Chapter 213: Shadow [Volume 4 – Perpetual Conflict]
It was at this time that a fat middle-aged man hurried over with a jog. He stopped right in front of Qianye, bent over and began to pant. “Are you the corps captain? This lowly one is called Hu Wei, the current mayor of Black Clay Town. We hope Sir Qianye will take care of us from now on!”
Qianye sized up Hu Wei and was a somewhat surprised—this fatty was a rank two fighter.
After checking the situation of Black Clay Town, Qianye had already discovered that it was completely different from Lighthouse Town. The little town he had once lived in couldn’t compare to this town at all both in terms of importance and danger. That being said, Hu Wei being able to firmly occupy the mayor’s position meant that he was either stronger than his rank or that he had some background. However, if he really did have some background, why didn’t he find a more stable livelihood instead of coming to court death here?
Qianye pointed to the wanderers lying all over the place and asked, “Mayor, what’s this all about?”
Hu Wei laughed. “Sire, this town is yours from now on, so please don’t call me mayor again. You should just call me Hu Wei or, as long as you don’t mind, Little Hu.”
Qianye glanced at the fatty’s wrinkled face, from which it was difficult to judge whether or not he was 40 years old, and frowned. “What’s with these people?”
Hu Wei swept his gaze over the wanderers strewn across the ground and replied, “They’re scavengers who rely on collecting medicinal plants and natural resources from the swamp to make a living. However, only a few of them are true herb gatherers, the others are all trying their luck at the risk of their lives.”
Picking herbs was a skilled occupation. Otherwise, not only would there be a risk of mistaking similar herbs but also some herbs might become powerful poisons when put together despite being harmless on their own. However, this was a job involving little interest and high returns as the herbs were worth much more than the metal scraps that could be found everywhere on Evernight Continent. As such, the crowd still goes on this wild goose chase.
Qianye was standing at the entrance of a certain alley. Looking around, there were at least 20 to 30 people lying within it. The wanderers who were originally asleep sat up in succession after hearing their voice. With beast-like eyes, they stared at Qianye and the fat mayor who was pointing at them.
Qianye suddenly saw a shadow walk past the other end of the alley!
It was an ordinary looking adventurer whose true features were completely hidden under a dark-colored cloak. Qianye, however, felt an inexplicable sensation after seeing this person’s gait and posture. It almost seemed as if the person wasn’t walking on level ground but was instead floating on a water surface.
“Hold it!” Qianye rushed into the alley but the lying wanderers were too densely packed. He could hardly find any space to step on.
For some reason, the wanderers all began to move after seeing Qianye rush over—some of them deliberately raised their legs to cause more obstruction while others even tried to grab Qianye directly. One could tell from the greed burning within their eyes that Qianye would be robbed clean of his belongings were he pushed to the ground.
How could Qianye allow himself to be obstructed by these ordinary people? He leapt up and arrived at the rooftop after a few swift steps on the surrounding walls. He then proceeded to chase in the direction of the adventurer's shadow.
However, this effort caused a minor delay. Qianye gazed down at rows upon rows of rooftops but just couldn’t find traces of that shadow. The illumination from the gloomy light sources covered but a few dozen square meters under which the wanderers lying out in the open were deep in sleep. The undisturbed part of the small town was still completely tranquil.
Qianye’s heart somewhat sank—such speed and poise was superior to his own and not at all inferior to Gu Liyu. Qianye swept through the whole town once again with his gaze but jumped down after finding nothing odd.
“Sire Qian, that person just now… is he your friend?” Hu Wei enquired.
“No, that’s a vampire, and a high ranking one at that.”
Hu Wei’s fat face immediately turned pale. He let out a sharp cry in astonishment but immediately suppressed his voice afterwards. “High ranking vampire!? How high?”
“At least a knight.”
The reply nearly caused Hu Wei to blackout. He asked with a trembling voice, “Kn-knight! Why would a knight come here? There’s nothing in such a small place!”
“Having humans is enough,” a certain expeditionary army officer standing beside them interrupted.
“Impossible! The town population is indeed high, but how could the vampires fancy such people?” Hu Wei almost cried out once again. However, he knew such things couldn’t be spoken out loud and kept his voice in check.
Qianye shot an astonished glance at Hu Wei. How did the mayor of such a remote town come to know such things?
The empire’s propaganda regarding vampires was as simple as it was extreme. One could see, from how the ordinary citizens were afraid of being infected just by staying close to blood thralls, that the empire had no intention of spreading knowledge in this respect. Even Qianye had no authority to know these secrets during his time in the elite corps.
Only after he had taken blood for himself did Qianye realize that the attraction fresh blood had for vampires lay in the origin power content. This was especially true for high ranking vampires—only blood containing sufficient origin power would be able to induce their appetite. As for these wanderers without so much as a shred of origin power, even if someone were to wash them clean and put them before the vampires, the latter might not be too willing.
Hu Wei glared at the wanderers in the alley, rushed over and sent one of them tumbling with a kick. He shouted loudly while kicking madly, “You lot dare block the sire’s path! Are your dog eyes all blind!? If not for you all, sire would have caught that vampire by now! If this daddy doesn’t beat you black and blue, you’ll really think Black Clay Town is yours!”
