A ferocious roar rang across the forest.
There was the sound of impact from a metal weapon and the roaring stopped. Rugged breaths slowly faded.
Shao Xuan ripped off some tree leaves to wipe the blood off his sword.
The warriors nearby went to clean the fearsome beast, draining its blood into a flask.
In the past, they would do their best to preserve the entire animal hide after a hunt. Now, they did not need to do this because they were not going to save the hide for trade. They just wanted food and this would be their lunch.
Eight people cleaned the beast together, removing the internal organs, slicing off the flesh. Bones and skin were left on the ground.
Duo Kang passed the flask around. “Drink some?”
Shao Xuan waved. “No, I didn’t spend much energy. Let the others have it.”
Duo Kang grinned, took a gulp and passed it to the rest.
The thick liquid, with a strong smell of copper, flowed down their throats into their stomachs. The energy spent this morning was slowly replenished with warmth.
Sweat sprouted from his pores. Duo Kang rubbed his hands on some leaves, rubbing off coagulated blood.
“It’s been two days and we haven’t met anyone who tried to kill us.” Duo Kang looked at Shao Xuan, waiting for news. He saw Shao Xuan fidgeting with some rope. This was not the time to fumble with the rope out of boredom so he must be conducting his reading. However, Duo Kang had been leading the rest of the guards to protect the tribe so he didn’t have time to ask. Now that he had the chance, he came over to ask.
“We’ll meet them soon. Not everyone thinks we’ll take the original path, not everyone will choose to hide. Some might attack directly. Perhaps some people can predict our path too,” said Shao Xuan.
“They can even predict our path?!” Duo Kang was shocked. However, with the Yi family involved, this was possible. Although there were many idiots there, there were still members who had true talent.
“Then what should we do?” asked Duo Kang.
“Just proceed with the journey. Right, did you all do the things I told you to do?” asked Shao Xuan.
As they left, Shao Xuan delegated tasks to the warriors who were free. With children and older tribespeople, they would definitely be slower than when they travelled during hunts. Naturally, there would be people with time. Shao Xuan gave them small tasks.
“They made a lot, all here.” Duo Kang pointed at a wicker basket.
“That’s good. You all leave first, I’ll stay behind to prepare the place.” Shao Xuan opened the basket and was satisfied with the stuff inside.
Duo Kang thought about what Shao Xuan did for the people sent by Anba City after them when they returned from the trade excursion. He did not ask questions, merely telling the warriors who had cleaned the beast to quickly pack up and leave.
Xiang Chen saw Shao Xuan staying behind alone and asked Duo Kang, “Elder isn’t going?”
“Our Elder has something to do.” Duo Kang gestured for him to return to the line.
Xiang Chen had many questions for he wasn’t with Duo Knag for the trade. He didn’t know much about the incident, only from some stories.
Duo Kang picked up his tiny daughter in his arms and then his wife on his back. He also hung things around his neck and hips. Then, he followed Xiang Chen and the rest.
Very soon, the place that reeked of animal blood was quiet once again.
The coppery smell of blood lingered in the humid air. Consecutive animal roars sounded far away. Shao Xuan looked up at the sky. Through the leaves, he saw flying shadows pacing around.
These scavenger birds were impatient. The first one dove through the leaves straight to the remains of the beast. Shao Xuan slashed at it. It flopped twice and died.
The rest of the scavenger birds flew to a nearby branch for rest after witnessing this. They watched Shao Xuan closely.
More than twenty of them landed on the tree, staring at him. There were more in the sky.
Shao Xuan was alone here. Anyone timider would be afraid. Shao Xuan ignored them all. He fussed over the beast's remains for a while, slashing a few birds that attacked to the ground. When he was done, he left and continued setting up the surroundings.
Shao Xuan planned to set up a consecutive trigger trap. The warriors had helped him make parts of the traps. There must be more people chasing after them behind. While he couldn’t guarantee these traps would stop them all, they would still be a hassle and slow them down.
