When Gan Qie approached them, everyone, Thousand Masks or Lu, moved aside and let him pass. They stayed more than ten steps away from him.
That scene was too uncanny. They couldn’t understand how it was possible. They were still thinking hard about it but their bodies moved aside instinctively to avoid the seemingly dangerous figure.
Shao Xuan looked at the sword Gan Qie held. The markings were clearly from the other side of the sea. These patterns were different from the type tribesmen used, but the forging skills were no match for the Gongjia family’s. He couldn’t tell which group this sword belonged to.
“How did they get you?” Shao Xuan asked. With his speed, Gan Qie wouldn’t have been stabbed so easily.
“I was about to ask them something but they suddenly attacked,” Gan Qie’s voice was calm.
Shao Xuan didn’t ask who stabbed him. He knew that person didn’t end well when he saw the blood on Gan Qie’s hand. However, Gan Qie probably knew better now. These strangers weren’t as friendly as the Flaming Horns and they wouldn’t hesitate to kill him if they were not happy with what he said.
Shao Xuan scanned and noticed who was around and turned to ask Yan Jiu, whom he was most familiar with, “Is there a place we can rest? This place is not suitable for talking.”
“Yes!” Yan Jiu nodded and replied hurriedly. After notifying Bai Xing, he brought Shao Xuan to a house nearby.
“Um, Shao Xuan, should we tend to your friend’s injuries?” Yan Jiu asked after taking a quick glance at Gan Qie.
“There’s no need for that. This minor injury is insignificant to him,” Shao Xuan said.
Bai Xing and the others who stood a distance away heard Shao Xuan’s words and were all shocked beyond words.
“Minor injury?” He was impaled by a sword, and this was a minor injury?
Dian Fa’s face continued to jerk but he didn’t say a single word. He didn’t know what to say. The Lu tribesmen reached out to the Flaming Horns for help. What could they do? Fight the Flaming Horns?
Dian Fa had no such plans. He couldn’t think of the best solution so he continued to glare furiously at the Lu tribesmen. Only after Shao Xuan walked far away did he finally ask, “Are you guys planning to seek refuge with the Flaming Horns?”
A few of the Lu elders avoided his eyes and didn’t answer his question. They were still hesitant on making a final decision. The Flaming Horns definitely had their requests too. If their requests were even more than what the Thousand Masks asked for, what should they do?
Maybe just depend on the Flaming Horns until the worst passed?
Some of the Lu elders indeed had such thoughts. To them, migrating and merging their fire seed were two important matters that might cause their tribe to suffer major losses. How could they be hasty in making such important decisions? They had to think longer. Simply put, they would delay and push the limits until the worst was over before making the final decision.
Dian Fa was still thinking about whether they should remain in the Lu tribe and wait for their answer, but Yan Jiu had already told Shao Xuan everything that had happened. It was just as Shao Xuan had expected. The Lu tribe’s situation was much more critical than what they depicted in the letter. However, Shao Xuan was confused. They were already in such a critical situation. Why were they still hesitant in making a final decision?
“What are your chief and shaman even thinking? We won’t let you guys over unless your fire seed is merged,” Shao Xuan told him about their requests. Merging their fire seed was a must. The rest came later.
Of course, if the Lu tribe decided not to merge their fire seed, they would clean up the troubles in the forest around them and then leave after the job was done. They wouldn’t get involved in anything afterwards.
Yan Jiu was stressing over this too. He agreed with merging their fire seed. Even though they wouldn’t get used to it in a short time, it didn’t seem to have affected the other tribes. Quite the contrary, the primitive fire seed was actually their weakness. The only problem they faced now was that the elders were too conservative and obstinate.
“If that is the case, you can go discuss with your chief and shaman. Also, tell those elders what they want to know about our requests,” Shao Xuan didn’t think that the Lu tribe had to come with them, but it would definitely be better for them if they went with the Flaming Horns. However, if they chose not to, the Flaming Horns had nothing to lose. After all, they had everything they needed.
Yan Jiu let Shao Xuan rest and went back to persuade the others in his tribe. The only thing he didn’t tell Shao Xuan was that the Lu tribe was definitely migrating because they could no longer live peacefully where they were. Besides the troubles around them, something else had happened within their community. Herding was their main way of life. Their ancestors decided to settle here because there was a waterhole here that could provide them with the water they needed to survive and rear their animals. This water hole dried out in the last disaster and the previous chief had suggested for them to migrate, but the elders strongly disagreed. Now, there was a new issue regarding their fire seed, so it hadn’t been addressed up till now.
