The Flaming Horns attracted too much attention. Wherever they went, every person who saw this troop would look at them with a weird look.
Ao had already chosen a different path from the one they took when they came. However, with such a large number, they were already a bigger group than many tribes. It was the same scale as to how they crossed the river back to their homeland.
To other people, they thought Flaming Horn was moving again!
They couldn’t keep this a secret if they wanted to. When other tribes traded with each other, they talked about Flaming Horn.
“Did you know? Flaming Horn is moving again!” said a trader from far away.
“Moving? I saw them just a while ago, there weren’t that many people. I thought they were going to declare war with someone,” said another, confused.
“Not many? There were so many! I saw old people, women and children myself! They crossed in front of our tribe!”
“Old people and children? I don’t remember these.”
“It’s true! I counted, there’s definitely five thousand of them, more people than our tribe.”
“What? Five thousand? You must be mistaken!”
“I wouldn’t make a mistake!”
“I don’t believe you. You dare swear on your tribe’s totem?”
“Fine, I will…”
Similar conversations appeared across the lands. However, the Flaming Horn continued to travel according to their planned path, not knowing that they had sparked another debate. They wouldn’t care if they did either. They were busy, they had no time for rumours.”
As they approached the Fearsome Beast Forest, Zheng Luo and his people could feel a sense of familiarity, as if this place was one with their souls. Although this was a foreign environment, there was a safe warmth. The totemic power within them surged, as if impatient to go home. Bright totemic patterns flickered on their skin, reflecting their emotion.
Although they’d seen Zheng Luo and his people’s totemic patterns several times, Ao and the rest still couldn’t help but stare in awe when they saw it again. Was this the effect of merging with the fire seed? These people without the fire seed in their beings had dark totemic patterns, not as bright as them. Shao Xuan was an exception. Now, Ao and the rest looked at them, admiring not their patterns but the aura they exuded. It felt more powerful.
Before this, when Ao heard about merging with the fire seed, he was unwilling. Yet, gradually, he was slowly convinced. After merging, the warriors would have greater potential, then the fire seed would not weaken… Who wouldn’t want such power?
At the same time, outside the Fearsome Beast Forest, the Wanshi tribe had assembled a large crowd.
The Wanshi tribe had received news when Ao brought his people and several fearsome beasts out of the forest. They wondered if they should take this opportunity to attack the Flaming Horn now. The ones who left the forest were about half of Flaming Horn’s warriors. Wanshi felt like they were strong enough to defeat half of the warriors left in the forest.
After the war in the desert, some people escaped. These people consisted of slave masters who had once worked with the Wanshi tribe before, perhaps they were also the reason why Wanshi tribe could develop to its current state.
Now, the situation in the desert was still not stable yet but the intelligent ones knew that soon, only Rock Hill, King of the Desert, would remain within. They would not let any threats survive. They couldn’t return to the desert so these people who escaped turned to Wanshi.
They were very grateful that their ancestors had helped Wanshi before, for they now had a safety net. Since the desert was unlivable now, and other tribes did not trust the slave masters- the tribes wanted to rob them instead. They had only one option left.
Now, Wanshi had support from a portion of the slave masters. Other than Wanshi’s own warriors, they had many slaves here. These were going in the frontlines to block enemy fire.
However, the decision to invade Flaming Horn had some resistance, especially from the slave masters. They had suffered so much to escape from the desert, hence they didn’t want to go to war for the moment. They’d suffer major losses from battling again.
Plus , the Flaming Horns were a forest tribe-- they were poor, the land was bad, so what if they won? So what if they took the land? They still didn’t want to live in a forest filled with fierce beasts. Even if they wanted to fight, they wanted to collect more slaves first. If their slaves all turned into ash, who would protect the masters?
In the past, the tribe only had one decision-maker, the chief. No one could object to his decisions. However, with the slave masters, they diluted his influence. The chief was no longer the ultimate leader, every decision he made required their approval or they wouldn’t provide labour and resources.
The Wanshi chief also thought about betraying the slave masters but these people were too cunning and had many tricks up their sleeves. He dared not take this risk, suppressing his frustrations.
Now, Wanshi wanted to invade Flaming Horn but these people objected once again. They said that if Flaming Horn left with so many people, something major must’ve happened. What if this was a bait? Then their next step could be to turn around, and surround Wanshi on both sides. Then Wanshi would be trapped!
To hell with their traps!
The Wanshi chief wanted to punch someone but he had to listen to their opinions.
As days passed, they felt like the fire seed in their fire pit slowly weakened, as if it was suppressed by a powerful, invisible force. The newly appointed Wanshi shaman successfully convinced these slave masters.
The only ones who could directly suppress their fire seed was the only other tribe nearby--- Flaming Horn.
Finally arriving at a unanimous decision, the slave masters provided some slaves. The Wanshi chief assembled with the warriors of his tribes, bringing out the Wanshi beasts they reared too. After several days of preparations, they were finally ready for battle.
As he stared at the green patch of forest far away, a flash of manic hysteria appeared in the Wanshi chief’s eyes. He remembered what the arrogant Flaming Horns said.
“Anyone who enters the forest shall die.”
Well, I’ll ENTER now, what are you going to do? We, Wanshi, aren’t just going to enter, we will step into your land, take away all your treasures, your women, everything!
