Chapter 10: Target: Blackwood Stronghold!
Forcing out the two words from between gritted teeth, Bai Yunfei’s entire body began to shake and quiver as he turned around. Just about a dozen meters away from where he was standing, a youngster dressed in luxurious clothing could be seen with a fan in his hand. With a smile on his face, the youngster was speaking to another woman to his side--it was Zhang Yang!
Clenching his fists tightly and gritting his teeth together so hard that blood was nearly drawn, Bai Yunfei just barely managed to restrain himself from rushing forward to try and beat Zhang Yang to death.
He knew that as he was now, there’d be no way for him to defeat even the bodyguards around Zhang Yang.
“Yes, perhaps I’ll pick an item or two to gift to aunty when we return. I’ll be returning in two days, so I should buy something for my mother as well.”
Then, the melodious sound of another made its ways to his ears. Turning his head to look, Bai Yunfei could see a young woman dressed in blue with her back against Bai Yunfei look left and right at the various stores on the street.
In somewhat of a daze, Bai Yunfei watched as the two figures walk farther and farther away. He wasn’t sure what kind of emotions were running through his head, but Bai Yunfei slapped his face in an attempt to calm himself anyways and turned to walk in the other direction.
Repairing the graves of his mother and grandfather took a small amount of money from his surplus, but Bai Yunfei had managed to place two perfectly fine tombstones by their graves. With the remaining money he had, some of it went towards things such as food, clothes, weapons, and accessories. Since he had a space ring, carrying everything was far more convenient to do now.
Bai Yunfei had learned an important lesson after his act of teaching those three bullies in the alleyway a lesson that morning. Shutting himself behind closed doors to train lacked an extremely vital aspect: actual combat experience.
It had been decided that day that Bai Yunfei would spend an hour or two every day before night time to find the scum and bullies of the city to fight. Aside from that, Bai Yunfei would stay at home and train by himself.
But then came an issue right away.
These scums and bullies weren’t on par with him at all. They posed no challenge to him since the majority of their times was spent bullying the weak commoners. To fight them would be a pointless waste of time since it wouldn’t help him learn anything. The only good point in doing so would be in teaching them a lesson and allowing for the bullied commoners to have a moment’s reprieve to clap their hands happily.
The more influential criminal gangs of the city were all under the control of the house of Zhang however. Bai Yunfei was afraid of revealing himself, since he was not yet on a level where he could fight them.
Until Bai Yunfei had the power to fight them, he would tread his ground carefully.
Nine days went on in such a fashion before Bai Yunfei finally decided on a new target--the bandits of Mount Blackwood.
Mount Blackwood was about ten days worth of travel away from Talus City and was given its titular name in thanks to the abundance of black-colored trees that stretched across the area. Three of the four sides were sheer cliffs and the only climbable path was in the single remaining side. This path however was far more narrow at the base and inversely more spacious at the top. The terrain of the area was thus far easier to defend than it was to attack.
At one point in the past, a gang of unsavory thugs gathered on the mountains and took control of it. After their occupation of the mountain, the Blackwood Stronghold was established.
The bandits of this mountain focused solely on targeting the trade caravans and businesses around the nearby villages. The lord mayor of Talus City had sent many armed forces before to suppress the bandits, but each attempt to do so ended in failure.
Bai Yunfei had heard the atrocities the bandits committed quite often. In some cases, Bai Yunfei had even heard how some villages were completely destroyed by them, but Bai Yunfei could only sigh and shake his head when he heard about it before. Sometimes, he’d even curse at the no-good bandits.
But the Bai Yunfei today was a new person with newfound power. With the two changes, Bai Yunfei could complete the ‘wish’ he had a long time ago.
It went without saying that Bai Yunfei knew he couldn’t defeat all of the bandits on Mount Blackwood by himself. He just wanted to fight the small groups of bandits that came down the path so that he could build up his own strength. Dealing with the ordinary bandits wouldn’t be hard for him given his current strength.
