The guards quickly ran over as soon as a scream was heard, only to find another fellow desert robber buried in the sand from the neck down. He hurriedly rushed over to check on him, but it was that split second that trouble had arrived.
The guards roared and sprinted to where the captives were held. The hut that imprisoned the five captives was empty.
“The captives have escaped!”
“Someone is here to snatch them away!”
“They’re too fast! I can’t catch up!”
“The five people we captured yesterday have been taken! Hurry, report this to the leader!”
Shao Xuan was quick enough to sink into the sand before they came over. He hadn’t left yet, making the choice to stay put and observe. He had heard the guards outside talking about a discussion between the ‘Viper’ and ‘Blue Beetle’ leaders as soon as he infiltrated this place. Shao Xuan was curious to see what these desert robbers were up to. In the meantime, he’d attempt to locate the traitor who had betrayed Gongjia Ren and the others.
Before Shao Xuan had arrived at this place, Gongjia Ren had told him to slay the traitor as soon as they were found. Gongjia Ren would owe him a favour in return.
As for the sword, Gongjia Ren wasn’t persistent at all. The man intended to start anew and he was confident that a better sword could be welded in the future. Since the previous sword had been taken away by someone else, Gongjia Ren had no hopes to get it back so it could be considered a farewell to the past.
The Flaming Horn tribe failed to understand Gongjia Ren’s thinking. If they had lost an excellent sword, they would’ve tried everything to get it back. Emotions, ponderings along with the concept of new beginnings and old beginnings were non-existent. But since Gongjia Ren did not bring up any specific requests, Shao Xuan wouldn’t pay much attention to it.
On the other end, the atmosphere of the two leader’s discussion turned sour as soon as the news reached their ears. Black Sand’s dark expression morphed into something ugly. He glared at Yiken. “You’re toying with us!”
Black Sand’s eyes were bloodshot as if dyed red with blood. After he had broken free of his enslavement, this phenomenon would happen every time he used his powers.
“Oh no”- was the first thing Yiken had muttered in his heart after receiving the news. Now that Black Sand was like this, it was obvious that this discussion could not go on.
“It wasn’t us!” Yiken quickly distanced away from Black Sand, still doing his best to explain himself. He was not an idiot, offending Black Sand now meant trouble. Plus, Yiken had no idea who Black Sand had captured and the man seemed to value this person. No matter what, Yiken refused to take responsibility for this.
Sadly, Black Sand refused to listen and believe him. Other than the ‘Blue Beetle’, there was no one else who had stepped foot into this place. Besides, the man had been guarding against people from the ‘Blue Beetle’ all along. As soon as he heard the news, Black Sand had suspected that Yiken had sent someone out to rob away those who could create better weapons since the start and was now merely feigning innocence in front of him!
Unacceptable! How dare he fool him!
“You all must want to die!”
Black Sand threw out his muscular arm and a terrifyingly sharp polished bone spur flew out. It went directly towards Yiken.
Prepared, Yiken’s sword was already in his grip. With a speedy sweep, the assaulting bone spur was blocked away. He shouted back aggressively, “I said it wasn’t us!”
Meeting Black Sand’s ruby eyes, Yiken’s heart sank. This was probably a residual effect of breaking a master-slave bond. The after effects would differ between people and in Black Sand’s case, he was prone to irritability. The most obvious indication was his bloodshot eyes.
Black Sand had already gone berserk. Words were ineffective for he would not listen anymore. The shaky relationship between both parties had made things worse. The displeasure stemming from the discussion earlier serves to further stimulate Black Sand’s wrath.
Without another word, Yiken flipped with a jump and rushed past the animal skin and scale armour shielding the window. As soon as he was outside, Yiken let out a howl akin to a ferocious wolf towards the sky. It was a message to his men- the negotiation has gone south, be careful!
The Blue Beetle desert robbers waiting outside gathered towards Yiken and brandished their weapons in defence against the swarming Viper robbers.
The precious and rare wooden door on the desert was destroyed with a stomp. Like a tall tower, Black Sand walked out step by step. With every step came an audible crunch, almost as if the man willed to crush the sand further. The dangerous murderous intent he bore swept through everywhere, even the Vipers couldn’t help but take a few steps back.
“How dare you lie to me!” The four words were squeezed out through clenched teeth. Black Sand heaved through his flaring nostrils like an enraged bull.
“I told you it wasn’t us, idiot! Use your brain!” It was after his words fell that Yiken was reminded that there was no point telling Black Sand these.
