After Shao Xuan left, the people in the cave did not sleep either, all observing the outside intently.
Mai brought his people around to patrol the area, setting up many traps. They had not previously done this due to concerns that other tribesmen might fall inside. But tonight’s incident made Mai change his mind-- if tribesmen from other tribes fell inside, that’s their own fault for straying where they’re not supposed to!
It was currently night time in the Fearsome Beast Forest. What did a first-timer in the forest expect?
However, when he thought about the explanations offered by Thunder Mountain Tribe, he privately understood too. He would also panic if his children went missing. But he was still displeased and so did not treat them very kindly.
Seeing Shao Xuan return safely, Mai rushed over. He saw the people carried by Caesar and Shao Xuan.
“Who are they?” Mai asked.
“From the other side of the sea, likely slave masters.” Shao Xuan could not ask too many questions in the forest because there were too many threats. Unless it was a resting spot, one should not remain for long in there. That was why he could only force answers for the most important questions, then bring people back for interrogation later.
“It’s them! Chief, they were the kidnappers!” cried Chang Di, panting heavily.
“They were the ones who took our tribesmen?!”
The tribes who had lost people all squeezed over, no longer scolding Chang Di for running around, instead placing their attention on the two people Shao Xuan brought back. Their glares of hatred almost burned holes on both of them.
“I’ll ask them first.” Mai dragged the two away, both locked up far away from each other. One in the cave, one outside, both interrogated separately.
Making the spectators stand back, he got someone to scoop some water and splash it on the unconscious person.
The cold water from a mountain stream immediately woke the unconscious man up. Seeing himself completely surrounded by tribesmen, he came to his senses very quickly.
Every pair of eyes felt like a blade cutting through him.
His eyes widened, scanning his surroundings.
I don’t know these people... Nope, nope… eh?!
His eyes widened even more when he saw Shao Xuan, then yelled and half-rolled and stumbled backwards to keep a distance between them.
“Speak. Why did you follow us into the mountain?” asked Mai, dragging him over.
The person looked at Mai, retracted his neck when he saw Shao Xuan, gulped, then spoke, “No, we were not following you. Actually, we were already in the forest long before you arrived. We only came to this region a few days ago but it wasn’t because we wanted to, we came with other people.”
“Other people?” Mai looked at him. “Who?”
“Yi family members, and others all from King City,” he answered hurriedly.
“When you kidnap our tribesmen, where do you bring them to?” asked Mai.
“We bring them to… I don’t know.” As he spoke, his eyes kept darting at Shao Xuan, then saw Shao Xuan lifting his arm and started to shudder, hiding behind Mai. “I really don’t, I’m only responsible for bringing people away, then I pass them to another person. We really don't know where these people get sent too.” Defending himself was useless now, these tribesmen recognised him.
“Are you an organisation?” asked Mai.
“We are members of ‘Bi’,” he replied.
Mai had heard of this name but could not put his finger on it. Tao Zheng behind him reminded that ‘Bi’ was the largest slave-trading organisation on the other side of the ocean. If this was done by them, then the people who were kidnapped must be sent over there already.
The Bi organisation had a clear hierarchy and job separation. Since the two people Shao Xuan caught were merely low-level workers, they knew very little.
“So that means it’s also possible he doesn’t know where they were sent,” said Mai.
“That’s why I’ve been saying that he doesn’t know anything. He’s useless, throw him to the…”
When the man heard Shao Xuan’s nonchalant tone and recalled the cries of agony from his mates in the forest, he shook uncontrollably and explained hurriedly, “I know some important information! Whatever I said was true!”
Mai pretended to hold Shao Xuan back. “Wait first. Since we still can’t find the missing people, might as well listen to what he has to say.”
“Yes yes yes, I know many important things. I’ve said this before, the Yi family is looking for treasure!” The man reiterated what he’d told Shao Xuan, though this time in more detail. Knowing the Flaming Horns were interested in this, he saw a ray of hope. However, he dared not hold back information to lure the Flaming Horns either, worried the impatient Flaming Horns might actually throw him to the wolf.
What? You mean what if they don’t want to listen?
No, no. The Flaming Horns must listen. That was important to his own survival. That was why he did not beat around the bush, directly telling them what he knew so the Flaming Horns would feel like this information was useful and would temporarily keep him alive knowing that he had more to tell.
Many people from Bi had come over because kidnapping was not as convenient in the central area. Those were strong tribes that would launch wars over small matters, so the risk-reward ratio was just not worth it. That was why they only targeted obscure tribes that did not communicate with the outside world. First, the kidnapping was easy, second, these small tribes had no resources to investigate despite knowing that their people were taken.
