They travelled from the grasslands to an even more barren land where Shao Xuan once discovered the Thousand Grain Gold. Based on what Ji Ju taught him about recognising herbs, he instructed the tribesmen to collect some.
Many incidents happened along the way from attackers to dangers within the forest. The medics used up a lot of medicine. Even the sacks given by Taihe were almost empty. They picked herbs and medicine along the way but at this rate, not much was left either. The ones who hadn’t had their totemic power awakened and the elderly became sick as the journey grew longer.
It had been twenty days since they left the village. There was still a long way to go. They must prepare more medicine if they want to survive.
Shao Xuan taught them about regional medicinal herbs so they could pick some.
He looked up. Shao Xuan noticed a bird flying past. He couldn’t see what it looked like as it flew too high. It was agile too, it would be difficult to shoot it down.
“What?” asked Zheng Luo.
“That bird. It’s here again.” Shao Xuan pointed at the faint dot in the sky.
“Again?” Zheng Luo grew cautious. “It must be someone’s pet, or it’s tracking us.”
“Chief, why do you think the King City’s people still haven’t appeared yet?” asked Shao Xuan.
“You mean… that bird belongs to King City?”
Zheng Luo fell silent. With his experience, he knew that once the people of King City decided to target someone, they would definitely attack. The people they previously met were just feelers extended by them.
If other people could find Flaming horn, then King City must know where they were. If they hadn’t appeared, they might be waiting for the best opportunity,
“They’re here?” asked Zheng Luo. He was half-sure.
“The people of King City aren’t adapted to the forest. They haven’t attacked, probably because they were waiting for us to leave the forest. They’d attack once we’re in an open area.” Shao Xuan thought about the terrain. “After we cross this barren mountain, we’ll arrive on even flatter land. There are more people there, the roads are flat. We have to cross that part to arrive in the semi-desert area. The people of King City will most likely appear there.”
Zheng Luo was disheartened. Although he usually didn’t like these air-headed King City folk, he had to admit that the great six were powerful. After all, they fought to expand and develop to today’s scale. They were the six most powerful tribes. Right now, there were children, old people and non-totemic-awakened women in his group. They were not suited for battle but he could not give up on them either. He might have to leave behind a portion of his tribe to block the King City’s army so the rest of the tribe can travel ahead.
The people who remained behind might never catch up forever. And the tribe wouldn’t be able to cremate them either. However, for the tribe, sacrifices were unavoidable. Even Zheng Luo was prepared to remain behind himself.
“We must prepare a team as a buffer at the back.” Zheng Luo looked at the barren mountain range. “I’ll go talk to Duo Kang about it.”
As they travelled, Zheng Luo talked to his warriors. Some families relied entirely on one person for their livelihoods. Zheng Luo definitely did not want these to be in the buffer team.
Zheng Luo did a calculation. They needed at least one thousand people to temporarily stop King City’s army or it would be useless.
Zheng Luo wanted to participate but he was the chief and had to lead the group. Even if he wanted, others would not allow it. How could a tribe travel without their leader? Or would he name a new chief now?
“I’ll go. Brother, you go ahead with the tribe,” said Zheng Cheng, striding over.
Although Zheng Cheng’s personality was more impulsive and brash than Zheng Luo, the two brothers were equally capable or he would not have qualified to compete for the position against Zheng Luo years ago. Both brothers usually bickered a lot, yet Zheng Cheng volunteered himself at a moment like this.
Zheng Luo looked at his younger brother, welling up. He was about to speak when Zheng Cheng cut him off, “Let’s stop the nonsense. It’s decided. How many do you have? Let me see.”
He snatched the name list from Zheng Luo. “Wow, Duo Kang and Guang Yi are here too? Wacha also… Mm… Not bad. Zhui, brave kid. And Shao… Eh? Brother, why is Shao Xuan here? How could you put him here? You must be very confused!”
Zheng Cheng took the opportunity to bicker once again.
Zheng Luo was stunned too, snatching the piece of cloth back. He had talked to everyone during their rest and then left this cloth on a rock. Anyone who met the qualifications could volunteer to put their name. There were many people surrounding him so he didn’t notice. When did Shao Xuan put his name?!
