Volume 4 – Perpetual Conflict, Chapter 6: Trap
Outside of town and toward the swamp was a shockingly large cemetery filled with broken gravestones as far as the eye could see. Grave mounds without headstones were even greater in number. It was unknown how many graves there were in this cemetery, but at the very least, there should be tens of thousands.
This cemetery had existed for at least hundreds of years. No one knew when such a tradition started in Black Clay Town—no matter who died in the vicinity, the townsmen would spontaneously dig a grave here for him. Deceased townsmen were also buried here. A spectacular burial ground was thus formed over time.
The little mounds rising and falling endlessly on the barren landscape stood as a cold testament to the desperate war the humans had been fighting against the environment and the dark races for hundreds of years.
Qianye observed the land before him for a moment before passing through the cemetery and toward the Black Clay Swamp.
Black Clay swamp was covered with a faint layer of gray mist under the night sky. Even Qianye, with his night vision, couldn’t see past a few dozen meters.The odd stench, seemingly a mixture of hundreds of nauseating odors, became increasingly evident the closer he got to the swamp. The stink was too much for the creatures from outside of the swamp to bear. Additionally, it would also cause their sense of smell to lose effectiveness.
There were no obvious boundaries around the swamp. Most of the areas resembled ordinary muddy terrain covered by a thin layer of grass-like vegetation. Those weren’t ordinary wild grass but contained a mixture of mosses and ferns growing together. The exterior was smooth and luxuriant, but it wasn’t solid ground underneath. Some of them were hiding extremely deep mires. An ordinary person would be unable to climb out after falling in and would be swallowed alive by the Dark Clay Swamp.
This kind of marshland terrain posed little trouble for Qianye. His military boots struck the muddy ground as he strode forth, his steps steady and fast. The moment he felt the ground beneath him suddenly turn soft, his whole body would immediately become as light as a feather and he would’ve stepped over before the mud could even spread onto his shoes.
Qianye had received special training in this respect. He had also learnt from Hu Wei how to distinguish whether there was a mire beneath by looking at the type of vegetation. Even so, he was unable to evade every time despite his good eyesight. Sometimes, he would know whether it was solid ground beneath his feet only after stepping on it. This goes to show how adverse the topography was. Only those with the strength and adaptability of a rank five fighter or above would be able to compensate for some misjudgements and maintain free movement under such circumstances.
Qianye kept on going for a while but then he suddenly stopped, drew the multipurpose military knife from his waist, and scooped out a black vine from within the marsh. He cut off a part from the vine and found that the liquid oozing out from the cut end was actually viscous and scarlet in color.
This blood vine, a local specialty of the Black Clay Swamp, was also an important component in many medicines. Its most famous auxiliary property was that it was compatible with many types of stimulants and would greatly increase the drug effects after addition. Basically, all stimulant prescriptions from the elite corps contained blood vine as an ingredient.
It was also one of the reasons why many wanderers and herb gatherers were attracted to the Black Clay Swamp. A segment of blood vine like the one in Qianye’s hand would sell for several gold coins in Blackflow City. This was a life-changing fortune for many scavengers.
The blood vine didn’t get its name from its dark red sap but because too many people had paid with their lives in order to pick it.
An odd buzz rang out within the darkness. The lingering sound gradually closed in as finger-sized flying bugs appeared one after another and began to fly around Qianye, attracted over by the scent of the blood vine segment in Qianye’s hands. They seemed like flying ants that had been magnified many times over. Their mouths looked especially fierce and the poisonous needles on their tails were constantly moving in and out.
These were common flying insects, but in the marshland environment, they had grown much larger than their relatives of the same species. At the same time, their poison had also grown more lethal. The blood vine would release its characteristic smell once it came into contact with air and would attract all the flying insects in the vicinity.
Seasoned herb gatherers would handle the blood vines under the water and pack it in special herb bags to control the spread of its scent as much as they could.
At this time, Qianye raised his hand slightly, whereupon a strand of blood energy mixed together with origin power was sent out of his finger. The movements of the flying insect swarm were suddenly disturbed as if they had encountered a dangerous beast. Their instinctive fear warned them not to approach although the blood vine’s scent was alluring.
However, danger couldn’t stop these flying insects. Ripples suddenly began to appear in a pool of muddy water beside Qianye. Suddenly, a black shadow shot out like an arrow from underneath the muddy waters. There was absolutely no prior indication and the movement was as swift as a flash of lightning. Add to that the close distance, Qianye simply had no time to evade. He only felt pain on his leg before the affected area immediately went numb and lost all sensation.
It was a half-meter long serpentine animal that had pounced from under the water. There was an incomparably sharp horn growing On its head. It had, with a single strike, pierced through the metallic mesh in Qianye’s military boots and directly bit into his leg.
