Zhou Ye took a deep breath before thinking for a bit. A few minutes later he started speaking.
“It started when my group of five went to hunt in the forest a month ago. We had heard that someone had found snow veiled hares and some high tier beasts in the forest nearby. We didn’t want to really hunt spirit beasts at that time, so these beasts were a good opportunity to get some money before the winter got really intense.
We were returning during the evening after a successful hunt, and suddenly one of my companions collapsed. We went to check and discovered that he had stopped breathing. We were very surprised and became alert, but it was useless as we had already lost when we went to check up on our companion.
Him collapsing was a distraction and at that moment some black-robed people ambushed us. I was able to escape into the depths of the forest, but my companions were not so fortunate. I tried to return to the town a few times, but the black-robed men were able to find me every time.
At first, I thought they were just warriors that were at the high tier of the Body tempering realm, but then I realized how wrong I was. They actually had cultivators in their midst.
I couldn’t understand why they were even attacking us. Originally I had thought of them as bandits, but there was no chance a bandit in this region could be a cultivator. Any cultivator could easily get employed and won’t have to resort to banditry, at least here.
Then I realized that the problem seemed to be a lot more deeper than I thought. The black-robed men blocked me at every point and didn’t let me escape. Eventually, I was captured and was knocked unconscious.
They took me to a hidden cave, and I didn’t know its location as I was unconscious when I was taken there. I was shackled and chained in a prison there. But when I opened my eyes for the first time there, I discovered that I was not alone.
There were many more people imprisoned there along with me. I even found some of my companions there. They were heavily injured and were chained the same as me. But the most shocking thing for me was that there were actually mercenaries there as well.”
A collective gasp was heard in the tent as everyone except Lin Mu, and Teng Xiaolian was shocked. Teng Xiaolian had already seen last night’s incident so was expecting there to be something strange and Lin Mu had already known of this. Though the information about there being a hidden prison in a cave was very interesting to him.
‘Seems like I’ll need to speak to the Hei Corps soon.’ Lin Mu thought.
Zhou Ye had taken a little break and was drinking water to moisten his parched throat. Evidently, him speaking this much was already taking its toll on him.
“Are you fine? Do you want to rest more?” Hao Xiao asked gently.
Zhou Ye shook his head in denial.
“No, I’m fine. I… I want to finish this first.” Zhou Ye replied.
“So, what happened next?” Hong Luo asked.
Zhou Ye took another deep breath before continuing.
“I stayed there for over two weeks and observed all that happened there. It was surprisingly calm, except for the mercenaries’ attempts to escape. The black-robed men actually did not torture us or hurt us, unless it was necessary. They even provided us with proper food and water. Going so far as to actually treat any injury that bled.
While I was there I also saw that they took away a few people every day and brought more in. Nearly all of them were mercenaries and were all cultivators. There were some body tempering realm mercenaries too, but they were far and few in between.
Eventually, I and a few other prisoners got talking and planned out some things. We tried to look for avenues of escape and concluded that the best opportunity would be when they actually released us from the prison to take us to wherever they did.
One of the people that I met then was Dongfeng Zhao. He was a mercenary from the Ashen cloak mercenary company and was the leader of one of their elite teams. He told me that he and his team were ambushed as well when they were hunting for spirit beasts in the northern forest.
Dongfeng Zhao then told me that nearly all of the mercenaries that were there were elite mercenaries and had been commissioned to hunt the spirit beasts by the mayor of the Wu Lim City. They had actually felt suspicious at the start when their communication with the other teams was slowed down, but when they were attacked and brought there, they finally understood.
Someone was taking this opportunity to target all the mercenary companies. Dongfeng Zhao guessed that it was probably someone wanting to eliminate competition and reduce the influence of other companies. But after a few days, he rescinded his words and realized that this was more than that.
The strengths of the black-robed men were way more than necessary. More than ninety percent of their people were cultivators and there was plenty of peak stage Qi refining realm cultivators as well. There was no chance that an entourage so strong would even need to compete with the mercenary companies when they can just set up their own faction with that strength.”
