Amidst the croons of blessings, a hunting party from Ning Village once more headed into the forests of Qingqiu Mountain at the break of dawn.
There were approximately two hundred households in the village, and fifty men in the hunting party. The hunters were the strongest and most well trained in the village, and Ah Zhuang was their leader and the overall number one expert of Ning Village.
Lu Yun was allotted a longbow, ten feathered arrows, and a broadsword of fine iron. He wore a wicker basket on his back and brought up the rear.
Elderly craftsmen in the village had forged the bow and arrows, while the broadsword had been obtained through trading with others around the foot of the mountains. The broadsword in particular displayed exquisite workmanship. Its rows of delicate patterns weren’t just a decorative motif, but runes that referenced the laws of nature and imbued the weapon with strength to hew through obstacles. For Lu Yun, these runes were uncommonly useful.
Ning Village practiced a fledgling form of agriculture as they raised livestock—it wasn’t the completely primitive society he’d gathered at first glance. It was just that hunting was still the village’s preferred way of life.
“Hoi, Shan! You look all soft and gentle like, and you have a Tushan fox for a spirit creature pet. You’re from one of those big villages outside, aren’t you?” Ah Zhuang looked roughly three meters tall  and bulged with rippling muscles that felt like chiseled rock. He slapped Lu Yun’s shoulder hard, throwing him off balance and stumbling forward, almost falling flat on his face.
The men around them laughed uproariously to see Lu Yun’s discomfort, but he could tell that there wasn’t any derision in their laughter. They just honestly found things funny.
He panted a few times and shoved the broadsword into the wicker basket behind him, eliciting a round of protest from the little fox.
“Brother Ah Zhuang, I’m not with you guys to join the hunt. I can’t use any of the things you’ve given me.” He smiled ruefully.
“Take them, take them. How can a man be without a blade?” Ah Zhuang responded solemnly. “Dangers in the mountain aren’t limited to just those deadly beasts, there’s also a lot of wandering thieves and roving robbers. You’ll have to protect yourself if you run into robbers!”
Lu Yun nodded with resignation. What the village people meant by hunting was to check the traps they’d laid out yesterday and then set things up again. Actual chasing of game was in the rarity.
“Hush!” A man with a tanned face, so lean that he lacked any fat whatsoever, suddenly made a gesture. “This is the territory of the pixiu. We need to cross it silently so we don’t disturb it.” 
“Pixiu?!” Lu Yun’s eyes went wide. This was a divine beast long extinct in the world of immortals. Born with great strength, it could kill scaled-dragons and rip other divine beasts apart. Some primitive tribes even worshipped the pixiu as their totemic figure.
There are pixius here? He trembled, finding it very likely that he’d actually arrived in an exceedingly ancient era. However, he still didn’t know what point in history he’d landed in.
The fifty men slowed down their pace and stealthily crept past pixiu territory.
“Yip yip yip!” Curled up by Lu Yun’s shoulder, the little fox called softly at his ear.
“You say the pixiu noticed us a long time ago and has been observing us?” Though the little fox couldn’t speak, Lu Yun somehow understood her meaning. She nodded, then started miming again.
“What is she saying?” Ah Zhuang walked up curiously to them.
“She says that pixiu is the village’s guardian, that it’s the reason why the savage beasts in the mountain haven’t attacked Ning Village.” Lu Yun was a bit doubtful of what he’d translated.
According to some ambiguous texts and Zhaoqing’s memories, the pixiu were extraordinarily ferocious divine beasts. They swallowed people alive by the dozens, but this one was… the village’s guardian?
Ah Zhuang and the others looked at each other. There were countless fierce beasts in the mountain and even stronger divine beasts, but it was true that Ning Village had never been attacked, despite being at the foot of Qingqiu Mountain.
“It looks like the legends of the village are true, that we really do have a divine beast guarding us.” Ah Zhuang sighed with appreciation and put the matter out of his mind.
Cheers broke out not long after they crossed pixiu territory—an enormous beast that looked like a wild boar, but was a dozen times bigger than any Lu Yun had ever seen, hung in a net in the middle of the air. Twitching with an occasional struggle, this was the harvest from what the hunters had set up the day before.
Meanwhile, Lu Yun scanned his surroundings. He hadn’t found the ingredients he wanted, but he’d filled his wicker basket with all sorts of foreign herbs that brimmed with qi. Though he didn’t recognize them, he could taste them and use formula dao to hypothesize what they might be used for.
“Hey Shan, what are you collecting all these useless weeds for?” Ah Zhuang poked his nose in curiously when he saw Lu Yun sort through his collection.
“These are all treasures, they might be able to save a life!” Lu Yun carefully placed a brilliantly red herb that looked like a ganoderma into his clothes. This was a blood ganoderma, and Qing Yu had made use of one to ascend to the void realm in one go. He hadn’t thought he’d find one here!
Blood ganodermas needed the fertilization of fresh blood and souls. Plainly, quite a few beings had once died here.
“Wait, why don’t you guys know about this?” He blinked.
In Lu Yun’s eyes, hunters that often traveled through the mountain should be familiar with the effects of these herbs and their uses. But judging from the expressions of the hunting party, they viewed these ingredients with stunning levels of qi as ordinary weeds.
Ah Zhuang twisted his mouth and looked at Lu Yun like he was seeing a bumpkin. Imagine collecting that trash as treasure!
“Then what do you do when you’re injured or get sick? Just wait to die?”
Though Ah Zhuang and the others were ordinary mortals who’d never cultivated, their physical bodies were ridiculously powerful. They could rip tigers apart with their bare hands—but they were still mortals at the end of the day.
Mortals would fall sick or become injured, and the herbs in this mountain were the most basic way of curing or helping someone.
“The village worships an altar spirit. We can ask it to help whenever someone isn’t feeling well or is hurt. Who needs all these weeds?” Ah Zhuang answered matter-of-factly.
Lu Yun said no more. In exceedingly primordial times, altar spirits were divine spirits born from sacrifices to an altar.
“Alright, we’ve had enough of a break. Time to go to the next location!” Losing interest in the conversation, Ah Zhuang called out his orders. A few of the men lashed the boar to trimmed logs and sauntered their way to the next trap.
Lu Yun wordlessly rolled his eyes to the heavens. Just what kind of era had he arrived in?
Perhaps I have to find Tushan of Qingqiu Mountain to figure out where I am… He carefully put the herbs away and shuffled listlessly after the hunting party, heading deeper into the mountain.
2. Pixiu are auspicious, winged animals in ancient Chinese history with powerful and grandiose feats of victory in battle. They have the head of a Chinese dragon, the body of a lion, and sport either one antler (male) or two antlers (female) on their heads. Pixiu are considered powerful protectors of feng shui practitioners and statues of this creature are often used to attract wealth in feng shui.
Presenting... a poem from Emrys on Discord.
To seek a dragon of mountains coiled, Those deathly cliffs with mysteries roiled. I come to seek two chapters unspoiled, Let all delays be thusly foiled.