The Xia People had high standards. Anything they regarded as good was naturally, good.
Shao Xuan also believed that the bony plates on the backs of hundred-year-old crocodiles must make very good armour.
“The armour you’re wearing, is it made of a hundred-year-old crocodile?” asked Shao Xuan.
Gongjia Heng was wearing a several-piece suit made of crocodile. When you looked closer, you could see that they were different from this crocodile. The chest plate and the back had different patterns.
“This?” Gongjia Heng had delight in his eyes. “This crocodile was over two hundred years old, it’s different.”
The hardness of this armour was double of a plate made from a hundred-year-old crocodile. This crocodile in front of him was nothing to him. Plus the two-hundred-year-old crocodile was a lot bigger than this one. Gongjia Heng was delighted to be able to hunt such a large animal.
“The large one in the river, the one you mentioned. How old is it?” Shao Xuan was referring to Gongjia Heng’s archnemesis.
“That one? I don’t know. Maybe more than a thousand. Maybe longer. No one knows.” As he spoke, he heaved a sigh. His enemy was too powerful, he wouldn’t be able to kill it.
When he realised Gongjia Heng didn’t want to talk about it, he changed the topic, asking about the process of making armour.
“You don’t have to hunt more. Just use the armour on this one. Although this one isn’t large, it’s more than a hundred years old. The ones you see in shallow waters, although they are large they might not be a hundred years old. It’s not easy to catch one like this,” said Gongjia Heng.
“Alright, I’ll trade with you.” Shao Xuan fished around in his pouch.
“Sigh! It’s just a bony plate, I have so much of it! I’m not trading it, it’s a gift for you!” He knew Shao Xuan was young, plus his tribe was far away. He did not look like he had a lot of good weapons on him and wasn’t threatening. Gongjia Heng liked him so he decided to help out. He had a lot of the bony plates anyway.
“It was a long journey so I didn’t bring much with me. I’ll give this to you. Maybe you’ll find it useful.” Shao Xuan showed him a water sun stone. He had two stones with him. He could give one to Gongjia Heng and maybe find something else for the trade.
“You have so little with you, you don’t have to… Eh?” Gongjia Heng was about to insist when he paused. He asked curiously, “What’s this?”
“It glows.” Shao Xuan explained to him the procedures for using the crystal. Since the cave was dark, this crystal would be a lot more convenient. Fire would use up precious oxygen in the cave, lighting a fire would sometimes be uncomfortable for Gongjia Heng. Plus it wasn’t good to light fires in the middle of the forest sometimes.
“It really glows?” Gongjia Heng tried using it according to Shao Xuan’s instructions. It glowed!
“You got anything else?” Gongjia Heng was very interested in peculiar things.
Shao Xuan shook his head. “Nothing.” The only special things suitable for trade he had were his crystals.
“Alright, I’ll keep this then. Don’t take anything else out, keep some stuff for yourself. They can save your life sometimes.” He was already very shocked that Shao Xuan could show him a glowing crystal. He did not hope for Shao Xuan to have anything else that was worth looking at. He didn’t like Shao Xuan’s bronze sword either. After looking at it, he thought it was of poor quality.
“Wait for me to pry the bony plates off the crocodile. Then I will teach you how to choose the best plates to make armour.” Gongjia Heng couldn’t stop talking now. “Armour is very important when you’re in a forest. If you meet a beast that’s faster than you, and you couldn’t run in time, it could bite you. Without armour, you would be dead. But if you have armour, nothing would happen! Hahaha!”
When he saw Shao Xuan’s expressionless face, his smile disappeared. He still thought his joke was funny.
“Young man, don’t be so serious. You should laugh more.”
Gongjia Heng also knew he was exaggerating. Perhaps some animals could be stopped by this armour but any stronger beast would be able to bite through the armour.
Armours were not invincible, though they were still safer than having no armour at all. Shao Xuan understood this. He had been wearing wormskin before he crossed the ocean. Wormskin was very effective and light. Since he was still a middle-ranked totemic warrior, wormskin had helped him a lot.
Unfortunately, the wormskin was used to wrap the core seed. It was now with Tuo to be brought back. Now he needed a replacement. The forest was very dangerous. He could only travel through it unscathed because he had powerful healing abilities.
As he boiled the meat soup and roasted some meat, Gongjia Heng continued talking about the difficult experiences he had while looking for Gongjia Mountain. However, when he finished his story, Shao Xuan still insisted on looking for it. Gongjia Heng gave up. Young people can be stubborn sometimes!
