Barely two days after the prayer ceremony. The Mountain Wind chief had personally come to visit. He looked like he was in a hurry.
“Where’s your chief? I need to talk to him.” Mountain Wind’s chief had the patrol team bring him to meet Zheng Luo. “If Zheng Luo isn’t here, I can meet your Elder too.”
Ever since the time at the salt mines, Mountain Wind was cautious around the young Flaming Horn Elder. They would not underestimate him. Without Shao Xuan, they would not survive.
“The Elder and chief are both in.” The patrol team sent a messenger, then when permission was given, they brought the team from Mountain Wind up the hill.
Mountain Wind and Flaming Horn had grown closer since working together at the salt mines.
The Mountain Wind chief had a solemn expression as if there was something serious. The patrol team did not waste any time hurrying up the hill.
As per tradition, after winter and the prayer ceremony, the tribe would go out for their first hunt. In the past years, important members of the tribe would meet at the top of the mountain to prepare for the hunt.
They were meeting today but talked about other matters.
The shamaness told everyone the instructions she received at the ceremony, then expressed her opinion. However, no one knew how they could move so the meeting was met with a dead end. No one wanted to migrate an entire tribe when there was no solid plan. There were too many variables. This was not a joke.
At this moment, someone reported that the Mountain Wind chief was here, and it seemed urgent.
Zheng Luo sent everyone back to think about it and they’d continue the meeting tomorrow. There were a lot more meetings after winter.
When he saw Lanmu, Zheng Luo’s heart sank. He knew Mountain Wind had planned to launch war against Fox after winter. If the Fox tribesmen at the mines did not return safely, that meant the tribe’s strength would be greatly diminished. This would be easy for Mountain Wind. However, Lanmu’s face did not tell any good news. Did the Fox people make it home safely?
“What happened? Something happened to Fox?” asked Zheng Luo.
“Not just that.” Lanmu paused to sit down, then told Zheng Luo about the message he received.
“During winter, after we returned, due to the snow, we didn’t send any scouts to watch the Fox tribe. A while ago, towards the end of winter, we sent scouts. We didn’t know that the Fox tribe was moving! We had sent too few scouts so we couldn’t just attack and stop them. We didn’t have a chance. After some time, most of their tribesmen had already moved. Only a few bed-ridden patients are left there.” Lanmu was furious. He had been suppressing his anger to wait an entire winter, yet this happened.
“Where did they move to?” asked Zheng Luo.
Lanmu eyed Shao Xuan, who was also seated, and said, “King City. They’re going to King City.” This was the answer they’d forced out of the sick people left in the village.
“King City? They’re seeking protection from King City?!” Zheng Luo was surprised. “Looks like not many survived the salt mines. Or they would not have moved their tribe to depend on King City.”
“Yes. According to our reports, only about twenty Shen tribesmen returned from the salt mines, they were heavily injured too. The Fox tribe should be the same. But…”
“Just say it,” said Shao Xuan, who hadn’t said a word. What Lanmu knew must be related to him, or he wouldn’t be eyeing Shao Xuan like that.
Lanmu paused. “I heard Elder Shao Xuan went to King City before winter?”
“I did,” said Shao Xuan.
“The great six released a statement at the same time. They are offering rewards to anyone who can catch Flaming Horn tribesmen. Apparently it’s because of the incident regarding the destruction of the city walls.” Lanmu was still in disbelief. The Flaming Horns were violent enough to break their city walls?!
The Mountain Wind tribe received news much quicker than the rest. They lived in the outer regions of the forest. Not sure how they could get updates so quickly, perhaps with birds. Mountain Wind was more superior in information transfer. If Lanmu said so, then it was likely to be true.
“We just broke a wall, and they want to attack us?!” raged Zheng Luo. “This excuse is a stretch. Their walls weren’t strong, one touch and it broke! Are they blaming us for being too strong?!”
Lanmu’s face twitched. What did he mean by ‘one touch and it broke’?! This is the King City’s city wall, not your backyard’s fence! Even I am afraid.
“There are rumours that the change in winter was because of Flaming Horn, and…” Lanmu looked at Zheng Luo and Shao Xuan’s increasingly twisted face, then continued, “Plus they said that Flaming Horn lured the king beast out of the ice, causing natural disasters.”
“That’s bullshit!” Zheng Luo’s face darkened with rage. So they’re blaming everything on Flaming Horn now? “You believe this?”
