There were many broken branches around, and as the birds broke through the trees from above, more leaves and branches fell . Up above, a patch of blue sky was revealed, and the sun shone directly onto the ground.
Under the hot weather and scorching sun, the smell of carrion dispersed, attracting many scavenging animals. However, they weren’t sure whether a huge beast got mad at that location a few moments before they arrived. Besides the grey feathers, the scavenger birds, and some flying insects, no larger creatures were able to be seen.
After they searched the area for more tracks, the team set off once again
Now that they found the traces of the slaves of Rock Hill City, as long as they followed those tracks, they would easily complete their search. After all, they were a huge group.
Rumours told that Rock Hill City had dispatched about five hundred people, and when compared to the whole tribe or the whole Rock Hill City, this was not a lot. But the fact that they suddenly dispatched five hundred people from the desert and sent them to this forest meant that this was a huge investment. Shao Xuan’s group only had around fifty to sixty people.
When they found the slaves’ traces, the others no longer doubted the Flaming Horns. In fact, they felt very fortunate that they chose to follow them. If they were to look for the group of five hundred slaves by themselves, it would take them more than a hundred days and still, they probably wouldn’t be able to find them. There were many traces, but they were already starting to fade. The forest was recovering way faster than expected, and the corpses that they saw before that were nothing other than bones would probably disappear the next day. Not even a single bone would be left.
Because their team entered the forest much later than the group of slaves, the traces left by the slaves have been mostly covered by the self-recovery of the forest. So they couldn’t determine right away which direction the slaves were heading.
Now that they thought about it, the other tribes felt that the “sincerity” they paid to the Flaming Horns were actually quite worth it.
As they advanced beyond the familiar range of the Flaming Horns, it was much harder for them to find a place to rest. There were way more hidden and unpredictable dangers that were hard for them to guard against.
After they followed the tracks left behind by the group of slaves for four days, they had already lost five members from their initial total of sixty-three. They died on the way due to various reasons.
This morning, a member of the Longboat tribe died from snake venom. The rescue team came too late, and the person was bitten on his neck, so before the others could even check his injury, his neck had already turned black in an instant, as if tainted by ink. His skin rotted away and soon, he stopped breathing. He was already an intermediate totem warrior with strong resistance to toxicity. Yet he didn’t last long from the bite, and couldn’t even say his last words before he passed.
The snake that bit him hid in a tree and stayed there silently as if it was a lifeless object attached to the tree. It became one with the tree and only ambushed when people passed by.
People in the Longboat tribe used to think that large snakes were generally not venomous unless it was a fearsome beast. But that was not the case here. There were many kinds of large venomous snakes that were deadly. Just like the one that bit their comrade before, it was wider in diameter than a human and extremely venomous. After its head was cut off it still had the ability to bite another person. If it wasn't for the Flaming Horns who moved fast enough, Longboat would have lost two people at once.
"Don't think that these things die right after you sever their heads. They can still attack, so be careful, or else you wouldn’t even have the chance to weep,” Shao Xuan said to those people.
Since the Flaming Horns had been to similar forests that were full of hidden dangers before they returned to their homeland, most of the territory walked by the hunting team was similar to this. Especially for the leading team in front. They had to face more difficulties. Therefore, even though it was Mai and Tuo’s first time at this part of the forest, they could still adapt quickly.
It was their first time here, so they weren’t familiar with the grounds and couldn’t quickly find a cave to rest in. So many times they had to spend the night in the open air or camp out. For the past two days, they spent their nights camping on top of a mountain in the open air. Without a cave, they could only rest in a leeward place near the mountainside.
The traces left here probably belonged to the slave team that passed by before they arrived. They probably took a rest here as well.
There were some carved pictures on the wall of the mountain.
Based on Shao Xuan’s understanding of rocks, some of these carvings on the mountain walls had been made a long time ago. This was enough to prove that there had been other slave teams dispatched to the same area before.
The slaves’ traces once again confirmed Shao Xuan’s guesses. Rock Hill City had definitely caught a green-faced fanged beast before.
From time to time, they would encounter a slave’s corpse. Some had been bitten to the point that their faces couldn’t be recognized. Some had incomplete body parts. At such a place in the forest, humans were the prey.
At noon, two people from the Eight Limbs tribe went to the river to get some water. They knew enough not to get too close to the river. A few days ago, a member of their tribe was dragged into the river because he went too close to it. No one saw what dragged him in.
The weather was getting hotter, and it was getting more physically challenging for them to travel fast. They were all sweating. Even though the branches and leaves covered them from the scorching sun above, they could still feel the ever-rising temperature. Their need for water grew as they walked farther.
A thin string was tied to a coconut-like hard shell. There was a hole the size of a fist dug into the round shell. A stone was tied onto the shell, and together, it was thrown into the river twenty meters away.
