On the way to Anba city, the trading team met many robbers. These robbers knew that it was harvest season and since there were many sacks that looked filled with greed, although they usually avoided the Black Bears, greed still ruled their senses. In the end, many of them died for this risk.
When facing robbers, the trading party never showed mercy. Letting them go would just mean getting robbed again in the future. These robbers knew who the Black Bears were, yet they still dared to attack. Well, then that was their fault. To avoid future troubles, the trading party was decisive in killing them. However, every year, the number of robbers never decreased. When one batch was killed, another batch would come.
Some of the robbers weren’t even forced into this line of work-- they just thought it was the easier way to earn money.
Although the giant bears were timid and nervous around Shao Xuan, around the robbers, they were vicious. Shao Xuan had seen them tear a person straight in half. However, they rarely ate human meat.
If they were hungry, people would help them get food. These bears had a large menu from young shoots, to fruits, to ants and even eggs and fish. Sometimes, they would also eat the prey brought back by people who hunted on the team. If they passed any half-rotten dead animals killed by other beasts, they’d eat it too.
It was a good thing their journey mainly consisted of a forest. There was a lot of food around so no one starved.
After two to three days of rest, Shao Xuan was mostly recovered. He would also distribute his prey after hunting to the trading party. The giant bear that carried him for three days received a generous reward too. At this point, this bear had started to come to Shao Xuan often, asking for food.
The trading party travelled to their base outside Anba City and the giant bears carried the goods up the mountain. The trading party did not immediately enter the city, they would first store their goods here and then send them into Anba City in batches.
Shao Xuan brought eight sacks of grains from King City, all golden grains from Ji Ju’s farm. Ji Ju had given him ten sacks, and he sold two to the Black Bears. Of course, the most important goods were Ji Ju’s seeds. Those must be guarded well. Also, there were the axes given by Gongjia Heng. There was a lot to bring home.
“Wait a few days. It’ll be winter soon and the tribes will come to Anba City again to sell their animal hides. We can return with them then,” suggested Guang Yi.
Guang Yi was worried about robbers. It would be difficult for him and Shao Xuan to guard all their goods alone and the Black Bears could not escort them back to their tribe. That was why it was best to wait for the tribe’s trading team to arrive.
Shao Xuan realised this was true. He had come with the trading team around this time of the year last year.
If Duo Kang had led his trading team here, the Black Bears would definitely know. Shao Xuan got Maoda to ask around and he said there was no news of his arrival.
“We’ll continue waiting.” Shao Xuan made the decision.
The goods were stored at the Black Bear’s base outside Anba City. This was safer than within the city.
When Maoda left with a batch of goods to Anba, he told Shao Xuan, “You both stay here first. If I see your Flaming Horn people, I’ll send a messenger over.”
They did not have any business in the city so Shao Xuan and Guang Yi remained at their base. It wasn’t for nothing too. During the day, they went out to hunt and then brought prey back for the Black Bear people.
Five days passed and yet they did not receive news.
“Did anything happen?” Guang Yi grew worried.
In the past, although the Flaming Horn’s trading party did not arrive at exact dates, they would differ a few days, not as many as this time. In the past, they were rarely delayed unless something happened.
At least they didn’t see the Taihe people either. If they saw the Taihe people but not Flaming Horn, that would be a major indicator of a severe problem.
“We’ll wait. If we still don’t see them in five days, we’ll go back on our own.”
Four days after Shao Xuan said this, Maoda finally sent a messenger to tell them that the Flaming horn and Taihe people had arrived. Nothing looked out of the ordinary. Shao Xuan was relieved.
The messenger brought Shao Xuan to another place outside Anba City to meet the Flaming Horn People. Both the Flaming Horn and Taihe tribes had brought a lot of fur and animal hides and were transporting the goods.
Seeing everyone safe, Shao Xuan and Guang Yi finally heaved a sigh of relief.
When he saw them both, Duo Kang was also all smiles. “You’re both finally back!” The result of their trip was secondary, most importantly, they were safe.
“What happened, why was your arrival delayed?” asked Shao Xuan.
Duo Kang’s smile faded as he shook his head. “We had a minor incident. I’ll tell you when we get back. Right, what are you guys carrying?”
Guang Yi instructed the tribesmen to take the grains and weapons from the Black Bears. When he heard Duo Kang, he couldn’t help but grin. “All good stuff!” Then, he turned to the people carrying the goods, “Be very careful!”
When the trade between them and the Black Bears was completed, after a short rest, both teams went on their way.
The trading party was huge so Shao Xuan was not worried about being robbed.