He rarely had a friend to have a meal with so Gongjia Heng was very excited, talking through the meal. Shao Xuan learned a lot from him.
After a hearty meal, Gongjia Heng did not stop. Shao Xuan listened as he made straw rope. Gongjia Heng did not care. Making straw rope was a basic skill tribesmen had so he continued talking.
When he was done, Shao Xuan’s fingers were still moving. He was preparing it for rope divination.
Before this, he had tried using divination to decipher the cloud patterns. However, since he began his journey till now, every divination session was a failure. Shao Xuan did not continue.
Now that he had gotten more useful information from Gongjia Heng, plus because he trusted that it was the truth, he decided to run some divination knot predictions again.
Gongjia Heng was getting increasingly excited but when he saw Shao Xuan fiddling with the rope and closing his eyes, he did not get upset. It must have been a tough journey for this young man to come here alone unscathed. He must be very tired now. Yet boys will be boys, he’s tired and yet he was playing with rope.
However, his smile disappeared, replaced with focus and solemn. His relaxed posture was the same but his eyes were glued to Shao Xuan’s hands.
He thought this young man was just fiddling with some rope to kill time but Gongjia Heng came from the upper-middle class in the city. He had seen a lot. This was why he knew what Shao Xuan was doing.
Was he from the city? No, the kid said he was from the Flaming Horn tribe. On the way back from the river, when dealing with the worm, he saw Shao Xuan’s totemic patterns on his body too. He was definitely not from the city. Then why did the kid know this?
However, as he thought about the tribesmen, there had been stories of them mastering the art of divination. It was not odd that the kid knew it. However, he was so young, was he good in divination? How much of it had he mastered?
Gongjia Heng’s mind raced.
This was a kid stubborn enough to come looking for Gongjia Mountain, a kid who was adept in the art of knot divination. Maybe this kid could even find the place. No, he couldn’t! Other than Xia people, outsiders could never!
But, even if he couldn’t, he could get them closer to the truth…
The fire roared and the firewood crackled. However, Gongjia HEng was not distracted. He felt a surge of emotion.
Under Gongjia Heng’s unblinking stare, knots formed one by one on the straw rope in Shao Xuan’s hands. Although Gongjia Heng did not know how to interpret the knots, he knew that if it was a failed session, there would be no knots. Did this mean he saw something?!
Finally, Shao Xuan opened his eyes.
Gongjia Heng grew anxious, he didn’t even realise that he had burnt the meat in his hand to crisp.
“You… What did you find?” Gongjia Heng’s voice shook from anxiety.
Shao Xuan was not surprised Gongjia Heng knew what he was doing. In fact, he had done it in front of Gongjia Heng on purpose.
“That direction.” Shao Xuan pointed in a direction on the other side of the large river. “I don’t know the specifics. I just know to walk in that direction. I think you’ve been in that direction too.”
“Of course I know that’s the right direction!” he said hurriedly, “but what next? How far should I walk, what should I do when I arrive?”
Gongjia Heng knew he was walking in the right direction all along and yet he still couldn’t find Gongjia Mountain! He may look like an easygoing person on the surface but when he thought about how hard he looked for twenty years, and the uncertainty of the future… Fuck, he was panicking!
Shao Xuan scratched his nose, itchy from straw flakes. “I don’t know either, I’ll have to do another session when I arrive.” It was the truth.
Gongjia Heng had nothing to say.
The sky was darkening. Shao Xuan had to stay the night. However, he didn’t sleep in the cave or the stone house. Instead, he slept in a small treehouse. This was another resting spot built by Gongjia Heng. When there was danger, he also hid there.
That night, Shao Xuan fell asleep the moment he lay down on the bed in the treehouse. However, in the stonehouse under the tree, Gongjia Heng could not sleep. He tossed and turned on his bed.
Since he couldn’t force himself to sleep, he decided to enter the forging room.
When his mind was a mess, he would visit the forging room. Then he would aimlessly hammer on metal pieces. He wasn’t making anything, it was just to vent his emotions.
He struck. Clang!
Should he go looking for the mountain with the kid?
He struck again. Clang!
But, he still had his pride. A Xia person asking for a tribesman’s help? Face was very important to him.
He struck once again. Clang!
He hadn’t been able to find it for twenty years. Maybe this kid could help him?
Clang! Clang! Clang!
Aargh! This is annoying! Annoying!