Now that they were alone, Gui He turned to look at Robber Seven. “Speak. If it’s worth it, we’ll return the item to you.” 

“Really?” Robber Seven stared at Gui He questioningly, then looked at Shao Xuan. 

“But that’s only if your information has value. Or else…” 

“Of course it has value! I can guarantee that it is worth it! Even if it isn’t, I can just give you another piece of information. Like how Si is as a person.” After his failures associated with the Flaming Horns, he would prepare himself sufficiently before every other mission. This time, he too prepared himself thoroughly for the sake of stealing from Si. 

Seeing that Gui He and Shao Xuan had agreed to his offer, Robber Seven ignored Ao’s frown and sorted out his thoughts. He spoke of what he knew. 

“Si is a close associate of King City’s new lord, Ji Fang.” 

Robber Seven’s intel was a surprise to Gui He and Ao. Shao Xuan, on other hand, wasn’t too shocked. It made sense for a noble slave master to be close to a slave trader. However, Robber Seven’s tone had suggested that Si and Ji Fang were working together. Perhaps the reason why Ji Fang could successfully take the throne had much to do with Si’s assistance. 

Those involved in the fight for the throne would definitely receive a surplus of benefits. It was no wonder that ‘Bi’ could become the largest slave-trade organisation. 

“So you mean it was Ji Fang’s order that brought the slave-traders to our tribes?!” Ao’s brows were raised so high it was about to be perpendicular. 

“No, that’s not it.” Robber Seven shook his head and continued to report what he had eavesdropped- “Si was the one who gave orders to capture slaves. Ji Fang had summoned him after finding out about the order and told Si to bring everyone from the Flaming River Trading Point over. Si was not to sell the tribesmen off. While Si was not too keen on it, he did not reject Ji Fang. It was during then that I found out that your party was coming.” Despite that, Robber Seven wasn’t expecting the Flaming Horns to approach from Chao Qiu City’s direction. 

Ah, he should’ve run as far as he could. 

“Is that all you have for us in return for this lock?” asked Shao Xuan. 

“Calm down! There’s more!” Robber Seven scratched his head. He continued, “About Ji Fang… Other than receiving help from many associates, there is also another important factor behind his success in taking over the throne---- His sword.” 

“Sword?” Shao Xuan was perplexed. 

“That’s right. It is all thanks to the sword that the Ji family could become the head of the six clans in King City back then and later sit on the throne. A century or so back, many would’ve known about the Ji family’s sword. It was also known as the King’s Sword, their clan started the aristocrats’ interest in swords.”

“Wasn’t the Ji family sword forged by the Gongjia family?” asked Gui He. He had learned this from Gongjia Ren some time ago. 

“No.” Robber Seven looked absolutely smug. After all, he had done extensive research before making his move. It was through various channels that he attained these secrets.  

“Before the Gongjia family appeared in King City, the Ji family sword had allowed them to reign as the head of all six clans in the city. The other clans had feared the Ji family, but of course, the Yi family excluded- the Yi family could not be bothered with it. The other four tribes were not as powerful as the Ji family, which is why the Ji family was able to reign supreme.”

“Now, the Ji family’s advantage has grown. The Yi family, the only family that could threaten the Ji family, is in shambles due to internal and external conflicts. Aside from some of the figureheads, the current Yi family is left with not many members. There are no longer six aristocrat families of the King City, the city is only left with five main families now,” sighed Robber Seven. 

“Okay, let’s put the Yi family aside and talk about the Ji family sword. Could it be that the Ji family’s sword forging skills were better than the Gongjia members?” Gui He was rather particular about this issue. Regarding the Yi family, Gui He had heard insights and forecasts from Yi Cong before. Hence, he wasn’t all that shocked to hear what happened to the Yi family. 

“Not necessarily. With it comes to techniques, the Gongjia family is the best. But the swords forged by the Ji family could definitely break some of Gongjia's creations! This is because the Ji family forge their swords with blood. Specifically, the Ji family members could use their own blood to forge swords!” 

“Forging swords with human blood?!” Shao Xuan was dumbfounded. He had always thought that blood from only a few rare types of special beasts could be used in sword creation. It was truly a surprise to learn that human blood could be used to forge swords. Was it really possible? Anyhow, Shao Xuan’s blood wouldn’t work. 

Possession of the core seed had also meant owning a mine. Along with the ability to forge swords with blood and strong logistics, they were able to own a gargantuan amount of grain fields. It wasn’t hard to imagine the amount of power the Ji family had over the population. 

“But…” Robber Seven’s tone became more unsettling, his face morphed into something unsightly. “The glorious times where every member of the Ji family could weld swords had become a bygone era. After the Ji family built King city, members who could not weld swords with their blood began to appear in the family.” 

Robber Seven seemed exceptionally excited to be speaking of gossip and nasty things about other people. His saliva and spit were close to getting splattered all over Shao Xuan and the others. However, if everything Robber Seven said was true, it was indeed intriguing. 

When the earliest occurrence of the inability to forge swords with blood had birthed suspicions and self-doubt among the family descendants. However, they soon found out that many of their clan members had experienced the same issue. Later on, for the sake of maintaining their pride, the Ji family had brought the Gongjia family into King City. With that being said, the reason why the Gongjia family was able to settle down fast in the city was mainly owed to the Ji family. 

Since they could no longer forge swords with their blood, they would hire the best blacksmiths to create excellent swords. It was a tradition for the Ji family to brandish swords. 

