The airship landed in a simple little city. Then, the group switched to a truck and traveled for half a day to finally arrive at a small town. This small town was located near the shores of the Eastern Sea, and one could already hear the waves from a good distance away.
Several people walked out from the town as the truck came to a stop. Among them was a tall, burly man—his clothes were unbuttoned despite the chilly weather, putting his thick chest-hair on full display. He shot a glance at Qianye’s group, his gaze resting much longer on Nighteye. “So you’re the newcomers, huh? We’ve already left you a piece of land, and there’s also space in town. You can choose to build a house here or live on your allotted land. Naturally, no one will stop you from doing both as long as you have the money. You need to remember one thing in order to live in this place: pay taxes!”
Seeing Qianye nod, the burly man said in satisfaction, “Good, I like smart people. Lil’ Knife, bring them to their place.”
A lanky young man jumped nimbly onto the roof of the car and said while banging the driver’s compartment, “To the Black Grove, drive!”
The Black Grove was, just as its name suggested, a dark green color bordering on black—even the leaves had a deep green hue to them. Despite being daytime, everything looked dark and gloomy from a distance. On a rainy day, the interior of the grove might be as dark as night.
The car drove through the border of the woods. Qianye looked around and sensed nothing but an aura of death. There were neither beasts nor birds here, and even the sound of insects was nowhere to be found. The world here was pervaded by a deathly stillness, one unaffected even by the rumbling engine of the truck.
They drove for dozens of kilometers before passing through the forest and arriving at a wide-open land. The area beyond the woods was a gentle slope, below which was a vast rugged plain filled with stones, and further from that, the boundless Eastern Sea. Its waves were gentle and never too fierce, but the restrained momentum beneath this facade filled one with an inevitable feeling of suffocation.
There was a river off in the distance, flowing into the Eastern Sea. The scenery on the other side of it, however, was covered by a thick layer of fog, and even Qianye couldn’t see very far through it.
Lil’ Knife arrived near Qianye and said while pointing forward, “From this place to that river is your land. If you think that’s not enough, you can claim as much land as you want beyond the river. A word of caution, though, not many in town have been to the other side of the river, and those who tried to explore further have never come back. One last thing, try to stay indoors when the mist rises and avoid going about in it.”
After saying all that, Lil’ Knife fished out a thin booklet and placed it in Qianye’s hands. “Everything on this list can be sold for money or used to deduct taxes. Well, that’s all I have to say. I hope you brought enough to eat. If not, you should go back to town now and buy some. No one will go outdoors at night, and you’ll have to go hungry.”
Lil’ Knife jumped back onto the truck after Qianye expressed that he had understood everything. The vehicle rumbled once more and made a difficult turn before vanishing into the Black Grove.
Qianye looked at this territory once again—the land spanned from the Black Grove to the sea, and stretched all the way to the distant river, an area several dozen square kilometers wide. At this moment, the sky was gradually turning dark, and the waves in the ocean were growing louder. Judging from the reef-like landscape, it was clear that the plains would be drowned in water during high-tide.
After observing the surrounding landscape, Qianye chose a nearby hill and decided to build his home there. Although Lil’ Knife made no mention of the Black Grove, intuition told him to stay as far away from it as possible. Additionally, there were also unknown dangers in the sea. It was the little river that gave Qianye the best feeling.
Setting up camp was a basic skill known by every elite corps member. Qianye was extremely familiar with the process since his days in Red Scorpion. With no more strangers nearby, there was no longer a need to be too cautious. Qianye thus headed toward the forest with Zhuji in tow, prepared to gather some wood.
“Wait, I have instruments here,” the old man shouted.
“No need.” Qianye waved his hands and walked toward the grove.
Feeling helpless, the old man brought out his gear, dug a hole, and began gathering firewood to light a bonfire.
After arriving at the forest edge, Qianye picked a tree thick enough to barely wrap one’s arms around it and slapped it a couple of times. His pats contained a hidden force that jolted the entire tree, causing a shower of leaves to rain down from above. The shockwaves echoed continuously inside the trunk, causing it to tremble and eliciting a mournful sound akin to a weeping girl.
Qianye had, from these vibrations, sensed that the roots of these trees were all linked together. Moreover, the vitality within the wood was fairly high, almost as though they weren’t merely trees. However, the trees in the Black Grove paled in comparison to the giant trees of Misty Wood.
Qianye whipped out East Peak from his spatial locket and swung it horizontally, snapping the large tree at the base.
The tree fell down with a rumble. Just as it was about to hit the ground, a small figure flickered into view and propped up the trunk.
That tree trunk was dozens of meters long, and Zhuji looked just like a kitten beneath it. It was just that this little cat was actually lifting the massive tree and didn’t look strained at all while doing so. Eager to contribute, the little girl began running back to camp as soon as she had gotten ahold of the tree.
Qianye didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. He quickly called her back, slashed off the branches and leaves, and cut the timber in half before letting Zhuji carry it back.
He had originally intended for Zhuji to carry the logs in two separate batches, but the little fellow wasn’t willing to take that trouble. With a whip of her wrist, her hands shot straight into the sturdy tree trunk, and just like that, she ran back to the camp carrying two large pieces of wood.
