Chapter 228: Shoal of Serpents
After their little adventure on the Demonic Reef and filling their pockets with spoils, Zhang, and the beauties were brimming with energy. Of course, they made sure that everyone else believed that they were utterly depressed and were unable to make any gains at all.
“Xiao Gong, stay here and wait for the rest of our forces to arrive. Make sure no one sets foot onto the Demonic Reef and have everyone be careful when crossing the Shoal of Serpents.” Zhang ordered as the group readied themselves to cross the Shoal of Serpents.
“Once our forces arrive I want you to assume command. Keep an eye on the Dragon God Palace’s forces and be ready to act.” Zhang said to Xiao Gong through his divine sense before following after Master Shan Jin, Maser Yu Xui and the rest of the group.
“Be at ease my lord, I will make sure our forces cross the Shoal of Serpents safely.” Xiao Gong replied while a glint flashed in his eyes.
Although Zhang now possessed a way to deal with the high saints of the Dragon God Palace, he felt there was no need to rush things. Now that he was confident he can send Long Zhiming and the other experts of the Dragon God Palace on their merry way to the Underworld, Zhang had set his goals on obtaining Long Shijie’s inheritance.
Since it appeared that Long Zhiming knew quite a few secrets in regards to the inheritance, Zhang thought it would be useful to keep him around, at least until they arrived at where the inheritance was hidden.
“Lord Long Zhiming, we are nearing the Shoal of Serpents, if I may ask, what is it that you wish me to retrieve for you.” Zhang said to Lord Long Zhiming through his divine sense.
“Haha, I will tell you when the time is right. As a man of my word, if you are able to prove your loyalty to the Dragon God Palace and complete the task I give to you, I will ensure your safety and the safety of your four wives as well.” Lord Long Zhiming replied through his divine sense before glancing at Zhang with a glint in his eye.
“It is not that I don’t think that you are a man of your word, my lord. I was simply hoping to prepare beforehand so that I can complete the mission to your satisfaction.” Zhang replied in a humble manner.
“I guess there is no harm in telling you beforehand…” Lord Long Zhiming replied after a slight pause.
“When we enter the Shoal of Serpents, after roughly half a day’s journey we will arrive at a fork in the road. Although both paths will lead to an exit, the dangers lurking in them vary greatly. With the power of a full saint, one would be able to cross the path to the right with relative ease as long as one travels on foot. As for the path on the left, it was riddled with hidden dangers.” Lord Long Zhiming explained.
“The thing I want you to retrieve is of course hidden within the path on the left. If you can brave the hidden dangers and retrieve a certain flower whose petals appear to be made of fire, I will keep my promise. I’m sure a man of your capability will be able to fulfill my expectations with ease. I’m not someone to send others to their death needlessly.” Lord Long Zhiming said in a flattering manner, trying to get Zhang to believe that he held Zhang in high regard.
“Flattery and sugar coated words won’t work on me…” Zhang thought for a second.
“My lord, I will be sure not to disappoint you.” Zhang replied in a happy tone, pretending to take Long Zhiming’s flattery to heart.
“Then when the time comes, I will be awaiting your success.” Lord Long Zhiming said before cutting off communications with Zhang.
“A flower whose petals appear to be made of fire… From this characteristic alone, that flower must possess some astonishing abilities or else someone with his status wouldn’t bother with it. However, since that bastard doesn’t dare to go retrieve it personally, the path to the left must be extremely torturous. At the end of things, they probably think that I’m nothing more than a mere sacrificial pawn… If I can obtain the flower then great, if not then their main force wouldn’t suffer any losses.” Zhang thought as he inwardly cursed Long Zhiming for taking him as an easy to manipulate fool.
“Luckily for us, regardless of the dangers in the lurking in the left path, as long as we are careful and employ the Black Thorn Coral when necessary, I doubt that we will encounter any dangers. Since that is the case I might as well have a look and see what’s so special about this flower.” Zhang thought as he was slightly intrigued in regards to the flower that Lord Long Zhiming wished for him to collect.
Had Zhang not harvested the Black Thorn Coral, he would have most likely turned Long Zhiming down and caused their relation to instantly sour once he heard about the two paths across the Shoal of Serpents. Zhang would have instantly ended his act and declined Long Zhiming. However, since he was now confident that he and the beauties could travel through the left path without putting themselves in harm's way, Zhang believed that keeping this charade in motion would help lower Long Zhiming’s guard toward him, which would result in more favorable opportunities to rid the Eastern Sea of the Dragon God Place.
With a head filled with thoughts and schemes, Zhang and the rest of the group quickly arrived in front of a massive crack that split the Demonic Reef into two.
“We will proceed from here on out on foot. Make sure to keep to the sides of the cliff...” Lord Long Zhiming said as he and the rest of the experts from the Dragon God Palace descended and landed on the stony path that stretched on further than the eye can see.
Following Lord Long Zhiming’s example, everyone quickly descended from the sky and began to travel on foot, while making sure they were as close to the stone cliff wall as possible.
“Surprisingly enough, this place doesn’t seem too dangerous at all.” Zhang commented after the group traveled roughly half a mile into the Shoal of Serpents.
“Yea, for something called the Shoal of Serpents, there doesn’t seem to be too many serpents around.” Ai said as she scanned their surroundings.
“Looks can be deceiving at times.” Master Shan Jin said with a chuckle as he pointed into the distance toward a small seagull that was flying through the pass.
“A seagull?” Ai mumbled, seconds before she and a large portion of the group become completely stunned.
