The Flaming Horns stayed in King City for three whole days. Although Shao Xuan wanted to leave as soon as possible, they needed rest. Being in bad health would result in worse losses if they faced any threats.
But they did not waste the three days either. They busied themselves with shopping and meeting guests. More and more trading parties came to visit but for the moment, Flaming Horn only signed a deal with the Black Bears. This deal involved the Flaming River, Longboat tribe and Black Bear Trading Party and would benefit all three parties. As for the other organisations, they would have to wait since the Flaming Horns still did not know them well yet.
The Flaming Horn’s visit to King City also meant the formal opening of this marine trade route. More and more trading parties would use the same route in the opposite direction to get to the other side.
Disregarding the group fight on the street the other day, in the subsequent two days, most King City folk welcomed the Flaming River tribesmen warmly because the tribesmen owned top-grade goods and led to very satisfactory trades. The tribesmen got what they wanted, the King City businessmen also received the gemstones at great prices in return.
King City folk loved to put on airs, hence they loved adorning themselves with luxurious items. Owning rare gemstones was undeniably a good way to show off their status and since there was a sudden flood of gemstones in the City, very soon, every neck and finger on the street had a gemstone on it, as if the street had struck rich overnight.
The tribesmen were happy with their haul, not just in terms of physical goods but also experience. The gemstones they paid were a very small portion of what they owned. Just like Abuli’s giant crystal- it was actually nothing to the Zhi tribe and yet it caused such a huge commotion in the city equivalent to how the tribe reacted to metal.
No one could say if contact between both sides sped up progress or destruction. Only time would tell between the idiots and the cunning ones.
Three days later, the Flaming Horn unit departed from King City.
The King City businessmen almost could not bear to see the three flags leave their city. No more gemstones! Their only impression of the other continent was now only Flaming River, Flaming Horn and the Longboat voyagers. They did not think of any other tribes at all.
The trading parties were already itching to go, especially the Black Bears, who were already preparing for their first voyage. However, to everyone’s surprise, the six aristocratic families were oddly silent on this. They seemed to be waiting for something, quietly.
While the Flaming Horns were returning to their tribes, far away from the coast and King City, within a forest on a mountain.
Robber Seven slept on a thick tree branch. After he stole the Chief’s Bone Lock from Flaming Horn, he ran as far as he could from the tribe and hid here. Before that, he also sent a message to the other Robbers to tell them that Robber Seven had gotten the Chief’s Bone Lock again!
He wanted to carry on with his activities after the Flaming Horns were gone. Other than Shao Xuan, he was afraid of no one so he could do whatever he wanted. While Gan Qie did threaten him slightly, he had dodged Gan Qie once, he knew he could do it again. Gan Qie is nothing to me!
Holding this thought, Robber Seven lived peacefully in the forest for a while, hiding in the forest to sleep as he lazily waited for time to pass.
An eagle’s cry startled Robber Seven away. He knew all the common birds here but that eagle was not the kind that usually appeared here. It sounded familiar too, like the eagle from Flaming Horn. But that’s impossible, he’s so far away! How could he hear the eagle?
He got up carefully, then gently pried open the tree branches at the crown to observe the skies.
An eagle was circling the skies above. The other birds of the mountains hid far away from this eagle, even other wild animals took shelter, afraid of being seen. All they could do was hide in the face of such a powerful predator.
The forest fell very silent. Only the occasional eagle’s cry could be heard.
The eagle descended slightly. It was larger than regular eagles. Based on its feather patterns and cry, Robber Seven’s heart sank.
It’s the same eagle!
Why is it here?
If the eagle is here, where is Shao Xuan? Is Shao Xuan here too?
Robber Seven grew anxious, every bone in his body hurting badly. He refused to think of the consequences if he were caught again. He only slipped away the last time because Si arrived and held Shao Xuan up. This time, there was no one to distract Shao Xuan. That meant trouble for him!
However, he quickly realised there was no one on the eagle’s back, though it did not mean other people would not appear.
Not daring to move, he went as still as a tree, blending into the surroundings. He did not even react when an insect bit him. His eyes were fixed on the sky, watching everything closely.
The eagle merely circled in the skies but after a few rounds, it dropped something on the ground right into the forest. The eagle did not land to check on the object, instead it flew off.
Robber Seven waited for a few more hours but did not sense anything else. The forest was teeming with life once again, the hiding birds and animals started to emerge from their shelters. The eagle was gone and there were no strangers or beasts nearby. At least none that he could sense.
At almost sunset, he could no longer suppress his curiosity and decided to sneak up to where the object landed. He finally found the object hanging on a tree.
It was a bamboo tube with two words written on top-- “Robber Seven”.
His heart skipped a beat when he read it, knowing that this must be bad news. He grew more curious. Why would the eagle drop this here? Was it on purpose? Or a coincidence?
After some hesitation, Robber Seven could no longer stand his curiosity and decided to take the tube down from the tree. He twisted it open.
There was an animal skin scroll inside.
As he read the letter, he slowly froze as still as a statue, his frown deepening, his face turning from green to white with fear and hopelessness.
Robber Seven slammed the scroll on the ground, so furious his face turned from white to red now as he panted heavily.
Shao Xuan was the one who wrote the letter, requesting for Robber Seven to personally send the object back to Flaming Horn.
