Chapter 217: Scouting [Volume 4 – Perpetual Conflict]
Qianye closed the baron’s diary and reviewed the important points in his mind. After confirming that he had memorized them all, he set it aflame. He watched every last fragment of the notebook turn to ash before stirring it into the muddy water.
The few unique trinkets in Deryl’s backpack were left in place. Qianye sank all those things, along with the corpse, into a deep pond hundreds of meters away from the scene.
In this way, all traces of the baron would be naturally erased in a couple of days and no one would ever be able to track what had happened. Baron Deryl Kurlas would hereafter be marked as missing on the vampire name list. This kind of situation wasn’t a rare occurrence. It was the same for that Black Winged Monarch Andruil whose whereabouts were a mystery to this very day.
Qianye carefully stowed the runespeak fragment. He wasn’t sure if the information he had obtained from the baron’s diary was true, or if this seemingly solemn runespeak fragment was indeed part of a key. Even the humans had heard much about the dark races’ fondness for treasure hunting—there would be many rumors of mixed authenticity every year. Some clues appeared genuine at first glance, only to find that it was a prank of unknown origins after following up on it till the end.
However, the implications of this matter were simply too great. Especially since the dark races’ reasons for starting a war this time included something that seemed rather ridiculous to a human. Qianye weighed this matter over and over again but felt it best not to reveal this information to anyone. Naturally, he couldn’t discuss this with anyone either. Treasures can turn into unexpected calamities at any time.
However, the spoils of war currently placed before Qianye were, as a matter of fact, quite significant. The two pistols were both high-grade smith-signed merchandise that would auction for at least 3000 gold coins in the empire. Those noble scions interested in firearms had enough time and energy to research the source of the smith’s signature. If they were found to be prestigious names, the prices could soar to 5000 or even higher.
However, these huge profits could only be imagined. Since Qianye had to conceal Baron Deryl’s fate, he could only process these items as stolen property of unknown origin. Even going through Song Zining’s channel, it would already be quite fortunate if he could get rid of them for 2000 each.
Presently, Qianye certainly wouldn’t invite more trouble for himself, drawing from his experience with the Twin Flowers.
A premium grade four dagger could be easily carried on many occasions. Add to that the refined and sophisticated style of the vampires, it would certainly be a well-received merchandise. Demand for a longsword would be narrower but it wasn’t impossible to sell. As for that grade three armor, there was probably no market for it.
The core price of an armor was related to its origin array, but vampire origin arrays were, without a doubt, best activated with fresh blood power. Activation using other darkness type origin powers would reduce their effectiveness. The reduction for daybreak origin power was even greater. Although it wasn’t quite useful for other people, it posed no obstacle for Qianye. As such, the item was claimed for his personal use.
Qianye calculated the value of the origin guns and blades, finding them to be barely passable. The money would be sufficient for his “Dark Flame Mercenary Corps” to develop for half a year. It was enough to develop and not just for basic operation.
The other fortune left behind by Baron Deryl was a detailed map of the Black Clay Swamp. Marked upon it were three safe routes through the swamp. These routes were, of course, due to the efforts of the arachne. Giant swampspiders were the hegemons of the marshlands. It was precisely because they opened up the paths that the dark races were able to pass through the Black Clay swamp and flank the human defense line.
However, the environment within the marshlands was adverse, especially the stench. It was harmful to all creatures—none could endure it apart from the vampires and demonkin. Even someone fond of exploring mysterious places like Baron Deryl wouldn’t appear in such a place if not for the temptation of the Black Monarch’s treasure.
This roadmap changed Qianye’s mind about merely familiarizing himself with the swamp. The hundreds of kilometers of marshland would serve as sufficient operation space for him. He thus decided to enter the hinterlands, not only to verify the map but also to see if he could ambush the dark races.
During the latter half of the night, Qianye was attacked countless times on his journey toward the depths of the marsh. Most of them came from local marshland creatures.
There would be flying insects wherever there were bloodvines with the occasional appearance of horned snakes. Presently, Qianye naturally wouldn’t get bitten again—he simply swatted them with the Radiant Edge and fragmented their organs. Well-preserved horned snakeskin, gallbladder, horn, and poison glands could be sold for good money. A single horned snake was worth up to dozens of gold coins.
Before half the night had passed, Qianye had already dug up over a dozen bloodvines and caught three horned snakes. This could be considered quite a helpful harvest, but nothing could compare to killing a high ranking vampire in terms of quick money.
However, the vampire was actually a baron. If not for him being too careless and falling into Qianye’s trap, the one being hunted down after entering the depths of the marsh would probably be the latter. Since Deryl had the intention to turn him into a descendant, there was no telling when he would take action.
Qianye was attacked by a group of alligators as he continued toward of the depths of the marsh. The horde retreated only after Qianye killed several giant alligators in succession. Afterwards, he encountered a type of palm-sized killer fish that could pierce through normal armor with a single bite.
