Kai was bewildered by the man's sudden attack. Luckily he was on guard and his body was able to react in time, dodging the man's grip.
"Iron first Jurgen I presume?" Kai said as he continued to move backward, creating more space between the two of them.
"Jurgen, stop!. We brought him here to help!" Mina shouted as she stood between the two of them.
"Help? we don't need any help. Once the beasts return, the Man-hunters will retreat and everything will be back to normal. As for him...He is suspicious. Those movements are not something normal people can do."
"Answer my question. Are you with the Man-hunters?". Jurgen continued.
Kai didn't understand what the man was talking about. He was obviously crazy and Kai wouldn't stick around to see what he would do next. just as he was about to run, Mina spoke up.
"His name is Kai, He was attacked and lost my memories. We brought him here to help the village with the food shortage issue!".
"We don't need the help of this suspicious-looking kid, send him back!." Jurgen roared again.
"Once the beasts return to the fields, the village will be harder to reach. Then I will hunt every single one of those damned Man-hunters myself after they leave!"
"There is no guarantee that they will leave. You're supposed to be the Chief here, so how about acting like one?..."
Jurgen snapped when he heard this. He struck his fist into the ground with force creating a small crater before looking at Mina with undisguised spite in his eyes.
He turned his head away from Mina and looked at Kai with a cold look before turning around and started walking back to the village.
"I'm doing this because I am the Chief!. He must be gone by tomorrow and in the meantime, he will be your responsibility. If he does anything suspicious, you will be held responsible!. I know you understand what that means..."
Jurgen turned around and walked back into the village.
Kai was fuming as he watched the entire situation unfold. The guy was completely unreasonable. Not only did he attack him on sight, but he also threatened them?.
"What exactly is going on here Mina?, didn't you say this place was safe?. What's wrong with that guy?".
Mina sighed and turned back to Kai. "I'm sorry about him. We've been attacked by the Man-hunter's a lot recently and many villagers have either die or been taken captive. There aren't many able bodies to help Jurgen fight so he has been under a lot of pressure".
Ryu came back to reality and quickly apologized to Kai as well. "Jurgen is usually very nice and approachable, however, his wife was one of the Man-hunter victims taken captive. All he wanted to do was go out and find her but he stayed to protect the rest of the village...please understand..."
Kai didn't think that was a good enough reason for the way the man acted but he decided to just let it go. What he wanted was to just his goods and gather as much information as possible. He had no intentions of staying here long after the way the man acted.
"It's fine, I'm not bothered by it", Kai said as he walked back to the two.
"So what's this I hear about a food shortage?. Didn't you say we were going to sell my stuff?". Asked Kai as he looked at Mina with suspicion. If they just used that as an excuse to rob him...
The embarrassed Mina scratched her head as she replied. "The plan has not changed, just where we will be selling is a little...further away. I want to use my share to help exchange food supplies for our entire village.
Kai looked at how honest and selfless the girl seemed when she said it and had no choice but to believe her.
"Ok, I understand. Where will we be selling the goods then?" Kai asked her curiously.
"There is a town a few days west of here. They are part of the merchant's trade routes so there is always a large supply of goods and coins there. It's also where the surrounding villages sell their crops and scavenged herbs."
Kai understood. It seemed Yellow Crow village was just a weak outlying village struggling to survive, but the town on the trade route could benefit from the goods and coins being traded between the larger cities as well as those from the smaller villages. That may be a better destination for Kai than this place so he had no problems with it.
Mina and Ryu lead Kai into the village. The village was rather small and there were not too many people walking around. The focal point of the entire place was a small shrine in the middle as well as a house much larger than the others behind the shrine.
As for the few people, Kai saw walking around. They looked exhausted and listless as if they had given up on life. The entire place oozed a gloomy and sad atmosphere.
"Do the Man-hunter attacks happen often?". Kai asked as he followed the pair.
Ryu quickly responded. "No, this year is the first time they have attacked us in such force. Many of our strongest hunters died in the first attack and the majority of our food stores were raided."
"Jurgen was out training at the time and when he returned, the village was barely on its last legs. He was able to defeat their leader and drive the rest away, however, the damage was already done".
As Kai listened to the story, they reached a small hut at the edge of the village.
The siblings lead Kai in and he took a brief look around. The place was clean and covered in odd-looking fur all around. there was also a small fire pit in the middle of the room, likely used for cooking and heating. There were no beds or furniture so it looked quite barren yet oddly comfortable at the same time.
"Were you two in the village when they raided happened?".
As Kai asked this, his eyes subconsciously drifted to Mina. He knew that she was a [Grade 3] Body Cultivator so she should be just as strong as Jurgen, if not stronger. If she were around, the Man-hunters shouldn't have been able to do this much damage.
"Yes, we were here, however, Mina and I were able to hide. Our late father created a hidden room beneath this hut large enough for a few women and children to hide in during emergencies..." As Ryu said this, a look of sadness washed over both his and Mina's faces.
Kai felt he had touched a nerve so he stopped his round of questioning there. There must be a reason why Mina didn't help fight the Man-hunters but this wasn't his problem so he decided to just ignore it and let it go.
