However, he no longer had a chance to salvage the situation.
This was because, at the very instant that Hu Bugui boarded the Netherworld Ferryboat, the ferryman at the back of the boat who looked like a proper scarecrow suddenly began to move the black pole, causing the boat to sway as it gradually sailed toward the calm surface of the vast Heavenly River.
This angered those who were onshore.
“What’s going on? Every ferry trip has ten spots, so why has the boat sailed when there are only nine people onboard this time?”
“That’s right, it’s short of one person.”
“Hey, wait up, there’s still one remaining seat.”
Some experts started shouting.
However, without stopping at all, the Netherworld Ferryboat had already drifted out thirty-five meters at a modest speed. With its sluggish mechanisms, the scarecrow operated the ferry at what seemed like an ever-constant rhythm without responding to the calls from the experts onshore.
Seeing this, many of the experts onshore felt extremely disappointed yet helpless.
“This isn’t right. Reasonably speaking, the boat would not sail off before the seats are full,” a Twinhead Race expert expressed his doubts.
“Indeed, this has always been the case. The boat would never sail off before it has been filled.”
“Then, this time… why did the ferryman set sail when there are only nine onboard?”
A series of discussions took place.
Someone suddenly seemed to realize something. “Actually, there were in fact ten beings onboard. You all might’ve overlooked the dog which was biting onto the heel of that full-bearded man...”
“This… seems to be the case.”
“Did we just get overtaken by a dog?”
“Are we worse than a dog?”
Feeling humiliated, many experts became unquellably furious yet could do nothing about the situation.
If they could not afford to offend the Four Stars holy girl and the Third Prince of the Mizar Race, they naturally could not afford to offend Ye Qingyu as well. Order had already been lost in the Reincarnation Hall of the Chaos Demon Emperor, such that whoever's fist was bigger was in the right. Given the current reality, nobody wanted to offend the [Ice Sword Killing God] just because of a dog. After all, they had already seen that even the Four Stars holy girl had to yield to him and allow him and his companions to get onboard.
“Huh? Look, the air above the Heavenly River is becoming foggy.”
A Sharp Ear Race Saint cried out in alarm.
It was only now that the crowd discovered that a black mist had formed above the originally-smooth surface of the Heavenly River. In a twinkling, the Netherworld Ferryboat disappeared into the mist.
What’s going on?
When has there ever been a mist above the Heavenly River?
What does this change entail?
The crowd was shocked like never before.
Similar questions arose in the minds of the nine humans and one dog aboard the Netherworld Ferryboat.
With vigilance growing in his heart, Ye Qingyu looked at the faint black mist which was gathering from the surroundings.
He felt a hint of danger bearing down from among the strange and changeful black mist.
He took time to size up the Netherworld ferryman. This headless scarecrow seemed to be crudely made using the most common thatch of this world. Though it should be a dead object, it was somehow able to move like a living person. The giant black bamboo hat which was suspended in the air above its chest probably counted as its head. Upon careful examination, he discovered a smooth incision at its neck, suggesting that the neck had been sliced using a sharp blade before. It was thus possible that the scarcecrow used to have a head but which was later chopped off by some terrifying power.
“This scarcecrow has a deep aura like that of a terrifyingly strong expert.”
He had formed a rough judgment after a moment of observation.
Scarily enough, this scarecrow possessed cultivation which had at least attained the Great Saint realm. It was more like a puppet, and even then, Ye Qingyu did not know what kind of being could have produced such a terrifying puppet.
Just then, the Four Stars holy girl, who had been facing outward with her hands clasped behind her back all this time, gradually turned around.
As she looked at Ye Qingyu, she said in a soft voice, “Long time no see, brother Ye Qingyu.”
These words sounded like a greeting to an old friend.
The Thousand Illusion Elder was flabbergasted and even more terrified than before when he heard this, “Wasn’t it said that there’s a grudge between these two Heaven’s pridelings? Why does she sound like she’s meeting an old friend? Could it be that those rumors are false? If so, I’ve really messed up this time by saying what I did.”
The other three human Saints also became anxious at once.
Conversely, Orchid Saintess felt a little joy inwardly.
She had sincerely wished that the third deputy and the Four Stars holy girl could become friends, for this would indubitably be a good thing for the Human Race as a whole.
Only the Third Prince of the Mizar Race remained completely expressionless. He was the only person who knew the inside story, and moreso knew that the feud between Ye Qingyu and the holy girl was not limited to what happened in the 18th district of the Black Demon Abyss. The truth was that there were many more layers to it, with the most deadly layer originating from the battle at the Secluded Mountain Manor in which Ye Qingyu was ambushed before he killed one of the holy girl’s doppelgangers. To both of them, this was a mutual hatred which could never be defused, let alone be turned into friendship.
While everyone knew that Yin Kaishan was a martial maniac, they did not know that he actually had a clever and sharp mind as well, except that he did not use it most of the time.
