There was no one around, only silence. It was late at night, and as soon as Meng Hao emerged from the teleportation, his body flashed and he was gone. He reappeared atop a tree off in the distance, whereupon he examined his surroundings.
The Wild Giant and Gu La were nowhere to be seen, which caused Meng Hao to frown.
Muttering to itself, the parrot burrowed out from within Meng Hao’s robe. It flapped its wings and sniffed about, whereupon an intoxicated expression appeared on its face.
“There is an ancient aura here. Ahh, Lord Fifth likes this place. I suddenly feel like reciting some poetry….”
“You wicked, immoral, shameless bird! You think you’re gonna recite poetry!? More like recite crap!” Of course, the meat jelly bell wouldn’t miss out on any opportunity to attack the parrot. It continued to jabber on loudly.
Meng Hao swept the area with Spiritual Sense. After confirming that there was nothing dangerous nearby, he removed the blood-colored mask and took out the jade slip given to him by Yan Song. After looking at it closely, he found that it contained a map, as well as short introductions of the five Crow Divinity Tribes.
Meng Hao examined the map, then looked up and off into the distance.
“Some slight inconsistencies, but nothing too great. They seem intentional. It seems Yan Song doesn’t trust everyone that much after all.” Meng Hao laughed coldly, then produced the glowing ball of light from Li Tian. He examined it closely with several different methods before finally interrupting the parrot and meat jelly and asking their opinion.
That was the best method to get information regarding the thing. The parrot slapped its chest and then spit out a multicolored glob of light which it examined before waving it away.
“No problem. Don’t worry, when Lord Fifth takes action, one Lord Fifth is equivalent to two!”
“Two of you?” said the meat jelly complacently. “You have the skill to split into two? Humph. You should really say, ‘When Lord Third takes action, one Lord Third is equivalent to three!” Its body suddenly made a popping sound as it transformed into three bells, all attached to the parrot’s foot.
The parrot’s eyes narrowed with disdain.
“You know, the reason I’m called Lord Fifth is an allusion to the fact that I’m a parrot. Do you know what parrots are, huh? The last character in the word ‘parrot’ is the same pronunciation as ‘fifth.’ That’s why I’m Lord Fifth. What about you? Bitch!” 1
The meat jelly was furious. It truly felt as if it were being discriminated against. All three bells simultaneously let out furious shrieks.
“I’m called Lord Third, and that’s an allusion too, because I can count to three! That’s why I’m Lord Third! So what? You have a problem with that?!?!”
In this instance, the meat jelly really did seem to be quite bold and confident in its conviction, leading to a rare occurrence; the parrot gaped.
Meng Hao cleared his throat and ignored his clownish companions. He looked back at the ball of light in his hand and thought for a while. Next, he glanced at the ring on the finger of his right hand, which was, of course, the transformed Eyeless Larva. He quickly took it off and transformed it back into the Eyeless Larva, which he then combined with the glowing light.
The Eyeless Larva gradually disappeared. The glowing light transformed; moments later it was a totem, within which was the Eyeless Larva.
Meng Hao scanned it with Spiritual Sense, and after confirming that nothing was suppressing the Eyeless Larva, he lifted up his right hand and pressed it down onto the totem, which then covered the back of his right hand. It slowly sank into his skin, after which, a totem tattoo appeared.
As soon as the totem tattoo appeared, Meng Hao could sense his aura rapidly changing. It was no longer that of a normal Cultivator, but rather, the aura of totems.
It was exactly like that of a Western Desert Cultivator!
Upon closer examination, Meng Hao’s eyes filled with understanding. His Cultivation base was still there, but it was surrounded by a protective layer. Whatever magical technique this was, it was touched with totemic aura. Because of that, Meng Hao appeared to be, not a Southern Domain Cultivator, but a local from the Western Desert.
“This Li Tian really does have some skill,” thought Meng Hao. The more he thought about it, the more he realized this technique really was extraordinary.
A moment later, Meng Hao’s eyes glittered as he transformed into a colorful beam of light that shot off into the distance. The parrot and the meat jelly hastened to follow, arguing the entire way. The parrot, of course, continued to come out on top.
However, the meat jelly would never admit defeat. It continued to clamor on that it would convert the parrot, and never lose.
Meng Hao examined the introduction to the Crow Scout Tribe from the jade slip. There wasn’t much to it. “The Crow Scout Tribe is not the most inferior of the five Tribes that originated in the Crow Divinity Tribe,” he mused. “However, they are not that particularly amazing. At best, they rank in at second from the bottom…. Considering such a situation, it was unavoidable for hidden struggles to break out between the various Tribes.
“Obviously, some of the larger Tribes wish to restore the former glory of the Crow Divinity Tribe. As such, there are internal struggles as the various Tribes attempted to swallow up the others. Such internal power struggles… are often at times more brutal and bloody than the wars on the outside.
“This particular Tribe focuses on Wood-type totems and is proficient in concealing arts…. So Wu Mu really was a member of this Tribe.” Meng Hao took a deep breath, and his eyes filled with anticipation. One of the primary reasons he had selected the Crow Scout Tribe was because of Wu Mu’s Wood-type totems.
“Wood-type totems are a good fit for me. If I can acquire a Wood-type totem here, then I will have taken my first step on the path to the Five-Colored Nascent Soul!” Meng Hao increased his speed as he shot off into the distance. As he did, he slowly pushed down his Cultivation base until it reached the mid Foundation Establishment stage.
This was the most appropriate level to use to enter the Tribe. As a vassal, it wouldn’t be good to have too high of a Cultivation base. Contrariwise, with too low of a Cultivation base, he would be looked down upon, and it would be difficult to be accepted.
