Shao Xuan finally understood what Duo Kang meant when he met the Mountain Wind tribe.
The agreed meeting location was at a valley. There was not much dense vegetation around, trees weren’t very tall.
The Flaming Horn and Taihe people found a place to rest first. Duo Kang instructed his people to bring boulders over that could be used as seats and weapons. This wasn’t something the Taihe people could do.
‘You think you’re so great because you’re strong?!’ thought the Taihe people privately.
The Mountain Wind tribe did not make them wait long. After Shao Xuan carried a few boulders and sat for a bit, he heard sharp but short cries. They sounded like a bird.
The Flaming Horn and Taihe people looked up when they heard this.
“They’re here!” said Zheng Luo.
Shao Xuan didn’t understand why everyone looked at the sky until he realised there were several people on the steep mountain walls. The number of silhouettes increased, then they jumped.
It sounded like an umbrella opening.
Every person who leapt opened their wings-- not real wings, they were wearing something that looked like wings.
Shao Xuan watched as they manned their ‘wings’ with full agility in changing directions. They were coming straight towards the ground, then when they were close, flapped their wings forcefully twice and landed gracefully.
Shao Xuan thought their totem would be a bird with spread wings. However, on their things, he saw that their totemic symbol was a bird with no wings.
A peculiar tribe.
When he studied their wings in close range, as an experienced hunter, Shao Xuan could tell that they were made of leather. They were very exquisitely made, a special type of clothing that still allowed for flexibility and agility.
He wondered how they made these. The leather had been processed so the wings looked like they were made of a flexible membrane. No feathers were used, other than a few who used feathers as decoration.
When they landed, the Mountain Wind people kept their wings. Now, it just looked like a very weird cape on their backs.
In the part, Shao Xuan had seen the Feather tribe rearing birds but this was different. The Mountain Wind people FELT like they were birds-- or more specifically, they claimed their ancestors were bird people with no wings. The legends denoted that their ancestors had always searched for wings, therefore did their best in making themselves a pair.
Duo Kang said the Mountain Wind people had been wearing this since a long, long time ago.
To be able to make a costume that wasn’t clumsy and very flexible, allowing for graceful movements in the air, was genius!
Perhaps due to Shao Xuan’s intense stare, the Mountain Wind’s chief furrowed his brows when he saw Shao Xuan. “Where’s Wacha?”
The most interaction Mountain Wind and Flaming Horn had was through the salt mine guards. However, due to his injuries, Wacha did not come.
“He’s resting back at the tribe.” Zheng Luo did not tell him about Wacha’s current health condition.
Both the Taihe and Mountain Wind people knew that Wacha, leader of the Flaming Horn salt mine guards, was severely injured. However, they did not know that not only did he live, he was mostly recovered too.
Out of the people from the three tribes, there were familiar ones who guarded the mines and also foreign faces. But it was not the time for small talk. The Mountain Wind chief only took one look at Shao Xuan then looked away. He thought Shao Xuan was probably Zheng Luo’s nephew or something.
“I called all of you today for a very important discussion. We, Mountain Wind, have already decided to fight and take back the mines. What are your decisions? Do you intend to work with us?” asked the Mountain Wind chief.
Zheng Luo and the Taihe’s chief gave each other a look. Sitting on the boulder, Zheng Luo said slowly, “About the salt mines... we will take it back, naturally. They took something belonging to the Flaming Horn tribe and chased out our people. This is a crime that would not go unpunished.” Then, his tone changed. “But, you Mountain Wind people have not been telling the whole truth.”
This was what Shao Xuan and Zheng Luo had discussed. If the Mountain Wind people were bold enough to return to the salt mines to investigate, the ones they sent definitely wouldn’t be idiots. If they had lost so many people, it was impossible that they learned nothing from the excursion. Mountain Wind was keeping information from Flaming Horn and Taihe.
The Mountain Wind chief’s expression changed slightly but he did not retort, nor did he reply. He was just silent. That implied that Zheng Luo was right. He looked at the Taihe people.
“We will not give up on the salt mines either. You say you want to work together, we agree too. However, like Zheng Luo, we want to know the whole truth. We do not want you keeping information from us. If we do not know the whole truth, we will not work with you,” said the Taihe chief. They had the same opinion as Flaming Horn. Without Mountain Wind, the other two would still work together to take the salt mines back. Currently, the tribe in most trouble was Mountain Wind because it did not often communicate with other tribes and they couldn’t find any allies in short notice.
The Mountain Wind Chief did not reply immediately, he just gestured for the people behind him to spread around, guarding the area.
Zheng Luo and the Taihe chief also gestured for their men to keep watch nearby.
Everyone brought by the chiefs spread out to keep watch, preventing outsiders from eavesdropping or attacking. Only one or two per tribe were left, excluding the chiefs. The ones who remained were either the chief’s most trusted confidant or a very high-ranked tribe member.
