Their ancestors killed their way here to get their own piece of territory. It had been centuries. The houses, fields, every corner of the village held precious memories passed down generations. Every place was filled with history.
When they heard that they had to pack up and leave, the tribesmen were shocked. All they could do was follow instructions and pack mechanically. When they snapped back to reality, they started discussing.
When they heard that the great six was targeting them, they were all furious. Some warriors yelled that they wanted to attack the cities themselves. When Duo Kang heard this, he smacked the guy.
“You think we’re scared? Nonsense! Why would us, Flaming Horn, be afraid of the arrogant slave masters? We’re leaving because we’re going back!” said Duo Kang loudly.
What did he mean?
The warrior who was smacked to the ground said, stunned, “Boss, aren’t we here? Back where?”
“We’re going back to where our ancestors came from.” Duo Kang left to survey the people at the foot of the hill. The entire tribe was antsy. To prevent the scuffles due to restless warriors unable to hunt, he had to control the situation.
The warrior, crouching on the ground with a bruised face, watched as Duo Kang left. He thought about what he said.
Where did their ancestors come from?
Where did they… Shao Xuan! Apparently Shao Xuan was from that place. Does that mean they’ll be returning to the origin of Flaming Horn?!
Xiang Chen and his people, who had just arrived, were initially already depressed due to the sea not freezing over. Then, after hearing the awful rumours, they were all ready to fight to the end against these city folk. This was an unexpected twist.
The Flaming Horn people were sick. Xiang Chen’s parents told him a long time ago, no one usually talked about it. If outsiders told them they were sick, he would definitely say, “No YOU’RE sick. You’re ALL sick.”
But this was reality. While he yelled at them, Xiang Chen would also wonder when they’d recover.
Their opportunity was here. Although he didn’t know what the shamaness planned, since the chief and shamaness both decided to leave, he would leave too.
“What should we do with the duck house?” The keeper couldn’t bear to leave the ducks so he went to ask Shao Xuan.
“Just leave it there. Leave the duck house for them. They’ll leave if they want to.” These ducks were too normal, the tribe would rather hunt a few fearsome beasts out there than slaughter these too. Bringing them along would just be inconvenient. They had already paid their rent in eggs.
“We found a few eggs today, what should we do with them?”
“Cook them and bring it along.”
“The green duck?”
Shao Xuan looked at the fat duck with a group of green feather balls. Shao Xuan would not be able to see the second generation of eggs. Seeing as their eggs had helped Flaming Horn, he did not kill them.
“Just leave it here.”
The bronze cauldron had already been melted into other wares like pots and woks and distributed to tribesmen. No one wanted to throw them away so they brought them with. The raw salt was successfully cooked and processed, then distributed. The shamaness sent people to guard the remaining salt.
Shao Xuan had experienced one major migration, this was his second. This was different though. This time, there were many enemies watching. Perhaps it might not be a smooth journey.
Shao Xuan and Zheng Luo talked about their path. They could not use the path Xiang Chen used either. Other people must have seen them and would have planted attackers there waiting. This path passed several cities for convenience of obtaining supplies. Right now, they had to avoid all cities. That meant Shao Xuan’s initial path was a lot safer because it avoided most densely populated areas. While the forest was dangerous, it was the shortest path. With so many people, they could work together to fight off any beasts.
“I’ll use this path.” zheng Luo pointed at the map Shao Xuan drew. “Send scouts to survey the conditions, then clear a path.”
That night, as most of the tribe had trouble falling asleep, Shao Xuan dreamt. He saw the first shaman of the tribe but couldn’t see the face, only a faint shape. Shao Xuan had a feeling about who this person was. The legendary, most powerful shaman. The original owner of the six bone ornaments.
In his dream, he saw the shaman walking across a long walkway to a distance.
It was a familiar walkway.
It was very dark around. He heard the sound of flowing water.
There was a huge, dark patch moving slowly next to him. A giant beast that lived in the ocean.
Shao Xuan’s eyes sprung open, he was still in a daze but he remembered everything in the dream. Other than the faint silhouette, he remembered every detail.
