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Since they did not know the way to Bog Town, continuing towards the east sounded like the logical choice.
From Wondertrap Mountain, they retraced their steps to get back to the main mountain path, and continued travelling eastwards from there.
There was nothing but wilderness along the way. But after a few days, they finally came across the first sign of civilisation.
It was a huge boulder with the following words carved into it.
- This way to Bog Town – Ten Kilometres -
"Looks like we still managed to find our way here somehow," Nanlan Qianxue remarked.
"Come to think of it, I guess it makes sense that the mountain road led us to the nearest town," Lu Tianzi shrugged. "But what's with this rock?"
Lu Tianzi stepped forward and placed his hand upon the huge boulder, examining it closely.
The boulder was bright green and had a flawlessly smooth texture, completely unlike any naturally occurring rocks. In fact, Lu Tianzi would not be surprised if the boulder had been intentionally placed here and maintained regularly by artisans to retain its beautiful exterior.
But that alone was not enough to draw Lu Tianzi's attention.
Aside from that, Lu Tianzi could feel a small source of energy encapsulated deep inside the boulder, almost as though it was holding a low ranked beast core within.
Just what kind of rock was this?
Lu Tianzi had no idea.
However, it was likely that he would be able to find the answer in Bog Town itself.
"Let's go. If the sign is to be believed, we should be able to reach before dusk," Lu Tianzi retracted his hand from the boulder.
"Yeah, I can't wait to see what this Bog Town has to offer!" Nanlan Qianxue grinned in excitement.
It was probably less than a tenth the size of Bluenight City, but it was still safely tucked behind tall town walls.
These town walls were nothing when compared to the huge cities in Scarlet Moon Kingdom, but they were still far more impressive than the wooden fencings on Wondertrap Mountain.
They were about five metres tall, and a garrison was situated right above the town gate.
Four soldiers stood by the gate, watching closely as townsmen moved in and out.
The footfall was healthy, but the activity in no way considered bustling.
More importantly, the atmosphere was dreary. Be it the townsmen or the town gaurds, not a single smile could be seen on their faces.
n.o.body spoke unnecessarily, and everyone simply minded their own businesses.
Lu Tianzi and Nanlan Qianxue arrived while the sun was still up, and cautiously joined the queue to enter through the gate.
They could feel the tension in the air, and dared not speak much while they were in the queue either.
The queue moved silently, with the guards doing little to check on the visitors.
Lu Tianzi was fine with that too. What mattered most was that he was able to enter without any issues.
But when it finally came to their turns, the silent guards suddenly spoke up.
"You are not from around here, are you?" the guard commented after taking a good look at their faces. "I don't remember ever seeing your faces."
"We are travellers and this is the first time we are here," Lu Tianzi answered frankly.
"What a time to visit," the guard let out a pitiful sigh. "If I were you, I will just tend to whatever I need to do and leave."
"Hmm? Is there something wrong in the city right now?" Lu Tianzi asked.
"It is not convenient for me to say too much, so it is up to you whether you want to take my advice. Now move along," the guard waved him on.
"Thank you for the advice, I will take it into consideration," Lu Tianzi clasped his fist towards the guard in grat.i.tude before entering along with Nanlan Qianxue.
What they saw inside the town walls was of little difference from the scene outside.
Stalls were open along the streets, but the number of people was few.
Anyone on the streets would be tending to their matters with a solemn expression on their faces, not bothering to make idle chat with the shop owners or even their own companions.
"Not the happiest town, is it?" Nanlan Qianxue remarked. "I wonder what happened."
"Who knows?" Lu Tianzi shrugged. "Let's just find a place to stay for now."
When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
As they walked along the street, the two of them only conversed with voice conveyance so as to not stand out from the crowd, eventually entering the first inn that they came across.
The inside of the tavern was actually far more crowded than the streets outside, and almost every table was filled.
Even though the sun was still up, everyone was chugging down alcohol without restraint.
Yet despite that, all of them suppressed their voices when speaking, as though afraid that others were eavesdropping on their conversations.
The moment Lu Tianzi and Nanlan Qianxue pushed open the door, everyone looked towards the entrance with wary eyes.
Lu Tianzi was unfazed by the sudden attention, ignoring their gazes and to head straight for the counter.
But right after he took a single step, a familiar voice sounded out in his head. "Hey, it's you! You are here as well!"
Lu Tianzi turned around to see who it was.
It was not too difficult to spot the only person waving towards them – Jue, captain of the Iron Claw Brigade.
The rest of the Iron Claw Brigade, Xing, Guo, Fei, and Quan, were all seated at his table as well. But apart from them, there was another middle-aged man whom Lu Tianzi was able to recognise.
This was the same man who had been poisoned by his childhood friend.
Back then in the mountain inn, he had been unconscious the whole time. That was in complete contrast to the healthy pink on his face right now, though it might also be because of the alcohol that they had been drinking.