“I don’t believe it. But there must be a reason for this, perhaps it’s related to Fox, or something else. But it’s true that they are now launching a war against you. I came soon after I received news.” Mountain Wind was there at the salt mines. If Flaming Horns really planned this, would they have ended up pathetically running with them? But if you said the beast had absolutely nothing to do with them… Lanmu was still sceptical. Everyone had been knocked unconscious after the blast. Only one person knew what truly happened after they fainted.
As he thought about this, Lanmu looked at Shao Xuan doubtfully. He met Shao Xuan’s eyes and his heart shuddered. He quickly averted his eyes. He did not want to provoke this young man.
Not sure which idiot decided to blame Flaming Horn for the weather either. Did they think one tribe could influence the weather? All these people who believed the rumours, were they all stupid?
But there were many people who believed the rumours. They treated Flaming Horn like the plague.
Lanmu told them what he knew as thanks for their help at the mines. Before he left, he hesitated but finally asked, “You Flaming Horns, are you really from another land?”
Zheng Luo’s eye twitched. Obviously, the most important factor that could unite many forces of power was likely this.
Flaming Horn didn’t belong here, that was true. But a thousand years had passed, many people had forgotten. Everyone just thought they were from another side of this land. They didn’t know that Flaming Horn didn’t exist here a thousand years ago.
Lanmu’s jaw dropped but he shook his head and sighed. “Be careful.”
Shunning outsiders was human nature. That year, Flaming Horn left densely populated areas to live here because they liked the environment but more importantly so other people would forget where they were from. The ancestral records showed that Flaming Horn was shunned by the people here when they first arrived, causing a lot of death. Was history going to repeat itself?
When Lanmu left, Xiang Chen and his men finally arrived with similar news. At Anba City, there was a public announcement that demonised Flaming horn.
Xiang Chen also heard rumours about them being very strong while they were in hiding.
We’re strong, and that’s our fault?!
Shao Xuan wasn’t sure who believed these rumours but he knew that with a reward, plus information on fire crystals and salt mines, more people would be willing to take the challenge.
These people planned to slowly eat away at Flaming Horn’s powers, not launch a direct attack.
The great six did not have to do anything themselves if they wanted to attack Flaming Horn. They knew Flaming Horn was a tough enemy. At this moment, it was best to rely on the people who depended on them, and greed. They heard King City had taken in many people and provided so many benefits. It was time for these people to earn their share.
In the forest, due to competition for resources, the tribes did not communicate much. The only partner they had was the Taihe tribe next door. Mountain Wind was just here to return a favour, they did not want to be involved. It was understandable.
“It’s time to leave!” The shamaness walked out and stood on the peak of the hill. She looked far across the forest, starting to grow shoots and buds.
If they stayed, they would have to deal with such nonsense. Might as well leave. Their ancestor’s instructions would not be wrong.
Zheng Luo sent an emergency meeting. Soon, the entire tribe got into action.
Since Lanmu had visited Flaming Horn, naturally he would visit Taihe too. That was why Taihe already knew of this.
The chief thought Zheng Luo would come asking for help. They’d been neighbours for so long, he was willing to help. However, he didn’t expect that Zheng Luo was here to bid him farewell.
Zheng Luo was already very grateful to hear that Taihe was willing to help. They had been neighbours for so long, with scuffles and arguments. Yet in the end, the one willing to lend a hand was still their neighbour. Perhaps that was why their bossy ancestors were willing to be neighbours with Taihe.
After thanking him, Zheng Luo told him.
“I’m here to bid you farewell.” Zheng Luo looked at his old frenemy, who was a lot older than him.
“You’re leaving?” The Taihe chief almost dropped his cup.
Were they that afraid of the great six? Were they going to hide somewhere more secluded?
The Flaming Horn they knew were not cowards.
“Wouldn’t that be doing the arrogant nobles a favour? If we build our own city, we can call ourselves nobles too! Why fear them? Just ignore what they say, treat it as garbage talk. At most just stay inside the forest. Here, we have the advantage!” said the Taihe chief unhappily.
“We come from another land,” said Zheng Luo.
“I know, but what has that got to do with this? Unless you don’t want to fight them?” The Taihe chief didn’t think anything of it. They had such a good neighbour, they didn’t want them to go. Who would help them carry goods during future trade excursions?
“No, we’re just going back.” Although Zheng Luo didn’t know why the shamaness was so confident, at this point, he just had to trust her.
Going back? What did that mean?
The Taihe chief still didn’t understand when Zheng Luo left.