There were many groups of desert robbers, large and small, scattered around the desert fringes. They did not dare approach the central regions in fear of Rock Hill City and the rumoured undead monsters. 

Shao Xuan and his group followed Sapphire in a direction. They had walked far and still towards a region with more robbers. They had confirmed that the five people were already with the robbers, just unsure if it was voluntary or by force. 

If they continued walking there, they would encounter desert robbers but travelling beyond them would also mean leaving the desert. With lakes and tall mountains, the robbers still never expanded into these lush territories due to ferocious beasts in the area. Desert beasts would also travel over for water and competition intensified during breeding seasons. Only animals at the top of the food chain survived and the robbers did not have the ability to move there for the moment. 

Shao Xuan knew this because over the mountain range were the grassy plains close to where the Gui tribe was. The Hui tribe was able to capture and bring back a monster only because they were now closer to the desert. Under usual circumstances, they would not cross through the mountains but instead walk around the mountains to get to the desert for a safer option despite the distance. 

Shao Xuan recalled all the information he knew about this place. Currently, the desert robbers had been forced back to the desert borders and had their backs to the wall. Any further and they would have to compete against wild beasts. However, anyone who survived Rock Hill City’s mass extermination was not to be underestimated. 

Although many said the desert robbers thrived only because of slave masters, in a relative sense, the groups consisting of mainly slaves were an even larger threat. 

Slaves who were capable of forming functional organisations that thrived amidst the desert chaos, especially those in leadership positions, had likely already broken free of their past bonds! 

Anyone who could break free of the slave-master bond must be extremely talented and determined. They were a more formidable threat than slave masters, Shao Xuan even prophesied that the scattered groups would disappear during the next few decades, merging until the final surviving powers consisted of more slaves than slave masters. 

However, under the current circumstances, the slaves and slave masters were still not powerful enough. 

There was a tiny city built with sandstone on the edge of the desert about one-tenth of the largest city in the desert. It was only suitable as a shelter from the elements. 

The people of this tiny city had brown tattoos on their bodies to look like snakes wrapped around themselves. They were known as ‘Vipers’. 

The Vipers were one of the more well-known groups amongst the desert robbers, led by a person called Black Sand. Black Sand used to be a slave but escaped with a portion of the slaves during chaos of war, broke free of his slave-master bond and founded the ‘Vipers’. 

A group of one hundred people were approaching their city. After arriving before the city gates, they left their camels outside and a few keepers while the leader led the rest into the city. 

They did not belong to the city or ‘Vipers’, they were from another desert robber group--- “Blue Beetles”. 

“Blue Beetle” was a unique group, one of the earliest amongst the other powers. When people were still escaping for their lives, they found a spot with a water well. When people were still using rocks as weapons, they already owned metal weapons. Rumours told that the ‘Blue Beetles’ had support from a slave master but after many years, anyone who studied them knew that there were no slave masters. Even their leader was a slave who broke free from his bonds, named Yiken. 

Probably because they were established earlier than the rest, when the rest finally thrived, the Blue Beetles had already spread out their roots and recruited many people. Today, they were also very famous and as powerful as the Vipers. 

Unfortunately, their name ‘Blue Beetle’ was just not as intimidating as other groups that used ‘Snake’, ‘Scorpion’ or ‘Eagle’ in their names. Even their symbol was amusing. 

They were no longer tribesmen but a meaningful symbol was still crucial to building one’s own ‘tribe’. These symbols were the roots of faith, something to rely on during hard times and represented new beginnings. That was why they usually used powerful animals to represent their groups- just like the Viper, represented by a venomous desert snake that could kill with just one strike. 

And the ‘Blue Beetle’? Their symbol was a blue bug. 

They were probably the only group to ever use an insect as a symbol. Many people privately snickered at this, not understanding why they would ever choose a beetle. The leader must have had dung for a brain to make this decision. 

Other than the leader, the rest were still enslaved. Not everyone could achieve total freedom, such determined and capable people were rare. These rare individuals had since founded their own organisations. 

After being a slave for so long, ideas of rebellion started to grow after seeing some hope. They did not want to be slaves anymore, to be walked over all the time. They wanted to control their own lives. 

This time, the person walking in front of the Blue Beetle troop was their leader, Yiken. He was here to negotiate with Black Sand. 

Yiken was dark-skinned, similar to many slaves in the desert. He did not look very strong, being on the thinner side. On the other hand, the Viper leader Black Sand was a muscular, dark-skinned man who stood like a stoic tower. He was half-naked, exposing the viper tattoo wrapping around his upper body. Black Sand was terrifying indeed. 

“It’s been a while, Yiken.” Black Sand strode over, his eyes filled with darkness despite a smile on his face. He was not in a good mood. 

As if he did not see Black Sand’s face, Yiken maintained his walk, his tone calm and detached. “It’s been a while, Black Sand.” 

Both of them slapped their palms together, cautious eyes locking. 

On Yiken was an image of an upside-down beetle with a ball on top.