After two sleepless days of continuous work, Shao Xuan drew his final conclusion on an animal skin scroll.
Although there were parts of the cauldron’s patterns that he hadn’t understood yet, he already knew a lot from the stuff he figured out.
The cloud patterns surrounding the cauldron was more like a pointer.
The cauldrons made by Xia people- no, not just cauldrons, other wares too, had cloud patterns like this too. Just as Zheng Luo said, cloud patterns like this were different from the decorative cloud patterns made by other forgers. These patterns had secrets in them-- right under everyone’s noses and yet no one could decipher them.
These cloud patterns were complicated yet every successful Xia person was fluent in it. It was like a secret code. Even the Taihe people’s ancestors could not imitate despite wanting to. Not just that, after deciphering the patterns, Shao Xuan felt like there were larger secrets in the cloud patterns. Perhaps a secret related to the Xia people or something else more important.
What were the Xia people the best at? Casting and forging!
The legends denote that the most delicate, secret wares were works of the Xia people. The round Ding cauldrons that they made were perfect spheres. As for why there was a failed cauldron, Shao Xuan didn’t know. However, from what other people said, the Xia people were powerful.
Would the secret be related to casting and forging?
According to the message he deciphered from the message, it talked about a place where only ‘true’ Xia descendants had visited before. Anyone who failed to visit this place was considered a failure of the Xia people.
Shao Xuan did not know how old these patterns were but it must have been at least a thousand years. They’d existed before the Flaming Horn tribe came here!
Casting and forging… Shao Xuan was very interested. If he could master this, he didn’t need to learn everything- just half of their knowledge would be more than enough. It would be a huge leap for the bronzeware in his tribe. The Flaming Horn people were quite backwards in terms of forging wares. This branch is decent but the other branch did not even own metal weapons. However, they had the core seed. One day, if they could return, everyone would share the skills.
As for the patterns on the three legs of the cauldron, they represented three characters-- Gong Jia Mountain!
In the end, he realised the patterns all pointed towards Gongjia Mountain.
Was this the main settlement of the Xia people? Or maybe this was where their ancestors were before their people scattered?
No matter what, Shao Xuan planned to visit this place according to the map given. If he found the place, Shao Xuan’s efforts would not be wasted.
Shao Xuan went to talk to the shamaness and chief about it. The chief wanted to send someone with him. However, the ones who were qualified to follow him were few enough to count on his fingers. This team must not slow Shao Xuan down, any weaker person would only affect Shao Xuan’s speed. They must send someone at least as good as Guang Yi or Duo Kang.
In the end, Shao Xuan decided to go alone. There was no say this how long this trip in search of a place would take. There were still trades where Duo Kang and Guang Yi had to lead teams to, plus Chief Zheng Luo had to be at the village to lead. The place Shao Xuan was going to was not somewhere they were familiar with so they couldn’t help with navigation either.
“Since I could come here alone, I will be able to go to other places alone too. Don’t worry,” said Shao Xuan to the chief and the shamaness.
They were still very worried. They gave him weapons and all types of medicine.
Shao Xuan did not refuse their kindness either, taking the sword and the shamaness’ medicine. The shamaness taught him about their functions and he memorised them.
“It doesn’t matter if you can’t find Gongjia Mountain, your life is more important than knowing how to forget things,” reminded the shamaness again. She told him to not risk his life if he was too difficult.
Chief Zheng Luo said the same. Although the cloud patterns could likely describe the Xia people’s secret to casting and forging, he cared more about Shao Xuan. This person was the only person from the other side, plus he was an Elder recognised by their ancestors. If something happened to him, would their ancestors still watch over them? Zheng Luo still wanted to be able to visit the other branch of the tribe while he was still alive.
“Alright, I understand.” Shao Xuan nodded.
What do you understand?! The shamaness and the chief chided. They had no choice. They weren’t worried about more matured people like Guang Yi but Shao Xuan was still a young man. They did not trust a young person’s temper and behaviour.
