The Black Bear group carried the goods and tied them to the bears. They carried the bundles while eyeing Shao Xuan quickly, whispering among themselves.
“Who is this kid?”
“I don’t know. He doesn’t look like much but that was powerful. Hmmph.”
“Maoda said the kid will follow us to King City. We can ask him later.”
On the other side, Maoda gave an awkward look. Even the person with the thickest skin could not help but feel embarrassed. He had been bragging too much. Now to think of it, the Flaming Horn people were experienced hunters. They were a tribe living deep in the forest, encountering countless beasts within. These bears might just be nothing to them. Plus, these bears were trained to be pack animals and not fighters. That was why although they were sometimes ill-tempered, their ferocity was not comparable to forest beasts.
Seven bears crouched while the people tied the goods. Some yawned lazily, pawing their ears. They did not look fierce at all.
“Alright, we’re done. We can go,” someone said to Maoda.
Maoda nodded. “Have the scouts returned?”
“No… Oh, they’re here.”
Shao Xuan looked in a direction. There were two silhouettes sprinting over, stopping only when they reached Maoda.
“We have cleaned the path of obstacles,” said a man with a booming voice.
“Da, we can go now. They’re waiting in front,” said the other.
“Alright.” Maoda waved and yelled, “Let’s go!”
The bear in front shook its fur and roared with all its might. This was the leader of the pack. Just now, when it came down the mountain, although it sensed that Shao Xuan and Guang Yi were strangers, it also sensed that they were dangerous. It had not attacked like the others because it was of a more sombre temperament. Maoda made this bear the leader, sometimes it was useful in controlling the other bears.
Shao Xuan and Guang Yi quickly followed.
Other than the goods on the bears, there were two large wagons with wheels made of a giant beast’s bone. It was very hard, they had gotten it from a tribe. The wagon wasn’t completely made out of wood, there were details that required metal. Underneath the wood was a layer of sturdy beast armour. This wagon would not break down easily.
The party of two hundred walked on the mountain path.
It was not a paved road, just a used path that became a path.
Due to frequent human activity, a lot of wood was often chopped down too. The forest here was not big, the trees were not the giant kind that took thirty people to hug around its circumference.
There was evidence of branches being cut off and new branches growing. These bears were still five meters tall although they had four limbs on the ground. With the bundles on their back, they were even taller. That was why the branches would become obstacles.
Shao Xuan learned from the team that a few days before they set off, there would be a team that left first to clean the path of branches, rocks, even hiding robbers and traps so their party could travel more efficiently.
Shao Xuan occasionally smelled blood. It was not animal, it belonged to humans. With so much experience in hunting, he could differentiate between animal and human blood.
The few younger bears were provoked by the smell of blood, either frustrated or excited. They cried a few times and the line broke. It was only when the alpha bear growled that they calmed down.
After half a day’s journey, they met a party of a hundred people. These were the ones who had set out to clean the path first, the brother was Maoda’s younger brother, Maojin. They looked alike. When Maoda arrived, he was sitting on a rock, wiping blood off his weapons.
Maoda’s gaze swept across the crowd, guessing that Maojin and the rest must have met with an obstacle but he did not ask. After they met, they all rested for a while before the party of almost four hundred set off once again.
This group was considered large, plus there were seven obvious bears. People who were not confident in their skills would never try to rob this group. That was why they did not meet many in the beginning. There were only a few who were brainless and greedy--- those were just here to die.
When they rested at night, Maojin chewed on his meat and asked Shao Xuan, “What will you all do in King City?”
“We’re visiting someone,” said Shao Xuan.
“Who are you looking for, do you need our help? You shouldn’t keep it to yourself if you need help. We will definitely help you, and we don’t want much in return either. What do you think?” Maojin wiped the grease on his mouth. “I just want one of your glowing rocks. See, you haven’t been to King City and don’t know much about the place. We visit often and we’re very familiar. It’ll save you a lot of trouble.”
Maojin was a rough person but it was the same throughout the group. They were smart too, not the kind with brawn but not brains. To persuade Shao Xuan, he had to pull out the pros and cons for extra persuasiveness.
