Shao Xuan wanted to ask more questions but Shi Shu was not willing to continue the conversation. “You should leave. We will be staying behind, we have matters to attend to. Plus, our people will be arriving soon. And when they do, you will still lose even if you fight with your insects. Of course, if you want to know more, you can come look for me at Rock Hill City.”

Shao Xuan surveyed the situation and decided the best solution was to leave.

“Let’s go,” he said to the beetle by his foot.

The blue beetle immediately cleared a path for him. Where it walked, the sea of beetles parted.

Upon witnessing such a scene, Shi Shu’s eyes flashed as he thought hard.

It was only when Shao Xuan was far from the underground chamber, when he could not see Shi Shu when Shao Xuan let Sapphire bring its comrades away to look for food. He hurried towards where he was supposed to meet Lei and Tuo.

As for what Shi Shu said, Shao Xuan did not completely believe him but knew that at least three-quarters of it should be true.

When he left, the person in the cloak asked Shi Shu worriedly, “Aren’t you afraid he’ll tell other slave masters about us?”

“He will not,” said Shi Shu. If Shao Xuan was smart, plus he’d decided to ‘not participate’, he definitely would not tell people about this. Even if he did, it would not matter. Most of our work would have been completed by then.”

“What if he gets involved?” the person in the cloak was still concerned.

“If he does, we could work a deal with him. It might not be a bad thing.”

As they spoke, where the underground chamber had collapsed, a lizard covered in thick scales crawled out. It was not huge but it was agile. It came before Shi Shu, opened its mouth and regurgitated something.

A dead person, covered in the lizard’s digestive juices, appeared on the sandy ground. It was a dead Dao Yu.

It did not look like he was recently dead. At this moment, Dao Yu seemed to have completely bled out, he was shrivelled up. Due to the many wounds he had, it was hard to distinguish his face. Although he was swallowed whole, he wasn’t digested- his flesh and bone were still intact, just shrivelled.

The person in the cloak looked at Dao Yu, then in a disgusted tone, asked Shi Shu, “Brother, he’s already like this. Can he still be used?”

“Of course.” Shi Shu looked at Dao Yu, satisfied. “He does not listen when he’s alive. Then we can only use him when he’s dead.”

Dao Yu was already at the brink of death when he broke free. Shao Xuan’s appearance merely sped things up.

The cloaked person had been watching Dao Yu. At the time, she was also in the underground chamber near another exit, staying as far as she could from the core seed. Part of her beast was buried in the sand dune.

When Dao Yu and Shao Xuan fought, she was about to help but realised Dao Yu had broken free and decided not too. Instead, she ran out to summon her beast to collapse the chamber. She had intended to kill Shao Xuan then remove Dao Yu’s body but she hadn’t expected him to be so skilled. And the insects.

“I don’t sense the core seed’s presence.” She frowned.

“Then that guy must’ve taken it with him,” said Shi Shu. 

“That’s impossible, I did not sense its presence on him too.” The cloaked person did not believe him but from Shi Shu’s determined expression, perhaps this was a possibility.

“What if we send someone to kill him?” she offered.

“If we cannot guarantee success, in these times, it is best we do not take risks. Those tribespeople do not care about anything when they are determined. Very few of them can be lured and baited,” said Shi Shu.

When he saw a few birds flying in the sky, he said, “I’ll be going back first. I believe Snow Plains has already declared war against Flame Mound City.”

“Do I still need to keep watch in White Stone?” 

“No. You tell Su Lun he can go take White Stone City.”

The person who’d arrive on the bird wrapped Dao Yu’s body with cloth, then put him in a long wooden box. He left with Shi Shu.

As for Shao Xuan taking the core seed with him-- they would talk about this after they were done with the matters in the desert. They had no time for this now.

How much could a tribesman who had never seen something like that do with it? Even the tribesmen who often came to the desert to ‘rob’ people only took ore but never the core seed that produced the ore-- because these tribesmen never knew of its existence!

Then again, if one did not use the core seed properly, it could destroy an entire tribe. The tribesmen were stupid, how could they think of the right method to use the core seed?

When she thought of this, the person in the cloak was no longer worried. She headed towards the Fallen Leaves City. 

Shi Shu also focused his attention on the war in the desert. At this point, this war would determine if Rock Hill City’s plans spanning three generations would succeed---to unify the entire desert.

However, they did not know that Shao Xuan was no ordinary tribesman. 

Shao Xuan had already guessed most of the core seed’s functions. All he needed was time to confirm his speculations.

He brought the core seed with him as he hurried towards were Lei and Tuo were.

When he saw them, they were in the middle of panicking.

“Ah-Xuan, you’re finally here!”

Seeing that he was safe, Lei and Tuo could finally relax.

“Many slaves have been entering the desert recently. Ah-Xuan, is there going to be war in the desert?” asked Tuo.

“Yeah, it has begun. The slaves you saw entering the desert, how do the troops look like?” Shao Xuan asked for details.

As he listened to them, he realised only a small portion of slaves were from other cities- most of them were likely Shi Shu’s men! He thought of the place he met Yan Shuo where there were buildings and an increasing number of slaves- that might’ve been the place he was ‘raising’ the troops.

Shao Xuan only knew of one. Perhaps he had more sites like that.

Without a word, he produced a piece of cloth and wrote quickly on it using a charcoal pencil he had brought with him.

Lei and Tuo were used to this. Once he started writing, they automatically went to keep watch.

When he was done writing, he kept the cloth carefully with the leather pouch that contained the core seed and gave them to Lei and Tuo. “Leave immediately, leave the desert. The thing inside this pouch is extremely important! Do not open this on your own, you must bring it to the tribe, give it to the shaman. Let the shaman read the contents on the cloth. Remember, he must read the writing on the cloth first! Do not open before reading it! And, do not let anyone else know of this, including the people of our own tribe. As for the shaman’s decision after reading the cloth, I do not care. If you are unable to get this back to the tribe, then hide it. If you can’t hide it, throw it away. Do not let anyone know you are carrying this with you!”

When they saw his serious expression, Lei and Tuo carefully memorised his instructions. “Ah-Xuan, don’t worry. We won’t let other people know even if we die!”

However, as they spoke, they realised something was off.

“Eh? Ah-Xuan, you’re not leaving with us?” Both of them were worried once again.

He shook his head. “You both go ahead, I have some matters to settle.”

“What else? Is it very important?” They were terrified knowing that Shao Xuan wanted to stay behind in the desert.

“Very important!”

“How important?”

“It involves the survival of our tribe.”

“...” Both of them had nothing to say.

After reminding Lei and Tuo again, he still had to talk to Chacha, who was throwing a tantrum.

When he finally calmed both the humans and the bird, he turned to look at the sky, used a piece of string for some divination, then pointed in a direction. “You both head in that direction, it might be safer.”

“Ah-Xuan, once we deliver this thing, if you’re not back, we will come looking for you,” said Tuo.

Shao Xuan wanted to say something but they’d already hopped unto the eagle’s back and soared across the skies. 

Watching the eagle fly in the direction he pointed, Shao Xuan leaned against a boulder for some rest. Then, he turned around to walk deeper into the desert.