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Shao Xuan ignored Yi Qi and Yi Cong, who both did not look good. Yi Qi seemed severely injured, forcing out only one word before fainting. Their slaves were frantically trying to treat them. 

Shao Xuan looked away. He was starving and already seeing stars from walking a few steps. He steadied himself to make a trap. With his current strength, he had no way of hunting another animal.

While waiting, Shao Xuan ate some prey that Chacha brought him. Since Chacha only ate raw meat and Shao Xuan had no strength to cook it, he ate all of it raw. At the tribe and during hunts, they often encountered situations when they could not start a fire so eating raw meat was not uncommon. 

While waiting for prey, Shao Xuan noticed that something was wrong. Now that he had some food in him and caught his breath, he made an unusual observation. 

When he came here, it was winter. Although the climate around the mountain range did not change much throughout the year, the trees would still change. These trees bore fruit when he arrived but right now, there were no signs of fruits on the trees, nor were there rotten, fallen fruits on the ground. 

He had an even stranger feeling when he walked higher up to look far across the horizon.

“Hm?” Shao Xuan sensed a familiar aura approaching soundlessly. 

Soon, a figure emerged from the trees. 

“Gan Qie?” Shao Xuan gawked at the person. 

Gan Qie was clad in a grey linen cloak. It was daytime but he still had his hood on as usual. 

Shao Xuan did not expect to see him here. “Why are you here?” 

“For you.” Gan Qie looked around, his eyes lingering in Yi Cong and Yi Qi’s direction for a few seconds, then turned to Shao Xuan. “You were gone for too long and the Flaming Horn Tribe became worried.” 

“Was I gone for long?” Shao Xuan knew that time passed differently in that strange dark realm but he estimated himself to be gone for about ten days. 

“It will be full moon in a few days.” Gan Qie did not specify but Shao Xuan understood that he had been gone for half a year. 

It was no wonder that the Flaming Horns were worried. He said he wanted to check on King City’s people in the forest but then disappeared for half a year. Winter was long gone, even the monsoon had ended. 

Shao Xuan knew Gan Qie would not lie about this and he could prove this at night by looking at the moon. He believed Gan Qie. 

So he was gone for more than half a year! So that was why he had a strange feeling about the forest. 

Shao Xuan remembered that winter had just ended when he entered the dark realm. How could half a year pass in the blink of an eye? 

To Shao Xuan, that battle was just half a day but so much time had passed in the real world! 

It was difficult to imagine fighting for half a year. 

“We didn’t receive news about you so I came to check,” explained Gan Qie briefly. “Other people could not sense your location but I think your shaman can. She could not leave the tribe so she pointed us in an approximate location.” 

Gan Qie briefly explained the reason he was here. 

The Flaming Horn Tribe had discussed internally about searching for Shao Xuan but in the end, Gan Qie volunteered to look for him in the forest, being able to sense his location. 

Gan Qie did not like travelling with others. He did not take his previous hunt with the few tribes seriously either- everyone feared him and he was impatient to travel with them. That was why he rejected the tribe’s proposal to send a team together with Gan Qie. 

In truth, it was more convenient and easier for him to travel solo. 

Shao Xuan studied him carefully and nodded. “Not bad, your face is redder. Looks like the forest is treating you well.” 

The pale green in his face had gradually improved to a more human colour, though still paler than regular people. Right now, he looked very healthy and strong. How much blood did he drink for this? 

How did Gan Qie find Shao Xuan? When Shao Xuan revived Gan Qie, the special powers he used brought Gan Qie back from the brink of death could not be used to track Shao Xuan too. 

With an ‘undead’ body, Gan Qie moved easily in the forest compared to others. 

“Was your journey smooth? Is the tribe doing well?” asked Shao Xuan. 

Gan Qie thought for a moment and gave one word-- “Fine.” This told Shao Xuan that his journey was smooth and the tribe was alright. 

He did not plan to get much information out of him either. Gan Qie was not a talker and did not show much interest in many things. 

However, when Shao Xuan thought Gan Qie would remain silent, Gan Qie continued. 

“I saw a bat. A very large bat, almost entering the king beast realm. Should be the one you encountered before.” Gan Qie gestured to show the bat’s size. 

“The one from bat mountain?” Shao Xuan knitted his brows. That bat was a tricky one. “It hurt you?” 

Gan Qie shook his head with an odd expression. “No.” 

Gan Qie had encountered the bat while searching for food. They both loved hunting at night, both sucked blood and had natural instincts about which beasts had the best blood. Since they had similar diets, it was not strange that they met each other. But how did Gan Qie escape from its claws unscathed? 

He continued to elaborate. 

Not only did the bat not hurt him, but they both also became allies of a sort. The bat did not attack Gan Qie, then Gan Qie gifted it some prey, which was accepted. Afterwards, it even helped Gan Qie fend off two difficult fearsome beasts. 

Shao Xuan was shocked to hear such a thing. 

“Based on your capabilities, what would happen if you had to fight the bat?” asked Shao Xuan. 

“I’d lose,” confirmed Gan Qie. While he was called ‘undead’, it did not mean he could not die. He too had limitations and in face of that giant bat, he knew he could not win if they ever fought. 

“But it has a familiar aura, similar to mine.” Gan Qie looked at Shao Xuan. “How did you meet the bat?” 