Anyone could stay, even Zheng Luo if absolutely necessary. There were two people that couldn’t-- the shamaness, because there were many matters that required her presence; another was Shao Xuan.
Shao Xuan was the tribe’s Elder. He wore the ancestor’s ornaments. Other than the shamaness, if the tribe wanted to return to their homeland, Shao Xuan must be there. Plus Shao Xuan was from the other side, how would they return without him? They would face many obstacles and both sides did not even know each other.
“Scratch it off, scratch it off! Take Shao Xuan’s name off!” Zheng Cheng got some mud and cancelled out Shao Xuan’s name.
IN the next few days, Zheng Luo continued checking the list to see if these people met his requirements. He would announce the final list when they were about to leave the mountainous region.
These one thousand people would be the buffer. They had to fight till the end if they met King City’s people. They were the final shield between King City’s spears and the tribe.
The air was sombre. All instructions and arrangements had been made. These people knew what they had to do and the likely result.
Zheng Luo announced the final list, gave a short briefing and kept the cloth. He rubbed his reddened eyes. Although they’d seen many deaths along the journey, this time, it was going to be war. Zheng Luo’s heart broke as the chief. However, to return to their lands, they must make this sacrifice. If needed, he would also take a step forward.
He rubbed his eyes. A moment later, Shao Xuan appeared before him.
Knowing what he wanted to say, Zheng Luo let out a dry cough. “Shao Xuan, you know that in our entire tribe, everyone can stay, including me. They can be the buffer if they wanted, only you and the shamaness cannot. Or who would bring the tribe back to the homeland?”
Shao Xuan paused. “I just wanted to try.”
“Try what?” Zheng Luo asked, puzzled.
“If we meet the King City’s people, I want to try stopping them. If I can’t stop them, at least I can make their journey more difficult.”
“You? What are you planning… Wait, you want to borrow the ancestor’s powers?” Zheng Luo glared.
“Yes.” Shao Xuan nodded.
“No way, you’re already bringing the tribe back using the ancestor’s powers. You cannot risk it. We took so much effort to reach this place, you cannot make this gamble!” refused Zheng Luo sternly.
“If our ancestors were here, they wouldn’t want to see so many people dying just to return to our homeland. Chief, you know that if I survived the king beast, I can survive King City too. Plus, I can decrease the burden of our warriors and get us more time.”
“Our ancestor agreed.”
“You can ask the bone ornament if you don’t believe me.” Shao Xuan took off the ornament and passed it to Zheng Luo.
Zheng Luo’s face twitched. How the hell could he talk to the ancestors? The shamaness was the one in charge of being the medium!
Since Shao Xuan was staring at him, he turned his head and waved off the ornament. “Go look for the shamaness! We’ll do what she says!”
Shao Xuan grinned. She would not refuse.
It was true. The shamaness did not refuse. After hearing Shao Xuan tell her about staying, she stared at him for ten minutes, expressionless. Even Shao Xuan was sweating. Then, she said flatly, “Just go.”
If it wasn’t for the green veins bulging in her hand holding her walking stick, other people would’ve thought she was as calm as she looked.
At this point, no one could remain calm. The confusion and uncertainty about their future was worrying. However, they had already travelled far. They could not turn back.
After crossing the barren mountains, the lands were flat and vast. There was evidence of human activity too. Due to frequent travelling, there were several paths on the ground.
There were trading parties travelling in the area, though much smaller than groups like the Black Bears. These grounds only had about a hundred members, some only had twenty to thirty members.
Everyone looked at Flaming Horn with curiosity. They hadn’t met Flaming Horn before, wondering who these odd people were. They all looked travel-worn, all of their clothes were dirty, their faces tired yet there was an undeniable force.
They weren’t people you’d want to provoke. This was everyone’s first impression.
Hence, everyone looked down and quickly left, worried Flaming Horn might rob them.
Shao Xuan looked up at the sky. The bird was gone but that did not mean they weren’t being watched. In contrast, their enemies thought there was no need for surveillance because they were here.