A solemn and serious atmosphere filled the conference hall.
A group of elders silently sat on their seats; their faces were either indifferent, gloomy or serious.
Clan head Gu Yue Bo was sitting on the main seat, his gaze also filled with unconcealed worry, "Three days ago, a River Swallowing Toad appeared near the village by the foot of the mountain. This toad flowed along with the Huang Long River(1) and accidentally reached here. Right now, it is blocking up a river channel and sleeping there. If we ignore it, the village will constantly be in danger. So I would like to ask the elders if you have any good ideas to drive this toad away?"
The elders looked at each other; for a moment, no one spoke.
River Swallowing Toad was a Rank five Gu; it had an enormous might and could spit out a river. If this was not handled properly and it was provoked, over half of the Qing Mao mountain could be submerged with water and the whole village would be destroyed.
After a long silence, Gu Yue Chi Lian spoke, "The situation is grave, we need to resolve this as quickly as possible. If this news gets leaked, we can’t say for sure if those with evil intentions might not secretly go and intentionally provoke this River Swallowing Toad to entrap our Gu Yue clan."
"Elder Chi Lian is right." Gu Yue Mo Chen nodded in agreement. Although he and Gu Yue Chi Lian were political enemies, but at such a critical time for the village, he let go of his past prejudices.
He continued speaking after a moment, "There is another more serious problem. If the River Swallowing Toad floods the Qing Mao mountain, the wolf lairs will be submerged and for their survival, the wolf hordes will move up the mountain. At that time, the wolf tide will break out before its time. And we will have to fight with countless wild beasts to fight for the space at the top."
The elders’ complexion turned pale when they heard this.
Gu Yue Bo spoke with heavy tone, "Everyone, don’t forget the foundation of our village. The first generation ancestor set up the village in this place because of the underground spirit spring. If Qing Mao mountain gets flooded, this spirit spring might also be destroyed."
"What should we do?"
"Sigh….even if we withstand the beast tides and survive at the mountain top. After the flood subsides, the spirit spring will have disappeared, many beasts will have died, our surroundings will turn to a wasteland and we will be lacking cultivation resources."
"If we are to die, then why not ask help from Xiong and Bai villages? We are three boats tied with one rope, I don’t believe they won’t help!"
The elders whispered to one another with panic hidden inside. Some had already started thinking of asking for reinforcements.
"It is too premature to ask for help now," Gu Yue Bo shook his head and denied this idea immediately. "It is not the most challenging period now. When the first generation ancestor had just established the village, a Rank five Blood River Python attacked the village, but it was killed by the first generation clan head. Compared to the Blood River Python, the River Swallowing Toad is just so much more adorable."
"It has a warm temperament and is harmless to ordinary people. Only if it senses the aura of other Gu will it be alert. If it receives serious injuries, it will be angered and spit out a river. By chance, I heard the previous clan head talk of a rumor about the River Swallowing Toad…."
Gu Yue Bo’s composed and calm voice resounded within the conference hall.
The group of elders listened attentively; their nervous and panicked expressions eased up.
"He is really worthy of being the clan head. He calmed their hearts with just his words." Gu Yue Yao Ji sensed the change in the atmosphere. She gave a profound look at Gu Yue Bo and praised him inwardly.
"If we follow what clan head said just now, chasing away the River Swallowing Toad wouldn’t be a difficult thing," An elder spoke.
"We can’t say that." Gu Yue Bo shook his head, "These are only rumors, I haven’t personally seen it or even put it to use. The important thing is that we can’t be careless. I suggest we first send a group of Gu Masters to test it."
All the elders agreed.
Gu Yue Chi Lian spoke, "Then how about I send a member of my Chi family. If he can’t do it, then no one among our clan might be able to do it."
Everyone knew who Chi Lian was speaking of, and they approved of it one after another.
Clan head Gu Yue Bo smiled, "Since it is so, then we shall just assign it to the Chi Shan group."
It was early autumn, the weather was gradually turning cool.
On a table by the window of the tavern, Fang Yuan was sitting alone, calmly tasting some wine.
The tavern shopkeeper was standing beside him, bowing his head.
"Shopkeeper, is there progress on the matter regarding bitter shell wine that I asked you to look into a few days ago?" Fang Yuan asked.
Fang Yuan was lacking a bitter wine for the liquor worm fusion.
However, bitter wines were difficult to find and because of the matter regarding the red steel Relic Gu, people had been focusing on him. Wherever he went, he would be pointed out by people. Thus, it was not easy to make inquiries of bitter wines.
The disturbance had settled down only recently. And maybe because extreme sorrow turns into joy, Fang Yuan had accidentally found a clue regarding the bittern wine.
The old shopkeeper promptly replied, "Young master, the bitter shell wine you wanted me to look into, someone had drunk it in Bai village. The raw material of this wine is a type of conch found in deep ponds.This type of conch is completely black, with circles of white lines on its shell resembling a tree’s growth rings. We call it a bitter shell. Normal conches can form pearls. The bitter shell swallows the sands and stones in the water, dissolving them and forming bitter water instead. Someone pried open its shell and obtained this bitter water, using it to brew wine, making the bitter shell wine. Its taste is very unique; bitter and fragrant."
