Within the onslaught of yellow sand, Xie Lian grabbed Ruoye as he simultaneously strained to make out what Ruoye had taken a hold of. He looked and looked, before he finally made out a shade of red. The other end of Ruoye seemed to be wrapped around the wrist of a teenager dressed in red.
He had Ruoye go grab onto something sturdy and stable, but Ruoye ended up grabbing onto San Lang!