Meet? Shao Xuan thought for a moment, briefly describing the time he first met the giant bat, omitting the part with the fire crystals. The fire crystals were a Flaming Horn secret, few people knew of the ore within the tribe. Since Gan Qie was no Flaming Horn, Shao Xuan did not need to tell him about them. 

Shao Xuan described how the giant bat fought the other ‘candidates’ for the position of the bat leader in more detail. That was an unexpected encounter too. Shao Xuan remembered he was only holding fire crystals but did not realise that the morphing bat had already absorbed its powers. This giant bat was the first to complete its transformation, then it killed all the other candidates and finally became the only leader of the bats. 

Perhaps due to absorbing the powers from Shao Xuan’s fire crystal during the transformation, the giant bat had an aura similar to the Flaming Horns too. That was why it did not attack the Flaming Horns. 

While it had an aura similar to the Flaming Horns, it also had another aura more powerful than this one from the other power within Shao Xuan. Gan Qie was ‘revived’ because of this other energy. That was why the bat saw Gan Qie more similar to itself than the other Flaming Horns, treating them as allies and became friendly. 

After the battle within the strange dark realm, Shao Xuan now understood the white energy within his body. Gan Qie’s situation must be related to this. 

It was not so strange after all. 

“What are you looking at?” Shao Xuan turned to realise Gan Qie was searching for something. 

“I smell… blood,” said Gan Qie. 

“Blood? Oh, there are two Yi people there, and their slaves.” Saho Xuan pointed towards Yi Cong and Yi Qi. 

“No, not them.” Gan Qie shook his head. “I can smell their blood too but I’m not looking for them. I know their blood tastes better than tribesmen but there’s another more delicious source.” 

Gan Qie sniffed carefully, his eyes scanning his surroundings like radars, then looked up. 

“There! It’s coming from above!” Bloodlust flashed within his eyes, his long fangs extending. He lifted his foot to scale the mountain wall, radiating killing intent. Gan Qie must have had a bloody journey here or he would not radiate such a strong aura. 

Shao Xuan quickly pressed down on him. “Calm down! Retract your fangs, suppress your killing aura! This is giant mountain eagle territory, do not act rashly. You must be careful. As for the thing up there…” Shao Xuan thought for a moment. “Wait till I finish my food and replenish my energy, then we can go check it out together.” 

Gan Qie’s greedy eyes turned, paused, then he nodded. “Alright.” He could sense the strong, non-living oppression here too. It made him nervous. If it was not for the smell of blood, he would not stay for long. But the smell excited him and he was willing to take the risk. 

What is at the top of the mountain? Shao Xuan wondered privately. There were not many animals on this mountain range. The higher the altitude, the fewer the animals. Other than the giant mountain eagles, there was nothing on the icy plains at the peak… 

Wait! 

There’s an exception! 

The white worms! 

Shao Xuan thought about the swarm of worms that ran up the walls after emerging from the soil. He turned to ask Chacha, “Did those white worms ever come down?” 

Chacha looked up at the peak, then at Shao Xuan and shook his head. 

They didn’t! 

So many worms but none returned! 

Shao Xuan thought about the time he first came here. The white worms at the peak would eat the ice crystals, then metamorphose in their nests to turn into butterflies. 

It was almost full moon now. He had witnessed the metamorphosis around the same time that year. Shao Xuan could remember the scene. 

The ‘blood’ Gan Qie referred to must be these white worms. If he was talking about giant mountain eagles- Gan Qie had known Chacha for a long time and never seemed this excited. 

It did not matter if they were white worms or other things, Shao Xuan decided to only go after recuperation. He remembered Yi Cong’s objectives for being here, wondering if those white worms hid other secrets. Maybe these secrets were related to weapon forging? 

He had suffered so much to be here, he must find the answer. 

Shao Xuan looked up at the peak, making plans for the future. 

Within the desert, a tense atmosphere lingered. This solemn mood had kept for half a year now and the reason came from within Rock Hill City. 

Shi Shu led a group of people, watching a sand mound far away nervously. Beneath the mound was an underground palace and Yi Xiang was there. 

He knew exactly what Yi Xiang was doing and understood it could take a long time. He did not expect it to be this long. 

Shi Shu used to be confident but after so long, the bad feeling within grew stronger. The Yi family should be too trivial to even worry about, he should not take this long to exterminate them. 

What is happening? This question looped in his mind for days. 

Then, his bad feeling turned out to be right. 

There was a deafening rumble, like a giant, ferocious beast slamming into the walls underground. Yellow sand flowed like water down the mound. The ground shook, then swallowed the sand mound whole.

The place where they built the underground palace was already made of sturdy material. Yet the ground had engulfed the whole sand mound as if everything had been quicksand. 

“Retreat!” yelled Shi Shu, getting his troops to stay back as the area of collapsing sand expanded at an alarming rate. 

Boom! 

Two figures shot out of the sunken area, punching a huge hole in the ground. Another three figures shot out. 

The latter three were leaning together, protecting the person in the centre. 

These five were reanimated corpses Yi Xiang placed within the underground chamber as guards, Shi Shu had seen them when he previously entered the chamber. His attention was currently on the person they protected. 

Yi Xiang, who was escorted out of the underground palace, did not look well. There was a bloodstain by his lips and the wooden necklace in his hand was broken. 

How could this be?! Shi Shu was in shock. 

… 

Due to Yi Xiang’s injury, Rock Hill abandoned its previous plans for expansion momentarily. It did not even have the capacity to proceed with the battles on the coast. 

The desert entered an era of relative peace.