Although they did meet some robbers, in general, it was a smooth journey. Shao Xuan and Guang Yi told Duo Kang about what happened at King City, except the Thousand Grain Gold part. They were selective about their stories too. Some matters were too sensitive. Other than the Flaming Horn people, there were also Taihe people nearby.
“So why did you delay your arrival?” asked Guang Yi. He knew Duo Kang did not want outsiders to hear. Now that the Black Bears weren’t here, Duo Kang did not refuse.
“It’s about the salt,” said Duo Kang. “There was an incident at the salt mines, that’s why our tribe and Taihe both had to delay our trading dates.”
Most of the salt at the tribe was mined from a salt mine. The salt there was divided into five parts for five tribes. Other tribes who did not get a share could only trade with these five tribes. Taihe and Flaming Horn were two out of the five-- this was the result of the great salt war years ago.
Other than Flaming Horn and Taihe, the other three were the Fox, Mountain Wind and Shen Mountain tribes.
“Is it settled?” asked Shao Xuan.
Duo Kang shook his head. “Fox and Shen wanted to keep the entire mine for themselves. Mountain Wind already fought one battle with them over it, yet Fox and Shen were both too stubborn. In the end, they even found allies. It’s complicated. No matter what, we’ll discuss this when we get back. We’ll see what the chief says. If we have to go into war, then we’ll have to prepare during winter.”
“Mm.” Shao Xuan and Guang Yi grew solemn. Declaring war was not a small matter, especially if it involved five tribes.
When he finally saw the mountain, Shao Xuan’s tense muscles relaxed. It didn’t matter the location, he had always been on guard. He finally completely relaxed here like he’d shed a weight.
There were kids feeding the ducks at the river. When they saw the trading party, they squealed and welcomed them.
“Elder! Elder Shao Xuan!”
A kid ran over happily, barely being able to stop when he reached Shao Xuan.
Shao Xuan picked the child up and put the child on his shoulder. Many people in the tribe often did this including the chief and Duo Kang so Shao Xuan sometimes did this too.
He knew this kid-- the kid was the second person to fish duck eggs out of the river. Other people rarely got any and yet he did it in his first attempt. Afterwards, he was very enthusiastic in feeding the ducks too.
The kid was overjoyed as he sat on Shao Xuan’s shoulder, happily digging out an egg from his pocket.
“There are still eggs at this time of the year?” Most eggs had already hatched and the tribe did not expect the wild ducks to lay more either. They weren’t domesticated so other than the one or two fixed mating seasons, they wouldn’t lay more eggs.
“I got this next to the river!” The child’s eyes were shining, he showed Shao Xuan the egg.
Shao Xuan took the egg and studied it. It wasn’t broken, it didn’t look like it was laid a long time ago either.
“Bai Guo,” Shao Xuan asked the child, “When did you get this?”
“I found it this morning, in the grass next to the river,” the kid named Bai Guo pointed.
There were many ducks in the river, new ducks too. Not sure which duck this egg belonged to.
“There are still eggs this time of the year?” Duo Kang was surprised too. The ducklings had grown a lot too. They didn’t hear anyone finding any more eggs recently. How was this kid so lucky?
“Bai Guo, we’ll just call you Bai Dan next time. So you can find more eggs,” teased Duo Kang.
[Note: Dan = egg in chinese]
The kid actually believed him and thought about going home to talk to his family about changing his name.
“Speaking of eggs, Shao Xuan, go check out that green duck later,” said Duo Kang.
“The fat, green duck?” asked Shao Xuan. “What happened?”
If it could bring more females over, it should be doing fine.
Duo Kang made a ‘tsk’ sound but did not elaborate. “Just go check it out and you’ll understand. It’s at the duck house, the one you guys built for it.”
When they crossed the river and entered the village, Shao Xuan put Bai Guo down but did not hurry up the hill. He walked to the duck house.
He realised there was another row of duck houses added in the area near the river. There were ducks of various colours waddling around inside.
He walked towards the house specially built for this green duck. Other than the small door for ducks, the door built for humans had a layer of dust, meaning it hadn’t been touched in a while.
When he opened the door, Shao Xuan felt a rush of aggressive aura aimed at him. It wasn’t strong but it was obvious enough, like a threat. However, it quickly disappeared.
Shao Xuan looked over at its nest made of dried grass to see the fat duck squatting with its wings spread open like it was covering something. However, there was too much stuff under its wings so it could not cover them all.
Based on what he saw, Shao Xuan knew they were duck eggs under its wings.
The bastard was brooding duck eggs!