With that, seemingly unsatisfied with mere kicking, he brought out a whip and began to thrash the tramps mindlessly. He beat them until they were crawling on the ground and letting out miserable howls. Soon, there was no one left within that small alley.
These tramps were greatly apprehensive of Hu Wei—they didn’t dare to resist in the least and only ran away.
“These lowly people need to be beaten almost every day!” Hu Wei said angrily. The whip just now swung wildly. He had indeed put quite a lot of force behind it.
Qianye didn’t comment on this. He went on to tour the town and check out various places before following Hu Wei back to his residence.
The mayor’s residence was at the very center of the town. It was a small but sturdy three-storeyed stone building. The windows were small and narrow, making the house seem like a miniature castle.
After entering the small house, Qianye discovered that the parlor was on the second floor and Hu Wei’s room was on the third. The first floor consisted of the kitchen and the residences of the expeditionary army officers garrisoned here. As such, Hu Wei’s personal space, within this small building, wasn’t too large.
Qianye sat down within a pathetically small guest room on the third floor after touring the building from top to bottom. One could almost touch the room walls by standing and extending the arms. It seemed quite cramped with just three or four people sitting here.
“I don’t think I’ve seen your family members?”
Hu Wei laughed ruefully, “How can I build a family in such a damnable place? Who knows when those dark-blooded bastards will rush out from the Dark Clay Swamp? It’s highly unlikely that we can hold this place when the time comes. Only death awaits if we can’t escape.”
He paused for a moment before continuing in a soft voice, “Actually I have kids, but I placed them in the care of their aunt in Red Pine City…” His tone became gentler with a tinge of fatherly affection.
Qianye chatted with Hu Wei for a while and learned of the environment and history of Black Clay Town. Hu Wei seemed to have recalled something mid-conversation and almost jumped up. “There’s still a high ranking vampire in town!”
Qianye replied indifferently, “So what?”
Hu Wei immediately stopped speaking. He realized why Qianye hadn’t ordered a town-wide search back then and the expeditionary army officer beside him showed no signs of movement. In a complex environment like Black Clay Town, a vampire knight could easily conceal his tracks or escape into the swamp. The only way to deal with such an enemy was to lay down a trap and wait for him to jump in.
The meaning behind Qianye’s words was that there shouldn’t be anything worth a vampire knight’s attention in Black Clay Town... unless Hu Wei was hiding something.
Hu Wei began to sweat immediately after understanding this and hurriedly stated that he was innocent. He then broke into a thoughtful frown while mumbling, “What good stuff do I have that could be worth a vampire knight coming in person?”
Qianye saw that Hu Wei likely wasn’t acting—he wasn’t really expecting to discover clues so easily. “Let it be if nothing comes to mind. It’ll be for the best if the vampire’s appearance is just a coincidence. My soldiers will arrive in two days to take over defensive duties. There’ll be roughly 200 men, so please prepare in advance.”
Hu Wei immediately discarded his restless concerns and rubbed his hands in delight. “Please rest assured, sire, I’ll definitely wait upon them properly.”
Qianye shot an odd glance at Hu Wei and smiled spuriously. “Are you hoping that much for my men to arrive?”
Qianye’s question had some other implications. It was common knowledge that the imperial military had always been somewhat wanting in discipline, and the expeditionary army was especially notorious in this regard. They would do whatever they wanted in the name of hunting blood thralls. Qianye had witnessed this more than once and had also personally experienced it. The sole reason mercenary corps were less unruly was because they didn’t have enough authority and strength—the difference between mercenaries and bandits weren’t that distinct out in the wilderness.
Elite corps like Red Scorpion that Qianye used to be in, on the contrary, wasn’t too inclined to disturb people. This wasn’t because of firm discipline but rather because they were too well supplied. The ordinary citizens’ measly possessions couldn’t enter the discerning eyes of these elite corps masters.
Hence, as one of the lowest-leveled bureaucrats of the empire, Hu Wei should’ve been more inclined to remain at a respectful distance. The most common situation was that the mayor would maintain his own armed force, and they usually weren’t too weak either. Only this way would he possess the qualifications to share loot with the expeditionary army.
Hu Wei smiled ruefully. “The fact that even a vampire knight has appeared clearly means that war isn’t too far off. Besides, this land of mine is dirt poor. I let the expeditionary army masters take whatever they want as long as they help defend this town. Precisely because of this, there are fewer and fewer masters willing to come over. But, sire, how did you discover that high ranking vampire?”
“Experience,” Qianye replied simply.
In truth, that high ranking vampire was probably too confident that there wouldn’t be any experts in this small settlement who could discover him and made no effort at all to contain his aura. The dense fresh blood power had caused the gold and purple blood energies within Qianye’s body to react, thereby allowing him to see through the other party’s movements.
Qianye had no intention to rest. After instructing Hu Wei to prepare some dried rations for him, Qianye collected his equipment and left the town alone. He was prepared to head into the Black Clay Swamp that very night.
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