Chapter 39 – Toad Caravan Merchant
The month of May was a transition between spring and summer.
The fragrance of flowers filled the air, the huge mountains evergreen and the sunlight began to gradually release its ardent side.
Under the clear azure skies, the white clouds drifted like cotton.
On Qing Mao Mountain, the bamboo forest was straight like spears as always, pointing towards the blue sky. Weeds grew wildly everywhere, and unknown varieties of wild flowers dotted the grass thicket. As the light breeze blew, the wild grass moved to and fro, the heavy fragrance of flower pollen and the smell of green grass assailing visitors.
Halfway up the mountain was a huge number of terraced fields. Layer by layer, step by step, the soft green wheat sprouts were planted down. From afar, it looked like a verdant green sea.
On the terraced fields were numerous farmers busily working away. There were some farmers cleaning the canal for the channeling of water to irrigate the fields, while some farmers were rolling up their trousers, standing in the fields and planting sprouts.
These people were naturally all mortal outsiders as the Gu Yue clansmen would never have do these lowly jobs.
The sound of camel bells could be faintly heard in the spring breeze.
The farmers straightened their bodies as they headed down the mountain, only to see a caravan moving like a colorful worm from the mountain side, slowly showing its head.
“It’s the merchant caravan!”
“Yes, it’s already May, it is about time for the caravan to come.”
The adults caught on the situation at once, and the children stopped playing with the water and clay in their hands. Together, they energetically approached the caravan.
The Southern Borders had a hundred thousand mountains – Qing Mao Mountain was just one of them. On every mountain, there were villages after villages, which were maintained by everyone through their blood relationships and kinships.
In between the mountains, the forests were deep and ominous, the cliffs steep and full of the dangerous falling rocks. Additionally, in the complex surroundings of the forest dwelled a large number of ferocious beasts and peculiar Gu worms.
Mortals could not pass through at all. It was difficult to get past these obstacles alone, one had to at least be a Rank three Gu Master.
Because of the poor economy, trading was difficult. Thus, the most important form of trading was through the caravan merchants. Only by organizing a merchant group in such a large scale could Gu Masters come together with the power to help each other, conquering the difficulties in the traveling routes and traversing from one mountain to another.
The merchant caravan’s arrival was like a bowl of boiling water that poured into the peaceful and serene Qing Mao Mountain.
“All these past years they would come in April, but this year they only arrived in May. At least they’re here now.” The owner of the inn let out a deep breath upon hearing the news. The inn’s business was poor in the other months, so only when the caravan came could he earn enough profit to last the year.
At the same time, there was some green bamboo wine within his storage that he could sell to the caravan merchants.
Besides the inn, the business at the tavern would also boom as a result.
The caravan merchants entered the Gu Yue mountain village one by one, lead by a Treasure Brass Toad. This toad was two and a half meters tall, its entire body orange-yellow in color. The back of the toad was thick and full of warts and knots. It was like the lumps of bronze nails on ancient city gates.
On the Treasure Brass Toad’s back, thick ropes were tied around plenty of goods. At a glance, it seemed like the toad was carrying a giant backpack.
A middle-aged man with a circular face full of pockmarks sat cross-legged atop the toad. He was fat and had a large belly. Both of his eyes formed into slits when smiling. He cupped his fists as he greeted the surrounding Gu Yue villagers.
This man’s name was Fu of the Jia clan. His cultivation was at Rank four and he was the leader of the merchant caravan this time.
The treasure toad hopped slightly as it moved forward but Jia Fu who was sitting on its head was stable and steady. When the toad hopped, his height would level with the windows on the second floor of a building. Even when he was back on the ground, he was at a height greater than the first level of the bamboo buildings.
The originally spacious streets were suddenly rather packed and narrow. The Treasure Brass Toad was like a beast that intruded into the midst of a great number of bamboo houses.
After the treasure toad was a huge fat worm. It had two eyes that were similar to multi-colored glass windows, the colors bright and gorgeous. The worm was fifteen meters long, its body shape resembling a silkworm. However, the surface of the worm was covered in a thick layer of black porcelain-like leather armor. On the armor was another abundant pile of goods and merchandise, a hemp rope tied around it. In between the gaps and intervals of the goods, Gu Masters sat one by one, some old and some young.
There were also mortals who were robust and sturdy martial warriors, slowly moving forward on the ground following after a fat black beetle.
After the fat beetle, there were ostriches with brightly colored feathers, hairy mountain spiders, winged snakes with two pairs of feathered wings and so on. However, these were in small numbers, most of the creatures were toads.
These toads were all similar to the Treasure Brass Toad, but they were smaller in size and had the build of cows and horses. The toads were carrying merchandise and people, their bellies bulging as they hopped forward.
The merchant caravan wound deep into the village.
Children on the road would look on curiously with wide eyes, calling out in joy or exclaiming in surprise.
