As they trekked through the mountain for a day, countless small animals were killed to serve as their lunch during this period.
It was nearly evening when they came to the stream which contained light brown water. It flowed out from under a rock, and in less than 100 meters, it flowed into a crevice.
With his prior knowledge of the brine water from the Black Pool's test result, Ren Baqian was much more confident and assumed this was probably just another type of brine water.
Ren Baqian dipped his finger and licked it. Although there were poisonous chemicals, they posed no danger because the dosage level was low.
The flavor was equally salty, was very bitter, and was worse tasting than the water from the Black Pool, causing Ren Baqian to quiver. Then, he happily dipped and licked his index finger again.
"Not bad. It is slightly sweet." Ren Baqian nodded his head.
"How is that possible?" Na Gu didn't believe it and wanted to go up to give it a taste.
However, several students were faster than her and followed Ren Baqian's example to taste the water. Everyone ended up wincing, and their faces looked like dried orange peels.
"Liar!" Tong Lan winced and pointed her finger accusingly at Ren Baqian.
"Huh? Don't you think it is sweet?" Ren Baqian was surprised. "This water tastes different to different people?"
After hearing this, the rest of the students went forward to try and all ended up with a wrinkled look.
Every pair of eyes was directed at Ren Baqian with hatred.
"This is Science. Regardless of what others say, it is incomparable to experiencing it for yourself. It is not just about experimenting, but also about pondering the reason why." Ren Baqian put on the face of a caring teacher who was guiding them systematically.
"You were clearly deceiving us into trying," Tong Lan said contemptuously as her eyes scanned around to see whether there were any wild fruits nearby.
Her eyes brightened, and she jumped up, landing seven or eight meters away because she had spotted a bunch of red fruits that were the size of cherries. Then, she complacently put them into her mouth.
"All of you will understand the reasons behind my exhortations one day," Ren Baqian stated as he stuffed a White Rabbit Creamy Candy into his mouth and immediately relaxed.
"Collect the water," Ren Baqian said. This time, they collected more water; 20 bottles in total. If this brine was what he anticipated, it wouldn't be of any harm to bring more back and compare its composition to the black brine.
After all, this place was further away.
After the guards had bottled the water properly, Ren Baqian saw the sky darkening and asked Na Gu, "Is there any place nearby for us to spend the night?"
"The nearest place is about half a day away on foot. We have wasted too much time on the way here," Na Gu said.
"In that case, let's all look for suitable places nearby to spend the night. Come back in an hour and do some hunting along the way," Ren Baqian told the guards. Most of the guards moved out with some students following them.
"Can the Black Pool and the brine here really produce edible salt?" Na Gu asked him after the guards had left.
"It should be possible." Ren Baqian hedged. "Therefore, the people from your stronghold may not need to go hunting in the future anymore."
"If we do not hunt, then what do we eat?" Na Gu felt that Ren Baqian was spouting nonsense since they couldn't only eat salt for sustenance even if they could really produce salt.
"In future, there will be a salt factory which belongs to the Ministry of Works and the imperial family. All of you can choose to work there instead of having a hard time hunting. Of course, you can still continue to hunt, but you will definitely have to travel far away because the game animals will be frightened by the presence of so many people. Alternatively, you can apply for compensation and move the stronghold to another place."
"Oh, I see!" Na Gu nodded.
Ren Baqian was expecting a bigger response from her. After all, their stronghold had always been here.
"So there will be salt to eat in the future?" Na Gu asked. She was more concerned about this matter. The game in the mountains appeared to be limitless. If one couldn't catch any food today, one could get them tomorrow or even the day after tomorrow without going hungry.
How the production of salt would affect the stronghold was something too far away to think about. Without salt, however, she wouldn't have any strength. This point was very clear to her.
"Yes, that's right!" Ren Baqian nodded his head.
If there wasn't enough salt here, then they would fight until they reached the shores of the Yun Nation. There would definitely be salt for them to consume over there.
"That's great!" Na Gu replied delightfully.
"Sir, can this place really produce salt?" asked two officials from the Ministry of Works loudly, their faces full of doubt.
These two guys only now realized the reason why Ren Baqian had brought everyone here.
Ren Baqian looked at these two carefully and then remembered their identities. They kept very low profiles, and he had almost forgotten them.
"We can!" Ren Baqian nodded his head. "However, we have to go back and do more research on how to accomplish it."
"Great, this is great!" the two guys rejoiced. Salt had been a knotty problem without a solution for so many years. It had always been controlled by the merchants from the other three countries.
To be able to produce salt here was a mind blowing thought for them.
A moment later, all of the guards returned, and one of them had found a suitable resting place. It was at the intersection of two mountain cliff faces, so they just had to guard against wild beasts from the other two sides. Furthermore, a rock jutted out from above and would shelter them if it rained.
Ren Baqian brought everyone to take a look. Considering that they had been able to find such a place on such short notice, it wasn't bad at all.
Subsequently, everyone dispersed to go hunting. The poor animals in this area were just unlucky and were caught by the students even when hiding in their holes.
After the sky turned dark, everyone returned. They caught a dozen animals called "short hogs" that looked like small deer. Also, they caught over 40 fat animals that looked like mountain rats and were skewered together. In addition to those, they even brought back two pythons, one flower
Ren Baqian saw the innocent giant panda that had died unjustly and went over to give it a kick.
