After leaving the village, Shao Xuan saw the few mountains Chacha usually rested on. There were still eagle claw marks on the walls.
When he first returned to the old haunt, Chacha preferred tall places without too many people. It didn’t really interact with Flaming Horn tribesmen anyway, it was different from the several other fearsome beasts. It lived around the mountains near the tribe.
Shao Xuan didn’t see it when he returned. Ao and the rest told him that soon after Chacha sent Tuo and Lei back, it flew to the desert, then went to the Hui tribe and left with several of their eagles.
However, the Hui tribe explained that the great mountain eagles might be heading to Eagle Mountain together. That was why Ao and the rest weren’t too worried. They weren’t very familiar with great mountain eagles but Chacha had been there before. Though they didn’t know what route it was using, they should be safe in a group.
After this year’s winter, an excursion team from the Hui tribe exiting the grasslands came to the Fearsome Beast Forest with news. They said their few eagles had returned to their tribe but they did not see Chacha. They didn’t say much, as if there was something on their minds that they didn’t dare ask. Since Ao was thinking about the fire seed’s abnormal behaviour at the time, he did not question this.
They’d gone to Eagle Mountain but Chacha didn’t return with them. Did Chacha not leave the mountain? Or had Chacha left, just to somewhere else? Shao Xuan didn’t know.
When Shao Xuan asked about it, Ao felt very bad. Indeed, everyone had forgotten about the eagle and didn’t ask about it. The Hui tribesmen did not stay long, leaving soon after passing the message. If he wanted to know more, Shao Xuan had to go to the grasslands and talk to them. Hui tribesmen often interacted with the great mountain eagles. If they could understand that the great mountain eagles had banded together to head to Eagle Mountain, then they must know more too. They must know something about Chacha.
Shao Xuan did not blame Ao and the rest. It was a special circumstance, plus Chacha didn’t have the best tempter. Within the tribe, other than Old Ke and the shaman (it would only very unwillingly listen to them sometimes), it ignored everything else.
When everything was done here, Shao Xuan planned to visit the grasslands.
In half an hour, Shao Xuan could sense some changes.
“When you sent Tuo and Lei back with the core seed, we knew it was something very dangerous but we didn’t know it was so destructive,” said Ao as he pointed as the trees around them thinned.
Due to the soil and rocks on this hill, it had lesser vegetation, especially at higher altitudes. That was why Ao decided to store the core seed here. However, this part looked as if the forest had a bald patch, it was dramatic.
There weren’t many plants here so few animals came here. Ao had been many times, yet only saw one or two wild chickens passing at the foot of the hill. They didn’t look like they lived on the hill either.
“The core seed is on the hill. There was already a cave inside but we expanded it later. According to what you said, we put a lot of top-grade rocks inside,” said Ao, explaining what happened.
Zheng Luo and Duo Kang were listening but their faces were red. They looked as if they wanted to rush inside immediately.
On the other side, the core seeds were all controlled by the great slave masters. All the bronze wares they had were bought from the slave masters or traded with businessmen. Yet they had never seen a core seed. They were quite foreign to the core seed. They didn’t know the old haunt would have a core seed for ore!
“With the core seed, can we make more wares?!” asked Duo Kang, rubbing his palms.
“Theoretically, yes. But no one in the tribe has done this before, we don’t know if it’ll work. We’ll just have to try,” said Shao Xuan. On the other side, the blacksmiths mostly mended wares or melted them to modify it. Gongjia Heng had given some pointers but he did not teach them about processing ore.
All they had were Shao Xuan’s ‘theories’.
Shao Xuan compiled all the main points of processing ore, a mixture of procedures obtained from the slave master’s historical records and the discussions he copied at Gongjia Mountain.
When he was in the desert, Shoa Xuan had entered the Snow Plains City and read about ore processing in the scroll room. They wrote of where ore was from, and that better rocks required a shorter time to create more metal.