As the seagull flew through the air, a massive shadow shot out from the side of the cliff. With rows upon rows of jagged teeth, a massive slimy frame, the shadow instantly trapped that seagull in a cage of teeth before swallowing it whole and disappearing back into the side of the cliff.
“Does this place seem dangerous now?” Master Shan Jin said with a chuckle.
“Wha… what was that?” Someone asked in a shaken tone.
“Those are Ancient Fire Fang Eels… Although many of them possess of saints level experts, they do not seem to possess the ability to shapeshift into the form of a human nor do they seem to have very much intelligence like other demonic beasts. Regardless of man or beast, anything that flies through here will end up clamped between their jaws.” Master Yu Xui commented.
“To be honest, we aren’t exactly safe down here either, if we are unlucky or cause too great of a commotion we might end up in deep trouble also.” Master Yu Xui added, causing many people to shudder.
“So that’s why we are staying close to the side of the rock wall… From above, thanks to the rocks jolting out, those things won’t be able to spot us as easily.” Zhang said.
“I should make sure Xiao Gong knows of this… Or else our forces may never reach the other side... “Zhang thought before sending one of the lesser saints who accompanied him back to inform Xiao Gong.
Soon after, the group continued on their journey with utmost caution, hoping they don’t find themselves sharing the same fate as the seagull that they had seen moments earlier.
“If I didn’t have the Black Thorn Coral at my disposal and had to face more than one of those eels at the same time I would probably get ripped apart... Just you watch… Once you run out of your usefulness I’ll turn you into a stone statue... “Zhang thought as his hatred toward Long Zhiming began to simmer.
Continuing through the Shoal of Serpents, the group found themselves continually shrouded by uneasiness as massive shadows occasionally loomed above. Luckily for them, they did not arouse the attention of any of the Fire Fang Eels that lurked in the large caves up above.
“Stick close, everything should be fine. Considering how fearful animals are around Ai, even if we draw the attention of a few of those eels, they’ll eventually scamper off.” Zhang said in a half reassuring and half joking tone as he winked at the beauties who chuckled in response.
“Hmph, if any of those things dare to come down here, I’ll make sure to beat them to a pulp,” Ai said in a proud tone while lifting up her fist.
“Are they always like this?” Master Shan Jin who was standing not too far from Zhang’s group asked in a whisper with a chuckle.
“From what little interactions we've had so far, it seems so...” Shan Li said as he couldn’t help but shake his head at how carefree Zhang and the beauties were acting.
“Little Li, you need to learn more from them. In the end, a person’s achievements in the path of cultivation all depend on whether or not they are willing to take risks in order to further improve themselves. If one is able to attain a state of mind where fear is no longer chaining down one’s feet, glory, power, and honor are things that are simply waiting to be attained. Had I not been held back by fear for so long, my relationship with your father would without a doubt not have become as strained as it is now.” Master Shan Jin said to his grandson in a caring tone while letting out a long sigh.
“Success does not come to those who do not take the first step forward while failure is always waiting to consume the unwilling.” Master Shan Jin added, putting Shan Li into deep thought for a good portion of the next leg of the journey through the Shoal of Serpents.
Since walking on foot took a considerably longer time then soaring through the sky, the morning sun that had risen upon the group's arrival at the Demonic Reef was now steadily seeking beneath the horizon. With dense clouds blocking the beauty of the moon and the brilliance of the stars, the Shoal of Serpents given to the shadows.
Despite the lack of visibility, no one dared to light any torches or employ any fire based techniques, due to the fear of attracting unwanted attention. Using the cliff’s rock face as a guide, everyone pushed on through the darkness.
“Now would be the perfect time to…” Zhang thought as a mischievous grin surfaced on his face and his hand reached out.
Unlike everyone else, thanks to the power of the Underworld Heart, Zhang was able to see the flow of essence in the air, and along with it the essence circulating in everyone’s body. Which meant that he could see perfectly fine despite the lack of light.
Abusing his powers for unrighteous purposes, Zhang took the opportunity to reach out and harass his wives one after the other in a playful manner until that group came to a sudden stop.
“Everyone, we’ve reached our first stop. Let us rest for the night and continue our journey when the sun rises.” Lord Long Zhiming said in a low tone.
“First stop?” Master Yu Xui asked in a confused tone, not sure what Lord Long Zhiming meant.
“Over the years as I’ve researched about Lord Long Shijie’s inheritance, I happened to stumble upon a map of the Shoal of Serpents. Roughly one hundred thousand steps from the entrance, there is a supposed to be a small outpost built into the side of the cliff.” Lord Long Zhiming said as he reached his hand out in the dark and pressed into the cliff face.
Surprisingly enough, a series of mechanical clicking sounds soon made its way into everyone’s ears as a square shaped indentation appeared on the cliff face.
With a gentle push from Lord Long Zhiming, the square indentation slowly swung inward, revealing a large hollowed out chamber behind the face of the stone cliff.
Inside were dozens of rooms, many stone tables, and stools, along with a wide variety of other things such as dried rations and drinking water. If anyone were to be trapped within the Shoal of Serpents, this secret chamber would be an ideal place to hole up in.
“Alright everyone, feel free to make yourselves feel at home and pick out a room.” Lord Long Zhiming said while gesturing everyone into the hidden chamber.
“If I was him, I would attract the attention of the Fire Fang Eels and then hid away in here while everyone else gets ripped to shreds.” Zhang thought as he felt Lord along Zhiming was acting a tad too friendly.
“Judging from his character, he must be up to something or else he would have had the perfect opportunity to do away with everyone.” Zhang thought as he and the beauties proceeded to pick out a room for themselves to stay in.