"Sir, this thing doesn't taste good, but we weren't able to find that much food over this short period of time." The guard was nursing a grievance and hoped that his master would compromise. Anyway, there were many other things to eat, so there was no need for Ren Baqian to eat this bad tasting animal.
"Forget it. Quickly proceed and keep the bear paws for me." Ren Baqian glared for a long time before finally letting out a sigh.
The panda was a national treasure on Earth, but over here, it was found everywhere and considered unappetizing, stupid, and good-for-nothing.
Of course, it wasn't weak and had an attacking power that was similar to a bear.
Next, he found a place near the cliff face of the mountain and rested while watching the guards start a fire. Some of the other guards and students brought their catch to a water source nearby for cooking preparation.
Two hours later, Ren Baqian used two sticks to spit-roast the four bear paws by continuously turning them over the flame. The roasted meat was marinated with spices, and the aroma wafted through the air.
However, the aroma came not only from his bonfire, but also from the roasting of other meats over the other bonfires as well.
Ren Baqian waited for the bear paws to slightly cool down before taking a bite. The taste was so-so. The meat wasn't too fatty and tasted slightly worse than pig trotters. He lost his appetite to continue eating them and gave the bear paws to the others. After taking two short hog legs to gnaw on, he found that they tasted much better.
As the moon rose higher and higher, the sound of wild beasts howling from afar came along. There were also occasional noises made by wild beasts running around in the woods.
No one was afraid of the wild beasts coming over to attack because any such beasts would become their supper if they really came over.
Unfortunately, while waiting for supper, a big storm came instead.
The weather in the mountains changed without warning. From feeling the first raindrop fall on the face, it quickly became a torrent in less than a minute. The fires were mostly extinguished, and everyone huddled under the big, protruding rock.
"Watch the rock above carefully and make sure it doesn't collapse," Ren Baqian exhorted repeatedly. He was worried that the soil might loosen and cause the rock to crush him into a meat patty.
"Rest assured, Sir." Shi Hu turned his wet face to speak.
Most of the guards were positioned outside just to block off the wind and rain from Ren Baqian and the students.
It rained for four hours, and the guards outside were totally drenched.
Early the next morning, Ren Baqian and company ate some wild fruits to fill up their stomachs a little before setting off to return home.
Because of the rain from the previous night, it was hard to negotiate the mountain paths. Especially due to the wet leaves, their bodies went through many repeated cycles of being wet and dry by noon.
These starving people only reached the stronghold at night and proceeded to wipe out all the remaining food.
The two groups that went out to hunt were still not back after two days. If they did not return by the next day, the people in the stronghold would have to starve.
After resting for a night, Ren Baqian ordered most of the guards to go hunting early in the morning. As for all of the students, they went by the riverside and used their fingers to fish.
He was sun-tanning himself in the stronghold.
When night fell, those guards who had been ordered to hunt returned with some prey. The two hunting parties also came back one after the other and prevented everyone from going hungry.
That night, Ren Baqian brought the two types of brine back to Earth again for the laboratory to analyze their composition as well as the proportion of chemicals.
When he returned to Dayao, he was completely relieved because there were no problems with salt production anymore.
As soon as he turned on the radio station, he heard the angry voice of the empress.
"Li Qianqiu, how many more days will it take you to reach Yusheng City?"
"Your Majesty, my vanguard will arrive tomorrow."
"We will only set out after all the troops have arrived. Then, we will wipe them out," The empress said coldly.
"Yes!" Li Qianqiu replied in a deep voice.
Ren Baqian was taken aback by this news. Was Yusheng City in trouble? Had the city's defenses been breached in such a short time? Great Xia's attack must have been really ferocious.
He only understood after listening for a while. Yusheng City had been broken into, and this was done by a sect from Great Xia that tunnelled into the city. The city was then set on fire in all directions by many practitioners from Great Xia's sects via the tunnels. Outside the city, there were 100,000 Great Xia soldiers attacking the defenders ferociously.
It merely took Great Xia half a day to destroy the city.
Out of 2,500 soldiers, only 300 managed to evacuate, and out of 40,000 commoners, 5,000 were killed in combat.
Yes, killed on the battlefield.
This was because the commoners of Dayao had considerable fighting power.
However, untrained commoners were no match for the 100,000 Great Xia soldiers and the practitioners from Great Xia's sects. It was still difficult to affect the overall situation.
In this battle, Great Xia suffered more than 10,000 casualties while Dayao lost more than 2,000 soldiers and 5,000 commoners.
The ratio of war casualties was two to one, but such a ratio was rather terrible by Dayao's standards.
It was a fact that Great Xia had more than half a million soldiers on the frontline and an additional 200,000 soldiers standing by in Great Xia.
The total strength of Dayao's army, including new recruits still in training, was only 10,000 . The army confronting Great Xia was the 30,000 soldiers from the Protectorate of the North and the 8,000 soldiers from the Protectorate of the Center that had not arrived yet. Also, included were the 1,200 winged cavalry warriors led by the empress. The total number of soldiers Dayao had was around 50,000.
So far, after the two battles at Ziyue City and Yusheng City, Dayao had already lost more than 6,000 people while Great Xia's casualties were not greater than 70,000 people.
The sects of Great Xia had played a great role in this matter.
Following this, Dayao would pit 44,000 warriors against Great Xia's main force of 430,000 and an unknown number of practitioners from Great Xia's sects. At the same time, there were also the 200,000 Great Xia soldiers on standby to watch out for.