The days passed. As the Thousand Grain Gold ripened slowly, there were irregular occurrences in the forest at the foot of the mountain. The ducks grew more and more anxious and started to move closer to the tribe in search of protection.
The number of patrolling members increased, most of them in the forest outside the tribe because many wild rats had appeared. There were all kinds of rats, big and small, digging holes and hopping around coming continuously.
Not just wild rats, there were birds in the sky too. There were often birds circling the area. Now, around Shao Xuan’s house, Zheng Luo had sent his men with a sufficient supply of arrows to shoot the birds.
Other than regular animals, there were fearsome beasts too. They were not the large kind though, those lived far away from the tribe.
Some people even joked that they did not have to go out hunting because all these animals would just arrive at their doorstep.
Quan Bai and the rest of the people in the Taihe tribe mentioned that they could send people over if they needed help. They were turned down by Zheng Luo because they could solve the problem on their own and they did not need help. The Taihe tribe definitely wasn’t helping for nothing too, they would ask for a favour, and it would be the ripe grains.
Zheng Luo could not bear to share such a good thing. Quan Bai and the rest had already contributed to the planting of these grains so they were naturally given a portion. However, Zheng Luo did not want to give out even more.
When it was time for the switching of shifts for patrol, the new members looked at the pile of rats on the ground and asked the patrol team, “How many did you hunt today?”
“I don’t know about the rest but I hunted thirty, almost forty today!” as he spoke, a warrior walked over with a rat as long as half his arm. Although he was worried, he was happy too. These were food. The chief said anyone who hunted these animals could keep half for themselves, they didn’t have to go out hunting. Now that he had twenty for himself, he could give them to his family if he could not finish them.
And it was just half a day's work.
“More than yesterday.” The person who just arrived made a swift movement and shot an arrow.
A rat that wanted to slip out of a bush was nailed to the ground.
The warrior did not pick his arrow up immediately, shooting three more consecutively. Two wild rats with thick fur and long tails were shot on a tree, the other killed a grey rat in another three instantly.
“It’s fine, I’ll take it from here. You’ve been working for half a day now, go get some rest,” said the warrior going to pick up the three rats.
The warrior who had been stationed there for half a day finally had the time to tie up his day’s hunt with some straw rope and carried them off. He was even hesitant to return.
The warriors returning from their stations grouped together talking about their hunt of the day. However, the conversation was peppered with worry too.
“The rats coming have become bigger and quicker. We have to send more men. A few days ago, it was easy but now it’s getting too many. I almost missed one.”
“Me too, we have to be more careful.”
“Thank goodness we have a river in front. Some rats can’t swim so they can’t cross it.”
“There are many rats that can swim, don’t’ let your guard down.”
As they spoke, they looked towards the top of the hill. There were birds flying back and forth nearby. Occasionally, a bird would dive down and then get shot by an arrow, finally collapsing to the ground.
Two more days passed. The wild rats that came were manic. All the warriors in the tribe were on duty, a portion of them sent to the hill.
Shao Xuan didn’t know the Thousand Grain Gold would attract so many birds and rats. The previous plant he saw attracted a swarm of rats but not birds.
A huge net was deployed around his yard to prevent the diving birds from damaging the plants in case they weren’t killed in time.
“Soon, I think.” Qi Qi looked at the golden grains, all smiles. From their perspective, these large scale peculiar occurrences signified that the plant was very special. It was good news.
“Keep watch! Keep your eyes open, don’t miss even one!” said Duo Kang to the warriors outside.
Every arrow had the warrior’s own symbol on it so that they knew whose prey it was. To the warriors, the prey was small but the feat was huge. If they did well here, they might get some reward from the Elder.
After talking to Zheng Luo, Shao Xuan had made a public announcement that the other nine weapons left behind by Gongjia Heng would be given to nine outstanding warriors of the tribe. There were limited spots so anyone who wanted one had to work hard. That was why they were all so enthusiastic. Both the young and old were excited as ever, sometimes unwilling to leave their posts when the next shift arrived.
