The wall of the mountain was almost perpendicular to the ground and it might be difficult for most of the people to climb. However, Shao Xuan was a skilled hunter who climbed often. This was nothing to him.
The old man was watching from the ground when Shao Xuan jumped from the ground and climbed up the mountain like a lizard. It seemed easy for Shao Xuan. The old man was staring at Shao Xuan throughout the process, he couldn’t help raising his eyebrow when watching such smooth movement.
Shao Xuan sensed something when he was climbing, he stopped climbing and turned his head. In an instant, he met the old man’s eyes.
The old man gave Shao Xuan an unusual friendly smile. He waved to Shao Xuan and pointed to the plant on the hill and said, “Carry on, please proceed.”
Shao Xuan was curious, but he continued to climb and reached out to the plant. He was about to pull the plant out forcefully.
“Eh! Don’t pull it, don’t pull it! Use my knife to dig it out, you can keep the plant longer by retaining its root. Use my knife, catch!” The old man grabbed a weird-looking bronze knife from his cloth bag and tossed it to Shao Xuan.
“What a troublesome old man.” Shao Xuan muttered in annoyance.
Luckily, the old man threw the knife perfectly, Shao Xuan successfully grabbed the knife with one hand. With the help of another hand, he supported himself to stay on the cliff by grabbing a part of the mountain that was sunken in. Then, he used the knife to dig that plant out.
The knife may seem weird, but it was a suitable tool for digging the plant that was grown on the cliff. It only took a while for Shao Xuan to dig the whole plant out.
“Hold it!” Shao Xuan threw the knife and the plant towards the ground.
The old man rushed to get the plant in a careful manner, ignoring the knife that Shao Xuan had thrown.
“What do you want to do with this plant?” Shao Xuan came down from the cliff, asking the old man when seeing him putting a piece of leaf to his mouth.
“Medicine, it is useful in curing my bone injury.” The old man answered shortly. He was focusing on chewing the piece of leaf, the muscle on his face moved funnily. After chewing, it seemed that it was not enough for him. Thus, he cut another piece of leaf and put it into his mouth and continued chewing it.
Upon thinking of the bone injury on the old man’s arm, Shao Xuan memorised the appearance of the plant.
He saw the old man’s expression was in pain, thus he asked the old man “How’s the taste?”
The old man handed a small piece of the plant over to Shao Xuan, “Want a taste it?”
“Is it alright? I am not injured.”
“Yes, a small amount is fine.”
“Alright.” Shao Xuan took the leaf. He did not look at the plant carefully when he was digging the plant.
Now that he took a closer look, he realised that the vein of the plant may seem pliable, but it was sturdier than he thought, especially the few thicker ones with white stripes. It seemed like there would be a crunchy sound if he broke them forcefully.
Shao Xuan bit from the tip of the plant. He was overwhelmed with its cool bitterness. He found nothing odd happening to his body after chewing it. Once again, he bit another half of the leaf and chewed it. This time, a large part of the plant he ate was the vein, the rich bitterness of the vein suppressed the coolness of the plant.
No wonder he had that expression on his face when he was chewing. This is so bitter, Shao Xuan thought.
The old man thought that he could see Shao Xuan suffering from the bitterness of the plant, but Shao Xuan was only frowning after eating it.
“Perhaps he lost his sense of taste?” The old man thought. What a pitiful man, he could not enjoy tasting the various flavours of the world.
Shao Xuan ignored the old man. After he finished chewing the whole piece, the bitterness faded, leaving coolness in the mouth. Also, he was not as fatigued as before. He did not feel anything in his bones as he had no injury. The only thing he felt was some power flowing into his bones.
Shao Xuan planned to leave as the old man was fine. Shao Xuan had just departed when the old man called out.
“Eh…Wait, are you heading in that direction? I am going with you.” The old man stood up and kept the plant in his cloth bag.
Shao Xuan turned his head and looked at the old man, awaiting the old man to continue talking.
“I came here to look for something, even though I am not familiar with the surroundings, I am still more experienced than you, I know more than you. There are a lot of poisonous things here, don’t think that it is safe because it is a desolate place. If anything happens, you can still count on me.” The old man said.
“Anything else?” Shao Xuan asked.
“I have limited ability to move around, but if we find something, you can help me get it.” The old man thought that this was a good idea. “Alright, let’s go.”
Shao Xuan ignored the old man’s suggestion and continued on his planned route.
The old man followed, continued persuading Shao Xuan.
When the old man almost used up all his saliva, Shao Xuan finally asked: “What are you looking for?”
“I am looking for…” The old man stopped talking, he seemed unwilling to tell.
“It’s fine. Forget it.”
Seeing that Shao Xuan was speeding up his pace, the old man followed up and asked, “Have you heard of Thousand Grain Gold”?
“Thousand Grain Gold?”
Sounds like something named after gold, but it must not be gold or anything related to gold. The old man should be looking for a type of plant? The “gold” in its name, it either means the colour, or to emphasise the preciousness of the thing. Shao Xuan thought.
“No, I have not heard it before.” Shao Xuan shook his head.
The old man looked at Shao Xuan with a facial expression saying “such a fool” and said, “I came here to look for ‘Thousand Grain Gold’. It is said that a ‘Thousand Grain Gold’ can produce a thousand grains. And it resists drought and grows very well in places that don’t rain frequently.”
Food crops? Shao Xuan thought.
“So, you’re here to try your luck?” Shao Xuan asked. This place was indeed barren. Although there were streams in between the mountains, this place was arid and there was not much rain here.
“Yeah, we planted food crops back in my tribe. There had been less rain in the past two years. It is said that the drought will continue for several years.”
“Don’t you have shamans and shamanesses back in your tribe? Those that are able to pray for rain?” Shao Xuan asked. Shao Xuan was not sure whether the tribe here was able to plead for rain, he was asking to probe for information. According to what Shao Xuan knew, there were shamans and shamanesses in the tribe, there were also specialised ones. Many people here would pay an amount to request the shamans to settle matters that could not be settled by normal people.
The old man got angry when he heard this, he said, “Don’t even mention them, a bunch of idiots! They’re the descendants of the ancient shamanic family and yet they can’t even pray for rain? Phew!”
“…” Shao Xuan kept quiet.
Shao Xuan had never met anyone who dared insult shamans, the old man was the first person who had such behaviour. The people in Maka tribe would never insult shamans. The people Shao Xuan had met so far were in awe of the shamans, except for this old man.
There was no solution for the rainfall, thus the old man could only work with crops. Regardless of the old man’s temper, it was impressive that the old man travelled such long journeys in search of solutions.
“What does the Thousand Grain Gold look like?” Shao Xuan asked.
“I have never seen it before with my own eyes.” The old man said.
“How will you find it if you don’t even know what it looks like?”
“I will know once I see it.” The old man did not think there was any problem.
“Oh, what’s your name?” The old man asked.
“Shao Xuan, and you?”
“My name is ‘Ju’.” The old man wrote his name on the ground with a tree branch.
The old man did not ask what tribe Shao Xuan belonged to. It seemed like he was not interested.
Shao Xuan would like to find out more about the Flaming Horn tribe from the old man but before he even asked, the old man said, “Shao…, pluck that plant for me.” He pointed to a plant.
“No, I am not your slave.” Shao Xuan rejected him.
Seeing that Shao Xuan was leaving, the old man realised that the tone of his voice was the problem. Thus, he changed his tone, grabbed Shao Xuan and asked again “Can you do me a favour? Please pluck that for me.”