Yan Jiu took a walk to the animal pens. The guards didn’t look too well. Some of them were idle while others seemed too anxious and tensed up even when there were no threats around. Luckily no one was hurt when this stupid bird was stolen. Before, when they noticed the thieves, the guards would start fighting with them, and whenever this happened, injuries and deaths were inevitable.
Of course, in order to prevent their beasts from being stolen, they had to fight, but many people were too concerned about this. They didn’t know how long their current situation would last, and people grow tired after some time. They were in the light, and the thieves were in the dark. This was not at all beneficial to them.
Yan Jiu was thinking hard about this. They had already sent out the letter to seek help, but they weren’t sure if the Flaming Horns would come. As he thought hard about this, someone came rushing.
“Leader! Someone’s here!”
Yan Jiu was suddenly delighted. He bounced on the balls of his feet as he asked excitedly, “Is it the Flaming Horns?”
“No, it’s the Thousand Masks tribe.”
Yan Jiu’s excitement immediately faded when he heard this message. He scratched his head as his expression tightened.
“Leader, are you not planning to go? The chief and the others are all there already,” that person asked.
“Why do I need to go? They won’t even listen… No, it’s better if I go there. I have to make sure they don’t get tricked by those Thousand Masks,” Yan Jiu left the animal pens hurriedly.
Bai Xing, the current chief of the Lu tribe, had already been chatting with the Thousand Masks tribesmen for a while. However, it seemed like the atmosphere wasn’t great.
The leader of the Thousand Masks team this time was Dian Fa. Yan Jiu knew this person well enough. Don’t be fooled by his usual friendly smile. He might seem like a person who was easy to talk to, but if you said anything that he didn’t agree with, his face would change immediately. The current Lu tribesmen were all afraid of him. Ever since the Thousand Masks merged their fire seed, they were no longer the same as before. No, to be exact, all of the tribes had changed ever since they merged their fire seed.
Yan Jiu sighed as he walked in. As he entered the room, Dian Fa was saying how the Thousand Masks tribe were willing to take them in if the Lu tribe agreed to their conditions. They would draw out a piece of land for the Lu tribe to settle in but the Lu tribe had to pay up a sum. They didn’t expect the Lu tribe to provide them with a certain number of reared beasts per year. They only asked for half of all the beasts they owned.
Many of the Lu tribesmen were initially silent, but hearing this, their ears perked up with interest. As long as they could survive this critical situation, it didn’t matter if they had to give up a third, a half, or two-thirds of their property. They were confident that they could gain these back very quickly, but if they had to give half of their beasts away every year, it would be very difficult for them.
“But this wasn’t what you guys said last time!” an elder yelled. He was so emotional that his voice cracked and made an ear-piercing noise.
Dian Fa told them last time that the Lu tribe only had to give up a third of their reared beasts, but back then the Lu tribesmen didn’t agree. Now they demanded for even more.
Dian Fa laughed derisively and his eyes caught the elder’s. The elder shrunk away in fear immediately.
“Last time, our chief gave this offer because our tribes were allies before. We didn’t even ask for that much, but who would’ve thought you guys would disagree! Our chief was so mad when he received the news, so he decided to increase the numbers,” Dian Fa said calmly.
“Bu...but you guys are asking too much!”
“Is this too much? Why didn’t you agree last time? The situation has changed, and you guys clearly know that you can’t deal with us the same way you did before. Either you guys stay independent, or rely on a strong tribe. Or else, don’t even think about preserving your fire seed!”
Dian Fa knew the Lu tribe’s current situation very well. He knew what kind of people stayed around the area and he wasn’t trying to scare them with what he said, but if the Lu tribe continued to stay this way, they might really lose their fire seed at one point. With their character, they would never be able to protect their fire seed.
The Thousand Masks tribe were already taking care of many middle-sized to small tribes. They were rebuilding their cities and they still lacked food. If it were not for the beasts that the Lu tribe could provide, they wouldn’t even have bothered taking them in! Dian Fa sneered at the thought.
“Don’t say that I didn’t warn you. If you continue to wait, you guys will be the only ones at a disadvantage. Plus, our chief might change his mind any moment.”