They had already solved the problem of the Thousand Grain Gold so the plants were left to Qi Qi and the rest. Shao Xuan did not have to worry about them. Therefore, on a sunny day, Shao Xuan set off to look for the Xia people’s secret.
First, he went to the river where they got the water sunstones. After winter, when snow and ice melted, with added rainfall, the river had risen.
There were crocodiles in the river. Every time they went for hunts, they would avoid this place.
These crocodiles were very aggressive. It didn’t matter if there was a fearsome beast, a wild animal or a human on the bank, they were all prey to the crocodiles.
These crocodiles were larger than the ones he saw at Drumming tribe, also with a longer snout. The top part of the head protruded more than the chin. The Drumming tribe’s crocodiles had sixty to seventy teeth while these ones had more than a hundred.
The teeth were thick as nails, and they were proficient in hunting. The large, gaping jaws easily caught prey, dragging prey into the river to be torn to pieces.
The strong jaws and muscular body made this seemingly heavy animal very agile.
The crocodiles in the Drumming tribe had lived among humans for a long time so they showed a little more sympathy towards the people of the tribe. However, the ones here just killed everything they saw- this was what Shao Xuan felt when he saw them.
It was sunny out so many crocodiles came out to sunbathe on the river bank. Some were rolling in the mud, some fought and snapped at each other.
At the tribe, Shao Xuan knew that these brawny animals were actually cunning. While they had small brains, they were still more intelligent than expected.
At the Drumming tribe, he often saw a kid play with a crocodile using a piece of meat. He remembered how the kid would not throw the meat into the pond but instead patted its snout. This was their agreement- he would pat its snout, it opened its jaws, the kid threw the meat in it, then it closed.
The second time, the kid took another piece of meat but the crocodile had retreated further into the pond. The kid wanted to touch its snout so he waded nearer to play the game again.
The third time, the crocodile retreated more while the kid waded forward. His legs were in the water.
One the kid threw the meat, the crocodile immediately snapped at the child after swallowing the piece of meat. It dragged the kid by his clothes and in a second, he was in the water.
When Shao Xuan saw this, he had panicked but the people told him the crocodiles were just playing with the child.
It was true. The crocodile was just tugging at his clothes but not actually biting the child. The kid was laughing, playing with the crocodiles in the water. All the meat in his basket were strewn in the pond and snapped up by the other crocodiles. And it was all just a game.
Even games played by fierce beasts looked like hunting.
At that point, Shao Xuan knew that the crocodiles knew how to plan and bait their targets. On land, perhaps they might be more reserved but in the water, even the aquatically talented Drumming tribesmen would not beat a crocodile. If the child were on the ground, maybe an adult could save him but in the pool, he would be dragged down in a second.
The tribe treated it as a game but other people, the crocodiles were extremely dangerous monsters. If that child were not from this tribe, the crocodiles would not be biting on their shirt but on their arm, leg or torsos. And the odds of the child returning would be small. Playing with the crocodiles was like a dance with death.
People outside the tribe saw them as killing machines.
According to the deciphered map, Shao Xuan walked along this river to the larger one, then followed it. This larger river was just a faint line, almost forgotten on the map as if it were unimportant.
From Quan Bai and the rest, Shao Xuan knew that the river was filled with crocodiles. They had been here for a long time. Before the Taihe ancestors arrived in search of herbs, the crocodiles had lived in all the streams in the forest, especially in the main river, the thickest line on the map. Quan Bai said the records left behind by their ancestors had mentioned the crocodiles-- they were giant beasts not to be taken lightly and you should run when you see them.
Shao Xuan did not know to what extent ‘giant’ meant but they must be larger than the ones here.
Many animals stop growing after a while, like humans. Other animals had no limit on their size and grew throughout their lifetime- like trees, or these crocodiles roaming the rivers.