When he saw the four people, Duo Kang was stunned. He rubbed his eyes in disbelief.
“Chief, why did you come out of the ground?” Duo Kang laughed nervously and retracted his axe.
Everyone else frantically retracted their weapons. Didn’t they leave the cave? Why did they return through the ground?
Duo Kang got someone to throw in some rope and they climbed out of the pit.
Zheng Luo briefly explained and then sat on a rock whose layer of ice had already been hacked off to catch his breath. Although they were strong warriors, the four had not rested since the ‘tunnel’. They had been afraid of the beast returning too so they were in a tensed state. They could finally relax here.
Duo Kang’s eyes brightened. “You mean, if we don’t leave for the moment, we can jump inside and start mining crystals every day?”
“Then chief, you all rest here, I’ll bring my men over there and we’ll continue mining!” Duo Kang said, rubbing his palms. At this point, the fear of the beast had faded. The fire crystals were an attractive goal.
“Bring fewer people. Be alert. Run back immediately if anything seems wrong. Don’t be greedy,” reminded Zheng Luo. “Clean up the soil and rocks in the tunnel we dug too.”
The tunnel was filled with a lot of rocks and soil due to their digging. If the king beast returned, no one knew if it would rage upon sight of these little piles of soil. They shivered when they thought of what happened in the Fox cave. It was extremely pitiful. Not a single person on both floors of the cave lived.
“I know!” Duo Kang called over a few people, brought their tools and slid down the rope.
The other tribes did the same. They would not miss this opportunity.
“Shao Xuan, when can we leave?” asked Zheng Luo.
“I don’t know either. Wait.” Shao Xuan took out some rope to conduct a reading.
He wanted to ask about the king beast but the reading failed. After so many times, he had figured out that usually, he was unable to conduct readings targeting a person or beast far more powerful than himself. That was why after a failed attempt, Shao Xuan did a reading for the weather.
Although there was no clear conclusion, Shao Xuan found out that the weather would worsen.
“Leave in two days,” he said.
“Two days?” Zheng Luo frowned. “Why?” He believed Shao Xuan but wanted to know the reason.
“It’ll temporarily stop snowing in two days. But once it starts again, the weather will be worse than what we witnessed.” Shao Xuan told them about his conclusion. The reading did not tell him what would happen but hinted that the best time to leave was two days later because the snowing would stop.
The Taihe and Mountain Wind chiefs memorised his words, mulling over their next move.
In the past, the Mountain Wind people did not have a good impression of Flaming Horn. To them, Flaming Horns were strong, vulgar and unreasonable people. Nothing else. However, they were impressed, especially by this Shao Xuan.
“Then we shall make preparations for it. Tell everyone in the cave that we will leave in two days,” said the Taihe chief.
If they had to leave in two days, then mining the fire crystals became an urgent matter.
After some rest, the three chiefs went to mine and instructed people to mine more salt. Since they only had two days, they should mine as much as they could.
In the past, they mined only what they needed, not too much. They did not sell much of the salt they mined here, the portion of salt used for trade was very small. That was why they only mined two floors after centuries. If they continued digging downwards, instead of salt, they’d get the fire crystals and provoke the king beast sooner. Then all the salt mine guards would likely die here too.
After doing nothing for several days, all the warriors of the three tribes were in a better mood since they finally had something to do. At least they didn’t have to sit and dream all day.
It did not matter if it was salt from the ceiling or the ground, they brought all they could. This might be their last chance coming here, no one wanted to act recklessly in a king beast’s territory. If they knew of it earlier, they would have avoided this place altogether.
Strictly speaking, this was the Flaming horn’s cave, the Taihe and Mountain Wind people should not be digging here. However, their caves were not cleaned out and they had no time. Plus Zheng Luo felt like this might be their last time here. Since everyone was in the same boat, they might as well dig in the same cave. There was not much salt left anyway. If they finished mining in two days, it would be great for everyone. In the future, if they returned, the Mountain Wind and Taihe tribe would help them take one cave for Flaming Horn.
Just like that, one group of people mined salt, the other mined for fire crystals. There were two groups of guards on both sides. If the king beast came, they would retreat immediately.
