The First Arc: Blood Rain Reaching Towards a Flower
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 Jing2’,” he thought.