Every year, as winter approached, the tribe would hunt more frequently. If it weren’t for limitations in human labour and they could not bring more things, they would’ve stayed longer.
That was because they would prepare animal hides to be sold to the slave masters and exchange for other things. When the weather turned cold, the demand for animal hide would greatly increase. Their slaves would prepare a lot of goods to be exchanged for animal hide.
Those with good quality fur can be twice the regular price.
Things that could not be produced in the village like grains and bronzeware were exchanged this way. The households that were better off would buy some rare products sometimes too.
All these relied on the prey brought back from their hunts.
Last night, before sleep, Shao Xuan heard many people discussing what they needed to get for the trade. They asked Shao Xuan too but he hadn’t participated in a trade before so all he could do was wait and see.
On the second day, before the sun was up, the small teams had already left to hunt.
Shao Xuan and Tao Zheng’s team trekked through the forest quickly. Every now and then, Tao Zheng would stop to introduce the terrain here. This was a frequent hunting track so he pointed out all the dangerous places, fierce beasts, poisonous and medicinal herbs. Shao Xuan memorised them all.
After they passed a dried-up river, Shao Xuan stopped suddenly and looked in a direction.
When he stopped, everyone stopped. After the hunt yesterday, the team now dared not underestimate him. Even stubborn Zhui had to admit Shao Xuan was stronger than them.
“What’s the matter?” Tao Zheng asked. He looked at the dried river bed and did not find anything odd. They had passed this place many times and were very familiar with this place.
Shao Xuan was staring at something. “You all wait here, I’ll go check.” He ran in a direction.
There weren’t any dangerous animals there so Tao Zheng followed. “What did you find?”
Shao Xuan did not speak. He wasn’t sure either.
The river bed was twenty to thirty meters wide. Further away, the river was wider but not deep.
“Every monsoon, the river would rise but at the end of the year, the river would dry up,” explained Tao Zheng. “The river is filled most of the year, it only dries up at the end of the year. Usually, we don’t cross here because there are dangerous fish.”
Shao Xuan walked to the bank but did not go down. The riverbed was so dry it was cracking. However, if you stepped on it, you would sink immediately because it was still mud. Only the top layer was dry. There were weeds growing between the cracks too.
Shao Xuan paid no interest, his goal was the rocks on the river bed.
“Do you have a spear? Can I borrow it?” Shao Xuan turned around for a tool.
“Use mine!” Duo Li hurriedly handed his spear over.
Shao Xuan flipped a rock nearest to him on the river bed upwards using the long spear, then caught it. He brushed the dried mud on its surface, studying its qualities and rolled it between his fingers.
“Is this rock any different from other rocks?” asked Tao Zheng. These rocks don't look any different to him. They were not big enough to make stoneware either.
Shao Xuan shook his head. “Just a guess.”
He flipped up another two stones, all as big as his fist and put them in his pouch. Then, he walked along the bank and stared far ahead.
“The dangerous fish you talked about, does it have hard scales, sharp teeth, four clawed limbs and a long tail? It can swim and come on land, right?”
Everyone else nodded. “Yeah, that’s the one. Shao Xuan, you’ve seen the,?”
They wanted to catch these fish but realised they were very dangerous animals that travelled in large groups. When the weather turned warm and the river was filled, the hunters would avoid this area. They only walked this path when the river was dry.
Touching the rock in his pouch, he asked, “Where does this river lead to?”
Other people didn’t know but Tao Zheng knew a little. An old hunter once told him.
“I heard there’s another wider river ahead. That river might run through the entire forest and probably leads to the ocean. However, it’s too far away so none of us have seen it. We just heard it from someone from another tribe.”
A river that leads to the ocean? Shao Xuan thought hard.
He stopped because he felt like the rocks were very familiar. The texture was familiar too. The year he brought the tribe across the river away from the Drumming tribe, a crocodile had given him a stone. The stories denote the Water Moon Stone from the Drumming tribe originated from a rock like that.
The Drumming tribe had not come here before but perhaps the crocodile had. Maybe not the crocodiles specifically from that tribe but what about other crocodiles? Did they pick up rocks from the ocean and deposit them in rivers too?
He wasn’t sure.
“Let’s go,” said Shao Xuan. The team still had to hunt, they couldn’t stop because of him.
Duo Li looked at the leaving group and then the rocks protruding from the river bed. Then, he ran over to flip one up for himself. Ever since he saw Shao Xuan defeat the bone beast alone, he had gained a lot of respect for this Elder. He believed in Shao Xuan’s capabilities. If he thought these rocks were odd, he should take one to study too. Maybe he would make a discovery?
Many people were also wondering if they should pick up one themselves but the team was leaving. Whatever, they could take one the next time they passed. There was still one more hunt before winter.
Despite the peculiar method he used to fight the bone beast, during the next few days, he used regular hunting techniques. While Flaming Horn people admired individual strengths, it was still important to work as a team. With the team, they hunted a lot of prey. At the same time, Shao Xuan wove a net using vines to catch a few tapirs.
These tapirs were a smaller species and edible. They were timid and would sprint like mad at the slightest sound. They often hid in dense vegetation until the threat left. These tapirs had patterns on their skin so when they hid in the forest, it was hard to spot them.
The younger tapirs are even more timid, unlike other animals who are more curious. They would follow their mother and never leave. This survival strategy made a defenceless animal survive till this day.
Tao Zheng and the rest did not really want these animals but Shao Xuan caught them. It was a mother tapir with a few young ones. They were initially escaping another predator when they ran into Shao Xuan’s net.
Shao Xuan did not really want to eat a common animal like that either, this was going to be a gift.
After the hunt, it was time to return to the tribe.
Everyone gathered at the resting point and prepared to send their game back.
There was a portion of the path that coincided with the Taihe tribe’s path. Although both tribes had different territories and hunted in different regions, they shared the same part of this path. This was a flat area, easy to walk and easy for transporting prey.
The path had been cleared manually through cutting off branches and pulling out weeds, as well as by the sheer traffic.
Due to the great harvest and smooth hunt, Duo Kang was in a great mood and started to sing loudly. Everyone sang too.
The aura they exuded was intimidating enough for predators to not approach. When they left for the hunt they would never do this because they did not want to scare away animals. However, it was time to sing to their heart’s content now.
At the fork shaped like a “Y”, the people of Taihe tribe were transporting some prey too. When they heard the Flaming Horn’s singing, the leader of the hunting party was annoyed. “Them again?!”
His mood was ruined!
“Ignore them!” The leader sulked. “We’ll walk and pretend they don’t exist!”
However, their presence was too strong, you couldn’t just ignore them.
When the Flaming Horn people arrived at the fork and were about to get on the shared path, both parties met.
Duo Kang eyed the Taihe tribe’s prey and then snickered.
Taihe’s leader was furious. “What, are you looking down on us?”
“Hey, not at all! Really, I wouldn’t!” Duo Kang said and shouted to the back. “Duo Li, hurry! It’s just a small animal, why are you so slow?!”
The people at the back did not speak, it was as if everyone shared an inside joke. Just as he spoke, Shao Xuan noticed everyone was visibly excited. Soon, Duo Li and the rest arrived in the front, carrying the bone beast.
When they saw the beast, the Taihe people were speechless. The leader’s face twitched as he turned green.
Shao Xuan was happy too, hurrying forward while carrying his prey.
The Taihe’s hunting leader was about to retort when someone from his team gasped.
“WHAT?!” roared the leader.
A young warrior leapt forward, ignoring the leader. He yelled, pointing at Shao Xuan, “It’s him! That’s the one!”