On this day, Shao Xuan had returned from a hunt and received news that there were people from the Taihe tribe here.
There were occasional squabbles between both tribes but also meetings too. Since the trade excursion last year, the relationship has improved. There had been no fights since then- at least not between the leaders.
“Why are the people from the Taihe tribe here?” asked Shao Xuan.
“I heard it was about the farm. They’re over at the fields.” The person speaking was obviously unhappy.
The Taihe tribe were better at farming than them, this was something even they had to admit. They didn’t just plant food, they planted herbs too. The herbs they brought for the trades last year were planted by them. The fields in the Taihe tribal lands were vast- agriculture was very important to them.
Why was everyone unhappy they were here? That was because the Taihe people had a superiority complex in agriculture, they often looked for reasons to point out mistakes in their practices because they thought they were better. There had been many fights due to this.
However, as a whole, the shamaness was still happy to see an exchange of knowledge. Although there were fights, it was still worth it as they learned.
When he thought of the grains with Qi Qi, Shao Xuan went to the paddy field.
Shao Xuan had not told Qi Qi to keep the Thousand Grain Gold a secret. She had once asked him if they should hide it if the Taihe people came.
He had said no. It could be even better if the Taihe people had useful advice for it. So far, there was no need to worry about them playing tricks.
After asking around, Shao Xuan came to the middle of the hill. There were many people here. He remembered there were grains planted here too.
Qi Qi was in a good mood today. In the past, whenever the Taihe people visited, they would ‘give advice’ in a very rude manner, often nitpicking. Of course they would not pass up a chance to insult the Flaming Horn people. However, although today started off the same, the Taihe tribesmen were distracted by Thousand Grain Gold and the plow.
When Shao Xuan walked over, there were two Taihe people discussing something, standing around the plow. The other few were with Qi Qi, standing next to a fenced plot of land with a few seedlings in the middle. The people were staring at the seedlings with brightened eyes.
When Shao Xuan came over, Qi Qi bowed and then introduced the people from Taihe. She reported the day’s events, her tone seemed to imply-- look at these idiots, they’ve never seen a plow!
After the mockery, the people of Taihe had a stiff expression on their faces. It was rare that they did not retaliate, instead of putting on a friendly smile. One of them coughed lightly and stepped forward. “Quan Bai of Taihe tribe. We are here today to trade with you, Elder Shao Xuan.”
At the end of last year, they had received reports from the trading team about the glowing crystals. They had sent many people to ask questions but the Flaming Horn people were very secretive about it and they did not find out anything. This time, their chief decided it would be best for them to conduct an exchange so they could take a few glowing crystals back.
They were hoping to talk to other people if Shao Xuan wasn’t here. However, Shao Xuan had just returned from his hunt today.
“You want the water sun stone? Sure,” said Shao Xuan. “What do you have to trade?”
“What would you like, Elder Shao Xuan?” asked Quan Bai.
The trade between two tribes rarely involved bronze, they usually traded animal hide or other things. Since Taihe had more herbs, they thought Shao Xuan would request for some rare herbs.
However, after some thought, he said, “How are the skills of the craftsmen in Taihe?”
Quan Bai frowned, he didn’t understand why Shao Xuan would ask about that. Did he not like their current craftsmen? So he needed to hire Taihe craftsmen to make something?
The Taihe people did have very good craftsmen.
When he thought of this, Quan Bai was even more delighted. “Our craftsmen are very experienced. Although they’re not as good as the Great Six, compared to…”
Quan Bai wanted to say ‘compared to Flaming Horn, we’re better’ but when he met Shao Xuan’s eyes, he thought about how he was also requesting something, so he diverted the topic.
“Compared to tribes like the Fox tribe and the rest, we’re better.” As for what he meant by ‘the rest’, he did not elaborate.
Shao Xuan hummed in response, then asked again, “In Taihe, have your craftsmanship knowledge been passed down for a thousand years?”
Quan Bai’s heart clenched. Did the kid want to steal their knowledge? Absolutely not!
While he was cautious, it did not show on his face. “BEfore the Flaming Horn people settled here, we Taihe tribe had already started making our own tools. But we’re still very far from what the Great Six has achieved.”
“Can I talk to the craftsmen of your tribe? I have some questions?” When he saw the guarded expressions, he said, “Don’t worry, I won’t ask about their skills. I have other questions.”
