Chapter 3: The Same Path
Qin Zhuo, the clan leader of the Qin Clan, went to greet the man. He smiled and said, “Mister Wu, welcome, welcome, please come this way!” The man who entered was Wu Qing, the representative of the Southern Fu Sect who was residing in Qin Guang.
Qin Zhuo led Wu Qing to Luo Jie and the others, saying, “Great Master Luo, Great Master Qi, Great Master Qin, this is Wu Qing, the representative of the Southern Fu Sect. Please.”
Wu Qing took a step back. He thought, “You gotta be joking, three Great Masters at once, and that little son of a bitch is sitting next to the Great FuZhou Master……” He finally understood how badly he lost. He hurriedly bowed and said, “Well met, Great Masters.”
Luo Jie stared at him briefly. Wu Qing’s back had a layer of cold sweat. Luo Jie said, “Our next destination is your Southern Fu Sect, have you been told?”
Surprised, Wu Qin said, “People going to the Southern Fu Sect…… they rarely pass through Qin Guang……”
Luo Jie said, “We had some stuff to attend to along the way and Qin Guang was on the way, we’re leaving tomorrow.” He then said, “You can sit, no need to be so reserved.”
Wu Qing sat opposite to Luo Jie, coincidentally facing 12th. He eyed 12th and saw that the kid put on a mocking expression. He awkwardly chuckled and asked, “Great Master Luo, this is……?”
Luo Jie casually said, “This is my youngest disciple, Guo 12th, and this is another of my disciples, Qin Han. This one here is Qi Nan Shan, an old friend of mine.”
Wu Qing’s face was pale. This was too much; the older disciple is a Great Master, the young disciple defeated him like nobody’s business, and even the one who chased them was a Great Master…… fucking hell.
He faked a smile and said, “Well met, well met!”
12th initially wanted to make some snide comments, but with his Master sitting next to him, he thought it would be best to play the good child. He stayed quiet and directed his attacks towards the meat in the bowls. With his self-made sauce, the plain meat became tasty. He wolfed down many pieces at once and, while he ate, he listened intently to what everyone was discussing.
Admittedly, Wu Qing was very skilled socially. Despite his terrible fighting abilities, he had a very good grasp on social graces and interactions. 12th noticed that the people here had strange personalities. A lot of them were cunning and sly, and very quickly, Wu Qing, the bastard, was laughing along with their conversation.
After 12th finished eating, someone brought over a bucket of hot water. He washed his face and sat back down next to his Master, and he asked, “Master, this time at the Southern Fu Sect, are we going to do anything else along with the standard hunting activities?”
Luo Jie smiled and said, “You can ask Wu Qing, he knows more about this stuff than me.”
Wu Qing also smiled and said, “Elder, you’re being modest, haha. How about…… I’ll just go over it briefly with you, little boy.”
12th laughed inside; he has advanced to little boy. Back at the street corner, he was a little bastard. He said, “Ah, much appreciated, Mister Wu.” He also upgraded his calling from old bastard to Mister Wu.
Wu Qing was uneasy; he felt that it was strange. Children were usually very black and white about these things. If they hate you, then they hate you; if they like you, then they like you. They would never pretend! However, 12th passed it off flawlessly, calling him Mister right from the get go. It made him feel very uneasy. This kid was too strange; so wise and so devious, that’s a difficult combination to beat.
“The Southern Hunts, the Northern Kills, the Eastern Anglings, and the Western Bug-catchings. These four phrases…… it was popular back when the Four Great Sects were first built, but now not many people know of it.”
Luo Jie nodded lightly, showing that he knows it.
Wu Qing continued, “The hunt in question is a poly-annual large scale hunting activity. This activity is primarily for the Northern and Southern Fu Sects; the East and West rarely participate because they live too far away.
“The Northern Kills is also a large event for our two Sects. You guys should understand it better than me…… so I won’t go into details.”
12th said, “Woah, hold on, I don’t know about it…… explain it to me, what is ‘The Northern Kills’?”
Qi Nan Shan smiled and said, “‘The Northern Kills involves groups from both Sects, living in the wilderness and trying to killing savages. This is a traditional event, although it’s being held less and less.”
T/N: I’m not sure if they kill each other or they kill other human barbarians and savages who live in the wild. But I’m imagining it to be a Hunger Games type thing. It might be just like hunting except instead of beasts, they hunt wild barbarians and savages.
