[V7C034– In Life and In Eternal Rest]
Qianye got up and moved about, dispersing the numb sensation throughout his body. The ability that woman had used just now was origin oscillation, a power similar in nature to the one Qianye had used on the trees. However, the precision of her technique far surpa.s.sed Qianye’s level.
As far as he could remember, the Yin family’s secret arts were famous for their origin oscillation powers. It was just that the origin power requirements were too great and the cultivation was difficult—a successful cultivator would hardly appear in several generations. Hence, the Yin family had always been hovering around the high-ranking aristocratic family status. They had little chance of a promotion or a demotion.
This strange girl was around about grade six in terms of origin power, yet she could already produce a resonance in Qianye’s origin power. The strength of her origin oscillation was inconceivable. It could be a.s.sumed that this was a result of her environment and those peculiar metallic rings.
Qianye made no attempt to give chase. That lady didn’t leave any traces of her movements, and the origin power aura had disappeared entirely under the effects of the origin oscillation and oceanic might.
The road thereafter was largely uneventful, and Qianye arrived at the little town once more. The two guards at the gates wore peculiar expressions when they saw Qianye carrying the wooden planks—it was almost as though they were looking at a dead man. After exchanging a brief glance, one of them asked, “You’re here to pay taxes or exchange for items?”
“Very well, follow me then.” One of the guards led Qianye inside and headed straight toward the largest building in the town. Everyone who saw Qianye and his planks revealed shocked expressions, and some of them even gasped softly. But under the eyes of the stern town guards, no one dared to engage in private discussions.
That building was, in fact, a market. There were dozens of stalls inside, peddling all kinds of wares. The tax office, which occupied about two stalls worth of s.p.a.ce, had been squeezed into a corner. Qianye placed the wooden planks and a small pouch on the tax counter. The shrewd-looking old man behind the counter felt his face twitch upon seeing the wooden planks. His greediness became even more evident after opening the pouch.
The bag was filled to the brim with golden-threaded snails, the fruits of Zhuji and Nighteye’s labor. These snails were naturally adept at hiding, and it wasn’t so easy for ordinary people to find them. At first, little Zhuji wasn’t that good at searching, but a disaster descended upon the golden-threaded snails on the beach after Nighteye taught the la.s.s how to use her nose. The arachne’s sense of smell was almost comparable to the werewolves.
The old man said while dragging the pouch toward him, “This isn’t quite enough to pay for the taxes, but seeing as how you’re a newcomer, I’ll take it easy on you and clear your taxes for the month.”
The man’s hand had only reached halfway when it was pressed down by Qianye. “You must’ve made a mistake.”
The old man began screaming as though someone had stepped on his tail. “Me? Wrong? I’ve been collecting taxes here for decades. How can I be wrong? Brat, I’m telling you, let go of my hand! Or else, my nephew will teach you how to conduct yourself!”
Qianye’s expression remained wooden, but his grip grew tighter and tighter. The old man was only about rank four, so how could he withstand this force? As his old bones began to creak and groan, the man began shouting at the top of his lungs, “Men! Kill him! He’s refusing to pay taxes!”
Two guards surrounded Qianye from either side and smashed at his head with their spiked iron rods. If the attacks had really connected, anyone below the champion rank would surely suffer heavy injuries.
Qianye plucked the weapons from the guards with a wave of his left hand, and then he picked up the guard to his left and smashed him into the one on his right. A cringe-worthy thud echoed through the room as the two collided head to head, knocking both out on the spot.
Qianye held the two rods together and twisted them into a single long staff. These two rods were ordinary weapons, but they were as thick as a fist. The spectators gasped upon seeing Qianye crush them into a single piece.
The old man had even forgotten to stow the pouch away despite having regained his freedom.
Qianye grabbed the old man’s hand and pressed it on the counter. “If you want to cheat people of their money, you better look at who that person is first. And you people, you’re working for a salary, not selling your lives out. Don’t throw your lives away just for this.”
Qianye’s words stunned the guards who had just arrived. This person was clearly no saint, and the killing intent on him was very real. Their salary was indeed not worth throwing their lives away for.
Qianye spoke no more. He lifted the truncheon he had just made and swung it down on the old man’s hand!
The elder let out a resounding scream of misery, but he simply couldn’t pull his hands back. It was as though they had been bound in place by steel cuffs. Just as the hands were about to be crushed into a pulp, someone grabbed ahold of the weapon and managed to stop it just above the old man’s hands.
Qianye looked back and found that it was Lil’ Knife, the young man who had guided him to his new land. Despite his young age, his origin power was quite impressive at rank eight. Qianye’s expression was cold as he sent his origin power cras.h.i.+ng through the rod, impacting the young man several times in quick succession.