Kai didn't consider himself a good or bad person. He was able to empathize with other people's situations and would try to help if he could, but he wouldn't put himself in danger or go out of his way to do so, especially if there was nothing for him to gain.
For now, he just wanted to focus on gathering information and supplies. He also hoped that he would be able to find items with large amounts of Qi of unique manuals at this trading town so he needed to keep the siblings on his side so they would take him there.
"We'll pack what we need for the trip and head out tomorrow," Mina said. "The path is fairly safe around this time of year since all the beasts have migrated further west, but we need to move quickly if we don't want to run into them on our way back."
That evening, the group ate some hard bread provided by Mina as well as some strips of dried fruit from Kai's backpack. Kai had a lot of the meat in his backpack, but they wanted to get as much money as possible for it so they did not eat much of it.
Mina had also dissuaded Ryu from turning the strips into a stew to avoid arousing suspicion from the villagers and Jurgen. If he found them hoarding this much food, he may confiscate it to distribute to the others. While this may have helped the village for a few days, it would not be as good as trading for sacks of grain which could help for a few months.
The night passed with little fanfare. Kai was anxious as he thought the Man-hunters or Jurgen would attack, however nothing of the sort happened.
Early in the morning while the village slept, the trio quietly left the village and headed west with their bags in tow.
From the shadows, a middle-aged man watched them leave with sadness in his eyes. He started coughing into his hands and then noticed that there was blood on his palms.
"I need to hurry, I hope they will stay alive at least..." he said under his breath as he walked back into the shadows.
The trio walked for an entire day without much change in scenery. The flat barren plains were long and stretched out endlessly on the Southern continent however one can sometimes spot large trees that stand over 200m tall.
These trees are scattered throughout the plains, however, the distance between them is massive that Kai estimated it would take a full day of traveling to walk from one tree to the other. Mina was actually using the trees as landmarks to make sure they were going in the right direction.
When they reached the first massive tree on their path, it was already close to evening so they set up camp. They did not start a fire and spent the night hidden between the large roots of the tree which were close to 40m thick.
Kai had already noticed the day before that the two walked extremely slowly when compared to him. They also had to take 5-10 minute breaks every so often which surprised Kai. He thought Mina was pretending as the system clearly identified her as having a Mortal [Grade 3] body. With that, she shouldn't tire out so easily, but in fact, she was usually the one asking for the breaks while covered in sweat. She was either a really good actress...or there was something suspicious going on with her body.
Luckily the weather was rather mild and the sun was not too unbearable so they were able to make good progress during the day.
On the third day of traveling, Ryu noticed human tracks on their path and stopped to inspect them.
"it seems there are people ahead of us going in the same direction. Distance is about half a day's walk from us. Do we take a detour?" Ryu asked.
Mina responded; "We don't have time to take a detour. If we dally any longer, our return trip will be fraught with even more dangers. How many are there?"
"Ten by the looks of it."
Kai was surprised by the amount of information Ryu was able to gather just from looking at some tracks. Kai finally realized why Mina dragged him over with her when she was searching for herbs. They would be able to avoid a lot of danger if they were able to determine where the danger would be and how many there were.
"we'll tail them for now. When we get closer to the town, we can go around them at night and head into the town. That way we won't lose any time"
Kai looked at the two of them in awe. One had the ability to track based on nothing but a few footprints and the other could quickly determine the best course of action based on their current situation.
The trio came to an agreement and continued on their way with Ryu leading while following the tracks to ensure they would not accidentally catch up to them.
Kai had an introspective moment and realized that he wasn't talented like these two. The survival knowledge he had was just instinctive knowledge that his body remembered from the previous owner. The system skills could also not be considered "his" either as he didn't even know where they came from or how they worked. He wasn't a master strategist and wasn't even all that charismatic. He was kind of a loser...
Kai didn't want to stay with this train of thought for long as he doubled down on his resolve. "None of that matters now. I've had a chance to be reborn into this cultivation world with a system that's giving me a chance to grow by my own hands!. Greatness is before me, I just have to keep moving forward!"
Kai had been thinking about what he wanted to do when he arrived at the town more and more during the last few days.
Apart from selling his dried meat, he still had the goal of creating the most powerful sect this world had ever seen, however, he knew this would not be easy. Even if he found some early success, he could still be devoured by stronger sects that could deem him a threat.
"I'll have to gather as much power as I can. I'll also need a lot of resources and money to operate."
Kai was prepared to bide his time as he trained, gathered resources for a long time. When the time was right, Kai would unify them all under the banner of his sect and stand tall and proud ready for any challenge.
"But for now, I'll need a cover".
"Don't sects always need large amounts of pills and weapons?. Maybe I can learn how to do alchemy or weapons crafting. better yet, something magical like talisman drawing could be cool. Plus these could help me make money as I'm pretty sure sects aren't cheap to run...".
The group continued walking for a few more hours while Kai was contemplating what he would do once they arrived.
Suddenly, Ryu stopped walking and turned to Kai and Mina in a panic.
"The tracks are changing in a weird way, I think we might have been discovered!"