Gongjia Heng stayed up all night, hammering the bronze piece. On the next day, he heard Shao Xuan come down the tree in the morning. When he walked out of the stone house, his eyes were bloodshot. He looked terrifying.
“What happened to you?” Shao Xuan heard the clanging last night too. However, he wanted to sleep and the sounds were still bearable. A person who frequently hunted in the forest would have to get used to loud beasts, birds and insects even while he rested. If the hunter couldn’t stand noise, then he would never be able to sleep. It was rare for the forest to be completely quiet.
When Gongjia heng heard him, he looked up at Shao Xuan with his reddened eyes. The muscles on his face twitched. “Nothing.” Then, he turned to walk towards the cave.
There was some water stored in the cave. Gongjia Heng used a fruit shell as a ladle, scooping up some unto his face to freshen up. The water calmed his chaotic thoughts.
“I’ve been thinking,” he said in a low voice as he squatted next to the wooden bucket filled with water. His hand was still holding the fruit shell in the bucket but he had stopped splashing water on himself.
Shao Xuan turned towards him to show that he was listening, and Gongjia Heng could speak.
Gongjia Heng did not look up, merely sloshing the water around in the bucket with one hand, his eyes on the ground. As if there was something very interesting there.
“You’re looking for Gongjia Mountain, right? After some thought, I feel like I should go with you.” However, when Gongjia Heng finished, he felt the need to quickly defend himself. “You’re so young, it’s your first time here. You must be very unfamiliar with the terrain here. I’ve been here for twenty years and have been out three many times. I’ll be able to guide you.”
Shao Xuan was stunned for a moment. Then when he suddenly snapped back to reality, he laughed and clapped, “...That would be awesome!”
“Don’t you laugh at me like that! Don’t think I don’t know what you’re thinking! Hmmph.” Gongjia Heng tossed the fruit shell and picked up the bronze hammer he used to fight beasts. “Eat first, then you’ll have the strength to work!”
They had to prepare a survival kit if they were going to look for Gongjia Mountain. First, medicine for wounds and antidotes for poison and venoms. Then, food, tools etc. They had to be fully prepared.
Gongjia Heng had recently gone for an excursion looking for the mountain. If Shao Xuan hadn’t arrived, he had no plans to make another trip so soon. That was why he did not have many tools prepared. However, with the change of plans, he had to work overtime to prepare all that was needed.
Shao Xuan made armour out of the crocodile’s bony plates. He wasn’t very used to it in the beginning, even the crocodile’s movement was limited due to the plates. Although Shao Xuan could adapt and still function in it, it was a lot less comfortable than wormskin. Under the current circumstances, he could not afford to be choosy. This was better than nothing.
After putting on armour, Gongjia Heng brought Shao Xuan out to pick out some herbs. “We have to prepare more medicine for treating wounds.”
When they returned, Shao Xuan continued getting used to his armour while making traps for Gongjia Heng.
Preparations required three to five days so he did not stop setting up traps.
The underwater cage used to catch crocodiles was set up once again. Gongjia Heng used some beast meat as bait, it had a dash of medicine in it and hung inside the cage. Once the crocodile swam into the cage and bit on the bait, the door would snap shut. Unless someone came to open it or it was smashed open by brute force, it would never open. However, at that point, the crocodile would be weak from the medicine so it would not be strong enough to smash the door open.
“Be careful with the medicine, only a little bit is needed.” Gongjia Heng gestured with his thumb and index finger to indicate the size of a green bean. “This much, and a human will be knocked out. Of course, people as strong as us will be able to last longer. Any weaker person would collapse.”
One small bit was enough to knock a grown man out cold, yet the ball of herb he put in the bait was as big as a ping-pong ball. And the crocodiles would still be able to struggle after eating the bait.
The effects of this sedative were relative to the type of animal. Some animals would be knocked out cold, while others might die. A person might fall into a coma if he consumed the same dosage as a crocodile. He would not just faint- he might never wake up.
At the same time, Gongjia Heng reminded him that he shouldn’t put too much medicine in the bait either. They were going to eat the animal later and would also be affected if the dosage was not right. Or they would collapse after eating crocodile meat!
Within three days, Gongjia Heng had prepared the tools he needed. He even gave Shao Xuan an axe. If Shao Xuan did not have enough weapons, Gongjia Heng would have to be the one to save him. Giving him an extra weapon would be to both of their conveniences.
