Shao Xuan studied the roll of records made of animal hide in his hands. It was already the tenth roll today.
The shamaness had placed food for him nearby but he did not touch it. Since he sat down and started his first scroll, he did not look at anything else.
Previously, when he described the history of his part of the tribe to the chief and the shamaness, the two felt like they had led very difficult lives. However, as he read the records, he realised this part of the tribe had suffered too. They had to pay a large price to come here, less than a tenth of them had survived the journey here. They suffered huge losses, most of them arrived with severe injuries too.
The records told of how someone had already realised the weakening of the Flame/fire seed a thousand years ago. They did not find a solution but found an opportunity with the emergence of the slave masters.
The slave masters were able to cross from this piece of land to the other side due to a huge change in terrain a thousand years ago. Tall mountains became lowlands, vast oceans became dry land. The underwater tunnel Shao Xuan encountered was due to that change. After that, a group of slave masters crossed over using that ‘bridge’.
Near the ‘bridge’ was the arid lands that Shao Xuan had encountered in the beginning. There was where the slave masters released the criminals. It was a difficult environment to live in, not a single tribe lived there during those times. It was still a piece of dead land now, not many of the criminals survived.
A thousand years ago, there were several prodigies and geniuses among the group of slave masters who crossed over from this to the other side. The scrolls mentioned a few of them, a person named ‘Mu Han’ was mentioned the most. The slave masters were able to rise on the other side all thanks to this Mu Han.
The Flaming Horn Tribe’s ancestors seemed to have come into contact with this Mu Han quite often. The chief that led his tribesmen out to avoid trouble had once fought Mu Han. While they weren’t enemies in the end, they were not friends either. Just people who knew each other well after a long time.
Then, the Flaming Horn Tribe’s chief won in an encounter against Mu Han another time and got some secret information about the slave masters from Mu Han. At that point, the ‘bridge’ was already unstable. The Flaming Horn’s shaman and the divination masters with Mu Han all said the ‘bridge’ would not last long.
It was at this point when the Flaming Horn Tribe started to fall apart. The chief wanted to look for a way to save the weakening Fire Seed but the shaman strongly opposed. At that point, the successor to the shaman was already named, he was a person named “Zhi”. He was a person the shaman spent a long time to train and had high hopes for him. Zhi was a prodigy and also had the power of inheritance. Like how Shao Xuan once helped the shaman with drawing scriptures, Zhi also did that.
However, this prodigy, in the end, decided to take the chief’s side. With the chief, he brought half the tribesmen and half the fire seed over to cross the bridge that parted the ocean. They arrived at this piece of land and lived a difficult life of being shunned and laughed at until they arrived at the forest.
There were ten full scrolls after this detailing what methods Zhi used to look for a way to curb the weakening of the fire seed. The riddle was finally solved when this prodigy was well into old age.
“The Flame did not disappear, it has always been there, in the blood of the Flaming Horn people. And it will continue to live on with the people.:
When he read this, Shao Xuan wondered if the other half of the fire seed had already merged into the Flaming Horn people’s physical bodies.
On the back of a scroll written by Zhi, there was a simple drawing. It was the last time they knelt in respect to the shaman before he and the chief came over to this side.
Did he regret his decision? From the writings and drawings he wrote in his later years, it was evident he did not regret it. However, he did think it was a pity and felt guilt. He missed his homelands but he knew the bridge had sunk. He did not know when it would surface once again, and if it did, he would not live to see it. However, Zhi believed that when the ‘bridge’ appeared again, the tribesmen would be able to return with his answer back to the Flaming Horn Tribe.
“One day, we shall return.”
This was what he wrote in the end. It was similar to what Shao Xuan saw in the stone chamber written by Zhan years ago.
However, they did not know that the other part of the Flaming Horn tribe that remained did not have great luck either. They travelled and travelled, only for the lands to separate and a huge river emerged. It completely cut off their path to ever return. They then lived a life of ‘primitives’ for the next thousand years.
When he read all of this, Shao Xuan sighed. It did not matter if it was Zhi and the chief or the shaman from the other side, neither had a perfect ending. The Flaming Horn Tribe was divided into two. They saw themselves as the ones at fault.
It was evident from the scrolls left behind by Zhi and the chief that their biggest wish was for both branches of the tribe to combine as one and revert back to its initial glory. They were sure that was the only way to restore their prosperous lives.
From that chief’s scrolls, Shao Xuan read a lot about Mu Han. Mu Han and the chief had met many times so his records on the slave masters had many mentions of Mu Han.
Apparently, Mu Han was betrayed, therefore he was exiled into the arid lands. He was a genius, how else would he get himself into a situation like that? However, it was unexpected for these people in exile to find an opportunity to cross over to the other side through the ‘bridge’.
There was a line in the chief’s records: “Mu Han felt like this was paradise.”
“This” referred to the other side of the bridge where the Flaming Horn and other tribes resided. There were many ‘weak’ people there, prisoners of war, nomads etc- they were all great material for slaves because these were powerless people who had a thirst for it! These were the best slaves!
There was a huge pool of slaves to choose from, igniting the greed in Mu Han. He bore a lot of hatred, planning to one day return to kill everyone. That was when he abandoned his ‘Mu’ family name for the character “Shi”.
[Note: Shi (弑) = the assassination of an emperor or minister]
The chief knew Mu Han well and had written many comments about him. His general comment was that Mu Han did not live a fair life. He was talented and capable, yet was betrayed in the end.
Shao Xuan recalled the kings he had met in the desert cities. There were no people with the surname ‘Mu” or “Shi (弑)”... No, there was someone named “Shi (轼)”!
Did Mu Han finally repent and want his descendants to learn how to suppress their anger? Did he switch from public anger to secret tactics? Why was the vicious name of Shi (弑) was then changed to a more demure Shi (轼)...
[Note: the 杀 in 弑 symbolises killing; this part of the character was changed to 轼 of the same pronunciation. It now means a piece of wood, instead of assassination]
He thought again. It was possible! Shi Shu and the rest were the ones who secretly triggered the entire desert war!
Shi Shu’s understanding of the Flaming Horn people perhaps didn’t come from Dao Yu, but from records left by his ancestor, Mu Han. Was this possible?
It didn’t matter if this was true, he could not possibly ask Shi Shu now.
Shao Xuan read through the stuff left behind by Zhi once again, then kept them carefully.
If he could return, these would be extremely valuable records. It was Zhi’s life’s work and the results of his research on curbing the weakening of the fire seed.
Shao Xuan stretched to relieve his stiff muscles. He looked outside the window.
It was sunny outside.