Even Duo Kang brought his men to stand guard, yet Shao Xuan still sat by Zheng Luo, unmoving.
The Taihe tribe knew Shao Xuan’s position in Flaming Horn but Mountain Wind did not. Their chief looked at Shao Xuan in surprise, guessing that he must be Zheng Luo’s son or he would not be trusted enough to remain.
However, he merely regarded Shao Xuan for a moment and then wrapped up his thoughts. He thought about how he should tell them. Right now, only the core members of the tribe were left. He hadn’t planned to keep all information from Flaming Horn and Taihe during this meeting either. The Mountain Wind tribe had limited artillery, they would suffer huge losses if they forced themselves into the mines alone.
“You all know that after the Fox and Shen Forest people forced three of our tribes out, our side sent another batch of men over. I told you fifty, but other than these, there were another ten who slipped into the salt mines. They found a spot within the mines with even tighter security, even when they received reports of an attack outside, none of them left their posts. All of them did not move as if this was where the most important thing was. In the end, our people paid the price to force themselves inside. It is a pity they did not see what was inside, but!”
When he spoke, the Mountain Wind chief’s eyes were filled with passion, “But, the person who made it inside had the sharpest senses in our whole tribe. He can sense things other people cannot. When he came back with severe injuries, he only said one phrase--- ‘fire crystal’!
Zheng Luo’s heart skipped a beat, his breathing quickened. It was the same for the Taihe chief.
Shao Xuan was shocked too. They had a fire crystal here too! The difference was, on the other side of the ocean, when the fire crystal was found, it must be brought back to the tribe so that its energy could be ‘digested and absorbed’ by the fire seed’s powers. Here, it was different. Perhaps because the fire seed was already incorporated into their body systems, when they found the fire crystal, they did not need to bring it back to the tribe. The fire seed had long disappeared anyway. All they needed to do was utilise the fire seed powers within themselves. Although the process of ‘digestion’ would be slower, it was still doable.
Shao Xuan had read in the ancestral records here about fire crystals, but they were rare. The people of his tribe here hadn’t seen a fire crystal in so long. If they did, it was either in the tribe’s own treasury or they found it in extremely minute quantities.
Right now, connecting the fire crystal to the extreme reactions from Fox and Shen tribes, one would guess that there were a lot of fire crystals within the salt mines!
So that was why the two tribes went mad!
Perhaps they had already found the fire crystals together and formed allies. However, they discovered very little and planned to investigate after chasing out the other three tribes. They still reserved space to mend times. If it wasn’t much, they would just dig up the fire crystals and then return the mine back to the three tribes. It was not smart to make three other tribes as powerful as themselves their enemy.
However, they must have found more crystals, enough for them to change their plans. That was why they were decisive against the second batch of Mountain Wind people.
Not anyone can sense the presence of fire crystals, only people with special senses or some animals can. Since the salt mines were a restricted area, it slowed down the discovery of the fire crystals. No humans or animals had discovered the fire crystals until their mines had reached the spot.
Now that they knew the truth, Zheng Luo and the Taihe chief had the same thought--- Take it!
If it really was the fire crystal, they must take it!
Anyone would want to take the fire crystals for themselves. However, settling down, they had to admit that getting the fire crystals also meant working together. Without cooperation, they could forget about getting any salt, much less the fire crystals. The Fox and Shen tribe were already allies and used the salt to attract reinforcements. That meant these three working together would be for the best.
When the Mountain Wind chief mentioned the fire crystals, he observed the Flaming Horn and Taihe tribesmen’s response. The anger and shock were obvious, anyone would be unable to keep calm, except…
The Mountain Wind chief regarded Shao Xuan for the third time. The rest of the people looked like they were excited enough to go get it themselves immediately, but the kid? Other than a little shock in the beginning, he just looked like he was spacing. It didn’t matter what he thought, he hadn’t shown the passion other people expressed. There was a little, but compared to them, he was a lot calmer.
The Mountain Wind chief couldn’t help but wonder: did the kid not understand the importance of the fire crystal, or was he just naturally dumb?
“If that is the case, we, Flaming Horn, agree to work with you,” said Zheng Luo.
“We, the Taihe tribe, agree to work with you too,” added the Taihe chief.
Since they agreed to cooperate, there were a lot of details to work out. For example, the distribution of fire crystals if they won the war. After they agreed on the terms, they swore on their totems. This was a very important oath to tribesmen and would never break their oaths lightly, especially since it was related to the fire crystal.
The three chiefs discussed for the rest of the day, then through the night. They returned on the next day.
Shao Xuan watched as the Mountain Win tribesmen leap up the hills, borrowing the upward drag created by their flexible wings. In the blink of an eye, they were up on a cliff and they disappeared.
“Let’s go, we have to make preparations!” Zheng Luo called everyone back to return to the village. It was going to snow soon but this winter would not be a quiet one.