Shao Xuan did not spend more time studying the rocks. He flipped Su Le’s lounge chair over and found a secret compartment at the bottom of the furniture. However, there were only a handful of lovely gemstones found inside. Perhaps Su Le had brought away more important items.
Shao Xuan strode over the furniture and came to the other lounge chair behind. This was where the corpse reanimator had sat earlier. The furniture too had a similar hidden compartment but there were no gemstones inside. Instead, there were a few bottles. Shao Xuan sniffed its contents. There were eight bottles, four of which were most probably used for healing or something else. These were probably not poisonous. Shao Xuan, however, felt iffy about the remaining four bottles. Maybe it was poisonous, maybe it could be something else.
Judging from the marks in the compartment, there were supposed to be ten bottles inside. Someone had taken away two bottles, probably during their escape.
Shao Xuan dismantled the whole compartment and placed it aside. He walked around the canopy for a change of perspective. Then, he rummaged through every corner of the space. There were no more hidden compartments left. But this canopy seemed to have another layer beneath. From what Shao Xuan could see, there was someone underneath. He could see their frame but had no idea what the person looked like. Despite that, Shao Xuan was high on alert after noticing their presence.
The human skeleton was very bright in Shao Xuan’s vision. The difference between people with stronger or weaker capabilities was typically highlighted in the composition of their bones. However, this information was presented differently in Shao Xuan’s special vision. Stronger bones were brighter and this skeleton below was even brighter than Ao and Zheng Luo’s skeletons! Shao Xuan had never encountered a skeleton this bright.
The flaming knife that had been extinguished moments ago burned again. Shao Xuan could not afford to be careless. He did not feel the aura of a living person from it and felt no other activity of energies. He thought that the reanimated corpses here were all taken care of, who on earth was the person beneath?
Shao Xuan exited the canopy. With a lift of his arms, a swing was delivered with his sword. An opening was created on the ground near the side of the canopy. From there, he could see the insides.
There was a wooden rectangular box that looked like a coffin. The person was contained inside.
There still was no movement detected.
Despite the opening created, the smaller black beetles refused to crawl inside. It was almost as if insecticides were scattered across the canopy, causing the beetles to stay away from its proximity.
Shao Xuan stared at the wooden box for a moment. Then, he walked over and dragged the coffin out with his other free hand.
Weirdly, the smaller beetles too avoided the coffin like a plague. The insects absolutely refused to go near it. After the coffin was placed on the ground, the beetles around had cleared away.
Were insecticides lathered over the coffin too?
“Ah Xuan, what is that?”
Ta and the others dared not go close due to the insect swarm so they could only watch from afar. Noticing that Shao Xuan had dragged out something from beneath the canopy, the others couldn’t help their curiosity.
“Not sure.” Shao Xuan muttered as he pried it open using the sword’s tip.
A shrivelled person laid inside. Their skin was tinted a dark murky green and they were dressed in a rather odd outfit. It was simple and very tattered. Their accessories looked like it had been there forever, its structure wore down by time to fragility. There was no way to tell its original appearance.
Judging just from the clothes and accessories, this person had been dead for a very long time. Though this corpse looked the same as the other reanimated monsters- shrivelled body, obvious outlines of each rib and a sunken stomach- traces that suggested incision were absent.
The other monsters had their organs removed, so they bore incision marks. This one, on the other hand, had none. Did the Rock Hill City folks run out of time to do it or was it done on purpose? Were there other reasons behind this?
An eagle screech was heard. Shao Xuan ripped his attention away from the corpse and covered the coffin again. Direct sunlight exposure was not good for these monsters, or else the puppeteers wouldn’t have bothered to wrap them in thick linen. The fabric wrappings were mainly to block sunlight away.
Cha Cha did not participate in the ground battle. It had been observing the fight from above as a precaution to avoid ambushes from other parties. Now, Cha Cha had signalled not an ambush but the return of Sapphire.
Even without Cha Cha’s reminder, Shao Xuan too could feel the blue beetle’s approaching presence. But Sapphire’s condition wasn’t the best. Its forelimbs and hindlimbs had sustained severe injuries. One of its front legs was missing a section and the other was nowhere better with multiple damages. The hindlegs were similarly damaged. Its carapace was filled with impact indents, its initial smooth arc looked like it had been smashed.
Sapphire didn’t look this bad when it had emerged from the sand before chasing after the giant golden-armoured beast. These damages were obviously sustained from the later pursuit.
Rolling a sand ball over, Sapphire was back. Rolling its trophies into a ball was Sapphire’s favourite thing to do.
When Sapphire was rolling the ball upside down, the size of the ball was a tad bit taller than its body. On the desert floor, two pieces of shiny gold armour glimmered under the sun.
Those were two armoured ring sections that were taken off the giant golden-armoured beast. There was even still some skin and flesh attached to it. It was evidently torn off the beast with vehement force.
