Within the Flaming River Castle, the hammering sounds meant as disguise had ceased. No one knew what the result of the hammering was, Flaming Horn did not bring anything out either.
Everything slowly returned to normal but occasionally, someone would bring up the ‘rock from the sky’. Some speculated that the Flaming Horns fashioned an incredible weapon out of it but must hide it from thieves while others thought the Flaming Horns must have gotten nothing out of it, maybe even ruining the rock in the process. They were just keeping quiet out of embarrassment.
No matter what people said, Flaming Horn maintained their silence. Some Flaming Horn warriors were also curious but none of their leaders seemed to want to talk. If they asked, the leaders would just stare at them with an odd expression until they stopped asking.
At this moment, Zheng Luo, who was in charge of the trading point, was in the Flaming River Castle with Duo Kang who had just delivered a batch of fearsome beast meat. Both of them were studying the newly made knife, Zheng Luo even tested it on a bronze container.
When the knife split the container in half, Zheng Luo gasped in surprise. This was a new material that could substitute bronze!
“What is this called? Shao Xuan said the previous one was called bronze, what about this?” asked Duo Kang.
Zheng Luo shook his head. “I don’t know. To think of it, has Shao Xuan locked himself in the secret chamber again?”
“He seems to be thinking about something.”
Meanwhile, within the underground secret room beneath Flaming River Castle.
Shao Xuan stared at the results of his calculations and circled one of the symbols. It was also once marked on the Yi family ring formulae diagram.
Heaving a long sigh, he rolled up the scrolls on the table, then tied up all the other cloths he had used for rough calculation work. Those would be burned later, all he needed was the final result.
Although he had obtained his conclusion, it was built on several hypotheses. If those were true, then the crystal core from the centre of the crystals were mainly composed of iron.
Although Shao Xuan had already recognised it as a type of alloy, he had not been able to confirm it. Now he could.
Shao Xuan sat by the stone table, tapping with his fingers, deep in thought.
Iron forging technology was limited here, or bronze would not be so popular here. Even the popularly talented Gongjia family worked on copper. From this, it could be understood that melting iron was not easy. Shao Xuan could not do much either because he was no expert on iron. Plus there were many special conditions in this world, for example the existence of a core seed.
The Flaming Horns were not very talented in this field either- they were late in utilising metal, not very mentally flexible, shaky foundations in forging… There were too many factors against him. Training new talent required time.
Shao Xuan was still thinking when Duo Kang came looking for him.
“What’s the matter?” asked Shao Xuan, pushing the stone door open.
“Someone’s looking for you?” Duo Kang looked solemn.
“Who is it?”
“Someone from Changle.”
Haven’t Wu He and the rest been released already? According to the agreement? And they were much more well-behaved now too so the Flaming Horns did not capture them again.
No matter what, this was odd. The fact that they specifically named Shao Xuan was even stranger.
When Shao Xuan entered the room, he saw a person radiating intense anger. He did not look very muscular, even slightly thin, but his gaze was as sharp as a blade. It felt like a blade swinging past when he turned to look at Shao Xuan.
There was no murderous intent but this person might as well have the word ‘impatient’ written across his face. He must be in a very bad mood to behave like this here.
After a short pause from catching the person’s gaze, Shao Xuan dragged a chair over and took a seat. “I didn’t expect the chief of Changle to be here again.”
This was Chief Su Li of the Changle people, Wu He had told Shao Xuan their chief’s name a while ago. Su Li had visited the Flaming Horns the last time to negotiate the release of his people but Shao Xuan did not expect him to be here again. If he was here to rob the Flaming Horns, he would never act in such a high-profile manner, even asking for Shao Xuan personally.
When he heard Shao Xuan, Su Li exhaled hard from his nostrils. “HMMPH! You think I WANT to be here?!”
Since they had previously met, Su Li did not confirm Shao Xuan’s statement on his identity. He fished inside his clothing and brought out a cylindrical copper tube, tossing it at Shao Xuan. “It’s for you!”
Duo Kang and Zheng Luo wanted to warn him. Changle people were not trustworthy and this could be a trick.
Seeing both their reactions, Su Li snickered but did not speak.
Shao Xuan caught the container and looked at it. To his surprise, there was a cloud pattern at the mouth.