Dian Fa took a few final bites of the green fruit in his hands and carelessly threw the core to the ground. He got up and prepared to leave.
Bai Xing and the others were still thinking about what they should reply when this person suddenly transformed. Dian Fa’s energy surged as something began to move under his back muscles. This “thing” spread throughout his body through his meridians and reached his neck and face. With quick cracking sounds, white bones suddenly appeared on his face. His entire face changed. HIs pupils were dilating and his brow ridge was becoming more prominent. All of his eyebrows suddenly sank under these bones.
In just the blink of an eye, Dian Fa had already turned around and stomped furiously on the ground, crashing the core of the fruit he just threw. The impact left a large footprint on the ground and brought dust to the air.
Across the dusty air, they could tell that Dian Fa’s usual friendly smile had disappeared. The white bones had completely covered his face and he looked extremely fierce.
Never judge a Thousand Masks by his usual behaviour. Their true faces appear when they summon their totemic power.
Dian Fa’s true face was covered with special bone structures and he seemed as fierce as any infuriated fearsome beast. His energy was so appalling that all of the Lu tribesmen suddenly felt pressured.
Bai Xing was furious when he saw this. You want to fight? Sure, we’ll fight then! He was about to make a move when a few elders beside him pulled him back.
Dian Fa looked condescendingly at Bai Xing. He already told his chief that they shouldn’t treat these Lu tribesmen so nicely. These people would only keep dragging on until their situation was no longer critical. Dian Fa did not want this to happen. They would naturally give in if they saw their strength. Look! Wasn’t this just as he had predicted? What a bunch of losers!
“We need some time to think,” an elder said finally.
“The time we gave you last time wasn’t enough? How much longer do you need?” Dian Fa’s voice rang across the gloomy room. His tone was obviously impatient.
Seeing the Lu tribesmen’s perplexed expressions, Dian Fa raised his hands and gestured like he was shooing a fly, “I’ll give you guys three more days. In three days, I’ll leave with my people.”
This meant that if the Lu tribesmen agreed to migrate to the Thousand Masks tribe in three days, Dian Fa would bring them back to their territory. If they didn’t agree, he would no longer interfere. If any foreigner came to assault them again, they would just stand by and do nothing. Since the Lu tribe didn’t want to come under their wing, why bother to care about their business?
Dian Fa didn’t even give them a chance to interrupt. After saying what he wanted to say, he brought the five hundred Thousand Masks warriors to the place the Lu tribe arranged for them and enjoyed all the food and drinks the Lu tribesmen offered them.
Yan Jiu remained silent this entire time. He was just depressed and unhappy because of the elder’s expressions. He knew that the elders were worried too but he didn’t know what to say. Forget the Thousand Masks and just go with the Flaming Horns? The Flaming Horns hadn’t even appeared and they didn’t even know what plans the Flaming Horns had.
Three days was indeed too short for the Lu tribesmen. Their entire tribe was under constant pressure and the atmosphere was tense, and this pressure was ever-increasing.
The senior members of the Lu tribe gathered to discuss and never stopped to rest for these three days. After arguing for three days, their throats were so dry that they lost their voice, but still they hadn’t come to a conclusion.
Yan Jiu already knew that this would happen, but he couldn’t do anything about it. Even though his ranking was equivalent to a hunt leader’s in their tribe, there were still many who ranked above him, and not all of them agreed with him. He was close to Bai Xing, the current chief, but even he was pessimistic in this situation.
Dawn was breaking on the final day. Everyone in the Lu tribe grew even more frustrated.
Their deadline was approaching and they had to give Dian Fa a final answer.
Dian Fa’s eyelid had been jerking since early that morning. He felt like something big was about to happen, and this feeling didn’t feel good at all.
After some thought, Dian Fa called his subordinates over and decided to force the Lu tribesmen to make a final decision.
“What if they don’t agree? Do we just leave right away?” A Thousand Masks soldier asked.
Dian Fa was a little dazed and didn’t reply right away. However, the person beside Dian Fa said, “Of course we won’t just leave. We have to bring something back home. Since they can’t protect their own things and people are already stealing from them, isn’t it better if we took them instead?”
