Chapter 36: Fierce Beast Sand Snake
Marching forward, the group dared not even talk together with their friends. Everyone had the words that the captain had said in mind, and focused on nothing else than moving forward.
Everyone was on high alert. Some feared that they would encounter bandits, others were certain that they would be left behind.
Some felt despair at the fact that they would be traveling for two months and that they might not have brought enough food and drink, while others were feeling less worried as they already knew about this and had packed enough dried rations to last for two months.
Although Ordinary Warriors had walked down the path of cultivation, they were still much more like average mortals, and they needed to eat at least once a day to have enough energy to move forward steadily.
There were no breaks throughout their journey before the sun started to set. "The temperatures here in the desert turn very cold at night," the captain warned. "I would suggest you get some sleep so that we can continue forward tomorrow. Those who do not get enough sleep might fall behind tomorrow."
Worry filled the hearts of all present, and they hurried down to sleep. Many of them had not brought anything as they thought the army would provide everything they needed, having forgotten all about how long the journey to the recruitment camp would be.
Manager Su was aware of everything that had happened, and he had packed anything that Xue Wei might be in need of. Although some had looked at him as if he was stupid before, because of the massive bag that he had on his back, now they all looked on with jealousy at the blankets and dried meat he withdrew from the bag.
He wrapped the blanket around him and started chewing on the dried meat before he placed his legs across one another and rested his hands in his lap.
He was going to cultivate throughout the night. Now that he was joining the army, he knew it was no longer appropriate for him to use the herbal concoctions for baths. He was not even aware if he would be able to get his hands on any herbs or beast cores.
Xue Wei knew nothing about the recruitment camp. He knew it was the place where every recruit from the entire Heping Kingdom would be gathered, and that he would have to go through vigorous fighting and training before he could be considered a real soldier, ready to be shipped into the army.
In such an environment, he would progress rapidly. His superiors would always push him, and although he would lack the energy from the herbal concoctions, he should still be able to rely on his special physique to absorb energy faster.
At the same time, he would be able to hone his skills with his techniques. He would experience real life-and-death battles, and he would not be subject to everyone's ridicule.
Xue Wei was excited about going to the army. He was excited about being pushed to his limits day after day, and he was looking forward to the day he would be on the front lines fighting against Fierce and Primordial Beasts.
It was not only him; every young person felt the adrenaline pump in their blood. This was a completely new experience for all of them. Most of them had never before left Tiankong City, and now they were going to the central region of Heping Kingdom.
As a result, they were all unable to fall asleep. Sleep was the first thing that a cultivator could go without, as their bodies were being nurtured through meditation and absorption of Qi, but only a handful of the youngsters had been able to cultivate throughout the night. The rest had been far too scared or excited.
Xue Wei was one of the young men who had managed to cultivate throughout the night, and as the sun's first beams of light shot through the morning air, Xue Wei stopped cultivating. He took the blanket he had on his back and packed it down, after which he found his canteen and a strip of dried meat.
Gnawing on the dry rations, Xue Wei felt that although they were anything but delicious, they could fill up his stomach. Meanwhile, a group of the commoner youngsters were looking at the nobles with jealousy and salivating expressions.
Especially some of Li Jian’s followers were being looked at with great jealousy. They had small meat buns with them that they gulped down greedily. Others, like Li Jian and Shen Mu, also had some different fruits to eat. It was clear that their mothers had felt worried for them and had packed snacks and other goodies to make their trip towards the army as pleasant as possible.
Xue Wei had no one to think like a mother for him. He had heard from Xiao Lei that his mother died when giving birth to him, and the first ten years of his life were spent together with his father.
When his father died, Xiao Lei took over looking after him, but he too also had to leave. The only one left who cared about Xue Wei was Manager Su, who, although he looked at Xue Wei as a grandson, was not prone to spoiling him.
Xue Wei did not mind, though. He knew that he was truly valued highly by Xiao Lei and it made him feel all the affection he needed.
As they had eaten their breakfast, everyone got ready to move forward again. Another day of traveling was in front of them, and while some of them felt uncomfortable and hungry, the majority felt fine.
Some had been out hunting. Although there were not many animals in the desert, there were some plants and mortal animals that could easily be caught.
The captain had not stopped anyone. If they died, then so be it. His job was just to guide them towards the recruitment camp; he did not have the task of looking after them.
Traveling through the desert, the captain and his men were casual. None of them was on high alert.
"Although we are going to go through some dangerous areas, this is one of the safest places on our entire journey," one of the guards said to his comrade, someone who had never tried guiding youngsters to the training camp before.
"There are no bandits in the middle of the desert – it is simply too rough an environment. And although there are some Fierce Beasts, there is not enough to make a beast horde."