The fact that Black Sand was able to lead the Vipers till this day meant that he was no brute. Perhaps the man understood that the Blue Beetles weren’t the ones that snatched the captives away but he was intent on venting his frustrations on them. Perhaps this was his attempt to threaten Yiken with violence and force an agreement out for the earlier discussion.
Just as the situation was growing tense, no one noticed that a shadow had entered Black Sand’s ‘luxurious mansion’ and had even taken a seat on the window side to watch everything unfold.
Shao Xuan’s interest was piqued by the ‘Blue Beetle’ desert robbers. The totemic pattern on their bodies turned out to be a beetle pushing a dung ball. How did they even think of using this as their brand?
Dung beetles were mostly black in the desert. Even if they were fond of dung beetles, it would make more sense to use ‘Black Beetle’. Why were they using ‘Blue Beetle’ instead?
Could it be that they’ve seen Sapphire before?
Regardless of the truth, the Blue Beetles were not in a good place now.
Emerging out of the house, every strand of Black Sand’s muscles were rippling and his bones were positively crackling. It wasn’t a sign of breaking but that every bone in his body was gearing up for the incoming battle.
Clenching his sword, Black Sand strode over continuously towards Yiken. He lifted his arm high. With a violent twist of his wrist, the golden rays reflected off his blade shone and came down on Yiken like lightning.
With a resonating metallic clash, the sword in Yiken’s grip broke.
Those who reside near the coast had always loved using swords but after the mass robberies, the better weapons used by the desert robbers were all swords. Particularly for leaders like Yiken, most parts of their weaponry had consisted of swords. The sword in his grip was regarded as the best and it was a shock that it was broken so easily!
Before Yiken could spare another glance at his blade, his body was tensed up like a string drawn on a full bow and his ankles twisted around on the sand. With the momentum, he took three steps back in an instant, taking more than two metres of distance with each step. He avoided Black Sand’s second assault while reaching his arm behind to draw out a spearhead. This was a weapon from his earlier days, before the spear’s handle was broken and he had to replace it with a new weapon. After that, he polished the spearhead and carried it around as a dagger. The elders in the team said that it would bless him with safe returns each time.
But at this point, Yiken wasn’t sure if he could make it back alive. Things were spiralling out of control and the sword his opponent wielded brought him fear.
Missing his target on the second attack, Black Sand was no longer in a rush to continue the fight. He studied the half blade on the ground and then placed his gaze on the seemingly regular spearhead Yiken brandished. The man let out a burst of maniacal laughter, red eyes filled with mockery and mirth as he turned his blade around to let the reflected sunlight fall on Yiken and his people.
Though it was just reflected light, the expressions of the Blue Beetles shifted. They had seen how that sword had broken their leader’s weapon first-hand. The light bouncing off the blade piled on more stress to their hearts. It felt almost as if the blade was slicing through their bodies, their anxiety reaching its peak with clammy palms.
“I’ll give you a choice.” Black Sand drawled languidly but with indisputable power. His bloodshot eyes were trained intently on Yiken and his men. “I will have authority over the Heavenly Waters!”
“And if I refuse?” Yiken asked.
“Then death awaits! There is no one else who can help you now!” Black Sand raised his sword and tapped on the Yiken and the other’s totemic pattern with the tip. The grin on his face was increasingly malicious with each glance and there was no mistake with the sarcasm in his eyes. “Or perhaps you can summon those insects drawn on your bodies. But let me tell you this! These bugs… If one appears, I’ll stomp them to death! If there’s two, I’ll kill a pair! I’ll kill however many bugs that appear!”
At this point, Shao Xuan who had been spectating the development muttered under his breath, “You should really watch your words.”
With the golden shining sword in his grip, Black Sand felt like he was on the ladders to divinity. He was growing stronger and could now stomp over all those unpleasant enemies of his past!
Yiken furrowed his brows as he weighed all the possible best strategies. Sadly, he feared that Black Sand was not about to spare him more time for thought.
Rustle rustle rustle--------
The sound of sand shifting in such an intense situation felt exceptionally clear.
Uncanny feelings surged in all of sudden.
Black Sand watched a spot behind Yiken and his party with wide eyes. His expression fell little by little as his hands trembled. It was rare to see him in this state.
Everyone around too sucked in their breaths as if they’ve seen something horrifying and unbelievable. Their jaws were on the ground.
Yiken, who hadn’t taken a glance back as he was on guard against Black Sand, quickly snapped his head around.
Not far behind them, a gigantic blue beetle had emerged out of the sand.