Within the forest, a group of almost five hundred people was travelling through, a group of armoured guards protecting a few in the middle.
Two of them within this centre group stood out because they were wearing silk, the silver-white patterns occasionally reflecting sunlight. Compared to the unkempt crowd, these two still looked clean albeit exhausted.
“Master Qi, how long more?” asked the person in front, turning to the centre of the group.
The elder of the two protected people had a tray in one hand with a few jades placed on top, the other hand stroking his beard. “We will arrive in ten days.”
The person ahead heaved a sigh of relief. “That’s good.”
Although they were prepared, travelling in the forest was a stressful affair. They had not been able to sleep properly at night, terrified of being eaten by some hidden fearsome beast or dragged away by strange plants. The forest here was much more dangerous than forests on the other side!
They initially had eight hundred people but only five hundred remained. The other three hundred had become either plant fertiliser or animal food.
This was WITH pointers from the two Yi family members too, avoiding a majority of threats. Without them both, perhaps only a handful would survive the journey.
“We’ll take a rest here, there are no major threats nearby,” said the person with the tray.
The surrounding guards sighed, they could finally rest. However, despite the announcement that there were no major threats, they still had to be vigilant against small threats. Being careless could also mean being killed by something small.
“Master Yue, do you really not know what the worm looks like?” the leader of the expedition, Mu Yao, asked the only Gongjia family member in the group during rest. This was also a great master blacksmith but it was too bad the new lord did not like Gongjia Yue so he had not been living well these days. If it wasn’t for protection from the Mu and Yi family, Gongjia Yue might not be able to continue living in such luxury, perhaps even lacking materials for forging.
Gongjia Yue sat nearby. His hair was greying, for he was no longer a young man. He used to be a prominent figure in the Gongjia family but unfortunately, he had been rude to the new lord before his ascension to the throne. When the new lord came into power, he took most of Gongjia Yue’s resources and handed it off to other Gongjia blacksmiths since there were many of them around. These blacksmiths spent all their time forging and never had the time to collect materials, heavily relying on the royal family for supply. They could rely on current stocks to survive for a few years but that was only temporary.
After Gongjia Yue lost his position, the Mu and Yi family continued to support him so he did not fall to rock bottom. This help obviously also came with conditions- they wanted him to make even more powerful weapons. Rock Hill City was currently targeting the Mu and Yi family of King City so it was easy to see why they were so worried. They took the opportunity of Gongjia Yue’s fall from grace to gain some power.
Gongjia Yue also planned to use this matter to restore his former glory. He had enjoyed a long life of glory and luxury so losing power did not feel good. If he could settle this matter well, then returning to his peak was not an impossible task.
Gongjia Yue was considered a master in the blacksmith world, having been to Gongjia Valley just like Gongjia Heng when he was younger. He had also read the ancestral secret notes there so he knew what Gongjia Heng knew too.
Both Flaming Horn and Rock Hill City had found the green-faced fanged beasts so everyone knew what the quality of these products was. Despite being better than other metal weapons, the Mu and Yi family were still dissatisfied.
And since the green-faced fanged beast was not enough, they tried to go search for the other worm. There was too little information in their ancestral notes about it… but didn’t they have the Yi family with them?
Both parties decided to partner up and after a huge effort, finally conducted a successful reading for the worm’s location. They then recruited people, avoided the main battlefield by the coast and Flaming Horn’s (whom they had conflict with) territory to arrive in the forest.
“I haven’t seen the worm before and there are only written notes in the records without images. The ancestors called them Star Butterflies.” Gongjia Yue had given this answer many times, and that was all he could say too. He did not know what a star butterfly looked like, nor its larvae form. They were currently looking for larvae of the star butterflies.
“The only thing I know is that we must hurry up and find them before the larvae turn to butterflies, extract their blood and bring them back.” Gongjia Yue’s eyes flashed with manic excitement. If he could forge even more powerful weapons, he would be a very rich man! It had been so many years and the Gongjia family still had not been able to find this worm.
“Don’t worry, there’s still time before they mature,” reassured Yi Qi.
“I’m worried people might be following us. If that happens, aren’t we helping them? And we’re not sure if they will harm us.” Mu Yao voiced his concern.
“There’s no need to worry, we have shaken them off.” Yi Qi looked proud. He had used his divination abilities to determine the group’s direction and leaving times. Bit by bit, they shook off everyone following them. Now, he felt no one on their heels.
Next to Yi Qi was a young man from the Yi family. Strangely, he looked young but had a head of white hair. In contrast to Yi Qi’s calmness, he looked worried, like he had a bad feeling.
“Uncle, you must remain vigilant,” he said.
“Yi Cong, are you questioning my abilities?” Yi Qi was displeased by Yi Cong’s reminder, about to say something when he suddenly furrowed his brows. Ignoring everything else, he started tapping the tray in front of him. The shiny jade stones rolled around for five minutes before finally stopping.
“Master Qi, did something happen?!” asked Mu Yao and the rest hurriedly.
“Nothing serious. Must be someone who secretly learned the Yi family divination methods, or some useless Yi traitor! How dare they use divination to track our movements? Hmmph! Wanna fight me?!”
With an arrogant huff, he displayed his contempt towards this person.
“And right now?” Mu Yao looked at Yi Qi.
“That person will not know where we’re heading next,” he replied nonchalantly. “It’s just some small trick that only Yi family children use when they’re fooling around.”
