“Guya Baimu, the soldiers have assembled. We can depart anytime.”
Baimu didn’t rise from the log he sat on. Instead, he uncorked a punch at a big tree, collapsing it through the centre. “Where to, though?”
I wish I knew!
Heisina Tribe spread themselves around Xiacang Anxi unlike the majority of other tribes. While there weren’t many places they could survive, they were rarely caught. Perhaps they honed the elusive ability from trying to survive their predators over centuries. They were even tougher to find ever since the Central Plain gained administrative rights to part of Nanjiang. It was ironic that they were literally now erased when others had been trying to erase them for so long.
Nieyao’s surroundings weren’t exactly an expansive area, but sprinting around it would be impossible. No matter how much might Baimu had, he had no use for it if he didn’t know where his target was. Upon thinking of something, he asked, “They… still pursuing that fruitless endeavour?”
“Do you mean Xiuyi?”
“What do you think?”
“I beg your pardon! They are still at Xiuyu and have been constantly dispatching scouts.”
“Have any tourists from the Central Plain visited Xiuyu recently?”
“Apparently?” Baimu clicked his tongue.
“Th-there has been one! They came from the Central Plain’s Jiangnan region. Their group is called Yizhen Company. When their boss lady got off her carriage, men couldn’t stop staring at her. They should be the biggest business group to visit Xiuyu recently.”
“Yizhen Company, Yizhen Company, Yizhen Company.” Baimu hiked up a corner of his lips. “Keep an eye on them. Report back immediately if you notice anything. If the Hesinas are still doing that, then they’ll show themselves sooner or later.”
“Brother Long, this is M-”
“No need.” Long Zaitian wagged his hand. “Your bosom friend, who else?”
Though Tie Hanyi and Long Zaitian’s lodge was several kilometres from where Emperor Yuansheng was, the latter had sufficient guards. Therefore, Tie Hanyi and Long Zaitian could spare some time to tackle miscellaneous tasks.
“Heisina? You’re asking a tough question.” Tie Hanyi’s brows were locked ever since he learnt why Su Xiao and company approached them. “Heisina Tribe is one of the most treacherous clans of Nanjiang. At one point, they were blamed for every misfortune in Nanjiang. From what I’ve gleaned, natural or man-made disasters, war or diseases are their fault. Even a kid’s missing nappy in the city is attributed to them.”
“… They’re not that terrifying if that’s true,” Long Zaitian scoffed. “Nanjiangers love to blow things out of proportion and make baseless claims. Heisina Tribe is practically an excuse for them to screw up without shouldering any fault. Back when the imperial court was in negotiations with Nanjiang, we personally saw jokes rob business couriers, yet they blamed it on Heisina Tribe.”
Su Xiao stretched his eyelids: “What sort of logic is that?!”
“Yeah, they claimed Heisina’s tainted souls rubbed off on them and that setting fire to Heisina Tribe would cleanse their souls. In saying that, don’t go classifying the Heisina Tribe as good people.”
Tie Hanyi: “Among the things I’ve heard about Heisina Tribe, the worst crime of theirs would have to be raiding a business courier of the Central Plain’s, I guess. I hear they spy on our couriers in Xiuyu City and then bring their forces to the location to commit the robberies.”
“They plan to reave?”
“That’s anyone’s guess. Their whereabouts are a mystery.”
Xia’er: “I heard… they ask their targets three questions.”
“What questions?” Su Xiao queried.
Xia’er held her gaze against Su Xiao’s. “They will ask where you come from, where you plan to go and your name. They will ask you for clarification before they kill. They’re scary.”
Heisina Tribe didn’t know much about the outside world, while those kinds of rumours threw a veil of mystery over them.
“There is no need to worry. According to our most recent reports, they’re preparing for war against Baimu next door. Heisina Tribe numbers less than a thousand, yet they’re taking on an entire state. I doubt they have time for minor conflicts when they have an army to fight.” Tie Hanyi told Xia’er, “Don’t worry, Miss. I don’t think they’ll harass you.”
Xia’er dimpled: “I hope so.”
Nobody understood the true meaning behind Xia’er’s smile.
The bald gang leader performed their code three times, hand gestures five times and shot six fireworks, yet nobody responded to his call, leading to him wondering if he got the wrong date for his duel to the death with Su Xiao.
When Su Xiao’s group finally hollered at the bald gangster, he couldn’t stop putting one leg behind the other or his shaking hands. Su Xiao felt enough pity to not hit him, but Long Zaitian decided to settle it with one punch.
“Don’t tell me I didn’t tell you all the rumours surrounding Heisina Tribe are bogus. They’re too busy preparing for war to bother with a useless chicken’s grudge.”
Su Xiao cracked an awkward smile: “Maybe we were making a big deal out of nothing. Nonetheless, I owe Zha Pi my thanks. There’d be a big fight today if he didn’t have the gang arrested.”
Ye Luo and Luo Mingzhu were in two minds. On one hand, they no longer needed to fear for Su Xiao’s safety. On the other hand, they missed an opportunity to train him.
Peering into the sky, Xia’er voiced, “There seems to be someone.”
“You saw someone?”
Nobody else saw anyone regardless of where they looked.
“Yeah, one person.”
“I’ll have you know this dragon’s eyes have been refined in a pill cauldron. If there really is someone, I’ll eat this teapot’s lid.”
Ye Luo finally found something in the distance to point to: “Over there! Someone is galloping this way.”
Su Xiao passed Long Zaitian the teapot’s lid.
“… I’m going to go see who it is!” Long Zaitian sped off.
The reason the gap between Long Zaitian and the individual approaching them didn’t close by much was because the latter was moving barely faster than a brisk walk. Anecdotally, someone eager for a fight wouldn’t meander to their target, but Long Zaitian was certain they were his target based on the rider’s movements.
In contrast to Nanjiang men, the short-haired rider was lean – still muscular – and white enough to be described as an ill patient. The lack of desire for combat and emotionless aura coming from the man with eye bags as dark as his black apparel reminded Long Zaitian of Feng Jian.
“I’m not here for you.”
Before the rider spoke, he was a hundred steps away from Long Zaitian, yet he had slipped past Long Zaitian before the latter could react. As if he passed through a gate from hell to the realm of man, the rider generated a dark aura around him. Merely standing in in front of Su Xiao was enough to make Su Xiao feel oxygen debt, while the others were fossilised.
The man raised an arm right before a spark sprayed off his shoulder and burn marks were left. He took a short pause, then spared Xia’er a quick glance.
“Where are you from? Where are you going? What is your name?”
Su Xiao felt the restraints around his lungs loosen. “My name is Su Xiao… I am from Suzhou… My destination is,” Su Xiao bit his lip, “Baimu.”
“… Your answer is partially true. Your discipline, thoughts and words don’t match. You came with a business company and have skilled companions.” He stopped his gaze on Luo Mingzhu for the longest length of time prior to continue sweeping it onto the others. “You’re all interesting. It’s not time yet. I’ll be back.”
Once he had gone some distance, everyone dropped onto the ground, still unable to comprehend what happened.
“By the way, my name is Beussent.”