The king beast appeared nearby on the second afternoon. However, it merely loitered around for a while and then left. It did not come to the salt mines.
The people mining fire crystals had suddenly met some Fox people. Both parties met in the tunnel and almost broke out into war- especially the Mountain Wind people whose eyes were ablaze and bloodshot. These were now their mortal enemies, they were about to attack when someone above ground warned, “The king beast is here!”
Immediately, both sides turned and ran back towards their own caves. The Fox tribe ran back to their cave, the Flaming Horns back to theirs. After hiding for a while, they realised the king beast was only taking a stroll and did not approach the mines. Then they returned to the tunnel again. This time, they did not meet the Fox tribe again.
The Mountain Wind Chief, Lanmu, told his men to ignore the Fox tribesmen first. Yes, revenge must be taken but this matter was more important. They did not have much time left.
“Chief, what do we do?”
Within the Fox cave, a Fox warrior’s face darkened as he asked the Fox chief, who was silent.
They were hiding in the Shen tribe’s cave. When they heard the king beast’s cries, they knew their cave would be gone. While they were relieved not to be there, they were also heartbroken for they knew it was going to be horrible news. When the beast left, they hid a little longer and then came over only to see a cave full of frozen people with no signs of life.
When they came over to the pit, they discovered evidence of mining activities that extended into the tunnel. As they walked, they saw tribesmen from the three other tribes.
The fire crystals they had worked so hard to mine were stolen by the three other tribes!
“Why can’t the beast roar into the Flaming Horn cave?” complained the Fox warrior.
However, they also understood in their hearts that they were the ones who provoked the beast first. Especially the few miners- they didn’t just touch the best, they'd pried out its scales! Although it was a very small piece, it was still an insult to the beast. Not sure if this was the reason why the King Beast specifically targeted and killed everyone in their cave.
Speaking of regret, the one who regretted this the most was naturally the Fox chief. The fox tribesmen had fought with the Shen people in their cave and almost broke off the partnership. The only reason why the Shen chief swallowed his pride was because they knew they weren’t as smart as the Fox tribe. If they wanted to leave alive, they still had to rely on the Foxes.
No one knew.
“If we don’t have an idea, why don’t we observe Mountain Wind and the rest,” said the lady next to the Fox chief after some thought. “We definitely can’t fight the beast, we know that from the people who froze to death. But what if there’s a bait?”
The fox chief’s eyes flashed. “You mean to let those people attract the beast’s attention and then we run off on our own?”
“That is a good idea, but I don't want to leave the fire crystals behind!” No one would. All these crystals were so close to them, would they be wasting this opportunity?
The Fox and Shen tribe discussed once again and decided to mine for the fire crystals first and then look for an opportunity to betray Flaming Horn and the rest. That would be their cue to run off.
The plan was good but as they mined, the scouts watching the Flaming Horn cave reported that those people had left the cave.
“They left?” There were so many crystals left, the beast was still strolling outside occasionally, why would they leave now?
“It has stopped snowing, the winds stopped too. Perhaps they decided to take this opportunity to leave.” The Shen chief was hesitant. Should they leave too? But there were so many crystals here. Right now, they were making larger progress than they did before.
HE could not bear to leave this place behind.
“Then… we’ll dig for a few more days?” suggested the Fox chief. However, he was thinking fast. They didn’t have Flaming Horn as bait but there were still other people. After they finished digging, they could just use these as bait.
That was why as the three tribes left, neither Fox nor Shen followed. They continued mining. The ones Fox recruited with the promise of salt also knew of the fire crystals now. At this point, they would not be willing to leave either.
Looking at these people, fully focused on the fire crystals, the fox chief and the lady beside him looked at each other, slightly smirking. The ones who’d lost all sense of reason were the easiest to manipulate. They were the best bait.
At this moment, Flaming Horn, Taihe and Mountain Wind trekked out of the cave towards the white pieces of land.
There was already a seven-meter thick layer of snow where the king beast had cleared. This layer of snow was taller than a house.
It was very difficult to travel across this place.
“Will we meet the beast?” asked Duo Kang.
“I don’t think… so?” Shao Xuan wasn’t sure either. He hoped their luck wasn’t too bad.