Over the years, the bandits committed many different acts of crimes. To capture and send them to be tried by the local authorities would be ridding the general populace a small portion of their headaches in any case. Even if some of the bandits were to be killed, Bai Yunfei would see no qualms in doing so.
After preparing all the essentials he’d need for the trip, Bai Yunfei left Talus City and towards the direction of Mount Blackwood.
This would be the very first trip Bai Yunfei would have to the outside world. Life outside the city was a strange one, so he decided to take his time to travel. Training on the way would help him get accustomed to life on the road while also helping him learn the essential skills on living with nature.
Since he wasn’t familiar with the path, Bai Yunfei had to ask for directions every so often on the way.
Soon enough, he came across his very first problem--he might just be a little directionally challenged.
He had the general direction down pat, but many detours were had. Someone had explicitly told him that only half a day would be needed to reach his waypoint, but for some reason, Bai Yunfei took an entire day to travel to the place.
The most outstanding case had been when he decided to take a shortcut through a forest. An entire day and night was wasted before he finally managed to make his way out from the forest. But this was only after he came across several ferocious beasts. The beasts were easy targets for Bai Yunfei to practice on and provided a decent amount of combat experience despite not providing the same experience as to fighting humans.
By nightfall of the sixth day after his departure from Talus City, Bai Yunfei managed to finally cross over a hill to overlook a small village down below. Deciding that this would be a good place to settle for the night, he continued on his way down...
Bai Yunfei was only just crossing the small brook that flowed by the southern side of the village when the hurried clatter of hooves made its way to his ears. With the silence now shattered, Bai Yunfei could detect around thirty men on horseback galloping not too far away.
Each and every single one of the riders had a ferocious expression on their faces. Just from appearance alone, one could tell that these men weren’t good guys at all. To reinforce this judgement, each one of these riders were equipped with many weapons.
The rider leading the front was a middle-aged man with a yellowed face and a nose that was more bulbous than not. Unlike the men behind him, he was not as ferocious looking. But when his eyes swept around the area, a sharp glare could be seen in them. Looking up at the sky and then to the people behind him, he spoke, “The horses have been running for an entire day already. It’s time for them to rest. We’ll be camping for the night in that forest over there, but expect us to be hitting the road again tomorrow morning!”
Pitching up tents and a fire for their evening meal in the forest, the men began to move about to prepare the grounds. The leader himself sat on top of a giant stone with a wine jug in hand to drink from.
“The chief will definitely be happy with the tributes we’re bringing back to the fortress. There’s a soul armament in here! The chief already has the Goldsilk Soul Armor, so with the Glacial Pricker, his strength will definitely improve greatly! I didn’t do badly at all this mission, so I bet there’ll be a good reward waiting for me back in the fortress!” Stroking at the wooden box in his bosom, the leader spoke the second line even more softly, “Ah….a soul armament. I wonder when I’ll be able to have one myself?”
It was then that a man with sideburns and eyes as sunken as a dead fish came walking up to the leader. “Hallmaster Zhong,” He spoke, “There’s a small village not too far away from here. A few of us could go on over and take some tasty things back to camp. It’s been rations for us the past few days, all we can think about right now is some delicious meat to sink our teeth in….”
The one called Zhong glanced at the other man with a mocking laugh, “I take it that rather than wanting to bring some tasty food, you want the women instead?” Another roar of laughter followed the second part.
The man with fish eyes coughed once but said nothing more, prompting the hallmaster to say, “Take ten of us and go. See what’s worth stealing and come back. Since this is a remote village, authorities won’t be coming any time soon.”
Brightening up in the face, the other man spoke up out loud, “Thank you, hallmaster!”
In the quiet village, smoke was billowing up from the kitchen chimneys, and several village children could be seen running around happily. A big golden dog could also be seen lying lazily on its stomach as it bathed in the setting sun.