When Shao Xuan left the beast’s carcass, the scavenger birds swarmed over, dropping feathers as they fought. All the large beasts had avoided this place due to the Flaming Horn tribe. Within a short time, no animal would compete with these birds for food.
The birds pecked at the bloody remains, blinking their white eyes. Bloody strings of flesh hung to their beaks. They were cautious of Shao Xuan, puffing up their feathers and cawing loudly to chase him away from their food. Shao Xuan ignored them.
A kind of green-grey vine creeper than a thumb was hidden among the bushes. Anyone familiar with the forest would be cautious because this wasn’t found in the forest. It was a creeper usually found in a swamp, thin and flexible.
Sharp wooden thorns and sharpened stone needles were covered by needles. Within half an hour, an entire basket of little things was hidden in this area.
When he was done, there was only skin and bones left on the carcass. Most of the flesh was picked clean. A giant beast was now only horns, teeth, bones and skin.
Shao Xuan stood up, looked around and left.
A team of Taihe warriors chased out a bunch of suspicious individuals hiding in the forest, even killing two.
“How many waves has it been?”
“This is the third wave. Or fourth?” said another.
“At least Flaming Horn left early or they’d be very irritated.”
These two days, they often saw people loitering in the forest, especially near the Flaming Horn village. They’d taken over this territory so naturally, they had to send guards there and chase away all the scouts.
These people seemed to be part of small groups. They didn’t dare offend Taihe and since they saw the village was empty, they gave up here. They turned to look for tracks left behind by Flaming Horn in the forest. Some wanted to threaten Taihe but this was Taihe’s territory, no one could threaten them here. These people became fertiliser for their crops.
That evening, a team of one hundred hurried along, following the Flaming Horn’s tracks. It was impossible for the entire tribe to leave no trace. More experienced individuals easily identified them.
They were the first batch of people. After going to the village, they did not stop. Instead, they followed the tracks. They must catch the Flaming Horns before others arrived so they could get something out of this.
There were only one hundred members. They did not plan to attack, merely kidnap a few as hostages. Then, they would threaten the Flaming Horns for fire crystals and salt. They’d used this method on many people. Compared to fighting and robbing, this was way smarter. They were very confident.
“Beast carcass! They passed here recently,” said one.
They approached the carcass to assess the capabilities of the person who slaughtered this animal, and time of slaughter. This would help them estimate Flaming Horn’s strength and the time needed to catch up.
The person had a bad feeling when he nudged the bones that were already picked clean.
There was a quick buzzing as if he had just triggered a complex switch. The quiet forest was suddenly violent.
Stone needles fell like rain over a large area. The ones who shielded themselves accidentally triggered another trap. Every time they thought they survived, they triggered another trap. The traps were like a giant hand trapping these people. Anyone who was slightly slower would be stabbed by wooden thorns and stone needles.
When the chaos ended, the uninjured ones did not dare move. They looked around cautiously, every step was nerve-racking. There were people on the ground. They were injured and poisoned. Even if they lived, they would not have the strength to chase after the tribe.
About twenty lost mobility and eight died. The remaining seventy sustained only minor injuries but they dared not travel at top speed now. If they hadn’t dodged the traps, they would be on the ground too.
“Boss, should we… proceed?” One guy’s features were contorted as he pulled a wooden thorn out of his shoulder. It was just wood, yet it was a huge threat. The poison on the thorn numbed his entire arm. He felt better after applying medicine but he didn’t know if this would be useful. If it was a strong poison, he might just lose an arm.
Everyone was alarmed too. All they knew was that the Flaming Horn people were ‘strong’ and ‘unreasonable’ but they didn’t know they’d suffer like that! So close!
“Bring the injured ones back, we won’t chase for the moment,” said the leader.
“What if other people get their salt and fire crystals first?”
“Then let them get it! I want to wait and see what Flaming Horn would do!”
They suffered this time because they weren’t familiar with Flaming Horn. After this, they should not chase blindly anymore. Falling into their trap again could mean death. Their group was small. They didn’t get anything and yet they were suffering losses.
He had to let other people be the lab rats now.