When Shao Xuan, Ao and Ta arrived at the Flaming River Trading Point, the place was already empty.
The patrol team clearing the crowd almost attacked them, mistaking them for opportunistic thieves.
“Grand Elder and the rest are back!” yelled Kun Tu excitedly as he ran towards the Flaming River Castle.
Duo Kang heaved a sigh of relief, now that Shao Xuan had returned. No matter what happened, he felt more at peace with Shao Xuan around. Duo Kang, Zheng Luo and the rest were shocked to see the three men’s states.
“What happened to you all?” asked Zheng Luo hurriedly.
“Let’s not talk about it. It’s all because of that king stoneworm.” Ta collapsed into a chair, chugging down water handed to him.
This was his first time in such close proximity to a king beast. The worst fearsome beasts he met in the forest were far from this king beast.
All three had a layer of dust on them. There were even patches of grey-white skin, and their clothes had turned grey too. These parts had all turned to stone.
Everyone’s chests tightened when they saw Ta shaking off a layer of stone from his arm.
A patch of skin on his arm had turned to stone. At least it was not a large patch and had not extended into his flesh. The wound was not serious but they were deeply uncomfortable watching blood flow from the places he shook off stone chips. If their hunt leader was injured, how long could they stand?
Ta had the most severe injuries out of the rest.
While Ta applied herbal medicine, Ao explained everything they learned and the conclusions they came to.
They had sensed the king stoneworm’s location not long after reaching Flaming River. That tunnel had directly broken through the surface but they were faced with a dilemma: with the king stoneworm right outside the hole, should they retreat back or exit the hole?
Ta and Ao wanted to rush out but Shao Xuan stopped them.
“Thank goodness Ah Xuan stopped us. If we had rushed out then, we might not have returned in one piece,” sighed Ao.
They were not familiar with the king stoneworm, hence they did not have a grasp of its abilities. While they knew that it was powerful, Ao and Ta were confident in their abilities to escape. Plus the king stoneworm was not directly outside the hole. If it did not notice them, they would be able to leave quickly.
After Shao Xuan stopped them, they found another opportunity to escape. That was when they realised how naive they were.
Even if the king stoneworm did not notice them, it could still turn them into stone.
“You mean we can’t even get close to the king stoneworm?” Zheng Luo furrowed his brows.
If they could not even approach the worm, how could they fight it?
Would they all turn to stone, like the trees in the forest?
“Let’s not do anything first. I’ll rest for a while and then head over to check again,” said Shao Xuan.
No one objected. Gui He told him their initial plan.
“Ah Xuan, you mentioned we have the fire seed aura with us. We have quite many Flaming Horns in the trading area. If we all group together, we must produce a reasonable fire seed aura already. Do you think it’ll at least intimidate the king stoneworm?” asked Gui He.
“Please don’t!” cried Shao Xuan immediately without even drinking his water.
“What?” Gui He did not understand.
They all looked at him quizzically. Gui He made sense. Wouldn’t the fire seed intimidate the king beast?
Shao Xuan thought for a moment. “There is something like a fire seed on the king stoneworm.”
“How is that possible?!” The crowd gasped.
The king beast was a beast. How could it have a fire seed? Then why hadn’t they sensed it?
“Yes, but it’s different from a tribe fire seed. More like animals have another kind of fire seed. I sensed it on the bat leader too. But the fire seed aura on the bat leader was definitely not as powerful as the king stoneworm,” explained Shao Xuan.
He had already noticed this during their encounter with the bat leader at the Thousand Grain Gold field. He finally understood what it was when he met the king beast.
The unique fire seed aura on the animals was different from a tribe’s fire seed. The fire seed belonged to themselves and it was not in its primitive form, rather merged into their blood.
Based on his analysis of the bat leader and king stoneworm, Shao Xuan guessed that the unique fire seed aura was shaped by the animal themselves!
Did the ability of concentrating a fire seed’s energy the reason for the formation of a king beast?
Why were king beasts so much more powerful than other fearsome beasts?
Who said fire seeds could not live within animals? That it was only restricted to humans?
No one had known about it. Even past Shao Xuan had been in close contact with the bat leader, the king stoneworm and even fought the salt beast. However, he had not been able to tell the difference.
After bringing Zheng Luo and the rest across the ocean and merging with the fire seed, his abilities improved a lot- especially the shell of light around the totemic flames in his mind. He was more experienced in wielding the other special power in his body.
Shao Xuan also knew that he could withstand strong repulsion from other tribal fire seeds and sense things other people could not likely due to this special power. He did not know what it was but it was real.
There was indeed a fire seed within the king stoneworm. It was the king belonging to animals. This fire seed could disperse and concentrate. Any fearsome beast who could concentrate this power became ‘kings’. The bat leader did not have an obvious fire seed aura, rather a faint similar kind. That was why it was counted only as a half-king, ranked above fearsome beasts but beneath a king beast. If it could truly solidify the fire seed energy within it one day, that would be the day it became ‘king’.
Although Ao and the rest did not understand why Shao Xuan would say that, he did not look like he was joking. And he would not speak recklessly on this subject either.
“If there really is a ‘fire seed’ within the king stoneworm, then with us radiating our own fire seed aura, will it provoke the king stoneworm?” asked Duo Kang,
Most fire seeds repelled each other. If this could anger the king stoneworm, then it was not a good idea.
