On their way back, the ship, as well as those on it, looked rather pathetic. Some stood, and some sat, but all of them gazed into the distance in complete silence.
For a full hour after leaving Barren Sands City, not one of them spoke.
“It’s all my fault, it’s all my fault…” Xue Mo sat sprawled in a corner of the ship, muttering the same words over and over again as if she’d lost her soul.
The others wanted to say something to comfort her but had no idea what to say. In the end, they just let her continue muttering to herself.
Ye Zichen stayed behind to cover their retreat, while Chen Guanga threw himself in the line of fire for her. Murong Xue and the others almost died in the beast tide, too.
The way Xue Mo saw this, all of that was because of her.
It was as if she were some star of calamity, and no matter who she touched, they were sure to encounter grave misfortune.
She clenched her transmission slip tightly. Even now, she’d yet to receive any response from the academy or her family. This realization chilled her to the core.
They hurtled away from the area surrounding Barren Sands City as fast as they could. If they looked far off into the distance, there was more than just yellow sands and death qi. There were hints of greenery in there too.
The instant they left the bounds of Barren Sands City’s territory, Xue Mo’s transmission device lit up like mad.
“I got a response!” Xue Mo arched her brows, and the others hurriedly gathered around her.
Jiang Yong even shouted at the top of his lungs, “Have someone rush back to Barren Sands City to rescue Brother Ye. He might still be alive!”
His words lit the flames of hope in Xue Mo’s heart. She nodded forcefully, then inserted her divine awareness into the slip and saw a dense backlog of messages.
“This mission is canceled. Hurry up and leave Barren Sands Academy.”
“You can’t handle this mission. Quit throwing a temper tantrum and hurry back.”
“Miss Xue, I beg you, don’t be so stubborn!”
Those were all messages from the academy, but there were also quite a few from her family.
“You went to Barren Sands City? Nonsense! Hurry up and get out of there!”
“Do you want to die? The situation in Barren Sands City isn’t simple. It’s not something a group of kids like you can handle!”
When she saw all these messages, Xue Mo was baffled, and her eyes filled with bitterness.
She’d only just received all these messages. It didn’t take much thought to realize that someone had sealed off the area around Barren Sands City and prevented any communication with the outside.
The academy and her family had told them to give up on this mission the whole time. How ridiculous! And here they thought that their lack of messages meant they were capable of investigating the situation.
“Why? Why didn’t I get the messages until now?” Xue Mo tightly clenched her fists, her eyes filled with self-blame. She should have figured this out earlier. At the academy, her status was somewhat out of the ordinary. If she messaged the academy, there was no way they would just ignore her.
When they saw Xue Mo’s expression, the others knit their brows as well. Murong Xue took it a step further and asked, “What did the academy say?”
“They’ve been telling us to give up on this mission right from the start. It’s just, someone near Barren Sands City must have put some formation around the area to seal off transmission devices, so we never got their order to retreat.” Before she even finished her explanation, the others’ jade slips lit up as well.
Murong Xue clenched her jade slip and looked deeper inside. Although the messages’ content wasn’t completely identical to Xue Mo’s, it was all essentially the same.
“That doesn’t matter right now. Does this mean that your messages to the academy went through now?” asked Jiang Yong, his expression dark.
“Most likely, yes.” Xue Mo responded without much confidence. She seemed to have sunk into her own little world.
When they heard her lifeless response, Jiang Yong practically swore. Just as he was about to check his own transmission device, the air around them distorted violently.
The flying vessel’s path changed. Jiang Yong, nerves taut, tried to regain control as he anxiously examined their surroundings.
Suddenly, he saw two figures cut through the sky and appear right in front of them.
When they appeared, they nodded at each other, then rushed towards the flying ship. When she realized who they were, Xue Mo dashed right up to them.
“Big Sister Qianhe!” Xue Mo’s “big sister” was Zhao QIanhe, the same expert who’d helped Ye Zichen back in the lower lands.
She was accompanied by an elderly man, the dean of Skyspan Academy, Qiu Enhuai.
“What’s wrong, Momo? Your dad is freaking out! He told me to find you and said you were in danger.” Zhao Qianhe pulled Xue Mo into an embrace and gently patted her head. “Don’t be afraid. With me here, no one’s going to hurt you.”
“Dean.” Everyone else bowed to the elderly dean.
Murong Xue and Jiang Yong turned to Zhao Qianhe and greeted her too. “Director Zhao.”
“Oh? So, our little friends from the Jiang and Murong families are here too.” Zhao Qianhe smiled at them, then looked them over. “All of you are hurt. What on earth happened out there?”
“Director Zhao, it’s like this.” The elder started to explain, “Xue Mo and the others accepted the mission in Barren Sands City. If I’m not mistaken, then…”
“Qiu Enhuai!” Zhao Qianhe’s expression instantly darkened. “I can’t believe you let them take the mission in Barren Sands City!”
“Don’t blame the dean! We insisted on going,” sobbed Xue Mo. “Big Sister Qianhe, please, hurry and back to Barren Sands City and save our friend! He stayed behind so we could escape. There was a beast-king-level Subterranean Beast there!”
“A beast king?” Zhao Qianhe knit her brows in concern, then smiled and nodded. “Alright. I’ll go help your friend right away. You go back to the academy with Qiu Enhuai.”
“No! I want to go with you.” Xue Mo shook her head.
“Don’t make a fuss.” Zhao Qianhe frowned.
Xue Mo went on shaking her head. Zhao Qianhe couldn’t help but scold her. “You really are just like your mother! Stubborn and impossible! If you really want to come with me, fine. Qiu Enhuai, you stay here and protect the others. As for the matter of you sending them to Barren Sands City and putting them in danger… Well, we’ll settle that score when I get back.”
“Alright.” Qiu Enhuai nodded and smiled bitterly. What else could he say? His only choice was to grin and bear it in silence.
Fortunately, nothing had happened to Xue Mo. If she’d died in Barren Sands City, the consequences would be far, far more severe. Also, Murong Xue and Jiang Yong were here. He couldn’t afford to offend any one of these kids.
Being dean was just too suffocating!
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