As if they sensed danger in the air, the little trading parties quickened their pace. Although all was quiet, there was a feeling that made their hearts race.
Something was about to happen.
The cattle and horses pulling wagons were scraping their hooves against the ground anxiously, some even wanted to run away. The traders did all they could to hold their animals back.
An animal that looked like a deer without antlers breathed hard through its nostrils, looking frustrated and ill-tempered. It kept getting up as if it wanted to stand on its hind legs, many people had to come keep it down.
“What’s going on?”
“I don’t know, it’s going mad!”
“Not just ours, look around!”
Everywhere, it didn’t matter if the animals were originally placid or aggressive, all of them were antsy like they wanted to break free and run away.
Horses neighed, beasts roared. It was chaos.
“What the hell is happening?!” yelled someone.
There was a rumbling from afar.
The ground shook. Although it was not obvious, there was movement.
The careful ones held their carriages and horses in place, watching their surroundings cautiously. Some turned around to look at the suspicious, migrating tribe they had just passed. Was it them?
No, no. The sound was coming from another direction.
Soon, the sound grew more obvious. Even people without totemic power could hear it.
Far away, a cloud of dust between the earth and the skies formed. There wasn’t much dust in this grass plains but it was obvious enough.
A large army of thousands appeared.
Metal armour and weapons glinted in the sun, it looked as if the entire army was covered in light. As rows and rows of people moved, it looked like ripples of light on the surface of a lake.
From far, a rough estimation yielded that this army was larger than four thousand. However, most tribs only had one to two thousand members. An armed group like this could wipe out a tribe effortlessly!
Everyone who saw this gulped audibly. They did not know how to react.
They’d live here for so long, yet they haven’t seen anything like that before.
The nobles? Only nobles would have such a well-armed mercenary. But why would they come this far? For what?
It didn’t matter why. As the army approached, the traders quickly went into hiding. They feared this bunch more than the tribe they just passed. Previously, that tribe also consisted of many elderly, children and women. Here, they were all warriors prepared for battle.
All the traders urged their animals, avoiding this army as soon as possible.
It sounded like rolling thunder.
A giant beast stronger than four men ran across the plains, running on its four powerful limbs. This was just a simple job. Its large feet stomped heavily on the ground. Blades of grass were uprooted, flying in the air.
In the largest carriage.
Yi Zong frowned, looking ahead in confusion. He grabbed a fist full of fine golden sand from a ceramic pot next to him and scattered it on a square board.
The golden sand formed lines on the board. The sand arranged themselves similar to the patterns drawn on the board.
The golden sand was still moving. Some approached the jadestone, some avoided the jade. However, soon, the changes stopped. There was a light ‘poof’ and all the golden sand scattered.
“How did it go, Yi Zong? What did the reading say?” Several people leaned over.
“Flaming Horn is in front. But I can’t find out anything else.” Frustration slowly crept up his calm features. He wanted to know more but there always seemed to be a layer of fog. It was always chaos in his reading, his jade stones didn’t yield much results, everything was a mess. Especially when he did readings about the legendary young Elder of Flaming Horn. The readings told him nothing.
In the beginning, it was understanding if his readings failed. However, he was more well-informed now, plus he had many speculations. His readings should yield results! Yet, other than the general direction of Flaming Horn, the readings didn’t tell him anything!
Yi Zong once heard Yi Bing say that Yi Bing also attempted to conduct a reading on Flaming Horn in the tower next to the city gates. At the time, his readings failed too. It was the same for Yi Zong now!
It was no wonder the Yi family was always cautious of Flaming Horn, this was very unsettling to them. If such a questionable group wasn’t destroyed, the Yi family would never be settled. Yi Bing too. Ever since he returned from the tower, he seemed to meet a bottleneck and made no improvements. In private, the older generation discussed that if Yi Bing was unable to break through his bottleneck, then he would remain there. To the Yi family, this meant that they would stop putting in resources to train this person.