The sun was setting. This time, Wanshi decided to invade at night. Flaming Horn was familiar with the forest during the day and had the advantage. IT would be different at night, they heard Flaming Horns did not come out much at night.
Wanshi’s beasts had awesome night vision! Plus Wanshi was familiar with night robberies, they were familiar with this task. They just had to be more careful in the forest.
Flaming Horn didn’t have their fearsome beasts with them. Even if they left a few in the forest, they wouldn’t be able to stand against their forty Wanshi beasts!
“Listen to my commands.”
The Wanshi chief raised his knife, prepared to give an order when he heard a long, shrill call from a bird in the sky.
“That’s Flaming Horn’s bird! Didn’t it leave with the,? Unless…” said someone.
After the bird called, there was a wolf’s howl and several other animal sounds.
These didn’t come from the forest.
“Flaming Horn is back!”
Wanshi’s chief yelled sternly, “Why are you shouting?! I don’t care if they’re back, we fight!” It took so much effort to convince the slave masters, how could he give up like that? It’s just a thousand more people, the plan goes!
However, they realised the people returning were more than expected. Two thousand? Three thousand? Maybe more.
Although they were far away, the Wanshi people felt a strong, intimidating force. Too violent, too powerful. They did not want to face this.
“No way, we are not going!” decided a high-ranked slave immediately. Although they were here with the Wanshi chief, they had private instructions from their masters. If anything seemed wrong, they should return immediately. They didn’t want to die with these Wanshi people. They had finally escaped the desert, hence conservative with their forces. They were already terrified of all the fighting in the desert.
After that, a few other high-ranked slaves expressed similar opinions.
Wanshi’s chief almost had a heart attack from the sudden betrayal and the change of events.
His mouth opened several times. He wanted to give commands but then swallowed his words. He almost spat blood as he quickly retracted his surging power. His features contorted painfully, eyes filled with struggle as the veins in his hand gripping his knife buldged.
The main force of the Flaming Horn was back. Not just them, they had reinforcements! If they attacked now, it could be bad. Plus his people were getting cold feet, how could they fight now?!
What about his dignity? All dignity was lost!
However, reality was cruel. Wanshi’s chief had no choice.
“Go back.” Wanshi tasted blood in his mouth as he suppressed his anger.
However, since everyone’ attention was on the newly appeared troop, no one heard him. The ones who did weren’t so sure.
“W-what? Chief, what… did you say?” asked someone.
“I said, go back!” roared the Wanshi chief. He couldn’t vent his anger probably, now spitting a mouthful of blood once again as he roared.
The rest didn’t dare ask questions. Although they were unwilling to miss such a good opportunity, at this point, it was obvious they shouldn't attack. They still wanted to live.
That was why Wanshi’s plan to attack while Flaming Horn was at a weak point failed.
Fearsome beast forest, within the Flaming Horn tribe.
Ta had already received reports of movements with the WAnshi tribe. Although the tribe had the fire seed as a line of defence, they couldn’t completely rely on it either. Its range was limited, they still had to go to war. Previously, when the shaman sent out so many people, they didn’t agree with it but they didn’t express their reservations.
Ta instructed his people to prepare for battle and went to talk to the shaman. Should they move a batch of people out first? Their main forces were halved, fighting was going to be difficult. No one was sure what would happen.
However, when he asked, the shaman remained silent as he stood next to the fire pit. “There is no need.”
Ta wanted to say something but the shaman said, “You don’t need to prepare. While this battle will come sooner or later, today is not the day!”
Ta looked at the shaman in confusion. He didn’t explain, merely staring into the roaring flames.
The flames within the pit roared, they hadn’t stopped since the time it suddenly exploded. Now, the flames had only grown taller and brighter.
The shaman stared with tears in his wise eyes. Although he didn’t go with Ao, he knew what was going to happen.
“It’s been one thousand years,” he sighed.
One thousand years. Flaming Horn used to be a prosperous tribe, every person on this land knew of them. Now, they were forgotten.
Natural disasters, disputes, the incomplete fire seed, change of heart, obstacles… all forced them to cower in a corner of the world. Although they didn’t know how their ancestors felt when they carved the cave painting, they knew that their ancestor, Zhan, and his people were all hopeful from the leather scrolls passed down generations. Every generation of Flaming Horn hoped Flaming horn would restore its former glory. The fire of Flaming Horn shall not die!
“Glory to Flaming Horn once again!” Tears finally flowed out of the shaman’s eyes, two streams down his wrinkled, weathered face.
“Haha…. Hahahaha!” The shaman let out a hoarse guffaw as he stared tearfully into the flames, like he had let go of all sanity, just in pure bliss.
Ta, standing next to him, was stunned. HAd the sombre old man gone mad?
Flames rolled within the pit. As the breeze blew, the totem of two horns appeared gradually.
Ta’s totemic patterns on his body appeared too.
Sensing something, Ta looked in a direction into the forest. He heard birds and animals, all familiar sounds. However, at this moment, what he thought was unrelated to the animals. His eyes were locked in a direction, as if waiting for something.
Not just Ta, everyone had a strange feeling. No matter what they were doing, everyone dropped whatever they had in their hands and looked up.
The sky was darkening, the sun’s rays slowly disappeared into the night. The glow of the flames slowly became more and more obvious in the night, even the silver moonlight did not weaken them.
Within the dark forest, as they heard approaching footsteps, dots of light the colour of the fire seed appeared. They grew more and more, emerging densely packed together.