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With Yi Cong and his six slaves, Shao Xuan’s journey home was much slower.
At least Yi Cong’s four slaves and the two slaves left behind by Yi Qi were capable on their own and did not become a burden. Yi Cong even did occasional readings to determine a safer route. When Yi Cong could not, Shao Xuan did a knot reading also to avoid running into unnecessary trouble.
Shao Xuan learned a lot of information from Yi Cong the entire journey on Chacha’s back.
From what Yi Cong said, the mysterious iced-water like liquid should be what the King City’s people were looking for. They read from the Gongjia ancestral records that the star butterfly’s larvae blood could create extremely good quality swords. As for how, Gongjia Yue- who had died during the eagle attack- did not specify. Yi Cong really did not know.
Shao Xue also asked Yi Cong about the strange dark realm but he remained tight-lipped, only telling Shao Xuan that it was a realm of connected consciousness, a world of spirits. If you were killed in that world, even if the physical body was not hurt, one would still die. How could one live without a soul? From another perspective, it was the same as being brain-dead.
Yi Cong was cooperative along the way. Other than certain confidential information he could not reveal, as for the rest, as long as Shao Xuan asked, he would reply. He even mentioned certain secrets of other aristocratic clans, which surprised Shao Xuan. Yi Cong’s behaviour seemed like he intended to seek refuge in Flaming Horn and was trying to be in their good books.
This was Yi Cong, the prodigy of the Yi family.
As for Gan Qie, who had consumed worm blood, his body underwent physical changes. Shao Xuan once saw Gan Qie cut a rock as if it was tofu. His bony fingers were sharp as blades, glinting with a metallic sheen under the sun.
On the way back, Gan Qie drank more worm blood, only a little, then never again. In his words-- only the first mouthful of blood was ‘fresh’ enough to excite him, subsequent mouthfuls gave him no feelings and he lost interest.
Actually, Gan Qie knew that waiting till next year to drink a fresh batch of worm blood might not help either. The possible physical changes had already occurred, even if he drank more, the extent of physical changes was still limited.
However, drinking a little every year would still be beneficial to him. A little change is still change.
The star butterflies appeared every year, right?
Gan Qie thought about how he would wait specifically for this time to visit Eagle Mountain for the star butterfly larvae’s blood. However, he felt like it was going to be difficult because of the environmental conditions there.
“If you go alone, you must be very careful. Do not attack the eagles there.” When Shao Xuan knew of his intentions, he gave him a word of caution.
Gan Qie nodded. Of course he knew he had to pay attention to the giant mountain eagles, their ancestors were guarding the territory and he remembered the oppression there. If he could not go alone, he would have to wait for the Flaming Horns. If they proved that the worm blood truly helped with weapon forging, then the Flaming Horns would definitely send more people there.
When Shao Xuan returned to the tribe, he first encountered the hunting party in their hunting territory and stopped in the forest for a while before returning with the hunting party. When he returned, he even saw some people from smaller tribes. Based on their behaviour, they were already accustomed to the forest and no longer as afraid and nervous as their first time in the forest.
During his time away from the tribe, these tribesmen had slowly assimilated into the large alliance around Flaming River, happy to benefit from this alliance. Most of the tribes that used to starve now had no worries about survival and could even explore some of their ambitions.
The Flaming Horns were the happiest to see Shao Xuan back.
During his disappearance, the Flaming Horn tribe had been very worried. When the other tribesmen who went hunting with the Flaming Horns asked, the Flaming Horns refused to tell where Shao Xuan went. That was why there were all sorts of private speculations, some happy to see the Flaming Horns worry, others even wondered if the Grand Elder of the Flaming Horn Tribe had been eaten by a forest beast?
When such a discussion was heard by the Flaming Horns, that person was beaten up and a warning was issued- anyone who spread rumours would be killed immediately.
