Compared to the other animals in the forest, this duck seemed to be friendly to humans. Sometimes, it flew far away doing goodness knows what but before sunset, it still returned to rest in the forest on the other side of the river. During the day it would continue moving around the river and in the forest. Since it was near the village, there were no dangerous predators nearby and it was relatively safe to the duck.
Once it grew more comfortable, it grew bolder and no longer had predictable routines.
According to the guy who often observed the duck, in the beginning, the duck had disappeared for more than half a day. The people at the foot of the hill were worried it wasn’t going to return but when they planned to report to Shao Xuan, they realised it was back with another bird. Then, they both left. When it returned, the duck had brought another companion.
Just like that, it would bring back one bird every one or two days. These were not all the same. Some had sharper beaks, some had rounder beaks, some had longer wings, some had shorter wings. Some had bright feathers, some had grey feathers. Some liked resting on the trees, some like resting in the bushes. Even if these birds had their differences, from the general characteristics, they were similar to the duck. Perhaps they were of the same family or shared an ancestor.
In the past, the tribesmen would hunt birds flying around this area. Of course they’d take food delivered to their doorstep! However, since the duck was the Elder’s, no one touched it. They did not touch the other birds either.
Right now, the common trend was counting ducks. When the people at the foot of the hill had some time, they would go check on the ducks in the river.
“Hey, how many are there today?” asked a warrior on patrol duty.
“Seventeen. It was fifteen yesterday,” said another warrior excitedly.
“I didn’t know the number of birds could increase like that!”
“What nonsense is that? That bird was brought here by Elder Shao Xuan. It’s impressive too, he brought one back and it became seventeen so quickly!” said another admiringly.
“But these birds don’t look like good food. They’re small and don’t have much flesh. They look like normal birds. Why does Elder want so many of them?” someone asked.
“He must have his reasons. Let’s not spend too much thinking about it, we just have to make sure no one disturbs them.”
“Shhh, time to turn here!” scolded the leader.
Compared to this fat duck, the rest were timider and very flighty around humans. The duck had come into contact with humans before so it took a shorter time to live in human territory. The rest were different. Whenever anyone approached the river, the ducks in the river would scream and fly away, returning only after many hours. Some only returned after a few days.
That was why, to avoid scaring the birds, the people who counted the birds would stay a distance away. After some time, they figured out the optimum distance. As long as they maintained this gap, the birds would not fly away. Just because of this, the people who patrolled the area would avoid this region to not scare the birds.
The hunting party had just returned. The flock of ducks were in the area, and with a cacophony of quacks, all the ducks on the river flew into the air, escaping in fear.
The hunters had just had a bountiful hunt. Someone wanted to shoot down a few so he took out his bow. Suddenly, the guy on patrol sprinted over and punched him.
The hunters were speechless. What happened when they left?
When the people on patrol told them, they all quickly kept their bows and arrows. However, the birds who were scared off weren’t going to return for a few days.
“Will they come back?” asked Duo Kang.
“Yes…. I think. But it’ll take a while. If the one belonging to Elder returns, most of them will come,” answered the leader of the patrol team hesitantly.
“The Elder’s planning to rear birds?”
“Elder leaves them alone. Those birds came here on their own. In the beginning, there was only that one duck. Then they became more and more, I counted twenty today!” The patrol leader was delighted, but when he recalled how the birds might have been scared off by the hunters, his smile faded into worry. These hunters carried with them blood stains and the aura of death, this time might differ from other days.
He became very worried and so the leader of the patrol team went up the hill to talk to Shao Xuan.
“Don’t worry. As long as the fattest one comes back, even if not all of them return, there will be new members in the future,” said Shao Xuan.
Since Shao Xuan put it that way, the leader was no longer worried. IN the subsequent patrols, he would often observe the river and count the number of birds.
The flock was likely scared off by the hunters because it took them longer to return. In the end, only fifteen came back but once everyone saw that the fat green one was back, they no longer worried. This one could always bring more ducks back.
Shao Xuan had not expected this at all. He just thought the fat duck might bring a few females here if it stayed near the tribe. However, he had severely underestimated the duck’s capabilities. That bastard brought a whole flock of them! The duck’s number of concubines increased every day.
Perhaps bringing the duck back to the tribe was the right thing to do.
If these ducks laid eggs and ducklings hatched successfully, they might even inherit the fat duck’s resistance towards poisons. They could eat the males and tame the females, maybe coax them to lay more eggs.
It was not the time to think about this though, he did not even have eggs yet, the second generation would have to wait.
One day, Shao Xuan had just returned from the blacksmith’s place to see someone standing at his door. There were two warriors who usually patrolled the bottom of the hill, a lady and a child barely up to his waist.
“What’s the matter?” asked Shao Xuan.
When they saw Shao Xuan, the lady stepped forward emotionally, carefully showing him a bundle of animal skin.
“My son picked this up at the river last night, I think it belongs to you.” The lady gave Shao Xuan an egg.
Usually, the ducks would leave the river and enter the forest at night to rest in their nests. Some of the ducks built their nests on the tree, some in the bushes. Shao Xuan had checked before.
These were wild ducks, they would not lay eggs as often as tamed, domesticated ducks.
“Where did you find this egg?” he asked the kid.
“In the bushes next to the river.” There were no ducks at night and children sometimes played by the river out of curiosity. It was a surprise when he found an egg next to the river last night, he was very excited then. After telling his parents, today, two warriors on patrol brought them to Shao Xuan.
Shao Xuan studied the egg. There was already a crack on it so he passed it back to the child. “You should just take it home and eat the egg. Eat a little first, then only eat the rest if everything is fine.”
Looking at the egg in front of him, plus Shao Xuan’s face didn’t look like he was joking, the child’s face burst into a grin. “Thank you Elder! Just wait, I’ll bring the eggs to you when I find more!”
After the first egg, whenever the flock of ducks left at night, many people went egg hunting. However, they very rarely found any. Shao Xuan saw eggs in the forest though. Within the duck nests, he saw about ten eggs.