Yan Jiu’s head began to hurt at the thought of those elders’ condescending expressions and objections.
Yan Jiu told the others what Shao Xuan told him. Some people agreed with merging their fire seed and going with the Flaming Horns. Some people disagreed because they didn’t want to merge their fire seed. Some others were neutral, and they couldn’t decide again.
Bai Xing was quiet at the chief’s seat. His eyes were staring blankly into space and he let the others argue while he contemplated silently.
After a while, Bai Xing said suddenly, “When are the other Flaming Horns arriving?”
Yan Jiu was also waiting idly and staring blankly into space when someone elbowed him. He came back to his senses and responded, “In about half a day. They’ll arrive latest by tonight.”
Bai Xing only responded with an “Okay” and stopped questioning. He continued to contemplate.
After Bai Xing’s sudden interruption, the elders stopped arguing. Someone even asked Bai Xing a question but was completely ignored. His meditative face only said, ‘I'm thinking. Don’t disturb me.’
Knowing how this new chief of theirs had a bad temper, the elders were also distressed. Suddenly, silence pervaded the entire room.
The sun was beginning to set. Shao Xuan looked over at Gan Qie. The person who was dragged here by Gan Qie looked like he had given up on living.
Initially this person thought that he would be forced to tell some secrets about his group and he had firmly decided to not say a word. At most, he would make something up to trick these tribesmen, but he never thought he would be asked such unanswerable questions.
“Which tribe did your ancestor belong to?”
“When did your tribe merge their fire seed?”
“What does it feel like after merging your fire seed? Why would you choose to abandon your tribe to join new organizations?”
“How can tribes fall apart? How can people live without tribes?”
These were some of the questions. This person really didn’t know how to answer. As long as he was happy, that was enough. Why would there be a need for reason? He felt that Gan Qie was both insane and narrowminded.
Why do humans need to live in a tribe?
These tribesmen are so stupid!
At the end, this person lost his patience. He even cursed Gan Qie’s ancestors.
Gan Qie was not satisfied with this answer, so this person’s neck was twisted.
“I’m heading out,” Gan Qie said.
“For what?” Shao Xuan asked.
“I need to find someone else to interrogate,” Gan Qie flipped his hood over his head and walked out.
There were many people in the woods around the Lu tribe. He wanted to take this chance to interrogate these people. When the other Flaming Horns arrive, most of these people would leave. He wanted to ask all sorts of people, not just those from the other side. He even wanted to interrogate the tribesmen who had merged their fire seed, especially those who recently merged their fire seed. He wanted to know how these people felt and thought.
This was an important matter to Gan Qie, so Shao Xuan didn’t stop him. “Just watch out for your head.”
Gan Qie wasn’t a puppet after all. Puppets could still move after their heads were chopped off but Gan Qie didn’t know if he could still function without a head.
Shao Xuan heard an eagle’s cry not long after Gan Qie left the Lu tribe.
Across the distance in the woods, a team was rushing over in their direction.
They took a break on the way so their arrival was delayed.
Five hundred people arriving was definitely different from two people arriving. All the people who were hiding in the forest noticed the new team that had just arrived.
“It’s the Flaming Horns!” some of these people could tell by judging the totemic markings on their bodies.
“Are the Flaming Horns strong?” asked those who were unfamiliar with them.
“Who cares if they’re the Flaming Horns! Our common target is the Lu tribe!” This was a person who came from the other side.
Some of these people were already panicking. They began to retreat but didn’t leave immediately. Some who were greedy stayed and waited to exploit the benefits.
Others drew closer to watch what was happening.
A large bird the size of a dumb bird walked in front of the Flaming Horn team. This bird did not have large wings and wasn’t as fat as a dumb bird. It’s head was even bigger.
“What bird is that?” someone asked in a whisper.
“I can’t tell, but we can probably roast it and eat it like the birds in the Lu tribe.”
These people were the same people who stole a dumb bird from the Lu tribe that morning. They were still holding some drumsticks leftover from that morning.
They observed the team that had just arrived as they chewed on the drumsticks.
“Someone’s here,” said Ah Guang, who was riding on the Phorusrhacos.
“I smell it too,” another person said from the side.
Those people were not even trying to hide. If they did, the Flaming Horns wouldn’t have been able to smell the roast meat.
“What arrogant fools.”
Ah Guang scanned the forest. He reached for an arrow in his quiver and nocked it on his bow. When he pulled on the bowstring, it gave out a sharp disturbing noise.
The mere sound of the bowstring was enough to make the nerves in their bodies tremble in fright.