“Looks like you do know who this belongs to.” Su Li got up. “Well, I have brought the letter. I’m leaving!”
The Changle people were free, easy-going people. Since when had they become mail carriers?!
The Flaming Horns started it first!
This must not carry on any longer!
However, he had been unable to refute every person who had given him something to send, and it had been very frustrating. The last time was because of a few idiots- Wu He and a few others - this time was because he owed Gongjia Heng a favour. Gongjia Heng had once made him a good tool but did not need any monetary payment at the time of the transaction. All he wanted was a favour. Su Li couldn’t believe he would need to deliver another letter!
As the chief of the Changle people, although he had done his share of despicable matters, he was still a man of his word. That was why he brought Gongjia Heng’s letter over anyway.
Seething with anger, Su Li was rude to everyone since he arrived and wanted to leave as soon as possible, afraid the Flaming Horns would ask him to send another letter he could not refuse.
Before Shao Xuan spoke, the chief slipped out of the window like a gust of wind. Duo Kang leaned out to see a long-winged bird speeding away.
“What is that? Who asked him to send it over?” Zheng Luo stepped forward to study the cylinder.
“Gongjia Heng.” Shao Xuan showed him the rolling cloud pattern.
It was no random pattern. It was a code used by the Gongjia family and difficult to replicate. The Changle chief would never take so much effort to fake this pattern and deliver it over such a long distance. The cylinder was also very delicately made, fit as a product from the Gongjia family.
Twisting the can open, he found a scroll inside. It was made of exquisite fabric similar to the ones used in the royal city.
After reading its contents, Shao Xuan knew what he needed.
Gongjia Heng had briefly explained the power dynamics around King City: the situation was complicated around the desert because the lord’s second son, Ji Fang, was planning to usurp the throne and was currently exterminating potential threats. While Gongjia Heng did not go into detail, what he meant was that he wanted to help some people that Ji Fang targeted.
Since Gongjia Heng had helped Ji Fang before, Ji Fang promised to release these people into exile. However, with the current chaos of war, Gongjia Heng was worried that these people would face danger in exile so he wanted them to cross the ocean and start a new life over here with their forging skills.
In short: These people are blacksmiths, not politicians, scheming isn’t one of their strengths. However, all these rare talents are getting kicked out because of politics in King City and might die. Do you want them?
Nonsense! Of course we do! We want them!
Shao Xuan coincidentally required experts on iron and if Gongjia Heng personally used his name to protect these people, they must be very talented too. Gongjia Heng was never close with family but he appreciated talent so if he protected them, they wouldn't be too schemeful either.
Gongjia Heng mentioned that these people were passing through the desert, avoiding battlefields but it was unknown if they would pass through unscathed. If Shao Xuan intended to take them in, he hoped the Flaming Horns would meet them there.
There was an oval copper ball inside the cylinder half the size of a fist.
He opened the ball and found a flying insect curled up inside. It looked like a bee but different, having longer wings that were flexible enough to wrap around its body while it was curled up.
Gongjia Heng explained that this insect had a keen sense of smell similar to the silknose because they were trained for tracking people. When resources were scarce, they would enter a hibernating state until conditions were more favourable. However, they could only remain in this state for a year maximum, though this duration could differ depending on its body condition.
Very soon, the hibernating insect started to move its limbs and Shao Xuan hurriedly closed the ball again. They weren’t ready yet, he mustn't let it out. They were too far from the desert too, it would be useless here. What if it goes missing? Shao Xuan did not know what it ate either. Gongjia Heng probably forgot to mention that.
He should only let it out in the desert.
“Shao Xuan, what do you think?” To be honest, after reading the scroll, Zheng Luo was convinced too. They would not have a chance like this again if it wasn’t for the current situation. However, they had heard about the dangers of the desert. Was it worth the trip?
Shao Xuan put the scroll and ball back into the tube and capped it.
“We’re going, of course. The Flaming Horns lack blacksmiths, it’ll be difficult for us to rely just on ourselves especially when we have just discovered a new metal. We still need professionals for this, it will be more efficient. I was planning to go to the desert anyway.”
His decision wasn’t because of Gongjia Heng’s letter or the legendary desert monsters- he had felt something with Sapphire the beetle.