During that earlier moment, he had actually seen the reactions of everyone onboard, causing a contemptuous expression to involuntarily flash across the depths of his eyes. If it was not for the fact that the Four Stars holy girl had secretly transmitted instructions to him at the start, he would certainly not have deemed the Thousand Illusion Elder and the others to be qualified enough to board the ferry. Speaking about qualified persons, Ye Qingyu could count as one, while Orchid Saintess could only count as half. Although the full-bearded man possessed meager strength, the tile on his head was exceptional and thus he also counted as one. As for the mysterious person in a black hooded cloak, his strength was fathomless and thus he also counted as one.
However, being naturally sparing in speech, Yin Kaishan certainly would not talk about these things out loud.
Ye Qingyu looked and smiled plainly at the Four Stars holy girl, whose methods he knew better than to underestimate, and said, “Indeed, long time no see. I’ve not forgotten Your Highness’ generosity. If I ever have a chance in the future, I’ll definitely thank you properly.”
Leaving their personal grievances aside, the force secretly supporting the Black Moon Immortal Palace was very likely to be the Four Stars Sect and thus certainly involved the Four Stars holy girl, and moreover, the Four Stars Sect was at least partially responsible for the massacre of the Heaven Wasteland envoy mission. Therefore, whether publicly or privately, he had far too many scores to settle with this woman. However, given the unique present circumstances, there was no need to rush things for now. He had made up his mind on this before boarding the ferry and thus did not reveal hostility, instead talking to her as if meeting an old friend. The true meaning of his words could only be interpreted by Yin Kaishan and the holy girl – the purported “thank you properly” was referring to a fight to the death.
“You’re welcome, brother Ye Qingyu. I’ll be expecting you.” The Four Stars holy girl smiled faintly as she spoke in a cool tone.
She also knew about the importance of this trip to the Reincarnation Hall of the Chaos Demon Emperor and thus did not wish to engage in a mutually destructive battle against such a formidable enemy before the crucial moment had arrived. It must be known that the opponent this time would not be Ye Qingyu alone and would instead comprise also of the Heaven’s pridelings of other large races, dynasties, and sects. As such, the situation was not looking too optimistic even to her.
The brief exchanges between them had clearly expressed their respective stances. Having understood each other’s thoughts, there was no need for them to talk further.
Ye Qingyu's gaze turned toward the mysterious person by the side.
The black cloak seemed to completely conceal the latter’s aura, such that even Ye Qingyu's divine consciousness was not sharp enough to discern the level of the latter’s cultivation. However, Ye Qingyu could vaguely sense that this person was like a supreme divine sword which appeared ordinary and had been sheathed for a long, long time but would unleash devastating power as soon as it was unsheathed. Instinct informed him that the battle strength of this mysterious person was definitely not inferior to that of the Four Stars holy girl and Yin Kaishan.
Suddenly, as he was trying to guess this person’s identity, the Netherworld Ferryboat stopped moving on the surface of the Heavenly River.
Everyone on the boat was terribly startled.
What’s going on?
They saw that the headless scarecrow had inconspicuously stuck the black pole into the riverbed some time ago, and was now standing at the back of the boat with his hand gradually reaching toward them. Although his palms, which were made from withered thatch, were somewhat deformed, his five fingers could still be barely made out. With his palms spread open, he seemed to be asking for something.
What does this mean?
Ye Qingyu was taken aback.
“Ferry money.” A strange voice which sounded like the squawking of an old crow was heard from the scarecrow’s chest.
Ye Qingyu glanced at Hu Bugui with unprecedented shock.
The latter also looked befuddled.
The others, including the conceited Four Stars holy girl and the taciturn Yin Kaishan, were also shocked.
Did the Netherworld ferryman just... ask for money?
Who would have ever thought that a scarecrow would stop the boat on the Heavenly River and ask for money – this was virtually no different from those robbers who had blocked Ye Qingyu's way and demanded his fortunes. Moreover, being a scarecrow, it did not seem to have much use for money. Before boarding the ferry, the nine humans and one dog had imagined myriad possibilities, but none of them had imagined that something like this would happen.
“Woof!” Little Nine finally unclasped its mouth from Hu Bugui's heel and snapped, “Chief Bandit, were you the one who made this scarecrow? How could it be even more of a bandit than you?”
The latter remained silent.
In truth, he had suddenly felt an intimacy with the headless scarecrow, as if they were family five thousand years ago. At the same time, an absurd idea popped up uncontrollably in this chief bandit’s mind - he wondered if the scarecrow’s head was chopped off by a former badass passenger when it stopped the boat and demanded money.
For some time, everyone on the Netherworld Ferryboat was speechless.
The headless scarecrow reached out its other palm and repeated its words in the same low voice.
This time, everyone could confirm what he meant.
Dammit, he has really stopped the boat to ask for money!
Everyone cursed inwardly.
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