Right now, the Flaming River Alliance saw the Flaming Horn tribe as the leader and the survival of these tribes depended on them. That was why the gossips that irritated the Flaming Horns finally disappeared after the warning. Even when they spoke about it privately, they were careful not to let the Flaming Horns hear it.
Even without the gossip, there were many people extremely anxious within Flaming Horn. From the chief to the warriors, everyone was antsy- tempers flared amongst the hunt leaders from the slightest trigger. Their frustrations were slightly suppressed only when Gui Ze said Shao Xuan was still alive. As the shaman, Gui Ze could sense Shao Xuan’s approximate location and tell that Shao Xuan was not dead.
When they received news of Shao Xuan’s return, the entire tribe seemed to lighten up overnight as if it was harvest day. The atmosphere brightened from the top of the mountain to the streets of the trading point.
A trading party touring the trading point found these happy tribesmen smiling their ears off, unlike their usual ‘someone-owes-me-money’ looks.
“What are the Flaming Horns celebrating?” someone asked around in a low voice.
“I heard the Flaming Horn’s Grand Elder is back.” The person answering heaved a sigh of relief too. Previously, no one dared mention the Grand Elder in case they were beaten up by the Flaming Horns- serious offences might even result in the unsheathing of knives in their direction.
Ao, who was supervising construction, quickly dropped his work to rush to the headquarters when he heard the news. The weight lifted off his chest when he saw an eagle in the sky, then finally dissipated when he saw an unharmed Shao Xuan.
Although Gan Qie had already left to search for him, Ao also sent a team in the direction where Gui Ze pointed. Halfway through the journey, they received news that something happened at the trading point and had to turn back.
“I’m so glad you’re back!”
“Hahaha you’re back! We thought something happened to you, we’d be worried if you came back any later.” Duo Kang strode over to give Shao Xuan a bear hug, patting his shoulder hard. Before this, he would never say such a thing. Anytime someone suggested that Shao Xuan was in danger, Duo Kang, like the rest of the Flaming Horns, would threaten them with his fist. However, now that Shao Xuan was back, nothing else mattered.
On the mountain, Gui He and Gui Ze, as well as the two retired shamans also came down the mountain to welcome him. They were glad to see him back unharmed. The Flaming Horns prospered and thrived because of him.
However, after the initial excitement passed, they noticed the seven people that Shao Xuan brought back. Six of them were obviously slaves while the person protected by them was obviously the target.
“He’s the person from the Yi family you mentioned?” Gui He asked Shao Xuan.
“Mm, Yi Cong of the Yi family,” said Shao Xuan.
“Yi Cong of the Yi family?” Zheng Luo, who had just arrived, scanned them with a knife-like glare.
The six slaves around Yi Cong immediately turned anxious. The Flaming Horns looked too hostile and much more powerful than them. If they fought, they could not protect Yi Cong.
“What’s the problem with Yi Cong of the Yi family? Wait, Yi Cong?! The Yi guy who was with King City’s troops, who tried to kill us?!” Duo Kang’s grin sank, glaring at Yi Cong murderously.
Duo Kang was furious the moment he recalled how they were pursued when their tribe migrated. If Shao Xuan had not brought them across the ocean, not many of their tribe would have survived, perhaps the entire tribe would have died.
Years ago when they moved from the other side of the ocean, they had been pursued by King City’s troops and other groups along the way. Although Yi Cong did not issue the command, anyone who participated was a criminal! An enemy! They would not believe it if Yi Cong said he had no intentions to kill them.
When you tried to kill us, did you expect us to thrive till this day?!
Duo Kang fidgeted with his fingers, thinking about how he should treat this prisoner. But something was wrong. If Shao Xuan brought him back alive, it would not be to kill him.
Indeed, Gui He only sent people to bring Yi Cong to be locked up in a cave along with his cave instead of sentencing them to death.
They proceeded to the mountain peak. There, only the most important people of the Flaming Horn tribe gathered.
