In the past, only female ducks brooded eggs and this fat male duck would not care if the tribesmen took eggs from their next. When the second generation of ducklings hatched, it wasn’t interested either. While he patrolled the woods, he did not slow down for the ducklings. 

But now, the fat duck was brooding eggs?! 

Where did these eggs come from?

The ducklings were all grown now, where could the eggs be?

He thought about the egg Bai Guo found, were these laid by the new ducks?

The duck watched Shao Xuan closely, guarding against him. When Shao Xuan took one step forward, it seemed even more anxious, opening its beak to reveal sharp teeth. 

Other wild ducks did not have sharp teeth or claws like this duck. Other than its general resemblance to a duck, it still had many peculiar characteristics. Perhaps its previous behaviour was not what the tribe thought they were?

Shao Xuan did not venture further inside. He exited the duck house and talked to the person who cared for the ducks. 

“That duck? It’s an odd one. After you left, it brought back a few eggs. Then, more new ducks arrived at the forest opposite the village. After a while, the patrol team discovered they had laid eggs. In the beginning, it was the same as before but one day, when one of the patrol personnel wanted to approach a nest in the bushes, he was attacked by the green duck! If he hadn’t dodged, he would’ve had a hole in his arm!” said the person in charge of the duck pen. 

“It deliberately attacked a tribesman?” asked Shao Xuan. If that was the case, then they had to watch the duck closer. It could not be left alone. 

“Not really, after the guy left the nest, the duck did not attack again. However, the guy on duty said he hid behind the bushes to watch the duck afterwards. He saw the fat duck grab an egg from the nest and then fly away. After this incident, even when it saw  the patrol team approached the nest, it didn’t react.”

“The fat duck is hiding eggs?!” gasped Shao Xuan. Not sure when this duck started hiding them. Perhaps it wasn’t a recent development, perhaps it had been going on for a while, everyone just didn’t notice. But why did it bring the eggs back to the duck house? To brood them?

“It doesn’t just hide eggs, it robs!” The guy explained, “If the mother saw it steal an egg, they’d fight.” 

As for who won, it was obvious. The wild ducks were no match for this fat duck. 

Such shameless behaviour. 

“One of the patrol members saved a mother duck that was almost bitten to death once. That green duck just grabbed an egg and left.”

“Only one?” asked Shao Xuan. 

“Yeah, only one.” As if he recalled something, the person said, “That green duck often checks other nests but after visiting once, it would never return to the same nest again. Like… like it’s choosing.”

Yes, it chose eggs. It didn’t matter if the nest was on the tree or in the bushes. If there were eggs, the fat duck would visit the nest. Most of the time, it would just check it out and never returned. Sometimes, it would grab an egg and leave with it. 

“Other than these eggs, does it care about anything else?” asked Shao Xuan. 

“Sometimes, if it saw other beasts in the forest it would chase them away-- but other than the eggs it chose, the rest was secondary.”

Shao Xuan thought for a moment. “The first time you all saw it take an egg from the nest, when was it?”

“Not long after you left, Elder. The patrol team saw it. Then, we started to see it travel to and fro the forest and duck house, carrying eggs. 

Had it hid these eggs since the beginning, only starting to bring them into the duck pen afterwards? 

If it had already started to snatch eggs a long time ago, then… “Did any hatch?”

The guy shook his head. “It doesn’t let me get any closer. I’ve been watching it closely but I didn’t see anything hatch. Not even any movement.” He had slipped into the duck house when the duck wasn’t around but did not see anything different. 

Since the eggs were laid by different ducks, they varied in colours and patterns. However, within the nest of eggs, there weren’t any significant differences between them. 

“I’ve only checked once. On the second day, I was threatened by the duck.” He recalled how the duck looked like it was ready to kill, it left him slightly traumatised. 

Worried that Shao Xuan would directly slaughter the duck, the person remembered to put in a few praises for the duck. “Actually, as long as you don’t go in and touch its eggs, the duck has been quite friendly.”

“Mmm. Thank you for your hard work, caring for the ducks,” said Shao Xuan.

“It’s not difficult at all. In the future, with more ducks, we’ll get more eggs. The eggs will be more useful than the ducks.” 

The duck eggs had many properties, especially in neutralising poison. They had benefited the tribe greatly. However, the rest of the mother ducks were just normal ducks. Once, the patrol team brought back a mother duck who’d been killed by a beast in the forest. After eating it, they did not find any major benefits and it was the same as eating any other bird. That was why the tribe paid a lot of attention to raising the ducklings. 