Lil’ Knife felt as though he had been smashed by a giant hammer—every wave caused his face to turn red, and toward the end, his handsome face had become a purplish red. Just when it looked like he was about to cough up blood, the shockwaves suddenly disappeared.
Qianye said indifferently, “It would seem the taxes you described yesterday are far less than the actual amount. How come the tax policy has been changed in a single day?”
It took great effort for Lil’ Knife to calm down his energy, and his eyes were full of apprehension as he gazed at Qianye. He knew that the other party had shown mercy, else he would’ve been gravely injured for certain.
What he didn’t know was that Qianye could kill him in a single burst, if he so wished.
“Are you planning to cause trouble here? Don’t forget that this is the Wolf King’s territory!” Lil’ Knife threatened.
Qianye replied calmly, “The Wolf King won’t want his subordinates to pocket his money, either. Besides, no matter whose territory this is, he can’t stop anyone from dying in their homes at night, can he?”
“You…” Lil’ Knife glared at Qianye but was discouraged to find that the latter was unmoved. The latter’s threat was real—Lil’ Knife wouldn’t have the power to retaliate if Qianye were to break into his home at night. Things ran pragmatically in the neutral lands, and no one would spend time on a dead person.
Hence, Lil’ Knife chose to lower his head. He pointed at the old man and said, “This is my uncle. Can you overlook this matter once out of consideration for his old age? We’ll halve your tax this month.”
“Fine.” Qianye didn’t drag things out, either, and simply tossed the rod to the ground.
The old man still stowed the pouch away, but this time, he came back with ten or so imperial gold coins. This money exceeded Qianye’s original estimation. According to Lil’ Knife, the golden-threaded snails Qianye had brought were of great quality and was thus worth this price.
“Shall we find a place to drink later on? Tell me what you need to buy and I’ll arrange things for you,” said Lil’ Knife.
“Okay.” It just so happened that Qianye wanted to chat with someone and learn more about the power distribution in the Neutral lands.
Moments later, the two sat down in the tavern and downed a few gla.s.ses of alcohol. The slight intoxication made their conversation much more casual.
Qianye gained a general understanding of the neutral lands after some conversation. The lands were, at first, the territory of pirates, fugitives, and indigenous races, but the influx of experts from the two factions changed the power balance. The dominant races at present were humans, werewolves, vampires, arachne, and indigenous races. The arrival of the mysterious vampire expert and his Shattered Moment caused the vampire race to rise in power, gradually becoming the number one race in the neutral lands.
However, the relations.h.i.+p between the races was much more complicated than the two major factions. For instance, the Eastern Desolace was a human domain, but its leader, the Wolf King, was a werewolf. During a great war thirty years ago, he was defeated and subdued by the human race’s greatest expert, Zhang Buzhou. Just like that, he was dispatched to the Eastern Desolace to watch over it.
Zhang Buzhou’s subordinates weren’t limited to the Wolf King alone. There were many other dark race experts under his command, even somewhat more than their human counterparts. It was also the same for other powerful dark race experts—they had men from many different races in their employ, with no lack of humans. Only the indigenous race was pure because they saw every other race as enemies. This was a fact that had never changed before.
In the neutral lands, factions were no longer the basis for dividing power. Strength and territory were the only unchanging standards.
The Eastern Desolace was extremely vast. The Wolf King only occupied half the land here, and only a small part of it was currently habited. Not to mention the others, just the terrifying temperature difference between day and night was enough to deter the weak, ordinary humans. In the Eastern Desolace, pioneering new land in the wilderness was everyone’s main target. It was just that progress hadn’t been all that great after so many years.
After gaining a general understanding of the situation, Qianye changed the topic, “What’s so dangerous about the Black Grove?”
Lil’ Knife said with an awkward expression, “What did you see?”
“Just tell me what you know.”
Lil’ Knife knew he couldn’t gloss over this. “The Black Grove is quite strange. Its coverage area often changes, and the indigenous races always appear wherever the forest is. They have a vendetta against us, and it’s not just toward humans—the same goes for the vampires, werewolves, and every other external race. For instance, the Dreamland Kingdom on the central continent used to be their capital. All the indigenous people there were wiped out when the kingdom was built.
Qianye nodded. This kind of story was fairly common in the pioneering history of the empire.
Lil’ Knife continued, “There’s a mysterious connection between the Black Grove and the indigenous people. Whoever chops the trees there will rouse the race’s ire and might even be hunted down.”
“Then, why do you have the Black Grove lumber in the tax list?”
Lil’ Knife answered awkwardly, “It’s like this. Wood from the Black Grove is of the highest quality and will never rot even if left for a hundred years. It is a great material for building airs.h.i.+ps and sailing s.h.i.+ps.”
“And the ignorant newcomers who had felled the trees there will be targeted by the indigenous races, so they’ll have no choice but to seek your protection.” Qianye smiled coldly.