“Ah Xuan, tell us what you think,” said Gui He.
Only the Elders, chief, shaman and major hunt leader were present. Shao Xuan explained the situation, though he did not mention the mysterious power in his body, only emphasizing on borrowing their ancestral power, then explained why he brought Yi Cong back alive.
Yi Cong was the only one left from the group of King City people who entered the forest. Shao Xuan wanted to get more information from him. First, Shao Xuan wanted to learn more about the Yi family’s dark realm- though unfortunately, Yi Cong did not want to speak much about it; second, did the worm blood have other secrets? Especially related to weapon forgery?
“What?! The worm blood can be used to make better weapons?!” Duo Kang could no longer sit still after listening to Shao Xuan.
“Just a guess, I have not proven it.” Shao Xuan took out two worm skin pouches.
“We’ll try! We’ll try! Today!”
Not just Duo Kang, the others were excited too. The green-face fanged beast had given them a taste of good weapons. They looked forward to having even better weapons.
“Wait wait, Ah Xuan, you haven’t finished your sentence. What about the third point?” asked Gui Ze.
The group, already excited by the worm blood, suppressed their excitement to look at Shao Xuan, waiting for him to finish.
“The third point affects Flaming Horn the most.” Shao Xuan paused, then said, “I brought Yi Cong safely back mainly because he gave me several conditions. He said he’s willing to spend the remainder of his life helping Flaming Horn expand.”
“What’s our expansion got to do with him? How will he help us? Can that bicep lift a rock or carry wood? Or will he get his slaves to substitute himself?” Duo Kang was upset.
“No, he can!”
Gui Ze and the two retired shamans leaned forward, understanding what Shao Xuan meant. Other people might not but they were sensitive to these.
“What are you referring to?” Everyone in the room looked at Gui Ze and the two elders.
“They say, the Yi family can predict the future based on observations of the world!” said Gui Ze.
Gui He’s brows were knitted, then his eyes widened.”You mean, he can tell us what to build where, and we can avoid mishaps in advance?”
The Flaming Horns were quite traumatised by natural disasters at this point.
Their tribe separated a thousand years ago because of natural disaster, causing the tribe to split in half. Forget about Zheng Luo’s branch-- this branch of the tribe lived one thousand years isolated from the world! All their skills were almost lost and they progressed backwards!
Even though they found a way to cross the river and finally returned to the old haunt and welcomed Zheng Luo’s branch back, taking in wanderers, when they were prepared to thrive once again, another disaster came. If they were not prepared, they would have probably suffered as their ancestors did.
If they could predict disasters before they happened, that would be great!
The number of large-scale migrations they had to pull off in a few years was traumatising enough.
The tribesmen revered Mother Nature.
“Can a Yi member be trusted?” Duo Kang was still suspicious. How could they trust a person from another tribe? And this was the Yi family.
“A Yi person’s promise is likely to be kept,” said Zheng Luo. “If he swore on his Yi family totem, then Yi Cong is likely to keep his promise.”
“If that is the case, then keeping him alive is fine.” Duo Kang did not insist on killing him, the tribe was more important.
“The problem is, he doesn’t actually want to be alive,” said Shao Xuan.
Shao Xuan’s words were confusing. If Yi Cong was not making a promise on behalf of himself, then who?
“He wants a life for a life. As for whose life, he did not mention. He just wanted to talk to us after we discussed among ourselves.” Shao Xuan repeated what YI Cong told him.
A life for a life?
Who did he want to save?
After a long discussion at the peak of the mountain, they finally adjourned.
Shao Xuan went down the mountain to visit the trading point, mainly to check on the expansion.
Due to Shao Xuan’s disappearance, the construction had not progressed very quickly.
“Hey! Shao Xuan!”
He had just arrived when Yi Si called for him. He had been waiting here because he could not enter the Flaming Horn headquarters.
“I heard you brought a few prisoners back? Who did you capture?”