“Someone managed to track us using divination?!” Yi Cong was shocked, then suddenly thought of something. His eyelid twitched and he hurriedly took his own tray. He reached out to grab a handful of fine golden sand from a clay container held up by a slave, then scattered it in his tray.
The golden sand fell in streaks in the tray. They were initially normal, for the grains moved normally either towards the jade stone in the tray or away. However, the changes soon stopped and with a ‘poof’, the sands scattered messily again.
“I can’t tell which way they’re going!” gasped Yi Cong.
Usually, when another party was tracking them through divination, they could use a secret Yi method to similarly locate the other person. Of course, they could also directly stop the other person from tracking them, just as what Yi Qi did. But there was one unpredictable variable- if there was a large enough gap between both parties’ abilities, it creates a power imbalance and results in them unable to track the opponent back. This was why Yi Cong was shocked. He was already the top of his generation within the Yi family, yet he still could not track this person.
Yi Cong’s expressions changed, the usually calm face turned into a rare frown. “This again!”
As if there was a layer of mist, he could not conduct any more successful readings. Every time he tried, he would just get a mess of results, his jade stones scattering messily without a sure answer.
Yi Cong had once experienced this before. It was a terrible memory and every time he recalled it, he felt as if a pair of hands were stopping him from stepping forward. In layman terms, he was at a bottleneck.
There had been Yi family members with this problem too. If they could not break through this bottleneck and remained, then they might stop improving forever. The Yi family would then give up on grooming these people.
Although Yi Cong had this problem, he was a rare genius in his family so the Yi family did not give up on him. They kept looking for ways to help him breakthrough but none worked. This time, Yi Cong told his family that he must embark on this long, arduous journey in hopes of using this experience to breakthrough.
This is happening again!
Yi Cong picked up the jade in the tray and rolled it in his palm, deep in thought. He turned to Yi Qi, “Uncle, are you able to track the other person?”
“Are you questioning my abilities?” Anger flashed Yi Qi’s eyes. Yi Cong could not track him because he was not skilled enough- Yi Qi ranked top ten in the entire Yi family, how could he face the same problem?!
Ignoring Yi Qi’s anger, Yi Cong insisted, “Please conduct another reading.”
“Alright! I will!”
Suppressing his anger, he grabbed the jades and began.
However, more and more sweat droplets started to sprout from his forehead. The hand holding the jades started to tremble as if he was about to drop them.
Yi Cong’s face twitched as he watched on, finally shutting his eyes. He knew the answer.
The golden sand in the tray flew into a mess.
Yi Qi was ghastly pale, pinching a jade hard with his eyes locked on the remaining sand as if in disbelief of the results.
“How is that possible? Why?!” His lips trembled, “Not only am I not able to track them, the block I placed just now failed!”
The group was dead silent. Mu Yao and Gongjia Yue looked at him in shock, wondering if they had made a mistake.
Yi Qi couldn’t track the other person?! Even blocking them didn’t work?! So the other person can continue tracking them then?!
“Who on earth is skilled enough to do this? Even you both can’t stop them!” Mu Yao could not think of anyone. Was it another Yi family member?
“I’ve guessed the answer,” said Yi Cong slowly. He was calmer than the rest.
The Yi family rarely used the word ‘guess’ because that meant they had no confidence in their own skills. They only said that when readings failed. But Yi Cong was being so calm while using the word ‘guess’!
“It’s that Flaming Horn, Shao Xuan!”
“Impossible!” Yi Qi cut him off. “That was a Yi family’s divination method, I was able to sense it. While I don’t know specifically what method they used, it was definitely a Yi family technique!”
“Although I don’t know why this person possesses such a skill, I still think the person currently tracking us through Yi family divination techniques is Flaming Horn’s Shao Xuan!”
Years ago when they were chasing after Flaming Horn’s migratory party, Yi Cong had suspected that the Flaming Horns had fortune-telling abilities. He did not think it was a Yi technique, guessing it might be another tribe’s fortune-telling methods as the Yi family was not the only fortune teller in the world. However, the Yi family was still the best in divination!
Right now, since the expert Yi Qi said it was a Yi family technique, and Yi Cong felt the same as the incident years ago, that meant that the Flaming Horns likely used a Yi family technique during their migration! Unfortunately, they were unable to tell specifically which method he used.
“Impossible! Absolutely impossible!” Yi Qi was still muttering the same thing in loops. He refused to believe that a tribesman that did not belong to the Yi family would have a skill like this. This was a slap to their faces.
If Yi Cong knew what Yi Qi thought, he would have said the slap had come a long time ago in King City, just that no one noticed it.
“We’re leaving then!” shouted Mu Yao, getting up in an instant. If this person could track them, then they must hurry to first find the star butterfly larvae and extract its blood!
At this moment, within the forest far away from Mu Yao’s team.
Shao Xuan stared at his rope. This reading had not been smooth, as if someone was tugging and refused to let him form a knot. But he still successfully completed them in the end.
Calling Chacha, who was pecking at a snake, over, he said, “Don’t play with your food, hurry up and eat. We’ll leave soon, they already know that we’re following them.”
“I hope they don’t try anything,” said Shao Xuan, staring off into the distance.
He now knew what worm they were searching for. This worm lived in a very unique habitat which was right within the giant mountain eagle’s territory.
Places with many fearsome beasts would have a strangely balanced ecosystem. If that balance was broken, would these people be eaten by the eagles? Or by something else?
He could only think of one answer.