Spiders the size of basins, meter-long leeches, and unknown giant bugs began to appear with increasing frequency.
The skin of marsh alligators, the roe of killer fish, and the silk of spiders could be sold for a decent amount of money. Qianye began to realize why there were so many scavengers and herbalists in Black Clay Town. The bloodvines and other materials in his backpack were enough to completely change the lives of dozens of scavengers.
These scavengers had followed the rumors here with dreams of good fortune falling upon them. Perhaps they might find a bloodvine with no horned snake in the vicinity or find a follicle of killer fish roe. It was just that reality was always cruel and good fortune was hard to come by—danger was the eternal theme of this land.
Scavengers who die in the marsh every year numbered in the thousands while those that truly struck rich were fewer than few. However, it was precisely because the achievements of these few lucky people were spoken of so repeatedly that others began to accept this as the normal pattern. The thousands who lost their lives were thoroughly forgotten by the greed in men’s heart.
The graveyard outside of Black Clay Town stood as a silent testament. Buried within were those whose remains could be found, while most scavengers who died in the marsh were left with neither corpse nor bone.
The people’s attitude toward fortune had always been comparable to deceived lovers—they sought but a moment’s intense pleasure and never the price of long-term perseverance. They speak as if affection was no longer pure when affected by various factors, but then how was an irresponsible romance any better?
As Qianye advanced further, he saw dozens of lofty black stone pillars towering over the center of a low-lying region. The soil in the center was smooth and dry, but the area surrounding the black pillars was littered with hundreds of holes of various sizes.
Qianye suddenly shivered after seeing this group of pillars. He immediately withdrew his aura and observed for a moment, slowly approaching the place only after making sure there was nothing peculiar in the vicinity.
The air suddenly turned dry in an area of ten meters around the stone pillars. The ground was also several centimeters higher than the surrounding area. Qianye arrived beside a certain pit where he began to pinch and observe the soil. There were darkened black shells within the soil.
This certified that these pits were dug by the arachne servspiders for resting. The eggshells came from their eggs—the newly hatched baby spiders would become new servspiders while eggs with no opportunity to develop would be eaten, supplying other servspiders with nutrition.
There were traces of a camp at the center of the pillars. From the marks left behind, one could tell that the last batch to stop over probably consisted of arachne and werewolves.
This group of stone pillars was a campsite the dark race had set up within the marsh for the armies marching through the swamp to rest. The design of these stone pillars was extremely clever, and together, they formed a natural origin array. This was a method humans hadn’t been able to unravel to this very day. They could operate for several years on a small number of black crystals, providing the dark race army with a comfortable and dry camp.
Qianye didn’t touch anything and only observed the traces within the camp in detail. His tightly creased brow relaxed slightly after finding that this camp hadn’t been used for a long time. This was the last decently-scaled place where they could camp before exiting the swamp.
Qianye recalled the markings on the baron’s swamp map, checked his bearings and made his way toward another camp.
If not for this map, Qianye would have never imagined that the dark race had actually constructed as many as five camps within Black Clay Swamp and was planning to build one more. This was a prelude to the marching of a great army through the swamp. Judging from the scale of these camps, Qianye realized that the few men he had in hand were certainly not enough to hold Black Clay Town.
The path through the swamp became increasingly difficult to traverse. The surface of the mire was also weaker. Qianye now had to move with extreme caution despite his reaction speed and ability. He had already encountered several instances where he almost fell in. He had to observe the flora along his path in detail in order to decide whether the path was solid ground.
Due to his cautiousness, Qianye didn’t advance along the road opened up by the dark races and instead moved along its periphery. In this way, he would be able to discover them immediately if a dark race squad were to pass by while hiding his own tracks.
Qianye didn’t discover any signs of a marching dark race army until he arrived at the second camp. However, he suddenly felt a peculiar sense of danger just as he was about to leave the second camp. He reacted instantly by hiding in the muddy water—his whole body sunk gracefully but swiftly, leaving only two eyes above water level.
The originally calm water surface began to ripple. Soon afterwards, Qianye heard fine rustling sounds as a large group of basin-sized dark grey spiders passed by over ten meters away. Their movement speed was rather fast, their long legs shifting rapidly as if they were gliding over the water.
These dark grey spiders were the descendants of the giant swampspiders. They were, of course, not as frightening as the giant swampspiders, but had the advantage in numbers and their adaptability to the marsh terrain. Additionally, they were quite sensitive to their surroundings and especially proficient in capturing moving images.
Wherever the spiders passed by, the local creatures of the swamp would hide just like Qianye—none dared to show their presence. The movement of these escaping creatures served to conceal Qianye’s sinking movement. Qianye lay motionless like a rock after sinking into the water. As expected, the horde of grey swampspiders swarmed passed without sensing anything out of the ordinary.
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