The ‘Blue Beetles’ were here due to an important matter regarding their resources.
Recently, Blue Beetle and Viper both targeted the same spot, which was a base belonging to another desert robber group. An obscure underground spring flowed there and while there was nothing on the surface, they received information that there was an underground chamber secretly built by a slave master there.
Many slave masters loved building underground chambers because there were limited places to build structures on the surface. After this slave master built his underground structure, he realised the place started to leak-- and found an underground spring!
The underground spring was not large but already a precious resource in this place that severely lacked water. Not every underground chamber had such luck.
This was no doubt great news but the slave master kept it a secret, killing all the slaves that found this spring so he was the only one who knew. He even sealed the underground chamber to keep it for himself. Later, due to the desert wars, he brought his slaves into the underground chamber planning for it to be his temporary base to regroup. Unfortunately, his slaves rebelled. One of them broke free of the bonds and could no longer be controlled.
The slave master was killed and the underground chamber was taken over by this slave. After recruiting more escaped slaves, it developed into a desert robber stronghold--- Heavenly Waters.
‘Heavenly Waters’ was another name for rain in the desert so many did not think much of this name. People of the desert yearned for rain more than anything else so when it became the name of a robber group, it did not attract suspicion.
However, most did not know that they wanted to call it Earthly Spring’ because the underground spring was their source of life. Unfortunately, that was too straightforward, anyone would know what they were hiding. They were not dumb enough to do this, so in the end, the character ‘Heavenly’ was chosen as it was opposite to ‘Earthly’.
‘Heavenly Waters’ developed very quickly but their secret could not be kept for long. Their recruits were not united enough. Even if it was initially a secret among the leaders, there was a leak and everyone knew. Gradually, even other organisations knew of the spring after using various methods.
‘Blue Beetle’ and ‘Viper’ were not the only ones who had their eyes on the spring. Black Sand had contacted Yiken recently to negotiate working together to take over the Heavenly Waters underground chamber. Working alone would not be sustainable as they would not be able to hold the fortress for long. Battles between desert groups were filled with casualties so it would not be worth it. Other people would just take advantage of them.
After some thought, Yiken decided to try their luck. Their previous living quarters were no longer suitable because their spring was shrinking and might disappear soon. Since Blue Beetle was currently growing strong, as the leader, Yiken must think of the future. He had many ambitions.
Yiken brought people over to negotiate with Black Sand this time. Trust was not common in this place so teamwork also meant early discussions on profit distribution. If those negotiations did not go well, then they would not even work together.
Both leaders walked into a sandstone house located in the city centre, also the most ‘luxurious’ house in this tiny city. Most houses were built with sand and mud because sandstone was not very common. However, this house was mainly built with sandstone and looked sturdier and taller than other buildings. Only the leader of the group, Black Sand, was fit to live here.
Although this was far cry from a slave master’s quarters, Black Sand was satisfied to have a ‘mansion’ to himself. He also believed that he would one day have a more luxurious palace like the slave masters used to.
Black Sand led Yiken into the house. This was a discussion between them, no one else was allowed inside as it involved secrets they did not want getting out. ‘Heavenly Waters’ was a good example that even people of the same group could not be trusted entirely. Therefore, Black Sand suggested for both of them to speak alone while the rest waited outside.
Yiken did not object.
However, to his surprise, Black Sand did not immediately talk about the partnership when they entered the room.
“A few days ago, someone new joined us Vipers,” said Black Sand.
Yiken looked at him, waiting for Black Sand to elaborate. Recruitment was a common thing but he must have his reasons for bringing this up.
“He’s from that side.” Black Sand pointed in a direction, Yiken understood. From the ocean.
The desert robbers liked to rob people from the ocean because the other tribes would never step into the desert, only people from the other side did. Secondly, they always had exotic goods like metal wares and exquisite clothing. They loved robbing these people.
“The new recruit gave me this as a gesture of sincerity in exchange for protection.” Black Sand took out a golden sword with carvings on top. While they could not understand the characters, they still could appreciate the patterns on it. It looked mysterious and valuable.
Black Sand twirled the sword handle, his eyes darting at Yiken, then slashed it down hard.
The blade broke the air with a whoosh, then fell hard on a rock.
With a sharp clang, the rock as big as a human head was split in half.
Yiken’s pupils constricted, his body tensing up. He knew Black Sand was both showing off and intimidating him.
A good weapon was a good supplement to one’s abilities. Both former slaves who broke free of their bonds, they were equally capable to be able to lead prospering organisations. However, their usual weapons were far from this.
While there was initially a power balance, due to this sword, the scales were slowly tipping to one side.
However, after showing off, Black Sand sheathed it behind his chair. He had already met his goal so the negotiation would be easier on him. He did not plan to attack Blue Beetle directly, nor was he completely confident in killing Yiken even with this ‘Magic Sword’. Furthermore, taking over ‘Heavenly Waters’ required partnership with Blue Beetle. The intimidating act was all to gain some advantage from the negotiation.
While the leaders of two major robber groups negotiated in secret, meanwhile, in the place where prisoners were kept.
Several people were locked in a short room built with mud. They were either captured during battle or robbed, separated into a few categories. The first was people with important identities. They were temporarily locked here until the leader made his decision, for example, the five who were caught yesterday.
The other kind was people who could not offer any benefits. These people would not get any food, only muddy water at most to ensure they did not die immediately. However, they would not be here for long because they would be led out and turned into food.
Food was scarce in the desert, even humans became food. To the slaves, anyone who wasn’t on their side was no different from an animal. They ate human flesh to fill their stomachs without guilt, even taking it as what it should be. Cannibalism was too common for the robbers.
A Viper guard sat at a cool spot away from the scorching sun, yawning and occasionally looking around to listen for sounds within the house.
After another yawn, he felt something move beneath his feet.
Small animals often burrowed under the sand in the desert, they were used to them. This person calmly moved his foot and pulled out his dagger, planning to check what it was. Let’s hope it’s food.
The animal approached quickly. The guard raised his dagger, ready to strike.
However, the thing underground seemed to sense danger, changing direction when it was about to come out of the sand.
Not wanting to give up on food, the guard ran after it. There were other guards here anyway, leaving his post for a while would not matter.
When the person left, the sand lifted and ten black beetles the size of a palm crawled out. Behind them, Shao Xuan parted the sand and wriggled out of the ground.