It did not state what the consequences of disobeying this instruction were but Robber Seven’s imagination ran wild, his delight in hiding from the tribe fading. The other Robbers did not know where he was, the Bi people could not find him, yet an eagle dropped the letter here.
The eagle might as well have dropped a bomb because Robber Seven took several days to calm down.
While Robber Seven made his decision, the Flaming Horn unit was on their way back through the same route. In contrast to before, those cities they passed were no longer locked and guarded. They even threw open their city gates to welcome the tribesmen, hoping they could stay longer in their cities. Those trading parties who could not go to King City tried to strike deals with Flaming Horn.
News of the incident with the peace deal had spread across other cities, with travelling traders spreading this information to even further places.
A change was coming. Some people saw it as a threat, others saw an opportunity. Grabbing it would depend on one’s own capabilities.
The Longboat fleet was now famous, Mu Fa even received many partnership requests. He reminisced about how badly they treated him when he arrived with his fleet in the beginning. Yet now, the tables had turned and as long as the Longboats were careful, they were on the path to glory.
After they arrived at the port, they waited for a few days for Chacha, who went out to deliver the letter, to return.
This time, the Longboat and other tribesmen were relaxed. Their ambitions were slowly growing. They used to be terrified of stepping out of their comfort zone but this trip made them realise that this side of the ocean was not as terrifying as it seemed.
However, very soon, they realised the Flaming Horns seemed especially silent. They were always on guard, much more vigilant than when they first arrived.
“Did something happen?” Mu Fa asked, knowing that Shao Xuan had divination abilities.
“We don’t know but we must be careful throughout this journey,” replied Gui He.
Shao Xuan stood at the stern, looking far ahead into the endless ocean. They were far from land and the ocean extended as far as the eye could see. His discomfort had become stronger. Now he was sure something was about to happen.
The readings were still the same, all his knots could not be interpreted at all, as if they were nonsense. Shao Xuan did not place much hope on divination. All he could do was quietly sense his surroundings.
It was sunny out, the ocean a pure blue with a slight fuzzy mist in the horizon. The breeze was light and the Longboats had reported that it would be sunny for the next few days. There should not be any storms, though weather out at sea could still be unpredictable so they must be vigilant at all times.
So far, he did not hear any storm predictions from them. There was a slight change in the ocean current here but the Longboat tribesmen told him not to worry about it, that it would not affect them.
So where is the hidden threat?
Shao Xuan gazed far out into the sea. Suddenly, he saw a gigantic shadow rushing towards them. He could not see it clearly but the size was enough to shock him deeply. This was as large as the largest giant eagle he saw at Eagle Mountain!
The entire fleet lined up together would still be smaller than this beast.
Invisible oppression and murderous aura charged at the boat like a tsunami!
Taking a deep breath, Shao Xuan focused his eyes but only saw the calm surface of the ocean, his ears picking up on laughter from the other tribesmen, and the sound of water lapping against the boat.
But he knew that it was not a hallucination, but a vision!
“It’s here!” said Shao Xuan in a low voice.
“What?” Mu Fa, who was here to talk to Shao Xuan, hurriedly took out his telescope to survey the horizon. He did not see anything suspicious and the weather was as expected so what did Shao Xuan mean?
Gui He and the other few rushed over frantically. They knew Shao Xuan would not say this without a reason. If Shao Xuan said ‘it’s here’, then something was about to happen. Something bad.
“What now?” asked Gui He.
“I’ll divert him away, you guys go ahead,” said Shao Xuan. “He only wants me. It is not advantageous for us to fight him at sea, we would lose. I will lure him away while you all return along the planned route. Observe Caesar carefully, Caesar can sense danger quicker than you do. He can see what you cannot.”
Shao Xuan thought Yi Xiang would fight him on land. Based on his impression, Yi Xiang should prefer places without water since he chose to live in a desert. The reanimated corpses Yi Xiang created were dried too, and preferred dry places. Just like Gan Qie. Although he had adapted to his new environment, he still did not like places with a lot of water, nor did he like to get out of the cabin when at sea. The reanimated corpses in the desert should be the same.
Shao Xuan had been on guard since the journey back from King City, fully prepared as they travelled to the coast. In the end, they would meet at sea instead.
Both sides were severely hindered at sea. Based on Yi Xiang’s abilities, if they fought, the tribesmen would suffer huge losses even if they won. With other people here, Shao Xuan had to protect them too. Might as well lure Yi Xiang away first, get the fleet back to the tribe and then make their decision from there.
Shao Xuan leapt unto the eagle’s back and reminded Gui He and Mu Fa, “Take note of the sea. The one you must watch for might not necessarily be human.”
Shao Xuan rode Chacha up into the sky. He must choose one direction, and it was no easy choice.
Where should they go?
Shao Xuan had to trust his gut now.
“Let’s go there, and fly higher!” said Shao Xuan to Chacha.
The people on the boat watched as Shao Xuan left on the eagle’s back.
“He’s going that way… will he be choosing to fight on land?” asked Mu Fa.
That was the place where both continents were closest to each other, also where Rock Hill and the slave masters fought a long war.
Gui He thought so too. It was too difficult to fight at sea. Even the desert would be better than here.
However, the reality was different from what they expected. Shao Xuan had other thoughts. He just felt like the only chance of survival was heading in this direction.
Then, Shao Xuan finally thought of all the ways he should use to defeat Yi Xiang. Getting on land sooner would definitely be better. Should he head to the desert, or somewhere else?