When they heard this, they were more relaxed but were still guarded. Some things could be used to trade but there were many things not up for trade. Just like the method to plant their precious herbs, they would never trade the knowledge. Craftsmanship was one of them. While they could talk about it, they would never leak the core secrets.
When he heard that this was Shao Xuan’s only request, it seemed like the matter of the glowing stones were settled. At least this visit was fruitful, but… Quan Bai and the rest eyed the seedlings in the fenced plot of land.
Someone nudged Quan Bai, implying that he should ask.
Quan Bai mustered up his courage. “I wonder if you have more ‘Thousand Grain Gold’ with you?”
Shao Xuan regarded them. “What? You want some?”
“If you do, we are willing to make another trade.” Quan Bai’s eyes were filled with anticipation. They had studied the seedlings just now. When Qi Qi wasn’t looking, he even pinched off a leaf and smelled it, tasting it in his mouth. That was when he knew he wanted it. However, he had to calm himself down to negotiate the trade.
“Sure you can have some but I’ll make the decision after I talk to your craftsmen,” said Shao Xuan.
Quan Bai and the rest panicked. Who knew how long that was? They could fail if they missed the best season for planting! It would be unacceptable to these farming experts!
However, Shao Xuan had made up his mind. They knew Shao Xuan was forcing them to arrange for the meeting with the craftsmen so they could only do what he said.
The Taihe people who’d initially planned to drag the trade now quickly arranged for an experienced craftsman to talk to Shao Xuan. This craftsman was intelligent and talented at his work. They couldn’t send a dumber one, fearing anyone who was a little slower could accidentally leak their tribe secrets.
This craftsman was prepared for the meeting, fully alert as he went to meet Shao Xuan. He wondered how he would avoid answering questions about craftsmanship. However, Shao Xuan had asked about the Xia people instead.
The craftsman was much more relaxed, telling him what he knew. As for the cloud patterns he asked about, the craftsman did not know either.
After a thought, the craftsman said, “I think I remember there are some records about the Xia people’s cloud patterns in the ancestor scrolls.”
Shao Xuan, who was initially disappointed, perked up. “Your ancestors studied Xia cloud patterns?”
He nodded. “I think so, but after they passed on, no one continued the research.”
The truth was that the craftsmen from Taihe wanted to make imitations of the Xia people’s work because Xia artefacts sold at a high price. Their trademark pattern was complicated clouds. However, when they started to cast the bronze wares, they realised these seemingly easy patterns were difficult to achieve! Just a small mistake would affect the quality of the entire product. It was very obvious that it was fake.
These few craftsmen had spent their entire lives on this but it was a pity they could not figure out a way to replicate it. However, they did learn some things that were recorded down and passed to their descendants. The descendants were not interested in making fakes though so slowly, people did not pay attention to it, merely skimming through when they read the records.
To the Taihe people, the Xia cloud patterns belonged to other people so they were not considered secret knowledge. They were available for trade. However, they still couldn’t give him the ancestral records so the craftsman agreed to tidy up the stuff and send a copy to Shao Xuan.
Later, when Shao Xuan received the tidied records, he was so happy he gave them three glowing crystals. This was actually the agreed amount set by the Taihe people but they felt like they had gotten a great deal.
As for the Thousand Grain Gold they so desperately wanted, Shao Xuan also took out fifty grains in exchange for some medicinal herbs. Other matters were passed to Duo Kang for negotiation while Shao Xuan returned to study the records.
The Taihe craftsmen really had planned to forge Xia artefacts, it was a pity they could not overcome this block. The Xia cloud patterns looked simple but were really not that easy.
At least these notes taught Shao Xuan a lot. Although they did not completely understand the pattern either, their thought processes and solved questions were all inspirations for Shao Xuan.
Shao Xuan had been trying to crack the code when one day, Qi Qi came looking for him in panic.
When she saw his bloodshot eyes, she gasped. “Elder Shao Xuan, why… Did yours fail too?”
“What?” Shao Xuan asked, rubbing his eyes.
“The ones you planted.”
“Uh, what did I plant?”
“The Thousand Grain Gold.”
Shao Xuan did not say a word.
He had been so busy with the cloud patterns that he had completely forgotten about his Thousand Grain Gold in the backyard.