“We’ll talk about this after I go check the place again.” Shao Xuan had regained his breath. He did not shake off the layer of stone powder on his skin, leaving just like that towards the king stoneworm again.
Zheng Luo and Gui He followed a distance away from Shao Xuan so they could save him if needed, another was to see how the king stoneworm looked like.
He approached the king stoneworm. In truth, he had not told them everything. When he sensed the king stoneworm’s fire seed aura, he could also read its feelings.
Just like the totemic flames in Shao Xuan’s mind, it changed according to the warrior’s own emotions. The king stoneworm did not have totemic flames but the fluctuations in its aura were in accordance with its emotions.
Other people might be able to sense its fire seed but not return in one piece due to the repulsion between both fire seeds. However, Shao Xuan had a different type of energy within him. When he escaped out of the hill with Ta and Ao, he had paused because he sensed the change in the king stoneworm’s aura. Their fire seeds had not repelled each other.
The three of them had done their best to hide and repress their totemic energies and Flaming Horn auras while escaping from the king stoneworm. Although this affected their speed, it was safer.
At the time, the king stoneworm had lifted half its body off the ground. It might not have sensed the three people, instead it could have sensed the other kind of power in Shao Xuan because Shao Xuan did not feel any repulsion due to the fire seeds. Instead, its emotions seemed to have fluctuated- like the happy kind of excitement. However, after Shao Xuan completely suppressed his energy, the king stoneworm paid them no attention.
To confirm this guess, Shao Xuan had Zheng Luo and Gui He stay far away before he approached the king stoneworm.
He hid at a spot not in the direction of the trading point. That way, if the king stoneworm was triggered and he had to run, the king stoneworm would not chase him in the direction of the trading point.
Standing behind a still-green tree, Shao Xuan looked towards the spot where the rumbling sound came from. The king stoneworm was wriggling around aimlessly. The grey area had expanded substantially since the three of them left.
When its back was towards Shao Xuan, he repressed his totemic powers to minimise any aura from his Flaming Horn fire seed. At the same time, he tried to activate the other kind of energy within him.
This was a skill he learned while practising to wield the ancestral bone ornaments. The two kinds of energies within him did not repel each other. Instead, this special energy even supported the totemic energy in his bloodstream. His unique totemic power awakening process, the successful carving, the ability to wield the ancestral bone ornaments, the ability to absorb fire crystals before merging with the fire seed were all due to this special energy.
Being able to control this power had greatly improved his abilities.
Calming his mind, he slowly activated this other power.
Within his consciousness, the totemic flames did not change but the outer light shell started to brighten. It flashed, and with every blink, it brightened.
Gui He and Zheng Luo did not know what Shao Xuan was doing. All they saw was Shao Xuan standing behind a tree, unmoving and with his eyes closed. Why was he closing his eyes at a moment like this instead of watching the king stoneworm?
Very soon, the deafening rumbling stopped abruptly. The wriggling worm raised half its body in the air.
The king stoneworm was gigantic and had no legs, its body in segmented rings. It had no hard armour or scary spines, looking absolutely harmless. However, this beast could send chills down your spine and make you lose all courage to fight.
Then it turned towards them, Gui He and Zheng Luo did not see any eyes on its head.
It had only lifted half its body slightly but its head was already above the tallest tree in this part of the forest.
In the sky, the long-winged bird that had finally shaken Cha Cha off stopped. Wu He looked over. He was too far for a clear view but could still see the shape of the worm.
“What’s going on?”
Why did the king stoneworm stop? And it looked like it was looking around.
Wu He could not stand it any longer.
He looked around, then upon confirming that the eagle was not there, he patted the long-winged bird. “Go there.”
“Coo---” The bird cooed softly, obviously unwilling. We just escaped and now we’re going back? That eagle is still nearby, it’ll come kill us!
“Just go! Be careful though! Something must have happened!” His intuition told him that something had happened.
Was the king beast actually going towards the Flaming Horns?
Wu He did not want to miss this show!
No matter how unwilling the bird was, it still obeyed its master and carefully flew towards it.
At the stone forest, the king stoneworm slowly circled its head around, scanning its surroundings and finally confirming where Shao Xuan was.
The gigantic body moved once again, now with more urgency and much faster.
When Zheng Luo and Gui He, who were in hiding, saw that it was heading towards Shao Xuan, they panicked and whistled a few times to remind him.
Shao Xuan did not open his eyes but gestured at them, implying he knew that the king stoneworm was coming.
The grey-white area expanded in Shao Xuan’s direction. As it approached him, Shao Xuan moved in the direction opposite to the trading area. If anything happened, it would not disturb the trading area.
As Shao Xuan moved, the king stoneworm followed, this time even faster. Although it was gigantic and was surrounded by boulders and forests, nothing could stop it. Even Shao Xuan had to avoid obstacles as he ran, while this worm merely travelled in a straight line.
“What is he doing?!” Wu He was very confused as he watched the situation unfold.
He naturally recognised the person running in front of the king stoneworm- that was the person who called the eagle over, he was a Flaming Horn. However, this person had escaped so why did he return? And why is the king stoneworm following him?