With a blurp sound, the stone sank and travelled downwards. The water from the river seeped into the hole made in the shell. When the two warriors from the Eight Limbs tribe felt it was almost full, they pulled on the string that was attached to the shell and tried to retrieve their full water bottle.
As the round shell full of water surfaced and was pulled up into the air, a figure that was almost two meters tall flew upwards from behind and bit onto the shell, and brought it back into the river. Water splashed upwards as the figure disappeared into the water.
The two warriors who went to fetch the water could hear the cracking sound of the shell as the creature swallowed it.
However, this was already a common sight for them. After a slight shock, they tried to use the same kind of shell to get water again, and this time, they succeeded. The creature did not bite on.
“Next time you can try to use a stronger wire. We could even fish,” Shao Xuan said as he looked at the ripples on the river’s surface. The figure that leapt upwards just now looked like a lizard without limbs. It might’ve been a type of fish in the river.
The warrior from the Eight Limbs tribe thought about it. Shao Xuan had a point. If it was a stronger wire, they could pull out the creature if it bit onto their bait, and that would’ve been their dinner for the night. If he couldn’t drag out the creature by himself, he could ask the Flaming Horns to help him. They were much stronger anyways.
The Eight Limbs tribe was rich in spider silk. They produced all types of silk and wires. After some processing, some of these silks and wires could be used to make clothing, while the stronger ones could be used to weave nets for catching prey.
To the younger members of the team, this was a rare experience, and it was even more unforgettable than their previous experience in the desert.
Not only did they have to follow the trail of the slaves, but they also had to look for food and water. Sometimes they even had to fight a bear so they could sleep in a cave at night. It was much safer inside a cave than in the forest at night.
When they were looking for a place to rest overnight, they encountered a bear who tried to fight them. They didn’t win because the giant bear was too cunning, and didn’t even want to come out of the cave. No matter what they did, it stayed inside the cave and didn’t move an inch.
If the giant bear was led out of the hole, then they could win just by their number. They could even turn the bear into their dinner. But if the bear didn’t come out, they couldn’t really do much. The people couldn’t enter, and the bear took full advantage of the hole to protect itself. Even if they worked together, they couldn’t have led the bear out of the cave.
Once, the giant bear had even roared at Qu Ce and a few others. At the time, the bear had probably eaten some fish, because its roar carried with it a disgusting fishy smell. When Qu Ce and the others came back, they carried that smell with them.
However, they weren’t sure whether it was the bear’s saliva or the smell, but whenever they were ambushed by beasts, Qu Ce and the others who were stained with the saliva were not attacked. Maybe that was a special kind of luck for them.
Another half-day had passed, and when the team crossed another mountain, they decided to take a rest.
“What’s wrong?” Duo Kang and several others asked when they saw Shao Xuan looking afar on top of a rock.
Shao Xuan pointed to the front, “Do you notice any difference?”
Duo Kang and the others looked in that direction, “There are many mountains.”
“Not only that. The leaves in front of us are very different,” Shao Xuan said contemplatively.
“Now that you mention it, I also see that those leaves look…wet and well-watered!” Duo Kang touched his chin, then reached out and pulled off a leaf from a nearby bush. He observed it carefully.
Perhaps it was because the weather was dry and there had been many days without rain. Most of these plants were wilted and dry. The leaves on the farther ends of branches seemed withered.
However, in that direction, even though it was only a distance away, it was clear that the plants there were obviously greener and more alive. Although they couldn’t tell what plants were there, it caught their eye. Even with the sun shining at them from an angle, they still remained bright. On an especially hot day like this, seeing the green tenderness on that side of the mountain made people feel refreshed. It was as if they could easily be hydrated from it.
“Hey, look, there's smoke over there!” Mai said.
Mai's voice brought other people in the team together and they looked forward in the same direction.
Amidst the mountains, within the lush greenness, some grey smoke rose from the forest. But because the wind was blowing, the smoke was blown away as soon as it rose.
“It’s the group of slaves! It has to be!”
“We finally caught up!” The people in the team exclaimed.
Shao Xuan looked at the mountain over there and said, “Perhaps, what they are looking for is in the forest in front of them.”
The team was suddenly quiet, and more than fifty pairs of eyes looked at Shao Xuan.
“Elder Shao Xuan means that ‘it’ is here?” Huang Ye asked.
On the way, he’d seen enough and gained enough respect for the Flaming Horns. His attitude towards them had definitely changed. Especially towards Shao Xuan. When Huang Ye spoke to them, he would use the title “Elder” to show his respect for them.
However, Shao Xuan didn't care about those things. He didn’t care whether others approved of him.
At this instant, Shao Xuan looked at the forest in front of them and thought about what they knew about the green-faced fanged beast.
There were more mountains in front and probably more water too. At first glance, it gave people a sense of tranquillity. It was a special part of the Fearsome Beast Forest and there was a huge chance that the green-faced fanged beast was really there.