“The Eastern Angling and the Western Bug-catchings are events for the Eastern and Western Sects. Our two Sects rarely participate in those again because of distance reasons. To get there, it would take at least a couple of years.”
12th said, “Interesting. Mister Wu, could you explain more about the Southern Hunts?”
Wu Qing agreed. Luo Jie watched him; he noticed that Wu Qing was slightly afraid of 12th. Although he doesn’t know why, he feels very strongly that this was the case.
“Hundreds of thousands of years ago, the grassland in the south had countless wild beasts living there. Many of the wild beasts enjoyed eating people, especially the wild beasts with Fu patterns on their bodies. As such, the Southern Fu Sect’s responsibilities were changed to incorporate the extermination of these atrocious Fu Beasts. A few hundred years later, the Fu Beasts now rarely enter the Southern Fu Sect’s borders.
“That was when the Southern Hunts started. At the time, people from the Northern Fu Sect were invited to join, and since then, it became tradition. Every so often, we would organise a large-scale hunt. Also, it helps improve communication, and the trading of important goods and services for both sides as well as the competition between the participants…… are all a part of the event.”
Luo Jie said, “I heard that the Crazed Beasts’ Mysterious Land has opened?”
Wu Qing was stunned for a moment. Then, he realised, Luo Jie should have had very reliable sources of information. He didn’t dare to hide anything, and so he said, “Yes, it’s been open for quite a while now…… this time, it was strange, though. After the Mysterious Land opened up, the entrance never closed. To prevent the wild beasts from coming over from the Mysterious Land, the Southern Fu Sect sent a lot of people to guard the entrance.”
Qi Nan Shan said disdainfully, “Excuses, we all know it’s so that you would have the Mysterious Land for yourselves.”
Wu Qing didn’t dare to argue with Qi Nan Shan. He changed the subject and said, “I came here in the hopes that I’d be able to go with you, haha. It has reached the time for me to return to my Sect for debriefing.” Going on the same path as the Great Masters means that the path becomes safer.
Luo Jie didn’t care if there was one more or one less; he said, “Of course. Although, you’ll need to prepare your own resources. And also, when we restock on resources along the way, you’ll need to orchestrate it because you’re more familiar with all of the surroundings.”
Wu Qing said, “No problem, leave it to me.”
12th thought that this was a shame. If it was him discussing, then this wouldn’t have been the only conditions of joining. However, it was his Master’s choice so it was difficult for 12th to complain. He faced Wu Qing and bared his teeth as he grinned. He frightened the guy so much that he got chills, not knowing just what the little kid was up to.
Wu Qing was truly a little frightened by this strange child. Good thing that he was a master at social interactions; he has a lot of options in situations like this, he won’t reveal too much weakness. He laughed awkwardly. Luo Jie looked at him strangely, thinking, “What’s there to laugh about, here?”
Wu Qing broke out into a cold sweat when Luo Jie glanced his way. He hurriedly picked up a piece of meat and started munching it down, trying to hide his lost composure.
Luo Jie only just realised that his own young disciple had been messing around with Wu Qing. He quietly said, “12th!” 12th jumped out of his skin and shrank into his seat as he said quietly, “I didn’t do anything!” He was slightly diffident. Not only did he beat Wu Qing, he also obtained some of their Fu Books. If his Master found out, who knows if he’ll be scolded or not.
The party’s atmosphere was quite good. With three Great Masters sitting in house, nobody dared to cause a ruckus.
The next day was clear and sunny. 12th led his three warhorses and arrived at the rendezvous point. Master Luo Jie and Qi Nan Shan were both already there. Qin Han was there to see them off, reluctantly saying farewells to his Master. Seeing 12th arrive, he smiled and said, “Young Brother, when you get back to the Inner Sect, we’ll get together and celebrate properly, haha. I’ll leave Master for you to look after. Master is getting quite old, don’t let him do too much.”
12th nodded, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of Master. You just be careful on the way back.”
Qin Zhuo also stood to the side, feeling very upset. His clan finally produced a Great Master, but he was returning to the Northern Fu Sect without a single thought of staying. He was silently carrying regrets. At the start, people thought that Qin Han didn’t have long to live so many people coveted Qin Han’s family fortune. As the clan leader, he didn’t stop it, which caused Qin Han to lose a very great deal of possessions.