The windows on the second stories opened one after another, the mountain villagers observing the merchants from a short distance. Some had eyes that flashed with fear and some others waved their hands to express a warm welcome.
“Old brother Jia, you came a little late this year, you must have had a hard journey.” Approaching with the identity of a clan head, Gu Yue Bo came out himself to greet the leader of this year’s merchant caravan.
As Jia Fu had the status of a Rank four Gu Master, if a Rank three elder were to be in charge of receiving him, it would be undoubtedly be seen as a kind of negligence and scorn.
Jia Fu cupped his fists and sighed, “This year’s road was rather unfavorable. On the way we bumped into a group of Secluded Blood Bats and we lost quite a few good men. Then on Jue Bi Mountain we ran into a mountain fog, and we didn’t dare to continue traveling at all. So we were delayed for quite a lot of time, and caused Brother Gu Yue to wait for quite awhile.”
As they spoke, their tones were very polite.
The Gu Yue village needed the merchant caravans every year to come and trade, and the merchant caravan also needed business to make money.
“Heh heh heh, it’s good enough that you are able to come. Please, the clan has prepared food and wine, let me host a welcoming dinner for you, old brother,” Gu Yue Bo stretched out his hand and said invitingly.
“Clan head is polite, too polite.” Jia Fu was flattered.
The merchant caravan arrived at the boundaries of the Qing Mao Mountain in the early morning, and by afternoon they were stationed in the Gu Yue Village. When it was dusk, the surroundings of the village had formed into a widespread area of temporary shops and stores. All kinds of red, blue, yellow and green lofty tents were built and every inch between the tents was squeezed with numerous little street stalls.
The night was descending, yet it was still brightly lit in the area.
An endless stream of pedestrians spilled into the area from the village. There were mortals as well as Gu Masters. The little children hopped around in high spirits, and the adults showed an expression of joy akin to celebrating a festival.
Fang Yuan moved along with the crowd, walking alone.
The crowd was bustling with activity, groups of people either surrounding the stalls or endlessly pouring in and out of the entrance of the tents.
The surroundings were filled with the shouts of merchants hawking their wares.
“Come, come, take a look. Top notch Blue Sea Cloud tea brick, drinking this tea makes one as cheerful as a fairy! Even if it’s not a person drinking, it can be used for feeding and raising tea Gu, it is a cheaply priced item for its value. One piece only costs five primeval stones!”
“Brute Force Longhorn Beetle Gu, a Gu Master who uses this Gu will be able to burst out with the strength of a cow. You can walk away, but don’t regret it!”
“Intimate Grass, high quality Intimate Grass. Everyone look at this quality, it’s as fresh as if a newly picked one. One catty for two pieces of primeval stones, very cheap price…”
As Fang Yuan heard this, his footsteps paused slightly, then he followed the sound and walked over.
He saw an ostrich pulling a handcart with two wheels. On the handcart was a heap of pastel green herbs. Every blade of grass was a meter in length, slender and long. Their average width was around that of a fingernail. On some of the pointed tips of the grass grew red heart-shaped flower buds.
The Intimate Grass was one of a Gu worm’s supplementary food type, its worth was stemmed from the fact that it could be used to pair up with a few other foods to feed a Gu worm.
For example, Fang Yuan needed to give two pieces of flower petals every meal to the Moonlight Gu when feeding it. If he mixed in a blade of Intimate Grass, the Moonlight Gu would be full just from eating one petal.
The Intimate Grass only costs two pieces of primeval stones per catty, while the moon orchid petal cost a primeval stone for every ten pieces. With a simple calculation, one would know that mixing the Intimate Grass in to feed the Gu would be more cost-effective.
“Half a month ago, because I used the Moonlight Gu in the academy to kill Gao Wan, I was fined thirty primeval stones. However the Mo family paid me thirty primeval stones later as compensation, so I didn’t really take any losses. In recent days I have robbed twice, my total number of stones amounts to 118. However, recently I continuously spent essence to refine middle stage primeval essence and nurture the four walls of my aperture, and I would use up three pieces of stones every day. Adding on the costs of feeding Gu, my own daily expenses and successively buying green bamboo wine, I have ninety-eight pieces at hand right now.”
Ever since Fang Yuan killed a person, the cruel and callous image had deeply rooted itself into the hearts of the students and for a time no one dared to challenge him. This led to his plundering becoming much easier, as every time only a very small number would dare to resist.
Fang Yuan calculated in his heart, then he moved his line of sight and continued walking deeper into the heart of the setup of temporary stores.
The Intimate Grass stall was surrounded by a group of people. They were all either Gu Masters or students, holding primeval stones in their hands as they shouted and rushed to buy it.
It was not that Fang Yuan lacked the money to buy Intimate Grass, but he had no time.
“If memory serves, that Mudskin Toad should be in that store. In my previous life there was a Gu Master who got it from gambling on the first night, hence he earned big time. I must hurry, I cannot lose a great deal through trying to save a little.”