"Big Sister, what are you thinking about?" Cena asked from beside her.
"It’s nothing. I’ll go out for a walk, you guys go ahead and sleep." Aquarius stood, opened the entrance to the tent, and walked out.
There was a smattering of guards standing around outside, and she could hear the voices of Prynne and the others talking beside a distant stream. The day was getting darker, only the campside fireplace was getting brighter.
Aquarius greeted a few guards, and took a female guard with her to the bushes, acting as though she was going to answer the call of nature.
That way, she avoided any other curious gazes.
She walked into the bushes, and looked at the shrubs surrounding her, all about as tall as half a person.
"You go look out around here," she said to the female guard softly.
Once she was alone, Aquarius flicked her finger. Two dots of blue light instantly flew out of her fingertips, falling into the bushes, flickering in and out of view. Like two small fireflies.
"Go and test that Acacia," she mouthed the orders.
The blue firefly lights immediately and lightly darted into the bushes, and utterly disappeared.
Standing on the same spot, Aquarius looked thoughtful.
The excuse was they went out to gather firewood again, and decided to take a stroll at the same time. With Ulun in tow, Garen once more sauntered to the position from earlier.
Carefully he walked to the border of where the amejade grass was, and started patrolling while acting nonchalant.
Soon enough, he found a pinweed near the amejade grass. It had large leaves and a thick stem, which meant it was quite matured in years as well.
The pinweed was another more commonly used medicinal ingredient. Garen silently recorded this piece of information.
Then he started patrolling again. Ulun followed closely behind him, but didn’t know what he was doing.
In this whole area of the forest, Garen continuously found about a dozen more amejade grasses. There were comparatively fewer pinweeds, only three in all. He was feeling increasingly more satisfied.
After taking a few more rounds in the surrounding forest, the sky had gradually darkened until he couldn’t even see properly. Only then did Garen decide to head back.
They were standing on a slope, surrounded by thickets of trees and bushes. Without realizing it, they had wandered far away from the campsite.
As the light dimmed, the forest became a sea of darkness. Even the green trees and plants looked inky in the shadows.
"Young master, what on earth are you looking for?" Ulun asked out of boredom from behind Garen.
"My cousin likes herbs and flowers, so I thought I’d look for some that she might like, and bring them back to her." Garen answered casually, "It’s just that we’ll be out for a few days, so even though I already singled out some targets, it’s pointless if we dug them out too early."
Ulun nodded in understanding. Suddenly, he reached out his hand to grab a little green snake that was pouncing at Garen.
His palm deftly and accurately pinched the snake seven inches from its head.1 With a light press, the little snake immediately hissed, and the seventh inch was immediately flattened. He then casually flung the snake onto the floor.
Only then did Garen act like he was belatedly scared.
"It’s another leaf snake! Why are there so many snakes in this forest! If you hadn’t discovered it so early, this one would have bitten me!"
"It’s nothing, this place is obviously a suitable habitat for leaf snakes, it’s nothing much if there are a few more than usual. No matter how poisonous a snake is, it doesn’t matter if it can’t bite anyone," Ulun said calmly.
Suddenly a dot of blue floated towards the two of them. It was a small blue snake, looking lazy as it slithered, its movements slow and smooth.
Garen and Ulun both saw that snake.
"What snake is that?" Garen asked, frowning.
"I’m not sure either, if it’s blue it should be a blue-scaled snake, but these sort of surroundings shouldn’t be very conducive for this type of snake." Ulun frowned slightly too. "Be careful, this type of snake moves very quickly, and it has a lot of explosive power as well. You back down first."
"Okay." Hearing that, Garen immediately hid behind Ulun’s back.
Ulun put on black leather gloves, his expression somewhat solemn. The blue-scaled snake’s skin was hard and it moved fast, so it wasn’t an easy adversary. He had also been a wandering warrior before, living off bounty money, so he was used to living in forests like these. But even then, he found this slightly challenging.
It’d be fine if he was alone, but there was a young master behind him that he had to protect, so that made things a bit harder.
"There shouldn’t be blue-scaled snakes here, right?" he asked inwardly, as he stared at the lazy blue snake.
It was a little fella not half a meter long. It seemed to have noticed the two in front of it too, so it looked up and hissed softly, as though warning the two of them to get out of its way.
"We should leave her slowly," Ulun said softly. "Be slow, don’t rush."
The two of them slowly move to the left.
Suddenly a blue spark erupted out of nowhere, headed straight for Ulun’s face.
The blue spark shot out of the blue-scaled snake’s mouth, and carved a thin blue line through the air, beautiful and crystallite. At the same time, a foul odor wafted through the area, as though this whole place had suddenly become drainage.
Just as the blue spark was about to hit Ulun’s face, he abruptly raised his right hand and held it in front of his face.
