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23 The Hunt Begins

    "WHAT THE HELL!?" Yala shouted before wispering to herself in disbelief ".. y-you were just at the early Moderate Spiritual Connection.."

    A series of confused reactions appeared on the faces of everyone present.

    Daniel's face was the most surprised as he jumped from the scare. "W-what.. what's wrong with you!?" He said through gritted teeth.

    Yala calmed down immediately and responded. "N-nothing.. sorry.."

    Yala's shock was understandable. The moment Daniel had touched her face with his hand to keep her quiet, she knew immediately that he wasn't the summoner she had been fighting with, as she had felt a spirit at the early moderate spritual connection stage through contact with his body.

    The spirit she had felt now, on the other hand, was more than a full sub-stage stronger. Such a progress in a single night was impossible. One had to understand that, Yala herself, was considered a genius amongst Spiritual Cultivators, and yet, despite all the help she had received, she had still taken more than a year to reach the peak of the spiritual connection stage.

    After meeting Daniel, all she could do was doubt her ability to discern the strength of another Spiritual Cultivator. That was much easier than believe she, as a genius, could be outpaced to this extent.

    -----

    Sinleah Mountain Range, Canyon's entrance, 13:24

    After a long morning of travel, the party finally managed to reach the Canyons that separated the mountains within the Sinleah Mountain Range.

    Various wooden signs had been placed at the entrance of the Canyons, and right before them, various camps had been set. These camps belonged to mining companies, and would usually house miners and slaves, but right now, they mostly housed the Hunting parties to which the mission of clearing the canyons had been assigned to.

    Daniel's party was only one of many.

    Legoh stepped out from the rest of the party and said "I'll go report to the Head Hunter and pick up our spatial bag.. wait for me.. uhh" He looked around for a moment, then continued "There has to be a tavern around here.. we'll meet there" He then took off alone.

    To Daniel, Legoh's departure wasn't a problem. He had already judged this teenager as a trustworthy person. To prove it, was the fact that he didn't attack the very moment Stueh had tried to turn them against him, and instead, listened to both versions. Not to mention, he didn't believe he would leave his sister Fiora alone, if he didn't consider them trustworthy as well.

    Daniel saw himself in Legoh, even tho much younger.

    It took them a bit of walking to finally end up in front of a large tent. Loud chatting noise could be heard coming from inside, and it sounded like something interesting was happening.

    The moment they entered, they saw a crowd of at least 50 people surrounding a table, on which three people were sitting.

    On the table, a few cards were placed facing up next to a small pile of copper and silver coins.

    Daniel's party ignored the crowd and headed towards the counter. They then ordered some food, and sat at an empty table to the side.

    "..and it looked like a human.. *hic!* with the tail of a scorpion and two claws for hands!"

    "That's ridiculous! You're just a silver hunter, had you really seen a Commander Steel-Back Scorpion your body would be half eaten and rotting in a ditch inside the canyons!.."

    "A rank 4 beast, no way a chump like you would have survived.."

    For the next fifteen minutes, shouts and laughter could be heard inside the tavern. Until finally, the crowd dispersed.

    The only people remaining at the table were three men, two of them completely drunk, while the other was smirking and moving the coins towards his side of the table.

    From what Daniel heard, he understood that one of the two drunken men at the table had spotted a Commander Steel-Back Scorpion within the depts of the canyon. One person after another surrounded him when he started to describe the beast. They were all hunters after all, and if there really was a rank 4 beast within their hunting ground, they wanted to know.

    The moment the crowd dispersed, a group of three shady looking men with dark golded badge on their chests, approached Daniel's table and looked at them menacingly. Their weapons suggested that they weren't here to hunt beasts.

    "That's our table.." Said the one in the front.

    Garth and Daniel ignored the man's words, while Sella's look turned into a fearful one. He was an archer, and in no way used to melee combat. Not to mention that the three were mercenaries.. and gold rank at that. Each of them was way just as, if not more dangerous than their previous escort.

    Yala was the first to talk "The table was clean and you weren't sitting here.. also, there are other free tables." She said in a matter of fact tone after taking her hood off.

    When the group of shady men noticed Yala and Fiora sitting amongst their party, their expression changed from threatening, into faces filled with lust. One of them approached Yala and said "Pretty mage, why don't you ditch these scaredy cats, and play with us instead?.." His lips parted into a disgusting smile, showing a set of yellow teeth. "Don't worry, you'll always have a place to sit on with us.. He he.." He added while slapping his thighs.

    The very next moment, before anyone could react to the man's words.. another man had appeared within the group of mercenaries. His arms amicably wrapped around two mercenaries necks, and on his face, the most carefree of smiles.