Now, it was already very difficult to salvage things from his lack of action. Even if he mercilessly punished those people and paid Qin Han reparations for what he had lost, he still won’t get Qin Han’s gratitude. Whether if it was towards him as the clan leader, or if it was towards the clan’s elder, Qin Han’s feelings were cold and unforgiving. And as such, Qin Zhuo was out of ideas.
Qin Han said, “Master, you have too few people, I’ll call ten Fu Warriors. Although they aren’t particularly strong, they are very familiar with the terrain, especially in the winter. They can help you find places to shelter you from the snow and wind, they can find sources of water, and they can help you avoid large-scale herds of beasts.”
Luo Jie nodded, “You’re very thoughtful. Then, please do. Once we get back to the Inner Sect, I’ll return them to you.”
Qin Han nodded. He waved over a sixty-odd year old old man and said to him, “Master, Brother Qi, this is the guide. He’s called Qin Lang…… he’s one of our best guides as well as a well-known hunter on the grasslands.”
Qi Nan Shan nodded, “Alright, follow me, I’ll need you to be up ahead to lead the way…… We’re going to the Southern Fu Sect, are you familiar with the route?”
Qin Lang nodded, “I’m very familiar with that route, haha. I’ve walked this road back and forth seven times.”
Qi Nan Shan said, “Okay, where we rest along the way and where we walk, you can decide all of it, I won’t interrupt.” This was experience. He knew very well the harshness of the grasslands in the winter. With a guide who was fluent with the grasslands, the dangers had been drastically decreased. With someone like this helping, there were only benefits; this was why he boldly gave Qin Lang so many decision-making rights.
Qin Lang seemed very old; age and weather had resulted many scars and wrinkles on his face. He also has three horses, one of which is for carrying resources and gear while the other two are for riding interchangingly.
12th and his four companions prepared their stuff. They had a lot of things; just counting Hidden Fu Bags, there were over a hundred, all stuffed in the leather bag on the horse. After 12th himself learned how to create Hidden Fu, he never had a problem with creating Hidden Fu Bags. Bags the size of a palm can carry a few hundred tonnes of stuff — this was what confused 12th the most. This was nothing, the most important things were all stuffed in a large-sized Hidden Fu Bag which must be carried on his person at all times.
Luo Jie found it very difficult to understand 12th’s actions, not knowing why the little guy brought so much supplies. However, he won’t interfere with his little disciple’s actions. As long as 12th liked to, he didn’t really mind that 12th brought so much.
Luo Jie said, “Nan Shan, shall we set off?”
Qi Nan Shan nodded, “Alright.”
Once they greeted Qin Zhuo and Qin Han farewell, the group left on horseback. Qin Lang’s horse was at the front, leading the way. As soon as they left the city gates, they saw Wu Qing and a dozen Beast Warriors and Beast Masters waiting on the roadside. Seeing Luo Jie and the others, he smilingly rode off. Qi Nan Shan straightforwardly waved his hand and said, “Follow him!”
Qin Lang kicked his horse and called, “Faster! Faster!”
12th rode his black horse, trailing close behind. The feeling of the air rushing past was amazing.
Two days later, the group arrived at the border. The border looked similar to the boundaries of the savages. Both were in mountain valleys; by crossing a mountain, they’d reach the walls of the border.
The border was very important. It was watched by people from the Northern Fu Sect, taking turns to guard the gates. Many people passed this gate to train in the grasslands. There were also many businessmen and merchants who passed here often.
Everyone who passed the gates, whether they entered or exited, were recorded. Luo Jie and the others didn’t need to worry about this process because Qin Lang and the other helpers dealt with it very quickly. A few hours later, the group entered the grasslands.
Initially, they could still see merchants’ carts, but soon, Qin Lang led them away from the usual route and entered the wild grasslands. He chose a shortcut, but walking this road required a degree of fighting prowess for protection.
12th discovered that these grasslands were different to the ones from his past life. The wild grass was very tall; if people stood in it, only half of the body could seen. As for 12th, only his head peaked above the grass. Unless he was atop a horse, he wouldn’t be able to see the scenery ahead.