Shao Xuan averted his gaze from the sand ball to look at Sapphire, who was already in front of him.
Upon closer inspection, Shao Xuan noticed that Sapphire’s shovel-like head was a little skewered. Its two paddle-like antennae, on the other hand, hung low like a folded antenna.
When Sapphire began its chase, Shao Xuan did not demand it to fight till death. To see this fella return in such a state was certainly out of expectation.
Sapphire looked like it was trying to explain itself desperately. Their consciousnesses were linked. Because of that, Shao Xuan was able to understand why it wasn’t able to bring Su Le and the copse reanimator back. Su Le had support, which was why Sapphire had ended up in this awful state.
Seeing Sapphire like this brought out a small smile from Shao Xuan. He slashed the sand ball open and dug out the shining ring-shaped armour from within. There was no human being inside but the man had found two bottles instead. This had probably belonged with the eight bottles Shao Xuan found in the canopy earlier. Perhaps these were dropped by someone during Sapphire’s chase.
The bottles were sealed tight. Shao Xuan studied it, noting that there were no cracks on it. The medicine inside had a refreshing scent that could lift spirits. It was probably some kind of healing medicine.
Aside from that, Shao Xuan too found a green metal plate inside. The number ‘22’ was engraved on it.
Ignoring the possible meaning of the number, the green metal plate in Shao Xuan’s grip was very similar to the Flaming Horn tribe’s new green bronze. The Rock Hill City people probably created it with the blood of the green-faced fanged beast they caught. However, its quality was a tad bit better and much refined than the Flaming Horn’s green bronze.
He stared at the anxious-looking giant blue beetle in front and asked, “Do you want to unlock the last lock?”
Sapphire’s antennae twitched. Its folded antenna was raised slightly and its incomplete hind leg stomped the ground. It looked excited.
Shao Xuan honestly wasn’t planning on unlocking its fifth lock so soon. For one, Sapphire’s fourth lock had merely been unlocked not too long ago. Unlocking the fifth lock so soon would have its risks.
The second reason was something Shao Xuan had thought the most about. The more locks unlocked by the slaves, the stronger their bodies would be. Many slaves that had broken enslavement had done it after unlocking the second and third locks through sheer talent and willpower. Most slaves only had three locks while Sapphire was a special case. When Shao Xuan had enslaved it, he had placed five locks on the blue beetle. And out of the five, four were already unlocked.
Shao Xuan had no idea what events would follow after unlocking the fifth lock. Would he lose control over this giant beetle? Or would it break its enslavement bonds directly? After Shao Xuan leaves the desert this time, he had no idea when he would return. Would the injured Sapphire be targeted by Rock Hill City after Shao Xuan was gone? Shao Xuan could not conjure predictions.
Though Su Le’s bunch were not captured this time, with Su Le’s vengefulness, the young master would certainly do all he can to avenge himself. The Flaming Horn headquarters were too far away from the desert and chances of Su Le leaving the desert was low. Sapphire would be the only tool to satiate his lust for revenge. Insect swarms were obvious and it wouldn’t be impossible for Su Le to locate Sapphire. The man might even come up with traps to lure the insect swarm in.
There were too many factors to consider. One wrong move might turn his own sword against him. However, Sapphire’s current performance had sufficiently convinced Shao Xuan to unlock its fifth lock.
Ji Ju had mentioned that the loyalty of one’s first slave would always be deeper than the other slaves. With that in mind, Shao Xuan was willing to bet. Even if he were to truly lose control over Sapphire, the beetle would not turn against him.
Aside from Sapphire, Shao Xuan had noticed during this desert venture that the blue beetle had influenced the other beetles. There was a change in the insect colony. It now consisted of relatively larger beetles too. When Sapphire was dormant, those beetles would lead the smaller beetles on a desert raid. And when beetles die in the activity, new beetles would join. The insect swarm had grown larger than before. Despite that, based on the current condition, the number of insects in the colony could only remain within a certain range. If there were too many of them, food resources would be limited and the beetles would not be able to live normally.
Regardless of the beetle colony’s future, they still had to depend on Sapphire. A beast colony with no leader figure and one with a leader were completely different. Those with a leader would know how to cooperate in battle while those without would be scattered. Beasts could not survive long without a leader.
“I don’t know what you’ll become after unlocking all your locks,” mumbled Shao Xuan under his breath in front of the excited giant beetle who was avidly stomping its foot.
The insect swarm had receded, allowing the Flaming Horns to remove the tough armour off the slaves, which were reduced to pale skeletons pitifully. In the words of Gongjia Ren, these would make great materials for forging.
The two golden armour pieces Sapphire had brought back too were taken by the Flaming Horns. Shao Xuan carried the coffin-like box on his back. He planned to study it better back home.
Just as they reached the edge of the desert, Shao Xuan unlocked Sapphire’s fifth lock.
Perhaps without the restraints, Sapphire too could be like the other beasts. It could now strive to be a king beast.