Shao Xuan recorded all the examples of success and failures. The words from Gongjia Mountain were useful too, for example the metal ratios, tools, observing steam and the ring diagram left behind by the Yi family.
Everyone didn’t really understand the Yi family’s ring diagram but as for the procedures written in other scripts, the two chiefs and three hunt leaders were very impressed.
“I heard from a Gongija person that there is a type of beast with a green face and sharp teeth. Its blood is useful for forging weapons, the swords can easily cut open a rock,” said Shoa Xuan.
“Really?!” gasped the rest.
“I just heard. I’ve never seen it.”
“Do you have a general idea of what it looks like? We’ll definitely catch it if we see one during our hunts,” said Zheng Luo excitedly.
The metal wares they used weren’t the best. Some metal wares were even worse than the store wares made by the people here. However, both kinds had their pros and cons. If they could produce better metal weapons, then hunting would be easier and more satisfying.
“According to Gongjia Heng, the green-faced fanged beast isn’t large. It has a green face, thick skin, has hooves but no horns and two long, sharp fangs. It hops between mountains and looks very fierce. It has a fierce temperament too, often attacking other animals. But it’s a herbivorous fearsome beast.”
As he spoke, the other five started looking for animal hide or cloth to write on. Duo Kang took out a piece of cloth but he did not have any pigment. Scratching his head, he said to Zheng Luo, “Boss, I’ll copy your notes later.”
Zheng Luo squinted at him, not speaking.
“Don’t worry, it’s not urgent, I’ll just explain again when we get back,” said Shoa Xuan as he continued walking up the hill.
There were too few plants here. There were several kinds of unnamed grasses here, though they were not eye-catching. If there were other plants here, they would have been forgotten. Yet they were stubbornly alive when all other plants died.
Shao Xuan plucked some so he could study it later. These plants that could survive such a harsh environment must be some rare medicine. Perhaps they were useful against the effects of the core seed.
“Here!” Ao pointed in front. There was a boulder blocking the mouth of the cave.
There were no guards around the cave because the guards were all at the foot of the mountain to avoid the effects of the core seed. Although it was only a minor effect, one could still get seriously injured over a long time.
Plus there were no other tribes nearby. Other than fearsome beasts, there were no outsiders. There was no need for tight security.
The nearer they got to the cave, the tenser the air got. They felt uncomfortable all over, as if their bodies were screaming. Zheng Luo and Duo Kang were not used to this at all, since it was their first time. Yet they could not suppress their excitement.
It was the core seed! The core seed!
Ao walked over and pushed the boulder aside. They couldn't enter yet. He opened his large leather bag.
“Put this on.”
Shao Xuan received a simple grey-white long robe. It was made of wormskin.
Shao Xuan had brought back three rolls of wormskin from Eagle Mountain years ago. Two rolls were kept at the village. After Tuo brought the core seed back, he found the wormskin and made protective gear according to Shao Xuan’s instructions. The warriors bringing the stone into the cave were wearing these robes.
The six of them put on the wormskin robes and walked inside.
Inside, there were glowing water moonstones put along the long corridor. They didn’t need fire to light up the place.
As they walked, they arrived at a large circular space. Ao and the rest of the warriors had put in a lot of effort digging this place.
The core seed was in the middle. Something as big as their fist was enough to drive a person mad, at the same time endangering their lives.
“That’s… the legendary core seed?” Zheng Luo gulped. He wanted to touch but knew it was dangerous. As he approached this place, any skin not covered by wormskin started to sting as if his skin was being burnt off.
Rocks were placed around the core seed. They had spent a lot of effort looking for rocks in the forest. Most of them were sent in here instead of used to make stonewares.
Shao Xuan looked around. Based on the results calculated from the formulae in the ring diagram, he walked over and studied the rocks.
In this spot, all the rocks that were the same distance away from the core seed had irregular patches of metallic substance on their surfaces. This was where the core seed’s influence was most concentrated. They would get their copper from here!
It was magical.
They shifted some metal ore outside, along with several boulders to be brought back to the village.