The sky brightened, sunlight streamed through the gaps in the window.
He got up and washed himself. Wiping his face, he went to the shamaness after a haphazard breakfast.
It was early but the shamaness wasn’t in her house. She stood next to the fire pit, spaced out.
She couldn’t sleep that night. She had been standing by the pit all night. Although she looked calm, there was an obvious shadow beneath her eyes. Under her heavy lids, her eyes were bloodshot.
Perhaps she was not as calm as she let on. Moving the entire tribe was no small feat. She and the chief were under huge pressure.
When she saw Shao Xuan, she asked, “Why are you in a hurry?”
“I don’t understand something.”
Shao Xuan described his dream. He wasn’t sure if it was a hint from their ancestors or just overthinking.
After listening to his description, her dull eyes brightened. They squinted slightly, the wrinkles in her face cut deeper.
“That’s the path! Our ancestors have shown us the way! Perhaps when we arrive, it will become what you saw in your dream. A walkway will form!” said the shamaness confidently. She believed their ancestors would not lie.
“Don’t worry, it’s a hint from the ancestors!”
Before he finished, she stopped him. “You must trust your ancestors!”
“I do,” he said helplessly.
“Then it is done. All we need to do is bring the tribe there.”
After meeting Shao Xuan, she became a lot more sprightly. She planned to talk to Zheng Luo. He was also very stressed out and hadn’t slept. Early this morning, he was lecturing someone.
Shao Xuan scratched his head when she hurried off. He didn’t think it would be the same as what he experienced because he heard the sound of flowing water and saw the large shape in his dream. He hadn’t experienced either.
Two days later, the tribe assembled.
The scouts were back. The path was walkable, safe for stagnant patches of water that they had to be careful of.
On the hill, the fire pit was still there but there were no Flaming Horn people. The fire pit was now useless.
The houses were there but they were empty. It was quiet here.
In the fields, tiny weeds had started to grow. The farmers who planned to start planting crops gave up and decided to store their seeds well.
In the manmade river, ducks of different colours swam on the surface. The water was warm. These ducks were as active as ever after suffering through a harsh winter.
“Are we really going to leave them for Taihe?” Duo Kang could not bear to leave them but after they left, this would be a place belonging to no one. Since they were unwilling to let anyone else take it, they gave the place to Taihe.
“They really benefited from this!”
“Hope they won’t eat all the ducks,” said someone who lived near the duck house.
“I don’t care about the rest, I’ll just miss the green ducks,” said the duck house keeper, who kept turning around.
The long line of tribesmen left. The ducks watched them silently, confused but did not follow. When the last person crossed the bridge, they continued swimming with their ducklings.
When they passed a region near Taihe, there was a group of people waiting. They were mostly hunters, everyone knew them. Plus Quan Bai and the rest who had stayed at Flaming Horn for a long time when they planted the Thousand Grain Gold. They were here to send Flaming Horn off.
This was their last encounter. Both sides would miss this.
“Take these with you.” The Taihe chief passed them two large cloth pouches. They were filled with herbs. Taihe had rushed to process these during the past two days.
“Thank you! All the best!” Zheng Luo patted the Taihe chief’s shoulder heavily.
“Right, about the green ducks. Don’t eat them, just keep them there. It’ll pay off. Shao Xuan must’ve told you this?” asked Zheng Luo.
“I understand. Don’t worry, “said the Taihe chief.
Why did this farewell sound so hesitant?
A little time was given for both sides to say their goodbyes.
There were two old people crying, kneeling aside. There were Flaming Horn people married into Taihe, and vice versa. Although there hadn’t been inter-tribe marriages recently, there were still surviving couples.
They wanted to leave with Flaming Horn but they were very old now. They would just be a burden.
The shamaness patted the old women’s heads gently. “You should stay!”
The tribesmen left once again, leaving the place they had lived in for centuries.
Zheng Luo turned around to look at the hill. The tall trees had already blocked his view. Turning around, he took determined steps at the front of the line.
Their ancestors said that the Flaming Horns would return to their homeland one day. Perhaps they would live to see that day after all.