When he left the duck house, Shao Xuan thought about the possible reasons why the duck took so many eggs. How were they different? 

Well, it was not a human, it was an animal from nature and they had their own antics. All he could do was wait and see if they hatched. 

He walked up the hill. After a long time away, there was a layer of dust in his house. There were people watching his yard though. The Thousand Grain Gold plants were slowly withering but just in case, Qi Qi and the rest did not touch them and left them for observation. 

Putting down his stuff, Shao Xuan then looked for the chief and shamaness. 

Guang Yi was telling them about what happened at King City. There were other people in the house too, all regular members of important meetings. 

When Shao Xuan arrived, Guang Yi was describing the time when Shao Xuan hit Luzong into the air with one hand. Everyone’s faces twitched, trying to imagine the scenario. 

Chief Zheng Luo invited Shao Xuan inside to sit with a smile. 

Ever since his arrival, there was another seat next to the chief for Shao Xuan. Shao Xuan and the shamaness sat on both the chief’s sides. 

Everyone was enlightened with the grains he brought back, plus the weapons given by Gongjia Heng. Of course, they were most impressed by the story of him defeating the Linlu tribe’s chief. They did not care what other people thought of this. They approved of his actions and it was awesome. 

“Thank the ancestors.” Shao Xuan took out the bone ornament. “Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.”

“The ancestors watch over us!” The shamaness almost knelt and prayed immediately. 

Everyone else was equally happy to know that the ancestors were guarding them. 

“Right, about the salt mines. What happened?” asked Shao Xuan. 

The joy in the house disappeared. 

Zheng Luo’s smile faded. “Fox and Shen Forest tribe are serious about it.” 

Ore Mountain was shared by five tribes, every tribe sent a group of their own men to stand guard there. They would switch members after a set period of time. However, just before the trading team left for Anba city, their guards stationed at Ore Mountain returned with severe injuries. Some of them had been shot with poisoned arrows and on the verge of death. They had been sick in bed for a long time, it was only two days ago they could walk. 

“Our guards were forced out, the Taihe tribe too. Thank goodness for the herbs they brought with them, or our people would have died from the poison!” exclaimed Duo Kang in a rage. 

“The the beginning, they just aimed to chase everyone out so they did not really kill and so many returned alive. However, Mountain Wind tribe was angered and returned to the mountain to fight. Since then, both Fox and Shen tribe became more violent and many Mountain Wind tribesmen who went died,” explained Zheng Luo to Shao Xuan. “Yesterday, Mountain Win sent us a letter inviting Taihe and us to visit their tribe and discuss. They want revenge but they can’t fight alone. We want the salt mines too, plus we want to investigate why Fox and Shen did this, therefore we have agreed to meet.” 

“The sudden change of attitude between Fox and Shen… Why?” Shao Xuan wondered. If it was just to take over the salt mines for themselves, they would not have shown mercy the first time. “Unless… there’s something else in the mines?!” 

Zheng Luo nodded. “I think so too but I don’t know what’s inside that’s worth making three tribes as their enemy. If that is true, if it’s something worth betraying three tribes for, it must be very important! And there must be a huge volume of it!”

Zheng Luo’s eyes were ablaze. The Flaming Horn tribe must not miss out! If peace did not work, then they shall take it! 

Shao Xuan understood. Perhaps in the beginning, Fox and Shen tribes only discovered the thing and banded together to chase the other three tribes away. Since they didn’t want to offend the other tribes too greatly, they showed restraint in their attacks. That was to give themselves space to turn around. However, perhaps they’d found more of the good stuff and since the Wind Mountain people returned, they chose to kill-- because the stuff in the mines was worth launching war for! 

“Fox and Shen talked to other tribes and promised that if they helped, the two tribes would gift them a huge volume of salt. That’s why Wind Mountain is looking to ally with us and Taihe to fight.” 

“Tomorrow, I’ll go with you,” said Shao Xuan. 

Everyone felt safer with Shao Xuan and Guang Yi back. The presence of two powers was reassuring. 

However, before that, Shao Xuan planned to talk to the guards who were at the salt mines to know the details. 

The guards, in order to protect their team when they escaped, had gotten shot by multiple arrows. They almost died, hanging on by a thread when they returned. They must still be quite weak now. An injury taking such a long time to heal was enough to make a buff man turn into a matchstick. 

Shao Xuan was prepared to see a sickly man but when he went with Zheng Luo, what he saw was completely different from what he imagined. The patient had a rosy glow and had gained weight!

Seeing Shao Xuan’s surprise, the patient pursed his lips. “I ate many eggs.”