Tom and company proceeded on their way towards the town of Acorn. As they suspected, it got dark before the left the forest. Travelling along, they were subjected to hoots and howls of qi beasts in the distance, but, since they were nearing the periphery of the forest they knew that they were unlikely to encounter any powerful qi beasts and none of the qi beasts that had set eyes upon them attempted an attack.
By the time they exited the forest and arrived at the town, the town gates were already shut. Having no other recourse, Tom and the others, the two Iron Fist sect disciples included, camped out on the eastern side of the town. They hadn't actually brought tents with them but luckily there were people there who made a living by selling or renting such goods.
The next day, early in the morning, when the town gates opened, Tom and the others entered the town. Their first order of business was to go to the Cardinal clan's trading post and caravan service that was located in the town so they could secure the transfer and delivery of the qi beasts they had collected to Hill City. The two Iron Fist sect disciples however were planning to go to the local governors building to inform them of the mimic activity they had witnessed in the forest, not that they would do much about it anyway.
Coincidentally, when Tom and Rowan made their way over to the Cardinal clan's business in Acorn town, with bodies laden up on their wagon and several of the guards carrying the blue devil beetle over their heads, they encountered both Daniel and Adam.
"Wow, that's quite a haul" said Daniel, a bit envious. He'd never brought back a bounty as impressive as Tom and Rowan had just brought back.
[God damn, his first day out and he already brings this much back. Just how lucky is Tom? No, that's wrong. It'll be because of Rowan. Yes, that's right. They never would have brought that much back if it weren't for Rowan. Tom himself probably didn't do much. He's still far behind me. No competition at all. No worries]
"Hah, thanks" Rowan chuckled cheerily.
"So this is what you ran off for" Adam said, glancing over the corpse of the blue devil beetle and giving a little smile.
"Yeah" said Rowan while patting the body of the beetle.
"I plan to get some armour made from it"
"It looks like you'll have a lot of material left over. I'm impressed that you were able to grab one this big. They have pretty hard shells, must have been difficult to bring down"
"Actually, it was Tom that brought it down in the end" said Rowan, giving credit where credit was due.
"Wow" Adam said shocked and then looked over at Tom.
His surprise was understandable considering the size of the beetle and the fact that Tom was only at the 5th level of body strengthening. It must be known that the larger a blue devil beetle grows, the harder its exoskeleton becomes and the more difficult it is to kill. Even Ray and Lance, both at the 7th level of body strengthening, only caused it superficial damage. If it was just a young one then Adam would have understood but Tom taking down a one this big was truly surprising.
"How on earth did you do that?" he asked, partly in disbelief and partly in genuine intrigue at how Tom had accomplished such a feat.
"Everything has a weakness Adam, it's just about finding and taking advantage of it" Tom explained to Adam while having an air of seniority.
"Stabbed it in the mouth" Avery spoke up to explain.
"Ahh" Adam said in understanding.
"Well it was not just that. He jumped on its back and glued it wings open with the slime from a giant velvet worm" said Rowan, giving further praise.
"Oh, you hunted velvet worm as well?" asked Daniel, though internally he was thinking 'show offs'.
"Yeah. Got its core too. Was a close though, it nearly fell into the gorge after we killed it" answered Rowan.
"Insect gorge?" Adam asked. There weren't many places to find both a blue devil beetle and a giant velvet worm but he was just checking for confirmation of where they had gone.
"Yeah. We just went there and back again, but, as you can see, we also encountered some Red eyed wolves and Black furred bears. There were Jackal rats as well but we didn't have time or space to bring them back with us"
"It seems your adventure has been quite fruitful. Not only did you get what you wanted but you also brought back so many qi beast corpses and Tom got his first beast kill, even took down a mature blue devil beetle to boot"
"It wasn't much" said Tom indifferently, though Adam detected a hint of cockiness and pride in his voice.
Adam gave a smile at Tom's words. Even if he was acting as if it was unimportant, the fact that he had accomplished so much on his first trip out was very praiseworthy. Adam felt that if Tom's abilities were that high then all the batter for him and the clan.
[I'm sure uncle will be happy with the result]
"Well anyway, a congratulations is in order. Not just for you Tom but also for you too Rowan. Daniel told me that you've entered the realm of qi expansion and standing here now, I can see it for myself"
"Thanks. Oh and by the way, what are you doing here? I didn't know you were planning to come here too" said Rowan.
"Actually, I wasn't. Dad sent me over to bring you back. You would have heard if you hadn't run off; grandfather wants you to go over and meet him in Raventree. Mam and Dad were going to tell you after they saw Tom off but they couldn't find you"
"Oh, what for?" asked Rowan.
"They didn't say but I think they're trying to set you up with someone from the Raventree family" Adam answered.
"And I definitely have to go?"
"Ok then. I'm going to be heading back to Hill City with this blue devil beetle anyway. I'll talk to Mam and Dad then. Will you be coming back with me to make sure I actually go home?" asked Rowan.
"No. I wasn't originally planning on coming here but since I'm here now, I might as well stay a little while. You've been out on a hunt with Tom already, I think I'll go out on the next one" said Adam.
"You'll have to wait a while then. My father wanted me to come out here and hunt my first qi beast, I've done that now. I want to spend my time cultivating until I reach the 6th level of body strengthening, then I'll go out again and test my new strength" said Tom, explaining his position on the matter. Being reminded that he was still so weak and at the bottom of the food chain when he was in the forest, he didn't want to divert too much time from actual cultivation.
"That's ok, I can wait. Besides, at the rate you're going you'll probably reach that after just another month" Adam joked, though he knew that that may actually be true and was anticipating it.
"Haha" Daniel gave a muted laugh at the side.
[If he can really do that in just a month then what does that make me look like. No, it's ok. Tom is four years older than me anyway. Even if he catches up, even if he gets stronger than me, that's only to be expected. No worries, no worries]
After that, they all stood around talking for a while before they moved onto other matters. They still had to organise the transport of the qi beast corpses and each of them that had been out on the hunt was sorely in need of a wash and a fresh set of clothes.
After they had all cleaned themselves up, they had a midday meal together and then Rowan prepared to set off for Hill city. Tom went to the city gates with Adam to send her off.
Standing before two wagons laden with the corpses of qi beasts and several people who worked for the clan, Rowan turned to Tom and Adam to say her goodbyes. Before she spoke, she held up a small bag towards Tom, indicating for him to take it.
"Here, these are for you Tom. For helping me with my armour, here's a little something to help with your cultivation" she said.
Taking the bag and looking inside, Tom saw that there were several different cultivating resources, such as qi imbued lotions and tonics. They would all help in him advancing towards the 6th level of body strengthening more quickly.
"Thanks. Come again" Tom said. If she would be willing to give him stuff each time they went out together then the exchange would be fully worth it for him.
"Haha, what are you like" Rowan laughed.
"I don't know when I'll next see you but good luck" she said as she walked forward and gave him a hug, completely catching him off guard and startling him, causing him to tense up.
"er, thanks" he said as she released him and gave him a pat on the shoulder.
"And I'll be seeing you too brother"
"Yes" replied Adam.
"Have a safe trip"
With that, Rowan mounted her horse, as did those she would be travelling with. Tom and Adam stood and watched as they departed out of the town gates.
"Right then, I guess we might as well just go back to the hotel" Adam said.
"Very Well" Tom replied.
"Lead the way"