At dawn, the first rays of light spread out across the land to push back the darkness. Night transformed into the warmth of day; the vegetation swayed in the wind, within which could be detected a fragrant aroma.
The Crow Scout Tribe was located in a basin below a mountain. The basin wasn’t very large, but was big enough to house roughly one thousand members of the Tribe. Smoke curled up into the air from the houses below. The sound of children playing could be heard in the peaceful morning air.
At first glance, it looked less like a Tribe and more like a village. There were no walls surrounding it, only some vines clumped together. However, the vines, though they seemed ordinary, were actually enough to entangle even someone of the Core Formation stage who tried to break through them.
At the very center of the Tribe was an enormous statue of a tree!
The tree was covered with countless leaves, each one of which glittered with magical symbols. Some had red strings tied around them, upon which were hung small bells and bottles. When the wind blew, the tree wouldn’t move, but the bells and bottles would clink out a melodious song.
Stone stairs could be seen snaking around the mountain located behind the basin. Apparently there was another area behind it which also belonged to the Crow Scout Tribe.
In front of the main gate was a pillar of light that shot up toward the Heavens. Even from a distance, it was possible to see that countless leaves swirled about within the light. A powerful pressure also emanated out from within.
Sitting cross-legged below the pillar of light was Wu Hai. Every year around this time was a ten day period in which the Tribe recruited vassals. Local Rogue Cultivators, or even travelers from further distances, could choose to join the Tribe. All of them had their various reasons for doing so. 2
As far as vassals were concerned, the Crow Scout Tribe had never been very keen on accepting them. However, in the past three years, they had expended quite a bit of resources in that regard, and had even issued special instructions regarding recruitment. Wu Hai wasn’t quite sure the reason for this.
“It’s really not necessary,” he thought with a sigh. “Unless there’s a war going on, what’s the point in recruiting so many vassals?” Every time he laid eyes on the ten or more new vassals who had joined the Tribe in recent years, he felt a bit irritated. That was especially the case because quite a few of the women in the Tribe seemed very interested in the vassals. Wu Hai really didn’t like that.
Even as Wu Hai was stewing in his discontent, he saw a beam of light approaching through the sunlight. As it whistled through the air, he saw a young man within, handsome, wearing a green robe and a bright smile.
“Hello Fellow Daoist, is this the Crow Scout Tribe?”
Wu Hai blinked as he glanced over the handsome young man. In his heart, he felt disdain; Western Desert Cultivators were usually tall, but not always. There were many who closely resembled Cultivators from the Southern Domain.
From the aesthetic point of view of the Western Desert, such Cultivators were not the type that women preferred. Therefore, although Meng Hao had pleasing features, there was nothing about him that Wu Hai found particularly threatening.
Wu Hai liked this type of vassal. What he hated were the ones who were taller than himself.
He rose to his feet, revealing his tall and sturdy frame. He had two totem tattoos; one was of a leaf, the other a vine. He emanated the Cultivation base aura of the late Foundation Establishment stage.
“That’s right,” he said. “This is the Crow Scout Tribe. Fellow Daoist, do you wish to become a vassal of the Crow Scout Tribe? Our legacies stretch back long into the past. We are descendants of the Crow Divinity Tribe, which was one of the four most respected Tribes in the Western Desert.
“There is no other Tribe which contains the resources of the Crow Scout Tribe. True, the Crow Divinity Tribe split up into several other Tribes, but that was because each of those Tribes excels in different types of totems. However, none of them can measure up to the Crow Scout Tribe.” Wu Hai slapped his chest, looking very proud to be a member of the Crow Scout Tribe.
Meng Hao smiled as he looked him over. Then, he turned his head to look at the Tribe, especially the tree statue; a look of concentration appeared on his face.
Seeing this, Wu Hai continued, “Becoming a vassal of the Crow Scout Tribe is the best decision you could possibly make, Fellow Daoist. As soon as you become a vassal, you’ll receive half a Spirit Crystal. After a half year probation, if you’re approved, you’ll become a full vassal, with access to Crow Scout Tribe totems and techniques.
“What do you say? There are a lot of benefits, right? Are you interested?” Wu Hai laughed heartily. The words he’d spoken had been from the heart. It had been many years since the Crow Scout Tribe had expended such thought and resources on recruiting vassals. It was just in the last two years that the stingy Greatfather and the others suddenly got so generous.
Meng Hao was a bit taken aback. Before coming here, he had thought about the matter from a variety of angles, and had prepared a whole series of explanations to ensure that he wouldn’t blow his cover. Only after doing all of that had he actually come to the Crow Scout Tribe.
Now, though, it seemed that all of those preparations were pointless. Becoming a vassal of the Tribe was so easy that Meng Hao almost couldn’t believe it.
It seemed all he had to do was nod, and he would become a vassal. It seemed almost too easy.
“Don’t tell me the Crow Scout Tribe isn’t worried that people might come with ill intent?” thought Meng Hao. “A half year probation, huh…. Well, that must be the key. Even still, it seems unbelievable.” His first reaction was to hesitate. As far as he was concerned, the matter just seemed too simple, so simple, in fact, that he felt uneasy.
This chapter was sponsored by John Liu and Sean Collins
1.This is a play on words that can’t be translated into English. In Chinese, parrot is 鹦鹉 yīng wǔ and the number five is 五 wǔ. As you can see, the pronunciation of 鹉 and 五 is both wǔ ↩
2.Wu Hai’s name in Chinese is 乌海 wū hǎi. Wu means “crow” and is the same character from the name of the Tribe. Hai means “sea” ↩