After the snow, the forest was covered with a layer of white.
Shao Xuan followed the hunting team out, mostly to look for beasts with thick skin but there were no hairy beasts around. In the winter, they came out less. They also hunted mostly the long-haired beasts that could be made into fur coats.
Because Shao Xuan, an Elder, participated, this winter hunting involved a lot of people. Everyone was really motivated.
In addition to hunting, Shao Xuan also went to the dry riverbed to pick up some stones. In his free time, he’d make some glowing crystal again for everyone to use as a light source, since the winter nights would be longer. With those crystal stones, everyone’s lives were made easier.
During the winter hunt, Shao Xuan hunted a long-haired beast for his ritual clothes.
When the snowfall in the mountains increased, the tribe would no longer be able to go out. The river around the tribe was also frozen. Instead of putting down the bridge, you could directly walk on it. The children of the tribe liked to skate on it too.
For the tribes, winter equates to boredom. Every day, a group of three to five would get together to plan activities to teach the new warriors. They couldn’t go out to hunt, so they could only use other ways to spend their extra energy.
Most of Shao Xuan’s time was spent staying inside his house to study those cloud patterns but occasionally went out to join the activities, then return to study it again. Sometimes, he’d go out to consult the tribe’s craftsmen. Their craft came from the ancestors, and the ancestors learned it from elsewhere, then summed up their own experience to pass down to the later generation. They had an understanding of the casting or forging style of each faction and were much more exposed to the work of the Xia people.
However, when Shao Xuan asked them about the cloud pattern, the tribal craftsmen didn’t know much. They told Shao Xuan that some of the ancestors had recorded it but it was mostly incomprehensible. What the shamans left were messy, with some parts missing or not clear. Shao Xuan could barely understand the records himself.
In order to express his gratitude, Shao Xuan sent them a few glowing water sun stones to the great delight of the craftsmen.
His winter was spent studying the cloud patterns and producing water sun stones, until Shao Xuan heard the cheering outside. He then only realized that winter had passed.
Winter here came late. The days with no hunting at all were not too long, which made Shao Xuan not react at once when he heard the noises outside.
“It’s over so soon!” Shao Xuan got up and shook the crumbs of leaves on his body, then pushed the door.
Because of Shao Xuan, some families in the tribe also used water sun stone, especially when there was no moon during the nights. In addition to fire, they could see more in the dark.
Now, the two round moons that had disappeared in the sky appeared again. After this, the sky will be illuminated by them again next year.
Once the moons came out and winter had passed, the first thing that the tribe would do was the ritual.
The place was different, but the timing was synchronized. No matter if one side was day while the other side was night, both Flaming Horns tribes were using the moon in the sky as their reference. They just did not know if the specific timing was the same.
The shamaness was the one who told the tribe the time of the ceremony. After the announcement, the tribe started to get busy, readying themselves for the ritual. Shao Xuan was the only Elder, second only to the Shaman and the Chief, so he obviously had a huge role to play in the ritual.
Like the past years, the awakened young warriors would be in the top spot at the time of the sacrifice, because from today on, they would officially be part of the tribal warfare, even if they couldn’t begin hunting immediately. They needed to go through a period of adaptation and training, and also be made aware of their abilities. They couldn’t continue to walk around like children.
As night fell, all the tribesmen gathered.
The fire in the fire pond had been ignited by the shamaness. Shao Xuan, the shamaness and the chief stood in position from the fire pond.
Looking at the flame in the fire pond, the shamaness started singing. Suddenly, Shao Xuan saw a vision from far away on the other side of the fire pit. It has the same feeling as the fire, so he couldn’t help but stare in that direction. On the other side of the sea, the other branch of the tribe should be celebrating today too.
There was no communication between the two, but in their hearts, they felt a connection.
The shamaness originally thought that in today’s sacrifice, the ancestor from the bone ornaments would appear again as a flame giant. As she sang, she found that the flames in the fire pond today were particularly active compared to that previous day.
What’s going on?
The shamaness set part of her attention towards the fire in the fire pond.
Only twice they had seen the flames change like that. One was last year, to greet Shao Xuan, one was this moment.
The fire roared.
There was no wind.
Afterwards, as if a beast had awakened from its hibernation, it waved its claws and roared.
The flame rolled up, and their totem with the two horns appeared clearly. It was much clearer this time than it was during the ceremony to greet Shao Xuan last year.
Such changes also surprised the tribesmen who were farther from the fire pit. They had never seen such a change.
However, Shao Xuan has seen it before. Seen it even more than once.
It’s the Three Flames of the Fire Pond, the first flame—Soaring Flame!
As if confirming Shao Xuan’s speculation, soon, the flame in the fire pit instantly rose. It felt like it would rise straight to the sky. At the same time, there were a lot of flames flying out of the fire pit outwards. It was lighter than the flame in Shao Xuan’s memory, not so much a flame but a reflection of the flame.