Fang Yuan slightly raised his brows upon hearing this, "Does that mean Bai village has this bitter shell wine?"
The shopkeeper hurriedly bent down, "I don’t dare to guarantee it, I have only heard people talking of it occasionally. However, the truth is Bai village is famous for its white grain liquid. This wine along with our clan’s green bamboo wine and Xiong village’s bear gall wine are called the three wines of Qing Mao. Bitter Shell wine.... I think even if the Bai village possesses it, there wouldn’t be much."
"Even if there is little, I have to find it," Fang Yuan said in his mind.
But this matter was troublesome; Bai village had been gradually showing signs of coming to emergence these years, starting to shake the Gu Yue village’s position as the overlord.
If Fang Yuan wanted to enter the Bai village without permission, he might be killed by the patrolling Bai village’s Gu Masters before he even sees the village gate.
Even if it was so, Fang Yuan still wanted to attempt it. After all, getting this bitter shell wine was more reasonable that the green Ai wine that was immeasurably far away.
As he broke away from his contemplations, Fang Yuan found that the old shopkeeper was still standing beside him. He waved his hand, "Alright, you can leave, there is nothing for you here."
The old man didn’t leave, his face revealed hesitation, not speaking out what he was about to say.
He finally summoned his courage, "Young master, could you please take back this tavern again? I and all the waiters want to work under you. You don’t know that when the old landlord came back, he deducted most of our wages. With such little primeval stones each month, it is really difficult for us to support our families."
Fang Yuan shook his head, his face without any expression, "I have already sold this tavern to him. And according to the contract, I can’t take it back. Moreover, I don’t want to engage in this tavern business. You can leave now."
"But, young landlord….." The old man still didn’t move.
Fang Yuan frowned in annoyance, "Remember, I am no longer your landlord!"
He had previously increased their salaries, only to arouse their passion for their work. It was all for himself. But these people mistook it for his tolerance and wanted to push their luck.
Right now, by selling the vitality leaves, he could only fulfill his own needs. On top of that, he was feeling vexed due to the bitter wine. So why would he take back the tavern for these people?
"But young landlord, we really can’t keep on living like this! Please show mercy and have pity on us." The shopkeeper knelt on the ground and implored.
The sound immediately attracted the surrounding guests.
Fang Yuan laughed coldly. He picked up a wine jar from the table and smashed it on the shopkeeper’s head.
The jar shattered; the wine splashed all around and blood flowed from the old man’s head.
"Did you think I won’t dare to kill you? You tactless fool, get lost." Cold light flashed out from Fang Yuan’s eyes.
The old shopkeeper’s whole body trembled from this killing intent; he was startled and hurriedly left.
No matter which world, there will always be a group of weak people who will brazenly and indiscreetly ask charity from the strong. As if helping them was the manner of the strong and not helping them was wrong.
The weak should have the manners of the weak; they should either resign to their fate and act like slaves or try hard while keeping a low profile.
The strong helped the weak only as a charity when they were in a good mood.
The weak refuse to work hard, shamelessly begging from the strong, and even demanding definite results, acting like a leech; they deserve getting rejected.
People who were content with being weak, who don’t put their own effort and only think of begging from the strong, simply aren’t deserving of sympathy.
"Quick, bandage the wounds."
The waiters hurriedly surrounded the old man whose face was covered with blood.
The old shopkeeper was only a mortal, it wouldn’t be a problem even if he was killed on the spot.
Such an ending took away the interest of the surrounding guests; they turned back and continued with their discussions.
"Do you know? Something big happened recently!"
"Are you talking about that River Swallowing Toad? Right now, who wouldn’t know of this?"
"This is a Rank five Gu, if it isn’t dealt properly, the village might fall into crisis!"
"It is said that this River Swallowing Toad’s food is water. When it is hungry, it opens up its large mouth and directly sucks a river in!"
"If it is angered, it can release the water into the Qing Mao mountain, its power is extremely horrifying. We might die!"
"Then what should we do?"
"Sigh, we just have to see how the clan’s higher-ups will deal with it. After all, we can’t escape, where can we escape to?"
Bewilderment and confusion pervaded the air in the tavern.
"River Swallowing Toad...." Fang Yuan inwardly smiled when he heard this.
Fear was infectious, it increased the more it is spread.
Actually, the River Swallowing Toad was very gentle and was not dreadful. Its natural disposition was to sleep and people would often see it flowing with the river. The toad would lie down on the water surface with their white bellies facing up, and sleep soundly.
When it wakes up, it would swallow the river water up to its fill and return back to sleep. They had no interest towards fighting and killing; if they meet an enemy, their first reaction would be to flee. Only if they fall into an impasse and couldn’t escape will they make fierce counterattacks.
They were very powerful and could release torrential river from their mouths, engulfing the lands instantly and turning them to marsh.
"This River Swallowing Toad probably fell asleep, then drifted along the Huang Long river and accidentally entered a tributary, reaching the foot of the Qing Mao mountain." Fang Yuan guessed the truth.
(1) Huang Long River - The name means Yellow Dragon River.