Now that Lin Mu had an idea of how to proceed, he acted on it. He followed the trail of the broken and knocked down trees and tried to find the site of the attack. He walked for quite a long distance and reached a relatively wide and open area that seemed to be natural.
There were no more broken trees here, so Lin Mu concluded that the site of the attack should have been nearby.
“Now I just need to look for a broken carriage,” Lin Mu muttered to himself as his eyes looked around.
Since it was dark, Lin Mu was also using his spirit sense to scan the area. Still, even after searching for over fifteen minutes, Lin Mu did not find anything. It was as if the carriage had disappeared into the thin air.
“The carriage cannot be taken away by a beast, then that means… The culprits! They must have removed their traces later on.” Lin Mu guessed.
“You should use your spirit sense to look under the snow, it’s likely that the traces of the carriage and the tracks may be buried below the snow,” Xukong suggested.
Lin Mu nodded his head as he looked below the snow. But his search seemed to have been for naught, as there did not seem to be any traces here either. Whoever the culprits were, they were smart enough to erase all traces.
At least that’s what Lin Mu thought until he found something that was stuck in the trunk of a tree. What Lin Mu had found was a broken part of a wooden plan. It had broken off in a diagonal manner, and the sharp part was embedded in the trunk of a tree.
Lin Mu only found hits by chance as he was looking around. And he actually did not find this because of his spirit sense, but rather because of his own eyesight. The thing that had pulled Lin Mu’s attention was actually the glint of the moonlight that had shined off of a small nail.
This nail was stuck into the broken plank that was then stuck in the trunk of a tree. Lin Mu thanked his luck as he pulled out the broken piece of the plank. He looked at the broken plan and saw its finish and size.
It was a properly cut and trimmed piece of wood, thus there was no doubt that it was a part of the carriage.
“Seems like they missed this piece. Now you just need to figure out which direction you’re supposed to go.” Xukong chimed in.
Lin Mu nodded in response and looked around for more clues, but he still could not find any.
‘Hmm, we were supposed to meet up with the other team a distance away from here in the south, so that means the culprit’s cave must be in the other direction. It could be something else, but I just have to take a chance.’ Lin Mu thought to himself.
Having decided, Lin Mu turned to the northern direction and walked along the broad pathway. The pathway was a natural one and was basically a clearing. Lin Mu could tell that in other times of the year, animals probably passed through here, large animals.
There was no other reason why such a large path was present here in the forest. Another surprising thing that Lin Mu realized was that he had not seen nor heard any beast in the surroundings. He didn’t know if it was because of the weather or if it was because of the Great slumber Bear.
“It’s definitely the Great slumber bear. The bloodline aura of it should keep away even beasts that are many cultivation realms above it, away from it. The innate fear that’s present in the bloodlines of these beasts will force them to stay away.” Xukong explained.
“This is good. Now we know that the beast won’t be disturbed from its sleep and we won’t have to find it later.” Lin Mu replied as he nodded in acknowledgment.
Lin Mu had walked for about an hour now and finally got a small clue. Buried in the snow, he found a track mark that was no doubt from the wheels of a carriage. The track mark was very faint and would have been invisible if not for his spirit sense.
Lin Mu carefully brushed away the snow from the place that the track was at and revealed it. He looked at it and saw that the track slightly curved to the left. This prompted him to turn his head up and look to the left.
Lin Mu saw that another small clearing was present in between the trees. It was camouflaged by the snow and he would have missed it if not for the track marks. He thus turned left and continued on. This time, Lin Mu was able to find more clues.
There were faint footsteps that were buried under the snow and seemed to be coming from a single direction.
“Hmm, the footsteps are very shallow. Whoever the culprits are, they are definitely trained in movement techniques.” Xukong spoke.
“Movement techniques?” Lin Mu questioned as his brow raised in response.
“A movement technique is a special skill that can be used by a cultivator to improve their speed and agility. Some techniques are also specialized for assassination, sneaking, battle, speed, and more things. Though the one in this case is but just a minor foot technique used to lighten steps.” Xukong explained.
“That’s interesting, perhaps I’ll get to learn one sometime in the future.” Lin Mu responded and continued following in the footsteps.
The footsteps led him all the way to a mountain that was covered with tall pine trees. The entirety of it was covered with snow and looked beautiful. Lin Mu finally reached the side of the mountain and came to stand in front of a large boulder.
“Huh? This is it? There’s nothing here.” Lin Mu muttered.
He looked around, but this was where the footsteps had ended at. He used his spirit sense to observe the surroundings and detected a hollow space behind the large boulder. The boulder was placed in such a way that it leaned agings the wall of the mountain.
If one looked at it from far, they would think that the boulder had naturally rolled off of the mountain and had come to settle here. Lin Mu moved the snow from the ground around the boulder away and saw the dragging marks.
“Oh, so this boulder was moved here from the side to block the path to the cave.” Lin Mu spoke.
‘Seems like I need to make way for myself now.” Lin Mu thought and tried to push the boulder.
He knew that he wouldn’t be able to push it with his current strength, but he still wanted to try it, hoping for a miracle. His hopes were dashed quickly, as he wasn’t even able to make it budge. Even when he used the entirety of his body’s strength and stretched it with spirit qi, there was no effect.
The boulder was about three meters tall and four meters wide. There was no way Lin Mu could move it.
“Don’t waste your efforts, just use your skill and walk through it directly,” Xukong spoke in a chiding tone.
“Yes, senior.” Lin Mu replied while feeling a little embarrassed.
He activated the third skill Phase and walked through the boulder. A second later he appeared in a pitch-black cave. Lin Mu stayed alert and scanned the cave with his spirit sense first and did not deactivate the skill yet.
He was fully expecting for there to be people here, but surprisingly there was nobody. Having confirmed that the cave was abandoned, Lin Mu deactivated the skill and lit up an old half-burned torch that was attached to one of the walls nearby.
With the flame blazing, the abandoned cave was illuminated and Lin Mu was finally able to see it. The first thing he noticed was the large number of cages that were present in the cave, along with chains and other types of restraints.
There were also some pieces of furniture scattered all around, along with a few random articles. Lin Mu checked out the cages and discovered small amounts of blood in some of them. In another corner, he also found some old food.
Some parts of the food had gone moldy, while the rest still seemed to be fine.
“Looks like they left in a hurry.” Xukong spoke.
“Yes, but why? Did they know we were coming here or was it something else?” Lin Mu questioned in response.
Lin Mu looked around and saw the rooms that were located in the different corners of the cave. Most of them were empty, and the others only had some random items left in them. All Lin Mu could understand right now was that this cave was used to temporarily hold the mercenaries here.
“Looks like I’ll need to guide the Hei corps here. They have better investigational skills than me, they should know what clues I missed.”