The blue spark landed on his glove, and immediately made an eroding hissing sound. It was evidently a spray of thick blue poison.
"Run!!" Ulun howled, quickly taking off his glove, and immediately tossing out a thin dagger. However, the blue-scaled snake instantly dodged it.
One man and one snake faced off with each other, neither willing to be distracted.
As soon as Garen heard the yell, he set off at a run towards the campsite. There were a lot of guards there, so there wouldn’t be any big problems as long as he reached there. There were old hands and experts at dealing with snakes among the guards.
The forest ahead of him was rapidly retreating, his legs rustling through the bushes. Garen did not pause for even a moment.
The reactions and speed that Ulun and the blue-scaled snake demonstrated earlier, as well as their accuracy, had achieved an extremely high level. There was no way Garen could avoid the blue-scaled snake’s poison without revealing his true abilities.
Behind him, Ulun yelled again, but the sound was coming from further away. Evidently the distance between them had gradually increased.
Garen quickly ran forward, but he relaxed slightly inside. He gradually slowed down, wanting to turn around and take a look.
Suddenly, a blue shadow pounced from behind a tree branch, coming straight for his face. Before it even touched him, he could already smell an intense stench like from before.
"It’s not a coincidence!!" Garen instantly understood inside, that someone was purposely trying to test him. He didn’t think much about it, but purposely tripped underfoot.
"Oh, no!" he yelled out, and fell towards the right, just in time to avoid the attack of the blue shadow.
With a smack, the blue shadow rammed into a white stone on the ground, and the stone immediately split apart.
Garen half-sat on the ground, and only then did he clearly see what it was.
It was the same type of blue-scaled snake as before!
The blue-scaled snake’s head had been bruised, but there wasn’t any blood leaking out. It stared at Garen, its long sleek body slowly and gracefully slithering towards him.
Garen acted as though he was extremely terrified. He didn’t even dare to move, just half sitting on the ground, staring at the blue-scaled snake slithering towards him in horror.
Strangely, he could actually see something familiar in this snake’s eyes.
"That is…" Suspicion rose in Garen’s heart.
Just then, the blue-scaled snake suddenly stopped, as though attracted by something, and the it turned around to head towards another direction. Totally ignoring Garen.
Garen slowly got up, putting on a pale face, but the confusion in his heart grew.
In the forest far away, Aquarius was also suspicious as she looked at the returning blue-scaled snake.
"That’s a very normal reaction, but that fall was too coincidental…" she frowned slightly, looking down at the black paper scroll in her hand. "Forget it, let’s get the important things done first."
Trejon Estate, Vanderman Tower.
In the red and brown study room.
Vanderman was sitting opposite a person in black robes. The oil lamp on the table beside them emitted a dim but quiet yellow light, forming a yellow halo that was just big enough to cover both of them. Outside the yellow circle, everything was dark.
"What are you guys here for this time? Just tell it to me straight." Vanderman crossed his fingers, his expression calm.
"Old friend, I really don’t want to see you stray off the path like this." The person in black had a deep voice, a man’s voice. "You and I have worked together all these years, but at a pivotal time like now, you end up messing up like this. Even I will find it hard to smoothen this out for you."
His voice was calm and slow, but his attitude was dead serious.
Vanderman frowned and shook his head.
"This isn’t my problem. Yes, the cargo was intercepted on my territory, but my control at the borders is too weak. You can’t put all the responsibility on me." He paused. "There were three covers for this round of cargos’ shipment routes. After taking so many twists and turns, there was still someone who could accurately comprehend the border shipment routes…"
"Indeed there is a traitor, but that is not the point here." The man in black shook his head, "The point is, someone who wants to make a move on your territory, can make a move on your territory. And even more importantly, someone kept silent and allowed this behavior. Everyone kept silent, that’s the main point."
Vanderman fell quiet, his hand falling onto the chair’s armrest and gripping it tightly.
The man in black’s voice had a hint of pity.
"We’re considered old friends now. Because of this matter, the branches are very unhappy with you. If you still do not decide…"
"I am a royal Luminarist!" Vanderman interrupted him, his voice deep.
"Royal…" The man in black was slightly disappointed. "Is that your decision? And here I thought you had understood the situation, to think…" He stood up. "Forget it, just pretend I was never here."
He turned around and walked towards the darkness outside the yellow circle.
"Tonci, I haven’t forgotten about everything in the past. I hope you haven’t either," Vanderman said suddenly.
"I have long since stopped being the Tonci from before." The man in black stopped, and replied calmly.
"The royal family will not lose!" Vanderman said determinedly.
"But the royal family does not represent everything." The man in black strode into the darkness, and instantly disappeared into the shadows. There wasn’t the sound of an opening door, or footsteps. He integrated into the darkness like a breeze, disappearing without a trace.