However, they had just come to Flaming River and had not captured enough people when coincidentally the Flaming River Basin was forming an alliance. Being sensitive to dangers, they prepared to retreat the moment the alliance was about to form, though at the same time received news that there were King City folk slipping quietly into the forest.
Those King City people had entered the forest through Flaming River’s minor streams, avoiding the possibility of encountering Flaming Horns. If they were acting so sneaky, they must be hiding something! That was why a portion of the Bi people, who initially were going to retreat, suddenly smelled ‘money’ and changed their plans. They followed the King City people into the forest, eavesdropping some secrets but not much. They only knew that these people were looking for some worm, just not sure what kind.
The King City people did not travel in a straight line though, always circling around randomly and throwing them off all the time. The Bi people lost them in this part of the forest and separated to look for the King City people again. These two were too lazy to go, hence decided to stay here for the moment. Who would have thought they would encounter a group of hunters from a tribe! They planned to steal something as they were not skilled in hunting, so they decided to steal some food at night after smelling roasted meat. Unfortunately, his signal that was supposed to be disguised was recognised by Chang Di and they ended up on a chase. In the end, he met Shao Xuan and was dragged back.
After the interrogation, Mai kept him tied up in a cave first, getting someone to watch him. One sudden move and he would be killed and fed to the beasts.
“What should we do?” Mai asked Shao Xuan when they were alone.
“The part where King City people have arrived must be true. I’m not sure about the worm part though.”
“In the past, the Rock Hill City people entered Fearsome Beast Forest looking for the green-faced fang beast to make weapons. Do you think the King City people are looking for something similar?” asked Mai.
“That is possible.” Shao Xuan nodded.
If it was enough to make King City’s people enter the forest, then it could be some precious medicine or important weapon forging material.
In the forging notes left behind by the Gongjia people, using the green-faced fanged beast’s blood to forge weapons was mentioned, along with some kind of worm that ate stone. Its blood was said to be many times better than the green-faced fanged beast. Shao Xuan initially thought it was the stoneworm but after meeting the king stoneworm, he denied this possibility.
“It’s just one of the possibilities. There could be other reasons,” said Mai.
In this patch of forest that was larger than the Fearsome Beast Forest, the most powerful worm that Mai had heard of was the king stoneworm. These people obviously would not be searching for it because deliberately searching for a king beast was the same as death.
Shao Xuan thought for a while, then pulled out a straw rope to do a reading. He planned to check which direction these people were heading to speculate their intentions.
Mai stood guard, watching his surroundings intently and stopping others from getting near. Not many people knew of Shao Xuan’s divination abilities and most were their own. This group contained too many people of other tribes that could not be trusted. He would not want others to know of this.
After a while, the knots were completed. Shao Xuan looked at the few knots and pointed in a direction. “They are currently heading that way.”
“That way? I don’t think there’s anything special there. Maybe what they’re searching for is much farther away.” Based on what Mai knew, there was nothing there, though his knowledge was obviously limited by the hunt team’s range. The forest was huge and no one knew where it ended.
After some thought, Shao Xuan said, “Continue to bring your team out for hunts. We don’t have many days left. They have already grown accustomed to this place and the objective of this trip has been completed. That is enough.”
“You want to go check it out?” asked Mai.
“Yeah, If the King City’s people are indeed looking for a material for forging weapons, it’s good news for us too,” said Shao Xuan.
Mai understood this too. Ever since the new green bronze and metal wares were created, their tastes had changed. If there was a material better than green-faced fanged beast blood, it would be great for the tribe. Even if it was not for weapons, then it still must be some treasure. As long as they knew what the treasure was, they would be able to get it eventually.
“Are you going alone? Do you need more people?”
“No, Caesar will stay with the group. I’ll get Chacha to bring me there.”
“That works too.” Although Mai felt that it was too dangerous, Shao Xuan had done this before and bringing more people would just be inconvenient.
Early next morning, an eagle took off from their resting place at sunrise.
Shao Xuan instructed Chacha to fly towards the direction from the reading first, then continued doing a few more readings along the way. Just like what the ‘Bi’ guy said, they kept changing directions as if they were walking randomly. However, when he drew their paths out, he realised the general direction did not change.
“That way?” Shao Xuan looked at the path and patted Chacha. “Don’t you think that direction seems a little familiar?”
Chacha cried loudly. Of course it was familiar! No one was more familiar with the place than this giant mountain eagle!
They were heading straight for Eagle Mountain!