Yi Zong fidgeted with a jadestone on the square board, in deep thought as he mulled over Yi Bing’s situation.
The girl in leather next to him wanted to say something but her face suddenly changed. She opened a pouch on her hip and grabbed something that looked like a bee. It was as big as her thumb, its body oval.
The insect rested on her palm, its head facing in one direction as its wings fluttered.
Although it had wings, compared to its fat body, its wings were too small. It could not fly. This fluttering only meant it was excited.
“Fire crystals!” said the girl.
The fat insect only did this when it sensed fire crystals. It was facing the same direction as where they were heading.
“It must be Flaming Horn!”
Flaming Horn must be travelling with their salt and fire crystals.
Everyone in the carriage perked up.
“I wonder how much they have.”
Compared to their excitement, Yi Zong was still silent. He wasn’t interested in fire crystals. He cared more about whether Flaming Horn had stronger divination powers than Yi family and the reason for his failed readings.
To the Yi family, fire crystals weren’t very useful. Fire crystals were favoured by warring tribes. Even if they had fire crystals, they usually gave it away to people who helped them as reward.
Scholars were mightier than warriors. This was what the Yi family valued. They used their intelligence and everything else could be done by other people.
The insect flutttered its wings quickly.
“Close, Flaming Horn is close!” The girl in leather opened the curtains, ignoring the cloud of dust, and peered outside.
“Flaming Horn! Flaming Horn!”
Everyone also lifted the fabric to look.
There was a row of people about eight hundred steps away.
All the traders had already avoided this place. This row of people stood out.
Although they couldn’t see these people clearly, they could guess who they were.
“These must be Flaming Horns. Why are there so few of them?”
“They must’ve known about us and made preparations. It doesn’t look like a last-minute arrangement.”
Yi Zong looked up. He couldn’t confirm if the Flaming Horns knew because they guessed or did a reading. No matter what, this hidden threat must be destroyed! He didn’t want to be like Yi Bing! Their obstacles would vanish if Flaming Horn was wiped off this world.
The enormous beast slowed down so the other soldiers could charge ahead.
They weren’t worried about Flaming Horn setting traps because according to their plan, Flaming Horn didn’t have that much time!
One carriage at the back of the group.
The Fox chief, along with several chiefs from tribes that sought protection from King City during winter, exited the carriage.
Since they sought protection from King City, then they must display their sincerity and worth too. Just to fight Flaming Horn, every tribe brought many members. Out of the army of almost five thousand, two thousand were tribesmen.
The Fox chief looked at the row of people, seething with hatred. They lost their fire crystals, lost their salt, and then lost whatever he had left as offerings to King City! He was the grand chief of a tribe, now he had to be polite to noble city brats! It was an insult!
He must recover his losses from Flaming Horn! He will personally take his salt, fire crystals and everything he lost from them!
With a command, everyone accelerated. The ground shook with thunderous hooves.
When the first batch of riders charged, other soldiers followed suit.
As he watched the soldiers, the Fox chief smirked. Today, Flaming Horn will vanish! No one has ever escaped the hands of King City!
The tiny trading parties hiding far away could feel the intimidation radiating from the army.
The Flaming Horns could feel it too. It felt like the entire world was shaking. If they ran now, they could avoid danger for a while. But could they?
That would just mean more running and killing.
They must not avoid this! Even if all of them die today, they must not run!
Zheng Cheng’s eyebrows, shaped like knives, were raised. This was his first time receiving such a major task. Holding his large, heavy sword, his eyes were cold.
Feeling the vibrations grow, he took a deep breath. He raised his arm holding the knife, about to say something when Shao Xuan said, “You all back away, let me do this first.”
Zheng Cheng, who wanted to unleash his war cry: “...”
Zheng Cheng looked at Shao Xuan like he didn’t understand. He was about to ask questions when Duo Kang dragged him backwards.