Suddenly, the ears of the dog perked upwards and its eyes grew vigilant. Rushing to its feet, the dog’s back arched upwards and began to growl with a deep pitch.
The ground beneath everyone started to quake slightly with the sounds of hooves stampeding across it. One by one, men on top of horses began to appear on the road leading to the village with frightening speed.
A youngster about twenty years old was carrying a pole with a bucket of water at both ends at the time when he heard the commotion. Confused, he turned his head towards the source.
Only a single glance was required for him to realize the severity of the matter. With a face that paled within a second, his legs started to knock together in fright.
It took several more seconds for him to finally snap out from his fright. Tossing the water buckets to the ground, he dashed off to the center of the village and began to shout aloud, “Bandits! Bandits are here! The bandits are here!”
As soon as he let out that warning, the entire village went into high alert. Nearly a hundred villagers charged out from their homes in doubt to look at the youth currently hiding in the center of the village with his heads held in his hands.
There was a young but pretty girl that approached the trembling youth. Her hair was long and draped across her shoulders, but it did nothing to hide the oval-shaped face and her large eyes. Concerned, she held his arm and asked, “brother Xiao Feng, what’s going on? Who’s here?”
“It’s--it’s them! They’re...they’re here again….Everything's burning...the village...gone….everyone’s dead...dead! Father...mother...sister...they’re all dead….They’re here again….”
The youngster had been mumbling to himself in fright before the young woman’s voice snapped him back to reality. Starting with a violent shake of his head, he took the young girl’s hand with terror and anxiety, “They’re coming! You have to run! Ling’er, hurry up and run! All the young women should run off and hide, don’t let them find you! If you have anything valuable in your homes, just give it to them! Give it to them….or...or you’ll die….”
The first part had been directed to just the young girl, but then the later half had been shouted for the rest of the villagers to hear.
Still, everyone was at a loss for words at what was happening. His words however, were enough to send them in a panic from the terror and mannerisms he was going through. Anxious, everyone turned to the fifty-something year old elder to the side--he was the elder of the village.
The elder himself looked grim as he observed the trembling youth. Turning around, the man faced the villagers.
“Xiao Feng came from Plum Village from the other side of Mount Blackwood. The villagers there tried to resist the Blackwood Stronghold and were all killed as a result. As a survivor, he made his way here….” The elder muttered so softly he may as well be talking to himself. But the rest of the villagers had heard what he said. “Everyone, listen to what Xiao Feng said! Have all the women run and hide! If they want something, don’t put up a fight and give it to them!”
When the ten horses made its way into the village, the dozen villagers who stayed behind started to shake violently. Each one of these horse riders were carrying chillingly-cold broadswords that frightened the very souls of anyone that looked at it.
“Eh? The villagers here are something else, are they actually welcoming us? Whatever! As long as you listen to us, the great I won’t hurt you! Hurry up and bring out all the meat and wine you got, and whatever other valuables you have! As long as you satisfy us, we’ll take what we want and leave!” The dead-eyed man from earlier spoke happily as if he was doing everyone a great favor.
Looking at all the weapons the men were carrying, the elder knew that resistance was futile. Bowing fervently, he replied, “Thank you for being so merciful, O’ great one. We will bring out what you want right away. Please wait one moment….”
Turning around, the elder gave a signal to the other villagers. He knew everyone was unwilling to bend to their will, but there was nothing else they could do. Several other villagers turned around with the elder and returned to their own homes to retrieve what they had. For these villagers who lived here for their entire lives, how could they fight back? The fact that these bandits would leave after taking their possessions was already a good thing.
“Hold on!” But the man with fish eyes suddenly shouted, causing everyone to leap up in fright.
“Bring out all the young and pretty women and have them leave with us! We’ve several dozen brethren waiting for us in the forest back there. But since you’ve been so obedient so far, we’ll be sure to return your women safe and sound after they’re done serving us!”
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