"Since it is a low-risk area, we can relax, but don't tell the youngsters. They benefit from the constant vigilance. You know it yourself; when you enter the army, you need to be on your guard all the time. You cannot trust anyone apart from yourself and your team; even, sometimes, you cannot trust your team either."
Xue Wei had his senses heightened after he started practicing the Azure Dragon Scripture. He focused his awareness, zeroing in on their conversation with his hearing that was equivalent to an Earth Warrior already. He heard them speak, but he could not help but snort.
Xue Wei had spoken a lot with Xiao Lei about Primordial Beasts before. Primordial Beasts loathed humans because they had caused an uprising against them, and they had revolted, cast away their status as slaves and livestock, and had become the dominant race on the continent.
If the Primordial Beasts were to know that a band of youngsters aiming for the army was moving through an area close to them, they would, without a doubt, gather a beast horde to attack them.
The fewer humans that survived, the fewer people had the chance of becoming Primordial Beast Hunters in the future.
Also, Xue Wei could not shake the feeling of being preyed upon earlier by the woman on top of the Black Horned Mammoth, and he knew that their trip was likely not to be calm.
But Xue Wei said nothing. He knew that these guards would just dismiss whatever a young man had to say. He was not an Earth Warrior yet, so it was natural that he would be discriminated against.
Also, he was aware that he had no proof. He could not very well say that he thought that some extreme expert would come and cause problems for them, or that the Primordial Beasts would take whatever chance they had to get rid of them.
"Fortunately, most of the Primordial Beasts are in the Northern Taiga. It is quite rare for them to wander about in the rest of the kingdom. But then again, we never know where the beasts are."
"Primordial Beasts are able to take human shape, and as a result, we do not know whether or not the person next door is a Primordial Beast."
"At least, Fierce Beasts are unable to take on a human shape. They can only stay in their beastly forms, and even the more intelligent ones are incapable of ever turning into humans."
“I know for a fact that the Primordial Beasts made many experiments on humans back when the humans were the slaves of the Primordial Beasts. No matter how much they loathe us humans, they still knew that we had some traits that they lacked – and as a result they wanted to mix our races.”
“They tried everything, but the closest they got was the ancient War God and his brothers, the heroes of humanity. Those that today are the ancestors of the wayfarers.”
"And it is impossible to get mixed races, no matter how you try. Every book that I have read says that if someone tries to mix the races, humans with Primordial Beasts or Primordial Beasts with Fierce Beasts means that the mother and child will always die. There is no way to survive, and thus the Fierce Beasts are completely incapable of getting the bloodline of the Primordial Beasts, and the only way that Primordial Beasts can affect humans is through the Wayfarer's bloodline."
"Because of this, the enmity between beasts and humans has never let up. It is against heaven's will to create mixed races, and this has meant that only humans and Primordial Beasts can take human shape, but it also means that every stranger has to be treated cautiously. You never know when you are dealing with a Primordial Beast and when you are dealing with a real human."
Xue Wei sighed. He had never before seen a real Primordial Beast, and thus every knowledge he had came from Xiao Lei and the books he had read.
Just as he sighed and shook his head, he suddenly felt the ground trembling. They were walking on sand, so their every step caused them to sink slightly into the ground. But now, they all felt the tremors that ran through the ground.
The guards' faces turned severe, and they stopped being carefree. "We are under attack," The captain yelled out, and the many guards wielded their weapons. Some used spears; others used swords. Some had sabers and others knives, and there were even ones using halberds and other more exotic weapons.
So far, no one could see whomever it was that was coming their way. All they could feel was the entire ground shaking. Suddenly, right in front of them, a massive Sand Snake dug out of the ground.
Underneath it were thousands of smaller snakes that broke through the surface of the desert. These snakes all ranged from strength equivalent to the third layered Ordinary Warrior rank to the first layer of the Earth Warrior rank.
On the other hand, the giant Sand Snake was as strong as a first layer Sky Warrior, one layer beneath the captain, whose his face was pale. Although he was one layer above, this Sand Snake was massive, and it possessed quite a formidable strength both in defense and offense. Fighting it would require all of the captain’s focus, and many of the Earth Warrior guards would have to assist him.
Xue Wei did not rush. He saw how many of the experts were panicking. This was their first encounter with a wild Fierce Beast, and Xue Wei could feel the dense air of danger descending upon them all.
Everyone acted differently. Some froze on the spot, others fumbled with their weapons, and yet an entirely third group yelled as they threw themselves at the horde of sand snakes.
Xue Wei did none of that; he just calmly observed what was happening. He could sense a strange feeling of awakening from slumber.