Shao Xuan also held discussions about the strategy to tackle the ripening of the grains. At this point, the grains were not fully ripe yet and the animals were already so riled up. Once they ripened, what would happen?
When he thought about how manic the swarm of rats was on the hill, then looked at the flock of birds in the sky and the bundles of rats of different sizes the warriors brought home, Shao Xuan felt goosebumps.
Although they were just animals, they were still going to be difficult to deal with in large numbers, especially when they had lost their sanity.
Due to the disturbance caused by the birds and rats, the ducks all hit. The funny part was, the fat duck had opened the door to let many ducks into the duck shed. After seeing this, Shao Xuan got the people who were not involved in defending the plants to separate the ducks originally in the pen and these new ducks. Then, they opened the door to the shed so the fat duck could bring more ducks inside to hide.
In the sky, conflicts erupted between flocks of birds. They often fought so feathers would fall like snow, bird poop splattered everywhere. There was already a layer of bird poop and feathers on Shao Xuan’s roof, the smell was…
However, for the Thousand Grain Gold, Shao Xuan had to live with it.
One day, Shao Xuan was guarding the plants.
“It should be one of these two days?” Qi Qi asked as she looked up at the feathers falling like snow.
Shao Xuan looked at the heavy grains with a pause. “I think today's the day.”
When Qi Qi and Zheng Luo heard this, their heart skipped a beat. Qi Qi took several steps back into the house. She had no choice, she wasn’t strong enough to fight. This was the time for her to leave the space for the warriors to do their jobs.
Zheng Luo had already started to call his men to prepare.
A whistle sounded from the forest at the foot of the mountain.
When they heard the whistle, the ones on duty knew it was time.
The rats that were still peering curiously in the bushes had a sudden pause, then as if they were suddenly provoked, stopped hiding and dashed forward with no regard for their lives.
The birds in the sky stopped fighting as if they had some prior agreement, then dove directly at Shao Xuan’s backyard.
“It’s ripe! Now!” Shao Xuan roared. Before he finished, they all rushed out to cut off the grains into prepared sacks.
Not just Shao Xuan- Zheng Luo, Duo Kang and the rest who were already there also helped at the same time.
Within a few moments, the heavy, golden grains were all harvested. Even the grains that had fallen on the ground were picked up so when the birds arrived, there were only green plants but no grains. All they received were arrows.
There was an eruption of squawking. Since the disappearance of the grains, the birds flew higher up into the sky once again to dodge the attacks. However, they did not leave and just squawked and flew in the area as if they were unwilling to leave and waited to see if more grains would appear.
The grains were harvested at noon but the birds only left completely at night.
The swarm of wild rats had long dispersed, the warriors were now scooping up drowned rats in the river. These rats could not swim, yet had jumped into the river in a frenzy with the rest who could. They had broken past the warriors’ defences and yet still drowned to death here. They really were not thinking. There were at least thirty rats like that. The people at the tribe were now cleaning up the rats that had slipped inside.
Shao Xuan looked at the twenty-three animal skin sacks in his house. Including him, there were twenty-three people, each person harvesting one sack and one plant. Although he didn’t count, he knew that there weren't just a thousand grains, there must be up to ten thousand grains here!
Ignoring the smell of bird poop since Qi Qi, the shamaness and the chief were here, Shao Xuan opened one sack a little. He took a grain and carefully peeled the husk away.
The dark golden husk was pried open to reveal a purple grain inside.
“How?!” gasped Shao Xuan.
The grains he brought back were all golden inside, why was this purple-gold? This was a lot different!
He opened the other twenty-two bags and took five random grains from different plants. He opened to realise they were all purple-gold inside1
“Why… Why did they change colour?” Qi Qi was worried too.
Shao Xuan had said the plants were growing better than the one he previously saw but better didn’t mean change in colour!
There was such a difference in colour, was it natural? Was this supposed to happen?
Shao Xuan thought for a moment and felt like it must have been due to the planting methods. They had fed it so much bloody fearsome beast meat too.