The arrow travelled through the intertwining branches and pierced through the leaves in its way. The parts of trees that came in contact with the arrow were split in half at the impact.
The derisive laughter of these people had not even faded and they were suddenly interrupted by the sound of the flying arrow.
The arrow landed in a tree five wingspans in diameter. The arrow pierced all the way through and the person who leaned on the other side of the tree looked down with widened eyes at his chest. The roasted meat in his hands fell to the ground.
A hole was punctured right through his chest and all he saw was a green arrowhead with blood stains. The blood continued to drip down and splattered on the ground.
The others around him shrieked in terror. They were furious and frightened when they heard the sound of footsteps approaching. They were still dumbfounded and stunned. They didn’t even have the time to care about their dying comrade. They threw the roasted meat on the ground and dashed away as fast as they could.
Sensing the murderous energy brought by the flying arrow, the birds around them cried wildly as they flew into the distance.
Dian Fa was standing at the boundaries of the Lu tribe. He was a little confused as he stared at the wild flock of birds.
Very soon, a team of warriors came out of the forest. Two beasts led the team. One was a bird and the other was a peculiar creature that resembled a tiger or a wolf. The strange thing about this creature was that it had hooves and it clicked loudly as the creature walked.
Bai Xing and the others were still discussing in the chief’s house but rushed out immediately when they heard this noise.
“They’re finally here!”
Shao Xuan walked out and glanced over at the netted bags the team carried.
Inside those netted bags were dead bodies that were either killed by weapons or shot by arrows. One of them even had a hole punctured right through his chest and blood was still freshly flowing from the wound.
“These are?” Bai Xing looked toward the corpses in the netted bags.
“We hunted them in the forest on our way here,” the person who dragged the bag answered.
“Right, Grand Elder. We saw Gan Qie on our way here. He said we don’t have to worry about him. He’s going to spend the night in the forest,” a Flaming Horn warrior said.
“Alright. You guys must be tired. Take a rest first before we talk,” Shao Xuan turned to look at Yan Jiu.
Yan Jiu had already made the necessary preparations before they arrived. When Shao Xuan looked over, he answered immediately, “Okay! Everyone follow me! You guys must be tired. Here’s some meat soup for you.”
“Brother Xuan, what about him?” Ah Guang asked as he pointed to the Phorusrhacos on the side.
After some thought, Shao Xuan said to Yan Jiu, “Didn’t you say that people keep stealing your dumb birds? Let Little Jing stay with them. There’s a nest there, right? He can protect your birds.”
Yan Jiu wanted to say “But your bird is a carnivore” but no words came out. After hesitating for a moment, he continued, “Alright, bring him to the animal pen.”
Shao Xuan patted the bird’s head with the cheek of his blade, “Keep a close eye on them.”
“Don’t worry Brother Xuan. I already discussed with him on our way here,” Ah Guang giggled as he whacked the bird with a whip.
Yan Jiu was confused. What did they tell the bird? He suddenly had a change of mind. Was it really safe to put this bird with those stupid vegetarian birds?
Ah Guang led the Phorusrhacos and followed Yan Jiu to their animal pens.
The animal pen used to rear the dumb birds took up a huge space. There were many nests too, but due to the thefts that happened recently, many of these nests were empty.
When Ah Guang led the Phorusrhacos into the animal pen, a flock of dumb birds hurriedly ran away and even those that were crouching in their nests ran off. More nests were emptied.
“Pick one to sleep in,” Ah Guang said as he patted the Phorusrhacos.
Yan Jiu was worried that the giant fearsome beast might stomp and destroy the nest, but the creature looked around and picked the largest nest. After a few gentle steps, it settled in the nest.
“Alright, let’s go,” Ah Guang didn’t look back anymore. He turned and left immediately.
“Is this… really okay?” Yan Jiu was still worried.
“It’s definitely okay.”
Won’t he… eat those…”
“Just let us know if you lose any birds. We’ll make sure to pay you back.”
Yan Jiu was silent. These people were so nice and even offered to help guard their animal pens. Should he really care about whether they would pay them back?
The Flaming Horns had just arrived, and this meant that the Lu tribe had to make a decision soon. Dian Fa was still here waiting for them to make their answer.
Shao Xuan had a lot of time on his hands. Regardless of what choice they made, the Flaming Horns would take a good rest tonight and then clean up the forest the next day. The main purpose of their trip after all was not merely to help the Lu tribe migrate.
Meanwhile, in some corners of the forest, many were beginning to grow anxious.
Should they stay and wait for an opportunity to steal or leave immediately? The Flaming Horns didn’t seem like people they wanted to mess with.