The forest was dense, trees were tall and majestic. It would take three people hugging the trunk to fully circle it at the crown, while the trunk closest to the ground would take more than ten people.
Roots twisted as if an ancient beast had clenched its claws upon the ground. Some places even felt like small hills but the hunters paid them no mind.
A row of silhouettes trekked deeper into the forest. Once inside, they parted different ways, breaking off into small groups. This was not technically a group hunt so the groups were smaller.
Shao Xuan was with some of the younger warriors, there were about twenty of them in the same group. Tao Zheng and Zhui were here, this group was led by Wu Zhan. In terms of ranking, Shao Xuan should have been the leader but since it was his first time and he was not familiar with all the faces here, he did not accept the position.
Everyone worked well together on the team. Other than being a little stiff in the beginning due to Shao Xuan’s presence, after some time, they were a lot more comfortable and all returned to normal.
There was no speech, just a gesture and a look was enough. They worked seamlessly.
Tao Zheng was already given repeated reminders to take care of Shao Xuan by the chief, the leader of the hunting party and his father and a few other uncles. Although Shao Xuan was capable, plus he was the Elder, he might not be used to the fast rhythm of their hunting style. That was why as they approached their hunting spot, Tao Zheng wondered if he should stop to explain to Shao Xuan.
However, he realised not only did Shao Xuan not need his help, he was well adapted into their team. When there was an emergency, and Tao Zheng made a gesture, Shao Xuan hid as quickly as everyone else. He did not need extra guidance from Tao Zheng.
A branch from a tall tree shook. However, the team could not see clearly due to the dense vegetation.
With a gesture, the entire team slowed down immediately. Their footsteps quietened as they approached slowly. Zhui and another person climbed up a tree next to it, as agile as monkeys, to peer forwards. If it was a prey, they would have to prepare to hunt.
Through his special vision, Shao Xuan could see a silhouette through the leaves. The animal was not large and based on its bone structure, it was a baby.
Zhui peered forward and then shook his head at Tao Zheng.
While the shape of its head looked like a horse, its neck was a little longer, its torso strong. It usually moved very slowly but can speed up quickly when in danger. Its hooves were not big but hard enough to hurt you if it kicked.
This was one of their usual preys but the hunters did not hunt young animals. If resources were enough in the area, they would often meet young ones like this. The warriors did not touch them because it would not be considered an opportunity to show off their strength, plus there would not be much meat. It would be better use of their energy to hunt an adult.
They would rather leave it be until it grew up or reproduced.
At this moment, the young animal stood on its hind legs, supporting itself using a tree trunk, and ate fruit off the tree branch. Its ear twitched but it did not notice the hunters, nor did it know it just had a brush with death.
They trekked more. There saw a river and a sandy area on the bank but there was no trace of other animals here.
“We usually don’t take water from that river because it’s too dangerous. If we need water, we will get it from the grass dew, tree trunks or a stream in the hills,” Tao Zheng explained in a low voice.
“What’s in the river?” asked Shao Xuan.
“There are fish with sharp teeth, sometimes pythons but they’re not the main reason.” Tao Zheng pointed at the empty sandy bank. “There might be Bone Beasts. If they’re here, then it would be especially quiet in the region. Fish and other animals would hide.”
“Bone beast?” A new name.
There was light, Shao Xuan did not see anything unusual. However, his gut sensed there was something dangerous there.
“Bone beasts have very hard bones suitable for boneware, making bone daggers. However, they are not easy to hunt because of their thick armour and skull. They’re strong too. If we are not confident, we won’t usually provoke them. They’re very cunning animals, good at camouflage.”
Shao Xuan looked towards the sandy piece of land again. Activating his power, he identified a hunk of bone.
There was a bone beast as large as the dinosaur he fought. However, it was as if it wore a stone helmet. Just by sight, he could tell it was extremely robust. Right now, its entire body was buried in the ground, only its head was on the surface. Its eyes were closed, ears pressed downwards, nostrils constricted and breathing slowed. At a glance, it looked like a boulder. There was even moss and plants growing on it. People who were not familiar with this animal would have thought it was just a boulder.
It was excellent at camouflage. If it felt like it would be too obvious, it would even roll a few boulders over and sit among them for better camouflage. Most of the boulders they saw by the river now were placed by the animal!
“There’s one bone beast there,” said Shao Xuan, pointing at the ‘rock’. It looked like this was an animal who hunted alone. If it hunted in groups, they would be way more dangerous.
One of the reasons why bone beasts were so dangerous was because it was hard to identify their exact location. If they made a mistake, the beast would take the opportunity to ambush them. However, if they knew exactly where it was, they could make preparations and the hunt would be easier.
Tao Zheng grew more excited. The younger ones all liked a challenge like that.
“You’re sure?” he asked again.
After a pause, Tao Zheng asked again, “Are there other bone beasts nearby?”
“No, just one. It’s huge though, maybe larger than the dinosaur back at the village. You all want to hunt it?” Shao Xuan saw the flash in his eye.
“I’ll discuss with everyone.” It was a team after all, he could not just hunt alone. A beast like that would require everyone’s efforts to yield a successful hunt.
Tao Zheng told everyone and as expected, they were all interested. If they knew exactly where it was, at least they could prepare. And even if it was a failure, they would be able to retreat safely.
“How are you so sure that’s the bone beast?” Zhui asked, staring intently, ignoring a tug from Tao Zheng. His tone was filled with doubt.
Everyone had this question too, though they did not dare ask. Even the most experienced warriors here were not as quick in distinguishing the animal from its surroundings. So what if he was the Elder? Would they have to believe everything he said? Hunting was not a game, a mistake could result in injury or death.
Shao Xuan did not answer his question directly. He looked around then pointed at a spot two steps away from him. “There’s a rock under here. About this big.” Shao Xuan gestured to show its size, then described its shape.
Zhui and the rest looked at where he pointed. It was a pile of rotten leaves and broken branches.
Zhui looked at Tao Zheng, and when he nodded, Zhui took out a small knife and slashed away the branches and leaves. He brushed away a layer of soil to see a rock. It was exactly like what Shao Xuan said.
Zhui raised his eyebrows.
How could he be so accurate?!