During these three days, no crocodile took the bait in the underwater cage. They didn’t know if the crocodiles hadn’t noticed the bait or they just hadn’t been in the area.
“How do we cross the river?” asked Shao Xuan.
Although this main flow of the river was wide, he could still see the other end when he stood on the bank. It was nothing compared to the river that isolated his entire tribe.
“Should we make a boat? A raft?” asked Shao Xuan.
“Don’t even think about it. We can’t be on the surface. While the river looks quiet, remember that we haven’t even caught one crocodile in three days. This means that big one has been walking around this area. If we use a raft or a boat, we’ll have to use it far from here. We’ll be swallowed together with our boat if we cross like this. That bastard is very annoying and it will be time-consuming to fight it,” said Gongjia Heng.
The underwater cage wasn’t just for hunting. It clued him into the environment. If he caught a crocodile, it meant the large guy wasn’t here. However, if he couldn’t catch even one in three days, that meant all the ‘smaller’ guys had been scared off. They would never stay to fight for food with the big guy.
“What now?” Shao Xuan waited for Heng’s idea. Since Heng often went out for trips, he must have had his ways.
Heng chuckled, then pulled out a wooden whistle. He blew it consecutively, three blows per beat.
“Beep--- Beep--- Beep---
The whistle was sharp-pitched, echoing across the forest.
Very soon, Shao Xuan looked up in the sky.
A huge, dark brown figure flew over. It was four meters long.
“Look, that’s our ride,” said Gongjia proudly as he looked at the bird in the sky, as if showing off.
It was a bird that looked like a stork. Most of it was dark brown with very little grey spots.
The bird did not land immediately. It stopped on a tree, eyeing the strange man, Shao Xuan, cautiously.
“Come down! This is Shao Xuan. He’s crossing the river with me today,” said Heng.
It didn’t seem like the bird understood. It looked at Shao Xuan, then at Heng. Then it squawked. But it did not come down the tree.
Gongjia Heng dragged out some animal carcass leftovers to lure the bird over.
“I called you down and you ignored me! And now you’re here the moment you see food? Asshole!” Heng kicked the bird as it landed to eat. However, he was gentle and did not hurt or scare the bird.
The bird squawked and then ignored him, pecking on its food quickly.
“Bring us over there when you’re done, do you hear me? Or I’ll squash you with my hammer!” Gongjia Heng held his hammer threateningly. Unfortunately, the bird did not even look at him. All it saw was food.
However, a keen eye would see that it would slightly cock its head at Heng when he spoke. It was indeed listening.
When he saw the bird ignoring him, Heng’s face darkened. He huffed and then tossed his hammer on the ground, sitting down. He talked to Shao Xuan about this bird.
“I caught it years ago using a trap. I looped a chain around its neck and planned to kill it that night. However, there was an avalanche that night in the mountains. A lot of rocks rolled down the mountains. The real danger wasn’t even the rocks, it was the panicked beasts. It was very chaotic and all my traps were useless then. I was almost knocked out by a fierce animal. I was lucky that day because I saw this bird struggling. So I took out its chain and climbed on its back.
“In the beginning, it kept trying to shake me off once it took off. After I pinched its neck a few times it calmed down a lot. After some time, when it was calmer on land, I forced it to land. I was thinking of using brute force if it did not listen. It was just a forest beneath me, plus I would not die if I have the bird under me. I didn’t expect this bird to listen though.
After everything was calm again, every time I returned from a hunt, if it was nearby, I would toss some meat for it. Then we got closer to each other. Sometimes, if it was hungry because I couldn’t find food, or hurt because it fought other birds, it would come to me for food. Now that I think of it, it’s been ten years!” Gongjia Heng looked nostalgic. “What do you think, isn’t it great! Although it’s not the most obedient bird, it has helped a lot. Without it, it would have been very difficult to cross the river. We would have to risk the crocodiles. Or maybe even meet the large guy.”
“Actually, I used to have one too. Bigger than yours, and very obedient,” reminisced Shao Xuan.
“Where is it now?” asked Gongjia Heng. He thought Shao Xuan was lying.
“I haven’t seen it in a year,” sighed Shao Xuan.
Gongjia Heng let out a snicker. “Yours has probably left with its flock already.”
“No, it’s a solitary animal,” said Shao Xuan. Giant mountain eagles lived in solitude unless they had a mate. Usually, they lived alone and would fight if they met each other.
What was Chacha up to these days?