“Was someone taking revenge then? Or perhaps sabotaging?” Hong Luo questioned.
“It does seem like that, it could be either of those or even both. In the end, the person that’s suffering is the mercenaries and the mayor of the Wu Lim city.” Long Da spoke.
“Considering the strength of the black-robed men, I would say that it’s actually someone targeting the mayor of the Wu Lim city. Only he would be worthy of a large-scale scheme such as this.
They’re abducting the mercenaries and making the mayor have a loss. Since even if mercenaries die, the mayor still has to pay for their services, and beyond that, whatever need he had for the large amount of beasts won’t be satisfied.” Teng Xiaolian analyzed.
Everyone went silent and pondered on this after hearing Teng Xiaolian’s words. Even Lin Mu felt that they seemed to be viable and reasonable.
‘If there is indeed someone targeting the mayor, doing this would indeed harm his work, finances, and even reputation.’ Lin Mu thought.
“It could be like that, but something still irks me, but I can’t place it where.” Yi Duyi spoke.
Others nodded in response, as they felt strange too.
Zhou Ye had taken this time to rest for a little bit and was ready to speak once again.
“Eventually the day came when we were to be transported someplace else. That was about three days ago. We were blindfolded and taken out of the cave. Unlike me, who was blindfolded and couldn’t see, Dongfeng Zhao could still observe his surroundings because of his spirit sense.
He told me that they were actually taking us through a different route in the cave and not the one they had come from. In a surprise to us, it actually took them over two hours to get out of the cave. Because of the large number of twists and turns we took, none of us could tell in what direction we were going, neither where we had come from.
When we finally got out of the cave, a dense canopy of trees greeted us. Due to the type of trees they were, I was able to guess that we were now in the northwestern part of the forest. Though I still did not know how far deep we were in there.
While being transported, we halted to take a break. It was then that Dongfeng Zhao took the opportunity to check everything out. He confirmed that it was ten of those black-robed men transporting us, while there were only four of us prisoners. It was me, Dongfeng Zhao, and two of his teammates.
We were keeping an eye out for an opportunity to escape when it happened…” Zhou Ye said and trailed off.
Seeing the abrupt pause that Zhou Ye had taken, Lin Mu furred his brows but didn’t disturb him and let him think it out. A few minutes later he started speaking again.
“We… we heard a loud roar. It was simply terrifying and was accompanied by a strong wave of spirit qi. We instantly understood that it was a spirit beast… a strong one. But only when we saw it did we understand how wrong we were.
It was no common spirit beast that had discovered us but rather a Core condensation realm spirit beast.”
“WHAT!” They exclaimed in unison.
“Yes, a core condensation realm spirit beast. It was a five meters tall bear. It had irregular black and brown fur and had bone spurs coming out of its skin. Its claws were ten inches long and looked like knives more than claws. Its eyes were red, as if filled with pure anger.
Its mere presence was enough to freeze us in our tracks, and when it came close, it just went from bad to worse. Before the black-robed men could even do anything, the bear had split three of their men in halves with one swipe of its claws.
Only after witnessing this did they start to retaliate, but alas it was too late. The bear was out of their league. It massacred all of them with ease, leaving no chance for survival. The Black-robed men saw that they were losing, thus resorted to using us as Shields.
Dongfeng Zhao took this opportunity and picked up a sword that had fallen to the ground nearby and freed him in a surprise to the black-robed men. Eventually, we all got free, but the black-robed men managed to kill two of Dongfeng Zhao’s teammates in retaliation.
Enraged he wanted to kill them but knew that he could not. In this time period, the two black-robed men that were fighting off the bear were killed and it was now coming towards me. I was unable to dodge and was just about to be killed.
But then Dongfeng Zhao pushed me aside and took the attack. The bear’s claws pierced his neck and the bear then pulled them out, decapitating him in the process.”