While the issue had been solved on the surface level, many still felt guilty towards the Ji family ancestors. 

Were the Ji family ancestors rolling in their graves wondering why their descendants were nothing but a useless bunch? Perhaps they were not even part of their bloodline! The family’s ability to weld swords out of blood was equivalent to their right to the throne. How did a bloodline that could not forge swords come into existence? 

This was so shameful! This was a disgrace! 

How was this even possible?! Nothing made sense! 

The Ji family had suspected that their bloodline was diluted but could not bear to embarrass themselves in public. They continued to uphold their majestic identities despite lacking certain confidence. Only a handful caught wind about the secret, mainly because the Ji family had full intention of keeping it under the wraps! 

In the past century, Ji family members that could forge swords with blood were rare. The number was so few that you could count them with ten fingers. However, there were great risks associated with the act. Since blood was needed during forging, the Ji member would have to bleed out and that meant becoming vulnerable. As soon as they were weakened, it would create a chance for many to take advantage of their state. One wrong move and a severe residual effect would be left on their bodies. There were plenty of similar cases. 

At the same time, if the Ji members had gotten through it unscathed, they would be met with less resistance to succeed the throne. 

“Ji Fang had once met Gongjia Heng in hopes that the Gongjia craftsman could help forge an excellent King’s Sword. Sadly, the attempt wasn’t successful so Ji Fang had to bleed himself out to forge the sword. He was almost assassinated during this.” Robber Seven continued to report what he had learned. 

Ji Fang had snatched the throne over. This act was bound to garner protests from within the family but as soon as the King Sword had emerged, no one dared to say anything more. 

The sword was sufficient proof that he was a descendant of the king! No matter how filthy Ji Fang’s approach to taking the throne was and no matter how many tricks he had played, the King’s Sword had immediately driven the Ji family members into silence. 

The Ji family despised the Yi family. The latter family was clearly able to find the star butterfly but out of fear that the Ji family’s powerful influence would do harm to them, they were reluctant to use divination. It was until the incident with Yi Xiang that they were willing to do so. 

After trouble broke out within the Yi family, the Ji family was the first to attack them. 

Shao Xuan reminisced about his visit to King City back then. He had met Ji Fang at Gongjia Heng’s place. Perhaps that was the time when Ji Fang was there to request for a sword. However, the sword attainment was a failure as Gongjia Heng wasn’t able to create a weapon that was to his standards. And based on the timeline Robber Seven was talking about, Ji Fang’s sword forging might have happened not long after Shao Xuan’s departure. 

During this trip to King City, Shao Xuan would have to be cautious around Ji Fang. The King’s Sword surely had something special about it. 

“What about Si? What is the Bi leader like as a person?” asked Shao Xuan. 

“Si?” Robber Seven’s excitement died down slightly. “Si, to many people, meant death. No, it’s more like a living hell. This is the head of all slave traders we’re talking about here. To him, there are no nobles and no tribes, only valuable or worthless slaves. There is this widely-used term among the Bis, the ‘Observer*’.  Though the definition is different elsewhere, it means to observe and judge if someone has the potential to become a slave among the Bis. This person also gauges how much value the potential slave can fetch.” 

[*TL Note: The original text used here was 省民, which means to observe/watch the people.] 

It was akin to scrutinizing a piece of meat on the cutting board. 

“Si favours dark clothing and holds a long cross-shaped staff. There is a blade on the top part of the staff in the shape of a Xi. An eye is engraved on it...”

Robber Seven continued to ramble on selectively. He spoke until his mouth went dry. He finally stopped and looked at the three other men. “I spent great effort to attain all of this information. Hurry up and give me back my stuff.” 

“No, it’s not worth it yet.” Shao Xuan stared ahead at Robber Seven. “Tie him up.” 

Ignoring Robber Seven’s hysterical screams, Shao Xuan had someone stuff a piece of leather into his mouth. Shao Xuan turned to Gui He, “Lead the team forward, I’m going to meet that Si for a bit.” 

“Are you thinking of luring Si over with Robber Seven? Will he really come?” asked Gui He. 

“Si is already nearby.” Shao Xuan crushed the knotted straw rope in his grip and scattered it around. 

Gui He wanted to insist to stay behind but with considerations of the majority, he swallowed his words back down. In the end, other than Shao Xuan, Gan Qie, Thunder Mountain chief Lu Zhai; Sickle chief Ci Dou; Water Tiger chief Qu Li and the Longboat chief Mu Fa also remained. They all desired to meet the legendary Chief Si of the largest slave-trading organisation. 

Robber Seven was gagged and tied into a cocoon that left only his head exposed. He wriggled around at first but soon calmed down. 

As the sun began to set, the skies gradually returned to darkness. The night breeze was rather chilly tonight. 

Robber Seven, tightly restrained in a cocoon, was thrown onto a huge boulder among the grass by Shao Xuan. He did not scream nor did he struggle. Silently, he lifted his chin and stared at the sky above as if questioning all mysterious philosophers of the universe: Who am I? Where am I? What was I trying to do? 

Cling clack cling-----

The clinking sound of chains rang in the veil of darkness. Everyone’s attention was placed on it. 

Shao Xuan sat on the rock and looked in the direction of the source. 

Far away, a human figure appeared. His dark cape flapped with the wind and there was a long scythe in his grip, like the Grim Reaper walking out of the dark night.