Guang Yi could not recognise Maojin, thinking he was Maoda. However, this did not affect the conversation because he agreed. Since they were not familiar with King City, and the Black Bears seemed to be trustworthy, it might not be a bad idea to ask them for help. However, the person who would make the decision was Shao Xuan so Guang Yi did not interrupt. No matter how many looks Maojin gave, Guang Yi was silent.
Shao Xuan thought for a moment. “Since you know King City so well, I want to ask you about a person first.”
When he realised Shao Xuan was interested, Maojin quickly said, “Tell me.”
Maoda sat down too when he heard this.
“Do you know this person, Ji Ju?” asked Shao Xuan.
When they heard ‘Ji’, both their expressions fell solemn. “The royal surname, ‘Ji’?”
The brothers looked at each other hesitantly. Anything related to the royal surname could mean trouble. However, it could also be a huge opportunity!
Maoda rubbed his palms and thought about it. “If you’re talking about Ji ‘Golden Grain’ Ju, we have heard of him. But we haven’t met him physically before.”
“Golden Grain? Ji Ju?” Shao Xuan was surprised to hear that the old man had a nickname.
Maoda nodded. “I heard the fields under Ji Ju’s care are often golden and produce grains favoured by both the aristocrats and tribesmen. His grains were better than other people, hence he was named ‘Golden Grain’. He had been called this since he was young. Ji Ju is a very powerful person in King City. However, I haven’t heard any recent news about him.”
Maojin added, “Now that you mentioned it, I think so too. I used to receive news about Ji Ju every year but since last year, every time we went to King City, we never heard anything about him.”
“I heard, Ji Ju seemed to have found something good.” Maoda touched his chin, eyes bright.
When he finished, Maoda looked at Shao Xuan. “What about this- we’ll help you seek for more information when we arrive at King City.”
“Thank you,” said Shao Xuan.
They walked for nine days.
“We’re arriving soon, that’s King City territory,” said Maoda, pointing ahead.
While the city walls and buildings could not be seen, they could see different-coloured crop fields and short houses.
“These lands belong to the aristocrats. The slaves live in the shorter houses,” explained Maoda as he instructed the party to walk on the main road. Here, if they did not take the main road, they could be viewed as hostiles and killed here. That was because everywhere else was private land owned by slave masters.
There was not a blade of grass on the soil road about twenty meters wide. Perhaps due to the high traffic, the soil on the ground was packed very tightly. Even the wagon wheels left light marks.
Many people travelled on the path in big and small parties. There were groups of guards in armour on both sides of the road. They were all holding metal weapons with a solemn face, their eyes piercing like daggers as they glared at every person on the path. They looked like they would not hesitate to stab a person to death with their spear if something was wrong.
Some people grew very anxious as they walked, almost tripping themselves over.
The Black Bear team stood out here, people in front quickly moved to let them pass. The guards recognised them by their bears, one of the guards even chatted happily with Maoda. Maoda had handed over two animal hides and the guard was so happy his eyes were two lines. The furs sold by the Black Bears were always of good quality.
The head of the guards even helped them clear a path, making the smaller merchants in front make way.
This was already the norm for everyone, no one thought it was not appropriate. Even the frustrated ones swallowed their words. Even Guang Yi, who was here for the first time, did not think there was anything wrong. The universe had its rules.
The party travelled ahead. Shao Xuan thought he’d arrive at King City soon but they had to walk for half a day before seeing the City walls.
Anba City would never allow these bears to enter but King City did. This was power. They were not afraid of these giant bears causing trouble and had absolute certainty that they were in control.
The city walls were made of giant rocks, every rock was about five meters long and three meters wide, more than one meter thick. Shao Xuan could tell they were middle-grade rocks and in some places, for example near the city gates, they used high-grade rocks.
It was a luxury to use such good rocks as a mere city wall.
The sky darkened as Maoda brought the party to the Black Bear’s base in King City. Some people went to unload the goods and brought the seven bears to the animal pens. Maoda brought Shao Xuan and Guang Yi to Black Bear the leader. If they were looking for Ji Ju, it was best they were brought by ‘Black Bear’.