“Ah! You mean rob them? What a great idea! Make sure to take as much as we can. Don’t let the foreigners take it all.”
These people were all blabbering and discussing but Dian Fa didn’t reply to anything they said. This was exactly what he had in mind too. Since the Lu tribe was about to be robbed by the foreigners, why should they leave empty-handed?
Everyone in the Lu chief’s residence tensed up as Dian Fa and his warriors arrived.
“What’s the conclusion? I don’t want to wait forever,” Dian Fa sat down on a thick beast hide cushion his subordinates brought over and urged them impatiently.
“It...it’s not the deadline yet…” an elder said in a whisper.
Strictly speaking, the afternoon that day was the deadline.
“I don’t care! I want a conclusion now!” Dian Fa didn’t want to give them any more time. He didn’t want this to drag on. His eyelids jerked even more wildly now. He pressed down on his eyes and made a firm decision. Just in case something happened, it was better to get this business finished as soon as possible.
Bai Xing, the current Lu chief, clenched his fists tightly. He was about to explode in rage. If the elders beside him didn’t force him down, he would’ve exploded. He was growing furious. As the chief, he still had to face such rude attitudes from other tribesmen. He’d rather die in battle like their precious chief than be disrespected like this.
Bai Xing held back his anger and remained silent. He looked toward their shaman.
The shaman heaved a long sigh and said to Dian Fa, “Now is not the best time to merge our fire seed.”
Dian Fa frowned. This was an excuse, but it was also the truth. If they merged their fire seed now and some intruders disturbed the procedure and caused them to fail, then they would really become useless people. What need would they have for a useless tribe?
“Sure, you can merge your fire seed there. Merge after we get there. I don’t care when, but it must be merged!” Dian Fa emphasised.
The Lu shaman glanced over at Bai Xing after hearing this. Judging by their current situation, this was the only way out.
Under the pressure of some elders around him, Bai Xing managed to inhale deeply and was about to say something when his facial expression suddenly changed.
The others’ faces changed too. Yan Jiu got to his feet and rushed outside. Something happened within their animal pens. The Lu tribesmen might be a little slow when it came to other matters, but if something happened to their beasts, they could sense it right away. The beasts that were stolen left the animal pens voluntarily after they were attracted by the bait so they couldn’t sense anything unusual when those beasts left. Even the guards couldn’t sense anything.
However, even though the Thousand Masks tribesmen didn’t feel anything significant, it was a completely different case for the Lu tribesmen.
“What happened? Are those foreigners here again?” Yan Jiu asked.
“I...I don’t know,” the person who was asked was still dumbfounded.
“Why are you still looking? Hurry and check to see what’s wrong over there!” Yan Jiu glowered at him. He was so furious that his veins felt like they were about to pop.
Is this even the time to be dumbfounded?!
As he said this, Yan Jiu rushed and departed to the animal pens. He trusted himself more than these cowards. They were under too much pressure. They might not even be able to tell anything apart if they went.
He had only taken two steps out of the house when he saw one of his tribesmen leading a giant black cow towards his direction.
This cow was usually assigned to pulling carts. It was different from other animals they reared and was more alert and sensitive to dangers. It had been trained very well.
Now, that black cow was stomping the ground with its hooves nervously.
“Something’s wrong!” Yan Jiu’s eyebrows knitted. He suddenly thought, could it be the Flaming Horns?
If it wasn’t the Flaming Horns, could it be those foreigners again?
Yan Jiu looked with mixed emotions at the person who pulled the black cow here. He didn’t know if he should feel happy or worried.
The black cow suddenly turned and looked in one direction.
Yan Jiu’s eyes followed.
Dawn had just broken, but the ground was already so bright that they could see everything clearly.
Yan Jiu rushed over to the edges of their territory. The person who brought the cow over also followed him.
After scanning the woods, he seemed to have not noticed anything. Yan Jiu turned toward the cow. It was now looking up into the sky. He immediately looked up.
In the sky, there was a silhouette of a bird.
Very soon, the bird’s shadow grew larger as it descended. Like a gust of wind, the bird landed and a figure jumped off from its back.
