Chapter 7 - Onward To The Town
Lin Mu reached the trail where he had set up the traps. He checked the first three traps which were not triggered, then moved ahead to check the other traps when he heard the sound of leaves rustling and then a loud screech echoed. Lin Mu rushed to check and found it to be his trap which was triggered. The snare trap had caught a thorn tailed rat!
Thorn tailed rats were the size of a persons arm, grey or black in colour and had a characteristic ash coloured tail with short thorns made up of hardened skin on it. They were a common beast found nearly everywhere in the forest and made up the lower part of the food chain. Though they were low tiered beasts, the sharp thorns on their tails could give nasty cuts to anyone who was careless in handling them.
Lin Mu picked up a large rock and slowly lowered the snare from which the squirming thorn tailed rat was hanging. Careful not to get hurt from the whipping tail of the rat, Lin Mu put his foot down on the tail and used the rock to crush the rats skull. Picking up the carcass, Lin Mu went on to check the remaining traps. He found another trap which was not triggered, but the last trap was a surprise to Lin Mu.
The trap and its surrounding area was utterly destroyed. Looking around, Lin Mu found the larger trees to have claw marks on them while the smaller, and thinner, trees were directly snapped at the base. There were paw prints which were much larger than an adult males hands everywhere. Darting his eyes around, Lin Mu searched for any beast that could be lurking; waiting to pounce on him. Not finding any signs of a beast, Lin Mu backed away and ran back to his shack.
"That was terrifying! Those paw prints were definitely from a middle-tiered beast at least. What is a beast of that level doing here in the outskirts of the forest They rarely wander this far out."
Lin Mu thanked his stars, feeling lucky that he did not encounter a mid-tiered beast as that would most likely end in his demise. Lin Mu then headed back to the stream to skin the thorn tailed rat. He used his previous method of poking a hole with a sharp stick to drain the blood, and then ripped the skin from its carcass.
The flesh of the thorn tailed rat was tough and had an unpleasant taste, so Lin Mu discarded it and only took the pelt. The pelt would not sell for much, at least not as much as the black-horned rabbits. It could only be used to make some hard leather, unlike the black-horned rabbits pelt which could be used to make pouches or soft gloves.
Lin Mu stored the pelt in the ring and walked back to the hunting shack to rest and eat his supper. He cooked the apples and ate them, while planning for the next day. Lin Mu decided that he would go to the town to sell the pelts and buy some rice, as he did not want to eat the sour apples for his every meal. He would also enquire when exactly the merchants would be coming next week, so that he could sell the fragrant wooden box.
There was still the question of how he would find out more about the alchemical pills he found in the spatial rift. He could not exactly just show the pill to people, nor would describing the appearance of the pill to people work unless they themselves were cultivators or were of a prominent position.
From what he knew, there were only a handful of qi cultivators in the Northern town; namely the town head, the captain, the two vice captains of the towns guard, and also the two top hunters of northern town - all of whom he could not come in contact with. The only other way he could think of was to try his luck in Wu Lim city and find an itinerant cultivator who would be willing to trade for information; but even that would be expensive, not to mention the tax he would have to pay upon entering Wu Lim city.
Thinking about all the expenses he would have to incur made him sigh with helplessness.
"Selling the fragrant wood box is the only way of getting a significant amount of money for now. I hope I get a good enough price. Till then, I can only slowly accumulate money by selling the pelts I get from trapping some small, low-tier beasts."
Having sorted his plans for tomorrow, Lin Mu decided to practice chanting the calming heart sutra. As he chanted the sutra, a calming feeling washed over his body and mind; making him able to sense the flow of blood in his veins and the faint waves of energy in his muscles. Focusing his mind on the waves of energy, he could feel them slowly increase and then decrease. Softly pulsating back and forth.
Eventually, Lin Mu fell asleep and found himself back in the familiar dark place.
"Am I going to come to this place every time I sleep now What exactly is this place I may as well just explore and see if this place has an end."
Lin Mu started walking straight in a random direction while counting so he could get an idea of how much time he spends in this place. He walked for a count of 15,000 before he got bored from it. Everywhere he looked was the same: dark. At one point he thought whether he was even moving or just walking in the same place.
The only other thing he noticed was that his thoughts were more clear than normal. He felt his mind being less cluttered than normal; his thoughts much faster than usual. And he did not know why. As he kept on walking, he felt his consciousness fade for a moment, and when it came back, he found himself awake.
"I guess I should get ready to go to the town since it will take me an hour. I dont feel as hungry, so Ill just eat something in the town after I get some money. It would be good to eat something different from sour apples, even though I had the rabbit... but it did not have any spices on it so it tasted a little bland. I definitely need to buy some spices as well while Im there."
Lin Mu walked towards the stream to wash up and then continued on towards the town. On the way, he saw some carriages on which armed men were sitting and a few which were walking along guarding it. Getting closer to the carriages, Lin Mu could see what was inside one of the carriages but not the rest as they were covered.
"Beast corpses Wait, those are steel back wolves! But theyre mid-tiered beasts, average hunters would not be able to hunt those easily even if theyre in a group since steel back wolves hunt in packs of twenty or more. That means they have a cultivator in their group."
Lin Mu looked at all the hunters, but could not spot any particular person who looked like a qi cultivator. Even the hunters themselves were unfamiliar to him. If they were from the Northern town, he would be able to identify at least one person amongst them as most hunters were well known. That could only mean that they were from another town, or were from a completely different county. Looking at their weapons and armour, he leaned towards the latter.
Lin Mu decided to talk to one of the hunters. He had walked just a little closer when one of the hunters shouted at him:
"Dont come closer kid, youve no business here!"
Lin Mu abruptly halted in place and replied,
"I just wanted to ask what hunter group are you all from, I dont think Ive seen your group hunting in these parts."
The hunter, with a hint of annoyance, answered,
"Does it look like were hunters to you, kid We are the Crimson Fang mercenaries. Now move along before I make you."
Walking away from mercenaries, Lin Mu furrowed his brows and wondered who would be able to employ a mercenary group to come to Northern town and hunt steel back wolves. It would be much cheaper to employ a local group of hunters, even though multiple groups of them would be required to hunt the wolves. It would still be cheaper than employing a whole mercenary company. Unless it was something other than the steel back wolves they were hunting; something much stronger...
As Lin Mu could not see into the other carriages, he could not verify his claim. However, looking at the mercenaries which were guarding the covered carriages, who looked much stronger and had better weapons and armour than the mercenaries from the last carriage, he figured they were transporting something much more valuable than the steel back wolves carcasses.
Continuing on to his journey twenty minutes later, he spotted the spirit apple orchards and along with it the hundreds of peasants that were harvesting the spirit apples. As he got closer, he spotted a familiar face looking at him. Looking at the person, Lin Mus face became pale.