In any case, Beiwei Jinguo's antidote for the Viper Sprout seemed to have worked pretty well!
Now that he had seen a familiar face, Lu Tianzi temporarily put aside the matter of getting a room.
"It is good to see you again, Captain Jue, Xing, Guo, Fei, Quan," Lu Tianzi walked over and clasped his fist towards them.
"Mm," Jue nodded. "It is good to see that you are safe as well, young brother. When did you arrive?"
"We just reached," Lu Tianzi answered. "In fact, we are just about to secure our accommodations here. Is everyone staying here as well?"
"You just arrived?" everyone revealed a look of surprise.
"You guys must have really enjoyed spending time alone, eh?" Xing grinned. "For a journey that could be completed in two weeks, you actually spent more than a month!"
"Haha, some unexpected matters came up along the way," Lu Tianzi scratched his cheek in embarra.s.sment.
Lu Tianzi still remembered the members of the Iron Claw Brigade warning him not to enter Wondertrap Mountain as far as possible, so he certainly was not intending to tell them what they had been doing since they left the mountain inn.
"This is…?" the middle-aged man asked.
"Oh right, you haven't met. This young brother here is…" Jue's voice trailed off before revealing a look of awkwardness. "Come to think of it, I still haven't gotten your names."
"Tianzi," Lu Tianzi smiled.
"Qianxue," Nanlan Qianxue added from the side.
"Nice to meet you, Brother Tianzi, Sister Qianxue," the middle-aged man greeted. "I am Dongci Ze. You can just call me Ze."
"Brother Ze might be unaware, but this isn't the first time we met," Lu Tianzi said.
"It isn't?" Dongci Ze blinked blankly. "Pardon me, but I don't quite remember where we have met."
"They were at the mountain inn when we first found you," Jue explained. "That's how we got to know each other too."
"So that's the case," Dongci Ze forced a smile. "I have shown you an unembarra.s.sing side then."
"That is hardly your fault, Brother Ze. It is understandable to not have guarded against your friend." Lu Tianzi shook his head. "Come to think of it, what happened to him?"
"He is currently in jail and awaiting his sentence," Dongci Ze answered.
But Lu Tianzi could tell from his heavy tone that Dongci Ze was not in the best of moods.
"He did this to you, yet you are still worried about him?" Lu Tianzi asked.
"That's not it, Young Brother Tianzi," Jue let out a deep sigh. "You just arrived in Bog Town, so it is not surprising that you are unaware. We brought that Dongbo Leng to the authorities, wanting to expose him for his misdeeds. But that incident actually created a far greater commotion than we have expected. When the other townsmen got to know the incident, they actually started a sort of witch hunt for people who abuse their power, and all n.o.ble families in Bot Town are put under scrutiny. Because of that, the situation in Bog Town is quite sensitive right now."
"On top of that, the Dongluo Family is being investigated as well," Dongci Ze added before downing another cup of wine.
"So that's why the atmosphere seems so dreary," Lu Tianzi nodded in realisation. "Is your lover affected then?"
According to what Lu Tianzi knew, the reason why Dongci Ze had been poisoned by his friend was because he had fallen in love with the young lady of the Dongluo Family. Her family members disapproved of Dongci Ze because of his lack of a matching background, eventually resorting to poison in order to get rid of him.
"His precious Dongluo Xi is fine and still deeply in love with him," Xing answered with a teasing smile. "Even though the Dongluo Family is being investigated, she will be safe as long as she stays within the safety of the Dongluo residence."
"Haha…" Dongci Ze let out a dry laugh. "But now that her family is affected, Xi is not feeling too good either. I just feel so guilty for causing so much trouble for her."
"Instead of worrying about her, you should be worrying more about us," Xing complained. "Because of you, the Town Lord now has us on his watchlist. He probably thinks that we are some big time troublemalkers for sparking off this whole problem."
"I sincerely apologise for this," Dongci Ze replied.
"Don't worry about it, Xing is just messing with you," Jue said before turning back to Lu Tianzi. "In any case, everyone is on edge right now. My sources tell me that the n.o.ble families are planning to strike back as well. Take my advice and stay low until this whole matter is over, in case you end up being targeted by either side."
"Much thanks for the warning, Captain Jue," Lu Tianzi nodded. "I will be careful."
That was indeed valuable information that he needed to take into consideration for as long as he remained in Bog Town.
At this moment, the doors of the inn was pushed open once more, and a cloaked figure step within.
Just like when Lu Tianzi and Nanlan Qianxue entered, everyone turned to look.
A thick hood shrouded much of the figure's face, but it was obvious from the thin jawline and smooth skin that it was a young lady, and likely a beautiful one at that.
Upon seeing this figure step into the inn, Dongci Ze suddenly rose from his seat and exclaimed out loud in shock.
"Xi! What are you doing out here?!"