Dian Fa and the other Lu tribesmen also rushed over and saw everything.
It sounded like a meteorite had crashed. The moment this figure landed, they heard a loud sound and cracks began to widen from where he landed, spreading across the ground in a weblike pattern. Dried soil flew up from the ground and instantly turned to dust. The dust flew up into the sky, like a thick mist covering the figure.
The ground’s quakes sent tremors through their feet.
Dian Fa blocked the dust with his arms and squinted his eyes to look at the figure that had just landed. There was too much dust and he couldn’t tell who this person was. He could only hear footsteps approaching them.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
As the footsteps approached, the dust also cleared.
Dian Fa was feeling gloomy, but when he realised who it was, he felt the chills down his spine. Through gritted teeth he managed to say, “Shao Xuan of the Flaming Horns?!” He spoke hesitantly and every word seemed to carry some weight.
After saying this, he turned his head to look at Bai Xing and the other Lu tribesmen. His eyes were daggers as he glanced at them. He managed to force these words out of his gritted teeth,
“You guys approached the Flaming Horns?!”
The senior members of the Lu tribe were very secretive about their discussions and Dian Fa only heard that there was such a possibility, but he never thought that the Flaming Horns would actually come to help these losers!
Since Shao Xuan of the Flaming Horn tribe was already here, the other Flaming Horns were probably not far away and would probably arrive soon. Damn these Flaming Horns! They ruined all of the Thousand Masks tribe’s plans!
Dian Fa’s face was still jerking as he observed the dent formed in the ground where Shao Xuan landed as well as the netlike quakes that formed in the ground due to the impact. He looked again at Shao Xuan who was walking towards them. He had to admit even if he didn’t like it that the Flaming Horns had a stronger physique and they were no match for them.
He wasn’t afraid of starting a fight with the Lu tribesmen, but he didn’t dare to provoke the Flaming Horns, especially their Grand Elder.
No wonder his eyelids began to jerk early this morning. He had an ominous premonition about this. Dian Fa cursed the Lu tribe’s ancestors for this.
“Aha!” the clouded feelings in Yan Jiu’s heart finally dispersed when he saw Shao Xuan. Seeing Shao Xuan come personally meant that the Flaming Horns chose to help them.
“Shao Xuan, you’re finally here!” Sensing the scornful stares from the Thousand Masks tribesmen, Yan Jiu forced a smile and tried to suppress the excitement in his eyes. He looked at Shao Xuan and asked, “You came alone?”
“The others are still on the way. For now, only two of us are here,” Shao Xuan said.
“Huh? Where’s the other person?”
Yan Jiu had just finished his sentence when he heard a terrifying cry from the woods. Not long after, they heard something being forcefully dragged across the ground.
A cloaked figure was holding a man at the neck and dragging him across the ground. Regardless of how hard the person struggled and clawed with his fingers, this cloaked figure did not at all loosen his grip.
Fresh blood dripped from this person’s free hand. Apparently there was no obvious injury on this person and the blood was clearly not his own.
Of course, these were insignificant injuries. Everyone’s eyes widened as they fixed their eyes on the sword that had pierced right through this cloaked figure. Not a single drop of blood dripped from this injury.
Under the strong winds, the linen cloak clung tightly onto the figure. It couldn’t be mistaken. That the sword had indeed pierced right through him.
However, that person was not bleeding. He could even walk over like it didn’t at all affect him.
“They got you?” Shao Xuan asked.
“It’s no big deal,” said an emotionless voice.
Yan Jiu and the others dropped their jaws. How could this be no big deal? He was pierced all the way through!
Suddenly, the cloaked figure grasped the hilt of the sword with his bloody hand and pulled it out of his body. After he pulled it out, he studied it and continued to drag the person along.
Yan Jiu was speechless.
The Thousand Masks crowd were all speechless.
Even the person who was struggling to break free gave up.
Dead silence pervaded and the atmosphere suddenly became cold as ice, making everyone feel uneasy. Everyone who saw this shivered.
Now, the trembles had spread to both of Dian Fa’s eyes and he couldn’t control it.
What...who...is this monster?