Looking at the sparks flying out of the fire pit and the swarm of flames rising out in succession, the tribesmen were stunned.
The shamaness stared, murmuring. At this point, she had a guess. She immediately turned her eyes to Shao Xuan to try to get answers from him.
“It's the fire pit’s second flame—Flying Flame!” Shao Xuan said softly.
The fire pits on both sides were synchronized!!
Even across the sea, even if the situation on both sides was different. At this moment, at tonight's ritual ceremony, the two fire pits were synchronized!
The four bone ornaments on Shao Xuan’s neck lit up. The sparks bursting out of the pit were the same as last time he had seen it, erupting and wrapping around them, then it formed a flame giant and sprang up.
Because of their previous experience, everyone was a bit calm this time. They were just astonished at those fluttering sparks. This was the first time they have seen it in their lives.
It was strange, but they felt an inexplicable closeness from the bottom of their hearts.
The tall flame giant slowly turned around, looking in a certain direction, which was also where Shao Xuan was looking.
At the same time, in another faraway place, at the Fearsome Beast Forest.
The Flaming Horns tribe’s ceremony tonight was solemn as they were still worried about Shao Xuan, who had disappeared for a long time. Since the event at the desert, Shao Xuan couldn’t be found, even when the shaman had sent people to check. It took a lot of effort for them to find out that Shao Xuan was hunted, then he jumped into the sea, went down and did not appear again. The Flaming Horns tribe nearly started a war in the desert, but then everyone was stopped by the shaman.
“Ah-Xuan is still alive.” The shaman told everyone confidently as he was holding the box of the elders’ bone ornaments.
Tonight, there were a lot of people thinking about Shao Xuan. However, they never expected that there suddenly would be a flame giant in the fire pit!
If Shao Xuan was here and the flame giant appeared, they could still remain calm. However, Shao Xuan was not here now!
Consequently, the flame giant that appeared did not show any interest in the people below it. The figure composed of huge flames slowly turned towards a certain direction.
When the shaman looked at the lit-up box, his hands shook excitedly, nearly shaking out the bone ornaments in the box.
“He found it! Ah-Xuan must have found them!”
The others didn’t understand what the Shaman was saying, only that what the Shaman meant was that Shao Xuan was still alive. This was enough.
“When will he return?”
The others may have thought that the shaman only meant Shao Xuan, but Chief Ao standing next to him knew that this statement meant it was not just Shao Xuan.
At the end of the ceremony, no one was calm.
The Flaming Horn tribe of the Fearsome Beast forest were thinking about when Shao Xuan would come back, while the shaman and the chief were wondering if Shao Xuan actually found the other part of the Flaming Horn tribe. On the other side of the sea, the crowd was also thinking. The flame giant looked in a certain direction, so the ancestors wanted to convey something to them. Some people guessed the reason, therefore, they had a sleepless night.
Chief Luo sent a team of people with Shao Xuan to the coast where Shao Xuan landed to see if there was an undersea passage. Only that the result was a disappointment when they returned.
Not only was there no safe passage, Shao Xuan couldn’t even see that undersea passage where he came from. It was probably still not the time yet.
Even if they saw it, Shao Xuan felt that they couldn’t be sure that many people could survive in the tunnel except him.
He wasn’t saying it was not a disappointment. But this side had a very rich civilization and staying here could also offer a good life. However, Shao Xuan still wanted to go back to the other side’s Flaming Horn tribe so he could reunite with everybody.
Build a ship? Not only were their skills lacking, but it would also be difficult to build one capable of supporting such a long voyage. There also seemed to be a lot of monsters in the sea. A whip of its tail could be all it took to overturn them. It was as dangerous as crossing through the tunnel.
Come to think of it, Shao Xuan felt that, if the bridge at the bottom of the sea were to rise, then everyone would be able to move directly from one continent to another, as they did thousands of years ago.
Unfortunately, he didn’t have that ability.
Forget it. They’d just wait for another chance, or look for other ways.
By the time they got back to the tribe from the coast, the weather was already warm. Some people had begun to try to grow crops in small fields within the tribe. Even if they didn’t grow much, it was worth it if they could grow something to relieve the pressure on food. Besides, the shamaness had told everyone that while hunting was important, planting was too. This skill couldn’t be wasted.
It was still a little time away from the next hunt. Looking at the busy people in the fields, Shao Xuan then asked the experienced growers some questions. He remembered that he actually had something important at hand.
Earlier, he had snatched some thousand gold grains from the rodents together with Old Ju. Shao Xuan still had a bit with him. He brought it with him as he also wanted to plant them. However, he had been busy. Shao Xuan had forgotten about it until today.
He took out the bag containing the grains. They looked dull in the light when he took them out.
After looking at these dark gold grains, Shao Xuan put them away again. He’d take them to the experienced growers. Would they be able to grow it with the climate here?