Back at the camp, the old man was cleaning a large fish which Nighteye caught from the river. The flow of water there was somewhat rapid, and Nighteye had yet to fully recover. Nonetheless, she simply stood at the shore, gazing at the flowing water. When a large fish was reflected within her eyes, it flew out of the river and landed in her hands.
The Eye of Destruction that had once shaken the entire Evernight world was now being used to catch fish. If those dukes and princes were to know of this, they might wake up from their blood ponds in anger.
To Nighteye, however, this was just the way the Eye of Destruction should be used. She carried the fish back to their camp and handed it to Cui Yuanhai. After all, she had long since lost all confidence in her own cooking skills.
The old man volunteered to undertake this task, cleaning the fish and preparing to cook a good pot of stew.
It was at this time that the old man saw a cloud of dust rising in the distance. He was immediately stupefied when he saw two long pieces of wood barreling toward them like dragons.
He dropped the fish in his hand and pounced over to his box, where he fished out an origin gun and took aim at the incoming logs. But that shaking muzzle made one suspect whether or not that shot would even connect.
Fortunately, the old man’s vision wasn’t too bad and managed to see the tiny figure carrying the two logs. But seeing her wasn’t any better than not seeing her—he was immediately petrified and even dropped the gun he was holding.
Zhuji rushed back to the camp and threw the logs onto the ground. She then rushed over in good cheer upon seeing the big fish, picking it up and sniffing it cautiously with a frown. “This is edible, I guess?”
Afterward, almost as though she had lost interest in the fish, Zhuji ran back to the Black Grove to carry more logs.
But Zhuji’s assessment meant that the quality of this fish was almost catching up to that of fierce beasts. The old man and Nighteye exchanged a glance, realizing that this place wasn’t as peaceful as it seemed on the surface.
As the sky turned darker, the light from the bonfire grew even more brilliant. The fish stew had been boiling in the pot for some time. The soup had turned a milky white, and its fragrance pervaded the air. The logs had formed a tall pile on one side of the camp, but Zhuji was still hard at work, shuttling back and forth with the large objects. It was almost as though the little lass didn’t know what it meant to be tired. Toward the end, Qianye simply bundled up several logs and had her carry them back in one go.
A while later, the earth itself began to tremble as Qianye himself ran back with several dozen logs. His feet might’ve sunk into the ground if he hadn’t utilized origin power—there was no way he could run like this. His forehead was covered in sweat after hauling so many logs back at once.
The old man waved at Qianye, calling him over for dinner. The large pot of fish soup and the hot biscuits made for a pretty good dinner. It was just that Zhuji wasn’t that interested. The little girl sat enjoying the warmth of the fire and eventually started to doze off. After a single full meal, she could go for several days without food or water—all she needed was sleep unless there was something especially delicious. The fish was indeed tasty, but the energy content was inferior to the meat of fierce beasts and thus didn’t attract her very much.
After having dinner, Qianye swung East Peak and cut the logs into wooden planks. With how proficient he was with the blade, the planks he carved were all of the same length and thickness—his products were even more accurate than those cut by machines.
After forming the wooden planks, Qianye picked a level ground and began hammering the pillars into the ground. This time, East Peak became a hammer, and with a casual slap, the wooden piles were driven into the ground almost entirely. Just like that, two wooden houses appeared before midnight, one for the old man and one for himself.
At this moment, the moon was high up in the sky and the cold lunar radiance was reflected on the surging waves, turning them into rippling silver. Qianye sat leaning on a wooden couch, from where he could gaze at the scenery in the ocean. Nighteye had fallen asleep in his arms, the flickering blaze in the brazier outlining her beautiful silhouette.
On the side, Zhuji was fast asleep while hugging Qianye’s leg.
The frosty winds rose and gradually filled the place with bone-chilling cold. This was a special characteristic of the neutral lands, and especially that of the Eastern Desolace. It was scorching hot in the day and extremely cold at night.
The tides rose higher and higher, gradually covering the rocks on the shore. As the moon rose higher, the waters in the river also began to surge and churn, almost as though there was something constantly swimming and rolling within it.
As the gale blew past the Black Grove, the rustling leaves emitted a sound akin to howling ghosts. Those listening closely would know that it wasn’t just the howling wind. There were vague growls hidden within the ghastly sounds, as well as the mournful wails of those on the verge of death. It was just that no one knew if these cries came from wild beasts or humans.
Qianye had scanned the Black Grove with his True Sight during the daytime but found no abnormal signs within his visual range. But now, there were bestial howls coming from the forest.
The sea was even less calm. The waves on the distant ocean were chaotic, with large shadows appearing on the surface from time to time. One could also hear rustling sounds from the beach, almost as though some small creatures were crawling along it.
The two wooden huts stood out like a sore thumb against the backdrop of the night—light shot out from the windows and gaps in the wall, illuminating and forming a small realm of warmth around them.
A pair of amber eyes opened amidst the waves, staring at the two wooden huts. The ferocity within those eyes, however, had suddenly receded and was quickly replaced by deep apprehension. Afterward, it sank deep into the sea and vanished thereafter.
In its vision, a beam of dark golden energy was shooting out from the log cabin and into the skies, shaking the wilderness in every direction.