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It was midnight when Gongjia Ren woke.
He thought he would become desert beast poop, being alive was an unexpected outcome. Still in a daze, it took a while before he realised he was not dreaming and this was not the afterlife.
He was still alive!
He remembered a large beetle lifting up its front limbs before going unconscious, how could he still be alive? Why wasn’t he impaled?
There were other people here.
Was he rescued?
It was dark. He heard fabric flapping in the breeze.
He was inside a tarp tent and could smell sand from the ground. He was very familiar with this smell after being on the run for so long.
He was still in the desert.
He heard the sound of four people breathing, slow and steady. Must be asleep.
Gongjia Ren sat up carefully, almost groaning aloud from the broken bones but he suppressed it. He did not dare make a sound before knowing where he was.
Someone had fed him medicine and treated his wounds. He could feel that his body had recovered a lot, much better than the condition he was in while running in the desert.
He turned over and rubbed his feet gently on the ground.
While it was dark around, there was a single light source where the entrance of the tent was. A light flickered in the tent when the breeze blew on the flapping piece of fabric.
It was moonlight.
Gongjia Heng shuffled gingerly over, lifting the tarp to peer outside. While it wasn’t a full moon, the light was enough to study his surroundings nearby.
He wanted to see how many people were outside, and who they were, to understand his situation. He had just lifted the tarp when he froze.
Not far from his entrance was a giant beetle twice a man’s height sitting quietly. When he peeked out of the tarp, the beetle turned its head to look at him.
Gongjia Ren was speechless, suddenly at a loss for what was going on.
There were people around, yet a giant beetle was also sitting there. Its carapace glittered blue so he knew this was the same beetle he saw before fainting. The image of this beetle impaling a sand lizard was seared into his mind.
Before he knew how to react, he heard a voice.
“You’d just barely survived, where do you think you’re going?”
Gongjia Ren leapt in fright, putting down the tarp as he turned to the voice behind.
The tent brightened when Shao Xuan took a water moon stone out of a pouch.
With light, Gongjia Ren finally saw his surroundings. Other than this young man, there were three more people. They were not asleep, just looking at him while laying on their backs.
“You all rescued me?” he asked.
“What do you think?” Shao Xuan put the stone on the ground.
“Thanks,” said Gongjia Ren, eyeing them cautiously. Although they saved him, he did not know of their intentions. He couldn’t believe the beetle was theirs, this made him very suspicious. This person was also speaking the language from this side of the ocean- none of the people in the desert was people he trusted.
Seeing as Gongjia Ren was still vigilant, Shao Xuan did not defend himself, instead fishing out an oval ball and twisting it open.
Gongjia Ren was shocked to see the ball. He obviously knew what it was because it belonged to him! When he saw the flying insect inside, he turned towards Shao Xuan suddenly, “Who the heck are you all?!”
“Flaming Horns.” Shao Xuan tossed Gongjia Heng’s scroll over. “Take a look for yourself.”
Gongjia Heng had suggested Gongjia Ren and the rest to look for the Flaming Horns, saying he would send a letter to the Flaming Horn tribe. They actually came?
He finally let his guard down after reading the scroll. That was Gongjia Heng’s writing and the Gongjia secret cloud message was etched on the tube. No one could fake this.
“You’re… Shao Xuan?” Gongjia Ren looked at the person who tossed the scroll at him.
“I am. You’re Gongjia Ren? What about your mates?” Shao Xuan rolled the scroll up and kept it away.
Gongjia Ren looked outside then briefly explained what happened.
Although Shao Xuan had already guessed that all of this was accidentally caused by Sapphire, after Gongjia Ren’s explanation, he couldn’t help but think: ‘thank goodness Sapphire hadn’t called his little brothers out because it’d just awoken from a deep slumber. Or none of them would have lived.’
Shao Xuan thought the Gongjia family members would be similar to Gongjia Heng but after Gongjia Ren’s explanation, he realised not all of them had survival skills to live in the wild. Most of them had been blacksmiths since young, following a designated master until they were grown. Then, they would follow their master’s path, take in disciples and continue blacksmithing. No one dared to go search for Gongjia Mountain because they dared not take the first step. They did not know when they would return.
Gongjia Ren was taken in by a famous blacksmith when he was very young. He had planned to go look for Gongjia Mountain so he wanted to go talk to his master about it but the master was often nowhere to be found so he went to meet Gongjia Heng instead. When his master found out, Ren was reprimanded and his materials confiscated. Yet Ren never gave up and still went to Heng to ask about Gongjia Mountain. When he prepared to head to Gongjia Mountain, political instability ensued in King City, his master supported the wrong team and was assassinated along with some of his siblings.
Gongjia Heng begged the new lord for mercy so the new lord changed their death sentences to exile. The rest of his siblings either chose to seek protection from other parties or left. Gongjia Ren went to ask Gongjia Heng, who sent them off, where he should go.
Being a well-travelled person, Gongjia Heng was more qualified to give advice and Gongjia Ren trusted his suggestions. In the end, they followed his advice to cross the sea. They were ambushed along the way and had crossed the sea only to realise the desert was even more dangerous. They had never suffered like this before.
To the Flaming Horns, Gongjia Ren and the rest were quite useless as humans. While all their talents were poured into smithery, they severely lacked skills for other aspects of life. They didn’t even know how to kill an animal in the most efficient manner!
Gongjia Heng was an exception because he was forced to pick up survival skills from living in the forest. The difference was that Gongjia Heng could still make traps using materials from the forest to capture beasts. There were too few usable materials in the desert, even rocks were rare sometimes.
Now knowing that Gongjia Ren had five more mates and he refused to give up on them, Shao Xuan and the rest planned to continue their search. These were all talents from the Gongjia family, might as well take them all in to make this trip worth it.
Seeing that Gongjia Ren had started to pant after the conversation, Shao Xuan said, “You’re still severely injured. Rest well, we’ll leave tomorrow.”