Cultivating Civilization Chapter 117
For the first time in ages, Jack felt rested. On the last hunt, he allowed himself to rest for an hour or two before he woke Tong Huakun up and continued their trek.
When he opened his eyes his brows furrowed and he scanned the room. Bright sunlight seeped in through the gaps in the leather flap and illuminated the empty house.
'Almost noon?' he thought and got out of his bed. After getting dressed, he went searching for answers.
He found all of the former Gravediggers in the practice field, shooting distant rocks with their cylinders.
"What's going on?" Jack asked when he saw that they noticed him.
Everyone turned towards him and gave him haphazard salutes with large grins on their faces. He sighed and returned the salute before repeating his question.
Kuang Bindun stepped out and explained "We're practicing for the last competition. Have to earn those spirit stones back somehow."
Jack grunted and said "That's good." He focused on Ma Ruiman and asked "And you? Shouldn't you have woken me up earlier?"
Ma Ruiman glanced at the rest of the group and said "I thought you needed the rest. Besides, we can talk after the shooting practice with the White River family."
Jack gave him a nod of understanding and ordered the group "Show me what you've got so far."
He spent the rest of the time before the midday meal giving tips on improving the shooting skills of his men.
Most of them could fire off a metal ball through a cylinder without issue and were deadly at short distances, but they couldn't make almost any shots longer than fifty meters hit.
According to their story, the White River family members just got lucky and scored a few more long-distance shots than they did in the last competition.
Jack had to explain the influence of wind, gravity, and the world's rotation on a bullet's path without going in too deep on the subjects so he wouldn't confuse his men. All they needed to know is how to correct for them at what times.
During the midday meal, Bei Kangping and Wu Dianrong brought their men for practice.
While Wu Dianrong stayed with the group and started their practice, Bei Kangping stomped over to Jack and growled in his face "Why did you not let Huakun treat her wound?! She will have to lie in bed for days to let it heal now."
'So that's where she's been?' Jack thought and swallowed his food.
"I didn't force her to do anything she didn't want to. She can take care of herself, but I'm sure that she told all of this to you before you came here or you would have visited me earlier and not when you had to leave for shooting practice." He said while he watched Bei Kangping's furious eyes turn a little sheepish.
After giving an understanding nod to the handsome man, he added "Don't worry, I know how she gets. Just make sure that she takes enough time to rest and she'll be fine. I won't allow her to do anything stressful for a while."
Bei Kangping blinked and glanced to the sides. He noticed the rest of the company eating around them and blanched. After clearing his throat, he said "Well, yes, thank you, do not do it again." and hurried back to his men.
Jack hid a smile in his bowl and continued eating.
He gave the White River family members similar tips that he gave his own men earlier, but he didn't go in depth why they should shoot in that way.
The former Gravediggers looked at him in confusion at first, but their faces became focused on their shots once they realized that he wanted to make them push themselves if they wanted to win the last competition.
After shooting practice, he told Ma Ruiman to bring his girl to his lab after dark and went to visit Wu Angrui.
Her maid allowed him entrance to her house only when she finished eating her breakfast.
"Welcome back, Jack. I started to worry that you wouldn't return before I had to go home." She said as she pointed him to a seat opposite her.
When he sat down, she turned to her maid and ordered "Bring us some tea."
Jack started saying "You do not need to"
She interrupted him with a dainty sniff and declared "I use imported water, no need to fear."
'So she doesn't have her head buried in her armor designs that much.' He thought and followed the demure maid with his eyes while she walked out of the house to hide his surprise.
When he turned back to look at Wu Angrui, he saw the now familiar face of an obsessed artist.
Her eyes blazed with curiosity when she asked "How many Haechi beasts did you manage to bring me this time?"
Jack gave her a nonchalant smile and said "Twenty three. A few are a bit carved up, but they are all in perfect state."
Wu Angrui jumped out of her chair and skipped around the room like a little girl. Jack thought she would hug him at one point, but she managed to hold herself back from going that far.
When she got it out of her system and sat back down, she asked "Will Elder Ran be able to process them all before we have to leave?"
Jack pretended to think about the question for a moment before he said "Honestly, I doubt it. Even if he does not, I am sure that the Wu Armor Store has someone trustworthy enough to deliver the hides back to you from the Tribal Assembly."
Wu Angrui's brows furrowed and she asked "Can you not send someone over to the Outpost like you sent grandpa Long?"
Jack almost burst out laughing at the name she gave the old man, but he managed to keep his composure and said "I am afraid that I cannot. This is a turbulent time for the Lament and I have to keep all of my people here to help out."
They both knew why he didn't use the full name of the company, but neither of them wanted to make the conversation awkward.
She let out a disappointed sigh and asked "Should we send someone to pick the hide up every hundred days or so? I do not trust those merchants that travel to this side though. They always"
Jack tuned out her complaining about the greed of the merchants that do business with her shop and listened to a familiar sound coming from the building next-door.
"What if you sent your maid? She knows us and we know her. It would make things much simpler." He interrupted Wu Angrui's tirade and suggested.