Other than the dense wild grass, there was also a green forest, but because it was relatively small, riding on horseback, he could see the whole thing start to finish. There were quite a few birds, flying around the bright blue sky, that he didn’t know the names of. Then, seemingly millions of birds flew and scattered through the sky, like a cloud of birds covering the sky and sun — it was majestic.
There were multiple wild bulls and goats and other herbivores living in the grasslands. There were some species that 12th couldn’t name. When they passed by, the disturbance startled many of the wild animals and they fled in all directions. He also spotted a few wild dogs. It was the middle of autumn, and the wild dogs were extremely stout, each the size of calves.
In the grasslands, the wild dogs were one of the more vicious creatures, but they didn’t dare to attack any humans, especially ones on horseback. Once they spotted the group, they each moved far away. In the last few thousand years, there were countless wild dogs that tried to attack humans, and they had all been killed. So gradually, they developed a deep fear towards humans. As soon as they saw people on horseback, they would avoid them and run far, far away.
Galloping along the way, 12th had already lost his sense of direction. He no longer knew which way was north because, in the grasslands, it was very easy to lose your way.
Qi Nan Shan caught up to Qin Lang and, riding next to him, he asked, “Are we not taking a lunch break?”
Qin Lang replied, “We don’t have time to stop, you’ll have to make do with eating something on horseback. We must get to the Southward Castle ruins by nightfall. It’s safer there, so we can relax and camp there.”
Qi Nan Shan knew that the grasslands were terrifying at night, so he nodded and said, “Alright, you’re the boss!”
Qin Lang called, “Around noon, switch horses, we’ll rest briefly. This time is for everyone’s convenience, to relieve yourselves if need be, and also to let the horses drink. As for food…… you’ll have to figure something out on horseback. We need to reach the Southward Castle before dusk.”
A group of over thirty people had over a hundred warhorses. Other than 12th and the other children, everyone else were all experienced veteran combatants. Just as well because, only a group like this could traverse Qin Lang’s proposed route, and also because they have incredible fighting abilities.
It was twilight when the Southward Castle finally appeared on the horizon.
“That’s the Southward Castle?”
12th curiously looked at the half-collapsed large tower.
After galloping for a whole day, the warhorses were drenched in sweat. Huffing through their noses continuously, the sounds were accompanied by heavy breathing. Qin Lang said, “Everyone stay alert, vagabonds often stay at the Southward Castle. It’s best that we don’t come into conflict with them.”
12th asked, “Master, what are vagabonds?”
Luo Jie answered, “Haha, vagabonds are FuZhou users who don’t have homes or families. They make their living by dealing with the boundaries of life and death. They prefer killing; lacking moral codes, you might call them mercenaries. They also tend to die the soonest. The ones that survive are all very strong; they can probably even challenge very powerful people like FuZhou Masters……”
Hearing this, 12th started sweating as he said, “How could they be that strong?”
Qi Nan Shan said, “If you were killing people all day long, you’d be that strong too. The only condition is that you must survive.”
12th shook his head, “I don’t want to die. So, where do these people come from?”
Luo Jie answered, “Their origins are somewhat complicated. Some of them had lost their masters, some had lost their loved ones, but the majority of them were exiled from their clans or exiled from their sects. There were a few who choose this way of life to improve their fighting abilities, like people who come out here to train…… These people are very complicated. In the group of vagabonds, nobody will ask anybody else where they came from.”
12th asked, “These groups…… are there a lot of them?”
Luo Jie said, “Yes, there are a lot of them…… Not just in the grasslands, the wastelands to the north of the Northern Fu Sect has them too. Their belief is ‘Strength above all else, duty to kill above all selves’, they will rarely converse with their victims; they’ll just draw their knives…… these things happen very often, haha. That being said, they usually won’t randomly kill anybody. Just don’t anger them and we should be fine. The only problem is that there might be lunatics among them, the kind who will try to kill anybody they don’t like the look of.”
Qi Nan Shan laughed and said, “Those kinds of maniacs usually don’t live very long because the majority of the vagabonds don’t want to be in the same group as someone like that, it’s far too dangerous.”
12th said, “I thought they didn’t fear death.”
Luo Jie smiled and explained, “Not fearing death does not mean they would willingly look to die. With a lunatic like that in the group, everyone’s safety becomes compromised.”