Horned snakes were another type of danger which accompanied blood vines. If the flying insects signified lethal danger, then the appearance of the horned snake was equal to death itself. Its horn was hollow inside and served as an organ to suck blood. Furthermore, the horned snake’s venom was lethal. Currently, there were no effective antidotes apart from special anti-venom serum used by the military. Once poisoned, the victim could only rely on his physical constitution and origin power to resist.
His vampire constitution afforded Qianye a natural resistance to poison. The numbness brought about by the horned snake’s venom stopped its ascension after reaching his knees. His life was apparently not in danger but he was still somewhat affected. This goes to show how strong the poison was. No wonder Hu Wei said people who went to the Black Clay Swamp were trying their luck at the risk of their lives.
Qianye stayed abnormally still. Sensation gradually returned to the wound on his leg as the horned snake began to suck blood. He could feel his blood flowing out continuously as the horned snake’s now bulging gray abdomen grew bigger and bigger.
Qianye released the suppression on his blood energy after he reckoned the horned snake had its fill. A strand of ordinary blood energy immediately rushed out from his heart, deftly found its way into the outflowing blood, and was sent out along with a strand of Qianye’s aura.
The horned snake suddenly shot away from Qianye’s leg. It began to writhe, flutter, and struggle continuously in the muddy water. It then turned rigid within moments and lay half-submerged on the water surface, never to move again.
To the snake, that strand of blood energy was an extreme poison that couldn’t be resisted.
Qianye stowed the blood vine away and walked around the place as he erased most of the traces he had left behind. However, a detailed observation would reveal that the clean up wasn’t quite thorough—certain intermittent traces and clues could be found in unremarkable corners. Qianye didn’t touch that horned snake and left it lying where it was.
Qianye checked the scene once more before he felt satisfied and headed toward the depths of the swamp. But this time, his footsteps were much heavier and he had to free himself from the mire quite often, leaving no small amount of traces.
At this moment, Qianye was in a state of high alert despite his usual expression. He had activated his concealed bloodline and was keeping the blood energy within his body in careful control.
His intuition told him that the blood knight he had encountered in Black Clay Town hadn’t left and had even followed him into the marsh. Qianye wasn’t able to ascertain the traces of being followed despite having gone around for so long. However, that faint sensation of lingering danger hadn’t dispersed since the very beginning.
This was the reaction of the blood energy in Qianye’s body to the fresh blood power of the blood knight. Although the other party had withdrawn his aura later on and Qianye could no longer sense his exact location, that kind of feeling lingered on. As long as the sensation didn’t disappear completely, it remained a possibility that the blood knight was prowling in the vicinity.
Qianye thought of a bold plan after he was ambushed by the horned snake. He had no idea if this kind of strategy would be of any use against that high-ranking vampire. A vampire who dared enter deep into human territory and still not leave after being discovered was evidently an experienced veteran. Such an enemy wouldn’t fall for a trap easily. However, Qianye wasn’t impatient in the least. The marsh was extremely vast—he would have ample time and opportunity later on.
Not long after Qianye left, part of the scenery at one corner of the marsh began to distort as a shadow seemingly materialized out of thin air. His whole body was enveloped in a dark-colored cloak with vague dark red lights where his eyes were supposed to be. He knelt down to observe the water surface.
He saw an indistinct footprint from his current angle. Shallow footprints usually disappeared quickly due to the undercurrents of this seemingly peaceful marsh. The fact that this footprint remained indicated that step taken was especially heavy.
The blood knight didn’t look forward but turned back toward the direction from which the footprints came. As he rose up, his whole figure became warped, indistinct, and somewhat drifting before heading weightlessly toward the direction where Qianye had come from.
Moments later, the shadow found the place where Qianye had dug out the blood vine and also saw the horned snake floating rigidly on the water surface. The horned snake was a tyrant of the marsh, and as such, despite its death, no marshland creature would dare approach this place for some time.
The blood knight walked toward the horned snake. But when he was only a few meters from the target, his body shook as he lurched to a stop.
He slowly removed the hood over his silver hair to reveal a noble and dignified countenance. The deep downward curve at the corner of his mouth and his falcon-like eyes allowed one to feel the coldness and cruelty within his heart. But at this moment, his facial features actually became twisted as he let out a vague growl from his throat. Even his fangs had emerged from the corners of his lips.
He was staring fixedly at a low lying bush. The shrub’s trunk was twisted and full of spikes with sparse dark green leaves growing on top of it.
The blood knight took deep continuous breaths and, allowing his sense of smell to guide him, slowly approached the bush. In the end, he found his target on the surface of a leaf—a drop of dried blood.
Although the blood had already dried out, there was still a strand of sweet fragrance lingering on it. Just how wonderful would the scent have been in its fresh and active state?
The blood knight approached the drop of blood and inhaled deeply. He then held his breath and, closing his eyes, revealed an intoxicated expression.
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