She blinked her eyes and then her face spread into a smile before she said "I can do that. Even father would not worry for her and we can trust that she will not disappear with our hides or spirit stones. That is a great idea, Jack."
He shook his head and responded with "I am sure that you would have thought about it soon enough."
They chatted for a few minutes about her armor designs and Poker, she glared at him when she noticed the rip in his sleeve and he had to explain that he got it when they ambushed three Haechi bulls that competed for a female's attention before she calmed down.
When the maid brought them steaming tea, Wu Angrui informed her that she would have to travel to this side of the River more in the future. The woman nodded her head without complaint and turned around to leave back to the workshop.
Jack caught the corner of her eye glance at him before she left and winked in return.
"Why is your eye twitching?" Wu Angrui asked when she saw it.
He rubbed it with a hand and said "Something just fell into it. Ignore it, I will be fine."
When he finished his tea, he said his goodbyes and walked over to Elder Ran.
On the way there, he found a secluded spot and forced two fingers down his throat. Once he emptied his entire stomach he continued on his way.
"Want me to hurry these up? I know that the little armorer girl is going away soon." Elder Ran asked when Jack left the first Haechi with him.
He shook his head and said "No, I would prefer quality over quantity. Take all the time that you need."
The giant man grunted his acceptance and dragged the Haechi beast to the place where he skinned them.
Jack returned to the camp, had some food, and went to his lab. In there, he sorted the mess that Tong Huakun left and waited while reading a scroll.
When night fell, he heard scrapping sounds outside of the house and stood up in alarm.
"It's me." Ma Ruiman's voice whispered a few seconds later before the leather flap rose from the doorway.
Jack stored the loaded cylinder back into his Star Bag and said "I knew, just had to make sure." 'Damn, I have to stop relying on sensing other people's cultivations so much.' He chided himself while he did it.
With a look over Ma Ruiman's shoulder, he saw a short nineteen to twenty year-old-looking pretty girl standing behind him. Instead of her family's traditional golden robe, she had black Xiezhi wool clothes on.
He remembered instructing the grade five girl on how to hold her cylinder and how to shoot but didn't have a large impression of her character.
"You made her go dark?" Jack asked when he saw the pale face, shallow breaths, and perspiration on the girl's forehead.
Ma Ruiman nodded and escorted the tired girl to the stone table and helped her sit down.
Jack kept his question on the effect on the baby to himself and joined them.
For a minute they sat around the table in silence.
When the young woman caught her breath, he asked her "Yuan Zhenya, right? Why didn't you tell your family members about this?"
A flash of fear mixed with distaste passed across her eyes before she said "I do not want the Bei and Wu branches to know before I can get word back to my parents."
He kept his eyes locked on hers and asked "What do you plan to do after that?"
She glanced at Ma Ruiman and answered "I will go back home to raise my child in disgrace. What else can I do?"
Her face turned cold and she added "Listen to me, mercenary. I did not come here to ask for your help. If Ruiman was not so stubborn, the two of us would not have met to discuss this."
Jack's brows rose and he looked at Ma Ruiman for an answer.
The slim man shook his head and explained "She wants me to go back with her, I don't want to go. If I didn't mention that I couldn't go anywhere without your permission she wouldn't have come here."
When Jack looked back at the petite woman, she preempted him with declaring "I will not live among mercenaries."
He leaned back in his leathers and thought for a while. When he finished, he mused "From my experience, rolling ships on the White River are not a safe place for pregnant women. You never know what could happen."
Yuan Zhenya's brows furrowed and she snapped "Say what you mean directly!"
Jack leaned forward and questioned "Doesn't your family hold multiple establishments in the Tribal Assembly? Why not stay in one of them until the child is born and see how you like it? I doubt that you will have to face any disgrace there. Ruiman will go with you to be our connection to the Assembly and the two of you can live in peace without fear."
The two lovers froze and looked into each other's eyes. Jack saw unwillingness in both of them, but he also saw that they would compromise for each other.
"Will you not come back with me? The Outpost is a much safer place to raise children." Yuan Zhenya asked. The tone of pleading in her voice made Ma Ruiman's eyes go misty.
Even so, he shook his head and said "I cannot abandon my brothers, but I don't want to lose you either. If you agree with Jack's suggestion I am willing to give it a try."
They kept looking at each other for another moment before Yuan Zhenya turned teary eyes to Jack and growled "He will not fight for you."
Ma Ruiman started objecting "What? No, I will"
Jack interrupted him with "Deal, I will make him an envoy to the other Tribes and not allow him to leave the Assembly without your permission." He extended a hand to the furious girl while explaining what it meant.
When Ma Ruiman wanted to argue, both of them turned their glares at him and he closed his mouth.
Yuan Zhenya shook Jack's hand and let out a relaxed sigh. He saw that she feared that she would have to raise the child on her own in a place that despised her for her decisions; otherwise, she wouldn't have sought him out.
When the two lovers sneaked out of his lab, Jack leaned back in his leathers with a satisfied smile and thought 'I lost a warrior, but got an envoy and spy. Not a bad deal all in all.'
Here's today's chapter.
Jack met with Ma Ruiman's girl and made a deal with them. Hope you like it!
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