12th asked, “In the Southward Castle, will we bump into these groups?”
Qi Nan Shan said, “One hundred percent, yes. That’s the first stop for anybody entering the grasslands, as well as the last stop for anybody leaving the grasslands. As such, it’s a very well-frequented place.”
Qin Lang said, “The Southward Castle has areas specifically for vagabonds, haha, about twelve of them. As long as we don’t disturb them, we ought to be fine. Also, the vagabonds will often sell strange and bizarre items. They, like us, also need Fu Coins to pay for the group expenses.”
Very soon, the Southward Castle was before them. This was an abandoned ancient castle. Its area was quite large even though the walls have half collapsed. However, in the grasslands, this was a very good resting point. There were more than ten wells in the castle, of which, five can be utilised.
Entering the castle, they could see multiple campfires. Around them sat some people. Qin Lang led everyone to a well and said, “We’ll rest here tonight. Elder, I’ll start a campfire.”
Luo Jie smiled and said, “Then you take care of the fire, 12th and the others can cook.” He was already used to 12th cooking for them. The food tasted so much better than the plain pieces of boiled meat.
12th nodded, “We’ll have roast meat tonight. Uncle Luo, can you take some people and hunt three wild bulls? When we came in, I saw a herd southwest of here. You should hurry though, the sun is about to set.”
Luo Zhan called for a few Fu Warriors and rode out of the ancient castle.
Qin Lang called some of his subordinates to gather some firewood from outside. It was already mid-autumn, so there were a lot of dead and dried up branches and grass. They returned soon after leaving.
12th set up the campfire and started the flames. Before the sky turned completely dark, Luo Zhan and the others dragged four fat wild bulls back.
Everyone helped in skinning and disemboweling the bulls. 12th prepared the pan. He stewed the bones and made soup, and using a specially made grill, he roasted the three bulls. This was definitely laborious work. 12th was responsible for instructing them. He had a large group of strong warriors under his command so he didn’t need to worry about the weight of the bulls.
After half an hour of roasting, the wafting aroma of the meat started emanating around the area. Occasionally, there would be people watching them. Without a doubt, they were enticed by the amazing smell.
12th first prepared everyone’s food, and then he returned to his four companions. He brought a rectangular grill; it was created according to his memory of his past life. He brought over a pile of hot ash as well as a bronze plate, saying, “Here, there’s another bull, we’ll make kebabs.”
Chen Hong started the fire while everyone else skewered the meat. He brought out his self-made marinating sauce and gleefully started to cook the kebab.
This was the first time he made kebabs in this world. Huo Bao took one bite and couldn’t help but call, “Wow, so good…… Oh man, it’s delicious……”
Chen Bing took one and took a bite. His eyes immediately widened and, without saying another word, he just wolfed it down.
Luo Jie, seeing 12th and the other children eating to the side, knew that they were up to something. Once the smell of the kebabs reached him, he couldn’t resist strolling over. Qi Nan Shan was responsible for Luo Jie’s safety, and so, following the Elder, he also arrived.
“12th, what are you eating?”
12th smiled and offered him some. As soon as Luo Jie took one, a hand reached out from the side, grabbed two, saying, “Let’s have a taste shall we……” The kebabs were quite big; each piece of meat was about the size of a fist. Qi Nan Shan took a large bite and judged the taste. He agreeably praised, “12th, you made…… you….. This is delicious!”
Luo Jie also took a bite and was similarly stunned. Cooking the meat in pieces is different to cooking the entire bull at once. The flavour was fresher and better, the meat was also more tender.
Basically, as soon as a kebab was finished cooking, it had already been grabbed and was eaten by someone. 12th couldn’t even get to one. He impatiently said, “Hey, at least leave me some……”
Everyone couldn’t help but laugh. Just then, 12th finished cooking another dozen kebabs and immediately, hands grabbed them frantically. 12th lifted his head and found a large drab man, holding two kebabs. Of course he was surprised, and he asked, “Who are you?”
That man completely ignored him. Taking a bite of the meat, he swallowed and his eyes widened. He then proceeded to wolf down the rest. It was like he had never tasted such flavours before. After cleaning the skewers of those two kebabs, he stared longingly at 12th.
12th didn’t know what was happening, so he awkwardly offered the two freshly done kebabs to him.