    This man seemed to be in his late twenties, and his slightly shorter stature when compared to the mercenaries, made him look slightly funny. He couldn't be considered a handsome man, but his carefree smile could convince anyone that he was the most innocent of men. There were no weapons strapped on this man's body, the only thing he had above his clothes, was a dark black badge wrapped in chains which was hanging loosely from his belt.

    The expressions within the group of mercenaries changed once again. They had just finished protecting whiny hunters, and didn't want to be interrupted when trying to hit on girls, so their reactions was all but coridal. They turned to look at the newcomer, but as soon as they noticed his face, and the black badge hanging from his belt.. they froze in place.

    "Miss Yala, it's a honor to see you here" Said the man with the black badge, while bowing his head slightly. He then looked at the mercenaries, with his smile always present.

    What Daniel's party saw afterwards, was something that surprised them greatly.

    One of the mercenaries underneath the man with the black badge's arms took a step towards the one that had been rude to the two girls, and punched him square in the face with all the strength he had. The rude mercenary fell on the ground heavily. His lip had been split open, and blood filled his mouth. But to their utmost surprise, he neither complained nor gotten angry at his friend. It was like he knew that he deserved to be hit.

    The man with the black badge took his arm off from the shoulder of the other mercenary, and looked back at Yala. "Please, bring my greetings to your great grandfather." He then turned around and left.

    The group of mercenaries stood in place until the man with the black badge left the tavern. They then looked at Daniel's party, and bowed deeply. The rude man said through bloody teeth "Apologies my lady.. Have a good meal." They then left the tavern as well.

    Silence reigned within the Daniel and the rest of the party for a few long minutes, until it was broken by Sella "Who the hell was that?! And w-why was he so polite to you?!"

    Yala didn't answer, and instead, kept eating her food. It was Garth that answered him. "That's a rank 5 mercenary.."

    At this moment, the cloth that served as the tent's door opened, and Legoh entered the tavern. He quickly noticed the group sitting at the table and joined them. He then showed a large bag made out of what looked like a giant beast's bladder, and said "I've got the spatial bag. Our hunting ground is three kilometers into the canyons. The numbers are decreasing, so the price is now 75 silver coins per carcass and 1.5 gold coins per core."

    "Great!" Said Fiora after listening to her brother's report.

    Legoh's face turned slightly more serious before continuing "Also.. i've heard that there were sightings of.. a Commander Steel-Back Scorpions.. So we should always be ready to flee.."

    Sella jumped into the conversation and asked "When do you guys want to go?.."

    "Tomorrow morning.. we only have a few hours of light left today." Daniel said casually.

    After finishing their meals, the party split and went to rest for the night. They had agreed to meet at the entrance of the canyons at the first lights in the morning.

    Daniel had an entire evening to spend, so instead of going to rest, he left his tent and went towards the shops. There were only three shops. A smith shop that sold and repaired weapons and armors, an alchemist, and a book store.

    The book store was, of course, not a common book store. The entire store was a simple stand whose books didn't number higher than fourty, and all of them, being books sold within a camp filled with hunters and mercenaries, were bestiaries, weapon skills and martial arts. That was the reason why Daniel went straight to it.

    When Daniel approached the booth, the vendor welcomed him immediately "Welcome young warrior! Is there a book in particular you are looking for?"

    Daniel looked at the vendor and said "Can I take a look at the strongest sword tecniques you have?"

    The vendor took three books from behind his small stand and placed them on the counter, one next to the other.

    Daniel glanced at the names written on the covers. From left to write, they were 'Splitting Ki', 'Mid-Slash Turn' and 'Through Stone and Steel'. Two of these books were slashing skills, while the third, was a skill for piercing.

    "I'll take them all." Said Daniel decisively. He then handed three owed money over to the vendor, and went back to his tent.

    -----

    The next morning.

    Daniel had spent the whole night practicing, so he was the first to arrive, and as the agreed time drew near, one after the other, the rest of the party arrived as well.

    Once regrouped, they departed for their hunting ground right away.

    After entering the canyons, they traversed two kilometers of rocky path whose sides were made of tall walls. These walls were composed of various types of stones and minerals, which gave their stony surface uncountable layers of red, grey and orange colors.

    At the base of these walls, numerous abandoned mine entrances could be seen.

    The signs of recent fighting were everywhere, as this part of the canyons had been recently cleared.

    The party took an entire hour of walking in order to reach the ground assigned to them, and as they arrived, they noticed another hunting party leaving through the way they had come from.

    Daniel and the rest of the party started to set the traps right in front of the marked scorpion's nests, then waited patiently.

    It didn't take long before they heard the unmistakeable sound of keratinous little feet hitting the solid rock. They all turned towards the source of the sound, and saw a silver scorprion the size of an adult's forearm crawl outside of a hole in the wall.

    "Well, I guess this signs the start of our hunt.. Who wants the first?" Said Sella to ease his tension.
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